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Publikacja wydana ze środków przeznaczonych na działalność statutową Wydziału Historycznego Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w Krakowie EDITORIAL BOARD Maria Dzielska, Maciej Salamon, Małgorzata Smorąg-Różycka, Michał Stachura, Stanisław Turlej REVIEWER Maciej Salamon TECHNICAL EDITOR Jakub Kuciak COVER DESIGN Anna Siermontowska-Czaja On the cover: Portrait of a Late Platonic philosopher, early fifth century A.D., Aphrodisias, Museum; Dionysus, floor mosaic of triclinium in so-called Domus of Dionysus, second century A.D., Brescia, Santa Giulia Civic Museum. TYPESETTING Dorota Słomińska. Studio Poligraficzne © Copyright by Maria Dzielska, Kamilla Twardowska & Jagiellonian University Press

First edition, Kraków 2013 No part of this book may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, microfilming, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the Author and the Publisher. Printed directly from the camera-ready materials provided to the Jagiellonian University Press by Editors ISBN 978-83-233-3679-2 ISSN 1230-4603


Jagiellonian University Press Editorial Offices: Michałowskiego St. 9/2, 31-126 Kraków Phone: 12-663-23-81, 12-663-23-82, fax 12-663-23-83 Sales: Phone 12-631-01-97, Phone/Fax 12-631-01-98 Mobile: 506-006-674, e-mail: [email protected] Bank account: PEKAO SA, no. 80 1240 4722 1111 0000 4856 3325

Contents M. Dzielska, Foreword . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 M. Salamon, Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 List of participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Polymnia Athanassiadi, The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Pierre Chuvin, Praying, Wonder-Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Dimitar Y. Dimitrov, Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Maria Dzielska, Once More on Hypatia’s Death . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65 Agnieszka Kijewska, Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philospopher? . . . . . . . . . 75 Krzysztof Kościelniak, Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91 Adam Łukaszewicz, Lecture Halls at Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Andrzej Iwo Szoka, Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity . . . . . . . . 113 Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler, Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Kamilla Twardowska, Athenais Eudocia — Divine or Christian Woman? . . . . . . . . . . 149 Edward Watts, Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical Exemplar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159 Conference photo gallery

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

FOREWORD The papers collected in the present volume were originally delivered at the conference “Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism”, organised at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków on the 24th–25th June, 2010. The conference was a unique gathering of international scholars, who cherish the tradition of Hellenism in Late Antiquity and venerate its “divine” representatives (theioi andres), and who deeply identify with the moral values and philosophical concepts of those times and the Neoplatonic doctrine in general. The conference gathered many eminent scholars, who brought with them new perspectives on ancient sources, presenting divine men and women of Neoplatonic era, their multifaceted activities and the entire range of their scientific pursuits and virtues. The starting point of the reflection course we embarked upon was Pythagoras — a philosopher of superhuman perfection and a model for the divine men in late Hellenism and, particularly, Apollonius of Tyana — his 1st c. AD “embodiment”. We investigated the means of the philosopher’s divine ascent and — contrary to the idealised model of theios aner — we also focused on his social and reformative role. We did not, however, gloss over some of the philosopher’s personal imperfections, despite his holiness. Other conference papers discussed various figures of divine women, such as the high priestess Ispatale, Sosipatra, Hypatia and Empress Eudocia. We also learned about the Christian reception of the divine man, we probed into the aspects of divinisation in Sufi mysticism, and we examined the basic material framework of intellectual activities of the divine men on the basis of archaeological findings during excavations in late antique lecture halls at Kom El-Dikka in Alexandria. A most surprising and eye-opening post scriptum of the conference was a presentation of a divine man of late antique Cynicism — the mysterious Salutios of Emesa. This was our “sacred” negotium, upon which we cherished our less elevated otium, consisting of walks around the royal city of Kraków as well as cheerful and witty conversations during old-Polish-style feasts redolent of exquisite food, wine and good vodka in Kawaleria restaurant. On the way we were accompanied by the



spirit of Apollonius of Tyana, who, according to the secret doctrine of esotericists, had placed his charm — a talisman (chakram) on Wawel Hill, where the Kraków royal castle and cathedral are located. The talisman is still radiating the creative energy, which we felt during our visit to the oldest part of the Wawel castle where the talisman is buried. Undoubtedly, the divine men had their part in our gathering, which was, thanks to gods and good daimones, a fruitful and inspiring time of scholarly and friendly henosis. Therefore, I want to express my deep thanks and appreciation to the Colleagues who took part in the conference in Kraków. prof. dr hab. Maria Dzielska

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: the Case of Synesius


Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

INTRODUCTION The subject of the conference „Divine Men and Women in the History of Late Hellenism”, held in 2010 at the Jagiellonian Univeristy was not without significance for the Cracow byzantinists. About 30 years ago we started our first conference titled quite similarly: Paganism in the late Roman Empire and in Byzantium. Its originator was Prof. Maria Dzielska, who some years earlier initiated the foundation of our Byzantine Studies Department. Meantime we arranged regularly other scholarly symposia devoted to later periods of Byzantine history and to Byzantino — Slavic relations in the Middle Ages, but the Late Antiquity remained the main subject of our team’s research, no wonder that studies in history of the late antique religion and philosophy published by Prof. Dzielska and her collaborators’ are the pride of Cracow Byzantinists. Her biographies of Apollonius of Tyana and of Hypatia of Alexandria are read all over the world, the book about the Alexandrian divine woman being translated in about 10 languages. It is now one of the best known Polish scholarly publications in the world. The disciples of Prof. Dzielska follow in the footsteps of her master: Dr. Kamilla Twardowska with her book devoted to the empresses of the 2 half of the V century and Dr. Michał Stachura with his books concerning the attitude of late antique emperors towards the religious and other kind minorities as well as about the language of aggression in the legislation of the Later Empire. I pass over lesser achievements of Prof. Maria Dzielska’s school, but still another field of her scholarly activity deserves to be mentioned as a great contribution to the development of Polish culture: her professional and competent translation of the corpus of Pseudo Dionysius Areopagites writings, a work highly appreciated by Polish specialists. It is Prof. Dzielska’s constant concern to bring to the attention of Polish intellectual elite the relevance of the late antique studies for the contemporary world and to promote the cooperation of Polish specialists in the domain of research with foreign scholars. We are very thankful to the Authors of this volume for their contribution to the Cracow conference and for their valuable papers they submitted to publication. They enrich and deepen our knowledge about the divine men (and women) phenomenon



in late Antiquity, discuss their characteristic features as well as atypical variants. It has been shown that different typologies of divine men and divine women can be proposed, notwithstanding the fact that they seem to share a common set of positive features. The majority of papers concern the area of Late Hellenism but the influence on the Western Europe — Latin Christianity as well as even the Muslim world are discussed. The relevance of the Warsaw University excavations in Alexandria for a reconstruction of Hypatia’s death circumstances (415) shows the importance of interdisciplinary research in the contemporary classical studies. We hope the volume will contribute to the development of study in the Late-Antique religion and culture in the frame of international scholarly cooperation. Prof. Maciej Salamon PhD Byzantine History Chair Jagiellonian University

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: the Case of Synesius


Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

List of participants 1. Polymnia Athanassiadi — The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure. 2. Pierre Chuvin — Praying, Wonder-Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions. 3. Constantin Macris — Pythagoras as a Model for Divine Man in Late Antiquity. 4. Dimitar Y. Dimitrov — Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius. 5. Maria Dzielska — Once More on Hypatia’s Death. 6. Agnieszka Kijewska — Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philospopher? 7. Krzysztof Kościelniak — Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221). 8. Adam Łukaszewicz — Lecture Halls at Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria. 9. Andrzej Iwo Szoka — Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity. 10. Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler, Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity. 11. Edward Watts — Damascius’ Isidore: A Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical Exemplar.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Polymnia Athanassiadi University of Athens

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: a Sociable and Popular Figure

I. The θεȋoς ἀνήρ 1. Social reality or scholarly construct?

The first question that springs to mind when confronted with the theme of this volume is a methodological one: is the term qe‹oj ¢n»r a recent coinage — a modern convention, like, say, “Neoplatonism” — or is it contemporary with the society we are studying1? Even a quick glance at the evidence reveals that the formula is ancient and, what is more, of regular usage in late antique society. It was an expression to which people had recourse in order to describe a familiar type, a figure who played a role in their lives both as an ideal and a reality. And if we were to compare it with the term “Second Sophistic”, which is a methodological construct invented by a chronicler to legitimise a social trend by transforming it into a consistent intellectual movement, we would immediately see how much more weight it carried in contemporary society; for, unlike the “Second Sophistic”, an expression that would have meant nothing to people outside Philostratus’ own narrow circle, the term qe‹oj ¢n»r corresponds to a concept created and nurtured to meet the needs of an entire society. Whichever way one approaches the subject therefore, it is not possible to deconstruct it along the lines dictated by the “methodologies of suspicion”; the notion and reality of the qe‹oj ¢n»r is firmly embedded in the society of late antiquity. In what follows I will not attempt to talk about origins — not because it is not fashionable to do so, but because it is totally unnecessary in the present context. In this connection one thinks of the classic work by L. Bieler, Qe‹oj ¢n»r: Das Bild des “göt‑ tlichen Menschen” in Spätantike und Frühchristentum, Vienna 1935–1936. 1


Polymnia Athanassiadi

Instead I will remind the reader that, from at least the second century A.D., the concept of the qe‹oj ¢n»r was so widespread in the Mediterranean world as to inspire parodies in wide circulation both in real life and in literature. If we choose to stay only within the boundaries of the world of Lucian, we will meet a genuine holy man — Demonax — together with his anti­‍‍‑types: Peregrinus and Alexander of Abonoteichos. Parenthetically, and in anticipation of the main argument of this paper, one may remark that, whereas Peregrinus — and especially Alexander — comply with the model of the holy man which would be all the rage in late antiquity, Demonax represents not so much an old­‍‍‑fashioned ideal as a perennial type of philosophical life, thus illustrating Lucian’s attachment to classical standards. Yet despite his studied indifference to what counted as modernity in his world, the thematic of the qe‹oj ¢n»r proved inescapable even for as reactionary a character as Lucian. The need for a human model of goodness in this society (but also for a guarantee of eternal life) is so imperative that historical figures of the recent or distant past, such as Apollonius of Tyana or Pythagoras, are reworked until they are made to comply with a contemporary standard of sanctity capable of bestowing salvation. In turn, this model imposes a social ideal, yet an ideal which varies according to place, time and milieu and above all according to the temperament of the person who embodies (or propagates) it. A living and therefore evolving type against an exceptionally unstable social background, the qe‹oj ¢n»r is a dynamic and elusive figure, yet with all his fluidity, he has certain stable characteristics, and it is one of these — that of the social reformer through teaching — that I have chosen as the theme of this paper. The individual figures may vary greatly — Plotinus and Iamblichus, two archetypal divine men, can easily form the subject of a study in antithesis, as do Sosipatra and Hypatia, who incarnate, each in her own distinctive way, the ideal of the late antique holy woman. Yet what all four of these figures have in common is the vocation of imparting their thought­‍‍‑world to the circle of men and women who had gathered around them. Indeed it would not be far off the mark to say that they saw the reform of society as a crucial part of their mission.

2. The universal paidagogos The divine men and women of late antiquity were not solitary figures, eremitic creatures who sought the salvation of their soul away from the hubbub of the city, as did their Christian counterparts2. The few exceptions to this rule among pagan holy men only confirm it. Eunapius, for example, has to justify the behaviour of Antoninus by reference to the harshness of the times, and Damascius presents the

According to the strong language of the Emperor Julian in a  letter addressed to a  prominent member of his clergy which sets out the principles of a pastoral social policy (Ep. 89b, 288b Bidez, cf. Aristotle, Pol. 1253a 3ff., a well known passage to which Julian refers directly), it is out of an unnatural hatred for their fellow men inspired by evil demons that the hermits renounce human society when man is by nature a social and civilised being. 2

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


solitary sage Sarapio as an eccentric at odds with the world around him3. The struggle of the sage against the demons of the flesh and “irreligion” at large takes place in the midst of concentric circles of fellow human beings and the energy which is unleashed by this combat radiates far and wide. Thus, as Iamblichus is quick to point out to Porphyry, when the theurgist hastens towards his divine goal, this is not simply an act of personal exertion or renouncement and fulfillment, it is not a self­ ‍‍‑centred act, but one whose benefits are for everyone to reap4. Moulded on the type of the Iamblichan theurgist, the priests of the Julianic reform are, in theory at least, the benefactors of mankind5. The divine man has no personal interests separate from those of the community. He has no privacy. A well known anecdote from the life of Iamblichus offers an excellent illustration of this point. Resentful of the time he spent away from them, the pupils of Iamblichus chose the most eloquent among them to address the master. “Oh most divine teacher”, said the pupil, “why do you spend time by yourself rather than share with us your most perfect wisdom? Your slaves have let us know that when you pray to the gods you appear to soar above the earth more than ten cubits, while your body and your garments take on a splendid golden hue; and when you finish your prayer your body becomes as it was before and you come down to earth to associate with us”.

Though not at all inclined to laughter, Eunapius comments, Iamblichus laughed at these words. And, while he assured his pupils that the report of the slaves was far from the truth, he promised them from that moment onwards to do nothing away from their presence6. This is an extreme, but not untypical, illustration of the way in which the divine men of late antiquity conceived their pedagogic task. They were above all teachers whose primary mission was to form, by example and instruction, the character not only of those socially privileged men and women who came to them as pupils, but of humanity at large. The formal successor of Iamblichus, Aedesius of Cappadocia, was to be remembered as an exceptionally affable man who made a point of associating with vegetable sellers, weavers, smiths and carpenters in the marketplace of Pergamon. In behaving thus, Aedesius sought to impress on the heart and mind of the man in the street the image of the sage as an informal and popular figure (his trТpoj was koinХj kaˆ dhmotikТj), while at the same time “he tried to implant in his pupils a feeling of harmony and responsibility towards mankind, seeing that they On Antoninus, see: Eunapius VS VI 9, 15–17 Giangrande; on Sarapio, Damascius, Phil.Hist. fr. 111 Athanassiadi. The fact that the ideal of the pagan holy man is one of mildness, charm and popularity (as illustrated by Plotinus and propagated by Iamblichus) does not mean that the philosophical circles did not abound in men who failed to incarnate this ideal. Arrogance was a hallmark of many and it is exactly such an attitude that Iamblichus and Aedesius are trying to curb in their pupils and colleagues and that Eunapius criticises openly, as in the case of Maximus (VS VII 2,7; 3,12 and esp. 4,2), or indirectly when he contrasts the amiable and popular Aedesius with Priscus (VS VIII 1, 1–5). 4 See: Athanassiadi, Le théurge comme dispensateur universel de la grâce: entre les Oracles chaldaïques et Jamblique, forthcoming. 5 See below, pp. 25–27. 6 Eunapius VS V 1,7–10. 3


Polymnia Athanassiadi

were intolerant, overbearing and too arrogant on account of their theoretical training; when they spread wings which were more fragile than those of Icarus, he would bring them gently down not into the sea, but to the land and to human understanding (™pˆ t¾n gÁn kaˆ tХ ¢nqrpèpinon)7. As Dominic O’Meara has argued in a series of publications, contrary to the widely held view that the late Platonists were exclusively interested in higher metaphysics, divinisation was conceived in these circles as the crowning point in an educational curriculum whose initial stages coincided with the building of the practical or political virtues8. This process took place in the midst of society. O’Meara illustrates his point by systematically analyzing those works of the later Platonists which deal specifically with political philosophy. What I would like to do here is to go one step further (or rather one step back) and show that the concern for the moral shaping and reform of humanity in general was a major preoccupation of the divine man. This solicitude is not to be found only in works of political philosophy, but constitutes the moving force behind the sage’s oral and written teaching activity. The evidence from Iamblichus’ correspondence — a genre between orality and literariness — to which the rest of this paper is devoted, provides a nice illustration of this point.

II. The correspondence of Iamblichus9 1. General principles

To realise how true and faithful a pupil of Iamblichus Aedesius was in terms of sociability, we have to leave their common biographer and turn to the testimony of the master himself. We have the extraordinarily good fortune to possess several of the letters that Iamblichus sent to pupils of his after they had taken leave of him. Albeit transmitted as extracts by the fifth­‍‍‑century anthologist John of Stobi, the fragments of the twenty letters which have come down to us in this way may be viewed as an organic whole, illustrating the genre of protreptic epistolography cultivated by or simply attributed to the major divine men of early and late antiquity, whether Pythagoras or Apollonius of Tyana. Such collections of genuine or pseudepigraphic letters were preserved in the libraries of philosophical schools, to be consulted,

Ibidem, VIII 1, 5–8. See esp.: Platonopolis. Platonic political philosophy in late antiquity, Oxford 2003. 9 Two editions of this correspondence with introductory texts, translation and notes have recently appeared: J.M. Dillon and W. Polleichtner, Iamblichus of Chalcis: The Letters, Atlanta 2009, where the fragments from Stobaeus are classified in alphabetical order of the recipient’s name, and Giamblico. I frammenti dalle Epistole: Introduzione, edizione, traduzione e commento a cura di D.P. Taormina e R.M. Piccione, Rome 2010, which follows the sequence of the fragments in Stobaeus’ Anthologium in the edition of C. Wachsmuth and O. Hense. All my references are to the latter work, henceforth quoted as T&P, and consequently the numbering of Iamblichus’ letters is given as established by Wachsmuth and Hense. On the other hand, translations of extensive passages, despite alterations, are based on Dillon & Polleichtner. I am extremely grateful to the two Italian scholars who put at my disposal their work before its publication. 7 8

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


quoted and discussed by masters and pupils10. More importantly however, as shown by the task undertaken by Stobaeus, moralising letter writing of this kind, free of scholastic technicalities, was intended to travel beyond the walls of the philosophical school and reach a wider public of laymen11. As preserved by Stobaeus, the letters of Iamblichus appear as a manual of practical philosophy firmly based on the four cardinal Platonic virtues and on Stoic ethics, with the theme of paideia in all its multiple dimensions and applications inspiring and guiding Man in his daily routine. Breaking away from Stobaeus’ rigid classification12, in what follows we shall focus our attention on two relevant questions: on the one hand, we will attempt to explore Iamblichus’ link with each one of his correspondents, and on the other to identify the general and specific preoccupations which were on the mind of the two parties at the time of the exchange. The abundance and variety of the fragments which constitute the corpus should allow us to respond adequately to these objectives. 2. Themes of the correspondence and its anthropology

The recipients of Iamblichus’ letters (some of whom may not even be former pupils) belong to the so­‍‍‑called elites of the Empire, as even a quick prosopographical survey suffices to attest. Addressing them, Iamblichus has in mind their function as administrators and how they can best perform it; this is why the main emphasis in these letters is laid on the four cardinal virtues and on their colophon, virtue itself in its theological hypostasis as the good or the one. Specific questions raised by each correspondent are, as it would appear, individually answered by Iamblichus. The master’s discourse is deployed against a background of constant anxiety for the state of the world, yet the tone is not pessimistic. A deep trust in divine providence informs this correspondence, in which the sage advises the generation of active men and women how to behave themselves, but also how to educate both their subjects and their own progeny so that harmony may be restored in the cosmos. Perceiving the times in which he lived as an exceptionally troubled period when, as a result of the progress of Christianity among other factors, discord had been abundantly sown in society and in the cosmos, Iamblichus stresses the benefits of concord (ÐmТnoia, ÐmognwsÚnh) as much to the individual as to the state, while underlining the multiple evils which derive from a conflictual state of mind (II 33, 15). Writing to one of his frequent correspondents, Macedonius, whom we assume to be a high official, Iamblichus emphasises, in the relatively short fragment preserved by Stobaeus, the dangers which result for the self and for the community when a man’s thoughts and opinions (logismo…) are not the outcome of a mind concordant with itself. “Unbalanced” (¢st£qmhtoj), and “at war with himself” (polšmioj prХj ˜autТn), such a person soon becomes a public danger, and all the more so if he oc10 See: Damascius, In Phaed. I 548 Westerink and Olympiodorus, In Gorg. 46, 9, pp. 242, 1–9 Westerink. Cf. the comments of T&P, pp. 66, 74–75, 80–81. 11 T&P point out the “spirito didattico dell anthologia”, but also of the original, p. 77. 12 On which, see the equivalent tables in T&P, pp. 49–51 and 82–85.


Polymnia Athanassiadi

cupies a position of power. Behind Iamblichus’ statement may lurk the suggestion that those educated Christians who led the community in their capacity as bishops or secular administrators without having first resolved their private tensions between an education based on the classics and a religion which opposed it on all crucial matters, were a source of public evil. The pax deorum was broken because of human ingratitude, which to Iamblichus’ mind is “the absolute evil” (p£ndeinon), since it turns upside down the space which by right belongs to the good (t¾n cèran aЩtщ [tù ¢gaqù] pantelîj ¢natršpei), thus depriving mankind of divine assistance13. This thinly disguised reference to Christian impiety and to the evils which proceed from it is to be found in a letter addressed by the master to his favourite pupil and heir apparent, Sopater (II 46, 16). In another letter, “On truth”, equally addressed to Sopater (III 11, 35), Iamblichus dwells on the antithesis between the right approach to the gods, which entails the search for the truth, and thus turns us towards the Intellect and enhances what is best in us, and the idolatrous activity of those who cling to outward appearances and are masters in deception, forever wandering “in godless darkness”14. As one would have expected, there is much in this correspondence about the four cardinal virtues. But what is of interest in the present context is the emphasis laid by Iamblichus on the practical and social aspect of all four of them. A letter addressed to a certain Asphalius — an imperial administrator and a former pupil, as one may safely assume from the tone — describes reason/wisdom (frТnhsij) in philosophical language as the inner eye which contemplates the Intellect and the vehicle which ensures our communication with the divine. Its highest function however consists in the way this virtue can be applied to the directing of human society (III 3.26). As the quality which enables us to become as much like god as is humanly possible, wisdom is nothing less than the science of guiding and governing human relations in cities and households as well as in private lives15. After treating the couple frТnhsij — ¢frosÚnh (ΙΙΙ 3 and 4), Stobaeus devotes a section to swfrosÚnh (temperance or self­‍‍‑control), in which he includes several fragments from a letter of Iamblichus to a lady by the name of Arete (III 5, 9; and 45–50). The letter is of especial interest to us, as Arete seems to have been an obstinate and even quarrelsome person, whose aggressiveness Iamblichus is trying to curb by singing the praises of moderation. As the immortal virtue par excellence, swfrosÚnh frees the soul from the constraints of passion and renders us perfect, he writes. In order to better impress this upon her mind, Iamblichus talks of the harmony of the universe which in its spatial as well as temporal dimension is the result of a reasoned accord between different powers, just as good social behaviour results from the balanced accord between the virtues which characterise the three 13 On the triple negativity of ingratitude (ontological, ethical and political), see T&P, n. 182, p. 424. 14 Behind the specific vocabulary used here by Iamblichus the reader easily detects a reference to Christianity. For similar expressions in a similar context, see T&P n. 264, p. 483. 15 Cf. III 3.26 (p. 202, 10–12): kubernhtik» tij ™stˆ tоn ¢nqrèpwn kaˆ tБj Уlhj ™n aÙto‹j diat£xewj ¢rchgТj.

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


parts of the soul. Not content however with this theoretical exposition, Iamblichus finds it necessary to strengthen his argument by the additional use of allegory: first he explains how, through hard discipline, Bellerophon succeeded in destroying, not just the Chimaera, but the whole tribe of savage beasts, which in Iamblichus’ analysis symbolise the host of passions assaulting the human soul. The second myth is also a popular one: Perseus slaying Gorgo. Having reached, with the help of Athena, the very peak of moderation and self­‍‍‑control, Perseus was able to destroy Gorgo, who, in Iamblichus’ exegesis “drags men down to materiality and, through mindless self­ ‍‍‑gratification, petrifies them”. What is impressive is the energy that Iamblichus was prepared to spend in order to impress on Arete (in all probability a former pupil, already living, as it would appear from later evidence, on her estate in Phrygia) the virtues of sociable behaviour. Equally interesting is the utter failure of philosophical admonition to reform character: Arete seems to have continued in her eristic ways well into her old age, when the Emperor Julian was obliged to visit her in an attempt to solve the problems which had arisen between her and her neighbours16. There follow letters on courage (¢ndre…a) and on justice (dikaiosЪnh) to officials in the administrative network of the Empire17. The letter to Olympius (III 7, 40–41) presents courage at once as a mental attitude and as a practical virtue which takes into consideration the opportune moment in politics, while ignoring any toil and danger in the cause of the good (¹ ¢ndagaq…a tоn pr£xewn, t¦ kal£... di’ aЩt¦ aƒroumšnh kaˆ pr£ttousa). More than any other virtue, courage is for Iamblichus “the very identity of a mind true to itself” (toа noа tautТthj kaˆ mТnimoj ›xij ™n ˜autН). As will be emphasised later, the concept of identity was one of crucial importance in this society, and Iamblichus’ choice of equating courage with the very essence of Man is not accidental. Finally two short fragments from a letter to a certain Anatolius take up the theme of justice, which constitutes the end and the summation of all the virtues. But the justice that Iamblichus proposes is a wholly political virtue promoting peaceful coexistence with one’s neighbours and emphasising the usefulness of all manner of social contracts. Maybe, as in the case of Arete, Iamblichus had in mind the character of his addressee and wrote accordingly. 3. The philosopher as the benefactor of humanity

The insistence of Iamblichus on the qualities of self­‍‍‑control, goodwill, affability, fair­‍‍‑mindedness, generosity, altruism, philanthropy, mildness, accessibility, “honey­‍‍‑sweet modesty” and the ability to make concessions surpasses by far the genre requirements of political philosophy and protreptic epistolography, and can in no way be attributed to its topoi. These qualities represent the genuine concerns of the man who had re­‍‍‑introduced Pythagorean modes of behaviour into the realm 16 See: Julian, Letter to Themistius 259d and cf. P. Athanassiadi, Julian: an intellectual biography, London 19922, p.43. 17 On the possible identity of the addressees of these letters (Olympius and Anatolius), see: T&P, n. 243, p. 467 and n. 255, p. 475 respectively.


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of philosophy and who, far from producing a set panegyric for the ruler, writes ad hoc letters to individuals who are his juniors in every possible respect. In two letters (one of which is addressed to Sopater (III 31, 9 cf. II 2, 5 to 20), Iamblichus recommends a form of behaviour characterised by a„dиj. Modesty, shame and respect towards oneself and others are the connotations attached to this notion so crucial in the Greek tradition, whose Homeric and Hesiodic pedigree Iamblichus is careful to stress. In a society in which shamelessness and venality were current coin throughout the central administration, as the anti­‍‍‑corruption legislation indicates18, a man who had been brought up in a now declining culture of private munificence develops the theme of public benefaction. Writing to Dyscolius, governor of Syria in the early 320s, the old philosopher dwells on the interdependence of the individual and the public good (IV 5, 62; 74), while recommending generosity as the hallmark of the ruler. From his privileged position, the ruler should unceasingly pour out donations in a totally disinterested spirit, “not reckoning them up as in a scales equal for equal” (IV 5, 75). The crown of his administration should be a decoration (or a world) — kТsmoj — made up of benefactions, as Iamblichus somewhat poetically concludes (ibid.). Whether in their public or private capacity, the addressees of Iamblichus’ letters are encouraged to be above all benefactors of their fellow men. 4. Concern for the future. How to educate the young

Iamblichus was an educationalist who saw his pedagogic task as one of his major roles in society. As well as producing a theoretical treatise in ten books, corresponding to the same number of steps in the educational process, he systematised, both thematically and methodologically, the curriculum of studies proper to each stage19. But these arrangements concerned those who, having completed their basic education, were embarking on a philosophical training. By contrast, in his correspondence Iamblichus deals with fundamentals, advising on the best way of bringing up children. Addressing in this respect a letter full of parental solicitude to his favourite pupil, Sopater, he emphasises the gradual, painfully slow and complex character of the educational process and calls attention on the importance of the right approach at the outset (II 31,122): as in the case of plants and animals, the growth and prosperity of human beings depends on a good start. Against a theoretical background firmly based on Plato’s Laws, Iamblichus is careful to provide practical detail on how inner balance can best be achieved. Brief admonitions rather than long On one aspect of corruption in the later Roman empire, linked to the practice of suffragium, see: A.H.M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 284–602, Oxford 1964, pp. 391–396. On the Emperor Julian’s attempt to control corruption, Athanassiadi, Julian, pp. 116–117. 19 For an ingenious reconstruction of the ten books of the Pythagorean Synagoge, see: D. O’Meara, Pythagoras revived: mathematics and philosophy in late antiquity, Oxford 1989, pp. 30–105. For the permanent vogue of the Iamblichan curriculum of studies in late antique philosophical training, see: P. Athanassiadi, La lutte pour l’orthodoxie dans le platonisme tardif: de Numénius à Damascius, Paris 2006, pp. 169–174 and eadem, Canonizing Platonism: the fetters of Iamblichus [in:] E. Thomassen (ed.), Canon and Canonicity, Copenhagen 2010, pp. 129–141. 18

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


speeches are more likely to impress the mind of a child, he cunningly states. It is not enough for parents and tutors to set a good example through their own behaviour; in order to sow the seeds of virtue “in young and tender souls”, they must enable the children to foster their own criteria of good and evil by exposing them to the conditions of real life with all its good and bad aspects. Only in this way will they acquire a sound judgment and an even disposition, developing the intellectual and moral stamina which will enable them to prosper in society. As well as being the recipient of the letter on how to raise children, Sopater is the addressee of a letter on dialectic (II 2, 6), a topic of particular interest to Iamblichus, on which he also writes to Dexippus (II 2, 5), author of a surviving introduction to the Categories of Aristotle. A divine gift and an innate blessing strengthened by training, dialectic is relevant to all walks of life and all activities. As the essence of philosophical methodology, it enables the researcher to distinguish truth from falsehood and promotes scientific enquiry. In all cases, a good grounding in this discipline bolsters human judgement and renders it capable of solving ambiguities, whether in the realm of divine pronouncements, such as obscure oracles, or in everyday life, where it functions as an instrument which clears the mists from the intellectual horizon . What emerges with sufficient clarity from Iamblichus’ discourse on the benefits of a dialectical training is his deep concern regarding the declining standards in education; it is indeed this decline that he holds responsible not only for the increased levels of irrationality and ignorance that he sees around him, but more particularly for the break with tradition, which results in the weakening and eventual loss of cultural and spiritual identity. These concerns are shared by Iamblichus’ correspondents and mirrored in their letters to him. An example of the way in which Iamblichus’ pupils were marked by him is offered by a certain Julian who was an important official at the Imperial court and a man of action20. In close contact with Sopater and his homonymous son21, Julian emerges from his correspondence as an inner­‍‍‑circle member and a crucial link in the network of gnorimoi, who spreads the message that Iamblichus has come to the world at this critical moment in history as its saviour22. What characterizes these letters is the intensity of single­‍‍‑minded adoration: in them Iamblichus has all the attributes of a divine figure: he is “the great statue of the oecumene”, combining the The letters of this Julian to Iamblichus and to Sopater have been included by J. Bidez and F. Cumont in their edition of the Emperor Julian’s letters under the heading Epistulae spuriae vel dubiae [in:] Imperatoris Caesaris Flavii Claudii Iuliani, Epistulae, leges, poematia, fragmenta, varia (=ELF), Paris 1922. To distinguish them here from the genuine letters of the Emperor Julian, I precede them by an *. For the possible identity of Julian, see: T.D. Barnes, A correspondent of Iamblichus, GRBS 19 (1978), pp. 99–106, and more recently, J. Vanderspoel, Correspondence and correspondents of Julius Julianus, Byzantion 69, (1999), pp. 396–478, who puts forward the improbable proposition that Iamblichus’ correspondent is to be identified with the Emperor Julian’s maternal grandfather. On the whereabouts of Julian, see the information he provides himself in ep. *181. 21 See Ep. *182 to Sopater; cf. Epp.* 184, *185 for contacts with the two Sopaters, father and son. 22 See Ep. *187, 406c: ™pˆ swthr…v toа koinoа tоn ¢nqrиpwn gšnouj tacqe…j. 20


Polymnia Athanassiadi

gifts of Hermes and Asclepios (Ep. *181); “the good father” (¢gaqХj pat»r, Epp. *181, *183), who never stops looking after his “genuine children”, while criticising them with a view to their improvement (™gkale‹ paideЪwn, Ep. *184, 416c). Beyond the charmed circle of his own adepts, however, Iamblichus is seen as “the sacred anchorage” for whoever is battling with the waves in the stormy sea, and the man destined “to rekindle the sacred spark of true paideia” (Ep. *187, 406d). 5. Political philosophy

If Sopater himself did not succeed in making full use of his master’s counselling, his sons at least seem to have taken such advice more to heart. What is certain is that they fared better than their father in the dangerous world of fourth­‍‍‑century politics. In his Anthology Stobaeus also preserves substantial parts of a treatise in epistolary form sent by the Apamean decurion Sopater Jr. to his brother Himerios, which was in all probability composed on the occasion of the latter’s assumption of some office in the central administration (Anth. IV, 212, 16–213,1). The work, which sheds light on the history and ideology of a  late antique intellectual clan and its cultural milieu, stems from the Hellenistic pseudo­‍‍‑Pythagorean tradition on kingship, whose products were legitimised by Iamblichus23. In it Sopater offers his brother practical advice on how to rule. From his intermediary position in the hierarchical structure of imperial power, the statesman must spare no effort in the task of educating both his inferiors and his superiors by “singing the Orthian hymn of virtue”. He must never be afraid to appear politically incorrect, but “averting [his] eyes from the wrong opinions of the many”, struggle towards the best life, the life of truth rather than the one built on the shaky foundations of the imagination (fantas…a), which for a Platonist constitutes the very basis of falsehood and non­ ‍‍‑existence. His use of punishment must be, in good Platonic tradition, corrective and therapeutic rather than vindictive, for the ruler must above all be ¢nex…kakoj. Forgetful of any evils done to him, he must consider all human beings as friends in a Pythagorean spirit, indeed as actual members of the philosophical circle to which he himself belongs (½dh gnwr…mouj kaˆ f…louj), preferring to suffer evil himself than to harm any of them. It would take too long to enumerate all the ways in which the letter of Iamblichus’ spiritual grandson reproduces the teaching of the master of Apamea. What is of relevance to the present context, however, is the fact that Sopater and Himerios were the very children on the subject of whose education Iamblichus had been advising their father. Dominic O’Meara notes that, as perceived by Stobaeus who classified them under the same heading, the excerpts from Sopater’s speech and those from Iamblichus’ letters to Dyscolius and Agrippa on the subject of ruling (Anth. IV 74–75 and IV 76–77 respectively), belong to the literary genre of the mirror of princes24. The treatise has been studied by D. O’Meara, A  Neoplatonist ethics for high­‍‍‑level officials: Sopatros’Letter to Himerios [in:] A. Smith (ed.), The philosopher and society in late antiquity: essays in honour of Peter Brown, Swansea 2005, pp. 91–100. 24 On this point see D. O’Meara and J. Schamp (eds.), Miroirs de prince de l’Empire romain au IVe siècle, Vestigia 33, Fribourg–Paris 2006, passim. 23

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


They share themes, ideology, tone and vocabulary, and their addressees are men in the middle or upper echelons of the administrative machinery. To this collection one might add a tiny fragment from a letter to Eustathius, another member of a philosophical dynasty, whose life and achievement as teacher and public figure on important missions for the Empire abroad is narrated by Eunapius25. Though the letter has been classified by Stobaeus as a discourse on music, the criterion on which he has excerpted it seems to be the public good and how best it can be served. For it appears as a comment on the well known Platonic statement that great natures gone astray can produce great evil26. Initiated by Iamblichus, who lent his authority to the Hellenistic pseudepigrapha on political philosophy by pronouncing them genuine Pythagorean works27, the tradition of practical counselling enjoyed tremendous popularity within the School. Marinus, Proclus and Olympiodorus, among others, defended it; but the man who truly followed in Iamblichus’ footsteps in this area was the Emperor Julian, whose discourse, running in counterpoint to Christian imperial theology, has set a decisive seal on Byzantine political philosophy28. 6. Fate and Providence

As one would have expected in an anthology of late antique doxography, a place of honour is assigned to the theme of Fate (or Eƒmarmšnh). Excerpts from three independent letters by Iamblichus on the subjects of fate, providence and the essence of the soul, sent respectively to Poimenius, Macedonius and Sopater, have also been preserved by Stobaeus. These excerpts constitute answers to specific questions asked by the addressees; they are comments on works published by them and more generally responses to commonly held views, current phobias and the usual complaints about the iniquities of Fortune. Iamblichus’ emphasis is on the divinity, immortality and independence of the soul, its freedom of choice on all occasions and its unlimited authority in following the kind of life it wants29. In the missive to Macedonius, Iamblichus talks about the unity of the cosmos and the uniqueness of the principle which governs the apparent multiplicity of the world (I 5, 17). It is within this well ordered system, that, watched and assisted by divine providence, the individual soul has the capacity to break free from the power of fate (II 8, 46). Sopater had composed a  work On providence and on those who fare well or badly contrary to what they deserve30, a statement that, in his letter to Macedonius, On Eustathius, who was husband and father to important figures in the Platonic movement of late antiquity, see Eunapius VS VI 5. 26 II 31, 117, p. 229, 6–8 and Plato Resp. VI 491a–e. 27 On this see: C. Macris, “Jamblique et la littérature pseudo­‍‍‑pythagoricienne”, [in:] S.C. Mimouni (ed.), Apocryphité: histoire d’un concept transversal aux religions du Livre, Turnhout 2002, pp. 77–129. 28 See most recently: P. Athanassiadi, Vers la pensée unique: la montée de l’intolérance dans l’Antiquité tardive, Paris 2010, pp. 87–94. 29 For t¾n ¢dšspoton tБj yucБj ™xous…an see: II 8.44; for its aЩtexoЪsion: II 8, 43. 30 Perˆ prono…aj kaˆ tоn par¦ t¾n ¢x…an eЩpragoЪntwn À duspragoÚntwn: Suda IV, p. 407 s.v. ‘845 Sopatros’. 25


Polymnia Athanassiadi

Iamblichus declares impious31. Το the irreverent question, “why is it that one’s share of good and bad things is disproportioned to one’s worth?”, asked not just by Sopater but by many, the master replies that the degree of closeness to the Good one can achieve is a matter of free choice, that adversity strengthens the soul and that, ultimately, virtue is its own reward. What transpires, however, under the stern didactic tone, is Iamblichus’ need to broadcast an optimistic message to the world, a message of self­‍‍‑confidence and reliance on one’s own inner strength. Realising that not just the uneducated, but also the men of his own circle believed that irrational forces govern the universe, he finds it necessary to dwell on the absolute goodness of the gods (¥treptoj tîn qeîn ¢gaqÒthj) and their unfailing concern for the cosmos. He even declares Fate to be a benign force; as he puts it to Macedonius (II 8, 45), “all things subject to Fate are in fact under the dominion of Providence, since, in its very essence, Fate is enmeshed with Providence and only exists by virtue of the existence of Providence, deriving its being from Providence and [acting] within its ambit”. Yet, finding it impossible to deny the fact that all sorts of absurd things occur at the level of sense­‍‍‑perception, he transposes his argument onto another register and concludes it by stating that “bliss (tХ mak£rion) for us resides in the life of the intellect, since none of the intermediary things has the capacity either to increase or to take it away. It is therefore stupid to go on, as men generally do, about chance and its unequal gifts” (II 8, 48). In the letter to Poimenius, Iamblichus’ discourse is less optimistic and more practical or rather more down to earth. Having recourse to current theological language, he underlines how, by intervening when necessary, the gods mitigate the evils deriving from Fate; for this purpose he introduces the notion of ™panТrqwsij (which in this context does not sound very different from the equivalent Christian term of ¢pokat£stasij): “in controlling fate, the gods apply their corrective action throughout the universe. And this restitution (or “correction” ™panТrqwsij) of theirs brings about sometimes a lessening of evils, at other times just a consolation and, on occasion, their very removal” (I 1, 35). 7. Anxiety for Sopater

Eunapius tells us that on Iamblichus’ death, his pupils dispersed in different directions, with the most gifted of them all, the Apamean Sopater, leaving his native city and dashing at full speed (œdramen СxЪj) to the imperial court. Following oral tradition, Eunapius, who is the spiritual child of Aedesius and Chrysanthius, gives two motives for this hasty departure, one psychological arising from the man’s character, the other political and ultimately connected with the school’s policy of proselytising: we learn that on the human level Sopater was too arrogant “to condescend to associate with ordinary people”, yet snobbery was not the ultimate motive for his move to the court; his real aim was to employ his argumentation in order


OÙdќ t¾n ¢rc¾n ¢mfisbhte‹n Уsion: ΙΙ 8, 47.

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


to convert Constantine to the philosophical life (metast»swn tù lТgJ)32. At court Sopater reached a position of unique influence and was eventually responsible (as we know from other sources) for the theurgical rituals performed on the occasion of the founding of Constantinople (a fact, which incidentally makes 324 a terminus ante quem for the death of Iamblichus). As things turned out, however, not only was he unsuccessful in converting Constantine to Iamblichan Platonism, but he was soon to fall victim to a court plot and be executed at the Emperor’s command33. Either as a good judge of character or through his divinatory art, Iamblichus must have sensed something of what was going to happen to his beloved pupil after his own death. His letters to Sopater are full of parental solicitude, betraying a considerable amount of anxiety on his behalf; they are also attempts to curb his worldly ambition. In a letter which sings the praises of virtue, Iamblichus speaks with feeling to the man who, having conquered all the technical expertise of Chaldaean wisdom34, must now attempt to strike a balance between knowledge and ambition (III 1, 17; 49). It is only by transcending his ephemeral self, says Iamblichus, that Man can at last contemplate the good in itself. Then, and only then, his identity in a world in which people searched desperately for stability will no longer be subject to change: it will be an ¢met£statoj tautТthj (III 1, 49). Being inwardly unshakable, the pupil of philosophy will at last be εὐδαίμων — freed from worldly cares and indifferent to any of the vicissitudes that life may bring. In what seems to have been the conclusion of this long letter, Iamblichus makes his definition of the eЩda…mwn dependent upon the crucial formula about divinisation in Plato’s Theaetetus: “happy is he who resembles God as much as possible, being perfect, simple, pure, emancipated from human life”35. The way to achieve this is to live the noetic life within society, while enjoying to the full all the assets of a normal existence36.

III. The Emperor Julian’s pastoral philosophy If we are to trust Eunapius, many of Iamblichus’ actual pupils or simple followers regulated their lives according to his precepts, and a few at least succeeded in cultivating one or more aspects of the programme recommended by him. One man, however, took it upon himself to reform the world according to Iamblichus’ teaching, propagating far and wide his model of the qe‹oj ¢n»r and the ideology that he Eunapius is a uniquely valuable source, for as he states in the proem of his work on the Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists (I 1, 6), one of his two objectives in writing is to fix and stabilise (diapÁxai kaˆ sthr…xai) the oral traditions about Iamblichus and his circle which had come down to him by the intermediary of his own master Chrysanthius who had been Aedesius’ pupil. 33 Eunapius VS VI 2; cf. Sozomenus, HE I 5, 1 and Zosimus II 40.3. 34 See: Lydus, Mens., IV 2, where Sopater is referred to as the telest»j. 35 IV 39, 23: eЩda…mwn ™st…n Ð qeù kat¦ tÕ dunatÕn Ómoioj, tšleioj, Ўploаj, kaqarТj, ™xVrhmšnoj ¢pÕ t¦ tÁj ¢nqrwp…nhj zwÁj. Cf. Plato, Theaet. 176b. 36 A family man himself, Iamblichus likens, in a letter on marriage the name of whose addressee has not been preserved, the relationship between male and female within the marital institution to “political rule, which pays equal heed to the common interest of both” (IV 23, 57). 32


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embodied. This man was Claudius Flavius Julianus, whose adoration of the master of Apamea was no less fanatical than that of his namesake37; but, as a Byzantine Emperor, Julian had, next to the will, also the power to change the face of the world. Having been shaped by teachers who were the spiritual children and grandchildren of Iamblichus, Julian sought out men of the same calibre in order to use them as the main instruments of his political and religious campaign. The pool from which he drew his peers and collaborators in the two distinct areas of the the politikos and the hieratikos bios (Ep. 89b, 289a), was, primarily, the circle of pupils who had studied under his own tutor, Maximus of Ephesos38. And, as in his hierarchy of values he rated the religious above the civic39, he turned all his attention to the figure of the priest whom he viewed as the vehicle through which the pax deorum would be re­ ‑established ‍‍ in the universal Empire. In a series of epistles addressed to the chiefs of his “ecclesia” (dubbed by Gibbon “pastoral letters”), the pontifex maximus of Hellenism exposes the principles of his religious reform and sets out the criteria of selection that the high­‍‍‑priests ought to employ when recruiting the men and women who were to put it into effect. To his mind, only two cardinal qualities — genuine piety and love of humanity (tÕ filТqeon kaˆ fil£nqrwpon, Ep. 89b, 305a) — were the prerequisites for the ideal candidate. All else was bound to derive from these two fundamental virtues. Julian describes in meticulous detail the personal discipline to which the priests must submit themselves at all times and the social work that they are expected to perform in order to rid society of spiritual and material poverty. His insistence on organized charity towards good and bad, locals and immigrants, travellers and prisoners alike is impressive. “Charity has to be plentiful and of every conceivable kind” (¹ dќ filanqrwp…a pollѕ kaˆ panto…a, Ep. 89b, 289b) is the bottom line of his discourse. Equally influenced by Iamblichus’ outlook is Julian’s view of punishment as a corrective process. On several occasions he emphasizes its beneficial function, associating as he does disciplinary measures with the idea of conversion to a better life. For Julian, the ultimate objective of punishment is to heal men from the evil of metaphysical ignorance. As he puts it in a letter to the Very Reverent Theodora, the duty of the spiritual director is “to persuade and save” (pe…qein kaˆ sуzein, Ep. 86). And in his address to the citizens of Bostra he condemns violence against the Christians and recommends an attitude of pity rather than one of hatred towards those who are in the wrong: “it is with words [or by reasoning: lТgJ] that we ought to persuade and instruct people; not by blows or insults or physical assault” (Ep. 114, 438b). While doing whatever was in his own power to alleviate human misery — and the establishment of all manner of charitable institutions was a major step in this See Julian, Ep. 12 Bidez; cf. above pp. 21–22. On a network of gnèrimoi, see: Ep. 89a, 452b, to the High­‍‍‑priest Theodore, himself a pupil of Maximus. 39 For the superiority of the priest’s status over that of any secular magistrate, see Julian’s statements in Epp. 84 and 88. 37 38

The Divine Man of Late Hellenism: A Sociable and Popular Figure


direction — Julian was bent on sending out optimistic messages in all directions and by all means. Thus, in his advisory missives to his clergy, he stresses the benign role of providence (Ep. 89b, 295c, 301a) and emphasises the cosmic and eschatological solicitude of the gods for the world.40 At the same time, clearly with the emperor’s approval if not at his instigation, his mentor, Sallustius, whom Julian had appointed to the office of the prefect of the East, circulated a brief catechism entitled On the gods and the cosmos, destined for the man in the street (De diis 13.1). In this manual of pagan belief and worship, Sallustius popularises the basic theoretical and practical tenets of Iamblichan piety, explaining in simple language that, where Providence is present, evil (which in the Platonic thought­‍‍‑world is no more than the absence of the good), has no place. Just like Julian, his prefect concentrates on banishing fear from the hearts of men, and lending them an optimistic outlook. Between Iamblichus’ protreptic epistolography, Julian’s “pastoral letters” and Salustius’ catechetical discourse there is an unmistakable family likeness. More than the community of the values preached, it is their sense of urgency that binds these texts together. The tone of the address may differ — avuncular in Iamblichus, self­‍‍‑righteous in Julian, bureaucratic in Sallustius — but the underlying concern in all three authors is how to preserve in a rapidly changing world a culture that is at once humane and heavenly­‍‍‑minded. Though discernibly descended from its classical antecedent, this culture had sufficiently mutated in the intervening centuries to have developed its own social and spiritual ideal in the figure of the qe‹oj ¢n»r. By the time Iamblichus appeared on the scene variations of this ideal were to be found in several milieus — the philosophical, the magical, the theosophical, even the sophistic. What Iamblichus did was to select specific features from a diffuse social ideal and build them into a well-defined hierarchical structure, which he illustrated by the life of an imaginary Pythagoras. But he did not stop there. He promoted this ideal in the daily routine that he shared with his pupils, and broadcast it in a copious correspondence with those who were called to play an active — indeed a leading — role in society. What strikes the reader of this correspondence, even in the fragmentary form in which it has reached us, is the emphasis laid on the social, rather than the narrowly political, role that the people advised by Iamblichus are called upon to play. This lesson was fully understood by the Emperor Julian: using the same medium as Iamblichus in the instruction of his priestly class, he insisted on the importance of the social function of the men and women who were to act as the shock troops of his religious reform.

Ep. 89b, 298d–299a, a passage which gives prominence to the Iamblichan notion of ™panТrqwsij (299a). 40

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Pierre Chuvin Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions In the framework of this meeting kindly organized by prof. Maria Dzielska about Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism, I have chosen to scrutinize once more three probably related documents, coming from the north­ ‍‑west corner of Phrygia, all of them involving one or several Epitynchanos, “initia­ ted”, but nobody knows exactly to what or to whom. Some are styling themselves “great­‍‑priest” or “great­‍‑priestess”, they are soothsayers (one is an astrologist), hea­ lers, miracle­‍‑makers.

The Evidence The best known of these documents was published by Sir W.M. Ramsay in 1883. Thanks to a collector, the French railway engineer Paul Gaudin, administrateur de la ligne de chemin de fer de Smyrne à Afioun Kara­‍‑Hissar, Ramsay had seen the stone not far from the ancient city of Acmonia, at Oturak, a place whose Turkish name might refer to a place of rest on the railway line. So, we cannot exclude the possibility that the stone came from elsewhere through the railway. It is a Phrygian funerary altar, with heavily hammered reliefs, in the style of the Upper Tembris Valley’s workshops; dated to 313/314 A.D., and inscribed on three sides. The inscriptions praise the deceased, named Epitynchanos, in an exalted mood. This altar has been erected to the memory of a member of a priestly family, whom we shall call Epitynchanoi, from a recurring name in this group. Paul Gaudin sold it to Frantz Cumont; it is now on display in the “collections des musées” royaux d’art et d’histoire de Bruxelles1”. It has been studied there first by Émile De Stoop, Revue de l’Instruction publique en Belgique 52 (1909), pp. 293–306. (E. De Stoop was Professor at Gand (Ghent) University), then by Franz Cumont, 1


Pierre Chuvin

In 1897, fourteen years later, Alexander Souter published with Ramsay another inscription, also in praise of an Epitynchanos, found at “Doghan Arslan” 2, first copied in 1881 by Ramsay who printed it from line 10 to the end (line 16) in Cities & Bishoprics, p. 7903. The stone seems to be lost; we have, so far as I know, no description of it, no facsimile, no squeeze of its text and we rely entirely upon the readings of Ramsay and Souter, known through the publication of 1897. None the less, its content is of the utmost interest. It is a metrical epitaph consisting of eight elegiac distichs, celebrating one Epitynchanos mainly as an astrologist (expert in maqhmatosЪnh). The stone was in a good condition, except for the first distich; there, although some of its lacunas are short (several consisting of only one letter), they enable us scarcely to guess at the general sense. However, the following seven distichs seem to have offered no special difficulty for the reader. From the lettering, Ramsay infered a date (end of the IIIrd century) slightly older than the altar of 313/314, but we cannot check the value of this inference. In 1901, Ramsay published one more funerary altar, inscribed on three sides, dated to 249/250, also with hammered reliefs, erected by an Epitynchanos who was the hierophant of a speira (a thiasos), in memory of his father Telesphoros. This last name is evidently connected with the cult of Asclepius. First Ramsay, then Victor Chapot copied it at the station master’s of Banaz, M. Lantois4. The stone was con­ sidered lost, when Susan G. Cole had the good fortune to republish it (1991), but as if it were a newly found one and giving an erroneous Dionysiac interpretation5.

The Altar’s Provenance Marc Waelkens, by far the best connoisseur of Phrygian tombstones, has shown that the altar dated to 313 is a  product of the Upper Tembris Valley workshops, in north­‍‑west Phrygia. But he observes also that stones are not always used in the immediate vicinity of the workshop where they have been cut6. Workshops may be set up near the quarries rather than near the cities from which they draw their customers. The Upper Tembris Valley is situated between two main cities of this part of Phrygia, Acmonia (a center for the imperial cult) and Cotieion. Each one of these cities might have provided an outlet for the Valley’s workshops. Steles may Catalogue des sculptures et inscriptions antiques des Musées royaux du Cinquantenaire, Bruxelles 1913, pp. 158–163. 2 According to M. Waelkens, , Privatdeifikation in Kleinasien und in der Griechisch­‍‑Römischen Welt. Zu einer neuen Grabinschrift aus Phrygien [in:] Archéologie et religions de l’Anatolie ancienne, Mélanges… Paul Naster, Louvain­‍‑la­‍‑Neuve 1984, p. 306, n. 242, Doghan Arslan by Ramsay would point to the northern part of the Altintas plain (Upper Tembris Valley). 3 A. Souter, ClRev 11 (1897), pp. 136–137, with a  note by W.M. Ramsay. Alexander Souter (1873–1949) was a Scottish biblist, the successor to Ramsay at Aberdeen University (1911–1937). 4 REA, III (1901), p. 275 (Ramsay) and IV (1902), p. 77 sq. (Chapot), 269 (Ramsay). 5 S.G. Cole, Dionysiac Mysteries in Phrygia in the Imperial Period, Epigr. Anat. 17 (1991), pp. 41–49. 6 M. Waelkens, Die kleinasiatischen Türsteine, Mayence 1986, pp. 19–20, “Zu den Werkstät­ ten”.

