This chapter offers a historical overview of Greek and Roman agronomy as a literary phenomenon, touching on major sources such as Hesiod, Xenophon, Cato, and Columella together with numerous minor authors. It tracks the ever-expanding boundaries of what was considered agronomy during the Classical era, plus trends towards specialization and encyclopedism in writers from Hellenistic and Roman times. The most common feature of this heterogeneous body of writings is a concern to communicate what the authors believe to be best practices in agriculture—which may not always be the same as standard or widespread practices. Interest in agricultural paradoxography is shown to be an enduring and essential feature of the genre. Agronomists did not attempt to take into account the methods of the ancient natural sciences, save for astronomy, which was productively assimilated by the authors of farmers’ calendars.
The burgeoning science of human nature recognized the implications for human identity. In the later fifth or early fourth centuries BCE philosophers started to develop a systematically dualistic account of human beings as composites of body and soul. In this view, the body is something that embeds the person in a particular community, and the soul is the true ‘self’, the locus of desires and beliefs which those communities could shape. This article suggests that personal identity is for these thinkers social identity, and it is no coincidence that Plato's utopian designs for a polis in the Republic are largely structured around rethinking the educational curriculum, or, conversely, that Protagoras assigns the central role in moral education to the city as a whole.
This chapter examines the relationship between the Aristotelian philosophers (30 bce to 200 ce) and the so-called Second Sophistic. It discusses how the study of Aristotle’s works experienced a revival, leading to a new text-based approach to his corpus. The evidence for the main protagonists of those interested in Aristotle is fragmentary. Some were leading thinkers of the school (Andronicus of Rhodes), others eclectic readers of Aristotle (Xenarchus of Seleucia, Galen of Pergamum). The views of both styles of scholar on Aristotle arose mostly in a didactic context, clarifying the texts to students. Thus philosophers began to engage in scholarly commentary as a standard way to practice philosophy. This trend quickly culminated in the running commentary, the prime example of which is the work of Alexander of Aphrodisias (ca. 200 ce), who also had connections to the imperial court.
The Rhetoric is a difficult book for two reasons. First, its purpose is not immediately clear because it sees argument as the heart of persuasion yet expands and contracts the meaning of argument in different contexts. The relations between argument and character, logos and ēthos, are complex. The enthymeme is the “body” of proof (pistis), yet ēthos is the most powerful means of inducing belief. Second, Aristotle shows how the art of rhetoric has its own standards, irreducible to logic, politics, or expediency, but its ability to erect its own standards is constrained or guided in three distinct dimensions: fidelity to the facts, a goal of persuading a given audience, and moral responsibility. Aristotle places deliberative rhetoric, not forensic or epideictic rhetoric, at the center of his art to make the art fit for practice by citizens, not experts.
The chapter surveys the contributions of Aristotle to the development of ancient Greek science. Aristotle sought the stable element and reliable truth within changes. Aristotle develops a three-fold system of scientific disciplines: practical, productive, and theoretic (including mathematics and natural philosophy). The primary natural kinds are the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, composed of the fundamental qualities of hot/cold and wet/dry. Each has a natural place, earth in a sphere at the center of the cosmos, and the others in spherical shells around that. The eternal circular heavenly motions are due to the fifth element, “aithēr.” Aristotle’s scala naturae classifies all life: plants are capable of nutrition and reproduction, animals can also perceive and move, and humans can reason. Aristotle also studied the transformation of substances, but mainly focusses on the generation, the parts, and the functions of animals. Aristotle’s chief explanatory tool is the “final” cause, the purpose for which a thing occurs.
This article points out that the genre of biography was also fundamentally concerned with Hellenic identity. As the discussion holds, ancient biographies do not just describe individuals, they tackle a range of issues, chief among which is that crucial question, what it might mean to be Greek. Biography is about individuals. That is what makes it interesting; it is also what leaves it vulnerable to critics who look for something more, for the big things rather than Plutarch's ‘small things’. However, the individuals matter too, and usually matter most. The reason biography can do so much is because a human being is both what other human beings tend to find most interesting, and the mechanism and the phenomenon that other humans understand most intuitively.
This article looks at the parallel evolution of civic institutions, all of which culminated in the polis, the ‘city-state’, as the backdrop to the rich cultural legacy of the fifth and fourth centuries. Historians have demonstrated that the formal institutions of the Greek city-state are best understood as emerging from, but still very much embedded within, a much broader range of collective practices and discourses. Nevertheless, it is the dynamic interplay between the institutional structures of the state and these broader practices and discourses that has been the focus of much of the most fruitful scholarship on the ancient Greek city-state over the past thirty years. The discussion then turns to some of the most interesting areas of investigation in current scholarship on the interaction between formal institutions and broader cultural activities and norms in the Greek city-state.
