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Anonymus Iamblichi and Nomos: Beyond the Sophistic Discourse

In: Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek and Roman Political Thought
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  • 1 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Philosophy Section, University of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
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Abstract

The paper challenges the traditional assumption that the fragments of ‘Anonymus Iamblichi’ (Diels-Kranz 89) are best understood and interpreted against the intellectual and cultural background of the so-called ‘sophistic movement’. I begin by suggesting that we can distinguish, in the fragments, between two separate ‘discourses’ concerning nomos (‘law’) and its role in human life: an abstract ‘sophistic’ discourse, centered around the defense of nomos against the antinomian champions of natural pleonexia, and another, less abstract and more polemical discourse on nomos, which is aimed at the author’s contemporary Athens. I argue that the author’s engagement with well-known sophistic ideas is best understood as instrumental to his polemical agenda: it provides him with a powerful intellectual framework in which to articulate his criticism of democratic society, especially with regard to traditional notions of social ‘benefaction’ and the relation between rich and poor.

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