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


be exported, half­‍‑finished. Then, the epitaph’s text will be of course inscribed last. So, to locate the deceased, the technique of stone­‍‑cutting and stylistic affinities give only a general indication (Tembris’group); more precise clues are to be sought for in inferences from the content of the epitaph or the choice of carved reliefs. Out of these documents, it is the first discovered (hereafter “the 313 altar”), that has been most often scrutinized; L. Robert quoted it several times7, then St. Mitchell8 (1993). They have been rather cursorily studied by Rh. Merkelbach and J. Stauber9 (1999/2001), then, more carefully, by V. Hirschmann10 (2003). I describe the three of them here, first giving all the texts. Then I shall endeavour to interpret the remains of the reliefs carved on each of the four sides of the “313 altar”, defaced as they may be now. As for the metrical inscription, we have, as already said, no evidence about its support. Greek text and translation of the inscriptions (by chronological order)

1. Altar dated to 246/247 or 249/250 (according to the reading of the last figure in the date, a’ or d); 1. Side A ’AgaqÍ TÚcV: AÙr»lioi ’EpitЪgcanoj kaˆ ’Ep…nikoj sÝn tÍ mhtrˆ TertЪllV patšra TelesfТron ¢peišrwsan. 2. Side B œtouj tlЈ/: sÝn tÍ eƒšrv e„spe…rV hj kaˆ eƒrofЈnthj 3. Side C LatЪpoj: LoЪkioj Translation: (side A) To the Good Fortune. The Aurelii Epitynchanos and Epinicos with their mother Tertulla consecrated their father Telesphoros. (side B) The year 331 (246/247)  or 334  (249/250). With the sacred speira whose hierophant he is. (side C) Stone­‍‑cutter; Loukios 2. Eight elegiac distichs for a deceased Epitynchanos. According to Ramsay, in­ scription slightly older than the one dated to 313/314; location and function un­ known. Lost. As the name is given without any indication of kinship, we must To begin with Études Anatoliennes (1937, p. 132–133); see OMS, V, p. 775 = CRAI, 1982, p. 131 n. 6; OMS, V, p. 787 = CRAI, 1982, p. 60; DAM, p. 428 = BCH 1983, p. 584. 8 St. Mitchell, Anatolia. Land, Men, and Gods in Asia Minor, vol. II, The Rise of the Church, Oxford 1993, p. 47. 9 Rh. Merkelbach, J. Stauber, Unsterbliche” Kaiserpriester, Epigr. Anat. 31 (1999), pp. 157–165, re­‍‑printed in Steinepigr. aus dem Griech. Osten III, Munich–Leipzig 2001, n° 16/31/10, pp. 235– 240. 10 V. Hirschmann, Der Schatten der Unsterblichkeit. Der Priester und Prophet Epitynchanos, Epigr. Anat. 36 (2003), pp. 137–152. 7


Pierre Chuvin

conclude that this poem is only a part of a funerary sanctuary, but we don’t know on which kind of monument it had been inscribed. [ – ˘˘] wn o‡mouj polu[p]eir [»]toio keleÚqou ½luqej a[. .. . ˘] orhj [s]èmatoj „drosÚnaj tšrpei d/ ¡y…dessi polutrocЈloij ™nˆ kšntr[oij] Ґntugoj a„qer…hj te…resi lanpomšnoij ºel…J t/ ¢n¦ mšssa polu[f]enge‹ te sel»nV, ™x пn d¾ pЈntwn ™stˆ b…oj merÒpwn: ™n toЪto[i]j fЪetai tršfetai g»rv te tele‹tai zwБj kaˆ qanЈtou klБroj ™n oŒj pšletai. tБsde maqhmosЪnhj ’EpitÚncanon ‡drin ™Ònta pnoiБj d/ ¢[p]lЈnktouj e„dÒta mantosÚnaj qšsfatЈ t\ ¢nqrèpoisin ¢lhqša fhm…zonta Фntwn mellТntwn ™ssomšnwn prÒtero[n:] ¥stesi d\ ™n pollo‹sin „qagenšwn lЈce teimЈj, le…yaj kaˆ koÚrouj oÙdќn ¢faurotšrouj. sfН d\ ¢retН kaˆ mštra daeˆj kaˆ kÒsmou, e„j Фrfhn ƒkÒmhn p©sin Ñfeilomšnhn. Translation; [Following?] the paths of a much­‍‑experienced road you came … body’s sweats enjoying vaults whirling along their axes, shining constellations on the celestial circle midway between the sun and the sparkling moon, to whom life is bound for all mortals. By them life is born, is growing, and finds its end in old age in people whose fate is to live and die. Epitynchanos, who is expert in this knowledge [astrology], Who knows unerring oracles [delivered by] inspiration, Who is proclaiming to men true predictions about which is, which is going to be, which ‡ will be ‡ before. In many cities he got the honors of native [citizens], leaving also children in no respect inferior to him. I, by my own merit knowing the extension and boundaries of the universe, went to the darkness promised to all. Preliminary remarks

At l.1, o‡mouj said of a “much­‍‑experienced path” must hint to the way to Hades, as understood by the first editors, cf. Posidippus in his funeral elegy, Suppl. Hell. 705, v. 22 (in the singular); also in an Aeschylean fr., from Telephus, preserved by Plato, Phaedo, 107e–108a; taking into account ½luqej “you came”, at the beginning of l.2, we may expect at the beginning of l.1 a participial with the meaning “entering into, following”.

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


At l.2, the lacking letters have inspired many interpretations. If we take „drosÚnaj (hapax) at its obvious meaning “sweat, pain”, then the previous word, complete except for the first letter, should be no other than [s]èmatoj, “of the body”. The overall meaning of the sentence should be something like “you came”, (leaving in this world/sheltered from) body’s toils. But no satisfying restitution has been offered. W. Peek altered ƒdrosÚnaj in „drisÚnaj, “knowledge”, and R. Merkelbach in ƒdrus…naj, “foundations”, strange words nowhere attested. We shall keep to Sou­ ter’s readings11. Again at l.2, we might also supply [d] иmatoj, giving some weight to Souter’s conjecture ў]mfˆ K]Тrhj [d] иmatoj. The whole of the first distich, then, would be relating not to this world’s sufferings, but to those of the voyage to the other world. It gives a good meaning (see at l. 1) but prevents us from constructing ƒdrosÚnaj. Note the changes of person: in the first four distich, the elegy’s author is spea­ king to the deceased in the second person, praising the astral bliss he’s enjoying and exalting the power of constellations. In the second half of the poem (distichs 5 to 7), the deceased is named and spoken of in the third person, but nothing is said about his family, his homeland, as should be the case were it a proper epitaph. In the end, in the last distich, the deceased himself is speaking in the first person (see l. 16); at l. 15, sfÍ must be used for the first person in the singular: hapax in that sense, see Liddell­‍‑Scott­‍‑Jones s.v. sfТj. He evokes then the “darkness” which is the common lot of mankind, very far away from the light of astral bliss promised in the first part of the poem. L. 12 is an awkward adaptation of a formula going back to Hom., Il., 70; the seer Chalcas knew everything, “what is, what will be and what has been”. Cf. Hesiod, Theog., 32, “in order that I (Hesiod) praise what will be and what has been”, and 38, (the Muses) “telling what will be and what has been”. See more in M.L. West’s commentary to Theog., loc. cit. Here on the stone we find two mentions of future, without any clear distinction between two kinds of it. The author had to allude here to the knowledge of the past. He needed a verse­‍‑ending like prТ t’ ™Тntwn; but it would be ametric (one superfluous syllable). The ending he chose, prТteron, was probably inspired by prТ t’ ™Тntwn; metrically correct, it gives an absurd meaning. Another possibility, genomšnwn prТteron at the second hemistich, makes sense but is not metrical. This poem denotes some literary culture from its author, using far­‍‑fetched words or even hapax, and an epic, mainly hesiodic, formula at line 12. But line 12 reveals at the same time the extent and the limits of this culture, as the hesiodic adaptation turns into a nonsense. We might conclude that this text is using, like a patchwork, formulas more or less well adapted, as is shown also by the discordance between the first part of the poem and the last line; and perhaps also by the difficulties in constructing the first distich. This person also is able to “tell everything”, and tells the truth, due to inspiration (pno…h, v. 10) and to his learning in astrology (maqhmatosЪnh, l. 9, cf. 15); he believes in astral immortality (v. 3–5) but expects also from the gods support 11

R. Merkelbach, ZPE 9 (1972), p. 202; Cf. J. & L. Robert, Bull. Épigr., (1973), n° 466.


Pierre Chuvin

for life in this world (b…oj, v. 6). He writes in a lofty style, sometime reminiscent of Hesiod, not always very successful (as we have seen in discussing l. 12). 3. Altar dated to 313/314 Side A ’Aq£natoj ’EpitЪncanoj P…ou, timhqˆj ШpХ `Ek£thj prиthj, deЪteron ШpХ M£nou D£ou ¹liodТrou DiТj, tr…ton Fo…bou ўrchgštou crhsmodТtou: ўlhqîj dîron œlabon crhsmodot‹n ўlhqe…aj ™n patr…di kќ (™n) Уroij crhsmodot‹n nТmouj tiq‹n, ™n Уroij crhsmodot‹n p©sin: toàto œcw dîron ™x ўqan£twn p£ntwn. ’Aqan£tJ prètJ ўrciere‹ kallitšknJ P…J kќ mhtrˆ Tat…ei ƒer…V ¿ ™tš{te}ke kal¦ tškna, kalХn Фnoma, prîton ўq£naton ’EpitÚncanon ўrcierša, swtÁra patr…doj, nomoqšthj. Side B œtouj t%h’: ke thrîn ™ntol¦j ¢qan£twn kќ ™gл Ќme Р lalîn p£nta ¢q£natoj ’EpitÚncanoj, muhqˆj ШpХ kalÁj ¢rcier…aj dhmotikÁj, kalХn Ônoma ’Ispat£lhj, ¿n ™t…mhsan ¢q£natoi qeoˆ kќ ™n Уroij kќ Шpќr Уrouj, ™lutrиsato g¦r polloÝj ™k kakîn bas£nwn. ¢rcierša ’EpitÚncanon timhqšnta ШpХ qeîn ¢qan£twn: kaqišrwsan aЩtХn Diog©j kќ (’E)pitÚncanoj kќ T£tion nÚnfh kќ t¦ tškna aЩtîn ’On»simoj kќ ’Alšxandroj kќ ’Askl©j kќ ’EpitÚncanoj. Side C ’Aq£natoi prîtoi ¢rcier‹j Рm£delfoi Diog©j kќ (’E)pitÚncanoj, swtÁrej patr…doj, nomoqšte. Translation; side A)) I, the Immortal Epitynchanos son of Pios, honoured first by Hecate, in second by Manes Daos the Sun­‍‑runner of Zeus, in third by Phoibos founder, deliver­ ing oracles, truly I got the gift to deliver true oracles in my homeland, and to deliver oracles inside its boundaries, to act as legislator, inside the boundaries to deliver oracles to everybody. I got this gift from all the Immortals. To the Immortal first high priest Pios with fine children, and to their mother Tatis, priestess who gave birth to fine children, honourable person (accusative) The first Immortal Epitynchanos high priest, saviour of the home­ land, (nominative) legislator. (side B) The year 398 (313/314). And observing the commandments of the Im­ mortals and (sic!) I am the one who says everything, the Immortal Epitynchanos, initiated by the honourable official high priestess Ispatale, whom the immortal gods have honoured both inside the boundaries and outside, because she has freed a lot of people from torments.

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


The high priest Epitynchanos, honoured by the immortal gods. Consecrated by Diogâs and Epitynchanos and Tation his wife and their children Onesimos and Alexandros and Asklâs and Epitynchanos. (side C) The Immortals first high priests brothers Diogâs and Epitynchanos, saviours of the homeland, legislators.

Reliefs of the 313 altar I had the opportunity to freely examine this altar in the Musée royal d’art et d’histoire in Bruxelles12, with the invaluable help of curators, Mrs. Cécile Evers and Natacha Massar, whom it is a pleasure for me to thank for their interest and keen eye for this monument, and for the pictures they graciously allowed me to make use of. Our common search confirmed on the whole the high value of the description of these reliefs given by Frantz Cumont in his Catalogue. The whole of the reliefs, but none of the inscriptions13, have been hammered, except for one small figure, incised and not in the round; but some at least allow us to make a guess at their subject. So, even if it is impossible to give a detailed analysis of the reliefs which once decorated the 313 altar, we may agree on some points. The text is very unevenly distributed, concentrated on sides A (front side, where it begins) and B. Text, here and there, encroaches upon the relief, suggesting that it was carved last. Side A mentions honours given to the deceased; they are threefold, as is also the sculptural setting on this side: text and image have probably been conceived together. At the very top of side A, we see the Sun­‍‑god with his crown of rays: the third god in the text is Phoibos. In the middle, inside an irregular circle, we recognize a horseman galloping: a «runner» is mentioned at the second place on the inscription. In the lower part, in a dug out recess, a bust, probably female, arms crossing over the chest, ought to be Hecate. So, the reliefs seem precisely related to three kinds of gods honouring the de­ ceased, such as enumerated by the inscription, namely, if we look from bottom to top, Hecate first; then, in the second place, an enigmatic “Manes Daos Sun­‍‑runner (Heliodromos) Zeus”; in the third place, Phoibos. The scale of the reliefs is decreasing to the top. The figure occupying the second position, a horseman, evokes Acmôn, eponymous hero of the town of Acmonia, represented on the coinage of the city as a  horseman galloping in a  mountainous landscape. More generally, we could be tempted to see here three levels of the universe: underground (Hecate), earthly (the horseman), caelestial (the Sun). We shall come back, of course, on the four­‍‑names sequence at the second level. On side B (lateral right), remains of a crown surrounded with bands are easily recognized; inside it, not only has the former relief been wholly defaced, more care­ Thursday, the 3rd of March 2011. One explanation would be that sculptures are looked upon as figures of idols endowed with magical powers; C. Mango, Antique Statuary and the Byzantine Beholder, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 17 (1963), pp. 53–75. It seems that, in the rural areas of Phrygia at this time, most of people could scarcely read such texts, as we see from the mistakes in the inscriptions. 12 13


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fully perhaps than any other on this stele, leaving no spur of it14 (its surface is not on the same level as the stele’s surface, as noticed by Mrs. Evers), but the defacers have deeply carved out a cross in the middle of the field, as in order to expel the Evil: we may guess that there was there some portrait, and an important one; Ispatale’s, conjectured Cumont, but it may as well have been Epitynchanos’. A portrait of the deceased would not be out of place here. Side C (rear) is in a desperate state at first glance (“wholly indistinct”, Cumont). It seems to consist of two groundlines, with two animals (felines? dogs?) passing right. The motif seems too compact for a horseman hunting with dogs. The pyramid­ ‍‑like composition of the main (upper) motive could suggest triumph over a lying enemy. Or might it be Hecate with her dogs? The only undefaced motive, top left on this side, is a bird looking right, wings folded back, holding in his beak a crown (rather than a ring?). He is leaning slightly to the right, as if he were bringing this object to the now illegible central figure, and he has suffered no offence; takeover by Christian iconography? Or plainly forgetting? He lacks of relief, being merely incised and is on a much smaller scale than the other motifs on this side. But on side A also, Helios, important as he is from the text, looks very small compared to lower­‍‑level figures. Is the crown announcing the deification of the deceased, whose portrait we have conjectured on side B15? Last, side D (lateral left) is anepigraph, but may have been inscribed, then erased, from some spurs of letters which look by now superficially incised. Some letters from the first line of side C have also overlapped into D. Since Cumont, scholars have been unanimous in recognizing as Hermes Psychopompus the figure who stands alone on this side, occupying the whole field, chlamys over his left arm, holding his regular emblemas, the conspicuous purse and the caduceus (spurs over left shoulder). The title of High Priest / High Priestess

Before we come back to the links between the reliefs and the text, we must first try to shed some light on two strange features on the 313 altar: the use of the title High Priest and the mention “honoured by the gods”. We shall then turn to the question of the identity of these gods, and lastly to the expected benefits from their action. The Epitynchanoi and Ispatale are “high priest” or “high priestess”. This has been understood, quite naturally, as referring to the imperial cult. Altogether, it seems odd that they write down the names of the gods honoring them without ever quoting the sovereigns. And that the gorgeous, if not so exceptional, titles confered to them by the city (“saviour of the city, legislator”) do not allude to this so important duty. If the title “high priest” is referring to the man­‍‑in­‍‑charge of this cult in a city or in the province, on the 313 altar, at a time where the Emperor’s majesty is exalted more

Scarcely legible is a spur of letter (n ?) down on the left. According to St. Mitchell, Anatolin…, p. 26 sqq., fig. 11, the bird would personify the de­ ceased’s soul. But in such a case, we should expect him flying to heaven, while he is rather bringing a crown down to earth. 14 15

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


than ever, how is it possible that we find no mention of the duties performed by the priest of the Augusts? There may be a simple explanation to this paradox. The year when Epitynchanos’ consecration happened began in autumn of 313. Maximinus had lost power in April against Licinius and had nullified his persecution decrees before committing suicide, probably in July. So, a few months before this epitaph was composed, persecution was no more in season16. Even before that, did the title of “high priest” or “high priestess” worn by members of the family on the 313 altar imply effective support to the religious, anti­‍‑Christian and pro­‍‑pagan reforms of Emperor Maximinus? Are we dealing with a late outburst of anti­‍‑Christian reaction? Anyway, we don’t find here anything comparable with the fierce anti­‍‑Christian polemic at Kolbasa or Arycanda17. There is too wide a gap between the two levels, the imperial and the “micro­ ‍‑local” one. Be it in the Upper Tembris Valley, be it nearer to Acmonia or to some smaller city as Alia, people were asking the oracles primarily about their bios. High Priest was a solemn title, perhaps more decorative than effective; one could be High Priest lifelong (di¦ b…ou) and by way of inheritance (¢pХ progТnwn). Such a title was well in accordance with “saviour of homeland, legislator”; it probably implied some religious duties, but his main duty was telling the truth about what will happen. None of the deceased Epitynchanoi has any word for his generosity, but they underline, one, in the poem, the high accuracy of his technical knowledge of astral divination, the other, on the 313 altar, the extent of his prophetic knowledge: everything, everywhere, to everybody. If there has been a rivality between different cults, it was more about the attractiveness of their respective abilities to prophesy than about theological and eschatological controversies.

“Honoured by the gods” On the 313 funerary altar, another strange feature has been explained by Marc Waelkens; namely, the “deceased private deification”18. Waelkens starts from an epitaph in Afyon’s museum, “Tateis has honoured her husband Metras, who became a  god”. He explains conclusively, contrary to Ramsay’s opinion, that there is no identification or union of the deceased with a  god, but belief in an astral immortality, life amidst the stars, different also from the Christian resurrection. The late husband Metras became a  god for the members of his fa­ mily, but not outside it. In Roman times, steles are erected by parents to their “child­‍‑god”, for a cult which is not intended for a dead person or for a hero; for 16 S.R.F. Price, Rituals and Power. The Roman imperial cult in Asia Minor, Cambridge 1984, p. 59; survival of the Imperial cult in the IVth century; ibidem, p. 60. 17 St. Mitchell, JRS 78 (1988), p. 108. 18 M. Waelkens, Privatdeifikation in Kleinasien und in der Griechisch­‍‑Römischen Welt. Zu ei‑ ner neuen Grabinschrift aus Phrygien [in:] Archéologie et religions de l’Anatolie ancienne, Mélan‑ ges… Paul Naster, Louvain­‍‑la­‍‑Neuve 1984, pp. 245–307 (284–285 for these inscriptions). See also: A.D. Nock, JHS (1925), p. 100sq.


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the sacrifice, they use the verb qÚein, as for Olympians, not ™nag…zein, as for the dead or for heroes19. This kind of belief is in most instances restricted to the family privacy, for private graves; it is not proper to Phrygia, but there it finds a stronger expression and is more abundantly documented20. The relation of dedicants to the deceased is always specified; it is always very close, wife, father, children (one 9 years old), adopted son. It is restricted to the most intimate family circle. These are private graves. Such an astral apotheosis is clearly alluded to in lines 3–5 of the metrical text: “You enjoy vaults whirling around their axis, constellations shining on their celestial orbit, between the sun and bright moon”. On the 313 altar, applied to great­‍‑priests of the (other?) Epitynchanos family, the word ¢q£natoj, “immortal”, implies a dei­ fication of this kind. But there is perhaps a bit more. The Epitynchanoi become Immortals, athanatoi, even before they are dead; they are destined to divinity. Here, we see that at least two family members, the brothers Diogas and Epitynchanos II, did not wait until their death to adorn themselves with so glorious a title (cf. text on side C of the stone). We may compare, many years earlier, Antiochus the First, king of Commagene, called theos in the inscriptions at Nemrud Dag he had composed for himself. Atha‑ natos seems to be here an equivalent to theos, as in the parallel formulas “(recei­ ving) a gift from all the immortals” and “honoured by the immortal gods”. So, these immortals are ranking among the file elucidated by Waelkens. But their influence extends over a much wider area. Not only is the deceased “immortal”, but he is also “honoured by the gods”, “consecrated” by his relatives. To understand this phrasing, another scholar, M. Paz de Hoz, has collected 16 similar instances (our altar included) in the same geogra­ phical area21. Most usual are “X has consecrated the late Y, honoured by such and such a god”; sometime the redactors write “consecrated” alone, omitting “honou­ red”, or “honoured and consecrated”, or “consecrated” alone. According to Tomas Lochman, the phrase “honoured by the gods” would mean that the temple provides for the funeral expense22. A more obvious meaning seems to be that the grave is put under the protection of the gods.

Who are the gods? The gods honouring the deceased on side A of the 313 altar are for one part the same as on the steles collected by M. Paz de Hoz, first of all Hecate “Saviour”, a well­‍‑chosen epithet (5 instances), then Zeus and Apollon (2 instances each). We have met these three gods, together with “all the Immortals”. On another Phrygian M. Waelkens, art. cit., n° 44 and p. 265. Cf. such phrasing as quoted by Liddell­‍‑Scott­‍‑Jones, s.v. theos, I, 2, b and c, espec. “during your life and after your departure to the gods ” (P. Petr. 2 p. 45; IIIrd c. B.C.). 21 M. Paz de Hoz, The Verb kathieroô and reference to a Divinity in Anatolian funeral formulas, Arkeoloji Dergisi V (1999), pp. 161–169, espec. p. 165 top. 22 Lochman, loc. cit. infra, p. 24. 19 20

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


altar now in Musée Calvet (Avignon) published by T. Lochman, dated by him to the beginning of the IIIrd century, of the same type and from the same area as the 313 altar, but whose reliefs, more simple than our’s, are intact, we notice the same tripartite order, quite explicit; “phénomène unique jusqu’à présent”, so writes Lo­ chman, the Zeus’ bust is taking place between the threefold Hecate and Helios23. On the 313 altar, the appearance of Helios / Phoibos Apollon, founder and prophet, is quite appropriate. Hecate is the regular guardian of graves24. She comes first, as she is also the first divinity to be called upon in the Orphic Hymns; she presides over initiations, plays a leading part in divination and magic. Number three, also, is He­ cate’s, so that there is nothing abnormal in the presence, here, of the three divinities Hecate­‍‑Zeus­‍‑Apollon. The only surprising feature, then, is, in the second place, the hyperbolic and puzzling listing of four words, all genitives, ending with the name of Zeus25; (Epi­ tynchanos is honoured by) “Manes Daos Heliodromos Zeus”. Two of these names are well­‍‑known: Zeus, of course, and Manes, mythical ancestor of Phrygians and son of Zeus. “Manes son of Zeus” makes sense. If this is right, then Daos and He­ liodromos should be understood as appended to Manes, and Heliodromos should not be constructed with Zeus26. Manes’ presence is easy to explain: According to Hellenistic scholars27, he is the son of Zeus, the mythical ancestor of Phrygians and father to two eponymous heroes, two brothers, Acmôn for the city of Acmonia, and Doias for the “plain of Doias”, part of the Acmonian territory28. L. Robert has shown that the Dindymon range (Murat Dag), whose southern slopes were included in Acmonia’s territory, was the realm of the mythical horseman Acmôn. In the literary tradition (Nonnus, Dionysiaca, XIII, 143), he is aptly called ÑridrТmoj, “galloping through the mountain”, and this is confirmed by the pseudo­‍‑autonomous coinage of the city29. One cannot help being reminded of the horseman on side A of the 313 altar. As Manes, Daos is attested as personal name, quite Phrygian­‍‑sounding, in Menander’s plays (for instance Shield, l. 206, 242). A Daos/Doias son of Manes 23 Lochman, Une stèle phrygienne, Revue du Louvre 6 (1990), pp. 455–461 (stele in Musée Cal­ vet, Avignon). N° 1 in M. Paz de Hoz’s list. 24 Cf. her epithet tymbidia in H.orph. 1, v. 3. See also: L. Robert, CRAI 1978, pp. 264–266 = OMS, V, pp. 720–722. 25 The best statement about this question, and the most concise, is by O. Masson, Les noms Daos et Azaretos en Mysie et en Bithynie [in:] Mélanges G. Mihaïlov, Sofia 1995, pp. 325–328 (p. 327, alinea 3 = Onomastica Graeca Selecta, t. III, Genève 2000, p. 239–242). 26 As did Cumont translating “courrier solaire de Zeus’’. 27 Dion. Halic., I 27; Alexander Polyhistôr, FGrHist 273, F. 73 Jac (Ist c. B. C., contemporary with Sulla), see next note. 28 Et. Byz., s.v. ’Akmon…a, quoting Alexander Polyhistor; and id., s. v. Do…antoj ped…on. We know also through Herodotus, I, 94 et IV, 45, one Manes father to Atys; this Manes is a Lydian ancestor whose name is varying, Mannes, Masnes, Masdnes, even Damasen. The two Manes, Lydian and Phrygian, are probably not to be confused, and they are anyway distinct from Men, the Phrygian moon­‍‑god, whose name is well established. 29 L. Robert, Nonnos et les monnaies d’Akmonia de Phrygie, Journ. Sav., (1975), pp. 153–192 = OMS, VII, p. 185–224.


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could have been a local eponymous, as supposed by Olivier Masson30. I just want to suggest a possible explanation for the supposed change from Doias to Daos. It has been observed by V. Hirschmann that d£oj, common noun, means “torch”; it is an archaic, homeric, noble word. Daos with its Homeric meaning of torch and He­ liodromos running in or to the sun are quite akin (on some coins from the area, we find without surprise Helios holding a torch). Solar beliefs (and, accordingly, solar interpretations) were of course widely spread in the Roman Empire at the beginning of the IVth century A.D. Still, this does not explain his presence, side by side with Manes and Heliodromos. In its most common sense, Heliodromos is a technical term from the Mithraic sphere. It is the last­‍‑but­‍‑one highest grade in Mithraic initiation, just before Pater. But here there is no hint of successive grades, Mithracism was fundamentally a matter of men, not of women as here, where initiation is officially given to Epitynchanos by a woman, Ispatale31; and we do not know of mithraic influence in the area. Heliodromos is also a bird, a kind of Phoinix, Cyranides, III, 7, either “running to the sun” or “on the sun’s path”, which would hint to an astral apotheosis of the kind mentioned in the metrical text. But above all, ¹liodrТmoj, a word with solar and polytheistic connotations, re­ minds of another compound with — drТmoj, but this one with a Christian meaning, not to be found in Liddell­‍‑Scott­‍‑Jones’ but in Lampe’s dictionary, qeodrТmoj, “run­ ning to God, taking sides with God”32; also the verb qeodrТmšw, well attested from the IInd century on. `HliodrТmoj is the solar counterpart of the Christian qeodrТmoj. This point had already been seen by Cumont, but he did not make use of it33. So, after Manes, where we might have expected to find Doias and Acmon Ñr…dromoj, characterized as local heroes, the inscription’s redactor turned them into celestial entities, Daos/torch (borrowing from the Homeric use) and Heliodromos, casting a polytheistic — solar — epithet from the same mould as a Christian epithet, and on the whole transforming local heroes into solar hypostases. One inference from this explanation would be that the altar comes from Acmonia. Gifts from the gods

Gods (the divine triad Hecate/ Zeus/Apollon and the heroic one Manes/Daos/Heli­ odromos) receive individual names only on the 313 altar, but all three documents are rather explicit about the gifts expected from supernatural powers. Let’s take them one by one. On the 313 altar, the deceased is giving oracular answers: “I am the one who says everything”, not, as has sometimes been understood, “all these things”. It is a kind of universal oracle, answering all kinds of questions. Probably, believers will come 30 H. Grégoire, Notes épigraphiques 1. La Religion de Maximin Daia, Byzantion 8 (1933), pp. 49– 56, understood Daia as an ethnic for Dacia; see the refutation by O. Masson, loc. cit. 31 See: R. Turcan, Mithra et le Mithriacisme, Paris 1993, pp. 86–91 (1ère éd. 1981). 32 Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarpus of Smyrna, 7, 2; to the Philadelphians, 22. The verb in Suda, I, 2, p. 696, 25 Adler, and a mere “Photios”, in Liddell­‍‑Scott­‍‑Jones. 33 F. Cumont, Catalogue, 1913, p. 162.

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


to his grave and pray to him as it happened at the grave of Prophetess Ammias at Thyateira34. Comparing the two texts, we see the same assertion of the “truth” of answers, of granting the demands, “whatever you may wish” (Thyateira), the same setting of an association of initiates. The answer could be obtained by incubation or, rather, by inspiration, vaticination, of the priest(ess). It has often been recalled that Phrygia as a whole was a land of prophets and prophetesses, of any obedience, pagans, Montanists, Christians from the Great Church — for instance, the daughters of Philippus at Hierapolis. The same inscription honouring Epitynchanos tells us about the honorific titles his city gave him during his life: “saviour of the homeland, lawgiver”, maybe a bit bombastic. He was himself styled “first high priest”, having inherited the title from a woman, Ispatale, “official high priestess”, and handing it down to his sons Diogas and Epitynchanos 2, who are “first high priests”, but in which city, of which god or gods, this is not specified; nonetheless we may infer from the beginning of the text that the god might be Phoibos35 “founder, soothsayer”. We may note that while Ispatale is said to have been “official” high priestess, Epitynchanos I, although contemporary with Maximinus Daia’s religious (pro­ ‍‑pagans) reforms, seems to deserve no such qualification. The scope of this family was perhaps money­‍‑making by high quality oracles more than money­‍‑spending in the lavish expenses of civic magistratures. The title “high priest” was also worn by Christian priests, and rather than a faraway echo of imperial decisions, we may hear, in this repeated use of the title, the stir of local rivalries. The inscribed texts on three sides of the 313 altar are odd coming from such a high­‍‑ranking person. They comprise strange repetitions. Epitynchanos says three consecutive times that he delivers oracles, twice that they are true, twice that he got this as a gift . He repeats also that this gift is efficient “inside his homeland and on the territory (twice)”. So, taking into account the phrasing on side B of the altar, “Is­ patale, whom gods have honoured inside the boundaries (of the city) and outside”, I wonder wether, in the first part of the inscription, the duplication of “™n Óroij” when we expect “kќ ™n Óroij kќ Шpќr Órouj” is not a mistake of the lapicid, who seems to have been rather awkward (for instance, further on, he writes “™tšteke” instead of “œteke”). We should also read, on side A, not “prophesy… in my homeland and prophesy inside the boundaries, make laws, inside the boundaries prophesy for all …”, but, in the last part, “prophesy inside the boundaries, make laws, outside the boundaries prophesy for all”. The overall concern of the inscription is to celebrate the fame, both of Epityncha­ nos and his spiritual master Ispatale, at home and abroad. Here I cannot but dissent from V. Hirschmann about the meaning of the word “boundaries”. `UperТrioj means abroad in Greek at least since Plato (and again in Damascius about Asclepiodotus’ L. Robert, Et. Anat., (1937), pp. 129–132. The high priests whose cult is not specified, as here, are not necessarily priests of the imperial cult: S.R.F. Price, op. cit., p. XVII. They may serve other specific cults or even have some general control over all the cults in the city. 34 35


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fame, quoted by Ramsay). So, when it is said about Ispatale that she gives oracles “as well inside the boundaries as over the boundaries”, we must understand not that her fame is not restricted to the holy boundaries of some unspecified sanctuary, but, as is natural, that it extends over the boundaries of the homeland, which has just been mentioned. It does not make sense to limit the fame of an universal oracle to the very narrow space of the family grave, even with a nice sarcophagus, a small altar and some advertisement posters. By “advertisement posters”, I mean some text of the same kind as the poem in eight elegiac distichs published by Souter and Ramsay. This poem concerns again an Epitynchanos. Scholars have wondered, of course, about the possible identification of this Epitynchanos with the main figure of the 313 altar. But the name seems to be widespread, at least in that part of Phrygia36. The poem does not give any clue about his ascendancy and we learn only that he begot sons (l. 14) who remain anonymous. So we must infer either that we have only a part of the inscription or that, next to the poem, there was a more explicit statement about the identity and relatives of the deceased. Could it be the 313 altar? From Ramsay we may deduce that the lettering of the two texts was rather different, and anyway the style is quite different; it has not been composed by the same author, nor at the same time. These two Epitynchanos should be two different persons. The inscriptions on the altar also tell us about a fame that went beyond the boun­ daries of the city37. This sanctuary enjoyed an official recognition, with the title “high priest” or “high priestess” confered to the person­‍‑in­‍‑charge; and Ispatale is “official”, (dhmotik» equivalent to dhmos…a). That means, they were specialists. The devotees left some money to the initiate who had granted them a connection with the Other World. The prophetic grave was on a much smaller scale than an enclosure dedicated to the imperial cult. It needed only a plain structure, an altar, a sarcophagus, some space to post inscriptions advertising the influence and accuracy of this oracle. The Epitynchanos celebrated by the poem is, as already said, an astrologist who was successful in his job. He got citizenship in many cities judging from (l. 13: he also has enjoyed a fame ØperТrioj) and he left his children a prosperous business (l. 14: he leaves his sons “in no respect more weak than himself”). For weak, he’s using an old epic word, ¢faurТj, feeble, in Homer often used for children; I unders­ tand “in no respect of a lower rank / or less wealthy than himself”. His ascendancy or his origin must have been inscribed elsewhere, maybe on a funerary altar of the same sort as the other two. He reports astral beliefs (l. 5–6) but none the less looks haunted by the fear of the darkness after his death (last line). St. Mitchell is perhaps going too far when he calls him “a pagan theologian” (cf. Anatolia II, Index of per­ Cf. E. Haspels, op. cit., n° 52, and infra, n 40. V. Hirschmann, 2003, p. 138 n. 5, gives to the word Уroi a narrow meaning “heiliger Bezirk”, sacred enclosure, quoting instances from E. Haspels, 1971, p. 211. But in these instances, “boundary stones defining church property”, the meaning “sacred” is given only by the determiner; “boundary stone (of the sanctuary) of the Holy Virgin Mary”. Without a determiner, the word can of course ap­ ply to any sort of boundary, sacred or profan. Here, the implied determiner is the word “homeland”, patr…j, just before. 36 37

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sonal names). He is merely following the same path as Posidippus of Pella in his well­‍‑known Elegy, but with more visible anguish38. So, the literary gap between the 313 altar and the poem is striking: while one recalls Matthew’s Evangelic phrasing and makes use of the “modern” form for “I am” (™gл Ќme Р lalоn p£nta), the other is imitating the omniscience of the poet in the Theogony of Hesiod, a reference not out of place here but, as we have seen, difficult to use. The poet employs a sophisticated vocabulary, with some oddities. He introduces himself as a seer, an expert in the science of astrology, inspired and truth­‍‑telling “by his own merit” knowing the extension and the limits of the universe. He portrays himself, in Hesiodic guise (Theog., v. 32 et 38), as informed about “what is, what will be and what has been”, l. 12, with a kind of nonsense: “what is, what is going to be, what will be before”, but the intent is clear. The poet­‍‑astrologist is assembling literary themes and his style as well as spelling are more refined, even if faulty, than on the 313 altar. If these two texts concern, not the same person, but members of the same family of seers, the name Epitynchanos would seem to have been traditional in that family, maybe because it was a good omen, a kind of professional name? The difference in the level of the texts, the similarity of functions may be explained by a difference of generation39. The name Ispatale, meaning “refinement, sensuousness”, cannot be derogatory here. In some respects, the two texts seem to be complementary, the altar giving in­ formations about the deceased’s identity which is lacking in the second, the poem elaborating about facts alluded to on the altar, e.g. the fame “outside the boundaries” resulting in honorary citizenships abroad, in many cities But the ways of telling the future are different enough to prevent us from identifying the two main Epityncha­ nos. Let us have a look, now, to the funerary altar dated to 249/250. Here we meet one more Epitynchanos, associated with his mother Tertulla and ‘the sacred speira whose hierophant he is. He consecrates to the gods his father Telesphoros40. The name of the deceased, Telesphoros, is an interesting one41. He is an important figure in the circle of Asclepius, this last being himself an oracular divinity, by way of dreams, in Pergamon. Telesphoros is a protector of shepherds and their sheep, and his devo­ tee, like his god, wears the dress of shepherds: a rain­‍‑proof felt mantle with a hood, quite recognizable, of the same sort as those still worn by Anatolian shepherds some 38 H. Lloyd­‍‑Jones, P. Parsons, Supplementum Hellenisticum, De Gruyter, 1983, n° 705. For a com­ mentary of these lines, see: K. Guntzwiller, The New Posidippus. A Hellenistic Poetry Book, Oxford 2005, pp. 317–319, al. 39 This good­‍‑omen name is not rare; it is found in Haspels’ 1971 as well as in Waelkens’ 1986 indexes, or in Marcus Aurelius Meditations… we find a sculptor of this name, in the Upper Tembris Valley, near Appia, ca 220 (St. Mitchell, Anatolia II, op. cit., p. 14, fig. 2); also in the indexes of MAMA, or in those of the Bull. Épigr. (e.g., 1972, n° 465; 1973, n° 65; 1977, n° 491, 495); also on coins, cf. P. Chuvin, Chronique des derniers païens3 (11990) Paris 2009, p. 301 n. 5. 40 Speira, equivalent of thiasos, see Inschr. Perg. 319, 320; also ibid., 248 = OGI 331, 38; 55. 41 Telesphoros is attested elsewhere as anthroponym.


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decades ago42. In Marcus Aurelius’times, Telesphoros appears in the coinage of Alia, a city at the foot of Dindymon, on the road between Acmonia and the Upper Tembris valley, on the slopes looking toward Acmonia. Under Caracalla, another type from the same city has Asclepius and Hygieia, face to face, with attributes43. A stele from the small town of Malos also testifies to the devotion to Asclepius; in a country of intensive sheep­‍‑breeding, a shepherd prays to the god “for his masters, for the flock and for the dogs”44. This Malos has been located by E. Haspels “at the SE end of the Highlands” of Phrygia, near to or at the modern Kilise/Orhaniye45. Such a dedication allows us a glance at the expectations of people being initiated or entering a speira: good health, prosperous flocks. When we reckon the benefits expected from initia­ tion, we tend to put promises for bliss after death in the first place. For the Ancients, health and wealth were no less important, as is shown by a classical text, the Elegy on Old Age by the poet Posidippus of Pella: he introduces himself as an initiate and says overtly what he is waiting for: to be mourned by his fellow­‍‑citizens, remain in good health even in old age, keep a lucid mind and bequeath to his children some wealth46. The poem for ‘Epitynchanos’ expresses exactly the same expectations. Each piece of evidence is contributing to the picture of these divine men’s su­ pernatural powers: in the middle, an oracular grave; all around, his or her family, among whom an interpreter, descendant of the deceased; in another place or at another generation, an inspired astrologist; and a family devoted to Asclepius, who had one of his main sanctuaries at Pergamon, not so far from this part of Phrygia. Heathens and Christians in 313

Too much stress has been put upon a phrase on the 313 altar. Ispatale “has freed a lot of people from harsh sufferings”. Scholars have taken literally the word trans­ lated here by sufferings, b£sanoj, “torture, tourment” and concluded that Ispatale had protected Christians during Maximinus’ persecution. Maybe she had delivered them false sacrifice certificates. And later on, she would have boasted that she had helped her opponents. This fanciful construction lacks plausibility. If we have ins­ tances of pagans protecting their Christian neighbors in time of persecution, these are instances of private friendship47. As a matter of fact, in any time as during the autumn of 313, the purpose of the candidates for initiation was of another sort, more common, nearer to them. A long time ago (1933), G. De Sanctis has explained the phrase “deliver from harsh b£sanoi” from Matthew, 4, 24: Christ attracted “toÝj kakоj œcontaj poik…laij nÒsoij kaˆ J. and L. Robert, Bull. Épigr., (1970), n° 408, p. 418. B.V. Head, BM Coins, Phrygia, p. 44–45. 44 L. Robert, Hellenica X (1955), p. 28–33; the stone came to Istanbul by railway. 45 The location of Malos has been rectified by E. Haspels, The Highlands of Phrygia, Princeton 1971, vol. 1, p. 169–170. (cf. Haspels, n° 51 and 52). 46 Op. cit., supra, n. 39. 47 P. Maraval, Les Persécutions durant les quatre premiers siècles du christianisme, Paris 1992, p. 131. 42 43

Praying, Wonder­‍‑Making and Advertising: The Epitynchanoi’s Funerary Inscriptions


b£sanoij sunecomšnouj”48. De Sanctis has been followed by L. Robert, “cette femme faisait des guérisons miraculeuses; elle libérait des souffrances et des infirmités”49; Robert was in turn followed by Merkelbach — Stauben, loc. cit., p. 239, but not by St. Mitchell, interpreting Robert, “by admitting devotees to the mysteries she delivered them from suffering” but repelling this “general sense” of “suffering”: for Mitchell as for most of the exegets of the altar, Ispatale had persuaded Christians to apostatize or issued for them non­‍‑genuine certificates of sacrifice when they were in danger of being tortured, during Maximinus’ persecution50. Proclaiming her conni­ vance on an altar so overtly polytheistic, she exposed herself to the risk of being on bad terms with both sides51. As De Sanctis pointed out, the taste for miracles in the IVth century is self­‍‑evident and the use of a  word meaning properly torture for illness as well as the use of athanatos, at this time, both by Christians (in the singular) and by pagans, mirrors the blending of polytheist and Christian religious vocabulary rather than illustrat­ ing the competition between them, and provides evidence for a common religious language at this time. Other cases of this common religious language were noticed by Ramsay: for the verb lutrТomai, altar side B, compare Titus, 2, 14; for the keeping of orders, to John, 14, 15, “if you love me, keep my orders”, t¦j ™ntol¦j, t¦j ™m¦j thr»sete; compare, on the altar side B, thrоn ™ntol¦j ¢qan£twn; compare also John, 4, 26, “™gл e„mˆ Р lalоn soi”, to Epitynchanos, already quoted, on he altar side B, “kќ ™gл Ќme Р lalоn p£nta”. Taken separately, these cases might seem insignificant (Cumont); however, their number in a few lines gives them weight. Let us add the `HliodrТmoj parallel to qedrÒmoj. For a better understanding of the faith of this group, we need more particulars of the cults into which they were initiated. The IVth century saw a flourishing of initiatic cults and some devout pagans piled up initiations52. The trend continued, at a quicker pace as pagan rituals were progressively restricted and forced to go underground. One and a half century after the 313 altar (about 470), in the verse of the (probably Christian) poet Nonnus of Panopolis, telet», Ôrgia, mue‹n are used for any cult practice53: the “explosion” of initiatic cults in Late Antiquity ends in a kind of syncretismus. G. De Sanctis, Riv. Fil., (1933), p. 552. Ét. Anat., p. 132; again in DAM, p. 428 = BCH 1983, 584, n. 8. 50 St. Mitchell, Anatolia II, (1993), p. 47 n. 274. 51 Robert repells any kind of ‘notion eschatologique’ (against F. Cumont) or ‘interprétation théolo­ gique’ (against E. De Stoop). According to H. Grégoire, also, the high priestess had saved Christians. See also: Calder, JRS 2 (1912), 240, and his “interprétation sans fondement ni attache” (L.Robert); people rescued from the torments of persecution. Would Ispatale have induced to sacrifice Christians in danger of being arrested? 52 Chuvin, op. cit., pp. 217–221. 53 F. Vian, Les cultes païens dans les Dionysiaques de Nonnos; étude de vocabulaire, REA 90 (1988), pp. 399–410 (= L’épopée posthomérique, recueil d’études, D. Accorinti (ed.) Alessandria 2005, pp. 439–455). 48 49


Pierre Chuvin

To conclude: In the Epitynchanoi family, the title of high priest is handed down as a legacy. But the imperial cult is not at the forefront of their activities. They are acting as sooth­ sayers, healers or astrologists. And they make money from their abilities — this is not an innovation. They hold municipal offices and have acted as evergetes, but they do not elaborate this point. These texts are testimonies for a pagan funerary cult, which has much in common with Christian funerary cults. Inside the pagan society, it is tempting to compare this family with the, equally pagan, seer Sosipatra in the area of Ephesus, the life of Sosipatra looking like a “nomadic” version of this “settled” group. The redundant and boastful style of the first epitaph, the pedantic vocabulary of the second, find their simplest explanation in their wish for publicity, which does not hinder them from having a sincere faith in their forefathers virtues. There is nothing properly anti­‍‑Christian in these texts. They follow parallel paths with Christians; they use the same language, but don’t meet each other, as might be the rule in a period of religious neutrality.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Dimitar Y. Dimitrov Veliko Tarnovo University “St. Cyril and St. Methodius”

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: the Case of Synesius Synesius of Cyrene was a representative of the complex late antique cultural and intellectual milieu. I would — paradoxically at first glance — add that he was not only a curious, but also a very typical representative of different streams, with the modern then (Neo)Platonism prevailing. In the present article, I would like to scru‑ tinize again the place of philosophy and culture in Synesius’ view­‍‑of­‍‑life1 by, firstly, determining the level of discrepancy between contemplative and active life and how it was solved in the case of Synesius. Secondly, the corresponding notions of ascent and descent follow, including the question how they were understood by the Cyrenian intellectual and bishop of Ptolemais. Neoplatonic and Chaldaean influ‑ ence will be analyzed in order to clarify the place of Intelligence (Nous) and Wis‑ dom in the conceptual framework of Synesius, to what extent they impressed to his intellectual adjustment and how traditional and individual features were combined in both his writings and behaviour. Finally, Synesius’ understanding of culture/ paideia, based mostly but not solely on Dio, will be put on focus with respect to the idea of the universal Bildung of the spiritual and intellectual human being as the first step towards a highly intellectualized and deritualized deification2.

Philosophy as leisure “Even if God accepted me as suitable for the office, I should nevertheless love Truth first as the most divine thing of all, and I must not slip into His service through ways 1 This specifically psychological term was used by B.-A. Roos [in:] Synesius of Cyrene. A Study in His Personality, Lund, 1991. 2 “Deification” could have many nuances of meaning, from “approach towards God” and “union in Goodness’ to “stable contacts with God”, close in that sense to the “divination”, or manteiva, dis‑ cussed widely in On dreams of Synesius. The latter was, however, far from the classical qeourgiva widespread among many Neoplatonists of the time.


Dimitar Y. Dimitrov

opposed to it, such as falsehood”3. Synesius finished his famous epistle 105 in that way before accepting bishopric in ca. 410. It is clear from the context of the epistle, but also coming out from his extensive writings, that he meant both truth of con‑ science and philosophical truth. In Cyrene the pupil of Hypatia used to live the life of a provincial noble and intellectual, devoted to philosophy and literary pursuits. Even the troublesome mission to Constantinople was not able to change his attitude to life, bishopric being the first serious challenge, and probably the last. Studiousness is just the first step to knowledge, which has many grades and manifestations. Synesius was devoted to books and reading, his personal library embracing many volumes (Dio, 15). “Books are my children” — this was a state‑ ment addressed to his Constantinopolitan friend and erudite Nicandrus (Ep. 1). They are children — continues Synesius — of many mothers, but of the same father. The variety of styles and genres included jocular exercises (melštai and progumn£smata) along with official rhetoric4 and deep philosophical thought. “I have devoted my youth to philosophical leisure and the idle contemplation of abstract being devoid of pragmatic intention” (scolÍ kaˆ qewr…v tоn Фntwn ¢pr£gmoni), Synesius witnessed — not without nostalgia — in his epistle 11 to the bishops and priests of Pentapolis. The opportunity of free study (scol») and contemplation (qewr…v) took an important place in the mental and spiritual adjustment of Synesius’ mind as a response and continuation of the traditional for the early Empire aristocratic ideal of otium. In those more pleasant years the young lover of knowledge could afford luxury of dividing his time between books and hunting5. The freedom of choice and preferences marked to a great extent the youth of Synesius: carefree state of mind and abundance of time (eÙmare…a) neighbouring to happiness. What could be more wonderful than to live in sacred enclosure, like an animal at will, apportioning life between study, prayers, and chase6? In epistle 100 to Pylaemenes he described lei‑ sure as the greatest good (scol¾ dќ mšgiston ¢gaqÒn), which could bring all noble things to the soul of the philosopher. Philosophy as scol» was by any means a divine grace, the quintessence of life, the credo of Synesius, his goal and dream, which he would feel irretrievably lost in his later years7. 3 The English translation of Synesius’ writings is generally based on Fitzgerald’s edition, but compared with the Italian translation of A. Garzya and also with important changes and amendments of mine. 4 The most typical example of that kind of jocular exercises was his Praise of baldness (Falakr©j ™gkиmion), an intellectual jest and a playful answer, with some nuances of seriousness too, to the now lost praise of hair, written by Dio Chrysostomus. 5 On dreams 14: “bibl…J kaˆ q»rv mer…zwn tÕn b…on”. Synesius expressed in ep. 105 his sadness for the dogs and horses remaining idle without their favorite occupation of hunting. Synesius was also the author of a handbook of hunting, a Cynegetic, lost nowadays (Ep. 101 to Pylaemenes and Ep. 154 to Hypatia). 6 Ep. 41 (57). 7 Ep. 41 (57): ™moˆ paidÒqen paršsth qe‹on ¢gaqÒn eЌnai scol¾ kaˆ toа zБn eЩmare…a. Ep. 100: scol¾ mšgiston ¢gaqÒn ™sti.. In both epistles reminiscences could be recognized from Plato, Theaetetus 172d–e.

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


Philosophy is the focal point in the epistles of Synesius to his teacher Hypatia, as well as to his friends from the Alexandrian period, namely Herculian, Olympius and Pylaemenes (altogether 41 to the three of them)8. Even the farewells betray the influence of the Neoplatonic language, often just repeating formulas from Plotinus and Porphyry: “Farewell then, philosophize and go on digging up the eye that is buried within us”9. In epistle 139, again to Herculian, Synesius went on paraphrasing the last words of Plotinus according to Porphyry: “Farewell, philosophize, and raise the divine within you to the first­‍‑born divine (tÕ prwtègonon qe‹on)”10. Generally the borrowings from Plotinus, especially from I.6.8–9, played an important role and influenced his figurative symbolic. The question of the “internal eye” was referred on in epistle 105, too: once awaken, that eye could not withstand the splendor of philosophical truths. That is why it needs some protective measures, just like our external eyes need eyelids in order to be protected from the straight sunlight11. Myths, parables and allegories play the role of eyelids for the “internal eye”, so that even those who did not finished their instruction, could accept the truth, reaching the secrets of Universe, Being and God. Synesius was, moreover, eager to defend the use of lie (yeаdoj) in the shape of myths in order that the majority could touch the truths, which the well­‍‑educated minority grasped in their entirety through philosophy (Ep. 105). The philosopher (and the bishop, too) should be a guardian of the mysteries of knowledge, giving just a strict dose of truth according to the preparedness and compatibility of the “patient”. Only the chosen ones will have the chance to follow the path leading to philosophical truths. This kind of journey, as Synesius shared with Herculian, was far more glorious than the wanderings of Odyssey as far as the hero of Homer visited uneducated and uncivilized Laestrygonians and Cyclopses, while the journey towards philosophy in the school of Hypatia in Alexandria has been accompanied by unspeakable and marvelous experiences (Ep. 137). The pleas‑ urable effects of turning thoughts to what is within us provoke happiness that could hardly be exchanged for material prosperity — it is like bartering gold for bronze12. Even if poverty (pen…an) is the pledge, or the fate of a stranger among strangers, it is however worth it for the purposes of the intellectual voyage13. The real meaning of life lies in its attainable sufficiency of being lived according to the mind (no‹j). Philosophy keeps vices away and instructs in virtues, including those on the high‑ est levels according to the categorical scheme of Porphyry14. Our Divine Lord has 8 For the influence of Hypatia on Synesius and the circle of schoolmates from Alexandria see especially M. Dzielska, Hypatia z Aleksandrii, Krakow 2006, (2d edition, in Polish) and the English version: Hypatia of Alexandria, Harvard Un. Press, 1995. 9 Ep. 137 to Herculian. Compare with Plato, Republic VII, 533d and Plotinus I.6.9.25 ff. 10 Vita Plotini 2.25–27. 11 Plato, Republic VII, 533c–d. The same metaphor Synesius used in Dio 8. 12 Ep. 101, based on Iliad 6.235. 13 Ep. 52 (50) to Euoptius: ™nn filosof…v ∙astènhj... xšnoj ™n xšnoij biуhn. 14 Ep. 117 (116) to Auxentius — compare with Porphyry, Sententiae 32. The latter writing of the philosopher from Tyrus has influenced strongly Synesius, especially On dreams.


