Edward J. Watts

in City and School in Late Antique Athens and Alexandria

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780520244214
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931800 | DOI:

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  • Greek and Roman Archaeology


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The careers of Olympiodorus, Elias, David, and Stephanus reveal a fundamental truth about how education was viewed by citizens of the later Roman Empire. On one level, the families of late antiquity felt that the traditional system of philosophical education worked well. At the same time, there was a concern about how a religiously based system of instruction would adapt to an evolving religious environment. Olympiodorus and his successors were successful because they allayed this fear without changing the traditional foundation of their teaching. In the classrooms of each professor, there was a tacit assurance that his religious belief, be it Christian or pagan, would not interfere with or fundamentally alter the philosophy he taught. Athenian teachers like Proclus, Hegias, and Damascius gave their students no such assurances. They were pagan; their teaching emphasized this paganism, and the atmosphere in their schools did nothing to downplay this fact. This attitude was their eventual downfall.

Keywords: Alexandria; Athens; Christians; Christian doctrine; religion; paganism; philosophy

Chapter.  2223 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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