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Sophie Aubert-Baillot / Charles Guérin / Sébastien Morlet: La philosophie des non-philosophes dans l'Empire romain du Ier au IIIe siècle (= Orient & Méditerranée; 32), Paris: de Boccard 2019, 348 S., ISBN 978-2-7018-0546-7, EUR 59,00
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Rezension von:
Leofranc Holford-Strevens
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Matthias Haake
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Leofranc Holford-Strevens: Rezension von: Sophie Aubert-Baillot / Charles Guérin / Sébastien Morlet: La philosophie des non-philosophes dans l'Empire romain du Ier au IIIe siècle, Paris: de Boccard 2019, in: sehepunkte 20 (2020), Nr. 12 [15.12.2020], URL:

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Sophie Aubert-Baillot / Charles Guérin / Sébastien Morlet: La philosophie des non-philosophes dans l'Empire romain du Ier au IIIe siècle

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In the High Roman Empire, philosophy was not confined to professional specialists, or even the persons claiming to be philosophers whom others derided as charlatans; it was a matter that seriously engaged many other people. This engagement is the subject of the fifteen essays in this volume, preceded by an avant-propos that problematizes the distinction between philosophers and non-philosophers, a philosophical problem in itself; the specific cases discussed are Galen and Justin Martyr, who may fall on either side of the line but appear from their exclusion to have been classified as philosophers along with the far less significant Favorinus, whereas Calpurnius Flaccus is so much of a non-philosopher that the first contributor, Andrea Balbo, "Les composantes philosophiques des excerpta de Calpurnius Flaccus", has a hard time finding any such components beyond a few references to the sapiens, a smattering of natural philosophy in Decl. 2, and topics handled by both philosophy and rhetoric but the property of neither.

Some chapters seem too short: Nicolas Lévi, "Ovide et la notion philosophique de lois de la nature", shows how the poet, drawing on many philosophies and beholden to none, envisages a nature ordered by a principle of separation and differentiation, but has no room to contrast this Ovidian system with the poetically beautiful but philosophically incoherent utterances of Vergil's Silenus and Anchises. Carlos Lévy, "Philosophie et témoignage chez Philon d'Alexandrie : la question du corps", shows Philo reconciling Greek philosophers' disparagement of the body with the goodness of all God's creation, and facing Gentile scorn for, and persecution of, the Jewish body, which must bear witness to man's capacity for returning to primeval chaos, but lacks the space to explain how he should share 'la conception juive du péché originel', unless it be his account of the Fall, without the Augustinian implication of the phrase.

More short chapters follow. Florian Barrière, "L'ombre de Sénèque: Lucain entre philosophie et poésie de la nature", a slice from a larger study, judiciously considers passages in which the poet, eclectically and even self-contradictorily, follows or does not follow the philosopher. Cristina Viano, "Quintilien et l'histoire de la philosophie: la réappropriation et les quaestiones philosopho conuenientes", observes how Quintilian's classification of such questions (the rhetors' θέσεις) matches that in doxographies, themselves governed by Aristotelian categories.

Longer, and all the better for it, is Mélanie Lucciano, "La métaphore de la cire: réutilisation d'un motif platonicien (Théétète, 191-195) à Rome"; she examines first the use or rejection of the metaphor in philosophical writings down to Cicero, then its very different treatments in Roman rhetorical mnemotechnics and in lay literature. Even longer is Ermanno Malaspina, "Euphratès, Artémidore et ceux qui sapientiae studium habitu corporis praeferunt (Ep., I, 22, 6): la place de la philosophie dans la culture de Pline", explains by Pliny's belief in temperamentum his lack of emphasis on philosophy even when it might have been expected, and firmly rebuts attempts to make a Stoic out of him despite his admiration for certain Stoics.

Source-criticism enters the fray when Mauro Bonazzi, "Lucien et le scepticisme de son époque", demonstrating that Lucian was well acquainted with the philosophical schools but rejected them all, considers inconclusively whether his knowledge of the Academic and Pyrrhonian sceptics came from Favorinus. Pierre Chiron, "Les sources philosophiques du prologue d'Alexandros au De figuris (p. 9-14 Spengel III)", finds the son of Numenius effectively countering certain Stoic notions about speech.

So far all chapters, even those by Italians, have been in French; now come three in English. Joanna Komorowska, "Fate, Knowledge and Demonic Protection: Philosophy and the Astrological Work of Vettius Valens of Antioch", illustrates Stoic and Middle Platonic elements in Vettius' theory of astrological enlightenment. Apuleius, being a philosopher, would seem ineligible for inclusion in this volume, but Emma Ramsey, 'Apuleius Philosophus Platonicus? Apuleius' Self-Presentation in the Apologia", catches him evading in the Apology the title of philosopher (though not of Platonist) lest he offend listeners with a low opinion of the profession; one might wonder whether Maximus might rather have deemed him unworthy of it. Alessandro Garcea, "Nec ignara philosophiae: Imperial Logic and Grammar in the Light of Gellius' Noctes Atticae", examines Gellius' views on grammatical correctness (in which morphology matters less than semantics) and logic (against whose attractions he follows Epictetus in warning).

The last three chapters concern Christian authors; they are in French, although, in the longest chapter of the book, Agnès Bastit, "Irénée philosophe? L'arrière-plan philosophique grec de l'œuvre d'un polémiste et théologien chrétien", complains that Francophones have largely neglected her topic, which is Irenaeus' use of Greek philosophy from Xenophanes onwards in refuting the Valentinians. Frédéric Chapot, "Dialogue d'un chrétien avec la philosophie, ou Du bon usage de la proximité. Remarques sur le prologue du De anima de Tertullien', shows Tertullian admitting that the pagan philosophers (and doctors) against whom he is warning the faithful sometimes agree with Scripture. Finally, Sophie Van der Meeren, "Mάλα σωκρατικῶς: formes, fonctions et représentation du « discours » philosophique chez Origène, d'après de Discours de remerciement", sees in the panegyric dubiously attributed to Gregory Thaumaturgus the influence of Alcibiades I and the incorporation of the Christian Word in teaching on the philosophical Logos.

How much discipline was imposed by the editors on chapter-length I do not know; I wished that some contributions were longer, none shorter. Some include numerous ancient quotations, others few; they are presented in the original, in translation, or in both as the contributors saw fit. The production of the book is attractive, though I have noted occasional misprints even in French: "Le nature" (59), "qu'à Dieu" for "qu'a Dieu" (247), perhaps a hypercorrection. Although one might have welcomed a short conclusion, not summarizing the individual chapters but setting out the similarities or differences between their subjects' dealings with philosophy, all in all, this is a valuable overview of its topic.

Leofranc Holford-Strevens