Dimitar Y. Dimitrov

granted us the Mind, His Semen15, in order to turn our thoughts both up and inside, searching for the real happiness instead of the ill­‍‑omened forum (¢polipe‹n t¾n kakoda…mona ¢gor¦n, Ep. 101)16. Philosophy is the most secret of secrets (filosof…an d™n ¢rr»twn œcwn, Ep. 137) according to Synesius. This adds a sense of half­‍‑expressed thoughts in the epistles, which should be kept away from the profane mob17. The mysteries of philosophy are to be protected with pious (eЩagоj) and God­‍‑fearing (eЩlabоj) excitement18. Unlike many scholars from the past, I keep on insisting that neither the pagan mysteries were kept in secret, nor the secret Chaldaean or Hermetic books, forbidden by the Christian Church19. The epistles, mainly those to Herculian, do not express more than the typical for Synesius reluctance to allow the uneducated and the profane to deal with philosophy. Epistles are filled with topoi so that when the union “in the mind of the Divine law” is mentioned (Ep. 137), it is just the way to introduce the usual and partly formal topic of friendship (fil…a), which as Hellenistic influence is recurrent in the epistles from the later Byzantine period. The intellectual elitarianism of the “initiated” was typical not only for the style, but also for the personality of Synesius who remained a staunch snob until his later years, always cautious in his relations with the uneducated and unmoral mob20. There were perhaps more echoes from the conflicts presented in Dio than anything else in the epistles of Synesius to his friends. As “the uninitiated” Synesius understood the mob in general, but in particu‑ lar also the not enough educated “professional” sophists, the teachers (didЈskaloi) and lawyers (scolastiko…), who were obviously often in conflict with him. Those conflicts provoked Synesius to write Dio, or how to live according to his ideal, an excellent response revealing some of his ideas concerning culture, education, literary freedom and stylistic preferences. He tried, moreover, to persuade Pylaemenes in epistle 103 that the occupation with philosophy was much more noble and elevated than the public rhetoric and forensic activities. To your city, continued Synesius, you could help more in the emploi of a philosopher, than as a lawyer. Intellectual contemplation was close to the heart of the Cyrenian, who kept on insisting until the end of his life that the really good and satisfying life was the one lived with and A term with probable Chaldaena origin (frags. 39 and 108). A. Garzya translated it as “l’infausta professione forense” (Opere di Sinesio di Cirene: Epistole, Operette, Inni, Torino 1989, pp. 256–57. 17 Ep. 137 to Herculian: ... ™moˆ dќ oЩ kalоj œcei grammat…J pisteÚein t¦ toiЈde. TХ g¦r tÁj ™pistolÁj pr©gma oЩk ™cšmuqon. Ep. 143 to the same person: ... oЩk ™mpedo‹j t¦ æmologhm»na prХj ¹m©j ð filТthj m¾ œkpusta poie‹n t¦ ¥xia krÚptesqai. In that epistle Synesius was explicit in his conviction that the spread of philosophy among the uneducated mob could rouse a great neglect and disdain for the things divine. Compare with Ep. 105: “What could be in common between the ordinary people and philosophy?”. 18 Ep. 143: TaàtЈ toi kaˆ promhqšsteroj fЪlax aÚtТj te e„mˆ kaˆ se parakalо tоn filosof… aj Сrg…wn eЌnai. On ‘philosophical mysteries’ see also: ep. 137. 19 Ch. Lacombrade, Synésios de Cyrène: hellène et chrétien, Paris, 1951, pp. 62–63. 20 For the two types of snobbism, aggressive and defensive, as an important feature of the mental‑ ity of the Byzantine elite see the fine article of P. Magdalino, Byzantine Snobbery [in:] The Byzantine aristocracy, IX–XII centuries, Oxford 1984, pp. 58–71. 15 16

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


in philosophy. Contemplation of higher realities and union with the Divine should be the goals justifying the existence of the wise and not only the clever man. Liter‑ ary activity in a broader sense was just an introduction into the sphere of higher knowledge, which implied both free time (scol») and religious zeal. He shared with his readers in the afore­‍‑mentioned Dio his content of being not constrained to earn means as professional teacher, sophist, or lawyer. In the vocabulary of late antique and Byzantine paide…a “professional skill” was not quite an orderly word, implying immanently a certain level of dishonesty21.

The intercepting ways of ascent and descent The philosopher-priest

In epistle 105 Synesius estimates philosophy as a light burden to be carried on in comparison to the civic duties and all other sorts of “political” action, including priesthood. Epistles 101, 102 and 103 to Pylaemenes were devoted to that topic, so sensitive for Synesius, and namely the participation in public life as a duty, often con‑ tradicting to the preferred participation in the internal life of knowledge­‍‑gathering and contemplation of the Divine. The latter was connected directly to God. “When my mind is not occupied with things here below, it is occupied (™nerge‹) with God. There are two parts in philosophy, contemplation and action. Two are moreover the powers (dunЈmeij) ruling over any one of those parts, namely wisdom (sof…a) and prudence (frТnhsij). But prudence needs to be seconded by fortune (tЪchj), whereas wisdom is self­‍‑sufficient (aÙtЈrkhj) and autonomous (¢kèlutoj) in re‑ lation to its own activity” (Ep. 103). In the next few sections I will comment on, firstly, the discrepancy between active life and contemplation, as understood by Synesius, and how it could be overcome. Secondly, his views on the ascent and descent of souls, influenced by many, but predominantly Neoplatonic sources. In epistle 96 to Olympius, another of the “alumni” from Alexandria and a Chris‑ tian, too, Synesius invoked God as a witness that he would rather prefer to die many times instead of accepting the priesthood (polloàj mќn ¨n qanЈtouj ¢nqierwsÚnhj). “But God — continues Synesius — imposed upon me not what I desired but what He wished”. The prayers of Synesius, therefore, were to be endowed with success in order that his new office and mission should not be descent (¢pТbasij) from the heights of philosophy, but rather an ascent to it (™panЈbasij). Thus, along with the traditional Neoplatonic notions of ¢nagwg» and katagwg», those two — ™panЈbasij and ¢pТbasij — were added to designate the way up and down of the soul and mind22. A. Garzya, Ideali e conflitti di cultura alla fine del mondo antico [in:] Stora e interpretazione di testi bizantini, London: Variorum, 1974. On ancient literary culture and curriculum see: H.-I. Marrou, Histoire de l’éducation dans l’Antiquité, Paris 1958, esp. pp. 297–312, and R.A. Kaster, Guardians of Language: The Grammarian and Society in Late Antiquity, Berkeley 1988. 22 The verb ™panaba…nw and its derivatives were used by Plotinus, too, in both the very usual sense of “going ahead” or “moving towards” (3.6.1) and in the meaning implying elevation of the soul towards the Nous, the latter being the source of every knowledge which enlightens the soul (II.9.1.6: ™panabebhku‹an; VI.9.5.32: ™panabebhkТta tН yucН). 21


Dimitar Y. Dimitrov

Another type of “upbringing” (¢gwg¾n ˜tšran) was mentioned in epistle 66 (67), while in epistle 96 the vacillations were expressed in that way: “If it is possible, I will perform my duties along with philosophy, but if they cannot be reconciled with my upbringing and life inclination, what better could I do than to sail straight for illustrious Greece?”23. Similar overtones could be recognized in epistle 41 (57) as well: „But just as I didn’t become a public philosopher (dhmТsioj), nor courted the applause of the theatre, nor even opened a lecture room, but remained in the very truth a philosopher — may I ever remain like that! — so I have no desire of becoming public bishop (ƒereЭj dhmТsioj ), too”24. The dominant personal problem is here at stake again: the obligations of a bishop impede the occupation with philosophy and the Divine. In epistle 11, written along with epistle 96, soon after the acceptance of bishopric, Synesius repeated nearly the same words as those addressed to Olympius, but this time designed for the bishops and priests of Pentapolis: “I was unable, for all my efforts and ingenious devices (mhcana‹j), to prevail against you and to decline the bishopric. Nor is it to your will that I have yielded, but rather the Divine will (qe‹on), which brought my refusal before and my acceptance now. I would rather have died many deaths than having taken over this office (leitourg…aj), for I did not consider myself fit to the measures (kТsmon) of that work”. Synesius continues the epistle with the typical reminder that his life has passed in philosophic leisure (scolН) and idle contemplation (qewr…v) of the higher beings abstracted from the daily routine. We are surely confronted to a topos in Late Antiquity, presupposing contradiction and dichotomy between leisure (scol», otium) and public obliga‑ tions. Most of the bishops at that time were recruited from the same milieu of the well­‍‑educated and relatively rich middle class, accepting the ethos of the class, too. What is to be noticed in epistle 11 is the fact that in spite of its official topic, concerned with the problems of the Church and the ecclesiastical order, that epistle is quite close in style and suggestions, up to a word­‍‑for­‍‑word copy at places, with the presumably personal epistle to Olympius, the fellow student of Synesius in the school of Hypatia. Epistle 11 finishes with very similar statement to that in 96: “If I’m not forsaken by God, I shall then know that this office of priesthood (ƒerwsЪnhn) is not a descent downward (¢pÒbasin) from the realms of philosophy, but rather an ascent upwards (™pan£basin) to them.” The same motive, the same expressions, similar classical and biblical allusions, from Sophocles (Antigone in ep. 96) and Aristophanes (Ploutos 969: b…wj ¢b…wtoj, Ep. 11) to Jesus’ prayer in Getsimani — 23 K¨n mќn ™gcorН met¦ filosof…aj, ™rgЈsomai tХ pr©gma: e„ dќ ¢llo‹Тn ™stin, À kat¦ t¾n ™m¾n ¢gwg¾n te kaˆ proa…resin, tˆ ¥llo À t¾n eÙqÝ tБj kleinБj `Ell£doj ¢poplšwn o„c»somai. Fitzgerald proposed for ajgwghv and proaivresi” the translations “school of thought” and “sect” respectively, thus premising the opportunity of religious and formal division. Garzya preferred to translate them as “formazione” and “scelta di vita”. The latter translation is, according to me, more close to the original meaning of education, upbringing, and life­‍‑style. Thence my proposals for pos‑ sible translation are based on the general context of the epistles and of the problems confronted by Synesius at that time. 24 41. 296–299. In that part of the epistle Synesius exposed ideas which were developed in detail in his Dio (especially 12–14).

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


this is the literary style of the Cyrenian, used in the months after the acceptance of bishopric to demonstrate doubts concerning the very possibility of ascent to wisdom and Divine, but also the hope that with the help of God activity and contemplation could lead simultaneously to the same end. According to the traditional opinion, well presented in Bregman, Synesius was firstly initiated into the Neoplatonic philosophy, thus going through a purely pagan conversio25. Later, while approaching more and more towards Christianity, he went through a second initiation, this time a Christian one, becoming a kind of a political bishop. I have elsewhere analyzed that approach26 and have come to the conclusion that Synesius was confronted with a dilemma, but generally not a religious one. Being at least formally a Christian since his youth, he did not have the dilemma whether to become a Christian bishop out of a devotee to pagan philosophy. It was rather the noble person, obsessed by philosophy and knowledge, who, already a Christian, but also a Hellene in a strictly cultural sense, was compelled, against his will, to become a bishop and presumably a politician, too. Questions constantly disturbed Synesius, such as: was it possible to become a bishop and to remain a devotee to philosophy at the same time? How was the very existence of a bishop­‍‑philosopher possible? How could public office be combined with the path towards knowledge of and ascent to the Divine One? Synesius was definitely neither an ordinary bishop, nor an example of Christian humility. His ideas of priesthood differed considerably from the usual perceptions. In this sense the Cyrenian remained a Hellene until the last years of his life. The main goal and task of priesthood, according to Synesius, was to contemplate Divine Truth without mixing it with the daily routine, which was par excellence embedded in the filth of material life and subordinated to passions. The bishop should avoid, as much as possible, passions and vices, finding salvation in philosophy and contemplation27. This is not a typical view of a Christian shepherd, but it befitted quite well Synesius’ personal set­‍‑up. The principle refusal of public undertakings in the case of Synesius was usually argued with the reluctance to mix the higher and lower spheres of existence on the basis of predominantly Neoplatonic sources28. The ethical system of Neoplatonism, including the four levels of virtues, proposed by Porphyry and developed later, was taken into consideration by Synesius in his ideas of elevation and theosis29. Nor was the concept of theios aner alien to the reader of Neoplatonic J. Bregman, Synesius of Cyrene: Philosopher­‍‑Bishop, Berkeley 1982, pp. 29–40, 60–124, based also on A.D. Nock, Conversion: the old and new in religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo, Oxford 1933. 26 D. Dimitrov, Философия, култура и политика в Късната античност: Случаят на Синезий от Кирена, Veliko Tarnovo 2005, (in Bulgarian). 27 Ep. 41. 258–266: Qewr…a tšloj ™stˆn ƒerwsЪnhj m¾ yeudomšnhj tХ Фnoma, qewr…a dќ kaˆ pr©xij oÙk ¢x…ousi sugg…nesqai. Compare with Ep. 100 to Pylaemenes. 28 The influence of Porphyry’s Sententiae is visible in Ep. 41 as well as some Christian allusions (267: ™moˆ dЪnamij oÙk ™stˆ dusˆ kur…oij douleЪein; and Matthew 6.24). 29 See esp.: Ep. 140 to Herculian on philosophical life and higher virtues as well as the aforemen‑ tioned ep. 117 (116) to Auxentius. 25


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biographies. As we will see below, Synesius was generally obsessed by the fear of spoiling the higher entities through their debasement into the material world, which he tended to look at with disdain. The descent in sense of degradation of higher values, principles, virtues and modes of existence was as feared and refused as the very practical need to take part in the quarrels and judicial cases in the competence of a priest and a politician, as it was clearly demonstrated in epistle 105. In epistle 11 Synesius prayed to God as a Shepherd (nomša) of his own life to became also a Protector of his shepherd’s duties (nemhqšntoj prost£thn). In epistles 11, 96 and 41 we could, however, point another trend, recognizable in Dio as well — the limits of possible acceptance, based on the combination of persistence in knowledge and Divine service, so that philosophy and prayer could be pillars supporting the descent from Divine to human deeds. In epistle 105 he shared his conviction that there were some great souls capable of reaching theosis without seclusion from practical matters. Thus, descent into action could turn into ascent towards Divine and the soul of the philosopher could fly — very much like the vision expressed in Plato’s Phaedrus — over the imprudent desires and passions of the mob. The rational, discursive mind as well as the highest contemplative intellect played an important role in that. Intelligence, knowledge and wisdom

The sage is akin to God — this idea Synesius developed in his treatise On dreams30. Our Cyrenian intellectual used to live with the conviction that philosophy was the only one to give a meaning and significance to human life, assuring a noble connec‑ tion with God through the medium of truths, turning aside the deceitful opinions of the ordinary mob. On dreams is probably the most philosophical work of Synesius, based on the Sentences of Porphyry, probably on Iamblichus and most surely the Chaldaean literature31. Many ideas were developed there, connected with the main streams of (Neo)Platonism at that time, like the notion of the Divine Nous and Its falling through into the sensual world (1, 7–8). We could follow, moreover, ideas concerning descent and ascent of souls (5–6, 8–10), their envelope (Фchma) (5–6), the phantasmata, the phantastic soul (fantastikХn pneаma) and how divination came to be possible (2, 5, 7, 14–17) 32. There are traces of older ancient traditions in On dreams 1: o„ke‹oj qeù. For ƒerоn log…w as a  source of wisdom for Synesius see chapter of On dreams. One of the citations in ch. 5 is close to frag. 118 of the Chaldaean oracles (Des Places). Along with É. des Places, Oracles Chaldaїques, Paris 1971, pp. 35–41; see also: W. Theiler, Die chaldäischen Orakel und die Hymnen des Synesios [in:] Forschungen zum Neuplatonismus, Berlin 1966, pp. 252–301, esp. pp. 2–40. 32 For the ideas and terminology in On dreams of Synesius see the theses and discussions in R.C. Kissling, The OXHMA­‍‑PNEUMA of the Neo­‍‑Platonists and the De Insomniis of Synesius of Cyrene, The American Journal of Philology, 43/4, (1922), pp. 318–330; N. Aujoulat, Les avatars de la phantasia dans le Traité de songes de Synésios de Cyrène, I, Koinonia 7 (1983), pp. 157–77 and II in Koinonia 8 (1984), pp. 33–55; M.W. Dickie, “Synesius, De insomniis 2–3 Terzaghi and Plotinus, Enneades 2.3.7 and 4.4.40–44”, Symbolae Osloenses 77 (2002), pp. 165–74 as well as the com‑ ments in B.-A. Roos, Synesius of Cyrene. A Study in his Personality, Lund 1991 and D. Dimitrov, За сънищата на Синезий от Кирена в контекста на античната онирокритика, Societas Classica 30 31

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


the work, including that of the Middle Platonism, giving off a veneer of pantheism. Following mostly Plato (Timaeus 30b), Plotinus (II.3.7), Iamblichus (On myster‑ ies), and the Chaldaean tradition and terminology, Synesius made an attempt to defend mantic practices and divination (mante…a) from dreams, based on the prin‑ ciple that in the cosmos everything is in everything, but any kind of entity could be able to contact only with entity of the same kind. The sage is this human being, who knows these principles and is supposed to use them, ‘reading’ the signs33. On dreams shares, along with other writings of Synesius, including On providence and the hymns, the negative evaluation of the material world as a place of becoming and decay of the higher entities and values. The liberation of soul from the fetters of body is a fundamental idea recurrent in the works of the Cyrenian, in a most pure and concentrated form developed in his hymns. If divination could be reached in dreams through the capacities of the “second soul”, both the ascent of the first soul and the spiritual health of man are dependent on our intellectual status. Intelligence played especially important role in the hymns, being the immanent ‘player’ in the act of salvation from the material to the Divine through an intellectual ascent to the intelligible, combining thus the Neoplatonic, Chaldaean and Christian views in a very ‘Synesian’ way34. We have then to turn our attention towards the hymns. They present to us a com‑ plicated synthesis of ideas and imaginative symbolism, very difficult to take hold of. Undoubtedly, the hymns are Neoplatonic in language and terminology, a dem‑ onstration of a certain type of education and instruction, but there are many other influences to be traced, including Chaldaean (so far as it could be distanced from Neoplatonism at all), possibly Gnostic, and surely Christian, as well. The hymns represent, moreover, a type of sincere religiosity, which could hardly be explained as Orthodox par excellence. However, their Christian wording and topics could not be refuted. I would disagree with some believes from the past. To my modest opinion, if there was any development with the years, it was not so much a movement from pagan Neoplatonism to Christianity, but rather a transformation from more Trinitar‑ IV, Veliko Tarnovo 2009, pp. 51–63 (in Bulgarian). Because of that sense of the pneumatic envelope Synesius preferred in the hymns the word pno…a for designating the Holy Spirit, and not pneаma. 33 On dreams 2: di£ p£ntwn p£nta... tù kТsmJ; Ibidem: sofХj Р e„dлj t¾n tоn merоn toа kТsmou suggšneian; 7: Рmo…J g¦r tХ Уmoion јdetai; On providence II, 7: kaˆ oЩk ¢sumpaqБ prХj ¥llhla t¦ mšrh qhsТmeqa. For the similar treatment of the cosmos, magic and symbols in Iambli‑ chus see G. Shaw, Theurgy and Soul. The Neoplatonism of Jamblichus, Pennsylvania State University 1995, and J. Dillon, Iamblichus’ Defence of Theurgy: Some Reflections, The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 1 (2007), pp. 30–41. 34 A.C. Lloyd supports the idea, based mostly on some places in On Providence, that Synesius generally echoed the more simple Platonism of the Middle Academy (The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, 314). It is not impossible to find some parallels with Numenius, too, including the generally negative attitude towards matter as something detached from God, Who was defined usually as Self­‍‑Good and Monad (fragments 21, 11, 14–15, 52, 64–75, Des Places 1973). Neither the extreme negativism of Numenius, nor the identification of matter with straightforward evil, corresponds exactly with the views, already Chrisitianized, at least partly, of the bishop of Ptolemais. For a detailed analysis of Christian and Platonic influences see: S. Vollenweider, Neuplatonische und christlische Theologie bei Synesios von Kyrene, Göttingen 1984.


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ian to more Christological topics35. Nous, however, played an extremely important role in the majority of the hymns as both emanation of Divinity and an important tool for contemplation and approach towards the Divine. Synesius expressed in hymn 1 (9 Portus) his longing for quiet life, out of the temporal foppery — a life, devoted to God as a Monad and pure Unity36. The second part of the hymn poses the question of the Universal Intelligence (noаj) and its descent to the material world, covered with the veil of mystery through division of indivisible, which even after the division remains undivided (76–90)37. Happy is that creature, continues Synesius, which passes beyond the bonds of slavery to fate and matter, beyond misery and sorrow, in order to follow upwards the paths of Intelligence, finally able to catch sight of depths illuminated by Divine light (116, buqХn eЌden qeolampБ). The author warns, moreover, that the voyage is to be connected with secret mysteries without rites and sacrifices. Secrets are to be kept intact, out of the gaze of the uninitiated mob lost in the abyss of matter38. Hymn 3 (1) is the longest and probably the most complex of all. It is centered round the problems of the highest Divine principles and trinity. Liberation from the fetters of matter and becoming is the main motive of the very emotional beginning: “Come on, my soul, calm the stings of madness, born out of matter, and being devoted to the sacred hymns, equip with armour the zealous impulses of Intelligence”. Synesius generally follows the ancient notion of the cosmos, which could be justly called astronomical, in the second hymn (5). According to it, the material world herein is succeeded by seven celestial spheres in a constant movement and an eighth sphere of the immovable stars. There is also a ninth sphere (the starless sphere of John Philoponus39), which dances around “the great Intelligence”. There is an eternal blessed Silence beyond the “royal Cosmos” (¥naktoj kÒsmou), a Silence that overwhelms the division of the indivisible, the intelligent and intelligible entities40. From the depths of the Father, from the Source identical with the Son and with the holy Wisdom, creator of the universe (sof…a The main editions in the 20th century of Synesius’ hymns: N. Terzaghi, Hymni, Roma 1939; A. Dell’Era, Hymni, Roma 1968; Ch. Lacombrade, Hymni, Paris 1978; A. Garzya, Opere di Sinesio di Cirene: Epistole, Operette, Inni, Torino 1989, pp. 738–797. I have accepted Terzaghi’s arrangement, which follows the manuscript tradition, putting in brackets the re­‍‑arrangement made by Portus in the 16th century, popular for centuries. See also C. Bizzochi, Gl’inni filosofici di Sinesio interpretati come mistiche celebrazioni, Gregorianum 32 (1951), pp. 350–67. 36 1 (9): ™mќ d’ ØyÒfhton e‡h biot¦n ¥shmon ›lkein (29–30). 37 Plotinus IV.3.5 and V.1.2. 35


Mšne moi, qrase…a fТrmigx, Mšne, mhdќ fa‹ne d»moij telet¦j ¢norgi£stoij (71–73); 39 On the Creation of the World, 15. 40

T¦ prТsw m£karia sig£ noerîn te kaˆ nohtîn ¥tomon tom¦n kalÚptei (22–24).

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


kosmotecn‹tij), a female and male principle altogether (64), brightens (œlamye) the Holy Spirit. God is Creator (kt…staj), His Wisdom — an agent, a mediator in the act of creation (2.30–32). What is to be noticed in this hymn is Synesius’ relatively more positive and not very usual perception of creation, but obviously without the extremes. Angelic choirs contemplate the Intelligence/Mind and out of It they ac‑ cept the principle of beauty and good, which they transfer to the celestial spheres in descending series reaching the borders of matter full with noisy and cunning demons. The material world is however, subjugated to mutability and fate, being thus quite void of the clearness and goodness of the cosmic Intelligence. The author from Cyrene summons God to open for him the doors of wisdom in order to save him from any misfortune, to provide for him a life of serene contemplation and an easy flight upwards for the soul. Human passions, devoid of intellect, are manifestations of a­‍‑cosmic disorder, witnessing the victory of Ate, the goddess of unhappiness, the ruler over terrestrial delusions and blindness (2.85–88). That is why Synesius was longing for a flight through and towards the Intelligence: `Ina m¾ tÕ noà ptšrwma ™pibr…sV cqonÕj ¥taj. The poetical image of the light desired and the intellectual wings weighed down and crushing into the world of misfortunes reminds us not only Plato’ Phaedrus (246c–248e), but the Chaldaean symbolism, too41. One main idea is implied in the hymns, namely the liberation of the immortal in our human nature from the fetters of matter and the collateral calamities (kak£) of here­‍‑in ter‑ restrial existence. We could trace a direct influence of Plotinus in the questions of matter and evil, the more so we have indications that Synesius had read and used at least excerpts from the Enneads (in On Dreams, for example)42. Synesius was well acquainted with the Neoplatonic tradition, including Porphyry and Iamblichus, as witnessed in his writings43. Even more noticeable, especially in the hymns, is the influence of what we know as the Chaldaean Oracle. The hymns are, along with On Dreams and other writings of Synesius, full of Chaldaean language and imagery, including notions and expressions like the Father, the Paternal Intellect, the Power and the Will of the Father, the Light and the Abyss, the Intellectual Spark and the É. des Places (1971), frags. 134, 155, 163, 180, 181 etc. M. di P. Barbanti, Filosofia e cultura in Sinesio di Cirene, Firenze 1994, views the attitude towards matter as a possible indication for an internal evolution in Synesius from Platonism and Ploti‑ nus to Christianity, from the matter as evil to the matter as a blunder. The concept of Barbanti, how‑ ever, is not deprived of sketchiness and presuppositions. Firstly, Plotinus’ attitude towards matter and terrestrial existence was not consistent. Secondly, it was not consistent in the case of Synesius either. Nor could we follow a clear development in that direction. It is true, that in hymn 2.87–8 Synesius treated the matter in a more Christian way as blindness and deviation from the good, but in the same hymn the extremes of matter were also the birthplace of noisy and cunning demons. In 8.45 a sor‑ rowful blindness is mentioned, but the Italian author has missed the previous verses where Synesius prayed for salvation of his soul from the life herein. Even in the late hymn 9 the abyss of matter was contrasted to the spiritual fountain of Goodness. The attitude of the Cyrenian towards matter was not, therefore, subject to change and ‘evolution’ because of Christian influence, but it was rather constant, although not easy to define. 43 Ch. Lacombrade, Synésios, pp. 213–228; P. Hadot, Porphyre et Victorinus, I, Paris 1968, pp. 461–474; J. Bregman, Synesius 7–24. 41 42


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“Flower of Intellect”, the Monad being Triad, the “Beginning of the Beginnings”, the “Source of sources”, the “Monad of Monads”, the “Ruler of Aions”, and the Ineffable, too (an idea tracing to possible influence of Iamblichus). The Chaldaean hierarchy and triads are also recognizable in the hymns. Synesius used different Chaldaean triads to defend a generally Christian image of Trinity, but by no means an Orthodox one. In the context of the Chaldaean triads and imagery the Cyrenian identified the Mother, or the female principle, with the Power, with the Will, but also with the World Soul, without hints of decrease, abatement or deviation, typical for the place of the Soul according to the classical Neoplatonic doctrine. The Mother was envisaged as an inseparable entity with the unified androgynous Supreme De‑ ity. The Son, loosely identified with the Intelligence, was placed as consubstantial along with the Father and the Soul. In that sense Synesius was trying to be close to the Christian conception of Holy Trinity, fighting against any possible Arian and Eunomaean treatment of the subject. When commenting the Triad, however, Synesius was affected by the then modern temptation, recognizable in both the Neoplatonic tradition and in its re­‍‑reading of the Chaldaean literature, of mixing the mediating forces, merging and telescoping them one into another44. When commenting the idea of trinity in Platonism and especially the Chaldaean influence over Porphyry, Augustine marked the existence of a mediating hypostasis between Father and Son, the latter being identified with the Intelligence. The famous theologian was disturbed by the insignificant place designed for the Holy Spirit in comparison with the intel‑ lectual power45. We already saw in the case of Synesius that he could be posed under that verdict in the first aspect of identifying the Son with the paternum intellectum vel mentem, an idea not far away from the Christian concept of Logos. Concerning the Soul, he was far from neglecting it. The medial principle played an important role in the hymns as con­‍‑substantial with both Father and the Son­‍‑Nous. The Intelligence, however, was of special interest in decoding the Ineffable, with Neoplatonic/Chaldaean images and concepts deeply embedded, consciously or un‑ consciously, in his mind46. It was not uncommon among the Christians, including 44 On Chaldaean Oracles and the concomitant discussions see, along with the aforementioned edition and the commentaries of Des Places, also H. Lewy, The Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy, Cairo 1956, pp. 67–176; D.J. O’Meara, Porphyry’s Philosophy from Oracles in Augustine, Paris 1959, esp. pp. 119–122; E.R. Dodds, New Light on the ‘Chaldaean Oracles’, The Harvard Theological Review 54/4 (1961), pp. 263–273; P. Athanassiadi, The Chaldean oracles: theology and theurgy [in:] Pagan monotheism in late antiquity, P. Athanassiadi and M. Frede (eds.), Oxford 1999, pp. 149–183; eadem, Byzantine Commentators on Chaldaean Oracles: Psellos and Plethon [in:] Byzantine Philosophy and its Ancient Sources, K. Ierodiakonou (ed.), Oxford 2002, pp. 237–252; R. Majercik, Chaldean Triads in Neoplatonic Exegesis: Some Reconsiderations, The Classical Quarterly 51/1 (2001), pp. 265–96. 45 Augustine, De Civ. Dei X.23: “…Dicit enim Deum Patrem et Deum Filium, quem Graece ap‑ pellat paternum intellectum vel paternum mentem; de Spiritu autem sancto aut nihil aut non aperte aliquid dicit; quamvis quem alium dicat horum medium, non intellego…Postponit quippe Plotinus animae naturam paterno intellectui; iste autem cum dicit medium, non postponit, sed interponit”. 46 The place of Intelligence/Nous and its relations with the Soul pose some problems to the schol‑ ars because of the hesitations in Plotinus himself and in the later Neoplatonic tradition, too — see the article of A.H. Armstrong in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


neophyte writers of the time. Such was the case of Marius Victorinus, for example. Victorinus, too, insisted on interchangeability of the aspects in Holy Trinity. God, being a Trinity, was “tripotens in unalitate spiritus”47, combining in Itself another famous triad, that of existence (existencia, esse) — life (vita) — intelligence (intel‑ legentia or beatitudo). There was no decrease in the process of emanation, but rather a different mode of manifestation and transition from pre­‍‑existence to existence and vice versa. The pre­‍‑existence in itself, together with the supra­‍‑noetic intelligence, were (and are) made prominent for the lower levels according to the Divine scheme of Salvation. According to Victorinus, the correlation between Father and Son in that context resembled that between the One and the Life and/or Intelligence, so impos‑ ing Intelligence as a possible form and manifestation of the Son and of the Father, although most frequently connected with the Holy Spirit. Father, as existence in status, was beyond straight comprehension and possibility of being known. Without being directly influenced by Victorinus (we have no indications that Synesius read Latin at all), the Cyrenian was a child of his time and curriculum, deeply influenced by the main streams of intellectual expression and strongly impressed by the role, which Intelligence played in different Trinitarian schemes. They were very close, indeed, to his highly intellectualized religiosity where wisdom, or intellect, used to play more important role than faith. Finally, we could confirm the role of knowledge, truth, and science (in its broader ancient meaning) in Synesius as manifestations of the lower intelligence, an emana‑ tion of the higher one. From the typical Chaldaean triad of faith, truth, and love, the Cyrenian was deeply impressed by the second hypostasis. When analyzing the role assigned by Synesius to the cosmic Intelligence/Nous in the events herein, and how Its/His descent was possible at all, we have to switch from the hymns as a kind of philosophical, or at least highly intellectual prayers, to fabulous myths presented in On providence with a language coloured with more popular expressions and visions. Osiris was presented there as a noble and light­‍‑shaped (fwtoeid»j) soul, coming down from the „heavenly back” (Phaedrus 247c–248c) in order to complete certain divinely inspired and provisioned tasks (leitourg…an). That principle of the avatars, the angelic souls coming down to restore the good and the order, resembles the ideas of Iamblichus whose influence on Synesius should not be by any means excluded. The rule of Osiris was, moreover, presented in an idealized form as a means of spreading culture so that the whole world came to be a school of virtues (¢retБj didaskale…J), a place of justice and lawfulness. Cities and towns received care in the spirit of such classical ancient values, as filanqrwp…a and filopol…a used to be. Chapter 12 of On Providence represented and idealized philanthropist rule with ideas and topoi very similar to those used in another writing of Synesius, On Government (Perˆ basile… (236–49) and H.J. Blumenthal, Nous and Soul in Plotinus: some problems of demarcation [in:] Soul and Intellect. Studies in Plotinus and Later Neoplatonism, II, Variorum, 1993. 47 Adversus Arium Ib 50. 4–5; IV. 15. 23–26; See also the analysis of Victorinus’ philosophical and theological system by V. Němec, Marius Victorinus. O soupodstatnosti Trojice, Prague 2006, (in Czech). For some parallels with Victorinus, concerning the life­‍‑essence­‍‑intelligence triad see: Syne‑ sius, On Government 8.


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aj)48. The influence of Plato and Aristotle is noticeable along with Numenius and the Stoic tradition, but we have to recognize some more original trends in Synesius, based on his own experience. The focus on the cultural values and literary activity came to express some personal adjustments and challenges, provoked by his op‑ ponents and more clearly presented in his Dio. Culture versus profane and professional

Dio, or how to live according to his ideal is perhaps one of the most curious writings of Synesius. It was a polemical answer to certain criticism, and a writing devoted to Dio Chrysostomus (ca. 45–ca. 115), one of the favourite authors of Synesius. It was in a sense a defense of the Hellenistic intellectual tradition against different ex‑ tremes, abuses, and debasement. Although with a look behind, Dio is an interesting testimony concerning the inclinations among part of the intellectual elite in the Late Empire as well as a witness of different conflicts, rather intellectual than religious, existing among the educated strata and hard to fully conceive nowadays. It gives some answers to the understanding of the very notion of ‘culture’ at that time. Thus, Dio has its place in the history of the Hellenistic culture in a transitional period of its existence, before the birth of the new universal Byzantine Christian Hellenism. The content of that writing can be divided into a few main portions. The first three chapters were devoted to the virtual dispute of the author with Flavius Philostratus concerning the works of Dio and the intellectual behavior of the latter. Dio’s path as a man of letters and a sophist was used by Synesius to criticize vehemently those who were ready to neglect rhetorical skills and literary activity as means of reaching the higher spheres of philosophy and mystical knowledge. From the sixth chapter onwards the author dashed to an even more passionate defense of paideia as a basis for any intellectual and religious activity at all. The educated person is supposed to set up high goals, but insofar as a human being is not God, there is no opportunity of permanent sojourn in the higher spheres, without return back to the human es‑ sence. Thus it is preferable to move ‘into neighbourhood’, meaning the intermediate sphere of literature and arts. This is what differentiates explicitly the Hellene from the Barbarian, namely the capacity of being prudent and moderate in following your goals as well as in proceeding with pleasure, relaxing the mind and the body. There is a certain criticism towards ascetic practices, too, for the very danger of passing beyond the rational and substituting the goal with the means to reach it. In chapters 12 and 13 Synesius makes room for another type of defense — that of the intellectual freedom against many possible restrictions and debasing circum‑ stances. Many negative examples were given, including the sophist, dependent on public opinion, the lawyer, restricted in the time and topic of his speech, the teacher who was becoming gradually a slave to his own pupils, but also a pedant, a low­‍‑brow philistine and a misanthrope. With those negative examples the Cyrenian contrasted 48 On the “school of virtue” and “scale of sciences” in Neoplatonism see also: D.J. O’Meara, Platonopolis. Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Oxford: Clarendon Press 2003, esp. pp. 31–68.

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


his own life, thus slowly passing into the next portion — Socrates as an idealized model for spiritual and intellectual freedom. Synesius used the conclusion of his writing to defend himself against another type of criticism, directed towards his habit of leaving his books in their original shape without taking care of their amendment. Here we stumble on at least two curious points: first, the practice of remodeling the language and possibly the meaning of the books, and second, the use of literary pieces as exercises of style and inventive‑ ness. Amendments were made for different reasons, not to exclude the requirements of the censorship, too. This fact is very important when analyzing and evaluating writings from the late antique and the medieval periods. Synesius defended the “non amended” literature as far as he supported both writing for intellectual pleasure — and not as assignment by someone — and the creativity and originality, shaped out of traditional models, followed anyhow. We are informed about different pieces of traditional and contemporary literature, used as a source for grammatical, stylistic and rhetorical exercises in the educational system of the time. The black and white cloaks mentioned by Synesius in Ep. 154 to Hypatia as opponents to his inclination towards literary pieces still provoke debates among the scholars. What kind of people were hidden by those denominations? Under the “black cloaks” the scholars used to recognize either the Christian monks (presum‑ ably the Egyptian monks), the clergy in general, the exotic therapeuts, the cynics and different Strassenprediger attacked by Emperor Julian, or the clumsy ascetics of every sort. The “white cloaks” were usually presented as philosophers (especially the representatives of Neoplatonism), either the followers of Iamblichus’ theurgy or the cynics again, but also the adepts of the Corpus Hermeticus, the mediocre teachers and would­‍‑be philosophers, or pedants of every sort. Who was Synesius criticizing in his defense dedicated to Dio? A detailed analysis was made elsewhere, but in the present article I would like just to summarize49. From the very outset I would like to confirm my conviction that both groups mentioned by Synesius did not embrace clearly defined religious or philosophical schools and trends. The “black cloaks” could include monks, but hardly that class was put under general criticism here, nor the mentioned group was composed of monks only. The text concedes to us a wide range of opportunities along with a picture of complex social and intellectual interrelations, deflected through the prism of a personal outlook and experience. This “intimacy” in treating problems should not be underestimated. Dio of Synesius is a challenge to our confidence in understanding the intellectual life and mental inclinations of the late antique society on a central and provincial level. An attentive analysis void of presumptions would 49 D. Dimitrov, Дион на Синезий: Апел към повече култура и повече интелектуална свобода на границата между късноантичния и ранновизантийския свят [in:] Archiv für mittelalterliche Philosophie und Kulture VIII, Sofia 2002, pp. 165–217, (in Bulgarian, with translation of the text). See for different opinions K. Treu, Synesios von Kyrene: ein Kommentar zu seinem “Dion”, Berlin 1958; A. Garzya, „Synesios’ Dion als Zeugnis des Kampfes um die Bildung im 4. Jahrhundert nach Christus [in:] Storia e interpretazione di testi bizantini, London: Variorum Reprints 1974, II and from the same author in the same collection, Ideali e conflitti di cultura alla fine del mondo antico, I.


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(partly) disclose the criticized as members of the educated strata whose dishonest attitude towards the traditions of the Hellenistic culture should prevent them from pretending for participation in it. It is especially relevant when their pretensions of being teachers, moral and stylistic arbiters, or even philosophers, is hold out in public. In chapter 5 Synesius made a clear differentiation between the philosopher as a complex personality with equally complex mind and the different sorts of ‘artisans’, the proponents of concrete knowledge and skills. This kind of opposition was up to the standard of the Platonic tradition of a division between tevcnh and philosophy, between craft and the noble occupation50. In chapter 10 Synesius attacked the mediocre pseudo­‍‑philosophers twice, utter‑ ing a cry: “Alas, what kind of writings, alas, what kind of doctrines!” Authors of “monstrous” writings were the targets of severe criticism as detractors of the Divine with ridiculous and absurd statements. Many scholars were ready to associate them with the monks, disputing zealously and even fighting in the streets of Alexandria. The assertion of Synesius, however, that they dared to dash into teaching activity without being properly educated themselves, should limit them into the category of the catechetical teachers. The very limitation in the Christian circles is loose, too. The Cyrenian author would hardly give to the group of monks and clergy the examples of Amous, Zoroaster, Hermes, and Antony as “noble souls” worthy of imitation. St. Antony was considered to be the founder of the Egyptian monasticism indeed, but what about the other three ‘souls’, generally adored by the pagan elite? Once again Synesius demonstrated his eclectic approach to realities, which were treated more in the cultural, than in a religious context. Dio continues with criticism against the public orators, second­‍‑hand sophists, the juridical class as a whole, as well as the mean teachers — people staying far from the values of the real paideia and the elevated philosophy. Especially acute were the marks of Synesius towards the teachers (grammatiko…, filТlogoi) as self­‍‑reliant, arrogant, envious and covetous people, with ‘artisan’ mentality, with narrow range of interests and spiritual gropings, with philistine behavior and pretensions of being like a “pitcher full of wisdom up to the rim”. This last remark corresponds quite accurately to the characteristic features ascribed to the second group of the “white cloaks” in epistle 154 to Hypatia. The barbarian (Egyptian) monks were explicitly mentioned in the text as an ex‑ ample of non­‍‑Hellenistic approach to God. The attitude of Synesius was not negative, although they looked like strangers to him. Nor could they be compared with the group of the “black cloaks” castigated in the text. After commenting the barbarian monks and criticizing the vain and self­‍‑conceited sophists, the author goes on with the remark in chapter 11: “This refers not only to people with different sort of education (™k tÁj ˜tšraj ¢gwgÁj), but even more to those among us (par’ ¹m‹n) who speak 50 There is a division to be noticed between tecn…thj and ™pist»mwn, which was normally imple‑ mented in the principles of the ancient paideia with obvious neglect of the technical professionalism in benefit of the humanitarian background — H.-J, Marrou, Histoire de l’éducation, pp. 254 ff. and A. Garzya “Synesios’ Dion”, 4–12.

Philosophy and Culture as Means to Divine Ascent in Late Antiquity: The Case of Synesius


nonsense in a loud voice. They give me an opportunity to present in my speech the benefit of the primary education”. Many scholars and commentators were prone to discern in the two types of education mentioned Christianity and paganism, based on the presumption for the pagan background of Synesius. Thus the expression ‘among us’ came to mean the pagans and adepts of religious Hellenism, too. According to me, Synesius was a Christian, at least formally, when writing the text. We could compare it with the statement from epistle 67, addressed to the clergy of Pentapolis, that he grew up outside the ecclesiastical tradition, receiving a rather traditional Hellenistic education, noticeable also in his writings. This type of education was widespread among his class notwithstanding the religious affiliation of the pupils. Special Christian education was usually received additionally in the catechetical schools, not necessarily contradictory to the lay curriculum. Many pupils of Hypatia, on the other side, were quite sincere Christians. Most of the bishops of the time were well acquainted with the Hellenistic (or Latin) curriculum and educational tradition. The general sounding of Dio leads us to another type of division — that between Hel‑ lenes and barbarians in the strictly cultural sense of those notions, without obliga‑ tory religious connotations. Synesius addressed his vehement criticism against “our people”, namely, the people which appurtenance to the Hellenistic cultural tradition makes even more unbearable their attempts of debasement and profanation. In the two groups mentioned in the epistle to Hypatia we have to recognize, therefore, the indecent — at least according to Synesius — representatives of the Hellenistic culture, like the envious and loquacious sophists, the self­‍‑deceiving pseudo­‍‑philosophers and the corrupt lawyers. Those people who were constantly abusing the elevated Greek language and style, considering it useless for reaching philosophical truths — those dared to criticize Synesius for his literary taste. Thus, Dio of Synesius came to be an unprecedented for the Late Antiquity defense of culture in all its facets against the not enough educated or would­‍‑be intellectuals, but also a defense of the intellectual freedom against the professionals and “slaves” of the mob. It came to be, moreover, a defense of metriopathy (metriop£qeia)51 along with apathy in a very Porphyrian way, as well as a vindication of formal culture as a base for reaching the spheres of higher philosophy and Truth. Dio Chrysostomus as a model of behavior was only the pretext for creating a work with strongly personal and autobiographical sounding, which echoes provocatively until nowadays, questioning our understanding of the intellectual life of Late Antiquity.

The notion of metriopathy is to be found in Porphyry (Sententiae, 32) connected with the virtues of statehood (politika…). See also: Marinus, The Life of Proclus or concerning Happiness 3.19–21. According to J. Dillon, An ethic for the late antique sage [in:] Cambridge Companion to Plotinus, Cambridge Un. Press 1999, pp. 315–335, the apathy as a Stoic concept were more close to the views of Plotinus compared to the Peripatetic metriopathy defended by Porphyry and obviously by Syne‑ sius, too. However, apathy was connected with the cathartic virtues and as a means of likening to God was of a higher order than metriopathy in both Porphyry and Synesius (Ep. 140: metriopathy as an intermediate stage in the path toward apathy). 51


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Conclusion The very notions of ascent and descent played an important role in both theological system and life­‍‑style of Synesius. Ascent towards the higher entities, including the Ineffable Deity, starts from the paideia, which means knowledge, literary activity, certain norms of aesthetics, culture in general, devoid of debased professionalism. The soul continues its climbing up the ladder through the realm of both articu‑ lated and ineffable philosophy towards union with the transcendent Noetic Deity by means of intellectual and virtually deritualized mysteries. The descent, however, could be accomplished in two very different possible ways — negative and posi‑ tive. The negative supposed the fall of souls into the prison of material existence and imperfection with the need for salvation through a  reciprocal ascent. There was a positive aspect of descent, too, manifested in the system of peculiar avatars, as was the case of Osiris in On Providence, for example. The liturgy in the name of God was also accepted, although not without hesitation, as a way to reach as‑ cent through service here, in the terrestrial world of becoming, but only in a philo‑ sophical way. We could confirm then in conclusion that from the Neoplatonized Chaldaean triad, so close to Synesius’ heart, the truth, extracted out of intellectual efforts and erudite religiosity, was predominantly the focus of concern, and not so much the faith itself, or love.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Maria Dzielska Jagiellonian University

Once more on Hypatia’s Death While the legend of Hypatia of Alexandria is doing very well and keeps flourishing, scholarly inquiry into historical Hypatia seems by now fulfilled and complete. This is because our sources on Hypatia are so laconic, perfunctory, and vague that they can offer no ground for further study. Regarding the legend, suffice it to mention the movie Agora by Alejandro Amenabar, which uses a huge stage production shown against a beautiful backdrop of Alexandria to tell, predictably, a story of brutal struggles by intolerant, perfidious, power-hungry Christians with the civilized, refined, virtue-blessed world of the learned Hellenes as personified by Hypatia and her father Theon, who disappeared forever with her death. Even though Alejandro Amenabar conceded in an interview that he much liked my book, he adopted little of its chief findings for use in his film. Hypatia’s fate continues to inspire novelists, playwrights, and poets. A  look on-line at Amazon Books or at links related to “Hypatia of Alexandria” reveals that comprehensive, sizeable works of literary fiction and popular books on her appear almost every year. Since I sometimes receive complimentary copies of such works from their authors, or I am otherwise advised about their message, I know of their more or less tendentious content. I have recently been informed by the French writer Olivier Gaudefroy that he published a voluminous police trilogy with Hypatia as a heroine1 and that he intends to produce the first French-language biography of Hypatia (?). Some months ago, Ted Park a medical doctor from Newport Coast, Southern California, told me by e-mail that he aspired to be a screenwriter and sent me his screenplay based upon the life of Hypatia, asking me to read and comment on his script titled Nike’s Last Stand. For the same I was asked by Peter A. Marino from Cass Lake in Minnesota, who dedicated his long novel A modern Journey trought Tartarus to Hypatia. I have also learned that the Egyptian scholar and writer Youssef 1

Poison au gymnase (2006); Meurtre d’une vestale (2007); Les cendres d’Arsinoé (2010).


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Ziedan published a novel titled Azazil (Cairo 2008), in which Hypatia plays a key role, which had won the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (2009)2. In another instance, a certain inspired lady named Susanne Haik-Hynes, who writes to me from time to time, advised me that one Dr. John S. King, founder and President of the Canadian Society of Psychical Research at the beginning of the 20th century, the author of the book Dawn of the Awakened Mind (1920), contacted Hypatia via a medium and received from her some vital information on the workings of the mind, fate of the soul, life after life, links of the soul with God, etc. Through the mediumship of the Bangs Sisters of Chicago, he also obtained a portrait of Hypatia, which my lady correspondent also sent me, together with the answers Hypatia gave to Mr. King. Societies are cropping up which bear Hypatia’s name like Hypatia Trust to Further Understanding of Woman and Her Achievements in Penzance, Cornwall, which invited me to deliver a speech on Hypatia. The organization focuses on commemorating the literary and artistic achievements of, mainly Anglo-Saxon, women in history, without ideological banners or pronounced feminist tendencies. But there are also such associations as Hypatia Lake in Birmingham, Alabama, belonging to the Alabama Freethought Association, for which Hypatia is the patron of all manner of nonbelievers and which assembles militant atheists, anti-clericals, freethinkers, former pastors, the children of polygamists, etc. Works of art appear devoted to her, as do periodicals under her name, some scholarly (Hypatia. A Journal of Feminist Philosophy at Indiana University; Hypatia. Feminist Studies at Athens). Some are convinced that Raphael in his “School of Athens” secretly disguised Hypatia to make her look like Francesco Maria della Rovere I, Prince of Urbino, nephew of Pope Julius II. Finally, probably influenced by Amenabar’s motion picture, Ari Belenkiy of Bar-Ilan University, Israel, published an article in Astronomy and Geophysics (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society) titled “An astronomical murder?” in which he argues Hypatia was murdered for astronomical reckoning of the date of Easter3. It agreed, he claims, with the Roman calculations, rather than with those of the Alexandrian church, and, moreover, it coincided with the time of the Jewish Passover. As a consequence, the Alexandrian Christian zealots supporting bishop Cyril killed her and attacked the Alexandrian Jewish community as well. With pleasure must be welcomed new scholarly book on Hypatia by Silvia Ronchey Ipazia. La vera storia4, combining the legend with the historical reality. In my article, which certainly will not run to three volumes, I want to return not to the murder of Hypatia itself, but to the circumstances of her death. Consider-

For more on Hypatia’s legend, see: [on-line] http//en. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia [quoted XI 2012]. 3 Vol. 51 (2010), pp. 2.9–2.13. 4 Milano 2010. Also see her: Hypatia the Intellectual [in:] Roman Women, A. Fraschetti (ed.), trans. L. Lappin, Chicago–London 2001, pp. 160–189. 2

Once More on Hypatia’s Death


ing relevant inquiries by Jean Rougé5, C. Haas6, P. Chuvin7, E. Watts8, my own in the new Polish edition of my book on Hypatia9, evidence on Hypatia supplied by Damascius in his Philosophical History, edited and translated by P. Athanassiadi10, the accounts of Socrates Scholasticus’s Ecclesiastical History and of John of Nikiu in his Chronicle, I want also to include fascinating archaeological discoveries in Alexandria, which Prof. Adam Łukasiewicz, the papyrologist and archaeologist, an expert in the history of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, discusses at greater length in his article The Lecture Halls at Kom el-Dikka in Alexandria11. In early spring, March 415, although she had become actively involved in the civil strife in the city between two Christian groups, which had probably been in progress since 413, Hypatia still ran a private esoteric school (diatrib») for selected disciples in her own house, and also lectured in philosophy for wider audiences outside home, in some public buildings in the city. That her private teaching continued uninterrupted from the end of the 380’s to her death may be inferred from Synesius’ letters to her, to fellow disciples, and to his brother Euoptius, a student of Hypatia’s in the early 400’s, sent from Libyan Cyrene, and later from Ptolemais, many years after he completed his studies with Hypatia from about 390/393 to 395/39612. Synesius not only stayed in touch with his Mistress and her pupils, but also on several occasions in the early 5th century he visited Alexandria and, no doubt, Hypatia with her circle. He stayed there from ca. 402 to 404, when he married in Alexandria, with patriarch Theophilus’ blessing. There, too, his first son Hesychius was born. After that, he continued to visit Alexandria; there he was consecrated by patriarch Theophilus as bishop of Ptolemais in Upper Libya ca. 41113. In his last letters written shortly before his death, late in 413 (Epp. 10; 15; 16; 81)14, as always charged with emotion and sublime feeling, Synesius greets his “blessed La politique de Cyrille d’Alexandrie et le meurtre d’Hypatie, Cristianesimo nella storia 11 (1990), pp. 485–504. 6 Alexandria in Late Antiquity. Topography and Social Conflict, Baltimore and London 1997, pp. 295–316. 7 Avec une note de Michel Tardieu, Le cynisme d’Hypatie. Historiographie et sources anciennes, Alexandrie médiévale 3. Études alexandrines 16 (2008), pp. 59–69. 8 The Murder of Hypatia. Acceptable or Unacceptable Violence [in:] Violence in Antiquity: Perceptions and Practices, H. A. Drake (ed.), Ashgate 2009, pp. 333–342; City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria, Berkeley–Los Angeles 2006, pp. 187–203. 9 Hypatia z Aleksandrii, Kraków 2010, pp. 151–173. 10 Athens 1999, pp. 19–57. Further PH. 11 See pp. 101–112. 12 For more on this, see: M. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, Cambridge Mass.–London 1995, pp.  27–46. Revealing Antiquity, 8. Also in Polish edition: Hypatia z Aleksandrii, Kraków 2006 (wyd. II 2010), pp. 74–100. 13 M. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria…, pp. 28–29. 14 This date of death by Synesius is accepted by A. Garzya [in:] Opere di Sinesio di Cirene. Epistole Operette Inni, Torino 1989, p. 13. Classici Greci. Autori della tarda antichità e dell’età bizantina (direz. di I. Lana e A. Garzya). I quote letters of Synesius and accept their chronology based on this edition. Also A. Cameron and J. Long, Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius, Berkeley 1993, p. 413, accept the same chronology. A quite different chronology of the life and work of Syne5


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lady” (dšspoina makar…a) and “most happy comrades” (makariиtatoi ˜ta‹roi, Ep. 10), her disciples15. Some of them he mentions by name (Theotecnus, Athanasius), those not known to him personally he greets also, as all pupils dear to Hypatia are likewise dear to him. Severely sick, depressed over worries and family misfortunes, the bishop keeps calling her his mother, sister, teacher, his greatest benefactress worthy of the highest respect (mБter kaˆ ¢delfš kaˆ did£skale kaˆ di¦ p£ntwn toÚtwn eЩergetik», Ep. 16)16. But at the same time Synesius complains about an absence of correspondence form her or his fellow students then in her presence. He no longer has sons, who had died one after the other, nor does he have friends to raise him from his suffering and mental depression. Left all alone and sunken in despair, he misses the most the loss of closeness with Hypatia, “the most divine soul,” (tБj qeiot£thj sou yucБj, Ep. 10)17. This feeling further aggravates his illness and his sense of hostility form fate and the surrounding world. We may only speculate why Hypatia, the “most revered teacher” (sebasmiwt£th did£skaloj)18, stopped writing to Synesius. Nonetheless, sources suggest that in the year Synesius died, Hypatia was no longer the same person she had been years before when Synesius, with his hetairoi, Herculianus, Olympius, and Hesychius, following the teachings of this “genuine guide in the mysteries of philosophy” (gnhs…a kaqhgemлn tоn filosof…aj Ñrg…wn, Ep. 137)19, searched for the goal of philosophy which was the divinization of man (qšwsij). Synesius, remover form Alexandrian affairs, occupied by internal and religious problems of Cyrenaica, repulsing incursions by Ausurian tribes, did not realize that Hypatia, at some point in the political conflict fought between Orestes, the prefect of Egypt, and Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, had taken a dramatic turn. Out of close touch with Hypatia and her school, he only remembered her as a teacher of “the most ineffable of ineffable things”, (Ep. 137)20, a moral authority in the city, not truly active in a political realm, and only calling for her disciples to follow her in a different and higher life. She taught them they should not stop at cultivating political virtue, this manliness of soul which, Synesius writes, “springs from the first and earthly quaternion of the virtues.” Instead, they must exercise virtues of the highest, third and fourth levels, both theoretical and paradigmatic (Ep. 140)21. Her distance from this limited political sphere, so imperfect for a Neoplatonic philosopher, Hypatia had after all convincingly demonstrated by not taking part, and stopping her disciples from doing so, in the defense of the Serapeum in 391/392 by the city’s pagans, who were supported sius is introduced by D. Roques, Études sur la Correspondance de Synésios de Cyrène, Bruxelles 1989, pp. 247–252. 15 P. 94 Garzya. 16 P. 102 Garzya. 17 P. 96 Garzya. 18 Ad Paeonium de dono 4, p. 547 Garzya. 19 P. 330 Garzya, Who legitimately presides over the mysteries of philosophy [in:] The Letters of Synesius, trans. into English with Introduction and Notes by A. Fitzgerald, London 1926, p. 230. 20 P. 332 Garzya. 21 P. 340 Garzya, A. Fitzgerald, op. cit., p. 234.

