Monday, 4 July 2011

Arthur Urbano - "Dressing the Christian": The Philosopher's Mantle as Signifier of Pedagogical and Moral Authority in Late Antiquity

In early Christian iconography, Jesus and the saints are often depicted dressed in the mantle of the Greek philosophers, called the "pallium" in Latin, and the "tribon" in Greek.  Art historians, such as Thomas Mathews and Robin Jensen, have interpreted these images in light of the iconography of Greek and Roman deities, while others, such as Paul Zanker, have given ample attention to them in the context of philosopher portraiture.  Literary evidence demonstrates that this style of dress was not limited to portraiture, but that some early Christian teachers wore this costume as a public, visual expression of their status, communicating their intellectual expertise and moral authority to other Christians, as well as to those outside the Christian flock.  In this short communication, I will examine the literary evidence of Christians adopting the "philosopher's look" from the second through fourth centuries, including Justin Martyr, Tertullian, the martyrs of Palestine (Eusebius), and Maximus the Cynic, bishop of Constantinople (380), whom Pope Damasus criticized for his long hair and style of dress.  My analysis of the material will employ questions of costume theory (e.g., Judith Lynn Sebesta, Jonathan Edmondson) as it applies to the significations of clothing in the Roman world, and cultural competition (e.g., Pierre Boudieu) as it applies to the participation of Christians within the shifting contours of the philosophical culture of Late Antiquity.  Consideration will be given to both positive and negative valuations of the "philosopher's look," the latter evident in Athanasius' Life of Antony and the letters of Pope Damasus.

No comments:

Post a Comment