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Article

What makes Alexander Great? His story has captured the imagination of authors, artists, philosophers, and politicians across more than two millennia. He has provided a point of convergence for religious and spiritual thinkers, he has been co-opted as a champion for gender and sexual openness, he represents a paradigm for would-be charismatic dictators (and their opponents), he gives us scientific imperialism and justification for conquistadorial dreaming, and he exemplifies the risks of cultural appropriation. To understand why Alexander resonates so widely across so many different fields of study, interest groups, and media, is an exercise in reception. This Alexander who has captured the imagination is triumphantly equivocal and it is in the plurality of traditions through which this complexity is expressed that his enduring “greatness” lies. The imaginary quality of Alexander is unsurprising because more profoundly than for any comparable individual from classical antiquity, his history is a product of reception from the start: every encounter with Alexander the Great is part of a conversation that depends substantially on accounts and narrative evidence from long after his death, and at the least at one remove from the historians who first and contemporaneously chronicled his life and achievements.

Article

Blossom Stefaniw

The literary tradition portrays Arsenius as a particularly stringent and austere man who was formed as a monk at Sketis, near Alexandria. It is probable that his reputation in his own day was much greater than the scope allowed him in the modern reception of the desert tradition, which tends to focus on other figures like Antony the Great. While we cannot independently verify his date of birth or death or his precise movements and deeds during his life, the traditional story of Arsenius remains important as a depository of key elements from the ascetic tradition, such as the relationships between different ethnic and social groups within ascetic communities, the abba and disciple system of ascetic formation, and teachings on compunction, pure prayer, and extreme austerities.Arsenius is believed to have been born to an aristocratic family in Rome around the year 354 and to have committed himself to an ascetic life as a young man. He moved to Constantinople in 383 and is said to have tutored the Emperor Theodosius’ sons (Arcadius and Honorius) while there.

Article

Bishop of Vienne, from c.490 ce. A member of the powerful family of the Aviti, he succeeded his father, Hesychius, as bishop. His brother, Apollinaris, was bishop of Valence. He was related to (perhaps nephew of) *Sidonius Apollinaris. He contributed significantly to religious debate in the kingdom of the *Burgundians, whose kings, Gundobad and Sigismund, he advised. Under Sigismund he oversaw the conversion of the kingdom from *Arianism to orthodoxy. He was also a fine poet, writing a Biblical epic (De Spiritalis historiae gestis), and a lengthy poem on virginity, which has much to say about the female saints of his family. He died 5th February 518.

Article

Bede (Beda Venerabilis) was Anglo-Saxon England’s most prolific Latin writer, and indeed one of the most distinguished authors of the early Middle Ages. At the end of his most celebrated work, Historia ecclesiastical gentis Anglorum (HE), he provides a cursory autobiographical note which remains the starting point for what we know about his life and many writings.1 Born in the kingdom of Northumbria, at the age of seven he was given by his parents to the monastery at Wearmouth, founded in 674, to be reared and educated. When a sister monastery was founded in 681 some seven miles away at Jarrow, Bede was probably among the monks transferred to that new site, and there he remained until his death in 735, at the age of fifty-nine. Ordained deacon at the age of nineteen and priest at the age of thirty, he devoted the whole of his life to monastic observance and scriptural study, memorably stating that “amid the observance of the discipline of the Rule and the daily task of singing in the church, it has always been my delight to learn or to teach or to write.”2 The fruits of this labour are readily evidenced by the long list of his writings that concludes Bede’s note, with its some forty works in various genres—impressive in any era, to be sure, but not least in one popularly understood as “dark” in comparison to the luminous achievements of the classical past.