Once More on Hypatia’s Death


by other Alexandrian intellectuals22. Remembering Hypatia’s mathematics lectures, the astronomical and physical experiments they had performed under her guidance, such as how to design an astrolabe or other instruments, he asks Hypatia to dispel his sadness and resignation by building for him a  “hydroscope” (Ødroskop…on), a hydrometer to measure the weight of liquids or to test the quality of drinking water, or perhaps to serve some medical purpose (Ep. 15)23. Synesius never saw a letter from Hypatia, nor his requested “hydroscope.” She never told him that she decided to join actively in the violent political struggles in the city. She had given up living the life of the higher levels of virtue in favor of sharing with others the knowledge of the transcendent Good, of passing on her “divine” knowledge to those below her. Consistent with the Neoplatonic political dogma, so insightfully penetrated by Dominic J. O’Meara24, she made a descent from the theoretical and paradigmatic virtues and theoretical sciences back to the level of political virtue, to practical sciences. Hence Damascius in his Philosophical History, aware of her existential choice, writes, on the one hand, with admiration for her philosophical excellence which enabled her to rise to a higher level of reasoning than simple mathematics. After all, he tells us that in her natural talent she outgrew her father (t¾n dќ fЪsin gennaiТtera toа patrÕj oâsa), in reaching “with some distinction” for “the other branches of philosophy” (¢ll¦ kaˆ filosof…aj ¼yato tБj ¥llhj oЩk ¢gennèj)25. He thus implies that she ascended to the highest theoretical science, to theology (metaphysics) or theurgy, of which, for reasons we understand, Damascius fears to speak explicitly or mention the name. But on the other hand, Damascius emphasizes her practical science when speaking of her supreme practical virtue (™p’ ¥kron ¢nab©sa tБj praltikБj ¢retБj), that is, political virtue, which was made up of cardinal virtues of justice, temperance (dika…a te kaˆ sèfron gegonu‹a), prudence, and thus the practical wisdom she displayed in her public spirit and civic acts (™n te to‹j œrgoij œmfron£ te kaˆ politik»n) by serving and attending to the city’s affairs and interests, which she confirmed in her skillful speech and her ability to define things conceptually and verbally (™n te to‹j lÒgoij oÜsan ™ntrecБ kaˆ dialektik»n)26. Socrates Scholasticus also emphasizes her semn¾ parrhs…a27, which Pierre Chuvin translates as respectable hardiesse28, rather than my own majestic outspokenness29, which does not imply that she did not possess a degree of boldness in voicing her opinion in Alexandria’s influential circles. M. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria…, pp. 79–83. P. 100 Garzya. 24 Platonopolis. Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Oxford 2003. 25 PH frag. 43 A. 1–3. 26 PH frag. 43 A. 6–7; E. 1–3. 27 HE VII 15. 6 = Socrates Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica, ed. G. C. Hansen, Berlin 1995, pp. 360–361. 28 P. Chuvin, op. cit., p. 65 (see note 7). 29 Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria…, p. 41. The translation with my changes is based on The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates Scholasticus. A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Chuch, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace, vol. II, Michigan 1952, p. 161 n. 22 23


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Also Socrates Scholasticus counts as a  superior level of virtue, higher than practical virtue, her virtue of self-restraint, or temperance (swfrosЪnh)30. He says that her fully perfect, Шperb£llousa swfrosЪnh, and thus certainly not partial (not only practical/political) virtue — for, Damascius adds, she ever remained a virgin — caused her to arouse widespread admiration and respect among men, especially among Alexandrian magistrates (¥rcoi; ¥rcontej; metaceirizÒmenoi t¦ prîta tÁj polite…aj)31. And although both Socrates and Damascius, and also Synesius, emphasize her role as a benefactress, patroness in Alexandria32, and paint her as a philosopher-counselor to those governing Alexandria, one whom the newly appointed city and imperial administrators always made sure to visit first, still both our sources, Socrates and John of Nikiu, mention only one official by name: praefectus Augustalis Orestes, with whom, ever since he took office of praefect of Egypt, Hypatia not only maintained close political contact, but on whom she exerted a dominating influence. It was then, to use Neoplatonic political language, that she turned, from an authority and city advisor, into a  Platonic Philosopher-Queen. She joined the party of Orestes, she supported him and other representatives of the city’s Jewish elite, and some of the people of Alexandria. Within the movement, she played such a major role in political leadership that, Socrates and John of Nikiu report, the circles close to patriarch Cyril considered her the main obstacle in reconciliation between the praefect of Egipt and the patriarch of Alexandria. Hostile, false accusations (diabol») were circulated about her magic (i.e., theurgy), her astrology (due to her astrolabes and the musical instruments she used), her deceitful, satanic influence on those around her and in particular on praefect Orestes33. All the while, she, probably without realizing in her lofty spirit the perils of this fierce campaign which struck at the root of all her teaching, continued to be seen in public in her invariable tribon. Her tribon was white; such was the style in which Synesius pictured philosophers in his longest letter to Hypatia (Ep. 154), and in letter 147 he goes on to say that this color tribon was a robe becoming a philosopher, its brightness and purity of hue reflecting his impeccable nature. Chuvin is right in believing that for philosophers and sophists of the late antiquity, the tribon was something like a distinguished professorial toga, as distinct from the earlier short, rough-woven, threadbare Doric cloak of peasants or such philosophers as Socrates or the Cynics34. Damascius reports it thus: “periballomšnh dќ tr…bwna ¹ gun¾ kaˆ di¦ mšsou toа ¥stewj poioumšnh t¦j proÒdouj ™xhge‹to dhmos…v to‹j ¢kro©sqai boulomšnouj À tÕn Pl£twna À tÕn ’Aristotšlhn À t¦ ¥llou Ótou d¾ tîn filosТfwn” (Though a woman she wrapped herself in a philosopher’s cloak, and went out into the midst of the city, publicly interpreting the works of Plato, Aristotle HE VII, 15, 7–8. PH frag. 43A. 8; 43E. 3–5. 32 M. Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, pp. 61; 89–90; C. Haas, op. cit., pp. 309–312 (see note 6); P. Chuvin, op. cit., p. 65. 33 HE VII, 15. 8–11; John of Nikiu, The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu, trans. R. H. Charles, Oxford 1916, LXXXIV 88. 34 P. Chuvin, op. cit., pp. 62–66. 30 31

Once More on Hypatia’s Death


or any other philosopher to those who wished to listen)35. In place of Athanassiadi’s translation, “she progressed through the town,” I introduced, after Haas, “she went out into the midst of the city”36. A precise rendition of this sentence is important as it helps define the place where Hypatia pursued her public (dhmos…v) teaching. It also better reflects the Neoplatonic sense of prÒodoj, a procession (in a modern approach, emanation), which Damascius uses in his philosophical writings. Chuvin’s interpretation which links proodos with “une apparition publique” or “une audience” of Hypatia37, bolsters my conviction that this most distinguished, aristocratic lady, despoina makaria, perhaps gave her lectures in some then existing lecture hall which later became part of the entire university complex of auditoria which was excavated in recent years by a  Polish-Egyptian expedition at Kom el-Dikka. Now dated at the mid-fifth and early sixth centuries, those lecture halls — which, however, argues the head of the Polish archaeological mission at Kom El-Dikka, G. Majcherek, were built on top of some preexisting structures38, were situated near the agora and via Canopica, in the very center of the city, just the place where Damascius locates Hypatia’s teaching. To Damascius, the auditoria were such an obvious venue for intellectual life in Alexandria that it is perhaps in this context that should be understood his perfunctory description of Hypatia’s visits in the middle of the city where she taught her classes. The auditoria had a characteristic rectangular shape, with rows of benches lining the walls with a central seat for the teacher (kathegemon), who would occupy it during a lecture. And it is something very like a “professor’s chair” that John of Nikiu tells about as he describes the murder of Hypatia. The same passage in John of Nikiu is highlighted by Majcherek when studying the function of this high chair in the auditoria39. The murderers, whom John of Nikiu calls “a multitude of believers in God” led by “Peter the magistrate,” began to look for the “pagan woman” in the city and found her in a lecture room40. Crucially, John of Nikiu relates, “and when they learned the place where she was, they proceeded to her and found her seated on the lofty chair; and having made her descend they dragged her along till they brought her to the PH frag. 43A. 3–5. P. Chuvin, op. cit., p. 311. 37 P. Chuvin, op. cit., pp. 61–62. 38 G. Majcherek, Late Roman Auditoria: An Archaeological Overview [in:] Alexandria. Auditoria of Kom El-Dikka and Later Antique Education, T. Derda, T. Markiewicz, E. Wipszycka (eds.), Warszawa 2007, The Journal of Juristic Papyrology, Suppplement VIII, pp. 31–40; idem, Academic Life of Late Antique Alexandria: A View from the Field [in:] What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria?, M. El-Abbadi and O. Mounir Fathallah (eds.), Library of the Written Word vol. 3. The Manuscript World, vol. 1, Leiden–Boston 2008, pp. 196; 198–199; On Auditoria also see: Zs. Kiss, Les Auditoria Romains tardifs de Kôm El-Dikka (Alexandrie) (in:) Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, t. XXXIII, fasc. 1–4 (1990–1992), pp. 331–338; L’édifice théâtral de Kôm ei-Dikka. Quelques mythes et plusieurs questions (in:) City and Harbour. The Archeology of Ancient Alexandria, Oxford 2004, pp. 1–10. 39 G. Majcherek, Academic Life…, p. 195, note 15. 40 Chronicle, LXXXIV 100. 35 36


Maria Dzielska

great church, named Caesarion”41. Damascius adds that “When she left her house in her usual manner (proelqoЪsh g¦r kat¦ tÕ e„wqТj), a crowd of bestial men […] fell upon and killed the philosopher”; it happened, therefore, when she was away from her home, as she would for teaching reasons42. In a public space she would be easier prey to capture than to be assaulted in her home, which offered her protection. Thus, we can imagine, as I suggested earlier, that the villains led by Peter — a reader or a magistrate — having pulled her off her chair-cathedra, dragged her down the main avenue which crossed Via Canopica, which led from lake Mareotis toward the Great Port (today it is called An-Nabi Daniel Street), near which Caesarion stood. The statement by Socrates about the circumstances of Hypatia’ death, taken as read in all works devoted to her, needs verifying. Socrates’ account of how she was pulled from her carriage (™k toа d…frou) “when she was returning home from somewhere” (™pˆ o„k…an poqšn) proves that he did not have exact knowledge about the event43. He only knew that this act of violence happened in public space and he associated it with Hypatia’s scholarly and political visits in the city center, where she usually traveled by carriage. Neither Damascius nor John of Nikiu makes mention of Hypatia being attacked in her carriage. This was pointed out by Rougé in his article, but he does not follow up on this insight44. What is entirely unacceptable is the still oft-repeated claim that dia mesou tou asteos should mean that Hypatia, like the Cynics, taught Plato and Aristotle in the streets45. Hypatia’s lectures to Alexandrian intelligentsia given in public lecture rooms consisted mainly in commenting on selected dialogs by Plato and writings of Aristotle according to a curriculum established by Iamblichus, as was typical for philosophers of neo-Platonic schools. Damascius makes it quite clear when he mentions Plato and Aristotle as chief subjects of her lectures. Only later does he add that she gave public teaching on the views of other philosophers. This account, combined with a similar statement by Socrates that she who developed her own private Platonic school (diatribe) derived from Plotinus also “delivered all philosophy lectures to those who wished to listen” makes us rightly believe that, out of her private school, Hypatia also taught the philosophy of late followers of Plato46. In such public lectures, she may have presented philosophy not only in an academic way, but as a road to salvation, if John of Nikiu says that her appearances 41 Chronicle LXXXIV, 101. The same H. Zotenberg, Mémoire de la Chronique byzantine de Jean, évẽque de Nikiu, Journal Asiatique 12 (1878), p. 280. 42 PH frag. 43E. 17. 43 HE VII 15. 12–13. 44 J. Rougé, op. cit., p. 498 (see note 5). 45 See note 7; also: G. Cavallo, Places of Public Reading [in:] Alexandria…, p. 154. I deal with this view in my book (1996), pp. 56–57. 46 Older works, and some newer ones, assume that Hypatia (and Synesius) were more influenced by rational Porphyrius than by the more theurgically inclined Jamblichus. Vide e.g., H.-I. Marrou, Synesius and Alexandrian Neoplatonism [in:] The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century, A. Momogliano (ed.), Oxford 1963, pp. 139–140; J.M. Rist, Hypatia, Phoenix 19 (1965), p. 219; R.T. Wallis, Neoplatonism, London 1972, pp. 107 nn.; E. Évrard, À quel titre Hypatie enseigna-t-elle la philosophie? REG 90 (1977), p. 69; Cameron and Long, op. cit., believe that Hypatia and Plutarch in Athens “may in fact have taught much the same form of Neoplatonism emphasizing

Once More on Hypatia’s Death


attracted “many believers to her,” including the “governor of the city,” who “ceased attending church as had been his custom”47. Together with her mathematical and astronomical exercises, they were thought hostile to Christianity and a challenge to the teaching of Cyril, and spurred some Christian fanatics to charge her with the practice of witchcraft and idolatry. Chuvin rightly speaks of a triple image of Hypatia in John of Nikiu: as an astronomer, theurgist, and musician, and Hypatia’s lynching, perpetrated by “a multitude of believers of God,” which began, as I argue above, during her lecture, to be followed by further acts of lethal violence, is of symbolic significance, because it also meant a condemnation of her importance as a prominent teacher in the city. In contrast to John of Nikiu’s negative information about the impact of Hypatia’s public teaching on Alexandrians, we must consider Watts’ interesting arguments about how she taught a moderate philosophy with no polemical character48, and similarly, my own claim about the purely political nature of her murder. Without a doubt, however, her turn toward the antagonized, irrationally driven forces of the political world, her renewed descent into the corners of the “cave” where she tried to test, implement, bring to empirical fruition her knowledge about ideas, her divine knowledge — ended in tragic failure for her.

Iamblichus and the Chaldean Oracles,” p. 58; E. Watts, City and School…, pp. 192–193, still believes that Hypatia had no interest in the philosophy of Iamblichus. 47 LXXXIV 88. 48 E. Watts, City and School…, pp. 200–203.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Agnieszka Kijewska The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher? 1. Anitius Manlius Severinus Boethius (475/477–525/526) was a formative thinker of a transition period, for his times were stormy ones. As John Marenbon remarks his birth coincides with the deposition of the last Western Roman Emperor, Romu‑ lus Augustus, in 4761. Italy, after a period of barbaric incursions which annihilated the Roman Empire had a  short time of respite (Pax gothica) under the reign of Theodoric the Great, king of Ostrogoths2. Boethius himself came from aristocratic stock, namely from the ancient family of Anitii. After he had lost his parents, he was brought up by Quintus Memmius Simmachus, a leading member of one of the foremost Roman families of the day. The family tradition and the milieu where Boethius spent his formative years were favorable for his philosophical and literary interests, the general political situation and the position of his family tended naturally to push him into politics, while his Christianity inspired him with interest in theology, so there is no wonder that during his whole life his preoccupations were divided between these three areas3. Although Cassiodorus also mentiones that he was a poet. The philosophical and literary nourishment he received was of the best quality that century of declining Roman culture was able to offer him, as he probably studied in the philosophical school of Alexandria, possibly in others, such as that of Athens4. J. Marebon, Boethius, Oxford 2003, p. 8. G. O’Daly, The Poetry of Boethius, London 1991, p. 9. See also T.S. Burns, A History of the Ostrogoths, Bloomington 1984, pp. 68–69. 3 J. Moorhead, Boethius’ life and late antique philosophy [in:] The Cambridge Companion to Boethius, Cambridge 2009, p. 16: “But Symmachus and Boethius were more than bookish intellectu‑ als. They lived as members of the Roman elite traditionally had lived, mixing private lives devoted to sholarship with participation in public affairs”. 4 P. Courcelle, Boèce et l’école d’Alexandrie [in:] Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome, vol. 52, 1935, pp. 185–223; C.J. de Vogel, Boethiana II, Vivarium X (1972), pp. 26–27; J. Marenbon, Boethius, Oxford 2003, pp. 10–14. 1 2


Agnieszka Kijewska

In these schools he underwent a thorough influence of Neoplatonic thought, most crucially, he adopted the Porphyrian conviction that Plato and Aristotle were at one with regard to the fundamental philosophical issues, and, consequently, he undertook the task of assimilation to the Latin culture of the whole of the literary legacy of these two great thinkers5. The metrum 9 from the book III one can read as a specific essay of reconciliation of the world­‍‑views of those two thinkers. This program defined the field of his activity not only in the literary and scientific domain, but also in politics, where Boethius sought to perpetuate the old ideal of virtus Romana, but where he also adopted the precepts given by Plato in his Dialogues. It was with a quote from Plato that he justified his taking up a political career: “Yet you were the one who through the mouth of Plato decreed this inviolable axiom, that states would be happy and prosperous if either those devoted to wisdom should rule them, or if were to happen that those who did rule them devoted themselves to wisdom”6. Thus he suggested that it was the concern for the common good that made him undertake the burden of power. Boethius’ political activity ended suddenly and tragically: he was accused of participating in the plot, of trying to cover up the affaire and of acting in the hope of regaining the Roman freedom without the Gothic rule. To make the accusation even more serious the allegations of impiety and sorcery were added7. Thus the accusations brought against Boethius looks very much like that those raised against Socrates: the political nature of the case was camouflaged giving the process appearance of a case concerning impiety. Boethius himself could not possibly have failed to notice the resemblance between the two events, and his De consolatione, the last of his works, composed in prison while awaiting the execution, contains many allusions to the life and teaching of the great Athenian philosopher, and he expressly styles his own life history, his career and its tragic end after the pattern of Socrates’ life. Thus the dialogues which tell the story of Socrates’ life and character as well as give the essence of his teaching, such as the Symposium, Phaedrus, Phaedon, Criton, and the Republic are constantly referred to in the De consolatione. Boethius, like Socrates, facing death, undertakes a  philosophical journey into the depths of himself, one more journey in the search of the highest values. The first important climax of that journey is the poem 9 from the book III. 5 Boethius, In librum Aristotelis Peri hermeneias commentarii II, 2,3, rec. C. Meiser, Lipsiae 1880, vol. II, p. 80: “His peractis non equidem contempserim Aristotelis Platonisque sententias in unam quodammodo revocare concordiam eosque non ut plerique dissentire in omnibus sed in pleris‑ que et his in philosophia maximis consentire demonstrem”. 6 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy I, prose 4, tr. by J.C. Relihan, Indianapolis­‍‑Cambridge 2001, p. 9; Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio I, 4 [in:] The Theological Tractates. The Consolation of Philosophy, H.F. Stewart (ed.), London, Cambridge Mas., Harvard University Press 1968, pp. 142– 144: “Beatas fore res publicas, si eas vel studiosi sapientiae regerent vel earum rectores studere sapi‑ entiae contigisset.”; Cf. Plato, Republic 473d [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, tr. by B. Jowett, 4th edition, vol. II, Oxford 1964, pp. 332–333. 7 Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio I, 4, p. 152: “Cuius dignitatem reatus ipsi etiam qui detulere viderunt, quam uti alicuius sceleris admixtione fuscarent, ob ambitum dignitatis sacrilegio me consci‑ entiam polluisse mentiti sunt”.

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


2. The De consolatione was written as Boethius — convicted of high treason — awaited death in a prison in Pavia. Yet the theory that in its present state the work is unfinished or interrupted by its author’s death seem wholly unjustified, the main ar‑ gument against this theory being the symmetry and elaborate structure of the work8. It was written in prosimetrium, that is prose interspersed with poetry, the five books of the work contain no less than 39 fragments composed in verse. Some histori‑ ans of literature classify this work in the genre of Menippean satire (Joel Relihan, D. Shanzer, James J. O’Donnell9). Typical for this genre, apart from prose mixed with verse, is the form of dialogue, a subject deriving from popular philosophical matter, often presented in a light and comic manner, introduction of mythological allegories and various personifications, and exploitation of the theme of a journey to heaven or the underground world10. But Howard Weinbrot writes: “Menippean satire, then, is a form that uses at least two other genres, languages, cultures, or changes of voice to oppose a dangerous, false, or specious and threatening ortho‑ doxy. In different exemplars, the satire may use either of two tones: the severe, in which the threatened, angry satirist fails and becomes angrier still, or the muted, in which the threatened, angry satirist offers a partial antidote to the poison he knows remains”11. And we can see that in the Consolation the “Platonic orthodoxy” is threatened. Polish scholar, a great specialist on classical literature, Kazimierz Korus, is scepti‑ cal about labelling De Consolatione as Manippean satire. He claims that the work is completely devoid of humour and irony12. Gerard O’Daly seems to share the same point of view: “Try as we may, — he writes — we cannot really ascribe a satirical strand to the Consolation”13. But Joel Relihan presents as an indirect argument for the presence of humour and irony in the work, the examples of its ironical and satirical reception, including contemporary reception by John Kennedy Toole, the author of “Confratery of Dunces”14. I think that “labels” are not so important but in the structure of De Consolatione we can easily observe the change of genre, languages and cultures to which has pointed Weinbrot. And I believe that the most perspicuous point of that change is the metrum 9 form the book III. Danuta Shanzer writes about De consolatione: “It most probably represents a formal innovation of his own, and invites the reader (dangerously, as we shall see) to consider the work as a perfectly wrought urn, with an elegant cyclical G. O’Daly, op. cit., pp. 28–29. D. Shanzer, Interpreting the Consolation [in:] The Cambridge Companion to Boethius, J. Maren‑ bon (ed.), Cambridge 2009 pp. 233–240; J.C. Relihan, The Prisoners’s Philosophy. Life and Death in Boethius’s “Consolation”, University of Notre Dame Press 2006, p. 47 f.; Boethius, Consolatio Philosophiae, ed. J.J. O’Donnell, Bryn Mawr Latin Commentaries 1990, p. VI. 10 G. O’Daly, op. cit., pp. 16–18. 11 H. Weinbrod, Manippean Satire Reconsidered: From Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century, Bal‑ timore 2005, p. 6, quoted after: J.C. Relihan, op. cit., p. 92. 12 K. Korus, Grecka proza poklasyczna, Kraków 2003, p. 46. 13 G. O’Daly, op. cit., p. 22. 14 J.C. Relihan, op. cit., pp. 11–12. 8 9


Agnieszka Kijewska

structure of alternating verse and prose, pivoting around the great metrum in the only meter that is not used at least twice: 3. M. 9 in hymnic hexameters”15. 3. The De consolatione forms part of the literary tradition of consolations addressed to a person who has suffered a heavy loss, for example an exile or someone who has lost a near relative. De consolatione is a consolation but rather untypical one. Ancient consolatory works tried to bring a relief in suffering and solace by present‑ ing the arguments for the immortality of soul, the reward gained in the after­‍‑life or they promised the beatific vision. The De consolatione is written in the form of a dialogue between Boethius, who is also the narrator, and the Dame Philosophy, who appears miraculously in his prison cell in order to console him and brace him up. The consolation that brings the prisoner the Dame Philosophy is — according to Relihan — a false promise: “Further, Consolation — he writes — offers no reasons why death is not to be feared and spends most of its time taking the narrator’s impeding death for granted, in order to talk of other things, non of which involves a beatific vision. Certainly, the word “consolation” does not by itself a consolation make, yet there remains the interesting question: Why label a work with what seems to be a false promise?”16. The breaking point in the plot of De consolatione is still metrum 9 from the book III. Up to that point we can label the work as consolation: Dame Philosophy consoles the prisoner because he suffers of the fickleness of Fortune. She shows him the false and illusory character of all external goods. “Consolation therefore falls into two halves, separated by the central poem O qui perpetua, which is the essential statement of belief in the Providence that guides the world”17. From that moment on, the dialog between the Dame Philosophy and prisoner tackles upon the problems which are not typically “consolatory”, as: Divine foreknowledge and human free will, the existence of evil. But I think, that a  consoling argument addressed to an exile is a  particularly close model for Boethius’ De consolatione, though the general setting undergoes a  transposition: the exile where Boethius finds himself is a  spiritual exile rather than physical, he has lost his true spiritual identity, his true ‘ego’, he has become alienated from his home country of wisdom and it is this alienation rather than his incarceration hat constitutes his real exile. Thus consolation forms a come back, a return from his false identity to the homeland of philosophy. It is thus also a cure, a process of recovery of the original unspoiled condition18. No wonder that the lan‑ guage of the De consolatione abounds in metaphors borrowed from the domain of medical science or spiritual exercise. As Pierre Hadot has shown, the crucial point of ancient spiritual exercises was to achieve the so­‍‑called “physical contemplation”. D. Shanzer, op. cit., p. 233. J.C. Relihan, op. cit., pp. 48–49. 17 Ibidem, p. 49. 18 A. Kijewska, The True and the False ‘I’ in Boethius De Consolatione [in:] Intellect and Imagination in Medieval Philosophy, M.C. Pacheco, J.F. Meirinhos (eds.), Porto 2004, pp. 217–226; Reli‑ han, op. cit, p. 55. 15 16

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


This sort of contemplation implies, at first, the recognition of the true nature of every element of the world and its place in the structure of the whole. “Finally, — Hadot claims — at this level we are no longer interested in developing abstract theories about physics, in order to prove that we are a part of the cosmic All; rather, we try to live as a true part of the cosmic All”19. This sort of vision presents the poem 9 from the book III. It expresses the harmony of the world (harmonia mundana) in order to achieve inner harmony (harmonia humana)20. 4. The characters of the De consolatione are the Dame Philosophy and the prisoner whom we should not automatically identify with Boethius the author. Although the work contains many autobiographical features, especially in the fourth prose fragment of book I, one ought not to accept without reserve an identification of Boethius the prisoner and narrator with Boethius the author21. To compose a work so masterful and intricate, Boethius the author had, at least in part, to rise above his human condition and adopt the standpoint of his partner in the dialogue, the Dame Philosophy. Thus the Dame Philosophy embodies all the ideals that Boethius embraced and which he had momentarily forgotten under the burden of his misfor‑ tunes. Joel Relihan claims that the Dame Philosophy and the prisoner represent two different sides of Boethian split personality: “I think it is clear that, because of the equality of the prisoner and Philosophy, we are to take this dialogue ultimately as an interior dialogue, between dramatizations of two different aspects of the author’s own self. My point is not that an author inevitably concocts literature out of inner voices; or, because Philosophy did not really appear to him, that Boethius made it all up and could not help but write two halves of the dialogue. Rather, it is possible to see Philosophy ‘as an internal aspect of the console­‍‑narrator himself’ (…). We say the same about Augustine’s early Soliloquies and their presentation of Augustine and Reason”22. The Dame Philosopy’s features are, as one would expect, so many allegories. Her stature is indefinite, if not contradictory, at one moment she appears to be of a human

19 P. Hadot, The Inner Citadel. The “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius, tr. by M. Chase, London 1998, p. 82. 20 Boece, Traité de la musique I, II, tr. Ch. Meyer, Turnhout 2004, pp. 30–32: „Principio igitur de musica disserenti illud interim dicendum videtur, quot musicae genera ab eius studiosis comprehensa esse noverimus. Sunt autem tria. Et prima quidem mundana est, secunda vero humana, tertia, quae in quibusdam constituta est instrumentis, ut in cithara vel tibiis ceterisque, quae cantilenae famulan‑ tur”. 21 E. Reiss thinks that the De consolatione is not a historical document and, correspondingly, all characters in the work should be regarded as allegories rather than real personages. Yet this opinion has been rather isolated and Danuta Shanzer has argued convincingly that it leads to many difficulties and even contradictions. See E. Reiss, Boethius, Boston 1982, pp. 80–102, see also: D. Shanzer, The Death of Boethius and the Consolation of Philosophy, Hermes 112 (1984), p. 353. 22 J.C. Relihan, op. cit., p. 63.


Agnieszka Kijewska

size, in another her figure seems to reach the sky23. This feature reflects the Hellenistic notion of philosophy as knowledge of things human and divine24. Her apparel is of her own make, made of eternal and indestructible stuff, it is embroidered with two Greek letters ‘P’ and ‘Q’, and these were connected with an ornament in the shape of ascending stairs. The commentaries on Aristotle written by Boethius help to interpret this allegory: in the commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge he explains that philosophy is divided in two parts: theoretical and practical25. Theory is undoubtedly the more important part, as its consummation is in theology, which deals with Divine Essence26, and this superiority is reflected in the ‘Q’, which obviously stands for ‘theory’, being placed at the top of the Dame Philosophy’s vestments. Yet there is another way of reading the meaning of the ‘Q’: it very probably means also ‘thanatos’, ‘death’, and in those days this letter used to be embroidered on the garments of those convicted to death27. Thus the symbolism of the personification that is the Dame Philosophy yields itself to different readings. Her celebrated literary predecessors include the Athenian Laws, who appear before Socrates in the Crito (50a–b). Another ancestral figure of hers is the famous Diothima of Mantinea, who in the Symposium practises Socrates’ own method on Socrates himself. This Diothima, “a woman fearful of God” from “a town of prophets” becomes for Socrates a “mystagogue” who initiates him into the “sacred dealings of Eros” (201d–f), which in fact consist in search for the highest values28. Dialogue with a mythical or allegorical figure as a literary device, by means of which to convey an important literary message, was also employed by other philosophers of importance before Boethius, to mention only Cicero, Seneca, or St Augustine (especially the figure of Continence from his Confessions)29. If we accept that the prisoner and the Dame Philosophy represent — as Relihan has pointed out — two sides of Boethian split personality, so from the poem 9 we can see the process of reintegration of those two figures into one person: Boethius, Christian philosopher. Philosophy leads the poor prisoner who has forgotten himself Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio I, 1, p. 130: “Nam nunc quidem ad communem sese hominum mensuram cohibebat, nunc vero pulsare caelum summi verticis cacumine videbatur; quae cum altius caput extulisset, ipsum etiam caelum penetrabat respicientiumque hominum frustrabatur intuitum”. 24 Cicero, Tusculanae disputationes V, 3, 7, ed. M. Pohlenz, Lipsiae 1918, p. 407: „quae [sc. sa‑ pientia] divinarum humanarum que rerum, tum initiorum causarumque cuiuscumque rei cognitione hoc pulcherrimum nomen apud antiquos assequebatur”. Cf. J. Domański, La philosophie, théorie ou manière de vivre? Les controverses de l’Antiquité à  la Renaissance, Fribourg 1996, p. 1f. 25 See: Boethius, In Isagogen Porphyrii Commenta I, 3, ed. S. Brandt, Vindobonae 1906, p. 8. Shanzer, The Death of Boethius, p. 357. 26 See: Boethii, De Trinitate II, ed. H.F. Stewart, E.K. Rand [in:] The Theological Tractaes, p. 8: “Theologica, sine motu abstracta atque separabilis (nam dei substantia et materia et motu caret)”. 27 See: H. Chadwick, Theta on Philosophy’s Dress in Boethius, Medium Aevum 49 (1980), n. 2, p. 175. 28 W. Stróżewski, Arcydialog Platona [in:] Istnienie i wartość, Kraków 1981, pp. 172–175. 29 Augustini Hipponensis Confessionum libri tredecim, VIII, XI, 26 ed. L. Verheijen, CC 27, Tur‑ nholti 1981, p. 130: “Aperiebatur enim ab ea parte, qua intenderam faciem et quo transire trepida‑ bam, casta dignitas continentiae, serena et non dissolute hilaris, honeste blandiens, ut venirem neque dubitarem, et extendens ad me suscipiendum et amplectendum pias manus plenas gregibus bonorum exemplorum”. 23

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


to the poem 9 which presents the summary of Plato’s Timeus for it stretches before his eyes the view of the whole of the world: “But since, just as our Plato in Timaeus would have it, one ought to invoke divine assistance even in the smallest matters, what do you think we ought to do now so as to merit the discovery of the dwelling place of that higest good? I said: We must invoke the Father of all things; were he to be omitted, there could be no starting point that is properly grounded”30. After this vision of the beginning of the world from poem 9 that is the prisoner who takes the initiative in the dialogue. The Dame Philosophy tries to prepare him for the impeding death but the prisoner refuses to follow her and poses her the ques‑ tions that have nothing in common with the interests in the after­‍‑life. The prisoner directs the conversation towards the problem of the divine Providence, divine fore‑ knowledge and human free will and the existence of evil in this world. He forces Philosophy to tackle upon those questions and finally he is silent, he completely identifies himself with the Dame Philosophy who delivers the final speech: “Avoid vices, cherish virtues; raise up your minds to blameless hopes; extend your humble prayers into the lofty heights. Unless you want to hide the truth, there is a great necessity imposed upon you — the necessity of righteousness, since you act before the eyes of a judge who beholds all things”31. 5. The poem O qui perpetua in a typically Neoplatonic fashion, presents a mixture of Platonic and Aristotelian views. Nevertheless, its dependence on Plato’s Timaeus is easily seen at the first glance, that is why the poem was called the summary of Timaeus32. I would like to stress only some of the most obvious Platonic and Aris‑ totelian borrowings. The Dame Philosophy sings: “You who control all the world everlastingly by your own reason, Sowing the seeds of the earth and the heavens, commanding the eons To roll from eternity; resting unmoved, you put all things in motion, You whom no alien causes demanded to fashon creation From mutable matter, but only the unstinting essence of true good Planted within you; and from their celestial exemplar you lead things, All of them, out and, most splendid yourself, in your own mind you carry 30 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, prose 9, p. 71. Cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, p. 262: “’Sed cum, ut in Timaeo Platoni,’ inquit, ‘nostro placet, in minimis quoque rebus diui‑ num praesidium debeat implorari, quid nunc faciendum censes, ut illius summi boni sedem reperire mereamur?’ ‘Inuocandum,’ inquam, ‘rerum omnium patrem, quo praetermisso nullum rite fundatur exordium”. 31 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy V, prose 6, p. 150. Cf. Borthii Philosophiae Consolatio V, vi, p. 410: “Auersamini igitur uitia, colite uirtutes, ad rectas spes animum subleuate, humiles preces in excelsa porrigite. Magna vobis est, si dissimulare non uultis, necessitas indicta probitatis, cum ante oculos agitis iudicis cuncta cernentis”. J.C. Relihan, op. cit., p. 51: “The prisoner must be seen as re‑ sisting consolation by the fact of his struggle to prevent Philosophy from taking him to his homeland; but Philosophy’s absolute and final pronouncement must come as a surprise both to him and to the reader”. 32 E.K. Rand, On the Composition of Boethius’ ‘Consolatio Philosophiae’ [in:] Boethius, H. Fuh‑ rmann, J. Gruber (ed.), Darmstadt 1984, p. 253.


Agnieszka Kijewska

This splendid world and you shape it to mirror your image and likeness, And you command that its perfect components accomplish perfection”33.

For Platonic Demiourgos Boethius uses here the word: sator, that is, “he who sows the seeds”, that is Father, to evoid the word creator. The Builder of the world is im‑ mobile but he is a source of every motion, which is the beginning of time34. The highest Principle as a source of movement is also an Aristotelian idea. The Unmoved Mover works as final cause but not as creator35. God makes everything using the formless matter, that clearly indicates, that He is a Builder not Creator. The reason for undertaking the work of making the world was God’s goodness. God’s work is marked by goodness and beauty36 but the admixture of matter is the cause of disorder37. God has formed the world according the eternal model contained in his mind for divine Intellect contemplates only his own Ideas. 33 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, meter 9, p. 71; cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, p. 262–264: “O qui perpetua mundum ratione gubernas Terrarum caelique sator, qui tempus ab aeuo Ire iubes stabilisque manens das cuncta moveri, Quem non externae pepulerunt fingere causae Materiae fluitantis opus, verum insita summi Forma boni livore carens, tu cuncta superno Ducis ab exemplo, pulchrum pulcherrimus ipse Mundum mente gerens similique in imagine formans Perfectasque iubens perfectum absolvere partes.” 34 Plato, Timaeus 28–29, tr. B. Jowett, in The Dialogues of Plato, vol. III, p. 640: “All that be‑ comes and is created is the work of a cause, and that is fair which the artificer makes after an eternal pattern, but whatever is fashioned after a created pattern is not fair. Is the world created or uncreated? — that is the first question. Created, I reply, being visible and tangible and having a body, and there‑ fore sensible; and if sensible, then created; and if created, made by a cause, and the cause is the inef‑ fable father of all things, who had before him an eternal archetype. For to imagine that the archetype was created would be blasphemy, seeing that the world is the noblest of creations, and God is the best of causes”. Plato, Timaeus 38, p. 644: “These are the forms of time which imitate eternity and move in a circle measured by number. Thus was time made in the image of eternal nature”. 35 Aristotle, Metaphysics 1072b, tr. H. Tredennick, London 1958, pp. 147–149 : “That the final cause may apply to immovable things is shown by the distinction of its meanings. For the final cause is not only “the good for something”, but also “the good which is the end of some action”. In the lat‑ ter sense it applies to immovable things, although in the former it does not; and it causes motion as being an object of love, whereas all other things cause motion because they are themselves in motion. Now if a thing is moved, it cam be otherwise than it is. Therefore if the actuality of “the heaven” is primary locomotion, then is so far as “the heaven” is moved, in this respect at least it is possible for it to be otherwise; i.e. in respect of place, even if not of substantiality. But since there is somethingX- which moves while being itself unmoved, existing actually, X cannot be otherwise in any respect. For the primary kind of change is locomotion, and of locomotion circular locomotion, and this is the motion which X induces. Thus X is necessarily existent; and qua necessary it is good, and is in this sense a first principle”. 36 Plato, Timaeus 29–30, p. 641: “He was good, and therefore not jealous, and being free from jealousy he desired that all things should be like himself”. 37 Plato, Statesman 273 b–c, [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, vol. III, p. 485: “The reason of the falling off was the admixture of matter in him; this was inherent in the primal nature, which was full

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


“You bind in number and ratio the elements, ice and flame matching, Dry matching moist, so there is no flight up for the rarified fire, Earth is not dragged by its weight to sink down to the depth of the waters”38.

The visible structure of the world is made from the elements: water, air, earth and fire. Those elements are interwoven by the numbers. In Timaues Plato writes: “But two terms must be united by a third, which is a mean between them; and had the earth been a surface only, one mean would have sufficed, but two means are re‑ quired to unite solid bodies. And as the world was composed of solids, between the elements of fire and earth God placed two other elements of air and water, and arranged the them in a continuous proportion — (…) and so put together a visible and palpable heaven, having harmony and friendship in the union of the four ele‑ ments; and being at unity with itself it was indissoluble except but the hand of the framer”39. “You center Soul: It unites threefold Nature, sets all things in motion; You divide Soul and apportion it into harmonious members; Soul, once divided, collected its motion in two equal orbits, Moving so as to return to itself, and completely encircling Mind at the core, so the universe wheels in its image and likeness. You by like causes bring forth lesser souls; for these lesser creations Your fashion nimble conveyances fit for a heavenly journey”40.

The world is beautiful and alive for it has a World­‍‑Soul which is made form the third substance. The World Soul forms two circles in the form of Greek letter “X”41. “You plant these souls in the heavens, in earth; by your generous statutes You make them turn back toward you and return — a regression of fire”42. of disorder, untill attaining to the present order. From God, the constructor, the world has received nothing that is not good, but form the previous state come elements of evil and unrighteousness”. 38 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, meter 9, p. 71; cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, p. 264: “Tu numeris elementa ligas, ut frigora flammis, Arida conveniant liquidis, ne purior ignis Evolet aut mersas deducant pondera terras”. 39 Plato, Timaeus 32, p. 641. 40 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, meter 9, p. 71–72; cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, p. 264: “Tu triplicis mediam naturae cuncta moventem conectens animam per consona membra resolvis; quae cum secta duos motum glomeravit in orbes, in semet reditura meat mentemque profundam circuit et simili convertit imagine caelum. 41 Plato, Timaeus 35–36, pp. 642–643: „God took of the unchangeable in indivisible and also of the divisible and corporeal, and out of the two he made a third nature, which was in a mean between them, and partook of the same and the other, the intractable nature of the other being compressed into the same (…). The entire compound was divided by him lengthways into two parts, which he united at the centre like the letter X, and bent them into an inner and outer circle or sphere, cutting one another again at a point over against the point at which they cross.” 42 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, meter 9, pp. 71–72; cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, p. 264:


Agnieszka Kijewska

According to Plato, the most mobile element in the structure of the world is fire43. But here we have also the Neoplatonic teaching about the vehicle of the soul. After the creation of the World Soul the Builder has prepared the human souls and has lo‑ cated them on the stars. When the souls were coming into the body, they took upon themselves some of the astral matter. This matter formed a medium for the connec‑ tion of the body and soul. And after the death of the individual, the soul­‍‑vehicle took the soul up. The concept of soul­‍‑vehicle was typical late Neoplatonic idea44. “Grant to the mind, Father, that it may rise to your holy foundations; Grant it may ring round the source of the Good, may discover the true light, And fix the soul’s vision firmly on you, vision keen and clear­‍‑sighted. Scatter these shadows, dissolve the dead weight of this earthly concretion, Shine in the splendor that is yours alone: only you are the bright sky, You are serenity, peace for the holy; their goal is to see you; You are their source, their conveyance, their leader, their path, and their haven”45.

The poem ends with a prayer that is a humble demand for the ascension to the vi‑ sion of the Father, the source of every good. In Neoplatonic and Platonic tradition it was rather common to name the First Principle Father. But in the passage we “hear” the text from the Gospel of St. John (14,6): “I am the way; I am the truth and I am life; no one comes to the Father except by me”46. This prayer for the ascension to the vision of God constitutes the third, accord‑ ing to John Finamore, step of Neoplatonic ascent. In Proclus’ Platonic Theology 4. 9 Finamore isolates three factors of Neoplatonic ascension: “First, there is the philosophical. Proclus uses Plato’s Phaedrus freely here to create the philosophical background to the ascent. Like the chariot in the Phaedrus myth, the soul ascends to different positions in the cosmos: the subcelestial arch, the heavenly circulation, and the supracelestial place (…) The second facet involves religious ritual. (…) The “Tu causis animas paribus vitasque minores provehis et levibus sublimes curribus aptans in caelum terram queseris, quas lege benigna ad te conversas reduci facis igne reverti. 43 Plato, Timaeus 49 d–e, p. 736; 58 b, p. 745: “Wherefore, also, fire above all things penetrates everywhere, and air next, as being next in rarity of the elements; and the two other elements in like manner penetrate according to their degree of rarity”. 44 F. Finamore, Iamblichus and the Thery of the Vehicle of the Soul, Chico, California 1985. 45 Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy III, meter 9, p. 71–72; cf. Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio III, ix, pp. 264–266: “Da, pater, augustam menti conscendere sedem, da fontem lustrare boni, da luce reperta in te conspicuos animi defigere visus. Dissice terrenae nebulas et pondera molis atque tuo splendore mica ; tu namque serenum, tu requies tranquilla piis, te cernere finis, principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus idem”. 46 Quotations form the Bible after: The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press 1970.

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


third facet involves the transition from discursive thinking to intelligible awarness. It is impossible for Plato or Proclus to put this mystery into words. It is ineffable. (…) in this silent vision the soul contemplates the intelligibles not as differentiated unities but as a single being. This is the intelligible union, above the realm of the intelligible­‍‑and­‍‑intellectual gods, and into yet a higher form of consciousness47”. Dame Philosophy exhorts the Prisoner to enter into “a secret chamber in the temple’, that is, the divine mysteries and to deliver, following Socrates, a swan song before becoming silent. 6. Socrates used to portray his philosophical and educational activity in Athens as a mission entrusted him by god, but occasionally he also compared it to the practice of music: “The same dream came to me sometimes in one form, and sometimes in another, but always saying the same or nearly the same words; ‘Set to work and make music’, said the dream. And hitherto I had imagined that this was only in‑ tended to exhort and encourage me in the study of philosophy, which has been the persuit of my life, and is the noblest and best music. The dream was bidding me do what I was already doing (…). But I was not certain of this; for the dream might have meant music in the popular sense of the word, and being under sentence of death, and the festival giving me a respite, I thought that it would be safer for me to satisfy the scrupule, and, in obedience to the dream, to compose a few verses before I departed”48. So it turns out that Socrates busied himself with composing hymns in honour of Apollo49 and the whole of his philosophical activity can be described as Apollo’s service; after all it was the oracle in Delphi that announced that Socrates was the wisest of all humans50. Socrates’ philosophical activity was many­‍‑sided, but I want confine myself only to two problems. The philosopher, eager to discover the true reality, that forms the object of intel‑ lectual cognition, attempts to push aside all that stands in the way of his contempla‑ tion of the truth, the greatest obstacle being undoubtedly his body and the senses51. To engage in philosophy in a  perfect manner, the philosopher strives to liberate himself from the chains of his body, and the philosophical way of life consists in learning how to die, and in meditating upon the death52. Socrates found it difficult to convince his companions that he regarded his near death as a blessing rather than misfortune: “Will you not allow — Socrates addresses Simmias — that I have as much of the spirit of prophecy in me as the swans? For they, when they perceive that they must die, having sung at times during their life, do then sing a longer and lovelier song than ever, rejoicing in the thought that they are about to go away to 47 J.F. Finamore, Proclus on Ritual Practice in Neoplatonic Religious Philosophy [in:] Being or Good? Metamorphoses of Neoplatonism, A. Kijewska (ed.), Lublin 2004, p. 137. 48 Plato, Phaedo 60e–61a, tr. by B. Jowett [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, vol. I, p. 410. 49 Plato, Phaedo 61b, p. 410–411. 50 Plato, Apology 21a and ff., tr. by B. Jowett [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, vol. I, pp. 344–345. 51 Plato, Phaedo 65a–b, pp. 415–416; 65d, p. 416; 66b, p. 417. 52 Plato, Phaedo 80e, p. 435.


Agnieszka Kijewska

the god whose ministers they are. But men, because they are themselves afraid of death, slanderously affirm of the swans that they sing a lament at the last, a cry of woe, not considering that no bird sings when cold, or hungry, or in pain, not even the nightingale, nor the swallow, nor yet the hoopoe; which are said indeed to tune a woeful lay, although I do not believe this to be true of them any more than of the swans. But because they are sacred to Apollo, they have the gift of prophecy, and anticipate the good things of another world; wherefore they sing and rejoice in that day more than ever they did before. And I too, believing myself to be the consecrated servant of the same god, and the fellow servant of the swans, and thinking that I have received from my master gifts of prophecy which are not inferior to theirs, whould not go out of life less merrily than the swans”53. What Socrates does in this fragment is reverse the commonly accepted convic‑ tions concerning death. The common run of men regards death as evil, yet quite the opposite is the case: far from being evil, death forms fulfillment of the philosopher’s efforts. The lover of wisdom, like Eros, struggling in the area between wisdom and foolishness, humans and gods, finds only in death the end of his journey and fulfill‑ ment of his mission54. The way of interpreting of the traditional belief with respect to swan song is very significant here: the ancients held that swans, when they feel approaching death deliver a song which is an expression of anguish though neither of the two species of swans known to ancient Europeans could sing. In accordance with that belief, Clytemnestra in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon calls the last words of Cassandra, delivered on the verge of death, a ‘swan song’55. Apollo, the god of the oracle at Delphi was also the patron of swan song56 and that is why Socrates can reinterpret the swan song as a joyful paean in honour of Apollo57, a song that proph‑ esies near fulfillment of the soul’s strivings for “it is characteristic of the philosopher to despise the body; his soul runs away from his body and desires to be alone and by herself”.58 Such an attitude towards death is only possible for the philosopher because he is the one who has come truly to know himself, has discovered his real identity, and his soul, knowing itself well wishes to abide with itself. Socrates puts Plato, Phaedo 84e–85b, pp. 440–441. K. Albert, O Platońskim pojęciu filozofii, tr. by J. Drewnowski, Warszawa 1991, pp. 22ff. 55 Eschyle, Agamemnon 1444–1446, tr. P. Mazon, Paris 1925, pp. 62–64. 56 Plutarch, Moralia: The E at Delphi 6, tr. F.C. Babbitt, London 1962, pp. 213–215: “Therefore, if the Pythian god plainly finds pleasure in music and the songs of swans and the sound of lyres, what wonder is it that, because of his fondness for logical reasoning, he should welcome and love that por‑ tion of discourse of which he observes philosophers making the most particular and the most constant use?” 57 Plutarch, The E at Delphi 9, pp. 223–225: “But to Apollo they sing the paean, music regulated and chaste. Apollo the artists represent in paintings and sculpture as ever ageless and young, but Dionysus they depict in many guises and forms; and they attribute to Apollo in general a uniformity, orderliness, and unadulterated seriousness, but to Dionysus a certain variability combined with play‑ fulness, wantonness, seriousness, and frenzy (…). But since the time of the cycles in these transforma‑ tions in not equal (…) they observe the ratio, and use the paean at their sacrifices for a large part of the year; but at the beginning of winter they awake the dithyramb and, laying to rest the paean, they use the dithyramb instead of it in their invocations of the god”. 58 Plato, Phaedo 65d, p. 416. 53 54

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


to Alcibiades the following question: “And is self­‍‑knowledge such an easy thing, and was he to be lightly esteemed who inscribed the text on the temple at Delphi? Or is self­‍‑knowledge a difficult thing, which few are able to attain”59? To know oneself is no easy task, yet nothing is more important, as is clearly dem‑ onstrated both by Socrates himself and by those who stay close to him60. To strive to achieve knowledge of oneself is the only adequate answer that man can give to the invitation coming to him from god, as Plutarch again testifies in the following: “No, it is an address and salutation to the god, complete in itself, which, by being spoken, brings him who utters it to thoughts of the god’s power. For the god addresses each one of us as we approach him here with the words “Know Thyself”, as a form of welcome, which certainly is in no wise of less import than “Hail”; and we in turn reply to him “Thou art’, as rendering unto him a form of address which is truthful, free from deception, and the only one befitting him only, the assertion of Being”61. Thus the swan song mentioned by Socrates on the day of his death is a song of joy in praise of god on behalf of whom Socrates prophesies. That song announces that his deeply felt desires are soon to be fulfilled, while at the same time it is an expression of self knowledge that he has obtained. Is there anything like Socrates’ swan son in the De consolatione? 7. There is still another literary tradition which no doubt provided inspiration for the literary structure of the De consolatione, namely the tradition of ‘protrepti‑ cal’ literature or exhortations to philosophy. As Philosophy provides an efficient remedy for human anguish and fear in the face of misfortune and even death, it is worthwhile to engage in it. But it is in the case a false promise. Nevertheless, this aspect of the De consolatione as an exhortation to philosophy gave rise to much controversy. It was a puzzle for many a medieval commentator of the De consolatione, why should Boethius, a  celebrated author of theological treatises, when facing the end of his life, look for consolation to his philosophy rather than to his faith. Scholars were intrigued by the apparent lack in the De consplatione of any references or merely allusions to Christianity, of any cites of reminiscences from the Bible. One put forward diverse explanations of this mystery: perhaps Boethius yielded under the pressure of persecutions and renounced his Christian religion in order to seek a salvation in philosophy62, or perhaps Boethius the philosopher, the author of the De consolatione, and Boethius the theologian, the author of the

Plato, Alcibiades I, 129a, tr. by B. Jowett [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, vol. I, p. 664. Plato, Phaedrus 229d–230a, tr. by B. Jowett [in:] The Dialogues of Plato, vol. III, p. 136: “I must first know myself, as the Delphian inscription says; to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self, would be rediculous”. 61 Plutarch, The E at Delphi 17, p. 239. 62 The Ostrogoths were arians, whereas Romans were catholics. See: H. Liebeschutz, Western Christian Thought from Boethius to Anselm [in:] The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, A.H. Armstrong (ed.), Cambridge 1967, p. 551. 59 60


Agnieszka Kijewska

Opuscula sacra, are two different persons63. Nowadays it is beyond any reasonable doubt that Boethius the authors of the Theological Tractates was the philosopher who at the end of his life wrote the De consolatione. As a matter of fact, this work, although it does not contain any overt allusion to Christianity, neither does it con‑ tain anything that would contradict the Christian belief64. John Moorhead states: “The inteligentsia of his day displayed great enthusiasm for works written in what is sometimes seen as the golden age of Latin literature, but Christian authors also found a place in their world view (…). Boethius lived in a world in which Christian and non­‍‑Christian tradition co­‍‑existed”65. Joel Relihan provides in his book very interesting solution to the problem of the De consolatione’s mystery. He maintains about the De consolatione: “…this is a personal text, about a personal attempt to work through a philosopher’s limits to the truth that lies beyond them. The epic hero has survived his struggle; and we may be thankful that, having had no Homer or Vergil to do it for him, he decided to write it down for us himself”66. Relihan claims that beyond those limits of the philosophical discourse lies the humble Christian prayer as the last and decisive solution. So, there is not any problem of Christianity and alleged aposthasy in the De consolatione. One can see the presence of that Christian stance exactly from the poem 9. Here, it is the first recourse to the prayer. The prayer is uttered with the conviction that: “All good giv‑ ing, every perfect gift, comes form above, from the Father of the lights of heaven” (James 1, 16). At the end of the poem we also hear the passage from the first letter to Timothy 6, 16: “He alone possesses immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light. No man has ever seen or ever can see him. To him be honour and might for ever!”, and from John’s Gospel 14, 6. The poem 9 is unexpected turning point in the book; from that moment on we approach the limits of philosophy and we learn the true value of a prayer. Christi‑ anity lays here like a hidden treasure about which Boethius has written in his com‑ mentary to the De interpretatione: “As when someone lay down a trench to plant a vine — should that person find a treasure chest, to be sure, that laying down of the trench comes of free will, but it is chance alone that brings the discovery of the treasure chest, albeit the chance has the same cause that the will brought. For if the person had not dug the trench, the treasure chest would not have been found. (…) Therefore chance and will and necessity — each rules over all things, nor is there

63 A. Galonnier, “Anecdoton Holderi” ou “Ordo generis Cassiodororum”: éléments por une étude de l’authenticité Boécienne des ‘Opuscula sacra’, Louvain–la–Neuve–Louvain–Paris 1997, pp. 34 and f. 64 Ibidem, pp. 53–57. 65 J. Moorhead, Boethius’ life and late antique philosophy [in:] The Cambridge Companion to Boethius, J. Marenbon (ed.), Cambridge 2009, p. 15. 66 J.C. Relihan, op. cit., pp. 91–92.

