The End of Dialogue in Antiquity
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'Dialogue' was invented as a written form in democratic Athens and made a celebrated and popular literary and philosophical style by Plato. Yet it almost completely disappeared in the Christian empire of late antiquity. This book, a general and systematic study of the genre in antiquity, asks: who wrote dialogues and why? Why did dialogue no longer attract writers in the later period in the same way? Investigating dialogue goes to the heart of the central issues of power, authority, openness and playfulness in changing cultural contexts. This book analyses the relationship between literary form and cultural authority in a new and exciting way, and encourages closer reflection about the purpose of dialogue in its wider social, cultural and religious contexts in today's world.
sympotic in content (containing instructions for how a Christian should behave in dining)49 and sympotic in language (quoting repeatedly from many of the same sources as Athenaeus, from comic, medical, philosophical writing, but also at the same time from Christian scripture, in an exercise of harmonisation between pagan and Christian tradition),50 but not sympotic in setting, in the sense that the text presents itself as a prescriptive set of instructions proceeding from a single individual,
important contributions, and the group includes two uneducated male relatives. This is a notable variant on Cicero’s elite male participants who discuss philosophy and history as they relax from politics and business.14 But both the fact that Augustine wrote philosophical dialogues, and the content of those dialogues, have prompted arguments that he had converted to philosophy, not yet to Christianity. He had committed himself to a Platonist understanding of God and the soul: that is, he believed
has to rely on authority: in De utilitate credendi, the first work he wrote after his ordination, he used the example of taking on trust (as every schoolchild did) that Virgil is worth the effort.28 He might also counter that dialogues are not always exploratory and pluralist and open-ended. Cicero, at the end of De natura deorum, comments with suitably Academic caution that Velleius thought Cotta’s (Epicurean) argument ‘more true’ (verior), but for him Balbus’ (Stoic) argument ‘seemed more
but we do not know how you love him now.’57 The letter had been sent because: ‘If what we hear is true, there are some among you, or rather in your city who support that error.’58 Throughout the letter Augustine never wavered from the rhetorical assumption that Paulinus had already taken his side in the dispute with Pelagius. The African bishops stated that they had only written to Paulinus because it was something that as orthodox Christians they knew that he would be concerned about. They had
have not seen and yet believe.’46 As such, the fourth dialogue, like the whole of Gregory’s Miracles of the Italian Fathers, provides a unique source for the cultural and intellectual 45 Dial. 4.4.9. 46 John 20.29. Boethius and Gregory the Great 187 history of early Byzantine Rome – a city living in the decaying legacy of a glorious past, but nonetheless very much engaged in the intellectual debates and cultural permutations of contemporary East Roman society. Hence, the Dialogues belongs