Article

Benedict of Nursia was an Italian abbot active in the hinterland of Rome at Subiaco and Monte Cassino in the early 6th century. He is best known as the author of a normative guide for monastic life, The Rule of Benedict (Regula Benedicti; hereafter RB), the only surviving work that bears his name. The earliest account of Benedict’s life and independent reference to the RB appeared in the second book of the Dialogues on the Miracles of the Italian Fathers by Gregory the Great (pope590–604ce). Composed at Rome in 593–594ce, the Dialogues were a popular compendium of hagiographical portraits of 6th-century Italian saints cast as a conversation between the pope and one of his disciples. Gregory’s endorsement of Benedict’s sanctity was instrumental in promoting the RB in the early Middle Ages. As a result, the authority of the RB as a guide to monastic life was unassailable from the time of the Carolingians to the end of the 12th century, so much so that historians have traditionally referred to this period (c.

Article

Cassiodorus was a prominent participant in the political, intellectual, and religious life of 6th-century ce Italy, and a learned scholar of the classical and Christian traditions. As a member of the administration of the Gothic government under Theoderic and his successors, he advanced through what may be considered the late-Roman cursus honorum. He was also witness to the dramatic political and religious debates of the day, including volatile interactions between the royal court at Ravenna, the Senate at Rome, and the emperor in Constantinople. Justinian’s Gothic War in Italy effectively ended his political career, after which he first became an exile in Constantinople, and then the founder of a school for Christian learning (Vivarium) on his ancestral estates in southern Italy. The literary works that he produced span the spectrum of his personal experiences and attest to the intellectual and cultural range of people living during the 6th century: panegyrics, a chronicle, ethnography, letters, treatises on reading, grammars, Christian exegesis, and ecclesiastical history.

Article

Bryan Ward-Perkins

The first Christians met in the private houses of the faithful. Gradually, as local Christian communities became more established both in numbers and in wealth, they might acquire their own church-houses, using them specifically as places of worship and for other religious activities, such as the granting of charity and the instruction of converts. Externally these buildings looked just like other private houses, though internally they might be adapted for their new function, for instance by combining rooms to create a large enough space for worship. The best example of an early church-house is that excavated at Dura-*Europus on the Euphrates: an ordinary town house, built around ce 200, adapted for Christian use before 231, and destroyed when the city walls were reinforced in 257. Before the conversion of Constantine I, and his conquest of the empire between 312 and 324, some Christian communities may already have commissioned halls specifically for worship, and certainly small shrines, such as the 2nd-cent. aedicula over the supposed tomb of St Peter in Rome (see vatican), were already being built over the bodies of the martyrs.

Article

Columbanus is important for two reasons: he was the earliest Irish scholar to have composed a significant corpus of writings in Latin, and he founded an austere but influential form of monasticism which flourished in France and Italy from the 7th century onwards. He was born in Leinster about 550 ce; his Irish name was Columba (perhaps a diminutive of Irish Colmán, perhaps a baptismal name influenced by Latin columba “dove,” which was subsequently Latinized as Columba-nus). (Scholars often refer to him as “Columba the Younger,” in order to distinguish him from the well-known abbot of Iona.) His earliest studies took place at Clain Inis (Cleenish, county Fermanagh) under one Sinell, but he subsequently became a monk at Bennchor (Bangor, county Down) under Abbot Comgall. The only written testimony to his years at Bangor is a Latin hymn for Eastertide in rhythmic verse (beginning “Precamur patrum”), which is preserved, anonymously, in the famous “Antiphonary of Bangor,” written around 700 and now preserved in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan (MS. C 5 inf.). With the permission of Abbot Comgall, Columbanus left Bangor in 590 or 591, accompanied by twelve monks (a number symbolic of the twelve disciples of Christ), on a “pilgrimage for the love of God,” the aim of which was to convert pagan peoples to Christianity. His journey took him first to Brittany, then subsequently to Burgundy, where, apparently through the patronage of King Guntram (d. 592), he was granted the site of a hermitage in the wilderness at Annegray (département Haute-Saône), probably in 592; a year or so later, through the patronage of Guntram’s son Childebert II (d. 596), he was given a site for a monastery in the Roman ruins at Luxeuil (Luxovium), where he became the abbot of an ever-growing community of monks, both Irish and Frankish. While at Luxeuil, Columbanus enjoyed the patronage and protection of Childebert’s son Theuderic II (596–612); however, he lost this support when he chastised Theuderic for consorting with concubines, and, without royal support, the Burgundian bishops and nobles, who were unhappy with his (royally protected) independence from their jurisdiction, were able to secure his arrest and expulsion from Burgundy in 610. After proceeding to Auxerre and Nevers, Columbanus took a boat down the Loire to Nantes. When he failed to find a boat to take him to Ireland, he refocussed his attempts to find a permanent home for his monks, looking first in the region of Lake Constance, then ultimately in the Lombard kingdom of northern Italy, where at Milan in 612 he secured the patronage of the Lombard king Agilulf, from whom he obtained possession of a ruined church at Bobbio. After rebuilding the church there, he re-established his monastic community and ended his days, dying there on 23 November 615.

