Disciplines of Discipleship in Late Antique Education: Augustine and Gregory Nazianzen
Disciplines of Discipleship in Late Antique Education: Augustine and Gregory Nazianzen
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter presents a peculiarity of Augustine's case in reading the Confessions and the equally unreliable memoirs of Gregory Nazianzen and his student fraternity in Athens. The prevailing impression obtained from these student reminiscences is of disorder rather than discipline. It argues that Augustine may have designed his ‘disciplinarum libri’ to mark a decisive break with the day-to-day untidiness of the schoolroom. In viewing thePhilocalia, it suggests a more lasting analogy between East and West containing encouraging intimations of the possibility of an authentically Christian paideia.
1. Christians in the Classroom
Cassiciacum was not Augustine's first experiment in reconciling traditional patterns of education with Christian faith. Seventeen years earlier, at Carthage, he had tried to match his schoolbooks with the Bible, and had sought love both among his fellow students and in the city's churches. Augustine's student experiences have an obvious relevance to the programme of studies that he would later devise in the laboratory conditions of Cassiciacum—the two represent, indeed, the formal termini of a long, continuous engagement in (so-called) ‘honesta studia’. Moreover, Augustine's narrative of his period at Carthage is the longest surviving account of the experience, common to well-born young men across the whole empire, of being herded through the teeming rhetorical schools.1 Yet it has remained comparatively neglected by historians.2 This is partly due, no doubt, to its deeply idiosyncratic character, as more a ‘tissue of meditative abstractions’ than a straightforward (p.26) narrative;3 since Henri Marrou, moreover, it has become so instinctive to measure Augustine's educational attainments in relation to the cultural inheritance of the classical past that we easily lose sight of those less formally academic criteria that may have made Augustine the student a child of his own distinctive time and place.4 The central purpose of this essay is therefore to explore, at least in outline, Augustine's experiences at the receiving end of late antique education, in order to obtain a clearer impression of which features might have been standard for students across the Empire, and which peculiar to Carthage or personally to Augustine; on the basis of this it will be possible to suggest some fresh perspectives upon the disciplinary programme that he conceived at Cassiciacum. The scope of the essay allows no more than a sketch of a vast subject;5 to maintain as close a focus as possible upon Augustine's account, the approach adopted here involves a sustained comparison between his reminiscences and those of his older contemporary Gregory of Nazianzus, another Christian bishop who would review his experiences in the rhetorical schools.6
The rhetor's classroom was anything but isolated from the city outside it.7 And Augustine himself invites us to consider his education in its broader social context, for although a whole book of his Confessions is devoted to his experiences in (p.27) Carthage, very little of it concerns his formal schooling. We meet him successively sizzling in the frying-pan of love (Conf. 3. 1. 1), bewitched by the illusions of the stage (3. 2. 2–4), and doing dark business in church (3. 3. 5), before we are introduced to him in the schoolroom, strutting arrogantly before his peers, the friend (at a safe distance) of the diabolical ‘eversores’ (3. 3. 6). When he reads a textbook, moreover, he does so alone (3. 4. 7); then he embarks upon a self-chosen reading programme which leads him into the hands of the Manichees (3. 5. 9–6. 10). In all this, there is no reference whatever to his teachers, who are mentioned only in the following book, in a context where Augustine has left them far behind and—aged 26—is himself a teacher of rhetoric and an aspiring author. Recalling his own literary début, he reflects on his aptitude for learning, and remembers his encounter with Aristotle's Categories—how the Carthaginian rhetor, his master, and other learned men would puff their cheeks proudly at the name of the book, as they recalled their own struggles to understand it, even with the help of ‘most erudite masters’ and complex diagrams; yet he had mastered it by himself (4. 16. 28).
The chief historical difficulty posed by this material is to establish a relationship between the different activities that Augustine describes: how the star pupil related to the eager lover, or the theatre-goer to the young father. All such reconstructions are necessarily provisional—as has been brought home vividly by the impact of a single piece of new evidence, the passage in a recently discovered sermon in which Augustine recalls how as a young student at Carthage he would attend vigils where ‘women were mixed up with the licentiousness of men’.8 Behaviour that had once, on the basis of the Confessions alone, seemed like shy gallantry in a medieval cathedral is suddenly, almost shockingly contemporary: the calculated opportunism of a sexual predator.9 (p.28) If, moreover, Augustine's reference to how young men—‘the licentious and impudent slaves’—would gather at the church entrances to ‘begin what they would later try to complete’ is (as the parallelism with his language in the Confessions might suggest10) autobiographical, the plural raises a further disquieting possibility. This mauling of matrons seems to have been a team sport: did Augustine, one wonders, attend church with the ‘eversores’? That such shifts of perspective are even conceivable suggests the importance of relating our Augustinian evidence to other sources on late antique paideia.
Hence the relevance for an understanding of the young Augustine of the account—indeed, the two overlapping accounts—provided by Gregory Nazianzus of his own encounter with secular education. Gregory arrived in Athens, by far the most celebrated educational centre of the late antique empire, a quarter-century before Augustine came to Carthage. His fullest description of his adventures there (which lasted more than a decade) is a famous section of his memorial speech for Basil, where he explains how he first met his great friend (Or. 43. 14–24).11 Young men at Athens, he explains, were as mad for sophists as in other cities they were for the circus, seizing new arrivals and initiating them into their own group (l. 15). These initiation rituals included a parade to the public bath; Gregory secured Basil an exemption from this (l. 16), and came to his rescue (p.29) when some Armenians, members of the same diatribe, engaged the newcomer in a rhetorical duel designed to humiliate him (l. 17). The focus then softens: a mutual confession of ‘yearning’ for the philosophical life led to their becoming ‘all in all’ to one another. They were one soul in two bodies: rooming together, dining together, and spending their days together—sharing a love that transcended the transience of erotic attraction, being solidly based upon mutual aspiration for higher things (l. 19).12 The cultivation of ‘excellence’ that was their sole business is defined in religious (but not exclusively Christian) terms as the preparation for escaping from the world: which meant in practice preferring peaceable to quarrelsome companions, and the finest courses of study to the more pleasant (§20). Thus far, teachers (of whatever sort) are absent from Gregory's account: in introducing these efforts to live out a godly life, it does not occur to him to invoke any institutional or even informal guidance. The only compasses available to himself and Basil were ‘the commandment’ (that is, the prescriptions of Scripture)13 and the standard that each set for the other, as measuring-rod and rule. Gregory thus presents us with an experiment in Christian life that is essentially home-made. This offers a point of contact not only with Augustine's account of his own experiments at Carthage but with the formative religious experiences of other young men.14
Like Augustine in Carthage, Gregory attended church. Two roads alone were known to Basil and himself, the nobler of them leading to ‘the sacred house of ours and the teachers (p.30) there’ and the other to ‘the educators outside’ (Or. 43. 21).15 Augustine too would instinctively juxtapose church and schoolroom (Conf. 3. 3. 5–6). Like Augustine, too, Gregory recognizes other possible destinations (including the theatre) but shows himself and Basil dutifully shunning all roads which did not lead to excellence. Aretē, however, was enacted in public. Gregory remarks upon the different labels that are derived from a man's paternity or origin, or his preferred avocations: he and Basil took pride in being—and in being called—‘Christians’. The wording makes it clear that the label was pinned upon them not by their fellow Christians in the congregation of Athens but by their (largely pagan) fellow students. They revelled in being Christians in a dangerously unchristian world. And this self-conscious flaunting of a label might remind us of the Carthaginian ‘eversores’.
