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Eusebius of Caesarea’s Un-Platonic Platonic Political Theology

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 School of Philosophy, The Catholic University of America, Washington, dc 20064, USAlewisb@cua.edu
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Eusebius of Caesarea drew heavily on pagan philosophy in developing the first Christian political theology. His quotations from Plato’s most political work, the Laws, are so extensive that they are treated as a manuscript authority by modern editors. Yet Eusebius’s actual use of the Laws is oddly detached from Plato’s own political intentions in that work, adapting it to a model of philosophical kingship closer to the Republic and applied to the emperor Constantine. For Eusebius the Laws mainly shows the agreement of Christian and pagan morality, while his political theory centers on the establishment and maintenance of a Christian empire under a Christian emperor who is a philosopher-king. His view represents one of the fundamental political options in ancient Christianity, one that influenced later Byzantine political theology, but was largely rejected in the west.

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