Physiognomy as a Strategy of Persuasion in Early Christian Discourse
by Callie Callon
A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department for the Study of Religion University of Toronto
© by Callie Callon 2015
Physiognomy as a Strategy of Persuasion in Early Christian Discourse
Doctor of Philosophy
Department for the Study of Religion
University of Toronto
Abstract Ancient physiognomic thought held that the body and soul were intrinsically related, and that observation of a subject's physical appearance provided insight into his or her character. Beyond being a diagnostic tool, however, physiognomy was also used as a strategy of persuasion to bolster or malign an individual's character to an author or speaker's audience, and appears in a host of different ancient genres. However, with a few notable exceptions, the important role that physiognomic thought played in early Christian texts and discourse has not received the scholarly attention it warrants. The following addresses some of the different ways in which physiognomy was employed as a form of rhetoric by early Christians. It was utilized as a means of undermining or discrediting theological opponents or "heretics" on the one hand, but as a strategy for positive self-representation among their own detractors on the other. Some early
Christians also used physiognomy to reinforce their understanding of Paul as a philosopher: the description of Paul's physical appearance in the Acts of Paul and Thecla is best understood as designed to evoke the image of the prototypical ancient philosopher in general, and Socrates in particular. Here the importance placed on "looking the part" of a given type of person in antiquity underlies this presentation. Related to this, this dissertation also addresses the phenomenon that arises when the opposite is the case, namely the conception of Jesus as being physically unattractive based on a literal interpretation of the suffering servant imagery in Isaiah.
This dissertation demonstrates that physiognomic thought held important persuasive traction for early Christian authors negotiating boundaries and ideologies of group self-identity.
Table of Contents
Chapter One Overview of Ancient Physiognomy and the State of the Question 1
Chapter Two The Physiognomy of a Heretic: Physiognomic Polemic as a component of Persuasion in demarcating "Insiders" and "Outsiders" 40
Chapter Three What do you do with an Ugly Saviour?: The Negative Descriptions of the Physical Appearance of Jesus and their Respective Roles in the Rhetoric of Persuasion 89
Chapter Four The Unibrow That Never Was and the Not-So-Many Faces of Paul: A Proposal to Give Paul's Appearance in the Acts of Paul and Thecla a Make-Over 118
Chapter Five The Physiognomy of the (Ideal) Early Christian 141
Appendix 1 188
List of Figures (in Appendix 1)
Figure 1: The Apostle Paul in the Catacomb of St. Thecla, Rome.
Figure 2: Socrates (Roman Copy from the Third century BCE).
In contemporary society persons are discouraged from drawing inferences from appearance:
"never judge a book by its cover" is an often spouted piece of advice when it comes to judging a person's character by way of his or her physique, ethnicity, or bodily comportment. Despite the fact that many of us nonetheless do so — at least on some intuitive level, even if it is not by deliberate and conscious analysis — it is still for the most part a condemned practice. This would have struck persons in antiquity as decidedly odd, if not to say a rather foolish missed opportunity. Rather, intuitive assessment of character predicated on physical appearance was developed into a widely accepted system of thought, and one that was by no means shunned but instead held cultural traction. In antiquity the body mattered as a means of indicating and assessing a person's character — it was deemed an infallible guide to discerning flaws and moral shortcomings that the subject would prefer to keep concealed, as well as to vindicate or prove moral superiority in one's self or those who one wished to praise.
Given that this system of thought had such broad traction — even if specific physical attributes had a varying valence of meaning dependent on a given context — it is little wonder that it was also employed in discourses of persuasion. Although it was ultimately a subjective enterprise, many authors employed this system of thought to provide physical 'proof' of an author or orator's claims about a person's (or persons') character. In turn, capitalizing on a person's physical appearance for rhetorical purposes was considered fair game, and a rather popular one at that. It allowed for the physical to participate in the realm of the rhetorical, and the two mutually reinforced each other.
While this agonistic and rhetorical component of physiognomic thought has been discussed among classical scholars of antiquity, very little attention has been paid to how early
Christian writers also engaged in this form of rhetorical persuasion. The following argues that many of these authors were not terribly different from their non-Christian contemporaries in utilizing physiognomic thought and tropes in discourses that sought to persuade an audience of both positive virtues of themselves and other members of their communities to demonstrate moral superiority, as well as to prove to an audience that their negative opinions of their opponents were accurate assessments, where the moral shortcomings of their opponents were proved by their physical appearance.
While discourses of persuasion and cultivation of identity and group identity among early
Christian authors has been addressed by scholars generally, this particular component of rhetorical strategy has not received the attention it warrants. Examination of this often overlooked aspect of early Christian discourse provides fresh insight into their rhetorical strategy, and additionally demonstrates that despite our anachronistic division between the
"body" and "soul" and a tendency to assume the latter was of sole concern to many of these authors, for many early Christians the former was considered to be some degree an means of discerning — and indeed "proving" — the condition of latter.
Such an examination is important because it sheds light on a component of discourse that was widely employed in a variety of different situations that required additional elements of persuasion. This in turn allows for an appreciation of this so far rather neglected form of rhetorical polemic and praise among early Christian communities and authors. So far, examinations of the rhetorical discourse in early Christian self-definition have only addressed
part of the picture regarding persuasive tactics. The present work fills in these gaps and shows that there was a visual element that played a role in this discourse.
This work investigates how some early Christian authors utilized physiognomic thought as rhetorical strategy: as a means of denigrating their theological opponents and forging group boundaries as pertained to heretics, as a means to portray Paul as the proto-typical philosopher, and as a strategy for self-representation to demonstrate their moral superiority to Greco-Roman outsiders. The work also addresses the rather curious tension between the importance of "looking the part" for a figure thought to be divine or divinely favoured, and the conception of Jesus as physically unattractive.
What follows seeks to establish physiognomic consciousness as an important component of early Christian rhetoric, particularly as employed for the purpose of persuasion. The authors that I address can be shown to have operated with this physiognomic consciousness, and the work examines how this influenced their rhetorical strategies.
Chapter One: Overview of Ancient Physiognomy and the State of the Question
In 76 BCE Marcus Tullius Cicero undertook the defence of Quintus Roscius Gallus. Roscius was a Roman actor being sued on the contention that he had swindled the litigator C. Fannius
Chaerea out of a substantial amount of money. In order to convince his audience that Roscius' character would not lend itself to such deceit but that Chaerea's certainly would, Cicero invites the jury to consult the latter's physical appearance on display before them. Cicero queries:
Doesn't that head and those eyebrows so closely shaved seem to reek of evil intent and scream out sharp practice? If a person's silent face allows any conjecture, doesn't Chaerea's whole body, from the tips of his toes to the top of his head, seem to unite in showing him made of cheating and trickery? His eyes, brows, forehead, in sum, the whole face, which is the speech of the unspoken mind, has 1 brought people to commit crimes of deception.
While in a modern courtroom an appeal to the physical character traits of persons involved in a case would likely be laughed out of court, this excerpt from Cicero's defence speech clearly illustrates the persuasive power that physiognomy — the perceived correlation between physical appearance and moral character — held in the ancient world. Unlike idealized modern commonplaces which discourage persons from making these sorts of inferences (to resist judging a book by its cover, regardless of how often this might happen in actual practice), in antiquity forging these connections was not only commonly accepted practice, but deemed an accurate diagnostic tool for discerning a individual's "true" character or moral disposition.2 By extension,
1Rosc. com. 7.20 (Freese, LCL). This passage is also cited by Tamsyn S. Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine Under the Roman Empire (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), 112-13. 2 Mladen Popović briefly discusses the similarities and differences between ancient physiognomy and contemporary tendencies to form an opinion of a given individual based on his or her appearance, dress and mannerisms. While modern evaluations of this type are similar to physiognomy in that certain assumptions and prejudices play a role in forming an evaluation of a person's character based on appearance, Popović rightly notes that this contemporary practice is quite different from the ancient practice of physiognomy in that "[a]lthough preconceptions undoubtedly
as I will show, it proved exceedingly useful in situations where maligning or bolstering a given person's character was of interest to the author or speaker. Physiognomics played an important role in the art of persuasion in the ancient world.
The underlying logic of the principles of physiognomy were predicated on the view that the body and soul were sympathetically related and intrinsically intertwined, and that each acted upon the other. The view that "body and soul react on each other"3 provided the basis for the physiognomic belief that moral character could be discerned by external physical characteristics, including how one comported or cultivated one's body. As Sextus Empiricus remarks, "the body is a kind of expression of the soul, as in fact is proved by the science of physiognomy."4 On this understanding, aspects of an individual's physical appearance were scrutinized and evaluated on the belief that the proper understanding of a given physical trait would reveal insight into a person's character. Physicality was inextricably linked with and provided insight into morality.
To put this in modern terminology, the physical was thus considered a reliable portal into the internal, which, as discussed below, was of even keener importance in a face-to-face society such
5 as the ancient Mediterranean.
play a role, this is hardly applying in a conscious way a fixed set of rules for judging the physical traits of someone else as indications of his or her personality. It is precisely this conscious reflection on the body as signifier and what is signified by it that characterizes the art of physiognomics in a more formal sense" (Mladen Popović, Reading the Human Body: Physiognomics and Astrology in the Dead Sea Scrolls and Hellenistic-Early Roman Period Judaism (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 2. 3Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn. 808b (Hett, LCL). 4 Sextus Empiricus, Pyr., 1.85 (Bury, LCL). 5 Admittedly the distinction I draw between "external" and "internal" is problematically anachronistic, given that these divisions are a modern conception and there is little evidence that such a division existed in ancient thought — indeed, this lack of distinction is one of the principles of physiognomy itself. As Dale B. Martin suggests, "... physiognomists could confidently predict a person's character by reading the body, because the physical makeup of the person's body necessarily constructed and contained those essences and substances that we would call 'psychological' states'" (Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], 19.). On
Remarkably little about a person's physical appearance was left unevaluated in ancient physiognomy. Any aspect of physicality, no matter how unimportant to a modern audience could be given physiognomic readings: "The physiognomist draws his data from movements, shapes and colours, and from habits as appearing in the face, from the growth of hair, from the smoothness of the skin, from voice, from the condition of the flesh, from parts of the body, and from the general character of the body."6 Not only how one looked but also how one cultivated and comported one's body were ripe for physiognomic analysis, and thought to be equally indicative of character (discussed further below). These components of physicality were subject to numerous analytical dissections that provided a minutia of detail of description and inferences to be drawn for an individual's character. Yet, as Mladen Popović rightly notes, "[a]lthough the physical descriptions seem to evolve into ever more complex and nuanced distinctions, the characterization of people stays broadly within familiar stereotypes, as known from, for example,
Theophrastus."7 Thus, despite the intricate specifications that comprise aspects of physical appearance, the "type" of character that they indicate is not nearly so varied, there being a sense of stock "types" of persons in the ancient world, predicated on the idea of having a disposition towards a particular virtue or vice.
One of the premises of physiognomy was also what (somewhat circularly) bolstered its appeal: the appeal to what was deemed "self-evident" and grounded in nature. Physiognomy was understood as a reliable and impartial tool with which to understand and categorize others, in
occasion I nonetheless tentatively employ these terms despite their clear shortcomings in an attempt to make clear how ancient thought on this subject can be understood by a modern audience. 6 Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn., 808a. 7 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 98. Here Popović here refers to Theophrastus' division of "types" of people — 30 types in all (for example, the flatterer, the ironic person, etc) — although Theophrastus does not relate physical descriptions of these types.
accordance with "nature" or how the cosmological world had arranged things. Thus was deemed all the more persuasive as it was thus couched as an objective truth that could be arrived at by empirical observation and being cognizant of what these observations indicated. It was deemed a form of objective knowledge of the nature of things, a science or art (ηέρλε)8 in its own right.
This appeal to the so-thought objective permitted the belief that physiognomy could be relied upon to detect a moral failing that the subject might otherwise try to conceal.9 The reality, of course, is that this appeal to objectivity merely masked cultural and ideological assumptions and commonly held conventions, perpetuating socially constructed perspectives. As Maria Michela
Sassi remarks, "... a bodily feature is judged according to the general impression produced by the individual, who is in turn influenced by that same feature and by the meaning it carries in a context clearly structured by a scale of social values."10 Nonetheless, despite this clear absence of any "natural" component to appeal to, physiognomy was still understood as something of a scientific undertaking, predicated on empirical observation and the processes of deduction.11
Sassi has formulated the underlying rational of the practice as a logical syllogism, recreated here:
8Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn., 806A. 9And it was gradually understood that all individuals had some sort of moral shortcoming they would wish to hide. As Gleason ( ―The Semiotics of Gender: Physiogomy and Self-Fashioning in the Second Century CE,‖ in Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (ed. Froma I. Zeitlin; Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990) observes, "the physiognomic subject, it is taken for granted, has something to conceal ... physiognomy must therefore always be alert to deception. Signs that one's subject is overcompensating is a dead giveaway," (407). As such, physiognomy itself could be used to conceal, but only to a point — ultimately, some slipup of the subject's physicality will reveal the truth. Cicero provides an excellent example of this seeming tension. In his advice to his son, he cautions him to pay specific attention to his gait so as not to appear effeminate or of disordered mind, yet he also cautions against paying too much attention to how one should comport his body for fear of going too far and making a mockery of the look one is hoping to achieve: "consequently, there is need of constant management of the eyes, because the expression of the countenance ought not to be too much altered, for fear of slipping into looks that are in bad taste, or into some distortion" (De or. 3.59.222 [Rackham, LCL]). 10 Maria Michela Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece (trans. P. Tucker; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 53. 11 However, on the tension between what we might call "nature vs. nurture" — that a given means of bodily comportment reveals an inner immutable character but can also be taught or learned — see chapter two.
Major premise: All animals with large limbs (B) are courageous (A)
Minor Premise: C is an animal with large limbs (B)
12 Conclusion: C is courageous (A)
Thus physiognomy was understood as being predicated on rational thought and a logical deduction process. In other words, in the ancient world physiognomy was credited by many to be a reliable analytical tool to discern character, one grounded in sound and logical principles, and thus was taken with a proportionate amount of seriousness. It had a significant amount of traction both in formal study as well as in popular consensus in informing evaluations of a subject's character. Given this traction it is little wonder that it was so widely employed, especially in view of the face-to-face nature of the ancient Mediterranean, where personal interaction was nearly inescapable in forming social and business connections.
As Toon Van Houdt discusses, the ancient world was a "face-to-face" society, where contacts were established and maintained via personal interaction, and the individual was constantly on display.13 The boundaries between public and private were "hopelessly blurred," given that sections of the home were essentially public spaces and the omnipresence of slaves and, in the case of patrons, their clients who came to pay their respects each morning.14 In this context, he notes that even so-called private behaviour takes on a broader significance: "it becomes a kind of social gesture and public behaviour: it is part and parcel of a strategic self-
12 Sassi, The Science of Man, 53. While here she takes as her example the zoological method (see below), this same formula is applicable to all types of physiognomy. For example, Major Premise: blue eyes indicate intelligence, Minor Premise: Person x has blue eyes, Conclusion: Person X is intelligent. 13 Although speaking primarily of ancient Rome, I posit that Van Houdt's conclusions are equally applicable to any ancient Mediterranean society in the Roman Empire. 14 Toon Van Houdt, ―Speaking Eyes, Concealing Tongues: Social Function of Physiognomics in the Early Roman Empire,‖ in Språkets Speglingar: Festskrift till Birger Bergh, ed, Arne Jönsson Och Anders Piltz. (Ängelholm: Skåneförl, 2000), 636–641 (638).
presentation that is aimed at preserving one's reputation as a member of the social and intellectual elite. It is precisely here, at the juncture of private and public, that physiognomics comes into play."15 Physiognomic principles were thus employed in these situations as a strategy to present one's self in the best possible light, adopting gestures and expressions as a means of communicating (or advertising) via the body the virtues one wished to be associated with one's self.16 As Van Houdt remarks, "what first seemed to be merely an analytical tool, a scientific method to classify various types of character, thus became a social instrument, a practical method to suggest the presence of virtues such as moderation, dignity, and decency."17 Yet even beyond attempts at self-fashioning and self-projection, the role of physiognomic principles as a social instrument — particularly one of social control — is manifest with even greater frequency as a method to detect the perceived character flaws of others, which was of significant import in the ancient Mediterranean.
Maud Gleason notes that "everyone who had to choose a son-in-law or a travelling companion, deposit his valuables before a journey, or make a business loan, had to become at least an amateur physiognomist when making risky inferences from human surfaces to human depths."18 Indeed, Polemo, an author of one of the physiognomic manuals expressly advocates the use of this science for just these purposes of discernment:
If divine men have made any discovery that can be of truly immense benefit to those who study it, it is physiognomics. For nobody would deposit in trust his financial assets, his heirlooms, his wife, or his children — or enter into any sort of social relationship — with a person whose form foretells the signs of dishonesty,
15 "Speaking Eyes," 639. 16 "Speaking Eyes," 639. 17 "Speaking Eyes," 639. 18 Gleason, ―The Semiotics of Gender,‖ 389.
lechery, or double dealing. As if by some God-given, inerrant, and prophetic art, the physiognomist understands the character and purposes, so to speak, of all men: how to choose associations only from those who are worthy, and how to guard against the evildoing of unprincipled people without having to experience it first. For this reason, wise men should apply themselves with all their strength to 19 working through the signs of this art.
Physiognomy, then, was deemed to have the ability to determine who one should associate with, and more importantly, with whom one should avoid having contact. Perhaps the clearest examples of the degree to which this was taken seriously are instances where physiognomy informed — if not to say dictated — group membership practices.
Popović and Elizabeth Evans both note that Pythagoras — deemed by some to be the inventory or discoverer of physiognomy — employed physiognomy in order to determine who was or was not permitted to join his school.20 This tradition is related in Aulus Gellius' Attic
The order and method followed by Pythagoras, and afterwards by his school and successors, in admitting and training their pupils were as follows: At the very outset he 'physiognomized' the young men who presented themselves for instruction.... Then, when he had thus examined a man and found him suitable, he 21 at once gave orders that he should be admitted to the school ...
19 Polemo, Physiogn. A2, Translations from Polemo are taken from Robert Hoyland in Simon Swain, ed., Seeing the face, seeing the soul: Polemon’s Physiognomy from classical antiquity to medieval Islam, (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). For a brief introduction to Polemo and his manual, please see below. 20Popović, Reading the Human Body, 102; Elizabeth C. Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ TAPS 59, no. 5 (1969): 1–101 (46). 21 Aulus Gellius, Noct. att. 1.9.1-3 (Rolfe, LCL). This passage is also cited by Popović (Reading the Human Body, 102) and Evans ("Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 46). Popović further relates that there is a reference to Plato being subject to a similar physiognomic evaluation by Socrates before the latter took him on as a pupil (Apuleius, Dogm. Plat. 1.1). Similarly, Evans notes ("Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 46) instances of physiognomic testing of potential students of philosophy by Indian sages in the narrative of Vit. Apoll. by Philostratus: "... in many cases a man's eyes reveal the secrets of his character, and in many cases there is material for forming a judgement and appraising his value in his eyebrows and cheeks, for from these features the dispositions of people can be detected by wise and scientific men, as images are seen in a looking glass" (2.30 [Conybeare, LCL]). While of course this is perhaps nothing more than fiction, this does attest to the idea that physiognomic analysis in order to deem an individual suitable to join a group was not uncommon.
Here then is a clear example where physiognomy was taken seriously enough that it was employed to forge group boundaries. As Popović remarks of this version of the story and others,
"[t]hese examples demonstrate the belief that physiognomics could function as a tool for exercising social control, thought they do not shed much light on the actual proceedings of such a physiognomic text. One should, nonetheless, allow for the possibility that physical, or more specifically physiognomic, examinations could be used by groups to control and maintain their
22 boundaries for new members or other people [...]."
Another example of this is identified by Popović in his work on the Qumran community.
Although he takes as his focus the astrological form of physiognomy, Popović demonstrates that physiognomic principles were also at work in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and also carried significant weight in the formation of group boundaries. He argues that 4QZodiacal Physiognomy was "used in a sectarian context like that of the Qumran community that wished to guard against demonic attacks. The physiognomic-astrological knowledge was used as the justification for a pre- emptive strike, so to speak, by denying entry into the community to people whose zodical spirits
23 were found upon physiognomic inquiry to be potentially too dangerous or maleficent."
Ambrose of Milan offers an additional example of this regulation of group boundaries predicated on physiognomic principles, in his barring one individual from joining the clergy based on the unseemly way he walked.24 Chad Hartsock posits that perhaps the type of gait which Ambrose so objected to was linked to perceptions of effeminacy.25 Here it is important to
22 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 103. 23 Reading the Human Body, 238-39. 24 Discussed more in depth in chapter two. 25 Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts the Use of Physical Features in Characterization (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2008), 139.
note that effeminacy — which surfaces repeatedly in physiognomic thought — was considered a moral failing and ignoble character trait in the ancient world. Part of the reason why this was the case is derived from the one-sex scale model of gender in ancient thought.
Gender was conceived along a scale between masculine on one end, and feminine on the other, based on a tallying of different attributes. A person could move up (metaphorically, towards the masculine) or down. Masculinity was not limited just to biological sex, but also understood as manifest (or not) in a host of different bodily traits. It was held that each individual will possess a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics, and to an observer could
— with the help of physiognomy — tally these up to see whether masculinity of femininity prevailed. As Polemo suggests
Nor should you ignore all that I have commanded you regarding the physiognomical scrutiny of the signs of masculinity and femininity. You should learn this from the gaze, the movement, and the voice, and then measure up one part with the other until you come to know where resides precedence (of one over the other). For in masculinity there is femininity, and in femininity there is 26 masculinity and the name (of male of female) falls to whichever has precedence.
Given that the system was a sliding scale, and that difference was of degree and not of "kind", this allowed for the possibility of gender slippage. For a man, any slippage is a slide down in the hierarchy, rendering him more womanish, and moreover made him 'unnatural' in that he no longer conformed to the 'natural' order. Moreover, any womanish or feminine qualities were automatically considered a defect, given that women were the natural physical and moral inferiors of men, as was demonstrated in their physiques. For social control regarding gender, then, physiognomy once again played a significant role in forms of social control — to attempt
26 Polemo, De Physiognomonia, TK 3207 (trans Hoyland in Swain, in Seeing the Face Seeing the Soul, 393).
to ostracize or at least undermine the effeminate man, and to provide purportedly logical rationale for the ideology that women were naturally inferior to men.27 Similarly, as Harrill has demonstrated (see below), physiognomy was also employed to detect so-called slave or slavish characteristics, which in turn, at least in some cases, helped to justify the idea of a natural slavery
— some individuals were understood to be simply slavish in character, as indicated by their gestures and mannerisms. Again, the appeal to physiognomy as an objective indicator of character helped to reinforce cultural norms and social constructions, and lend further persuasion to a physiognomically minded author's assertions.
In antiquity, the body and how it was cultivated and comported — or at least how these were evaluated and interpreted by others — was of decided importance.28 It played a role in personal relationships and by extension group boundaries, and enabled the practitioner of it (so it was thought) to refine the image of himself that he wished to project as well as avoid the company of those he deemed less than savoury based on these same principles. It enabled an author or speaker to help persuade an audience in his praise or blame of an individual. The
27 As Maud Gleason remarks of tampering with secondary sex characteristic such as voice and facial hair in physiognomic evaluation, "since [these] are 'read' socially as signs of the inner heat that constitutes a man's claim to physiological and cultural superiority over women, eunuchs, and children, those who tampered with the most visible variables of masculinity in their self-presentation provoked vehement moral criticism because they were rightly suspected of undermining the symbolic language in which male privilege was written" (Gleason, ―The Semiotics of Gender," 401). Gleason's work and discussion of the role of physiognomy as pertains to gender will be examined in more depth in subsequent chapters. 28 This is not to say, of course, that it is not of importance — or even used to base value judgements on regarding character — in contemporary culture, although we value the ideal of not judging a book by its cover, so to speak. Jennifer Glancy notes both the use of the body in judgement making in modern culture as well as the reluctance to acknowledge this. Discussing Maud Gleason's argument that the body is shaped and experience and interpreted as a cultural artifact, she notes that this is a concept that is both alien and familiar to a modern audience: "Alien because we do not like to admit that we make assumptions about other persons based on corporal presentation: whether a stranger is lithe or squat, pockmarked or ruddy-faced; whether a new acquaintance returns our gaze. Familiar because we make such assumptions daily: we assume that the deep voice we hear on the phone is male and we do not know how to respond when the speaker identifies herself as Mary," (Jennifer Glancy, Corporal Knowledge: Early Christian Bodies [New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010], 9).
formal manuals for studying physiognomy are a suitable starting place for addressing more specifics.
A Brief Overview of the Physiognomic Manuals, the Three Methods of Physiognomic Practice and the Physiognomic Consciousness Physiognomy was especially popular during certain periods in antiquity: from the third through the first centuries BCE, the second century CE (when its popularity was at its peak), and then in the fourth century CE when there was a revival of interest in it.29 These dates, as one might
30 expect, correspond to the production of physiognomic manuals, four of which are still extant.
In the first period of marked physiognomic interest, the first manual was composed: the
Pseudo-Aristotelian "Physiognomicis." The work is dated to the third century BCE, and proved
31 to be highly influential in the other manuals which followed it.
The work is the first extant systematic and formal treatment of physiognomy, and its author evinces an interest in trying to codify previous physiognomic undertakings, which seem not to have been as formal and systematic as he might have liked, as he sets boundaries and rules for the undertaking (see below). The work is comprised of two parts (tractate A and B, as
Popović terms them, and I follow suit here),32 and both have an introduction explaining the logic and methods of physiognomy, although tractate B focuses more on illustrating ideas via
29 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 5. Here Evans also notes that a "physiognomic consciousness" existed far earlier, discernible in works from the sixth and seventh centuries BCE. 30 We know of at least one physiognomic manual that is now lost. It was composed by the otherwise unknown Loxus in the third century BCE, and mentioned by the Anonymous Latin author. 31 As Tamsyn S. Barton suggests, this work set the form for all of the physiognomic manuals that came after it, up until as late as the 16th century (Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire. The Body in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism, [Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1995]), 101.
32 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 87.
examples, and has less of a theoretical discussion than tractate A.33 Popovic persuasively counters the idea found in other scholarship (such as Evans) that each tractate necessarily had its own author, noting that despite differences they do not contradict each other, and thus it is plausible to view them as complementary to each other, comprising one work.34 The attribution of authorship to Aristotle is not surprising, given that the work, as Popović notes, "...clearly stands in the Aristotelian tradition with regard to the relationship between the body, the psyche, and the characteristics of both" although he notes that linking Aristotle's name to this work is a
35 relatively late tradition.
The de Physiognomonica by the orator and rhetorician Polemo of Laodicea was composed in the second century CE, and only survives in full only in an Arabic translation.
Polemo (c. 88-145 CE) was the representative of the city of Smyrna and the beneficiary of the
Emperor Hadrian.36 Invested personal rhetorical interest is strikingly clear in the very motive for
Polemo's composition of his manual — he undertook the work to malign his philosophical rivals and opponents, and to praise Hadrian, his most important patron (indeed, the most important patron of the time). Evans relates the story behind what (at least in part) prompted Polemo's physiognomic response to personal (and professional) conflict and rivalry. Favorinus of Αrles (a close friend of Plutarch who also enjoyed the patronage of Hadrian) and Polemo came into conflict in the city of Ionia. The residents of Ephesus were supporters of Favorinus while the
33 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 87. 34 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 87-88. 35 Popović, Reading the Human Body 86.
36 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 88.
residents of Smyrna favoured Polemo — the quarrel between them only intensified in Rome.37
As Simon Swain remarks, "[t]he rivalry between them underlies one of the best known scenes in the Physiognomy ... and was famous enough for the easy identification of its unknown victim
[Favorinus] by the Anonymous Latin."38 Polemo's passage describing Favorinus is worth relating in full for its rather amusing content and in order to decode what Polemo was saying about his character via such a description drawn from elsewhere in his texts as well as the later paraphrases. The passage reads
He was from a land called Celtas. He was greedy and immoral beyond all description. His eyes were those of the most evil of people, and his eyes were of this description. He had puffed-up eyes,39 his cheeks were slack,40 his mouth was broad, his neck was long and thin, his ankles were thick41 with much flesh on the legs.42 His neck was similar to the neck of woman, and likewise all the rest of his limbs, and all his extremities were moist,43 and he would not walk erect, and his limbs and members were flaccid. He would take great care of himself and his abundant hair,44 and he would apply medicaments to his body afterwards. (He would give in) to every cause that incited a passion for desire and sexual intercourse. He had a voice resembling the voice of women and slim lips. I never 45 before saw looks like his in the general populace of such eyes.
37 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 12. Philostratus' Lives of the Sophists 10.13-24 also provides an account of this conflict. Gleason discusses this rivalry in significant depth in chapters 1-2 of Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). 38 Swain, Seeing the face, 156. The other two manuals are considered to be paraphrases of Polemo's work, and thus have a shared understanding of what a given physical trait indicated for character. 39 A sign of the man who has little modesty (B48).
40 Slackness in general tends to indicate effeminacy throughout the work.
41Indicating one who is "for the most part stupid or mad" (Adamantius B7).
42 Ps.-Aristotle asserts that "those that have full legs as if they were bursting are foul-minded and shameless" (810a).
43 Ps-Aristotle relates that women have moister flesh (809b).
44 Another indication of effeminacy.
45 A20. Hadrian, of course, is described in (almost literally) glowing terms which indicate his strong character. On the topic of eyes that seem to emanate rays of light, Polemo remarks, "The eyes of King Hadrian were of this description, except that they were full of beautiful light. They were bluish-black, with sharp vision. No one has been seen with more luminous eyes than he" (A16). However, it should be noted that despite a specific description (however fabricated or exaggerated) of a specific individual, as Gleason observes, for the most part Polemo did not invent new interpretations so much as produced an elaboration of stereotypes found in Ps.-Aristotle ("Semiotics of Gender," 395).
Barton articulates Polemo's motive in stark terms, asserting that "[r]ather than actually making wax images of his opponents to burn [as in so-called magical practice], with physiognomy he constructed their bodies so as to destroy their characters. And destroying the
ἠζλνο of a rival deprived him of the moral claim to persuade."46 Polemo is thus an excellent example of the persuasive nature of physiognomy employed to serve polemical ends, and to persuade an audience of the unsavory character of those whose power and own skills of persuasion he sought to degenerate. Here Polemo uses his own form of rhetoric to persuade his audience of the lack of moral authority required for his opponent to himself be persuasive.
Polemo in turn shaped the content of a third manual, the Physiognomonica composed by the fourth century sophist Adamantius, this work being an epitome of the former's treatise.
Beyond this, little is known about the author.47 The manual is divided into two sections, the first dealing exclusively with the eyes of a subject, and the second with the various physiques or shapes of subjects.
The fourth century Latin Physiognomonia was long considered to be the work of
Apuleius, although the actual author is unknown.48 This manual draws on Polemo, and the now non-extant work of Loxus. As Evans notes, this "version" of Polemo for the most part agrees with Adamantius and the Arabic translation of Polemo.49 The first section is concerned with analysis of the male and female types, the second with ethnological physiognomy, and the third
46 Barton, Power and Knowledge, 97. 47 See Evans ("Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 15) for a brief discussion of who this author has been inconclusively identified with in the past. All citations from this text are taken from Ian Repath's translation in Seeing the Face (487-548). 48 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 16. Hence it's name "anonymous Latin." All citations from this text are taken from Ian Repath's translation in Seeing the face (549-636). 49 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 16.
with parallels between people and animals. With the exception of the first, these latter two methods are identical to the two of the three methods of physiognomy described by Ps.-Aristotle, though this latter text does discuss aspects of gender, albeit subsumed for the most part under the zoological category.
The author of Ps.-Aristotle outlines three basic types of physiognomy which had been undertaken before he composed his work which he seeks to codify and in turn greatly influenced subsequent manuals. Evans has referred to these as the zoological method, the ethnographic method, and the method that pertains to varying facial expressions, gait and gesture, to name but a few aspects of how a person comported his or her body was subject to physiognomic scrutiny.50 Although these are described as three different methods in this work, this is perhaps best understood as an attempt by Ps.-Aristotle to impose order on an otherwise rather unruly practice — to provide a structure so that the practice could be understood and undertaken as a science. That these methods were not necessarily discreet or mutually exclusive is demonstrable not only in the manual itself,51 but also in concrete practice found in other works that utilize physiognomy and physiognomic principles.
The zoological approach is based on the perceived parallels of the physique and nature of humans and animals. So, for example, a man who had the attributes similar to a lion such as stiff hair was understood to be endowed with the character of bravery, the lion being considered the
50 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World, 5-6. 51 For example, gesture can either be addressed under the zoological rubric, such as an individual who swings his arms from side to side while walking is deemed a blusterer, like the horse (813a), or under the third type (addressed in this same passage), where a gesture might be understood to convey a trait independently of an animal comparison: "Those who walk with feet and legs turned out are effeminate" (813a). As Ps.-Aristotle concedes (805b), "It is possible to make up a science of physiognomics according to each of these methods, and also by others and to make a selection of characteristics in different ways."
exemplar of positive masculine traits.52 In contrast, if a man had soft hair he was deemed to have a timid nature, corresponding to the soft hair and timid nature of sheep, deer, and hares.53
Moreover, this zoological method also had a significant role in ancient gender-typing, the idea of effeminacy as a vice discussed above.54 On this form of physiognomy Sassi again makes clear the logic of it with a syllogism:"... if a characteristic (A) such as courage is accompanied by a sign (B) such as largeness of limb in all individuals belonging to a homogenous class (lion), then the presence of (B) in a member of another class allows the inference to (A) is an inherent
55 property of that individual also."
The zoological method was considered to be particularly reliable, and its efficacy is predicated on two assumptions.56 The first is that unlike people, animals tended to be perceived as having one unmistakable character, equally applicable to each member of a given species, thus rending it something of a non-changing and universal truth.57 Unlike human nature where there were a multitude of "types" among the same species of human beings that could, moreover, overlap (such as the lecherous person, the dishonest person, the brave person and so forth), a
52 "... the lion of all animals seems to have the most perfect share of the animal type ... Above on the forehead towards the muzzle hair sloping outwards and like bristles..." (809b). 53 "Soft hair shows timidity and stiff hair courage. This is based on observation of all the animal kingdom. For the deer, the hare and sheep are the most timid of all animals and have the softest hair; the lion and wild boar are the bravest and have very stiff hair" (806b). 54 Gleason, ―The Semiotics of Gender," 389. 55 Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece, 72. 56 Indeed, the fourth century Anonymous Latin manual outlines the three methods identified in Ps.-Aristotle, saying that this method predicated on similarity to animals "seemed surer and easier, but the earlier ones were not omitted" (Swain, Seeing the Face, 9). Whether the author's understanding of the chronological appearance of these methods is accurate or not has little bearing, it is sufficient to note that all three methods were operational well into the fourth century. 57 As Ps.-Aristotle states: "... it is especially in the creations of nature that one can see how body and soul interact with each other, so that each is mainly responsible for the other's affections. For no animal has ever existed such that it has the form of one animal and the disposition of another, but the body and soul of the same creature are always such that a given disposition must necessarily follow a given form." (Ps-Aristotle., Physiogn., 805a)
given animal species that consistently displayed it's ascribed character type made comparison to it immediately appreciable. The second is that animals, again unlike humans, were thought to be incapable of disguising their true respective natures.58 Thus any physical attribute which marked an animal as a specific kind of animal with its concomitant character trait that could find a physical parallel in the physicality of a human subject was deemed an infallible means of identifying this same trait in a human who perhaps otherwise could disguise or modify a given physical aspect and by extension moral flaw. For example, Ps.-Aristotle suggests that "those whose toes are curled are shameless, just like the creatures which have curved talons; witness
59 birds with curved talons."
The ethnographic method was predicated on the idea that a given geographical region from which a person originates will dictate certain physical features that in turn have their own corresponding character traits. These are often designated as separate ἤζλε of people, such as
Egyptians, Thracians and Scythians, and peoples of a given region are deemed to have similar appearances, and by extension, similar characters.60 For example, Ps.-Aristotle asserts that "those who are too swarthy are cowardly; this is applies to Egyptians and Ethiopians."61 Similarly,
58 The anonymous author states (132) that "... it is certain that the inspection of men is difficult, because every single man strives to hide his own failing. But both culture and society obscure human characters, and that very thing which we are dealing with now [when there are a variety of indicators or animal similarities in an individual that seem to contradict] happens frequently: that the character of the individual man is multiform; but the animals are simple, bare, and unguarded and each show their own nature openly." 59 Physiogn., 810a. 60 Whether or not this method can or should be considered a sort of "proto-racism" is beyond the current scope and focus of this work. It will suffice to say that this method of physiognomy does seem to reflect a sort of stereotyping against those who do not meet the Greco-Roman ideal of physicality, and specific aspects of this will be addressed below in subsequent chapters. On the subject of proto-racism and the role that physiognomics might have played in it, see Benjamin H. Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton, N.J.; Princeton University Press, 2006). 61 Physiogn., 812a.
"those with very woolly hair are cowardly; this applies to the Ethiopians."62 Again, the physiognomist presumes an almost universality in physique and thus character of subjects of a given ethnographic region.
The third method which Mikeal Parsons terms the "anatomical" method, is somewhat less structured than the first two.63 It is something of a hodgepodge of varying facial expressions, voice, gestures, gait (and much more) which are ascribed meaning for a corresponding character presumably based on either culturally constructed conventions or perhaps the theory of humours, or perhaps some combination of the two.64 While of course the previous two methods also address these aspects of physique or physicality, this method is different in that it utilizes no clearly identifiable template such as an animal or ethnography with which to support its claim.
For example, according to Ps.-Aristotle, "those who incline to the right of their movements are morbid,"65 and Adamantius asserts that "[eyes] that are moister indicate cowards, those that are drier indicate those who are wonton, those that are paler-yellow fools,"66 yet no further justification for these conclusions are stipulated. Although it is not clear whether this particular method is in mind, Koen De Temmerman posits a helpful distinction regarding physiognomic portrayals: the "invariable" method which observes physical characteristics that do not change
(such as eye color, physical frame, etc), and the "variable" method which pertains to physical
62 Physiogn., 812b. 63 Mikeal Carl Parsons, Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2006). 64 As Popović notes, the manuals themselves — including Ps.-Aristotle — rarely articulate the physiological basis for the correspondence drawn between body and soul or character (Popović, Reading the Human Body, 95) 65 Physiogn., 818a. 66 A6.
features that do alter, or, as he suggests, indicate "body language."67 He notes that Ps.-Aristotle cautions against undertaking a physiognomic reading predicated solely on aspects of appearance that are a physical effect of a particular emotion (which is thus temporary like the emotion which prompted it) in favour of habitual or permanent aspects of appearance which thus reveal more permanent inner characteristics.68 Yet, De Temmerman rightly notes that despite this caution the manual nevertheless lists instances of body language that are potential cites of physiognomic readings including movement and voice.69 De Temmerman also notes that for Ps-Aristotle even if variable features are not a direct indication of ethnos, they are indications of one's temporary condition or pathos, "a condition that can, in turn, be indicative of ethos,"70 citing Ps-Aristotle's definition of blushing as an indication of shame in turn noting that if recurrent this feature is an indication of the character trait shyness — or, as De Temmermen suggests, "the permanent
71 characteristic of inclination towards shame."
In any case, this caution of physiognomics in the strict sense being that which rejects the invariable aspects advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the broader and more informal use of physiognomics found outside of the manuals (and as previously noted in some instances in the manuals themselves).72 Evans has helpfully labelled this a "physiognomic consciousness" which
67 Koen De Temmerman, Crafting characters: Heroes and Heroines in the Ancient Greek Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 39. 68 Physiogn., 806a. He also relates that any signs which are permanent must prove some permanent characteristic; but those that come and go [such as a sneeze, discussed below] cannot be true signs..." (806a). 69 De Temmerman, Crafting characters, 39, citing Ps-Aristotle 806a and referencing Porphyry's Life of Pythagoras 13 on physiognomy as pertaining to the study of movements of the body. 70Crafting characters, 39. 71Crafting characters, 39. 72 To note but one example of this, Dio Chrysostom relates the anecdote of an individual who was well known for his infallible discernment of character based on external appearance being initially stumped by a subject presented to him. The man undergoing the physiognomist's scrutiny was rugged and unconcerned with his physical appearance, and at first the physiognomist admitted that he did not know how to characterize the man. The subject then sneezed,
pervaded ancient thought and writings, and indeed predates the manuals themselves. Adopting this phrase, Popović articulates a concise definition:
[It] characterize[s] those genres of Greco-Roman writings, such as epic, history and biography, drama and satire, that do not deal with physiognomics on a theoretical or technical level, but make a more general use of physiognomic notions, and [serves] to distinguish those literary forms from the theoretical and 73 formal Greco-Roman physiognomic treatises and catalogues.
In the appendix to her 1969 work, Evans identifies more than two thousand references to texts where she views the physiognomic consciousness to be at work, and demonstrates repeatedly how commonplace these physiognomic assumptions were in nearly all genres of literature from the ancient world.74 Here for the sake of brevity I cite but a few examples of authors and genres that she identifies as participating in this consciousness in order to illustrate how commonplace this was.
Evans notes Ovid's use of these principles in his description of Lucretia, the perfect loyal wife. Ovid portrays her husband Tarquin praising her figure, snowy complexion, yellow hair and lovely face. Lucretia reacts with gestures that indicate modesty (hiding her head in his lap, and
and his character was revealed to the physiognomist, identifying the man as a kinaidos (1 Tars. 33.54-55). Here, then, is a clear instance of some sort of temporary or impermanent physical manifestation being employed to reveal a permanent internal character trait. A parallel story is told by Diogenes Laertius of the Stoic Cleanthes likewise recognizing a kinaidos upon the latter's sneeze (Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 7.17). In the physiognomic consciousness, even temporary manifestations of physical gesture or action such blushing are thought to reveal a disposition towards a character "type" that is susceptible to certain emotions, the individual deemed not able to control his or her mind in a rational way that is made manifest by a lack of control over the movements of the body. As Chrysostom remarks regarding gait, "walking is a universal and uncomplicated activity, but while one man's gait reveals his composure and the attention he gives to his conduct, another's reveals his inner disorder and lack of self- restraint" (1 Tars. 32.54 [Cohoon, LCL]). Similarly, the anecdote of the sneezing kinaidos also demonstrates another violation of rules articulated in the formal manuals in the realm of the more informal physiognomic consciousness. Ps.-Aristotle advises not taking one trait in isolation, but drawing physiognomic conclusions from a host of different characteristics, tallying them up, so to speak, and then determining what sort of character they point to. Here, the singular instance of the sneeze reveals the man's true nature, despite a host of different signs that would indicate a contrary one and are ultimately ignored when the physiognomist reaches his verdict. 73 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 5. 74 Hartsock, Sight and Blindness, 2 nt. 1, notes this number.
"modest" tears) and Tarquin's conclusions of his wife's character predicated on these looks and gestures are confirmed: "her face was worthy of its peer, her soul."75 In turn, Ovid is able to persuade his audience of the perfection of the woman he is describing — her physicality both suggests and confirms it.
Evans also discusses how authors of satire and epigram utilized physiognomic principles, as "an effective weapon for sharp criticism."76 Martial describes Zoilus, a former slave who is now hated, as having red hair, a dark complexion, short feet and bleary eyes, which Evans notes are all details that constitute a derogatory characterization.77 In this way Martial is thus able to suggest to his audience that the figure in question was not one that they should empathize with.
Lucian employs this method in his description of the ignorant book collector, in his invective against the professor of public speaking (perhaps Julius Pollux!), and in his descriptions of parasites and philosophers.78 As such, he can convince his audience of the wanting character found in these individuals in a way that is immediately appreciable. Apuleius also frequently pursues this method of persuasion, describing the hero of the Golden Ass in a way that would convey to the reader his positive character traits.79 Lucius is portrayed as tall but nicely proportioned, slender without being thin, a complexion that was rosy but not too red, grey eyes that are watchful and have a flashing glance just like an eagle's, a face that was handsome in all of its features, and graceful and unaffected gait.80 Evans notes that physiognomists highlight being well proportioned as one of the most important indicators of an upright character, yellow
75 Ovid, Fast. 2.755-58 (Goold, LCL); Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 70-71. 76 Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 71. 77 Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 72.; Martial, Epigrams, 22,54 (Shackleton Baily, LCL). 78 Elizabeth Evans, ―The Study of Physiognomy in the Second Century A.D.,‖ TAPA 72 (1941): 96–108, 102. 79 "Physiognomy in the Second Century," 103. 80 2.1-2; Evans, "Physiognomy in the Second Century," 103.
hair and flashing glances indicate intelligence, grey eyes belong to bold animals such as lions and eagles, and a rosy complexion is auspicious.81 The auditor would know from the outset that this protagonist was a favourable one with good character, based on how Apuleius described his physique. De Temmermen has observed the role that physiognomic consciousness has played in conveying character in the ancient Greek Romance novel.82 He notes that while the invariable kind of physiognomy is not present to a large extent in the novels, the variable method is frequently employed. His work on the portrayal of Callirhoe's blushing as an indication not only
83 of character but indeed of character development demonstrates this aptly.
In historical and biographical genres, Evans notes that Tacitus, Suetonius, and Plutarch also evince a physiognomic strategy in representation of their subjects. Suetonius portrays the hated emperor Caligula in terms reminiscent of the unfavourable animals panther and goat.
Panthers were deemed the most effeminate of animals, and goats were associated with an unnatural lust.84 Caligula's purported exploits in this latter respect was common fodder for ancient authors. Plutarch states at the outset of his work how physiognomy will inform his descriptions of figures:
It is not Histories that I am writing, but Lives; and in the most illustrious deeds there is not always a manifestation of virtue or vice, nay, a slight thing like a phrase or a jest often makes a greater revelation of character than battles where thousands fall, or the greatest armaments, or sieges of cities. Accordingly, just as
81 Evans, "Physiognomy in the Second Century," 103-104. 82 De Temmerman, Crafting characters, 39-40. 83 Koen De Temmerman, ―Blushing Beauty: Characterizing Blushes in Chariton‘s Callirhoe,‖ Mnem 60 (2007): 235-252. 84 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 54-55. Seneca, too, utilizes physiognomy in his hostile portrait of Caligula: "He himself was a most fruitful source of ridicule, such was the ugliness of his pale face bespeaking his madness, such the wildness of his eyes lurking beneath the brow of an old hag; such the hideousness of his bald head with its sprinkling of beggarly hairs. And he had, besides, a neck overgrown with bristles, spindle shanks, and enormous feet," (de Constantia 18.1 [Basore, LCL]; cited by Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 29).
painters get the likenesses in their portraits from the face and the expression of the eyes, wherein the character shows itself, but make very little account of the other parts of the body, so I must be permitted to devote myself rather to the signs of the soul in men, and by means of these to portray the life of each, leaving to 85 others the descriptions of their great contests.
