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PHILOSTRATUS

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Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 446 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PHILOSTRATUS, the name of several, three (or four), Greek sophists of the Roman imperial period—(1) Philostratus " the Athenian " (c. 170-245), (2) his nephew (?) Philostratus " of Lemnos " (born c. 19o); (3) a grandson (?) of (2). Of these the most famous is Philostratus " the Athenian," author of the Life of A pollonius Tyana, which he dedicated to Julia Domna, wife of Alexander Severus and mother of Caracalla (see APOLLONIUS OF TYANA).1 He wrote also Bloc ZoOloriav (Lives of the Sophists), Gymnasticus and Epistolae (mainly of an erotic character). Very little is known of his career. Even his name is doubtful. The Lives of the Sophists gives the praenomen Flavius, which, however, is found elsewhere only in Tzetzes. Eunapius and Synesius call him a Lemnian; Photius a Tyrian; his letters refer to him as an Athenian. It is probable that he was born in Lemnos, studied and taught at Athens, and then settled in Rome (where he would naturally be called atheniensis) as a member of the learned circle with which Julia Domna surrounded herself. He was born probably in 172, and is said by Suidas to have been living in the reign of Philip (244–249). The fact that the author of A pollonius is also the author of the Lives of the Sophists is confirmed by internal evidence. The latter is dedicated to a consul Antonius Gordianus, perhaps one of the two Gordians who were killed in 238. The work is divided into two parts: the first dealing with the ancient Sophists, e.g. Gorgias, the second with the later school, e.g. Herodes Atticus. The Lives are not in the true sense biographical, but rather picturesque impressions of leading representatives of an attitude of mind full of curiosity, alert and versatile, but lacking scientific method, preferring the external excellence of style and manner to the solid achievements of serious writing. The philosopher, as he says, investigates truth ; the sophist embellishes it, and takes it for granted. The Gymnasticus contains interesting matter concerning the Olympic games and athletic contests generally. The Letters breathe the spirit of the New Comedy and the Alexandrine poets; portions of Letter 33 are almost literally translated in Ben Jonson's Song to Celia, " Drink to me only with thine eyes." The 'Hpwucor, formerly attributed to Philostratus the Athenian, is probably the work of Philostratus the Lemnian. It is a popular disquisition on the heroes of the Trojan War in the form of a conversation between a Thracian vine-dresser on the shore of the Hellespont and a Phoenician merchant who derives his knowledge from the hero Protesilaus, Palamedes is exalted at the expense of Odysseus, and Homer's unfairness to him is attacked. It has been suggested that Philostratus is here de-scribing a series of heroic paintings in the palace of Julia Domna. His other work is the EikOvsc (Imagines), ostensibly a description of 64 pictures in a Neapolitan gallery. Goethe, Welcker, Brunn, E. Bertrand and Helbig, among others, have held that the descriptions are of actually existing works of art, while Heyne and Friederichs deny this. In any case they are interesting as showing the way in which ancient artists treated mythological and other subjects, and are written with artistic knowledge and in attractive language. This work is imitated by the third Philostratus (or by some later sophist) of whose descriptions of pictures 17 remain. There is great difficulty, due to a confused statement. of Suidas, in disentangling the works and even the personalities of these Philostrati. Reference is there made to Philostratus as the son of Verus, a rhetorician in Nero's time, who wrote tragedies, comedies and treatises. Suidas thus appears to give to Philostratus the Athenian a life of 200 years! We must be content to assume two Lemnian Philostrati, both sophists, living in Rome. See further a full discussion by K.Mfinscher, in Philologus (1907), suppl. X., pp. 469-557. Of works bearing the name Philostratus there is a collected edition by C. F. Kayser (Zurich, 1844; Leipzig, 187o-1871), and another by Westermann (Paris, 1849), with Latin translation; these supersede those by F. Morel (Paris, 1608) and Olearius (Leipzig, 17o9). There are separate editions of the Eikones by Schenk] and Reisch (Leipzig, 1902); of the Gymnasticus by Mynas (1858), who discovered the MS., Daremberg (Paris, 1858), Volckmar (Aurich, 1862), and especially Julius Jiithner (1909), with introd., comments and Ger. I As Lemnos was an Athenian island, anv Lemnian co',ld be wiled an Athenian. Flavian II., who had accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon and was patriarch of Antioch from 498 to 512. The Monophysites had the sympathy of the emperor Anastasius, and were finally successful in ousting Flavian in 512 and replacing him by their partisan Severus. Of Philoxenus's part in the struggle we possess not too trustworthy accounts by hostile writers, such as Theophanes and Theodorus Lector. We know that in 498 he was staying at Edessal; in or about 507, according to Theophanes, he was summoned by the emperor to Constantinople; and he finally presided at a synod at Sidon which was the means of procuring the replacement of Flavian by Severus. But the triumph was short-lived. Justin I., who succeeded Anastasius in 518, was less favourable to the party of Severus and Philoxenus, and in 519 they were both sentenced to banishment. Philoxenus was sent to Philippopolis in Thrace, and afterwards to Gangra in Paphlagonia, where he met his death by foul play in 523. Apart from his redoubtable powers as a controversialist, Philoxenus deserves commemoration as a scholar, an elegant writer, and an exponent of practical Christianity. Of the chief monument of his scholarship—the Philoxenian version of the Bible—only the Gospels and certain portions of Isaiah are known to survive (see Wright, Syr. Lit. 14). It was an attempt to provide a more accurate rendering of the Greek Bible than had hitherto existed in Syriac, and obtained recognition among the Monophysites until superseded by the still more literal renderings of the Old Testament by Paul of Tella and of the New Testament by Thomas of Harkel (both in 616-617), of which the latter at least was based on the work of Philoxenus. There are also extant portions of commentaries on the Gospels from his pen. Of the excellence of his style and of his practical religious zeal we are able to judge from the thirteen homilies on the Christian life and character which have been edited and translated by Budge (London, 1894). In these he holds aloof for the most part from theological controversy, and treats in an admirable tone and spirit the themes of faith, simplicity, the fear of God, poverty, greed, abstinence and unchastity. His affinity with his earlier countryman Aphraates is manifest both in his choice of subjects and his manner of treatment. As his quotations from Scripture appear to be made from the Peshilta, he probably wrote the homilies before he embarked upon the Philoxenian version.2 Philoxenus wrote 'also many Controversial works and some liturgical pieces. Many of his letters survive, and at least two have been edited.' Several of his writings were translated into Arabic and Ethiopic. (N. M.)
End of Article: PHILOSTRATUS
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