Body and Gender, Soul and Reason in Late Antiquity: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Body and Gender, Soul and Reason in Late Antiquity

1st Edition

By Gillian Clark


346 pages

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Hardback: 9781409423751
pub: 2011-06-28
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What does it mean to say that a human being is body and soul, and how does each affect the other? Late antique philosophers, Christians included, asked these central questions. The papers collected here explore their answers, and use those answers to ask further questions, reading Iamblichus, Porphyry, Augustine and others in their social and intellectual context. Among the topics dealt with are the following. Humans are mortal rational beings, so how does the mortal body affect the rational soul? The body needs food: what foods are best for the soul, and is it right to eat animal foods if animals are less rational than humans? The body is gendered for reproduction: are reason and the soul also gendered? Ascetic lifestyles may free our bodies from the limitations of gender and desire, so that our souls are free to reconnect with the divine; but this need must be balanced with the claims of family and society. Philosophers asked whether life in the body is exile for the soul; Christians defended their claim that body as well as soul would live after death, and even the smallest fragment of a martyr's body is proof of resurrection.


'As Gillian Clark is a leading historian of late antiquity, this volume of eighteen papers is quite welcome. Scholars have been contending with the dispersal of these papers from 1993 to 2005 in journals and edited volumes. Thanks to this volume, appreciating the range of [Clark's] thought will be an easier task.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review 'These 18 chapters give an excellent portrayal of a scholar’s work on and love for the prominent philosophic figures of Late Antiquity and their works… the publication of these papers in one volume is a valuable asset in the libri of a researcher with a special interest in Late Antiquity.' Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Part I Bodies and Minds: the Limits of Reason: The Fathers and the children; Cosmic sympathies: nature as the expression of divine purpose; The Fathers and the animals: the rule of reason?; Animal passions. Part II Bodies and Gender: Christian Challenges: Women and asceticism in late antiquity: the refusal of status and gender; 'The bright frontier of friendship': Augustine and the Christian body as frontier; Adam's womb (Augustine, Confessions 13.28) and the salty sea; Bodies and blood: late antique debate on martyrdom, virginity and resurrection; The old Adam: the Fathers and the unmaking of masculinity; Adam's engendering: Augustine on gender and creation; In the foreskin of your flesh': the pure male body in late antiquity. Part III Bodies and Souls: the Philosophic Life: Victricius of Rouen: Praising the Saints; Translating relics: Victricius of Rouen and 4th-century debate; Translate into Greek: Porphyry of Tyre on the new barbarians; Philosophic Lives and the philosophic life: Porphyry and Iamblicus; Fattening the soul: Christian asceticism and Porphyry On Abstinence; The health of the spiritual athlete; Do try this at home: the domestic philosopher in late antiquity; Addenda; Index.

About the Author

Until her retirement in 2010, Professor Gillian Clark was Professor of Ancient History at the University of Bristol, UK.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Ancient & Classical