Boethius — Divine Man or Christian Philosopher?


one of these that can be posited alone in all things, but the power of the three of them is mixed together”67. Against this background one shouldn’t be surprised that Boethius refuses to fol‑ low the path of Neoplatonic transcendence in order to become “divine man” for he was a Christian philosopher and a martyr. Boethius was executed in the year 524 or 525, and some authors suggest that he underwent torture before the death. King Theoderic ordered to hide his body — as Procopius indicates in his History of the Wars68 — in order to prevent worship of him as a saint spreading. Yet this measure failed to work and Boethius has ever since been venerated as a martyr under the name of Severinus, with the feast on 23 October, and this cult was officially approved on 15 December 1883. Translated by Roman Majeran

67 J.C. Relihan, op. cit., p. 144. Boethius, In librum Aristotelis Peri hermeneias commentarii III, 224: “Ut [cum] scrobem deponens quis, ut infodiat vitem, si thesaurum inveniat, scrobem quidem deponere ex libero venit arbitrio, invenire thesaurum solus attulit casus, eam tamen causam habens casus, quam voluntas attulit. Nisi enim foderet scrobem, thesaurus non esset inventus. (…) Itaque omnium rerum et casus et voluntas et necessitas dominatur nec una harum res in omnibus ponenda est sed trium mixta potentia”. 68 Procopius of Caesarea, History of the Wars I, 1, 34, tr. by H.B. Dewing, London 1953, p. 13: “Symmachus and his son­‍‑in­‍‑law Boetius were men of noble and ancient lineage, and both had been leading men in the Roman senate and had been consuls. But because they practised philosophy and were mindful of justice in a manner surpassed by no other men (…) they attained great fame and thus led men of the basest sort to envy them. Now such persons slandered them to Theoderic, and he, believing their slanders, put these two men to death, on the ground that they were setting about a revolution, and made their property confiscate to the public treasury”.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Krzysztof Kościelniak Jagiellonian University

Aspects of divinization according to Farīd­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221) Farīd ad-dīn ʿAṭṭār (ca 1145/6–1221)1 is to be accounted amongst the greatest Sufi poets and philosophers of Medieval Persia. Unfortunately he is less well know than Ğalāl ad-dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (1207–1273) and Muḥammad Hāfez­‍‍‑e Šīrāzī (1315–1390). Although Aṭṭār was overshadowed by his great successors nowadays he is still discovered and recognized as one of the canonical masters of Sufi thought. ʿAṭṭār who left an overwhelming influence on Persian misticism in reality was called Abū Hamīd bin Abū Bakr Ibrāhīm but today is better known by his pen­ ‍‍‑names Farīd al­‍‍‑Dīn and ʿAṭṭār — “the pharmacist”.

a) ʿAṭṭār’s life Reconstruction of ʿAṭṭār’s life is very difficult because we do not possess enough reliable facts on his biography. Information on ʿAṭṭār’s life is rare by his contemporaries. He is mentioned only by Moḥammad ʿAwfī (d. after 1223) and Ḵᵛāja Naṣīr ad­‍‍‑dīn Ṭūsī (1200–1273)2. In principle ʿAṭṭār tells us very little about himself. His works contain isolated allusion to contemporary persons or political events preferring a  timeless world of mysticism3. It is understood when we take into consideration that all his works are a religious nature concentrating reader’s attention on Transliteration: Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār; Transcription: Farīd ud-Dīn ʿAṭṭār. H. Ritter,ʿAṭṭār [in:] Encyclopaedia of Islam. New edition, vol. I, Leiden 1960, pp. 752–755; B. Reinert,ʿAṭṭār, Shaykh Farīd al­‍‍‑dīn, in: Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. III, ed. E. Yarshater, London 1989, p. 20; B. Reinert,ʿAṭṭār, Farīd al­‍‍‑dīn — Persian poet, Sufi, theoretician of mysticism, and hagiographer, [in:] Encyclopaedia Iranica, [on­‍‍‑line:] http://www.iranica.com/articles/attar­‍‍‑farid­‍‍‑al­ ‍‍‑din­‍‍‑persian­‍‍‑poet­‍‍‑and­‍‍‑sufi, [quoted 5.05.2010]; Fifty Poems of ʿAṭṭār, transl. K. Avery, A. Alizadeh, Melbourne 2007, Introduction, p. 3. 3 F. de Blois, Persian Literature — A Biobibliographical Survey, vol. V: Poetry of the Pre­‍‍‑mongol Period, London 2004, p. 233. 1 2


Krzysztof Kościelniak

spiritual subjects and having little occasion for biographical references. The only biographical date appears in ʿAṭṭār’s writings, namely 1177 (573 Š.) as the year of his completion of the Manṭeq aṭ­‍‍‑ṭayr (The Conference of Birds) cannot be taken as conclusive evidence because the verse in question was not found in all the manuscripts. There is disagreement over the precise date of his birth but several sources confirm that he lived almost 100 years. The traditional information that he was born in 1119 and murdered precisely in 1230 is generally rejected by modern historians4. Currently, according to the most widespread scholar opinion Farīd ad­‍‍‑dīn ʿAṭṭār was born circa 1145 in Nīšāpūr5 (Neyshabur) located in 115 kms. west of Mašhad in present­‍‍‑day Iran in the province of Khorasan (that’s the source of his name, Farīd ad­‍‍‑dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī). In 12th and 13th century Nīšāpūr was a flourishing and prosperous city favourably located on the great West trade route, main highway between the Levant and Central Asia6. The city’s prosperity was resulted not only by merchant and artisan class7, but also by influential scholar and religious groups8. All sources confirm that he spent most of his life in Nīšāpūr, but according to ʿAwfī, he composed literary masterpieces in the Seljuk period9. It seems that ʿAṭṭār in his own lifetime was well know as a poet only his home town. All sign that his greatness as a mystic and a master of narrative was not discovered in Persia until the 15th century10. The sources give little information on the formative Nīšāpūrī’s life. It seems that Nīšāpūrī received an excellent education in medicine, Arabic, and theology at Mašhad. His name ʿAṭṭār literary means “a perfumer” or “a pharmacist”. Probably he inherited the prosperous pharmacy from his father. According to his own Moṣībat­‍‍‑Nāma (Book of Afflictions) ʿAṭṭār in youth worked in his father’s prosperous pharmacy preparing medicines for a very large number of clients11. After death his father he inherited this business. Muslim Saints and Mystics. Episodes from the Tadhkirat al­‍‍‑Auliya’ (Memorial of the Saints)by Farid al­‍‍‑Din Attar, trans. A. J. Arberry, Ames 2000, Introduction, p. VII. 5 Especially it is result of detailed researches B. Forūzānfar, Šarḥ­‍‍‑e aḥwāl wa naqd o taḥlīl­‍‍‑e āṯār­ ‑e ‍‍ Šayḵ Farīd­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑dīn Moḥammad ʿAṭṭār Nīšābūrī, Tehran 1975 (1353 Š.), pp. 7–16. He calculated that ʿAṭṭār was born 540 Š. that is 1145/1146. 6 R.W. Bulliet, The patricians of Nishapur. A Study in Medieval Islamic Social History, Cambridge 1972, pp. 4–12. 7 H. Jaouiche, The histories of Nishapur: Register der Personen- und Ortsnamen (ʿAbd­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑Ġāfir al­‍‍‑Fārisī), Wiesbaden 1984; Ch. K. Wilkinson, Nishapur some early Islamic buildings and their deco‑ ration, New York 1986; J. Kröger, Nishapur glass of the early Islamic period, New York 1995. 8 M. Malamuda, Sufi Organizations and Structures of Authority in Medieval Nishapur, International Journal of Middle East Studies 26 (1994), pp. 427–442; Ch. Melchert, Sufis and Competing Movements in Nishapur, Iran 39 (2001), pp. 237–247. 9 Moḥammad ʿAwfi, Lobāb al­‍‍‑albāb, ed. S. Nafisi, Tehran 1956, pp. 480–482. 10 B. Reinert,ʿAṭṭār, Farīd al­‍‍‑dīn — Persian poet, Sufi, theoretician of mysticism, and hagiogra‑ pher…, p. 1, [quoted 5.05.2010]. 11 B. Forūzānfar, Šarḥ­‍‍‑e aḥwāl wa naqd o taḥlīl­‍‍‑e āṯār­‍‍‑e Šayḵ Farīd­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑dīn Moḥammad ʿAṭṭār Nīšābūrī…, p. 39. 4

Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221)


Dawlatšāh Samarqandī (d. after 1487), 15th century ʿAṭṭār’s and other Persian poets biographer, made a note that ʿAṭṭār spent many years in Šādyāḫ, a suburb of Nīšāpūr, where his pharmacy was situated. There is a story about ʿAṭṭār’s conversion to the religious life which related us above mentioned Dawlatšāh Samarqandī and another important Sufi biographer ‘Abd al­‍‍‑Raḥmān Ğāmī (d. 1492)12. One day, a wandering hideous dervish impetuously came to the shop asking ʿAṭṭār for preparedness for departure from this world. The fakir died suddenly in front of ʿAṭṭār’s eyes, which worried him so much that he immediately abandoned his business and spent some years in the Sufi lodge. Irağ Baširī, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota using this tradition found ʿAṭṭār’s new life was one of travel and exploration, following the example of the fakir. For a long time, he might have travelled to Ray, Kufa, Mecca, Damascus, Turkistan, and India, meeting with famous Sufi shaykhs (arab. šayḫ; pl. šuyūḫ)13, learning about the mystical path (arab., pers. Ṭarīqah), and experiencing life in the Order’s Sufi centres — khaniqahs (pers. ḫanegah and ḫaneghah — lodges). After several years of his Spiritual growth ʿAṭṭār returned to Nīšāpūr, where settled and reopened his pharmacy. He also began to promote of Sufi thought. There is only little information about Sufi master whom ʿAṭṭār would have known. According to Kennath Avery ʿAṭṭār’s writing show that he was well versed in many areas like literature, philosophy, astronomy, medical and pharmaceutical sciences which was connected with his occupation14. In contrast to this opinion Benedickt Reinert conclude that it is difficult find adequate picture from ʿAṭṭār’s writings which show us ʿAṭṭār’s general education and culture.

b) Character and chronology of ʿAṭṭār’s works However ʿAṭṭār was the creative, sophisticated and ambitious early Muslim mystical poet. He started writing Moṣībat­‍‍‑Nāma (Book of Afflictions) and the Elāhī­‍‍‑Nāma yet at work in the pharmacy15. Regarding the poetic works, there is the question whether all the texts that have been ascribed to him are really his authorship. The problem has not been unambiguously solved. We possess conflicting sources both with respect to the number of books that he might have written and the number of distiches he might have composed. For example, Rezā Gholi ḫān Hedāyat reports 190 ʿAṭṭār’s works containing 100.000 distichs (for comparison, the famous Persian Firdawsī’s Šāhnāmeh — The Great Book contains only 60,000 bayts). Another authors put the number of ʿAṭṭār’s books to be the same as the number of the Suras

12 Dawlatšāh Samarqandī, Tadhkirat al­‍‍‑šu‘arā’, ed. M. Ramḍānī, Tehran 1344 Š., p. 145; ‘Abd al­‍‍‑Raḥmān b. Aḥmad Ğāmī, Nafaḥāt al­‍‍‑uns min ḥaḍarāt al­‍‍‑quds, ed. M. Tawḥīdī Pūr, Teheran 1375 Š., p. 599. 13 I. Bashiri, Farid al­‍‍‑Din ‘Attar, [on­‍‍‑line:] http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Poets/Attar.html [quoted 6.05.2010]. 14 Fifty Poems of ʿAṭṭār, transl. K. Avery, A. Alizadeh…, Introduction, p. 4. 15 H. Ritter, Philologika X, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār I, Der Islam 25 (1939), p. 148.


Krzysztof Kościelniak

of the Qur’ān, i.e., 11416. More realistic researches give thought to the number of his books to have been between 9 to 12 volumes17. The analysts of ʿAṭṭār’s poetry have been observed in his books considerable differences of style among these Sufi works. More, some of them indicate a Sunnite, and others a Shia, influence of the author. German scholar Hellmut Ritter (1892–1971) at first gave the interpretation that the problem of this divergences could be explained by a ʿAṭṭār’s spiritual evolution. He distinguished three phases Farīd­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑dīn’s creativity18. Firstly, there are works which concentrate on mysticism manifesting in the idea of communion with God, identity with an ultimate reality and divinity truth. It is presented way to God through direct experience, intuition, instinct or insight. Secondly ʿAṭṭār wrote works contained pantheistic elements. Finally, master from Nīšāpūr in a great age left us the texts in which he idolizes leadership position of Imam. This evolution of ʿAṭṭār’s Poetic creation can present in following schema: ► 1: mysticism in perfect balance with a finished story­‍‍‑teller’s art ► 2: a pantheistic zeal gains the upper hand over literary interest ► 3: idoli‑ zation of Imam ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (there is no trace of ordered thoughts and descriptive skills)

The detailed studies, first by Ḥāfiẓ Maḥmud Šerani (1888–1945)19, next Saeed Nafīsī (1896–1966)20 and especially above mentioned Hellmut Ritter21 allow us to come to conclusion that two works Maẓhar al­‍‍‑‘ağā’ib (The Executor of Wonders) and Lisān al­‍‍‑ġaib (Voice from the Outer World) were forgeries from around the middle of the 15th century. Hellmut Ritter supposed that the last phase of ʿAṭṭār’s poetry in the old age, was coincidental with a conversion to Shi’ism. In 1941, the Persian scholar Saeed Nafīsī proposed a thesis that the works of the third phase in Ritter’s classification were written by another ʿAṭṭār (ʿAṭṭār of Tun) who lived about two hundred and fifty years later in Mašhad one of the holiest cities in the Shia world, located close to the borders of today Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. It seems that this identification could be under discussion. Nowadays Sufis have generally been contrasted with the Sunni ulema. This suggests that Sufism and official Islamic law were incompatible and even hostile to each other. The ulema have concentrated on the the elaboration and guardianship of Islamic law (fiqh). In the other hand Sufis concern the inner, experiential dimension of Islam. Therefore Sufis flouted the sharia in their quest for knowledge of God. Sometimes reconciliation between Cf. I. Bashiri, Farid al­‍‍‑Din ‘Attar, [on­‍‍‑line:] http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Poets/Attar. html [quoted 6.05.2010]. 17 In the introductions of Mokhtār­‍‍‑Nāma and Khosrow­‍‍‑Nāma, ʿAṭṭār lists the titles of further his works: Dīvān, Asrār­‍‍‑Nāma, Maqāmāt­‍‍‑e Toyūr (= Manteq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr), Moṣībat­‍‍‑Nāma, Elāhī­‍‍‑Nāma, Jawāher­‍‍‑Nāma, Šarḥ al­‍‍‑Qalb. 18 Cf. H. Ritter, Philologika X, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār I…, p. 134–173, especially pp. 143–144. 19 Cf. H.M. Šerani, ‘Taṣnīfāt i šaiḫ Farīdu l­‍‍‑dīn ʿAṭṭār, Urdū 7 (1927) pp. 1–97. 20 Cf. S. Nafīsī, Just­‍‍‑u­‍‍‑jū dar aḥwāl wa āṯār i Farīdu l­‍‍‑dīn ʿAṭṭār i Nīšāpūrī, Teheran 1942. 21 Cf. H. Ritter, Philologika X, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār I…, pp. 134–173; Philologika XIV, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār II, Oriens 11 (1958), pp. 1–76; Philologika XV, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār III, Oriens 12 (1959), pp. 1–88; Philologika XVI, Farīdaddīn ʿAṭṭār IV, Oriens 13–14 (1961), pp. 194–239. 16

Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221)


law and Sufism became necessary like for example by al­‍‍‑Ġazālī (1058–1111). This reconciliation allowed to the spread and develop of Sufi institutions (Sufi brotherhoods — arīqas) in the late 12th and 13th centuries. Before 12th century Sufis had formed loose circles or groups that had had no institutional structure or affiliation22. During ʿAṭṭār’s life, these groups crystallized and autonomous Sufi institutions and practices emerged. Probably this context also could be useful for explanation of the third phase of ʿAṭṭār’s poetry. In the 13th century Sufis became part of Muslim social and devotional life uniting in their philosophy and theology various Islamic doctrinal elements. It is doubtful whether Saeed Nafīsī was right in attributing the poetry of the second group to another ʿAṭṭār (ʿAṭṭār of Tun) because the principal figure in the second group is not ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 661), as in the third group, but Manṣūr­‍‍‑e Hallāğ (858–922). Certainly the style the ʿAṭṭār’s works in the first group and those in the second group is deeply different so it is impossible to explain this phenomenon by a spiritual evolution of the philosopher from Nīšāpūr. It remains an unsolved problem whether works of the second group are or not ʿAṭṭār’s authorship.

c) The Conference of Birds Aṭṭār Nīšāpūrī was inspired by a fresh and enlarged spiritual vision which stimulated Persian Sufi tradition of the next generations to new spiritual growth. His thought about religious and spiritual attitudes dramatize the deepest aspects of the human condition. One of Aṭṭār’s major poetic books is called Asrār­‍‍‑Nāma (Book of Secrets) about Sufi ideas. According to tradition aged Aṭṭār gave this work Ğalāl ad­‍‍‑Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī (1207–1273) when Rūmī’s family stayed over at Nīšāpūr on its way to Konya. Another great contribution of Aṭṭār is Elāhī­‍‍‑Nāma (Divine Book)23, about zuhd (asceticism). Without doubt among Aṭṭār’s books Maqāmāt­‍‍‑e Toyūr or Mantiq aṭ­ ‍‍‑Ṭayr — The Conference of the Birds24 is masterpiece in which he makes extensive use of Al­‍‍‑Ġazālī’s treatise on Birds and as well a work on the same topic composed by the Iḫwān aṣ­‍‍‑Ṣafā25, the Brothers of Serenity or the Brethren of Purity) a secret society of Muslim philosophers in Basra (Iraq) in the 10th century. Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr is usually translated as The Conference of Birds, but this title can also be understood as The Logic of birds, because meaning of the word mantiq is connected not only with term “speaking”, but also “logic”. Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr is 22 M. Malamuda, Sufi Organizations and Structures of Authority in Medieval Nishapur, International Journal of Middle East Studies 26 (1994), pp. 427–442. 23 The Ilahi­‍‍‑Nama (or Book of God) of Farid al­‍‍‑Din Attar, Manchester 1976. 24 This masterpiece has many edition: Farid­‍‍‑ud­‍‍‑din Attar, Conference of the birds : a  seeker’s journey to God, ed. R. P. Masani, York Beach 2001; The conference of the birds, eds. A. Darbandi, D. Davis, Harmondsworth 1986; The conference of the birds: Mantiq ut­‍‍‑tair; a philosophical religious poem in prose, ed. C. S. Nott, London 1974; The conference of the birds. A Sufy Allegory, being an abridged Version of Farid­‍‍‑ud­‍‍‑Din Attar’s Mantiq­‍‍‑ut­‍‍‑Tayr, London 1961. 25 I. Bashiri, Farid al­‍‍‑Din ‘Attar, [on­‍‍‑line:] http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Poets/Attar.html [quoted 6.05.2010].


Krzysztof Kościelniak

composed as great philosophic religious poem with many little spiritual stories, concealing the big spiritual context. There is observed in Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr a clever play of words between the terms Simorgh and si morgh. The first word Simorgh means a mysterious bird in Persian mythology often being a symbol in sufi literature similar to the phoenix bird. The expression si morgh have meaning “thirty birds” in Persian. The stories Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr recounts the overwhelming desire of a group of birds who crave to know the great Simorgh, and who under the guidance of a leader bird Hoopoe start their journey toward the kingdom of Simorgh. One by one, they drop out of the journey, each offering an excuse and unable to endure the journey. In the large context of the story of the journey of the birds, Aṭṭār masterfully tells the reader many didactic short, stories and deep sentence in captivating poetic style. When the birds of the world assemble, they wonder why they have no king. The Hoopoe26 shows herself at one’s best as a messenger from the spiritual world with knowledge of God and the secrets of creation. It is worth to stress that the Hoopoe is mentioned once in the Quran, in Sura 27, 20–2927 but has important place in the Muslim folklore and tradition28. According to the Quran the Hoopoe is intelligent, smart, knows and worships his Creator, and communicated with King Solomon29. The birds guided by hoopoe spared no efforts in search of Simurgh. They must cross seven valleys in order to find their king. In the first valley Ṭalab (valley of the quest) one undergoes a hundred difficulties and trials. After one has been tested and become free, one learns in the second valley ʻIšq (Modern Persian eshgh, valley of love). The birds understood that love has nothing to do with reason. This mystic doctrine refers to “divine love” or “a creature’s love for its creator”; i.e. man’s love for God. Stepping into the next, third valley Al­‍‍‑M‘arifa (the valley of understending), the birds found in the place of understanding where understood that knowledge is temporary, but understanding withstands. Overcoming faults and weaknesses moves the seeker closer to the aim. Al­‍‍‑M‘arifa which literally means “knowledge”, is the term used by Sufi to describe mystical intuitive knowledge of spiritual truth reached through ecstatic experiences. It is equivalent of neoplatonic “Gnosis”. In the valley of unity the Hoopoe announces that although you may see many beings, in reality there is only one, which is complete in its unity. The fourth valley Istighnah is presented as the valley of independence or detachment, i.e., separation from wish to possess and the desire to discover. The birds begin to feel that they have become part of a universe that they are separated from their It is about the bird Upupa epops. K. Kościelniak, Tematyczna konkordancja do Koranu, Kraków 2006, p. 95. 28 N. H. Dupree, An Interpretation of the Role of the Hoopoe in Afghan Folklore and Magic, Folklore 85 (1974), pp. 173–193; J. Lassner, Islamizing of Story of the Hoopoe [in:] Demonizing the Queen of Sheba: boundaries of gender and culture in Postbiblical Judaism and Medieval Islam, Chicago 1993, pp. 97–101. 29 On the contrary in the Bible the Hoopoe is detestable, unclean and forbidden for eating (Lev 11, 13–19; Deut 14, 18). 26


Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221)


physical recognizable reality. In their new mystical world, the planets are as minute as sparks of dust and elephants are not distinguishable from ants. Entering to the fifth valley Tawḥīd (valley of the “Unity of God”) the birds realize that unity and multiplicity constitute the one reality. The Hoopoe announces that although there are seen many beings, in reality there is only one, which is complete in its unity. The birds have transformed in entities in a vacuum — without sense of eternity. The birds realize fundamental truth, that God is beyond unity, multiplicity, and eternity. When unity is achieved, one forgets all and forgets oneself, the birds stepping into the sixth valley Ḫayrat (the valley of astonishment and bewilderment). There they became surprised at the dazzling beauty of the Beloved. That was the highest amazement. Experiencing extreme sadness and despondency, they feel that they know and understand nothing. They are not even conscious of themselves. Finally, only thirty birds reach the homeland of the Simurgh, the seventh valley Fuqur and Fana’ (the valley of Selflessness and Oblivion in God). There is impossible to see king anywhere. Simurgh’s high ranking official keeps them waiting for Simurgh long enough for the birds to figure out that they themselves are the si (thirty) murgh (bird). The last valley is the place of deprivation and death which — and according to the Hoopoe — is almost impossible to describe it. In the immensity of the divine ocean the situation and order of the present world and the future world disappears. As a result, the seventh valley represent depravation, forgetfulness, dumbness, deafness, and death. These represent the stations that a Sufi or any individual must pass through to realize the true nature of God. Flying through seven valleys the birds came under attack from many difficulties. They undergo many tests as they try to free themselves of what is precious to them and change their state. The last station — valley of Selflessness and Oblivion in God show the Sufi pupils that the present and future lives of the thirty successful birds become shadows chased by the celestial Sun. And themselves, lost in the Sea of His existence, are the Simurgh. The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr) stress, that as long as we are separate, good and evil will arise; but when we lose ourself in the divine essence, they will be transcended by love30.

*** During the journey 22 birds ask the Hoopoe about the aspects of life. Hoopoe’s points is illustrated by short anecdotes. For example the nightingale announces that the love of the Rose fully satisfies him, but the Hoopoe warns against being a slave of self­‍‍‑perfection. The Parrot misses for immortality, and the Hoopoe encourages the Peacock to choose the total unit. The Hoopoe warns the Partridge that gems are not more as colored stones and that love of them hardens the heart. It is much better I. Bashiri, Farid al­‍‍‑Din ‘Attar, [in:] http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Poets/Attar.html [quoted 6.05.2010]. 30


Krzysztof Kościelniak

seek the real jewel of sound quality. The Hoopoe gives a piece of advice the Humay which is distracted by ambition, and the Owl loving only the treasure he has found. A sharp reprimand is given the Sparrow for taking pride in humility. The Hoopoe recommends the birds struggling bravely with oneself. According to the Hoopoe’s opinion the different birds are just shadows of the Simurgh. If they achieve aim, they will not be God; but they will be immersed in God. If the thirty birds look in their hearts, they will see the divine image. Their appearances are just the shadow of the Simurgh. The true love of God is realized if they do not think about their own lives but sacrifice their desires. Dilemmas of the thirty birds, their doubts and fears, the counsels of their leader Hoopoe, and first at all their choice of the Simurgh as a king, is in reality an allegory of the spiritual way of Sufism with its demands, its dangers and its infinite rewards31. Working in the field of Aṭṭār’s thought it is necessary to focus one’s attention on the role Neoplatonism. An examination of both Aṭṭār’s works and Neoplatonism reveals close similarities with regard to the nature of God, the soul, the body, concepts such as goodness, evil and beauty, death and life, and creation. Probably Aṭṭār enjoys a more liberal approach with his conception of mystic union connected also with a degree of Buddhism’s influence. According to neoplatonism, God is the source and aim of everything; from him everything comes, to him all things return; he is the beginning, middle and end, the alpha and omega. Communion with God or absorption in God, therefore, is the real goal of all human actions. God is a supreme power, the final cause, the cosmic force, the highest spiritual, and creative Being. There is no aspect of Aṭṭār’s philosophy that is not influenced by neoplatonism. Using the image of journey of the birds, Aṭṭār masterfully gives the reader excellent reflection about the birds arriving in the land of Simorgh. Only the thirty birds reached the aim and consequently they see only there each other. In the last fragments The Conference of the Birds (Mantiq aṭ­‍‍‑Ṭayr) presents reflection of the thirty birds in a lake — not thought of the mythical Simorgh. According to Aṭṭār God is not external or separate from the universe, rather is the totality of existence. The thirty birds looking for the Simorgh realise that Simorgh is nothing more than their transcendent totality. This concept seems to be similar to elements of Neoplatonic Pantheism32. The deepest message of The Conference of the Birds is completely dominated by the philosophical thought that the individual self does not really exist, the drop becomes part of the great ocean forever in peace. It is used the analogy of moths seeking the flame. Out of thousands of birds only thirty of them become aware that the Simurgh is them. When the light of lights is manifested they are in peace beginning a new life in the Simurgh and contemplate the inner world. It was mentioned 31 The Allegorical ‘Conference of the birds’ is Attars most famous work. tr. Garcin de Tassy and C. S. Nott [on­‍‍‑line:] http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/24929­‍‍‑Farid­‍‍‑al­‍‍‑Din­‍‍‑Attar­‍‍‑Conference­‍‍‑Of­‍‍‑The­‍‍‑Birds [quoted 28.05.2010]. The Soul­‍‍‑Bird Symbol In Sufi Literature, [on­‍‍‑line:] http://indianmuslims.in/the­ ‍‍‑soul­‍‍‑bird­‍‍‑symbol­‍‍‑in­‍‍‑sufi­‍‍‑literature/ [quoted 6.05.2010]. 32 The Conference of the Birds, Nation Master Encyclopaedia, [on­‍‍‑line:] www.statemaster.com/ encyclopedia/ The­‍‍‑Conference­‍‍‑of­‍‍‑the­‍‍‑Birds [quoted 20.05.2010].

Aspects of Divinization According to Farīd-al-dīn ʿAṭṭār Nīšāpūrī (died c. 1221)


that name Simurgh in play the Persian word could be change into Si murgh with meaning “thirty birds”. However if forty or fifty birds had arrived to Simurgh’s homeland, it would be the same. Neoplatonism is the closest doctrine of Aṭṭār’s philosophy in system of his belief. The universe is just an appearance of God, and does not have an independent existence. By annihilating themselves in the Simurgh the birds receive immortality finding themselves in joy and learning the secrets. In principle it is a instruction for Sufi. So long as he does not realize his nothingness and does not renounce his self­ ‍‍‑pride, vanity, and self­‍‍‑love, he will not reach the heights of immortality. As a matter of fact Aṭṭār Nīšāpūrī concluded the epilog of The Conference of Birds with the warning that if someone wish to find the ocean of his soul, then die to all his old life and then keep silent. Aṭṭār deeply believed that God is beyond all human knowledge and experience. The soul will show itself when corporeality is totally laid aside. Sufi cannot gain spiritual knowledge without dying to all things. The Hoopoe confirms this idea saying: So long as we do not die to ourselves, and so long as we identify with someone or something, we shall never be free. The spiritual way is not for those wrapped up in exterior life. 5

There are not a “duality” and separation between God and the universe. In reality, the God and the universe are the “One”. It is not possible to think of God and the universe as separate entities because God is not something outside the universe, but rather something within the universe. This Aṭṭār’s belief was initially suggested by neoplatonism. They both recognize the existence of the universe as an emanation from God. The Aṭṭār’s idea of the oneness of God­‍‍‑universe­‍‍‑human beings share neoplatonic same beliefs about the soul. According to neoplatonism, the soul is a divine essence and the source of all existence. The body is a cage where the soul is trapped, and it can be freed when the body dies. The soul always inclines toward perfection and exaltation. According to Aṭṭār the soul is treated similarly, and expressed as a divine essence in humans. In the one of the expression the Hoopoe admonishes the sixth bird against the dog of desire that runs ahead. Each conceited desire becomes a demon and therefore the world is a prison under the devil. The Hoopoe also explains that if someone let no one benefit from his gold, he will not profit either; but by the smallest gift to the poor they both benefit. Good fortune will come to you only as you give. If you cannot renounce life completely, you can at least free yourself from the love of riches and honors. 6

A Sufi student becomes afraid in facing a choice between two paths, but a spiritual master advises getting rid of fear so that either path will be good.


Krzysztof Kościelniak

The body, like soul, is also treated similarly in Aṭṭār’s philosophy and neoplatonism. According to neoplatonism, the body is not divine, mortal and temporary. The body tends not towards beauty and goodness, but towards ugliness and evil. What is beautiful, valuable and divine is the soul, but not body. The body inclines towards temporary desires and wishes. It is a cage for the soul. Aṭṭār shares the same belief. The Hoopoe remarks that sensual love is a game inspired by passing beauty that is fleeting and she asks what is uglier than a body made of flesh and bones. According to this logic is better to seek the hidden beauty of the invisible world: Strive to discover the mystery before life is taken from you. If while living you fail to find yourself, to know yourself, how will you be able to understand the secret of your existence when you die?

The fifteenth bird explains that justice is salvation, which saves from errors. Being just is better than a life of religious worship. Justice exercised in secret is even better than liberality; but justice practiced openly may lead to hypocrisy. One Aṭṭār’s anecdote about two drunks teaches that we see faults because we do not love. When we see the ugliness of our own faults, we will not bother so much with the faults of others. For neoplatonism beauty means much more than mere symmetry. It involves a close relationship to the ideal reality; it is an appearance of God over the objects of the universe. Aṭṭār thinks exactly the same about beauty. For him it is the appearance of divine light in the face of a human. Neoplatonism identified beauty with divine essence, and Aṭṭār adopted the similar idea.

*** Aṭṭār Nīšāpūrī presents God, quite different from Orthodox Islamic belief. It is really a question of the social and cultural environment in which sufism flourished how happened the interaction between islam and neoplatonism. In principle Islamic philosophy has its roots mostly in the works of Aristotle which were all translated into Arabic. The most Classical Islamic philosophers established their theories on the basis of Aristotle’s philosophy. Through the translations of the writings of Plato and Plotinus, they also were introduced into the Muslim culture first in Anatolia and then in Persia. The Neoplatonic mystic elements were incorporated with ancient Anatolian beliefs. The best example is the sacredness of natural events such as the sun33. It was used also in The Conference of the Birds in the belief of God’s resemblance to the sun. In this way Neoplatonism prepared the way for liberal interpretations of Islamic principles in Sufi philosophy. Come you lost Atoms to your Centre draw, And be the Eternal Mirror that you saw: Rays that have wander’d into Darkness wide Return and back into your Sun subside 33

K.  Modelek,  The  neoplatonic  Roots  of  Sufi  Philosophy,  [on­‍‍‑line:] http://www.muslimphi-

losophy.com/ip/CompGode.htm [quoted 2.06.2010].

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Adam Łukaszewicz University of Warsaw

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria The University of Warsaw excavates in Alexandria since the late 1950s, when professor Kazimierz Michałowski as a visiting professor in Alexandria (1958) made his first trial pits in a place which was said to contain the remnants of the tomb of Alexander the Great. The regular excavations at Kom el­‍‑Dikka (“The Bank Hill”; the word dikka is a synonym of mastaba or “mud bench”) in the very centre of Alexandria, ancient and modern, by Professor Kazimierz Michałowski and his disciples of the Polish Centre of Archaeology (being a part of Warsaw University) have uncovered since 1960 a fragment of the ancient street grid, colonnades, a complex of Roman baths of the fourth century AD with adjacent cisterns, porticoes and rooms, a small Late Roman theatre (or auditorium), houses of the second and third century AD, a Byzantine residential area and many other elements of Late Roman urban architecture1. In the earlier Roman period the excavated area in the heart of Alexandria was a residential quarter. Those houses of wealthy Alexandrians were partly destroyed and abandoned by the end of the third century AD (probably in the times of Diocletian whose soldiers devastated the city centre). Only as late as the second half of the fourth century the area was re­‍‑arranged and received a set of new public buildings — a small theatre and a large Roman bath. The complex of Roman imperial baths was the most impressive structure in that part of the city. The baths consist of two different structures — a superstructure in red brick and a substructure. The vaulted substructure of the baths, however, is earlier than the baths. It had been a separate, low building with thick walls, which is now For a brief history of the excavations at Kom el­‍‑Dikka see: contributions by Z. Kiss and G. Majcherek in Seventy Years of Polish Archaeology in Egypt, Warsaw 2007, pp. 117–134. Cf. J. McKenzie, The Architecture of Alexandria and Egypt 300 BC–AD 700, New Haven and London 2007, pp. 207– 220 and passim. Cf. Alexandria. Auditoria of Kom el­‍‑Dikka and Late Antique Education (ed. T. Derda et al.), Warsaw 2007. 1


Adam Łukaszewicz

dated to ca. AD 325, but may be of an even earlier date. When the stone structure was built, there were in the neighbourhood only the ruins of the abandoned houses. Thus, the vaulted stone structure seems to fill the gap in the occupation of the site between the period of the houses and the phase of the baths. That second phase including the superstructure can be dated to ca. AD 370. At that period the vaulted substructures were integrated into the thermal complex. Between the late fourth and the seventh century they contained furnaces and served for storage of fuel (reed and straw). The vaults are composed of two layers of different nature. Such a structure of the vault served as a kind of insulation, which was intended to keep the interior cool. Such insulation does not exist in the newer vaulting of the more recent part of the underground. Ostraca found in the neighbourhood explicitly mention wine. The present writer has recently proposed to consider a wine cellar as the most probable explanation of the primitive function of the vaulted structure at Kom el­‍‑Dikka2. A wine cellar requires keeping temperature low. The corridors were large enough to make possible the passage of a donkey — the animal commonly used for transportation. The location of a wine cellar in the heart of Alexandria and in a relative proximity of the port is easy to understand. After the cessation of the previous residential function of the area at the time of Diocletian’s destruction of the city, the empty space stood open to new constructions. Re­‍‑building activities began in Alexandria under Constantine but only later in the fourth century a grand scale imperial project was realized in the area and resulted in a re­‍‑adaptation of the vaulted building which was incorporated into the new thermal complex. On the stone walls of the vaulted structures there are some graffiti. One of them mentions one Athanasius3: EЩt[u]cî. j. ’Aqan[as…J tщ.[ ..[ “Good fortune to Athanasius...” The writing agrees with the standards of the fourth century A.D. Although Athanasius was not uncommon as a name, we can hardly imagine a graffito beginning with eЩtucîj, rather carefully written on the wall of a stone building, as a text in honour of an ordinary person. Known parallels usually concern high ranking officials. Athanasius who is mentioned in that text, is probably the famous bishop and A. Łukaszewicz, Ostraca and architecture at Kom el­‍‑Dikka, The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 39, 2009, pp. 121–131. 3 A. Łukaszewicz, Fragmenta Alexandrina I, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 82, 1990, p. 136, pl. IIIc; idem, „Ostatni ślad Atanazego“, Sympozjum Kazimierskie poświęcone kulturze świata późnego antyku i wczesnego chrześcijaƒstwa III, „Biskup i jego rola w kształtowaniu miasta późnoantycznego“, Lublin 2002, pp. 209–213; idem, „Violence in Alexandria“, Proceedings of the International Conference on Violence and Aggression in the Ancient World 15–17.IX 2005, Classica Cracoviensia X, 2006, pp. 127–134. 2

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria


religious leader of Alexandria (ca. 295–373)4. If that is true, the text was written on the wall by an adherent of Athanasius, who perhaps took part in the frequent street riots5. The public activity of the famous bishop and religious leader of Alexandria covers about a half of a century6. That agrees with the supposed date of the vaulted structure. It also confirms the accessibility of the cellars. Otherwise political graffiti would be useless in such a place7.

* In the proximity of the baths of Kom el­‍‑Dikka, there is another important building of nearly the same date. The so­‍‑called Roman theatre was equally discovered in the 1960s by the Archaeological Mission of Warsaw University and reconstructed by the architect Wojciech Kołątaj. That unique Roman theatre in Egypt is in actual fact a small auditorium for about 300 persons. The date is not certainly known, but we take for granted that the building existed approximately from the fourth to seventh century AD. In the theatre at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria there are some Greek graffiti8. They refer to the activity of circus factions. Zbigniew Borkowski dated them approximately to the time of the coup d’état of Heraclius (AD 608–610). 19 of 33 graffiti from the theatre contain mentions of the Blue and especially of the Green faction. On the marbles of the theatre there are also drawings showing charioteers alone or on their bigae. There existed a formal organization of the Blues and another one of the Greens in Alexandria. A clear evidence of that can be found not in Alexandria but in an unexpected place in the South, in the Upper Egyptian Valley of the Kings in the tomb of king Ramesses VI. One of the graffiti (no. 1851) reads as follows: Ta.leinoj| [’Al[ex]andre[Ýj]| beneton| [ ]arij. Ta.leinoj is in the writer’s opinion a misspelling for Taurinus. 4 for Athanasius see: A. Martin, Athanase d’Alexandrie et l’Eglise d’Egypte au IVe siècle (328– 373), Rome 1996. 5 The followers of Athanasius the bishop of Alexandria, oƒ diafšrontej ’Aqanas…ou (as they are styled in the famous papyrus P. Lond. VI 1914. 8–9), were very active; they are reported to have used violence against the Melitians. P. Lond. VI 1914. — H.I.Bell, Jews and Christians in Egypt. The Jew‑ ish Troubles in Alexandria and the Athanasian Controversy illustrated by Texts from Greek Papyri in the British Museum..., London 1924. 6 e.g. H. Hauben, John Arkhaph and «the Bishop» (Athan., Apol. Sec. 71.6). A Reassessment, An‑ cient Society 30, 2000, pp. 271–276, or: H. Hauben, “Le Papyrus London VI (P. Jews) 1914 dans son contexte historique”, Atti del XXII Congresso di Papirologia, Firenze, 23–29 agosto 1998, Volume I, Firenze 2001, pp. 605–618. 7 In the years 2012–2013 the author’s research of the Greek and Latin inscription found at Korn el-Dikka was financed from a grant of the National Centre of Science. 8 Those texts have been studied by the late professor Zbigniew Borkowski (1936–1991) who included these texts along with other subjects into his Habilitationsschrift published in 1981: Zbigniew Borkowski, Inscriptions des factions à Alexandrie, Varsovie 1981.


Adam Łukaszewicz

This Alexandrian was a member of the bšnetoi. He probably meant benštwn, as a genetivus partitivus indicating his appartenance to the Blue party. This visitor to the tomb of Memnon was not an ordinary member of the Blue faction but a holder of a function. Anyhow, he wanted to record his membership in the same way which was usual in Alexandria — by a graffito on the walls of an important place.

* In the area of the excavations, to the West from the Roman baths9 there was a portico of the late Roman Period extending from the North to the South, about 280 metres long. In the 1930s remnants of similar colonnades have been discovered in the neighbourhood. They allow us to imagine a great square in the centre of the city. The row of columns at Kom el­‍‑Dikka is a side of that square. An obstacle against the interpretation of that open space as the central square of ancient Alexandria is the lack of pavement slabs10. The original meson pedion could perhaps retain the original character of a field without stone pavement. Mieczysław Rodziewicz supposed there a green space11. We might add: one of the alse mentioned by Strabo or even the Paneion. That artificial hill which existed in the times of Strabo could perhaps during the first century AD be replaced by the quarter of houses, discovered there or perhaps was it replaced by an agora? That is not very probable. The great square with porticoes on all sides in the centre of the city, covering the north­‍‑west part of the site of Kom el­‍‑Dikka is not likely to have contained the topos Alexandrou. As far as the tomb of Alexander is concerned, we owe the last mention of that monument to Libanius in the years 388–39212. It is possible that the destruction of the tomb may be dated already to 27213.

* In recent years, in the vicinity of the theatre, along a portico, a number of rooms were discovered. This series of more or less uniform rectangular interiors with some stone seats for important persons, with a stone block in a central position and sometimes a  small square water tank in the corner, are unanimously interpreted 9 W. Kołątaj, Alexandrie VI. Imperial Baths at Kom el­‍‑Dikka, Warsaw 1992, pp. 62–79, fig. 35. For the date cf. also M. Rodziewicz, Alexandrie III. Les habitations romaines tardives d’Alexandrie à la lumière des fouilles polonaises à Kom el­‍‑Dikka, Varsovie 1984, p. 291; A. Łukaszewicz, “Fragmenta Alexandrina I: Some Inscriptions from the Roman Baths at Kom el­‍‑Dikka”, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 82, 1990, pp. 133–136. 10 G. Majcherek, The Late Roman Auditoria of Alexandria: An Archaeological Overview, [in:] Al‑ exandria. Auditoria of Kom el­‍‑Dikka and Late Antique Education, ed. T. Derda et al., Warsaw 2007, pp. 15–16. 11 M. Rodziewicz, Excavations at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria 1980–81 (Preliminary Report), Annales du Services des Antiquités de l’Égypte 70, 1984–85, pp. 233–245. 12 Libanius, Oratio XLIX 12. Cf. Mc Kenzie [in:] Alexandria. Auditoria of Kom el­‍‑Dikka, p. 67. 13 P. Green, Alexander’s Alexandria, [in:] Alexandria and Alexandrianism, Malibu 1996, pp. 18, 24 n. 135; C. Haas, Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict, Baltimore 1997, pp. 28, 340–341.

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria


as classrooms of an ancient Alexandrian educational institution, perhaps approximately of university rank, dating possibly to the late fifth or early sixth century14. In actual fact the first rooms of the complex had been discovered by the mission of Mieczysław Rodziewicz as early as 1981–83 (three lecture halls to the west of the baths) and another three further to the south in 1986–87 by Zsolt Kiss15. At that time, however, nobody realized that those lecture rooms do not belong to the thermal complex. Only further discoveries by Grzegorz Majcherek allowed us to understand the nature of the auditoria. Their average size is not very impressive. They are 10–12 metres long and approximately 5–6 m wide. In some cases one long end of the room took the shape of an apse or exedra. All rooms had stone benches on the walls. On one side there are seats for important persons. One of these takes the form of a chair with a series of steps. Sometimes those seats of honour have a form of a hemispherical synthronon. The capacity of the auditoria varied from about 20 to 30 persons16. At present the number of the unearthed classrooms has reached 21 and there are perhaps a few more waiting to be dug out. The original number of rooms is unknown. The auditoria are located in the back of a portico, which at earlier stages of the excavations (in early 1980s) was interpreted as lining a “Theatre Street”. That portico 280 metres long is now considered a side of an enormous square, which existed in the heart of late Roman Alexandria and extended to the west of the set of public buildings found at Kom el­‍‑Dikka. Perhaps it was the main public square of the late antique city? That seems not very probable because of lack of pavement slabs, typical for the fora or agorai. The lecture halls form two groups: the southern one composed of 12 rooms is situated close to the theatre (north of that building). The other group of 9 auditoria is situated further to the north, closer to the bath. It is separated from the southern one by a passage leading from the portico to the baths. The whole series of auditoria are organized along the portico, but there is an additional wing of the southern group, extending east towards the baths. The public latrines situated close to the baths were apparently used by the clientèle of the auditoria. A space behind the auditoria and the theatre, separated by a wall, was left empty and successively became a rubbish dump which also received the ashes from the baths17. In that context we tend now to interpret the theatre as an auditorium maximum of the same educational institution. Therefore we may also try to explain the inscriptions of the circus factions as students’ graffiti. Anyway, the supposed academic function of the theatre may only belong to the period after major changes in its structure, G. Majcherek, op. cit., pp. 29–38. Z. Kiss, Polish research in Alexandria­‍‑past research [in:] Seventy Years of Polish Archaeology in Egypt, Warsaw 2007, p. 119. 16 G. Majcherek, op. cit., p. 25. 17 Ibidem pp. 14–16. 14 15


Adam Łukaszewicz

which apparently occurred in the sixth century. The theatre was at that time covered with a dome. The stage building was removed, the parodoi were blocked and a new entrance from the portico was arranged. Also the semicircular cavea was re­‍‑shaped and took the form of a horseshoe, which, according to Majcherek, resembles the arrangement of benches in some of the auditoria18. That indicates a radical change of function of the theatre. The date of the rebuilding of the theatre is difficult to determine, but usually it is connected with the consequences of the great earthquake of AD 535. Later, the dome collapsed, probably also as a  result of an earthquake (or as a consequence of a construction error). In late antique Alexandria a whole series of quakes occurred starting from 365, 447, 535 until later times. The damaged building became probably accessible to the general, certainly including also the students from the nearby classrooms, which continued to function. Earlier, the theatre was certainly closed with a key and had a doorkeeper19. As far as we are able to summarize the evidence, the destruction of the building is due to consecutive earthquakes from AD 365 and 447 until one in the sixth century. 1. At the beginning the theatre, built in the fourth century, was a true theatre or an odeon. 2. Still in the fourth century, probably after the earthquake of 365 a wall of the theatre, some 1,5 metres thick, collapsed. 3. The third phase of the theatre belongs probably to the early sixth century (probably Justinian?). A remake of the structure and the construction of a dome are a testimony of a very high level of architectural work. At that period the „theatre” is certainly no more a theatre. The theatre had a dome which, however, according to Kołątaj was too heavy. The dome collapsed during the sixth century. An obvious consequence of the destruction of the building, quite independently from the function, was the accessibility of the auditorium, which had once been closed. Certainly, there had been, as in every public building, a guardian (janitor?) with a key. After the catastrophe the ruined building was certainly open during a time.

* In the late sixth and early seventh century, after the Alexandrian „theatre” had turned an open space, it was certainly a meeting place of people who were not necessarily members of the factions, but who shared the passions which divided the populace of Alexandria into two conflicting parties. Their graffiti show not only the Ibidem p. 32. In 1978 when working on the administration of public buildings in Roman Egypt I discussed the text of P. Fuad. Univ. 14.3 concerning a (former) epimeletes who was a kleidofЪlax of a theatre. From the text it results that a theatre was normally a closed building with keys. Later, in his publication (footnote 1 to chapter VI, page 72) Borkowski with much reason applied that reference to the Alexandrian theatre. 18 19

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria


evidence of the struggle between the two circus parties, but also of the existence in Alexandria of the Neoi or “Youths”20. The mention of those who call themselves Youths, qui volgo se iuvenes appellant21, is an important evidence of the existence of the organization of iuvenes (nšoi) inside the Green circus party. No doubt there was one of the Blues as well22. It may be added that those iuvenes were most probably a kind of para­‍‑military organization, whose duty it was to terrorize the opposite party. Undoubtedly they were specialized in street fighting. At war, their role might have been important. An inscription in 15 lines (inv. no. 39, fig. 24)23 is the main piece of evidence of the role of the Green faction in the usurpation by Heraclius. Borkowski pointed to the military epithet of gennaiotatoi applied to the Greens as a sign of their appartenance to the regular army of Heraclius during the expedition of 608–61024. If we apply the medieval patterns to Byzantine Alexandria, university students who were often ready to riot and were dangerous to fellow­‍‑citizens would certainly be a good material for a “militia” of a powerful organization. The presence of the activists of the circus factions was not limited to the ruined theatre. However, there are no traces of their activities in the classrooms.

* It is only natural to suppose that a major restructuration of the adjacent portico occurred that at the same time when the theatre was rebuilt25. The original portico had been completely different. It had been built in the later fourth century and heavily

20 The nšoi are mentioned in the text no. 24: Nik´ ¹ tÚchü tîn šwn prüas…nwn. Borkowski, op. cit., inv. 24, p. 86; Fig. 25. 21 Dig., see: Borkowski, op. cit., p. 86. 22 Cf. Borkowski, op. cit., pp. 65–68. 23 The text reads (Borkowski, op. cit., p. 82): Nik´ ¹ tuch KalotÚcou kaˆ toа nšou DТrou. Nik´ ¹ tuch Pras…nw[n] gennewt£ twn. ’ApÕ korufÁj æj ÑnÚcwn œpesen tХ Bšneto KAI.HC.C MET.TWN In the opinion of the present writer the last two lines can be read: KAI BHCIC META TWN. 24 Borkowski, op. cit., pp. 85–86. 25 G. Majcherek, op. cit., p. 33.


Adam Łukaszewicz

damaged by an earthquake. The back wall of that portico had no doors. Thus, it is impossible to imagine any auditoria behind the first portico. The new portico had a pavement on a level ca. 40 cm higher than the precedent one. The stylobate also became higher and new podia have been built to raise the columns. That new structure involved also the construction of the auditoria. Under the floor of the auditorium G the Polish team discovered two furnaces for melting glass. According to Majcherek they functioned until not later than the middle of the fifth century AD. In the back wall of the portico doorways have been pierced. At places where benches were set up, the face of the new wall was left unfinished. Under the auditoria L and M there was no occupation between the period of Roman houses destroyed at the end of the third or at the beginning of the fourth century. However, the layer of levelling corresponding to the lapse of time between the end of occupation and the building of the auditoria is very thick. The eastern wing of the auditoria seems to have been added later. They are all adapted from earlier structures.A rebuilding of the auditoria in the northern part of the portico has occurred some time in the sixth century and may perhaps be related to the earthquake of 535 (or to a later one?). A certain complement to the dating is the occurrence of the typical pottery of the sixth century AD including the notorious Late Roman 7 ware. The abandonment and destruction of the lecture halls is also difficult to date. It occurred probably in the middle of the seventh century. A terminus ante quem is provided by the earliest graves of the Arab necropolis and by an Arab inscription from the theatre datable to the very beginning of the eighth century.

* It is a puzzling but unsolved question, whether the school of Kom el­‍‑Dikka was in actual fact a Christian institution. In the theatre there are some Christian graffiti, but they must not come from students. The rectangular auditoria have no graffiti at all. Late antique Alexandria was rather Christian but not entirely so. Until the end of the fourth century the Serapeum was the cultic centre of Alexandria. The text of Rufinus of Aquileia refers to the last period of the existence of the temple of Serapis. He gives plenty of details concerning the Sarapeum26. To the Alexandrians Sarapis was their divine protector par excellence. Rufinus mentions thoraces Sarapidis

Serapis apud Alexandriam templum auditum quidem omnibus puto‚ plerisque vero etiam notum. Locus est non natura‚ sed manu et constructione per centum aut eo amplius gradus in sublime suspensus‚ quadratis et ingentibus spatiis omni ex parte distentus‚ cuncta vero‚ quoad summum pavimentorum evadatur‚ opere forniceo constructa‚ quae inmissis desuper luminaribus et occultis adytibus invicem in semet distinctis usum diversis ministeriis et clandestinis officiis exhibebant. Iam vero in superioribus extrema totius ambitus spatia occupant exedrae et pastoforia domusque in excelsum porrectae in quibus vel aeditui vel hi‚ quos appellabant ¢gneÚontaj, id est‚ qui se castificant‚ commanere soliti erant; Rufinus Aquiliensis‚ HE II‚ 23 (p. 1026–1027). Nb. Rufinus is wrong when he considers Sarapeum an artificial hill. In reality the temple stands on a natural rock. 26

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria


which could be found in private houses „in parietibus‚ in ingressibus‚ in portibus‚ etiam in fenestris”27. Was a pagan educational institution thinkable in Alexandria during the fifth or sixth century? The answer is complicated by the obvious necessity to dissimulate pagan contents behind the officially admissible appearances28. Certainly the situation was continuously changing and was not the same in the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries. However, until the sixth century there was a kind of passive resistance against the new culture brought about by Christianity. Until the sixth century non­ ‑‍ Christian schools were active. Scholars like Hierocles, a disciple of Plutarch of Athens (died 431/432)29, Damascius (ca. 458–after 533), Stephanus (ca. 550–before 638) or Tychicus (ca. 565–after 638) are an eloquent confirmation of the survival of traditional education30. Polytheism still co­‍‑existed in Alexandria with Christianity. An evidence to that phenomenon is a deposit of “religious souvenirs” of the sixth century, found in the area of the theatre. Together with the figurines of Isis and Sarapis there were St. Menas flasks. At the time when the lecture rooms were in use, one of the houses in the quarter across the street R4 (house D) had a Christian shrine in the courtyard, with a wall painting dated to the first half of the sixth century AD31. Archaeology confirms that the mysterious educational institution of Kom el­‍‑Dikka existed until the ultimate decline of Greco­‍‑Roman Alexandria in the middle of the seventh century.

* It may be asked with reason: are we sure that the rooms discovered behind the portico are indeed classrooms and not a series of rooms of any other thinkable usage, like offices of provincial administration or rooms where justice was administered? Courts are not only large halls, there are numerous small rooms where minor trials take place. In fact our knowledge about the material setting of parallel institutions is limited. It is common knowledge that the prototype of a standard lecture room in antiquity was Aristotle’s lecture room in the Academy32. However, we have no real knowledge about the shape and equipment of that room. The setting of educational activity

Rufinus, HE II 26, PL 21 col. 537. M. Dzielska, „Męczennicy pogańscy późnego hellenizmu”, Sympozja kazimierskie IV. Męczen‑ nicy w świecie późnego antyku, Lublin 2004, p. 39. 29 cf. Damascius Vita Isidori (apud Photium 337b 34 ssq.); Liber Suda s.v. Hierokles. 30 E. Szabat, “Teachers in the Eastern Roman Empire (Fifth­‍‑Seventh Centuries). A  Historical Study and Prosopography”, [in:] Alexandria. Auditoria…, pp. 177–345. 31 J.S. McKenzie, The Place in Late Antique Alexandria where Alchemists and Scholars sit (...) was like stairs [in:] Alexandria. Auditoria of Kom el­‍‑Dikka and Late Antique Education (ed. by T. Derda et al.), Warsaw 2007, p. 79 and fig. 12. 32 I. Düring, Aristotle in the Ancient Biographical Tradition, Göteborg 1957, p. 371. 27 28


Adam Łukaszewicz

established in antiquity was twofold: there were lecture halls being a part of an educational institution and there were private classrooms in the teacher’s house33.

