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Semi-Random Thoughts, a Little on Tertullian and a Bit on Historical Models

I really have fallen off on my posting lately. I just have a lot going on, some of it personal and some professional. I’ll leave the personal alone, for now, but on the professional side I’ve moved from working in this office to working in this office. This is a parallel transfer, not a move up or down, other than now being head of the office (so maybe it is a bit of a step up) but it’s a new location, new co-workers, and new clientele. I can’t swear that my posting frequency will radically increase in the near future, however the main reason, overall, for this post is to get myself back in the habit. I have a few days off around Christmas and maybe I’ll put something together, or at least finish that second post on Irenaeus which I started last August.

For the past several weeks I’ve been reading Tertullian. This has been a slog. There is some interesting material but there’s been an unfortunate side effect. I don’t like him. Personally.

Obviously I don’t know the man, but from what I’ve read (which is all but the about 50 pages I have left from the Ante-Nicene Fathers Series) I’ve developed a personal distaste for him. This is important, and unfortunate. I think it’s very important to try, as well as we can, to understand, at least a little, where historical figures were coming from and develop some empathy for them. I’m having trouble doing this with Tertullian. He is so absolute, so rigorous, so unwilling to entertain the legitimacy of any opinion but his own, even from other Church authorities, that I can’t seem to get my empathy mode going. As yet another point highlighting my own ignorance, before going through his material I’d read how Tertullian is often referred to as, “The first of the Latin Theologians.” Silly me – I thought this meant he was the first to write his stuff in Latin. I now think – and I have a secondary book on him to read to confirm if this is the case – that this means that he is the first to adopt a completely different method of argument from prior Greek authors. Maybe method is a bit wrong as he does use philosophical arguments, but he doesn’t believe the writings of the ancient philosophers contain any hint of wisdom and he doesn’t say, “This is what I think, here’s why and you should consider this,” but rather, “This is what I think, here’s why, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.” Whether he felt this way when he wasn’t writing or not is another thing but all I can go by is what’s in print. I’ll have more analysis of him later but I wanted to get this preamble out of the way to warn you of this basic fact; I don’t like Tertullian. On a visceral level. So far as I can recall, this is a first when it comes to a source author.

To add to this potpourri of a post, a few months ago several posts were written which discussed new findings which were at odds with established historical models. I’ve mentioned several times that as I learn more I’ve come to increasingly distrust models. It’s not so much that patterns didn’t exist – they did. And I don’t see the problem with using them in books or in teaching. You can’t just teach everything so some synthesis is necessary. But so often it seems that researchers have a preexisting bias toward a model and view any new findings through this model-tinted lens. Katy Meyers has a very good post on Bones Don’t Lie about discovering that some Etruscan skeletal remains had been wrongly identified re their sex and how this is indicative of how modern bias and a reliance on models can lead researchers down the wrong path. This post becomes really good about halfway through it, just beyond the second image. Rosemary Joyce at Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives also wrote an interesting post about this same discovery.

You know, when I started writing the above paragraph I was sure I could come up with another post or two on the same basic theme but my memory of who wrote what seems to be flawed. Instead I’ll offer two new blogs I’ve come across:

James Palmer has a blog, merovingianworld which I’ve found interesting. I have one of his books, Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World, 690-900 on my to-read shelf and have come across his name plenty of times but haven’t read much of his stuff.

From an American-centric perspective, in her blog, Manuscript Road Trip, Lisa Fagan Davis has been taking a virtual tour where she discusses holdings of medieval manuscripts in the United States on a state-by state basis. Lisa is co-author of an online resource, Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings so she’s well qualified to embark on this trip. Oh, and if you know of anything in North Dakota, please let her know.

That’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll have more to come shortly and if you know of a way for me to start feeling warm and fuzzy towards Tertullian, let me know.

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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Blogology, Historiography, Other Blogs, Resources

 

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Let’s Philosophize: Time to Get Platonic

Since reading Clement it’s become clear that in order to figure out him and the other third century authors I’m going to have to get much more up to speed on philosophy, in particular Middle Platonism. I knew this was going to happen and until reading Clement I figured it would be after reading Origen. I’m moving this up a bit.

Another development I want to read on is the transition from Middle Platonism to Neoplatonism and figuring out an answer to a question I have for myself; Did the transition from Middle Platonism to the mystical Neoplatonism of Iamblichus have something to do with the increasing popularity of/conversion to Christianity in the 3rd century? I’m not sure if I’ll do this all at the same time or take a break from it, read some Christian sources, then return.