Evans also identifies the presence of the physiognomic consciousness as a tool of persuasion in rhetoric and oratory, discussed below.
Documentary evidence reveals the use of physiognomic principles in order to characterize a person's character in order to help persuade an audience. P. Oxy 51.3617 is the notice of a runaway slave by his owner from the third century CE, and the way the slave is described goes beyond physical description for the purposes of identification. The vexed owner writes, in addition to more commonplace identifying markers, that the fugitive slave sports a
"wispy beard — in fact, with no hair at all to his beard," and that he "swaggers around as if he were of someone of note, chattering in a shrill voice." As Dominic Montserrat rightly argues of this papyrus, here the slave owner is using physiognomy in order to portray the slave as a so- called effeminate, insinuating that his character did not meet the standards of masculinity, which was typically thought to be the case with male slaves.86 In making clear this characterization, the master appeals to the socially constructed view of the slave body, as well as the slave's perceived attempt to violate this via indications that were taken to be physical proclamations of self-worth.
Such an appeal would only encourage other slaves holders hearing this to wish to help restore the
"natural order", and return the slave to bondage.
85 Alex. 1.3 (Perrin, LCL); cited by Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 56. 86 Dominic Montserrat, Sex and Society in Græco-Roman Egypt (London and New York: Kegan Paul International, 1996), 56.
Evidence of a physiognomic consciousness can also be identified in early Judean texts, beyond the Dead Sea Scrolls noted above. Ecclesiastes also relates material that seems to adhere to a physiognomic consciousness: "A man may be known by his look, and one that has understanding by his countenance, when you meet him. A man's attire, and excessive laughter, and gait, show what he is."87 And Popović has also examined the understanding of the sympathetic view between soul and body in some of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, although he notes the relatively slight difference in that the Judean texts articulate a theological basis for this. He cites the Testament of Naphtali: "the Lord creates the body in resemblance to the spirit, and puts in the spirit according to the power of the body,"88 before concluding that this text and others from the T.12.Patr. demonstrates a familiarity with the premise of physiognomics that character can be discerned by physical appearance. In the Testament of Simeon, Simeon remarks of his brother that "... Joseph was attractive in shape and beautiful in appearance, because nothing evil dwelt in him; for the face reveals any trouble of the spirit."89 Here the attractiveness of Joseph functions as "proof" to persuade the audience of his upright moral character.
Physiognomic consciousness, then, is an informal application of the principles of physiognomy, paired with a commonplace or shared understandings of what a given gesture, mannerism, physical aspect or animal comparison conveys regarding a person's character. It is employed without necessarily being identified as physiognomy by its author, but is predicated on physiognomic assumptions. The application of it is not constrained by the definitions given in
87Eccl. 19.29-30; slight modification of the translation of Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, The Septuagint with Apocrypha: Greek and English (Peabody, Ma.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986). 88 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 289; T. Naph. 2.2. 89 T. Sim. 5.1, also cited by Popović, 288.
the manuals, though sometimes — but certainly not always — there is some degree of overlap between them and popular sentiment.90 As Popović suggests
Perhaps readers who practiced physiognomics simply took from the catalogues what suited their purposes. But since much of physiognomic knowledge received its credibility against a background of shared social values about types of people, it is not necessary to assume that physiognomic treatises were used as tools of reference in actual practice. Because of the importance of social values for the credibility of the art, the texts may be regarded as attempts to codify such social 91 presuppositions.
One of the primary benefits in utilizing a broader nexus of popular sentiment of physiognomic consciousness rather than relying solely on the manuals themselves to glean authorial intent (as I will do throughout this work) is that it avoids what David Lincicum has rightly described as a problematic wholesale transfer of specific meaning that might not apply in a context beyond the manuals. In addressing recent scholarship in Christian origins that has addressed physiognomic interest, Lincicum observes that
In general, suggestions of physiognomic influence range from plausible to difficult, floundering most often on a lack of explicit evidence and a certain 'illegitimate totality transfer' from the physiognomic handbooks to particular traits in narrative portrayals. Given the fact that the physiognomic handbooks are over- saturated with interpretation, including more than a little disagreement among 92 them, the tenuousness of such interpretations is often palpable.
Similarly, David Rohrbacher also rightly cautions against relying too heavily on the handbooks themselves, noting that "intensive focus on these physiognomic treatises, however, carries with it
90 Similarly, as Barton notes, "... while it is clear that physiognomical thinking has very deep cultural roots ... the discipline as we find it in the treatise is less culturally salient" (Power and Knowledge, 96). 91 Popović, Reading the Human Body, 100. 92David Lincicum, ―Philo and the Physiognomic Tradition,‖ JSJ 44, no. 1 (2013): 57–86; 8.
the risk of overlooking the broader spectrum of ancient views on physiognomy."93 Moreover, he also addresses the problems inherent within the manuals themselves as a sole guide for physiognomic interpretation:
The physiognomic manuals, like many other scientific and technical works of antiquity, are rhetorical works designed to convince a potentially hostile audience. They present physiognomy as a comprehensive and unerring science, but closer examination reveals the tenuousness of these claims. The manuals often contradict each other on the proper interpretation of different physical features, and are sometimes even contradictory within themselves. The manuals are complex and contradictory not only by incompetence and the vagaries of their composition, but also by design. If physiognomy were a simple science, Polemo and other authors of treatises would be deprived of the opportunity for self- aggrandizement; if the manuals could make anyone a physiognomist, the power 94 and prestige of the science would be considerably diminished.
In discussing Cicero's use of physiognomics in his speeches (but I suggest the rhetorical function is also applicable to all informal applications of physiognomy), Sassi notes that "the persuasive power of the argument is so much greater for being founded on the premises that do not require to be made explicit, insofar as they are entirely familiar and commonly accepted."95
In other words, conventions that were culturally commonplace could fruitfully be drawn upon to evoke the desired image in the audience's mind, and what a given aspect of physicality or animal comparison denoted regarding character did not need to be explicitly spelled out, much less be reliant on the manuals. Moreover, the role that the imagination played in cultivating the images evoked by the speaker or writer contributed to its persuasiveness. As Sassi remarks, "the secret
93 David Rohrbacher, "Physiognomics in Imperial Latin Biography," Classical Antiquity 29.1 (2010): 92-116; 93. Rorhrbacher's work argues that previous scholarship on Seutonius' use of physiognomy has been unsuccessful in that it has attributed to him a single and unified theory of physiognomics, rather than a more eclectic, and thus informal, method. Here he is quite right to note that the application and understanding of physiognomics is not as tidy and straightforward — or that references are derived primarily from the manuals — as previous scholarship has argued. Rather, it is a messy, and often rather contradictory, system of thought that where a given physical attribute has differing valences of meaning depending on the context it is used in, as discussed throughout this work. 94 Rohrbacher, "Physiognomics," 94. 95 Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece, 80.
of [physiognomy's] seductiveness is perhaps its stubborn adherence to the senses and appeal to the imagination, but also, and above all, its skillfulness in conferring cohesion and
96 persuasiveness on our collective patterns of thought and personal intuitions."
And while not physiognomics proper, the broader informal understanding of the importance of "looking the part" of one's social role (at times informed by ancient understandings of what was considered beauty or ugliness) was also a widespread concern in the ancient world. As Michael Koortbojian rightly observes, "[ν]ne identified, indeed individuated oneself, by adopting the conspicuous appearance that was synonymous with a distinctive social role."97 He notes that this individuation was, of course, rather ironically predicated on the collective convention.98 To note but one example, in the ancient world a philosopher could not hope to be taken seriously as such unless he had what was deemed an unfavourable appearance and a possessed a handful of stereotypical physical attributes connected with the philosopher
99 figure such as a beard, bald head, and a knitted brow indicating deep thought.
David Lincicum has demonstrated that despite a rejection of the strict physiognomics and the theoretical underpinnings of physiognomic theory, Philo of Alexandria's work nonetheless
96 Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece, 81. 97 Michael Koorbojian, "The Double Identity of the Roman Portrait Statues: Costumes and Their Symbolism at Rome," in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture, ed. Jonathan Edmondson and Alison Keith (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 73. 98 Koorbojian, "The Double Identity," 73. 99 Paul Zanker relates an anecdote from Apuleius defence (Apol. 4.1), where his accusers cite his handsome and carefully attended appearance as evidence that he as a magos, rather than a philosopher as he claimed. Zanker quips: "'thus if a man wanted to be acknowledged publically as a philosopher, at least according to Apuleius' accusers and the people of Sabratha, where the trial took place, the one thing he could not appear was handsome," Paul Zanker, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity (California: University of California Press, 1995), 234.
contains material that attests to his engagement in a physiognomic consciousness.100 As I will argue later, Philo's use of informal physiognomy is perhaps most readily apparent in his attempts to 'beautify' the figure and physique of Moses, in response to the tradition that he was physically unattractive and thus lacking in the moral character required to be an authoritative figure.
Despite the presence of informal physiognomics across these numerous and often quite distinct genres of work, the purpose of utilizing this method is striking similar in the majority of these works: to help to persuade an audience to either support or disdain the given individual being portrayed. In the realm of oratory and written rhetoric, where persuasive speech was of utmost importance, physiognomic principles were taught as necessary aid to the speaker. I discuss these here briefly not because I presuppose that all early Christian author's would have had formal education or training in the art of rhetoric,101 but rather to take note of instances which clearly stipulate the use of physiognomic principles in order to persuade an audience.
Interest in physiognomics was natural for an orator, an important part of his training, and
"this part of the art was devoted to teaching the would be orator to use his physical presence to present his case most effectively; thus stress was laid on the ways in which the character of the speaker, his ethos, was revealed by his body."102 Quintilian, for example, provides his readers with an extensive list of recommended and discouraged ways of comporting the body and voice in giving a speech: gaze, eyebrows, nostrils, the relative stiffness of the neck, hands, arms and even lips are given detailed attention regarding what a given movement would indicate about the
100 David Lincicum, ―Philo". 101 Although several of the authors I will examine in subsequent chapters did. 102 Barton, Power and Knowledge, 104.
speaker.103 Van Houdt notes the similar role that physiognomics and rhetoric played in society in that both maintained a focus on "the language of the body," and that both functioned as an instrument of socialization, teaching young men how to comport themselves in order to make a favourable impression.104 In other words, to persuade observers of their upright character and moral virtues. Van Houdt posits that the Memorabilia published by Valerius Maximus functioned as a sort of moral guideline from which orators, historians and philosophers drew illustrative anecdotes, and that the physiognomic component of the work was an important one.
He states that
It was made abundantly clear that virtue was not revealed by works and deeds alone; virtue also showed itself in an equally, perhaps even more, compelling manner, in and through the body ... the striking similarity between rhetoric and physiognomics proves essential for a better understanding of the way physiognomical descriptions functioned as an instrument of social control among 105 the elite.
But the use of physiognomic principles for self-representation in order to bring an audience to side with the speaker or writer is but one side of the coin. Those being trained in the business of persuasion were also educated on how to employ physiognomics to either malign their opponents and persuade an audience of their opponent's inferior character, or to bolster the characters of others whom they wanted their audience to view favourably.
As Barton observes regarding Polemo's manual, although his statement is equally applicable to informal uses of physiognomy, "the methods of physiognomy reveal themselves in this chapter as developments of some traditional topoi ... of praise and blame, which worked to
103 Inst. 11.72-87 (Butler, LCL) 104 Van Houdt, ―Speaking Eyes,‖ 640.
105 Van Houdt, ―Speaking Eyes,‖ 638.
persuade the audience to identify with the speaker against the categorized Other."106 Indeed, clear application of physiognomic principles being employed for praise or blame can be found in the recommendations of the anonymous first century BCE Rhetorica ad Herennium that was attributed to Cicero in antiquity. The author advises:
For praise, as follows: 'He entered the combat in body like the strongest bull, in impetuosity like the fiercest lion.' For censure, so as to excite hatred, as follows: 'that wretch who daily glides through the middle of the Forum like a crested serpent ... [with a] poisonous glance and fierce panting.... For contempt, as follows: 'That creature, who like a snail silently hides and keeps himself in his 107 shell, is carried off, he and his house, to be swallowed whole.'
Thus, the practice of employing physiognomic principles rhetorically in order persuade an audience of either the strong or unsavoury character of one's subject is clearly expressed. An added motivation for employing this method is that using physiognomy was a means of boasting of one's own wisdom and intellectual prowess, thus in turn an additional means of persuasion to convey to an audience that the practitioner and his arguments were intellectually sound. As Sassi suggests regarding the codification of physiognomic principles into the manuals themselves, "the prestige attached to sharp-sighted observation and intuitive acumen is certainly prominent throughout this process..."108 Moreover, skilled rhetors such as Cicero and Quintilian would certainly not undertake a method of persuasion that did not also underscore their own aptitudes for argumentation. Physiognomy, then, was not deemed a lesser form or argumentation in antiquity, the way modern argumentation predicated on ad hominem arguments are rightfully judged to be. Rather, it was respected form of persuasion, and one that in turn helped underscore
106 Barton, Power and Knowledge, 99. As Barton further notes, Polemo is frequently explicit in his suggestions for the use of physiognomy for praise and blame (111). 107 Rhet. Her. 4.46.49 (Caplan, LCL). 108 Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece, 64.
the authority of the author utilizing these principles, adding an additional element of appeal in using it.
Review of Literature
In recent years more attention has begun to be paid to the body in early Christianity, making clear to readers that the body did in fact matter in early Christianity in ways that had not been given much notice in previous scholarship. Peter Brown's The Body and Society was perhaps one of the first works to usher in this new interest in the ways that the self-fashioning of early
Christian bodies informed notions of selfhood and group boundaries.109 Since then, a host of other scholarly works have contributed to our understanding of the various ways in which the
110 body had significance for early Christians.
Yet, despite this recent interest in the important role that bodies played in early Christian thought and practice, to date there has been remarkably little interest in the role that physiognomics in particular played. This is somewhat surprising — and indeed wanting — in view of the widespread nature of the physiognomic consciousness in the ancient
Mediterranean.111 By neglecting this aspect of early Christian discourse, an important aspect of
109 Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1988). 110 See for example, Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); Colleen M. Conway, Behold the Man Jesus and Greco-Roman Masculinity (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); Jennifer Glancy, Corporal Knowledge. 111 Although not completely surprising, given that several early Christian authors will claim disinterest in the physical body and the prioritization of the soul, which no doubt has played a role in preventing scholars from noting their physiognomic tendencies, often in the self-same text. This tension between purported disparagement of the physical while almost simultaneously employing physiognomic principles predicated on the physical to reveal the subject's character is discussed more in depth in subsequent chapters.
what gave early Christian authors some degree of persuasive traction in their debates and narratives has not received the attention it deserves.
In her foundational work on physiognomics in the Greco-Roman world, Elizabeth Evans was, to the best of my knowledge, one of the first scholars to identify physiognomic principles at work in an early Christian text. She briefly discusses the influence that physiognomy had on
Clement of Alexandria,112 how Ambrose utilized physiognomy in analyzing the character of fellow and potentially fellow clergy men,113 and, briefly, Gregory of Nazianzus who employed physiognomy in his hostile portrait of Julian the Apostate.114 Evans states from the outset that she has little interest in addressing early Christian materials, and thus she cannot be faulted for not treating these brief examples she references in greater depth, nor for not pursuing other instances of physiognomic usage in early Christian texts. Other classicists seem to have followed suit, and for the most part opt not to include early Christian materials in their respective works on ancient physiognomy with the exception of Gleason on Clement and Asmus on Gregory.
For texts composed prior to Ambrose and Gregory, the physical description of Paul in the
Acts of Paul and Thecla has been one of the few early Christian texts to be the focus of physiognomic attention. In 1982 Robert Grant began what would prove to blossom into a debate about which physiognomic commonplaces were at work in the description.115 Prior to Grant's work, this description was understood to be a literal one, based on historical memory of the
112 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 79 n. 48; Gleason also discusses Clement (Making Men, 61, 64- 65 and 68-72) 113 Discussed in chapter two; also discussed by Parsons, Body and Character, 59-61 and Harstock, Sight and Blindness, 135-43. 114 Evans, ―Physiognomics in the Ancient World,‖ 77-78; also discussed by R. Asmus, "Vergessene Physiognomonika," in Philologus 65 (1906): 410-415. 115 Robert M. Grant, ―The Description of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla,‖ Vigiliae Christianae 36.1 (1982): 1- 4.
apostle. Grant argued that this was unlikely to be the case, and the alternative understanding that this description was a literary creation predicated on physiognomics, cultivated to express something about Paul's character or character "type." Although he did not employ physiognomic manuals themselves, but instead material that can be said to reflect the physiognomic consciousness, Grant arrived at the conclusion (that I think is erroneous) that Paul is being portrayed as a military "general type." Subsequent scholarship on this portrayal in the narrative have, for the most part, adopted Grant's position that physiognomy is at work in this portion of the text, but have yet to reach a satisfactory conclusion. Some of the subsequent scholarship on this topic is frequently is unsuccessful in that it relies too heavily on the manuals themselves, disregarding for the most part the broader nexus of physiognomic thought. The description and a more in-depth analysis of the secondary literature on it will be addressed in the fourth chapter.
Paul's appearance as construed by his opponents has also been addressed in view of physiognomic commonplaces by J. Albert Harrill.116 Harrill argues that physiognomic commonplaces are being utilized by Paul's opponents in order to malign his masculinity, and by extension, his character and moral authority. The work not only persuasively accounts for the strategies of Paul's opponents, and Paul's own response, but it also rightfully addresses the use of physiognomy as rhetorical and polemical strategy among early Christian communities and texts.
While acknowledging the role that physiognomy played in formulating opinions about character and in turn in creating and maintaining group boundaries, Mikeal C. Parsons argues that it was precisely this that the author of Luke-Acts sought to undermine in several characters
116 J. Albert Harrill, ―Invective Against Paul (2 Cor 10:10), the Physiognomics of the Ancient Slave Body, and the Greco-Roman Rhetoric of Manhood,‖ in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy Presented to Hans Dieter Betz on His 70th Birthday, ed. Adela Yarbro Collins and Margaret M. Mitchell (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 189–213.
that he depicts.117 Parsons' work posits explanations of how these characters' physical descriptions would have translated into negative assessments of their respective characters by an ancient audience, and thus provides a broader context for these physical portrayals.118 He maintains, however, that by portraying these figures within his narratives as being accepted into the early Jesus movement and early Christianity, Luke is subverting the traditional understanding
(and indeed polemical application) of physiognomy. While Parsons' work is to a great extent persuasive in suggesting that Luke did seek to undermine the conventional use of physiognomy, it does not follow that other early Christian writers and their respective communities shared this view or aim, as will be argued in subsequent chapters.
Parsons' student, Chad Hartsock, also addresses issues of physiognomy in early Christian texts, in particular what descriptions such as "blind" or "visually impaired" might have conveyed about the character of a person being portrayed as such. He argues that Luke makes use of these conventional assumptions in a rather programmatic manner, and as such references to eyes, sight, and blindness are an interpretive key that has gone unnoticed in modern scholarship. Hartsock's work provides the reader with a well researched database of physiognomic assumptions pertaining to eyes, sight, and blindness.
Stephen D. Moore is one of the few contemporary scholars to discuss in any depth the purported "ugliness" of Jesus in early Christian authors, predicated on the suffering servant
117 Parsons, Body and Character. 118 For example, he notes that in the ancient physiognomic consciousness a person of Ethiopian origin and a eunuch to boot (Acts 8) would have been subject to all three physiognomic methods and his character found decidedly wanting, yet he nonetheless baptized into the community. Parsons asserts that this episode is "the culmination of Luke's argument that those who are physically 'defective' by the prevailing cultural standards are in no way excluded from the body of the new Abrahamic community," 123. Similarly, Parsons also explicates how the lame man healed in Acts 3 would have been understood as morally problematic: weak ankles and feet were considered indicative of weak character. Parson maintains that by extension, the healing of his body would have suggested to an ancient audience the healing of his character.
imagery in Isaiah.119 Although Moore does offer plausible reasons for the rhetorical function of these (rather curious) assertions by early Christian authors, ultimately I think more can be said on the subject to account for other rhetorical strategies that are potentially at work in this material.
Given this rather short review of literature on the subject, there is demonstrably a need for further research into how physiognomy and physiognomic principles were utilized in early
Christian texts. Moreover, with the exception of Harrill's work, no scholar of early Christianity has paid attention to the role of physiognomics as a rhetorical tool of persuasion used by early
Christian authors. The following will hopefully contribute new information regarding the ways in which physiognomy was part of the arsenal of early Christian rhetoric.
What the Following Aims to do and to Contribute to Early Christian Scholarship
The following chapters will examine how physiognomic principles informed the writings of early Christian authors, particularly in instances where it was used as a form of persuasion. Re- contextualizing aspects of these texts that have not received attention via this important interpretive lens enables us to understand more concretely just what cultural assumptions were at play, and to some extent to further appreciate the meaning behind what these authors were saying. In turn, to understand that early Christians — despite modern assumptions of "souls" being of paramount concern to them — were no different from their non-Christian neighbours in placing great significance on the importance of the body as a means of cultural communication and indicative of character.
119 Stephen D. Moore, God's Beauty Parlor: and Other Queer Spaces in and around the Bible (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).
The following chapter, "The Physiognomy of the Heretic," will investigate the persuasive power of physiognomy in relation to early Christian negotiations of insider-outsider boundaries
(though unfortunately for the most part only one side of that debate is still extent). That is, the rhetorical attempts of heresiologists to discredit so-called heretics and apostates. While different aspects of this discourse have been addressed, what has thus far been lacking in these studies is the rhetorical traction the heresiologists were afforded in utilizing physiognomic assumptions to undermine the moral credibility of their opponents, which would have held persuasive traction in the ancient world.
The third and fourth chapters will examine the importance of 'looking the part' in physiognomic consciousness for authority figures in early Christian tradition. The third will address the tension of a saviour who tradition held did not look the part expected of a divine or blessed individual — the "ugly" Jesus in the Suffering Servant imagery. I contrast this rather curious acceptance of an ugly saviour with the attempts to beautify the figure of Moses in Philo and Josephus. I argue that while some early Christian authors do evidence a degree of tension in adopting this perspective without qualifications, authors that did subscribe or promote this image of an unattractive Jesus did so in order to achieve some larger rhetorical goal.
The fourth chapter will investigate the physical description of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Here I will argue that by conceiving of Paul's joined brows in the sense of "unibrow" has obscured academic discussion on just how Paul and his character is being portrayed in the narrative. I suggest that is better understood as a knitted brow, and that this helps reconcile all the seemingly disparate aspects of the description into a coherent whole. I argue that Paul is being portrayed in a way to evoke the image of a philosopher, with some indication that Socrates
in particular is serving as a model, and that this is done to underscore his character as that of a learned teacher in the work.
The fifth chapter, "The Physiognomy of the [Ideal] Christian," is related to the former in that it too addresses the use of physiognomic principles in negotiation of group boundaries. Here
I argue that the significance placed on bodily comportment (including walking, laughter, and other seemingly innocuous physical undertakings) by the early Christian authors are better understood if read through a physiognomic lens. I suggest that the importance placed on proper external mannerisms and gestures functioned for the writers as not only a form of social control, but also as a means to persuade non-Christian observers via "body language" of the moral virtues and even superiority of this group.
The following conceptualizes early Christian as from the first to fourth century, and given that this was also the period that physiognomic principles were commonplace (though admittedly there does seem to be a slight dwindling of interest in the third century) it is reasonable to examine material that encompasses this admittedly rather broad time frame.
Some Preliminary Caveats
Despite the widespread nature of the physiognomic consciousness in antiquity as discussed above, admittedly not everyone accepted the validity of the practice, and in turn do not seem to have engaged in it. Sassi notes that there was a "persistent 'antiphysiognomist' tradition" that took its influence from the Platonic and Socratic theme of inner beauty, and gained further strength via philosophical ideas on the rational control of the passions wherein physical features
lose their relevance.120 Evans notes that the dream interpreter Artemidorus also dismissed the efficaciousness of physiognomy, thought she notes that at least part of this reason was he viewed the practice as competition to his own skill.121 Some early Christian authors also did not subscribe to the principles and practices of physiognomy, and Hippolytus of Rome is quite outspoken in his disdain for it, although his focus is the perceived predictive abilities of the
122 astrological form of it, maintaining that only early Christians had access to true prophecy.
However, these ancient detractors of physiognomy seem to have been more the exception to the rule, rather than a majority position. Indeed, even early Christian authors that assert the unimportance of the body in relation to the soul nonetheless engage in arguments that are informed by physiognomic principles.123 Given that the following takes its focus as the use of physiognomy in writings intended to persuade, it is a reasonable assumption that the given author employing this method himself believes it to be a persuasive means of articulating his point, and further believes that his audience will find the use persuasive.
The following will not pursue the astrological form of physiognomy, given that this was rarely used in a context of persuasion, but more of a means of divining the future. Moreover, with a few exceptions such as Hippolytus, this form of physiognomy rarely appears in the early
120 Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece, 81. Boys-Stones also discusses a disregard for physiognomy in the Socratic and Platonic tradition, one based on the idea that one's character could be made either better or worse (via the study of philosophy of course, along with other practices) and thus was not fixed, and thus fixed physical aspects could not accurately reveal an individual's character. The famous story of Socrates' encounter with the physiognomist Zopyrus illustrates this idea well and is discussed in chapter four. 121 Evans, ―The Study of Physiognomy in the Second Century A.D,‖ 105. 122Haer., 4.14-27. Clement of Alexander (Strom., 1.21.135; also noted by Lincicum, 65) similarly takes issue with the astrological form of physiognomy, asserting that only Christians have access to authentic prophecy, yet elsewhere his use of physiognomics for evaluating character are widespread. And as noted above, as Parsons has shown, although aware of the commonplace assumptions regarding physiognomy and character, the author of Luke- Acts seeks to undermine them. 123 Discussed in later chapters.
Christian sources I will be consulting. Similarly, the zoological and ethnographical methods do not appear with great frequency in my sources, and so consequently these forms will not be addressed at great length.
In attempting to explicate the shared assumptions of what a given gesture, physical trait, or animal comparison, the following will not rely solely on the manuals given that, as noted above, practitioners of physiognomy in an informal sense seem to have drawn from them only as suited their purposes, or perhaps not at all. Rather, I will seek to find similar uses of a given description in the broader physiognomic consciousness, given that this was the more commonplace application of physiognomy, and often times the manuals seem to offer a unique
(that is, otherwise unattested) understanding of a given trait that does not seem to have carried much cultural weight in common practice.
Finally, I concede from the outset that much of what follows cannot be concretely concluded, but rather offers a more plausible understanding of underlying common assumptions employed in discourses of persuasion. We cannot know for certain that a given connection between a description and inferred character trait was present in the minds of the author, but we can posit a plausible explication that makes the most sense given the context — both of the ancient physiognomic consciousness, as well as the author's understanding of the individual he is portraying.
Throughout the work, translations of ancient texts are slightly modified versions drawn from the translations cited.
Chapter Two The Physiognomy of a Heretic: Physiognomic Polemic as a component of Persuasion in demarcating "Insiders" and "Outsiders"
The utilization of physiognomics as a component of persuasion to malign an opponent was, as the previous chapter has shown, a cultural commonplace. Two reasons as to why it was deemed such an efficacious strategy of persuasion can be tentatively suggested. The first is that given that physiognomy was thought to be a system of analysis that required keen observation and interpretive skills, it carried with it implications for the expertise and intelligence of the practioner. It served the dual purpose of simultaneously denigrating one's opponent while demonstrating the speaker or author's own literary and rhetorical abilities, intelligence, and skills
124 in discerning "truths" about a subject's character that he might otherwise attempt to conceal.
As noted in the first chapter, Maria Sassi discusses the intellectual prowess associated with physiognomic practice, noting that "it is no coincidence that the founding of the discipline is attributed to the ancient sage Pythagoras."125 Moreover, in speakers or writers who had received a formal rhetorical education — of which physiognomy was a component of, albeit on how to comport their own bodies for maximum persuasive effect on their audience126 — this provided the individual with a means of demonstrating this mastery of the skill.
The second possible perceived advantage to utilizing physiognomic polemic as a component of persuasion is that, despite being ultimately a subjective enterprise, there seems to
124 In what follows I have chosen to not utilize gender inclusive language given that ancient physiognomy was for the most part a discourse among men, almost always about other men. To include the female pronouns here would be anachronistic, and thus I refrain from using them except in instances where women are clearly stipulated as subjects in chapter five. 125Maria Michela Sassi, The Science of Man in Ancient Greece (trans. P. Tucker; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 64. 126Tamsyn S. Barton, Power and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire. The Body in Theory: Histories of Cultural Materialism (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1995), 103-4.
have been enough of a culturally ascribed consensus of meaning to a given physical trait that it could be used as an objective and universal truth that could be appealed to. Physiognomy could not only "stand alone" as a way of maligning a person's character, but it could also play a supporting role as a sort of empirical validation of an author or speaker's assertions. Ancient physiognomic thought held that body attested to and "proved" a subject's character deficiencies in ways that he or she was often unable to conceal. It thus functioned as a form of appeal that allowed the practitioner to utilize these cultural constructs as a perceived empirical truth or proof that could not be readily falsified, lending proof to (or sometimes functioning as) his argument.
However, that physiognomy was ultimately a subjective enterprise despite these implicit claims of objective truth should be addressed, even if ancient authors themselves seem to have preferred not to engage in this discussion. Perhaps the clearest example of this is that occasionally a given physical character trait can be evaluated differently in different sources — not just as specific character traits but even more broadly as positive in one, and negative in another. This is perhaps to be expected given that any reading of a bodily characteristic is of course subjective, and while popular consensus does seem to have standardized these evaluations to a large extent, there is bound to be exceptions. Here the physiognomic manuals are particularly problematic — while often there is some degree of overlap between their evaluations and popular consensus, almost as frequently there is a discrepancy. For example, in Polemo's manual contracted eyebrows among other physicalities are thought to indicate a man who should be discounted from "knowledge, intellect, and intelligence" (A9). However, in more popular (and more widely attested) thought the contracted or knitted brow was thought to indicate the exact opposite: the philosopher or the intellectual, discussed further in chapter four. Yet this sort of subjective application is not found only in the difference between the manuals and less formal
application, but also in the broader consensus itself where interpretations of a given physical trait often vary. There were shifts in interpretation in physiognomic thought, and an author could capitalize on a given physical trait as either positive or negative as it suited his rhetorical purpose, so long as there was at least some cultural understanding or precedence that he could appeal to. An unimpeachable and universally agreed upon intepretation of a given physicality does not seem to have ever been reached, allowing practitioners to pick and chose a given understanding or implication to convey to their audience as the situation warranted.
In evaluating these types of situations, I side with the sentiment that is more widely attested, and seems to be more in keeping with the rhetorical intentions of a given author as either positive or negative evaluations. I very rarely employ only the manuals, but derive an interpretation from a broader nexus of physiognomic thought.
Related to this is the seeming discrepancy found in early Christian sources in contrast to broader physiognomic sentiments: the evaluation of a less than physically robust body, often understood as a positive indication of ascetic self-control. While early Christian sources for the most part adhere to the broader cultural consensus in ascribing positive or negative traits to an aspect of physicality, in this instance they do seem to differ to some extent from their more mainstream contemporaries, prizing a body that reflects a lifestyle of abstinence from physical indulgences rather than a more robust one. This does, however, find a counterpart in some stands of ancient philosophical thought, where a rather neglected or under nourished physical body was thought to demonstrate a commitment to the life of the mind at the expense of the body.127 Mark
Bradley notes that in the late Republic and early Imperial Rome portraiture of key Greek and
127 Indeed, from the second century on early Christianity tended to view — or at the very least attempt to portray — itself not only as a branch or school of philosophy, but the only "true" philosophy, so it seems reasonable to suppose that the appearances of these proto-typical thinker would have to some degree influenced their expectations of what a Christian should look like. On this point, please see chapter four on the physiognomy of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla.
Hellenistic philosophers were common both in public and private settings, and became almost prototypes of how those committed to the life of the mind were expected to look. He suggests that
these archetypal figures quickly acquired an almost mythical status, and what they actually looked like in life was of rather less importance than the appearance to which collectors, viewers and followers expected them to conform. It is unsurprising that the prevailing representation of these figures imagined them as old, emaciated men with sunken cheeks, wrinkled brows, piercing eyes and (in full-length portraits) skeletal torsos: they were typically so preoccupied with the world of the mind that a well-fed, well-exercised and well-attended body would be something of an 128 anathema.
Thus at first glance it seems as though those of this mindset would in turn reject physiognomic thought, but the opposite often turns out to be the case, resulting in something of an anomaly: proclamations about the relative unimportance of the body were made simultaneously with the body itself (in an undernourished or neglected form) being used as evidence of the subject's commitment to this ideal. That is, while the body was denigrated as relatively unimportant, it was nonetheless a fundamental means of demonstrating the subject's commitment to a philosophical and self-restrained lifestyle.129 Many early Christians were also participants in this seeming contradiction, albeit with a slightly Christian "spin" on the ideals of asceticism and self- control although the principles seem to be the same. Often while promoting the renunciation of the needs or desires of the body as indicative of upright character of the soul or character and commitment to God, the early Christian's body nonetheless also served as observable "proof" of the subject's adherence to these ethical mandates. Jerome is particularly opinionated in this
128 Mark Bradley, "Obesity, Corpulence and Emaciation in Roman Art," in PBSR 79 (2011); 1-41: 21-22. 129 See below for specific examples of early Christians using a subject's purported excessive corpulence as a means of demonstrating that they lacked sufficient self-restraint regarding physical matters (and thus questioned the legitimacy of their respective commitment to "proper" Christian behaviour and their moral integrity), and in some cases belied their claims of adhering to an ascetic lifestyle, in turn impugning their character.
respect. For example, he boasts that unlike his opponents, he will fast with "women [and] with religious men whose looks witness to their chastity, and who with the cheek pale from prolonged abstinence, show forth the chastity of Christ."130 He contrasts his community of early Christians with those who follow Vigilantius (discussed below), asserting that "to our flock belong the sad, the pale, the meanly clad, who, like strangers in this world, though their tongues are silent, yet speak by their dress and bearing."131 Thus for some, but by no means all, early Christian writers there is a slight divergence from the broader physiognomic consciousness in that it claims the unimportance of the body yet the neglected body itself provides observable evidence of their self-controlled lifestyle, which, like their philosophically minded counterparts, is ultimately physiognomic in and of itself.132 Of course, even despite this degree of relative shared interpretation of these physical traits, as discussed above ultimately subjectivity was inherent in this enterprise, and the description of the physical appearance of Arius (discussed below) is a potential example of this.
A further complication for ancient physiognomists' claims to access to objective truth via decoding the signs of the body is the decided tension — if not to say implicit conflict — between what we might call "nature vs. nurture" frequently present in physiognomic thought and undertaking. On the one hand practitioners held that physiognomy reveals a "true" innate character that ultimately the subject could not conceal, but on the other hand instructions on how
130 Vigil. 1.12 (NPNF² 6:422). Indeed, that early Christians were aware of non-Christian detractors using the corpulence and well-dressed nature of some early Christians against them as a means of branding them as hypocrites can be deduced from Jerome: "The mob salutes us as Greeks and impostors if our tunics are fresh and clean. They may deal in still severer witticisms if they please; they may parade every fat paunch they can lay hold of, to turn us into ridicule" (Epist. 38.5 [NPNF² 6:49]). 131 Jov. 2.36 (NPNF² 6:414). 132 However, citing Teresa Shaw ("Askesis and the Appearance of Holiness," JECS 6.8 : 485-99), Georgia Frank suggests that "monastics developed their own physiognomic enterprise, often exhorting novices on the type of self-fashioning that would result in an 'ascetic' appearance," (The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity, [Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000], 137).
to comport the body in order to present one's self in the best moral light are espoused by these same authors. These instructions attest to the idea that the body can be manipulated to achieve
133 desired physiognomic results.
Despite this, and perhaps partially alleviating this tension, there is some evidence that some held that going to excessive lengths or deliberate attempts to mislead by physical comportment was ultimately doomed to failure.134 Perhaps the clearest example of this is the anecdote related by Dio Chrysostom, discussed in the previous chapter, where a man has the
(presumably cultivated) physical traits of what Gleason has termed "hyper-masculine signs," but is uncovered as a kinaidos by a physiognomist by a sneeze.135 Polemo weighs in on precisely this problem. He remarks that "the investigation of humans is rendered difficult by the fact that each
133 Indeed, much of Maud Gleason's work examines physiognomic exhortations regarding self-presentation (Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995]). Here Cicero is once again an excellent example. As discussed in chapter one, he employed physiognomic principles to illustrate the nefarious character of his opponent that attested to this, despite perhaps wanting to otherwise conceal his character faults. However, as discussed below, in his advice to his son he gives advice on gait so as to look the part of the dignified elite Roman male. Timothy O'Sullivan (Walking in Roman Culture, [Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011]) also notes this tension as it pertains to gait and masculinity, remarking that "if using art to control the body has an air of feminity about it, then any attempt by a man to manipulate his gait courts the charge of effeminacy; recall Manilus' claim that 'feigned' gaits (ficti ... gressus) please effeminate males (Astron. 5.153). Yet the very notion that a man's walk 'should' be one way or another implies that it is something that can be acquired, practiced, and nurtured.... The paradox of gait instruction is especially threatening to the ideology of "naturally" masculine behavior" (O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 28). O'Sullivan further asserts that "the recognition that the apparently 'natural' synthesis of bodily deportment and social identity actually has a learned component raises some obvious questions. If the gait is an 'essential' and 'natural' trait of both individual and social identity, how can it be a learnable behavior at the same time?" (Walking in Roman Culture, 30). To resolve this tension, O'Sullivan posits that the idea that "nature" (aristocratic identity that a male was born with, and thus inherent knowledge of the proper manly gait) was thought to be potentially undermined by "nature" — being reared by slaves who were by nature servile (Walking in Roman Culture, 30). He cites Plutarch's advice that the slaves who oversee the children from birth should be well spoken in Greek and have excellent habits (Walking in Roman Culture, 30). This is perhaps partly what is at play in the underlying logic if this seeming contradiction, but solving this puzzle decisively is beyond the current scope of the work. Also see James Fredal, who also notes this tension, albeit as applicable to Athenian orators (Rhetorical Action in Ancient Athens, [Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006], 179-81). 134 Although, of course, this is not universally the case either — some were able to deceive those who did not know enough to suspect them of this deception, or were not astute enough to see this deception for what it really was, unlike the author (of course) who was able to see through the facade. On this point please see Epiphaniaus' description of Arius below. 135 Gleason, Making Men, 77, and she also notes this anecdote in relation to this potential conflict.
man strives to conceal his proper faults," but notes that this is not a hopeless deadend for "the attentive practitioner will detect even the man who is taking precautions [to conceal a poor character trait]."136 As Gleason observes, "physiognomists therefore must always be alert to deception. Signs that one's subject is overcompensating are a dead giveaway."137 The anonymous Latin manual states that "[kinaidoi] ... long to hide their defect and because of this are readily detected by experienced observers."138 As Gleason notes, Polemo distinguished bodily movements that are natural and unaffected from those that involve some form of pretense,
139 identifying three levels on which deception operates for Polemo.
Thus, it seems as though in the ancient physiognomic mindset that while some might be fooled by these physically-enacted pretenses, one who is an intelligent and skilled observer will not be deceived, but instead are able to discover exactly what the subject attempts to keep
140 hidden. As Gleason observes
perhaps the taught suspension required of the ideal man's physical carriage is emblematic of the constant strain involved in maintaining a truly masculine profile in the face of such exacting standards, where an appropriate level of masculine tension in gaze, walk, and gesture must be cultivated by continuous exertion but must never be allowed to appear put on. The failures, which made the effort behind the act appear too obvious, were stigmatized as the clumsy efforts of overcompensating imposters — perhaps because they threatened to reveal the 141 deportment of masculinity for the construct of conventions that it really was.
136 Anon. Lat. 11; Also cited by Gleason, Making Men, 77. 137 Making Men, 77. 138 Anon. Lat. 39; Also cited by Gleason, Making Men, 78. 139 Gleason discusses the three levels on which attempts at physical deception operate for Polemo, including those who seek to further their social and political ambitions, to integrate themselves with others by using the charm of their physical appearance, and those who are secretly kinaidoi but seek to mask this (Making Men, 78-80). 140 Although here she is speaking of attempts to conceal effeminate character, although I suggest that her remarks are applicable to all attempts to conceal via comportment. 141 Making Men, 80. Similarly, on the subject of walking, O'Sullivan remarks that "For Roman elites gait was one of the many bodily characteristics that justified their position in the world; there was accordingly great social pressure to talk about the styles of walking as if they were natural, innate, and directly reflective of identity and character. As a result of this social importance, however, considerable effort was spent on training young me to 'walk the right way', which suggests an awareness that this seemingly 'natural' trait was actually an acquired one" (O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 13). Jennifer Glancy, on Cicero's instructions regarding gait, notes that "for Cicero,
Thus perhaps the instructions to elite males regarding proper bodily comportment are, as Gleason intimates, best understood as a cultivation of the inner character that was already present for elite male authors. That is, a means of amplifying or perhaps refining their already superior physiognomy and character, rather than an attempt at concealing an inferior one as they accuse their opponents of undertaking.
Another potential resolution to this is that at least some physiognomic practioners held that there could be some development (either positively or negatively) in a person's character that was reflected in changes in the body — not only that body and soul acted upon each other, but they did so over extended periods of time, allowing for changes in both. Ps-Aristotle relates that
"it seems to me that soul and body react on each other; when the character of the soul changes, it changes also the form of the body, and conversely, when the form of the body changes, it changes the character of the soul."142 On this view such mandates or instructions about how one comports one's self is thus a form of cultivating one's character, and as such does not contain the
143 problematic contradiction discussed above.
In any case, that physiognomy was used as a sort of universal and observable truth to appeal to — despite the fact that it clearly was not this — allowed practitioners to employ it as a persuasive component to other rhetorical arguments or function as the argument itself. This evasion of charges of subjectivity and the idea of access to irrefutable truth, along with the additional benefit of having positive implications for the physiognomists' intelligence, are two
proper gait is simultaneously natural and a matter to which a young man should give deliberate attention. He admits no contradiction between nature and cultivation" (Corporal Knowledge: Early Christian Bodies [New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010], 13). 142 Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn. 808b. 143This idea perhaps also underlies some instances of ascetic practice, or even Stoic thought where control of the body was thought to reflect control of the passions or desires.
significant reasons why physiognomic polemic made for an appealing strategy in the hetero- orthodox debate. It is this purported objectivity combined with implications of the practitioners' superior analytic capabilities that are able to discern these truths that made physiognomic critiques an important, but under-examined, weapon in the arsenal of those engaged with in this debate, given that demarcating between insiders and outsiders was an inherently subjective enterprise.
A Brief Overview of recent work on Heresiology
Drawing on Jonathan Z. Smith, Karen King notes the liminal position that those who were branded as heretics occupied in early Christianity: "Calling people heretics is an effort to place outside those who claim to be on the inside ... heresy was a particularly disturbing case of proximity in that the heretics claimed to be Christians."144 Not only was this social and theological proximity problematic for early Christians engaged in these negotiations, but equally
(if not much more) problematic was that the terms heresy and orthodoxy did not have any universally agreed upon substantive or ontological content that could readily be identified as such. As King remarks,
'Orthodoxy' and heresy' are terms of normative evaluation belonging to particular discourses of power and identity.... Such processes involve exertions of power that exclude and silence, even as they articulate the meaning of self in the face of 'otherness.' The power relations implied in discourses of orthodoxy and heresy are firmly embedded in struggles over who gets to say what 'truth' is, and they have their discursive setting in on-going processes of Christian self-identification and 145 identity formation.
The naming of (and concurrent attempts to silence and exile) the heretic was a process of negotiation for power and status, a form of discourse, and thus heresy (as well as orthodoxy)
144 Karen L. King, What is Gnosticism (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2003), 24-25; (emphasis original). 145 Karen L. King, ―Factions, Variety, Diversity, Multiplicity: Representing Early Christian Differences for the 21st Century," MTSR 23, (2011): 216-237, here 218.
were unable to be ontologically and universally defined, despite attempts to do so. In this situation, physiognomy and its claims of being able to reveal objective truth about an opponent's character, were particularly attractive strategies to employ in this process.
The exaggerated or even potentially grossly distorted nature of some of the accusations or descriptions of these heretics has been frequently noted in contemporary scholarship, in particular regarding how this impedes historical reconstruction of what the actual beliefs and practices of these heretics were.146 King rightfully objects to what she sees as modern scholars of heresy adopting the same criteria used by early Christians in an attempt to unearth the historical beliefs and practices of these figures and groups, whose writings are not for the most part non extant. Offering an analysis and overview of what these ancient strategies consisted, King cautions against their use by contemporary scholarship. And while her point of critique against much modern scholarship on heresy is an apt one, given that the present work seeks only to identify and discuss aspects of this discourse as rhetoric in its ancient context,147 the range of methods she identifies is important to note here, if only to highlight how physiognomy as one of these methodologies has not received the attention it warrants.
