Valentina Barrile (KCL) - 2017-18 Students

Literary short-circuits: poetic quotations in Himerius

I aim to reconstruct a picture of the Greek cultural world of the third/fourth century AD by using the magnifying glass of the works of Himerius. This personality impacted his era in different ways: as an orator, he was deeply involved with politics; as a teacher, he had the opportunity to shape the minds of the most influential figures of his era – the Christian intellectuals Gregory, Basil and Julian. He spoke in front of huge crowds, catching their attention with a web of literary quotations and allusions that, in my opinion, is a key to a fuller understanding of the Late Antique era. In a careful analysis of the text, weighing each quotation within its original context, I aim to avoid the bias that has relegated this protagonist of the flourishing late sophistic movement to the status of a mere collator of ancient relics. Building on those raw materials, I can foresee different directions my doctoral project might take. I will try to:

  • Set the cultural horizons revealed in Himerius’ quotation habits against the norm of his own period and those of the immediately preceding centuries;
  • analyse Himerius’ way of building speeches by synthesizing original and inherited materials, then contrast it with the advice offered by rhetorical manuals;
  • evaluate his teaching method and the legacy his pupils inherited and, maybe, differently interpreted according to their own religious beliefs;
  • assess Himerius’ role as a middleman between political power and common citizens.

Since Rizzo’s pioneering work, Himerius’s orations have been considered valuable only for the quotations contained in them. My doctoral project will I hope attract more scholarly interest to this underestimated author and stimulate a new debate on the role of paideia in Late Antiquity, furthermore contributing to define a theoretical model to deal with quotation culture.

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