BMCR 2001.08.12

Die Welt des Sokrates von Konstantinopel

, , , Die Welt des Sokrates von Konstantinopel : Studien zu Politik, Religion und Kultur im späten 4. und frühen 5. Jh. n. Chr. zu Ehren von Christoph Schäublin. Munich and Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 2001. x, 219 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 3598730039

The title promises more than the book delivers, as the editors themselves point out disarmingly in their foreword. The papers, in honour of Christoph Schäublin, grew out of a seminar series on the text of Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History, which was held in the University of Bern from 1993-1999, attended by philologists and theologians. The result therefore focuses more on Socrates’ text than one might expect from something entitled The World of Socrates of Constantinople. As someone who has worked on the Ecclesiastical History for several years, I welcome this volume as an advance and a sign that its author is at last receiving the recognition he deserves. Perhaps someone will take up the challenge and give us a wider study of the social context in which he was writing.

The most satisfying aspect of the collection is the trio of papers in the middle which discuss different aspects of the issue of classical education in late antiquity, with the scope of the pieces gradually expanding. Christoph Eucken looks at philosophy and dialectic in Socrates’ history. Socrates famously argues that we need a classical education to help us defeat our enemies. The scriptures may have fine doctrines, but they do not teach us how to argue. Thomas Gelzer develops the theme by examining further Socrates’ respect for pagan education. Alfred Stückelberger then goes on to set the subject against the backdrop of the situation more generally in the later empire.

For those with a working knowledge of Socrates’ text the more interesting articles are those which venture beyond it. Very useful is Therese Fuhrer’s discussion of one of Socrates’ sources, Rufinus, while Thomas Hidber examines Socrates’ position historiographically speaking, starting with Socrates’ own starting place, that is Eusebius, and noting echoes of Thucydides. Werner Schubert, perhaps inspired by his own name, uses Socrates’ history as a springboard to discuss music in late antiquity. Heinz-Günther Nesselrath explores the popular and important subject of representations of the Emperor Julian in the late fourth and fifth centuries.

The papers which deal more specifically with Socrates’ text take existing debates further. Joachim Szidat discusses Socrates’ views of the relationship between church and state and the connection between peace and disruption in the two spheres. Bernhard Neuschäfter takes as his subject the depiction of Origen by Socrates, while Balbina Bäbler examines Socrates’ account of the conversions of Georgia. Martin George concludes the volume with an examination of the depiction of monks in the Ecclesiastical History.

Die Welt des Sokrates von Konstantinopel is a most welcome addition to the study of the early church and late antique historiography, as well as at least providing a starting point for a future ‘world of Socrates’.