Firmicus Maternus’ Mathesis and the intellectual culture of the fourth century AD
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The focus of this thesis is Firmicus Maternus, his text the Mathesis, and their place in the intellectual culture of the fourth century AD. There are two sections to this thesis. The first part considers the two questions which have dominated the scholarship on the Mathesis and relate to the context of the work: the date of composition and Firmicus’ faith at the time. Chapter 1 separates these questions and reconsiders them individually through an analysis of the three characters which appear throughout the text: Firmicus, the emperor, and the addressee Mavortius. The second part of the thesis considers the Mathesis within the intellectual culture of the fourth century. It examines how Firmicus establishes his authority as a didactic astrologer, with an emphasis on Firmicus’ use of his sources. Chapter 2 examines which sources are credited. It considers the argument that Manilius is an uncredited source through an analysis of the astrological theory of the Mathesis and the Astronomica. In addition, the astrological theory of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos is compared to the Mathesis to assess Firmicus’ use of his named sources. The methods that Firmicus uses to assert his authority, including his use of sources, are compared to other didactic authors, both astrological or Late Antique in Chapter 3. This chapter examines whether Firmicus’ suppression and falsifying of sources is found in other didactic literature. Chapter 4 considers possible reasons for the omission of Manilius’ name and also the effect that this has had on intellectual culture and the place of the Mathesis within it.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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