Commentaries are important research tools in the field of Hellenic studies: even those classicists who are most critical of them tend to use them frequently. More fundamentally still, commentaries seem to be inextricable from the very notion of classical literature. This article focuses on four fundamental issues that are likely to confront anybody who plans to use or write a commentary. The first section considers the historical relationship between classical commentaries and classical literature. The second section discusses the commentary both as an act of reading and as a text in its own right. The third section examines how commentaries establish relationships between texts and between readers. The final section raises some issues of value: the value of commentaries and of the texts they seek to elucidate, but also the valuable role played by readers of the classical commentary.
G. E. R. Lloyd
Appealing to Herodotus, who should perhaps be considered the father of cultural anthropology as much as of history, this article resists an extreme position which relativizes concepts of originality and authenticity out of existence. Nevertheless, it shows that the study of Hellenic culture always involves comparative anthropology: one can look harder and see more, but what one sees is always the view from where he is. Indeed, one must put himself in the frame by selecting the object of the study to begin with.
Questions about the ancient Greek language arise in many areas of Hellenic studies and might include, for example: Which linguistic characteristics of the Homeric poems as we have them are particularly ancient? Under what circumstances does Thucydides use an aorist participle in preference to a present participle? How did ancient Greeks address one another or make requests of one another? Comparison with related languages can provide insights into the prehistory of the language and contribute to such questions. This article attempts to highlight some recent developments in these three areas: comparative and historical grammar; synchronic grammar; and the social and stylistic diversity of Greek. Typological and theoretical linguistic work has been, and continues to be, a valuable source of inspiration and hypotheses for work on Greek. Also, work on Greek requires not only ideas and hypotheses but their systematic testing against well-defined corpora of texts.
This article deals with the application of the Hellenic question of how membership of society is counted and structured. Demography and sociology share a focus on group behaviour. While demography is concerned with the structure and development of human populations that are governed by collective reproductive practices and environmental factors, sociology deals more generally with all forms of social behaviour, institutions, and organization. In principle, the value of systematic means of studying these issues can hardly be in doubt. Even so, the formal approaches and methods of current demography or sociology have only rarely been applied to any aspect of Hellenic studies. Conventional disciplinary boundaries and normative preferences for ‘humanistic’ perspectives are the most obvious culprits.
This chapter examines the cultural contexts of the second-century ce Epicurean inscription of Diogenes of Oenoanda (discovered in a small city in Lycia). More than a handbook on Epicureanism, this Greek epigraphical text (6000 words of which survive) offers original expositions of Epicurean thought and includes a collection of Principal Doctrines that differs from the collection preserved by Diogenes Laertius. The inscription attests to the existence of a vibrant Epicurean community that was eager to share its outlook with newcomers, including non-Greeks and women. Strong indications of Diogenes’s engagement with the urban cultural phenomena of the first centuries of the Roman Empire include the monumentality of the inscription and its apparent competition with contemporary euergetism, and Diogenes’s critiques of dream interpretation and oracular prophecy.
The chapter gives an account Epicurus’ natural philosophy and his attitude to the sciences. Epicurus’ mission was to liberate people from the fear of death and the gods, and science was subordinate to that project, practiced to show that nature acts without divine intervention. He was skeptical about mathematics, due to his commitment to atomism, and about astronomy, because knowledge should be based on clear foundations unavailable for deciding issues such as the planets’ sizes. Sensation dictates there are two constituents of reality: bodies, directly attested by sense perception; and the void, the space where bodies exist and move. Infinite atoms move through space, forming countless worlds (kosmoi), which at some point will again fall apart into their constituent atoms. Epicurus considers naturalistic explanations of phenomena to show they are not divine. But his philosophy of nature insists upon natural causes (as opposed to geometrical models), is consistently materialist and mechanistic, and is thus anti-teleological.
Favorinus is chiefly known, besides the brief account in Philostratus and three speeches of his own composition, from his admirer Aulus Gellius and his enemy M. Antonius Polemon, who dilates on his lurid private life; this apparently made Hadrian, with whom he had a fraught relationship, banish him to Chios. His engagement with philosophy was sufficient to bring him into conflict with Galen. His close friend Herodes, a man of high birth and immense wealth, enjoyed a great reputation as an orator that did not secure the survival of any speeches barring one miserable effort almost certainly spurious. Despite his munificence, his overbearing power at Athens was much resented by its upper class; his lack of self-control, manifested in his excessive displays of mourning, brought him more than once into court, but he never lost the protection of his former pupil Marcus Aurelius.
