Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

History

Major Professor

Christine C. Shepardson

Committee Members

Jacob A. Latham, Maura K. Lafferty, Thomas E. Burman

Abstract

This dissertation offers a new perspective to the development of religious orthodoxy in the second half of the fourth century CE by examining the role of the body in the inter- and intra-religious battles between Christians and “pagans” over the claim to the cultural capital of philosophy. Focusing on Cappadocia (modern-day central Turkey), a particularly vital region of the fourth-century Roman empire, I argue that during this time, Greek-speaking intellectuals created and disputed boundaries between Christianity and “paganism,” as well as between “orthodoxy” and “heresy,” based on longstanding elite notions of how an ideal philosopher should look, think, and act. I offer a close reading of the works of three Christian bishops—Basil of Caesarea (d. 378), his friend Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 389/90), and his brother Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394/95)—alongside those of their “pagan” contemporary, the emperor Julian (d. 363). For both Julian and the Cappadocians, I argue, religious orthodoxy—whether Christian or “pagan”—was not simply a matter of doctrine. Rather, these elite authors claimed that correct religion manifested itself in bodily features such as physical appearance and behavioral habits. In the rhetoric of these men, to be a proper follower of the gods entailed not only holding correct opinions and performing correct rituals, but exercising one’s entire being in a way that made piety appear second-nature. Drawing on their common background in classical culture (paideia), the Cappadocians and Julian presented themselves as ideal philosophers, whose grasp of the “correct” knowledge and habits qualified them to serve as religious leaders. The notions of Christian theology and classical philosophy that they constructed were rooted as much in questions of habits, demeanor, and dress, as they were in questions of theology and knowledge.

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