Gregory continues to think in terms of gangs in the following passage, where he declares that ‘the finest thing’ about their experience at Athens was the ‘brotherhood’ of young men who gathered around Basil (Or. 43. 22). Basil and Gregory became famous not only among these fellow students but also among their teachers. As in Augustine's account, teachers are introduced here almost as an afterthought, and serve a purely ancillary function. They provide an index to Gregory's and Basil's fame: these teachers were as widely known as Athens itself, and the two students were as widely known as their teachers, as ‘a pair not without a name’.
This latter phrase recurs also in Gregory's other account of his schooldays, in his autobiographical poem De Vita Sua (ll. 211–64). Here too, the emphasis is upon gangs. Whereas the rest of the young bloods ‘whirled around in different brotherhoods’ (ll. 214–15), Gregory resisted their pull and instead attracted others, drawing his friends to ‘higher things’ (ll. 219–20). Here again, friendship is presented as being central: he shared with Basil ‘literary studies, lodgings, (p.31) thoughts’ (ll. 226–7), but sees no need to mention his teachers until the moment of his planned departure (l. 250). The core of his Athenian experience, as reported in the poem, is the comradeship that provided the space for the cultivation of religious instincts.16
2. Genius Loci
Gregory's Athens, unlike Augustine's Carthage, is illuminated for us from several distinct angles. An epigram reveals that his teacher was the famous Prohairesius.17 And Eunapius, another pupil of Prohairesius, has left an admiring portrait of the master; while the surviving orations of Prohairesius' great rival Himerius (who was also claimed by a fifth-century source as Gregory's teacher) provide a complementary perspective.18 So, for example, Eunapius' description of the small, spartan house that Prohairesius had inherited from his teacher Iulianus, where statues of past pupils and a private auditorium of polished marble fostered a sense of almost religious intimacy and intensity, provides essential background for what otherwise seems the overblown claustrophobia of Himerius’ orations, which lavish the same sort of attentions upon newly arrived students as (p.32) upon visiting proconsuls.19 When Himerius speaks as a shepherd to his flock, reminding his pupils of their responsibilities as ‘initiates’ of the Muses, he provides a glimpse of the relevance of traditional education for future bishops.20 Similarly, as a teacher, Augustine would cure Alypius of his obsession with the circus by a single well-chosen simile in class (Conf. 6. 7. 12). The vehemence with which he insists, in retrospect, that his admonition had not been a sermon suggests how unclear, in practice, the distinction may have been. The degree of pastoral involvement suggested by some of the surviving texts is striking; Himerius celebrates the birthdays of his students and hymns their weddings.21 One wonders whether Athenian teachers were party to arrangements among their students equivalent to Augustine's semiformal relationship with his nameless concubine, or the birth of his son.
Eunapius and Himerius both convey the ties between masters and pupils, where Gregory concentrates on relations between pupils; but these are both part of the same nexus. For a striking feature of Eunapius' portrait is that he never once shows Prohairesius teaching; likewise, Himerius' orations do not so much teach rhetoric as exhibit it. And perhaps the rhetor's principal job was to facilitate the sort of bond that united Gregory and Basil, and to create the sort of atmosphere where (as in an Islamic madrasah22) young men felt encouraged to educate one another. In becoming a Pylades to Basil's Orestes (Or. 43. 22), Gregory was following an established pattern. His teacher Prohairesius had (p.33) pooled his possessions with his friend Hephaestion, so that like an attenuated Geryon they seemed ‘to be two men in one’; similarly, during his time at Athens Libanius had shared with Chromatius a single table, under the same roof, with the same pleasures and thoughts, and they had sharpened each other by acting as judges.23 Two features of these relationships require special emphasis. The first is that they were enacted before an audience. Gregory's claim that he and Basil were ‘notable to our teachers and fellows, notable to all Hellas’ (Or. 43. 22) thus had a specific connotation. More particularly, his account of his intervention in the disputation between the malicious Armenians and the newly arrived Basil—participating initially to save the house's ‘honour’, but ending up defending Basil's—presupposes an audience of Prohairesius' other students (43. 17).