The geography of Byzantium shaped its history by defining its strategic possibilities and challenges, setting limits to the resources that the empire and its inhabitants could draw upon and exploit, and imposing restrictions on the movement of goods and people. The Roman Empire of the sixth century—Byzantium before the rise of Islam—annexed varying territories in the central and western Mediterranean, essentially forming the eastern half of the Roman Empire of the fourth and fifth centuries. Its core territories lay in the east and consisted of the Balkan peninsula, Anatolia, the western Transcaucasus, the Levant, northern Mesopotamia, and Egypt. Long before the empire ended in 1453, it had lost most of these territories, but even in its last two centuries this remained the wider geographical context in which Byzantium continued to exist. Rather than being a Mediterranean empire, Byzantium existed in the Mediterranean.
Greek Neoplatonist commentators on Aristotle practiced philosophy and science in the third through seventh centuries ce by performing innovative exegesis of Aristotle’s works. To investigate nature is, for the commentators, to read with understanding Aristotle’s treatises in a set curriculum, with a commentary and teacher. Therefore, a mature philosopher would often prove to be a capable commentator, or interpreter, who could foster the reading of the primary texts with charity and objectivity, eliciting the author’s meaning through paraphrase, lemmatized discussion, and a critically evaluated doxography of the puzzles presented by the text. On the Neoplatonist account, the system expounded in Aristotle’s treatises is uniform and consistent, and is harmonious with the philosophy expounded in Plato’s dialogues. This chapter surveys concepts in the commentators including nature (phusis), biological reproduction, the five or four elements, dynamics and Philoponus’ impetus, natural place and three-dimensional space, modes of causation, teleology, time, cosmogony, and cosmology.
This chapter explores the relation between Greek philosophy and classical Roman law, focusing on various currents as intellectual backgrounds to the works of individual jurists as well as apparently philosophical notions and theories present in the Roman legal sources. These notions range from systematic considerations such as the subdivision of certain legal categories, to moral and ethical concepts like justice and natural law. Even though there are many methodological difficulties associated with exploring the relation between Greek philosophy and Roman law, it seems certain the Roman jurists employed Greek philosophy in a scientific manner in their legal practice, to define and elucidate points of law, and perhaps even to develop new legal theories.
This article addresses contemporary efforts to understand how the earliest practitioners of philosophy conceived of the philosophic life. It argues that, for Plato, the concept of bios was a central, animating, and structuring object of philosophic inquiry. Concentration on the imagery Plato employed to draw bios into the purview of philosophic contemplation and choice points to interpretative avenues that further the aim of treating the dialogues as complex, integrated wholes, and offers a new approach to the question of the status of image-making in them. The article concludes with thoughts on how an exploration of bios might extend beyond Plato to Aristotle, via an examination of his treatment of the range of human and animal bioi, suggesting that such an examination clarifies the relationship between his analysis of the polis-dwelling animal and his broader investigation of living beings as such.
This article considers the theoretical perspective on the polis as the immediate context for an individual's flourishing. That ancient political philosophy has such strong roots in the Athens of Plato and Aristotle is no doubt part of the reason for the perpetuation of the polis as idea. The Cynics, and later, the Stoics, chafed against the artificial boundaries of the conventional polis; the Stoics in fact lived at a time when its political centrality was over. In championing the life of the ‘cosmic community’, what they call the ‘cosmopolis’, they from one perspective invite people to bring the ideals of the polis to bear on the universe as a whole. The number of Greeks for whom the polis was a lived reality was relatively small, then; but seen from this point of view, every Greek utopia was in the end a polis.
David Conan Wolfsdorf
This chapter examines the reception of Hesiod in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, from Aristotle to Posidonius. The discussion focuses on the contributions of the Peripatetics, Epicureans, and Stoics, the only philosophical schools within this period for which the author has found evidence of Hesiodic reception. Two Hesiodic passages above all seem to have captured the attention of these philosophers: the genesis of the primordial divinities in Theogony and the Myth of Ages, especially the golden age in Works and Days. Granted the importance of these passages and their provision of one unifying thread within this particular history, philosophical interest in and use of Hesiod over the three centuries in question was diverse and complex. The reception is in fact not tightly unified at all.