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Journal for Late Antique Religion and Culture

 Volume 7, 2013


Nicola Spanu

The Magic of Plotinus' Gnostic Disciples in the Context of Plotinus' School of Philosophy

Abstract: This paper aims at providing valuable insight into a topic which has not yet been sufficiently studied: the magical and exorcistic practices of those disciples of Plotinus whom in Ennead II 9 [33] he criticizes for interpreting Plato in a dualistic or ‘Gnostic’ fashion. In chapter 14 of Ennead II 9 [33] Plotinus fiercely criticizes the philosophical assumptions on which the magic practiced by his ‘Gnostic’ disciples was based, but does not refuse magic in itself. In chapter 10 of his Life of Plotinus Porphyry relates that Plotinus was not alien to that sort of magical practice which the Chaldean Oracles call ‘theurgy’, which includes evocation rituals of demons or lesser deities, whose assistance the theurgist can rely on for a variety of purposes, from curing diseases to helping him to obtain the unio mystica with the supreme God. The paper will try to explain the way in which Plotinus’ concept of magic, which he describes in Ennead IV 4 [28] 40-44, differs from his disciples’. The final section of the paper will be focused on pointing out the profound similarities between the magic of Plotinus’ ‘Gnostic’ disciples and the magical and exorcistic rituals described in the Greek Magical Papyri.


Josef Lössl

Intellect and Grace in Augustine of Hippo

Abstract: In 1964 Rudolph Lorenz published an article in the Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte entitled “Gnade und Erkenntnis bei Augustinus”, in which he discussed links between Augustine’s concepts of intellect and grace and possible implications with regard to Augustine’s teachings on Predestination and Original Sin. This paper takes up some of Lorenz’s points and tries to develop them further. It concludes that one of the reasons why Augustine was so adamant in defending these controversial doctrines and why he was unable to share the concerns of contemporaries regarding their controversial nature was the fact that he understood them in the context of his intellectualist framework. For him this made them “comprehensible”. At the same time, not framing the human intellectual endeavour in the context of a teaching on grace would have meant for Augustine a depressing reduction of the most essential and fulfilling form of human activity to a mere natural process, while in his view it originated gratuitously in God and linked each human being to eternal salvation in Christ and communion with God.


John W. Watt

The Syriac Aristotle Between Alexandria and Baghdad

Abstract: The efflorescence of philosophy in Arabic in ninth century Baghdad shows a clear relationship to the philosophical work done in Greek in late antique Alexandria, as well as some significant differences. In both locations there was intense interest in Aristotle, though in Baghdad much less in Plato than had been the case in Alexandria. Less is known about philosophy in the intervening period, but the presence of Syriac philosophers both in sixth century Alexandria and eighth-to-tenth century Baghdad raises the possibility that the Syriac tradition may have been a conduit between the two. This article surveys the work of Sergius of Reshaina, an alumnus of Alexandria and the first known Syriac writer on Aristotle, in its relation to his Alexandrian masters, the evidence for Syriac engagement with Aristotelian philosophy in the subsequent two centuries, and the Syriac contribution to Aristotelian philosophy in Abbasid Baghdad. While a continuous tradition of Syriac interest in Aristotle, clearly linked in many of its representatives to the Christianised Neoplatonism of Pseudo-Dionysius, does not exclude the possibility that other aspects of late antique Greek thought may have found their way into Arabic through other channels, such as the Levantine Greeks on which al-Kindī depended for his Arabic translations, or even the alleged Neoplatonists of Harran, the Syriac focus on Aristotle, from Sergius of Reshaina in the sixth century to Abū Bišr Mattā and the Baghdad Aristotelians in the tenth, most convincingly accounts for the dominant position he held in Islamic philosophy.


Dirk Krausmüller

Chastity or Procreation? Models of Sanctity for Byzantine Laymen During the Iconoclastic and Post-Iconoclastic Period

Abstract: This article presents evidence for married saints, which can be dated to the early ninth century, and compares such material with hagiographical data about chaste laymen from the tenth century. This approach makes it possible to define more clearly the different concepts of sanctity that were current at these times and thus to gauge the changes that occurred during the intervening years. The article concludes with a brief discussion of possible reasons for the changes in the discourse about sainthood that set the eighth and early ninth centuries apart from both the preceding and the following periods.


Lee Raye

Lions in Insular British Artwork, 650-1000 AD

Abstract: This paper identifies and examines six peculiarly insular-British features of the imago leonis. These are the absence of the evangelist, a red or gold colour, the frequent absence of wings, an orientation to sinister, a langued tongue and a “stretched” attitude. Each feature’s comparative frequency is graphically represented and the end of the paper discusses possible sources for the British conception of the lion. From a short comparative survey it is found that these features are typical only of insular British evangelist-symbol lions, and not lions in contemporary British artwork more generally or of non-insular British gospel lions. The style of the British imago leonis probably developed in isolation and from a classical model.


Daniel King

What is Philosophy in Late Antiquity?

This article reviews a number of recent publications on philosophy in Late Antiquity.


Book Reviews

Stephen R. L. Clark, Ancient Mediterranean Philosophy. An Introduction (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) [J. Lössl]

Jörg Trelenberg, Tatianos. Oratio ad Graecos. Rede an die Griechen (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012) [J. Lössl]

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