of his day - Arianism, Eunomianism, Encratism and Marcionite Gnosticism -from the perspective of the fifth-century Christological disputes.81

Florilegia were also often attached to the acts of church councils. They might include forgeries, or texts spuriously attributed to more reputable sources than the original author. Their aim was to illustrate that the 'orthodox' position followed predecessors, and was therefore safe from innovation, which was tantamount to heterodoxy. Such collections of excerpts were distinct from catenae, a method of textual commentary that originated with the pagan Procopius of Gaza. Christian catenae were collections of interpretations for particular verses of scripture, strung together as if in a chain.


Perhaps the best example of early Christian biography is Jerome's De viris illustribus, written in 392/3. This was loosely modelled on the silver age Latin author Suetonius' biographies of Roman poets (Depoetis) and his Degrammati-cis et rhetoribus. Jerome states in his preface to the work that he wished to 'do for our writers what he [Suetonius] did in chronicling eminent secular authors'.82 He was careful to identify the pedigree for this sort of enterprise among Greek and Roman authors. Jerome focused strictly on famous Christian writers 'who have published anything memorable on the Holy Scriptures',83 with entries starting from Simon Peter the apostle and ending with himself. Other significant authors, such as the anonymous scholar known as Ambrosiaster, did not rate a mention.

Jerome also availed himself ofthe opportunity to make certain snide remarks about his enemies, who were not few. For instance, of Ambrose he wrote: Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, continues to write. Since he is still alive I shall withhold my judgment lest, should I express any opinion, I be blamed for either flattery or truthfulness' (De vir. ill. 124).84 Jerome had already accused Ambrose of plagiarising Greek sources in De Spiritu Sancto, of which work Jerome, adapting a Terentian tag, claims, 'I saw bad things in Latin taken from good things in Greek.' For Jerome to accuse anyone of plagiarism is ironic, considering his own great debt to Origen.85

Jerome was unusual in applying such a modern standard of literary criticism to his contemporaries. Most Christian writers, in keeping with the

81 Tompkins, The relations between Theodoret of Cyrrhus and his city and its territory, 238.

82 Jerome, On illustrious men, preface (FOTC 100: 1).

83 Ibid.

84 Cited by Ramsey, Ambrose, 53.

85 See for example Heine, The commentaries of Origen and Jerome.

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