King identifies several of the strategies that were employed in the hetero-orthodox debates
146 As King observes, "the information supplied by the polemicist is historically significant, but it must always be read with a mind to their goal of detraction, and hence with an eye for ancient rhetorical conventions of refutation and intent to malign. Moreover, the polemicists may sometimes have misunderstood those toward whom they had little sympathy. In any case, we cannot assume that they accurately represented the issues that were of concern to their rivals, since their refutations necessarily reflect the issues that concerned them" (What is Gnosticism, 26). Similarly, she notes the great possibility of exaggeration of differences by heresiologists: "The polemicists needed to create sharp lines of differentiation because in practice the boundaries were not so neat" (What is Gnosticism, 30). In attempting to forge these clear (albeit likely somewhat exaggerated) lines of demarcation, physiognomy would prove to be a useful tool. 147 Even if the "historical" physicalities of these subjects could be discerned (which is highly doubtful), this is of less interest to the present work than that this rhetoric took place, and the persuasive goals that it sought to meet via its utilization.
limiting who was allowed to interpret scripture, to say what it really meant; establishing a rule of faith to regulate interpretation; attacking the character of one's opponents;148 calling themselves true Christians and their opponents heretics (or waterless clouds, etc); arguing that heretics lacked the truth (whether by the absences of some positive moral or theological trait or the presence of error) and their own views are theologically superior; devising competing genealogies, e.g., from Christ (through apostolic succession which equates the true Church with a hierarchical order of male authority, said to stem from Jesus through the twelve male apostles) or from Satan (through Simon Magus) — here origin is meant to show essence and character; contrasting the unity of the true Church with the divisiveness of heretics (unity implied uniformity while difference implied divisiveness); insisting that adherence to the authority of the established leadership of the one institutional Church constituted orthodoxy; doctrinal variation constituted social deviation (schism); alleging that heresy is produced by outside contamination of an originally pure faith (e.g.: by the importation of 149 Greek philosophy); asserting that the truth is chronologically prior to heresy."
Similarly, on the subject of these genealogies of heresy, Averil Cameron remarks:
Once the heresy or heresies had been caricatured in this way, the heresiologist would move on to the formal refutation, which might take one or more of several approaches: refutation by apparently rational argument, refutation from Scripture, refutation from tradition, and finally, straightforward polemic: the resort to abuse, wordplay, rhetorical questions, exclamations, and so on — in many ways the direct antitheses of the rhetorical style and techniques that might be employed by 150 the same writer in his homilies...
While both King and Cameron note the extensive methods or strategies employed by early
Christians engaged in this discourse, and indeed include the blanket term of personal abuse or attack on character, the use of physiognomic principles to achieve this is conspicuous by its absence. This is even more striking in that this sort of physiognomic polemic as a strategy of persuasion among rivals is attested in roughly contemporaneous works regarding philosophical
148 Of course physiognomic polemic falls under this broad umbrella, but in and of itself it has not been previously discussed as a tactic employed in this discourse. 149 King, ―Factions,‖ 218-29. 150 Averil Cameron, ―How to Read Heresiology,‖ JMEMS 33.3 (2003): 471-92, here 477. Although Cameron is here speaking of Byzantine heresiological works, and Epiphanius in particular, as she notes the trajectory is one that can be traced back to the earliest centuries of Christianity.
figures and their rivalry for followers, which provides a fruitful analogy to early Christians engaged in a similar struggle.
Philostratus relates that Scopelian from Smyrna was subject to physiognomic polemic by his rival Timocrates, who later added Polemo as one of his followers. Scopelian, at least according to Philostratus who sided in the debate with Timocrates, "had become addicted to the use of pitch-plasters and professional hair-removers."151 Gleason also discusses this anecdote and wryly notes that "in this contest between hirsute philosophy and depilated rhetoric, all the leisured youth of Smyrna took sides. Polemo chose his paradigm according to physiognomic principles. Though hitherto a pupil of both men, he threw his weight to Timokrates, "whose hair, during debate, stood up straight on his head and his cheeks, like the mane of a lion springing to attack."152 While of course Polemo's relation of his choice is intertwined with his own physiognomic literary agenda, Philostratus' observation that all the wealthy youths of the city also engaged in this debate attests to participation in this physiognomic quarrel as an issue of importance. Moreover, this also (along with Polemo's ultimate severing of ties with Scopelian) attests to the sort of rivalry for followers that physiognomic discourse as a form of persuasion could readily lend itself to.
Polemo, of course, is perhaps the exemplar of the use of physiognomic polemic in engaging with rivalling philosophers, where issues of status, intelligence, and followers were at stake. Polemo's chief rival was Favorinus of Arles, who was also of philosophical bent and also enjoyed the patronage of the emperor Hadrian.153 Gleason has discussed the conflict between
151 Vit. soph. 536 (Wright, LCL). 152 Gleason, Making men, 73. On hair depilation as indicative of effeminacy, please see chapter five. 153 Although by no means his only rival. As Barton observes, Polemo's manual "served as a classifactory grid to contain his political and intellectual opponents. In a sense it was a sophisticated development of the magical use of invective in the tabellae defixionum, or curse tablets. ... But Polemo created a new magic out of old elements, a new ςπραγσγία (winning of souls). Rather than actually making wax images of opponents to burn, with physiognomics
these two at length,154 but for present purposes it will suffice to note that physiognomy was a significant component of persuasion in this skirmish, with Polemo portraying himself as physically (and thus morally) superior, and Favorinus as decidedly lacking. As Van Houdt remarks, "the unmistakable message Polemo wanted to convey was that he, more than anyone else, incarnated the perfect man described in his handbook, whereas his rival and archenemy, the sophist Favorinus of Arles, deserved mere contempt because of his barbarous and effeminate nature."155 This physiognomic polemical debate extended beyond these two individuals themselves, involving not only their respective pupils, but — at least according to Philostratus — much of the populace of cities as well: "[this dispute] began in Ionia, where the Ephesians favoured Favorinus, while Smyrna admired Polemo; and it became more bitter in Rome; for their consulars and sons of consulars by applauding either one or the other started between them a rivalry such as kindles the keenest envy and malice ... they are to be blamed for the speeches that they composed assailing one another."156 As Gleason rightly observes of Polemo's method of castigating Favorinus in his manual, "nominally camouflaged by the pretense of objective description within impersonal scientific categories, physiognomical character assassination may
In appealing to physiognomy to persuade and win followers, Polemo and other intellectuals like him were able to couch their polemic as an instance of observable fact. As a form of argumentation it allowed the practitioner to denigrate the character of his opponent and
he constructed their bodies so as to destroy their characters. And destroying the ἤθος (ethos: moral persona) of a rival deprived him of the moral claim to persuade" (Barton, Power and Knowledge, 97). 154 Gleason, Making Men, especially chapters 1-2. 155 Van Houdt, "Speaking Eyes," 637. 156 Vit. soph. 490-91. 157 Gleason, Making Men, 46.
in turn to curtail his influence and any claims to superiority. For early Christian authors engaged in hetero-orthodox discourses, it is apparent why physiognomy would be an appealing weapon to add to their arsenals of rhetoric.
For opponents of heretics, apostates, and their followers physiognomy provided a method of character denigration that could purport to be objectively verifiable, thus curtailing to some degree of the subjectivity inherent to this struggle, given the lack of ontological definition of a heretic. Physiognomy as a component of polemical persuasion provided authors additional support to place opponents occupying this liminal position firmly on the "outside." Regardless of what arguments these opponents might make, ultimately their bodies spoke louder (and more persuasively) than mere words, and, unlike speech, did not lie. This strategy was used both in
"real life," where the authors and their audiences had potential awareness of the "real" physicality of their opponents, as well as in narrative accounts where an author had a bit more freedom in how he portrayed his subject. Of course, though, even authors in "real life" were free to put whatever spin on an aspect of physicality that might have traction,158 and often their very mentioning of a given physical trait at all suggests that they felt this would lend support to their negative assertions.
158 As Harrill remarks in his work on physiognomic polemic against Paul, "rhetoric is not physical description," (J. Albert Harrill, ―Invective Against Paul (2 Cor 10:10), the Physiognomics of the Ancient Slave Body, and the Greco-Roman Rhetoric of Manhood,‖ in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy Presented to Hans Dieter Betz on His 70th Birthday, ed. Adela Yarbro Collins and Margaret M. Mitchell [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001], 203). While presumably there needed to be some correspondence between the physicality of the opponent in actually and what the author is describing in order for it to have an air of verisimilitude, the author was ultimately quite free to exaggerate these descriptions, and thus while surely constrained in some way by historical fact, the degree to which this was the case is ultimately beyond our reach. In some cases, it seems as though an author had never in fact seen his opponent in person (see below), although likely there must have been some attempt at some degree of verisimilitude if his audience was familiar with traditions about the opponent's physicality. If they did not have that knowledge, then it seems reasonable that the author had a very high degree of creative control, perhaps even fabricating aspects entirely, although ultimately (and unfortunately) this, too, cannot be established with any degree of certainty.
What follows is arranged more or less chronologically according to the opponent in question. This is by no means an exhaustive selection, but rather a sampling of some of the clearer examples of this use of physiognomy in debates with theological opponents, in what can
159 be classified as physiognomy "proper."
In the apocryphal Acts of Peter the apostle Peter is depicted as the heroic counterpart to the treacherous magician Simon.160 Their rivalry is frequently depicted as a deliberate contrast of their wonderworking abilities and character, with the intent to highlight Simon as a deceptive charlatan and Peter as a legitimate and honourable envoy of Jesus. One aspect of this contrast that has not been given significant attention is the description of Simon's voice. It is described as
"thin" or "shrill" [gracilis] by the narrator, and as a "weak and useless voice" [infirmem et inutilem] by a dog who Peter has miraculously endowed with human speech.161 Few scholars have addressed these descriptions of Simon's voice, Gerard Luttikhuizen and Stephen Haar being the only two of whom I am aware. Luttikhuizen proposes that this depiction is meant to be ironic, a contrast between the reported great acclamations of Simon as a god in Italy and his shrill voice which is anti-climactic.162 Similarly, Haar posits that this shrill voice is meant to be a
159 This discourse could of course be extended, and examples of rhetoric that engage in physiognomic consciousness — although not, perhaps, physiognomy proper — are numerous. Athanasius (Letter 54) takes clear delight in describing the death of Arius as reminiscent of that of Judas, and is clear to stipulate the bowel problems that proceeded this; Papias' description of Judas' death (Frag. 3.4-13), and many of the early martyrdom accounts that relate physicalities of protagonists and opponents. In the interest of succinctness as well as attempting to keep within the bounds of what can be understood as physiognomy proper, I do not pursue these avenues. 160 For a second century date and citation of relevant literature, please see Callie Callon, "Images of Empire, Imaging the Self: The Significance of the Imperial Statue Episode in the Acts of Peter," HTR 106.3 (2013):1 n. 1. 161 Acts of Peter 4 and 12 (Wilhelm Schneemelcher, ed., New Testament Apocrypha [rev. ed.; Eng. trans. ed. R. McL. Wilson; 2 vols.; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1991]), vol. 1. 162 Gerard Luttikhuizen, "Simon Magus as a Narrative Figure," in The Apocryphal Acts of Peter: magic, miracles and gnosticism (ed. Jan N. Bremmer; Leuven: Peeters, 1998), 43.
"comic contrast" between the character and his public acclamation as divine.163 And while
Luttikhuizen and Haar are most likely correct that there is this ironic or humorous contrast in play in the first instance, the reiteration a second time when Simon is not making such grandiose claims warrants further investigation, and much more can be said about the characterization of
Simon's voice as weak or thin. While to a modern audience these might seem like a mere couple of words of relative insignificance, in antiquity the male voice and references to it was the subject of considerable physiognomic scrutiny. As Maud Gleason notes, secondary sex characteristics such as the hair and voice "are 'read' socially as signs of the inner heat that constitutes a man's claim to physiological and cultural superiority over women, eunuchs, and children" and a speaker's vocal deportment was considered diagnostic of his character, for better or for worse.164 Thus for an ancient audience this characterization of Simon's voice would have conveyed implications for his character: a feeble or weak voice was deemed to be one of the indications of the effeminate or androgynous male both in the physiognomic manuals as well as in broader sentiment.165 Ps-Aristotle's manual states that a high pitched and broken voice is one of the characteristics of a kinaidos,166 Polemo's manual includes a voice that is "thin, weepy, and shrill" are among the characteristics of the androgynoi,167 following this the Anonymous Latin manual describes the kinaidos as having a weak or drained voice,168 and Adamantius states that
169 "the man who speaks with a high and soft and flexible voice indicates that he is androgynous."
163 Stephen Haar, Simon Magus: The First Gnostic? (Berlin; New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2003), 112 n. 255. 164Gleason, "The Semiotics of Gender," 401. Similarly, she asserts that the male voice "functions as a sign in the symbolic language of masculine identity" (Gleason, Making Men, 103). 165Gleason notes that for Seneca (Epist. 114.20)effeminacy is also reveled through the voice, Making Men, 113. 166 Physiogn. 812b. 167 Physiogn. 61. 168 Anon. Lat. 98 169 Physiogn. B45.
To cite but a few examples drawn from beyond the manuals themselves, Quintilian warns that a man with a weak voice will be unable to produce quality oratory — one of the requirements of being an elite Roman male — given that he states that such a voice is to be found among eunuchs and women.170 Cicero too, in his advice on oratory, states that all men must strive to avoid a "weak and effeminate" voice.171 In Lucian of Samosta's "Eunuchus" this title character is described on two occasions as having a weak and effeminate voice.172 And Dominic
Montserrat173 has proposed that the runaway slave described in P.Oxy 51. 3617 is depicted in ways (including his shrill [ὀμεία] voice) that underscore his servile nature and thus lack of masculinity, which were interlinked in ancient thought.174 On a related note, J. Albert Harrill has rightly argued that Paul's opponents were contesting aspects of his masculinity in describing his speech as "weak," also viewing this lack of masculinity as related to the ancient rhetoric of slavery.175 In contrast to Simon's voice, in the Acts of Peter the apostle is described as having a
"strong" [maximus] or "great" [magna] voice,176 which in ancient physiognomic thought
177 indicated positive traits typically deemed to be masculine in nature.
As Gleason also notes, however, in antiquity the sliding scale of gender required a tabulation of a variety of different traits in order to point conclusively in one gender direction or
170 Inst. 11.3.13. Similarly, he advises that a a feeble and thin voice is to be avoided by the orator, given that this is associated with women's speech (Inst. 11.11.1). 171De or. 3.11 (Rackham, LCL) 172 Eunuch. 7 (γπλαηθῖνλ) and 12 (γυναικεῖος) 173 Dominic Monserrat, Sex and Society in Greco-Roman Egypt, (London; New York: Kegan Paul International; 1996), 55. 174 On this point see Jennifer Glancy, Slavery in Early Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006), 23-26. 175 Harrill, "Invective against Paul." 176 maximus: 7, 17, 22, 28; magna: 10. 177 For example, Polemo (B44) considers a loud voice to be a component of the signs that indicate a man of boldness and strength of spirit. Quintilian recommends that the best voice is strong [magna] and sturdy [firma, in contrast to Simon's infirma] (Inst. 11.3.40).
another. That Simon's weak voice is indeed meant to be one such component designating effeminacy finds further support in other aspects of Simon's physicality portrayed in the text.
With the exception of the bewitched crowd that runs to see Simon's proposed wondrous deeds,178 and the mother of a deceased son that Peter has agreed to resurrect who runs with unrestrained maternal joy,179 Simon is the only character in the work who is depicted as running: "Simon,
180 shrewdly beaten and cast out of the house, ran [cucurrit] to the house where Peter lodged...."
As Gleason and others observe, gait, like voice, was also subject to physiognomical scrutiny in the ancient world, and like voice could "betray" an effeminate character, as deficiency in self- control was tantamount to a deficiency in masculinity. As Dio Chrysostom remarks, "one man's gait reveals his composure and the attention he gives to his conduct, another's reveals his inner disorder and lack of self-restraint."181 Similarly, Cicero cautions his son on the acceptable means of gait for the Roman male — it should be neither "listless sauntering" so as "to look like carriers in a festal procession" or hurrying too quickly as this will reveal a disordered state of mind.182 As
Gleason suggests, here Cicero is articulating that a hasty gait and the perceived concurrent
183 mental excitement are "impediments to masculine dignitas."
Timothy O'Sullivan notes that elite males were expected to advertise their self-control and masculinity via their bodily deportment, and were constantly reminded of the importance of
178 Acts Pet. 4 [concurrentes] 179 Acts Pet. 28 [currens cum gaudio magno] 180 Acts Pet. 14 181Cel. Phryg. 35.24. 182 De Offic. 1.36. 183 Gleason, "The Semiotics of Gender," 393. For a discussion of the link between an (unspecified type of) gait and effeminacy, see Corbeill, Controlling Laughter: Political Humor in the Late Roman Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 166-167.
not walking like women, slaves, or effeminate males.184 Adamantius' physiognomic manual asserts that "the orderly man reveals his self-restraint ... through his deportment" including being
"deep voiced and slow-stepping."185 But perhaps the most widespread attestation of the conceptual link between insufficient masculinity and a hurried gait is to be found in the figure of the running slave in Greco-Roman comedy. As Anthony Corbeil remarks, "it is a well known motif of Roman comedy that slaves run, so much so that the phrase "running slave" is almost tautological."186 Running was perceived to be another marker of servile status and thus conceptually linked to deficiency in masculine character. To return to Simon, not only is he portrayed as running, but at this point in the narrative he is running after having been beaten by slaves, which included having the contents of a chamber pot dumped on him. A crucial component in being a member of the masculine elite was thought to be the ability to protect the body's physical integrity, and while this aspect of the narrative is not physiognomic per se, it does lend support to the view that Simon's masculinity is being depicted as severely compromised. As Harrill observes, "in Greco-Roman invective, to accuse a person of weak bodily presence and deficient speech is to call that person a slavish man unfit for public office or
187 otherwise to dominate others."
Yet even beyond a deficient masculinity — which was in and of itself bad enough! — as
Gleason notes a man who was deemed effeminate was thought to have further character failings.
184 O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 13. He further notes that "as many scholars have demonstrated, elite males were expected to advertise their self-control in their very bodies — for it they did not control their bodies, how could they manage to control the state?" (Walking in Roman Culture, 13). For a discussion of some of the potential specifics that are meant by an effeminate or female gate, please see chapter 5. 185 Physiogn. 2.49, 1.43-14. 186 Anthony Corbeill, Nature embodied: gesture in ancient Rome, (Princeton, N.J.; Princeton University Press, 2004), 117. 187 Harrill, "Invective Against Paul," 204.
These perceived gender deviants were physiological imposters, deemed deceitful and treacherous. As Gleason suggests, this is presumably because their bodies betray them as living a
"lie" in the sense that they try to act like "real" men to fool others, but aspects of their physicality reveals their "true" effeminate nature. This perceived deceptive character coheres well with how
Simon is portrayed throughout the Acts of Peter — consistently deceiving those around him, most importantly in misleading the Christian congregation to apostasize and worship him via his fraudulent magical tricks that are, of course, not "real" "miracles" at all.
Yet even beyond the use of the anatomical method of physiognomy to underscore the negative aspects of Simon's character, it seems likely that the ethnographical method is also employed, albeit through visions in the narrative. The day before the final confrontation between
Peter and Simon in the forum, Marcellus, the senator who Peter has restored to the Christian faith, receives a dream or vision in his sleep. Marcellus relates the details of his vision:
I saw you [Peter] sitting in a high place and before you a great multitude, and a woman exceedingly foul (mulierem quendam turpissimam), in sight like an Ethiopian, not an Egyptian, but altogether black and filthy, clothed in rags, and with an iron collar around her neck and chains upon her feet, and dancing. And when you saw me you said to me with a loud voice "Marcellus, the whole power of Simon and 188 of his God is this woman who is dancing; behead her" Of course this is only a vision, not an "actual" depiction of the physicality of Simon. Perhaps the narrative felt constrained by the tradition it relates that Simon was from Samaria, and thus presumably this was the only means of depicting him as such. In any case, it is worth noting that in other visions in the dream, Jesus, although taking various forms, is consistently described in favourable physical terms189 and Peter is described as looking identical to how he looks in "real"
188 Acts Pet. 22. 189 Jesus is described as appearing as "a youth, shining and beautiful" (5), "clad in a vesture of brightness, smiling: (16), and, simultaneously by three widows as "We saw an old man of such comeliness as we are not able to declare to thee; but others said: We saw a young man; and others: We saw a boy touching our eyes delicately, and so were
life. Moreover, the implications of the physical characteristics ascribed to Simon as the woman in the dream cohere well with the above reading of his voice and gait, so it is probable that this is an extension of the moral characterization of Simon.
Most notable in this description, of course, is the depiction of him as a woman. This is likely a logical extension of the effeminacy implied in his character elsewhere via his gait and voice. The collar around the figure's neck and chains around the feet most likely indicate servile status, and, as above, in turn also an indication of insufficient masculinity. Dancing, too, was thought to be the activities of women or kinaidoi and decidedly emasculating for a free male to
David Brakke's work has explored the rather common place early Christian presentation of demons described as Ethiopian, arguing that in these instances dark skin was intended to denote not just evil, but in particular the "sexual evil" of lust, given that Ethiopians were thought
our eyes opened" respectively (21). Although the polymorphy of Jesus might indicate a non-adherence to the physiognomic consciousness, along with Peter's assertion that in his early life he was not of pleasing form, it is equally possible that these visions serve as a sort of "do-over," a way of presenting the physicalilties of characters that did not need to cohere with previous tradition. The text is certainly a "do-over" or apology for Peter's character, as several times in the narrative his past failings [such as not being able to walk on water, denying Jesus] are brought up by character in the text, giving Peter the chance to address them and respond apologetically. Of course, the text is also one of the very few apocryphal acts where Jesus is described as having "no beauty nor comeliness" (24). These, of course, have the function of "proving" that Jesus was foretold in the scriptures, as well as showing that Jesus' physical form 'trumps' earthly bodies or to reinforce his divine status in that he can change forms, and indeed, adopts a very wide range of seemingly conflicting forms [see the next chapter for more discussion on the polymorphy of Jesus]: "this God who is great and small, fair and foul, young and old, seen in time and unto eternity invisible; whom the hand of man has not held, yet is he held by his servants; whom no flesh hath seen, yet now sees; who is the word proclaimed by the prophets and now appearing; not subject to suffering, but having now made trial of suffering for our sake (or like unto us); never chastised, yet now chastised; who was before the world and has been comprehended in time; the great beginning of all principality, yet delivered over unto princes; beautiful, but among us lowly; seen of all yet foreseeing all. This Jesus you have, brothers, the door, the light, the way, the bread, the water, the life, the resurrection, the refreshment, the pearl, the treasure, the seed, the abundance (harvest), the mustard seed, the vine, the plough, the grace, the faith, the word: he is all things and there is none other greater than he" (20). 190 For example, a character in Plautus' Miles Gloriosous asserts that "no soft cineadus can dance as well as I do!" (Mil. glor. 668 [Nixon, LCL]). Anthony Corbeill also discusses the connection in ancient thought between dancing and effeminacy (Controlling Laughter, 167-68).
to be hypersexual.191 While this argument holds true in other works with demons described as
Ethiopian, this is not readily apply in this instance: nowhere is in the Acts of Peter is Simon labeled as or even intimated as being sexually deviant despite his numerous other failings.
Moreover, the demon that is representing Simon in this dream does not seem to offer much by way of sexual temptation: she is, after all, "exceedingly foul." Thus, perhaps a better explanation
192 of this demon's described ethnicity can be found.
In ethnographic physiognomy the stipulation of the figure's skin color and country of origin is of particular note. Ps-Aristotle states that "those who are too swarthy are cowardly; this applies to Egyptians and Ethiopians."193 Similarly, Polemo remarks that "the [skin] color black is an indication of cowardice, long-lasting ambition, dejection. Such are the people of the south, the
Ethiopians and the Zanj, the people of Egypt, and what is near them."194 According to
Adamantius, "all Egyptians have signs in common, from which the whole race can be analyzed physiognomically, as do Ethiopians and Scythians"195 and "it is clear from what has been said that a black color reveals cowardice and guile."196 And the Anonymous Latin manual relates that
"a black [skin] color indicates a pusillanimous, timid, and cunning man: it is referred to those who live in the southern regions, such as the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, and those who neighbor
191 David Brakke, ―Ethiopian Demons: Male Sexuality, the Black-Skinned Other, and the Monastic Self‖ JHS 10 (2001): 501-35. 192 John Marshall observes that in this scene, as in the Shepherd of Hermas, "the motif of blackness, in clothing and skin, is used to emphasize moral character. And the exoticism of Ethiopia — note Heliodorus's Aethiopica — is characteristic of the romances" ("Revelation and Romance: Gender Bending in the Shepherd of Hermas and the Acts of Peter," Rhetorical Argumentation in Biblical Texts: Essays from the Lund 2000 Conference, eds. Anders Eriksson, Thomas H. Olbricht, and Walter Überlacker [Harrisberg, Penn: Trinity Press International, 2002]: 375-388 (832)).
193 Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn. 812a.
194 Polemo, Physiogn. B32.
195 Adamantius, A2 196 Polemo, Physiogn., B33.
them."197 These attributes of cowardice and thus in term effeminacy cohere well with how Simon is portrayed throughout the work. Perhaps the clearest instance where his cowardice is depicted is in the episode where he hides in Marcellus' house in order to avoid confrontation with Peter, cravenly telling the door keeper to tell Peter when he comes that he is "not within [the house]" and giving the same plea to the dog when it enters the house to summon Simon.198 Simon's guile and cunning have already been addressed above. However, what remains curious about this text is the emphatic distinction that the figure is Ethiopian, not Egyptian, despite these two ethnicities frequently being represented as similar in the manuals.199 One possible explanation for this is that the ancient saying derived from Aesop's fable of "washing an Ethiopian white" was commonplace, and thus perhaps a means of underscoring the darkness of this figure's skin color derived from popular thought.200 Perhaps more likely at work is Brakke's observation of a scale of skin color in antiquity, with Ethiopians thought to be darker than Egyptians, and thus more unpalatable to be compared to given that they occupied the very end of the spectrum in a context where the medium was the ideal.201 In any case, the implications of servility, cowardice and
197 Anon. Lat. 79 198 Acts Pet. 9, 12. 199 Although beyond the scope of this chapter, it is interesting to note that the vision that Perpetua receives prior to her martyrdom depicts her in a physical struggle with a "certain Egyptian, horrible in appearance", in contrast to her own backers who are "handsome youths." The subsequent line that Perpetua becomes a man has been frequently discussed under the rubric of gender theory, but perhaps a physiognomic reading of this change and other aspects of the text itself would yield additional understanding of the narrative. 200 Gregory and Jerome, discussed below, also reference this saying, thus attesting to its popularity even beyond this time frame. Of course, as Jan N. Bremmer remarks in discussing the portrayal of demons in the Acts of Andrew as Ethiopian, this was "a favourite manifestation of ancient demons" so perhaps there is nothing more to be read into this stipulation. "Magic in the Apocryphal Acts of the Apostles," in The Metamorphosis of Magic From Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period, eds. Jan N. Bremmer, Jan R. Veenstra and Brannon Wheeler (Leuven: Peeters Press, 2002): 51-70, here 57. 201 Brakke, ―Ethiopian Demons,‖ 507.
effeminacy that are found in this figure cohere well with how Simon's character is portrayed
202 elsewhere in the narrative.
The Followers of Valentinius
Tertullian and Irenaeus both present the physiognomy of the followers of Valentinius as indications of (unwarranted) arrogance.203 Tertullian characterizes this group as one that has
202 Another potential objection that the Acts Pet. does not subscribed to a traditional physiognomic understanding is that Peter is described at one point in the narrative as weeping, which at first would seem to convey feminine character. However, there is a decided ambiguity pertaining to male tears in the ancient world, and thus this does not necessarily convey either effeminacy or a lack of control over the emotions (which would of course also be deemed effeminate). For example, there is some evidence that male grief was acceptable, so long as it did not continue for too long, and was empathetically directed at the sufferings of others, rather than one's own lot. Seneca writes that a friend of his was reported to have been "womanish in his grief", before suggesting that humoring a man who is grieving for a small while is permitted, but "those how have assumed an indulgence in grief [like his friend had] should be rebuked forthwith" (Epist. 99 [Gummere, LCL]). Philo provides evidence that at least one stream of thought condoned male tears if they were shed out of empathy for others: "and yet indeed it is not unusual for the devotees of virtue themselves to be much moved and shed a tear, either when bemoaning the misfortunes of the unwise owing to their innate fellow-feeling and humaneness, or by reason of being overjoyed" (Abr. 156 [Colson, LCL]). Peter, of course, is weeping on account of the communities previous apostasy, and thus presumably empathetically for them. Moreover, in discussing the gendered nature of expressions of grief, Alicia Batten observes that the external displays of grief were gendered in the ancient world, and that typical womanly grief involved wailing and self-mutilation such tearing at their hair while acceptable manifestations of male grief were decidedly more self-constrained ("The Characterization of the Rich in James 5," publication forthcoming as a Festschrift for Jack Elliott, ed. Stephen Black [Sheffield: Sheffield Pheonix]. I am grateful for being given access to this work prior to its publication). The depiction of gendered grief is also evident in the Acts Pet., with the few female characters in the narrative expressing grief in "typically feminine" ways. The same widow who later runs with joy is at first inconsolable in her grief at the death of her son. She is described as being "hardly returned to herself ... tearing her hair and face." And the pagan woman Eubola is described as having "clothes rent and hair disordered" in her mourning over Simon's theft of her possessions before Peter intervenes and converts her, instructing her to "compose [her] face, order [her] hair, and put on befitting clothing," (Acts Pet. 17). Peter, then, is the antithesis of feminine extremes of grief, his own shedding of tears is slight in that he can speak through them, and it only occurs out of empathetic grief over the lapsed Christian community. His manifestation of grief is manly, acceptable grief, and underscores an empathetic character.
203 That Tertullian was aware of the practice of physiognomy is attested in his assertion regarding the zoological method that "some men are compared to beasts because of their character, disposition, and pursuits (since, as God says, "man is like the beasts that perish [Ps. 49.20]," although he denies that this implies than persons are reborn as the animals that their character resembles (An. 32.8). Elsewhere he is very close to the ethnographical method in asserting that "that population is greater within the temperate regions of the East and the West, and men's minds are sharper, while there is not a Sarmatian whose wits are not dull and humdrum," although he does not reference physical appearance (An. 25 [ANF 3:206]). He employs ethnography frequently in his attacks of Marcion, but the lack of reference to his opponents' physical appearance makes this fall short of physiognomics per se, and thus will not be addressed here. Ireneaus is not as forthright in attesting to his knowledge of physiognomic thought, but that he does feel it is important to castigate the appearance of the Valentinians implies that he thought it would help lend persuasive traction to his denigration of their characters.
attempted to obscure the meanings of scripture, and has attempted to cover up their deceit by acting the part of the philosopher. He remarks "if you propose to them inquiries sincere and honest, they answer you with a stern look and contracted brow, and say 'the subject is profound.'"204 It is probable that here Tertullian is making use of the negative image of the figure of the pseudo-philosopher, who attempts to pass himself off as intelligent by aping the physicality of archetypal philosophers. Despite their best efforts, however, their buffoonery and charlantry is ultimately revealed, in part by trying too hard to "look the part" — their concentrated efforts to look the role is a sign in and of itself that they are attempting this deception.205 Like these figures, for Tertullian the Valentinians, when faced with intellectual challenge, attempt to mask their lack of knowledge via the comportment of their bodies in the
206 manner deemed typical of philosophers, along with the implicit claims of superior wisdom.
204 Val. 1 (ANF 3:503). On the contracted brow as pertaining to conceptions of an intellectual disposition, please see chapter four. 205 Lucian is an amusing example of this perceived phenomenon. In his Fug. Philosophy personified remarks that "there are some, Zeus, who occupy a middle ground between the multitude and the philosophers. In deportment, glance, and gait they are like us, and similarly dressed; as a matter of fact, they want to be enlisted under my command and they enroll themselves under my name, saying that they are my pupils, disciples and devotes. Nevertheless, their abominable way of living, full of ignorance, impudence and wantonness, is no trifling outrage against me," (4 [Harmon, LCL]). Indeed, despite this attempt at looking the part, "in irascibility, pettishness, and proneness to anger they are beyond little children; indeed they give no little amusement to onlookers, when their blood boils up in them for some trivial reason so that they look livid in colour, with a reckless, insane stare and foam (or rather venom) fills their mouths" (Fug.19). Similarly, in his Icar. 29 (Harmon, LCL) Lucian speaks of those dressing up as philosophers: "cloaking themselves in the high-sounding name of virtue, elevating their eyebrows, wrinkling up their foreheads and letting their beards grow long, they go about hiding loathsome habits very like actors in a tragedy." Although much later, Jerome too will accuse an opponent of employing the traditionally understood physicality of a philosopher in order to conceal his character. He remarks of Rufinus "Why should he knit his brow and draw in and wrinkle up his nostrils, and weigh out his hollow words, and simulate among the common crowd a sanctity which his conduct belies?" (Ruf. 1.32 [NPNF² 3:500]). 206 This is an image that Tertullian also seems to employ against Hermogenes. In discussing some of the finer points of his (in Tertullian's view) rather muddy argument, Tertullian asserts that "But next you raise your eyebrows with a corresponding gesture of your finger, toss back your head and say ..." (Herm. 27). That Tertullian is accusing his opponent of acting the sophist finds further support in his rejoinder that "Now I shall answer simply, without resorting to any affectation of speech ..." as well as his summary that "such are the quibbles and subtleties of the heretics who twist the simple meaning of ordinary words into something problematic" (Herm. 27 [ANF 3:492]).
Irenaeus chooses a different means of comparison — the zoological method as pertains to the peacock — yet he, too, describes members of this group's physicality in a pejorative physiognomic way.207 He cautions:
But if anyone does yield himself up to them like little sheep, and follows out their practice, and their "redemption," such a one is puffed up208 to such an extent that he thinks he is neither in heaven nor on earth, but that he has passed within the Pleroma; and having already embraced his angel, he walks with a strutting gait (supercilio incedit) and a supercilious countenance, possessing all of the air of a cock 209 (gallinacei).
For Irenaeus, the arrogant character of this group is plainly revealed by their arrogant means of comporting themselves. The strutting gait was then (as it is now) considered to be an indication of arrogance.210 While Irenaeus does not elaborate on what, exactly, constituted this supercilious countenance, evidently some facial expression that evidenced this arrogance was widely enough understood or conceptualized that he did not need to elaborate on specifics. By appealing to the appearance of their opponents Tertullian and Irenaeus can supplement their other arguments regarding the arrogance that is not warranted by actual intellectual capacity in objective terms.
Constantine's description of Arius' physical appearance is perhaps an instance where traits that are deemed positively by some are clearly meant in a negative way by the author. A physical tendency towards pallor and thinness as being positive indicators of the characteristic of self-
207 Interestingly, he also suggests that this group attempts to obscure its own illogic by claiming that, when questioned, they say that the questioner may not have the capacity to understand this superior wisdom (Haer. 3.15.2 [ANF 1:440]). 208 "puffed up" is most likely an echo of Paul's use of the term, which in turn was most likely derived from Aesop's fable of the arrogant frog. 209 Haer. 3.15.2 (ANF1:440). 210 For example Demosthenes takes his rival Aeschines to task, in part for his arrogant strut in the Agora (Orat. 19.314)
restraint are evaluated positively by some early Christians, has been discussed above.
Constantine, however, evidently does not have this more positive evaluation in mind, although some of the physical traits he states that Arius has do also receive a more positive interpretation elsewhere. He writes:
look, look ... how his veins and flesh are possessed with poison, and are in a ferment of severe pain; how his whole body is wasted and is all withered and sad and pale and shaking; and all is miserable and fearfully emaciated. How hateful to see, and how filthy is his mass of hair, how he is have dead all over, with failing eyes and bloodless countenance, and woe-begone; so that all things combining in him at once, frenzy, madness, and folly, from the continuation of the complaint, have made you wild and savage.... He does not perceive in what a bad state he is. 211 He says: "I am exalted with delight and I jump, leaping with joy, and I soar."
While of course some of these attributes overlap with those often attributed to the ascetic,
Constantine's list goes beyond these, both in severity as well as in additional details that make it clear he is using this depiction for rhetorical purpose to undermine Arius' character. Thinness and pallor are, for some early Christian authors, positive indications of restraint, but this depiction goes far beyond these attributes: "fearfully emaciated", a "bloodless countenance", and "half dead all over" seem to indicate an ascetic practice gone horribly wrong, and perhaps this is what
Constantine is intimating with these attributes. In any case, designations such as frenzy, madness, wildness and savagery make clear that Arius, and no doubt his character and the doctrines he espouses, are for Constantine clearly unfit. Barnes briefly notes this description, suggesting that for Constantine, "God exacts vengeance on the criminal who inflicts wounds and scars on his church. Look at Arius! His wasting and emaciated flesh, his careworn appearance, his thinning hair, the pallor of his visage, his half-dead appearance — all these attest his stupidity and madness. Constantine, 'the man of God,' has seen through Arius, who has cast himself into
21135-36. In H.G. Opitz, Athanasius Werke, band 2 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1935). Translation from St. Athanasius: In Controversy with the Arians, trans. John Henry Parker (London: F. and J. Rivington; 1853).
utter darkness."212 Similarly, Odahl suggests that Constantine "ridiculed the emaciated physical appearance of Arius as the outward sign of his inward corruption."213 Although pinpointing with any more certitude which given physical traits correspond to a given character trait is beyond the information available in the sources, it is nonetheless clear that for Constantine Arius' physicality makes him morally unfit to follow.
On the other hand is Epiphanius' description of Arius. This is an example of an instance where the physiognomic subject is able to deceive many of those around him (who are not adept at seeing through this physiognomic ruse), but not, of course, the author. Epiphanius describes
Arius as "...very tall in stature, with a stooping figure — counterfeited like a guileful serpent, and well able to deceive any unsuspecting heart through its cleverly designed appearance. For he was always clad in a short cloak and sleeveless tunic; he spoke gently, and people found him persuasive and flattering."214 As David Potter suggests, this garb is best understood as that of an ascetic Greek philosopher.215 Epiphanius suggests that this manner of dress combined with his physical comportment of mock humility (such as stooping figure and speaking gently) Arius is successful — among those who do not know better — is masking his true character. For
Epiphanius and his audience, however, they are not so easily fooled, and recognize physiognomic deception (and in turn the moral characteristic of deception) for what it is.
212 Timothy D. Barnes, Constantine and Eusebius (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 233. 213 Charles M. Odahl, Constantine and the Christian Empire (London; New York: Routledge, 2004), 227. 214 Pan. 69.3 (trans. Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Books II and III (Sects 47-80, De Fide), [Leiden: Brill, 1994]). 215 David S. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay (London: Routledge, 2004), 434.
Jerome's description of Pelagius is also, I suggest, best understood when read through a
216 lens of physiognomic polemic. In his letter to Domnio (Epist. 50), Jerome says of Pelagius
He is strong in argument, intricate and tenacious, one to fight with his head pointed and tilted (obliquo et acuminato pugnet capite).... He has the flanks and strength of an athlete and is handsomely fleshy (habet latera et athletarum robur et belle corpulentus est).... He never blushes or stops to weigh his words: his only aim is to speak as loudly as possible. So famous is he in his eloquence that his sayings are held up as models to our curly-haired youngsters. How often, when I have met him at meetings, has he aroused my wrath and put me in a passion! How 217 often has he spat upon me, and then departed spat upon!
While Evans has suggested that Jerome utilizes physiognomic commonplaces elsewhere in his writings,218 this particular passage has not received the attention it warrants — indeed, a physiognomic reading helps make sense of some of the seeming inconsistencies. Although for the most part scholars agree that Jerome does not intend to be flattering in his description, little beyond this has been said, including addressing the tension between Jerome's palpable hostility and his description of Pelagius as "having the flanks and strength of an athlete and being handsomely fleshy."219 Likening a man's physique to that of an athlete would seem to indicate a positive or even complementary depiction, and indeed, "athletes" and "athletic training" often function as positive means of comparison in a variety of ancient texts, including early Christian ones.220 This, then, raises the question of how Jerome can mean this in a derogative sense, as he seemingly must given that it is part of a larger passage deriding Pelagius. I suggest that this
216 On the identification of this unnamed opponent as being Pelagius, please see J. N. D. Kelly, Jerome: his life, writings, and controversies (London: Duckworth, 1975), 188. 217 Epist. 50.4 (NPNF² 6:81). 218 In his Life of Saint Hilarion 4; cited by Evans "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 77 nt.25 219 Indeed, Kelly notes the tension between Jovinianus and Jerome in this period, yet surprisingly seems to take Jerome's seemingly flattering comments at face value. He states that "[Pelagius] was a fine figure of a man, of massive and athletic build" (Jerome, 188). 220 See, for example, Jason König, Athletics and Literature in the Roman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 132ff.
becomes comprehensible once the "type" of athlete that Jerome is referring to becomes clear, which involves a more faithful translation of the assertion that shortly proceeds this description.
This can be done with a more faithful translation of his statement that his opponent fights with what is often rather confusingly translated as a either a "tilted and pointy head"221 or more interestingly, "slanty head."222 The translation of this as indicating a fixed physical characteristic pertaining to the shape of Pelagius' head has obscured the imagery that Jerome is evoking, resulting in a rather mystifying insult that, consequently, seemingly no scholar has been willing to elaborate on.223 A better translation, I propose, is that Jerome asserts that Pelagius fights with his head pointed forward and tilted to the side. The gesture of tilting one's head to the side while it is pointed out forward is, as visual representations demonstrate, the "systasis" or starting position in ancient wrestling, the way the grappling match starts off, which is illustrated and labeled as such by Stephen G. Miller.224 Thus, it is likely that the "athlete" type that Jerome has in mind here is that of the ancient wrestler. This is further supported in his pejorative assertion in another text that Pelagius has "Milo's giant shoulders," referring to the legendary ancient wrestler Milo of Croton.225 While athletes were often deemed to be impressive physical specimens, this was not universally the case, and wrestlers in particular seem to have been subject to polemical assertions. Maria Soler discusses the negative evaluation of the physiques of
221 Christopher A. Snyder, The Britons (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Pub.; 2003), 114. 222 http://bekkos.wordpress.com/predestination-in-the-new-testament-and-st-augustine/. Accessed July 10, 2014. 223 One exception to this is James Mackey, who remarks that for Jerome Pelagius is "in argument he is not only crafty and tenacious; he also disputes with his head poised obliquely and tilted sharply forward, as if he were a ram butting with his horns" (James P. Mackey, An Introduction to Celtic Christianity [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989], 389). While Mackey is one of the few interpreters who is correct in his understanding of Jerome's depiction of the position of Pelagius' head, his interpretation of the imagery that Jerome is evoking is problematic. Here he seems to be influenced by another assertion of Jerome's, that attributes his mis-translated "horns" of Moses to Pelagius in a mocking way (Pelag. 1.29). Given that in this letter Jerome also likens Pelagius' physique to an athlete, it seems more likely that his description of his opponent's head pertains to athletic imagery. 224 Stephen G. Miller, Ancient Greek Athletics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 47. 225 Pelag. 1.28 (NPNF² 6:463).
athletes, noting that it is almost as frequently attested as the more positive view in ancient art and literature.226 On this view the athletic body was perceived to be excessively fleshy or overweight.227 Being overweight in and of itself often carried with it negative evaluations of a person's character in physiognomic thought.228 The view of excessive corpulence indicating unintelligence is attested in the anonymous Latin manual: having such a physique indicates that the subject is a person "without sense."229 But even beyond this, in the ancient physiognomic consciousness there was an inter-related set of correlations linking conceptions of excessive corpulence, dimwittedness, and the additional negative character trait of gluttony. In some ancient thought, the athlete — and the wrestler in particular — was deemed to be the exemplar of this, in part influenced by traditions about Milo. As Jason Konig suggests, for some "athletes were the comical embodiments of excess, warnings of the dangers of mistreating the body and
226 Maria Jose Garcia Soler, "Euripides' Critique of Athletes in Autolykus fr. 282 N2‖ in Nikephoros 23 (2010): 139- 153 227 Lucian offers a satirical example of this perspective, with relevance for wrestlers in particular. In his Dial. mort. (22) an athlete approaches Hermes to board the ferry to the underworld: Hermes: Hermes: You, the fat and fleshy one [ὁ παρύο ὁ πνιύζαξθνο] who are you? Damasias: Damasias, the athlete [ὁ ἀζιεηήο] Hermes: Yes, you look like him. I know you, having often seen you in the wrestling schools [παιαίζηξαηο] Damasias: Yes, Hermes, but let me in [the ferry to the underworld]; I'm stripped to the skin! Hermes: No, you're not, my good fellow, now while you have all that flesh on you. Well, take it off, for you'll sink the boat, if you only put one foot aboard (MacLeod, LCL). 228 Discussing Xenophon's Mem. 2.1.22, Mark Bradley notes that the personification of Virtue is tall and fair, while Vice is represented as fleshy (πνιζζαξθία) and soft from overeating, remarking that "fleshiness is presented as a departure from the moderation that typifies virtue, and the result of an excessive lifestyle ... Philosophers and physiognomic thinkers accordingly correlated fatness and thinness with negative moral qualities and behavioural tropes in favour of intermediate physiologies" (Mark Bradley, ―Obesity, Corpulence and Emaciation in Roman Art,‖ PBSR 79 (2011): 8). Ps-Aristotle equates excessive fleshiness with the dullness of sense (Physiogn. 807b), and in 808b and 810b he relates the purported link between gluttony and dull senses (these are also cited by Bradley, "Obesity," 8). For Jerome in particular, David S. Wiessen notes that gluttony is a frequent charge that Jerome ascribes to heretics: "[for Jerome] the unorthodox preach against the flesh while living a life of carnality and nourishing their obese paunch" (St. Jerome as a Satirist: A Study in Christian Latin Thought and Letters [Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1964],182). Similarly, he suggests that "by constantly using the words tumor and inflare to refer to heretics, Jerome seeks to place before the reader an almost visible picture of their swollen pomposity" (St. Jerome, 184). 229 Anon. Lat. 93.
neglecting the mind.... They could be the symbols of stupidity and gluttony, qualities which left
230 their mark on the overfed athletic body."
The fragment of Euripides' Authoclus which is discussed by Soler contains an early critique of the purported gluttony of athletes, and their comparative uselessness to wise men for benefiting the city. He accuses them of being the worst of "countless evils infecting Greece," not knowing how to live in an upright fashion, and as individuals as "a slave to his jaw, and a victim of his belly" whose eating habits are a drain on his father's resources. Elsewhere, in his Electra
(385) his statement also attests to the view that athletes lack intelligence, calling them "bodies that are empty of mind."
Seneca in a letter to Lucilius discusses with disdain the huge amounts of food that athletes purportedly consume before remarking "How feather brained are the athletes!"231 And an anecdote relates that the philosopher Diogenes was once asked why athletes were so stupid.
He does not dispute this assessment, responding that it was because they were stuffed with copious amounts of pork and beef.232 But beyond this perception of athletes more generally, the figure of the wrestler inspired by Milo receives particularly harsh evaluations in ancient sources.
