Christian Hervik Bull (postdoc UiO) Neoplatonism and Hermetism in the Anthology of Stobaeus
Fyodor Bronnikov, Pythagoreans celebrating sunrise (1869)
På årets siste seminar vil Christian Hervik Bull holde et seminarinnlegg med tittelen "Neoplatonism and Hermetism in the Anthology of Stobaeus". Christian er religionsviter med PhD fra Universitetet i Bergen. Han har for tiden et såkalt mobilitetsstipend fra NFR nettopp for å forske på de hermetiske utdragene i Stobaeus. Et mobilitetsstipend innebærer at postdocen har to år ute og ett år ved en norsk institusjon. Christian har vært to år i Princeton og har nå et siste år hos oss ved IFIKK. Han har nettopp utgitt boken The Tradition of Hermes Trismegistus på Brill forlag.
The Hermetic writings were ostensibly written by the Egyptian god Thoth, known as Hermes Trismegistus in Greek. They were composed around the beginning of the Common Era, and were heavily influenced by Greek philosophy, in particular Platonism and Stoicism. Excerpts from these writings are found side by side with Greek philosophers, poets, and statesmen in the extensive anthology gathered by John of Stobi, commonly known as Stobaeus, a Macedonian active in the late fourth or early fifth century. This anthology became popular in Late Antiquity and the Byzantine Empire, and it is our only source of several ancient philosophical and poetical texts.
Although we know next to nothing about Stobaeus the man, an investigation of his use of the Hermetic excerpts and his chapter headings may illuminate the religious and philosophical milieu in which he gathered his anthology. I will argue that the most plausible backdrop of Stobaeus is the Athenian school of Neoplatonism before Proclus became its head, where it seems that the Hermetica played a central role that would later be taken over by the Chaldean Oracles. Stobaeus follows the Neoplatonic philosopher Iamblichus in making Hermes the first link of a philosophia perennis – an imagined tradition of ancient and divine Egyptian wisdom, ostensibly drawn upon by both Pythagoras and Plato. Contemporary Christian intellectuals such as Cyril of Alexandria and Augustine shared this view, but made Hermes the inheritor of Moses. Stobaeus thus makes use of Hermes in a competitive discourse about who was the first philosopher, the Egyptian Hermes or the Hebrew Moses.