The same incident also introduces our second factor: these houses were competitive crucibles. Friendship between aspiring rhetoricians was necessarily agonistic, since their education would have required them to engage in regular duels. And in an important passage Gregory acknowledges that he and Basil were competitors: a world of tensions is implicit in his claim that they overcame the pressure of phthonos, and each took delight in the other's victory rather than his own (Or. 43. 20).24 More typical, one suspects, was the situation described by Eunapius: the young Prohairesius ‘competed with’ his friend Hephaestion both in poverty and in logoi, but the latter eventually retired from the field, to clear the path for Prohairesius' advancement; similarly, Chromatius faded from being Libanius' critic to being his cheerleader.25
(p.34) Each rhetorical house in Athens thus offered in microcosm the competitively collaborative world of élite civic politics. What held these fragile communities together, in good classical manner, was shared hostility to other similar houses. That is to say, the student brawls for which Athens was notorious were an integral part of the training.26 For the élite being moulded at Athens needed to develop the physical self-assertion that was central to public life and a prerequisite for the effective use of fine words: one of the ways they learned to measure their worth was in confrontation with students of rival houses. Learning to be a man thus meant learning to stare down rivals in the street even when blows were threatened or given; the rhetor's job was to impart the eloquence that would match such poise. Even those who shunned the fights and the feasts had to take sides. The professors were fully implicated. Libanius sourly noted that the Athenian schools turned out soldiers, not speakers; and Himerius is a witness for the prosecution, for he makes Homeric heroes of his battered street-fighters, rousing them with a hymn to victory.27 Iulianus' house, where Prohairesius gave his lectures, had the feel of a fortress. We see here the consequences of an arrangement that required professors to remain rivals: they therefore needed to keep their students in a state of permanent mobilization.28
Even those who shunned the fights had to take sides. The initiation parade to the baths which Gregory describes, for example, should be understood as a means to advertise publicly each new recruit and to proclaim his allegiance. When Gregory and Basil publicly paraded to church (presumably wearing the distinctive red cloaks of students29) (p.35) they were creating much the same effect—and consciously so. It is significant that Gregory recalls the road leading them to church, but not the services themselves. There was an intrinsically muscular quality to late antique paideia that we neglect at our peril.
All this raises questions about Augustine's experience at Carthage. For if the structure of education was the same, the conditions seem very different. His complaint about his own teaching situation there concerns essentially the impossibility of replicating the same mystique as was possible at Athens. ‘Scholastici’ lurch into other teachers’ classes ‘proterve’, with furious faces (Conf. 5. 8. 14): in Augustine's experience, at least, the boundaries that at Athens made each school a quasi-religious community were not maintained. Part of the fault was perhaps Augustine's own: in a famous anecdote, already mentioned in another context, he shows himself paying special attention to a late-comer who was not even on his roster of pupils, but who happened to be an acquaintance from his home town (6. 7. 11–12). The schools of Carthage, one suspects, were slightly too close to the students' homes. When Alypius was in trouble, an acquaintance of a senatorial family friend, not his teacher, would vouch for him (6. 9. 15); for the latter part of his student career, Augustine had his mother living with him.30 The sheer size of the city also diminished the profile of the student population.31 When a student declaimed a piece by Libanius in the Athenian Lyceum, he was set upon by exponents of rival texts;32 at Carthage, Alypius was able to prepare his exercises in the forum, blithely oblivious to the presence of another student, who in turn was too absorbed in petty larceny to notice Alypius (6. 9. 14).
We are dealing here with what might be called microclimates of paideia. The difference between Athens and (p.36) Carthage was not merely one of size. Whereas Alypius had to share the forum of Carthage with lawyers and goldsmiths, the students of Athens had the ancient Agora and Lyceum to themselves, as their own reserved playground.33 They could therefore re-create the classical works they were studying in situ: the procession to the baths (for example) may well have led down the Panathenaic Way, past the Painted Stoa which illustrated so many of the themes of their own compositions.34 No wonder that the students of Athens thought of themselves as gods, considering those of Alexandria (as Synesius complained) mere ‘donkeys’ by comparison.35 And as Alexandria was to Athens, so perhaps was Augustine's Carthage to Rome. In the ancient capital the Forum housed a still growing statue gallery of famous orators, and students gathered not to rehearse their own arguments but to applaud the current masters of the art.36 This makes one wonder to what extent the shadow of Rome, just out of reach, loomed (p.37) over the schools of Carthage; whether the latter were selfconsciously second-rank. Augustine's delusive dreams of better teaching conditions at Rome were fuelled, he says, by his friends (Conf. 5. 8. 14): a suggestive comment on the topics of conversation among ambitious young men in the African metropolis. It is perhaps significant, in this context, that his cue for mentioning his own teachers is his sending a copy of his own first book to Rome (4. 13. 21)—to the orator Hierius, the teacher that he had never had.
3. religions of the book?
Mastering a syllabus seems to have been incidental to the student experiences of Gregory and Augustine, both of whom describe instead an open-ended quest for wisdom. Nor is there any reason to think that they were unusual, since Himerius and Eunapius also suggest the primacy to education of what might be called the spiritual dimension. Where Gregory emphasizes friendship, Augustine identifies books as his source of inspiration: an encounter with a school text, Cicero's Hortensius, led to an extracurricular reading programme—first the Bible, then the books of the Manichees.
Here too, however, Gregory might yet provide a point of comparison. In his account of his studies with Basil he does not, indeed, mention any shared reading. Yet one otherwise mysterious text might be associated with Gregory's Athenian period—and if so, would provide an important parallel with Augustine's experience. Gregory first mentions the Philocalia, an anthology of extracts from various works of Origen, a quarter-century after his return from Athens, when he presented a copy to a friend as ‘a souvenir from me, which is also of the holy Basil’ (Ep. 115). Recent work has shown just how fragile are the foundations of the traditional view, that the collection was actually compiled by Gregory and Basil.37 Gregory himself introduces the book to its (p.38) recipient as ‘the Philocalia of Origen’, implying that he at least believed that Origen himself had edited the work. So, if he can offer the volume, without further explanation, as a memento not only of himself but also of Basil, this is probably because it bore physical traces—subscriptions or scholia—of their use of it.38 And once we see the two friends as users of the text (with Gregory, presumably, as its owner) rather than as its editors, far the most likely context for such joint use is during the five years they spent together in Athens.39 Their subsequent periods of collaboration were much shorter, and were devoted to projects for which the Philocalia would have offered little help; besides, Origen's works were readily available to Basil's circle in Cappadocia and Pontus, so Gregory had little reason to bring the compendium when he visited his friend.40 On the other hand, Gregory had arrived in Athens via the two cities between which Origen had divided his career.41 It is attractive to suppose that he acquired the volume in one of these, as a portable digest of the great master's teachings and a useful aid to the reflections of the serious student.42
The two great themes of the work—biblical hermeneutics and the problem of free will—would be particularly relevant to aspiring Christian students; for these of course relate closely to the issues which would most disturb Augustine as (p.39) a student in Carthage.43 And the central chapters, providing material for replies to pagan criticism, would meanwhile have been especially useful in mid-fourth-century Athens, a place still dominated by its pagan monuments, ‘richer in wicked wealth than the rest of Greece’, where young men were easily ‘swept along by its panegyrists and patrons’ (Or. 43. 21). The Philocalia was less a textbook than a series of encouraging intimations of the possibility of an authentically Christian paideia. So one extract (Phil. 12) exhorts the reader ‘not to faint’ as he tackles the bleaker parts of Joshua; the next (Phil. 13) consists of Origen's letter to a student named Gregory (whom Basil, one suspects, would never have recognized as his own grandmother's teacher) which provides an explicit manifesto for the Christian student, who should ‘despoil the Egyptians’ by acquiring pagan learning as a means to Christian ends, and should meanwhile apply himself to ‘the reading of the divine scriptures’ with the serious and prayerful application that would allow, finally, ‘participation with God’. The next extract (Phil. 14) illustrates the techniques necessary by analysing the names and predicates in a passage of Genesis; then comes a ‘reply to the Greek philosophers who disparage the poverty of style of the Holy Scriptures’ (Phil. 15).44 The organization of the compendium helps give a sense of a doit-yourself religious formation, where intensive study of the Sacred Scriptures was assisted by a restricted number of well-thumbed secondary texts.
