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Han Baltussen, University of Adelaide


This paper has two aims: firstly, to make a small contribution to the ancient reception of Homer and, secondly, to enhance our understanding of Eunapius’ work in the context of the fourth century CE. In my talk I examine the role of Homer in Lives of Philosophers and Sophists written by Eunapius of Sardis in the late fourth century CE. I will suggest that we should reconsider the widely held view that Eunapius with many past and contemporary ‘sophists’ used Homeric allusions as mere literary embellishment. Instead, I argue that Homer’s role can be properly established only when we review all the allusions to, and quotations from, the epic poet. By demonstrating that Eunapius often places carefully selected references at strategic moments in the narrative, we can, I suggest, uncover a more serious agenda for Homer’s presence, namely, that Eunapius is using Homer’s authority as the Hellenic poet par excellence to enhance the stature and appeal of the pagan philosophers and sophists in his biographical sketches. This strand in his account of the previous two centuries allows him to ramp up the rhetoric against the growing influence of Christianity and its protagonists, who had recently begun to celebrate their holy men in the new genre of saints’ lives.

This lecture will now take place online. Advance booking is essential to receive the Zoom link.