* It has been suggested by professor Maria Dzielska that the auditoria at Kom el­ ‍‑Dikka might have witnessed the tragedy of Hypatia in AD 415, described in the Chronicle of John of Nikiou. The idea is, indeed, exciting. The “lofty chair” mentioned by John of Nikiou suggests that Hypatia was seized in a classroom, perhaps similar in shape to those discovered at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in the heart of ancient Alexandria34. For that reason, Dzielska concluded that the location of Hypatia’s drama as described by John of Nikiou suggests that it was perhaps in one of the very rooms at Kom el­‍‑Dikka that Hypatia was seized by Peter and his followers35. Also the fact that Hypatia was brought from her teaching place to the Caesareum means that it was not a long way from the location of her chair. That would make our auditoria a probable arena of the dramatic events. Professor Dzielska’s idea does not entirely agree with the chronology established by Grzegorz Majcherek which supposes a date within the sixth century for the auditoria. Majcherek states that there are clear indications which lead “to the conclusion that the lecture halls were abandoned most likely around the middle of the seventh century”36. The terminus post quem is a more difficult matter as may be concluded from the discussion of the question by Majcherek37. His conclusion is that “the late fifth/early sixth century” is “the most likely date for the building of the halls”38. This indication from the expert of Kom el­‍‑Dikka, corroborated by a similar date of the rebuilding of the adjacent theatre and the baths, is essential for the question of “Hypatia at Kom el­‍‑Dikka”. However, as Grzegorz Majcherek states, the date of the auditoria is far from precise39. In actual fact we have two different phases of the portico. The earlier period belongs to the same time as the first phase of the theatre and also the baths i.e. to the fourth century AD. At that period there is no trace of the existence of any classrooms along the portico. The second portico with round granite columns is later and has no precise date of construction (perhaps after an earthquake in the mid fifth century). The Arab necropolis was built into the still extant pavement of the portico towards the end of the eighth century. Ibidem p. 115. For a general discussion see Alexandria. Auditoria…. 35 M. Dzielska, Hypatia z Aleksandrii, Kraków 2006, pp. 163–164. M. Dzielska, Learned Women in the Alexandrian Scholarship and Society of Late Hellenism [in:] What happened to the ancient library of Alexandria?, ed. M. El­‍‑Abbadi, O. Mounir Fathallah, Library of the Written Word, vol. III The Manuscript World, Leiden–Boston 2008, vol. 1 p. 141, (pp. 129–147). 36 G. Majcherek, op. cit., p. 38. 37 Ibidem pp. 29–38. 38 Ibidem p. 31. 39 Ibidem p. 29. 33 34

Lecture Halls at Kom el­‍‑Dikka in Alexandria


At present, the estimated period when the auditoria functioned, seems to cover the late fifth to seventh centuries AD40. The chronology of the beginnings of the auditoria may possibly change. We must, however, still wait an year or two for the ultimate confirmation of the chronology until the excavations in the area between the auditoria and the cisterns are finished. What is also relevant in the description of John of Nikiou, is the fact that Hypatia’s teaching place was apparently difficult to find. I think that the search for Hypatia was not a search for an isolated teaching place but for a room in a series of classrooms comparable to our auditoria. The persecutors had to ask someone, where Hypatia was teaching. I imagine that the rooms in one of which Hypatia was teaching were numbered.

1. The area of Polish excavations at Kom el-Dikka (Alexandria). View of a portico with a row of lecture halls. (Photo: A. Łukaszewicz)


J. McKenzie, op. cit., p. 69.

2. The Late Roman theatre of Kom el-Dikka — the “auditorium maximum” of an enigmatic educational institution. (Photo: A. Łukaszewicz)

3. A view of one of the auditoria. (Photo: A. Łukaszewicz)

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Andrzej Iwo Szoka Jagiellonian University

Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity In the reconstructed Philosophical History of Damacius, which is our main source of repainting the circle of late platonic philosophers and their world in the 5th and early 6th century, the author mentioned Salustios of Emesa. In a few places Damas‑ cius gave this person the name of Cynic. He said: “His [Salustios’] philosophy was along the lines of Cynicism” (kunikèteron dќ ™filosТfei), and in another passage: “As a  Cynic philosopher Salustios (Ὁ Saloύstioj kun…zwn) did not follow the well­‍‑trodden path of philosophy, but the one made jagged through criticism and abuse and especially through toil in the service of virtue1. According to his opinion, in the modern historiography Salustios is called the last Cynic philosopher of the antiquity, the last heir of philosophy and spiritual movement which was founded by the famous Diogenes of Sinope in the fourth century BC. He was not only the last one, but also the only Cynic philosopher known by name after 4th century who is described by sources. In the times of the Roman Empire cynicism was a vital philosophy, but also it be‑ came the widespread social movement which Giovanni Reale named the Phenomena of the Masses2. On the one hand, we have the Cynicism of well­‍‑educated philosophers like Demetrius — a friend of Seneca, or Dio of Prusa. They both adopted some as‑ pects of Cynic philosophy (toil and suffering as the way to virtue, ignoring popular opinion, the nature is better than civilization, animal’s life is an example for man). On the other hand, the name of Cynics was ascribed to low­‍‑status people who were often anonymous in the sources. They wore the characteristic Cynic costume (a staff, dirty and short cloak, a begging wallet and long hair) which meant entering the way of Cynic philosophy. By those attributes the Cynics imitated Heracles — the ideal

1 2

Damascius, The Philosophical History, 66 A–B, ed. and trans. P. Athanassiadi, Athens 1999. A History of Ancient Philosophy: The schools of the Imperial Age, New York 1990, p. 159.


Andrzej Iwo Szoka

hero whose earthly life was an exemplar for every one of them3. They learned by heart a few anecdotes (cre‹ai) about famous ancient Cynics, especially Diogenes of Sinope, which they repeated among the people playing the roles of real philosophers to gain livelihood. Of course, those cynical pseudo­‍‑philosophers were criticized by real philosophers and intellectuals of second century like Epictetus, Juvenal, Mar‑ tial, Lucian, Aelius Aristides4. In fourth century the similar arguments repeated the emperor­‍‑philosopher Julian in his two writings: The Uneducated Cynics and To the Cynic Heracleios, in which he also compared the Cynics to the Christians monks, and gave both groups this same name — ўpotakt‹tai (renouncers)5. However, the 4th century was the last when the Cynics appeared many times in the texts, and we know the names of a few of them. One of them was Maximos Heron of Alexandria, usurper bishop of Constantinople, who was a Christian but did not abandon the cynic costume and way of life6. At that time, Cynicism was losing popularity in favor of Christianity, but there appeared some “hybrids” like Maximos or other begging monks wandering from town to town. Since the beginning of 5th century we have very few references about still­‍‑acting Cynics. Before Salustios, St. Augustine talked about the meeting of Cynics in De Civitate Dei, and in times of our philosopher, in a treatise entitled De statu animae of Claudianus Mamertus where the Cynics and Epicureans were criticized for their materialism, and they were mentioned as contemporaries with the author (nostri saeculi)7. However, what must be also said is that in the late 4th and in 5th centuries the circle of non­‍‑Christian intellectuals were positively disposed to Cynicism. For example, Eunapios of Sardis appreciated the Cynic studies in the field of ethics8. The Cynic philosophers also appeared among the pagan aristocracy in Rome. Quintus Aurelius Symmachus called the Cynic Asclepiades a holy man, and another Cynic — Horus the Egyptian, his friend. According to The Saturnalia of Macrobius, Horus (a former Olympic champion in boxing who turned to the Cynic philosophy) was a guest in For this aspect of Cynic ideology see: R. Höistad, Cynic Hero and Cynic King. Studies in the Cynic Conception of Man, Uppsala 1948, pp. 23–73. 4 R. Dudley, A History of Cynicism — From Diogenes to the Sixth Century A.D., London 1937, pp. 144–145; M-O. Goulet­‍‑Cazé, Introduction [in:] The Cynics The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy, R.B. Branham and Goulet­‍‑Cazé (eds.), Berkeley and Los Angeles and London 1996, p. 19. Epictetus, praises the rules of Cynic philosophy but he criticizes the contemporary begging and mocking Cynics; Discourses, III, 22, 50–52, ed. W.A. Oldfather, vol. II, Cambridge, MA and London 1959. 5 Julian the Apostate, To the Uneducated Cynics (Or. VI (IX)) and To the Cynic Heracleios (Or. VII), [in:] The Works of Emperor Julian, vol. II, ed. W.C. Wright, Cambridge, MA and London 2002. The passage about Cynic and Galilaeans (ўpotakt‹tai), Or. VII, 224B. 6 On Maximos Cynic garb see: Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. XXV, 2, ed. C. Moreschini, Mila‑ no 2002; Damasus, Epistolae, V and VI, Patrologia Latina, ed. J.P. Migne, vol. XIII, 365A–367A; 369A–370A, Paris 1845; Dudley, op. cit., pp. 203–206. 7 St. Augustine, City of God, xiv, 20, ed. P. Levine, vol. IV, Cambridge, MA and London 1966. According to Augustine, the Cynics of his days are less shameless than their predecessors. Claudianus Mamertus, De Statu Animae Libri Tres, II, 9, 2, Patrologia Latina, ed. Migne, vol. LIII, 751D, Paris 1865. 8 Eunapius, The Lives of the Sophists, 455, ed. W.C.Wright, Cambridge, MA and London 1952. 3

Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity


the house of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, the leader of pagan aristocracy where he lectured on the native Egyptian religion9. Those late Cynics differed in their philoso‑ phy from their predecessors. Diogenes of Sinope was accused of not believing in the gods, Oenomaus of Gadara wrote a treatise against oracles — Detectio Praestigiatorum10. Marcus Aurelius in Meditations thanked his teacher Diognetos the Cynic that he learned him: “not to give credence to the statements of miracle­‍‑mongers and wizards about incantations and the exorcizing of daemons, and such­‍‑like marvels”11. The Cynics of late antiquity were more interested in mystic matters and they were strongly devoted to gods. The Cynic Asclepiades walked everywhere with a statue of his beloved goddess Astarte, Horus studied the bloodless rituals of the native Egyptian religion. Finally, our last Cynic — Salustios was presented as a fortune­ ‑‍ teller, a mysterious person and divine man. In this field the Cynics approached the philosophers of the late Platonism. Salustios, like Damascius himself, came from Syria. His hometown was Emesa which was the city of his mother — Theocleia. His father, Basilides, came also from Syria, but from some other uncertain place. He was probably born around 430, be‑ cause in 70s his philosophical career was at the peak. He was still alive in the first decades of the 6th century since Simplicius, who was born about 490, considered him as a contemporary person. His family was probably well­‍‑off since he opened his career trying to become a lawyer and studied legal oration under the sophist Eunoios. Then, for the first time he changed the direction of his studies, abandon‑ ing the law career for sophistry. He was interested in old attic speeches, especially of Demosthenes whose all public orations he learned by heart. Young Salustios left Eunoios’s rhetorical courses which he considered unsatisfactory for him. He went to Alexandria, probably on his first journey, where he continued the rhetorical studies12. At this point we lose sight of Salustios. We do not know when he changed his way of life again and became a philosopher. It happened when he was in Alexandria for the first time or a few years later. This turn was similar to that of Dio of Prusa who was first a sophist and orator and then became a wandering philosopher. However, that turn was forced by Dio’s exile during the reign of Domitian. Moreover, Cyni‑ cism was a much more widespread philosophy in the epoch of Dio13. But even in times of Salustios we have other examples of such transformations. For example, Proclus learned the legal profession before he began studying philosophy14. Probably, Macrobius, Saturnalia, I, 7; I,15; I, 16, III, 13; VII, 7; VII, 13, ed. Fr. Eyssenhardt, Leipzig 1893. Libanios of Antioch tells about Horus’ boxing career in his two letters, 1278; 1279 [in:] Libanii Opera, vols. XI, ed. R. Foerster, Leipzig 1922. 10 The fragments are preserved in Praeparatio Evangelica of Eusebius of Cesarea, V, 18–36; VI, 7, Fragmenta Philosophorum Graecorum, vol. II, F.W.A. Mullach (ed.), Paris 1867, pp. 359–385. 11 Marcus Aurelius, The communings with himself, I, 6, ed. and trans. C.R. Haines, Cambridge, MA and London 1953. 12 Damascius, 60. 13 C.P. Jones, The Roman world of Dio Chrysostom, Cambridge, MA 1978, p. 49; Dio abandoned Cynic way of life after exile. 14 Marinus, The Life of Proclus or Concerning Happiness, 8, ed. H.D. Saffrey, A–P. Segonds, C. Luna, Paris 2001. 9


Andrzej Iwo Szoka

Salustios met the late platonic philosophers for the first time in Alexandria, but surely then he got interested in divination, art which was always lively in Egypt. Chronologically, the next information about Salustion pertains to his presence at the court of Marcellinus in Dalmatia, probably in Salona15. In 454 Marcellinus rejected the sovereignty of Valentinian III, and to his death in 468 he was actually an independent ruler of Dalmatia, first as comes rei militari, and next as magister militum Dalmatiae. Under his command he had a strong army of mercenaries among whom there were Huns. He also possessed his own fleet. In 467 Marcellinus helped gain the throne of the Western Empire for Procopius Anthemius. He had significant success in war against Vandals in 468, he expelled them from Sicily and regained Sardinia, but then he was treacherously murdered, maybe on the orders of master utriusque militiae — Ricimer16. According to Damascius, Marcellinus was a Hel‑ lene (i.e. pagan) in his religious beliefs. He was fascinated especially divination, and he was led in his activities by the prophecies. So, it is no wonder that Salustios seemed an interesting figure to Marcellinus, for he already possessed the ability of divination in a strange way. “By looking into the eyes of the people he met, Salustios could foretell for each one a violent death that would come upon him”. When the eyes were dark, misty and moist it meant that the person was in danger17. In this way Salustios saw the approaching death of Marcellinus which “came upon him a fiery yearning” (¹ ™piqum…a. †meroj aÙtÕn e„sÁlqe di£puroj „de‹n M£rkellon nekrТn)18. How did Salustios appear at the court of mighty magister militum? I suppose that through the friendship with Flavius Messius Phoebus Severus who lived and studied in Alexandria. According to Damascius, Severus, consul from 470, with the emperor Anthemius tried to restore the cult of gods19. Maybe Anthemius was not pagan, but he was kind for paganism and Marcellinus cooperated with him. Salustios as Hel‑ lene and fortune­‍‑teller could have been recommended to Marcellinus by Severus, because of Marcellinus’s interest in divination. Up until this point, we do not hear about Salustios’s Cynicism. He obviously traveled a lot, but it is not enough to call him a Cynic. Damascius related that Salustios met Pamprepius of Panopolis, a pagan poet and grammarian, when the latter was at the height of his power. It is possible that he could have met Pamprepios in Athens where Pamprepios taught as an official grammarian from 473 to 47620. We know that Salustios was in Athens at that time, for Damascius mentioned that he taught Damascius, 69. Ibidem, 69 D; Procopius, History of the Wars, III, 6.7–8; 6.25, ed. H.B. Dewing, London and New York 1916; S. Williams, G. Friell, The Rome That Did Not Fall: Survival of the East in the Fifth Century, London and New York 1999, pp. 178–179. 17 Damascius, 70 (trans. Athanassiadi). 18 Suda, (“Imeroj), ed. A. Adler, p. II, Leipzig 1931. 19 Damascius, 77A; Marcellinus, Anthemius and Severus are considered to be linked with Proclus’ school; Athanassiadi, Persecution and Response in Late Paganism: The Evidence of Damascius, “The Journal of Hellenic Studies” 113 (1993), p. 18; D.J. O’ Meara, Platonopolis: Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Oxford and New York 2003, p. 21. 20 The Philosophical History, p. 269, note 301; PLRE, vol. II, Cambridge and New York 1980, pp. 825–828. 15 16

Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity


philosophy in Athens and had students21. One of them was probably Isidore with whom Salustios returned to Alexandria in the mid or late of 470s.22 Probably, it was during Salustios’ akme and this confirms that he was born about 430. In the description of this meeting with Pamprepios Damascius mentioned for the first time that Salustios philosophized as a Cynic. So, probably he adopted the Cynic way of life then or a few years earlier, after returning from Dalmatia. What inclined him to almost expired philosophy? Maybe the source of inspiration for him were the guests from the East, the Brahmans who visited the house of Severus in Alexandria23. Brahmans in Greek literature were often compared with the Cynics. Onesicritus, who was a Cynic philosopher himself and accompanied Alexander the Great in the expedition to India first made such a comparison. The Brahmas, like his master Diogenes of Sinope, trained their bodies by toils and were vegetarians and were not ashamed of walking naked24. Peregrinos Proteus, a Cynic philosopher of 2nd century AD, made public self­‍‑immolation, and probably imitated the Brahmans in this. According to The Philosophical History the Brahmans in Sever’s house were “uninterested external things. They ate rice and dates and their drink was water”25. Diogenes Laertios attributed to the Cynics a similar diet: “Some at all events are vegetarians and drink cold water only”26. Of course, in this epoch vegetarianism was popular among the some platonic philosophers as well in this age27. In turn, Damascius claimed that Salustios was on diet and ate only uncooked food, he also approved of the students who did not cook their meals. In addition, the Brahmans were regarded as masters of divination. According to Philosotratos, Apollonius of Tyana knew secrets of divinations from Brahman Iarchas28. Of course, we must be careful here. The Brahmans as a source of wisdom is a conventional theme in Greek literature. However, such a visit was possible and Salustios could be impressed by naked sages from the East29. Afterwards, he endeavored to assume some of their Damascius, 66. Ibidem, 60; The Philosophical History, p. 167, note 141. 23 Damascius, 51 D. 24 Strabo, Geography, XV, 65, ed. H.I. Jones, vol. VII, Cambridge, MA and London 1954. 25 Damascius, 51 D. In the Greek literature the Brahmans or Gymnosophists are two names giv‑ ing to the sages from India. That does not mean that they were believers of Hinduism. They could be ascetic wanderers and followers of Buddhism, Jainism (although Jains did not make self­‍‑immolation because they avoided the use of fire) or other Indian ascetic sects, see R. Stoneman, Who are the Brahmans? Indian Lore and Cynic Doctrine in Palladius’ De Bragmanibus and Its Models, “The Classical Quarterly”, New Series 44, no. 2 (1994), pp. 506–507. They were called also the Sramanas what is more correct: Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, I, 71,4, ed. M. Caster, Paris 1951; Porphyry, On Abstinence, IV, 17–18, ed. M. Patillon, A.Ph. Segonds, I. Brisson, Paris 1995. Clement and Porphyry distinguished Brahmans from Sramanas, but they did not specify the religion of both groups. 26 Diogenes Laertios, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, VI 104, vol. II, ed. and trans. R.D. Hicks, Cambridge, MA and London 1958. 27 Marinus, 12, Proclus very rigidly abstaining from flesh food. 28 Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, III 41–45, vol. I, ed. F.C. Conybeare, New York and London 1912. 29 In time of Roman Empire Egypt was well connected with the west coast of India through the ports on the Red Sea coast. The best evidence of this connection is The Periplus of the Erythraean 21 22


Andrzej Iwo Szoka

practices. For the contemporaries these practices were related more to Cynic than Indian tradition. However, Damascius wrote about some typical features of Cynic philosopher which Salustios possessed. Firstly, he spoke frankly and often he: “attacked anyone who made a mistake and criticized and made a fun of people”. He mentioned Pam‑ prepios, whose behavior was effeminate, and who asked Salustios: “How the gods relate to men” the philosopher answered in “the Diogenes’s style”: “Every know that I have not yet become a god, nor you a man” (male)30. This was an example of Cynic freedom of speech (parrhs…a), through which Cynics uncovered the truth and revealed the faults of their interlocutors. Salustios despised the mob, which was attributed to Diogenes who saw a crowd, but not individual humans31. Damascius criticized Salustios partly for this frank speech claiming that “his philosophizing was too heavy and his jokes too amusing”32. But, what is interesting, Damascius did not use the term parrhs…a and he attributes “propensity and inclination to ridicule to his Syrian origin”33. Secondly, Salustios led a wandering life. It was also a feature attributed to the Cynics. We hear about some of his travels (to Alexandria, Salona, Athens, to Alex‑ andria again). Of course, other philosophers often changed their place of living and study in that epoch, but Salustios travelled barefoot and only sometimes he wore the Attic light and comfortable boots called „fikrat…dej or common sandals34. In this passage Damascius stressed that Salustios spent many years on the road on his own feet, but probably he did not inform us about most of his journeys35. This barefoot wandering can be put together with the Cynic love of freedom (™leuqer…a), but also with the Cynic way of life, full of hardships, on which the needs and livelihoods are reduced to a very low level. Through this a Cynic philosopher tried to achieve Sea from first century AD. The Periplus described Indian great market­‍‑town called Barygaza where the Italian wine was exported and preferred, 6; 49, ed. L. Casson, Princetown 1989. From Barygaza came the Indian sage named Zarmarus or Zarmanochegas (the Sramana master) who was a mem‑ ber of the embassy of Indian king to August, and who burned himself in Athens in 13 AD, Strabo, Geography, XV, 73; Cassius Dio, Roman History, LIV, 9, 10, vol. VI, ed. E. Cary, Cambridge, MA and London 1955; H.G. Rawlinson, India in European Literature Thought [in:] The Legacy of India, G.T. Garratt (ed.), London 2007, p. 15; in the late antiquity the Christians writers also were interested in the land of India and in the wisdom of Brahmans. The best example is Palladius of Helenopolis, author of the work titled On the Races of India and the Brahmans. In it he described the journey of some Christian scholasticus of Thebes in Egypt to India and Ceylon. Palladius tried to reach India himself, but a road was too difficult for he and he gave up, Palladius; On the Races of India and the Brahmans, 3–4, ed. J. Duncan, M.Derrett, (in:) The History of “Palladius on the Races of India and the Brahmans”, “Classica et mediaevalia” 21, fasc. 1–2 (1960), pp. 64–135; see: Duncan, Derrett, The Theban Scholasticus and Malabar in c. 355–60, Journal of the American Oriental Society 82, no. 1 (1962), pp. 21–31. 30 Diogenes Laertios VI 60. 31 D.L., op. cit., VI, 60. 32 Damascius, 60. 33 Ibidem 66 A (trans. Athanassiadi). 34 Ibidem 66 B. 35 Ibidem 66 B–C.

Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity


self­‍‑sufficiency (aÙt£rkeia). According to the well­‍‑known story, Diogenes threw away his bowl when he saw a child drinking water straight from his palms. Salustios in his aÙt£rkeia walked barefoot and ate only uncooked food. Eating raw foods was a behavior in accordance with nature (kat¦ fÚsin) and against civilization, which was a  principle of some Cynics36. Diogenes Laertios claimed, as I men‑ tioned, that diet was an important part of the Cynic practical philosophy. The ideal Cynic philosopher should disregard the feeling. This dispassion was called ¢p£qeia. Salustios achieved also it according to Damascius, because he endured criticism and abuse and “he never appeared either sick in body and distressed in spirit for long, but submitted to an ascetic life “with his neck unbowed”, as the proverb goes”37. In this passage we find another trace of Cynicism which was linked with ¢p£qeia — ¥skhsij — training in austerity and devotion of toils (pТnoi) which prepared the body and the soul of a philosopher for the struggle and for confrontations with adversity, especially the passions which were drawing him away from virtue. It was a test of physical and mental endurance. Diogenes practiced it by walking barefoot in the snow in winter, and rolling in the hot sand in summer38. This principle of the practical Cynic philosophy Salustios applied clearly. We hear about it not only from Damascius who wrote that Salustios exerted toil in the service of virtue, but mainly from Simplicus in his Commentary on Epictetus’ Enchiridion where we can read that Salustios placed a red­‍‑hot coal upon his thigh, and blew the fire, to try how long he was able to endure the pain (А tХn ™f’ ¹mîn SaloÚstion, ¥nqraka pepur£ktwmnon ™piqšnta gumnщ tщ mhrщ, kaˆ fusînta aÙtХn kaˆ dokim£zonta ™autХn mšcri pТsou dЪnatai kartere‹n)39. Hurting himself as exercise of physical and mental endurance could stem from Cynic tradition of Diogenes, but also from behaviors of the eastern Gymnosophists. Fire­‍‑walking or lying on hot ground among Indian Brahmans was a test of endur‑ ance, but it asserted about an existence the supernatural powers in man as well40. It may be another trace that the sources Salustios’s transformation was eastern rather than Cynic. Since Simplicius met Salustios personally and saw his exercises, it means that our philosopher lived long and died as an old man in the first decades of the 6th century. He could have spent his last years in Athens. Assuredly he was there for the second time, because Damascius listened to his lectures personally. In the school Salustios tried to lead the young away from philosophy, even Damascius himself 36 This principle is emphasized in so called “Diogenes’” discourses (VI, VIII, IX i X) of Dio of Prusa, see especially: Or. VI — On Tyranny, vol. I, ed, J.W. Cohoon, Cambridge, MA and London 1949. 37 Damascius, 66 A. 38 Diogenes Laertios VI, 23; VI, 34 39 Damascius, 66B; Simplicius in his Commentary on Epictetus’ Enchiridion, XIV, 299–302, vol. I, ed. I. Hadot, Paris 2001. 40 Strabo, Geography, XV, I, 6; the hot­‍‑iron test (fire ordeal) is prescribed in Hindu Chandogya Upanishad (first millennium BCE) VI, 16, ed. R. Mitra, Calcutta 1862; Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. VI, J. Haatings, L.H. Gray, J.A. Selbie (eds.), New York 1914, p. 30.


Andrzej Iwo Szoka

(who started his education in Athens about 490)41. He did this in one of two ways. Either he criticized and defamed the philosophical schools, or he emphasized their magnitude that “no man was worthy of it”42. It was a kind of test for students. The first Cynics also took disciples reluctantly and they required from them to prove their determination43. The young and able philosopher Athenodoros resigned from the Platonic school under the influence of Salustios. This discouraging of students by Salustios was the reason of a  quarrel with Proclus, the head of the Academy (Di£docoj) to 48544. We cannot say too much about the views of Salustios at that time. Some mentions show his Cynic character. He kept himself at a distance, for example he claimed as a philosopher that for men to philosophize in fact is impossible45. He “called the true belief about gods “the fifth virtue”, which is sometimes present in the most wicked of men” (Ð g£r toi pšmpthn ¢ret¾n Ñnom£saj t¾n perˆ qeоn dТxan ¢lhqÁ)46. Of course, in this statement Salustios thought about himself as well, but it meant also that he still claimed the view about the four cardinal virtues: prudence (frТnhsij), temperance (swfrosÚnh), courage (¢ndre…a) and justice (dikauisЪnh). It was that which always associated Cynic philosophy with the Stoic and Platonic schools. We do not know the principles of his theology, but the fact that he emphasized it as the fifth virtue means that Salustios devoted himself to the contemplative and mystical matters. It was not characteristic for the classical Cynicism. He worshipped the old gods. Some Christians (called by Damascius “foreigners”) praised him, maybe ap‑ preciating some of his views or his ascetic practices. They persuaded him to accept Christianity. Salustios rejected this proposal arguing in “Cynic style” that he does not want to expose himself to the wrath of Nemesis even more47. Summing up, Damascius in his description of Salustios tried to show him as a philosopher more in the way of life which was also characteristic of his master — Isidore48. Because of this the author of The Philosophical History linked the phi‑ losophy of Salustios with Cynicism. He didn’t call Salustios a “Cynic” anywhere (kunikТj or simply kЪwn) explicitly, but only he stated that Salustios lived like a cynic (kun…zwn) and that he philosophized more in the Cynic style (kunikèteron dќ ™filosТfei). Salustios did not label himself as Cynic philosopher, we do not hear that he wore the typical Cynic costume (the staff, the doubled and dirty thread­‍‑bare cloak without tunic, the begging bag and long hair) or that he admired Diogenes or worshipped Heracles, the ideal Cynic hero and patron of Cynic philosophers whose 41 Damascius, op. cit., 66F; about the date of Damascius’ arriving to Athens see Athanassiadi, Instroduction [in:] The Philosophical History, p. 39. 42 Damascius, 66 E–F. 43 Diogenes Laertios VI 2723; VI 87; Musonius Rufus used the same method, Epictetus, Discourses, III, 6, 10. 44 Damascius, 66G. 45 Ibidem, 66 A. 46 Ibidem. 47 Ibidem. 48 Ibidem, 71 A–B.

Salustios — Divine Man of Cynicism in Late Antiquity


attributes were worn even by the Christian Cynic — Maximos Heron. In the de‑ scription of Salustios we find similarities to some of the popular anecdotes related to the Cynics. It is difficult to identify a potential source of inspiration in Cynicism for Salustios. In the second half of the 5th century it was in fact an already outdated philosophy. In the literature of this period the behavior of some characters, especially Christian wandering and city monks, was portrayed in the Cynic convention. Good examples were Saloi — the Holy Fools like Serapion from The Lausiac history of Palladius and Simeon the Fool described by Leontios of Neopolis49. Some modern scholars saw the Cynic gestures in behavior of Hypatia of Alexandria50. I believe in the case of Salustios it could be similar. Damscius interpreted some of his behavior as Cynical. However, according to my suspicions, the ascetic practices of Salustios (eating raw food, walking barefoot, testing the endurance by walking on hot coal) could stem from eastern sources, or even from a group of ascetics from the East. We must remember that the behavior patterns of Cynics and Brahmans have always been compared to each other. This unique, non­‍‑Christian asceticism, strong resistance to pain combined with the ability of divination and true belief in the gods caused that Salustios could be perceived by contemporaries as Divine Man with superhuman abilities. Additionally, his “too heavy philosophizing”, harshness against his disci‑ ples, “criticizing and making fun of people” and “too amusing jokes” caused that Salustios was perceived as a distant heir of Cynic Diogenes.

Influence of Diogenes legend on Life of Serapion in Paladius’s Historia Lausiaca see: M. Bill‑ erbeck, The Ideal Cynic from Epictetus to Julian [in:] The Cynics: The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy, R. Bracht Branham, M.-O. Goulet­‍‑Cazé (eds.), Berkeley and Los Angeles and Lon‑ don 1996, p. 218; D. Krueger, The Life of Symeon the Fool and the Cynic Tradition, Journal of Early Christian Studies 1 (1993), pp. 423–442; idem, The Life of Symeon the Fool. Leontius’ Life and the Late Antique City, Berkeley–Los Angeles–London 1996, pp. 90–107; 126–129. 50 She wore a philosophical cloak (tr…bwn) and she showed the young student in love her bloody sanitary napkin, Damascius, op.cit 43 A–C; about cynical interpretation of this behavior see: P. Chu‑ vin, A Chronicle of the Last Pagans, Cambridge, MA 1990, p. 86. The critical look on this matter see; A. Cameron, Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius, Berkeley 1993, pp. 43–45; M. Dziel‑ ska, Hypatia of Alexandria, Cambridge, MA 1996, pp. 56–57. 49

Map — author A. Szoka

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler Georg­‍‑August­‍‑Universität Göttingen

Sosipatra — Role Models for pagan ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity1

1. Introduction In the research of the last twenty years, a paradigm shift in the study and perception of Late Antiquity can be sensed, from an epoch of decay and anxiety to an epoch of transformation, crucial in shaping later European civilizations. But in all these varying pictures one motif remains constant: the sense that in Late Antiquity there was a special keenness for religion, for the interaction with the divine world. The collection of biographical anecdotes of philosophers and rhetoricians of the 4th century assembled by Eunapios of Sardes2 can be viewed as a typical product of late antique paganism: for the highest bios, the philosophical life, a special connection with the divine is a must. Whether viewed by Praechter3 or Geffcken4 as an instance of the irrational wonder­‍‑craving bend of late Greek religion, or by Penella5 or Cox Miller6 as a means of circumscribing Eunapios’ notion of true Hellenism, the Lives are of special interest as they provide us not with stories about legendary ancient This article originates from my research at the Courant Research Centre EDRIS, University of Göttingen. I thank the conference organisers most cordially for their invitation. 2 Eunapios, Vitae sophistarum, ed. I. Giangrande, Rome 1956. All subsequent references to the vitae refer to this edition. 3 K. Praechter, Richtungen und Schulen im Neuplatonismus [repr. in:] idem, Kleine Schriften, H. Dörrie (ed.), Hildesheim 1973, pp. 138–164 (originally 1910). 4 J. Geffcken, Der Ausgang des griechisch­‍‑römischen Heidentums, Heidelberg 1920. 5 R. Penella, Greek Philosophers and Sophists in the Fourth Century A.D. Studies in Eunapius of Sardis, Melksham, Wiltshire 1990, pp. 32f. and p. 144. 6 P. Cox Miller, Strategies of Representation in Collective Biography. Constructing the Subject as Holy [in:] Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, T. Hägg, Ph. Rousseau (eds.), Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 2000, pp. 209–254, here p. 235ff. 1


Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler

philosophers, but with salient examples of what a 4th century cultivated pagan considered to be ‘divine’ humans among his contemporaries7. Eunapios’ collection of figures embodying Hellenism features one female philosopher, Sosipatra, the wife of Eustathios. Her biography is inserted into that of her husband, which in turn forms part of the life of Aidesios, presented by Eunapios as Iamblichos’ successor. Sosipatra offers all that can be expected in a late antique ‘divine’ or ‘holy’ woman: she is a  divinely inspired philosopher with the gift of prophecy. What is striking, however, is the complete absence of other documents about her beyond the few chapters of Eunapios’ story — save for that, we would not know of her existence. This prompts us to enquire into Eunapios’ reasons and background for writing the story. Was he aiming to create a model for pagan women that could rival Christian holy women8? If so, what characteristics did this model propose for a full­‍‑fledged divine woman? Why is Sosipatra so prominently presented, while other women such as the far better­‍‑known Hypatia are not mentioned? How does this model relate to existing concepts about the religious roles of women in the Hellenic tradition? And what could have been the reasons for which Sosipatra’s story seems not to have been of interest for later pagan authors, in spite of their keen taste for contacts between gods and men? These questions shall form the focus of the paper, so that the story of Sosipatra will be analysed as a stepping­‍‑stone to tackle the question of the religious options available to late antique pagan women in the Eastern Roman Empire9. 7 R. Goulet rightly underlines that Eunapios’ emphasis on religious skills is typical of philosophical biographies of Late Antiquity (Les vies de philosophes de l’antiquité tardive [in:] idem, Études sur les vies de philosophes dans l’antiquité tardive, Paris 2001, pp. 3–63, here pp. 38ff). P. Cox Miller, op. cit., p. 249 also diagnoses a shift from biography to hagiography as characteristic for late antiquity. See also I. Tanaseanu-Döbler, Gibt es eine pagane communio sanctorum? Personale und kollektive Heiligkeitsvorstellungen im spätantiken Heidentum, [in:] Heilige — Heiliges — Heiligkeit in spätan‑ tiken Religionskulturen, P. Gemeinhardt, K. Heyden (eds.), Berlin, New York 2012, 327–368. 8 A. Momigliano seems to imply some degree of closeness and interaction when he reads the story of Sosipatra as a parallel to Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina (The Life of Saint Macrina by Gregory of Nyssa [in:] The Craft of the Ancient Historian. Essays in Honour of Chester G. Starr, New York and London 1985, pp. 443–458, [repr. in:] idem, Ottavo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico pp. 333–347, cf. also idem, Ancient Biography and the Study of Religion in the Ro‑ man Empire, Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa 16 (1986), pp. 25–44, [repr. in:] idem, Ottavo contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico pp. 193–210, here p. 209. See also: S. Lanzi, Sosipatra, la teurga: una “holy woman” iniziata ai misteri caldaici, Studi e materiali della storia delle religioni (SMSR) n. s. 28 (2004), pp. 275–294, p. 275: “It is beyond doubt that the text of Eunapius (...) answers the specific ideological purpose of defending paganism against the fast growing power of Christianity be (sic) producing idealized profiles of remarkable pagan women”, or p. 279. See also: S. I. Johnston, Sosipatra and the Theurgic Life: Eunapius Vitae Sophistorum (sic) 6.6.5–6.9.24 [in:] Reflections on Religious Individuality. Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian Texts and Practices, J. Rüpke, W. Spickermann (eds.), Berlin, New York 2012, pp. 99–118, who interprets Sosipatra as a model for Eunapios’ readers, representing the perfect theurgist. 9 On women in late antique society see G. Clark, Women in Late Antiquity. Pagan and Christian Life­‍‑Styles Oxford 1993, a  succint overview in A. Demandt, Die Spätantike: römische Geschichte von Diocletian bis Justinian, 284–565 n. Chr., München 22007, pp. 352–362. On women in antiquity see e. g.: R. Hawley, B. Levick (eds.), Women in Antiquity. New Assessments, London and New York

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


2. The Terminology: What is a ‘Divine’ Woman? In order to answer our questions, we first need to sharpen the focus of the paper and outline the concept of ‘divine’ woman underlying our enquiry, as that concept tends to be used very vaguely, sometimes almost synonymously with ‘illustrious’, ‘far­‍‑famed’ or the like. This has undoubtedly its roots in the habitual language use of antiquity, which could bestow epitheta such as qe‹oj very generously. But while understanding the mechanisms of this object language imprecision is an important task for the historian of religion10, importing it into scholarly meta­‍‑language can be a source of confusion. First of all: Our focus lies on women displaying special religious qualities, according to the interpretatory frames of their culture, and not on learned, philosophical, politically influent or otherwise remarkable women. The role of women in late antiquity, and especially of learned women, has been the subject of various studies in the last years, although most interest has gone towards Christian late antique women11. However close the association of ‘divine’ women with the philosophical circles, we must keep in mind that even a learned woman is not per se a ‘divine’ woman12. 1995 or Th. Spaeth, B. Wagner­‍‑Hasel (eds.), Frauenwelten in der Antike. Geschlechterordnung und weibliche Lebenspraxis, revised special edition, Stuttgart and Weimar 2006. 10 Cf. e. g. the semantic analysis of D.S. Du Toit, Theios Anthropos. Zur Verwendung von qe‹oj ¥nqrwpoj und sinnverwandten Ausdrücken in der Literatur der Kaiserzeit, Tübingen 1997. 11 For learned late antique women cf. e.g. M. Staesche, Gebildete Frauen der römischen Ober‑ schicht [in:] Der Gelehrte in der Antike. Alexander Demandt zum 65. Geburstag, A. Goltz, A. Luther, H. Schlange­‍‑Schöningen (eds.), Köln 2002, pp. 137–153, here pp. 142–148 or M. Dzielska, Learned Women in the Alexandrian Scholarship and Society of Late Hellenism [in:] What Happened to the Ancient Library of Alexandria? M. El­‍‑Abbadi, O.M. Fatallah (eds.), Leiden 2008, pp. 129–147 for the Greek side. For the Latin side, see e.g.: J. Stevenson, Women Latin Poets. Language, Gender and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford 2005, pp. 59–83. S. Mratschek focuses on late antique exceptional female roles, women entering upon the domain of men and claiming to become male as philosophers and ascetics (‘Männliche’ Frauen. Außenseiterinen in Philosophenman‑ tel und Pelote [in:] Geschlechterdefinitionen und Geschlechtergrenzen in der Antike, E. Hartmann, U. Hartmann, K. Pietzner (eds.), Stuttgart 2007, pp. 211–227. Female philosophers are briefly sketched by H. Harich­‍‑Schwarzbauer, Philosophinnen [in:] Frauenwelten, Th. Spaeth, B. Wagner­‍‑Hasel (eds.), pp. 162–174. D. Engels compares learned women in late antiquity and early Islam (Zwischen Philosophie und Religion. Weibliche Intellektuelle in Spätantike und Islam [in:] Gender schafft Wis‑ sen — Wissenschaft Gender? Geschlechtsspezifische Unterscheidungen und Rollenzuschreibungen im Wandel der Zeit, D. Gross (ed.), Kassel 2009, pp. 97–124). For Christian views on women and especially saints see e.g.: E.A. Clark, Women in the Early Church, Collegeville, Minnesota 1983, (repr. 1990), pp. 15–25, S. Elm, ‘Virgins of God’. The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity, Oxford 1994; K. Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride. Idealized Womanhood in Late Antiquity, Cambridge and London 1996, D.F. Sawyer, Women and Religion in the First Centuries, New York and London 1996. 12 And we must also remember that a learned woman is not automatically a philosopher, either. U. Hartmann has rightly drawn our attention to the undifferentiated and liberal bestowal of the title ‘philosopher’ on women connected to philosophical circles, regardless of their actual learning or activity as teachers. He distinguishes between women belonging to such circles merely as female relatives of philosophers, women engaging in learning — as passive students — and finally the handful of actual women philosophers actively engaging in research and teaching (Spätantike Philosophinnen. Frauen in den Philosophenviten von Porphyrios bis Damaskios [in:] Frauen und Geschlechter. Bilder — Rollen — Realitäten in den Texten antiker Autoren zwischen Antike und Mittelalter, R. Rollinger,


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Furthermore, the term ‘divine man’, qe‹oj ¢n»r or qe‹oj ¥nqrwpoj, has a charged past. It has been brought to the fore by the exponents of the so­‍‑called Religionsge‑ schichtliche Schule in their attempt to situate Christianity in its antique context13. In order to understand the figure of Jesus, the point of reference became the ‘divine man’, supposedly an established and a clear-cut concept and terminus technicus in the Hellenic tradition. This approach led to attempts to systematise the traits of the ‘divine man’ and to present him as an ideal type firmly anchored in Greek religious thought; the Philostratean portrait of Apollonios of Tyana played an important role in shaping this image, which became an influent paradigm in New Testament studies14. However, recent studies stressing the ambiguity and polysemy of qe‹oj in connection with the human sphere have challenged this approach insofar as they have problematised the existence of a clear, fixed and conscious concept of the ‘divine man’, breaking him up into chiffres for special religio­‍‑ethical qualities or for the archegete of sapiential traditions15. These studies were a necessary corrective to over­‍‑emphasising the concept of ‘divine man’; however, we cannot throw the baby out with the bath16. Although qe‹oj as an epitheton for humans can be used quite inflationary, our antique sources do display ideas of extra­‍‑ordinary people standing in a special relationship with the divine sphere. Just how their qualities and relationship with the divine are pictured, varies from source to source, depending on the worldview and the universe of discourse of the respective author and its audience17. From the perspective of a historian of religion, the late antique divine man is a wonderful illustration of how the ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ is first and foremost a human phenomenon, a social construction, proposed and contested in a polyphonic discourse18. The ‘divine’ men can be seen as one arCh. Ulf (eds.), Köln 2006, pp. 43–79, esp. pp. 46–63; idem, Kynische Grenzüberschreitungen. Die griechische Philosophin Hipparchia [in:] Geschlechterdefinitionen und Geschlechtergrenzen in der Antike, E. Hartmann, U. Hartmann, K. Pietzner (eds.), Stuttgart 2007, pp. 229–246, here pp. 236f. 13 For a  thorough history of the θεῖος ἀνήρ research from Reitzenstein onwards see: Du Toit, Theios Anthropos, pp. 1–39. J.‑J. Flintermann, The Ubiquitous ‘Divine Man’, Numen 43, (1996), pp. 82–98 also gives a pointed sketch of the issues at stake in this strand of research. 14 See e.g.: L. Bieler, QEIOS ANHR. Das Bild des „göttlichen Menschen“ in Spätantike und Früh‑ christentum, vol. I–II, Wien 1935–1936. His approach is paralleled in recent research by G. Anderson’s attempt to capture the late antique sage’s salient features (G. Anderson, Sage, Saint and Sophist. Holy men and their associates in the Early Roman Empire, London–New York 1994) — both scholars produce helpful collections of material and descriptions with little analytical use. 15 Du Toit, Theios Anthropos is the most thorough and systematic example for this position. 16 J. Tloka, ‘...dieser göttliche Mensch!’ Die Dankrede des Gregor Thaumatourgos an Origenes als Beispiel für die Christianisierung antiker Identifikations­‍‑ und Deutungsschemata [in:] Literari‑ sche Konstituierung von Identifikationsfiguren in der Antike, B. Aland, J. Hahn, Ch. Ronning (eds.), Tübingen 2003, pp. 71–85, here pp. 79f, n. 42. 17 See e.g.: J. Tloka, Dankrede, pp. 79–85 for a  Christian’s employment of the term: Gregory Thaumatourgos takes it up to characterise his teacher Origen. 18 See e.g.: H. Zinser, Grundfragen der Religionswissenschaft, Paderborn 2010, pp. 59–62 and 176–183 (holy texts), or Chr. Auffarth, “Sind heilige Stätten transportabel? Axis mundi und soziales Gedächtnis” [in:] Noch eine Chance für die Religionsphänomenologie? A. Michaels, D. PezzoliOlgiati, F. Stolz, (eds.), Bern et al. 2001, pp. 235–257 (focusing on holy places). For Hellenic religion, the best example for the fragility of the sacred is the charge of magic that holy men are always liable

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


ticulation of ‘holiness’ in late antique society, so that ‘divine’ and ‘holy’ man can be used interchangeably for the same group of persons. Given that ‘holy’ is less specific and does not carry the same charged history and potential of comparison with the Son of God, studies of ‘holy men’ have not given rise to similar debates19. For our enquiry we shall therefore use ‘holiness’ as the larger category, of which ‘divine’ men in the sense of persons on a level ontologically different from the ordinary human condition are a subcase. Holiness shall be our meta­‍‑language label for cases of humans viewed as endowed with extraordinary qualities stemming from a privileged relationship with the divine sphere. This can be conceptualised in various forms. One possibility is the idea that certain humans are indeed ontologically superior and closer to the divine, be it by birth or through a long process of ascent and purification — an idea that can be found in Neoplatonic circles; this would describe our ‘divine man’. Every soul ontologically possesses a certain kinship with the divine which must be developed through various processes, either ritual or intellectual; the Platonic Ðmo…wsij qeщ kat¦ tÕ dunatÕn (Theait. 176b) is the canonical formula for the soul’s assimilation to the divine as the highest goal of human life. This conception goes together with a hierarchic understanding of the divine which permeates reality: the Neoplatonic universe assumes a plethora of divine beings, reaching from the first principle down to the human souls, but ultimately ontologically connected through processes of generation and birth. Another possibility would be a deep reto. Already Empedocles, styling himself as an immortal god among mortals is decried as a  gÒhj. Apollonios of Tyana is described by Philostratus as a holy sage (e. g. œyause toа daimÒniÒj te kaˆ qe‹oj nomisqБnai, Philostratus, Vita Apollonii I 2) and defended against the charge of magic (Vita Apollonii I, 1–2; explicitly voiced e. g. by Origen, Contra Celsum VI 41, ed. M. Markovich, Leiden et al. 2001); on the ambivalence of Apollonios in late antique texts see also recently J. Hahn, Weiser, göttlicher Mensch oder Scharlatan? Das Bild des Apollonius von Tyana bei Heiden und Christen [in:] Literarische Konstituierung, B. Aland, J. Hahn, Ch. Ronning (eds.), pp. 87–109, here p. 108: “Apollonius erscheint als pythagoreischer Weiser, als Philosoph, als qe‹oj ¢n»r, als religiöser Reformer oder hellenischer Propagandist, als Scharlatan, als Zauberer und Repräsentant schwarzer Magie”. Jesus is another case in point; the controversy is already mirrored in the gospels and taken up by Kelsos and Origen (Origen, Contra Celsum I 38; II 32 passim); see the classical if controversial study of M. Smith, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?, San Francisco 1978. 19 Such uncontroversial studies on holy men are e.g.: G. Fowden, The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society JHS 102 (1982), pp. 33–59, who discusses largely the same cases as treated in the present volume under the label ‘divine men’, or Anderson, Saint, who focuses on the early Empire. Research on the holy man in late antiquity has been greatly shaped by the work of P. Brown, especially his article The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, JRS 61, (1971), pp. 80–101 (for a  supplementing retrospective see the chapter Arbiters of the holy: the Christian holy man in late antiquity [in:] idem, Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman World, Cambridge 1997). For a recent briefly commented bibliography on the subject see D.M. Gwynn, Reli‑ gious Diversity in Late Antiquity: A Bibliographical Essay [in:] Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity, D.M. Gwynn, S. Bangert (eds.), Leiden 2010, pp. 15–134 esp. pp. 107–117. His catalogue of publications on holy women includes only works on Christian women. The specifically theological problem and agenda in the discussion of the ‘divine man’— the history of research shows that what is at stake is the basic question of whether Christianity is an antique religion, comparable to others, that is, also to the pagan traditions — appears very clearly in Du Toit’s conclusion (Theios Anthropos, pp. 405f). Cf. also J.-J. Flintermann, Ubiquitous Holy Man, p. 82.


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lationship with the ontologically incommensurable divine which underlies Christian ideas of holiness20. The divine is manifest in Jesus Christ, whose life then becomes the paradigm which the Christian saint strives to imitate21. These two possibilities mark the ideal types which could be perceived as the two ends of the spectrum of late antique holiness, with various other possibilities in between, as is exemplified by Gregory Thaumatourgos’ Christianisation of the ‘divine man’ in praise of his teacher mentioned above22. Using the category of holiness as the common frame of late antique pagan ‘divine men’ and Christian saints makes comparison possible and helps us understand how in one and the same culture, among one and the same social elite held together by paide…a, different conceptions of relationship with the divine developed and competed23.

3. Sosipatra’s Story Sosipatra’s story is introduced by Eunapios in the section wherein he sketches the lives of Iamblichos’ successors, between the anecdotes relating to her husband Eustathios and her son Antoninus24. After describing the accomplishments, achievements, and slight arrogance of her husband, the author remarks that “this grand Eustathios was married to Sosipatra, who by her wisdom rendered her husband a paltry and insignificant being.” Thus he justifies her inclusion in his “catalogue of wise men”25. 20 For this distinction see also: W. Speyer, Die Verehrung des Heroen, des göttlichen Menschen und des christlichen Heiligen. Analogie und Kontinuitäten [in:] Heiligenverehrung in Geschichte und Ge‑ genwart, P. Dinzelbacher, D.R. Bauer (eds.), Ostfildern, Schwaben 1990, pp. 48–66, [repr. in:] idem, Religionsgeschichtliche Studien, Hildesheim, Zürich, New York 1995, pp. 105–124 with additional notes ibid. p. 193, here p. 108f, or idem, Der christliche Heilige der Spätantike. Wesen, Bedeutung, Leitbild [in:] Leitbilder in der Diskussion, J. Dummer, M. Vielberg (eds.), Stuttgart 2001, pp. 79–92, [repr. in:] idem, Frühes Christentum im antiken Strahlungsfeld. Kleine Schriften III, Tübingen 2007, pp. 259–269, here pp. 259–262, on the late antique Christian saint. Speyer chooses the “religiöser Ausnahmemensch” or “numinoser Mensch” as the common category for both the pagan divine man who has the source of his power within himself, and the Christian saint, who exists as such only in relation with God and Christ. Even if he is obviously indebted to an older paradigm of research, his observation is still valid. 21 Cf. R. Kirschner, The Vocation of Holiness in Late Antiquity, Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), pp. 105–124, here p. 112. The saint then becomes in turn a model for his disciples, mediating to them the assimilation to Christ and thus to the divine (p. 113). 22 Cf. also P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity. A Quest for the Holy Man, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1984, pp. 34–44, who outlines two distinct modes of how philosophers are constructed as divine, namely either as sons of god by birth or godlike through intellectual assimilation to the divine. 23 Cf. the judicious remark of Gwynn, Religious Diversity, p. 107: “All holy men and women were held as mediators between the earthly world and the divine, but there was no single pattern through which this mediation was achieved, and every individual holy person must be approached on their own terms.” 24 VS VI 6,5–9,14. A detailed and thorough commentary on Eunapios’ Lives has been recently published by M. Becker, Eunapios aus Sardes. Biographien über Philosophen und Sophisten. Einleitung, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Stuttgart 2013; for Sosipatra see pp. 287–323. 25 VS VI 6, 5: OЫtwj EЩst£qioj Р tosoаtoj Swsip£trv sunуkhsen, ї tХn ¥ndra tХn ˜autБj di’ Øperoc¾n sof…aj eЩtelÁ tina kaˆ mikrХn ¢pšdeixe. perˆ taЪthj dќ ™n ¢ndrîn sofîn katalÒgoij

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


The story is surrounded by a fairy­‍‑tale aura26. Sosipatra is born of a wealthy and noble family residing nearby Ephesos, in the vicinity of the river Kaystros. Her childhood is modelled on the topos of the wonderfully beautiful and good­‍‑natured extraordinary child: paid…on dќ œti n»pion oвsa, ¤panta ™po…ei Сlbiиtera, tosoаtТ ti k£llouj kaˆ a„doаj t¾n ¹lik…an katšlampen27. At the age of five, her life takes a definite turn out of the ordinary: two strange old men, clad in skins and carrying large bags, arrive and manage to become entrusted with the care of one of her father’s vineyards which then bears miraculous fruit. At a dinner given for them by Sosipatra’s father, they are struck by Sosipatra’s beauty and ask him to entrust her to their care as a gift for his hospitality: “But if you wish that we give you something in return for this dinner and hospitality, something that consists neither in money nor in gifts that are subject to decay and under the sway of destruction, but rather amounting to something above you and your life, a gift as high as heaven and aiming at the stars, then leave this Sosipatra with us as her more genuine upbringers and fathers, and until the fifth year do not entertain any fears of illness or death that could befall the girl, but rest calm and reassured. But take care not to tread upon the estate until the fifth year comes, as the cycles of the sun revolve. And from the estate spontaneous wealth will grow and blossom for you, and your daughter will not be merely according to the ways of a woman and a human being, but you yourself will surmise something more about the girl. If you are confident, receive our words readily; if you still entertain any suspicions, we have not said anything”28. Already here we get the impression that Sosipatra will surpass her father and his way of life, reaching “up to heaven” and entering a mode of life that is “not merely according to the ways of a woman and a human being”. Nature and training concur kaˆ di¦ makrotšrwn e„pe‹n ¡rmÒzei, tosoàton klšoj tÁj gunaikХj ™xefo…thsen. I read the first word of the sentence as οὗτος, because there is no connection between the Sosipatra story and the previous anecdote, to which a “so” could refer. Sosipatra’s story is duly noted by everyone discussing late antique philosophers; for a closer treatment see R. Pack, A Romantic Narrative in Eunapius, Transactions and proceedings of the American Philological Association 83 (1952), pp. 198–204, R. Penella, Greek Philosophers, pp. 58–62; A.M. Milazzo, Fra racconto erotico e fictio retorica: la storia di Sosipatra in Eunapio (vs 6, 9, 3–17 Giangr.), Cassiodorus 3 (1997), pp. 215–226, dealing with the love episodes and genre questions, Lanzi, Sosipatra, discussing the theurgic aspect of the story; S. Hartmann, Frauen, pp. 59–61 and pp. 69–71 treating her as a philosopher and holy woman, and Johnston, Sosipatra, who discusses the story of Sosipatra in the light of Iamblichean theurgical ideas. 26 Noted e.g. R. by Pack, Romantic Narrative. 27 For this topos of innate charis see: L. Bieler, QEIOS ANHR, vol. I, pp. 52f. 28 VS VI 6, 11–13. E„ dš ti boЪlei soi tÁj trapšzhj taЪthj kaˆ tîn xen…wn doqÁnai par’ ¹mîn oЩk ™n cr»masi oÙdќ ™n ™pik»roij kaˆ diefqarmšnaij cЈrisin, ¢ll’ Óson Øpќr sš tš ™stin kaˆ tХn sХn b…on, dîron oЩranÒmhkej kaˆ tîn ¢stšrwn ™fiknoЪmenon, ¥fej par’ ¹m‹n t¾n SwsipЈtran taÚthn trofeàsi kaˆ patrЈsin ¢lhqestšroij, kaˆ e‡j ge pšmpton œtoj mhdќ nÒson perˆ tÍ paid…skV fobhqÍj, mhdќ qЈnaton, ¢ll’ ¼sucoj œso kaˆ œmpedoj. melštw dš soi m¾ patБsai tХ cwr…on mšcrij Ёn tХ pšmpton œtoj, peritellomšnwn tоn ¹liakоn kЪklwn, ™x…khtai. kaˆ ploаtТj tš soi aЩtТmatoj ¢pХ toа cor…ou fЪsetai kaˆ ¢naqhl»sei, kaˆ ¹ qug£thr oЩ kat¦ guna‹ka kaˆ ¥nqrwpon œstai mТnon, ¢ll¦ kaˆ aЩtХj Шpol»yV ti perˆ tБj paid…skhj plšon. e„ mќn oвn ¢gaqХn œceij qumТn, Шpt… aij cersˆ dšxai t¦ legТmena· e„ dš tinaj Шpono…aj ¢nakine‹j, oЩdќn ¹m‹n e‡rhtai.