As I’ve been aware I’d need to do this for some time, really ever since I started this Early Christianity Reading effort, I’ve been picking up books on it for some time. I already have the following (I’m not typing full references here, I’m sure I’ll get to that when I actually refer to them):

  • Plotinus, The Enneads, ISBN: 978-0-140-44520-6 – This is the Penguin Edition.
  • Mark Edwards, Culture and Philosophy in the Age of Plotinus, ISBN: 978-0-7156-3563-6.
  • Iamblichus, Iamblichus on the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, ISBN: 978-1-108-07304-2.
  • Mark Edwards, trans., Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their Students, ISBN: 978-0-85323-615-3.
  • Paulina Remes, Neoplatonism, ISBN: 978-0-520-25860-0.

Anyone who’s read this blog for ANY period of time will be unsurprised to learn that I spent a few hours this morning looking for resources and – I know this will come as a shock – bought some books:

  • John Dillon, The Middle Platonists: 80 B.C. to A.D. 220, ISBN: 978-0-801-48316-5.
  • Plutarch, Essays, ISBN: 978-0-140-44564-0. Another Penguin, I really don’t want to buy all the Loeb volumes of either this or the Enneads at $24 per book. (More correctly, I want to buy them, I just don’t want to pay for them.)
  • Alcinous, The Handbook of Platonism, ISBN: 978-0-198-23607-8.

dillonJohn Dillon, Professor Emeritus of Trinity College, Dublin. I have a feeling I’ll be reading a lot of his books.

I’m not sure what this will do to my posting frequency. I’ll have one or two more on Irenaeus and I have a couple of other aspects of 1st and 2nd century Christianity that I think will make interesting posts. I have a volume of The Journal of Late Antiquity sitting on my coffee table and it seems like forever since I’ve looked at Early Medieval Europe so I may make occasional forays back (chronologically forward) to my main area of interest. But for the short term I’m back to diving into something I’m not terribly familiar with and I’ve always been hesitant to write about things I don’t know about; even my Early Christianity posts over the past 9 months since I went “back to the beginning” have been a stretch.

Those of you who are professional independent scholars
or work at a SLAC may want to stop reading NOW!!

Yeah, I know that always works.(ducks)

OK, so I’m in the middle of looking for sources and come across one by Eugene Afonasin, John Dillon and John Finamore, Iamblichus and the Foundations of Late Platonism. It’s published by Brill and the price is out of my range so I decide to see if Purdue has a copy which I can check out sometime. Gotta love those libraries, right?

So I log on and about three clicks later I find myself in the middle of something titled Brill Online Which apparently I have access to through Purdue. Which apparently allows me to download Brill volumes, including the Iamblichus volume. For free.

To the previously referred to SLAC professors/independent scholars, I give you permission. It’s OK to hate me though I ask that you not do so permanently.

I have things to do today so I won’t get to this but tomorrow happens to be a holiday, Labor Day in the US. I have a feeling my internet connection will literally be smoking. Is there a diagnosed Compulsive Internet Book Addiction Disorder (C-I-BAD)? If there is, I expect that by Tuesday I’ll be receiving e-mails offering me assistance for my problem.

 

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Art History Resource at Princeton

Thanks to Genevra Kornbluth of Kornbluth Photography for posting this to the Mediev-L discussion group.

Princeton University has started electronically publishing the proceedings from Art History Conferences. Art History is one of those aspects of historical study which is extremely important and which I am woefully uninformed about, though I have hopes of correcting this, someday. As of now there are two conference proceedings up but I expect this will change in the future. Some proceedings are in the form of papers while others are PDF’s of powerpoint presentations, complete with images.

Here’s the link: Index of Christian Art online at Princeton University

Happy reading!

I still need to put up an Irenaeus post but am having trouble finding the 6 hours or so it’ll take me to put it together. I’m behind at work again, which I didn’t realize until this past week. But it is coming.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Resources

 

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Chronicle of Michael the Syrian

Just a quick repost of something Roger Pearse just put up on his site.

The Chronicle of Michael the Syrian is now available in English, online. Previously it has been available in French and excerpts have been translated into English but this will expand its availability to a bunch of new people, including me. It includes a PDF available for download.

Michael the Syrian was the Patriarch of the Syrian Church from 1166-1199 and this is the largest chronicle written in the Middle Ages, originally in Armenian. What’s really good is it includes portions of other chronicles and histories which have since been lost. He provides a contemporary view of the history of the world as it ranges from Adam to events current in his day. Obviously I haven’t read it but it should be very interesting.

Thanks to Robert Bedrosian for providing this translation. It’s a boon to mankind. Or at least to those of us who enjoy reading such things.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Resources

 

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Administrative: Links Added

You’d think I wouldn’t have waited a year-and-a-half after moving this blog to do this but I’ve added a bunch of Medieval (and some Ancient) Links to the sidebar. For the most part I’ve stuck with links to online collections of source documents and images. I could add a mouse-over description and additional categories but this will be it for now. I seem to have a lot of links to maps. If anyone sees something important I’m missing, let me know. I have many more links bookmarked but decided to stick with the source collections for the most part. At some point I think a separate links page would be more useful complete with categories and brief descriptions but that would take more time than I have at the moment.

