Jean Pépin


THE PLATONIC
AND CHRISTIAN ULYSSES

I. Philosophos Odysseus 1

Several philosophical schools in antiquity made use of the figure of Ulysses. Take the case of the Cynics, to begin with, who put him forward as an exemplum. The idea is already suggested in the fifth century B.C. by the founder of the Cynic movement, Antisthenes. Ulysses is for him a sage who knows life, the gods and men—and women!—and who knows how to adapt his speech in relation to different interlocutors. 2 The same kind of evaluation of Ulysses is found two centuries later in Bion. 3 It becomes a literary cliché in the apocryphal letters of the Cynics, which date from the imperial period and which see in Ulysses, notably in his clothes (that is, his rags), the incarnation of the kind of life advocated by Cynicism. 4 It was to be expected that the Stoics, who admitted to being under Cynic influence in their ethics, would in turn choose Ulysses as a model of morality. In fact, no trace of this is found in the documents relating to the founders of Stoicism, but it is a well-established idea in the Stoics of the imperial period: Seneca, then Epictetus, and in two texts influenced by Stoicism that probably date from the first or second century A.D., the De Vita et Poesi Homeri of Pseudo-Plutarch and the Quaestiones Homericae of Heraclitus. In these texts we find a Ulysses extolled because of his endurance, his indifference to pain, his contempt for pleasure. 5

Parallel to this Cynic and Stoic tendency, there developed another philosophical use of Ulysses, of which I would like to give a representative sample. The reader must forgive the length of this passage in view of the fact that I will use it in the following pages as a point of comparison. It concerns the episode of the Sirens, which Plutarch prides himself in using to show that there is no conflict between Homer and Plato (Republic X, 5I7B):

____________________
From Neoplatonism and Christian Thought, edited by Dominic J. O'Meara (Norfolk, VA: International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, 1982), pp. 3-18.

-228-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Odysseus/Ulysses
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 312

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?