As previously noted, Jerome elsewhere draws a comparison between the physicalities of Milo and Pelagius in his assertion that Pelagius had the "shoulders of Milo." As Harald Hagendahl notes, Jerome borrowed this phrase from Cicero,233 and in the original text the other half of the phrase makes clear that a lack of intelligence is being evoked when Cicero queries, "would you
230 Jason König, Athletics and Literature, 97 231 Epist. 80.2 (Gummere, LCL) 232 Lives of Eminent Philosophers, 2.49 (Hicks, LCL). 233 Harald Hagendahl, Latin Fathers and The Classics: A Study on the Apologists, Jerome and Other Christian Writers (Göteborg: Stockholm, 1958).
rather have the brains of Pythagoras, or the shoulders of Milo?"234 Milo's shoulders were of particular note in traditions about both his strength and perceived gluttony. Athanasius relates the common tradition that "Milo of Croton, as Theodorus of Herapolis says in his work 'On the
Athletic Contests,' used to eat 20 pounds of meat and as many of bread, and he drank 3 pitchers of wine. And at Olympia he put a four year old bull on his shoulders and carried it around the
235 stadium, after which he cut it up and ate it all alone in a single day."
In his remark Cicero is himself drawing on a broader tradition of the perceived dimwittedness of Milo, most often intertwined with depictions of his perceived gluttony. As
Michael Poliakoff observes, many ancient evaluations of Milo present him as "a strong but mindless buffoon and glutton,"236 and Tom Stevenson notes that "Milo was used as the classical example of the dumb brute, or of 'brawn' vs. 'brains.'" Galen is perhaps the most vitriolic of these, and is worth citing in full. Although in this passage he speaks of all wrestlers, as Soler suggests he did consider Milo to be to perfect exemplification of the faults he enumerates, and he is particularly cutting in his observations about the tradition of Milo's shoulders and the bull.237
In his Thrasybulus Galen is biting in his assessment of wrestlers, stating that "a fat stomach does not lead to sharp wits ... perhaps dust is the only thing from which they could draw wisdom.
However, it is hard to see how the mud in which they have rolled about so many times can be an
234 Cat. Maior. 33 (Falconer, LCL). 235Deipn. 412e-f (Olson, LCL). 236Michael B. Poliakoff, Combat Sports in the Ancient World: Competition, Violence and Culture (Yale University Press, 1987), 119. He further notes that the story of Milo's death was often cited by ancient authors as "the ultimate example of his witlessness" (Combat Sports, 119). The story of Milo's death was brought on by himself, seeking to prove his strength by ripping a tree in half, which then closed in on him, pinning him in place, and he was subsequently eaten by wolves. 237"What surpassing witlessness, not to realize even this much, that a short while before when the bull was alive, the animal's mind held up its own body with much less exertion than Milo put forth; furthermore, that the bull could even run as it held itself upright. Yet the bull's mind was worthless — just about like Milo's," Exhortation 13 (1.34-5 in Claudii Galeni Opera Omnia, ed. C. G. Kühn [Leipzig: Cnobloch]).
aid to wisdom, when even pigs live in the midst of it.... Their whole life can be summed up as no more than eating, drinking, defecating, and rolling around in the mud and dust."238 Elsewhere he asserts that wrestlers "are so deficient in reasoning powers that they do not even know whether they have a brain. Always gorging themselves on flesh and blood, they keep their brains soaked in so much filth that they are unable to think accurately and are as mindless as dumb animals."239
That Jerome was aware of at least some of Galen's sentiments on the subject and employed them to support his own similar view — albeit with a Christian emphasis added — is attested in his
... Galen, a very learned man and commentator on Hippocrates, says in his exhortation to the practice of medicine that athletes whose whole life and art consists in stuffing themselves cannot live long, nor be healthy, and that their souls are enveloped with superfluous blood and fat, and as it were covered with mud, have no refined or heavenly thoughts, but are always intent upon gluttonous and voracious feasting ... what need has a wise man and a Christian philosopher of such strength as is required by athletes and soldiers, and which, if he had it, 240 would only stimulate to vice?
Thus in describing Pelagius as having the body of a wrestler, Jerome is able to convey the negative character traits that were thought to accompany this physique in the ancient world. The
"handsomely fleshy" is most likely a sarcastic means of calling Pelagius overweight, as was the assertion that his flanks or sides were "like those of an athlete." Moreover, that the correlated negative character traits of gluttony and stupidity are what Jerome had in mind here is potentially supported in other texts, where he makes similar accusations against Pelagius quite starkly,
241 referring to him as an "idiot" who is stuffed full with Scottish porridge [Scottorum pultibus],
238Thrasybulus 37. 239 Exhortation, 10-12 240 Jov. 2.11 (NPNF² 6:396). 241 A potential understanding of this assertion can be proposed. While of course porridge or puls was a staple of the Roman diet, particularly among the poor, here Jerome seems to be drawing again on Greco-Roman comedy in this
and is "big and fat [grandem et corpulentum]."242 While of course historicity has to be taken into account — there is some evidence that Pelagius was indeed a large man,243 that Jerome thought to use this physicality against Pelagius suggests that he thought it would help lend persuasive traction to his denigration of his character. While these negative traits were deemed damning in any ancient context, they would have been even more so for Pelagius, who maintained that he kept an ascetic lifestyle. Here, then, as an added dig, Jerome implies that Pelagius' body betrays his inner character in a way that, unlike Pelagius, does not lie.
Moreover, this understanding thus also makes clear the seemingly positive remarks that
Pelagius is "strong in argument, intricate and tenacious" which is clearly at odds with his other assertion that he never "stops to weigh his words: his only aim is to speak as loudly as possible."
Intricate and tenacious are interchangeable with wrestling terms, thus it is probably that Jerome implies that Pelagius fights like a wrestler — using his brawn rather than his brains to engage.
Elsewhere Jerome says "I have cited the example of only one philosopher so that our fine, erect, muscular athletes, who hardly make a shadow of a footmark in their swift passage, whose words polemical assertion. Mackey has noted that Jerome one more than one occasion attempted to characterize Pelagius as a barbarian with his reference to his "Scottish" or British heritage (Celtic Christianity, 70). As Nicholas Purcell notes, for the Roman the British "were always the real barbarians. Catullus referred to us as those 'far-flung Britons' on the edge of the empire, Virgil called us "cut off from the rest of the world.' The ancient Britons were thought to have something of the primitive or noble savage about them, and observers from Diodorus Siculus to Vivienne Westwood have represented them accordingly" ("The Way we Used to Eat: Diet, Community, and History at Rome," 1-30 in The American Journal of Philology 124:3 (2003): Special Edition: Roman Dining. eds. Barbara K. Gold and John F. Donahue [Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press], 7). Lending further support to his designation of Pelagius as a barbarian here is his reference to porridge. As Purcell notes, Plautus "shows us that puls is part of Roman self-consciousness already by the first quarter of the second century. Puls eating is attributed to barbarians or make into a mock grandiose Greek compound name 'Fitzporridgevore'. Plautus ... got laughs out of portraying his countrymen from the Greek's point of view as "barbarians" who lived in mud huts and ate porridge" ("The Way we Used to Eat," 7). Here, then, Jerome is reinforcing his characterization of Pelagius as a barbarian, drawing from Roman Comedy a source that he frequently employs elsewhere. 242 Comm. Jer. 3.1 (trans. Michael Graves and ed. Christopher A. Hall, Commentary on Jeremiah (Ancient Christian Texts) [Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012]). 243 Paul Orosius also takes the time to highlight what he views as Pelagius' thick neck and fat face and large shoulders (Apol. 27), although perhaps he is just drawing on Jerome's account, so historicity is not necessarily at play here, and like Jerome, in citing these traits Orosius seems to think that they will provide him with persuasive traction.
are in their fists and their reasoning in their heels."244 Moreover, here he is perhaps also referencing Quintilian's advice on arguing a position, where the untrained orator who will be as loud as possible and not weigh his words, like a wrestler.245 For Jerome, Pelagius' fighting skills are not those that are suitable for intellectual debate, evidenced by his body.
Jovinianus wrote several treatises (now lost) and gained some popularity in Rome before being denounced as a heretic by the bishop of Rome, Siricius.246 Jovinianus had been a monk prior to adopting a more worldly way of life, and his works seem to have championed a rejection of the ascetic way of life extolled by Jerome. In his Against Jovinianus (c. 393) Jerome, alongside of philosophically based arguments, employs a physiognomic polemic which similar to his attack on Pelagius highlights what he sees to be lifestyle of excessive indulgence. In this work Jerome castigates Jovinianus, remarking:
I am amazed at the portentous forms which Jovinianus, as slippery as a snake247 and like another Proteus,248 so rapidly assumes. In sexual intercourse and full feeding he is an Epicurean; in the distribution of rewards and punishments he all at once becomes a Stoic.... But a minute ago you were barefooted: now you not only wear shoes, but decorated ones. Just now you wore a rough coat and dirty shirt, you were grimy, haggard, and your hand was horny with toil; now you are clad in linen and
244Jov. 2.14 (NPNF² 6:398) 245 Inst. (2.12.1). 246 Oliver Freiberger, ed., Asceticism and its critics: historical accounts and comparative perspectives (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 45. 247 Jerome's use of snake imagery to castigate his opponents is simply too widespread to cite in full. It, along with dogs, are a favoured means of denigrating his opponents, and for the sake of space I have decided to focus on his more elaborate physical descriptions of his opponents. 248 In Greek mythology this is an early water deity who was called the god of "elusive sea change", indicating that he was thought to change form with the fluidity of water. While he can predict the future, he was thought to change form in order to avoid doing so — he would only answer to someone who was capable of capturing him. Here Jerome's physiognomic description of him plays up this idea of Jovinianus' changing nature, demonstrable in the change in how he comports and cultivates his body. Thus, while it may seem as though the changing nature of Jovinianus' physicality would not lend itself to physiognomic scrutiny, Jerome views this change in and of itself as revealing his changing and fickle character, and his more recent physicality to reflect a lifestyle of overindulgence and by extension a negative character.
silks, and strut like an exquisite [incedis ornatus] in the fashions of the Atrebates and the Laodiceans. Your cheeks are ruddy [rubent buccae], your skin shining [nitet cutis], your hair smoothed down in front and behind, your belly protrudes [protensus est aqualiculus], your shoulders are raised up [iusurgunt humeri], your neck so full and so loaded with fat [turget guttur et de obesis] that the half-smothered words can scarce make their escape. Surely in such extremes of dress and mode of life there must be sin on one side or the other. I will not assert that the sin lies in the food or clothing, but that such fickleness and changing for the worse is almost censurable in 249 itself.
Here Jerome offers another example of the privileging of Christian ascetics as is manifest in the body, although here he is even critical of Jovinianus' earlier attempts to adhere to this, seemingly viewing his "extreme" ascetics as resulting in a parodying of this ideal. Of the other extreme — whether historical or not — Jerome is scathing in his derision and implications regarding what this new means of comporting his body implies for his opponent's character.
Very few scholars have commented on this passage in any depth, although Elizabeth A.
Clark offers a reading of the implications that Jerome is evoking. Her assessment of Jerome's characterization of Jovinianus' followers is potentially enlightening and is discussed below, but her understanding of the portrait of Jovinianus himself is somewhat problematic. She rather erroneously conflates the description of Jovinianus himself with that of his followers.
Suggesting that the ruddy cheeks are applicable to his followers, not Jovinianus himself, Clark remarks of this group that their "elegant coiffure and ruddy cheeks signal to Jerome their porcine status: Jovinianus (Jerome concludes) must be feeding these "pigs" to make pork for hell!"250 Yet
Jerome is clear in assigning the ruddy cheeks to Jovinianus himself, and thus while this
249 Jov. 2.21 (NPNF² 6:404). Jerome also contends that the amount of followers Jovinianus has should not be taken as any evidence of the veracity of his teachings, but rather an indication of the quality of his followers: "If many assent to your views, that only indicates voluptuousness; for they do not so much approve of your utterances as favour their own vices.... And do you regard it as a mark of great wisdom if you have a following of many pigs, whom you are feeding to make pork for hell?" (2.36 [NPNF² 6:414]) 250 Elizabeth A. Clark, ―Dissuading from marriage: Jerome and the Asceticization of Satire,‖ in Satiric advice on women and marriage: from Plautus to Chaucer (ed. Warren S. Smith, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 163.
characteristic may have been deemed pig-like (though I cannot find ancient attestation of this), it is unlikely that an elegant hairstyle would correspond to an understanding of porcine nature — indeed, quite the opposite as pigs were typically understood as wallowing in mud (see Galen citation above), and thus presumably indifferent to the fineries of physical appearance. Thus, for
Clark, the depiction of Jovinianus does not include the red cheeks, and her application of these to his followers with her concluding assertion that such cheeks are meant to indicate pig-ness is
In ancient physiognomic thought ruddy cheeks could have both positive and negative connotations. A ruddy cheek could indicate a maidenly blush, or a youth of robust composition.
It is unlikely that Jerome means praise in his use of the term, and a youth of good physical composition is unlikely to possess the excessive corpulence that Jerome ascribes to Jovinianus.
Thus, perhaps a better understanding of these ruddy cheeks is the thought that these indicated an individual who imbibed too much liquor.252 Adamantius asserts that "faces that are red by themselves show bashful men. If only the cheeks are red, say they are drunkards."253 And
Dionysius, the god of wine, is often depicted with red cheeks indicating a degree of
251 In this chapter Clark also perhaps erroneously attributes Jerome's reference to Jovinianus' as a pig, citing letter 50 (discussed above). While this is understandable given that in this letter he does not name his opponent but does refer to swine there and in this description of Jovinianus' followers, Jerome is fairly liberal with his designation of his opponents as pigs, or "grunters," and thus he does not need to have the same people in mind in both of these instances. 252 This perhaps find further support in Jerome's reference to "extremes of dress and mode of life," and that part of the rejection of an ascetic life would most likely include the consumption of alcohol. Later in this work Jerome characterizes Jovinianus' teaching as allowing for "the drunkard and the glutton" (2.37 [NPNF² 6:415]) to enter paradise, so it seems reasonable that the consumption of alcohol is what he has in mind in this description of red cheeks. 253 Physiogn. B35. 254 Of course, this could also be another of Jerome's allusions to Greco-Roman comedy, where a courtesan in Plautus' Trucclentus is described as having created ruddy cheeks [buccas rubrica] by applying cosmetics (274). If so, then this would also potentially align well with Jerome's depictions of Jovianus as effeminate (see below). Jerome also cautions young virgins against associating with "fair and ruddy" footmen (Epist. 57.13). This, however,
The importance of gait and the scrutiny it received has been discussed above, and here it is worth noting that the "strutting (dressed) like an exquisite [incedis ornatus]" that Jerome attributes to Jovinianus is perhaps a reference to Aesop's fable of the crow who dresses up in plumage to try to fit in with the attractive crowd (which he references in comments on Ambrose referenced by Rufinius in his apology against Jerome). This would cohere well with the idea of his changing nature reflected in his appearance, going from plane and dowdy to flashy and opulent, and attempt to appeal to a group of people who are interested in physical indulgences.
Of course, the crow's real physicality is eventually revealed, and he is stripped of his feathers.
Similarly, in stating that his shoulders are elevated, this is also perhaps meant to indicate an arrogant gait or posture.
The most likely influence that Jerome is drawing on here is a citation of Horace, who he cites elsewhere in this text as reproving voluptuous men in describing himself as corpulent: "Pay me a visit if you want to laugh, you'll find me fat and sleek [pinguem et nitidum bene curata cute] with well-dressed hide, like any pig in Epircurous' Sty."255 However, it is still relevant to discuss what these individual components or aspects often conveyed regarding character in antiquity.
Ornamented shoes, silks and linen are clear examples of indulgent dressing, tending towards the effeminate.256 Smooth skin, along with curly hair, are noted by Barton as being common indications of effeminacy.257 Indeed, smooth skin seems to be in large part one of the attributes
is a combination of reddish and pale skin, which was thought to be the ideal complexion in antiquity (discussed in chapter 5). 255Jov. 2.12; Horace Epist. 1.4 (Fairclough, LCL) Strangely Jerome omits Horace's assertion that he is fat and sleek "with good keeping", perhaps because he felt it was self-evident, the excessive care for the indulgences of the body. 256 For one example, Plutarch associates "gilded shoes" and jewellery with the items that women wear outside of the home to impress others (Sarah B. Pomeroy, ed., Plutarch’s Advice to the bride and groom, and A consolation to his wife: English translations, commentary, interpretations, essays, and bibliography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 30. 257 Barton, Power and Knowledge, 116.
of a beautiful woman.258 However, other potential implications aside, it is clear that Jerome deems a sleek complexion to be indicative of moral wrong doing. In letter 117 he plainly states that "shining skin shows a sin-stained soul [nitens cutis sordidum ostentat animum]."259 In his letter 128 he again links ruddy cheeks, glowing skin and fine clothes with a life of indulgence, and implies that the rhetorical person involved is contemplating sexual intercourse with his female slaves: "Why should you find pleasure in a young girl, pretty, and voluptuous? You frequent the baths, walk abroad sleek [cute nitida] and ruddy, eat flesh, abound in riches, and wear the most expensive clothes; and yet you fancy that you can sleep safely beside a death-
260 dealing serpent."
Regarding Jovinianus' protruding belly, Hagendhal has noted that this is a reference to
Perseus' Satire 1.57 where he insults his antagonist as having this same sort of stomach. As noted above regarding Pelagius, perceived excessive corpulence came with negative evaluations of character, and for Jerome in particular in view of his exhortation to an ascetic lifestyle. The same, of course, can be said of Jovinianus' purportedly fat neck.
Jerome takes up his theme of too much concern for physical indulgences again in his depiction of Jovianus' disciples. He remarks that "on your side are the fat and sleek in their festival attire.... If I ever see a fine fellow, or a man who is no stranger to the curling irons, with
258 Kelly Olson (Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-Presentation and Society (Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon; New York: Routledge, 2008), ) notes several instances where women are praised for their smooth skin along with instances of recommended creams and ointments to aid in this. As Olson observes, maintaining such sleek (or "flawless") skin must have required some effort, and indeed these ointment regiments do support this. As such, here Jerome seems to be implying that Jovinianus and his followers invest too much time, or are "womanish" in their care for their external appearances. If Jerome, however, means "smooth" skin in the sense of depilation, than this too has implications of effeminacy, and is potentially another borrowing from Roman Satire. Juvenal (Sat. 9.12 [Ramsay, LCL]) queries as to why the now cast off client Naevolous has let himself go, no longer maintaining his elaborate and effeminate appearance: "you skin has lost that gloss [nullus tota nitor in cute] produced be depilating it with heated Bruttian pitch. And your legs, too, neglected, dark with sprouting hair." 259 Epist. 117.6 (NPNF² 6:218). 260 Epist. 128.3. (NPNF² 6:259).
his hair nicely done and his cheeks all aglow, he belongs to your heard, or rather grunts in concert with your pigs."261 Clark understands Jerome's characterization of Jovinianus' followers as that of the stock figure of the parasite in Greco-Roman comedy.262 Yet more can be said on the subject in view of the different "types" of parasites that were portrayed. Often these figures were portrayed as being in financial straits,263 but also well-attested is the opposite. Catherine
Saunders notes that Gnatho in Terrence is "a type of the sleek, prosperous and well-dressed parasite" citing Eun. 232 and 253.264 Similarly, Sean Conner suggests that gluttony and addiction to luxurious eating are as prominent as poverty in the characterization of many comedic parasites, and though the figures may not be wealthy, their choice of parasitism is ultimately that
— a choice.265 That is, in the plays it is not poverty that prompts these parasitic actions, but rather greed and a desire for a higher mode of life than actually working for a living would provide for. As Sean Corner remarks, "the parasite pursues his profession [of being a parasite]
266 not to live but to live the high life, at somebody else's expense."
261 Jov. 2.36. It is here that he contrasts the physicality (and by extension morality) of the Christians in line with his own thought, who are pale and disheveled, noted above. 262 Clark, Dissuading from marriage,163. This is certainly the case in speaking of Pelagius' followers, in letter 60.4, not discussed by Clark: "as I have a flock of disciples, he may have one also — flatterers and parasites worthy of the Gnatho and Phormio who is their master." As Wiessen observes, "the orthodox speaker in Jerome's work has a penchant for applying lines from Roman comedy to his opponent," (Satirist, 179).
263 As Cynthia Damon notes, often in Greco-Roman comedy the parasite is portrayed as poor, to heighten the idea of his dependency on the meals of his patron, and she cites Plautus Capt. 172-75; Curc. 144; Men. 106 and 665; Persa. 120; Stich. 177. Cynthia Damon, The Mask of the Parasite: A Pathology of Roman Patronage (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997) 28 n. 17. 264 Catherine Saunders, Costume in Roman Comedy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1909), 86. For further discussion, see her pp 86-90. 265"The Politics of the Parasite (Part One)," Phoenix 67 (2013). 266 Sean Corner, "The Politics of the Parasite," 57.
Regarding the curly hair, as Barton observes males who curled their hair and had glowing skin were thought to be effeminate dandies.267 Cicero offers but one example of this, attacking an opponent's male dignity, citing "the odor of that man's perfumes, [...] his breath reeking with wine, [...] his forehead scared from a curling iron?"268 Plautus also links curled hair with effeminacy: "Who would believe you, you curly-haired cinaedus?"269 Craig Williams cites
Martial 2.36270 as an example of a cautioning between effeminacy and excessive attempts at masculinity: "... insufficient masculinity is shown by artificially curled hair, skin treated with the
271 finest cosmetics...."
For Jerome, it is evident that Jovinianus, along with his followers, are found wanting in character, as is evidenced by their physical appearance and comportment.
The Apostate Members of Ambrose's Clerical Community
While not explicitly designated as heretics, Ambrose comments on a fellow clergy man and one whom he barred from entering the clergy based solely on a physiognomic evaluation of their gait, who subsequently proved the truth of his conclusions272 by becoming apostates. Ambrose writes:
You will recall, my sons, a certain friend of ours. He appeared to commend himself by carrying out his duties with due care, yet I still refused to admit him to the body of the clergy. I had one reason only, and it was this: he carried himself
267 Barton, Power and Knowledge, 116. 268 Red. Sen. 7 (Watts, LCL) 269Asin. 627 (de Melo, LCL) 270 "I would not have you curl your hair, nor yet would I have you throw it into disorder. Your skin I would have neither over-sleek nor neglected. Your beard should be neither that of an effeminate Asiatic, nor that of an accused person. I alike detest, Pannicus, one who is more, and one who is less than a man. Your legs and breast bristle with shaggy hair; but your mind, Pannicus, shows no sign of manliness" (Shackleton Bailey, LCL). 271 Craig A. Williams, Roman Homosexuality (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 143. 272 Or perhaps he deduced this in hindsight but preferred to present himself with this diagnostic ability.
physically in a way that was totally unseemly (quod gestus eius plurimum dedeceret). You will recall another man, too. He was already a member of the clergy when I first encountered him, but I issued instructions that he was never to walk in front of me, for the cocky way in which he walked (insolentis incessus) was — to be frank — painful for me to behold. I had no other reason but this to reject these men; but I did not prove mistaken in my judgement, for both of them went on to leave the church: they showed themselves to be every bit as faithless in spirit as their style of walking had suggested. One deserted the faith at the time of the Arian onslaught; the other was so keen on money that he was prepared to say he was not one of us, so as to escape being judged by his bishop. The hallmark of fickleness inside these men was plain in the way they walked — they had all the appearance of wandering jesters (Lucebat in illorum incessu imago levitatis, 273 species quaedam scurrarum percursantium).
For Ambrose the respective gait of these men were sufficient to prove their character failings, and he further employs these to demonstrate or prove to his readers the outsider status of the apostates. Chad Hartsock has addressed this passage in detail, and suggests that what was objectionable to Ambrose in these gaits was a tendency towards effeminacy.274 While he is no doubt correct in this assessment, Hartsock could have found broader evidence to support this conclusion from material beyond the physiognomic manuals, where an effeminate gait is a
275 widespread phenomenon to indicate moral shortcomings.
276 Julian ("the Apostate")
273 Off. 1.18.72 (Ambrose: De Officiis Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary, Ivor J. Davidson [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001]). 274 Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts the Use of Physical Features in Characterization (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2008), 135-42. Parsons also briefly discusses Ambrose and his physiognomic exhortations: Mikeal Carl Parsons, Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2006), 59-61. 275 For further discussion on the appropriate type of walk Ambrose advises — in part by comparison with a more detailed stipulation of the kind of gait not to have — see chapter five. 276 While of course for Gregory Julian did not occupy the liminal status of heretic, but was indeed a full-fledged apostate firmly outside the boundaries of Christianity, I have included his depiction of him here as the same sort of polemic and strategy used against heretics discussed above is amply present here.
Gregory of Nazianzus composed two orations (four and five) against Julian the "apostate" emperor, and these and aspects of other works attest to the vitriolic hatred the bishop had for the former ruler.277 He was, according to Jerome, familiar with Polemo's writings, and presumably this included his popular physiognomic manual.278 Gregory is perhaps the most explicit early
Christian author in acknowledging the physiognomic underpinnings of his physical description.
Immediately preceding his description of Julian's physical appearance, he relates that he had already detected Julian's negative character traits via observation of his physicality. Gregory writes
[Julian's negative character] had previously been detected by some; ever since I lived with this person in Athens ... At that time, therefore, I remember that I became no bad judge of his character, though far from being of much sagacity in that line ... A sign of no good seemed to me to be his unsteady neck [αὐρὴλ ἀπαγὴο], his shoulders always in motion and shrugging up and down like a pair of scales, his eyes rolling and glancing from side to side [ὀθζαικὸο ζνβνύκελνο θαὶπεξηθεξόκελνο] with a certain insane expression, his feet unsteady and stumbling [ ἀζηα- ηνῦληεο θαὶ κεηνθιάδνληεο], his nostrils breathing insolence and disdain, the gestures of his face ridiculous and expressing the same feelings, his bursts of laugher unrestrained and gusty, his nods of assent and dissent without any reason, his speech stopping short and interrupted by his taking breath, his questions without any order and unintelligent, his answers not a whit better than his questions, following one on 279 top of the other...
After this description Gregory asserts that "I saw the man before his actions exactly what I afterwards found in his actions; and were any present of those who were then with me and heard
277 For example, he begins this oration by designating Julian as "the Dragon, the Apostate, the Great Mind, the Assyrian, the public and private enemy of all in common, him that has madly raged and threatened much upon earth, and that has spoken and mediated much unrighteousness against Heaven!" (Orat. 4.1 [in Julian the Emperor, trans. C. W. King; London: George Bell and Sons, 1881]). 278 He writes favourably of Gregory, noting that he was a former student of him, calling him "a most eloquent man" and noting that "he was a follower of Polemo in his style of speaking," (De Viris Illustribus,117). 279 Orat. 5.23. By way of contrast, Gregory states that Julian's successor was "a man illustrious in all other respects as well as for piety, and in personal appearance truly fitted for sovereignty," (Orat. 5.15 [in Julian the Emperor, trans. C. W. King; London: George Bell and Sons, 1881]).
my words, they would without hesitation bear testimony to what I say; to whom I exclaimed as
280 soon as I had observed these signs, 'What an evil the Roman world is breeding!'"
Glen Warren Bowerstock suggests that Gregory's description of the physicality of Julian was "not a friendly portrait, but the accuracy of its outlines is not in doubt. A sycophant like the consul Mamertinus singled out some of the same features for a more flattering treatment."281
While it does seem likely that there was some sort of historical basis for Gregory's description for him to draw on and exploit,282 given that he thought it important to highlight these in addition to his assertions regarding discerning Julian's character by his physicalites suggests that this is not, as Bowerstock implies, a historically accurate and thus rhetorically disinterested account.283
Indeed, R. Asmus undertook a physiognomic reading of this text based solely on the manuals in the early 1900's, concluding that this portrait was that of a worthless person. He suggests that the unsteady neck indicates an evil nature, and his jerking shoulders arrogance, and his frenzied eyes demon possession, and his unstable feet madness and effeminacy, and his laughter indicating shamelessness.284 And while Asmus is correct in his approach, his method is somewhat problematic in that he relies solely on the manuals to arrive at this understanding, and, as argued above, often times a broader spectrum of ideas commonly attested is more helpful to uncover what an author is implying.
280 Orat. 5.24. 281 Julian the Apostate (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987) 12. While the extent to which descriptions of these same features that are addressed are similar is questionable, here is another good example of the subjectivity inherent in this enterprise, and the degree of creative control that an author could employ. 282 And similarly, drawn on to exploit in a positive manner, again reinforcing the subjectivity of ancient physiognomy. 283 Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), 59-60 also notes that Physiognomic thought is at work here, as does Evan ("Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 74), though neither go into to specifics. 284R. Asmus, "Vergessene Physionomonika," Philologus 65 (1906): 410-15.
An unsteady neck is presumably one that bends or flops from side to side, or at any rate does not keep the head upright with sufficient stability. The idea of an unsteady neck as indicative of negative character traits — in particular effeminacy — is a fairly widespread one in ancient physiognomic thought. Cicero offers advice on the physical deportment of the elite male, and the orator in particular, asserting that "there should be no effeminate bending of the neck, no twiddling of the fingers, no marking the rhythm with the finger joint. He will control himself by the pose of his whole frame, and the vigorous and manly attitude of the body."285 In addition to keeping a steady neck, Cicero also stresses an economy of movement, exhorting "let nothing be superfluous."286 Quintilian likewise stresses that the neck must be straight, not stiff or bent backwards.287 Ps.-Aristotle deems a head inclined to the right to be one of the physical indications of the kinaedos,288 and following these both the Latin manual and Polemo include a tilted head in their profiles of the cinaedus.289 A comic fragment by Archippos mocks Alcibiades the younger for imitating his father's comportment in typically effeminate ways, including a lisp, mincing gait, and "inclining his neck to one side."290 Dio Chrysostom provides a list of physical
291 signs that indicate effeminacy, including "inclination of the neck."
Jan Bremmer notes that according to the poet Theognis "the heads of slaves were never straight but always crooked and their necks oblique, the terms 'straight' and 'crooked' being not
285 De orat. 18.59 (Rackham, LCL). 286 De orat. 18.59 (Rackham, LCL). 287 Inst. 11.82. 288 Ps.-Aristotle, Physiogn. 808a. Along with casting his eyes about him. 289 Polemo also include in this list a fluid gait in which no part of the body holds still. 290 Fr. 48 K-A; also cited by Julia P. Shapiro (Speaking Bodies: Physiognomic Consciousness and Oratorical Strategy in 4th Century Athens [Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 2011], 78). She also cites Clement's citation of holding one's neck awry and Aeschines of the same. 291 1 Tars. 33.53 (Cohoon, LCL).
only used in a physical but also, as is so often the case, in a moral sense."292 As discussed above, there was a link between slaves and deficient masculinity in ancient thought. The constantly in motion and shrugging shoulders Gregory attributes to Julian is rather more rare in ancient sources, although Quintilian does advise that it is "as a rule, unbecoming to raise or contract the
293 shoulders, for it shortens the neck and produces a mean and servile gesture."
Gregory's description of Julian glancing from side to side is perhaps best understood as a shifty gaze, or a shifting of the eyes. Seneca counts the "shifting of his eyes" as one of the signs that reveal the sexually impure man.294 Bremmer notes that given that rolling eyes denoted a madman, and "looking around" indicated the passive homosexual, "we may safely assume that a
'proper' male looked steadfastly at the world."295 The anonymous Latin manual includes the rolling of the eyes — as well as the clumsy and confused carriage of the feet — as among the
296 signs that reveal the effeminate subject.
The Greek used to describe Julian's legs and gait indicates "never at rest" and "keep changing one leg to another." The later verb is relatively rare, but it does appear in the Iliad to depict a coward: "The color of the coward ever changes to another hue, nor is the spirit in his
292 "Walking, Standing, and Sitting in Ancient Greek Culture," in Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg, eds., A Cultural History of Gesture: From Antiquity to the Present Day (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991):15-35; 23. 293 Inst. 11.83. In the Latin manual a lack of stability in the shoulders was also a component of the physique of the androgynous, along with shifting eyes and laughing out loud. These two aspects are applicable to Gregory's description of Julian. 294Epist. 52.12 (Gummere, LCL). That he means effeminacy as the impurity he implies is suggested by his inclusion of scratching the head with one finger, which is a frequent "indication" of the effeminate male for numerous authors in antiquity (see Corbeill's discussion on this, Controlling Laughter, 164-65). I do not mean to suggest that homosexuality was deemed to be "the" indicator of effeminacy in the ancient world as it is frequently understood in contemporary culture. Indeed, there are attestations that a man who took too much enjoyment in sexual intercourse with women was deemed effeminate. However, in many instances the concepts of passive homosexual and effeminacy are linked in ancient thought, though not to the exclusion of a host of various other actions and traits. 295 Bremmer and Roodenburg, A Cultural History, 23. 296Anon. Lat. 54. Moreover, the author prefaces this with the assertion that those that try to "make their neck stiff," but in vain, as the above signs will reveal the effeminacy of the subject. While it is not necessitated by this assertion, this does perhaps allow for an understanding of the subject attempting to correct or conceal an (effeminate) unsteady neck.
breast stayed that he should abide steadfast, but he shifts from knee to knee and rests on either foot [μετακλον], and his heart beats loudly in his breast as he bodeth death, and the teeth chatter in his mouth..."297 Given the relative rarity of the word, it is possible that here Gregory is perhaps evoking this passage, implying that Julian lacked masculine valour.298 Another possible interpretation, however, is perhaps more likely. Given that a well-ordered gait was thought to be of utmost importance for the elite male and in turn for physiognomic scrutiny, in depicting
Julian's as the opposite of well-ordered Gregory is undermining his masculine self-control in one
299 of the most significant avenues for assessing it.
Nostrils breathing insolence is, for the most part, readily intelligible, but it is perhaps relevant to note the censure placed on noises pertaining to nostrils in antiquity. Quintilian remarks that "it is not often that the lips or nostrils can be becomingly employed to express our feeling, although they are often used to indicate derision, contempt or loathing ... [to] snort through them with a sudden expulsion of the breath ... [is] indecorous."300 Similarly, little needs to be said about the "ridiculous facial gestures," and what these consisted of is, unfortunately, now left to the imagination.
Regarding the immoderate and uncontrolled laughter, early Christians have decided opinions on the negative character traits it reveals in the subject.301 Clement of Alexandria
297 Il. 279-280 (Murry, LCL). 298 That Gregory did view Julian as a coward is attested in Orat. 5.8, where he accuses him of confusing bravery with rashness in his military exploits. 299 This finds potential support in another instance of this verb. In Athanasius' Vit. Ant. he describes the protagonist as being well-ordered in gait, stipulating that κὴ κεηνθιάδεηλ πόδαο (84.21). 300 Orat. 11.80. 301 Presumably non-Christians likewise shared this value, but this is not as well attested in the primary sources. Ingvild Saelid Gilhus, however, proposes that Clement's view of laughter was reminiscent of Roman and Greek philosophy, in particular the Stoics, in the encouragement of restraint (Laughing Gods, Weeping Virgins: Laughter in the History of Religions [London: Reaktion Books, 1995], 61-62). See chapter five for further discussion on this topic.
cautions that "even laughter must be kept in check; for when given vent to in the right manner it indicates orderliness, but when it issues differently it shows a want of restraint."302 And while
Basil's advice on the matter is found in his Rules for ascetic monks (and thus perhaps is a stricter view than that he would offer to the layperson), he also associates unrestrained or immoderate laughter with deficient self-control: "for to be overcome by incontinent and immoderate laughter is a mark of incontinence and shows that a man has not his emotions under control ... but to shout with loud laughter, and allow the body to shake involuntarily, does not befit one who has his soul under control, or is of proved virtue, or has command of himself."303 Self-control, of course, was one of the cardinal virtues of elite Roman males.
The way Gregory depicts Julian's nodding head without reason, and speech that lacks order, also indicates a deficiency of self control, again via an important avenue for assessing masculine dignitas.
However, all of these potential specific meanings for individual physicalities named aside — or perhaps better understood when tabulated altogether — the composite portrait itself is of significance: Julian is unable to control his body in an orderly fashion, and equally unable to control his speech in an orderly fashion. He cannot control his neck, his shoulders, his feet, his eyes, his laughter.304 In verbal exchanges he cannot control his body's response (in the nodding of assent and dissent without reason), and he lacks the control to craft his speech so that it proceeds in an orderly and logical way. As noted above, self-control of body indicated that the elite man was fit to rule, as was control of speech also mark of elite roman male. For Gregory, it
302 Paed. 2.5 (ANF 2:249) 303 Rule 8, 132-5; translation taken from Evans, "Physiognomics in the Ancient World," 78-79). Basil does, however, allow for a "cheerful smile" to reveal merriment ("Physiognomics in the Ancient World, 78). 304 Presumably, if he was able to control these he would do so, given the importance placed on presenting a controlled and disciplined masculine physique.
was empirically observable and physically demonstrable that Julian was not — and never had been — fit to rule. This is in striking contrast to his assertions regarding Julian's successor, whom Gregory describes as "a man illustrious in all other respects as well as for piety, and in
305 personal appearance truly fitted for sovereignty."
Capitalizing on an opponent's perceived (or perhaps exaggerated or even invented) physical shortcomings allowed early Christian authors engaged in the activity of "naming" the heretic or apostate further persuasive traction. Rather than relying solely on arguments drawn from scripture or other 'subjective' methodologies,306 physiognomic polemic was thought to allow for a more (purportedly) objective means of undermining the character of one's opponent. As a component of persuasion, this perceived benefit held particular appeal in an otherwise rather subjective enterprise. Moreover, given physiognomy's perceived ties to intellectual undertakings, the use of it simultaneously demonstrated the author's own superior intelligence and keen analysis. In the hetero-orthodox discourse that lacked substantive and universally agreed upon definitions of these terms, the appeal to physiognomy with its purported access to objective and universal truth made it a valuable component of persuasion.
305 Orat. 5.15. Indeed, this is also in sharp contrast to Gregory's use of physiognomy for encomium, and his ability to use physiognomy for praise or blame indicates his familiarity with it as a rhetorical strategy. In his Oration regarding his deceased brother, he praises him in physiognomic terms while pretending to be above such things: "I say little of his qualities evident to all, his beauty, his stature, his manifold gracefulness, and harmonious disposition, as shown in the tones of his voice — for it is not my office to laud qualities of this kind, however important they may seem to others" (Orat. 7.5 [NPNF² 7:231]). 306 Tertullian is quite astute in recommending that his audience does not engage in scriptural-based arguments with so-called heretics, noting that "[heretics] too are able to retort these things on us. It is indeed a necessary consequence that they should go so far as to say that the adulterations of the scriptures, and false expositions thereof, are rather introduced by ourselves, in as much as they, no less than we, maintain that the truth is on their side." (Praescr. 18 [ANF 3:251]).
Chapter Three What do you do with an Ugly Saviour?: The Negative Descriptions of the Physical Appearance of Jesus and their Respective Roles in the Rhetoric of Persuasion
The previous chapter demonstrated how a perceived negative physical appearance or bodily comportment could be used as a means of rhetoric to castigate or denigrate an opponent's character by some early Christian authors. While the inherent subjectivity of the physiognomic enterprise was abundantly evidenced in the previous chapter, the descriptions of the physical appearance of the earthly Jesus make this even more readily apparent. The early Christian authors discussed in this chapter subscribed to a physiognomic consciousness, yet nonetheless still readily espoused the view (based primarily on the suffering servant imagery in Isaiah 53)307 that the physical appearance of the earthly Jesus was unflattering. This is decidedly curious, and while Stephen D. Moore has addressed this unattractive Jesus to some extent, he is one of the very few contemporary scholars to treat this rather strange phenomenon in any depth.308 While
Moore posits a rationale behind this acceptance and even promotion of this rhetorical strategy as a means of highlighting the splendor of the Jesus who will return at the second advent, given the importance placed on "looking the part" in the ancient world and that these authors who accept this unflattering image subscribed to the prevalent physiognomic consciousness, more can and should be said on the subject. While of course one of the additional rhetorical reasons for promotion of this "ugly Jesus" is that in citing the references in Isaiah this provided early
Christian authors with "proof" that Jesus and his rather humble and inglorious end was
307 In particular Is. 53:2-3: "He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no form nor or majesty (οὐκ ἔστιν εἶδος αὐτῷ οὐδὲ δόξα) that we should look at him, he had no form nor comeliness (νὐθ εἶρελ εἶδνο νὐδὲ θάιινο). His form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men (ἀιιὰ ηὸ εἶδνο αὐηνῦ ἄηηκνλ ἐθιεῖπνλ παξὰ πάληαο ἀλζξώπνπο); a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account." 308 God's Beauty Parlor: And Other Queer Spaces in and Around the Bible (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001). Philip Schaff, at the turn of the last century posits a reason or motivation for this despite his clear discomfort with this phenomenon, and he will be discussed briefly below.
prophesied in scripture and thus lent their belief additional persuasive force, this does not ultimately account for this in its entirety: Psalm 45:2309 (which these same Christian authors utilize elsewhere, indeed, frequently for the "second" anticipated Jesus) could have served the same prophesied function. Moreover, rough contemporaries of the Christian authors examined here do demonstrate an interest in trying to distance their own respective divinely-linked authority figure from perceived physiognomic shortcomings, as it clear from Philo and Josephus' re-working of the traditions of Moses from the Septuagint. Thus, many of these early Christian authors are rather unique in presenting their own divine authority figure in unflattering physical terms, and doing so even though there is some evidence that they were being mocked for the humble physiognomy of their savior, and that they in turn mocked adherents of the traditional
Greco-Roman cults for the occasional unflattering presentation of these deities.310 As such, it is probable that some of these Christian authors envisioned (whether they succeeded or not is beyond the present scope) some additional rhetorical "payoff" in making or responding to these claims about the physicality of Jesus, and each author seems to have a distinct additional aim in
311 doing so, in addition to the reason posited by Moore.
309 "You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever." 310 See discussion on Celsus and Origen below. Although Origen is clearly uncomfortable with the attributes Celsus ascribes to Jesus and attempts to refute them, ultimately he does concede to some extent that Jesus might not have been physically robust, discussed below. That many of these Christian authors similarly "gave back" in mocking some instances of the presentation of physical shortcomings in traditional deities renders their concession of an unattractive Jesus all the more worthy of investigation, given that they thus demonstrably saw the perceived rhetorical value in these sorts of assertions (discussed below). 311 The following will not address instances of Jesus' polymorphy or metamorphoses primarily because many of the texts which include instances of these seem to be speaking of the post-Easter Jesus who has "triumphed" over the physical flesh, whereas the authors addressed here do, for the most part, seem to be discussing the earthly Jesus during the time of his ministry which in turns allows for physiognomic interpretation (although they contrast this with his post-Easter return). However, it is perhaps worth noting that nearly all instances of Jesus in another form are portrayed in a positive, attractive fashion, whereas I can only find two negative examples, and at that seem to be tied to the idea that Jesus' post Easter body defied all fleshy expectations, bearing simultaneously contrasting aspects. In the Acts Pet. Peter proclaims that Jesus is "huge and very little, beautiful and ugly, child and old man...." (20) . The Acts John relates John saw a variety of forms of Jesus: "...sometimes he appeared to me as a small man and unattractive, and then again as one reaching to heaven ... when I sat at table he would take me upon his breast
The Physiognomy of the Divine (and Those Who were in Close Proximity to it) in the Ancient Mediterranean While there were, of course, exceptions to the "rule" that proximity to the divine (or divinity itself) and beauty or attractiveness were physiognomically linked,312 the idea that the one indicated and supported the other was the more prominent understanding in the ancient world.
As Dale Martin observes, in the ancient world the perceived perfect body was understood as occupying the elite end of a spectrum that "stretch[ed] from inhuman or barbaric ugliness to divine beauty. The gods, of course, were beautiful; and people of aristocratic birth or upper-class origins were expected to manifest their proximity to the divine by possessing a natural beauty and nobility."313 He further notes that this "cultural common sense" is also manifest in the ancient Greek novels where heroines are mistaken for deities, and the converse assumption
(though not as frequently attested) is also made, where persons of lower status are expected to be deformed or ugly.314 Moore likewise addresses these points by Martin, citing a variety of
and I held him; and sometimes he breast felt to me to be smooth and tender, and then sometimes hard, like stone...." (3). As Verity Platt observes regarding the different manifestations of Dionysus in the Hymm to Dionysus, "like Demeter and Aphrodite, the beauty of his anthropomorphic disguise hints at his divine status" (Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion [Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2 11], 67). Istv n Czachez is undoubtedly correct in suggesting that the idea of no fixed appearance and being able to appear in various forms in the polymorphic accounts of Jesus is drawn from accounts of the traditional Greco-Roman gods that are likewise able to do so, and I suggest that this is a means of attesting to his divine status. For a discussion on the polymorphy and metamorphoses of Jesus, see his chapters bearing these names in The Grotesque Body in Early Christian Discourse: Hell, Scatology, and Metamorphosis (Sheffield; Bristol: Equinox, 2012). The following will also not address in too much depth more predictable depictions of an attractive Jesus given that these seem to be what one would expect, although some of these are noted below for authors elsewhere addressed in this work. 312 For example the Heroized Heracles as sometimes being understood as overly corpulent, discussed in the previous chapter, as well as other instances discussed above of inter-group ridicule. 313 Dale B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 34. 314 Martin, The Corinthian Body, 34-35.
instances where these assumptions are at work.315 Similarly, Cartlidge and Elliott note, "With the exception of a few divine characters, e.g.: Socrates, a divine man (theios aner) was expected to
316 be beautiful; they were usually portrayed as such."
Given that the most common expectation was that the gods and those associated with or favoured by them would reflect this physiognomically, it becomes evident how any perceived shortcomings of this idea could be used as invective rhetorical persuasion to undermine the claims of divinity. Such strategies of physiognomic persuasion are evident not only in "pagan"317 invective against early Christians and Judeans, but also in early Christian invective against their pagan contemporaries. The most infamous of the former is found in Origen's Contra Celsum.
