Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Blossom Stefaniw: Curating the Patrimony: Julian, Didymus, and Schools

In 362, the emperor Julian issued a rescript (Ep 37) stating that Christians would no longer be allowed to “expound the writings of the ancients.” He argues that a mismatch between the beliefs about the gods represented in the texts and the convictions of the instructor is not acceptable, because a teacher is not only responsible for instructing young people in “laboriously acquired symmetry of phrases and language” but also for forming their minds and morals.
Since the “writings of the ancients” taught in schools represented the literary patrimony of elite Roman culture, such a rescript, by connecting religion and education, defined Christians and their beliefs as different, parochial, and separate from the Roman universal.

This paper will read the writings of Didymus contained in the Tura Papyri and composed around 370 as a reaction to Julian's rescript. By means of a radical re-examination of these texts as lesson transcripts which match directly with what we know of the work of grammarians throughout Egypt in the fourth century, it can be shown that Didymus is a grammarian who teaches the same methods and subject matter as his colleagues, with the same view both to imparting advanced language skills and moral formation, but having replaced the “writings of the ancients” with the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. Didymus responds to Julian's requirement to match belief and text by slotting Christian scriptures into the place of the universal, thus curating the literary and moral patrimony for a Christian future.

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