Whose poetry, whose paideia, whose tradition? – Late Antique Debates on the Greco-Roman Cultural Heritage

Maijastina Kahlos

As is well-known, many Christian writers of the 4th and 5th centuries were trapped in a troubled and ambivalent relationship with the Greco-Roman literature (often referred to as profane, classical, or pagan). Continuous apologies and confessions were part of this relationship. The most famous case is Jerome who in his angst-wrought dream was accused at a heavenly tribunal for being Ciceronianus, instead of being Christianus.

In my paper, I will discuss the late antique debates on paideia, education and especially Greek and Latin literature. I will reconsider late antique Christian attitudes to Greek and Roman literature (especially to Vergil and Homer) and Greco-Roman tradition in general. My focus will be on the famous School Edict of Emperor Julian and the responses to it of Christian writers such as Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus. Furthermore, I will look at the attitudes to the Latin literature and education in the writings of Paulinus of Nola and Augustine.


Maijastina Kahlos is a historian and a classicist from University of Helsinki. She was a research fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced

Studies from 2011-2014 and currently works as a research fellow in the Centre of Excellence ‘Reason and Religious Recognition’, funded by the Academy of Finland. Her research interests broadly include the late Roman history and the Christianisation of the Roman Empire. She is the author of Vettius Agorius Praetextatus: Senatorial Life in Between (AIRF 2002), Debate and Dialogue: Christian and Pagan Cultures, c. 360-430 (Ashgate 2007) and Forbearance and Compulsion: Rhetoric of Tolerance and Intolerance in Late Antiquity (Duckworth 2009) and the editor of The Faces of the Other: Religious Rivalry and Ethnic Encounters in the Later Roman World (Brepols 2012) and Emperors and the Divine – Rome and its Influence (COLLeGIUM 2016) and the co-editor of Spaces in Late Antiquity – Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives (Routledge 2016). She is currently working on a book provisionally entitled Religious Dissent in the Late Roman Empire: Alienation, Accommodation, and Adaptation.