Synopses & Reviews
and#147;Edward Watts has produced a scintillating portrait of the transformative fourth century of the Roman Empire. He employs the creative device of looking at the history of an era through the eyes of its own generationand#151;like our Woodstock generation or Gen Xand#151;to show how its men and women witnessed, experienced, and engaged with the big and little events of their day. The results are variously quotidian and startling, ordinary and surprising, but never banal or entirely as expected. Understanding the oceanic changes in belief and behavior of the and#145;last pagan generationand#8217; in real time helps readers see that world from the perspective of the persons who lived it and not, as we often do, as if in some cosmic rear-view mirror. A real page turner!and#8221;and#151;Brent D. Shaw, Andrew Fleming West Professor in Classics at Princeton University
and#147;Edward Watts is a leading authority on the intellectual history of the later Roman Empire. Deeply nuanced and profoundly humane, this book shows what it meant to live through the Roman Empire's initial transition to Christianity. In clear and eloquent prose, Watts introduces us to a wide range of persons who responded to the Emperor Constantineand#8217;s conversion in widely different ways, from hostility or distaste to excitement and profound life changes. Watts provides a fresh and exciting vision of one the great generations of Mediterranean history, whose choices shaped the legacy of antiquity and the future of Christianity. This is a book that should be of interest to anyone who wants to understand the rich variety of religious experience.and#8221;and#151;David Potter, Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History at the University of Michigan
and#8220;A noteworthy contribution to the study of Late Antiquity.and#8221;
and#8220;Watts makes the people and events vivid and relevant to the reader.and#8221;
and#8220;A commendable account of campus life, student Christian activism, and episcopal oversight in Alexandria.and#8221;
and#8220;There is much here to admire.and#8221;
and#8220;Edward Watts has written a wide-ranging, thoughtful, and stimulating exploration of what can be learned from a single episode.and#8221;
and#8220;Watts deftly weds a minutely detailed examination of a specific event to wider macro-history.and#8221;
"Well-researched [and] carefully argued. . . .and#160;Watts has an excellent sense ofand#160;what needs to be explained for non-specialists."
“Will cause many people to reconsider what they think they know about the Roman religion.”
“Contends that in contrast to early Christians who had faith, the Romans had knowledge that was empirical in orientation.”
and#8220;Sedley's argument is subtle and expert. . . . The brilliance of this book is that Sedley lets the Greeks talk to us and, surprisingly, we can understand what they're saying.and#8221;
and#8220;The scholarly book [Sedley] has written is golden.and#8221;
and#8220;An exemplary study of Greek philosophy, sweeping in vision and exquisite in detail.and#8221;
and#8220;An extraordinarily engaging book. . . . Bold.and#8221;
and#8220;[An] authoritative study by the world's leading expert in the field.and#8221;
and#8220;This is an important and timely volume.and#8221;
"A fantastic slice of classical history."
"Well researched and proficient . . . awash with well-organized historical information."
This innovative study uses one well-documented moment of violence as a starting point for a wide-ranging examination of the ideas and interactions of pagan philosophers, Christian ascetics, and bishops from the fourth to the early seventh century. Edward J. Watts reconstructs a riot that erupted in Alexandria in 486 when a group of students attacked a Christian adolescent who had publicly insulted the students' teachers. Pagan students, Christians affiliated with a local monastery, and the Alexandrian ecclesiastical leaders all cast the incident in a different light, and each group tried with that interpretation to influence subsequent events. Watts, drawing on Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac sources, shows how historical traditions and notions of a shared past shaped the interactions and behavior of these high-profile communities. Connecting oral and written texts to the personal relationships that gave them meaning and to the actions that gave them form, Riot in Alexandria draws new attention to the understudied social and cultural history of the later fifth-century Roman world and at the same time opens a new window on late antique intellectual life.
"An extremely important work on the shaping of historical identities in late antiquity, Riot in Alexandria solidifies Watts' position as one of the leading commentators on late antique intellectual life."and#151;Christopher Haas, author of Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict
This lively and wide-ranging study of the men and ideas of late antique education explores the intellectual and doctrinal milieux in the two great cities of Athens and Alexandria from the second to the sixth centuries to shed new light on the interaction between the pagan cultural legacy and Christianity. While previous scholarship has seen Christian reactions to pagan educational culture as the product of an empire-wide process of development, Edward J. Watts crafts two narratives that reveal how differently education was shaped by the local power structures and urban contexts of each city. Touching on the careers of Herodes Atticus, Proclus, Damascius, Ammonius Saccas, Origen, Hypatia, and Olympiodorus; and events including the Herulian sack of Athens, the closing of the Athenian Neoplatonic school under Justinian, the rise of Arian Christianity, and the sack of the Serapeum, he shows that by the sixth century, Athens and Alexandria had two distinct, locally determined, approaches to pagan teaching that had their roots in the unique historical relationships between city and school.
