RYAN C. FOWLER (ed.). Plato in the Third Sophistic, Boston / Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 2014 (Millenium Studies, 50). 309 pp. ISBN 978-1-61451-032-1
This edited volume aims to showcase the significance and influence of "Plato's thought and literary style on both Christian and non-Christian authors in the late antique period" (p. 1), an objective it fulfils admirably well, and covering a tremendously wide range of authors and texts. "A Prolegomena to the Third Sophistic", written jointly by the editor and A. J. Quiroga Puertas, sets forth issues of methodology and includes illuminating theoretical reflections on the term "Third Sophistic". The authors postulate as the beginning of the Third Sophistic the later third century CE and as the end the middle sixth century, but highlight that they use this term as a matter of convenience (as "a window between classics and religious studies", p. 25) and that the general issues (and methodology to study them) remain the same as for the Second Sophistic. They do note, however, the pervasiveness of Christianity and its impact "as a political, social, and intellectual phenomenon that needed to be confronted in all aspects of public and private life" (p. 6), meaning that classical models had to be neutralised and reformulated in order to produce new, Christian discourses (the authors do not consider the notion of the secular, which could have been useful in this context). The authors also discuss the continued importance of theatricality in the texts of this period, and the charges of theatrics and sophistry, and occasionally, by extension, heresy, in the homilies of late antique preachers--a very interesting aspect, which does not receive much attention in the rest of the volume.
Following a summary of the volume's contents by the editor, entitled "Introduction to Plato in the Third Sophistic", the three articles of Section 1 consider "Platonist Philosophers". J. F. Finamore studies the intersection of philosophy and magic in Iamblichus, taking into consideration two issues in particular: demonology and the fate of the souls of the dead. The article's aim is to illustrate that there is much more rationality in Iamblichus than modern scholars have given him credit for, and to trace the use of irrationality in Plato himself and the earlier Platonic tradition. Finamores conclusions will doubtlessly be valuable for studies on Iamblichus, although, for the purposes of this volume, it is not clear what role (if at all) rhetoric or sophistic are meant to have here. In the second article of the volume, D. Caluori examines the relationship between rhetoric and philosophy in the Platonist schools of Athens and Alexandria in the fifth century. From what we know, scholarchs in Athens held a negative view of rhetoric, even though they had been trained in it, as part of their education. The explanation Caluori offers for the discrepancy between this negative view and the positive remarks on rhetoric in the writings of Alexandrian Platonists is that the latter refer to true rhetoric, informed by knowledge of the noetic realm, while the...
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