Abstract

Scholarly evaluation of Ambrose's De officiis, preoccupied with tracing the work's philosophical relationship to Cicero's Stoicism, has too often neglected the question of the text's social location and its intended readership. By way of some soundings in the fields of social history and gender studies, a new reading of De officiis may be offered, which sees the text as a set of stage-directions for the leading players in an ecclesial drama which Ambrose is seeking to enact in the theatrical imperium of the late fourth-century West. By simultaneously evoking and subverting core assumptions of the classical characterization of a male Roman élite, Ambrose seeks to impress a watching world, and especially a discerning class of cultural sophisticates, with the spectacle of his church's hierarchy as a new and superior officialdom, whose moral virtues surpass the attainments of their antecedents or competitors in the saeculum. Cicero's paradigm is to be superseded by the superiority of the officia pursued by the leaders of a socially triumphant catholic faith.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3184
Print ISSN
1067-6341
Pages
pp. 413-451
Launched on MUSE
2000-09-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
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