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AUTHOR THE PHILOSOPHICAL LIFE: BIOGRAPHY AND THE CRAFTING OF INTELLECTUAL IDENTITY IN LATE ANTIQUITY Arthur P. Urbano Providence College, Providence, RI
Introduction: Biography as Arena of Philosophical Competition
We who live and work in academia know that the exchange and debate of ideas does not occur divorced from various contexts—intellectual, cultural, political, and social. Our participation in the production of knowledge occurs in various arenas of activity, including classrooms, departments, educational institutions, and, of course, academic fields, each defined by distinctive, yet interacting, rules of engagement. In many ways, the profession of ancient philosopher was characterized by similar realities. Many of these ancient philosophers understood their role as a comprehensive one that integrated philosophical inquiry, a way of life, and the education of individuals, along with a diachronic consciousness of their field. For example, the Platonists of late antiquity not only regarded Plato as the source of specific doctrines, but they also contemplated these doctrines within a tradition of teachers and interpreters, past and present, estimating how these had contributed to (or inhibited) a fuller understanding of these doctrines. It was essential to perceive how each piece fit together to construct a transhistorical dialogue. 1
2 The current work is a study of developments in the philosophical field of late antiquity. By the end of the third century C.E., ancient intellectuals, both Christian and nonChristian, conceived of philosophia as ways of thinking and living (dogmata and politeia), the harmonious mastery of which produced the perfect life—one of union with and likeness to the divine.1 As Pierre Hadot notes, while modern thinkers (and even some modern philosophers themselves) might think of philosophy strictly as the domain of intellect, Neoplatonists and Christians of antiquity regarded wisdom as a divinely revealed body of doctrines and practices, either planted within the human creature by its creator or revealed in some mythic past. This philosophy was entrusted to certain philosophers who transmitted it to their students. For the intellectual of late antiquity (as for many of us today), it was just as important to invoke an intellectual pedigree, to situate oneself within a tradition, as it was to demonstrate one’s own knowledge and practice in the pursuit of true knowledge. In this study, I will focus on the role of ancient biographical literature, especially the bios, in constructing the history of philosophy and tracing the lineages of the two major philosophical movements of late antiquity: Christianity and what we now call Neoplatonism. I intend to examine more broadly the application of the language and practices of kinship relations and inheritance in biographical literature as operative in the formation of communities of intellectuals and in establishing legitimating genealogies that sat at the core of narratives of tradition and succession. Set against the backdrop of the concrete social, historical, and cultural contexts in which philosophical debate occurred, the composition and consumption of biographical literature will be regarded as typical practices of competing intellectual factions.
3 My intention is to offer a reading and analysis of biographical literature produced between the third and fifth centuries C.E. that elucidates how the real social settings and practices involved in the production and proliferation of these works created an arena for the competition over philosophy among the Greek-speaking intellectual elite, particularly between circles of Christians and Neoplatonists. While also considering questions of genre, form, and imagery, I will explore more fully the impact of these literary productions upon ancient constructions of philosophical history and pedigree, the negotiation of pedagogical authority, and the implications for the shape of the philosophical field in late antiquity. The literary representation of subjects such as Origen, Plotinus, and Antony of Egypt, as exemplars, teachers, and transmitters of the philosophical life, embodied and gave historical particularity to the debates and maneuverings within pedagogical settings. These literary portraits were produced and competed with each other at a critical time in history—during the Christianization of the Roman Empire. At stake was “philosophy” itself: how knowledge and ethics were related to the divine; who possessed pedagogic authority; and what institutions would have the patronage and support to exercise this pedagogic authority. For sympathetic audiences, biographical literature served as a sort of social charter that crafted a series of relationships among subjects, authors and audiences, locating particular communities of intellectuals within lineages of descent that were linked to narratives of the origins and transmission of philosophy. Several major questions drive this study, questions which first arose for me during a graduate seminar on early Christian asceticism. I was intrigued that someone like Theodoret of Cyrrhus could describe monastic practice as “a life that teaches philosophy” and the monks of Syria as “philosophers.”2 Certainly his subjects did not fit the conventional
4 understanding of a philosopher in the ancient world. And why go this route at any rate? Why did so many of the major Christian thinkers of late antiquity not simply disengage from the classical philosophical tradition? After all, many of them charged that it was a flawed, if not a corrupt, mode of thought. Curiously, even when someone like Tertullian purports to distance himself from the philosophical thought of the Greeks and Romans, he still could not completely extricate himself from its web. Did he even recognize this? Related questions concern the expounding of Christian doctrines in the technical terminology of prior and contemporary Greek philosophy. This was not simply a phenomenon of the second century and beyond, but is evident to various degrees even within the earliest Christian writings, in the letters of Paul and in the prologue of the Gospel of John, for example. Conceptual and linguistic expression are bound to the social contexts in which a Christian intellectual culture took shape: what can we make of the culture of teachers, texts, schools, and doctrines that emerged in Christian circles, and how do we make sense of the dynamics of continuity and differentiation in relation to the social contexts of non-Christian intellectuals? These questions forced me to consider larger methodological issues. Two approaches that have been abandoned in the field of late ancient studies are the spoliation model, on the one hand, and the assumption of a great “divide” between Christians and pagans. In the latter view, Christian-pagan interaction is uncritically regarded as a “battle to the death of ‘two religious systems,’” a notion that has been hard to refine, as Susanna Elm has noted.3 It is easy to fall back uncritically on what we might call the “spoliation,” or “dependency,” model, according to which Christians borrowed and copied ideas, practices, and artistic styles that really belonged to Romans, Greeks, and Jews. Here, Christians emerge as cultural
Immersed in the culture of intellectual circles across the Roman empire.” and what the shifting landscapes of late antiquity meant for the Greek intellectual and literary heritage. and literature intersected in the ancient contexts that brought about a transformation of classical philosophical culture into a Christian philosophical culture. what it meant to be a “Greek. we cannot accept this narrative uncritically without considering what was already unconsciously inscribed in early Christian intellectuals as native residents of a vast and varied Roman world. and artistic traditions as “stealing. Thus. I intend to adopt an analytical framework that is informed by and builds upon recent . literary. or “pagans in disguise. the interactions among Christian and non-Christian elite in the Greek-speaking contexts of the late Roman empire are better understood as debates and exchanges among a segment of society that was occupied with the negotiation of identity. they were not cultural outsiders.5 scavengers. who use the narrative of the “spoliation of Egypt” from Exodus as the basis of their ancient “cultural theory.” In fact. philosophy. did not identify themselves as “Hellenes. Christians. of course.” a conscious adoption and adaptation of Greek learning to beautify and augment the expression of Christianity. as they confronted and interacted with the self-proclaimed “Hellenes.” which Simon Goldhill describes as “a shared system of reference and expectation” that “linked the elite of Empire. as will be explored in further detail in Chapter One.”5 The goal of this study is to map out where theology. history.” or a “Christian.” had to confront it. it appears that they envisioned their engagement with Greek philosophical. this discourse of cultural differentiation appears in the writings of several early Christian writers. yet those who shared in the “proclaimed communality of paideia.” as such. While this is true to a certain extent.”4 As such. and thereby stripping away aesthetic forms from an idolatrous essence. specifically.
These studies have called attention to the role of myths of origins. shared territory and history in defining Greek identity before the fifth century B. 1997]).” in the establishment of cultural authority. and projection. what he calls “formulations of Greekness in process. which drew upon “a common store of paradigmatic historical figures and events and a canon of classical models for creative imitation.”8 The essay in Goldhill’s volume by Rebecca Preston explores the intertwining of cultural with political authority under the banner of a paideia. primarily as a result of interaction with the Persian other. largely under the influence of postcolonial theory.7 In particular. History. and an interest in “tradition. competition. have contributed to the discussions of scholars of late antiquity who continue to study notions of culture and ethnicity in the Roman imperial and late Roman periods.C.E. Hall in particular notes how a shift from blood and kin towards “broader cultural criteria” characterized the basis for Greek identity from the fifth century onwards.10 . and Historiography [University of California Press. Goldhill has noted the concern on the part of the educated elite of the period to be able to demonstrate an “affiliation” to Greek culture through paideia and the varied strategies of negotiation. Simon Swain has called attention to the constructions and negotiations of the past. Simon Swain and others. as explored by Jonathan Hall and in the collection of essays edited by Irad Malkin (Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity [Harvard University Press.6 scholarship in the fields of classics and late ancient studies.”9 In the same vein. Peter Garnsey. and Erich Gruen (Hellenistic Constructs: Essays in Culture.6 The work of Simon Goldhill. 2001] and Paul Cartledge. Definitions of Greek ethnic identity in the classical and Hellenistic eras. has drawn scholarly attention to reconfigurations of “Greekness” in the context of Roman imperialism during the Second Sophistic. fictive kinship and descent.