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in making Sosipatra what she eventually becomes: she is so endowed as to strike the two strangers, and they in turn offer to educate her. The father has the liberty to choose, to hand over responsibility for the child to the two strangers, on the mere assurance that no harm will befall her — the motif has some reminiscences of the encounter of Demeter and Metaneira29, but here the earthly, natural parent behaves correctly, leaving his daughter entirely to the strangers’ care and following their injunctions scrupulously. The education imparted to the child is a matter of initiation and deification, but shrouded in mystery: “But after they had taken over the child — whether they were heroes or daimones or of some more divine kind — absolutely no one knew into which mysteries they initiated her; and as to the way in which they deified the girl, that was inscrutable even to those who would have died to know”30. On returning to the estate after five years, the father does not recognise Sosipatra and almost worships her. A feature which will become typical of her in the story comes to play for the first time: her newly­‍‑acquired gift of clairvoyance enables her to describe to her father every detail of his journey. His attempt to ascertain the identity of the mysterious strangers is evaded: “(...) and he was firmly convinced that the girl was a goddess. He fell down before the men and kept begging them to tell him who they were. But they hesitantly and slowly (maybe this, too, was the decision of a god) disclosed that they were not uninitiated in the wisdom that is called ‘Chaldean’, and even that in an enigmatic mode, keeping their eyes on the ground”31. That very night, the two men hand over to Sosipatra some books, ritual implements and the robe of her initiation and bid her adieu, having to depart for the Hesperian Ocean — which in Eunapios’ view qualifies them as daimones32. Sosipatra is now “completely deified and full of sober enthusiasm”; her father allows her to decide for herself about her further education and life. Without teachers, she masters the works of all poets, rhetoricians and philosophers and learns them by Homeric Hymn to Demeter 212–264. VS VI 7, 1: Oƒ dќ paralabТntej tХ paid…on (e‡te ¼rwej, e‡te da…monej, e‡te ti qeiТteron Ãsan gšnoj) t…sin mќn sunetšloun aЩt¾n musthr…oij ™g…nwsken oЩdќ eŒj, kaˆ prХj t… t¾n pa‹da ™xeqe…azon ¢fanќj Ãn kaˆ to‹j pЈnu boulomšnoij e„dšnai. 31 VS VI 7, 5: kaˆ qeХn eЌnai t¾n pa‹da ™pšpeisto. prospesлn dќ to‹j ¢ndrЈsin, ƒkšteuen e„pe‹n o†tinej eЌen: oƒ dќ mТlij kaˆ bradšwj (dТxan dќ ‡swj oЫtw kaˆ qeщ) paršfhnan eЌnai tБj CaldaЋkБj kaloumšnhj sof…aj oЩk ¢mÚhtoi, kaˆ toàto di’ a„n…gmatoj kaˆ k£tw neÚontej. 32 VS VI 7, 5: 8f and 11: oƒ dќ ¢pocwr»santej toà de…pnou kaˆ t¾n pa‹da paralabТntej, t»n te stol¾n tБj ™sqБtoj ™n О tetšlesto m£la filofrТnwj aÙtÍ kaˆ sunespoudasmšnwj paršdosan, kaˆ ¥lla tin¦ prosqšntej Фrgana kaˆ t¾n koit…da tБj Swsip£traj, katashm»nasqai keleÚsantej kaˆ prosembalТntej tin¦ bibl…dia. (...) жj g¦r taàta ™moˆ dakrÚontej ™nece…rizon, skТpei, œfasan, ы tšknon: ¹me‹j g¦r ™pˆ tХn ˜spšrion зkeanХn ™necqšntej, aЩt…ka ™pan»xomen. toàto sumfanšstata da…monaj eЌnai toЭj fanšntaj ¢p»legxen. Already R. Pack, Romantic Narrative, pp. 199–203, points out that we encounter here a familiar folk motif, the wandering gods in human shape amply repaying their hosts for their hospitality. Johnston, Sosipatra, p. 103–105, interprets the strangers according to her reconstruction of “theurgic doctrine” as “theurgic angels” (104). This, however, goes a bit against Eunapios’ own text and clarifies perhaps too neatly his allusive language which serves to create an aura of mystery in the narrative. 29 30

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


heart, understanding and explaining the most obscure passages with playful ease33. Classical paide…a is simply paramount for Eunapios’ conception of holiness, for women and men alike. Only her silence annoys her father. She herself decides to marry, and her choice falls on Eustathios, to whom she prophesies his future fate, the number of years in marriage, their children, his death and his ascent to the moon after death. All this she divines from his e‡dwlon, his pneumatic astral body34. ‘Her god’ however prohibits her to tell her own fate — the idea that she has not a daimon but a theos as personal guardian hearkens back to Plotinus35 and serves to emphasise her divinity. After Eustathios’ disappearance, Sosipatra sets up her own school of philosophy in Pergamon, being assisted by Aidesios, Iamblichos’ successor. Her school, localised in her own house36, forms a counterpart to the strictly logical and methodical courses of Aidesios: inspired philosophy, described by Eunapios as ecstatic, Bacchic frenzy — the Platonic metaphor for the highest form of philosophy. Only one glimpse do we get into the actual contents discussed: a perfectly typical Neoplatonic enquiry about the soul, its descent, punishment and immortality: “The proposed subject and the question concerned the soul; and, as many arguments were brought up, when Sosipatra began to speak, she solved the problems in detail by her demonstrations, and then she came upon the exposition about the descent of the soul, and what part of it is punished and what part of it immortal (...)”37. The picture is completed by a curious episode concerning her cousin Philometor, who falls in love with her and tries to perform a love charm38. Sosipatra describes her feelings and symptoms very accurately to Maximus of Ephesus, depicted by Eunapios as a skilled theurgist, and asks him to help her. Filled with pride at the request of such a woman, Maximus finds out what charm Philometor used and dispels it by employing a stronger counter­‍‑spell. Asked whether she still felt the symptoms, Sosipatra describes accurately every detail of his ritual and encourages the overawed Maximus to consider himself loved by the gods as long as he does not incline to earthly matters39. For the reader this is a clear foreboding of Maximus’ later ambivalence and 33 Cf. L. Bieler, QEIOS ANHR, vol. I, pp. 35f, for the motif of the miraculous achievement of knowledge without teachers by the divine man. 34 For the pneumatic body cf., with further literature, I. Tanaseanu-Döbler, Synesius and the Pneu‑ matic Vehicle of the Soul in Early Neoplatonism, [in:] H.-G. Nesselrath, D. Russell et al., Synesius. On Dreams, SAPERE, Tübingen (forthcoming). 35 Porphyry, Vita Plotini 10. 36 There is no indication that Sosipatra “vi ottenne la “catedra” di filosofia” (S. Lanzi, Sosipatra, p. 277, following probably A.M. Milazzo, Racconto, p. 216). 37 VS VI 9, 11: ¹ mќn prТqesij Гn kaˆ tХ z»thma perˆ yucБj: pollîn dќ kinoumšnwn lТgwn, жj Ѕrxato Swsip£tra lšgein, kat¦ mikrХn ta‹j ¢pode…xesi dialÚousa t¦ proballТmena, eЌta e„j tХn perˆ kaqТdou yucБj kaˆ t… tХ kolazТmenon kaˆ t… tХ ¢q£naton aÙtБj ™mp…ptousa lТgon (...). 38 On the novelistic traits of this story see: A.M. Milazzo, Racconto, pp. 217–222. 39 VS VI 9, 7f: toà dќ pesТntoj ™pˆ t¾n gÁn ¢canoàj, ka… qe¦n ¥ntikruj eЌnai t¾n Swsip£tran Ðmologoàntoj, “¢n…stw” fhs…n “ы tšknon: qeo… se filoаsin, ™¦n sÝ prÕj ™ke…nouj blšpVj kaˆ m¾ ∙špVj ™pˆ t¦ g»Ћna kaˆ ™p…khra cr»mata.” kaˆ Р mќn taаta ўkoЪsaj, ™xЗei megalaucÒteroj gegonèj, kaˆ tБj kat¦ t¾n guna‹ka dќ qeiÒthtoj ўsfalоj pepeiramšnoj.


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eventual downfall; it also establishes Sosipatra’s divinity beyond any doubt, as does the final story of the Philometor complex: during class, she miraculously perceives her cousin’s accident as it happens in the countryside; from that point on, everybody is convinced that Sosipatra is everywhere and therefore divine: “And everybody knew that Sosipatra was everywhere and present at everything that happens, just as the philosophers state about the gods”40. From this story we can discern some characteristic traits which in Eunapius’ view mark the ‘divine’ woman. She is already distinguished by nature, already from her earliest childhood. As with his other philosophers, a complete mastery of paide…a is necessary, in this case combined with miraculous autodidacticism41. Sosipatra is a philosopher, reaching the ecstatic, inspired level of philosophy, in Platonic terms, one of the few bЈkcai, no longer a narqhkÒforoj42; very much like the Platonic Diotima. Otherwise she follows the common life pattern of women, including marriage and motherhood; although she surpasses conventions and is not bound by them — her father renounces any control of her affairs — she respects them nevertheless43. Here the human side of the divine woman ceases and the extraordinary touches complete the picture. The most evident are Sosipatra’s clairvoyance and gift of prophecy44. She surpasses the natural limitations of human cognition and thereby, as Eunapios states, shows herself to be close to the divine. The emphasis on knowledge and cognition as one main dividing line between mortals and gods is common stock in late antiquity45. This aptitude is linked with her mysterious education by the two 40 VS VI 9, 14: kaˆ p£ntej Édesan Óti pantacoà e‡h Swsip£tra, kaˆ p©si p£resti to‹j ginomšnoij, ésper oƒ filТsofoi perˆ tîn qeîn lšgousin. 41 This is an important difference to Christian models of holy women, where religious, especially scriptural education is important, while traditional paideia does not play a great role. See e. g. A. Momigliano, Life of Saint Macrina, p. 346, or S. Rubenson, Philosophy and Simplicity. The Problem of Classical Education in Early Christian Biography [in:] Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, T. Hägg, Ph. Rousseau (eds.), Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 2000, pp. 110–139, here pp. 135f, who traces the first elements of a purely religious, i.e. Christian educational curriculum in the lives of non­‍‑Greek speaking or female saints. A.M. Milazzo, Racconto, pp. 224f, observes that the story is striking even by pagan standards: usually, the full encomiastic scheme including paideia is restricted to men, while paideia is omitted in the case of women. Here we see how women philosophers are marked out as exceptions moving in a male domain, a topic which has been studied e.g. by S. Mratschek, ‘Männliche’ Frauen. 42 Platon, Phaidon 69c. 43 Cf. Clark’s analysis of pagan and Christian late antique female lifestyles (Women in Late Antiq‑ uity), for Sosipatra and the traditional life pattern of philosophical women see pp. 130–134. Marriage, wherein sexual relations were (ideally) exclusively directed towards procreation and thus towards the sustenance of society, is part of the role assigned to women in philosophical networks; cf. Hartmann, Frauen, pp. 47f. 44 Cf. L. Bieler, QEIOS ANHR, vol. I, pp. 87–93: these traits often appear in stories of what we have termed holy men. 45 See: Synesios, De Insomniis 1, 2, ed. J. Lamoureux, N. Aujoulat (Synésios de Cyrène. Tome IV, 1) (Paris 2004): mante…a dќ ўgaqоn ¨n e‡h tÕ mšgiston: tù mќn g¦r e„dšnai, kaˆ Уlwj tù gnwstikù tБj dunЈmewj, qeТj te ўnqrиpou kaˆ ¥nqrwpoj diafšrei qhr…ou. ўll¦ qeù mќn e„j tÕ ginèskein № fЪsij ўrke‹: ўpÕ dќ mante…aj ўnqrиpJ pollaplЈsion parag…netai toа tН koinН fЪsei pros»kontoj. Ð g¦r polÝj tÕ parÕn mÒnon oЌde, perˆ dќ toа m»pw genomšnou stocЈzetai: Ð dќ

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


strangers or da…monej, and with her initiations that Eunapios obviously connects with Chaldean lore. These initiations include secret books, ritual objects and the use of robes, which the old men hand over to Sosipatra; they bring about deification.46 The interesting point is that Eunapios does not present her at any point as engaging in ritual, although that would be the natural consequence of an initiation into a secret rite; his emphasis is on the transformation and perfection effected by the rites, not on the ritual expertise. Thus, when assailed by the love spell of her cousin, Sosipatra does not resort to counter­‍‑action, but calls on Maximus, in Eunapios’ Lives the theurgic expert par excellence. She stands for everything connected with divine inspiration, while he is made the exponent of technical, ritual knowledge47. The valuation of the two in antiquity is well­‍‑known, inspiration ranging much higher than technique48; we might suspect here an authorial artifice aiming at stressing the ambivalence of Maximus and the limits of mere ritual skill. One point is clear from Eunapios’ narrative. Although he certainly knows and mentions many remarkable women in the philosophical circle around Apameia and Pergamon, such as Melite, the wife of his teacher Chrysanthios49, or the courageous wife of Maximus, a wonderful example of Stoic fortitude50, none of these women are mentioned other that en passant, in connection with certain episodes in the lives of their husbands. Female figures remain in the background, there is no explicit interest KЈlcaj eŒj ¥ra ™n ™kklhs…v tоn Panell»nwn mÒnoj ºp…stato tЈ t’ ™Ònta, tЈ t’ ™ssÒmena, prÒ t’ ™Ònta (…). See also: Hierocles, In carm. aur. XXIII, ed. F.W. Köhler, Stuttgart 1974: æj g¦r œscatoj tоn logikоn genоn oЬte ¢eˆ kaˆ æsaÚtwj pšfuke noe‹n — oЫtw g¦r oÙk Ёn Гn ¥nqrwpoj, ¢ll¦ fÚsei qeÒj — oЬte ¢eˆ noe‹n dÚnatai, e„ kaˆ m¾ æsaÚtwj: toàto g¦r aÙtÕn e„j t¾n ¢ggšlou kaq…sthsi t£xin. nаn dš ™stin ¥nqrwpoj Ðmoièsei mќn prÕj tÕ bšltion ¢cqÁnai dun£menoj, fÚsei dќ Шpobebhkлj tоn ¢qan£twn qeоn kaˆ tоn ¢gauоn №rèwn æj ™gkosm…wn prètwn kaˆ mšswn genоn. йsper dќ toÚtwn Øpšbh tù m¾ ¢eˆ noe‹n ¢ll’ ™n ¢gno…v potќ kaˆ l»qV g…nesqai tБj ˜autoа oÙs…aj kaˆ tБj qeТqen katioÚshj e„j aЩtХn ™llЈmyewj, oЫtw tщ mѕ mšnein ¢eˆ ™n tН ¢gno…v Шperšcei zуwn ¢lТgwn kaˆ futоn (...). Cf. also Johnston, Sosipatra, p. 106 for clairvoyance and divinity. 46 The story itself is clearly legendary, however, it is often taken for real and granted in scholarship (e.g. S. Lanzi, Sosipatra, p. 281), leading to speculation about the exact content of Sosipatra’s chest which contains and hides these books and ritual implements (a careful suggestion in R. Pack, Romantic Narrative, p. 203, see also S. Lanzi, Sosipatra, pp. 281–283). Taking the story as a historical source, Lanzi can speak of a Chaldean initiation of Sosipatra resulting in her becoming an expert theurgist. That is certainly what Eunapios wants us to assume, but we cannot go beyond that. 47 This key feature of Sosipatra is poignantly stressed by S.I. Johnston, Sosipatra, p. 110–115: with regard to ritual, Sosipatra remains passive. Johnston interprets this on the one hand as Eunapios’ stratagem to re-emphasise theurgy in the post-Iamblichean circles; on the other hand, she draws on De mysteriis to understand passivity as pertaining to the highest form of theurgy. 48 Cf. e.g. Iamblichus, De mysteriis III 2–14, eds. E.C. Clarke, J.M. Dillon, J.P. Hershbell (Leiden and Boston 2004) (discussion of various types of inspired divination) and III 15, where he introduces the artificial divination as a lesser form. In III 31 he presents the theurgic or Chaldean assimilation of the soul to the gods as the source of the highest form of divination, stemming from the perfect union with the divine — as S.I. Johnston, Sosipatra, suggests, Eunapios might have had Iamblichus’ perfect theurgist in mind when describing Sosipatra. For Iamblichus’ theory of divination see P. Athanassiadi, Dreams, Theurgy and Freelance Divination: the Testimony of Iamblichus, JRS 83, (1993), pp. 115–130. 49 VS VII 4, 5 (Melite greatly admired by Chrysanthios). 50 VS VII 4, 16f.


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in drawing portraits of holy women. And in Sosipatra’s biography, the miraculous and extraordinary element is emphasised throughout, from childhood through education to her adulthood. She is born exceptional and is then completely deified by superhuman beings51; she does not become holy by following a step­‍‑by­‍‑step methodical course, whereas in the lives of other philosophers a methodical education is emphasised, and theurgy is presented as a part of philosophy and paideia. Sosipatra is thus not a model to be followed. And the notable absence of Hypatia, the other famous woman philosopher of the 4th century, whom Eunapios as a  contemporary must have known, is equally telling. She represents the other possible model of a holy or divine woman, who reaches her status through philosophy; she is the only other late antique philosopher beside Sosipatra who is portrayed as a full­‍‑fledged philosopher and holy woman in her own right, not merely related to the philosophical network as a wife or mother of philosophers52. But Hypatia has no miraculous legends to tell53. Although her student Synesios celebrates her in the highest terms as almost superhuman, her perfection is due to her philosophy, to her role as a teacher and initiator into philosophy. Her work would have fitted his gallery of embodiments of paideia, but Eunapios chooses not to include her. His sofo… are male, and Sosipatra, herself wife and mother of philosophers, is the exception that proves the rule54. With this stance, Eunapios fits well into late antique philosophical patterns. There is no marked interest in women as philosophers, let alone in holy or divine women. Even Sosipatra is not mentioned anywhere else. In the following section I will discuss this situation by highlighting pagan late antique positions concerning the spiritual perfection of women and enquire whether any role models for holy or divine women can be discerned from the sources.

4. Holy Women in Pagan Writings? The divine woman Sosipatra combines the philosopher with the initiate and the divinely inspired. Our enquiry about possible role models for women aspiring to a similar extraordinary religious status has to take into account the sphere of philosophy together with that of religion or, more precisely, ritual. For it is in the philosophical tradition that human aspiration towards the divine and the yearning for perfection and for surpassing the ordinary everyday Lebenswelt are explicitly voiced and systematically theorised, ever since Plato’s goal of Рmo…wsij qeщ kat¦ Cf. also Johnston, Sosipatra, p. 103. For the philosophical networks developing in Late Antiquity and featuring not only teacherstudent­‍‑relationships but also a  complex web of family ties, see P. Athanassiadi, Persecution and Response in Late Paganism: The Evidence of Damascius, JHS 113 (1993), pp. 1–29 or G. Ruffini, Late Antique Pagan Networks from Athens to the Thebaid [in:] Ancient Alexandria between Egypt and Greece, W.V. Harris, G. Ruffini (eds.), Leiden and Boston 2004, pp. 241–257. 53 R. Pack, Romantic Narrative, pp. 203f maliciously suggests that Sosipatra might have spread the legend to increase her prestige as an inspired philosopher. 54 See: R. Penella, Philosophers, p. 61, who conjectures Sosipatra’s story to be “an Asianic answer to Alexandria’s female sage”. 51 52

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


tХ dunatТn55. The Platonic tradition will be of primary importance for us as the dominant philosophical tradition of later Antiquity; but it must be remarked that the Stoic ideal of assimilation of the sage’s ¹gemonikТn or lТgoj to the divine lТgoj of the universe as well as the Epicurean ideal of becoming as alike to the gods as possible by achieving bliss as far as it is possible to mortals tend in the same direction, although they spell it out through the lens of their respective worldviews. And philosophical texts do not only propose this goal but also offer guidelines how to reach it; philosophy guides step by step to the divine56. Plutarch

Let us start our enquiry about how ideals of female education and behaviour were created and circulated in the philosophical networks that formed the tradition and background of Eunapios’ story with a glimpse back to Plutarch, whom Eunapios mentions in the highest tones57. His Marriage Counsels were written as a  wedding gift for a couple among his students. The text offers us a good opportunity to study the expectations Plutarch has towards his female student. This can be complemented by a glimpse into the letter of consolation to his wife on the death of their daughter. Plutarch’s Marriage Counsels draw a clear and very traditional picture of the proper married woman. Her sphere is the household; she should avoid public appearances unless accompanied by her husband. She should speak either to or through her husband, “not taking offence if she speaks more solemnly by means of a foreign tongue, like the flute player”58 Harmony should reign in their affairs, the husband’s προαίρεσις and ἡγεμονία dominating59. On the whole, the wife should model herself upon her husband, going so far as to model her own religiosity upon his (19); the harmonious relationship in which the wife is however the submissive part, extends also to philosophy. Pollianus is urged to improve his character by studying philosophy, reading more elaborate works involving complex argumentation and structure; then he is to play in his turn the part of teacher to his wife, gathering whatever is useful from his readings as the bee gathers honey and presenting it to her60. Besides the instruction imparted to her by her husband, Eurydike is encouraged to read women’s writings — a piece written by Plutarch’s wife Timoxena to Aristylla on Theaitetos 176b. Synesios, Ep. 142. 57 Cf. VS II 1, 3 and II 1, 7–8. 58 Coniugalia praecepta 32, 142 D, [in:] W.R. Paton, I. Wegehaupt, M. Pohlenz, H. Gärtner (eds.), Plutarchus, Moralia, vol. I, corr. ed. 2 (Stuttgart, Leipzig 1993). 59 Coniugalia praecepta 11, 139 C–D. 60 Ibidem 48, 145 B–C: Kaˆ sЭ mќn йran œcwn ½dh filosofe‹n to‹j met’ ¢pode…xewj kaˆ kataskeuБj legomšnoij ™pikТsmei tХ Гqoj, ™ntugc£nwn kaˆ plhsi£zwn to‹j зfeloаsi: tН dќ gunaikˆ pantacТqen tХ cr»simon sun£gwn ésper aƒ mšlittai kaˆ fšrwn aЩtХj ™n seautщ metad…dou kaˆ prosdialšgou, f…louj aЩtН poiоn kaˆ sun»qeij tîn lТgwn toЭj ўr…stouj. pat¾r mќn g£r `™ssi’ aЩtН kaˆ `pТtnia m»thr ºdќ kas…gnhtoj’: oЩc Вtton dќ semnХn ўkoаsai gametБj legoЪshj `¥ner, `ўt¦r sÚ mo… ™ssi’ kaqhght¾j kaˆ filТsofoj kaˆ didЈskaloj tоn kall…stwn kaˆ qeiotЈtwn’. t¦ dќ toiaаta maq»mata prîton ўf…sthsi tîn ўtТpwn t¦j guna‹kaj (...). 55 56


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the excessive love of ornaments61. Interestingly, she is to learn that by heart if possible. This gives us a glimpse into the practice of philosophy as a spiritual exercise and a way of life; just as the Kyriai Doxai of Epikouros were easily memorised, and the essence of Stoic teaching was made handy by Epiktetos’ Encheiridion, here we see a philosopher’s wife writing ethical texts that can be used for the training of women. This practice and method of education is not peculiar to Plutarch; we will also encounter it in Porphyry’s letter to his wife. Plutarch thus stresses that it is precisely philosophy which makes a woman capable of fulfilling her specific role as wife and mother, rendering her sиfrwn62 and keeping her from superstition and vices through deeper knowledge. His contemporary Musonius Rufus stresses especially the ethical aspect of philosophy in his arguments for educating women in philosophy: given the similar nature of both men and women, both should be educated alike, at least as far as practical philosophy goes. The fear that women may thus be led to neglect their actual duties in the domestic sphere, to intrude into the public life and to become insufferable on account of their intellectual velleities is countered by indicating that true philosophy is a matter of œrga, not lТgoi in females and males alike, so that a philosophical education would lead women to perform their specific roles better, making them judicious o„konТmoi of their households, perfect mothers nursing their children themselves and perfect wives ministering intelligently to their husbands, not objecting to menial tasks63. Although the emphasis is on practice, we see here a similar ideal to that developed by Plutarch, which is exemplified by his wife Timoxena. Timoxena herself is the addressee of Plutarch’s letter of consolation on the death of their daughter. Here she emerges as the true philosopher’s wife, keeping her courage, curbing excessive mourning and restraining her grief. The situation is again asymmetrical: Plutarch feels bound to console and encourage his wife to behave philosophically. She is to perform whatever she thinks necessary, as he greatly values her judgment64. Throughout the letter he emphasises her proper behaviour on different occasions: her care for her children, whom she nursed herself, her fortitude 61 Timoxena’s writing of philosophical advice to women recalls the letters ascribed to Pythagorean female philosophers like Melissa, Myia or Theano, most of which are directed to younger and more unexperienced women. The texts are collected and commented by A. Städele, Die Briefe des Pythagoras und der Pythagoreer, Meisenheim am Glan 1980, pp. 160–185 (texts) and 253–353 (commentary). He dates most of the texts around the 2nd century AD, some ascribed to Theano from the Vaticanus graecus 578 even to the 5th century AD (see pp. 349–351). Theano in particular developed into the image of the ideal wife and mother, as noted by H. Thesleff, The Pythagorean Texts of the Hellenistic Period, Abo 1965, p. 194. 62 SwfrosЪnh is described as the typically female virtue e.g. in pseudo­‍‑Pythagorean texts such as the Perˆ gunaikХj Ўrmon…aj of Periktione (apud Stobaios IV 28, 19) or the Perˆ gunaikХj swfrosЪnaj ascribed to Phintys (also apud Stobaios IV 23, 61). See also: A.C. van Geyttenbeek, Musonius Rufus and Greek Diatribe, Assen 1963, p. 59. 63 Diss. III and IV, ed. O. Hense (Leipzig 1905). For a contextualisation of the passages see e.g. A.C. van Geyttenbeek, Musonius Rufus, pp. 51–62, who shows that Musonius’ emphasis on the equality between women and men is unusually strong. 64 Consolatio ad uxorem 1,608 B [in:] Plutarchus, Moralia III, eds. W.R. Paton, M. Pohlenz, W. Sieveking, Leipzig 1929, repr. 2001: e„ dš ti boulomšnh m¾ pepo…hkaj ўll¦ mšneij t¾n ™m¾n

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


at previous losses, her help for a friend or relative in a similar case, when she tried to keep other female friends from exacerbating her grief with their excessive shows of despair. Timoxena’s propriety on every occasion, within the house as well as in public, at sacrifices or in the theatre, is mentioned as a source of amazement to the philosophically­‍‑minded. Plutarch offers her some thoughts and paths of meditation, some often heard by her before, to help her assuage her grief further. So we see the philosopher’s wife as a model of proper behaviour, moving in the typically female sphere of childbirth, household management and female acquaintances whom she instructs and helps. Beside Timoxena and Eurydike, Plutarch’s circle of philosophical women also included Klea, a priestess of Isis and member of the Thyiades at Delphi — to whom he devotes a treatise about the philosophical interpretation of the Isis myth and cult65. This treatise shows the high level on which women were expected by Plutarch to take part in philosophical discussion; although his philosophical dialogues never feature female participants, Klea is treated to a tour de force of all philosophical theories on religion and the gods, from Euhemerism via Stoic allegory and Middle Platonic daimonology to a Pythagoreanising interpretation. An excursus into Iranian mythology rounds off the work. Throughout, Plutarch stresses the importance of philosophy as the hermeneutical key to cult and myth alike, without which one is liable to fall either into the trap of superstition or into that of atheism. Klea is more than just a name; he refers to their common experience in the cult of Isis and their common cultic background at Delphi66. So here we have yet another female role: the designated priestess, who is taught the deeper meaning of her office and the cult she is performing. These female roles — philosophical and virtuous wife and mother, learning and studying philosophy, but seldom actively engaged in teaching, and the designated role of the priestess, are typical of what we find in later antiquity, to which we now turn. Porphyry

The tradition of the philosophical couple, which the husband teaches the wife, is exemplified by Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella. Being called away for an unspecified cre…a tоn `Ell»nwn67 after ten months of marriage — and of philosophical traingnиmhn, o‡ei dќ koufТteron o‡sein genomšnou, kaˆ toаt’ œstai d…ca p£shj perierg…aj kaˆ deisidaimon…aj, пn ¼kist£ soi mštesti. 65 He als dedicates to her a piece on the “Virtues of Women”, which presents itself as a sequel to a consolatory discussion on the death of a certain Leontis, in which the thesis of the equal virtue of women and men had been advanced (242E-243A [in:] Plutarchus, Moralia II, eds. W. Nachstädt, W. Sieveking, J. B. Titchener, Leipzig 1935, repr. 1971). 66 Cf. De Iside et Osiride 28, 362B; 35, 364E-365A; 68, 378A-D; 77, 382C-E [in:] Plutarchus, Moralia II, eds. W. Nachstädt, W. Sieveking, J. B. Titchener, Leipzig 1935, repr. 1971. 67 The journey is often related to his taking actively part in the deliberations preparing the persecution of Christians under Diocletian. However, Porphyry’s participation in this endeavour is merely a matter of dubious conjecture, so that we cannot date the letter thereby to 303. For an overview of older literature on Porphyry and the persecution see: H. Whittaker, The Purpose of Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella, Symbolae Osloenses 76 (2001), pp. 150–168. The newest voices on this debated issue are E. DePalma Digeser, A Threat to Public Piety. Christians, Platonists and the Great Persecution,


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ing for Marcella — he writes a brief guide of how she should live in order to make progress in philosophy. The Neoplatonist who was on the brink of committing suicide to free the soul from its body68 can be heard in Porphyry’s insistence that he had married Marcella only because of her desolate situation, to bring up her children and help her pursue her inclinations for philosophy with himself as a guide69. The tšloj Marcella should be striving for is the typically Neoplatonic purification of the soul from its earthly concerns, collecting itself again from the dissipation into matter to begin the ascent towards the divine70. It is the ideal of the sage engaged in Рmo…wsij qeù71. The Neoplatonic rhetoric of the immortal intellectual core in man which needs to find itself again72, is spread out redundantly, by means of a potpourri of philosophical maxims culled mainly from the so­‍‑called Sentences of Sextus, a popular collection of Neopythagorean colouring circulating widely among pagans as well as Christians from the early 3rd century AD, but including other Pythagorean sayings alongside Platonic geflügelte Worte or quotations from Epikouros73. Pieced together and sometimes briefly commented on by Porphyry, they form a  web of handy dicta to reinforce the Neoplatonic goal of purity and assimilation to the divine. This goal is similar for men and women74, and so are the maxims that Porphyry uses for his advice. But nevertheless, the fundamental assymetry remains: Marcella may be exceptionally gifted and entertain the loftiest aspirations for philosophy — still, Porphyry is the teacher and guide (kaqhgemèn), who fears that her promising beginning may be ruined if she remains without guidance, who exhorts her to find the true guide in her own heart, not in his earthly frame75. Here we get a close glimpse at the ideal of philosophical perfection modelled upon the Neoplatonic concept of man’s higher inner nature that has to be discovered and developed, leading its possessor to a relationship of perfect communion with the divine. We may therefore clearly speak of holiness. Porphyry does not systematically and explicitly discuss Ithaca, London 2012, who distinguishes “a growing consensus” that Porphyry actually played a part in the persecution (p. 5), and A. P. Johnson, Religion and Identity in Porphyry of Tyre. The Limits of Hellenism in Late Antiquity, Cambridge 2013, who takes the opposing view (p. 21). 68 The anecdote is related by Porphyry himself (Vita Plotini 11) and by Eunapios, VS IV 1,7–9. 69 For the situation see Ad Marc. 1–10, ed. É. Des Places (Porphyre. Vie de Pythagore. Lettre à Marcella, Paris 1982, 3rd repr. 2010). References are to this edition. 70 E.g. Ad Marc. 6f, 10, passim. 71 Ad Marc. 11 and 19: the sage as the true temple of God; 15, 16. 72 See e.g.: Ad Marc. 9: Marcella has in herself kaˆ tХ sщzon kaˆ tХ sJzÒmenon, or 33: the soul sent ‘naked’ down from heaven must free itself from every foreign envelope to become naked and pure again and call upon God. 73 For the sources see: É. Des Places, Porphyre. Vie de Pythagore. Lettre à Marcella, Paris 1982, 3rd repr. 2010, pp. 94–100, and his notes to the text. The Sentences of Sextus were ascribed wrongly to a  Christian martyr and thus rendered palatable to Christians. Interestingly, Rufinus of Aquileia translated them as a handbook of spiritual discipline for a Roman lady, while presenting her husband with Origen’s homilies (see: K. Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride, pp. 104–106). Just like Porphyry, the pagan philosopher, the Christian intellectual also saw them as particularly fit for female use. 74 Ad Marc. 33. 75 Ad Marc. 4–9.

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


it in terms of divinity, keeping man and God — the highest hypostasis76 — mostly distinct. However, true and perfect embodiments of this philosophical ideal such as Pythagoras or his own teacher Plotinus surpass the human condition, having divine beings as their guardian angels77 and displaying various superhuman abilities78; they reach the level of the blessed daimones79. Marcella herself is a beginner en route to this highest level of holiness and divinity with a lesser ‘d’80. Iamblichos

That religion, especially ancestral religion, is the specific province of women is not just a modern impression but appears also in Iamblichos. In his Pythagorean Life, he presents the Pythagorean — i.e. his own ideal — pedagogical plan inter alia by inserting speeches of Pythagoras to different social groups. To the women, Pythagoras is made to say that the worship of the gods is their special concern. Honouring the gods according to the customary rites is therefore one of their main duties, alongside virtue and the proper management of their families81. In his apology of pagan, especially theurgic, ritual, Iamblichos only discusses women as priestesses of ecstatic cults, involving divine possession and inspiration, e.g. the priestesses of Apollo at Delphi or Didyma82. Women also appear in his own circle of acquaintances: among his correspondence addressed to his former students and discussing different aspects of the philosophical way of life, there is one directed to Arete, treating the subiect of swfrosЪnh, of which a small fragment is preserved in John of Stobaios. This Arete might well be the acquaintance of Julian and Themistios, referred to in Julian’s letter to Themistios83. The letter fragment itself is too small to be of any use in our enquiry. 76 Cf. Sent. 31, ed. E. Lamberz, Leipzig 1975, where he distinguishes between Р qeТj, noаj and yuc», and Vita Plotini 23, ed. L. Brisson et al., vol. II, Paris 1992. The gods of traditional religion, gods with a small ‘g’, represent a lesser form of divinity in this system. 77 Vita Plotini 10. 78 Vita Pythagorae 23 (communication with animals); 28–30, Vita Plotini 11. 79 Vita Plotini 23. 80 For the different levels of Neoplatonic virtue according to Porphyry see: Sent. 32. Undoubtedly, like most late antique letters and especially philosophical letters, the letter was not directed solely to Marcella but was also intended for publication and reading by wider circles. A protreptic intention is therefore clearly implied, as states H. Whittaker, Purpose of Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella, following the overwhelming majority of previous research. However, her suggestion that Porphyry aims particularly at women attracted to Christianity narrows down the audience excessively, although of course Porphyry’s anti­‍‑Christian penchant is obvious. 81 Vita Pythagorica 11 [54–57], M. von Albrecht et al. (eds.), Jamblich: Pythagoras. Legende — Lehre — Lebensgestaltung, Darmstadt 2002. 82 De myst. III 11. 83 J. Stobaios, Anthologium III 5, 9, O. Hense, C. Wachsmuth (eds.), vol. 3, Berlin 1894. The letters of Iamblichos have now been edited and translated by J. Dillon, W. Polleichtner (eds.), Iamblichus of Chalcis: The Letters, Leiden, Boston 2010. The other extracts of a letter on swfrosЪnh preserved separately in the anthology (III 5, 45–50) seem to be directed to an unnamed male addressee (cf. the masculine form of the participle, ™ννοήσας, in III 5, 46, Dillon/Polleichtner p. 6. Dillon/Polleichtner do not discuss the masculine form of the aorist participle and treat III 5, 9 and 45–50 as belonging to one letter (see the commentary on pp. 62–66)), so they most probably do not form part of the letter to


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Julian would be the very person to be fascinated by a divine woman like Sosipatra; he obviously knew and admired Eustathios, whom he invites to his court, so he might be expected to know her. But in spite of his exertions on behalf of Arete, in spite of his female acquaintances among the network of his philosophical circle, not only Sosipatra herself but the very type of divine woman is absent from his thoughts. Special religious status is connected to the role of the priesthood, which he tries to reform according to philosophical standards and Christian influences, creating a system of priesthoods based on a well­‍‑defined holy way of life, marking the priest off from the rest of society as the servant and representative of the gods84. Among Julian’s “pastoral”85 letters intended to develop and implement this ideal, one letter is addressed to the priestess Theodora. Julian emphasises that as a priestess she must keep not only herself but her whole household pure and agreeable to the gods, which per se excludes allowing the servants any Christian inclinations86. Here, we meet an “Amtscharisma” (to use Max Weber’s well-known term), which in Julian’s ideal concides with the personal charisma stemming from the conduct of the priestess. Another priestess from his acquaintance is Kallixeina, a Phrygian priestess of Demeter. Full of praise for her courageous conduct during the years of Christian oppression, Julian recompenses her by bestowing on her additionally the priesthood of the Mother of the Gods in Pessinous87, in his capacity of pontifex maximus, an office which he profoundly reconceptualises on Christian hierarchical lines. As such, he extensively appoints priests from his philosophical circle in order to realise his ideal of the reformed pagan clergy; besides Kallixeina, Melite, the wife of Chrysanthios of Sardes, is yet another appointed priestess, filling the office of archiereia of Asia (Eunapius, VS VII, 4,9). From this it becomes clear that for Julian religious status for women is closely connected with their holding a public priestly office, not with any superhuman powers or special rites88. His theurgic network with Priscus, Maximus or Chrysanthios does not include any women, either. A far as women and religion were concerned, Julian seems to have preferred a more traditional approach. Arete. For Julian’s reference to Arete, who appears to be a wealthy lady with possessions in Phrygia, see Julian, Letter to Themistios 6, 259 d, G. Rochefort (ed.), L’empereur Julien. Oeuvres Complètes II 1; Paris 1963. 84 See I. Tanaseanu-Döbler, Konversion zur Philosophie in der Spätantike. Kaiser Julian and Synesios von Kyrene, Stuttgart 2008, pp. 141-150. 85 To use the term of W. Koch, Comment l’emperen Julien tâcha de fonder une église païenne II: Les lettres pastorales, Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 7 (1928), pp. 49–82, 511–550. 86 Ep. 86, ed. J. Bidez, Paris 1924, 5. repr. 2010; ep. 85 is also addressed to Theodora, but as a friend, not in order to educate and instruct her as a priestess. 87 Ep. 81. 88 Gregory Nazianzen reports that Julian had envisaged pagan monasteries for monks and nuns as part of his reform programme (or 4, 111 (Grégoire de Nazianze, Discours 4–5 contre Julien, J. Bernardi (ed.), Paris 1983). There is no evidence for that in Julian’s extant writings. Cf. A. Kurmann, Gregor von Nazianz Oratio 4 gegen Julian. Ein Kommentar, Basel 1988, pp. 369; 374–376.

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity



Around the times when Eunapios was writing his Lives, Synesios of Cyrene had completed his studies with Hypatia of Alexandria89. His studies were the beginning of a life­‍‑long friendship for her, full of veneration for the “mother”, “blessed lady”, “most divine soul” and “legitimate teacher of the mysteries of philosophy”90. Through his writings, Hypatia emerges as the quintessence and epitome of philosophical perfection, something more than human, by her teaching and personality. Synesios’ letters to her are quite comparable to those written by members of the Stefan George circle to their master, the poet as the teacher, mystagogue and central figure for the life and worldview of his disciples. Max Weber, himself connected to George and his circle, developed the sociological concept of charisma91, which fits Synesios’ Hypatia perfectly. A  further enquiry into the precise nature of her exceptional status leads mainly to her role as a teacher of philosophy, not to ritual or even theurgic expertise or any evidence of extraordinary powers. Unlike Sosipatra, Hypatia does not fully submit to the traditional female life pattern: she does not marry and fully concentrates on her work as a teacher of philosophy, following in the steps of her father. Her teaching activity is double, consisting of public lectures alongside the more esoteric transmission of Neoplatonic theology and writings such as the Chaldean Oracles or the Hermetica to a closer circle. But even in her breach with the typical female biography, Hypatia draws on established role models: on the topos of the philosopher as a stranger to common human affairs, pursuing a higher life standard, and especially on the Cynic and Pythagorean tradition, blending the Schlagfertigkeit of Theano with the parrhs…a of Hipparchia in order to cure one of her students of his excessive love for her92 — the same problem threatening the exposed female philosophy teacher as in Sosipatra’s case, but without any involvement of ritual as a means to cope with it. Hypatia appears throughout as the intellectualised type of holy woman, achieving her perfection

89 On Hypatia, by far the best­‍‑studied late antique pagan woman, see especially: M. Dzielska, Hy‑ patia of Alexandria, Cambridge, MA 1995, and eadem, Learned Women, as well as her contribution to the present volume, or I. Tanaseanu­‍‑Döbler, Konversion zur Philosophie in der Spätantike. Kaiser Julian und Synesios von Kyrene, Stuttgart 2008, pp. 181–190, with a discussion of recent literature. A commented collection of the sources has been published by H. Harich-Schwarzbauer, Hypatia. Die spätantiken Quellen, Bern et al. 2011. 90 Ep. 5, 10, 16, 124 or 15, ed. A. Garzya, D. Roques, Paris 2000. On Synesios’ relationship with Hypatia cf. e.g. I. Tanaseanu­‍‑Döbler, Synesios von Kyrene zwischen Platonismus und Christentum [in:] K. Luchner et al., Synesios von Kyrene: Polis — Freundschaft — Jenseitsstrafen. Briefe an und über Johannes, Tübingen 2010, pp. 119–150, here pp.146–149. 91 See: Th. Karlauf, Stefan George: Die Entdeckung des Charisma, München 2007. 92 Damaskios, Vita Isidori frg. 43 A–C, P. Athanassiadi (ed.), Damascius. The Philosophical His‑ tory, Athens 1999. All subsequent references are to this edition. Precisely these two traditions provided the identification figures which legitimised and circumscribed the role of the female philosopher beside Plato’s Aspasia and Diotima: Pythagorean female philosophers like Theano, in whose name letters circulated in later antiquity, and the Cynic Hipparchia.


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through philosophy only, and in clear and acknowledged competition with male philosophers of her time, especially with those of Athens93. Proklos

Athens and Alexandria, the two centres of fifth and sixth century Neoplatonism offer little in the way of ‘divine’ or ‘holy’ women. Marinus, Proklos’ successor and biographer, briefly mentions Asklepigeneia, the daughter of Plutarch, as a  ritual expert who initiated Proklos into the theurgic lore which she had inherited from her grandfather Nestorios94. But even she plays only a minor part, being only mentioned in passing, as are other daughters and wives of philosophers from Proklos’ network. Proklos himself does not refer to Asklepigeneia, his ritual teacher by Marinus’ testimony, although he mentions Nestorios repeatedly95. His ƒer¦ gene£, just like that of Hierokles, is essentially male, linking the key figures of Plato, Pythagoras, Plotinos, Porphyry, Iamblichos with the tradition of his own teachers, Plutarch and Syrianos96. Treating Plato’s Republic, he duly collects arguments for the similar education of young women and young men to prove Plato’s point, but stresses that the nature of females is per se weaker than the male, on every plane of existence, human or divine97. Damaskios

Figures like Syrianos are for Proklos divine gifts to mankind, supplying a possibility of contact with the divine in spite of the desolate state of pagan religions98; they are the primary locus of the divine in the world of the late antique pagan elite, alongside remote ‘holy’ places on the Eastern fringes of the empire, as described by Damaskios in his Vita Isidori. In Damaskios, too, prosopography is pre­‍‑eminent, structuring both the work and its world, separating the old world and its remains from the new Christian world of giants and Typhones. However, the old world is not simply extolled hagiographically, but vividly drawn through the eyes of an accurate, sometimes merciless observer, who notes even the shortcomings of his more ‘divine’ figures99. As such appears first and foremost his philosophical teacher Isidore, critical of Proklos’ excessive rigidity and passion for theurgy, but in close communion with the gods. Another quaint holy man is Sarapion, living as a recluse with just a few books, among which the Orphic poems, and dedicating his life to meditation and pilgrimage to holy places100. Heraiskos is initiated in Egyptian mysteries, and during his burial his superior status is indicated by luminous symbols Cf. Synesios, Ep. 136, and Damaskios, Vita Isidori frg. 106 A. Marinus, Vita Procli 28, H.-D. Saffrey, A.-Ph. Segonds (eds.), Paris 2001. 95 In remp. II 64, II 324–325 W. Kroll (ed.), Leipzig 1901. 96 E.g. In Parm. I 2, ed. C. Steel, vol. I, Oxford 2007 (= Cousin 618), or Theol. plat. I 1, p. 5f, H.-D. Saffrey, L.G. Westerink (eds.), vol. I, Paris 1968. 97 In remp. I 236–250. 98 In Parm. I, loc. cit. 99 See the introduction of P. Athanassiadi, Damascius, esp. pp. 26f and 40. 100 Isidore: e.g. frg. 9 C and E; 12B, 77A; 59A-F; Sarapion: frg. 111. 93 94

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


miraculously appearing on his shroud101. Pagan martyrs and their courage are duly recorded102. A philosophical couple decides to live in chastity after fulfilling their duty of procreating children; here, the husband leads the way103. Asklepiodotos and his wife Damiane worship at Philae and are supposedly granted a miraculous pregnancy by Isis — the starting point of a conflict between pagans and Christians at Alexandria104. The work itself, we learn from Photios, is dedicated to Theodora, a distant relative of Iamblichus, who had been taught by Damaskios together with her sisters105 — unfortunately we cannot say anything about the religious achievements of these cultivated pagan women. But within the work we find some hints about women accomplished in religion. On the one hand, two cases display an extraordinary ability to read the future. Anthousa, a contemporary of Damaskios, is presented as the inventress of divination by clouds; however, she is not described as particularly holy or divine106. This is the case with another unnamed contemporary, a ƒer¦ gun» with a qeТmoirij fЪsij paralogwt£th, practicing lecanomancy107. As in Sosipatra’s case, the supernatural abilities are proof of a higher, extraordinary nature. Women are also part of the intellectual networks of Athens and Alexandria. The ‘holy Marcella’, probably the wife of Porphyry, is mentioned once as the ancestor of the rhetorician Theon108 — a late testimony to her reputation. Hypatia is presented in greater detail as a remarkable figure of the Alexandrian philosophical scene, skilled in some levels of philosophy (ethics and mathematical sciences) and prominent by her outrageous death contrived by the archbishop Cyril — a striking woman, but certainly not holy or ‘divine’, not even a true philosopher by comparison with Damaskios’ own master Isidore109. Although not a philosopher herself, a wife and mother of philosophers is presented in a little vignette of glowing colours: Aidesia, the wife of Hermeias and mother of Ammonios. She is the kall…sth kaˆ ¢r…sth gunaikоn tоn ™n ’Alexandre…v, not surpassing her husband in skills and philosophy, as Sosipatra did, but at least very much like him in character110. She practises the virtue of swfrosÚnh throughout her life and distinguishes herself by her filТqeon kaˆ fil£nqrwpon. The latter takes an interesting turn: Aidesia engages in an extensive practice of charity towards all, especially towards her fellow pagans in need (the ƒeroˆ kaˆ ™pieike‹j Ґnqrwpoi), spending all her fortune towards this end. This earns her the regard of even the worst Cf. frg. 72A-B; 76 A-E. E. g. frg. 45B; 117B-C; 119 H-K; 126B; 139. 103 The philosopher Theosebios; Vita Isidori 46 E. 104 Damiane is described as a„dhmonest£thn kaˆ par¦ lТgon oвsan (...) ШyhlТfrona kaˆ ¢ndrТboulon e„j o„konom…an, йsper sиfrona kaˆ ¥qrupton e„j sumb…wsin (frg. 86 G). 105 Photios, Bibl. cod. 181, 125b–126a, R. Henry (ed.), vol. 2, Paris 1960. 106 Vita Isidori frg. 52. 107 Frg. 129Β. 108 Vita Isidori frg. 49. 109 Vita Isidori 43 and 106A; pace U. Hartmann, Frauen, pp. 68f. 110 Vita Isidori frg. 56 (the following passage refers throughout to the same fragment). 101 102


Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler

people in Alexandria — probably the Christians. This is a new and telling touch in the picture of the pagan holy woman beside the Neoplatonic striving for purification and ascent, the philosophical life, the role of the teacher and clairvoyant which we have encountered until now: charity, which is so prominent in Christian lives of holy women. Damaskios’ insistence on the combination of filÒqeon kaˆ fil£nqrwpon recalls Julian’s desperate endeavours to instil in his pagan clergy an attitude towards the poor similar to and competitive with the Christian ethos, insisting on the necessary connection between filanqrwp…a and true piety111. Now, more than a hundred years later, Christian and pagan ideals of holiness find a  point of convergence. Damaskios’ presentation of Aidesia’s reasons is proof of this convergence between the two worlds of thought: she reckons charity eŒj qhsaurХj tБj ўme…nwnoj ™lp…doj — a phrase blending the mysteric formula for the hope in the life to come112 with the Christian idea of an incorruptible treasure in heaven113. This filanqrwp…a is paired with the proper relationship to the gods: t£ te prХj qeХn eÙseb¾j oÛtw kaˆ ƒer£, kaˆ tХ Уlon f£nai qeofil»j, éste pollîn ™pifaneiîn ўxioаsqai. The divine apparitions as indicators of the closeness to the divine are not unusual; they form a recurrent pattern of Marinus’ Life of Proklos. The crown of the presentation of the holy philosopher’s family is the saintly child, who can speak perfectly at the age of seven months and shows his divine nature before dying at the age of seven, unable to be contained in the material world114. The holy woman in Damaskios is thus pictured along the same lines as in Eunapios: extraordinary nature manifest in special mantic abilities, a proper life as wife and mother, devoted to the children’s upbringing, charity and religious practice, rewarded by the divine with frequent visitations. Hypatia, although remarkable, is not qualified in the extant fragments as divine or even holy — her excellence extends after all only to the level of political virtue, the lowest Neoplatonic level of philosophical virtue115. The intellectualistic type of holiness, based only on the philosophical development of one’s ontologically divine nature, which played a great part in Porphyry or Synesios, is not an option for Damaskios’ holy women. Results

How does a woman live a holy life and ascend closer to the divine? Which models should she follow? The questions have not been asked systematically by late antique pagans. Concentrating on holiness, on a special relationship with the divine, we encounter two types. On the one hand, we find the woman of extra­‍‑ordinary nature, perfected through ritual practice — Sosipatra, Damaskios’ diviners or AiEp. 84 and 89a and b. Duly noted by P. Athanassiadi, Damascius, p. 157, n. 130. 113 The classical locus is Mt 6, 19–21 (the Sermon on the Mount); the parallel in Lc 12,33f, with a clear reference to almsgiving. 114 Vita Isidori frg. 57A. For the precocious saintly child of outstanding philosophers see also the son of Chrysanthios (Eunapios, VS XXIII 5, 1–6). 115 On the various Neoplatonic scales of virtue cf. the systematisation by H.-D. Saffrey, A.-Ph. Segonds, Marinus. Proclus ou Sur le bonheur, Paris 2001, pp. LXIX–XCVIII. 111


Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


desia. Of all these, only Aidesia appears as a possible model to imitate. The other pattern of holy woman is that exemplified by Porphyry’s Marcella or Synesios’ Hypatia: the intellectual type, deified through the practice of philosophy, within the framework of the traditional model of philosophical (Neoplatonic) ascent. The latter model is not specifically designed for female religiosity, and its fulfillment, including the life and teaching of a philosopher, is not fully compatible with the traditional female life patterns. Hypatia, the philosopher living and teaching just like her male counterparts, is the exception among late antique holy women, an exception following itself established rules: the extra­‍‑ordinary female philosopher or teacher, Diotima, Aspasia or Hipparchia116. In later sources, ritual expertise or the practice of charity are added to the ideal of the holy woman, but no explicit, coherent models for female religiosity are developed, the traditional female life pattern being tacitly assumed and presupposed117. Women are noted mainly because of their ties to the philosophical networks, as mothers, wives or pupils of philosophers, but seldom as aspirants to or embodiments of holiness or divinity. And as G. Reydam­‍‑Schils has noted, precisely these traditional female roles were rendered increasingly problematic by Neoplatonic philosophy, connected as they are with the body and generation; parenthood and marriage are “relegated to the mere interstices of being”118. This is the more striking when compared to the Christian sphere, where female saints and sanctity are discussed, regulated and developed from its very beginnings119. Thus, although Momigliano is right to note a change in attitude towards marriage and an increased religious and intellectual independence of women beginning in early Imperial times and continuing in later antiquity120, this change does not affect the pagan discourse of holiness by any increase in attention towards specifically female forms, as it does on the Christian side. Hypatia is even more exceptional insofar as she chooses celibacy; see: E. Clark, Women in Late Antiquity, p. 130. 117 For celibacy as one key difference in options between Christian and pagan women; see: E. Clark, Women in Late Antiquity, pp. 130–132. On the challenges of Christianity to the traditional social order and the formation of new religious elites, including special options and avenues for women see: P. Brown, The Study of Elites in Late Antiquity, Arethusa 33 (2000), pp. 321–346, here pp. 343–345. 118 G. Reydam­‍‑Schils, Virtue, Marriage and Parenthood in Simplicius’ Commentary on Epictetus’ ‘Encheiridion’ [in:] Platonisms: Ancient, Modern, and Postmodern, K. Corrigan, J.D. Turner (eds.), Leiden 2007, pp.109–125, here p. 125. 119 There is a growing body of literature on Christian holy women. The specific role of women in Christianity, and the early discourse focusing on their behaviour are analysed e. g. by M.Y. MacDonald (Early Christian Women and Pagan Opinion. The Power of the Hysterical Woman, Cambridge 1996), who traces the relationship between the Christian women’s behaviour and their perception by the pagans. It is important to keep in mind that Christian ideals of female religious behaviour do not deny or overthrow the established patterns tout court: there is a varied array of ways to holiness, whereof a celibate ascetic life is but one possibility (M. R. Salzman, The Making of a Christian Aristocracy. Social and Religious Change in the Western Roman Empire, Cambridge, MA 2002, pp. 166ff). 120 A. Momigliano, Life of Saint Macrina, p. 334 sees this change as preparing the way for female figures of the fourth century “who played a leading role either in defending paganism or in building up the new monastic style of Christianity”. The former cannot be borne out by the evidence. 116


Ilinca Tanaseanu-Döbler

Our discussion has included only sources from the eastern half of the empire. This is due to the fact that we hear practically nothing about holy or divine pagan women from Latin sources, although women feature prominently in the pastoral writings and biographies of Augustine, Jerome or Pelagius. Extra­‍‑ordinary, conspicuous religious status seems not to be an issue among pagan women, and the well­‍‑known inscription of Fabia Aconia Paulina and her husband, Vettius Agorius Praetextatus, remains an exception. Listing all his religious offices, she notes that he played the part of mystagogue to herself; her husband addresses her as dedicated to temples and a friend of the gods121. We can see in her a Roman parallel to Aidesia, save for the fact that she is not cast in the role of a philosophers’ relative, but that of a traditional Roman matron, embodying the corresponding virtues. This almost total absence of pagan ‘holy’ women in the Western half of the empire as compared to their scarcity, but presence, in the Eastern sources correlates with the distribution and structure of philosophical schools and networks: strong centres like Athens and Alexandria support in the East an institutionalised form of philosophy which provided some form of pagan religious infrastructure, at least for the elite.

