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Cultural Contacts between the Superpowers of Late Antiquity: the Syriac School of Nisibis and the transmission of Greek educational experience to the Persian Empire

from Section III - INTELLECTUAL INTERMEDIARIES BETWEEN CULTURES

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2014

Adam Izdebski
Affiliation:
Cracow
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Summary

Introduction

Any scholar of antiquity who reads that most famous of texts created within the late antique East Syriac School of Nisibis – its Statutes, or literally, the Canons – is struck by the similarity of its institutions to those of a Graeco-Roman philosophical community. This initially surprising analogy, together with the grand scale of the school's educational project – providing students with intellectual skills ranging from basic literacy to Aristotelian logic and, finally, enabling them to interpret the Scriptures within the East Syriac exegetical tradition – has led many scholars to call this school the ‘first university of Christianity’, or even simply the ‘first university’. Although such seemingly anachronistic qualifications may not do justice to the School's actual character and wider significance, it remains true that we can demonstrate substantial parallels in a scholarly community's organisation and self-definition between the School of Nisibis and other educational centres that existed in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean during the same period.

In modern scholarship, there is a long tradition devoted to this fascinating connection. Recently, in the concluding pages of his monograph on the School of Nisibis, Adam Becker suggested that one may consider the parallels between the Nisibis community and the late antique philosophical schools to be of a very general character, and cannot be attributed to any real contact or influence.

Type
Chapter
Information
Cultures in Motion
Studies in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods
, pp. 185 - 204
Publisher: Jagiellonian University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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