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R. A. Kaster

Papirianus (date unknown, perhaps 5th cent. ce), writer on orthography cited by *Priscian and excerpted by *Cassiodorus (Keil, Gramm. Lat. 7. 158–65; cf. ibid. 216, a fragment of ‘Q. Papirius,’ probably the same man).


Paulinus of Nola, c. 352/3–c. 431 CE  

Dennis E. Trout

Meropius Pontius Paulinus was a Gallo-Roman aristocrat whose social network, wealth, and education led him to the prestigious governorship of the Italian province of Campania. After returning to Gaul in the mid-380s, however, Paulinus abandoned his secular career and life-style, withdrawing in 395 to live as a monachus at the memorial shrine of the confessor Felix, just outside the Campanian town of Nola. From there he nurtured epistolary friendships with such leading literary and ecclesiastical figures of his day as Augustine, Jerome, and Sulpicius Severus, and managed the burgeoning cult of St. Felix. Paulinus’ surviving letters and poems, many devoted to the feast day of Felix, reveal his attitudes and values, illuminate his social and spiritual relationships, preserve vivid traces of the literary and aesthetic evolution of Latin literature under the influence of Christian ideas, and document the emergence of the late antique cult of the saints. All of this makes Paulinus a remarkable representative of many of the forces reshaping Roman society and religion in the later Empire.


Paulinus (2), of Pella, Christian Gallo-Roman aristocrat  

Jill Harries

Paulinus (2) of Pella, a Gallo-Roman aristocrat, wrote the Eucharisticon, a Christian poem of thanks for his misfortunes, c. 460 ce, when in his eighties. The grandson of *Ausonius, he was born at Pella but reared at Bordeaux. He experienced the Germanic invasions of 407 and served with the usurper Priscus Attalus (414–15) in Aquitaine.


Paul, St  

Christopher Rowland

St Paul, a Roman citizen from *Tarsus was a convert (see conversion) from Pharisaic to Messianic Judaism as a result of a mystical experience (Galatians 1: 12 and 16) when he believed himself called to be the divine agent by whom the biblical promises about the eschatological ingathering of the pagans would be fulfilled. That transference of allegiance led him to renounce his previous religious affiliations (Philippians 3: 6 f.), even though the form of his religion remains in continuity with apocalyptic Judaism; see religion, jewish. We know him as the result of letters which he wrote over a period of about ten years to maintain communities of Jews and gentiles in Rome and several other urban centres in a pattern of religion which enjoined faithfulness to Jesus Christ as the determining factor in the understanding of the Mosaic Law. This subordination of the Law inevitably led to conflict with Jewish and Christian opponents who suspected him of antinomianism and apostasy. He commended Christianity as a religion which was both the fulfilment of the Jewish tradition and also the negation of central precepts like food laws and circumcision, though he was emphatic in his rejection of idolatry. In his letters we have clear evidence of the emergence of identifiable Christian communities separate from Judaism with a loose adherence to the Jewish tradition as interpreted by Paul. At the end of his life he organized a financial offering for the poor in Jerusalem from the gentile churches he had founded. According to *Acts his journey to Jerusalem with this collection preceded his journey to Rome where later Christian tradition suggests that he died in the Neronian persecution.



Philip Rousseau

Now agreed to have been British by birth, educated in rhetoric and possibly in law, Pelagius settled in Rome after 380 ce. Noted for his *asceticism, though formally neither monk nor priest, he enjoyed (like *Jerome, Priscillian (see priscillianists), and *Rufinus (2)) the patronage of Christian aristocrats, especially women, and responded similarly to their interest in scripture. His Letter to Demetrias is a vivid monument. His commentaries on Epistles of *Paul are straightforward and polished, following in a Roman tradition dating to Marius *Victorinus and including *Ambrosiaster, reminiscent of the ‘Antiochene’ school, but informed also by Latin translations of *Origen (1). He was inevitably engaged with protagonists of the controversy over Origen's theology. His asceticism was moderate, his attachment to freedom intense. He aroused the scorn of Jerome for the one and criticized *Augustine on account of the other. Anxious to maintain a balance between *Manichaeism and a disparagement of virginity, he rejected current views of original sin, defending the justice of God and the individual's ability to rise by deliberate choice above moral weakness.


