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Julian (332—363) Roman emperor 360–3

Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330—395)

Oribasius (c. 320—400)


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Greek sophist and historian, was born at Sardis c.ad 345 and studied there under Chrysanthius, and later in Athens under Prohaeresius. When he returned to Sardis he entered the circle of local Neoplatonists, learned theurgy and medicine (he is sometimes described as an ‘iatrosophist’), and mainly taught rhetoric. A fervent admirer of the emperor Julian and a convinced opponent of Christianity, he wrote to defend his old faith. His History is now lost except for fragments, though much of its character can be recovered from later writers who used it (see below). It continued the work of Herennius Dexippus, and went in fourteen books from ad 270 to 404; it was finally concluded in about 414. A first edition had however appeared many years earlier, since the work is referred to in the Lives of the Sophists of c.396, and since traces of its influence can be detected in Ammianus Marcellinus' account of Julian's Persian campaign; some scholars however ascribe the resemblances to Ammianus' direct use of one of Eunapius' sources, Julian's doctor Oribasius. According to Photius (Bibl. 77), who had seen both versions, the second edition of the History appeared in a toned-down form because of the very anti-Christian attitude of the first version, though it is not agreed whether the new edition was prepared by Eunapius himself, or what form the revisions took, since the surviving version of the History still seems very outspoken. Apart from his use of Oribasius' memoir on Julian's Persian campaign we know little about Eunapius' sources; he himself complained about the lack of reliable information on contemporary events in the western part of the empire (in which he contrasts sharply with his successor Olympiodorus). He was himself an important source, not only to the pagan Zosimus, but also to Christian historians, notably Philostorgius and Sozomen; the latter opens his History with an attack on the view of the conversion of Constantine I propounded by Eunapius (whom he does not name). Eunapius' Lives of the Sophists are extant in full. They follow Philostratus' model and on the basis of first-hand information deal mainly with 4th-cent. Neoplatonists, of whom Eunapius gives an idealized picture in order to compete with the biographies of Christian saints. In particular, they trace a line of Neoplatonic descent from Iamblichus, to which the emperor Julian also adhered.

John F. Matthews

Subjects: Classical studies

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