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Wandering Poets and Other Essays on Late Greek Literature and Philosophy$
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Alan Cameron

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190268947

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190268947.001.0001

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Poets and Pagans in Byzantine Egypt

Poets and Pagans in Byzantine Egypt

(p.147) 7 Poets and Pagans in Byzantine Egypt
Wandering Poets and Other Essays on Late Greek Literature and Philosophy

Alan Cameron

Oxford University Press

By late antiquity, the Egyptian world was essentially a Christian world, but there were said to be pockets of determined pagan resistance. This chapter discusses the supposed pagan reaction in Byzantine Egypt. Triumphalist Christian accounts of pagans’ resistance drew attention to their devotion to magic practices and traditional sacrifice, but their supposed philosophical allegiance appears to have been overstated. The fact that pagan deities and practices are featured in classical writings has led some to assume that its readers affiliated themselves with pagan belief. But the chapter notes that Christians also read classical writing and that they were able to distinguish between literature as culture and literature as a statement of faith. Many decorative items that featured classical scenes, such as silver plates, were created by Christian craftsmen and appreciated by sophisticated Christians, who did not regard themselves as bound to the pagan representations.

Keywords:   Byzantine Egypt, pagan reaction, neoplatonist philosophers, mythological art, Byzantine culture

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