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Article

Constantina, born in c. 320, was the eldest daughter of Constantine I. She was married twice, first in 335 to her cousin Hannibalianus, whose death in 337 left her widowed, and second in 351 to another cousin, Gallus Caesar. Between her marriages, she resided in Rome, founding the church of St. Agnes on the Via Nomentana, where she would be buried in an adjacent mausoleum after her death in 354. Constantina was an active political player in the early 350s. In 350, she intervened against the usurpation of Magnentius through proclaiming the magister militum Vetranio Caesar to her brother Constantius, and she exerted influence on her husband Gallus when the couple resided in Antioch from 351 to 354. Constantina was venerated as a saint in Rome in the 7th century.Flavia Constantina’s name is recorded with this variant of her cognomen on two inscriptions erected during her lifetime in Rome (CIL VI 40790; ILCV 1768 = ICUR VIII 20752; for the full texts see below, .

Article

Alan Douglas Edward Cameron

Constantinople was founded by *Constantine I on the site of *Byzantium in 324 ce, shortly after his victory over *Licinius near by. There are hardly any sources before the 6th cent., and these are already full of myths: e.g. that Constantine started to build at Troy and brought the *Palladium from Rome. When he claimed to ‘bestow an eternal name’ he probably meant his own! The city was styled ‘New Rome’ from the start, but it is not likely that Constantine had any thought of superseding Rome. He was simply building his own tetrarchic capital: the New Rome motif took on new significance after the sack of Rome (410) and the disappearance of the western empire.Though not such an obvious site as has often been claimed (being vulnerable from its hinterland and deficient in drinking-water), the new foundation grew rapidly in size and importance, though it did not become a regular imperial residence till the end of the century. By the reign of *Valens (373) an elaborate system of *aqueducts and conduits was installed to provide sufficient water for the growing population.

Article

Samuel James Beeching Barnish

Cosmas Indicopleustes, fl. 545 ce, *Alexandrian merchant, Nestorian, and argumentative autodidact. His travels included *Ethiopia, but perhaps not the Indies. His self-illustrated Christian Topography (547–9) mixes astronomy, geography, and theology, with some personal observation and humour; it is informative on Ethiopia, India, and Ceylon. Scornfully rejecting classical cosmology and its Alexandrian Monophysite synthesis with *Christianity, Cosmas probably attacked John *Philoponus, who countered in De opificio mundi (557–60). Expounding a rectangular, vaulted universe, the model for the Tabernacle, he combines this oriental, Bible-based cosmology with Greek science. His literalistic exegesis follows the Nestorians of Nisibis and Theodore of Mopsuestia, who was controversially condemned in 544 and 553. Cosmas’ attitude to classical science likewise belongs to contemporary disputes; he shares interests with John *Malalas (e.g. Christian historical teleology), and shows the cultural vitality of his world; his influence was prolonged and widespread.

