The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

Synopsis

This book is a study of the fourth-century sophist Libanius, a major intellectual figure who ran one of the most prestigious schools of rhetoric in the later Roman Empire. He was a tenacious adherent of pagan religion and a friend of the emperor Julian, but also taught leaders of the early Christian church like St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great. Raffaella Cribiore examines Libanius's training and personality, showing him to be a vibrant educator, though somewhat gloomy and anxious by nature. She traces how he cultivated a wide network of friends and former pupils and courted powerful officials to recruit top students. Cribiore describes his school in Antioch--how students applied, how they were evaluated and trained, and how Libanius reported progress to their families. She details the professional opportunities that a thorough training in rhetoric opened up for young men of the day. Also included here are translations of 200 of Libanius's most important letters on education, almost none of which have appeared in English before.


Cribiore casts into striking relief the importance of rhetoric in late antiquity and its influence not only on pagan intellectuals but also on prominent Christian figures. She gives a balanced view of Libanius and his circle against the far-flung panorama of the Greek East.

Excerpt

When I was writing about Greek education in Egypt in Gymnastics of the Mind, I looked for an ancient writer against whom I could test some of the ideas that the papyri suggested. It soon became apparent that Libanius was ideal. the sheer quantity of his writing was daunting at the start, but also tantalizing and promising. When my project reached its end, I was well aware that I had left much behind and that Libanius was still waiting for me. His speeches were extremely useful in helping to trace the story of his famous school in Antioch and of the fluctuating state of rhetoric in the fourth century. His letters captivated me entirely as he truly became part of my life.

I had already written some parts of this book and translated Libanius's letters (many more than this appendix includes) when I was given the opportunity to spend the fall semester of 2004 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. I spent a blissful and constructive period there, communicating daily with superb scholars in the company of some great mosaics from Antioch. At the Institute, I was finally able to put into perspective some of the issues that still troubled me. I am very grateful to Glen Bowersock for so generously “letting me drink at his spring of excellence in the garden of the Muses” (as Libanius would say). I also warmly thank Heinrich von Staden for being there when I needed help. Several people contributed to this book in various ways, by reading the whole manuscript or parts of it, providing valuable criticism, discussing points in the translations, and helping me check the text. Thus I am grateful to Peter Brown, Alan Cameron, Eleanor Dickey, William Frosh, Iannis Papadoyannakis, Robert Penella, Giovanni Ruffini, and Maria Wenglinsky. To my family, love as always.

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