Philoponus, John  

Richard Sorabji

John Philoponus (c. 490ce to 570s), a Christian Neoplatonist (see neoplatonism) in *Alexandria (1), influenced subsequent science down to Galileo by replacing many of *Aristotle's theories with an account supporting Christian ideas. But because his own Christian theology was unorthodox, he was anathematized in 680, and his scientific influence came to the West belatedly through the Arabs. Seven early commentaries on Aristotle survive, four described as taken from the seminars of his Alexandrian teacher Ammonius, although he added his own ideas. In 529, the Christian emperor *Justinian closed the other great Neoplatonist school at Athens, and Philoponus published an attack on the Athenian Neoplatonist *Proclus, who had been Ammonius' own teacher. This attack (Against Proclus On the Eternity of the World) was followed by Against Aristotle on the Eternity of the World. In these two works Philoponus used arguments about infinity to prove the Christian view that the universe must have had a beginning. Otherwise it would have finished going right through a more than finite number of years, which his opponents regarded as impossible. Further, Aristotle ought to have analyzed corporeal matter as a kind of three-dimensional extension, not as an unextended substratum. Moreover, Aristotle's dynamics was wrong. Motion in a vacuum is theoretically possible. Again, projectiles are moved by an internal impetus impressed from outside, not by Aristotle's external forces.


Philostorgius, ecclesiastical historian, c. 368–c. 440? CE  

A. M. Nobbs

Philostorgius, ecclesiastical historian, c. 368–c. 440? ce, born in Boryssus (*Cappadocia), into a clerical family who had been won over to neo-*Arianism (Eunomianism). By the age of 20, he was in *Constantinople where he spent much of his life. An adherent of Eunomius, he wrote in continuation of *Eusebius of Caesarea an ecclesiastical history to ce 425 in twelve books, each beginning with a letter of his name. It is now fragmentary, surviving in an extended epitome by *Photius, and in other fragments, especially the Passio of Artemius. It is noted in a separate Biblioteca entry and two epigrams in the Greek *Anthology. The work is valuable in presenting an alternative view of church history from the time of *Constantine I, with praise for Constantius II and condemnation in apocalyptic tones of the policies of *Theodosius (2) I and *Theodosius (3) II, together with secular material and geographical digressions partly based on his own travels.


Phoenix, Latin elegiac poem  

J. H. D. Scourfield

Phoenix (De Ave Phoenice), poem in 170 elegiac lines on the fabulous bird whose life, eternally renewed through death, was a potent symbol for both pagans and Christians. The ascription to *Lactantius has been questioned, but there are strong hints of Christian authorship.



Filippo Ronconi

Private teacher, head of the imperial chancellery, and twice patriarch, Photius was also a prominent politician who was deeply involved in the domestic and foreign policy of the Byzantine Empire and in the religious issues of his time. One of the most distinguished scholars of the 9th century ce (which was characterized by a profound cultural revival, thanks in part to his activities), he was the head of a group of learned and powerful scholars, a collector of books, and a astute reader of ancient texts, for many of which his own works (especially the Library and the Amphilochia) are the only surviving sources.The son of a wealthy imperial officer—a spatharios (lit. “sword bearer”, at the time an honorary dignity originally corresponding to the function of imperial bodyguard) named Sergios, who was persecuted and sent into exile under the second iconoclasm—and the great-nephew of the patriarch Tarasios, Photius was the descendant of a noble Armenian family at the heart of a more extensive Armenian network centred on .


Physiologus, 'the Natural Scientist'  

M. B. Trapp

Physiologus (‘the Natural Scientist’), an exposition of the marvellous properties of some 50 animals, plants, and stones, with a Christian interpretation of each (e.g. the pelican, which kills its offspring then revives them after three days with its own blood, figures the salvation of mankind through the Crucifixion). Both place and date of composition are disputed: perhaps Syria, perhaps Egypt; perhaps as late as the 4th cent. ce, perhaps (more likely?) as early as the 2nd. In any event, the work draws heavily on earlier traditions of Greek natural historical writing, particularly that of the *paradoxographers, with their concentration on the marvellous in nature and on occult natural sympathies and antipathies. The physiologus of the title is not the (entirely anonymous) author, but the (equally anonymous) authority from whom he claims to derive his information; it is however unclear whether he drew on a single proximate source or on several. No neat separation of the entries into borrowed (pagan) ‘information’ and superimposed Christian interpretation is possible, as in many cases the ‘information’ has already been reshaped to fit its new context (e.g. in the highlighting of the number three, to allow reference to the Trinity and the three days of the Passion).