Article

Gregory D. Wiebe

The background of early Christian demonology was in both Hebrew and Greek culture. Jews associated the Greek word daimōn with the false gods of the surrounding nations. This was in many ways an intuitive application of the Greek term. It carried the sense of ambivalent divine or semi-divine power, which significant philosophical traditions understood to mediate between humans and gods. The New Testament carries this theme, though its focus is more on Christ’s exorcisms of demons, and his gift of that power to his disciples, with the early church tying the two together in the theological literature, as well as baptismal exorcisms and renunciations of the devil and idolatry.Demons were widely thought to have aerial bodies, which allowed them to perform various marvels, like foretelling the future. They were ultimately taken to be fallen angels with Satan as their leader, though this was not a given early in the tradition. While the Christian understanding was that Christ had defeated them on the cross, this was not taken to preclude the ongoing influence of demons in human affairs prior to the final judgement. Indeed, they constituted a significant moral problem for the Christian life, which absolutely opposed them. For Christians, Christ and the demons were the two sides of the fundamental dilemma of every human soul. The problem of demons manifested differently depending on the context, whether in its encounter with false religion, from idolatry to the persecutions the gods inspired; or in the innumerable tempting thoughts encountered in the pursuit of ascetic discipline.

Article

Blossom Stefaniw

Didymus the Blind (c. 313—c. 398) was a textual scholar and ascetic practitioner. He is not associated with any of the major ascetic settlements around Alexandria and appears to have spent his entire life in or near the city. He is most known for his treatises On the Holy Spirit and On the Trinity (although the authorship of the latter is disputed) and for his biblical commentaries.Although the Council of Nicaea in 325 took place when Didymus was still a schoolboy, controversy and competition by the parties involved continued through Didymus’ lifetime. Didymus himself supported the decision of the Council, which the Alexandrian bishop, Athanasius, had promoted. After Didymus’ death, however, he was no longer associated with the orthodoxy of the day and, because of his reception of Origen of Alexandria, was condemned, along with Origen and Evagrius Ponticus, in connection with the 2nd Council of Constantinople in 553.

Article

Helen Kaufmann

Blossius Aemilius Dracontius was one of the most remarkable Latin poets in Vandal North Africa. He lived in Carthage around 500 ce, and combined poetry with a career in law. His major Christian work De laudibus dei (‘Praises of God’) combines biblical narrative with exegesis, doctrine, and autobiography. He also wrote a ‘Plea’ (Satisfactio) to the Vandal king Gunthamund, who had imprisoned him, as well as four short mythological epics (on Hylas, Helen, Medea, and Orestes respectively), two epithalamia, two prefaces, three rhetorical pieces, two epigrams, and two now lost panegyrics. Dracontius’ work stands out for its originality in combining sources, for its creative use of literary forms and rhetoric, and for its character descriptions.Blossius Aemilius Dracontius lived in Carthage around 500ce. Only one event in his life, his imprisonment under Gunthamund, can be dated approximately: the Vandal king ruled from 484 to 496.1 Dracontius’ tripartite name, as well as inscriptional evidence for a (different) Dracontius and further Blossii in North Africa, suggests a North African Roman origin; the title .

Article

John Francis Lockwood and Robert Browning

Eustathius (12th cent. ce) born and educated in *Constantinople, was deacon at St Sophia and taught rhetoric (and probably grammar) in the patriarchal school until 1178, when he became metropolitan of *Thessalonica, in which position he continued till his death (c.1194). His works of classical scholarship were written before 1178. Henceforward he devoted himself to the practical duties of his spiritual office and to combating the prevailing corruption of monastic life.(1) Classical: Commentary on Pindar, of which only the introduction survives; this gives information on lyric poetry (especially Pindar's) and Pindar's life, and shorter notes on the *Olympian Games and the *pentathlon. The Commentary on Dionysius Periegetes contains discursive scholia, valuable for citations from earlier geographers, historians, the unabridged *Stephanus of Byzantium, and the lost works of *Arrian. The Commentaries on Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (Παρεκβολαὶ εἰς τὴν Ὁμήρου Ἰλιάδα.

