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Lives i6 p&c 00 book.indb 9 2017.09.20. 16:22 i6 p&c 00 book.indb 10 2017.09.20. 16:22 THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PRACTICAL LIFE FOR PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHERS Maël Goarzin Pagan and Christian literature in Late Antiquity have one major point in common , the importance they set on biography. Defined very generally as the narration of someone else’s life,1 biography flourishes in the fourth century in tandem with the rise of the sage and the holy man. The success of biographical discourse reflects authorial agenda,, the “worship” that surrounded philosophical, religious, and political figures,2 as well as the expectations of the audience, readers seeking to discern in the lives of great people examples or ideals that they themselves might follow.3 1  Biographical discourse, as opposed to biography and hagiography, is not limited to a specific literary genre. It is a type of discourse used in various types of texts—focusing on the life of an individual or not—to provide the narration, by a third party, of the life of a historical or legendary individual. In this paper, I use the term ‘biographical discourse’ rather than biography or hagiography, following Marc van Uytfanghe, ‘L’hagiographie: un «genre» chrétien ou antique tardif ?’, Analecta Bollandiana 111 (1993), 135–188. For Michael Stuart Williams , Authorised Lives in Early Christian Biography: Between Eusebius and Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 8–9, Christian biographical texts ‘exist on the margins of the more familiar genres of biography and hagiography.’ On the success of biographical discourse in Late Antiquity, see Mark J. Edwards , ‘Epilogue’, in Portraits: biographical representation in the Greek and Latin literature of the Roman Empire, ed. Mark J. Edwards and Simon Swain (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 227–31. 2 Peter Brown, ‘The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Roman Studies, 61 (1971), 80–101; idem, ‘The Saint as Exemplar in Late Antiquity’, Representations, 2 (1) (1983), 1–25; idem, Genèse de l’Antiquité tardive, trans. by Aline Rousselle (Paris: Gallimard, 1983), pp. 39–40. 3  Maël Goarzin, ‘Diffuser l’autorité morale. Le discours biographique dans l’Antiquité tardive’, in Les mises en scène de l’autorité dans l’Antiquité, Nancy: Etudes Anciennes 60, A.D.R.A. / Paris: Editions de Boccard, 2015, pp. 159–71 and idem, ‘Presenting a Practical Way of Life through Biographical Discourse: the Examples of Gregory of Nyssa and Marinus’, forthcoming. For the exemplary function of biographical discourse, see Charles H. Talbert, ‘Biographies of Philosophers and Rulers as Instruments of Religious Propaganda in Mediterranean Antiquity’, ANRW, II.16.2 (1978): 1619–51; Patricia Cox, Biography in late Antiquity: a quest for the holy man, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 9–11; Van Uytfanghe, p. 151; Simon Swain, ‘Biography and Biographic in the Literature of the Roman Empire’, in Edwards and Swain, pp. 32–35; Gillian Clark, ‘Philosophic Lives and the Philosophic Life’, in Greek biography and panegyric in late antiquity, ed. Toi6 p&c 00 book.indb 11 2017.09.20. 16:22 MAËL GOARZIN 12 Pagan philosophical and Christian ascetic tradition share a common reflection on the perfect life andd distinguish between ‘active’ and ‘contemplative’ life.4 Philosophical tradition concerning the best way of life goes back to the Presocratics5 and Plato,6 and continues with Aristotle7 and his followers.8 Christian thinking on choosing the best life to live is symbolized by the biblical figures of Martha and Mary, one standing for active, the other for contemplative life.9 Scholarship on Late Antique biographical texts correlated the lives of ancient philosophers and Christian saints.10 Comparing the ideal way of life in Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus with Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Macrina, this paper highlights the significance they attribute to the involvement in the world of their heroes. Anthony Meredith suggested that Plotinus’ life—in contrast to Macrina’s—was devoted to contemplation at the expense of the practical dimension of daily life.11 If Porphyry’s text is centered on the philosophical activity of Plotinus and on his contemplation of the Intellect, he does not neglect the philosopher’s action and the external circumstances in which he lives. I wish to show that Plotinus shares with Macrina a care for the other and for the city. Recent studies on Plotinus and Platonism have shown that the practical dimenmas Hägg, Philippe Rousseau and Christian Høgel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), p. 31; Luc...


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