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Volume 11, 2013

Études sur l'intellection, l’âme, les formes poétiques et le théâtre

Maria Carmen De Vita
Pages 37-58

Alcune variazioni sul mito di Socrate nella tarda antichita

In the rhetorical tradition of Late Antiquity, Socrates’ legend has a good fortune in the works of different rhetoricians and philosophers. In the following pages I am going to deal with some examples of this phaenomenon, through the works of Themistius and Julian the emperor : two intellectuals of the IV century who are, under many aspects, the exact opposites. They both try to ‘actualize’ Socrates’ figure, highlighting different aspects of the Athenian philosopher, on the grounds of their personal purposes of self-advertisement. So Themistius, a skilled politician working as princeps’ advisor, sees in Socrates a symbol of the ‘politikos philosophos’, who speaks plainly in public with people of all ranks, in a simple and direct way ; for Julian, emperor and philosopher of the new Hellenism, Socrates, instead, is mainly the saviour of the souls, addressing all men towards the true knowledge of themselves and the true faith in pagan gods. These portraits are complementary and both attest the ability of Late Antique intellectuals in their imitatio/aemulatio of figures and myths of Classical Antiquity.