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Article

Sofie Remijsen

Whereas chariot races gained popularity in late antiquity, athletics declined. Traditional agones, such as the Olympics, disappeared in the course of the 4th and 5th centuries ce. The traditional explanation, that they were abolished by Theodosius I, is no longer widely accepted, as the imperial policy clearly remained positive towards games. Changes to the administration of the cities, which administered the funds of these games, must have had a stronger effect, as did the rise of new, and in particular Christian, values. The drive to compete in the individual competitions typical of Greek athletics can be linked to the ambition to excel that was typical of the earlier political culture, but which was increasingly perceived as a vain pursuit and replaced by an ideal of humility. Not all forms of athletics disappeared, however, as the spread of circus games created new opportunities for the demonstration of spectacular feats by athletes.

Article

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Christian Latin poet who wrote in a variety of genres and metres. Born in northern Spain, in 348ce, he had a career in public administration before retiring to write poetry. His major works include the Liber Cathemerinon (poems keyed to the liturgy and religious calendar), Psychomachia (an allegorical epic on the battle between Virtues and Vices for the human soul), and the Liber Peristephanon (lyric poems in praise of the early martyrs of the church). Prudentius was particularly influenced by the works of Virgil and Horace, and aimed in his poetry to combine the form and language of classical Latin poetry with the message of Christianity. The most important Christian Latin poet of late antiquity, Prudentius was extremely influential throughout the Middle Ages.Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–after 405ce) was the most important and influential Christian Latin poet of late antiquity. Called by Richard Bentley the ‘.

Article

Chosroes II was one of the most important Sasanian rulers of Late Antiquity. After having prevailed with the help of Emperor Maurice in a civil war against the usurper Bahrām Čōbin, in 591 ce, the king attacked the Roman Empire after the fall of Maurice in 602. By 622, the Persians had conquered Syria and Egypt, but after the failure of the siege of Constantinople in 626, Chosroes, whose empire was attacked in the east by the Turks, was overthrown by dissatisfied aristocrats in 628. After his death, civil wars broke out that decisively weakened the Sasanian Empire in the wake of the Islamic conquests.Chosroes II “the Victorious” (M[iddle] P[ersian] Husrōy Abarwēz)—whose name occurs under the following spellings: Husraw, Khusro, Kisrā, and Khosroes—was the last great king of kings (šāhān šāh) of the Sasanian Empire and, together with the Roman emperor Heraclius and the Prophet Muhammad, one of the towering figures in the turbulent transitional period from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. He was the grandson of Chosroes I Anōširvān (MP Husraw Anušuwān), with whom he often merged into a single figure in the traditions of the East. Born around .

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

Bianca Maria Altomare

Marcian of Heraclea (beginning of the 5th century ce) was the editor of a geographical corpus, as well as an important researcher and intermediary between the ancient Greek and Byzantine traditions. He was the author of three works: The Periplous of the Outer Sea, an epitome of Artemidorus’ Geographoumena, and an edition of Menippus’ Periplous. Only the first survives directly, albeit transmitted in a fragmentary state via a sole medieval manuscript, but the others can be reconstructed on the evidence of Stephanus of Byzantium.Marcian came from Heraclea Pontica, one of the few certain facts about his biography. There is much uncertainty surrounding even his era, but he can plausibly be dated to the 4th or 5th centuryce on the basis of certain details, such as his cultural milieu (probably Neo-Platonist) and internal evidence.1 In his correspondence with Pylaemenes of Heraclea, Synesius of Cyrene (Ep. 101.8) mentions a Marcian who participated in a literary circle in Constantinople, the .

Article

David Paniagua

Vibius Sequester is the author of the De fluminibus, fontibus, lacubus, nemoribus, paludibus, montibus, gentibus per litteras, a short repertoire of geographical names mentioned by Virgil, Silius, Lucan and Ovid. The text, written at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century ce for the author’s son, Vergilianus, was likely intended to be used at school as an instrument providing basic information about the collected toponyms and ethnonyms. Despite the occasional mistakes in the text, Sequester’s repertoire represent a fine instance of school culture in Western Late Antiquity. The work was much appreciated by Italian humanists, which explains that it was copied in nearly 50 recentiores manuscripts; all of them, however, descend from a second-half of the 9th century manuscript (Vat. Lat. 4929).Vibius Sequester was the author of a short alphabetic repertoire of geographical names mentioned in Latin poetry, probably compiled at the end of the 4th or in the 5th century .