and philosophy through a curriculum of the poets. I contend with many others that it is no longer accurate to use a model of a great divide between Christians and pagans. and promoted ideas rooted in the metaphysical and ethical conceptual complex of pre-Christian Greek philosophy. Empire and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity (University of Pennsylvania. they were educated in Greek literature.12 Jeremy Schott’s recent monograph exemplifies this well. Yet at the same time. I consider all of the authors under consideration to be culturally “Greek. 2005). 2008). they spoke Greek. the pepaideumenoi. regardless of religious allegiance.” regardless of their religious allegiance. The collection of essays edited by Dale Martin and Patricia Cox Miller. they produced texts according to Greek linguistic and literary standards. and this in turn has informed scholarship in the field of late antiquity.11 As Susanna Elm notes in her essay. several important contributions stand out. rhetoric. Instead. one may still talk of a partitioning of which the . orators. among the intellectual elite.” postcolonial theory has had a notable impact on the study of ethnic and cultural identity in imperial Greece and Rome.7 In the area of late ancient studies. That is to say. illustrates the important developments in textual and historical analysis that have given particular attention to culture. and not apart from “the broader politics of ethnic and cultural identity engendered by Roman imperialism. The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender. Asceticism. In this study. and philosophers. and Historiography (Duke University Press. “Hellenism and Historiography: Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian in Dialogue. Schott considers the construction of Christian and pagan identities within the contexts of imperial power and subjugation. I do not believe we can discard the notion of “divide” entirely. In Christianity.”13 In a society where paideia was the pervasive culture of the educated elite.
who were the producers and transmitters of knowledge and held . This partitioning. but rather a Christian description of the other. then. is an intracultural differentiation.14 Nevertheless. which “was endowed with the same metaphysical oecumenicity that Christianity claimed for itself” by those who considered themselves as such.8 players were conscious. a differentiation into various parties within the intellectual elite. Of particular interest to me are the processes of distinction and self-definition within the context of shared culture. Greeks and Christians often characterized their struggles with each other as a struggle between two separate systems. which developed in the western empire in the fourth century. In the context of the present discussion. it would be confusing and inappropriate because it is an allencompassing term that included all non-Christians and non-Jews. and. It is not a self-designation.” “unlearned”). Christianity and Hellenism. it was used to class both philosopher and peasant together on the basis of religious allegiance. more specifically. the culture and practices of the intellectual elite. Of course. This was a self-descriptive term. Throughout I will refrain as much as possible from using the terms “pagan” and “paganism” when referring to the Neoplatonist philosophers. always clear. Carrying the original semantic connotation of the term (“peasant. Instead. and are not. How ancient authors differentiated what was “Greek” and what was “Christian. rather than intercultural differentiation. with no distinction of social or intellectual location. I have opted to call the non-Christian philosophers “Greeks” (and “Neoplatonists. the boundaries between what was “Greek” and what was “Christian” were not. These boundaries developed and shifted. thus contributing to the notion of great divide noted by Elm above.” “rustic.” as it related to philosophical culture and practice lies in many respects at the core of this project.” when the context warrants more specificity).
While the questions raised by a postcolonial lens are pertinent here. To imagine Christian intellectuals as a vastly different group that collected and borrowed ideas and practices that were not their own is. The notion of “mimicry” is helpful. shared teachers and classrooms.16 Competition from within. especially before the fourth century. I would insist that it was just as much the apologists’ “game. Thus any notion of “borrowing” or “despoiling” becomes moot. can be further subdivided into two main factions. and political categories as spokes on this hub. or parties. and the place of ethnic. I think the category can be problematic in the present discussion. my aim is to investigate primarily the role of literary and discursive practices upon the formation of the identity of intellectuals. not as outsiders. my focus is upon a specific subgroup within the larger elite class—intellectuals—which.” as insiders. beginning as early as the second century. in the light of recent research. when they were educated in the same circles. Such . The relative proximity of Christian and Greek intellectuals cannot be underestimated. Thus I will cast the exchanges. especially when considering it in relation to the ancient notion of mimesis in educational and philosophical circles. Hence. in the context of late antiquity. an untenable model. I would agree that “the apologists were out to beat the philosophers at their own game. religious. debates. Instead of investigating directly how the context of empire impacted the construction of ethnic and cultural identities.9 pedagogical authority. and interactions between the Greek-speaking Christian and Greek intellectuals of late antiquity as a real and multifaceted struggle to define religious. Christians and Greeks. cultural. intellectual. seems to offer a better model.15 However. and lived in overlapping social worlds. and political identities. rather than borrowing from without. my point of departure is different.” but according to the model I am suggesting here.
Christian and Greek intellectuals competed in overlapping fields of philosophy. Christians and pagans) in opposition. cultural.. which contributed to and participated in a struggle to define the parameters of a universal philosophy.g. in this type of model.19 Nevertheless.” who represent the status quo. and “Christians.g.18 Competing within structured spaces of accepted norms and practices with their own internal logic and power relations. Christian intellectuals and Neoplatonists are thought of not simply as religious factions (i. the competition is about delineating authoritative tradition as much as establishing practical authority. as a result of their competition. but they are also classified together as the class of educated. and social formation . religion. transferring pedagogical activity into liturgical worship.17 This competition can be thought of as one between a dominant establishment – the “Greeks. as early as the mid-second century. or Numenius versus the Academics).” a party of “newcomers. What was the goal of this competition? Of primary importance was paideia. Athanasius versus Arius) and Greeks (e. with Christians. Thus. but a comprehensive intellectual. literate. I believe.10 a model. literature in particular. and there was simultaneous internal competition among Christians (e.g. moral. Porphyry versus his colleague Amelius).” who. for example.e. In both cases. both Greeks and Christians also participated in a transformation of these spaces and structures. not simply an education. challenged the status quo and adopted strategies to subvert the prevailing philosophical orthodoxy. Theodoret versus Plotinus. These two subgroups were not monolithic in and of themselves.. philosophical thinkers who contributed to philosophical and theological discourse as well as the production of cultural products... as well as cross-temporal competitions (e. provides a perspective on the “nuts and bolts” of the intellectual machinery and social networks of late antiquity within the broader cultural complex. and education.
“preparatory” position . access to texts.21 The embodiment of social conventions and the mastery of proper social interaction identified one as a pepaideumenos. Association with prestigious schools and teachers. For the Christian. Literacy and rhetoric. Paul? The school of Plotinus or the school of Origen? Athens or Jerusalem? The formation of an alternative Christian philosophical culture was neither isolated nor entirely divorced from the larger intellectual and cultural world of late antiquity. were of great value in the formation of souls. exegetical and rhetorical skills. that the possession and study of ancient texts. The devotion to study. the ownership and production of texts were sought after and acquired by true Greeks.22 The importance of literacy. and intellectual lineage were important in this regard. when one could be led by both. for example. the dichotomy need not always be so severe.11 of young men (and young women to a limited extent). but they would disagree over their precise identification: the Dialogues of Plato or the Letters of St. but with the philosopher bowing to the Apostle? Christians who found a certain “usefulness” in the Greek literary and philosophical traditions could find for them a secondary. familiarity with the literary and philosophical traditions of Greece. and the privilege of a noble intellectual pedigree ranked him with the greatest and most influential thinkers and shapers of Greek culture. prestige. ascetic practices.” men of culture. or affiliation with a particular teacher. and the adoption of ascetic practices raised him closer to the heights of the divine world.20 Paideia produced “Greeks. engagement in philosophical debate.” or cultural knowledge. The texts or authorities to which value was attached were negotiated in the process of competition. and honors. and power. Why Plato or Paul. goods.” This entailed the negotiation and acquisition of “cultural capital. Greeks and Christians were competing to own and define “philosophy. A Christian and Greek intellectual could agree.