pilgrimage, Christian  

E. D. Hunt

Despite the New Testament's disavowal of the localized cults of Judaism and the surrounding pagan world—the need was for holy lives rather than holy places—early Christians still clung to their sacred sites. Jesus' followers preserved some memory of the location of his tomb in *Jerusalem and (at least by the mid-2nd cent.) of his birthplace in Bethlehem; while further afield the burial places of martyrs on the outskirts of their cities attracted local gatherings. In maintaining these recollections of their sacred past, the first Christian pilgrims tried to assert some communal identity in a world indifferent or hostile to their faith.As the first emperor to favour Christianity, *Constantine I actively promoted holy places through imperial church-building in the Holy Land, as well as at the shrines of Peter and *Paul and other Roman martyrs; and his mother Helena Augusta personified the official interest in sacred sites by visiting Palestine as part of a tour of the eastern provinces (c.


Polycarp, c. 69–c. 155 CE  

Henry Chadwick and M. J. Edwards

Bishop of *Smyrna and correspondent of Ignatius of Antioch. His martyrdom at the age of 86 is described in a letter from the Smyrnaean church to that at Philomelium, Phrygia. That the MSS preserve an interpolated text is probable from *Eusebius of Caesarea's quotations (Hist. eccl. 4. 15). Eusebius' Chronicle mentions his death next to the year ce 167, but a (post-Eusebian?) addition to the Smyrnaean letter (ch. 21) dates it to 23 Feb. ‘in the high-priesthood of Philip of Tralles in the proconsulate of Statius Quadratus’. The chronology based by 19th-cent. authors on *Aelius Aristides may be dubious, but, since Quadratus was consul in 142, his proconsulate of Asia cannot fall later than 161. Lightfoot's date of 155 fits well with Quadratus' career and with the Asiarchate of Philip, which commenced in 148. Time must be allowed for his return to Smyrna after his visit to Rome (c.


Pompeius, African grammarian, late 5th–early 6th cent. CE  

R. A. Kaster

Pompeius (late 5th–early 6th cent. ce), African grammarian, commented on *Donatus (1)'s ars (GL 5. 95–312), perhaps also on *Virgil and *Terence (very uncertain).


Porcius Festus  

Tessa Rajak

Porcius Festus, *procurator of *Judaea, ?60–62 ce, was, like his predecessor Felix, harassed by sicarii terrorists and by a pseudo-prophet. He supported *Iulius Agrippa (2) II against the priests in a dispute over a palace extension. He carried on the trial of St *Paul, before sending him to Rome (Acts 25–6). He died in office.


possession, religious  

Corinne Ondine Pache

That a human being might become possessed by a supernatural power was a fairly common ancient belief. The effect might be a sudden change in behavior, the altered state of consciousness associated with Dionysiac ritual, or a prophetic frenzy as in the case of a divinely inspired trance (see Delphic oracle). Plato (Phaedr. 244a ff., esp. 265a-c) distinguishes between prophetic (mantikê, inspired by Apollo), mystical (telestikê, inspired by Dionysus), poetic (inspired by the Muses), and erotic (inspired by Aphrodite and Eros) possession. Sources also differentiate between unprompted possession and possession sought through ritual, as in the case of the Pythia at Delphi who became ἔνθεος (“inspired” or “filled with a god”) and whose body became a medium for the god’s voice.Words such as θεόληπτος, θεοφόρητος, or κάτοχος (expressing the notion “possessed by (a) god”), carried an ambivalent meaning. On the one hand, they referred to terrifying pathological experiences, such as epileptic strokes or various types of insanity. On the other hand, possession involved direct contact with a god and thus could effect a kind of sacralization. Socrates mentions the possibility of becoming “seized by the nymphs” (νυμφόληπτος) while conversing in a sanctuary dedicated to nymphs (Phaedr.


Precatio terrae, Precatio omnium herbarum  

J. H. D. Scourfield

Two short anonymous prayers of uncertain date to Mother Earth and to all herbs; the second may show Christian influence. Attempts to read these texts as iambic senarii have resulted in much misguided conjecture.



