This workshop is a development of a panel held at the most recent SCS meeting, organized by Matt Watton and Peter Osorio. The panel was an opportunity to discuss recent work at the intersection of Roman philosophy and Platonic reception studies, both fields that have seen an increasing amount of interest but with only few studies that attempt to bridge the two. With five papers and a response, the panel centered around Cicero, Apuleius, and Augustine. Contributors addressed problems of philosophical rhetoric, antagonism towards the theoretical life, Roman religious reform, Latin commentators’ domestication of myth, and the Platonic curriculum. The response aimed to give methodological structure to the panel by defending Roman philosophy as a fruitful approach for studying Platonic thought against two concerns, that Roman identity might too particular and Platonism too universal to bear on each other. The discussions that arose from the panelists was heartening, because it suggested to us that there is a lot more to be done.
We see at least two immediate boons for historians of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy from this work. First, Platonists can help thicken out the corpus of Roman philosophy, which in practice is so often narrowed to a band from the late Republic to the first century, as if Roman society ceased to impact the production of philosophy after Seneca. Of course, the exclusion of late antiquity has its own convenience: the historian of Roman philosophy can leave the complexities of Christian philosophy to other specialists. But while some like Augustine were bishops, Roman Platonists also carried the offices of non-Christian priests (Apuleius), prefects (Macrobius), consuls (Boethius), and emperors (Julian). Understanding the thought of such figures demands confronting their identities in a Roman world. Second, the careful historical work of Roman philosophy ought to yield new insights into the development of Platonist traditions, since Roman law and colonization affected the structure of society across the Mediterranean far beyond any terminus for the importance of the city of Rome itself. Behind these hopes, too, is our presumption that careful history of philosophy will yield philosophical insights of their own.
Details will follow here as available.