Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Doris Meyer (ed.), Philostorge et l'historiographie de l'Antiquité tardive / Philostorg im Kontext der spätantiken Geschichtsschreibung. Collegium Beatus Rhenanus, Bd 3. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2011. Pp. 352. ISBN 9783515096966. €60.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Anna Lankina, University of Florida (alankina@ufl.edu)

Version at BMCR home site

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

This most welcome volume of collected essays originates in the colloquium "Philostorge et l'historiographie de l'Antiquité tardive," which convened in Strasbourg in 2006. This was the first academic conference dedicated solely to Philostorgius, the fifth-century Eunomian Christian and author of the fragmentary Ecclesiastical History. As the editor Doris Meyer points out, Philostorgius has received relatively limited attention from scholars despite the fact that his work is one of the earliest in the development of the genre of ecclesiastical history and offers a unique view from the dissenting side (11). Thus, both the conference and the volume represent important developments for the study of literary culture in late antiquity. The colloquium was designed to facilitate work on a future new edition and translation of the Ecclesiastical History for publication in Sources Chrétiennes. Comprising eighteen articles in French, German, and Italian on various aspects of Philostorgius's History, the volume is a work of great erudition targeting a very specialized audience. Given the increasing interest in the historians of late antiquity in the Anglo-American academic community and Philip Amidon's recent translation of Philostorgius,1 however, it is lamentable that there are no contributions in English. Nevertheless, this is an important addition to the scholarship on this relatively understudied church historian.

The conference participants aimed to examine Philostorgius's Ecclesiastical History in the context of the development of the late antique genre of history writing (9). In contrast to many other edited collections, the book is well organized, beginning with a helpful introduction followed by four coherent sections. The first two sections examine the historian's sources, both pagan and Christian. Some articles focus on the relationship between the "orthodox" and "heretical" sources, attempting to discern different historical and theological traditions and the manipulation of these traditions in the History. The contributors also seek to evaluate the historical value of these sources for the reconstruction of events in the fourth and fifth centuries. The articles in the last two sections focus on Philostorgius's account of the later Roman Empire in relation to those of other late antique historians who cover parallel events. The overall goal of the contributors is to discover Philostorgius's character, his unique view of history, and the nature of his literary tastes (16). A helpful index rounds out the volume with subsections on sources, ancient people, and places and peoples.

Part I explores Philostorgius's treatment of non-Christian sources. Authors in this section examine how Philostorgius used these sources, compare his account with parallel versions, and examine the connections between those sources and the fragmentary text of the Ecclesiastical History itself. Doris Meyer's article emphasizes the importance of scientific digressions to Philostorgius's vision of history. Antonio Baldini's establishes that Photius was the author of the epitome of the Ecclesiastical History in response to previous doubts in this regard.2 Baldini also shows the importance of Photius's role as an epitomizer by comparing the sequence of events in the parallel histories of Eunapius and Olympiodorus. He convincingly argues that Photius had the entire text of Philostorgius's History in mind when composing his epitome and modified the text accordingly when constructing his summary. Using a source critical approach and close analysis of Eunapius and Zosimus, Michel Festy details Constantine's succession and partitioning of the Empire and argues for a new date for the usurpation of Nepotian. Bruno Bleckmann demonstrates the value of comparing Philostorgius to Ammianus to help fill in gaps in the events of the fourth century, specifically concerning the role of Constantina (Constantius II's sister and Gallus's wife), Julian's itinerary, and the usurpation of Procopius.

The three essays that comprise Part II deal with Philostorgius's Christian sources. Jean-Marc Prieur examines whether or not Philostorgius cited original documents and questions what Christian sources Philostorgius could access given his heterodoxy. Prieur classifies the various sources the historian used or might have used by categories —Eunomian sources, acts of councils, other writings (such as Basil of Caesarea or Gregory of Nazianzus), and hagiography—to present an overall picture of Philostorgius's use of Christian sources, showing his familiarity with some and clear ignorance of others. It is questionable, however, whether Philostorgius was truly ignorant; it is rather possible that he deliberately manipulated events or that Photius misrepresented the History. Nor is it clear that Philostorgius's Eunomianism would necessarily hinder his access to a good library, as the History shows signs of Philostorgius's good education, access to a variety of sources, and participation in the events of the capital. 3 Hans Christof Brennecke analyzes the links between Philostorgius and the anonymous homoean historian of the fourth century. Guy Sabbah's article provides an important comparison of Sozomen's and Philostorgius's style of writing history through their respective accounts of the councils of 359. He argues that Philostorgius followed Thucydides as a model, while Sozomen preferred Herodotus.

The third and largest section of the volume covers Philostorgius and the history of the later Roman Empire. Here authors focus on specific political events in Philostorgius's treatment of the later Roman Empire such as the founding of Constantinople (Philippe Bruggisser), the role of Antioch in the east Roman Empire (Michel Matter), the conquest of Rome (Eckhard Wirbelauer) or the function of barbarian generals and usurpers in the West (Timo Stickler). Hartmut Leppin's article clearly demonstrates how Philostorgius presents Gallus more positively than the other historians, focusing more on the Caesar's Christian advisors and on his military success. Pierre-Louis Malosse investigates the relationship between Philostorgius and Libanius and Julian, addressing especially a purported letter from Julian, which Philostorgius apparently quoted. Giuseppe Zecchini examines Philostorgius's unique information on the Huns, arguing that the historian used the account of events in the west as an example of the negative consequences of the reign of Theodosius. The essays are representative of the volume as a whole in their comparative method and accent on the political events of the later Roman Empire. Even so, more essays with an approach similar to Leppin's and Stickler's, focusing on Philostorgius's representation of the events would have provided a valuable counterbalance.