Todd Breyfogle

The Priscillianists were members of a Christian ascetic movement which flourished in Spain and Aquitaine during the last quarter of the 4th cent. ce. Its founder, Priscillian, was a well-educated Spanish layman, possibly of senatorial standing. From c.375 his teachings spread rapidly, attracting a considerable following and the opposition of bishops Ithacius of Ossonoba and Hydatius of Mérida. Affinities with *Gnosticism and *Manichaeism laid them open to charges of heresy, but a council convened at Saragossa (October 380) failed to condemn the Priscillianists by name. Shortly thereafter Priscillian was consecrated bishop of Avila by Instantius and Salvianus, his episcopal supporters. Their opponents obtained from *Gratian an imperial rescript expelling the Priscillianists from their churches (381). Although the exiled bishops were unable to win an audience with either Pope *Damasus or *Ambrose, they did secure from Macedonius, Gratian's master of the offices, a rescript authorizing them to resume possession of their sees.


Proba, Faltonia Betitia  

Sigrid Schottenius Cullhed

Faltonia Betitia Proba (fl. late 4th century) was a Roman poet, writer of a Christian cento (Lat. for patchwork), which circulated in the Eastern and Western Empire toward the end of the 4th century. The work consists of 694 verses culled from Virgil’s Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid, narrating episodes from Genesis, Exodus, and the four Gospels. The narrative sections are interspersed with proems, interludes, and epilogues pervaded by a confessional and devotional theme. The declared intention of the poet is to relate the “mysteries of Virgil” (arcana . . . vatis, v.12) and to show that Virgil “sang about the pious feats of Christ” (Vergilium cecinisse . . . pia munera Christi v. 23). This makes Proba one of the first Roman poets to have actively appropriated Virgil as a Christian prophet.There are over a hundred manuscripts containing Proba’s cento, the oldest of which date back to the 8th century, and a large number of early modern editions. Thanks to Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris (1374), Proba became important in the querelle des femmes as an example of an educated woman.


Proclus Constantinopolitanus, c. 385–446 CE; bishop, 434–446 CE  

Maximos Constas

An early archbishop of Constantinople and a popular preacher in the rhetorical style of Gregory Nazianzus (d. 390), Proclus was the principal architect of the Byzantine cult of the Virgin Mary. Nothing is known of his family, social class, or early life, although he seems to have studied under Alexandrian teachers of rhetoric recently established in the new capital. Later Byzantine sources make Proclus the student of John Chrysostom (sed. 397–404), who died in exile (d. 407) and whose relics Proclus had with great pomp returned to Constantinople (438). However, contemporary sources place Proclus in the service of Atticus of Constantinople (sed. 406–425), who ordained him to the diaconate and priesthood, and whom Proclus served as secretary and ghostwriter. After the death of Atticus, Proclus was a candidate for the archiepiscopal throne, but lost the election to Sisinnius (sed. 426–427), who subsequently ordained Proclus to the see of Cyzicus. The people of Cyzicus, however, resisting interference in the affairs of their church, rejected Proclus, who remained in the capital where he flourished as a popular preacher. After the death of Sisinnius, Proclus was again put forward as a candidate but was blocked by the emperor, Theodosius II (r.


Prosper Tiro, of Aquitaine, c. 390–c. 455 CE  

William Hugh Clifford Frend

Prosper Tiro (c. 390–c. 455 ce) of Aquitaine became a monk and may have taken deacon's orders. At Marseille (*Massalia) he supported *Augustine's doctrine of Grace against more moderate interpretations put forward in John *Cassian's Collationes (426). In 431 he journeyed to Rome to seek Pope Celestine's support for Augustinianism, and on the accession of *Leo I (1) (440) he returned to Rome where he acted as the Pope's secretary. According to Gennadius he drafted Leo's letters against Eutyches.He was important, first as a champion of Augustine in the ‘Semi-Pelagian’ controversy (427–32), and second as the compiler of the Chronicle. Though he did not know Augustine he wrote (427/8) telling him that Pelagianism (see pelagius) was rife in Marseille, and after Augustine's death (430) Prosper wrote three books in his defence. He attacked the anti-predestinarian views of John Cassian in a sarcastic work, Contra Collatorem, a reference to Cassian's Collationes.