This was also a competition for pedagogic authority. the study of philosophy is a primer for theological studies in the Catholic tradition. who was able to participate in the philosophical field. A figure like Origen. all of the authors considered here operated within . Thus. which eventually became concentrated on “higher education. Such attacks were a standard practice in the philosophical field. Origen could claim and was recognized to have an authoritative voice in the field (even to the chagrin of Porphyry) and could successfully make an impact on the debate within the field. here understood as the recognition and bestowal of legitimacy by authoritative agents through ritual and social practices. the Church. Like the sterile daughter of Pharaoh who adopted Moses. either in the form of praise or criticism.” Accumulation of these cultural goods produces “symbolic power.” or authority based on honor and prestige. then. but ultimately. a Christian educated in the classical philosophical tradition. but not to the exclusion of literary and rhetorical education. cultural. Greek learning could provide valuable necessities to a growing child. inculcated. the teaching of philosophy. of course. but was compelled to refute his specific views. and consecrated. is the means by which an intellectual.23 Even today. the “handmaiden to theology.” that is. and ethical heritage is conserved. for example. including specific attacks against Origen in his anti-Christian writing. a first step and preparation in the theological curriculum—as the saying goes.24 Though the differences in philosophical and theological ideas were often vast (and often not). would provide him with true sustenance for growth. praised Origen for his aptitude and excellence. Porphyry. Education. the child’s natural mother. acquired recognition by both Christian and Greek members of the intellectual class.12 preceding the study of Christian Scripture and doctrines.
that is. They possessed writing and linguistic skills to engage in dialogue directly and indirectly with competitors. Having been formed in paideia and included among the small percentage of educated elite. Eusebius. which was enhanced by his expertise. Such were the communities of the philosophers Plotinus and Iamblichus. social and political authority. these communities were often stratified into inner and outer circles of access to the teacher. there are certain rules we are expected to play by.13 overlapping social and cultural worlds. and his affiliation with a prestigious intellectual pedigree. Very little would change in terms of literary and rhetorical education. literacy. the institutions vested with the authority to educate. More than education and culture. Julian. to varying degrees. and students often moved elsewhere . men such as Porphyry. once the teacher died. was also in flux at the level of philosophical education.26 Organized around a specific teacher. 25 The locus of pedagogic activity. it was a durable and molding complex of ideas and practices that shaped the contours of the lives of the educated elite and afforded them a basis for cultural authority. Paideia served as both a point of reference and a locus of competition in this process. accumulation of cultural capital. Not official posts in a government-funded or private academic institution. The philosophical communities of the third and fourth centuries have been characterized as an international. organized loosely in “circles” of associates. and the Cappadocians. the vitality of these circles largely depended on the charismatic authority of the teacher. shared a privileged social position and common elite values regarding education. the circle dispersed. with the inner circle enjoying a common life that fostered a sense of community. elite class of itinerant intellectuals. In most cases. and. and culture that influenced and guided their participation in the competition— as all of us who are academics know.
A man who held the office of bishop could invest the fruits of his rhetorical and philosophical education in the service of Christian philosophy.27 Councils and synods of bishops produced official decisions regarding doctrine and governance.28 The so-called charismatic authorities—for example. It was not a fleeting authority that died with its holder. . their status was subordinated both textually and objectively to Christian intellectuals—the bishops. Upon Plotinus’ death. using his office both to educate his flock and to participate in intellectual discourse. The patronage of Constantine in the fourth century strengthened the expanding trend of institutionalization that characterized the networks of churches around the Roman Empire.14 to establish another circle. Bishops were the primary producers of Christian philosophical bioi. As authors. lay in the Church itself as new bishops received confirmation of their position by other holders of the office. As “consecrator. bishops also inscribed themselves as recipients of tradition.” the bishop inscribed members of the Church who were outside the institutional structures into the ranks of philosophers and co-teachers. but an institutionalized succession that endured in the episcopal ministry. as does Athanasius who both receives Antony’s cloak and writes his bios. both in theological and Bourdieuian terms. Lists of apostolic succession chronicled the proper lines of transmission. Antony and the monks of Syria—exhibited less the intellectual skills of the professional philosopher and more the nonverbal physical acts of practical virtue. his students continued their philosophical work in various parts of Italy and even in Syria. Unlike the philosopher’s authority. The authority of consecration. episcopal authority was defined less in terms of the individual holding the office than in terms of the institutional authority of the office itself. Yet.
31 For example. and geographically scattered circles organized around independent teachers. Perhaps this is because there was no interacting philosophical network of communities. introduced as a historical narrative of “the successions of the holy apostles” from the Savior to the present time. The Greek philosophical bioi also show signs of efforts to codify a corpus of . Yet. and which assumed pedagogical activities previously reserved for the schools and circles of Greek experts. and codification of a philosophical tradition.15 The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea. the bioi of the Platonists present evidence for trends towards the construction. there was a degree of self-reflection on the position and profession of the philosopher. Porphyry. Theirs seemed more an interest in αἵρεσις than in σχολή. would also lay the groundwork for a mythic narrative of succession for later Platonists. consolidation. which spread “the divine life” and “philosophy” to Greeks and barbarians alike. independent. and Theodoret. but rather small.29 Later church historians. They had no continuous succession and no official means of electing leaders. provided an overarching narrative of the revelation of true wisdom in Wisdom incarnate. such as Socrates. or a “routinization” of instruments necessary for institutionalization. From the time of Iamblichus onward. In the absence of an official instrument of succession. Sozomen. the student of Plotinus. built upon Eusebius’ work. it became more common to refer to the leaders of philosophical circles as “divine” (θεῖος). Porphyry never attempted an overarching foundational narrative to include all Platonists or all philosophers.”30 Nevertheless. in a “school of thought” rather than an “institutional school. It laid the foundations of a descriptive and mythic account of an institutional ecclesiastical network. as we shall see. the hierarchy of inner and outer circles disciples conferred honor through access to and relationship with the teacher.
32 The Anonymous Prolegomena. Aristotle. attributes to Iamblichus a curriculum that outlines the number and titles of Platonic dialogues and the order in which they should be studied.16 writings for a curriculum.34 From a canon (however loosely defined) of texts. Though we cannot speak of a Neoplatonist “creed” comparable to Christian creedal formulae. Plato. there issued a consensus of topics deemed worthy of discussion and debate. The city was also more resistant to the incursion of Christianity. a sixth-century manual for the study of Platonic philosophy. a new addition to a formative collection of authoritative literature. and public discourse.33 Iamblichus’ Compendium of Pythagorean Doctrine was organized as a progressive curriculum for the study of Pythagorean philosophy. to which the Life of Plotinus served as a type of hermeneutical prologue. the soil of this symbolic capital was ripe for the seeds of a budding Platonist “institution” in the fifth century. the immortality of the soul. Homer. in particular. . acted as a “canon” of Plotinian texts. Hesiod. and the origins of the Greek philosophical and cultural heritage. Athens. the geographical itinerancy of philosophers in earlier centuries began to give way to more geographic concentration in the late fourth and fifth centuries. which included the Chaldean Oracles. probably due to the presence of a strong non-Christian aristocracy that sought to preserve the city’s Greek identity. and On the Pythagorean Life served as its introduction. and the dialogues of Plato. formal curricula. As a result. Porphyry’s organization of the Enneads. Finally. remained the most important symbolic center of intellectual life for Greek intellectuals and also for many Christian intellectuals because of its associations with Socrates. there were certainly specific “topics” that shaped and directed the burning philosophical and theological questions of the day—the nature of God. the practices leading to virtue.
custom. Christians. There was indeed much at stake. not simply natural ability that steers the emotions of the irrational soul to a virtuous course. and institutions of the Greeks. on the other hand. even the man who possessed a philosophical nature would fall victim to the perversion of his own weaknesses and his environment. competing to interpret and define the meaning of this heritage: it is at its heart a . according to Plato. the virtuous life was one that was naturally endowed. texts.35 Thus. naturally. especially in the fourth century. Competition also extended into the arenas of worship and political policy. that even the majority of those endowed with a great philosophical nature were corrupted by goods. the key is to read the works of these authors not simply as the writings of pagans and Christians squabbling over religion.40 In this struggle. The consequence: a great nature turned bad. but nurtured and molded by a proper education. the Greeks.17 Ultimately. Plutarch regards paideia as the proper acting of reason. this was a struggle for the souls of individuals and the shape of society. without the right guidance. possessing a natural potential for virtue was not enough.37 In the Moralia. employed various subversive strategies to challenge the foundational narratives. Paideia was an absolute necessity in the proper flourishing of the philosophical life. since it is education.39 Plato considered the role of society in moral education functional only when that society was free from corruption.36 So it was. According to Plutarch (following Plato). Left to his own design. paideia did not remain static. As I see it. and law on the taming of the emotions of young men’s irrational soul. adopted a conservative strategy. Nevertheless. but as a discursive interchange of individuals educated in the most influential works of Greek philosophy. because they did not receive the best education. as the creative efforts of Neoplatonists like Porphyry and Iamblichus demonstrate.38 Plutarch links deficient education and the failure to control the passions.
