recruitment, conquest, and conflict: strategies in judaism, early christianity, and the greco-roman...

Download Recruitment, Conquest, and Conflict: Strategies in Judaism, Early Christianity, and the Greco-Roman World (Emory Studies in Early Christianity)

Post on 18-Dec-2016




1 download

Embed Size (px)



    that philosophers would recruit pupils to their schools and also attract adherents for their views among those who had not frequented the school. And it was in the same way that philosophers would also have a more direct political impact on political rulers, who often would not, and probably could not quite, neglect the ethical and political views of the philosophers. This was an indirect way of social functioning, as opposed to a more direct con-cern about recruitment, mission, and social engineering. But it was no less effective for that - due, precisely, to the social force of the newly created ffentlichkeit.

    This is not to say that the impact of philosophy on political life will necessarily have been very great. That wh oIe issue is at once extremely important and extremely difficult to decide in any precise and verifiable way. But it would also be foolish to deny that Hellenistic philosophy may in fact have had considerable influence. If my attempt to identify a special sphere of ethico-political public discourse has been successful, then the impact must have been considerable, though not necessarily directly so. For then Hel-lenistic philosophy is even to be defined in terms of its relationship with that social institution which had the strongest cultural power, in Greece itself and wherever Greeks came into contact with foreigners, whether in the East or in the West. That institution is the Greek 7rOALreLex in all its many forms. Even when, as became so importantly the case in the Hellenistic period, the form of rule was not, at the highest level at least, that of the 7rOAL7eLex, but one of kingship, .the institution of the 7rOAL7eLa. (one might even say of "constitutional" rule) remained in force, both in fact (in the many cities which were still constitutionally governed, though not with an independent foreign policy) and also in theory in the constant preoccupation of Greeks and Romans with constitutional rule even when the ruler was a monarch.

    A Final Test

    I shall end by illustrating the last point through referring to the famous report given by Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana (5.27-40) of a set of conversations with three intellectuals that the Roman emperor Vespasian is supposed to have had in Alexandria immediately after he had possessed him-self of the throne. Vespasian's conversation partners were Apollonius him-self (the neo-Pythagorean sage) and two philosophers (as they are called): Euphrates and Dio Chrysostom - the same Dio whose whole life and career are so very germane to this essay.


    It is a striking story, almost certainly fictive and highly romantic. Vespasian arrives in Alexandria and seeks out Apollonius in order to get his blessing, as it were, for his new kingship. He gets it - but also the advice to observe the mean as king. For God hirnself has defined equity (la07T/C;) as consisting in the mean (lleao7T/C;, 28). Vespasian next declares that he wishes to state to Apollonius his justification (a7rOA0-YLex) for assuming royal power, in the hope that Apollonius will then justify his actions to others. Vespasian's justification is that he hirnself constantly behaved soberly and moderately, whereas Roman ePlperors before hirn have been lacking precisely on this point, even Claudius who (as we have been told in chap. 27) went astray in spite of having a reputation for being fond of culture in all its forms (29). Apollonius again gives hirn the gods' blessing (30). On the next day, however, Apollonius introduces the two philosophers to Vespasian (31). Vespasian states that he has already justified his acts to Apollonius. Today, he says turning to Dio, he wishes for them to "philosophize together" con-cerning the decisions he has made, in order that his" general policy should be both as noble as possible and salutary to mankind. " Apollonius replies on behalf of the others and formulates the problem: how a sovereign ought to rule.

    First Euphrates recommends in a long speech that Vespasian should restore the Roman republic by putting an end to monarchy and giving democ-racy (70 70V oi!1l0V Kpa70C;) to the Romans (33). Next Dio supports this. He welcomes the idea of democracy, but adds:

    I fear lest the servility to which these successive tyrannies [i. e. those of the previous emperors] have reduced the Romans will render any change difficult to effect; I doubt if they are able to comport themselves as free men or even to lift their eyes to a democracy, any more than people who have been kept in the dark are able to look on a sudden blaze of light.

    Dio therefore recommends Vespasian "to give the people of Rome the right to choose their own polity and, if they choose a democracy, to allow it them."