Here again there are echoes of Augustine's religious development at Carthage. He too depended upon the piecemeal collation of assorted primary and secondary sources: in his case, however, there was no Christian source to teach him (as the Philocalia taught its readers) to approach the Bible as a single musical instrument, perfect and harmonized (Phil. 6). Instead, we might see the Manichees and their books representing for him what Gregory and the Philocalia did (p.40) for Basil. And what mattered, ultimately, was the balance between the two parallel reading programmes. Augustine thus presents his decisive break with the Manichees as a diptych. Faustus, the most authoritative expositor of the Manichaean texts, could not answer Augustine's questions about them; at the same time he deferred to Augustine's literary expertise, reading with him such classical texts as he himself desired or Augustine deemed suitable (Conf. 5. 7. 12–13).
4. cargoes of culture
Departures from Athens were attended with as much ceremony as were arrivals. A fragmentary speech shows Himerius sending off a pupil with ornate instructions (reinforced by historical and mythological exempla) about the future ‘nurture of his mind’, and the maintenance of the proper interplay between character and eloquence.45 And Gregory describes vividly the day when he and Basil prepared to depart, ‘the farewell speeches, the processions, the calls to remain, the groans, the embraces, the tears’ (Or. 43. 24); it was ‘a time for embraces and sorrowful words’, as he put it elsewhere, ‘for farewell speeches and kindling of memory’ (De Vita Sua 242–4).
By contrast, Augustine left school without any apparent fanfare. Indeed, we never see him leave at all. At the end of Book 3 of the Confessions Augustine is sharing a household, somewhat uneasily, with his widowed mother (Conf. 3. 11. 19): although the episode probably still belongs to the time when he was enrolled as a student at Carthage, biographers have readily transferred it to Thagaste.46 The progress from student to teacher is invisible. Augustine's own narrative seems designed to blur the transition in fact, combining the bulk of his student career with his early years as a teacher into the ‘nine years’, from age 19 to 28, that he spent in thrall to the Manichees.47 This structure serves (p.41) Augustine's artistic and apologetic purposes, but also reflects an aspect of paideia that deserves more attention than it is conventionally given. For it says something significant about late antique education that we never see Augustine ‘graduate’.
The overlap in Augustine's account between studying and teaching is not merely incidental. Book 4 of the Confessions covers his early experiences as a teacher: the incidents of the book are set during ‘those years’ when he ‘was teaching the art of rhetoric’ (Conf. 4. 4. 2); a section in the middle is located more specifically ‘at the time when I had first begun to teach in the town where I was born’ (4. 4. 7). Yet it is in this book that we have the most vivid glimpses of Augustine behaving as we might expect a student to do, competing for a crown in a literary competition (4. 2. 3–3. 5) and enjoying, in the company of friends, ‘talking and laughing together and kindly giving way to each other's wishes, reading elegantly written books together, sharing jokes and being serious at the same time, disagreeing occasionally but without rancour’, and, like Gregory and Basil at Athens, ‘teaching one another, and learning from one another’ (4. 8. 13). Above all, during his interlude at Thagaste he found ‘a friend dear to me through the pursuits we shared’, a former schoolfriend with whom he resumed the literary pursuits of childhood (4. 4. 7). Their bond was founded upon this ‘heated enthusiasm of shared pursuits’, and Augustine lavishes upon it the clichés of student romance that Gregory had used for himself and Basil: they were Pylades and Orestes, the friend was ‘half my soul’ (4. 6. 11). This was a friendship between ‘adulescentes’, which began when Augustine was 21: about the same age, that is, as Gregory was when Basil came to Athens.48
The warmth with which Augustine describes this friendship at Thagaste throws into sharp relief the frigidity of his (p.42) earlier account of Carthage, where no distinct friends emerge from the lurid shadows, and even eroticism remains bleakly anonymous. But our readiness to draw biographical inferences from this—that Augustine's initial isolation at Carthage was real, that he was an awkward provincial, out of his depth in the big city and therefore easy prey for the well-organized Manichees49—may well be misplaced. There are artistic reasons for the emphasis upon this friendship at Thagaste, which both gives significance to an otherwise potentially problematic interlude and provides a suitably heart-driven reason for the subsequent return to Carthage. And the evocation of cultivated friendship that follows, as quoted earlier, refers not to a change in circumstances but to a resumption of existing ties. The Thagaste episode thus punctuates a period that Augustine treats as a continuum. It does not imply that Augustine the student had failed to form the usual bonds. Some might indeed have endured: although the wealthy Carthaginian Nebridius is first introduced as a ‘truly good and truly chaste adulescens’ (Conf. 4. 3. 6), after Augustine's return to the city, there is a reasonable chance that the relationship had first been forged in the classroom.50 There are similar tricks of perspective in Gregory's account of his own youthful friendships. His three or four years at Athens before Basil's arrival are greatly foreshortened; and only incidentally do we discover that he had made previous experiments in philia.51
Nor again is Augustine exceptional in continuing the habits of the schoolroom in later life.52 Here too there might (p.43) be a parallel in Gregory and Basil's (ultimately abortive) plans to live together in Cappadocia as they had in Athens. Theirs was to be an ascetic, ‘philosophical’ cell rather than a Manichaean one, but would otherwise have looked little different from Augustine's association with his friend in Thagaste. Nor would either pair have seemed eccentric. After Eunapius was suddenly recalled to Sardis by his parents from his five-year spell in Athens in order to take up, aged 18, a teaching post, he would spend the afternoons receiving instruction in higher matters from the philosopher Chrysanthius, his former teacher.53 The readiness with which habits of study were thus continued reflects, in part, the unsystematic diversity—and consequent openendedness—of the educational process itself. The schools could hardly look to a determinate end-product when their students might stay for anything between a year and a decade: a sample of some fifty-seven pupils of Libanius at Antioch shows seventeen staying only a year and eighteen for two, while nine remained with him for three years, three for four, five for five, and four for six or more.54 The vaunted uniformity of paideia was therefore inevitably a mirage, the more fragile because differences in cultural level were liable to be exposed in the ruthless zero-sum contests of public life.55 The leisure habits acquired in the schools—the shared application to texts and to literary conversation, as well as more boisterous avocations—were, in this context, of genuine social significance, as a source of much-needed coherence and an opportunity for constructive collaboration. Augustine and his Thagaste friend (who presumably had lacked the benefit of polish in the Carthaginian schools) could consort as equals over their books; Gregory did not play the Athenian demigod with his Alexandria-trained (p.44) friend Philagrius when expounding a text to him.56 Similarly, where Eunapius presents himself merely as Chrysanthius' pupil, observers will doubtless have recognized a partnership.