Article

Joop van Waarden

Sidonius Apollinaris, c. 430–c. 485 ce, Gallo-Roman aristocrat, poet and letter writer, civil servant, and bishop, is one of the most distinct voices to survive from Late Antiquity as an eyewitness of the end of Roman power in the West. Born in Lyon to a family of high-ranking Gallo-Roman administrators, he became a leading resident of the Auvergne through his marriage. In the 450s and 460s, he delivered poetic panegyrics to three emperors: his father-in-law Avitus, Majorian, and Anthemius, voicing Gallic, and especially Auvergnat, interests. His other poetic output consists of occasional verse, celebrating moments of high-profile aristocratic, and Christian life. He put out a carefully crafted collection of his selected letters in nine books against the foil of his personal and contemporary history, including significant elements like his early career, culminating in the urban prefecture in Rome (468/469), lettered leisure in the company of sophisticated friends on Gallic estates, and the turning of the scales that made him into bishop of his hometown Clermont, in vain opposing the onset of the Visigoths and having to put up with the final withdrawal of Roman authority from Gaul (475/476). After a period of exile, he was reinstated as bishop under Visigothic sovereignty. His career is typical for the kind of aristocratic bishop that emerged in Gaul as imperial career opportunities vanished, social distinction being transferred to office holding in the Church, and a distinguished ascetic lifestyle.

Article

Heliodorus was the author of the Aethiopica, the latest and longest Greek novel to survive from antiquity. In his work, Heliodorus claims to be a Phoenician from Emesa, but there are good reasons against treating this as an authoritative autobiographical statement. The Aethiopica tells the adventures of Charicleia, the white daughter of the black queen and king of Ethiopia. Her mother abandons her, and she is brought up by foster-fathers in Ethiopia and Delphi. There she falls in love with the young Greek Theagenes, with whom she travels via Egypt to Ethiopia. They are almost sacrificed to the local gods, but Charicleia’s parents eventually recognise her. The protagonists become priests and marry. The novel is a narratologically ambitious work that draws on the structure of the Odyssey (in mediis rebus beginning, embedded heterodiegetic narratives) and takes these devices to a whole new level. A wide range of topics play important roles in the Aethiopica, such as religion, multiculturalism, identity, and epistemology.

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

Marion Kruse

Procopius was a Greek historian, born in Caesarea (2) in Palestine c.500ce. He joined the staff of Belisarius, the leading general of the reign of Justinian, by 527, and served as his legal secretary (assessor/πάρεδρος). Both this post and his corpus indicate that he received a standard education in rhetoric and law, and he claimed to be familiar with matters of Christian theology, though he declined to discuss them. Procopius served under Belisarius throughout the general’s early campaigns against Sassanian Persia (527–531), Vandal North Africa (533–536), and Ostrogothic Italy (535–540). Procopius and Belisarius parted ways at some point between 540 and 542, at which point Procopius took up residence in Constantinople and turned to his literary projects. There is no indication that he remained connected to Belisarius’s circle or dependent upon his patronage after this point. He can, however, be compellingly linked to an active literary circle composed of mid-level officials operating in Constantinople in the mid-6th century, such as John Lydus, who appears to have been familiar with the Secret History.

Article

Lee I. Levine

The Jewish Patriarch (Hebr. Nasi) was the leading Jewish communal official in the late Roman and early Byzantine Empires, in both Palestine and the Diaspora. The Patriarchate, which emerged around the turn of the 3rd century under the leadership of Rabbi Judah I, had the support of the Severan dynasty (193–235 ce). The testimony of Origen (Letter to Africanus 14), who lived in Caesarea c. 230, views the function of the “Jewish ethnarch” (another term for Patriarch) as that of a king, enjoying, inter alia, the power of capital punishment.

Non-Jewish sources from the 4th century attest that the Patriarch enjoyed extensive prestige and recognition. The Theodosian Code is particularly revealing in this regard. One decree, issued by the emperors Arcadius and Honorius in 397, spells out the dominance of the Patriarch in a wide range of synagogue affairs; he stood at the head of a network of officials, including archisynagogues, presbyters, and others—all of whom had privileges on a par with the Christian clergy. Together with other realms of Patriarchal authority noted in earlier rabbinic literature, such as making calendrical decisions, declaring public fast days, and issuing bans, the prominence of this office in Jewish communal and religious life had become quite pronounced at this time.

Article

The 5th-century ce Greek poet Nonnus of Panopolis (the modern Akhmim, Upper-Egypt) is known as the author of two poems. The Dionysiaca is the longest extant ancient Greek poem, a mythological epic (48 books, 21,286 lines) about the young god Dionysus. The much shorter Paraphrase of the Gospel of John (3,640 lines) closely follows the structure of its gospel model, but renders its story in Nonnus’ impeccable hexameters and florid language.Apart from the little that can be deduced from his poems (e.g., the references in Dion. 1.13 and 26.238 to the “neighbouring Isle of Pharos” and “my Nile,” which confirm the author’s Egyptian connection), biographical information about the author behind this remarkable oeuvre is scarce. Nonnus is mentioned as the author of the Dionysiaca in the oldest (partial) manuscript (P. 10567 = Π, papyrus of Berlin, 6th century), which at the start of book 15 reads “start of the 15th poem [sic.] of the .