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Sosipatra of Pergamum

Philosopher and Oracle

by (author) Heidi Marx

Oxford University Press
Initial publish date
Jun 2021
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2021
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2021
    List Price

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The story of Sosipatra of Pergamum (4th century C.E.) as told by her biographer, Eunapius of Sardis in his Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists, is a remarkable tale. It is the story of an elite young girl from the area of Ephesus, who was educated by traveling oracles (daemons), and who grew up to lead her own philosophy school on the west coast of Asia Minor. She was also a prophet of sorts, channeling divine messages to her students, family, and friends, and foretelling the future.

Sosipatra of Pergamum is the first sustained, book length attempt to tell the story of this mysterious woman. It presents a rich contextualization of the brief and highly fictionalized portrait provided by Eunapius. In doing so, the book explores the cultural and political landscape of late ancient Asia Minor, especially the areas around Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, and Smyrna. It also discusses moments in Sosipatra's life for what they reveal more generally about women's lives in Late Antiquity in the areas of childhood, education, family, household, motherhood, widowhood, and professional life. Her career sheds light on late Roman Platonism, its engagement with religion, ritual, and "magic," and the role of women in this movement. By thoroughly examining the ancient evidence, Heidi Marx recovers a hidden yet important figure from the rich intellectual traditions of the Roman Near East.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Heidi Marx is Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and the author of Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority: Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century CE.