Presenter: Professor Han Baltussen (University of Adelaide)

Eunapius of Sardis (346–c. 414 CE) is an important source for biographical information on the late Platonists for the period 200-350 CE. His Bioi (‘Lives’) give episodic accounts of the deeds and the ideas of this period’s sophists, philosophers, theurgists and physicians. This seminar revisits Eunapius’s attitude to Christianity and examines the purpose of his Bioi. In particular it explores how we can furnish a detailed analysis that supports Momigliano’s famous claim that in his Bioi Eunapius dealt ‘mainly with fourth-century Neoplatonists’ and gave ‘an idealized picture in order to compete with the biographies of Christian saints’. In the recent upsurge of books on Eunapius various judgements of his work are made but no proper justification of Momigliano’s claim has been attempted. This seminar bolsters the case that the Bioi’s purpose was in part to offer an alternative to the Christian saints’s lives. It argues that Eunapius aimed to achieve this by a polemical subtext against Christian ideas. The evidence that it uses consists of passages in which the ‘competitive drive’ of his work becomes clear. Eunapius’s emphasis on the pagan philosophers’s ability to achieve a divine quality served his higher agenda of offering a counter-narrative to both the doctrine and the exemplary lives of the Christians.

The podcast of this seminar is available in UQ eSpace.


Michie Building (9),
St Lucia campus