Stroumsa reviews Athanassiadi, Mutations of Hellenism at BMCR

Bryn Mawr Classical Review has just published Guy Stroumsa’s review of Polymnia Athanassiadi’s recent collection of studia minora, Mutations of Hellenism in Late Antiquity. You can read the review here. From the publisher’s website:


  • The 21 studies in this volume, which deal with issues of social and intellectual history, religion and historical methodology, explore the ways whereby over the course of a few hundred years -roughly between the second and the fifth centuries A.D.- an anthropocentric culture mutated into a theocentric one. Rather than underlining the differences between a revamped paganism and the emergent Christian traditions, the essays in the volume focus on the processes of osmosis, interaction and acculturation, which shaped the change in priorities among the newly created textual communities that were spreading across the entire breadth of the late antique oecumene. The main issues considered in this connection include the phenomena of textuality and holy scripture, canonicity and exclusion, truth and error, prophecy and tradition, authority and challenge, faith and salvation, holy places and holy men, in the context of the construction of new orthodox readings of the Greek philosophical heritage.Moreover the volume suggests that intolerant attitudes, which form a characteristic trait of monotheisms, were not an exclusive preserve of Christianity (as the Enlightenment tradition would insist), but were progressively espoused by pagan philosophers and divine men as part of the theory and practice of Hellenism’s theological koine. Efforts to establish the monopoly of a revealed truth against any rival claims were transversal to the textual communities which emerged in late antiquity and remodelled the intellectual and spiritual landscape of the Greater Mediterranean.
  • Contents: Introduction. Methodological Concerns: Antiquité tardive: construction et déconstruction d’un modèle historiographique; The oecumenism of Iamblichus: latent knowledge and its awakening. A Religious Koine: Hellenism: a theological koine; The gods are God: polytheistic cult and monotheistic theology in the world of late antiquity; Apamea and the Chaldaean Oracles: a holy city and a holy book; Canonizing Platonism: the fetters of Iamblichus; The creation of orthodoxy in Neoplatonism; A contribution to Mithraic theology: the Emperor Julian’s Hymn to King Helios; Le traitement du mythe: de l’empereur Julien à Proclus. Prophecy and Revelation: Philosophers and oracles: shifts of authority in late paganism; The fate of oracles in late antiquity: Didyma and Delphi; Dreams, theurgy and freelance divination: the testimony of Iamblichus; The Chaldaean Oracles: theology and theurgy; Byzantine commentators on the Chaldaean Oracles: Psellos and Pletho. ΘΕIΟΣ ANHΡ: Ascent to heroic or divine status in late antiquity: continuities and transformations; The divine man of late Hellenism: a sociable and popular figure; Julian the Theurgist: man or myth?. Dissidence and Persecution: Persecution and response in late paganism: the evidence of Damascius; Who was Count Zosimus?’; Christians and others: the conversion ethos in late antiquity. Envoi: From polis to Theoupolis: school syllabuses and teaching methods in late antiquity. Index.
  • About the Author: Polymnia Athanassiadi is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Athens, Greece.