318 Origen relays Celsus' critique, which itself evidences physiognomic consciousness:
Since a divine Spirit inhabited the body [of Jesus], it must certainly have been different from that of other beings, in respect of grandeur, or beauty, or strength, or voice, or impressiveness, or persuasiveness. For it is impossible that He, to whom was imparted some divine quality beyond other beings, should not differ from others; whereas this person did not differ in any respect from another, but was, as they report, little, and ill-favoured, and ignoble (κηθξὸλ θαὶ δπζεηδὲο θαὶ 319 ἀγελλὲο)
315 God's Beauty Parlor, 252, n. 98. Moore also cites (God's Beauty Parlor, 243 n. 23) the work of David J. A. Clines ("David the Man: The Construction of Masculinity in the Hebrew Bible," in Interested Parties: The Ideology of Writers and Readers of the Hebrew Bible [JSOTSup 348. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2004]: 212-43) who observes that many of the males in the Hebrew Bible are also described as physically beautiful, remarking that "it is implied that ordinarily one would expect a high-ranking 'servant of Yahweh' to be beautiful in form and face." 316 David R. Cartlidge and J. Keith Elliott, Art and the Christian Apocrypha (London; New York: Routledge, 2001), 53. On the physiognomy of Socrates, please see the following chapter. Similarly, one might compare early Christian depictions of angels and demons — the former being described as beautiful or attractive, and the latter consistently being described as ugly or unattractive. 317 I use the term "pagan" here for the sake of fluidity — the problems inherent with the term are well known, in particular that the term was never used to self-identify but was instead applied by "outsiders" to those that adhered to the practices of the traditional Greco-Roman cults. For a brief discussion on why this problematic terms is nonetheless perhaps the least objectionable, please see Christopher P. Jones, Between Pagan and Christian (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014) 6. 318 Although of course there are considerations at work for Celsus, but these are beyond the scope of the current chapter. 319 Cels. 6.75 (trans. Henry Chadwick, Origen: Contra Celsum [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953). It is not clear if, as Origen attempts to explain (or scapegoat) it (discussed below), that Celsus is miss-quoting or miss-
As Parsons observers, in the physiognomic manuals there is a link between smallness of body and smallness of spirit, and that being of short stature frequently made one the butt of polemical humour.320 And while the more specific implication of smallness of mind or spirit may or may not be at work here, given that shortness tended to be a source of ridicule and is not on the list of the qualities that Celsus considers to belong to the divine, the implication as a whole remains clear: Jesus could not have been divinely favoured or divine himself as his physique
321 attested to his humble mortal status.
Less frequently noted is the similar attack on Jesus' character and physical appearance that Origen reports Judeans leveled against early Christians: "... they misrepresent him as a vagabond, and they accuse him of being an outcast who roamed about with his body disgracefully unkempt ἐλ ἀγελλεῖ ζώκαηη."322 Although unfortunately not more specific regarding what this might entail, it is clear that it is meant in a derogative fashion, and perhaps some inferences can be drawn despite the absence of specific detail. The image of the Cynic would seem to fit this assertion fairly well — both the unkempt appearance as well as being
remembering Isaiah 52:3 as another instance of attempting to use their own scripture against early Christians (for the Greek terms used in these respective texts are quite different, although they have similar implications), or if this is a criticism independent of this (which seems plausible in the context of physiognomic polemic). For Origen's response to this, please see below. Although not physiognomy per se, it is perhaps also worth (or at least amusing) to note that Celsus likens Jesus' diet to "shit-eating" (ζθαηνθαγεῖλ) in that he ate sheep and drank vinegar and gall (Cels. 7.13). While the connection drawn here is not readily apparent to me, the rhetoric of unwholesome food as indication of low status or barbarity is common in antiquity. On firmer physiognomic grounds, Celsus accuses Jesus as having a less than divine voice (Cels. 1.70), but what he means by this is ultimately unclear. Given Origen's response that other human figures that were perceived to have a close relationship with the divine had this same voice it is likely that Celsus is implying that it is merely a human one. Although it might be a stretch, this could possibly relate to Celsus' subsequent accusation that Jesus "uttered wailings" (presumably based on the accounts of his passion narrative), and thus would seem to indicate effeminacy, or at least a lack of courage. 320Mikeal Carl Parsons, Body and Character in Luke and Acts: The Subversion of Physiognomy in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2006), 99-101; on dwarfism in an ancient context see Body and Character, 102-104. 321 Here this seems to be another instance where the body "proves" an aspect of a person's character that he might otherwise try to conceal or lie about, but is ultimately 'revealed' by his body. 322 Cels. 2.38. For Origen's response to this, see below.
portrayed as an itinerant outcast.323 Although the specifics that lay behind this assertion remain opaque, it is sufficient to note that Jesus' physique is judged to be lacking (in the very least in not attempting to cultivate it to acceptable norms), which entailed a negative evaluation of his character, and in turn thus impugning early Christian claims to divinity. Jesus, on this and the previous account, does not "look the part" that was understood to be a prerequisite of the divine or those who were divinely favoured. There is also, of course, the rather curious polemic of Jesus as having the head of an ass, although this is perhaps not physiognomic in nature and thus will not be addressed here in any depth.324 Early Christians evidently recognized the rhetorical value
323 While no doubt Cynics themselves thought themselves to be living a moral life and their attempted distancing from society's norms a virtue, their detractors shared a very different opinion. While of course these are ultimately subjective evaluations, it is worth noting that ancient portraiture of Cynics tend to be decidedly unflattering. John Dominic Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1994) has argued that images of Jesus that show him hold a scroll and with a bare chest with one fold of material draped over his shoulder is meant to intentionally recall Cynic philosophers (Figure 34 in Lee M. Jefferson, Christ the Miracle Worker in Early Christian Art, [Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014]). Jefferson suggests that this association is a bit of a leap, remarking that the bare chest and scroll does not support such a conclusion (Jefferson, Christ, 105-106 nt. 58). Interestingly, Eusebius reports that a statue in Paneas that portrayed a woman in a suppliant position and "an upright figure of a man, clothed in comely fashion in a double cloak (diploidov) and stretching out his hand to the woman; at his feet on the monument itself a strange species of herb was growing, which climbed up to the border of the double cloak of brass, and acted as an antidote to all kinds of diseases. This statue, they said, bore the likeness of Jesus. And it was in existence even to our day ... and there is nothing wonderful in the fact that the those heathen, who long ago had good deeds done to them by our saviour, should have made these objects, since we saw the likeness of His apostles also, of Paul and Peter, and indeed of Christ Himself, preserved in pictures painted in colours. And this is what we should expect, for the ancients were wont, according to their pagan habit, to honour them as saviours, without reservation, in this fashion" (Hist. eccl. 7.18.2 [Kirsopp Lake, LCL]). Eusebius notes that people in the city attributed the erection of the monument to "the woman with an issues of blood, who, as we learn from the sacred Gospel, received from our Saviour the deliverance from her affliction, [who] came to this place, and that her house is shown in the city, and that remarkable memorials of the kindness of the Saviour to her remain there" (Hist. eccl. 7.18.1). The reference to the double cloak may perhaps support a cynic interpretation — for example, Sosicrates in Successions 3 relates that Diodorus of Aspendus invented the Cynic practice of doubling the cloak (I am indebted to Erin Vearncombe for this reference). Earlier scholarship such as Schaff thought that perhaps this statue proposed that this statue was most likely a monument of Hadrian as contemporaneous coins depict a similar image (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2 [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901], 281 n. 1). However, subsequent scholarship has posited that the male figure is instead Asclepius, primarily based on the presence of the herb, potentially indicating a medicinal tool (see, for example, Adolf van Harnack, The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries, trans. and ed. James Moffat (London: Williams and Norgate; New York: G.P. Putmans‘s Sons, 19 8), 119). For a discussion of the iconographic similarities (and some differences) — both deliberate and otherwise — between Jesus and Asclepius, see Jefferson, Christ, with further bibliography. 324 In addition to the infamous third century Alexamenos graffiti which depicts a crucified man (mostly likely Jesus) with the head of an ass, Tertullian relates that a Roman Judean "would carry around a picture directed at us with the heading 'Onocoetes', meaning Donkey Priest. It was a picture of a man wearing a toga and the ears of a donkey with a book in hand and one leg ending in a hoof" (Nat.14). Although this is surely not likely to have been taken as an
of such attacks, and in a similar manner criticized the representations and physicalities of the traditional Greco-Roman gods.
In his critique of the character of these figures, Clement of Alexandria also lobs in a few digs at their respective portrayed physicalities, citing the Iliad to refer to the Prayers as those
"lame and wrinkled cross-eyed deities,"325 before elaborating that they are "the daughters of
Zeus, though they are more like the daughters of Thersites."326 Elsewhere he capitalizes on
327 Homer's description of Hephaestus as being "lame in both feet."
Minucius Felix asserts "do not the very forms and appearances of your gods expose them to ridicule and contempt? Vulcan, a lame and crippled god; Apollo, still beardless after all these years; Aesculapius, although he is the son of the ever-youthful Apollo; Neptune, with sea-green eyes; Minerva, cat-eyed; Juno, ox-eyed..."328 And Origen queries "... what respect is commanded by the frenzied Dionysus, clad in feminine clothing, so that he should be worshipped as a
indication of Jesus' actual physiognomy, it does attest to the strategy of mocking the physical appearance of a person deemed by some to be divine. On the polemic of Judeans and early Christians worshipping the head of an ass (rather than Jesus with an ass' head), see Tacitus' Hist. 5.3; Fronto preserved in Minicius Felix's Octavius 9; Tertullian's Nat. 9. 325 Il. 9.502 (Murray, LCL). 326Protr. 4 (ANF 2:187-88). Thersites, of course, is one of the more infamous examples of ancient physiognomy, his ugly and deformed body betraying his low class status while he seeks to portray himself as superior. 327 Protr. 7 (ANF 2:193); Il. 1.607. Clement also takes physiognomic aim (Protr. 10 [ANF 2:197]) at the priests of the traditional temples: "Let any of you look at those who minister in idol temples. He will find them ruffians with filthy hair, in squalid and tattered garments, complete strangers to baths, with claws for nails like wild beasts." 328 Octavius 23.5 (Glover, LCL). While again these physical descriptions are perhaps not to be intended to have been understood in a historical or literal fashion, I cite them as the principle of attacking the legitimacy of a rival god via his or her physical appearance is readily apparent. While "ox-eyes" was an epithet of Hera in Homer, see R. Drew Griffith ("The Eyes of Clodia Metelli," Latomus 55 : 181-83) for the suggestion that the term was used by Cicero to indicate sexual immorality. 329 Cels. 3.22
There is evidence that Judeans seem to have faced similar criticism pertaining to the physiognomy of Moses, in particular the traditions that he was marred by leprosy and had a speech impediment. Unlike the majority of their early Christian contemporaries, however, Philo and Josephus responded in a much more predictable way in view of ancient physiognomic consciousness, attempting to distance their respective holy figure from these unsavory accusations.
Philo and Josephus on the Physiognomy of Moses
David Lincicum has demonstrated that in some of his writings Philo operates with a certain degree of physiognomic consciousness.330 While he notes that Philo did not utilize physiognomy in the strict sense as espoused by the manuals, in instances where it suited his purposes to do so
Philo would employ physiognomic commonplaces to support his exegesis. The same can likely be said of Josephus, who also employs physiognomy in some of his characterizations of persons in his works.331 Louis H. Feldman has discussed numerous ways in which both Josephus and
Philo recast material found in the Septuagint to make Moses more palatable to a broader Roman audience, including omitting or modifying potentially embarrassing material. While he does address instances of these which would fall under the rubric of physiognomy (such as speech and physical appearance), he does not address this material in these terms. Doing so helps explain the potential motivations for these alterations.
330 David Lincicum, ―Philo and the Physiognomic Tradition,‖ JSJ 44.1 (2013): 57–86. 331In her appendix Elizabeth Evans has listed several instances where she identifies some physiognomy employed in an informal sense in Josephus' works ("Physiognomy in the Ancient World," 92-93).
For both Philo and Josephus, the physiognomic rehabilitation in their respective portraits of Moses seek to improve his physical appearance as a response to accusations of leprosy leveled by detractors, as well as the tradition that he suffered a speech impediment.
While of course leprosy was not merely a physical defect that marred one's appearance, but came with a variety of different social and theological stigmas, the role it played in disfiguring one's body no doubt also played a role in how these persons were perceived.
Scholars have debated what, exactly, constituted leprosy in the ancient Mediterranean, a task that is complicated in part because "leprosy in the biblical, medieval, and renaissance eras was not diagnosed with accuracy. The criteria for diagnosis was imprecise ... Many skin diseases, notably psoriasis, eczema, leukoderma, and other non-infectious dermatoses, were labeled leprosy...."332
The terms that Josephus uses in response to his critics is ιέπξα combined with scaly (ςσξόο) skin, thus indicating that the marred physical appearance was readily apparent, and these two terms are frequently found together in ancient medical writings.
That detractors were utilizing these traditions regarding Moses' unflattering physique as a component of polemic is evident from Josephus' Against Apion, where he attempts to refute
Manetho's claims that Moses was expelled from Egypt for leprosy.333 As Feldman observes, in
Josephus' elaboration on the beauty of Moses as well as the measure he took to exile lepers he is
332 William B. Ober, "Can the Leper change his spots? The Iconography of Leprosy Pt. 1," American Journal of Dermatopathology, (1983): 43-58; 48. See here also for discussion of the various ancient terms that were used to designate what becomes translated as leprosy. 333 C. Ap. 1.279 (Thackery, LCL). In this work Josephus relays another, perhaps related, bit of physiognomic polemic being leveled by Lysimachus against Judean ancestors as a whole: "The people of the Jews being leprous (ιεπξνὺο) and scabby (ςσξνῦο), and subject to certain other kinds of distempers...." (C. Ap. 1.305). Feldman (Louis H. Feldman, Josephus’s Interpretation of the Bible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 385 nt. 29) also identifies other sources of the tradition that Moses' physical appearance was marred by leprosy. Of course, as is the case with physiognomy, there is also evidence that the opposite understanding of Moses' physical appearance was touted by non-Judeans. Feldman relates (Interpretation, 384) that the "tradition of Moses' beauty had reached even the non-Jewish world, inasmuch as we find Pompeius Trogus ... who lived at the end of the first BCE and beginning of the first CE, stating that Moses' beauty of appearance (formae pulchritudo) recommended him."
"particularly eager to answer the canard" of Moses' unflattering appearance.334 Philo, too, sought to rebuff these traditions:
In Philo's version (De Vita Mosis 1.79 of Moses putting his hand in his bosom and having the hand turned leprous, and then repeated it becomes restored) G-d bade Moses to conceal one of his hands in his bosom and then to draw it out, whereupon the hand appeared whiter than snow. When he repeated this his hand turned back to its original color. What is striking is that there is no mention of leprosy. In Josephus' version there is likewise no mention of leprosy; instead we are told that when Moses drew forth his hand it was "white, of a color resembling 335 chalk (Ant. 2.273)."
Yet even beyond this clear side-stepping of explicit references to leprosy, both Philo and
Josephus seek to highlight the physical beauty of Moses in numerous ways throughout their respective works. Lincicum notes several passages where Philo correlates external appearance with internal character, including his depiction of Moses: "from his birth he had an appearance of more than ordinary goodliness...."336 While of course often Philo is also relating material found in the Septuagint, as Lincicum notes he often expands on this in physiognomic ways.337 As
Feldman says of Josephus' treatment of the physical appearance of Moses "Just as he does in the case of a number of other biblical heroes, so it is also in the case of Moses that Josephus emphasizes his beauty. Almost at the very beginning of the portrait, Moses' beauty plays a key role. In the bible Pharaoh's daughter saves the baby because it is crying (Exod. 2.6), in Josephus her motive is that she is enchanted by his size (κεγέζνο) and beauty (θάιινο); Ant. 2.224."338
Feldman also points out that Josephus employs the same nouns (κνξθή and θξόλεκα) in his
334 Feldman, Interpretation, 385. 335 Louis H. Feldman, ―Moses in Midian, According to Philo,‖ Shofar: IJJS 21:2 (2003): 1-20; 14-15. 336 Mos. 1.9; cited by Lincicum, "Philo," 19. 337 Lincicum, "Philo," 20. 338 Feldman, Interpretation, 384.
description of the infant Moses as Dionysius does in describing Romulus and Remus.339 The beauty of the child Moses was so stunning that, according to Josephus, people would stop and stare — moreover, even at the age of three years old he was fortunate to be tall.340 As Gohei Hata suggests, "Josephus' emphasis on Moses' beauty negates his image as a cripple or ungainly
The tradition in the Septuagint of Moses' speech impediment is also negotiated in Philo and Josephus' portrait of Moses. As discussed in chapter two, the male voice was of great physiognomic importance, and any perceived lack in this regard was considered a failure in masculinity and by extension the ability for leadership. It is thus clear why Philo and Josephus are eager to mitigate this physiognomic problem.342 Whereas Josephus takes a more direct approach and omits the biblical references (Exod 4:10, 6:12) to Moses as being slow of speech and ineloquent,343 Philo brings up this tradition, but only to qualify it in a way that speaks favourably of Moses' character. The first rationale he provides is that Moses was tongue tied out of sheer shock of conversing with God, and the second that in comparison with the divine
339 Feldman, Interpretation, 384-85, citing Ant. 2.232 and Ant .Rom 1.79.10. 340 Ant. 2.30-31(Feldman, LCL): "... God did also give him that tallness, when he was but three years old, as was wonderful; and as for his beauty, there was nobody so impolite as, when they saw Moses, they were not greatly surprised at the beauty of his countenance; it happened frequently, that those that met him as he was carried along the road, were obliged to turn again upon seeing the child; that they left what they were about, and stood still a great while to look at him, for the beauty of the child was so remarkable and natural to him on many accounts that it detained the spectators, and made them stay longer to look upon him"; also cited by Feldman, Interpretation, 384. 341 "The Story of Moses Interpreted within the Context of Anti-Semitism," Josephus, Judaism and Christianity eds. Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987): 180-97 (184). 342 Similarly, Feldman notes that "That the great leader of a nation should not be eloquent would certainly, to a Greek or Roman, seem to be a defect so great as to invalidate the claim of someone to be the nation's leader"(Feldman, ―Moses in Midian,‖ 15-16). 343 Feldman, "Moses in Midian," 16. Feldman also notes that rather than Aaron accompanying Moses as a spokesperson to Pharaoh as in the Exodus account (5:1), in Josephus' version Moses goes alone, thus implying that he spoke on his own (Studies in Josephus' Rewritten Bible [Leiden: Brill, 1998], 65; Ant. 2.281). Moreover, Josephus makes a point of stating that Moses "found favour in every way in speech and in public addressees (Rewritten Bible, 65, citing Ant. 4.328)
eloquence human speech was the equivalent to dumbness.344 In his defense of Moses Philo alters
Moses' ineloquence to "speechless," and this becomes an aspect of the virtue of reverence for the divine.345 Philo, then, has modified a physiognomic problem to become a physiognomic virtue -
346 piety and reverence for the divine, made manifest in a physical way.
In their respective rehabilitations of the physiognomy of Moses, Philo and Josephus behave in quite predictable ways — altering their accounts to play down (or exempt) negative physical qualities as well as bolstering or highlighting the positive ones. What is curious is that several of their early Christian contemporaries, for the most part, did not behave in this same, predictable way, even though these authors can be shown to elsewhere work under physiognomic influence, as well evidence a bit of tension in their respective works on the ugliness of Jesus. It is likely, then, that there must have been additional rhetorical goals at work in adhering to — or even the promotion of — the idea of a physically unappealing Jesus.
347 Early Christian Authors on the Lacklustre Physical Appearance of Jesus
344 Feldman, ―Moses in Midian,‖ 16; Mos. 1.83. 345 Feldman, ―Moses in Midian,‖ 16. 346 Similarly, Feldman notes that in another work Philo returns to this theme of Moses' speech problems, here rectifying the issue with a similar apologetic way: "Moses is not speechless in the sense that we use it of animals, but rather in the sense that refers to the failure to find a fitting instrument in language corresponding to one's understanding of true wisdom, which is the opposite of false sophistry" ("Moses in Midian," 17, citing Philo's Det. 38). 347 In what follows I leave aside for the most part artistic or visual representations of Jesus during this period, given that my focus is on verbal rhetoric. This is not to say, however, that visual images do not themselves convey certain ideologies and ideas that could be considered their own form of rhetoric, or indeed that interpretation of these images provide a basis for further rhetoric as in made clear in Origen's and Minicus Felix's comments on what are presumably sculpted or painted images of the traditional gods. Rather, the above is concerned with the physiognomic curiosity of authors that maintain that Jesus had a deficient physical form in his earthly life, and given that the visual representations of Jesus are predominantly positive in nature, I shall only refer to them when they are relevant to this discussion. Moreover, although additional references to the perceived "ugly" Jesus are found in other early Christian sources, I keep as my focus authors who have been shown — or will be shown — to be operating with a physiognomic consciousness that have been or will be discussed elsewhere in this work.
Stephen D. Moore observes that the phenomenon of a negative assessment of Jesus' physicality
"first rears its ugly head briefly" in Justin Martyr's 1 Apol., followed shortly by surfacing in
Irenaeus' Haer., although Clement of Alexandria was the first to "grasp it firmly by the horns."348
This understanding of an aesthetically deficient Jesus is primarily predicated upon a literal understanding of Isaiah 53:2-3,349 and forging this link lent scriptural support to the (at that time
348 God's Beauty Parlor, 96; Protr. 10 (ANF 2:202): "the Lord, who, though despised as to appearance (ὄςεη θαηαθξνλνύκελνο); Strom. 3.1: "And that the Lord himself was uncomely in aspect, the Spirit testifies by Esaias: And we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness by his Form was mean, inferior to men. ... But it was not the beauty of the flesh visible to the eye, but the true beauty of both soul and body, which He exhibited...". In addition to this last passage (cf. also Paed. 3.2), and as Moore also notes (God's Beauty Parlor, 96) on Clement's use of this text elsewhere (Strom. 2.5) to demonstrate that individuals can be just "even though they should happen to be ugly in their persons," which in turn suggests that Clement rejected physiognomy, ultimately Clement's relationship to the phenomenon is a bit more complex. Much like Philo, as Lincicum has demonstrated, although some anti- physiognomic sentiments are present in his work and he is not a formal physiognomic theorist, Clement nonetheless does utilize physiognomics in aspects of his writing when it suits him (in particular in the cultivation of the Christian body, discussed in the last chapter). That it does not suit him to do so regarding the earthly Jesus is discussed below, but one of the potential reasons for this is pertinent to cite here: I suggest that Clement has little use for the invariable form of physiognomy, but values greatly the invariable form (these forms as discussed in the introduction). That he is clearly aware of physiognomic practice is made clear in Strom. 1.21.135 (ANF 2:331) where he remarks that ""some of the 'thieves and robbers' as the Scripture says, predicated for the most part from observation and probabilities, as physiognomizing physicians judge from natural signs." That he values invariable forms to discern internal character is clear in his comments about effeminate men (Paed. 3.3 [ANF 2: 277]): "such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, looks. For from his look shall a man be known, says the Scripture,' from meeting a man the man is known: the dress of a man, the step of his foot, the laugh of his teeth, tell tales of him' (Sir. 19.29-30)." Interestingly, Clement here employs scripture as further justification for his physiognomic reading. The clearest attestation, however, that as Clement adheres to the invariable method is, as Maud Gleason suggests that for him "one man is entitled to 'read' another's grooming habit in the manner of a physiognomist" (Making Men, 68). Tertullian and Irenaeus' physiognomic interests have already been established in chapter two. 349 As Moore also notes, God's Beauty Parlor, 96. While this choice of text fits particularly well with the crucifixion of Jesus and thus seems a good choice for a proof text, what is particularly strange is that elsewhere early Christians are demonstrably able to offer metaphorical readings of problematic passages, including this one, yet still employing it to serve as 'proof' of Jesus fulfilment of scripture. Gregory of Nazianzus qualifies the Isaiah passage, making it one of perspective: "he had no form or comeliness in the eyes of the Jews — but to David he is fairer than the children of mankind" (Orat. 29.19; my emphasis [NPNF² 7:309]). Here Gregory is also citing Ps. 45:2 (LXX 44.3; "fairest of men"), which is also frequently cited by authors to refer to the post-Easter Jesus who will return in glory, discussed above. For Gregory, it is not that Jesus was uncomely in actual fact, just that he was perceived as such by his hostile enemies. Jerome also pairs these two together in his commentary on the Isaiah passage, puzzling over how these two can be logically reconciled (and no doubt also attempting to mitigate the perception of an unflattering Jesus): "[Jesus] was despised and base when he hung on the cross and made a curse for us ... But he was glorious [inclutus] and fair in appearance when, at his passion the earth trembled, rocks were split..." That Jesus was physically impressive which attested to his divinity throughout his life with the exception of the crucifixion, elsewhere (Comm. Matt. 1.9.9) Jerome posits that "Surely, the very splendor and majesty of his hidden divinity, which was even shining forth in his human face, was capable from the first glance of drawing those who looked towards it" (Saint Jerome: Commentary on Matthew, trans. Thomas P. Scheck [FOTC 117; Washington: The Catholic University Press of America, 2008]).
rather credulous) view that Jesus' inglorious suffering and death were divinely foretold and foreordained.350 Tertullian also utilizes this portion of Isaiah as a proof text,351 but he also elaborates on the trope of an ugly Jesus in citing Psalm 22:6 ("He pronounces himself 'a worm, not a man, an ignominy of man, and the refuse of the people'")352 and remarking that "His body did not reach even to human beauty, to say nothing of heavenly glory."353 Tertullian betrays no hesitation in accepting that the earthly Jesus' physique was decidedly sub-par.
Origen is the most forthright of these authors in trying to mitigate the perception of the lacklustre form of the earthly Jesus, remarking that Celsus must have gotten this impression from the Isaiah passage (despite the discrepancy in wording, noted above) and thus attempting to curtail any exterior or additional support for this understanding of Jesus' physique.354 Origen further attempts to qualify Celsus' assertions by noting that even though scripture does describe
Jesus as being "ill-favoured" it does not describe him as "ignoble ... nor is there any certain evidence that he was little" before citing the Isaiah passage.355 Origen, in ascribing the accusation of Jesus being imperfect to Celsus' reading of the Isaiah passage attempts to curtail the idea that Jesus was ugly both by citing Psalm 45,356 and by asserting that for those who were
350 Although sometimes Paul's assertion (Philippians 2.7) that Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave also seems to be at work: see, for example, Clement Paed. 3.1. 351 Adv. Jud. 14 , also cited by Moore, God's Beauty Parlor, 96 352 Adv. Jud. 14 (ANF 3:172); see also Carn. Chr. 9. 353Carn. Chr. 9 (ANF 3:530). 354 That Origen was aware of the practice of physiognomy is discussed by Lincicum, "Philo," 9. Although Lincicum states that Origen did not warmly embrace physiognomy, he is nonetheless aware of the practice. 355 Cels. 6.75 356He argues that Celsus deliberately rejected this as being applicable to Jesus, choosing the more unappealing description deliberately "because he thought they were of use to him in bringing a charge against Jesus" (Cels. 6.75). He notes that the Gospels and "apostolic writings" do not attest to the idea that Jesus had no form or beauty (thus eliminating an eyewitness account for Celsus' charges), before reluctantly agreeing that the account of Isaiah must be relied upon, although of course it is not as unfavourable as Celsus' remarks (Cels. 6.76).
capable of seeing it, Jesus was in fact quite physically splendid.357 On this latter part Origen draws on the account of the transfiguration giving it a metaphorical exegesis:
... it is not a subject of wonder that the matter, which is by nature susceptible of being altered and changed, and of being transformed into anything which the creator chooses ... should at one time possess a quality, agreeably to which it is said 'He had no form nor beauty,' and at another, one so glorious, and majestic, and marvellous, that the spectators of such surpassing loveliness — three disciples who had ascended [the mount] with Jesus — should fall upon their faces. ... But there is also something mystical in this doctrine,358 which announces that the varying appearances of Jesus are to be referred to the nature of the divine word, who does not show Himself in the same manner to the multitude as he does to those who are capable of following Him to the high mountain which we have mentioned; for to those who still remain below, and are not yet prepared to ascend, the Word has neither form nor beauty, because to such person His form is without honour, and inferior to the words given forth by men ... To those, indeed, who have received power to follow him, in order that they may attend Him even ...... 359 when He ascends to the lofty mount, He has a diviner appearance For Origen, while he must concede the unflattering portray of Jesus drawn from Isaiah in order to "explain" why Celsus would make such a charge, he nonetheless demonstrates interest in showing that this was not the full extent of Jesus' physicality. Indeed, in this latter respect
Origen is one of the few early Christian authors who behaves in a predictable physiognomic fashion — although there is sporadic evidence that ultimately other author are still somewhat
360 uncomfortable with this, and occasionally seek to qualify it (discussed below).
357 Not much different from Jerome's assertion, noted above, that Jesus' body was perceived in unflattering terms by his opponents. 358 Admittedly, what follows here does seem to extend into the realm of polymorphy or metamorphasis which I have purposely decided not to address in any depth in this work. I have kept this discussion on Origen's understanding of Jesus' physicality as elsewhere (the passages cited above), he does seem to have his earthly body in mind, and in this context it seems as though he attributes these variously perceived manifestations of Jesus as being an ability of Jesus while he was still working his earthly ministry. 359 Cels. 6.77. 360 Of course, that the ugliness of Jesus was understood in rather vague terms no doubt also contributed to some early Christian's acquiescence of it. That is, Jesus' unattractiveness was attributed to him by written sources, and thus did not have the visceral impact that a more specified description or representation in material culture would have had. This likely made the notion slightly more palatable - a blank canvas of unappealing physical traits that they could draw on with slightly more ease given the lack of specific itemized ugly features.
Including some of Origen's comments in his assessment361 Moore proposes that the function of this acceptance of an inferior Jesus served to heighten the contrast between the earthly Jesus who suffered such an ignoble fate in that body, and the one that will return and provide physical evidence of his divinity in majestic splendor. His concluding remarks on the topic of the physique of Jesus are worth citing in full:
...even if the second-century apologists declined to idealize the face and physique of Jesus of Nazareth, it is probably safe to surmise that the fourth gospel supplied the safety net for their tightrope assertion that he was physically ill favoured — the Fourth Gospel especially as read through the lens conveniently provided by the hymn to the kenotic Christ preserved in Philippians 2.3-11. For if the pre- existent Son of God elected to empty himself, to become flesh and dwell among us, why should he not have gone all the way and taken on flesh that was inglorious rather than glorious, becoming as ugly, precisely, as sin? The assertion that Jesus was ugly only made theological sense within the framework of a pre- existence Christology, a framework whose central strut was the Fourth Gospel. Before this framework was firmly in place, Christian authors seem not to have known what to do with Isaiah 53.2-3 ... For although the portrait of the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah 53.1-12 pops up repeatedly in the literature that now makes up the New Testament ... the physical ugliness of that is so prominent in the original has been discreetly painted out of the picture. But by the end of the second century ... Isaiah 53.2-3 was being whipped out fearlessly and repeatedly by the apologist and other Christian authors, confident that the "before" snapshot of Jesus that it represents merely serves to accentuate the "after" snapshots that are readily available now that he has undergone the miraculous makeover of 362 crucifixion combined with resurrection. For Moore, the attribution of unflattering characteristics of Jesus made sense — a further degradation of the pre-extant divine choosing to take on a lowly human form — yet also served to underscore the contrast of the majesty of the post-Easter Jesus. Moore is quite correct in both
361 I suggest that in view of his attempts to defend the physicality of the earthly Jesus discussed above he falls less into this category as being the sole reason for adhering to the idea of an ugly Jesus, although I think Moore is correct to note that this is a portion of Origen's rhetorical goal. 362Moore, God's Beauty Parlor, 127. Moore cites the appearance of Jesus in Rev 1.13-16 as an example of this physically reformed Jesus after his resurrection.
of these observations,363 however, given the important role that physiognomic thought occupied in this period — and among the authors addressed here in particular — perhaps additional
364 potential rhetorical incentives for the embracing of the "ugly Jesus" can be suggested.
Remarkably few other contemporary scholars have commented on this phenomenon — none, to the best of my knowledge, have addressed this phenomenon in any depth as a collective opinion of some early Christian authors with the exception of Moore.365 Occasionally some
363 Nearly all of the authors that Moore cites for this point do explicitly draw a comparison between Jesus' physicality in the first Advent, and that of the second. In Tertullian's citation of Ps 22.6 as applicable to Jesus, he of this passage "Which evidences of ignobility suit the First Advent, just of those of sublimity do the Second" (Adv. Jud. 14 [ANF 3:172]). I suggest that while this contrast is the main goal in his Adv. Jud., he has a different rhetorical strategy in mind in his Carn. Chr. (see below). Irenaeus contrasts the suffering servant imagery with Ps.22 in reference to a second advent (Haer. 4.33.11); Origen is a bit more complex (if not to say self-contradictory) in his approach and describes the body of the Post-Easter Jesus as "antitype of the former," yet stipulating that it "resembling in all respects its former appearance, 'both in size, and in beauty of eyes, and in voice'" (Cels. 2.61). I also suggest that Irenaeus has an additional rhetorical aim, similar to Tertullian's, also addressed below. Clement is less forthcoming in making an explicit contrast between the physicalites of the two advents of Jesus, though no doubt Moore is correct in including him in this category of thought. 364 Jacob Taubes also addresses the "ugly Jesus," although in the context of examining Nietzsche's discussion of the emphasis on humility in early Christianity, particularly in Paul. His brief observations will be incorporated based on the authors he discusses (Jacob Taubes, "The Justification of Ugliness in Early Christian Tradition," in From Cult to Culture: Fragments Toward a Critique of Historical Reason [eds. Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Amir Engel; Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2010)]. 365Although occasionally this is noted briefly in paragraphs in works on other subjects: Bruce Metzger, New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic, Vol. 10: 213; Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: a theological aesthetics (eds. J. Fessio and J. Riches; trans. E. Leiva-Merikakis; San Francisco: Ignatius Press; New York: Crossroad Publications, 1983), 135. Alain Besanҫon also addresses this in one brief paragraph (naturally, as this was not the focus of his work). He posits, without providing evidence drawn from the authors themselves, that "One senses that this controversy is not directly concerned with the physical appearance of Jesus Christ. It entails defending the idea of spiritual beauty capable of showing through an external ugliness, or, conversely, maintaining the compatibility between that beauty and the classical conception of beauty, a beauty further augmented by splendor" before commenting in a footnote that the "philosophy had already reflected upon the ugliness of Socrates" (Alain Besanҫon, The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm (trans. J M. Todd; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 111; 392 n. 6). While this is certainly true of Clement who does explicitly draw a contrast between a lacklustre body that can still possess a beautiful soul (see above), no other Christian authors on this subject seem to clearly articulate the idea that Besanҫon attributes to them. Given that an appeal to the infamous precedent of the ugliness of Socrates in contrast to the beauty of his soul would have been such a predictable and problem-solving move to make, this makes the early Christian authors' discussion of Jesus physique as they do all the more curious. Older scholarship on this topic is decidedly uncomfortable with it, evincing its own physiognomic consciousness. For example, Schaff remarks on the exchange on this topic between Celsus and Origen (History, vol. 2, 227 n. 5): "Celsus used this false tradition of the supposed uncomeliness of Jesus as an argument against his divinity, and an objection to the Christian religion." He further suggests (History, vol. 2, 227) "A true and healthy feeling leads rather to the opposite view; for Jesus certainly had not the physiognomy of a sinner, and the heavenly purity and harmony of his soul must in some way have shone, through the veil of his flesh, as it certainly did on the Mount of Transfiguration. Physical deformity is incompatible with the Old Testament idea
scholars will address an unflattering depiction of Jesus when it surfaces in work on a given author, and these observations will be addressed below when pertinent.
Origen, as noted above, comes the closest to a response that one might anticipate in physiognomic thought. What complicates this, but is also perhaps in part a strategy to refute the hostile assessment of Celsus, is his subsequent assertions that "how did [Celsus] fail to notice that his body differed in accordance with the capacity of those who saw it, and on this account appeared in such form as was beneficial for the needs of each individual's vision?"366 As discussed above, Origen attempts to mitigate the problem of an unattractive Jesus not only by direct qualification of the terms Celsus ascribes to him, but also by arguing that the true nature of
Jesus' physical form could only be correctly perceived by those who were capable of doing so:
"his appearance was not just the same to those who saw him, but varied according to their individual capacity."367 The implication that it is thus Celsus' own character flaws that prevented
of the priesthood, how much more with the idea of the Messiah." On the negative appearance found in other early Christian writers, Schaff asserts that "Those fathers, however, had the state of humiliation alone in their eye..." prior to stating descriptions of Jesus' second advent, discussed below (History, vol. 227-28). For additional references to other (and earlier) scholarly discomfort with this tradition, see Moore, God's Beauty Parlor, 242 n.18.). For two notable exceptions, see J. Rendel Harris, "On the Stature of our Lord," BJRL 1926, who argues that Jesus, historically speaking, was short of stature, and Robert Eisler. Eisler's reconstructed account of what was supposedly Josephus' description of Jesus' physical appearance is often cited as a notably negative portrayal of Jesus: "a man of simple appearance, mature age, small stature, three cubits high, hunchbacked, with a long face, long nose, and meeting eyebrows, so that they who see him might be affrighted, with scanty hair (but) with a parting in the middle of his head, after the manner of the Nazirites, and with an undeveloped beard. Only in semblance was he superhuman, (for) he gave some astonishing and spectacular exhibitions" (The Messiah Jesus and John the Baptist According to Flavius Josephus' Recently Rediscovered 'Capture of Jerusalem' and Other Jewish and Christian Sources [New York: The Dial Press, 1931], 466-67); cited by Moore, God's Beauty Parlor, 97). However, much of this is Eisler's own creation drawn from early medieval accounts which include otherwise positive traits — on the perceived beauty of the unibrow in antiquity, see the next chapter. What Eisler's physiognomic goals were in this undertaking, I am not sure, and are in any case beyond the scope of the work. 366 Cels. 6.77. On this Cartlidge and Elliott quip: "Origen's reply may contain more than a soupҫon of doceticism, even if we grant that his model is the Transfiguration" (Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 53). 367 Cels. 2.64.
him from recognizing a more beautiful Jesus.368 Origen capitalizes on the alteration of Jesus' appearance in the account of the Transfiguration in order to show that the uncomeliness that he concedes based on the Isaiah passage was not the only physical appearance that Jesus was
369 perceived to have.
In his response to the Judean accusation that Jesus' body was disgraceful in its unkemptness, Origen responds that "it is not disgraceful (ἄγγελλεο) to endure such hardships for the benefit of those in all places who are able to understand him," thus attempting to lessen the
370 physical attribute by saying it was part of the moral role Jesus fulfilled.
Irenaeus' acceptance of Isaiah as a literal description of the physique of Jesus is perhaps partially explained in his determination to refute other early Christian claims that Jesus did not have actual flesh, and that he only appeared to suffer. Throughout his work Irenaeus takes issue with those who maintain a non-material form of the Jesus throughout his earthly career. Perhaps, like Tertullian who also faced a similar challenge (see below), part of the reason to allow a physically lackluster Jesus was intended to sharply curtail the understanding that Jesus' "flesh" was not human, but somehow superhuman, given that such a view would no doubt relate to the divine beauty ascribed to those who were in proximity with (or were themselves) divine. Thus, in permitting the uncomeliness of Jesus to stand, this might potentially help Irenaeus avoid the potential slippery slope that asserting that Jesus had a flattering physique might have encouraged.
However, as with all authors thus far examined, this is not as simple or as clear as that. Despite
368 Similarly, as Tauber notes there are two modes of Jesus' appearance — those who are lacking the requisite faith and sophistication cannot see beyond the figure of the servant, and Jesus as crucified ("Justification of Ugliness," 92) 369 "Let this, then be our reply to the opinion assumed by Celsus: that he failed to understand the "changes" (to use the word common in ordinary literature) or transfiguration of Jesus, and the fact that he had both immortal and mortal nature" (Cels. 4.16). 370 Cels. 2.38.
citing the Isaiah passage numerous times, in one instance Irenaeus likely attempts to qualify this shortly after and draws on Isaiah 9:6. He states that Jesus is "the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the
Counsellor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God."371 What is noteworthy about this is that Irenaeus appears to have modified Isaiah 9:6 somewhat, and the Septuagint text does not include "beautiful in appearance."372 If this is a deliberate interpolation of this text, than this perhaps provides evidence that Irenaeus, while accepting an ugly Jesus when it suits or bolsters his argument, is nonetheless physiognomically uncomfortable with the description.
Tertullian appears to be propounding an ugly Jesus for similar reasons as Irenaeus, also combating those who have asserted that Jesus' body was not comprised of human flesh.
Specifically, his use of Isaiah appears to be applied to those who viewed Jesus' body as being of the same substance (or non substance?) as angelic or celestial beings,373 and, like Irenaeus, aimed at avoiding the slippery slope that admitting to a body that was on the higher end of the 'divine' spectrum would potentially provoke.374 However, Tertullian goes beyond this with an additional assertion of Jesus' unattractiveness that does not have scriptural precedence, with the concomitant rhetorical goal of explaining how Jesus could have been crucified to begin with.
Both of these goals are clear in his Carn. Chr.:
All these marks of the earthy origin were in Christ, and it is they which obscured Him as the Son of God, for He was looked on as a man, for no other reason whatever than because He existed in the corporeal substance of a man.... But if
371 Preascr. 3.19.2 (ANF 1:449). 372 At least in the Septuagint version, although it does mention "good health" (ὑγίειαν) will be given to this figure. Of course, Irenaeus also omit references to peace, so perhaps he is not using the text in front of him. 373 "But Christ, they say, bare (the nature of) an angel (Carn. Chr. 14 [ANF 3:532]); "For, as I have read in some writer of Valentinus' wretched faction, they refuse at the outset to believe that a human and earthly substance was created for Christ, lest the Lord should be regarded as inferior to the angles, who are not formed of earthly flesh" (Carn. Chr. 15 [ANF 3:534]); critics also maintain that because Jesus did not have an earthly body, he did not physically suffer (Carn. Chr. 5). 374 He cites Isaiah in Carn. Chr. 15.
there had been in Him any new kind of flesh miraculously obtained (from the stars), it would have certainly been well known. As the case stood, however, it was actually the ordinary condition of His terrene flesh which made all things else about him wonderful, as when they said, "Whence hath this man the wisdom and these mighty works?" (Mt 13.54). Thus spoke even they who despised his outward from. His body did not even reach to human beauty, to say nothing of heavenly glory.375 Had the prophets given us no information whatever concerning His ignoble appearance, His very sufferings and the very contumely proved its abject condition. Would any man have dared to touch even his little finger, the body of Christ, if it had been of an unusual nature; or to smear His face with 376 spitting, if it had not invited it (by its abjectness)? For Tertullian, emphasizing a physically unattractive Jesus provides him with datum that both supports his conception of Jesus' earthly and fleshy body to his opponents, as well as provides a reason for the seeming contradiction in antiquity of an executed and physically abused divine figure.377 It would seem that to Tertullian's mind, these potential advantages in his attempts at persuasion outweighed potential negative physiognomic implications for a physically unappealing Jesus. Curiously, however, and perhaps displaying some level of discomfort with his ugly Jesus, Tertullian asserts that despite the apparent contrast between the first advent of
Jesus in lowly form and the beauty of the second,378 these two forms are "a pair, on the one hand, and consimilar, because of the identity of the Lord's general appearance, inasmuch as He is not to
375 This assertion (my italics) is Tertullian's own composition that goes beyond citing scripture. 376 Carn. Chr. 9 (ANF 3:530). Taubes cites this passage as well, referring to it as an "anti-Gnostic barb" ("The Justification of Ugliness," 92). Later in this passage Tertullian cites Jesus' rather ignoble bodily actions (such as trembling at the prospect of death, hunger, weeping over Lazarus and shedding blood at the crucifixion) before sarcastically quipping: "These, I suppose, are celestial marks? But how, I ask, could He have incurred contempt and suffering in the way I have described, if there had beamed forth in that flesh of His aught of celestial excellence?" 377 Similarly, Eric Osborn (Eric Osborn, Tertullian: First Theologian of the West (Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 60-61) observes that for Tertullian "the sufferings of Christ prove that his flesh was not a celestial substance. No one would have dared to lay a finger on his body, let alone spit on it, if it had not borne the signs of physical weakness. His hunger, tears, trembling and spilt blood point to the earthiness of his incarnation." 378 "Then [at the second Advent], assuredly, he is to have an honourable appearance [speciem honorabilem] and a grace not "deficient of the Sons of men;" for (He will be) "blooming in beauty in comparison with the sons of men..." Adv. Jud. 14 (ANF 3:172), citing Psalm 22.
come in some other form, seeing that He has to be recognized by those by whom he was once
Clement of Alexandria also has his own rhetorical reasons for promoting the idea of a physically unattractive Jesus. Although he does make references to this in other places where it is utilized to challenge the validity of invariable physiognomy, or, the privileging of beauty over inner moral goodness,380 when these are combined with his other instance that is a part of rhetorical exhortation regarding the comportment of the body — that is, the value he placed on variably physiognomy — a plausible rationale for his use of an ugly Jesus can be discerned. In his discussion of beauty, Clement instructs his audience on how they should comport
[Women] ... must accordingly cast off ornaments as girls' gewgaws, rejecting adornment itself entirely ... but that man with whom the Word dwells does not alter himself, does not get himself up ... he does not ornament himself: his is beauty, the true beauty, for it is God.... And the flesh being a slave, as Paul testifies, how can one with any reason adorn the handmaid like a pimp? For that which is of flesh has the form of a servant. Paul says, speaking of the Lord, Because He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.... And that the Lord Himself was uncomely in aspect, the Sprit testifies by Isaiah.... Yet who was more admirable than the Lord? But it was not the beauty of the flesh visible to the eye, but the true beauty of both soul and body, which He exhibited, which in the 382 former is beneficence, in the latter — that is, the flesh — immortality. For Clement, the ugliness of the earthly Jesus served the function of discouraging the members of his community — notably both men and women — from attempting to produce an "artificial" type of beauty. The persuasive power of Jesus' lackluster appearance as something to emulate as
379 Adv. Jud. 14. 380 Such as in Strom. 2.5 and Protr. 10. 381 For more detailed description and discussion on Clement's advice to his audience regarding variable physiognomy, see chapter five. 382 Paed. 3.1. The rest of this chapter of the work deals extensively with attempts to beautify one's self, and Clements arguments against this, discussed in chapter five.
a proof text for his audiences, combined with his dismissal of invariable physiognomy, allows
Clement to capitalize on traditions of an ugly Jesus for his own rhetorical purposes.
However, Clement, too, also betrays some discomfort with this, providing a reason as to why Jesus was uncomely in the first place: it was a deliberate choice with a specific didactic function. He asserts that "... it was not in vain that that the Lord chose to use of a mean form of body; so that no one because of praise for his comely appearance and admiration for his beauty would neglect to attend to his words, and allow their attention for the transitory to keep the spiritual at bay."383 For Clement Jesus' unattractive appearance was not happenstance, but a
384 strategic tool to help ensure that his teachings were heard.
