Philosophy in the Roman Empire: Ethics, Politics and Society, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Philosophy in the Roman Empire

Ethics, Politics and Society, 1st Edition

By Michael Trapp


300 pages

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Drawing on unusually broad range of sources for this study of Imperial period philosophical thought, Michael Trapp examines the central issues of personal morality, political theory, and social organization: philosophy as the pursuit of self-improvement and happiness; the conceptualization and management of emotion; attitudes and obligations to others; ideas of the self and personhood; constitutional theory and the ruler; the constituents and working of the good community. Texts and thinkers discussed range from Alexander of Aphrodisias, Aspasius and Alcinous, via Hierocles, Seneca, Musonius, Epictetus, Plutarch and Diogenes of Oenoanda, to Dio Chrysostom, Apuleius, Lucian, Maximus of Tyre, Pythagorean pseudepigrapha, and the Tablet of Cebes. The distinctive doctrines of the individual philosophical schools are outlined, but also the range of choice that collectively they presented to the potential philosophical 'convert', and the contexts in which that choice was encountered. Finally Trapp turns his attention to the status of philosophy itself as an element of the elite culture of the period, and to the ways in which philosophical values may have posed a threat to other prevalent schemes of value; Trapp argues that the idea of 'philosophical opposition', though useful, needs to be substantially modified and extended.


"…an up-to-date, concise, nuanced analysis of the philosophical literature of the period…this book offers clear writing, anglicized transliterations, and a bio-bibliographic appendix that make it accessible…Highly recommended.’ Choice ’Trapp's study of ethical thought in the continuations of the Hellenistic schools and derivative contexts provides us with a reference work of lasting value - and much food for further thought’ Aestimation ’This is the most stimulating and welcome book, taking, as it does, a synoptic view of the general thrust of philosophical discourse in the period of the Roman Empire… All in all, a most refreshing and stimulating study, placing the philosophos securely in the society which he inhabited.’ Sehepunkte ’[Trapp] has written a most readable and challenging guide to a complex and burgeoning period in the history of ancient philosophy…"

- Journal of Roman Studies

"All in all, Michael Trapp's book is an interesting overview and discussion of a clearly interesting and important period of philosophy in a transformative culture that changed how philosophy theorized about political legitimacy and power. Trapp's book is a detailed introduction not just about the most important philosophical discussions, but also gives a very readable introduction to the different prevalent philosophical schools. His methodology of juxtaposing the different schools against each other, while concentrating on the most marked differences between these schools, allows the reader to get a better grip on the philosophical schools."

- Harry Whitzthum, Metapsychology journal

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; 'Ethics', 'philosophy' and philosophia; Perfection and progress; The passions; Self, person and individual; Self and others; Politics 1: constitutions and the ruler; Politics 2: good communities; Politics 3: philosophia in politics and the community; Philosophia and the mainstream; Appendix; Bibliography; Indexes.

About the Author

Michael Trapp is Professor of Greek Literature and Thought at King's College London, UK. He has previously published an edition and a translation of the Discourses of Maximus of Tyre, and a wide range of papers on the philosophy and philosphical literature of the Imperial period. His most recent works are Greek and Latin Letters. An Anthology (CUP, 2003), and two volumes of edited papers Socrates from Antiquity to the Enlightenment and Socrates in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (both Ashgate, 2007).

About the Series

Ashgate Ancient Philosophy Series

Ashgate Ancient Philosophy Series
The Ashgate Ancient Philosophy Series presents an exciting cluster of high profile titles spanning critical areas of contemporary international research and study. The unique structure of the series takes account both of key periods and of key themes. The periods covered in the series are: Pre-Socratics, Socrates and the Minor Socratics; Plato; Aristotle; The Hellenistic world; and Philosophy in the Roman Empire. The key themes covered in the series are: Physics and Metaphysics; Soul, Mind and Theory of Knowledge; Language & Logic; Ethics; Politics & Society. Publishing individual books within this unique structure, this series provides a platform for exciting new work which aims to integrate approaches from both philosophical and classical perspectives, giving a specific focus on theme and period while setting the analysis within the wider contexts both of the period and of the theme. This series will prove of particular value individual academics, postgraduates, graduates, and upper-level students and other scholarly readers world-wide.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General