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The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch

Raffaella Cribiore
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The School of Libanius in Late Antique Antioch
    Book Description:

    This book is a study of the fourth-century sophist Libanius, a major intellectual figure who ran one of the most prestigious schools of rhetoric in the later Roman Empire. He was a tenacious adherent of pagan religion and a friend of the emperor Julian, but also taught leaders of the early Christian church like St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great. Raffaella Cribiore examines Libanius's training and personality, showing him to be a vibrant educator, though somewhat gloomy and anxious by nature. She traces how he cultivated a wide network of friends and former pupils and courted powerful officials to recruit top students. Cribiore describes his school in Antioch--how students applied, how they were evaluated and trained, and how Libanius reported progress to their families. She details the professional opportunities that a thorough training in rhetoric opened up for young men of the day. Also included here are translations of 200 of Libanius's most important letters on education, almost none of which have appeared in English before.

    Cribiore casts into striking relief the importance of rhetoric in late antiquity and its influence not only on pagan intellectuals but also on prominent Christian figures. She gives a balanced view of Libanius and his circle against the far-flung panorama of the Greek East.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2767-1
    Subjects: History, Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A Note on References and Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The sophist Libanius, who was an exponent of the revival of Greek literature that started with the Second Sophistic,¹ taught in Antioch in Syria in the fourth century C.E. InOration55, he extolled to a student the advantages of a career as a teacher of rhetoric:

    How great it is to rule over wellborn young men and see them improve in rhetoric and proceed to the various paths of life! And what about the honors one receives from them and their fathers, from citizens and foreigners? Teachers of rhetoric are respected by all governors, small and great, and even...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Libanius and Rhetoric in Antioch
    (pp. 13-41)

    An attempt to reconstruct the life and character of any author is fraught with difficulty. The story of Libanius’s life has been written many times, first by Libanius himself; yet he remains elusive. Nineteenth-century scholar G. R. Sievers achieved some valuable results, but he accepted with few questions everything Libanius wrote in his speeches and in the letters.¹ A recent work successfully corrected some biographical details, but its exclusive reliance on “facts” hardly allows one to capture the various sides of Libanius.² It is necessary to weigh Libanius’s statements and opinions against contrasting remarks made at different times and to...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Schools and Sophists in the Roman East
    (pp. 42-82)

    the rhetorical education imparted by Libanius and other teachers in Antioch was the last stage of an educational pattern that appears, for all intents and purposes, to have been obligatory for males from the upper classes.¹ But did rhetoric uniformly pervade the cultural fabric of the Roman East, or was it confined to a few isolated islands ofpaideia? An investigation concerning other schools of rhetoric in the Roman East can help us evaluate the significance of Antioch vis-à-vis other educational centers so that we may begin to understand the nature of the competition that Libanius faced. It also sheds...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Network
    (pp. 83-110)

    In the spring of 363, Libanius, who was then a well-renowned sophist in Antioch, wrote to Alexander, whom the emperor Julian, upon his recent departure for Persia, had appointed as governor of Syria (Ep. 838).¹ Libanius thanked the governor for trying to increase the number of his students, but suggested a different strategy. “Leave the numerous assemblies of people alone,” he told him, “and do not criticize the other sophists or accuse the parents. Look instead for those young men whom you lately enrolled as advocates, call them, and point them out when they speak.”² Alexander was a hot-headed polytheist,...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Admission and Evaluation
    (pp. 111-136)

    We are now entering the school of Libanius together with his students. In doing so, we will delve more into the letter dossiers, and rely less on the orations. This chapter will also serve as a commentary on some of the letters that appear bare and uninteresting at first glance but actually illuminate many aspects of ancient schooling.

    Application and admission to Libanius’s school seems to have been relatively simple when compared to the cumbersome process of modern college admission, yet much advanced preparation was necessary to establish contact between Libanius and his “companions” (hetairoi). In the case of families...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Teaching the Logoi
    (pp. 137-173)

    We have seen that Libanius regarded the physical and mental characteristics of his students as inborn. Parents transmitted to their offspring the most subtle bodily and personality traits, including aptitude for rhetoric. Inheritance of parental characteristics was not complete at birth, but continued through the inculcation of working habits, mindset, and cultural values. Teachers were not extraneous to the process. Education consisted (and still largely does, in spite of modern innovations)¹ of an ensemble of mechanisms that transmitted inherited cultural information from one generation to the next. The transmission of culture comprised by “education” was thus analogous (on a cultural...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Long and Short Paths to Rhetoric
    (pp. 174-196)

    The dialogueThe Teacher of Rhetoric(Rhetorum praeceptor), by the second-century satirist Lucian, is cast in the form of an essay advising a young man who is interested in receiving a rhetorical education. Seduced by the promises of rhetoric (wealth, status, and fame), the student confronts a choice between two different paths: a traditional rhetorical education consisting of many years of strenuous training, and the new, shorter, and easier road to rhetoric, which, according to Lucian, had just been opened. The traditional teacher, who led students up the hill of learning in an ascent that would take many years, made...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN After Rhetoric
    (pp. 197-228)

    Different educational paths—a longer traditional education in rhetoric and a shorter one that amounted to only a few years—usually led to different choices in life, but whereas some students immediately entered the real world and tried to use their knowledge to enhance their careers, others continued their studies in other fields. My goal in this chapter is to identify the options available to a student of rhetoric when he left school, and ultimately to evaluate the significance of a rhetorical education in securing good positions. Was a complete training in rhetoric at a prestigious school a crucial component...

  13. CONCLUSION Words and Silence
    (pp. 229-232)

    When he was studying in Athens, Libanius was not beguiled by the blustering applause that accompanied his professors’ declamations; he listened in silence. In his opinion, those teachers were little better than students (Or. 1.17). His attitude toward Athens never changed, and he continued to consider that school with some disdain, wishing at the same time that Antioch could challenge its educational standing. I have shown that his hopes never really materialized. Besides Athens, there was a network of schools of rhetoric on which his students could rely, so that Libanius’s school remained for many only a step on the...

  14. APPENDIX ONE Dossiers of Students
    (pp. 233-322)
  15. APPENDIX TWO Length of Students’ Attendance
    (pp. 323-328)
  16. APPENDIX THREE Concordance of Letters in Appendix One Translated into English
    (pp. 329-330)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 331-346)
  18. Index Locorum
    (pp. 347-354)
  19. General Index
    (pp. 355-360)