The Final Pagan Generation recounts the fascinating story of the lives and fortunes of the last Romans born before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Edward J. Watts traces their experiences of living through the fourth centuryand#8217;s dramatic religious and political changes, when heated confrontations saw the Christian establishment legislate against pagan practices as mobs attacked pagan holy sites and temples. The emperors who issued these laws, the imperial officials charged with implementing them, and the Christian perpetrators of religious violence were almost exclusively young men whose attitudes and actions contrasted markedly with those of the earlier generation, who shared neither their juniorsand#8217; interest in creating sharply defined religious identities nor their propensity for violent conflict. Watts examines why the "final pagan generation"and#151;born to the old ways and the old world in which it seemed to everyone that religious practices would continue as they had for the past two thousand yearsand#151;proved both unable to anticipate the changes that imperially sponsored Christianity produced and unwilling to resist them. A compelling and provocative read, suitable for the general reader as well as students and scholars of the ancient world.
What did the Romans know about their gods? Why did they perform the rituals of their religion, and what motivated them to change those rituals? To these questions Clifford Ando proposes simple answers: In contrast to ancient Christians, who had faith, Romans had knowledge, and their knowledge was empirical in orientation. In other words, the Romans acquired knowledge of the gods through observation of the world, and their rituals were maintained or modified in light of what they learned. After a preface and opening chapters that lay out this argument about knowledge and place it in context, The Matter of the Gods pursues a variety of themes essential to the study of religion in history.
"A work of innovative spirit and great learning, stylishly argued throughout, and beautifully written."Sabine MacCormack, author of The Shadows of Poetry: Virgil in the Mind of Augustine
"Ando's intellectually daring work breaks through the traditional perceptions of Roman religion under the Empire."Guy Stroumsa, author of Barbarian Philosophy: The Religious Revolution of Early Christianity
The world is configured in ways that seem systematically hospitable to life forms, especially the human race. Is this the outcome of divine planning or simply of the laws of physics? Ancient Greeks and Romans famously disagreed on whether the cosmos was the product of design or accident. In this book, David Sedley examines this question and illuminates new historical perspectives on the pantheon of thinkers who laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Versions of what we call the "creationist" option were widely favored by the major thinkers of classical antiquity, including Plato, whose ideas on the subject prepared the ground for Aristotle's celebrated teleology. But Aristotle aligned himself with the anti-creationist lobby, whose most militant membersand#151;the atomistsand#151;sought to show how a world just like ours would form inevitably by sheer accident, given only the infinity of space and matter. This stimulating study explores seven major thinkers and philosophical movements enmeshed in the debate: Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, the atomists, Aristotle, and the Stoics.
"David Sedley's treatment of ancient views on intelligent design will transform our current thinking."and#151;Thomas Johansen, author of Plato's Natural Philosophy: A Study of the Timaeus-Critias
"Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity has the qualities of a classic. Powerfully organised round an enthralling theme, it is singularly rich in execution. The author's unsurpassed command of his material is matched by the clarity, originality, and imaginative detail of his arguments. The book is as accessible as it is authoritative. It speaks to everyone interested in Greek philosophy, and very many of its readers will go back to it again and again."and#151;Sarah Broadie, author of Aristotle and Beyond: Essays on Metaphysics and Ethics
About the Author
David Sedley is Laurence Professor of Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Platoand#8217;s Cratylus (2003) and The Midwife of Platonism: Text and Subtext in Platoand#8217;s Theaetetus (2004), and is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
1. The Anatomy of a Riot
Part 1. Historical Discourse in Intellectual Communities
2. Personal Legacy and Scholastic Identity
Internal Historical Discourse and Its Transmission: The Example of Eunapius
Defending Communal Historical Discourse: Porphyryand#8217;s Life of Plotinus
3. Past, Present, and Future in Late Neoplatonic Historical Discourse
The Life of Isidore and its Sources
Eating, Drinking, and Learning Neoplatonic History
Oral Tradition and Scholastic Identity in the Alexandrian Schools of the 480s
Paraliusand#8217;s Beating within its Scholastic Context
Fifth-Century Christian Violence in Neoplatonic Communal Memory
Teaching Ethics after the Riot
Part 2. The Past Within and Outside Late Antique Monasteries
4. History and the Shape of Monastic Communities
The Historia Monachorum and Visitorsand#8217; Exposure to Ascetic Oral Traditions
Social Relations and the Power of the Master: Barsanuphius and John
5. Anti-Chalcedonian Ascetics and their Student Associates
The Limits of Ascetic Influence
Finding the Ascetic and Intellectual Balance
The Ascetic and Sophistic Mand#233;lange of Zacharias Scholasticus
A Student Riot and its Commemoration: The and#147;Life of Paraliusand#8221;
Part 3. Defining the Alexandrian Bishop
6. Creating the Legend of the Alexandrian Bishop
Mechanisms of Episcopal Power
Athanasius and the Politics of Self-Definition
Athanasiusand#8217;s Restoration and Redefinition
The Athanasian Historical Legacy
7. Theophilus and Cyril: The Alexandrian Bishop Triumphant
Theophilus and the Historical Character of Athanasius
The Legacy of Theophilus
8. Peter Mongus Struggles with the Past
Chalcedon and the Redefinition of the Alexandrian Bishop
Peter Mongus and Resistance in an Age of Compromise
Peter Mongus and the Beating of Paralius
A Riotand#8217;s Aftermath
Appendix 1. Dating the Riot
Appendix 2. How Much Should We Trust Zacharias Scholasticus?