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.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at