Mapping a Late Antique Republic of Letters
Conner, Elizabeth Mattingly
Holum, Kenneth G.
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This is a study of how the letters of Procopius of Gaza, Aeneas of Gaza, Synesius of Cyrene, and Isidore of Pelusium, created circuits of intellectual sociability and exchange transcending the territorial limits of Empire and thereby affirmed their participation in a common culture of Learning. The figurative model of a Republic of Letters provides a useful organizational heuristic that illuminates the social phenomena to which these letters point: intellectual sodality conducted through the medium of a classicizing sociolect regulated by strictures of genteel conduct and the shared perception of the morality of the pursuit of knowledge. Understanding these letters as forming a Republic of Letters, I contribute to the study of social networking in Late Antiquity by elucidating the specific communications mechanisms the letter writers deployed to build ever-shifting networks of friends and colleagues. I explore the topography of identities and affiliations that these long-neglected epistolographers developed through epistolary conversations, and examine how these discursive representations suggest the letter authors' participation in greater rhythms of change and continuity in the Later Empire.