however.”41 She identifies in these authors what she terms a “geographical thinking. as the parameters of the debate shifted to other “pasts. Athanasius misrecognizes. appeals to the center of imperial power by aligning himself to common paideutic values: “as one of the provincial elites. meanwhile. as Christian intellectuals began to participate in this competition. Athanasius would not have attained the skills to write about Antony had he himself not benefited from the very education he disavows. or disavows. exhibits a negative valuation of Greek identity while he simultaneously “performs Greekness. engages his rhetorical opponent through Greek literary forms and references. and to preserve and transmit it to future generations for the good of individuals and society. In the third and fourth centuries. Antony of Egypt’s famous avoidance of primary and secondary education exposes his biographer’s overt disavowal of the authority and value of that education. Antony’s dismissal of artful rhetoric and argumentation is itself articulated in finely crafted rhetorical argumentation. and Lucian of Samosata as participants in a “negotiation of authoritative culture under conditions of empire. She notes a simultaneous resistance and assimilation to paideia on the part of all three.” Laura Nasrallah has remapped the location of figures such as Justin Martyr. The alternative he proposes.”43 In the fourth century. Tatian. models of rejection begin to appear. Similarly.18 search for universal truth and an attempt to trace its history.” that is. his student Tatian.45 Through a constructed representation of Antony of Egypt. to enumerate its representatives. no longer a given. with paideia as compass. for example.44 However. of privileged philosophy.” or a mapping of the world. is not .42 Justin. the cultural and social value of his own literary and rhetorical training. speaking the common language of Greek. and of Roman subject-hood. the “privileged past” of Greece and its catalogue of authoritative representatives was thrown into question.
operated at an unconscious.19 completely divorced from the dominant system.” I follow Simon Swain. I exclude panegyrics of living subjects (except for a brief consideration of Eusebius’ Praise of Constantine) because of the importance of the dead as exemplars of the philosophical life and ancestors of communities. and transmission of philosophy.E. it is simultaneously one that is influenced by the dominant system and converts it. a conscious challenge to the influence and authority associated with Greek intellectual training and pedagogical authority. in one sense misrecognized. and funeral orations. I focus on biographical literature as an arena. but at the same time consciously modified (though not necessarily abandoned). the philosophical history. ownership. and the practices of the educated elite.. Yet. internalized level. resources. there is. on the one hand. on the other. Alongside treatises that delineated the dialectical aspects of philosophical debate. In this case. paideia. early forms of hagiography. Biographical Literature as Philosophical Texts In this study. the ancient bios was a literary vehicle that portrayed subjects as representations of the . of competition. who designates as “biographical texts” those that “furnish detailed accounts of individuals’ lives. I have limited the scope of this project to those examples written in Greek by bishops and heads of philosophical communities who also had the positions. Because of the increased production and proliferation of both Greek and Latin biographical literature in the third through fifth centuries C. the values and cultural norms inculcated through paideia. Instead. for the negotiation of the parameters. or locus. and influence to play a significant role in the debate over philosophy.”46 Thus. the semantics and specialized discourse of philosophy. Under the umbrella term of “biographical literature. included here are the bios. I understand the very production and propagation of such literature and its consumption as constitutive practices of the intellectual elite.
produced the beginnings of Greek biographical literature precisely when broader cultural criteria were invoked in understandings of what it meant to be Greek.47 Related to various forms of “praise literature. the poets. composed the Agesilaus. The Hellenistic era witnessed important evolutions in the formal development of a generic theory of the bios.E. such as Aesop. claimed to be the first prose encomium of a contemporary person.C. The subject. perhaps as early as the fifth century.E.” such as the panegyric and the encomium.C.20 philosophical life. a work modeled on the Evagoras. and the later Platonists all utilized biographical literature to promote .C.49 Isocrates’ Evagoras. Xenophon lauds Agesilaus for his ability to rule himself. kings. In turn.50 Competition among the intellectual circles of antiquity contributed significantly to the development and evolution of biographical literature. recounting the deeds of an excellent king and general that attest to his character. Not long after. a follower of Socrates. most of the examples of biography produced between the fifth and third centuries B. have been lost. Xenophon’s purpose in praising the king of Sparta goes beyond the simple narration of important accomplishments. and generals.. Peripatetics. the textual life was intended to inspire and mold the moral formation of the readers.E. therefore.48 Unfortunately. It is perhaps no accident that the fifth century B. the Seven Sages and Pythagoras. the bioi and other biographical texts of this period display a development of forms and conventions on a constantly evolving literary continuum that extends back to classical Greece. Collections of the sayings of wise men and philosophers. Xenophon. written around 370 B. The subjects of those that have survived in fragmentary condition tend to be mythical figures. an ideal king who was able to lead his subjects (and also the readers of his bios) to virtue. circulated well before the Hellenistic period. is a worthy model of imitation. 51 The Socratics.
53 For the philosophers. who regards Xenophon as “a pioneer experimenter in biographical forms. were better organized in order to answer big questions. Aristotle himself wrote no biographical works. Though not biographical literature in a strict sense. Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Cyropaedia represent important innovations and directions in biographical literature. and especially his death. Momigliano. such as Cyrus).”55 The school of Aristotle exhibited a great interest in collecting and arranging the biographical anecdotes and sayings of important individuals into epideictic and mimetic literature that served as illustrations of virtue and vice. the main subject of their considerations (there were other subjects. and the experiments were directed towards capturing the potentialities rather than the realities of individual lives.” Biographical facts. achievement. and somewhat biographical. but in those of the later Peripatetics. He was not a dead man whose life could be recounted. form.52 Momigliano attributes this to new trends in philosophy and rhetoric that emphasized the importance of individual education. to provide an empirical basis for philosophical analysis. molding his life. biographical literature could serve a more useful purpose than for mere curiosity or “historical fact.56 As such. Socrates.54 In addition to his Agesilaus. He was the guide to territories as yet unexplored. and virtue.” expresses concisely the Socratic contribution to biographical literature: “The Socratics experimented in biography. the deeds of prominent figures of the past could serve as instruction in virtue. we see how a subject’s deeds .21 philosophical doctrines and praise their subjects as historically important and philosophically paradigmatic. was not so much the real Socrates as the potential Socrates. the Dialogues of Plato feature the words and deeds of Socrates. into a philosophical argument in a literary. like natural or historical facts. and biographical literature a vehicle for promoting ideas.
provided later biographers with both a theory and model of the genre. perhaps a work of collective biography. his task was to portray his subjects’ character through the . which praised the sage for his contributions to philosophy. Formerly a student of the Pythagorean school.E.22 (πράξεις) revealed character (ἦθος).-120). which included biographical sketches of philosophers.C. The chief objective was to reveal the subject’s character through an examination of his family background. Aristoxenus wrote a Life of Pythagoras.).62 In the famous prologue of the parallel Lives of Alexander and Caesar.) was perhaps the most important of the Peripatetics in the production of biographical literature. Aristoxenus also wrote Lives to malign philosophical rivals. 50 C.C. Duff’s monograph on Plutarch explores the “moralizing purpose” of the Lives. education. one of the Peripatetics cited by Jerome as a literary predecessor in the dedication of his De viris illustribus. and major accomplishments. third century C. as a hostile polemic against the contemporary Academy. penned a “Life of Greece” and a piece entitled περὶ βίων.E. his Lives of Plato and Socrates lambaste the plagiarism and licentiousness of their subjects.59 Satyrus (ca. composed a Life of the poet Euripides in dialogue form. Plutarch distinguishes his task from that of the historian.58 Dicaearchus of Messine.57 The term bios first appears at this time. Timothy E.) used Dicaearchus as a source for his Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. As an author of “lives” (βίους). a student of Aristotle. instead of “histories” (ἱστορίας).61 The Parallel Lives of Plutarch (ca. exposing virtue or vice to give the reader an opportunity to judge the moral qualities of the subject and to regard the subject as a model for imitation (in the case of the virtuous) for his or her own improvement.E. such as Pythagoras and Plato. third century B. perhaps the best known of the philosopher-biographers of antiquity.60 Aristoxenus of Tarentum (fourth century B. Diogenes Laertius (ca. For example.E.
