Area 2: Education at the Crossroads: Pagan, Jewish, and Christian Discourses in Late Antiquity
Paideia forms a meeting ground for late antique intellectuals regardless of their religious affiliation. On both the Christian and the pagan side, there are attempts at overcoming resp. ignoring the borders between religious groups and at proposing a common denominator of ethical and religious principles. I analyse these attempts and their impact on the formation of late antique intellectual identites. The point of departure is the still understudied figure of Themistios, to be followed by other authors such as Libanios, Synesios or Ammianus Marcellinus.
A further focus of my research are the various forms of religious education in late antiquity. How are religions transmitted and taught? Is there an interest in developing systematic and fixed structures of religious education? Under what circumstances does knowledge about religion become an issue? I study modes of religious education in philosophical circles, or discuss the existence and relevance of religious role models for pagan ‘holy’ or ‘divine’ women, a field where significant differences can be traced between Christian and pagan discourses. The philosophical biography as a medium of religious and philosophical education is another focus of my research. Another crucial question is the relationship between teaching and ritual in the phase of incorporation of new members into Christian communities.
Educational ideals do not emphasise only texts and doctrines but also modes of behaviour and guidelines how to live a good life and reach perfection. Together with the Jewish studies scholars R. Naiweld and E. Abate I attempt to look into this aspect of late antique education and analyse methods, ideals and theories of late antique ethical education and formation in Christian and pagan texts, comparing them with Jewish discourses. First workshops have served to develop working categories for this comparative enterprise and to discuss the role of ‘thoughts’ in Jewish and Christian ascetic texts.