5. Conclusion In consequence, it is not so much Sosipatra’s absence from the ancient sources but the development of her story in Eunapius that is unusual. Holy or divine women are the exception in late antique sources; they are presented as such, and no clear ideal of female holiness, let alone method to achieve it, are spelled out. If women reasserted themselves the more in philosophy during later antiquity the more the relevance of politics for the individual decreased122, this did not lead to a gendering of ideals of spiritual perfection. The closest we come to a  mšqodoj towards holiness is Porphyry’s Letter to Marcella, where the Neoplatonic ideal of the purified soul united with the divine is presented as the goal of every human, whether male or female. The traditional life pattern and roles of women do not become the object of discussion. Even cases of divine women such as Sosipatra do not generate a  more lasting reception. Paganism does not endeavour to challenge or surpass the Christian concern for the gendered pastoral care and religious education, where lives of holy women are developed into models for others willing to follow them to the upper echelons of the religious elite, it does not produce a  sub­‍‑discourse on women in its perception and negotiation of holiness. This is one  striking difference between the pagan and Christian discourses of holiness. Other such differences have been noted e.g. by Fowden’s analysis of the pagan holy man, stressing the splendid isolation of the Neoplatonic philosopher in the rarefied air of his ivory tower123, and so foregoing any wider social influence and disdaining to play the part of the Christian holy man in late antique society as CIL VI 1779. A. Momigliano, Ancient Biography, p. 209, D. Engels, Zwischen Philosophie und Religion, p. 101. 123 G. Fowden, Pagan Holy Man. 121 122

Sosipatra — Role Models for ‘Divine’ Women in Late Antiquity


described by P. Brown124. Momigliano’s emphasis on the presence of the ecclesiastical institution and episcopal office as the only real difference between pagan and Christian holy men125 captures only one aspect of the situation. Important as it is to retain that pagans and Christians were after all part of the same culture, we must also remember that they consciously used the intellectual instruments of that culture to establish their own distinctive religious identities — not least by spelling out religious perfection in distinct ways: Sosipatra is not a  pagan Macrina.

124 125

E.g. Rise and Function; Authority and the Sacred. A. Momigliano, Ancient Biography, pp. 209f.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Kamilla Twardowska National Museum in Cracow

ATHENAIS Eudocia — divine or christian woman?1 Scholars investigating the political and religious history of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire in the 5th century have devoted a considerable amount of attention to the Empress Athenais Aelia Eudocia, stressing the romanticized aspects of her marriage with the Emperor Theodosius II, her influence on his politics in the fields of religion and culture, or her role in the religious conflicts of the mid–5th century2. On the other hand, her literary activity has not been appreciated very highly by the scholars, who charge it with being imitative3. For a more independent view of the matter, it is worth taking a closer look at the literary work of the first known poet­ ‍‍‑empress. The subject of this article is the poem (ekphrasis) which was found in the ruins of the Roman baths at Hammat Gader. The town is situated 8 km east of the Sea of Galilee, near the Yarmouk River. The baths in question were located in the southern section of the town, between the Roman theatre and the riverbank. In Roman times, 1 I would like to thank dr. A. Twardecki and dr. hab. T. Polański for their assistance and all the valuable advice I had received during my work on this article. 2 The fundamental works on the Empress Athenais Eudocia: F. Gregovorius, Athenais: Geschich‑ te einer byzantinischen Kaiserin, Leipzig 1882; Al. Cameron, The Empress and the Poet: Paganism and Politics at the Court of Theodosius II, YCS 27 (1981), pp. 217–289; K.G. Holum, Theodosian Empresses. Women and Imperial Domination in Late Antiquity, Berkeley 1982, pp. 112–130, 175– 228; R. Scharf, Die Apfel Affäre oder gab es einen Kaiser Arcadius II?, BZ 83 (1990), pp. 435–450; E.  Sirkonen, An Honorary Epigram for the Empress Eudokia in the Athenian Agora, Hesperia 59 (1990), pp. 371–374; J. Burman, The Athenian Empress Eudokia [in:] Post­‍‍‑Herulian Athens. Papers and Monographs of the Finnish Institute at Athens”, vol. 1, P. Castrén (ed.), Athens 1991, pp. 63–87. 3 The first publisher of her works was A. Ludwich, Eudocia Augusta carminum reliquiae, Königs­ berg 1893. In recent years, several editions with critical commentary have been published: M.D. Usher, Ho‑ meric Stichings: the Homeric Centos of the Empress Eudocia, Roman and Littlefield 1998; M.D. Ush­ er, Homerocentones Eudociae Augustae, Stuttgart, Leipzig 1999; Centos Homérique, SChrét 437, ed. A.L. Rey, Paris 1998; Homerocentones, CCSG 62, R. Schembra (ed.), Leuven 2007.


Kamilla Twardowska

Hammat Gader was a  well­‍‍‑developed municipality, with a  theatre, a  synagogue, a church, a number of inns, paved streets, as well as a quarter with houses of wealthy citizens. The development was undoubtedly due to a great number of visitors from all the regions of the Empire coming to take advantage of the healing effects of the baths water. The baths complex was erected in the mid–2nd century AD, during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138–161), as attested by some coins struck under his reign, which have been found at the site. The first reconstruction of the compound was carried out following the earthquake in 363, which the Christians ascribed to God’s wrath after the Emperor Julian Apostate had permitted the Jews to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. Major renovation works were subsequently performed in the mid–5th century to repair the damage caused by several earthquakes in the early years of the Emperor Marcian’s reign. During Anastasius’ reign (491–518), more works were carried out at the baths. The last works were done in 662. They would have the most significant impact on the appearance of the complex: fountain tops, statues, and mosaics were demolished in all of the halls, richly decorated lintels were demolished as well, whereas the overall area of the complex was reduced by filling in as many as four of the existing pools, leaving only the largest three ones. The baths continued to be in service in the Arab period and would be completely destroyed in consequence of the earthquake in 749. In the following years, the ruins became a shelter used by people and animals. It also served as a source of building mate­ rial. The baths buildings occupied an area of 3,500 m² and the wall heights ranged from 8 to 18 m. Large windows provided ample lighting in the bathing rooms. The baths used water coming from six springs: one at a temperature of 52°C, four — 25 to 42°C, and one cold spring. The bath­‍‍‑house complex was fitted with an intricate system of channels, lead service pipes and drainpipes, as well as some special de­ vices for mixing hot and cold water. The archaeologists found 7 pools, situated in 6 chambers of various shape and size. There is no extant written evidence that would be of assistance in attempting to recreate the appearance and decor of the particular halls. We can only rely on the findings of the archaeological research conducted there in the years 1979–1982 under the direction of Yizhrak Hirschfeld. However, the present ruined condition of the complex makes it impossible to recreate the exact appearance of the rooms, their decorations and usage4. The empress Eudocia’s inscription was engraved in a  block of grey marble, 71 x 185 cm. The slab was found cracked and slightly damaged; the text was almost complete, with some missing parts of the work in the last three verses. The inscrip­ tion slab was discovered in Room D (also called the Hall of Fountains). It was set in the pavement not far from the entrance, and, as the archaeologists believe, it had remained in the same location from the beginning. The contents of the inscription 4 Y. Hirschfeld, The Roman Baths of Hammat Gader, Jerusalem 1997; Y. Hirschfeld, E. Cohen, The Reconstruction of the Roman Baths at Hammat Gader, Aram 4 (1992), pp. 283–290; L. Di Segni, Greek Inscriptions of the Bath House in Hammath Gader, Aram 4 (1992), pp. 307–318; Y. Hirschfeld, G. Solar, The Roman Thermae at Hammat Gader: Preliminary Report of Three Seasons of Excava‑ tions, IEJ 31 (1981), pp. 197–219; Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, M. Avi­‍‍‑Yonah (ed.), vol. II, London 1990, cols. 496–473.

Athenais Eudocia — Divine or Christian Woman?


were published by Judith Green and Yoram Tsafrir5, who presented the Greek text along with an English translation and their own interpretation of the text. In order to understand the analysis of the poem further on, let us take note of the fact that the Hall of Fountains was the largest chamber of this complex and one of the largest Roman rooms discovered in Palestine. It was 13.9 m wide and 29.7 m long, and the total length with the two wings was 53.3 m. There was a large pool with cool water in the middle (9 m x 24 m, 1.3 m deep; there were steps situated in the four corners of the pool). Along the two longer sides there were 32 fountains, which the archaeologists date back to the mid–5th century. The fountains varied in size, but each one was surmounted with a human or animal mask of marble, which served as water outlets. Along the two longer walls of the room there were five niches, the middle one was semicircular, while the other four were rectangular. The niches contained bathtubs also added in the mid–5th century. This hall had no less than ten entrances. Cold water in the pool indicates that the room was a frigidarium6. Let us now have a look at the Greek: 1. EЩdok…aj AЩgoЪsthj Poll¦ mќn ™n biТtJ k(aˆ) ¢p…rona qaЪmat’ Ôpwpa, t…j dš ken ™xeršoi, pТsa dќ stТmat’ р kl…ban’ ™sqlš, sÕn mšnoj, oЩtidanÕj gegaëj brotТj; ’All£ se m©llo(n) 5. çkeanХn purТenta nšon qšmij ™stˆ kaqe‹sqai. Pai£na kaˆ genšthn glukerоn dotБra ∙ešqrwn. ’Ek sšo t…ktetai oЌdma tХ mur…on, Ґlludij ҐllV, УppV mќn ze‹on, pН d’ aв kruerТn te mšson te. Tetr£daj ™j p…suraj krhnîn procšeij sšo k£lloj. 10. ’Ind»: Matrèna te: `Repšntinoj: ’Hl…aj ¡gnТj: ’Antwn‹noj eÜj: Droser¦ Galat…a: kaˆ aЩt¾ `Uge…a: kaˆ cliar¦ meg£la: cliar¦ dќ t¦ mikr£: Greek Inscriptions from Hammat Gader: a Poem by the Empress Eudokia and Two Buildings Inscriptions, IEJ 32 (1982), pp. 77–95. Apart from the poem inscription, the “Hall of Fountains” also contained four other, later, inscriptions. Three of them, found near the niches, mention Mucius Alexander of Caesarea, the governor of Palestina Secunda under Anastasius, as donator. As one of the inscriptions attests, he co­‍‍‑financed, with the Emperor’s assistance, the reconstruction of this chamber. The fourth one, dated 662, informs of the renovation of this part of the bath­‍‍‑house. The baths complex also contains over 70 Greek inscriptions, providing a substantial amount of excellent research mate­ rial. The inscriptions make it clear that patients from various parts of the Empire, from Gaza, Tyre, Bostra, Perge in Pamphilia, as well as representatives of diverse social circles and professions, came to Hammat Gader. Of course, the most eminent visitor was the empress Aelia Eudocia, but the place was also frequented by representatives of aristocratic and official elites, high­‍‍‑ranking officers, and other officials, e.g., a certain agens in rebus from Gaza. One of the notable visitors in the mid–5th cen­ tury was Flavius Zeno, an influential patrician and commander active in the later years of Theodosius II’s reign. The inscription which confirms his presence at the thermae was found inside Room C, on the floor. Besides, the inscriptions provide us with a list of representatives of various occupations who had visited Hammat Gader, mostly performers and artists: actresses, dancers, a juggler, or a sculptor. The presence of the former may be attributed to the theatre at Hammat Gader; on the inscriptions found at the bath­‍‍‑house, see Di Segni, Greek Inscriptions…, pp. 307–318. 6 Y. Hirschfeld, É. Cohen, The Reconstruction of the Roman Baths..., pp. 287–288. 5


Kamilla Twardowska

Margar…thj: kl…banoj maleТj: ’Ind» te: kaˆ ¥llh Matrèna: briar» te Mon£stria: k’ ¹ Patri£rcou. 15. ’Wde…nousi teХn mšnoj Фbrimon ºnek[ќj ¢išn,] ¢ll¦ qeХn klutТmhtin ¢e…so[mai− − −] e„j eЩergese…hn merТpwn te cr[ − −]

And this is my rendition of the poem:7 1. Eudocia’s Augusta In my life I have seen many extraordinary things, But who, whose mouths, will express, O noble source, Your might, such a man cannot be found. But rather 5. It is proper to call you a new fiery ocean, Paean and a giver of sweet water streams. From you are born countless streams, flowing out in all directions. One of them hot, one cold, the other tepid, You pour forth what is of most beauty in you, four springs set Into four tetrads. 10. Indian and Matrona, Repentinos, Elijah the Holy, Antoninus the Good, dewy Galatea and Hygeia herself, the large warm and the small warm, The Pearl, the old source, Indian, and another Matrona, the Mighty and Monastria, the spring of the Patriarch. 15. You always give your strength to the ailing. I shall glorify God famous for His abilities For this beneficence to mortals … rendered?

It can be seen that the poem has its characteristic signature, the empress’ name and her title Augusta. There are crosses engraved on either side. The presence of the crosses would not have been surprising at all, except for the fact that the Emperor Theodosius II had forbidden depicting the cross on any pavement plates or plaques (in 427)8. The inscription plate in question would have been thus in violation of this particular injunction. However, it does not appear likely that Eudocia had intended to violate the prohibition enacted by her husband. It is more probable that the in­ scription as well as the poem itself had been engraved already after the empress’ departure9. The second verse, i.e., the first verse of the poem proper, is an expression of rap­ ture over the wonders of nature which, as we can imagine, will be surpassed by the impression left by the place to which the poem is dedicated. There can be no doubt that the empress is the lyrical subject of the poem and the work depicts Eudocia’s impressions of her visit there. It is a typical lyrical figure of speech. It is obvious that the poem consisted of these 16 verses, but since the first editors Green and Tsafrir begin the numbering with the author’s name and title, I have decided to comply with it for the sake of clarity. 8 Corpus iuris civilis, II: Codex Justinianus I, VIII, 1. 9 J. Green, Y. Tsafrir, op. cit., p. 82. 7

Athenais Eudocia — Divine or Christian Woman?


In the third verse, the poetess wants to arouse our curiosity, as we still do not know the object of such an intense rapture. At the very end of the verse, she invokes “noble Clibanus”. At this particular point, my interpretation differs from that offered by Green and Tsafrir. These scholars construe the term to refer to a baking oven and thus, in the poem, to a section of the baths where the hot and cold water streams would be mixed, whereas the name itself had drawn on the shape reminiscent of a baking oven or a high temperature of the water10. In my opinion, the word klibanos is used here in a metaphorical sense and refers to a source of water, perhaps the warmest one, where the water would reach a tem­ perature of 52°C. Such an interpretation renders the following verses logical. It is hard to imagine that the empress would have referred to a device in the form of a baking oven as Paean (either a song of triumph or in reference to Apollo’s appellation Paean, i.e., a healer). On the contrary, the hot spring is this fiery ocean, Paean (as it is both powerful and therapeutic); it gives rise to all the lesser streams that are directed to the halls. This reasoning is confirmed by the archaeological findings, which indicate that the water from the hottest spring was channelled into the pools inside the baths. On the other hand, the cold water was directed from the source situated at the back of the baths into the Hall of Fountains as well as all the fountains in the other rooms by means of lead pipes. This is how the spring waters were mixed. We know that the water temperatures were different in each individual pool11. An interpretation problem arises in verse 9; according to Green and Tsafrir, “four springs set into four tetrads” refer to the sixteen fountains in Room D12. However, as this particular room contained 32 fountains, the passage makes reference, in my opinion, to the four water intakes, with their outlets perhaps fitted with some decora­ tive elements, providing the water into the bathing halls from one main source. There are some more interpretation differences in the verses 10 to 14. Green and Tsafrir believe that the names mentioned in this passage refer to the individual rooms of the thermae and are derived from some characteristic features or objects, which reflects how Eudocia had remembered those rooms13. I think that the names may refer to the sixteen outlets in each room and are con­ nected with the four tetrads from the previous verse. The names may have been de­ rived from the sculpted ornamentation of the water outlet or the name of the founder of one of the rooms where that water outlet had been situated. It is noteworthy that India and Matrona are mentioned twice. Most probably, the names refer to the women of which two must have possessed some features charac­ teristic of Indian women. The appearance of Antoninus the Good, as Antoninus Pius is referred to in the sources, is obvious, as the oldest part of the baths, i.e., the Hall 10 11


12 13

Ibidem, pp. 83–85; SEG 32, n. 1502. Y. Hirschfeld, G. Solar, The Roman Thermae at Hammat Gader: Preliminary Report..., pp. 197– J. Green, Y. Tsafrir, op. cit., p. 86. Ibidem, pp. 86–89.


Kamilla Twardowska

of Fountains, had been erected during his reign. It is therefore natural that this water outlet was named after Antoninus. Green and Tsafrir admit that they have a problem with the identification of Repentinus; they suppose he was one of the donators and a statue or an inscription in his honour must have been placed in one of the rooms14. The name Repentinus is mentioned in the sources twice, in reference to father and son. The father, Sextus Cornelius Repentinus, was a quaestor and praetorian prefect under the emperors Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius; he came from Scillium near Carthage. In my opinion, there can be no coincidence here and Repentinus may have supervised the works ordered by the emperor. As a result, another water outlet was named after him. “Elijah the Holy” is most likely a reference to the Old Testament prophet born at Tishbe in Gilead15. In the latter half of the 6th century, Antoninus of Placentia16 called Hammat Gader “the baths of Elijah”. He also noted that lepers took baths in one of the rooms. “Elijah the Holy”, mentioned in Eudocia’s poem, may have referred to the water outlet in this particular hall. We have the least difficulty with the mythological figures “dewy Galatea” and “Hygeia” — a nereid and the goddess of health, respectively — whose presence among the names mentioned in the poem is definitely justified. The names that follow, i.e., the large warm, the small warm, and the old source, convince me even more that the empress could not have referred to any statues or mosaics, but to the aforementioned water outlets. The following two names, i.e. “the Pearl” and “the Mighty” (Green and Tsafrir render the latter name as “Briara”, as they consider it as a proper name17, even though it is not mentioned in any written source) were most probably derived from some characteristic features, which are no longer identifiable due to the devastation of the complex. Finally, the poem mentions “Monastria” (“the Nun”) and “the Patriarch”. Green and Tsafrir associate these two names with the empress Eudocia, as they believe that she had participated in the restoration of one of the halls. The room would be named “the Nun”, most likely in recognition of the empress (already separated from her husband for many years). The two scholars link “the Patriarch” with Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem, who had reportedly visited Hammat Gader along with the empress and founded one of the parts of the thermae (hence, this room would be named in his honour). This is the reason why, in their opinion, these halls of the bath­‍‍‑house, named “the Nun” and “the Patriarch”, were intended to be used by Christians only18. Another interpretation of the title Patriarch has been proposed by the Israeli scholar E. Habas19. He rejects the possibility that one of the parts of the thermae had been Ibidem, p. 87. Ibidem, p. 88. 16 Itinerarium 10, ed. P. Geyer, Turnhout 1965. 17 J. Green, Y. Tsafrir, op. cit., p. 89. 18 Ibidem, p. 90. For an account of Juvenal’s activity and the empress Eudocia’s relations with the bishop, see E. Honigman, Juvenal of Jerusalem, DOP 5 (1950), pp. 209–279. 19 A Poem by the Empress Eudokia: a Note on the Patriarch, IEJ 46 (1996), pp. 108–119. 14 15

Athenais Eudocia — Divine or Christian Woman?


named in honour of a Christian clergyman and asserts that one of the halls at Hammat Gader was named after a Jewish religious leader of the mid–4th century. I think that a different interpretation is possible. The sources make no mention of Eudocia’s alleged vows of chastity (as suggested by Green and Tsafrir) or that she considered herself a nun because of the presence of many clergymen, in par­ ticular the monks of the Judean Desert associated with Euthymios, in her entourage. Undoubtedly, the authors were misled by the figures of Eudocia’s three sisters­‍‍‑in­ ‍‍‑law, especially Pulcheria20, who had indeed taken her vows of chastity. It is more likely that the passage makes reference to one of the Old Testament fathers and these names, as well as “the Nun”, are derived from the history and tradition of this particular place. The verses 15 to 17 are of a different, more religious, nature. The empress invokes God (although without any explicit reference by name) and it is very doubtful if she would have meant any of the pagan gods of medicine: Asklepios or Apollo. It is the Christian God who manifests His power and wisdom at this place of healing and recovery. This is exactly why the poem of Hammat Gader ought to be treated as a religious work, as attested not only by the crosses around the empress’ name and title, most certainly engraved along with the poem itself, but also its final verses. We have no indications or clues that would allow us to determine the date of the inscription. The author of the poem is the empress Aelia Eudocia, the consort of the Emperor Theodosius II, who reigned in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire in the years 408–450. She had stayed in the Holy Land twice: in 438 and in the years 442–460. The latter presence was much longer and thus more productive in terms of the empress’ founding activity throughout Palestine21. The scholars investigating the history of Hammat Gader find arguments in favour of both the former and the latter dates of the empress’ presence in the Holy Land as regards the origin of the inscription. It results from the already noted identification of the Patriarch mentioned in verse 14 with a specific historical figure. Therefore, the scholars22 opting for 438 as the year of the inscription’s origin believe that Eudocia had arrived at Hammat Gader together with Bishop Cyril of Alexandria, who subsequently consecrated the empress’ foundation. The proponents of the later dating23 hold that the Patriarch in question is Bishop Juvenal of Jerusalem and in view of the religious discord following his affirmation of the decrees of Chalcedon and the fact that the empress was an opponent of the bishop (the reconciliation took K.G. Holum, op. cit., pp. 79–112. H. Vincent, F.M. Abel, Jérusalem. Recherches de topographie, d’arcgeologie et d’histoire, vol. II, Paris 1926, pp. 747–752, 909–912; E. Clark, Claims on the Bones of Saint Stephen: the Par‑ tisans of Melania and Eudokia, Church History 51 (1982), pp. 141–156; E.D. Hunt, Holy Land Pil‑ grimage in the Later Roman Empire AD 312–460, New York 1982, pp. 221–249; C. Horn, Asceticism and Christological Controversy in Fifth­‍‍‑Century Palestine. The Career of Peter the Iberian, New York 2006, pp. 73–76, 97–100, 115, 124–125, 139, 297, 316, 369, 373. 22 L. Meїmaris, Duo Epigrafes tes Augustes Eudokias (423–460) apo ten Emmatha ta Gadara kai apo ta Jerosolima, Theologia 54 (1983), pp. 395. 23 J. Green, Y. Tsafrir, op. cit., p. 89; L. Di Segni, Greek Inscriptions..., p. 313. 20 21


Kamilla Twardowska

place in 456), these scholars fix the time of Eudocia’s visit and the making of the inscription to a period between the years 456 and 458 (the latter date is the year of Juvenal’s death). The earlier date, i.e. the year 438, cannot be ruled out. On her return trip to Constantinople, the empress had chosen to travel by land and she may have visited Hammat Gader. However, it is more likely that Eudocia had visited the thermae during her second sojourn in the Holy Land. She had stayed there for as many as 18 years and taken active part in the social and economic development of the region, notably through her numerous foundations and contributions. I do not agree with the determination of the dating as based on Juvenal and the narrowing of the arrival date to a period of two years only. It is true that the empress Eudocia had taken ac­ tive part in the religious controversies following the Council of Chalcedon (451). Bishop Juvenal, who had subscribed the decrees of the Council, was not admitted back into Jerusalem upon his return from Chalcedon. The siege continued for sev­ eral months. The empress and the clergy joined the opponents of Juvenal. After the misfortunes that had afflicted her family, she became reconciled with the followers of Chalcedon in 456.24 In the sources composed past the year 456, there is no men­ tion of any collaboration between the empress and Bishop Juvenal. She harboured a personal resentment towards Juvenal. It would not prevent her from coming to terms with the pro­‍‍‑Chalcedonian party, but she would not begin to co­‍‍‑operate with the Bishop himself. As for the date of the inscriptions’ origin, let us take note of one of the inscrip­ tions discovered in the so­‍‍‑called Room C. It is dated back to the early 450s; it says that many men and children died at the baths as a result of the destruction caused by an earthquake, after which the baths would have to be rebuilt. On the basis of this information, L. Di Segni dates the empress Eudocia’s sojourn at Hammat Gader to a period between ca. 455 and 460; it was then that the empress would have composed the poem, but we do not know if she had witnessed the placement of the inscription stone25. Di Segni’s dating is confirmed by John Malalas’ account, according to which several earthquakes had occurred in that area in the early years of the Emperor Marcian’s reign (450–457)26. It is further corroborated by the results of the archaeological research: reconstruction works took place at the thermae in the mid–5th century. Among other things, Room D was restored, fountains were installed and bathtubs added inside the niches. We have no direct evidence for the empress Aelia Eudocia’s financial participa­ tion in the reconstruction of the baths at Hammat Gader. There exists, however, some indirect proof of her contribution: let us notice the fact that the inscription had been found in the Hall of Fountains, near the entrance to this room. It was the only roofless hall in the entire complex, thus ensuring proper visibility of the in­ scription slab situated at the floor level. Let us also note another clue: the dativus E. Honigman, op. cit., pp. 247–259. L. Di Segni, Greek Inscriptions..., pp. 312–314. 26 John Malalas, Chronografia 367, CFHB 35 (2000). 24 25

Athenais Eudocia — Divine or Christian Woman?


possessivus in the poem’s heading (“Eudocia’s Augusta”) may have been intended to convey a double meaning. We have seen that the empress played with the poem’s composition and language: sixteen verses, sixteen water outlets. Is it not possible then that the heading thus suggests it is not only the poem itself that belongs to the empress but also the hall had been renovated with a substantial contribution on her part? It is exactly the spot where the inscription had been installed that I think is the evidence that Eudocia had participated in the restoration of the baths, in particular of the Hall of Fountains.

Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism Cracow 2013

Edward Watts University of California

Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical Exemplar Damascius’ presentation of Isidore in the historical work called variously the Philo‑ sophical History or the Life of Isidore has been the subject of a great deal of mis‑ understanding over the centuries1. Although Damascius had great respect for and close personal ties to his philosophical father, many readers have seen his text as a highly critical one that has little positive to say about its subjects2. Photius, for example, states: “[Damascius] sets himself up as judge, not leaving a single one of those on whom he has lavished praise without some deficiency…thus pulling down and throwing to the ground each one of those whom he has extolled and glori‑ fied, he imperceptibly establishes his own authority in every way above everybody else. This is why he continually matches praise of Isidore with criticism”3. Photius obviously read more of Damascius’ text than we can, but even the fragments that survive reveal that Damascius’ presentation of the intellectuals of his day has much more nuance to it than Photius allows. The text does contain a great deal of criti‑ cism, but readers make a mistake if, like Photius, they let this criticism overshadow


P. Athanassiadi, Damascius: The Philosophical History, Athens 2000, pp. 39–40, has argued that this work should be called the Philosophical History instead of the previously accepted title Life of Isidore. Medieval evidence for the title is inconclusive. Two Byzantine authors mention the work ex‑ plicitly, but they seem to disagree about its title. Photius twice says that he “read Damascius regarding the Life of Isidore the Philosopher” (Cod. 181.125b30; and Cod. 242.335a21). In Codex 181, Photius also discusses the oddity of the work being so entitled when it discusses so many different figures. The second mention appears in the Suda’s biographical entry for Damascius amidst a list of works he wrote. It catalogs works including “commentaries on Plato, On First Principles, and a philosophical history.” It is probable that the Suda here offers a description of the work and not its specific title. 2 For a notable exception to this see: D. J. O’Meara, Patterns of Perfection in Damascius’ Life of Isidore, Phronesis 51 (2006), pp. 74–90. 3 Photius, Bib. 181.26–37 (trans. Athanassiadi).


Edward Watts

the positive aspects of Damascius’ portraits. This mistake is particularly acute if they do not appreciate what Damascius is trying to convey about Isidore. This essay will contextualize Damascius’ presentation of Isidore by talking about its place within Damascius’ larger historical work. The paper will have three parts. First, it examines some passages where Damascius speaks about Isidore. This shows both the nature of the criticism he makes and the type of praise that offsets it. Second, it looks briefly at how flaws are treated in the nearest contempo‑ rary Platonic vita, Marinus’ Proclus. One is often inclined to compare Damascius’ Isidore with Marinus’ Proclus, but the texts have different structures and develop their arguments in radically different ways4. Damascius’ text works like a collective biography (though it fits somewhat imperfectly in this category). By offering im‑ plicit and explicit comparisons with other characters, collective biographies enable their authors to speak about the relative virtues and deficiencies of their subjects in a seemingly more honest and balanced fashion (in reality, of course, these texts are not at all objective accounts)5. This means that Damascius uses a rhetoric that differs from that employed by Marinus when he describes the characteristics that define an exemplary figure. Finally, the essay concludes by considering how, despite Isidore’s personal imperfections, Damascius’ comparison of Isidore to his contemporaries reveals the unique philosophical virtues he possessed and makes Isidore stand above other intellectuals.

I. Damascius’ Isidore Before turning to Isidore, however, it is important to quickly introduce the text. Da‑ mascius wrote his profile of Isidore sometime between 515 and 526 at the request of Theodora, an associate and a former student of Damascius and Isidore6. As Pol‑ ymnia Athanassiadi has shown us, the work that emerged combines a traditional lit‑ erary celebration of a scholarch’s predecessor with a paradoxa and a larger work of intellectual history7. Isidore is the most prominent figure in the text, but he is joined by a large host of others (so large a host, in fact, that many of the later fifth century intellectuals who appear in the Suda are known largely or exclusively through this text). Collectively, Damascius’ work serves as a sort of history of an age of great political and philosophical challenges—and Isidore represents for Damascius the best philosophical exemplar of his time. As Photius’ comments quoted above suggest, however, Damascius presents his teacher as an imperfect figure. Damascius describes Isidore as having senses that 4

For this comparison, see: D.J. O’Meara, Patterns of Perfection, pp. 74–76. For a discussion of collective biography more generally see: P. Cox Miller, Strategies of Rep‑ resentation in Collective Biography: Constructing the Subject as Holy [in:] Greek Biography and Panegyric, T. Hägg and P. Rousseau (eds.), Berkeley 2000, pp. 209–254. 6 Damascius “dedicated the composition to a certain Theodora, a Hellene too by religious persua‑ sion, not unacquainted with the disciplines of philosophy, poetics, and grammar, but also well versed in geometry and higher arithmetic, Damascius himself and Isidore taught her and her younger sisters at various times.” (Photius, 181.3–10, trans. Athanassiadi). 7 P. Athanassiadi, Damascius, pp. 58–61. 5

Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical…


“were moderately acute, merely serving his needs; and not only the senses, but also the wax mould which is the imagination did not surpass the average as regards its memory nor was it altogether free of forgetfulness”8. He was frequently angry with people he felt behaved viciously and was seen by some to have attacked them ag‑ gressively on unfair grounds9. He could sometimes seem too trusting and, at times, even naïve10. He also was an imperfect teacher. Once he offered a defense of Socrates that was too profound for his students to understand11 while on other occasions his earnest efforts to be clear were hampered by his “lack of the linguistic skill necessary to present his views satisfactorily”12. He had not read many books13 and so, when answering questions, he seldom introduced ideas of others. He was well­‍‑versed in poetry, but the hymns he wrote required Damascius to “amend their metrical defects and whatever else went against the appropriate rhythm”14. He wrote critiques of poetry, though in this he was much inferior to philologists and other philosophers. Damascius also comments that, while Isidore was able to make arguments about the divine, he seemed “untrained in the art of dialectics”15. If one examines the passages in which these limitations of Isidore are laid out, however, one sees that Damascius carefully balances these discussions with offset‑ ting explanations about why none of Isidore’s supposed deficiencies represented fatal flaws. Damascius balances his comment about Isidore’s imperfect memory in two ways. First, after speaking about Isidore’s limited sensitivity and imagination, Damascius explains that Isidore possessed these features because “God wanted to show that [Isidore] was a soul rather than a combination of soul and body, and that he had not deposited philosophy in this combination but had established it in the soul alone”16. Damascius then further states that “some are outwardly splendid philoso‑ phers in their memory of a multitude of theories, in the shrewd flexibility of their countless syllogisms; in the constant power of their extraordinary perceptiveness. Yet within they are poor in matters of the soul and destitute of true knowledge”17. Isidore then has an average memory, but is an overwhelmingly powerful soul whose true knowledge far surpasses that of others with a better memory. Other negative characteristics are similarly overpowered by virtues. Isidore’s harshness and readiness to critique others arose not from a personality defect but from his anger with the wicked and his “loathing and irreconcilable hatred of evil­ 8

Damascius, Isid. 14. All translations of the text derive from the work of P. Athanassiadi, Damas‑ cius: The Philosophical History, Athens 1999. In a small number of cases, I have slightly adapted her translations for the sake of clarity. 9 Anger: Isid. 15 A–B; unfair attacks: Isid. 32 B. 10 Isid. 17. 11 Isid. 37 B. 12 Isid. 37 D. 13 Isid. 37 E. 14 Isid. 48 A. 15 Isid. 71 B. 16 Isid. 14. 17 Isid. 14.


Edward Watts

‑‍ minded behavior”18. When judged by “common and ordinary criteria” Isidore seemed to go too far in argument, but “his criticisms seemed to be wholly justified on an unbiased judgment”19. His relatively narrow reading in philosophical commentary was an advantage because “the noisy babble of books bring about a multitude of opinions rather than wise thinking”20. This was unnecessary for Isidore because he was “remarkable in his expositions through the power of a nature which was noble and akin to the gods. In the infinite rapture of his yearning after God, he resembled a seer who divined the truth by instinct”21. Finally, his lack of training in poetry and rhetoric was offset by a devotion to the teaching of Plato and a mind that “leaped up immediately on the smallest pretext towards the most exalted contemplation”22. Ultimately, Isidore’s supposed failings are inconsequential because they were either byproducts of or enhancements to his good qualities. Damascius does much more than this to establish Isidore as a philosophical ex‑ emplar. He offers a description of the many divine attributes evident from the sage’s physical appearance in order to reinforce the idea that great power dwelled within Isidore’s soul23. He describes the predictive dreams that Isidore experienced, an at‑ tribute that Damascius says is typical of unpolluted souls24. He diligently looked out for the interests of his students25 and cultivated the Pythagorean virtue of friendship26. Indeed, Damascius says that Isidore’s “actions were a clear illustration of the manner in which Pythagoras conceived of Man as most resembling God: eagerness to do good and generosity extended to all, indeed the raising of souls above the multiplicity of evil which encumbers the world below; secondly, the deliverance of mortal men from unjust or impious suffering; thirdly, engagement in public affairs to the extent of one’s ability”27. Isidore then exemplified the Pythagorean ideal of Man through his desire to do good, his commitment to saving men from suffering unjustly, and his public activity. Despite these commitments, Isidore remained aloof from both


Isid. 16 C. Isid. 32 B. 20 Isid. 35 A. 21 Isid. 37 E. 22 Isid. 34 A. 23 “[Isidore’s] face was almost square, his divine model being that of Logios Hermes. As for his eyes, how can I describe the true charm of Aphrodite herself that resided in them, how can I express the very wisdom of Athena that was contained in them…put simply, those eyes were the true images of his soul, and not of the soul alone, but of the divine emanation dwelling in it.” (Isid. 13). For an appreciation of the significance of natural virtues like these within later philosophical biographies see: D.J. O’Meara, Patterns of Perfection, pp. 79–81; Marinus, VP 3–7. 24 Isid. 9 D. 25 “His main preoccupation was with the common interests of his students; at times, however, he would temper his gravity with playfulness, teasing those who made mistakes so cleverly that the joke masked the criticism.” (Isid. 30 D) 26 Isid. 26 A. 27 Isid. 26 B. 19

Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical…


Christians and the polluted political power­‍‑structure that they had created28. When considered in isolation, Damascius seems to have given us an honest and balanced presentation of his master.

II. Marinus’ Proclus This apparent honesty in Damascius presentation of Isidore is, of course, deceptive. These passages are part of a larger work designed both to describe how pagan intel‑ lectuals actually lived and to prescribe how they ought to behave. The text then has its own internal rhetoric that determines both its larger architecture and the nature of Isidore’s presentation within it. Some of Photius’ characterizations of Damascius’ work come from a misunderstanding of how, rhetorically, the text defines Isidore, his peers, and the world around them. This misunderstanding becomes particularly acute if one assumes that Damascius’ text follows the same pattern as its nearest contemporary, Marinus’ Life of Proclus29. The Life of Proclus stands out as probably the most resolutely positive account of the life of a late antique pagan holy man. That text (actually entitled Proclus or On Happiness) begins from the premise that Proclus “was the happiest man of all of the race of men who were celebrated in the distant past”30. His wisdom, personal virtue, physical condition, and abundant material resources meant that his happiness “was perfect, without defect”31. To show this, Marinus divided the virtues into physical, ethical, political, purifying, theoretical, and theological categories32. Each of these virtues represented a stage in Proclus’ own philosophical training and the events of his life show how they guided his actual conduct. Proclus was an extremely impressive 28 “He utterly rejected them as being incurably polluted, and nothing whatever could compel him to accept their company; neither fabulous wealth nor exalted social position nor unassailable political power nor a tyrant’s malignity.” (Isid. 20 A). 29 Here I differ somewhat from the model proposed by D.J. O’Meara, Patterns of Perfection. While it is probable that the scale of virtues around which Marinus organizes his work underpinned Damascius’ assessments of the individuals he profiles, Damascius’ larger work has a  much more complicated structure. In it, the individual profiles interact with one another and collectively present an album of ideal philosophical behaviors. Some of the imprecision in the terms Damascius uses for individual virtues (which O’Meara acknowledges on p. 78) is likely due to Damascius’ interest in more specifically cataloging the individual features he describes. 30 “I will not begin in the standard manner of expression of speech writers who craft the argument in order down from the top but I think I will set out from the happiness of this man as a suitable foun‑ dation to this discussion. For I even think him to be the happiest of the race of men that was celebrated in the distant past. I do not speak with respect to the happiness of wise men alone, even if above all else he possessed this to the greatest degree, nor do I say that he had a level of virtue sufficient for the good life. Nor again do I speak of the fortunate life praised by the multitudes, even if this was well provided to him by fortune, if indeed it was provided to anyone else among men. He was bounteously supplied with all of the so to speak external advantages, but I wish to speak about a certain perfect and all together complete happiness resulting from each of these things when they stand together.” (Marinus, VP 2). 31 VP 2. 32 H. J. Blumenthal, Marinus’ Life of Proclus: Neo­‍‑Platonist Biography, Byzantion 54 (1984), pp. 471–493; D.J. O’Meara, Patterns of Perfection, p. 74.


Edward Watts

figure and he does seem to have lived according to philosophical principles, but he was not the perfect figure Marinus describes. Despite Marinus’ assertions, Proclus’ political career seems to have been largely a failure. Local opposition forced Proclus into exile for a year, he was unable to prevent the closure of Athenian temples and the removal of the cult statue of Athena, and he had only a few modest interventions with governors to offset these political disappointments33. And yet Marinus only hints at these challenges—and never suggests that they occurred because of Proclus’ deficiencies. Instead, Proclus’ exile was “the greatest good. Indeed his protective spirit contrived this pretext of a trip abroad for him so that he might not be uninitiated into the more ancient rites still preserved there”34. Even more remarkably, Marnius claimed that the removal of the Athena statue was beneficial because it meant that the goddess came to live with Proclus35. Proclus’ last years presented an even more difficult challenge for Marinus. For the final five years of his life, Proclus’s mental facilities declined so dramatically that he was barely able to speak36. Interestingly, Marinus gives two different descriptions of this final illness, each somewhat at odds with the other but both downplaying its larger significance. Indeed, it is worth comparing the two descriptions of Proclus’ final illness in a bit more detail. In Chapter 20, Marinus describes it as weighing Proclus down so that he was “consumed with pain…he implored us to sing hymns each time and, when the hymns were sung, he would feel completely at peace from pain and free from trouble. The more counterintuitive aspect of this was that he had memory of the (hymns) being sung, although he had nearly forgot all human things because the illness weighed heavily upon him. But when we began to sing, he completed the hymns, and many of the Orphic sayings as well, for it is these we read when we were attending him.” In Chapter 26, however, Marinus reports that: The great Plutarch seemed to have said to him in a dream that he would live as many years as there were four page folios [in the work] composed by him that is dedicated to the Chaldean oracles. When these were counted he found there were seventy. Indeed his escape from life to death showed that this dream was divine. For he lived seventy­‍‑five years, as we said before, but for five years he was no longer in good health. Since it had been exhausted by his severe and unbearable regimen of life, by the ritual ablutions on the Pnyx, and by similar endurances, his naturally strong body began to be passed by after his 70th year. The result was that he fell into a state unequal to all of his activities. Although he was in such a state he prayed, composed hymns, wrote sometimes, and had discussions with companions, but he did all these things more feebly. Indeed, he marveled whenever he remembered the dream and each time it came to mind he said he had lived only 70 years. Marinus then gives two divergent accounts of Proclus’ mental decline and man‑ ages to twist each one into a  statement about the sage’s virtues. In Chapter 20, 33

VP 16. VP 15. 35 VP 30. 36 VP 26. 34

Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical…


Marinus describes the full extent of Proclus’ diminished capacities in order to show that Proclus retained his deep connection to the divine until his death. In Chapter 26, however, the illness is transformed from an Alzheimer’s­‍‑like condition into a sort of general fatigue that forced Proclus to do everything more feebly. Here again, however, the illness is introduced to serve a larger purpose. In this case, it shows the great predictive powers of Proclus’ inspired dreams. These are both very impressive attempts at spin control. The way in which Marinus chose to present Proclus to his audience left him no real space to expand upon Proclus’ failures without weakening his larger argument. When the starting point for the text is Proclus’ internal and external perfection, Proclus simply cannot fail in politics or suffer from senility. As Firmicus Maternus’ depiction of Plotinus’ gruesome final illness suggests, these problems could not be completely ignored by a biographer lest they be used by a philosopher’s opponents as evidence of his misdeeds37. And yet they needed somehow to be folded into the narrative as unobtrusively as possible. Marinus perhaps does this about as well as anyone and, as a result, manages to present a thematically coherent profile of a nearly flawless Proclus.

III. Damascius’ Project Damascius, of course, aimed to do something different. While we have only a frac‑ tion of his final text (perhaps somewhere between a  quarter and a  half), these fragments still give a relatively good impression of how Damascius portrayed his teacher. Isidore gets the most attention of any figure in the text but, unlike Marinus’ Proclus, Damascius’ work is not exclusively about Isidore. Isidore’s characteris‑ tics and superior virtues are established both through narratives about him (which were discussed above) and through comparisons with Isidore’s contemporaries. These comparisons take two forms in our surviving fragments. One approach is for Damascius to explicitly compare Isidore to other intellectuals. We saw above the general comment that the command of philosophy that resides in Isidore’s soul sets him apart from other philosophers who simply memorize theories and perfect syllogisms. Later in the text, Isidore is compared to Hypatia. Damascius respected Hypatia and first discusses her as part of a catalog of heroes who suffered for resist‑ ing Christian pressure. She is described as “skilled and dialectical in speech, wise and politic in behavior” and was said to have been “a gifted teacher, who reached the peak of moral virtue and was just and prudent”38. Damascius then describes how her character ensured that “the entire city naturally loved her and held her in high esteem, while the powers­‍‑that­‍‑be paid their respects first to her”39. Damascius com‑ pletes his portrait by describing her murder. He explains that Cyril “the one who 37

F. Maternus, Mathesis 1.20–21; cf. M. Edwards, Birth, Death, and Divinity in Porphyry’s Ploti‑ nus [in:] Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity, T. Hägg and P. Rousseau (eds.), Berkeley and Los Angeles 2000, p. 57. 38 Isid. 43 E; 43 A. 39 Isid. 43 E.


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presided over the opposing sect” saw a crowd of people gathered around Hypatia’s house and asked why she was receiving such attention. He was told that “honors were being paid to the philosopher Hypatia and that this was her house. When he heard this, envy so gnawed at his soul that he soon began to plot her murder”40. While this justly famous profile of Hypatia is Damascius’ most extensive discus‑ sion of her, it is not the only time she appears in his text. When Damascius returns to Hypatia, he comments that “Isidore and Hypatia were very different, not only as a man differs from a woman, but as a true philosopher differs from a mathematician”41. The dynamic here is interesting and easy to misunderstand. On first glance, this looks to be a  gratuitous insult intended to diminish the importance of Hypatia. However, within the context of Damascius’ larger work, this comment should be seen less as an attack on Hypatia than as an attempt to better explain the achieve‑ ments of Isidore. In this passage, Damascius draws upon the prominence, authority, and personal sacrifice of Hypatia that he has already established in order to better illustrate the superior qualities that Isidore possessed. Indeed, for this comparison to work effectively, Damascius must elevate Isidore above Hypatia without diminish‑ ing her real and admired virtues. Damascius has clearly not introduced Hypatia into the text solely to serve as a foil to Isidore, but her inclusion does allow Damascius to enhance Isidore’s achievements by comparing him favorably to a notable figure whose virtue has already been established. The implicit comparisons between Isidore and some of his immediate contempo‑ raries offer even more powerful endorsements of Isidore’s philosophical achievement. This dynamic is present throughout the text (so, for example, Damascius echoes some of Isidore’s features in his description of the ideal sage Serapio)42 but perhaps the best moment to see it at work is in Damascius’ description of Isidore’s reaction to the activities of Pamprepius43. In 481 or 482, the Egyptian poet Pamprepius came to Alexandria and began to drum up pagan support for the revolt of an Isaurian general named Illus44. Pamprepius “narrated a thousand stories by which he bewitched his audience”45 and managed to generate a significant amount of pagan support for the rebellion in Alexandria and in cities like Aphrodisias and Gaza whose intellectuals enjoyed close ties to the Egyptian capital46. Although many of Alexandria leading philosophers claimed to find Pamprepius distasteful47, Damascius indicates that his 40

Ibidem. Isid. 106 A. 42 Isid. 111. On Serapio within the text see P. Athanassiadi, Damascius, pp. 23–24; eadem, La Lutte pour L’Orthodoxie dans le Platonisme Tardif: De Numémius á Damascius, Paris 2006, p. 207; E. Watts, Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities, Berkeley 2010, pp. 58–9. 43 On Pamprepius see P. Athanassiadi, Damascius, pp. 24–27 44 Isid. 77 B; note however that this is Photius’ paraphrase of Damascius’ words. 45 Isid. 113 A. 46 Isid. 113 C. For Aphrodisias and Gaza see: Zacharias Scholasticus, Vit. Sev. 40 (Aphrodisias) and Vita Isaiae 10 (Gaza). 47 Isid. 113 J–K; Q. Isidore, for example, “avoided him as a man pursued by the Furies.” 41

Damascius’ Isidore: Collective Biography and a Perfectly Imperfect Philosophical…


ideas still influenced many of these supposedly virtuous men48. The revolt failed in 484 and this failure (and other events) ultimately led to an imperial investigation that devastated Alexandria’s pagan intellectual community49. Damascius felt that this investigation revealed the true character of many of these intellectuals. Isidore’s actions at this time are well known. He refused to be seduced by the promises of Pamprepius before the revolt and, as a result, Pamprepius learned to avoid him50. When the imperial investigation was launched, Isidore fol‑ lowed the example of Socrates and disobeyed an order to stop teaching51. Ultimately, Isidore even decided that the climate in Alexandria had become so inhospitable to philosophy that he left the city52. By contrast, Ammonius, Isidore’s more talented contemporary, appears to have been ensnared by the fearful climate of the day. De‑ spite being “a supremely dedicated worker and the greatest commentator who ever lived”53, Ammonius revealed himself to be “sordidly greedy and (he) saw everything in terms of profit”54. At the height of the persecution, he “came to an agreement with the overseer of the prevailing doctrine”55. Damascius implies that Ammonius sold his philosophical integrity for financial gain, a serious indictment of a philosopher who was expected to remain true to his principles even in the most difficult of cir‑ cumstances. No surviving passage of Damascius’ text explicitly contrasts Isidore’s behavior at this moment with that of Ammonius but, given the narrative weight that Damascius places upon this historical moment, none needs to. Isidore’s authority and holiness are much enhanced by the fact that he faced the same threats as Am‑ monius and emerged unscathed.

IV. Conclusion This discussion can best conclude with two points, one specific to Damascius’ Isi‑ dore and the other more generally framed to address the literary presentation of holy men. First, while it is true that Damascius’ Isidore comes across as a flawed charac‑ ter with real intellectual and constitutional imperfections, it is also true that certain activities and attributes matter more than others to Damascius. His text makes clear both which flaws can be offset by virtues in other areas and which are so severe as to make it impossible for a person to live a truly philosophical life. Unlike Ammo‑ 48

For the effect of Pamprepius’ ideas on the larger community see Damascius, Isid. 113L. For discussion of these events and their consequences, see: Watts, Riot in Alexandria, pp. 3; 71–78. 50 Isid. 113 O–R. 51 Isid. 116 E. 52 Isidore seems to have tried this twice. The first attempt, by ship, was detected (Isid. 119A–D, 121). The second, his long land journey with Damascius, is described in Isid. 122A–C and 132–144. 53 Isid. 57 C. 54 Isid. 118 B. 55 Isid. 118 B. The nature of this agreement is the subject of some dispute. For discussion of the compromises see: R. Watts, City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria, Berkeley 2006, pp. 222–225; and R. Sorabji, Divine Names and Sordid Deals in Ammonius’ Alexandria [in:] Philoso‑ phy and Science in Late Antiquity, A. Smith (ed.), Swansea 2005, pp. 203–214. 49


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nius, Isidore’s flaws never prevent him from living a philosophical life. His virtues, however, not only offset his deficiencies but also offer a partial, practical guide to how one could live philosophically in difficult political and social conditions. Da‑ mascius’ Isidore then is an exemplary philosophical figure for a dangerous age. The second, more general point concerns the particular rhetorical construction of a collective biography. For the last ten years, scholars have been reading collective biographies to determine the rationale behind an author’s decision to include or ex‑ clude certain figures. This is a sound approach, but Damascius’ text is too fragmentary to do this sort of work with the precision that, for example, is found in studies of Eunapius or Philostratus56. Damascius does, however, allow us to see something else quite important about this type of text. Each author of such a work describes a group of attributes and virtues that are the ideal qualities of an exemplary figure. It is rare for any one figure to possess all of these characteristics—they are, in a sense, defined collectively across the work with each individual profile contributing something— but some central figures come closest to embodying them. Chrysanthius plays this role in Eunapius’ Lives of the Philosophers, for example, and Herodes Atticus could be said to do the same in Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists. From what we can tell, Isidore does this for Damascius. Damascius’ Isidore then perhaps can point to a more sophisticated way to read other late antique collective biographies.


For Eunapius, see: R. Penella, Greek Sophists and Philosophers: Studies in Eunapius of Sardis, Leeds 1990; Cox Miller, Strategies of Representation, pp. 220–221; and Watts, Orality and Commu‑ nity Identity in Eunapius’ Lives of the Sophists and Philosophers, Byzantion 75 (2005), pp. 334–361. For Philostratus, see the excellent discussion of K. Eshleman, Defining the Circle of Sophists: Philo‑ stratus and the Construction of the Second Sophistic, Classical Philology 103 (2008), pp. 395–413.