Patricia Cox characterized the biographies of late antiquity as “caricatures” of the holy man. Diogenes does not make his own philosophical leanings explicit.63 The composition of a bios was analogous to the work of painters who represented the character of their subject through a careful representation of the face and eyes. His work is not included in this study as it was not intended as an apology for one school of philosophy over .23 “signs of the soul” (εἰς τὰ τῆς ψυχῆς σηµεῖα). the work categorizes the lives of founders and heads of schools in a series of individual bioi.65 Biographical Literature and Philosophical History The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers of Diogenes Laertius had a much different purpose than Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. It was a portrait of the soul. As an example of collective biography. The portrait or the statue demonstrated in a static but eternal moment the ethical composition of the subject. Likewise. leading us to believe that the intent of his work was more historical than apologetic. apophthegmata. the work as a whole could be regarded as a work of philosophical history. as mere collections of great deeds (πράξεις). did not necessarily provide a moral directive (δήλωσις ἀρετῆς ἢ κακίας). More the doxographer than the philosopher. This analogy of biographical text and sculpted image was already present in previous works. whose aim was to “evoke and thus to reveal the interior geography of the hero’s life”—that hero being the philosopher who stood at the intersection of the human and the divine.64 In Biography in Late Antiquity. and bibliographies of the principal representatives of the schools. Diogenes traced the origins and divisions of the major schools of philosophy through biographical anecdotes. Strung together according to their chronological succession. the biographer painted a portrait of the soul in words. Histories.
More recent scholarship has deemed these classifications problematic. including the origins of the genres and their value for historical reconstruction. and.24 others. like Friedrich Leo. Plutarch posited a stark distinction between the . such as the encomium.66 Much of the scholarly discussion has revolved around the relationship of the bios to other literary and performative genres. He displays an interest in the interrelation of schools and treats the coexistence of different schools as acceptable. The Development of Greek Biography (1971). Since antiquity.70 Shifting the discourse a bit. In the famous passage from the prologue of the Life of Alexander. the history.67 Until recently. arranged thematically. Arnaldo Momigliano treated the literary relationship between biography and historiography in his influential series of essays. panegyric. Other important examples would follow.69 He named two types of biographies: the “Plutarchan” type. especially. scholarship on biographical literature has posed very “historical” questions. ancient authors had been reluctant to relate the two genres. Some German scholars saw the bios as an inroad to the ancient Greeks’ conception of the “individual. and the “Suetonian” type. which was organized chronologically. This designation raises some interesting questions. but still entrenched in questions of genre and form. In what way should we understand the authors’ designation of these works as “histories”? And to what extent could we regard both collective and individual bioi as a sort of ancient historiographical enterprise? Biographical literature came into being at approximately the same time as historiographical literature in Greece. concentrated on literary forms and established the categories of classification that would direct the study of ancient biographies for many years. including Porphyry’s fragmentary Philosophical History and Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ Religious History.”68 Others. two works of collective biography called “history” by their authors.
structure.” the former having a distinct moral purpose. style. social setting). Drawing connections between the place of bioi in philosophical schools and the gospels in early Christian communities. and the construction of tradition in the development of biographical literature.74 To this end. on the other hand. myth. Moving away from the types of classification proposed by Leo and others. he was supposed to say so. But Momigliano boldly asserted that “nobody nowadays is likely to doubt that biography is some kind of history. Burridge analyzed ancient biographies with a view to understanding the genre of the gospels.”71 Yet he distinguishes “biography” from “history” on the basis of their intended facticity: “The historian was supposed to tell the truth. His examination proceeds according to “external” elements (literary features. Charles Talbert suggested a classification on the basis of the text’s function in its “social-intellectual-spiritual milieu.”72 The biographer. In What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with GrecoRoman Biography (2004).25 “life” and the “history. Richard A. he situated bioi within the Sitz im Leben of the communities that produced them. apparently approached factual accuracy differently: “Even historians like Xenophon with a philosophic education forgot about truth when they came to write encomia and idealized biography.”73 Recent studies on the origins and literary characteristics of the bios have focused attention on its social contexts and functions.” as didactic (propagandistic) or nondidactic (not propagandistic). Talbert explored the interrelationship among cultic activity. form) and “internal” elements (topics. This was the rule established by Herodotus and Thucydides. concluding that bioi were a flexible but recognizable genre in antiquity and that the .” and wondered why the Greeks “never recognized that biography is history. When he was forced to report unchecked rumors.
As contributions to a process of tradition building. despite the sharp distinction made by the ancients between the two genres.75 In the bios. and considering Momigliano’s question regarding the relationship between biography and history. should not be opposed absolutely. permits us to regard biographical literature as an “arena. inventing and reinventing the history and representatives of the inheritance of philosophy. their theological and philosophical interests. Works such as Porphyry’s Philosophos historia. as literary genres that appear to have originated and evolved around the same time. constructed histories of philosophy.76 In response to this. philosophical bioi.77 individually and collectively. Instead. history and myth merge.” or locus . Eunapius’ Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists. it cannot be denied that authors participated in an historiographic task. The Bios as Arena of Cultural Competition An understanding of the literary conventions and innovations of biographical literature. the authors argue that biographies and histories. as a textual practice of tradition-building and history-writing. generating a sort of “myth of origins. and the social contexts in which they were produced and read. I suggest we regard biographical literature as “some kind” of ancient historiography. Largely following the approach of Momigliano. and Theodoret’s Religious History narrated the history of philosophical traditions through biographical accounts of philosophical representations from the past.26 gospels would have been recognized as part of this genre. Seen within its social-historical contexts. they suggest considering their interrelation.” Gentili and Cerri considered again the question of biography and history in History and Biography in Ancient Thought (1988).
79 Conceptions of the origins of knowledge were bound up with implications for the stream of its pure transmission within the structures of educational and religious institutions. the complex of myth of origins. in a competition among parties of the Greek-speaking educated elite.81 Teachers not only imparted knowledge to their students. circulation. and claims to land that characterized expressions of Hellenic ethnicity in ancient Greece seem to have adapted to claims of Greek cultural identity. but also the skills. Biographical productions also addressed “sociopolitical and cultural concerns. served in its conventional literary and rhetorical aspects as a practical. Authors enlisted noble figures of the recent and distant past. The production. not only the inheritance of a precious philosophical tradition. and promote the characteristics of the philosophical life.27 of debate and negotiation. in this case.” who adopted their students into the lineages of the . particularly among groups of intellectual elites. shared history. then. delimit. and bequeath an inheritance. expertise. giving expression to a relationship between transmitters and recipients. guard. authors often employed the language of kinship and inheritance. The bios.80 Even intellectual dynasties required a pedigree and shared history to claim. In some ways. biographies often served as “weapons” in debates over succession and transmission among the rival Hellenistic schools of philosophy. exemplars. Biography could be used to define. biographies presented models for imitation.” particularly between Christians and Greeks. descent. and transmitters of knowledge and virtue. As a pedagogical tool. and consumption of biographical literature constituted one strategy in this competition.78 As Talbert points out. the pepaideumenoi. To this end. and authority to correctly teach and transmit it. competitive tool in the competition. but they were also “fathers. praising them as founders.
in nascent institutions. Creating and reinforcing bonds among subject. authors established a series of relationships that served as polemical. and audience. applied also to the intangible inheritance of ideas and doctrines. In the production of the bioi themselves. lineage and inheritance.. authority. A clear and stable succession (διαδοχή). author.g. the foundation of communities (e. If we can talk of the Christian notion of “apostolic succession. and . The Life of Macrina). The Life of Antony. Possessing a special affinity to the divine. from “father” to “son. these texts formed a type of social charter for Christian and Neoplatonist communities in narratives of the origins of philosophy (e.. and social relations in so many ways in the Mediterranean world.28 great traditions by what Libanius considered a kinship of words. founders. demarcated family trees and intellectual dynasties. Together. The Life of Proclus). and critical moments in the history of the transmission of philosophy (e. subjects were also portrayed as ancestors. The Life of Plotinus. which afforded an aura of sanctity.” from one generation to the next.” a concept examined in great detail by Robert Penella (Greek Philosophers and Sophists in the Fourth Century: Studies in Eunapius of Sardis ) as it relates to Eunapius’ Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists.g. apologetic.g.” philosophical DNA. which determined identity. We can see in the interplay between the literary features of biographical literature and the social contexts of their production and circulation how lineage and succession were reinforced. The Life of Pythagoras. establishing fictive “bloodlines.82 The language of inheritance represented philosophy as a complete body of knowledge—texts and traditions of interpretation and practices. and teachers who exemplified the philosophical life in their teaching and ascetic practice.. The Life of Moses). ownership.” a reading of Eunapius alone reminds us that the Greeks had a similar conception of what we might call “philosophic succession.