But what was the relationship between the unsystematic activity conducted within the schools and the formal categories represented by the disciplines? Once again, Gregory suggests an approach to such questions. In his eulogy on Basil he uses disciplinary terminology to sum up his friend's attainments. What form of paideusis, he asks (Or. 43. 23), did Basil not traverse? It quickly emerges that he had in fact mastered eight separate disciplines; but in listing these Gregory is invoking a cultural ideal, rather than describing a syllabus. He begins by declaring Basil's supremacy in rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy: the ordering of these subjects, which allows a sequence of progressively longer and more complex questions, most certainly does not reflect the course of Basil's actual studies.57 Then come three matching sciences: astronomy, geometry, and the ‘relations of numbers’. Basil apparently ‘took’ as much from these as was necessary to fortify himself against the cleverness of experts, but Gregory's prime concern is for symmetry and a neatly turned epigram: there is no need to suppose that Basil was taught these subjects specifically at Athens. The next item, moreover, puts the matter beyond reasonable doubt. Medical proficiency was thrust upon Basil by his recurrent ill health, ‘the fruit of philosophy and of zealous application’. ‘Starting from this’—his own self-inflicted needs—Basil achieved ‘possession of the art’, in a properly philosophical manner, which is to say that the skill was self-taught. Gregory introduces medicine, that is, in order to enhance his panegyric, and provide an appropriate flourish with which to (p.45) demonstrate Basil's omnicompetence.58 And then he caps it with yet another ‘discipline’ as his climax: all Basil's other attainments counted for little beside his paideusis in ēthos, which made nonsense of the mythological examples of rectitude. This is not a reference to advanced studies in moral philosophy, but a conflation (the more striking for its smoothness) of specific academic disciplines with their ethical context. Paideusis was a metaphor: Basil at Athens was a ship taking on its load, and when he had as full a cargo as could be crammed into his hold, it was necessary for him to sail for home (§24). No conceptual scheme was available to allow more precise quantification of academic attainments.
Much of this terminology, moreover, is recycled: for when burying his brother, Caesarius, over a decade previously, Gregory had paid similar tribute to his academic prowess (Or. 7. 6–8). Here the case is different, for Caesarius had studied at Alexandria and gone on to win renown as a doctor—and this was a period when (as an anecdote of Augustine's confirms) a doctor's professional authority was assured if he could claim to have been trained at Alexandria.59 But although medicine is again the capstone of the disciplines, its pre-eminence is surprisingly modest—it receives less prominence, indeed, in Caesarius' case than in Basil's. Like Basil, Caesarius is awarded two sets of three paideuseis, this time all scientific—having established his prowess in geometry, astronomy, and ‘the discipline that is dangerous to others’ (astrology), Gregory dares anyone to challenge his primacy in ‘numbers, calculations and divine medicine’. If medicine is then characterized more fully than the parts of arithmetic (the division here is presumably for the sake of symmetry), it still receives less space than does the conceit that spells out Caesarius' supremacy. This itemization of specific excellences, moreover, rounds off an (p.46) account that had defined Caesarius' scholarly prowess in terms of his social relations—his fidelity to teachers, his affection for his classmates, his wise choice of companions from among his fellow citizens (especially from among his fellow Nazianzenes),60 and the recognition he received from the civic leaders. Like Basil, Caesarius was a great merchantman, whose schooling consisted of the accumulation of a varied cargo. Nothing is said here to suggest that the manifest differed from Basil's. If Gregory is silent about the literary disciplines, he does not intend to suggest that Caesarius had not studied these, but is rather presenting (somewhat awkwardly) his brother's qualifications as complementary to his own.61 This rhetorical device reflects a real enough situation, for the two brothers had in fact returned home to Nazianzus after finishing their studies together. They were a ‘partnership’: one might envisage them (and similarly, albeit in different circumstances, Augustine and his friend at Thagaste) each acting as guarantor for the other's attainments. There was, that is, a public aspect to privately shared absorption in ‘studia’. At Sardis, for example, Eunapius and Chrysanthius impressed their partnership in philosophy upon their fellow citizens by taking walks, absorbed in conversation, along ‘the public streets’ of the city.62
Even when Gregory announced a decisive break with secular pursuits, moreover, the habits of student associations endured. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his cautious negotiations with Basil over their project of a joint ascetic initiative—what has often been criticized as indecision or evasiveness on Gregory's part is better understood as the continued operation, but in a less controlled environment, of (p.47) the same collaborative impulses and competitive pressures that had formerly been contained within Prohairesius' school.63 Here again, the friends' relationship remains on display: the letters in which Gregory successively mocks and hymns the monastic ‘thinkery’ that Basil had established in Pontus are intended for wider circulation, to define the project (and Gregory's part in it) within a peer group.64 Nor could there be more striking testimony to Gregory's continued engagement with the world of the schools than his formal publication of these letters, along with some of Basil's replies, over two decades later—as part of a collection compiled on behalf of a young protégé who was at the time studying with the rhetors of Caesarea.65