    Vespasian is not pleased. Fortunately, Apollonius comes to the rescue and argues for the monarchy that Vespasian has already assumed. After all, "the government of one man, if it provides all round for the welfare of the community, is democracy" (35)!

    The point should be clear. Even at such a late date as the second half of the second century CE (for the time of Philostratus' s writing), rulers needed philosophers to give them legitimacy, and the terms of the debate were exactly the same as 500 years earlier, going right back in fact to Herodotus, whose famous debate ab out the kind of rule to be followed in Persia Philostratus is obviously for his own purposes . It is difficult to find a


    more eloquent testimony to the prestige of "philosophy" in ancient society in the period we have been considering.

    Again the question may be raised whether this is not mere window-dressing, the aim of which on Vespasian's part would only be (if the story were true at aIl) to obtain some kind of legitimacy for his usurpation of power. It certainly also is window-dressing. But that, in a way, only serv~s to emphasize that there was this sphere of ethico-political public discourse, which even a soldier and autocrat like Vespasian would do weIl not to ignore. A modern analogue, which is obviously also historically connected with what I have been talking about, is the need feIt even in dictatorships for some kind of constitutional backing in the form of elections, parliaments, and the like. Nobody will have any illusions about their real power, but it would also be foolish to deny that there is something here with more influence than none whatever. That phenomenon, together with the modem sphere of public dis-course which supports it, is derived historically from the sphere of ethico-political public discourse that I have identified. It is because Hellenistic philosophy was part of that sphere that the philosophers had no special sense of mission and no special idea of strategies for recruitment. And it is for the same reason that they could contribute to solving social and political conflicts in the Hellenistic and early Roman periods without engaging directly in social engineering. They already belonged at a level of public discourse where they would be influential just by participating in that discourse. 29

    Works Cited

    Baldry, H. C. 1965 The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge


    Dewitt, N. W. 1936 "Organization and Procedure in Epicurean Groups." CP 31 : 205-211. 1954a Epicurus and his Philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 1954b St. Paul and Epicurus. Minneapo1is: University of Minnesota.

    Dihle, A. 1986 "Philosophie - Fachwissenschaft - Allgemeinbildung." pp. 185-231 in

    Aspects de la philosophie hellenistique. Fondation Hardt 32. Ed. H. Flashar, O. Gigon. Vandoeuvres-Geneve.

    29This essay was written for a conference at Emory University in 1991. Shortly after the conference, the author consented to have it published. As time went by, he secretly hoped that nothing would come of this. The essay is published here in the hope that it will stimulate more comprehensive work to develop and consolidate the perspective that it offers on" the social role of philosophy in the Greco-Roman world.





    Erskine, Andrew 1990 The Hellenistic Stoa: Political Thought and Action. London: Duckworth.

    Frischer, Bemard 1982 The Sculpted Word: Epicureanism and Philosophical Recruitment in

    Andent Greece. Berkeley: University of Califomia.

    Gigante, M. 1969 "Philodeme: Sur la liberte de parole." Association Guillaume Bude.

    Actes du VIIIe Congres. Paris.

    Habermas, Jrgen 1962 Strukturwandel der ffentlich.keit: Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der

    brgerlichen Gesellschaft. Neuwied: H. Luchterhand.

    Long, A. A., and D. N. Sedley 1987 The Hellenistic Philosophers. 2 Vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

    Lynch, J. P. 1972 Aristotle's School: A Study of a Greek Educational Institution. Berkeley:

    University of Califomia.

    Malherbe, Abraham J. 1986 Moral Exhortation: A Greco-Roman Sourcebook. Library of Early

    Christianity 4. Ed. Wayne Meeks. Philadelphia: Westminster.

    Meeks, Wayne A. 1983 The First Urban Christians: The Sodal World ofthe Apostle Paul. New

    Haven: Yale University.

    Mikkola, E. 1954

    Usener, H. 1901

    Isokrates: Seine Anschauungen im Lichte Seiner Schriften. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. SeT. B. Tom. 89. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Tiedeakatemia.

    "Philonides." Rheinisches Museum 56: 145-148.

  • -~



    D. E. Aune Loyola University 01 Chicago


    Within the context of a symposium on the subject of recruitment, conquest, and conflict of religious cults and


View more >