The numerous homilies and commentaries by Christian . subject-author: The author. that the primary social setting of the production and consumption of biographical literature was within structures claiming pedagogic authority— schools. men formed by paideia.29 formational discourses within the larger cultural competition. It should not be surprising. whether through personal acquaintance or study. churches. claimed privileged knowledge of the subject. The following outline adapts the discussion in Hägg and Rousseau by considering relationships “around” the text. as well as expressions and models of an ideal of the virtuous life.84 The authors to be examined here were among the most powerful and influential players in the competition. and presented himself as a recipient or heir of the subject’s teaching. heads of schools and bishops. Their philosophical heritage was both the means by which descent was reckoned and the ancestral inheritance that was passed on. 3. They were the educated elite. the author played a pivotal role in the transmission of the philosophical inheritance from the subject to the audience. then. informal circles of intellectuals. inside the communities where biographical texts circulated and contributed to selfunderstanding. textual portraits of the exemplary dead served as ancestral figures for the intended audience. and acted as an important link in the chain of intellectual descent. alongside relationships at the level of the text:83 1. with distinctly philosophical interests. subject-audience: Like the Roman imagines maiorum. bound together—amicably and sometimes inimically—in a social and cultural world that governed the upper echelons of Roman society. that is. qua author.85 They are almost exclusively Greek-speakers. even small. author-audience: By virtue of his intermediary role. 2.
The proliferation and consumption of bioi were important parts of the processes of philosophical formation and incorporation into communities. and the intended reach of the production of biographical literature. The intention was not always to destroy Greek paideia. Here Bourdieu provides a useful analytical model.88 In the production and circulation of cultural goods. but to transform it into a Christian paideia and to replace and reprioritize the teachers and institutions that consecrated. But whereas the Neoplatonists promoted a conservative (but still newly developed) curriculum founded upon the traditional Greek canon. many Christian intellectuals fostered the development of a Christian education that challenged and subverted Greek curricula. bodily.30 teachers and bishops often read like the philosophical discourses of the Neoplatonists on the texts of Plato or Homer. transmitted. and participation in competition. philosophical histories. formation through human institutions and guidance. According to this strategy. Thus they had an individual and collective scope.87 Acquisition of wisdom occurs through a combination of natural ability. and social practices. It may be useful at this point to consider from this vantage point the evangelization of philosophy. intellectual formation. he identifies a “field of restricted production” in which these goods are produced primarily for other producers. lineages.” acquired through a range of intellectual. Philosophy is sometimes conceived of as an immaterial “wealth. . and encounter with the divine. as a means of preserving and reproducing a culture of Hellenism. and reproduced cultural orthodoxy. models.86 A Philosophical Economy It seems even the ancients were aware of the symbolic economy of philosophy that provided the immaterial and material goods necessary for virtuous living. and pedagogical lineages. producers tend to produce for their competitors and for others within their field. and histories.
to elite circles. Calendars organized time around the feast days of the saints. both for other producers and for nonproducers outside their field. transformed the church into centers of education. which aimed to preserve an untainted notion of Greekness based on education. By the end of the fourth century. In terms of the production of philosophical biographies. Christians. both introductions to philosophical curricula. whose lives were read and commented upon as part of the churches’ liturgical life. or the monks of Syria. including the accessibility of its themes. Basil of Caesarea. but not excluding them either. argument. like Origen. or to aspiring monks. Neither Eunapius nor Marinus took their laudatory accounts of their teachers to the masses. Maintaining a conservative line under extreme pressure. Athanasius considered the church the school of Christ. aimed for a “large-scale” production of bioi. and gender. but restricted their activities. and Christian intellectuals. which extended the content of philosophy and the narrative of its transmission to a much wider public. In the “field of large-scale production. more often than the Greeks. status. not limited to intellectuals. fall into this category. and language.” producers produce for a broader public. and other bishops. Porphyry’s Live of Plotinus and Iamblichus’ On the Pythagorean Life. or Macrina. they also continued to offer restrictive models. we might think of intended readership. culture. Their approach . Greek or Christian. These were produced specifically for consumption by other intellectuals. it would have been politically dangerous to do so. For example.31 marginalizing themselves from the larger public of nonproducers. school-like settings. One did not need to be literate or have access to a library in order to know the stories of the lives of Antony of Egypt. Theodoret’s Religious History clearly had a larger audience of nonspecialists in mind. including the circulation of bioi. proffering philosophy to a larger audience.89 The Greeks did not do this.
Christian philosophical models issued from all classes and stations in society: Origen the intellectual. I am not presuming that Christians necessarily read the Greeks’ . tried to strengthen those bonds. like Antony. often belonged to the same class of wealthy intellectuals. while engaging previous scholarly treatments of biographical literature. eventually becoming the guardians of Greek religion when their cults were under attack. the monks of Egypt—poor and rich alike who. Macrina the ascetic leader of a community. Where Christians were trying to cut the bonds between Greek identity and philosophy. and an aristocratic monopoly on any form of philosophy. the primary producers of Christian philosophical bioi. Constantine the emperor. but did not exclusively offer bishops as representatives and transmitters of philosophy. This study aims to bring together an array of ancient and modern discussions of biographical literature: giving close attention to levels of dialogue which ancient biographical productions reflect and directed as arenas of competition. the Greeks. Greek cults.32 to philosophy and education remained essentially conservative—a defense of the traditional structures founded upon a Platonic intellectual tradition that advocated a Greek canon. In each chapter. Christian bishops. Instead. examples of Christian and Greek biography are paired together in order to highlight particular areas of debate and negotiation that characterized the struggle for philosophy. abandoned the urban context for a life of solitude and ascetic practice. naturally. I wish to demonstrate how biography contributed to the construction of identity among intellectuals of late antiquity. The biographical literature is in turn situated within the larger corpora of their authors to call attention to programmatic trends in their work. In so doing. In casting the production and consumption of this literature as a dialogue.
but rather that biography reflects the terms of debate and competition in the broader cultural context. which locates Christian intellectuals within the social and cultural contexts. In Chapter Three. Here I provide a sketch of the state of the philosophical world in late antiquity. Christians did not enter from without. At the same time. The themes of decline and renewal direct this narrative. Moses and Pythagoras are the figures who dominate this discussion. networks and trends of that world. In Chapter Four.33 literature and vice versa (though that is not to be excluded in every case). Chapter One explores the roots that remained as Christian intellectuals entered the arena of philosophical competition. Origen and Plotinus. Our authors were themselves the products of the very paideia they sought to transform. Chapter Two examines the role of biography in describing traditions of philosophical origins. into developing narratives of philosophical history. as their subjects represent a reform and rediscovery of the origins of philosophy. . but from within. the nature of the interrelationship between Greek and Christian philosophy at their origins. Related questions. and suggest that the Christian entrance into what was already a competitive field presented another legitimate and viable option that could continue to engage other developing Platonisms. which arise in such works. are the relation of “barbarian wisdom” to the origins of Greek philosophy and. Strategies of subversion and transformation were characterized by an ambiguity that made cultural competition possible and necessary. the focus turns to the philosopher ruler in a side-by-side reading of Eusebius’ Life of Constantine and Libanius’ Epitaphios on Julian. where interaction often did occur. both biographers aim to take their place as authoritative heir and representative of these traditions. the focus turns to the biographical productions of Eusebius and Porphyry as attempts to write their respective heroes. in the case of Christian texts.
perhaps the most influential of all the works examined here. namely Macrina and Sosipatra (who receives one of the longest treatments in the work of Eunapius). the dramatic shifts that had occurred in the philosophical field by the fifth century are viewed through the lenses of Theodoret’s Religious History and Marinus’ Life of Proclus. The former reflects the dominance of a Christian intellectual elite. Chapter Five considers the displacement and recasting of the philosopher in Athanasius’ Life of Antony. while the latter represents an intellectual minority under pressure and its attempts to reestablish an authoritative Platonic institution in the city of Athens.34 Here the relationship between political philosophy and programs of religious and cultural reform are examined through the lens of biography.” and “a Hellenism which [was] defined primarily through a combination of . in Chapter Seven. a contrast between philosophers in unlikely places and philosophers in likely places. A member of the cultural elite of the third century with close ties to the court of the empress Julia Domna. Of particular interest are the places women inhabit in the predominately male lineages of philosophical transmission (Christian and Greek) and the significance of female images of the philosopher in estimating paideia and loci of pedagogy. Chapter Six continues the discussion of finding philosophers in unlikely places in the biographical accounts of Christian and Greek women. I have paired this text with Eunapius’ Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists in order to highlight the continuities and differentiations in conceptions of teachers of wisdom in the late fourth century. which regarded the monastic life as the fulfillment of both Christian and Greek visions of virtue. I have chosen to omit from this study the biographical works of Philostratus—his Lives of the Sophists and the Life of Apollonius—for several reasons. Philostratus’ aim was to promote the cultural movement. which he coined the “Second Sophistic. Finally.