Augustine's venture at Cassiciacum, too, was an assertively private withdrawal that was deliberately, in the series of pamphlets he produced there, laid open to the public gaze. And although his great project of reformatting the liberal disciplines into vehicles for managing philosophical ascent might at first seem to have as little direct relation to contemporary educational practice as Basil's retirement to Pontus, both stand in a similar relationship to the spiritualizing, idealizing impulses behind classical education.66 For the same desire to work ‘through the corporeal to the incorporeal’ infused the intense friendships between young men that were encouraged by the schools; nor should we suppose that Gregory and Basil were the only couple at Athens (or elsewhere) to conceive their studies as a preparation for ‘escape from the world’. And Augustine's plan to (p.48) transform the ‘disciplines’ from metaphors into a set of precisely targeted methodologies might be seen as an exercise in just such escapology. In launching his grandiose programme, he was finally announcing a decisive break with the day-to-day untidiness of the schoolroom. However, the ‘disciplinarum libri’ should no more be regarded as educational textbooks than should Gregory's letter collection. Rather, in publicly setting himself so monumental a challenge, Augustine was arguably embarking on an exercise in selfdefinition—an exercise that can be connected with the uncertainty of his status in Milan in autumn 386, after his resignation from his rhetorical post. It does not detract from the seriousness of his project thus to interpret it as, in large part, an exhibition:67 for a central theme of this essay has been to emphasize that displays of philological prowess were very serious matters indeed. Rather, we might note how completely Augustine's great disciplinary endeavour falls into abeyance when he leaves Milan (and the literary circles he was seeking to impress there) in 387. Only now, perhaps, when he departs for his native town and what he expects will be permanent immersion there, does Augustine ‘graduate’.
(1) ‘Per totum orbem rhetorum scholae adolescentium gregibus perstrepant’: Augustine Util. Cred. 7. 16, remarking upon the meagre results of such application.
(2) B. Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-knowledge, and the Ethics of Interpretation (Cambridge, Mass., 1996), 3, identifies Augustine's ‘comments on ancient methods of instruction in literate disciplines’ as a possible approach to his theme, but declines to pursue them in any detail; I. Hadot, Arts libéraux et philosophie dans la penseé antique (Paris, 1984), contains many valuable reflections upon the schools (pp. 215–61), but operates at a higher level of abstraction than is attempted here.
(3) J. J. O'Donnell, Augustine: Confessions, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1992), ii. 145. The point is made in reference to Conf. 3. 1. 1 but applies more widely.
(4) H.-I. Marrou, Saint Augustin et la fin de la culture antique, 4th edn. (Paris, 1958).
(5) Our understanding of Roman rhetorical education has recently been much enhanced by papyrological studies. T. Morgan, Literate Education in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (Cambridge, 1998), helpfully presents much material on pedagogical practice; R. Cribiore, Gymnastics of the Mind: Greek Education in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Princeton, 2001), combines the papyri with evidence from Libanius to great effect in a discussion of the rhetor's classroom: ‘Learning to Fly: Rhetoric and Imitation’, 220–44.
(6) The interpretation of Gregory Nazianzen presented here is more fully developed in work currently in progress. There is a fine account of Gregory's Athenian experience in J. M. McGuckin, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography (Crestwood, NY, 2001), 47–83.
(7) P. Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison, 1992), 43–4.
(8) Sermo de Oboedientia 5: F. Dolbeau, ‘Nouveaux Sermons d'Augustin pour la conversion des païens et des Donatistes (III)’, REAug 38 (1992), 50–79, at 59.
(9) P. Brown, ‘A New Augustine’, New York Review of Books, 24 June 1999, modifying the presentation in Brown, Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (London, 1967), 41.
(10) Compare Sermo de Oboed. 5, ‘[ne] inciperent quod postea perficere molirentur’ with Conf. 3. 3. 5, ‘ausus sum…concupiscere et agere negotium procurandi fructus mortis’.
(11) The speech is edited by J. Bernardi, Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 42–43, SC 384 (Paris, 1992). For the context see N. B. McLynn, ‘Gregory Nazianzen's Basil: The Literary Construction of a Christian Friendship’, StPatr 37 (2001), 173–93 at 179–83. For a useful survey of the passage see J. Bernardi, ‘Un Regard sur la vie étudiante à Athènes au milieu du IVe siècle après Jésus-Christ’, Revue des Études Grecques 103 (1990), 79–94. Valuable points are made in two contributions to T. Hägg and P. Rousseau (eds.), Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2000): F. W. Norris, ‘Your Honor, My Reputation: St Gregory of Nazianzus’ Funeral Oration for Basil the Great’, 140–59; D. Konstan, ‘How to Praise a Friend: St Gregory of Nazianzus’ Funeral Oration for Basil the Great’, 160–79.
(12) For the erotic charge that runs through Gregory's account, see J. Børtnes, ‘Eros Transformed: Same-Sex Love and Divine Desire’, in Hägg and Rousseau (eds.), Greek Biography and Panegyric, 180–93.
(13) The same expression recurs in the speech (Or. 43. 50, 70) and elsewhere in Gregory's writings with a large variety of biblical connotations. The generalized appeal to scriptural authority might be compared to Augustine's requirement as a student that his preferred doctrine include the name of Christ (Conf. 3. 4. 8).
(14) Our richest source on the diverse currents of late antique student religiosity comes from a later period: Zacharias Scholasticus, Vita Severi, ed. and trans. M. A. Kugener, Patrologia Orientalis 2 (Paris, 1907)).
(15) McGuckin, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, 62, interprets this as a reference to Gregory's teacher Prohairesius and his ‘place in the official life of the Athenian church’: but the expression seems to distinguish between two separate bodies of teachers, sacred and secular.
