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Philostratus, Lūcius Flāvius


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(‘the Athenian’), enjoyed both a distinguished local career and a place in the circle of Iulia Domna, wife of Septimius Severus. She commissioned his ‘Life’ of Apollonius 4 of Tyana, a philosophic holy man of the 1st cent. ad; later he produced ‘Lives of the Sophists’, and he is probably the author of most of a number of minor pieces, including ‘Of Heroes’, a dialogue on the heroes of the Trojan War and their cults, and Love Letters.

The Life of Apollonius offers pagan hagiography under a sophistic veneer, and remains suspect both in sources and details; the Lives of the Sophists offer the foundation for our knowledge of the Second Sophistic: they are sketches, sometimes affected and tendentious, of prestigious public speakers in action. Of Heroes offers an entertaining insight into how a sophistic writer might extend and ‘correct’ still vibrant Homeric materials.

In what we know of the work of Philostratus fluency and charm are often at odds with idiosyncrasy and rhetorical bravura, as well as a constantly equivocal attitude to facts and ‘the real world’. Philostratus ranks as something of an arbiter of sophistic tastes and values; he is also an index of sophistic shortcomings.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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