a plethora of scholarship on this subject has raised the work to a level of scrutiny and attention that overshadows other important biographical texts in conversation with Christianity. this biography would prove to be extremely influential for both Neopythagoreans and Neoplatonists. the Apostles. The authors of bioi claimed for themselves some share in the philosophical heritage of their “ancestors. and transmitters of philosophical truth. As a literary arena of this competition. but it differs from them in scope and purpose. their inheritance was a family treasure to be faithfully .90 While I maintain that there are important ties between the developments of the Second Sophistic and the emergence of a Christian philosophical culture. the aim of this study is to focus on those works of biographical literature that promote particular expressions of philosophical history and lineage. an abundance of biographical literature began to emerge from the late third century forward. Pythagoras. Jesus Christ.91 The struggle to define and direct the course of philosophical thinking and education in late antiquity manifested itself in various arenas. Finally. but not in support of a particular community of Neopythagorean philosophers. Not a Pythagorean himself. over the course of several centuries. even directly to God). From within the schools and overlapping social networks of both Greek and Christian intellectuals.” As members of lineages that could be traced back to the first teachers and revealers of divine wisdom (Plato. revealers. and even Eusebius of Caesarea targeted the work in his tract Against Hierocles. the bios identified historical figures of both recent and distant memory as embodiments.” namely Pythagorean philosophy. with a host of participants. Nevertheless.35 religion and philosophy. Philostratus composed the bios as a defense of Apollonius the man and the way of life he represented. We might see the Life of Apollonius as a precursor to the philosophical bioi that would appear in Neoplatonist and Christian circles.
36 guarded and passed on through successive generations. translated by Michael Chase (Cambridge. What is Ancient Philosophy. Being Greek Under Rome. 130). MA: Harvard University Press.” in Being Greek Under Rome: Cultural Identity. and Augustine. 2005). 6 Jonathan M. Goldhill. 3 (SC 234. Life of Moses 115. “Introduction. 4. 2 Theodoret. Phil. AD 50–250 (Oxford: Oxford . pro. Classicism. for example. Price. 13 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. edited by D. Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). for example. Hall. Cox Miller (Durham: Duke University Press. Letter to Gregory 2-3. the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire. 5 Simon Goldhill. Goldhill. On Christian Doctrine 2. 7 See. and examine both the circumstances under which Christian intellectuals participated in competition with Greeks and the Christian responses to developing Greek philosophical traditions. trans. Martin and P.” in The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender. from father to son (and sometimes to daughter). and Power in the Greek World.42. “Hellenism and Historiography: Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian in 3 Dialogue. and see also Chapter Five. 2004). Gregory of Nyssa. Origen. Now we turn to the beginnings of the struggle. Asceticism.” see Pierre Hadot. Susanna Elm. 2001). hist. 7. Hellenism and Empire: Language. and Historiography. 260-61 4 See. Setting and Agenda: ‘Everything is Greece to the Wise’. edited by S. 1 For a description of ancient philosophy as a way of life “intimately linked to philosophical discourse. Simon Swain.
16 Cf. 280. Elm. Johnson (New York: Columbia University Press. Christianity. 1996). Being Greek Under Rome. Empire. Christianity. edited and introduced by R. The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge. Hellenism and Empire. Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press. see . 2001). 14 Polymnia Athanassiadi and Michael Frede.. 90. Greek Literature and the Roman Empire: The Politics of Imitation (Oxford: Oxford University Press. Schott. 10 Swain. For its application to the present material. Jeremy M. 2008). 121-31. “Introduction. For an early application of Bourdieu’s theory to late antique materials. Schott.” in idem. See the Introduction by Dale Martin in Cultural Turn. eds. 6. 1-24.” see pp. 8 Goldhill. “Porphyry on Christians and Others: ‘Barbarian Wisdom.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 13. Empire and the Making of Religion.” 13-20. 1999). 1-8. 42. and. 28-29. 1993). especially.” in Goldhill. no. Schott. 1994). footnote 3. “Hellenism and Historiography. Bhabha.” see Homi K. and Anti-Christian Polemics on the Eve of the Great Persecution.3 (2005).’ Identity Politics. 65. 15 On “mimicry. “Roman Questions. On cultural production.” “heathen. Rebecca Preston. 4. see Pierre Bourdieu. Greek Answers: Plutarch and the Construction of 9 Identity. For a discussion of the use of the terms “pagan. see Jeremy M.37 University Press. The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on 17 Art and Literature. and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity 11 12 13 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.” and “Hellene” in the study of pagan and Christian “monotheism.” 260. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse. and Tim Whitmarsh.
Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek 20 Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton. Pierre Bourdieu and Jean Claude Passeron. Similarly. Thomas Schmitz has identified paideia as the habitus of Greco-Roman antiquity. David Swartz. xxiv. Society and Culture. Gymnastics. 25 Referring to the social theory of Pierre Bourdieu. 1970). Beck. 9. Chapters One and Four. Zetemata: Monographien zur klassischen Altertumswissenschaft 97 (Munich: Verlag C. Sources chrétiennes 1 (Paris: Cerf. NJ: Princeton University Press. 1994).H. 2001). 24 See.” rather . 6. Chapter Three. 189-91. 1997). as applied to the Second Sophistic by Thomas Schmitz. 23 Jean Daniélou. Cultural Production.38 Averil Cameron. Cultural Production. esp. ou Traité de la perfection en matière de vertu. 76. which regards paideia as a “locus for a series of competitions and debates concerning the proper way in which life should be lived. 21 Cribiore. 29. Field of Cultural Production. 1997). 19 Bourdieu. and Swartz. Culture & Power. La Vie de Moïse. See Bourdieu. On the education of women. for example. Culture & Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (Chicago: University 22 of Chicago Press. 51. see Raffaella Cribiore. 1968). translated by Richard Nice (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications. Tim Whitmarsh builds on a Bourdieuian cultural anthropology. Reproduction in Education. Bourdieu. Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press. 82-83. See Bildung und Macht: Zur sozialen und politischen Funktion der zweiten Sophistik in der griechischen Welt der Kaiserzeit. 18 Here I am adapting categories found in Bourdieu’s work on cultural competition to the contexts of late antiquity.
see his Outline of a Theory of Practice. eccl. and διατριβή in the contexts 28 29 30 of Late Antique philosophy.” ANRW 36. Cultural Production.3. Dillon.4 (December 2007): 325-46. “Iamblichus of Chalcis. Antiochus and the Late Academy (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. For discussion of Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. Anonymous Prolegomena.). 32 33 34 . For a recent attempt to reconcile the weaknesses in Bourdieu with Margaret Archer’s understanding of reflexive deliberation to create an “emergentist theory of action” that considers both cultural conditioning and conscious deliberation. for example. Bildung und Macht. and idem.D.13 (SC 31. 26. Reproduction. See Bourdieu. Pagan Philosophers in Late Antique Society with Special Reference to Iamblichus and his Followers (Ph. Greek Literature. Hist. 190. 240-325 A. Irenaeus. translated by Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. “Reconciling Archer and Bourdieu in an Emergentist Theory of Action. see David Elder-Vass. Chapter Two. 4. 5 and Schmitz.7. 50-52.” 872. see John Glucker. 160 27 See.2:879. no. 1978). σχολή. 169). Eusebius. For a discussion of the uses of terms such as αἵρεσις. Thesis. esp. 26 Garth Fowden.” See Whitmarsh. “Iamblichus of Chalchis (c.13. Cultural Production. 31 Bourdieu and Passeron. 26–31. See Chapter Five of Swartz’s Culture & Power. Criticisms have been leveled against Bourdieu’s habitus for its apparent determinism and emphasis on social conditioning that limits conscious agency. 5. Oxford. 1977). 3. Dillon. esp.D. John M. Haer.” in Sociological Theory 25. 159-74. 1979).39 than a “single. doctrinally coherent system.
and Dominic J. Nasrallah.40 35 Tim Duff. Ant. Nasrallah. 50. 17. Tatian. edited by M. 53. Edwards and S. Vit.2-3 and discussion in Chapter Five. 491d-492d. 8. see Arnaldo Momigliano. See Athanasius. Plutarch’s Lives. Vit. Moralia 452c-d. “Mapping the World. Simon Swain. Momigliano looks for the roots of the bios in encomia. 491e.” 307. expanded edition (Cambridge. “Mapping the World: Justin. Plato. Lucian.: Harvard University Press. Resp. 1-2. 41 Laura S. Athanasius of Alexandria. Platonopolis: Platonic Political 37 38 39 40 Philosophy in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press. 2003).” 299. 1997). 78. 1. 1999). prose literature about heroes and mythical figures. 36 Plato. and the Second Sophistic. Mass. 1993). 75-77. Plutarch’s Lives: Exploring Virtue and Vice (New York: Oxford University Press. “Biography and Biographic in the Literature of the Roman Empire. Swain (New York: Oxford University Press. but admits that the existence of fully developed biographies is .” Harvard Theological Review 98. Resp. 492a. Duff. On the origins of Greek biographical literature.J. Ant. “Mapping the World. See Plato Resp. 47 Duff. The 48 Development of Greek Biography.” in 43 44 45 46 Portraits: Biographical Representation in the Greek and Latin Literature of the Roman Empire. Plutarch.3 (July 2005): 283–314. 42 Nasrallah. Plutarch’s Lives. O’Meara. no.2.