(16) McGuckin's ingenious interpretation (Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, 63) of Gregory's command at De Vita Sua 212–13 that ‘others should speak of matters there’ as a veiled allusion to baptism at Athens (and hence implying a deeper involvement in the local church than is argued here) underplays the grammatical connection with the activities described in the following lines.
(17) Gregory of Nazianzus, Epit. 5.
(18) Eunapius' account of Prohairesius is well discussed by R. J. Penella, Greek Philosophers and Sophists in the Fourth Century A.D. (Leeds, 1990), 79–84. Himerius' career has been reconstructed by T. D. Barnes, ‘Himerius and the Fourth Century’, Classical Philology 82 (1987), 206–25; we still await a fuller appreciation of his oratory. The report that Gregory and Basil were taught by Himerius as well as Prohairesius (Socrates, Hist. Eccl. 4. 26. 6) must be assessed in the light of the historian's accompanying claim that they both subsequently also attended Libanius' school at Antioch. See also R. Goulet, ‘Prohérésius le païen et quelques remarques sur la chronologie d'Eunape de Sardes’, Antiquité Tardive 8 (2000), 209–22.
(19) Eunapius, Vitae Sophistarum (hereafter VS) 483, ed. W. C. Wright, Philostratus and Eunapius: Lives of the Sophists (Cambridge, Mass., 1921), 466; Himerius, Or. 14 (Egyptian students), Or. 17 (Cypriots), Or. 18 (Cappadocians), Or. 26 (Ephesians and Mysians), Or. 27 (a student from his own city, Prusias), Or. 59–60 (Ionians), Or. 69. 8 (a Bithynian, a Galatian, and some Egyptians).
(20) Himerius, Or. 69. 7–9, for the trope of initiation; Or. 54. 2, for the student body as a ‘flock’.
(21) Himerius, Or. 44 (birthday); Or. 9 (an epithalamium for a recent student, Severus).
(22) On peer learning in the madrasah, see D. F. Eickelman, ‘The Art of Memory: Islamic Education and its Social Reproduction’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 20 (1978), 485–516. I am grateful to Peter Brown for the reference.
(23) Eunapius, VS 487 (ed. Wright, 484–6); Libanius, Ep. 390. 5.
(24) Competitive instincts clearly died hard: note how in Or. 43. 22 Gregory begins by emphasizing Basil's leadership of their group, including himself among those who ran on foot behind his ‘Lydian car’, then in the next sentence identifies the ‘we’ who became famous among teachers and fellow students not as the group as a whole but as Basil and himself alone, until by the end of the paragraph he has climbed aboard Basil's chariot, as his identical twin and partner in suffering.
(25) Eunapius, VS 487 (ed. Wright, 488); Libanius, Ep. 390. 6–7.
(26) Brawls: Eunapius, VS 483–5 (ed. Wright, 468–76); Libanius Or. 1. 19.
(27) Libanius, Ep. 715; Himerius, Or. 65.
(28) Gregory Nazianzen would sarcastically evoke the ‘war’ fought by a sophist of Caesarea against his rival, ‘and this in the midst of your partisans, who cheer you on’ (Ep. 192. 3).
(29) Red cloaks are not specifically mentioned before the fifth century (Olympiodorus, Fr. 28: R. C. Blockley, The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire (Leeds, 1983), ii. 192); but Gregory's reference to students having ‘taken the gown’ (Or. 43. 17) implies that the uniform was already established.
(30) Eunapius, VS 483 (ed. Wright, 470) shows a sophist in a courtroom alleging concern for his ‘children’; Prohairesius, more tellingly, ordered that Eunapius be treated ‘as if he were my own son’: VS 486, cf. 493 (ed. Wright, 482, 512). P. Petit, Les Étudiants de Libanius (Paris, 1955), 138–44, shows Libanius standing in loco parentis to young students from distant provinces.
(31) As Gregory remarked of Alexandria: Or. 7. 6.
(32) Libanius, Or. 14. 35.
(33) A. Frantz, The Athenian Agora 24: Late Antiquity A.D. 267–700 (Princeton, 1988), 12–48, discusses the physical fabric of the fourthcentury Agora, noting the failure to restore administrative buildings destroyed in the Herulian sack. Construction in the second half of the fourth century of sophists' homes (and therefore schools) on the Areopagus (ibid. 44–8) would suggest consolidation of academic dominance of the centro storico; but see G. Fowden, Journal of Roman Archaeology 3 (1990), 495–6, for reservations about this identification.
(34) Frantz, Athenian Agora, 26–8, dates the reconstruction of the Dipylon Gate and Panathenaic Way to ‘the reign of Constantine and a little later’, just before Gregory's arrival; the most natural route ‘through the agora’ (Or. 43. 20) would have followed this route, terminating at the Southwest Bath (lavishly refurbished in the mid-fourth century, at exactly this period: Frantz, Athenian Agora, 32–3). In later life Gregory refers instinctively (Ep. 233, 235) to Callimachus and Cynagirus, whose exploits were portrayed in the Painted Stoa; Himerius, Or. 2, describes the painting. For a fictive debate between the two heroes' claims, see Polemon, Declam. in Callimachum, Declam. in Cynagirum. The fullest evocation of the inspiring effect of the Athenian monuments upon students is Cicero, De Finibus 5. 1–5.
(35) Synesius, Ep. 54; at Ep. 136 he insists that Athens was honoured only by its bee-keepers.
(36) Jerome, Comm. ad Galat. 2. 11. Augustine, Conf. 8. 2. 3 reports the statue of Marius Victorinus (cf. Jerome, Chron. s.a. 353); Eunapius, VS 492 (ed. Wright, 506–8), that of Prohairesius, who visited c.343; cf. Libanius, Ep. 278.
(37) M. Harl, Origène: Philocalie, 1–20, Sur les Écritures, SC 302 (Paris, 1983), 19–41; É. Junod, ‘Basile de Césarée et Grégoire de Nazianze sont-ils les compilateurs de la Philocalie d'Origène? Réexamen de la lettre 115 de Grégoire’, in Mémorial Jean Gribomont (Rome, 1988), 349–60.
(38) Cf. Palladius, Historia Lausiaca 64, reporting autograph comments by Origen; annotations in Basil's hand were allegedly recognizable in a codex preserved in the library of Caesarea: George Syncellus, Chron., ed. B. G. Niebuhr (Bonn, 1829), 382.