For these early Christian authors a rhetorical 'trade-off' can be observed: an acquiescence to an unattractive Jesus to help persuade their audience of a given point, and one that must have outweighed potential negative physiognomic implications. Combined with Moore's argument that this acceptance is to serve the function of the contrast between the two advents of Jesus, plausible reasons for the most part deviating from the physiognomic sensitivity they demonstrate elsewhere can be deduced. There is one additional potential motivation for this deviance, however, and though while it is insufficient on its own, perhaps when combined with the motivations discussed above it can be potentially suggested to be at work in the minds of these authors.
Ugly Jesus vs. Beautiful Antinoüs?
383 Strom. 6.17 (ANF 2:516). 384 Similarly, Taubes suggests that for Clement "Christ ... had to appear inconspicuous and misshapen so as not to distract us, but rather to guide us toward that which is formless ... and disembodied! Christ did not want to appear beautiful form at all, so as not to distract anyone from his preaching" ("The Justification of Ugliness," 91).
In the fall of 130 CE Hadrian's beloved young companion Antinoüs drowned in the Nile.385
Almost immediately after, Hadrian had Antinoüs declared a god, built a city in his honour and named after him, and erected monuments and statues of him that showcased his youthful beauty throughout the empire.386 As Louis Crompton observes, "the portraits of Antinous show him as a young man of astonishing beauty. The face is princely, brooding, melancholic, with full features crowned by luxuriantly curling hair ... His physique combines the athleticism of a Greek ephebe with a hint of oriental [sic] voluptuousness..."387 Even authors hostile to him — early Christian
388 authors in particular, discussed below — conceded the physical beauty of Antinoüs.
385 The question of whether Antinoüs' death was accidental or deliberate aimed at benefit for Hadrian himself is still something of a subject of debate, as it was in some circles in antiquity. Dio Cassius's History gives the fullest account of the incident, written a hundred years after the event in consultation with Hadrian's (now lost) autobiography: "[Antinoüs] died in Egypt, either by falling into the Nile, as Hadrian writes, or, as the truth is, by being offered in sacrifice. For Hadrian, as I have stated, was always very curious and employed divinations and incantations of all kinds. Accordingly, he honoured Antinoüs, either because of his love for him or because the youth had voluntarily undertaken to die (it being necessary that a life should be surrendered freely for the accomplishment of the ends Hadrian had in view) by building a city on the spot where he had suffered this fate and naming it after him; and he also set up statues — or rather sacred images of him — over almost all the world" (Ant. Rom. 69.11.2-4 (Cary, LCL); also cited by Louis Crompton (Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003), 107-8). Crompton suggests that while in all likelihood the death was an accident, but perhaps some prophecy had been made by Egyptian priests, whose religion was of great interest to Hadrian (Homosexuality and Civilization, 108). He notes that later legend assimilated the presumed immolation to the Alcestis myth. He cites Aurelius Victor writing in 360: "Others maintain that this sacrifice of Antinous was both pious and religious; for when Hadrian was wishing to prolong his life, and the magicians required a voluntary vicarious victim, they say that, upon the refusal of all others, Antinous offered himself" (108; Symonds, Sketches 3.193). However, determining what historically transpired is beyond the current scope, but see Royston Lambert for a detailed discussion. For present purposes it is enough to note that the idea of a sacrificial death on behalf of another was associated with Antinoüs' death by many in antiquity. As Lambert notes, "the ancient historians seem to be unanimously suggesting voluntary sacrifice as the cause of death" (Royston Lambert, Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984), 134) 386 For a discussion of the widespread nature of the Antinoüs monuments and evidence of his cult, please see the chapter on this subject in Royston Lambert, Beloved and God. 387 Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, 107. 388 Ferdinand Mount notes that of the early Christian authors that reference Antinoüs, "None of them denied that he was beautiful. How could they? The sculptures present him as something like the Marlon Brando of On the Waterfront" (Full Circle: How the Classical World Came Back to Us [London: Simon and Schuster, 2010], 227). Mount follows this rather amusing assessment by positing that "Instead, they sometimes sought to distinguish the two saviours by presenting Jesus as positively ugly" (Full Circle, 227). This is all that Mount says on this point, and this idea is addressed more in depth below.
Although Antinoüs' beauty was a constant in these works of art, the deity that he was associated with or assimilated to varied fairly widely. However, most frequently he was identified with Osiris, Dionysos and Hermes, who shared in common powers over the world of the dead. Of these, Osiris and Dionysos (Zagreus) were the most frequent, and both of these deities had died and been resurrected and then faced the underworld again to help restore loved ones.389 Lambert remarks that "the parallel with Antinous' own voluntary sacrifice and descent to death to save Hadrian and with his subsequent resurrection is obvious and must have been
390 intended in the persistent assimilation of him to these chthonic deities."
The obelisk that Hadrian erected in his honor describes the deified Antinoüs as a god of healing, and combined with the assimilation of Antinoüs to an Asclepius in some works lends credence to "the idea that a young man was thought to have died voluntarily for the health of
391 Hadrian and, as a god, also acted for the health of humanity in general."
Regarding cult function and how the deity was understood, then, the similarities between that of Jesus and Antinoüs are quite clear. This has been noted by several scholars, who also cite early Christian author's criticism of Antinoüs or the Antinoüs cult as indicative of the explicit comparison drawn between the two figures in antiquity.392 Mount observes that "Christian fathers everywhere in the Empire, in Carthage, Alexandria, Rome, Byzantium, Cyprus, Antioch and Bethlehem, all knew about Antinous, about his breathtaking beauty, about Hadrian's
389 Lambert, Beloved and God, 139. As Ferdinand Mount observes, people not only wore Antinoüs medallions in life for protective purposes, but in death they affixed pictures of him or labels bearing his name onto the coffins of the deceased (Full Circle, 227). As he notes: "because [Antinoüs] had conquered death, he might help the rest of us to conquer death too" (Full Circle, 227). 390 Lambert, Beloved and God, 139 391Beloved and God, 136. Antinoüs was also frequently depicted in the guise of Apollo, relevant to the discussion below. 392 Although assimilation of the two figures could perhaps have also occurred in a less formal way.
scandalous passion for him, and his even more scandalous declaring him to be a god. The trouble was that the cult of Antinous bore uncomfortable resemblances to the cult of Jesus."393 In support of this he cites Celsus' assertion related in Origen that the honours paid to Jesus were "no different to from those paid to Hadrian's boy-favourite."394 Similarly, this comparison and rivalry is also potentially present in the attacks on Antinoüs by other early Christian authors.
Lambert remarks that in Christian critiques of the purported sexual licentiousness related to
Antinoüs and his cult "was a response to some practices in the cult itself, flourishing uncomfortably close to some of the Father, but was also an indignant counter-attack on those who dared seriously to publish comparisons between Antinous, the young, sacrificial and resurrected god from Bithynion, and Christ, the young sacrificial and resurrected god from
Nazareth."395 Indeed, Lambert, followed by Mount, proposes that the beauty of Antinoüs was in large part what prompted early Christian authors to emphasize the unattractiveness of Jesus:
The repeated stress on Antinous' beauty as a major element of his cult produced a strange reaction on the part of some Christians. So as to emphasise that they did not worship such evanescent externals, they depicted Jesus as almost physically ugly or commonplace by comparison, contending that his true beauty was 396 spiritual and not visible to those purblind enemies who reviled him.
393 Mount, Full Circle, 226. 394 Mount, Full Circle, 226; Origen, Cels. 2.36. Origen responds in typical character critique, asserting that Antinoüs, being 'licentious' and having wondrous works attributed to his cult was the result of sorcery was polar opposite to Jesus (Cels. 2.36). 395 Lambert, Beloved and God, 6. Although he notes that "the new cult of Antinous was never in numerical scale, spiritual depth or personal impact a major rival to that of Jesus, its buoyancy in various parts of the world aroused jealousy for a long time to come" (Beloved and God, 193). While large scale manufacture of statues and other artifacts pertaining to Antinoüs and his cult seems to have ended with Hadrian, he was still being celebrated in games in his honour until the third and fourth centuries (Beloved and God, 193-4). 396 Beloved and God, 194.
That something along these lines — an attempt to portray a clear division between Jesus and
Antinoüs — was potentially at work in the minds of the authors I have addressed397 can find
398 tentative support when some of the visual evidence is also added into the equation.
For, the earliest artistic representations of Jesus are not entirely dissimilar from those of
Antinoüs, although by no means would they be considered twins, either. Broadly speaking, both figures are portrayed as handsome youths. As Cartlidge and Elliott note, the portrayal of Jesus as a handsome youth was the preferred representation in the early Church:
the portrayal of Jesus as a youth is so overwhelmingly the image of choice in the early church ... It is not surprising that the early Christians would choose to depict their saviour-god in the aesthetic vocabularies available to them, vocabularies already rife with images of a saviour of youthful vigor. It was not only the Hebraic tradition (Psalms 23) which carried this image. So did virtually every
397 In addition to the other motivations that I discussed above. I do not think this idea, on its own, fully explains the promotion of an ugly Jesus in view of the persuasive (and polemical) effects of ancient physiognomy. Moreover, Antinoüs made for a relatively easy target for a host of other important rhetorical counter-charges, and this is no doubt one of the reasons why early Christians were eager to attack him. As Lambert notes, "they lambasted this most recent spurious man-made divinity and the cheap deceptions of his cult, as a means of attacking the credentials of the whole pagan pantheon. It was they who, obliquely at first and then frontally in a shrill and outraged chorus, raised that other, and for them, ugly and sinful issue: sex. This so-call god Antinous, they asserted, had been nothing more than the depraved and willing object of Hadrian's perverted passion and this consecration of a lust demonstrated the ultimate profanity and worthlessness of the old religion" (Beloved and God, 6). Similarly, R. P. C. Hanson summarizes Athanasius' position that "the case of Antinous was the worst example of the bad pagan practice of men worshipping their rulers" ("Christian Attitude to Pagan Religions up to the Time of Constantine the Great," ANRW II 23.2 : 910-73; 953). Hanson notes that "It may be that Christian authors choose the case of Antinous not only because he was a notorious example in the eyes of the pagans but because nobody after Hadrian's death, apart from local people who had a vested interest in the cult, would be particularly inclined to defend Antinous" ("Christian Attitude," 953). Although there is some evidence that there was some amount of derision for the deification of Antinous by pagan contemporaries, as Lambert notes what was more the case was "bewildered by its official origins and by the scale, extent and enthusiasm of the cult which followed it and which exceeded that for most divinised Emperors themselves" (Beloved and God, 146). 398 Although for Clement and Tertullian — who both not only refer to Antinous' beauty as well as the ugliness of Jesus — perhaps their literary evidence is sufficient to suggest this is at work in their argumentation. Admittedly what follows rests on the rather shaky premise that the authors in question were familiar with visual representations of Jesus. While of course this cannot be proved, there is some indication that images of Jesus and the apostles were fairly widespread, and thus potentially viewed by these authors. Irenaeus states that some of the Carpocrates "possess images, some of them painted, and others formed by different kinds of material; while they maintain that the likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the philosophers of the world ... They also have other modes of honoring theses images, after the same manner of the gentiles" (Praescr. 1.25.6 [ANF1:351]). And Eusebius, as noted above, attests that images of what were either of Jesus and the Apostles or at least thought to be found in paintings (Hist. eccl. 6.18).
Greco-Roman religion. Behind both the Good Shepherd and Jesus the youth lay 399 tens of centuries of savior gods as the Criphorus and as a comely young man. The visual assimilation of Jesus to other deities has been frequently discussed, but here it is worthwhile to observe that Jesus' representations take on different forms to emulate specific deities much like those of Antinous: "it has been widely publicized in works on iconography how these Jesus-as-youth images are virtually the same as certain images of Dionysos, Apollo and other popular pagan saviour figures."400 Dionysos and Apollo, as noted above, were also frequent avatars of Antinoüs. Similarly, as Lambert notes, "... [Jesus] was himself frequently depicted in
401 his earliest images as Osiris, Dionysos and Hermes."
In visual terms, the figure of Jesus and the figure of Antinoüs were not as dissimilar as some early Christian fathers would have liked. Given that there were comparisons being drawn between the two cults, it is perhaps plausible that these authors sought to further distance these figures from each other in a physiognomic way, given that other traditions about Jesus — articulated by a visual medium — lent themselves too well to this assimilation of the two heads
402 of these respective cults.
Some detractors of early Christianity capitalized on the perceived unattractiveness of
Jesus to undermine Christian claims of his divinity, a physiognomically inspired trope of rhetoric
399 Cartlidge and Elliott, Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 60. 400 Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 57. 401 Lambert, Beloved and God, 139. 402 For fear of a tangent that will occupy too much space in a work that for the most part has bracket out visual representations, I leave aside the tantalizing instances of early sculptural representations of Jesus with gynomastia, what Cartlidge and Elliott have termed "Christ Androgynous" (Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 64). Margaret Jensen (Understanding Early Christian Art [London: Routledge, 2000], 125) notes that this same trait is also found in late antique iconography of Apollo and Dionysus.
that early Christians themselves also levied against contemporary pagans and their deities.
Curiously, some early Christian authors not only subscribed to the idea of an unattractive Jesus, but even seemed to promote it, despite evincing some reservations. They employed the concept of an ugly Jesus — a divine figure who did not "look the part" — in rhetorical situations where they sought some broader persuasive goal, using this idea to further their own rhetorical aims. In addition to the aims specific to each author discussed above, the need to distinguish and demarcate as much as possible their divine figure from that of the rival cult of Antinoüs also likely influenced the discourse on the unattractiveness of Jesus. Although Jesus' ugliness meant that he did not "look the part" of a divine figure was used against early Christians, some of these authors were nonetheless able to use this to their own rhetorical advantage. The following chapter shows that the importance of "looking the part" was negotiated not only in relation to
Jesus, but in relation to Paul as well. Here the perceived absence of physical attractiveness also was used to rhetorical advantage, albeit it in a very different way, and one that did "look the part" for how some early Christians sought to represent Paul.
Chapter Four The Unibrow That Never Was and the Not-So-Many Faces of Paul: A Proposal to Give Paul's Appearance in the Acts of Paul and Thecla a Make-Over
The previous chapter discussed the importance of "looking the part," particularly for figures that were considered to be favoured by the divine. While the common conception was that those who occupied such a place of grandeur would reflect this in their attractive physiques, there was another strand of thought (which again underscores the subjective nature of the physiognomic enterprise) where "looking the part" did not have to conform to the standards of attractiveness, but instead reflected interest in looking or appearing to be one's "type." In antiquity, the iconographic images of Socrates and other philosophers provided a precedent for an interest in
"looking the part" of the intellectual which is attested in literary and documentary evidence.
Again, while not physiognomic in the strict sense of the method, given that it pertains to having an exterior which reflected the interior character this can be seen as a component of the broader physiognomic consciousness. I suggest that while other scholars have utilized physignomy in an attempt to make sense of the physical description of Paul in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, they have done so in a much too rigid fashion, applying instances of a given meaning of a given character trait to "decode" how Paul is being envisioned and portrayed, without paying attention to the greater picture — all of these composite parts as a whole reflect his character "type."
The late second century Acts of Paul and Thecla contains the earliest physical depiction of the apostle Paul.403 The account occurs early in the narrative, immediately prior to when the
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies in Waterloo, ON, in May 2012. A modified version of this will be published in Kristi Upson-Saia, Carly Daniel-Huges and Alicia J. Batten eds., Dressing Judeans and Christians in Antiquity (Surrey: Ashgate Press, 2014), 99-116.
audience first encounters him. Paul is described as "a man small of stature, bald headed, bandy- legged, healthy, a brow meeting in the middle (ζύλνθξπλ), a somewhat longish nose (κηθξσ ο
ἐπίξξηλνλ), a gracious presence; for some times he appeared as a man, but at other times he had the face of an angel." 404 Scholars have offered a range of interpretations of each of these physical traits. Their preferences, driven largely by physiognomic commonplaces, inform their conclusions about Paul's characterization throughout the narrative and the subsequent interpretation of that characterization by ancient audiences. These scholarly assessments have met with limited amounts of success, and while some of the particulars are addressed below, the overarching weakness is that each "type" that Paul is identified as (a "general," a "Greek hero" or the "ideal male") does not correspond to how Paul is portrayed throughout the narrative as a whole. That this narrative was composed and circulated transmitted independently from the larger Acts of Paul is widely acknowledged.405 Therefore any description of Paul's physical characteristics would need to be applicable to how his character is portrayed in the APTh in and of itself, rather than in other material that comprises the broader AP.
In this chapter, I propose that Paul's so-called "unibrow" is better understood as the intellectual "knitted brow" of antiquity, being more consistent with the portrayal of Paul throughout the APTh and also with broader literary and iconographic traditions that present Paul as a philosophic figure. I argue that such an understanding may help shed light on the other physical attributes accorded to him in the APTh. These features can be understood as modeled
403 For the compositional date of the second century and the provenance of Asia Minor, see Jeremy W. Barrier, The Acts of Paul and Thecla. A Critical Introduction and Commentary (WUNT 2. Reihe 270; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 21–4. 404 Paul's nose is often erroneously translated as "hooked nose." Here I employ Jan N. Bremmer's more accurate understanding of the Greek to indicate a "somewhat longish nose" ("Magic, Martyrdom and Women's Liberation in the Acts of Paul and Thecla," in The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, [ed. Jan N. Bremmer; Kampen: Kok Pharos Publishing House, 1996], 38). With this exception, throughout this paper I employ Barrier's translation or a slight modification based on the Greek text provided in Barrier's work. 405 For example see Barrier, The Acts, 22.
after the characteristic image of the philosopher, and more specifically those of Socrates.406
Paul's characterization as a philosopher through his physical appearance lends credibility and authority to his teachings in the narrative.
Previous Scholarship on the Description of Paul in the APTh
Recent scholarship on this subject has taken a new approach to understanding the description of
Paul. Rather than viewing the text as a historically accurate representation of Paul,407 contemporary studies have utilized the principles of physiognomy, viewing the description of
Paul in this text to be deliberately cultivated in order to represent his inner character. Despite this shared methodological underpinning, the conclusions are rather diverse and have not yet provided a satisfactory understanding. I suggest that while physiognomic consciousness does allow for a more accurate appreciation of how Paul is being depicted, these attempts have been troubled by not acknowledging broader character types in the ancient world. Indeed, in
406 David R. Cartlidge and J. Keith Elliott mention in passing that Socrates was likely a model for the early iconography of Paul, yet they do not elaborate on this suggestion and scholars have not addressed this proposal in subsequent literature (Art and the Christian Apocrypha [London; New York: Routledge, 2001],139). Paul Zanker proposes that Socrates in particular served as the model for the depiction of Paul in a fifth century pyxis. See his, Paul Zanker, The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, (trans. Alan Shapiro; Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1995), 304. The story of Socrates' encounter with the physiognomist Zopyrus is a well known anecdote that at first seems to evince a negative view of physiognomy, in that his physique does not accurately portray his character. In his discussion on freewill, Cicero relates how the famous physiognomist encountered Socrates and boasted he could discern his character from his appearance, only to accuse Socrates as being addicted to women and stupid (Fat. 10-11; cf. Tusc. 2.5.45-6). Socrates, Cicero tells us, came to the man's rescue by informing him this was indeed his natural inclination, but he managed to control this via studying philosophy (Tusc. 4.80). Although Cicero (and perhaps also Socrates) is indeed arguing that moral character can be altered while invariable physical characteristics such as nose shape cannot (at least not without great difficulty in antiquity) and thus the two will not necessary reflect each other, Cicero will certainly use physiognomic principles when it suits his argument to do so (as is the case noted in the introduction). 407 This was the trend of the twentieth century, during which interpreters concluded that this was a decidedly unflattering portrait of the apostle. For example, on being a historically accurate portrayal, see E. von Dobschütz, Der Apostel Paulus: II. Seine Stellung in der Kunst (Halle: Buchhandlung des Waisenhauses, 1928), 1. On the description as being unflattering, see Leon Vouaux, Les Actes de Paul et ses lettres apocryphes (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1913), 122. Moreover, the description does not readily lend itself to a literal understanding. As Barrier notes, "there seems to be a subtle manipulation of the wording by the author of the AP to suggest that his is not a literal description of Paul's features. The author claims that this is the ‗form‘ or ‗image‘ of Paul, and when one considers the description presented in 3.3, it appears that this is not a description of Paul's actual appearance, but a description of a persona that Paul possessed" (The Acts, 72).
physiognomically interpreting these individual aspects of Paul's appearance in isolation from one another as some authors have done, comprehension of the broader picture has been somewhat obscured. I suggest that these individual traits ascribed to Paul are best understood as complementing each other, and when examined in light of ancient character types, can be seen to make up a coherent and recognizable whole.
Robert M. Grant was one of the first scholars to attempt to understand the description of
Paul in non-historical terms, although he maintained that the physiognomic manuals themselves did not serve as the basis for the description.408 Rather, citing fragment 58 of Archilochus, which was popular in the second century, Grant argued that the description of Paul was based on a literary tradition in which a general appears as short, bow-legged, and indifferent to his hair.
Thus Paul fits the characterization of a military general, a "general of God."409 Yet this characterization does not cohere with the text itself, for nowhere in the narrative does Paul act like a military general.410 As Monika Betz suggests, Paul does not appear as a great strategist or organizer, but instead brings social chaos with him wherever he goes, with the goal of
411 undermining the existing order.
Abraham J. Malherbe also sought to re-contextualize the description of Paul within ancient Mediterranean literary materials, and likewise argues that this portrait would not have been unflattering in antiquity.412 Like Grant, Malherbe cites fragment 58 of Archilochus, yet supplements it with other texts in order to provide a more substantial literary background to
408 Robert M. Grant, "The Description of Paul in the APTh," Vigiliae Christianae 36.1 (1982): 1–4. 409 Grant, "Description of Paul," 3. 410 Although the phrase "soldier of Christ" does appear in the larger AP, it does not in the APTh itself. 411 Monika Betz, "Die betörenden Worte des fremden Mannes: Zur Funktion der Paulusbeschreibung in den Theklaakten," NTS 53.1 (2007): 130–145; 133. 412 Abraham J. Malherbe, "A Physical Description of Paul," HTR 79.1–3 (1986): 170–175.
Paul's purportedly hooked nose, small stature, and meeting eyebrows. Malherbe notes that all of these characteristics appear in Suetonius' physiognomic-based account of Augustus (Vit. Caes.
2.79.2), and in other texts which describe the Greek hero type, especially those associated with
Hercules (Clement Protr. 2.30 and Philostratus Vit. soph. 552).413 He suggests that in these texts and other ancient literature, meeting eyebrows were seen as a sign of beauty, a hooked nose indicated royalty or a magnanimous nature, and cedes that while tallness was preferred, what was more important was that the individual was well-proportioned, as Suetonius stipulates that
Augustus was. For Malherbe this is a flattering portrait of Paul, evoking the image of the Greek
414 hero type.
Yet, there are significant problems with this assessment. Paul's nose is not, in fact, hooked, his shortness is not qualified with the attribute of being well-proportioned, and more importantly, nowhere in the text does Paul act like the conquering Greek hero—he is thrown in prison, expelled from the city, and physically beaten at the behest of civic authorities. Moreover,
Malherbe himself notes that these texts do not adequately account for Paul's baldness. He attempts to remedy this lack by postulating that either the text retains accurate knowledge of Paul actually having been bald (which undermines his argument that the description was intended to be non-historical), or that Paul's baldness corresponds to his Nazarene vows to shave his head in the canonical Acts.415 This latter is a rather unlikely suggestion that is taken up by Bruce Malina and Jerome Neyrey, and addressed below.
Malina and Neyrey accept Grant's conclusion that this is a flattering portrait of Paul, but argue that the portrait is "first and foremost that of a noble or ideal male," with his identity as a
413 Malherbe, "A Physical Description of Paul," 172–4. 414 Malherbe, "A Physical Description of Paul," 175. 415 Malherbe, "A Physical Description of Paul," 175.
general constituting one aspect of this masculine identity.416 In order to support this assertion, their arguments tend towards what Heike Omerzu has rightly referred to as "hypothesising and psychologising."417 To cite but one example, Malina and Neyrey suggest that "[Paul's] benevolent eyes are fixed to goodness, his voice with a conversational tone, evokes sincerity, kindness, and truthfulness," despite the fact that neither Paul's eyes nor his voice are mentioned in the catalogue of his physical attributes. Malina and Neyrey arrive at this interpretation from passing references in the text that do not require this interpretation, let alone readily suggest it.418
As for Paul's baldness, they take Malherbe's suggestion that this corresponds to vows of shaving his head in Acts and expand upon it, noting that the term ςηιόο can be understood, according to the LSJ, as "shaved, plucked, or stripped."419 They also note that one of the Latin translations employs "shaved," and thus this attribute is "a mark of piety, which is a part of the virtue of justice."420 However, other Latin variations do not stipulate "shaved," and while it is true that
ςηιόσ in the verb form does have this meaning, the adjective, which is the form utilized in the
APTh, seems to mean "bare."421 In any case, Omerzu is correct to suggest that such a reading requires a stretch of the imagination.
Likewise Chad Hartsock maintains that this is a positive depiction of Paul, although not a handsome one, and proposes an innovative yet still problematic understanding of Paul's
416 Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, Portraits of Paul: An Archeology of an Ancient Personality (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press: 1996), 146. 417 Heike Omerzu, "The Portrayal of Paul's Outer Appearance in the Acts of Paul and Thecla. Reconsidering the Correspondence between Body and Personality in Ancient Literature," RT 15.3–4 (2008): 252–79 (esp. 262). 418 Malina and Neyrey, Portraits, 148. 419 Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, Eighth edition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), 1498. 420 Malina and Neyrey, Portraits, 139–40. 421 Although according to the LSJ it does allow for a shaved or plucked meaning when referring to animals.
baldness.422 He notes Aristotle's view (Gen. an. 783b) that baldness is the result of a lack of hot fluid—either blood or semen—and suggests that this would mean that a man was bald due to being too sexually active (the loss of semen thus rendering the brain cooler and causing hair to fall out) or due to an insufficient amount of semen production in the first place, caused by not being sexually active at all.423 He posits that the latter is the best understanding in the case of
Paul, and that this aspect of his description functions as a way to underscore Paul's celibacy because it conveyed the fact that Paul's relationship with Thecla and other women was not sexual.424 Yet Hartsock's reading of the text goes beyond what Aristotle says. In the passage discussed by Hartsock, Aristotle does not mention lack of sexual activity as a cause of deficient amounts of hot fluid. Aristotle only suggests that it is excessive sexual intercourse that will cause this lack of fluid, which in turn causes baldness. Hartsock thus appears to be interpolating a physiological basis for baldness that is not articulated by Aristotle. Rather, if Aristotle's expressed understanding was present in the mind of an ancient audience, Paul's baldness would be seen as the result of excessive sexual activity, which is at odds with his exhortations of celibacy in APTh.
At the other end of the spectrum, János Bollók argues that the portrait of Paul is by no means idealized, and correlates each of Paul's features with physiognomic manuals which offer a negative interpretation of them. To note but one example, he states that for physiognomic manuals "meeting eyebrows" indicate a person who is "irascible, crude, [and an] imbecile; not
422Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts the Use of Physical Features in Characterization (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2008). 423 Hartsock, Sight and Blindness, 134. 424 Hartsock, Sight and Blindness, 135.
very intelligent."425 He proceeds to attempt to reconcile the "love of Paul" of the redactor of the text to this seemingly contradictory negative assessment of his physical appearance. Bollók concludes that the text has been influenced by the insults leveled by Paul's opponents in 2 Cor.
10:1–2;10:10, 12:11 and 16, and that these correspond to how each physical characteristic mentioned in APTh is understood in physiognomic manuals.426 Yet in adhering so closely to the formulaic manuals themselves Bollók renders his own argument vulnerable to critique. He notes that for these manuals the eyes were of utmost importance, yet Paul's eyes are not discussed in the APTh. Bollók attempts to remedy this by positing that the reference to Paul being "full of grace" was likely meant to refer to his eyes, given that this would be the most logical place that the power of god in a person would be manifest. And while this is perhaps true, it does not solve the problem that the manuals discuss eyes explicitly, deriving meaning from their shape, color, and other very specific qualities. If the author of the APTh were indeed following the manuals as closely as Bollók's argument requires, no doubt we could expect to see the color and shape of
Paul's eyes described explicitly.
While rejecting the flaws in Malina and Neyrey's argument, Heike Omerzu nonetheless agrees that there was a correspondence between Paul's "(almost) 'ideal physical appearance and
… 'ideal' apostolic qualities."427 For Omerzu, this conclusion is based on the fact that the description of Paul is couched as what Onesiphorus saw—that is, a person well-disposed to Paul, and thus unlikely to see him as unattractive.428 She further suggests that a positive understanding of Paul's appearance is attested in the remarks of Thecla's mother Theocleia, saying that there is
425 János Bollók, "The Description of Paul," in The Apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla, (ed. Jan Bremmer; Kampen: Kok Pharos, 1996), 8. 426 Bollók, "Description of Paul," 8–12. 427 Omerzu, "Portrayal," 268. 428 Omerzu writes: "We 'see' Paul through [Onesiphorus'] eyes and thereby implicitly adopt his perspective" ("Portrayal," 265).
thus "a strong visual element to his appeal."429 And while the hostile and non-comprehending
Theocleia does describe Thecla as "gazing intently as though enraptured" (3.8) the narrative later stipulates that Thecla looked toward: "the word of Paul," and thus not Paul himself (3.10). These verses can hardly be taken as an indication of Paul's physical appearance, especially in view of the fact that the text also stipulates that Thelca had not yet seen Paul (3.7), and there is no reason to suppose that this changes until later when she goes to visit him in prison.
Monika Betz rightly notes the role of erotic tension throughout the work; she sees Paul as a place holder for the message of Christianity, and thus the immediate object of Thecla's devotion. She suggests that Paul's physical appearance is not flattering and serves, in part, to make his place holder status clear. Of all the solutions offered hers is the strongest, but could be expanded upon, and will be discussed further below.
In all of these discussions the focal point is what Paul's appearance would have conveyed to an ancient audience about his character, yet also whether or not he would have been deemed
"ugly" or "attractive." Obscuring the discussion, I suggest, is how the "meeting eyebrows" have been interpreted.
The bulk of interpretation has understood ζύλνθξπο as a reference to eyebrows that meet in the sense of "unibrow", and, setting aside modern conceptions of beauty, most of these authors have observed that the unibrow was perceived as a flattering trait in antiquity. With the exception of Bollók's negative assessment, all subsequent authors follow Malherbe's understanding of the meeting brow as indicating attractiveness.
However, despite an articulated interest in identifying how a given physical characteristic would correspond to a given character trait, no author (again with the exception of Bollók) has
been able to go beyond the "skin deep" attribute of attractiveness when discussing Paul's purported unibrow. I propose that the alternative translation of "knitted brow" is more likely what was meant by the term. By ―knitted brow,‖ I mean the visible contraction of the forehead muscles, creating a furrowed look.
This translation can provide something of a foothold from which to begin a new evaluation of this description of Paul.
While Malina and Neyrey are correct in noting that that cognate of ζύλνθξπο; namely
ζπλνθξπόνκαη, can mean "knitted brow,"430 neither they nor any other author has noted that
ζύλνθξπο itself can have, and did have, this same meaning. Citing the lexicon of Hesychius, the
LSJ notes that a secondary meaning of this word is "with knitted brow."431 Heyschles II.49 reads:
"and the brows that join [indicate] the deep thinker [the brows being drawn together] (θαὶ ηὰο
ὀθξπο ζπλάγσλ ὁ θξνληηζηήο [ηὰο ὀθξπο ζπλέιθσλ]‖).432 Here then, albeit not exactly the same
word (although the LSJ deems it close enough!), is a correlation between a knitted brow and attributes of a philosophic figure. The specific word, ζύλνθξπο, finds similar attestation in meaning in the second-century Onamasticon of Julius Pollux. The primary definition provided is
κεγαιόθξσλ, which in its positive sense means ―high minded‖ or ―high moral or intellectual value‖ (268 .85).
Facial gestures involving the brow and forehead as a physical characteristic of the philosopher are also attested in Lucian. For example, he portrays hypocritical philosophers as
430 Malina and Neyrey note that this term could indicate a frowning facial expression, an expression that, according to Ps.-Aristotle's physiognomic manual signals that a person is easily vexed (Malina and Neyrey, Portraits, 142). They do not consider this interpretation of knitted brow for the APTh, presumably because the positive traits associated with the unibrow align better with their argument (Malina and Neyrey, Portraits, 142). And while a knitted brow may very well cause a frown, that Paul is not to be associated with a subsequent gloomy character trait is clear because upon seeing Onesiphorus he immediately smiles. 431 LSJ, 1498. 432 Mauricius Schmidt, ed., Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon, vol. 4 (Amsterdam, Adolf M. Hakkert, 1965), 107. 127
adopting the typical outward characteristics of philosophers in order to dress the part: "… elevating their eyebrows, wrinkling up their foreheads and letting their beards grow long, they go about hiding loathsome habits under a false garb …"433 Moreover, Diogenes writes of Zeno that
434 "he was of a frowning countenance."
The connection between knitted brows and philosophers is even clearer in visual sources, which further pair the knitted brow and balding heads. As Paul Zanker notes regarding sculpted portraits of philosophers and intellectuals from the end of the second century which exhibit
"deeply furrowed brows", "in this context such traits can hardly mean anything other than introspection and an intellectual bent. Another element of the fashionable 'intellectual look' is the
435 receding hairline or bald head, suddenly popular in the later second and early third centuries."
While Zanker notes that baldness in real life prior to this time was no doubt common, it was nonetheless rarely shown in artistic representation until the later portraits of Marcus Aurelius.
[I]f in the late Antonine period [baldness] first was thought worthy of representation, then it was probably because the evocation of Classical portraits of intellectuals conferred on these individuals a mark of spiritual distinction. Support for this interpretation can best be found in the Praise of Baldness of Synesius of Cyrene (370–413), who refers specifically to the portraits of such "ancient wise men" as Socrates and Diogenes in order to prove that the wisest men had been 436 bald.
433 Lucian, Icar. 29 (Harmon, LCL). See also Lucian, Dial. mort. 368. 434 Diogenes, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 7.16 (Hicks, LCL), also discussed by Zanker, Mask, 93. Zanker's translation makes better sense of the Greek (πξόζσπνλ ζπλεζπαζκέλνλ), which literally means "drawn together" or "contracted" countenance. Zanker also notes that because the knitted brow of Zeno which appears in portraiture was likely honorific, this expression was not universally meant to indicate a negative character trait. Rather, he suggests that the knitted brow can be a positive characteristic, intended to highlight concentrated thinking (Mask, 95). Jerome and others also attest to the connection between knitted brows and the figure of the intellectual, albeit in a hostile way. In criticising Rufinus' attempts to portray himself as such before his pupils, Jerome remarks that "...when he had places his table and arranged on it his pile of books, he used to knit his brown, to draw in his nostrils, to wrinkle his forehead and snap his fingers, signs meant to engage the attention of his pupils" (Ruf. 1.32 [NPNF² 3:500]). 435 Zanker, Mask, 224. 436 Zanker, Mask, 224.
Thus the development of the idea of baldness as correlated to spiritual distinction and wisdom emerges and becomes something of a commonplace in the late second century, the time of composition of the APTh.
Additionally, as Zanker also notes, "often [in this period] baldness and the thinker's
[knitted] brow are combined in the same head and mutually reinforce one another.… One former athlete even had himself depicted in this manner, in a portrait whose intellectual forehead, with brows drawn up and tensed furrows, is especially pronounced."437 The numerous busts that he cites in support of these assessments are, somewhat amusingly, labelled "Portraits of the Late
Antonine and Severan periods in the guise of intellectuals."438 This serves to reinforce his point that anyone could "dress up" themselves or others they wished to honor in the form of a philosopher. Zanker posits that artists were motivated to sculpt their busts with these features because intellectual activity carried connotations of dignity and authority.439 He further notes that the desire to be portrayed as an intellectual was not limited solely to the elite, as widespread
440 imagery of paideia on funerary reliefs attest.
It is plausible, then, to understand Paul's ζύλνθξπο as a knitted brow, a feature that lends further significance to his bald head. The APTh applies both attributes to him in order to present him as a philosopher. In the rest of this chapter, I will demonstrate that this interpretation is the best of our options because it conforms to the characterization of Paul not only in early Christian literary and artistic traditions, but more importantly within the APTh itself.
437 Zanker, Mask, 224. 438 Zanker, Mask, 226.
439 Zanker, Mask, 192. 440 Zanker, Mask, 190.
Literary and Artistic Portraits of Paul as a Philosopher
Omerzu is quite right to caution against the potential circularity of reading "certain presuppositions about Paul's personality—informed for instance by his letters or by the canonical
Acts of the Apostles," and that the understanding of Paul's appearance in the APTh should be based primarily on how he is portrayed throughout this narrative itself.441 However, one could run the risk of going too far in the other direction, viewing the APTh in complete isolation from other traditions about Paul. That is, while linking a specific physical trait with a specific reference in a given text is potentially problematic in being somewhat microscopic, contextualizing a broader "type"—that of the philosopher—within the same broad "type" that is evinced elsewhere arguably does not run this same risk. The convention of portraying Paul as a philosophical figure was widespread in early Christianity literature and art, and no doubt part of the impetus for doing so can be traced back to Paul's own letters.
To note but a few examples, Abraham J. Malherbe has persuasively argued that Luke portrays Paul as a philosophical figure in the canonical Acts. More specifically, he proposes that in the scene where Paul debates with the philosophers in the market place before making a speech in the Aeropagus Luke has infused this episode with allusions to Socrates.442 In the fourth-century pseudepigraphical correspondence between Paul and Seneca, Seneca praises Paul for his intellectual brilliance—a brilliance that is not manifest in Paul's letters to Seneca themselves, which are rather devoid of content except for expressions of mutual admiration.
441 Omerzu, "Portrayal," 263. This criticism is rightly leveled against the respective works of Bollók and Malina and Neyrey. 442 Abraham J. Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), 151.
Thus this fictional correspondence seems to have been crafted with the primary purpose of presenting Paul as a philosopher, and as the intellectual equal of his philosophic contemporary.
Paul's own letters and behaviour among the communities he established readily lent themselves to this trope of portraying him as a philosopher in early Christianity. Numerous scholars have addressed the similarities in ideas and rhetoric found in Paul's letters with contemporaneous philosophical schools.443 Recently Bert Jan Lieaert Peerbolte has illustrated how aspects of how Paul conducted his ministry were similar to the practices of many ancient philosophers—the practice of manual labour to support himself in order to educate, a life of
444 abstinence, and referring to his message as "teachings" (δηδαρή).
The realm of visual art also attests to the tendency to portray Paul as a philosopher. In
2009, a fourth-century fresco of Paul was restored at the catacomb of St Thecla in Rome, which archaeologists claimed to be the earliest portrait of the apostle Paul (Figure 1 in appendix). These scholars noted that in this portrait his characteristics cohere to those of a philosopher: the
"pointed beard and furrowed brow"445 and a bald head. Here the contracted forehead muscles that produce his knitted brow are made quite clear by the contrast of the darker red color used to illustrate them. His baldness and beard are readily apparent. These three components dominate the image and thus seem intended to convey something significant about his appearance.
443 For example, see Malherbe, Paul and the Popular Philosophers, 35–48; Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000); Runar M. Thorsteinsson, "Stoicism as a Key to Pauline Ethics in Romans," in Stoicism in Early Christianity (eds. Tuomas Rasimus, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, and Ismo Dunderberg; Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2010), 15–38. 444 Bert Jan Lieaert Peerbolte, "Paul and the Practice of Paideia," in Jesus, Paul, and Early Christianity: Studies in Honor of Henk Jan De Jonge (eds. Rieuwerd Buitenwerf, Harm W. Hollander, and Johannes Tromp; Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2008), 262. 445 Nick Pisa, ―Is this the earliest image of St. Paul? ‗Sensational‘ 1,6 -year-old icon of saint found in a Roman tomb,‖ UK Daily Mail, 29 June 2009: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1196118/Pictured-The-sensational-1- 600-year-old-icon-St-Paul-Roman-tomb.html. Accessed July 10, 2014.
Yet even beyond this fresco, these same three physical characteristics associated with philosophers are frequently applied to Paul in other early images. For example, the fourth- century fresco of Paul found in the catacomb of Praetextatus presents him in a similar fashion—
Paul's beard, balding head, and what appear to be knit brows are portrayed.446 The presentation of Paul on the Junius Bassus sarcophagus (figure 2) from the fourth century also has a balding head, a beard, and some degree of eyebrow action. The fresco of Paul and Theocleia in the grotto of St Paul (albeit of a later date, most likely the sixth century) also depicts Paul with a balding head, beard, and a prominently knitted brow.447 Like the image in the catacomb of St Thecla, here again his contracted forehead muscles are rendered in a darker color in contrast to the rest of his skin. In this portrait Paul is also portrayed as having an open book in front of him—most likely an indication that the artist wished to highlight an intellectual nature. In both of these catacomb depictions, as well as in the fourth-century portrait found in the catacomb of Domitilla,
Paul is dressed similarly: he wears a tunic under a draped cloak and he wears sandals. According to Robin M. Jenson, this was "the everyday garb of an upper-class Roman citizen of the third or fourth century and specifically identified with teachers of philosophers."448 In this image the bald, bearded and knitted-browed Paul is also depicted as standing by a basket of scrolls. This is best understood as another aspect of the artist's attempt to portray Paul as an intellectual figure.
The APTh is temporally sandwiched between literary and artistic traditions that attest to the representation of Paul as a philosopher. Rather than an innovative departure from this commonplace depiction, it is reasonable to posit a similar conception of Paul in the APTh. Yet
446 Image available at http://digitalcollections.library.yale.edu/0/1963590.jpe. Accessed July 10, 2014. 447 Image in Barrier, The Acts, 62. 448 Robin M. Jenson, "Art," in The Blackwell Companion to Paul (ed. Stephen Westerholm; Sussex: Blackwell, 2011), 509. The image is produced on this same page.
beyond this, evidence suggests that Socrates in particular was the "model" philosopher used to describe Paul's appearance.
Paul's bald head and knitted brow as characteristic of representations of ancient philosophers in general has already been discussed. Here it will suffice to note that Socrates is among philosophers who were depicted as such. See, for example, Figure 3 in the appendix, where his knitted brow is quite pronounced. This, then, leaves Paul's "shortness of stature,"
"bandy-legs," and "somewhat longish nose."449 The differences in nose can, I suggest, be satisfactorily explained, and the other attributes closely correspond to accounts of Socrates' physical appearance.
That Socrates was considered to have been short—and, like Paul, not qualified with the admired quality of "well-proportioned"— appears to have been the consensus. George Boys-
Stones suggests that this tradition is derived from Phaedo 102b, where Socrates is shorter than
Simmias, who is shorter than Phaedo.450 Although Socrates uses this description to highlight relativity inherent in concepts such as tall and short, later he remarks that "I admit and endure
451 shortness and still remain the same person I am, this short man."
That Socrates was held to have bandy-legs, and that these were considered a subject for ridicule, rather than an attractive feature, is also attested in antiquity. Jerome, drawing from Ps-
449 Perhaps, also, his "gracious presence" or being "full of grace," although this might be solely derived from the depiction of Stephen in the canonical acts, as I take the "sometimes he appeared as a man, but at other times he had the face of an angel" to be. "Healthy" does not require much in the way of correlation, as it seems a vague indicator of good bodily constitution. However, a correspondence between this and the frequent references to the healthy body and it's correlation to a healthy soul by Plato's Socrates could be entered into the discussion. Perhaps most notably the analogy of "good health in the body" indicates "justice in the soul" in Rep. 444c–e: "Because just and unjust actions are no different for the soul than healthy and unhealthy things are for the body … Virtue seems, then, to be a kind of health, fine condition, and well-being of the soul, while vice is disease, shameful condition, and weakness" (trans. G.M.A. Grube, rev. C.D.C. Reeve, in Plato: Complete Works [ed. John M. Cooper; Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997], 1075–6). 450 George Boys-Stones, "Physiognomy and Ancient Psychological Theory," in Swain, Seeing the Face, 37. Boys- Stones acknowledges that Socrates is about 70 years old in this dialogue—perhaps accounting for his diminutive statue—whereas the other two men are in the prime of their lives. 451 Phaed. 102e (trans. Grube, Plato: Complete Works, 88).
Seneca, describes Socrates as "the ugliest of men, with snub nose, bald forehead, rough-haired,
452 and bandy-legged."
And as for the nose, Daniel R. McLean remarks that "a snub nose is almost universally characterized among ancient physiognomists as a marker of lasciviousness."453 In a text featuring a protagonist proclaiming a doctrine of celibacy, it is clear why this sort of nose would be inappropriate on said protagonist. As such, Paul's longish nose is a distinct departure from the
454 latter, thus presumably avoiding the lustful connotations of the snub nose.
However, the silence of the text on whether or not Paul had a beard or not is admittedly problematic. Not only because Socrates sports a beard in portraiture, but the beard is perhaps
"the" marker of the philosopher in antiquity, as the examples addressed below demonstrate. And while of course this is an argument from silence (which can be rightfully accused of circular reasoning), it could be posited that the presence of a beard was so readily assumed on the figure of the intellectual that it did not need mentioning.455 Moreover, artistic works which exhibit familiarity with the APTh also depict Paul as having a beard.456 While of course this could be a move to align the image of Paul to other artistic representations, it also implies that it is plausible that those who heard the story likewise assumed or envisioned the presence of a beard, regardless of it not being stipulated in the text.
452 Jov. 1.48 (NPNF² 6:384). Here Jerome is citing Ps-Seneca, De Matrimonia. 453 Daniel R. McLean, "The Socratic corpus: Socrates and physiognomy," in Socrates from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (ed. Michael Trapp; Farnham: Ashgate, 2007), 68. 454 Although bald heads were similarly associated with sexual promiscuity (discussed above), given the prominence of bald heads in the trope of the philosopher it is understandable why this detail would be nonetheless included in the APTh. 455 There is some evidence which attests that at least some early Christian writers held that Christian men should sport bears, and thus perhaps it was assumed for Paul, given that they likely envisioned him as well adhering to this practice. On this please see the following chapter. 456 For example, the fourth century sarcophagus lid depicting the Thecla ship with Paul as the captain, or the early fifth-century ivory plaque portraying a bearded Paul reading to Thecla (images reproduced in Barrier, The Acts, 60– 61), or the image in the grotto of Saint Paul, discussed above.
