The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 337

By Fergus Millar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
13
EPILOGUE:
EAST AND WEST

13.1. EAST?

If anything is clear about the social history of the Near East, it is the importance for it of the step-by-step advance of the Roman army; and few reflections of that are more vivid and illuminating than what is said of himself by the author of a Greek novel written in the middle of the second century. To be precise, what we know of this self-description comes from the summary of the novel, entitled Babyloniaca, which Photius included in his compendium of Greek literature, the Bibliotheca ('Library'), in the ninth century.1 From the summary it seems that it was in an aside or parenthesis in the middle of the novel that the author, Iamblichus, went into some detail about himself and the historical circumstances under which he was writing. The occasion seems to have arisen from his account of different types of magic, including the employment of a ventriloquist 'whom the Greeks call "Eurycles" while the Babylonians use the term "Sakchoura" '. It was at that point that the author identified himself:

The writer (Photius writes) says that he himself is a Babylonian, has studied magic and also Hellenic paideia, and is flourishing in the time of Soaimos the Achaemenid and Arsacid, who is a king and descendant of kings, but is also a member of the Senate in Rome, and consul, and then again king of Greater Armenia. It is in his time that he says that he himself

____________________
1
Photius, Bib. 94, ed. R. Henry II ( 1960), 34ff.; for the complete fragments of the Babyloniaca see the Teubner ed. by R. Hercher, Iamblichi Babyloniacorum Reliquiae ( 1960). It is translated with an introduction in B. P. Reardon (ed.), Collected Ancient Greek Novels ( 1989), 783ff. See T. Hägg, The Novel in Antiquity ( 1983), esp. 32-34.

-489-

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