(39) J. N. Steenson, ‘The Date of the Philocalia’, in R. P. C. Hanson and H. Crouzel (eds.), Origeniana Tertia (Rome, 1988), 245–52, also argues for an Athenian context, but still supposes that the pair compiled the work rather than studied it.
(40) Junod, ‘Basile de Césarée et Grégoire de Nazianze’, 360, offers no arguments for his assertion that Basil and Gregory used the book ‘autour des années 360’.
(41) Before sailing to Athens Gregory studied rhetoric at Palestinian Caesarea (Or. 7. 6), then briefly at Alexandria (De Vita Sua 128–9).
(42) McGuckin, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, 60–2, emphasizes the similarities between Prohairesius and Origen, and Steenson, ‘The Date’, 248, also suggests him as a possible Origenist influence: but the fact remains that Gregory himself provides no hint of this.
(43) Augustine sets out his problems at Conf. 3. 7. 12. The rebarbative complexities of the biblical text are dealt with at Phil. 1–15; the problem of evil, Augustine's particular difficulty, is treated at Phil. 26 as part of the broader subject of free will.
(44) Cf. Augustine, Conf. 3. 5. 9.
(45) Himerius, Or. 10.
(46) O'Donnell, Augustine: Confessions, ii. 198–9.
(47) Conf. 3. 11. 20; 4. 1. 1; 5. 6. 10. Cf. O'Donnell, Augustine: Confessions, ii. 297–8.
(48) Augustine's friend was ‘coaevum nobis et conflorentem flore adulescentiae’ (Conf. 4. 4. 7). Gregory's birth is most plausibly dated to c.329/330, Basil's arrival in Athens to 349/350: see respectively P. Gallay, La Vie de saint Grégoire de Nazianze (Lyon, 1944), 25–7, and P. J. Fedwick, ‘A Chronology of the Life and Works of Basil of Caesarea’, in P. J. Fedwick (ed.), Basil of Caesarea: Christian, Humanist, Ascetic (Toronto, 1981), i. 3–19, at 6.
(49) Stock, Augustine the Reader, 43–4.
(50) The only clue here is that when introducing Alypius and Nebridius at Conf. 6. 7. 11 Augustine introduces the former as his one-time student, ‘me minor natu’, an odd choice of expression if the same applied to Nebridius. Assumptions about the relationship have been easily made: when discussing Augustine's correspondence with Nebridius, Stock (Augustine the Reader, 128) makes the latter successively a ‘friend’, ‘protégé’, and ‘student’.
(51) Gregory's failure to claim direct knowledge of Athanasius in Or. 21 puts his move from Alexandria to Athens before the bishop's return from exile in 346. At Alexandria he shared with Philagrius a table and ‘the delights of lovely comradeship…sweated labour over literature, teachers in common’: Ep. 30.
(52) See in general Cribiore, Gymnastics of the Mind, 238–44.
(53) Eunapius, VS 493, 502–3 (ed. Wright, 512, 552): see the useful discussion by T. M. Banchich, ‘Eunapius in Athens’, Phoenix 50 (1996), 304–11. For Chrysanthius, see Penella, Greek Philosophers, 75–8.
(54) Petit, Les É;tudiants de Libanius, 63–4.
(55) Brown, Power and Persuasion, 39–40, offers a memorable sketch of the role of rhetorical culture in ‘the patient recreation, generation after generation, of the “collective memory” of the urban upper class’. It remains to delineate more fully the uses of this memory.
(56) Greg. Naz., Ep. 34, mentioning that he had played the exegete only at Philagrius' request, and insisting to his friend that, in another respect, ‘you had your teacher as a student’.
(57) The inversion of the logical—and chronological—order of grammar and rhetoric (for which see, e.g., Augustine, Ord. 2. 12. 35–13. 38) reflects the moral problems attached to the latter: Gregory insists that Basil's character was ‘not like the rhetors’ (Or. 43. 23).
(58) Bernardi, Grégoire de Nazianze: Discours 42–43, 176 n. 2, tries to solve the problem by supposing that Basil was taught the subject at Constantinople.
(59) For Alexandrian doctors, see Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 22. 16. 18, with V. Nutton, ‘Ammianus and Alexandria’, Clio Medica 7 (1972), 165–72; Penella, Greek Philosophers, 109–17. Augustine, Civ. 22. 8, shows the authority of Alexandrian medicine in practice.
(60) The same term πατρίς is used twice immediately afterwards, at Or. 7. 9, specifically in reference to Nazianzus. The estate of Gregory's friend Philagrius, who would have studied with Caesarius also (Anthologia Graeca 8. 100), may well have been in the city territory of Nazianzus.
(61) Gregory mentions his own parallel pursuit of his ‘passion for rhetoric’ at Palestinian Caesarea at Or. 7. 6; he makes no reference here to his own stint in Alexandria. At Anth. Gr. 8. 91 he credits Caesarius with mastery of six disciplines, including grammar and (as the summit) ‘the might of rhetoric’.
(62) Eunapius, VS 502 (ed. Wright, 550).
(63) In Ep. 1 Gregory cites the need to tend his parents as his excuse for not joining Basil; in Ep. 2 he offers the counter-proposal that Basil should join him at Nazianzus. For general background, see McLynn, ‘A Self-Made Holy Man: The Case of Gregory Nazianzen’, JECS 6 (1998), 463–83, at 467–8.
(64) Greg. Naz., Epp. 4–6, replying serially to Basil, Ep. 14; the fact that Gregory refers directly to Basil's letter in the first of his replies, despite having paid an extended visit to his friend in Pontus before writing it, is clear evidence that this correspondence is constructed as a dialogue for the benefit of readers.
(65) For the context and organization of the letter collection, see McLynn, ‘Gregory Nazianzen's Basil’, 183–90.
(66) The point is well made, in relation to Basil, by P. Rousseau, Basil of Caesarea (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994), 57–8, 70–2.
(67) In this respect the alternatives offered by O'Donnell, Augustine: Confessions, ii. 274, are unduly restrictive: to avoid reducing Augustine to a ‘worn-out pedant exhibiting his expertise’, he makes the project ‘a serious and original contribution to philosophical literature’.