From Sophistopolis to Episcopolis: The Case for a Third Sophistic
By Alberto Quiroga
The Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture, Vol. 1 (2007)
Abstract: The term ‘Second Sophistic’ was already coined in Antiquity to denote a movement of literary and cultural renewal in the Greek and Hellenistic world during the first two centuries AD. The expression was not wholly complimentary; for whereas the ‘First Sophistic’ was seen to have been primarily concerned with more ‘serious’ topics like philosophy and politics, the ‘Second Sophistic’ was more interested in culture and ‘the arts’. Up until fairly recently modern scholarship too treated this as a negative feature and considered the monuments of the Second Sophistic to be un-original and decadent. But more recent scholarship has a more positive view of the achievements of the Second Sophistic, and the movement is now becoming more and more appreciated as one of the great cultural renaissances in Antiquity. At the same time the question has been raised whether the movement of renewal in the fourth and fifth centuries, linked in part with the rise of Christian literature and a ‘pagan’ reaction to it (including authors like Libanius, Themistius, Julian, Himerius, John Chrysostom and Synesius), could be termed a ‘Third Sophistic’. This article discusses some recent literature on this topic and argues for a new approach to the question.