David R. Cartlidge and J. Keith Elliott also see a correspondence between representations of Paul (both iconographical and in the APTh) and Socrates, although they do not note the above specifics. They seem to base their interpretation on the idea that both figures seem to be inconsistent with an image of a man who is "handsome and dignified."457 Based on this they remark that:
Paul, therefore, stands in the early church, at least in respect to his physical depictions, as the church's Socrates. There has been a certain amount of expurgation of the portrait in its transfer from Socrates to Paul. The Pauline face is not ―satyr-like.‖ Nevertheless, Paul is depicted in rhetoric and iconography as martyr to the cause of the true, and, in spite of his physical characteristics, at least according to the Acts of Paul, he is seductive in his message. His opponents in the 458 Acts of Paul, however, take a more earthly view of his seduction.
However, this more "earthly view" of seduction also has a counterpart in traditions regarding
Socrates, whereby some of his disciples exhibit a response similar to Thecla's response to Paul.
The erotic pull that Paul has on Thecla corresponds to characterizations of Socrates.
This erotic pull of Paul over Thecla has been noted by many. Monika Betz has recently discussed this in light of the motif of "love at first sight" in the genre of the ancient romance novel. She, unlike many, understands Paul's physical appearance as unappealing. She argues that part of the function of Paul's unattractiveness is to underscore that he was ultimately only the medium for the divine power which is what Thecla actually falls in love with.459 Such a view coheres well with the effect that Socrates is said to have had on some of his own followers: they are enraptured by his words, yet aware of his physical unattractiveness.
457 Cartlidge and Elliott, Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 142. Zanker relates an anecdote from Apuleius defence (Apol. 4.1), where his accusers cite his handsome and carefully attended appearance as evidence that he as a magos, rather than a philosopher as he claimed. Zanker quips: "'thus if a man wanted to be acknowledged publically as a philosopher, at least according to Apuleius' accusers and the people of Sabratha, where the trial took place, the one thing he could not appear was handsome" (Zanker, Mask, 234). 458 Cartlidge and Elliott, Art and the Christian Apocrypha, 142. 459 Betz, "Die betörenden," 140–141.
Perhaps the clearest example of this is Alcibiades' so-called praise of Socrates in the
Symposium. He begins his speech by likening Socrates' physical appearance to that of a statue of
Silenus—a notoriously ugly satyr. However, a few lines later Alcibiades begins to describe the compelling hold of Socrates' speech, likening him to the musician Marsyas whose music was able to "cast spells" on people:
The only difference between you and Marsyas is that you need no instruments; you do exactly what he does, but with words alone. You know, people hardly ever take a speaker seriously … but let anyone—man, woman, or child—listen to you or even a poor account of what you say—and we are all transported, completely possessed. … the moment he starts to speak, I am beside myself: my heart starts leaping in my chest, the tears come streaming down my face, even the frenzied 460 Corybantic seem sane compared to me—and, let me tell you, I am not alone.
Alcibiades continues with a story of a failed attempt to seduce Socrates—initially confusing the man himself (who was only the medium for the benefits of a philosophic life) with
461 his words. This accords well with Betz's reading of the APTh.
In another dialogue, Meno also notes the ability of Socrates' words to affect those who hear them in a compelling way. He remarks to Socrates: "I think you are bewitching me and beguiling me, simply putting me under a spell … both my mind and my tongue are numb … I think you are wise not to sail away from Athens to go and stay elsewhere, for if you were to behave like this as a stranger in another city, you would be driven away for practicing sorcery."462 Xenophon's Memorabilia also links Socrates with magic, albeit playfully, in depicting him in dialogue with a courtesan saying that he too used a ἴπγρ (a wheel-like device
460 Symp. 215c–e (Greek text edited by C.J. Rowe, in Plato: Symposium, 108; trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff, in Plato: Complete Works, 497–8). 461 That Alcibiades also perceives something of the divine in Socrates, like Thecla seems to in Paul, is also mentioned in this dialogue. Alcibiades remarks: "once I caught him when he was open like Silenus' statues, and I had a glimpse of the figures he keeps hidden within: they were so godlike, so bright and beautiful, so utterly amazing—that I no longer had a choice—I just had to do whatever he told me" (Symp. 216e–217a [C.J. Rowe, Plato: Symposium, 110; trans. Nehamas and Woodruff, Plato: Complete Works, 498–9]). 462 Meno 80a–b (trans. G.M.A. Grube, Plato: Complete Works, 879).
often employed in erotic magic spells) in order to draw people to him (3.11.17). Likewise, in the
APTh, Paul is accused of being a foreign sorcerer, despite having worked no wondrous deeds
463 that might readily lend themselves to this sort of accusation.
Paul's defence speech before the governor in the APTh is comparable to that of Socrates before the Athenian jury in that Paul must give an account of what he has been teaching. Both men claim that they are under the compulsion of god to go about with their respective messages, and that their messages ultimately were revealed to them from the divine. Moreover, in the charge that they have done damage or harm to persons of the city, both respond that their teachings are meant to help, or are for the hearer's own good, rather than to harm. As is well known, Socrates is accused of (among other things) corrupting (δηαθζείξεη) the youth (Apol.
24b), and while Paul's accusations pertain to wives (and are different in nature), he too is charged with having "corrupted" (δηέθζεηξελ) persons of the city (3.15).
Yet beyond these aspects that are relevant to a comparison with Socrates in particular, there are numerous others in the APTh that correspond to a philosopher more generally. The names of Onesiphorus' children, for example, support the portrayal of Paul as a philosopher. Jan
Bremmer notes that the "philosophical names" of Simmias and Zeno "suggest an intellectual father."464 As such, Onesiphorus is depicted as a figure interested in philosophy, who extends hospitality to Paul to teach in his home—not unlike resident philosophers in the ancient world.
Of even greater significance in understanding Paul as a philosopher figure is that nowhere in the text is Paul himself depicted as working a miracle. This is in stark contrast to how
463 Bremmer, "Magic, Martyrdom," 42 suggests that the implication behind this is that Paul is accused as having worked erotic magic. This is a viable interpretation, and potentially adheres well to the traditions about Socrates just discussed. 464 Bremmer, "Magic, Martyrdom," 37–8. Zeno may refer to the Cynic influenced by the thought of Socrates (Plato's Parmenides contains a discussion between this Zeno and Socrates, albeit one clearly fabricated), and Simmias, more relevant for present purposes, was a disciple of Socrates.
he is portrayed in the extended narrative of the Acts of Paul, the canonical Acts, and, indeed, how the apostles are portrayed in general throughout the apocryphal acts which are replete with their wonder-working abilities. Rather, Paul is described first and foremost as acting as a teacher, and his role as teacher is the backbone of his role in the narrative. From the outset of the story his ministry is described as conveying teachings (δηδαζθαιίαο, APTh 3.1), and it is his teaching that captivates Thecla and initiates their subsequent relationship (δηδάζθνληη, APTh 3.8), although other young men and women are also described as having been taught by him (δηδαζθόκελνη,
APTh 3.9). It is Paul's teaching that puts him in the cross hairs of Thamyris (δηδαζθαιία, APTh
3.13) and will put his persecution in motion. Demas and Hermogenes recommend that Thamyris
"lead [Paul] before the governor Castellius as one who is persuading the crowds over to a new
Christian teaching (δηδαρ ), and thus destroy him" (APTh 3.14). When facing the governor, he is called upon to defend his teachings (δηδάζθεη, δηδάζθεηο APTh 3.16, δηδάζθσ APTh 3.17).
Because the governor wished to hear Paul more thoroughly on the subject, he sentenced him to prison until the official would have time to hear him at length. The prison, of course, is where
Paul first meets Thecla in person (3.18). In other words, Paul as teacher is the theme which propels much of the story along.
Given the importance placed on Paul as a teacher in the narrative, it seems only fitting that his physical description coheres with the traits of the philosopher in the ancient world. One's physical appearance played an important role in how one's character was evaluated, and great significance was placed on "looking the part" of one's social role. As Michael Koortbojian rightly observes, "[ν]ne identified, indeed individuated oneself, by adopting the conspicuous appearance that was synonymous with a distinctive social role."465 He notes that this
465 Michael Koortbojian, "The Double Identity of Roman Portrait Statues: Costumes and Their Symbolism at Rome,‖ in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008): 71-93; 73.
individuation was, of course, predicated on the collective convention.466 Evidence suggests that the importance placed on "looking the part" in the ancient world was equally applicable to philosophers. In support of this, Koortbojian discusses the anecdote related by Aulus Gellius (NA
9.2.1–5). The story goes that a man who looked the part of a philosopher encountered Herodes
Atticus and requested money for bread. When asked who he was, the philosopher was indignant, thinking that his role of philosopher should have been obvious by his appearance. Koortbojian remarks of the man: "what mattered was neither his individual, specific visage nor his distinctive statue, but the conventional type whose costume he affected … Herodes' suppliant expected to be
467 numbered among [the sages]—on the grounds of appearance alone."
Lucian's works also attest to the commonly held view of the importance of looking the part of the philosopher, although it is clear he is satirizing this perspective. In Dialogues of the
Dead, Socrates asks Menippus for the current events in Athens. Menippus replies that "many of the young men call themselves philosophers, and, to judge at least from their garb and gait, are tiptop philosophers."468 In The Eunuch, Lucian further mocks this widespread view, crafting a dialogue where the eunuch Bagoas was considered by some to be an inappropriate choice to take
469 a chair in philosophy given that he was unable to grow a beard.
As the appearance of the philosopher contributed to credibility, it is understandable why the
APTh would portray Paul as possessing physical characteristics consistent with his primary role
466 Koortbojian, "Double Identity," 73. 467 Michael Koortbojian, "Double Identity," 73–4. 468 Lucian, Dial. mort. 418 (MacLeod, LCL). 469 Lucian, Eun. 8 (Harmon, LCL). This anecdote is also noted by Zanker, Mask, 110.
as wise teacher throughout the narrative. If we accept the position that Paul is deliberately being cast in the role of a philosopher in the narrative, this has noteworthy implications. First, it forms a composite and readily comprehensible portrait of Paul in the narrative—he looks like a philosopher and he acts like a philosopher. Second, and similar to Betz's point, portraying Paul as a philosopher underscores his message of self-control which is a key component of the narrative.470 Third, and more significantly, depicting Paul as a philosopher lends credibility to his message, and conveys dignity and authority—much like those who erected funerary monuments depicting the deceased in such a light discussed above. In a text promoting ideals that undermine many cultural norms and even depicts confrontations between Christian teaching and figures of political authority, such credibility bestowed upon the foundational figure was crucial for lending authority to the message itself. And finally, on this understanding we can see a variety of early
Christianity that does not promote or evince any interest in the wonder-working type of Christian hero.
In sum, this discussion has offered an understanding of the description of Paul that is coherent and consistent with how he is portrayed both within the APTh, and elsewhere in early
Christian tradition. While Paul is not handsome, his description in the APTh is positive in the sense of bolstering the image of Paul as a philosopher, lending further credibility to his teachings. Once the stumbling block of Paul's purported unibrow is removed, a composite and coherent picture of Paul the philosopher emerges. Employing ancient physiognomic consciousness in terms of "type" or "looking the part" enables a clearer understanding of the intent behind the physical description of Paul.
470 Pertaining to sexuality, but also food and drink consumption. Notably Paul consumes bread, vegetables and water when not fasting (3.25), unlike the overly passionate Thamyris who indulges in highly priced meat and wine (3.13).
The Physiognomy of the (Ideal) Early Christian
Scholarship has frequently addressed the varied rhetorical strategies that early Christians employed in sculpting self-identity, frequently over and against a group or groups of "others," where early Christians sought to exaggerate the differences between them, positing their group as decidedly superior.471 The attempts at persuasive rhetoric to highlight early Christian groups as superior to their pagan contemporaries in particular has also received significant scholarly
In the proceeding chapters, the use of physiognomic rhetoric for the use of invective has been discussed. Yet, as also previously noted, physiognomy was also employed in encomium, to praise an individual (or groups of individuals) as morally superior, evidenced in their physically superior physiques.473 As previously addressed, Gleason and Van Houdt have discussed the role that physiognomic thought played in the rhetoric of self-presentation in antiquity.474 As Gleason observes albeit on male self-presentation specifically, speaking of the "complex business of self- presentation, in which conscious choices interact with instinctive responses to traditional
471 On the role that physiognomy played in discrediting heretics, please see chapter two. 472 See, for example, Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1988); Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Sather Lecture Series 55; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001); Maijastina Kahlos, Debate and Dialogue: Christian and Pagan Cultures, c. 360-430 (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Press, 2007). 473 Although of course this did not always automatically translate into a traditional — or modern — ideal physique of handsomeness, although this was often the case. 474 Also previously addressed in chapter two is the tension between this behaviour as something that can be learned or adopted and the claims of objective truth of the physiognomic enterprise.
paradigms to produce a carefully modulate public identity."475 And Van Houdt, although speaking about the physiognomic manuals in particular rather than broader physiognomic consensus, suggests that the "... handbooks offered lengthy lists of bodily characteristics that were indicative of moral excellence or depravity. As consequence, they easily lent themselves for exploitation by Roman aristocrats eager to mould their body language in such as way as to make a good impression on others. What first seemed to be merely an analytical tool ... thus
476 became a social instrument...."
What has been less frequently addressed is the interplay between these two topics: the role that physiognomic thought played in these early Christian groups' rhetoric of self-definition, self-presentation, and their claims of superiority over their contemporaries as a component of persuasion to visually demonstrate this superiority.477 As has been shown, with the exception of the physical description of Jesus, many early Christians were not terribly different from their contemporaries in their employment of physiognomic thought, and thus we should not be
475 Maud Gleason, Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), ccvi. 476 Toon Van Houdt, ―Speaking Eyes, Concealing Tongues: Social Function of Physiognomics in the Early Roman Empire,‖ in Språkets Speglingar : Festskrift till Birger Bergh, ed, Arne Jönsson Och Anders Piltz. (Ängelholm Skåneförl, 2000): 636–641(639). 477Teresa M. Shaw does address this, although referring to the process by the very similar concept of askesis ("Askesis and the Appearance of Holiness," JECS 6 : 485-99). Askesis pertains to an active fashioning of the body to present the desired characteristics, and thus is remarkably close to the variable physiognomic method. I have retained the term physiognomy in part for the sake of fluidity throughout the work, and also because askesis necessarily involves a corresponding action, whereas physiognomic exhortations can exist as a form of rhetorical discourse that does not need the corresponding actions to meet this definition. My focus throughout the work has been on the rhetoric of physiognomy, rather than the actual physical practice. Nonetheless, insights from Shaw's work will be addressed below. Alberto J. Quiroga Puertas also discusses the role that physical comportment (conceiving this as actio) played in the self-presentation and the making of orthodoxy (Alberto J. Quiroga, "Preaching and Mesmerizing: The Resolution of Religious Conflicts in Late Antiquity," in The Role of the Bishop in Late Antiquity [ed. Andrew Fear, Mar Marcos, and Jose Ferdinez Ubina; New York: Bloomsbury, 2013]) . He states that "... the concern of Christian authors of the Latin west over regulating gestures, voice and clothing involved in their preaching must be studied as efforts to integrate the performative facet of Late Antique rhetoric into religious orthodoxy" ("Preaching and Mesmerizing,"199-200). While he is correct in that many of the examples regarding this does occur in instances of preaching, many of them also seem to be regarding bodily comportment in day to day life, as many of the examples below seem to indicate (in particular regarding ascetic women who are presumably not preaching given that, in many instances, they are being commanded to keep silent).
surprised to encounter prescriptions for self-comportment predicated on physiognomic principles as part of this rhetorical strategy. Nonetheless, this has gone predominantly unaddressed in early
However, some aspects of Kristi Upson-Saia's arguments regarding early Christian discourse on female ascetic dress are applicable to early Christian physiognomy, both being concerned with cultivating external appearances as a component of self-identity that distinguishes the person as distinct from and superior to their contemporaries in ways that were visually apparent. She observes that "Like their pagan predecessors, Christians also used physical appearances as a measure of morality and identity, hoping that the looks of certain
Christians might secure honor for their Christian community."478 While again speaking of dress,
Upson-Saia's assertion that one of the aims of prescriptive exhortations on dress was such that
"Christian's physical appearance could ultimately signify the group's superior morality on its own" is equally applicable to physiognomic prescriptive.479 Upson-Saia has demonstrated that early Christians were conscious of the physical appearance they presented to outsiders, and in turn cultivated these to achieve their desired persuasive effect. The following will argue that some early Christian authors held that the physical appearance extended to the physiognomic
480 realm in the cultivation and presentation of the physical appearance of their members.
Several of the early Christian authors who have been shown to operate with a physiognomic mindset also provide evidence of themselves or their community members having
478 Kristi Upson-Saia, Early Christian Dress: Gender, Virtue, and Authority (Routledge Studies in Ancient History, 3; New York; London: Routledge, 2011), 32. 479 Early Christian Dress, 36. 480 And also, of course, to provide positive role models for other members to emulate, although this is not the focus of this chapter.
been subject to (or at least aware of the potential of) physiognomic scrutiny of their detractors.481
This lends further support to the view that they are attempting to fashion an appropriate physiognomy of early Christians that meets with — or ideally exceeds- the approval of pagan critics in order to persuade outsiders of the non-offensive — or more likely superior — moral character of members of their group. Although speaking of the attire of Christian female virgins,
Tertullian evinces concern regarding how they might appear to outsiders: "provision must be made in every way against all immodest associations and suspicions. For why is the integrity of a chaste mind defiled by its neighbour's suspicion?"482 Clement, in discussing the ignoble physical behaviours that result from overindulgence of alcohol remarks that "it is well to make our acquainted with this picture at the greatest possible distance from it, and to frame ourselves to what is better, dreaded lest well also become a like spectacle and laughing-stock to others."483 In a discussion on gestures and bodily movements that he deems unfit, Clement assert that "In a word, the Christian is characterized by composure, tranquility, calmness, and peace" making clear that he envisions a physiognomic model that Christians should maintain even when (or perhaps especially when) they engage with those outside the Christian community.484 He criticizes those who do not conform to the purportedly distinct Christian physiognomy he envisions, noting the influence of outsiders on the "fashions and manners" when Christian individuals interact with broader society: "... laying aside the inspiration of the assembly, after their departure from it, they become like others with whom they associate."485 And Jerome
481 And in turn scrutinized their opponents as was the case with heretics, discussed in chapter two. 482 Cult. fem. 2.12. (ANF 4:24-25). 483 Paed. 2.2 (ANF 2: 244). It is clear that he envisions these practices occurring at feasts that include outsiders, "fellow-guests" that members should attempt to "persuade ... to virtue" (Paed. 2.1 [ANF 2:240]). 484 Paed. 2.7 (ANF 2:253). The specifics of these forbidden physical gestures are discussed below. 485 Paed. 2.11 (ANF 2:290) Interestingly, here he envisions their true nature as being of the gentiles, and the physiognomic 'mask' that they adopt is the one "of solemnity" (Paed. 2.2 [ANF 2.290]).
speaks of the perceived physical scrutiny felt by Christians by pagan observers, including physiognomic concerns such as the expression of emotion, asserting that "we are held to be monks if we refuse to dress in silk. We are called sour and severe if we keep sober and refrain from excessive laughter. The mob salutes us as Greeks and imposters if our tunics are fresh and clean. They may deal in still severer witticisms if they please; they may parade every fat paunch
486 they can lay hold of, to turn us into ridicule."
The following will examine physiognomic exhortations made with the goal of persuading outsiders of the superiority of the early Church members via their physical cultivation and comportment, and by extension early Christianity itself.487 It will address representative (but not exhaustive) examples found in the authors previously addressed who have been shown to operate with a physiognomic consciousness. For the most part I leave aside the issue of physical adornment and clothing, which has been already excellently addressed by Upson-Saia and many others,488 and focus instead on exhortations regarding anatomical modifications, which is of course also more in keeping with physiognomy. I have, admittedly somewhat arbitrarily, divided different physiognomic exhortation into subsections, and will address these in turn. I have also
486 Epist. 38.5, previously cited. Of course, Jerome also speaks of the physiognomic scrutiny he received from other Christians who opposed him, and his employment of physiognomic polemic against other Christians was discussed in chapter two. In his letter to Asella (Epist. 45) he relates that his detractors label him as "an infamous turncoat, a slippery knave, one who lies and deceives others by Satanic arts" and that of these critics "one would attack my gait or my way of laughing; another would find something amiss in my looks; another would suspect the simplicity of my manner." Jerome, it seems, got almost as well as he was able to give in the realm of physiognomic polemic. 487 This is not to claim that there are not a host of other issues at work behind these exhortations, but I leave these aside to maintain a focus on the physiognomic import of these. 488 See also Carly Daniel-Hughes The Salvation of the Flesh in Tertullian of Carthage (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011); Alicia Batten, "Neither Gold nor Braided Hair (1 Timothy 2:9; 1 Peter 3:3): Adornment, Gender and Honour in Antiquity," NTS 55 (2009): 484-501; Elizabeth Bartman, "Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment," AJA 105 (2001): 1-25; Leslie Shumka, "Designing Women: The Representation of Women's Toiletries on Funerary Monuments in Roman Italy," 172-91 in Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture (ed. Jonathan Edmondson and Alison Keith; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008); Erin Vearncombe, "Adorning the Protagonist: the Use of Dress in the Book of Judith," in Dressing Jews and Christians in Antiquity ed. Carly Daniel- Hughes, Alicia Batten and Kristi Upson-Saia (Surrey: Ashgate, 2014):117-36.
divided this chapter by class, addressing physiognomic exhortations for lay Christian males previous to exhortations for male ascetics or clergy, and then address women, primarily ascetic women (as these comprised the bulk of my findings). Each of these subgroups proceed by examining a given physiological trait. Admittedly, the material is much more heavily skewed towards advice for ascetics or clergy, and thus the section on lay persons is rather sparse, nonetheless I felt it was important to make this distinction. One of the potential implications of this imbalance is that perhaps this provides evidence that early Christians who held themselves to a more exacting standard were expected to reflect this to outsiders and potential critics. Although this is the first time in this work that women (and not just the trait of effeminacy) have entered the physiognomic discussion, ultimately this still a discourse by men and for men, as will be made clear below.
Physiognomic Exhortations For the Male Early Christian Layperson
In physiognomic exhortations regarding bodily cultivation and comportment for male early
Christians, the instructions cover a fairly broad spectrum of common physiognomic traits. While some authors focus on only some aspects of these, others do include a broad range of instruction, and when taken together the issues of grooming, potentially effeminate clothing, gait, voice, gesture and other physical mannerisms, facial expressions, and the expressions of emotion including advice pertaining to laughter are addressed. The following will address these according to the physiognomic trope in question.
Grooming Practices Regarding Hair
Although ancient male grooming covered host of practices, for the present I will focus on depilation, with some particular attention directed towards exhortations regarding the beard. As
Gleason has argued, in the ancient world hair was considered by some to be a secondary sex characteristic, indicative of masculine identity. She notes that Stoics in particular liked to moralize about hair because "it was a term in the symbolic language of masculinity that could be construed as not merely a conventional sight, but as a symbol established by Nature itself."489
Given this, it was frequently deemed physiognomically unsound to alter the hair, particularly that of the beard, as this could indicate latent effeminacy. In antiquity, for some authors, the beard was a primary indication of virile masculinity. As Gleason observes
Since the secondary sex characteristics (particularly the hair and voice) are "read" socially as signs of the inner heat that constitutes a man's claim to physiological and cultural superiority over women, eunuchs, and children, those who tampered with the most visible variables of masculinity in their self-presentation provoked vehement moral criticism because they were rightly suspected of undermining the 490 symbolic language in which male privilege was written.
Musonius Rufus claims that "the beard is the male symbol, as the comb of the rooster and the mane of the lion ... those who cut their hair and shave themselves stand to be considered as androgynous and effeminate persons."491 Epictetus remarks that
did she [nature] not by these means distinguish male and female? Does not the nature of each one of us cry aloud from afar, 'I am a man: on these terms approach me and address me; seek nothing else. Behold the signs.' Again, in women nature took the hair from their face ... but how noble and comely and dignified is this sign [the beard], how much more fair than the cock's crest, how much more magnificent than the lion's mane! Therefore we ought to preserve the signs God has given; we ought not to abandon them, nor, so far as in us lies, to confound the 492 sexes which have been distinguished.
489 Gleason, Making Men, 69. 490 Gleason, Making Men, 70. 491 Disc. 3.1.45; also cited by Gleason, Making Men, 69. 492 On Providence, 16 (Matheson, LCL)
Lucian also espouses a firm view on this subject; "[the Greek heroes Heracles and
Theseus] would no more have let you shave them than a lion would; soft smooth flesh was very well for women, they thought; as for them, they were men, and were content to look it; the beard was the man's ornament, like the lion's, or the horse's mane...."493 The comparison of a bearded man with a lion is not incidental — as noted previously, the lion was considered by the physiognomic manuals as the exemplar of masculinity.
Tertullian is no different in his assessment of the masculinity (and thus importance) of hairiness including beards, and of early Christian men adhering to these common physiognomic views in particular. In his diatribe on women's apparel and use of cosmetics, Tertullian also sets aside some time for exhortation towards manly comportment regarding hair, conceding that men, too, sometimes attempt to beautify themselves for others. For Tertullian, not only must the hair of the chin be predominantly untouched, but the hair of the head and body must also be left alone, presumably to bask in its masculine glory. He condemningly lists these prohibited practices:
...if this sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of from peculiarly its own [such as] to cut the beard too sharply, to pluck it out here and there, to shave around about [the mouth]; to arrange the hair, and disguise it hoariness by dyes; to remove all the incipient down all over the body; to fix (each particular hair) in its place with some womanly pigment; to smooth all the rest of the body 494 by the aid of some rough powder of other.
Tertullian suggests that these undertakings indicate the character trait of being deficiently modest.495 He rhetorically queries how an early Christian man doing these thing could be worthy
493 Cynic. 14 (MacLeod, LCL). 494 Cult. fem. 8 (ANF 4:22). Tertullian further lambasts those who do this by accusing them of (what one would assume he considers effeminate) preening and vanity: "then, further, to take every opportunity for consulting the mirror, to gaze anxiously into it" (Cult. fem. 8 [ANF 4:22]) 495 While conventionally associated with being a feminine trait, modesty in males was also privileged in antiquity, although as Gleason observes, "manly modesty appears to be an ideal best expressed in the negative: the real man,
of respect "unless seriousness in appearance and in countenance, and in the general aspect of the
496 entire man, mark our carriage?"
Clement is quite forthright regarding his aims for his physiognomic exhortations to his community: "... we must now compendiously describe what the man who is called a Christian ought to be during the whole of his life. We must accordingly begin with ourselves, and how we ought to regulate ourselves ... we have ... to say how each of us ought to conduct himself in
497 respect to his body, or rather how to regulate the body itself."
In her discussion of the physiognomic censure of depilation, Gleason cites some of
Clement of Alexandria's comments on the topic, yet more can be added. Clement held that given that the beard is agreed to be the distinctive indication of the man, as hairiness in general is the mark of a manly nature, one was entitled to infer from the removal of this hair that this was tantamount to the man announcing a preference for unnatural acts. Yet Clement is even more vocal on this topic, and like Tertullian does not restrict himself to facial hair, but the cultivation
(or removal) of all male hair. In a rather long diatribe, he is caustic against men who pay undo attention to their hair, most notably in not letting it be its manly robust (and untampered with) self.498 He speaks of luxury as a disease that has infected not only women, but men as well, in these pursuits of embellishment, including the tampering with their hair. He castigates and holds up as a negative example men who
... inclining toward voluptuousness, they become effeminate, cutting their hair in an ungentlemanly and meretricious way.... Like one who judges people by their
or the boy who is on the road to becoming one, is known by the absence of effeminate signs as much by any positive distinguishing marks" (Gleason, Making Men, 61). Ambrose, discussed below, also evinces an interest in masculine modesty. 496Cult. fem. 8 (ANF 4:22). 497 Paed. 2.1 (ANF 2:237). 498 Although here he also criticizes men who wear perfume and fine and transparent garments, and who show too much concern for their teeth in their chewing of mastich, these are beyond the focus of this chapter.
foreheads, he will divine them to be adulterers and effeminate, addicted to both kinds venery, haters of hair, destitute of hair, detesting the bloom of manliness, and adorning their locks like women.... For their service the towns are full of those who take out hair by pitch-plasters, shave, and pluck out hairs from these womanish creatures. And shops are erected and opened everywhere; and experts at this meretricious fornication make a deal of money openly by those who plaster themselves, and give their hair to be pulled out in all ways by those who make it their trade, feeling no shame before the onlookers or those who approach, nor before themselves, being men. Such are those who are addicted to base passions, whose whole body is made smooth by the violent tugging of pitch-plasters. It is utterly impossible to get beyond such effrontery. If nothing is left undone by them, neither shall anything be left unspoken by me.... But for those who are men to shave and smooth themselves, how ignoble! As for dyeing of hair, and anointing of grey locks, and dyeing them yellow, these are practices of abandoned effeminates, and their feminine combing of themselves is a thing to be let 499 alone.
Clement proceeds to imply that some of the modifications undertaken regarding the hair and body are done in order to appear younger, and elsewhere he does seem to connect grey hair
500 and unadornment with old age and wisdom.
Nonetheless, that he does interpret the cultivation of male hair to be an indication of effeminacy and sexual vice is also an example of his physiognomic thought. That he is holding these figures up as examples of what not to do and thus to in turn encourage male members of his audience to refrain from these undertakings is evident when elsewhere he makes a direct exhortation to his audience: "It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word501), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person — if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer, and both
499 Paed. 3.3 (ANF 2:475) 500 For example, "...neither is the hair to be dyed, nor grey hair to have its color changed. ... And above all, old age, which conciliates trust, is not to be concealed. For God's mark of honour is to be shown in the light of day, to win reverence of the young. For sometimes, when they have been behaving shamefully, the appearance of hoary hairs, arriving lick an instructor. has changed them to sobriety, and paralyzed juvenile lust with the splendor of the sight" Paed. 3.11 [ANF 2:286]). 501 One cannot help but wonder what other warnings the Word imparted to Clement, if it demonstrates an interest in male grooming.
must be driven as far as possible from our society."502 Teresa M. Shaw observes that Clement wished to modulate early Christian behavioural practices within his community in order to present them in a favourable light to outsiders. She states that "much of Clement's discussion aims at the desire for honor and respect among one's peers and in society. Thus he paints an amusing (if often disgusting) picture of the glutton or the drunkard or the laughingstock, one whose obsession with food, drink, and exotic dishes is translated to a body which appears shameful and worthy of ridicule. The refined Christian, in contrast, eats and drinks with moderation and decorum worthy of honor."503 Clement makes his physiognomic exhortations regarding male hair quite clear later in the work
About the hair, the following seems right. Let the head of men be shaven, unless it has curly hair. But let the chin have hair. But let not twisted locks hang far down from the head, gliding into womanish ringlets. For an ample beard suffices for men. And if one, too, shave a part of his beard, it must not be made entirely bare, for this is a disgraceful sight. The shaving of the chin to the skin is reprehensible, 504 approaching to plucking out the hair and smoothing.
Thus, it is probable that Clement is using physiognomic thought and principles in order to persuade members of his community to follow suit, and present themselves in an appropriate, masculine way so that early Christians will not be subject to the sort of ridicule that Clement
502 Paed. 3.3 (ANF 2:276). Subsequent to this Clement also gives a rather specific description of the physical contortions undertaken by men who submit to the depilating procedure, further portraying them as physically mock worthy: "But the using of pitch to pluck out hair (I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this process), and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature's modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness?" (Paed. 3.3); also cited by Gleason, Making Men, 70. For other ancient ridicule of male depilation, please see chapter two. 503 Teresa M. Shaw, Burden of the Flesh (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1998), 51. 504 Paed. 3.11 (ANF 2:286) Cutting the hair is permitted "not for the sake of elegance" but of necessity, should the hair on the head grow too long to interfere with eyesight or to protect the cranium from injury given that this lack of hair makes it familiar with both cold and heat. For Clement excess of heat and cold on the head was the cause of 'mischief' and the hair "absorbs [this mischief] into itself like a sponge, and so inflicting on the brain constant mischief from the moisture" (Paed. 3.11). This, of course, would be worthy of a physiognomic investigation of its own in concert with the ancient humor theory, but cannot be explored fully here.
employs against these nameless examples. As he later stipulates: "the hair on the chin is not to be disturbed, as it gives no trouble, and lends to the face dignity and paternal terror."505 Here, then, it is clear that he is concerned with how these figures appear to others, wishing them to present themselves in the best possible light in accordance with physiognomic ideals.
The importance of the idealized male gait in broader Greco-Roman physiognomic thought was addressed in chapter two. Here it will suffice to address early Christian authors' exhortations for members of their lay male audience to conform to this physiognomic standard.
Clement exhorts at relatively great length on what he deems to be appropriate means of walking for the early Christian male
...we must abandon a furious mode of walking, and choose a grave and leisurely one, but not a lingering step. Nor is one to swagger in the ways, nor throw back his head to look at those he meets, if they look at him, as if he were strutting on the stage, and pointed at with the finger. Nor, when pushing up a hill, are they to be shoved up by their domestics, as we see those that are more luxurious, who 506 appear strong, but are enfeebled by effeminacy of soul.
For Clement, maintaining not only the standard gait — but indeed, going one better regarding masculine self-sufficiency while in motion — is what every Christian male should aspire to do. So, too, is an effeminate walk to be avoided: "But feminine motions, dissoluteness, and luxury, are to be entirely prohibited. For voluptuous of motion of walking, and 'a mincing gait', as Anacreon says, are altogether meretricious."507 Clement prescribes the idealized male gait to his community to indicate that they were, indeed, ideal men. Here, too, is evident
505 Paed. 3.11 506 Paed. 3.11 (ANF 2:288). In this same passage Clement also asserts that "a true gentleman must have no mark of effeminacy visible on his face, or any other part of his body. Let no blot on his manliness, then, be ever found either in his movements or habits" (Paed. 3.11 [ANF 2:289]). 507 Paed. 3.11 (ANF 2:288).
Clement's fear of the early Christian being singled out and mocked for his gait, and presumably
508 the community in turn.
The importance of the male voice in broader Greco-Roman physiognomic thought has also been addressed in chapter two. The implications of this discussion helps explain early Christian exhortations on the male voice, especially regarding considerations regarding how outsiders might perceive them. Again, Clement seems to be the sole primary source for advice towards lay
Christians, and what follows is primarily derived from his works. He asserts that
...loudness of utterance is most insane; while an inaudible utterance is characteristic of a senseless man, for people will not hear: the one is the mark of pusillanimity, the other of arrogance. ... An enervated voice is the sign of effeminacy. But modulation of the voice is the characteristic of a wise man, who keeps his utterances from loudness, from drawling, from rapidity, from 509 prolixity.
Clement is not alone in deeming the enervated voice to be indicative of effeminacy — as discussed in chapter two, this is one of the observable aspects of the kinaidos. In cautioning against extremes, Clement reveals his ideal of moderation, or the ideal mean, for members of his community, in keeping with the broader sentiment that also prized physiognomic balance.510 He also condemns talking while eating, given that it is indecorous and the voice is not at its best
508 John Chrysostom also offers exhortations for the early Christian lay man regarding gait, and he his clear in his desire that a man will draw approving attention (catech. bapt. 4, 26; SChr. 50); also cited by Neil Adkin, "the Teaching of the Fathers concerning Footwear and Gait," Latomus 42.4, 1983, 885-86: 886. Tertullian also prescribes a modest gait, although he does not elaborate on what this consists of (praescr. 43). 509 Paed. 2.7 (ANF 2:253). 510 Clement also cautions against hostile speech, and speaking too much in general, particularly "frivolous prating" in that "the prater makes himself the object of disgust" (Paed. 2.6 [ANF 2:251]). He cautions younger men to speak only when asked to do so twice, whereas an old and purportedly wise man should feel free to speak freely (Paed. 2.7). He forbids men to spend time in barber's shops and taverns "babbling nonsense" where there are also present women who sit near "ceaselessly talking slander against many to raise a laugh" (Paed. 3.11 [ANF 2:289]). If one cannot control one's speech, one becomes conceived of as a babbler. Here, again, the idea that Clement is concerned with early Christian self-presentation in the public sphere is attested. Interestingly, Clement also condemns oral signals of summoning: "Chirruping and whistling, and sounds made through the fingers, by which domestics are called, being irrational signs, are to be given up by rational men" (Paed. 2.7 [ANF 2:253]).
advantage: "... for the voice becomes disagreeable and inarticulate when it is confined by full cheeks; and the tongue, pressed by food and impeded in its natural energy, gives forth a compressed utterance."511 This of course is quite the opposite of the idea masculine speech,
512 which is measured and deliberate.
Bodily Deportment: Gesture
What follows here is a variety of different gestures and bodily movements that are cautioned not to be undertaken — admittedly, a rather mixed bag, but all seem to serve the ideological goal of decorum or control of physical self-presentation. Clement has quite the sundry list of physical gestures and mannerisms that are to be avoided by the early Christian male (and presumably female here as well, although this is not stipulated).
He offers advice on gesture and deportment in the context of a meal, and as Shaw has observed, many of these are negative exemplars that illustrate what not to do, though reinforced by direct exhortation as well. Foremost on his agenda is that the early Christian should not practice physical deportment that indicates the vice and social stigma of greed specifically, and indecorum more generally.513 After a rather long discourse on the foolishness of greed, he remarks
how foolish for people to raise themselves on the couches, all but pitching their faces into the dishes, stretching out from the couch as from nest ... And how senseless, to besmear their hands with condiments, and to be constantly reaching to the sauce, cramming themselves immoderately and shamelessly, not like people
511 Paed. 2.1 (ANF 2:240). 512 Gleason, Making Men, 61. 513 Blake Leyerle discusses some of these pieces of advice, noting that Clement is unusual in that he is one of the few ancient authors to spell out instructions for table etiquette ("Clement of Alexandria on the Importance of Table Etiquette," JECS 3 : 123-41). While it is of course true that these dictates do fall under table manners, I am addressing them here in that beyond this they are also very specific instructions regarding bodily comportment, and thus are applicable to be examined in terms of physiognomic thought. Moreover, Clement himself includes these instructions as forming a component of morality (as Leyerle also notes ["Table Etiquette," 125-26]: "his aim is to reshape Christians so that their entire outward manner reveals their inward, Christian, disposition"), and thus he views them as physical manifestations that reveal inner character which is the aim of physiognomy.
tasting, but ravenously seizing! For you may see such people, more like swine or dogs for gluttony than men,514 in such a hurry to feed themselves full that both cheeks are stuffed out at once, the veins about the face raised, and besides, the perspiration running all over, as they are tightened with their insatiable greed, and panting with the excess; the food pushed with unsocial eagerness into their stomach, as if they were stowing away victuals for provision for a journey, not digestion.... they who eat shamelessly and are insatiable shame themselves.... From all slavish habits and excess we must abstain, and touch what is set before us in a decorous way; keeping the hand and couch and chin free from stains; preserving the grace of the countenance undisturbed, and committing no indecorum in the act of swallowing' but stretching out the hand at intervals in an 515 orderly manner.
Here Clement not only cautions against specific acts of bodily comportment, but also seeks to curtail the rather unpleasant involuntary physical reactions that stem from these. Sweat, bulging veins and panting are all physiological reactions that are beyond control, and indeed often — and here do in fact — indicate a lack of bodily control.
He offers specific advice on instances when women are present at meals — only married women are permitted, of course, for "it is the extremist scandal" for unmarried women to be present at a banquet of men, especially men who have been imbibing. "Let the men, fixing their eyes on the couch, and leaning without moving on their elbows, be present with their ears alone."516 Modesty is to be made manifest via the male's physical comportment.
514Leyerle suggests that what is at issue for Clement here in making these animal comparisons is the common etiquette concern of differentiating between the food that is consumed and the person consuming it. He further cites Clement's caution that "if you bury your mind deep in your belly, you resemble quite remarkably the ass-fish, who alone of all living creatures, according to Aristotle, has its heart in its stomach" (Paed. 2.1; Leyerle, "Table Etiquette," 126-27). This observation could quite easily be interpreted as the zoological method of physiognomy, along with many of Clement's animal similes. However, that Clement is equally concerned with the variable physical outcomes that result in overindulgence is clear in his stipulation of how these are unbecoming looks. 515 Paed 2.1 (ANF 2:240). Similarly, Clement forbids simultaneously eating and drinking, as it is "the very extreme of intemperance to confound the times whose uses are discordant" (Paed. 2.1). 516 Paed. 2.1 When Christian women are discussed below, they are commanded to keep their eyes lowered or averted. Clement also says, although this probably does not have application to the presence of women, that "and [the men] sit, let them not have their feet crossed, nor place one thigh on another, nor apply the hand to the chin. For it is vulgar no to bear one's self without support, and consequently a fault in a young man. And perpetually moving and changing one's position is a sign of frivolousnessness" (Paed. 2.7 [ANF 2:252]). Here, again, the lack of control or mastery over the body is indicative of a character failing.
Related to this, he also has some advice on bodily comportment when one is imbibing (of course, refraining from this altogether seems to be his ideal), and the subsequent involuntary physiognomic fallout from this. Those who do so should also consume dry food with it, to absorb superfluous moisture, "For constant spitting and wiping off of perspiration, and hastening to evacuations, is the sigh of excess, from the immoderate use of liquids supplied in excessive quantity to the body."517 Regarding the potentially problematic male passions he advises against too much wine, but men may be permitted to indulge during feats on the condition that "the limit of their potations be the point up to which they keep their reason unwavering, their memory active, and their body unmoved and unshaken by wine."518 For drinking to excess, of course, has very unhappy physiognomic results: "the tongue is impeded; the lips are relaxed; the eyes roll wildly, the sight, as it were, swimming through the quantity of moisture [the eyes can no longer see properly] ... And the feet are carried from beneath the man as by a flood, and hiccupping and vomiting and maudlin nonsense follow."519 Similarly, he points attention to those who habitually over imbibe, saying that "you many see some of them, half-drunk, staggering, with crowns round their necks like wine jars, vomiting drink on one another in the name of good fellowship; and others, full of the effects of their debauch, dirty, pale in the face,520 livid ..."521 For Clement the implication of his admonishments of others as negative examples becomes clear when supplemented with his exhortation: "It is well ... to make our acquaintance with this picture at the
517 Paed. 2.7 (ANF 2:252). 518 Paed. 2.7 (ANF 2:253). 519 Paed. 2.2 (ANF 2:244). Similarly he suggests that "we must also check excessive laughter and immoderate tears. For often people under the influence of wine, after laughing immoderately, then are, I know not how, by some impulse of intoxication moved to tears; for both effeminacy and violence are discordant with the word" (Paed. 2.7 [ANF 2:252]). 520 Here is yet another example of the multiple variances that a given physical trait — on pallor as a positive indication of self-restraint, please see below, also briefly discussed in chapter two. 521 Paed. 2.2 (ANF 2.244).
greatest possible distance from it, and to frame ourselves to what is better, dreading lest we also
522 become a like spectacle and laughingstock to others."
Greed of drink and its physical manifestation is also to be avoided: "so that we are to drink without contortions of the face, not greedily grasping the cup, or before drinking making the eyes roll with unseemly motion; nor from intemperance are we to drain the cup at a draught; nor besprinkle the chin, nor splash the garments while gulping down all the liquor at once — our face all but filling the bowl and drowned in it. For the gurgling occasioned by the drink rushing with violence, and by its being drawn in with a great deal of breath, as if it were being poured into an earthenware vessel, while the throat makes a noise through the rapidity of ingurgitation,
523 is a shameful and unseemly spectacle of intemperance."
Other behaviours condemned by Clement are those that attest to a disruption in one's state of being or want of decorum. He states that early Christians who "assign the best part of the night to wakefulness, must by no means sleep by day; and fits of uselessness and napping and stretching one's self, and yawning, are manifestations of frivolous uneasiness of the soul."524
Here Christians are held to an even more exacting physiognomic standard, in that they must not allow their purported lack of sleep to influence their physiognomy.
Speaking explicitly of a relatively public context, that of guests in one's house, Clement commands that "Frequent spitting, too, and violent clearing of the throat, and the wiping of one's nose at an entertainment, are to be shunned. For respect is assuredly to be had to the guests, lest
522 Paed. 2.2. 523 Paed. 2.2 (ANF 2:245). Here he also observers that "your thirst is satiated, even if you drink slower, observing decorum, by taking the beverage in small portions, in an orderly way" (Paed. 2.2). 524 Paed. 2.9 (ANF 2:259).
they turn in disgust from such filthiness, which argues want of restraint."525 So, too, are sounds and gestures to be undertaken in a subdued and decorous manner:
If anyone is attacked with sneezing, just as in the case of hiccups, he most not startle those near him with the explosion, and so give proof of his bad breeding, but the hiccup is to be quietly transmitted with the expiration of breath, the mouth being composed becomingly, and not gaping and yawning like the tragic masks. So the disturbance of the hiccup may be avoided by making the respirations gently ... to wish to add to the noises, instead of diminishing them, is the sign of arrogance and disorderliness. Those, too, who scrape their teeth, bleeding the wounds, are disagreeable to themselves and detestable to their neighbour. Scratching the ears and the irritation of sneezing are piggish gestures, indications of unbridled fornication. Both shameful sights and shameful sights and shameful conversation about them are to be shunned. Let the look be steady, and the turning and movement of th3e neck and the motions of the hand in conversation, be decorous. In a word, the Christian is characterized by composure, tranquility, 526 calmness, and peace.
Hiccups and sneezing are, of course, bodily functions that are to a large extent beyond cognizant control — Clement nonetheless expect his audience to impose a form of control on them, making them the idealized, controlled, male body. For Clement it is crucial that early Christians do not lose bodily control, but rather are able to comport themselves in physiognomically appropriate ways in order to deflect criticism of their characters, and in turn Christianity. As Leyerle
527 suggests, "behaviour at meals was a reliable indicator of personality in Greco-Roman society."
Control of the Displays of Emotion: Laughter
Stephen Halliwell discusses the tension early Christians faced regarding laughter in a Greco-
Roman context where it was generally deemed a positive thing. However, he does note that paganism was not without its own antigeliasiatic proponents primarily drawn from philosophy.