I’m finishing up reading Irenaeus. One of the interesting things is that he seems to have written what could be considered a summary of Christian thought and belief to the end of the 2nd century. I’d like to post a summary of this but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get that down to 2,000 words or less. Maybe I’ll figure it out, maybe I’ll divide it into categories and this statement is largely to put pressure on myself to produce something.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2013 in Blogology, Resources

 

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Random Pre-Kalamazoo Thoughts

I had hoped to put up a followup post on Symmachus before heading to Kalamazoo but while I’m about 750 words into one, I don’t think I’m going to finish it by the time I leave.

Last week I posted about the Statues of Late Antiquity Project, even though the database wasn’t yet active. It is now and it’s SWEET! I haven’t messed with it a ton but the search options seem to work fairly well. Since I’ve been reading on him I did a search using the terms “Symmachus” and “Rome” and came up with 10 results. Now only one of those was for Q. Aurelius but I was pretty happy with it anyway.

I’ve underplanned for Kalamazoo I’m afraid but I’ll get that figured out. Last year I had a feeling going in that I’d pretty much go to sessions, buy books and be an antisocial SOB the rest of the time because of a project I was working on at the time that had gained some urgency right then. Not so this year. I’m planning to take absolutely no work from my real job with me. However I’ve made zero social plans.

Speaking of books, I am hoping for a return to sanity this year. For me, sanity means that my book haul will be in the 30’s, not in the 60’s like it was last year and the year before.

How might I do this? you may ask. Or maybe you may not, but I have been. Right now, 24 hours before leaving, my thoughts are that I will buy nothing on the Carolingians. There are two reasons for this. First, at this moment I have 24 books on the Carolingians on my to-read shelf (one of them anyway). That is sufficient. Second, my reading up on early Christianity is taking a while. I shouldn’t be surprised by this as I had 37 books to go through when I started and have bought more but I was going to start from the late 4th/early 5th centuries and work backwards right to reading the New Testament. Er, I’m still in the late 4th century, working on a new micro-periodization which seems to exist between Julian and the death of Theodosius, or roughly 360-395. I still have Evagrius Ponticus, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, and others to read. This will take a while. I won’t be working my way forward to the Carolingians for quite some time. Last year I bought 33 Carolingian Books at Kalamazoo. Cutting these out of my menu will help a LOT.

I’ve tried one other strategy. In past years, knowing I would be buying tons of books at Kalamazoo, I imposed a book buying moratorium on myself starting from when I registered in early February. I’ve come to wonder if the result has been the same as for any other addiction/obsession where I overindulge once I proverbially “fall off the wagon” – and in a veritable den of sin, at least when it comes to the availability of books. There was no moratorium this year. If I came across something I really wanted, I bought it (within reason – I still have nothing published by Brill or any volumes of the PLRE). We’ll see how that works.

Hopefully I’ll see some of you there. As of now I’m leaning toward no prior social planning on my part. I haven’t done that in several years but I remember the first few years I attended when I’d hang around at wine events, drinking crummy wine (it’s improved – I now consider it mediocre which, considering it’s poured from gallon jugs, ain’t bad) and frequently a conversation with someone turned into, “A bunch of us are going to _____ later, why don’t you join us?” I’m yearning for those aforementioned free-spirited days.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Books, Conferences, Resources

 

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New Late Antiquity Resource

I’m basically reblogging this from Research News in Late Antiquity. On Friday, May 4 the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity will launch their Statues of Late Antiquity or LSA online database.

Once it’s active (it isn’t yet but part of my reason for posting this is to remember to go back and look at it) the database will be located here. The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and headed by R.R.R. Smith and Bryan Ward-Perkins.

This looks like it might be pretty good. You can read more about it at the Last Statues of Antiquity Project page. The project will focus on new statuary, not renovation and appears to have the boundaries of the Roman Empire as its focus (though I couldn’t find this flatly stated – for example, based on the project descriptions, including research method, I can’t exclude the possibility that Roman-influenced statuary found outside the Empire or statuary created within the Empire but exported to other regions may be included).

Statuary and inscriptions are areas I’m just beginning to look at. The whole concept of the role public acclamation and image making played in governance of the later Roman Empire seems pretty important to me, at least in some regions. This project and database may be very useful in looking at this, particularly since the project goes beyond simply listing statues and inscriptions and will include contemporary literary references/copying as well as modern analyses.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Archaeology, Resources

 

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