” See Momigliano. 53 Momigliano. a Peripatetic. 12. 49 For a more detailed discussion of biography and autobiography in the fifth and fourth centuries B. 6 52 Tomas Hägg and Philip Rousseau. 1983). 23-64. The earliest surviving examples of Greek biography are known to us in fragments. Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press.41 “conjectural” (p. Development. Nicolaus of Damascus. Agesilaus 10. see Hall. 65–76. and Sophocles by the third century B. Development.C.. Aeschylus. King Herod’s court historian. wrote a Life of Augustus and an autobiography (Momigliano.E. The earliest surviving work of Latin biography is the fragmentary De viris illustribus by Cornelius Nepos (first century B. 45.). Momigliano. 2. Biography in Late Antiquity: A Quest for the 51 Holy Man (Berkeley: University of California Press.C. Antigonus.C. 189. Development. .E.. of these seem to have written works of collective biography. contributed to the development of the biographical genre. Peripatetic Satyrus. Sotion composed a work titled “The Succession of Philosophers. 9). 28). eds. Patricia Cox. Jerome (Vir. Among the Peripatetics who continued this tradition. Satyrus. preserved in P Oxy. ill. 50 Xeonophon. 2000). The Peripatetics.E. see Momigliano. These include fragments of the lives of Euripides. On the shift towards cultural criteria in the definition of Greekness. 1176. 4. Hellenicity. Most. Development. which is thought to have contained some 400 biographical accounts. Development. and Sotion. including Hermippus. if not all.821) names several. in particular.
6. 65-76. Development.” She is in conversation with Ludwig Bieler. Duff. Cox.5 (Plato). 10-11. Momigliano. 60 Jerome. Vir. was an attempt to outline the “construction of the religious personality” of the “divine man” in ancient literature as a demonstration of Platonic theological and anthropological ideas. 2. xi.821. For additional examples of Socratic biographical literature. my translation. Biography. Cox’s work on biography should be read in the context of scholarship on the ancient “divine man” and “holy man. See Diogenes Laertius. ΘΕΙΟΣ ΑΝΗΡ. Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 3. Development. Biography.” Journal of Hellenic Studies 102 (1982): 33-59. Pythagoras. 53.21 56 57 58 59 (Pythagoras). Cox. and Garth Fowden’s “The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society. 175). and Cox. 55 Momigliano. Isocrates (Evagoras. ill. Biography. 5-6. Alexander 1 (Lindskog and Ziegler. Plutarch. Momigliano. The Pythagorean-turned-Aristotelian Aristoxenus composed Lives of Socrates.42 54 Momigliano. 73) expressed his preference for written “likenesses of deeds and of 61 62 63 64 the character” to statues. Plato. Development. 65 Cox.” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971): 80101. 46-47. and 8. Plutarch’s Lives. Also important are Peter Brown’s “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in late antiquity. and Archytas. see Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Cyropaedia. Development. whose classic 1935-36 work. xi. . 12. Biography.
” 1619-20. see also Charles H. Auflage (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht. 18-20. He also notes that no Socratic. 1988). eds. 1956).. Momigliano. Cox. 70 Biography. Development.C. 102. Ivo Bruns. Development. 109. Development. 71 Momigliano. Development. and Hägg and Rousseau already 67 cited. But as Momigliano pointed out (Development. 12-13. 7. History and Biography in Ancient Thought (Amsterdam: J. Albrecht Dihle took up the question of literary origins and the concept of the “individual” in Studien sur griechischen Biographie.-hist. Swain. Klasse 3. Talbert. Plutarch’s Lives. 2. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen. 6. Talbert. Das literarische Porträt der Griechen im fünften und vierten Jahrhundert vor Christi Geburt (1896) and Die Persönlichkeit in der Geschichtsschreibung der Alten (Berlin: W. 51-52. “Biographies. Cox. Dihle seems to overlook the fact that biographical literature existed some one hundred years before Socrates. “Biographies of Philosophers and Rulers as Instruments of Religious Propaganda in Mediterranean Antiquity. Momigliano.” ANRW 16. 1898). and Bruno Gentili and Giovanni Cerri.43 66 Momigliano. 69 See Die griechisch-römisch Biographie nach ihrer litterarischen Form (Leipzig. 68 For example. including Plato and Aristotle. Phil. ever wrote a biography proper (an account from birth to death) of Socrates. 72 73 . In addition to the works of Momigliano. 1901).2: 1619-51. Gieben. by arguing that the figure of Socrates inspired the invention of biography in Socratic circles. and Duff. On Leo. 1617). Hertz. Development. see Momigliano.
75 Richard A. See also Gregory of Nyssa. 16. notably the volume of essays edited by Edwards and Swain. Marinus (Vit. See. followers. 76 Gentili and Cerri.22. 250. Burridge What Are the Gospels? A Comparison with Greco-Roman Biography. (3) those that intend to discredit a teacher.. 28) where Maron heaps up a “wealth of philosophy” (τῆς φιλοσοφίας συναθροίζων τὸν πλοῦτον) through his labors. Hall. Life of Macrina 37.” 1620-23. Previous studies have called attention to this function of biography. History and Biography.” 1645. Mich. education. Both Greek and Christian authors often used the economic metaphor of “philosophy” as an 80 81 inheritance or wealth. 2004). hist. Theodoret. and follow the general structure of and include the tropes of classic biographical genres—birth. “Biographies. 79 Talbert. childhood. Phil. 9-15. 184. and that edited by Hägg and Rousseau. The Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids. works. “Biographies. which considers the interaction between Christian and non-Christian biographical texts. . (2) those that aim to dispel a false image of a teacher or to provide a true one. 84. succession. By “philosophical bioi. Proc. and (5) those that validate and/or provide a hermeneutical key for the subject’s teaching. etc.” 1620-23.44 74 Talbert. deeds that demonstrate character. 78 Talbert. Hellenicity.1 (SC 257. for example. Talbert outlines five types of lives: (1) those that simply provide a moral paradigm.: Eerdmans.” I mean those Christian and non-Christian bioi that skillfully 77 employ explicit philosophical language and imagery. 2nd ed. (4) those that map out a tradition of a particular school by including lists of successors. “Biographies.
See Athanasius. 158. Paideia & Pythagoreanism: Greek Identity. Reproduction. “Inroduction: Biography and Panegyric. the tradition of Platonic philosophy. Simon Swain. 51. Culture & Power. Price.. and S. 1999). see Swain. 11-31.115 (SC 1ter 174). 1995). 86 Swartz. In Honour of Apollonius. 2006). particularly in the scholarly discussion of gospel literature. Inc. For a good. Power. Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans. Vit. 14-18. 82 Libanius Ep. 91 The literature on the Life of Apollonius is extensive. Goodman. Tomas Hägg and Philip Rousseau. On the Life of Apollonius as apologetic literature. 230. Watts.” 88 Bourdieu.C. where paideia and Greek philosophy 87 are called the “wealth of outside learning. “Defending Hellenism.45 10) describes the philosopher Proclus’s arrival in Athens as his taking possession of his rightful inheritance. “Defending Hellenism: Philostratus. M.170 (Norman). 14. Greek Biography. Mos. 2. Jews.J.” in Hägg and 83 Rousseau. 125-31. Conceptions of the Relationship Between Philosophers and Monarchs and Political Ideas in Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius (Amsterdam: J.. see Jaap Jan Flinterman.” . Cultural Production. Edward J. 84 Bourdieu. City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria (Berkeley: 85 University of California Press. comprehensive study of Philostratus and his body of work in context. eds. 89 90 Edwards. eds. See Gregory of Nyssa. Gieben.” in M. and Christians (New York: Oxford University Press.
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