University of Notre Dame
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Greek Past, Roman Present

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posted on 2023-04-25, 00:00 authored by Jack Oster

This thesis investigates the writings of three Greek-speaking Roman citizens, Plutarch, Cassius Dio, and the emperor Julian, to determine how they negotiate between the inheritance of Classical Hellenism and their present circumstances living in the Roman Empire. Kaldellis (2007) has written extensively on the way that Hellenism was received and understood within the Byzantine Empire, while Elm (2012) and Athanassiadi-Fowden (1981) trace Julian’s intellectual development. Simon Swain has written many articles and books on Plutarch and his view of the past, while Millar (1964) has analyzed Cassius Dio’s writing and his relationship with the Romans. Plutarch serves as a baseline, identifying himself consistently with the Classical Greeks while also attempting to determine the comparisons between Greek and Roman culture and history. Cassius Dio, on the other hand, always calls himself a Roman and has very little interest in the culture of Ancient Greece, although he knew it well. Julian places himself in the middle of these previous two. He also always identifies as a Roman, but is very interested in Hellenism and developed an ideology and religious system in which Greek and Roman elements were combined into one seamless whole. Furthermore, Julian also strove to protect this cultural and religious synthesis from the rising tide of Christianity, which he viewed as deeply perverse.By analyzing these three men and their ideologies, I show that the strict distinction between Greek and Roman found in Plutarch’s writing was dissolving by the time of Dio and Julian, and a new set of markers were developing and new identities were emerging.This complicates the process of identity formation and change during Late Antiquity and Byzantium that many modern scholars simply to a great degree by attributing it to solely the rise of Christianity and offers a different, more nuanced model.


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Research Director(s)

Christopher A. Baron

Committee Members

Alexander Beihammer Hildegund Muller


  • Master of Arts

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  • Master's Thesis

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  • Classics (CLAS)

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