In the fourth section, the contributors consider Philostorgius and the history of the church. In keeping with his recent monograph on Philostorgius, Gabriele Marasco accurately describes the historian's views on "church and state":4 Philostorgius supports the emperor's activity in church affairs and only expresses disapproval when the emperor hinders the Eunomian cause. On the other hand, Marasco overemphasizes the degree to which Philostorgius's view is simple, straightforwardly polemical, and partisan. For example, he does not adequately address the episodes that describe the emperor as easily duped, an element that complicates Philostorgius's representation of the relationship between emperors and bishops. Annick Martin's essay shows how Philostorgius and Athanasius used the same polemical tool of labeling all elements of the opposition with one damning epithet. Alain Chauvot's article raises the important question of Philostorgius's strangely positive portrayal of Ulfila in the Ecclesiastical History. Chauvot rightly concludes that Ulfila's creed shows that he belonged to the homoean camp rather than the heteroousian one in which Philostorgius apparently places him. His article would have benefited greatly from Neil McLynn's essay on Ulfila and his interpreters, which demonstrates that the sources reveal remarkably little about the Goth but a great deal about the historians who wrote about him.5

Peter Van Nuffelen's essay skillfully connects the actual political situation during Philostorgius's lifetime with specific passages in the History. This fourth section on Philostorgius and the church is the most interesting and has the most potential, yet for those interested in Philostorgius as an ecclesiastical historian and a member of late antique literary culture it is ultimately the most disappointing. It is the one section to focus on Philostorgius himself as opposed to the sources he used or how his presentation of events compares to that of other versions. Unfortunately, however, only Van Nuffelen argues something substantively new in his perceptive analysis of how Philostorgius presents his own beleaguered Eunomian community in reference to the book of Daniel.

Though the volume seems to be light on ecclesiastical and heavy on secular content, it is an excellent collection. Unfortunately its highly technical nature, though important for the specialist, makes it less useful to scholars interested in late antique literary culture in general than the editor hopes in the introduction (16). The philological analysis and source critical approach that characterize the volume serve as valuable building blocks for further study of Philostorgius. Hopefully, the volume will inspire not only a new edition and better reconstruction of Philostorgius's text but fresh analysis of Philostorgius himself as a historian, a churchman, and an important contributing voice to the elite literary culture of late antiquity.

Table of Contents

Doris Meyer, Introduction, 9-18.
I. Philostorge et les sources profanes
Doris Meyer, 'Philostorg, Aristoteles und Josephus. Naturwissenschaftliche Exkurse in der Kirchengeschichte', 21-40.
Antonio Baldini, 'Eunapio, Olimpiodoro, Filostorgio: indizi sulle "responsibilità"
del patriarca Fozio', 41-64.
Michel Festy, 'Philostorge: de la source latine d'Eunape à la Zwillingsquelle', 65-77.
Bruno Bleckmann, 'Einige Vergleiche zwischen Ammian und Philostorg: Gallus, die
imitatio Alexandri Julians und die Usurpation Prokops', 79-92.
II. Philostorge et les sources chrétiennes
Jean-Marc Prieur, 'Les sources chrétiennes de Philostorge: vue d'ensemble', 95-104.
Hanns Christof Brennecke, 'Philostorg und der anonyme homöische Historiker', 105-117.
Guy Sabbah, 'Sozomène et Philostorge: le récit des conciles de 359', 119-141.
III. Philostorge et l'histoire de l'Empire romain tardif
Philippe Bruggisser, 'Constantin à la lance. La fondation de Constantinople d'après Philostorge', 145-168.
Michel Matter, 'Antioche dans l'Histoire ecclésiastique de Philostorge', 169-183.
Hartmut Leppin, 'Das Bild des Gallus bei Philostorg. Überlegungen zur Traditionsgeschichte', 185-202.
Pierre-Louis Malosse, 'Philostorge, Libanios et Julien: divergences et convergences', 203-222.
Giuseppe Zecchini, 'Filostorgio e gli Unni', 223-228.
Eckhard Wirbelauer, 'Die Eroberung Roms in der Darstellung Philostorgs', 229-245.
Timo Stickler, 'Die spätrömischen Heermeister bei Philostorg', 247-261.
IV. Philostorge et l'histoire de l'Église
Gabriele Marasco, 'Église et État chez Philostorge', 265-274.
Annick Martin, 'Athanase et les néo-ariens', 275-288.
Alain Chauvot, 'Ulfila dans l'œuvre de Philostorge', 289-305.
Peter Van Nuffelen, 'Isolement et apocalypse: Philostorge et les eunomiens sous Théodose II', 307-326.


1.   Philostorgius: Church History. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Philip R. Amidon (Boston: Brill, 2007).
2.   Eran I. Argov, "Giving the Heretic a Voice: Philostorgius of Borissus and Greek Ecclesiastical Historiography," Athenaeum 89 (2001): 497-524.
3.   3.11, 8.9-10, 8.11, 11.3.
4.   Gabriele Marasco, Filostorgio: cultura, fede e politica in uno storico ecclesiastico del V secolo (Rome: Institutum patristicum Augustinianum, 2005).
5.   Neil McLynn, "Little Wolf in the Big City: Ulfila and his Interpreters," in Wolf Liebeschuetz Reflected: Essays Presented by Colleagues, Friends, and Pupils, ed. John Drinkwater and Benet Salway (London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2007), which came out after the conference but well before the publication of the volume.

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