Article

Blossom Stefaniw

A deacon, ascetic teacher, and prolific writer, Evagrius Ponticus lived from c. 345 to 399ce. Within some strands of late ancient Christianity, his teachings were no longer considered orthodox later in his life or after his death, although the Armenian and Syrian churches continued to cherish his writings. As a young man, Evagrius contributed to the doctrinal campaign of Gregory Nazianzus at the 1st Council of Constantinople in 381, a position which prevailed as orthodox at that time. Around 382, Evagrius left the capital and joined a monastic community in Jerusalem led by Rufinus of Aquileia and Melania the Elder, who were learned ascetics. In 383, while still in Jerusalem, Evagrius committed himself to asceticism and eventually travelled to Egypt. Until his death in 399, Evagrius studied and taught and wrote on the ascetic life, developing a meticulous taxonomy of evil thoughts, their origins, and the physical experiences associated with them. He arranged his works in an ascetic curriculum for the training of monks, monitored and counseled more junior monks in their practice, and provided handbooks on the ascetic practices or biblical texts which were best suited to neutralize specific evil thoughts.

Article

Evagrius was born in the Syrian city of Epiphania into a wealthy family that could support the extended legal study necessary to qualify as a scholasticus. This education enabled him to pursue a career in the patriarchate of Antioch, where he ended up as legal advisor to the Chalcedonian Patriarch, Gregory I, whom he helped to rebut an accusation of sexual misconduct. He is known for composing an Ecclesiastical History, which continued the work of Socrates Scholasticus, and to a lesser extent those of Sozomen and Theodoret, and is the last classical example of this genre. He also compiled a collection of documents, speeches, and other material issued by Gregory and a work celebrating the birth of Emperor Maurice’s son Theodosius in 584, neither of which survives. Emperor Tiberius had awarded him the honorary rank of quaestor in return for a literary work, and Maurice that of prefect, probably for the work on Theodosius (6.24).

Article

H. D. Jocelyn and Gregory Hays

A 6th-cent. Christian writer from North Africa, possibly Carthage, credited with four extant works. The Mythologiae, in three books, is a set of allegorical interpretations of pagan myths, preceded by a prosimetrical preface. The Expositio Vergilianae continentiae secundum philosophos moralis offers an allegorical interpretation of the Aeneid, narrated by the shade of *Virgil himself. The Expositio sermonum antiquorum gives explanations of about 70 obsolete words illustrated by citations of authors ranging from Naevius to *Martianus Capella. It includes a number of fragments from *Petronius. Some of the citations are from otherwise unknown authors or are suspect for other reasons. The De aetatibus mundi et hominis is a summary of world history, sacred and profane, originally in 23 chapters, of which only the first 14 are preserved. It is 'lipogrammatic' in form: each chapter corresponds to a letter of the alphabet and employs only words that do not include that letter. All four works are marked by an extremely ornate style, clearly influenced by *Apuleius.

Article

Christa Gray

Hagiography is a problematic yet widely used term with varying connotations; it resists narrow definition. Outside the hagiographa of the Hebrew Bible (i.e., the books other than the Law and the Prophets), the concept is based on a core of Christian Greek and Latin works, from the 2nd to 5th century ce, which range from martyr accounts to monastic and episcopal biographies. A significant factor motivating their composition and reception is the cult of saints. Biblical heroes, especially Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus himself are the primary models, but non-Christian literary traditions, especially biographical and novelistic, are also important influences.Coined originally to indicate a group of books of the Old Testament (cf. TLL s.v. (h)agiographus, VI.3.2513.22–29), since the 19th century the term hagiography has been used for writings associated with and promoting the cult of saints, and more particularly for the biographical literature on ascetics, which took its starting point from .