He suggests that what these figures primarily objected to regarding laughter was "lack of self-
525 Paed. 2.7 (ANF 2:253). He continues that "we are not to copy oxen and assess, whose manger and dunghill are together. For many wipe their noses and spit even while supping" (Paed. 2.7). 526 Paed. 2.7. 527 Leyerle, "Table Etiquette," 140.
control and social antagonism."528 He further remarks that "Even before the impingement of
Christian values, the ethical traditions of Greek paganism placed so much weight on self-control and the capacity to resist (excessive) pleasure that the sheer physicality of laughter could create a
529 presumption of moral danger."
Clement, while not despising expressions of humor, does not, unsurprisingly, encourage unrestrained expressions of it, for reasons similar to those that Halliwell observes: the lack of bodily self-control and the potential that the Christian laugher will cause fissures within the community, and more potentially problematic, is that by this lack of control the Christian will make himself an object of ridicule.530 He states that
If, then, wags are to be ejected from our society, we ourselves must by no manner of means be allowed to stir up laughter. For it were absurd to be found imitators of things of which we are prohibited to be listeners; and still more absurd for a man to set about making himself a laughingstock, that is, the butt of insult and derision ... pleasantry is allowable, not waggery. Besides, even laughter must be kept in check; for when given vent to in the right manner it indicates orderliness, 531 but when it issues differently it shows a want of restraint."
Clement goes so far as to classify types of expressions of humor that are acceptable or not: "the seemly relaxation of the countenance in a harmonious manner — as of a musical instrument — is called a smile. So also is laughter on the face of well-regulated men termed. But the discordant realization of the countenance in the case of women is called a giggle, and is meretricious
528 Stephen Halliwell, Greek Laughter: A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity (Cambridge, UK.: New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 482. 529Halliwell, Greek Laughter, 10. 530 Griffiths and Marks observe that "Laughter, with its unseemly convulsions, .... is a greater, more threatening crisis, because one who laughs is always at risk of being enveloped in a the pattern that she is laughing at, as when in a skating rink a skater falls on the ice and others, laughing at her misfortune, lose their own balance and fall in run ... In comedy there is no place of refuge for the disinterested observer; we are all the potential butts of comic jest" (R. Drew Griffith and Robert B. Marks, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Agora: Ancient Greek and Roman Humour, 2nd edition (Kingston, Ont.: Legacy Books Press, 2007), 37. 531 Paed. 2.5 (ANF 2:250).
laughter; in the case of men, a guffaw, and is savage and insulting laughter."532 Halliwell notes that Clement's sensitivity to the details of the body language of laughter evidences to some degree a Pauline wariness of sexuality: "A crucial premise here is that excessive mirth involves a loosening of bodily control and decorum, and therefore tends to be both a symptom and
533 sometimes even a cause of lasciviousness."
Clement also outlines instances where laughter is acceptable — in a moderate amount, of course. He advises that
we are not to laugh perpetually, for that is going beyond bounds; nor in the presence of elderly persons, or others worthy of respect, unless they indulge in pleasantry for our amusement. Nor are we to laugh before all and sundry, nor in every place, nor to everyone, nor about everything. For to children and women especially laughter is the cause of slipping into scandal. And even to appear stern serves to keep those about us at their distance. For gravity can ward off the 534 approaches of licentiousness by a mere look."
As is nearly always the case, Clement asserts that the medium between two extremes is the mark to shoot for: "but, on the other hand, one needs not be gloomy, only grave. For I certainly prefer a man to smile who has a stern countenance than the reverse; for so his laughter will be less apt
532 Paed. 2.5. In support of these assertions he cites Sirach 21.20: 'A fool raises his voice in laughter" (Paed 2.5). 533 Halliwell, Greek Laughter, 490. Halliwell suggests that the loosening associated with female laughter is particularly problematic for Clement, given that it "enacts a breakdown of the bashfulness and modesty paradigmatically expected of them." He notes that the connotations of female laughter as a prostitute's laughter should "alert us to a real fear of sexual temptresses: laughter, unless carefully monitored, is an instrument of erotic seduction" (Greek Laughter, 491). In support of this he cites several later early Christian examples of the connection between overt female sexuality and laughter (Greek Laughter, 491 nt. 52). Halliwell also notes that the topoi of laughter leading the young astray is common among pagan literature (in next Clement citation), but the inclusion of women in this warning is new, "represent[ing] a distinctively Christian unease" (Greek Laughter, 491). 534 Paed. 2.5 (ANF 2:250). Similarly he suggests that "we must also check excessive laughter and immoderate tears. For often people under the influence of wine, after laughing immoderately, then are, I know not how, by some impulse of intoxication moved to tears; for both effeminacy and violence are discordant with the word" (Paed. 2.7 [ANF 2:252]).
to become the subject of ridicule."535 For Clement the ideal Christian male avoids physical manifestations that indicate these character defects.
The Physiognomy of the Male Ascetic or Clergy member
Although the exhortations for lay persons are quite strident, those for clergy members and ascetics are perhaps even more so. While most of what was applicable for the lay Christian male was in keeping with broader Greco-Roman physiognomic principles, for ascetics there are some noteworthy deviations, that in turn become a uniquely Christian physiognomic goal, though still with an eye to impressing outsiders. Gregory, in his eulogy of Basil the Great, relates that the latter's sober physiognomy was not only impressive to other clergy, but so much so to the extent that men had sought to emulate him in these regards. It provides a nice overview of the topics that will be addressed in what follows for male ascetics: "his paleness, his beard, his gait, his thoughtful, and generally meditative hesitation in speaking, which, in the ill-judged, inconsiderate imitation of many, took the form of melancholy."536 Of all the rather distinct
Christian physical traits addressed, perhaps the most notably different of these, which was noted briefly in chapter two, is the emphasis placed on a pallored complexion, and a thin and emaciated body. Although speaking of female adornment, what Upson-Saia asserts is equally applicable to other aspects of physical appearance discussed below for both genders: "Ascetics were
535 Paed. 2.5 (ANF 2:250). Clement also instructs his audience when a smile is appropriate: "smiling even requires to be made the subject of discipline. If it is at what is disgraceful, we ought to blush rather than smile, lest we seem to take pleasure in it by sympathy; if at what is painful, it is fitting to look sad rather than to seem pleased. For to do the former is a sign of rational human thought; the other infers suspicion of cruelty" (Paed. 2.5). 536 Orat. 43.77 (NPNF² 7:421) Gregory takes issues with those who try to imitate him in appearance only, and in trying too hard to makes such an impression miss what made Basil's physiognomy so great — it revealed a character that truly had no care for such earthly matters.
continually urged to exert fastidious care to their appearance, an appearance that paradoxically
537 was to communicate neglect and disinterest."
The Emaciated, Unkempt Body and Paleness as Positive Physiognomic Traits
Jerome, perhaps unsurprisingly, uses himself as an exemplar to imitate (although here he is writing to a woman, Eustochium), albeit during his time of fasting in the desert of Jerusalem. He is quite vocal in his physical suffering undertaken in the hopes of vanquishing his lust, and it is clear that he is also quite proud of it: "Sackcloth disfigured my unshapely limbs and my skin from long neglect had become as black as an Ethiopians.538 Tears and groans were my every day portion; and if drowsiness chanced to overcome my struggles against it, my bare bones, which hardly held together, crashed against the ground ... My face was pale and my frame chilled with fasting; yet my mind was burning with desire, and the fires of lust kept bubbling up before me when my flesh was as good as dead.... Now, if such are the temptations of men, who, since their bodies are emaciated with fasting, have only evil thoughts to fear, how must it fare with a girl
539 whose surroundings are those of luxury and ease?"
Although this example was offered to a woman, Jerome also chastises a lapsed monk with similar admonishments: "Do you dread the bare ground and limbs wasted with fasting? ...
Do you recoil from an unwashed head and uncombed hair? ... Is your skin rough and scaly because you no longer bathe?"540 Elsewhere, he holds up the monk Hilarion as an additional exemplar, "...his body thin and delicate, unfit to bear the slightest injury which cold or heat could
537 Early Christian Dress, 51. 538 Squalor is elsewhere a physiognomic trope to imitate for Jerome: "Let your garments be squalid to show that your mind is white, and your tunic coarse to prove that you despise the world. But give not way to pride lest your dress and language be found at variance" (Epist. 125.7 [NPNF² 6:246]). 539 Epist. 22.7-8 (NPNF² 6:25). 540 Epist. 14.10 (NPNF² 6:17).
inflict."541 Gregory of Nazianzus also notes the "dirty and unwashed hair" of the figure of the
Basil also prizes a pale complexion that indicates the fasting clergy member, as well as an unkempt appearance. He states that "the complexion of a faster is venerable, not breaking out in unseemly red blotches, but adorned with the pallor of temperance."543 His approval of an unkempt appearance as an indication of the dedicated restraint that he feels Christianity calls for is also clear: "From the humble and submissive spirit comes an eye sorrowful and downcast, appearance neglected, hair rough, dress dirty, so that the appearance of which mourners take pains to present may appear to be our natural condition."544 Gregory's observation of Basil's pallor was noted above.
What is the the most likely physiognomic reading of this pallor is the very direct and concrete relation to fasting — depriving the body of nutrients — and a rather sallow skin tone. If this is at work in the minds of these authors, then here is a rather distinctly Christian physiognomic topos — pallor indicates the positive character trait of control over the desires of
545 the flesh.
541 Vit. Hil. 4; also cited by Evans, "Physiognomy in the Ancient World," 77 nt 25. 542 Orat. 6.2 (Gregory of Nazianzus: Select Orations [trans. Martha Vinson; TFOC 107; Catholic University Press of America, 2003]); also cited by Adkin, ―Teaching,‖ 886. 543On fasting, 9. 544 Letter 2.6, also cited by Evans, "Physiognomy in the Ancient World," 6. Rather curiously, elsewhere he cautions against appearing too mournful while fasting, though presumably his criticism here is acting in way that draws attention to the self-sacrifice which thus undermines its value. 545 Although, rather surprisingly, this too could purportedly be feigned. Libanius criticizes his opponents by remarking that they not only eat more than elephants and overly indulge in alcohol, but in turn they "hide their luxury by their pale and artificial countenance" (Orations 30.8 [Norman, LCL]). Jerome also attests to this physiognomic fakery as pertains to fasting. In his letter to Eustochium he cautions her: "do not deliberately lower your voice as though worn out with fasting; nor, leaning on the shoulder of another, mimic the tottering gait of one who is faint. Some women, it is true, disfigure their faces so as to appear to men to be fasting. As soon as they catch sight of any one they groan, they look down; they cover their faces, all but one eye, which they keep free to see with. Their dress is sombre, their girdles are of sackcloth, their hands and feet are dirty; only their stomachs — which cannot be seen — are hot with food" (Epist. 22.27 [NPNF² 6:34]).
Ambrose's opinions on what he considers to be an improper gait revealing moral inferiority of his fellow clergy members specifically has been discussed in chapter two. What remains is to examine, to the extent that it is possible given a paucity of concrete details, is what the proper gait of a clergyman should be, and this includes examples or gaits not to undertake. He castigates those who in walking "perceptibly copy the gestures of actors, and act as though they were bearers in the processions, and have the motions of nodding statues, to such an extent that they seem to keep a sort of time, as often as they change their step."546 Here Ambrose is cautioning against a gait that is clearly contrived, where attempting to walk at a sedate pace by doing so too overtly will betray the machinations behind it. However, Ambrose holds that the other extreme of hurrying is also to be avoided: "Nor do I think it becoming to walk hurriedly, except when a case of danger demands it, or a real necessity. For we often see those who hurry come up panting, and with features distorted. But if there is no reason for the need of such hurry, it gives just cause for offense."547 Ambrose asserts that both extremes are not appropriate: "On the one hand, I do not approve of people looking like statues, nor, on the other, of people virtually tripping over themselves in a mad rush to dash about their business."548 In addition to avoiding these, Ambrose does prescribe a more appropriate gait: "there is, though, another type of gait, one of which we can approve, which gives an impression of authority, of firmness and gravity, and a sense of calm purpose. The important thing is to keep studied effort and affectation out of it, and allow your movement to be natural and simple; for no kind of falsehood can ever be
546 Off. 1.18.73. Here Ambrose is perhaps recollecting Cicero's comments on gait cited previously. 547 Off. 1.18. 74. He makes clear that he does not mean those who occasionally have to hurry, but "about those to whom constant and persistent haste has become second nature" (Off. 1.18.74). 548 Off. 1.18.74.
pleasing. Let nature herself shape your movement."549 However, when nature is lacking,
Ambrose does permit some degree of effort to rectify this, although, of course, this attempt itself must not be discernible.550 Ambrose asserts that "modesty must further be guarded on our very movements and gestures and gait ... the movement of the body is a sort of voice of the soul."551
Hartsock is no doubt correct in suggesting that the ideal walk for Ambrose is one that is
552 moderated and does not display any hints of effeminacy.
Basil recommends that the steps of clergy be undertaken in a well regulated manner as extremes will indicate negative character traits: "the gait ought not to be sluggish, which shows a character without energy, nor on the other hand pushing and pompous, as though as impulses were rash and wild."553 Jerome, whose prescriptions for female gait are discussed below, also privileges this is men. In speaking of the monastic sect the Coenobites, he relates that they live harmoniously, and at night offer praise of their colleagues to one another: "There each one talks till evening with his comrade thus: "have you noticed so and so? What grace he has! How silent he is! How soberly he walks!"554 Gregory notes the "serene gait" of the monk in an approving manner.555 It is plausible that the idea gait being prescribed is the same as found in broader
Greco-Roman thought, discussed in chapter two: one that arrives at a happy medium of pace and movement, and is ultimately one that displays control over the body.
549 Off. 1.18.75. 550 "If, of course, there is some flaw in the style nature has given you, then by all means try to put it to right with a little hard work: it is artificiality that needs to be kept out of things, not an appropriate measure of correction" (Off. 1.18.75). 551 Off. 1.18.71. 552Chad Hartsock, Sight and Blindness in Luke-Acts the Use of Physical Features in Characterization (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2008), 141. 553 Letter 2.6; also cited by Evans, "Physiognomy in the Ancient World," 6. 554 Epist. 22.35 (NPNF² 6:38). 555 Orat. 6.2; also cited by Adkin, ―Teaching,‖ 886.
Basil argues that the voice must be modulated: "no one ought to answer another, or do anything, roughly or contemptuously, but in all things moderation and respect should be shown to everyone."556 Ambrose, while preferring silence (even for men)557, nonetheless advises on how modesty should inform the sound and pitch of voice. He states that "[modesty] ... is seen not only inactions but even in our words, so that we may not go beyond due measure in speech, and that our words may not be unbecoming in sound ... sobriety weighs out even the sound of our voice, for fear that too loud a voice should offend the ear of anyone."558 He states that "we must keep the mean in all things, so that a calm countenance and quiet speech may show that there is no vice in our lives."559 A loud voice in this context, of course, might easily suggest anger, or some other negative character trait.
He further cautions that "the voice itself should not be soft or feeble, and should not sound at all effeminate, or convey the sort of tone that man people who pretend to seriousness are inclined to put on. It ought to preserve a specific accent, pitch, and manly timbre ... But just as I do not approve of a tone of voice or bodily movement that is soft or effete, I equally do not approve of the kind that is coarse or uncouth."560 Elsewhere he concedes that while a melodious tone is not one that all can have (instead, it is the gift of nature), what is paramount is that the voice be clear and plain561 and, of course, to be distinct in pronunciation, be in a "thoroughly
556 Epist. 22.2 . He further recommends that talking idly should be avoided, and work is best undertaken in silence (ibid). 557 "Silence, wherein all the other virtues rest, is the chief act of modesty" (Off. 1.18.68). 558 Off. 1.18.67. 559 Off. 1.18.89. 560 Off. 1.18.84. 561 Again, perhaps recalling Cicero in Off. 1.37.
manly timbre [plena suci virilis]", and free from a rough and rustic twang and adopting a theatrical accent.562 For Ambrose, again moderation between two extremes is the ideal.
Control of the Expression Emotions: Grief and Laughter
Basil also insists on moderation of emotion: "he ought not to engage in jesting; he ought not to laugh nor even to suffer laugh makers." Similarly, he says of the individual who is fasting" "his gaze is calm, his gait is sedate, his countenance thoughtful — not demeaned by unrestrained laughter — his speech is moderate, his heart is pure."563 That his concern is in part also the lack of bodily control that accompanies extremes of laughter and in turn has implications for the individual's character is made clear:
For to be overcome by incontinent and immoderate laughter is a mark of incontinence and shows that a man has not his emotions under control, and does not suppress the frivolity of his soul by a strict rule. It is not unseemly to reveal merriment to the extent of a cheerful smile, though only so far as Scripture allows for it when it says: 'when the heart is merry the face rejoices'; but to shout with loud laughter, and allow the body to shake involuntarily (ἀλαβξάδεζζαη)564, does not befit one who has his soul under control, or is proved of virtue, or has 565 command of himself.
As Halliwell observes, while for Basil a smile was permissible, "the mirth of noisy vocalization and heaving patterns of breathing — Basil dwells puritanically on the physical symptoms — is prohibited, and associated in the process with the fool's noisy laughter of Ecclesiastes 7.6."566
What seems evident is that the lack of control over the body prompted by laughter is of great significance to Basil, and it is these bodily symptoms of mirth that are his chief concern.
562 Off. 1.18.104. 563 On fasting, 9. 564 The Greek literally means to boil or bubble up, and Halliwell suggests that this should be understood here to indicate 'heave', and/or 'overheat' with laughter (Greek Laughter, 514 nt. 104). He also notes that this verb is also employed in Gregory's description of Julian, discussed in chapter two. 565 Longer Rules 359-60; also cited by Evans, "Physiognomy in the Ancient World," 78. 566 Halliwell, Greek Laughter, 514.
Halliwell proposes a connection in Basil's thought between his concerns with laughter and his (previously noted) interest in the pale complexion of self-discipline.
This virtue is now characterized as the 'death' or mortification (nekrosis) of the body, a vocabulary whose force is directed away from the metaphorical towards the literal by the statement that whereas a normal athlete (the paradigm of physical manliness)567 will be conspicuous by the healthy tone and colour of his skin, the Christian 'athlete' should be equally conspicuous for withered flesh and on oxymoronically 'blooming pallor' (ἐπαλζνῦζα ὠρξία). It is particularly striking that Basil should choose to complement his reflections on laughter with remarks on the corpse-like face of the ascetic, the athlete of the soul. This is a countenance on which it is impossible to imagine laughter of any familiar kind — a facial 568 advertisement for an antigelastic mentality.
Gregory is similar in these views as appropriate physiognomy for a monk, observing that
"a serene gait; a tempered gaze, a gentle smile, or rather the hint of a smile inhibiting petulant
Jerome, again speaking approvingly of the coenobites, remarks that they have mastery over the expression of emotions. During sermons "while he is speaking the silence is profound; no man ventures to look at his neighbor or to clear his throat. The speaker's praise is in the weeping of his hearers. Silent tears roll down their cheeks, but not a sob escapes from their lips."570 Here, again, is an instance of masculine emotion that is expressed in a controlled way.
Physiognomic Exhortations for Female Ascetics
Throughout the preceding work, the subjects and authors have all been men. The only appearance of women, or at least femininity, has been as a caution of how not to comport one's
567 With some exceptions to this view — see Jerome on Pelagius in chapter two. 568 Halliwell, Greek Laughter, 516. 569 Orat. 6.2; Also cited by Adkin, ―Teaching,‖ 886. 570 Epist. 22.35 (NPNF² 6:38).
self so to avoid effeminacy. However, despite the presence of "actual" women in the following, the physiognomic enterprise primarily nonetheless remains a discourse by men, and for men.
Kate Cooper has discussed the role that the Christian rhetoric of virginity played in moral discourse that once centered solely around male dominance of a household, but now moved to discourses on female chastity.571 As part of a caution on the limitation of sources, in that there is rarely any first hand female accounts regarding celibacy, she says of the rhetorical discourse on the subject "An attempt to understand the conventions by which gender-specific characteristics were assigned to women and men, and the rhetorical ends that such conventions could serve, will tell us something about the relations between men and women, and at least as much again about the competition for power between men and other men."572 As such, the male discourse on female chastity ultimately reveals more about the ideals of men in their negotiations for status with one other than it does provide a clear insight into the thoughts and ideals of the women themselves.573 In other words, this discourse reveals what men privileged in "their women" as reflective of their own morality, character, and dominance, in that they could successfully enforce (or entice) chastity in the women in their lives. Speaking particularly of chastity as a bone fought over in this rhetorical struggle for moral superiority, Cooper observes that
If a man's enemies were bent on discerning in his private life an intemperance that could compromise the fulfillment of public duty, it was his task to undermine the plausibility of such revelations by a deft broadcasting of his probity. This meant that he should make as public as possible his solemn affection for the chaste women of his family. Paradoxically, the modest of his wife and female relatives
571 Kate Cooper, The Virgin and the Bride (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996; 3) states, "the representation of marital concord served an important rhetorical function, supporting the claims put forward by aristocratic men in competition with one another by implying their ethical fitness for responsibility." 572 Virgin and the Bride, 4. 573 This is not to deny that the lived experience of these women is wholly inaccessible, or to deny that they had some degree of autonomy in adopting an ascetic lifestyle or undertaking the prescribed physiognomic comportment — this discussion is beyond the scope of the current work. Rather, my focus is on this discourse as a form of rhetoric to be displayed to outsiders, and thus the physiognomic exhortations contained within them as adequately encapsulating the male ideal of these women.
was of use to him only if it was widely acknowledged. Thus it would emerge as a critical element in the ceaseless struggle over a man's, and a family's, 574 reputation.
Again, much of what Upson-Saia argues regarding the male dialogue on female ascetic adornment is equally applicable here, for women who look the [masculinely ascribed and idealized] part being used as a means of accruing status by males close to them in, representing their own masculine control of these women, particularly to outsider pagan observers. Pertinent to the present work, she notes that on some occasions superiority was conveyed by the moderate
(rather than lavish) appearance of a woman, which indicated self-control and reason: "Elite
Roman men, for instance, offered their restrained manner of dressing as evidence that they were more virtuous than barbarians and Roman women. So, too, early Christians claimed that the simple and humble dress of their members — especially their women — proved that they possessed a greater virtue than their pagan neighbors."575 Although Upson-Saia is remarking about a humility of dress, regarding external appearance I suggest that this is applicable to a physical comportment of humility. That some early Christian writers did compare "their" women with those of their pagan counterparts on the credentials of the superiority of their chastity — presumably predicated on what dress or behaviour could be externally observed — is attested by
Tertullian and Tatian. Tertullian's Apology attacks the male honor of his pagan contemporaries by disparaging "their" women, albeit regarding dress: "I see now no difference between the dress of matrons and prostitutes."576 Tatian goes on at great length in a similar vein, holding up pagan
574 Virgin and the Bride, 13. While of course the marital relationship that Cooper speaks of here is not applicable to the female ascetics discussed below, these women were still considered to be under the guardianship of male figures of authority in early Christian communities. 575 Early Christian Dress, 6. 576 Apol. 6 (ANF 3:22).
female exemplars and depictions in statuary as sexually immodest before asserting "but all of our
577 women are chaste."
Upson-Saia notes that by the early imperial period, Roman men interpreted the dress of women in ways that would reinforce their own masculine dominance — "a woman's appearance did not always convey her own status, but was frequently interpreted as indicative of the status they inherited from their close male relatives."578 She asserts that "Like their pagan predecessors,
Christians also used physical appearances as a measure of morality and identity, hoping that the looks of certain [female] Christians might secure honor for their Christian community."579 She notes that "even though all Christians were meant to display Christianity's status through their physical appearance, the female Christian ascetic was upheld as the paradigmatic emblem of
Christian morality.... Whereas allowances might be made for other lay Christians, female ascetics alone had no plausible reason for requiring any superfluous garments or adornments....580 Christian writers hoped that the image of female ascetics would project and impress the extraordinary virtue of Christianity into the minds of spectator."581 She further observes that
...women's dress was publicized by Christians, who jockeyed for influence and authority in the Mediterranean. The simple and unadorned dress of female Christian ascetics was interpreted as a symbol of Christianity's moral superiority, which set Christians apart from their pagan neighbors. The Christian ascetic exhibited not the typical feminine vice of other women — the vain and hyper- sexual desire to be alluring and attract attention — but rather exhibited humility
577 Oration to the Greeks, 33, my emphasis (M. Whittaker ed. and trans. [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992]). To be fair, here Tatian also defends early Christian women as having intellectual capacities as well, though his lengthy counter examples of licentious pagan goddess do suggest that the chastity of Christian women is to some degree more important to him. 578 Dressing Early Christians, 6. 579 Dressing Early Christians, 32. 580 And here I would add no additional reason for portraying a more worldly or attractive physique or bodily deportment. 581 Dressing Early Christians, 51.
and restraint. This difference was then mobilized as evidence of Christianity's 582 exceptional piety and moral superiority.
Teresa M. Shaw has discussed the importance of demarcating the Christian female from the rest of the world, albeit primarily in terms of askesis regarding female ascetics. Discussing male authored texts, she obverses that "the works praising virginity typically include detailed instructions for proper conduct and activates by which the virgin is distinguished from 'the world' and from 'worldly' persons."583 While of course all of these authors strongly advised women from venturing out in public, such assertions were made nonetheless to prevent 'outsiders' from evaluating these women in a negative way, and by extension these early Christian male authors.
As Shaw states of the prescriptive advice from male clergy,
each activity and each feature of her image crystallizes the virgin's distinction from 'them': the worldly, the married, the pagan, the heretical. It does not really matter that the particular directives are not unique to Christian ascetic discourse (the ideals of the modest woman, a decorous walk, and light eating, for example, are common in ancient literature).584 What matters is that the behaviours are part 585 of a contracted model of the 'church's virgin.'
Much of the following physiognomic injunctions seem to prioritize the curtailing of women appearing sexually available and to demonstrate the controlled chastity of these ascetic women, the rules for ascetic men and women were similar in that for both the ideal was bodily control, but women had extra instructions for bodily comportment that adhered to but went beyond the scope the Greco-Roman ideals of the chaste woman. The chaste matron of Greco-
582 Dressing Early Christians, 107. 583 Shaw, ―Askesis,‖ 487. 584 Here she is correct in nothing that the early Christian authors were predicating most of their physiognomic ideals for women in broader terms — this is a component of their rhetoric to persuade outsiders that "their" women were superior in that they actually did uphold these ideals. That they often sought to go beyond this and one up their contemporaries is discussed below. 585 Shaw, ―Askesis,‖ 491.
Roman thought was one-upped by the virgin brides of Christ. Here we see less concern for women per se (although these authors maintained such undertakings were for the ascetics' own good), but greater concern for them as "their" women who represented and could accrue their male honour. Not only could they not be charged with instigating others to lust, but so too was the added boost that they were able to prevent their women from doing this, and thus their masculine control and authority found further evidence. As Upson-Saia suggests regarding the clothing of ascetic women, "her distinctive dress was to be an outward sign of her ascetic pledge.
Namely, she was to appear disinterested in the worldly trappings of status, wealth, and sexuality.
Ascetic's distinctive garb and grooming set them apart from lay Christians as well as from their pagan neighbors. It marked their exceptional piety in a visible way, according them distinction and honor."586 Early Church writers are quite vocal in suggesting that a virgin's status as such must be readily apparent to observers. Ambrose asserts "let virginity first be marked by the voice, let modesty close the mouth, let religion remove weakness, and habit instruct nature. Let her gravity first announce a virgin to me, a modest approach, a sober gait, a bashful countenance
... That virgin is not sufficiently worthy of approval who has to be enquired about [if she is in fact a Christian ascetic] when she is seen."587 Tertullian writes that a virgin's chastity ought to
"...burst out from [her] conscience to [her] outward appearance, so that from the outside" this virginity will be revealed.588 And Jerome praises the "conspicuous chastity" of the ascetic
Paula.589 In this period many of these female ascetics continued to live at home with their
586 Dressing Early Christians, 2. 587 Virginit. 3.3.13 (NPNF² 10:383). 588 Cult. fem. 2.13 (ANF 4:25), also cited by Upson-Saia, Dressing Early Christians, 51. Similarly Tertullian asserts that "it is not enough for Christian modesty to be so, but [it must] seem so, too (Cult. fem. 2.13, also cited by Upson- Saia, Dressing Early Christians, 51). While Tertullian here speaks primarily of dress, that he has other bodily comportments of the virgin in mind is made clear throughout the work. 589 Epist. 45.3 (NPNF² 6:59); also cited by Upson-Saia, Dressing Early Christians, 51.
families, and were a significant component of their respective churches. Thus they were not cloistered away, but were subject to the observance of others.
Like their male counterparts, physiognomic exemplars that covered a wide range of physiognomic tropes and aspects were offered by authors who made exhortations regarding correct bodily comportment, and I again cite these as an overview of the physiognomic tropes discussed. Not surprising, Mary the Mother of Jesus is one of these offered by these authors in works directed towards virgins — the virgin par excellence. In his On Virginity, Ambrose says of
Mary that "there was nothing harsh in her eyes, nothing forward in her words, nothing unbecoming in her behaviour. Her gestures were not abrupt, her gait not slack, her voice was not pert: her bodily appearance itself was the image of her soul and an indicator of her
Perhaps seeking a more immediately relatable example, Jerome offers Marcella as a personal exemplar to imitate to Asella, a virgin that both knew in common. "She is alike pleasant in her serious moods and serious in her pleasant ones: her manner, while winning, is always grave, and while grave is always winning. Her pale face indicates continence but does not betoken ostentation. Her speech is silent and her silence is speech. Her pace is neither too fast
591 nor too slow."
The Emaciated, Unkempt Body and Paleness as a Positive Physiognomic Trait
590 Virginit. 2.2.7 (NPNF² 10:374). Athanasius also holds Mary up as an exemplar of the dignified virgin physiognomy: "her words were calm; her voice, moderate; she did not cry out" (in David Braake's Athanasius and the Politics of Ascetisim [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995]); also cited by Shaw, ―Askesis,‖ 488. Shaw does observe that here these authors are employing "the language and models of physiognomy" ("Askesis," 489). 591Epist. 24.5 (NPNF² 6:43). Here the paleness due to ostentation that Jerome refers to perhaps refers to the cosmetic practice of painting the face white. In this letter Jerome also praises Asella for having "holy knees hardened like those of a camel" from praying so frequently (Epist. 24.5). This is quite delightful example of how Christian physiognomic ideals can, at times, be quite a departure from broader Greco-Roman ones. Of course, this allusion is probably also drawn from the tradition that James, the brother of Jesus, also had "camel knees" — knees that had been calcified from being on them so frequently in the Temple, begging for the forgiveness of the people (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.23.6). In any case, here is the appearance of a distinctly Christian bit of physiognomy.
In this same letter Jerome advises Asella to keep company with like-minded (and like- physicality) virgins: "Let your companions be women pale and thin with fasting" rather than married women or widows.592 He holds up these latter as a negative example widows who have seem, to his mind, to be enjoying too much their newfound freedom as widows: "As it is, they only change their garb; their old self-seeking remains unchanged. To see them in capricious litters, with red cloaks and plump bodies..."593 Also held up for criticism are women that he says
"fall daily" and seem to have been enjoying the freedom afforded to widows before even marrying in the first place. He states that these women
try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. Unless they are betrayed by swelling wombs or by the crying of their infants, they walk around with tripping feet and heads in the air ...And when they see another pale of sad they call her wretch or Manichean. ... When they do go out they do their best to attract notice, 594 and with nods and winks encourage troops of young fellows to follow them.
Jerome disapproves of physiognomic signals that he thinks conveys sexual interest. But
Asella is not the only pale and thin virgin Jerome holds up for praise. In his letter of consolation to Paula after the death of her (also) ascetic daughter Blaesilla he praises her physical simplicity
595 and delicacy: "... her face was pale and quivering, her slender neck scarcely upheld her head."
Basil also cites pale skin as a physiognomic trait that demonstrates female piety in terms avoiding indulgences. In chastising a lapsed ascetic he queries "what has become of your grave appearance, your gracious demeanor, your plain dress, meet for a virgin, the beautiful blush of modesty, the comely and bright pallor due to temperance and vigils, shining fairer than any
592 Epist. 22.17 (NPNF² 6:28). 593 Epist. 22.16. Similarly, Upson-Saia note that "as part of a shaming strategy, Christian writers likened adorned Christian women to their allegedly immoral non-Christian neighbors who paraded about at the theater, games, and other places of spectacle" (Dressing Early Christians, 46). 594 Epist. 22.13 (NPNF² 6:27). 595 Epist. 39.1; also cited by Evans, "Physiognomy in the Ancient World." 77, nt. 29.
brilliance of complexion?"596 While the comeliness of pallor is quite certainly subjective, Basil praises this as a physical indication of control over the body and its desires.
Anthony Corbeill notes the ideal walk for men was quite distinct from the ideal female gait:
"Women were expected to walk slowly and softly, whereas men should move with quick
Whereas for men the gait had the potential to indicate effeminacy and a lack of control of bodily comportment and thus the intellect, for women the chief concern is that the gait can reveal lose morals, or a sexual availability that a virgin of Christ should not be interested in.
Although, as Timothy O'Sullivan notes, the female gait that is to be avoided or curtailed for early
Christian authors is perceived as not that dissimilar to that used for effeminate males.598 Both are deemed to demonstrate a lack of control over the movements, being too 'soft' or too loose
(rather than an economy of movement) and both denote the character of being sexually promiscuous, although more so for women.
O'Sullivan cites several examples of the gait of the unscrupulous woman by ancient authors in contrast the gait of the modest or chaste one. Catullus informs his reader that he will be able to recognize his "disgraceful adulterous [moecha turpis] " by way of her "disgraceful walk [turpe incedere]."599 Cicero also comments on gait as one of the indications of a
596 Epist. 46.2 (NPNF² 8:149). 597 Anthony Corbeill, Controlling Laughter: Political Humor in the Late Roman Republic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996), 166. He cites the anecdote told by Marcobius regarding Cicero's daughter and her husband: "Since his son in law Piso walked rather daintily, whereas his daughter walked with too much bustle, Cicero said to his daughter, 'walk like a man — your man'" (Sat. 2.3.16). 598 Timothy O'Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011) citing Seneca Tranq. 17.4, asserts that this passage brings together these characteristics: softness and flowing (26). 599 42.8; cited by O'Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 22, where he also observes that "just as the physical ('ugly') and moral ('disgraceful') senses of turpis are indistinguishable, Lesbia's stride and character are one and the same" (Walking in Roman Culture, 22).
promiscuous woman, although again specifics are (quite unfortunately) not mentioned. In his lambasting of Clodia he likens her to a prostitute given her physical comportment and social behaviour, including "not only in the way she walks, but also in her getup and in her choice of companions..."600 For a positive exemplar O'Sullivan cites the second century BCE funerary inscription of the noblewoman Claudia, presumably erected by her widower. Among the traditional female positive traits accorded to her as a chaste matron, she "had an agreeable way of walking [incessu commodo]."601 As O'Sullivan observes, "As we saw in descriptions of the elite male body, the elite female should comport herself with moderation: commodus conveys a sense of the viewer's pleasure at seeing everything in proportion, in its right place, observing the appropriate limit (modus). Claudia's walk is commodus because it advertises her moderation
602 more generally."
The even walk that is not too fast or too slow, is controlled, perhaps to indicate tight control over her body in general. The modest and chaste gait, it would seem, is one that is controlled with an economy of movement, and is not (no pun intended) lose in any way.603 As
Shaw suggests citing John Chrysostom: "Her walk, of course, is in no way provocative or loose,
604 but is also subject to the discipline and control that mark the virgin's self-presentation."
600 Cael. 49, cited by O'Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 24. 601 CIL 1² 1211, cited by O'Sullivan (Walking in Roman Culture, 23). 602 Walking in Roman Culture, 23. 603 Clement also attests to this idea of the restraint of looseness indicating modesty, albeit throughout the whole body, quoting a passage of Zeno of Citium: "let her neck not be stretched back, nor the members of her body be lose. But let the parts that hang from the body looks as they were well strung; let there be the keenness of a well regulated mid for discourse ... and let her attitudes and movements give no hope to the licentious, but let there be a bloom of modesty, and an expression of firmness" (Paed. 3.11 [ANF 2:289]). 604 Shaw, "Askesis,"488; John Chrysostom De Virg. 63. Clement, although speaking of lay Christian women, also stresses the importance of decorum in walking, combined with other related activities, and again, how her comportment reflect on her male connections: "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband [citing Prov. 12.4]. They must, as far as possible, correct their gestures, looks, steps, and speech. For the must not do as some, who, imitating the acting of comedy, and practising the mincing motions of dancers, conduct themselves in society as if
Similarly, Ambrose exhorts sobriety of gait in early Christian virgin women, although he does not elaborate on what, precisely, this would look like.605 Jerome cites as a negative example fallen virgins, whose status as such is announced by their gait:
these are the women who walk conspicuously in public and by means of the furtive nods of their eyes drag a flock of young men after them ... They may have only a thin bit of purple on their clothing, their head may be loosely veiled so that their hair falls down, their footwear is somewhat cheap and the shawl flies off their upper arms, the tunic is drawn back and clings to their forearms and they may have a loose-kneed exhausted gait [solutis genibus fractus incessus]: this is 606 the sum total of their virginity.
Citing this passage, O'Sullivan observes that for Jerome "the gait is as much an index of sexual availability as a woman's gestures and her clothing. For the gait is in some way gesture in motion, and the danger, for Jerome, is that the wanton woman may turn into a pied piper of sexual allure, taking flocks of upstanding young Roman men with her."607 He further suggests that "the lax knees of the so-called virgins renders their gait 'exhausted' or more literally 'broken', clearly a lapse from some ideal 'unbroken' gait and a physical indicator of their compromised sexual standards."608 Yet, I would suggest that Jerome's concern is not only with the young men themselves that will become ensnared by a lapsed Christian woman with such a walk, but he is also concerned with early Christian women being blamed for having done so, and to in turn to
on stage, with voluptuous movements, and gliding steps, and affected voices, casting languishing glances around ..." (Paed. 3.11 [ANF 2:287]). 605 Virginit. 3.3.13 (NPNF² 10:383). Athanasius and Augustine are a bit more specific, however. Athanasius states that the female gait should not be jerky like a crows (letter to the virgins,), and Augustine forbids the virgin to either strut or shuffle — two extremes to be avoided, and thus a medium is to be desired, presumably (treatise on virginity 53, 54). Both of these are also cited by Adkin, ―Teaching,‖ 886. 606 Epist. 22.13; also cited by and translation taken from O'Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 26. 607 O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 26. 608 Walking in Roman Culture, 26. He further suggests that "This description does not just suggest that there is a 'broken' female gait and a whole one: rather, dissolute females (and effeminate males) as a whole are susceptible to a type of gait that is deformed or broken vis-a-vis the male gait" (Walking in Roman Culture, 26). I would hold that this is true, insofar as the male gait is one of measured controlled decorum.
demarcate Christian women as exemplars of the chaste Greco-Roman ideal. Tertullian also demonstrates an interest in the chaste walk of a Christian woman demarcating her from others.
On the topic of modesty he stipulates the method of gait as being an important component of this: "...for now we will speak not about sexual modesty ... but about things that pertain to it, that
609 is, how you should walk."
While Tertullian claims that his instructions are for the women's own good (their chastity being their salvation), he also makes it clear that it is also for the benefit of the men around them:
"Your salvation, by which I mean the salvation not only of women but also of men, is based on your demonstration of sexual modesty."610 However, As O'Sullivan aptly states, "... female modesty (now a more specific trait than Roman modesty, and principally about the avoidance of sex) is as much about men as it is about women. Christian women must advertise their modesty in their bodily gestures, lest they give the impression that they are available for sex."611 For
Tertullian, this is to be done not only for its own sake, but as a means to demonstrate the superior
609 Cult. fem. 2.1 (ANF 4:18); also cited by O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 25 nt. 45. 610 Cult. fem. 2.1 611 O‘Sullivan, Walking in Roman Culture, 25. On this passage O'Sullivan also notes that for Tertullian "...male modesty is contingent in some basic way on female modesty: if women are not careful to deny their bodily allure, how can men be expected to control themselves in their presence?" (Walking in Roman Culture, 26). This is quite clear in the analogy Tertullian offers women in this same work: "For that other [male], as soon as he has felt concupiscence after your beauty, and has mentally already committed (the act) which his concupiscence pointed to, perishes; and you have been made the sword which destroys him: so that, albeit you are free from the (actual) crime, you are not free form the odium (attaching to it); as, when a robbery has been committed on some man's estate the actual crime indeed will not be laid to the owner's charge, while yet the domain is branded with ignominy and the owner himself aspersed with the infamy" (Cult. fem. 2.2 [ANF 4:19]). Related to this, while conceding that female beauty is not in and of itself a inherently evil, it is to be feared for the power it yields over men, and Tertullian exhorts women who might be physically attractive to attempt to disguise this fact: "Let a holy woman, if naturally beautify, give none so great occasion (for carnal appetite). Certainly, if she is so, she ought not to set off (her beauty), but even to obscure it" (Cult. fem. 2.3 [ANF 4:20]). However, the woman must be careful she does not got too far in the other direction, which would no doubt also cause censure from pagans: "these suggestions are not made to you, of course, to be developed into an entire crudity and wildness of appearance; nor are we seeking to persuade you of the good of squalor and slovenliness; but of the limit and norm and just measure of cultivation of the person" (Cult. fem. 2.5 [ANF 4:20]).
modesty of early Christian women, making a contrast with the gait of pagan women explicit. He speaks of Christian women who do not adhere to the ideal, stating that they
wear in their gait the self-same appearance as the women of the nations, from whom the sense of true modesty is absent ... for if any modesty can be believed to exist in Gentiles, it is plain that it must be imperfect and undisciplined to such a degree that ... it allows itself to relax into licentiousness of attire ... it is necessary that you turn aside from them, as in all other things, so also in your gait since you 612 ought to be perfect, as your father who is in the heavens."
The standards of perfection that the Christian woman must aspire to is not merely part of her identity as a Christian and salvation for its own sake, but also to clearly set her apart from pagan contemporaries.
As the exemplar of Mary makes quite clear, speech was to be kept to a minimum for the ideal
Christian woman. Ambrose explains his rationale for preferring church members not to engage in conversation with virgins: "...modesty is worn away by discourse and boldness breaks forth, laughter creeps in, and bashfulness is lessened ... I should prefer, therefore, that conversation should rather be wanting to a virgin than abound."613 For virgins themselves Ambrose commands
(as previously noted) that "let virginity first be announced by the voice, let modesty close the mouth."614 He also cites Susanna as an exemplar, asserting that she was silent even in danger,
615 fearing more the loss of her modesty (in speaking) than the loss of her life.
612 Cult. fem. 2.1 (ANF 4:19). 613 Virginit. 3.3.1 (NPNF² 10:382). 614 Virginit. 3.3.13 (NPNF² 10:383). Regarding talking during church Ambrose again holds Mary up as an exemplar: "For Mary, as we read, kept in her heart all things that were said concerning her son [Luke 2.19] and do you, when any passage is read where Christ is announced as about to come, or is shown to have come, not make noise by talking, but attend" (Virginit. 3.3.11 [NPNF² 10:383). In his Off., he also praises Mary's silence: "For when in her chamber, alone, she is saluted by the angel, she is silent, and is disturbed by his entrance, and the Virgin's face is troubled at the strange appearance of a man's form. And so, though she was humble, yet it was not because of this, but on account of her modesty, that she did not return his salutation, nor give him any answer except to ask, when
Tertullian also privileges vocal restraint to the point of refraining from speech altogether, advising the virgins in his community to "paint your mouth with silence."616 As Shaw observes,
"even the virgin's speaking and listening are limited as part of a sparseness and economy of movement and gesture that signify her detachment from worldly manners and concerns," citing
617 Ambrose's use of Mary as an exemplar.
Consequently, apart from commands to silence or very infrequent speech, there is little by way of recommendation regarding tone or pitch. No doubt in doing so would only undermine their exhortations to silence.
As Carly Daniel-Hughes observes, "Roman writers often imagined sexual virtues like modesty
[pudicitia] and chastity [castitas], and emotional states that attended them, especially shame
[pudor], as conspicuous embodied signs. A blush [rubor] and a down-turned countenance were special markers of a matron's moral disposition."618 For Christian female ascetics — the dutiful and chaste wives of Christ — this was also an exhorted mandate for bodily comportment.
Ambrose further notes that she avoided looking on the face of men, and advices his audience that
"there is also modesty in the glance of the eye, which makes a woman unwilling to look upon men, or be seen by them."619 He praises a virgin at Antioch who was willing to undergo martyrdom but not the sacrifice of her chastity for her "blushes at being looked upon" by
she had learned that should conceive the Lord, how this should be. She certainly did not speak merely for the sake of making a reply" (Off. 1.18.69). 615 Although this reference may be applicable to male clergy as well, given that it is from Off. 1.68. 616 Cult. fem. 2.13 (ANF 4:25). 617 Shaw, "Askesis," 488. 618 Carly Daniel-Hughes, Salvation of the Flesh in Tertullian of Carthage: Dressing for the Resurrection (Palgrave Macmillian), 99. 619 Off. 1.18.68
spectators.620 As noted above, a "bashful countenance" was one of the signs that should proclaim a virgin's status as such to him. Gregory of Nazianzus praises his sister's excellence of character and avoidance of ornamentation , stating that "one red tint was dear to her, the blush of modesty; one white one, the sign of temperance."621 In his For Olympias he writes "Let virginal modesty before your husband [Jesus] drop a pure blushing beneath your eyes. Offer blushing to those who watch you, your eyes fixed and your eyebrow downward."622 The downturned glance, and blush, were key physiognomic indicators of female chastity, and early Christian women demonstrated their superior chastity by adopting these traits.
Early Christians were no different from their pagan counterparts in utilizing physiognomic principles for self-presentation to depict themselves as morally superior. Where they do diverge, it is in upping the ante of the already established paradigms. Self-comportment that aligned with physiognomic ideals allowed early Christians a means of demonstrating the moral superiority of their group, in a way that was visually observable to outsiders. The exhortations to women ascetics allowed male authors to further demonstrate the superiority of their group, in that their women were visibly more chaste than their pagan counterparts — or so the rhetoric went — and thus further contributed honor to these men themselves.
620 Virginit. 2.4.23 (NPNF² 10:377). Similarly, he states that while Christians do not value beauty in body, "on the other hand, we do recognize a certain grace, as when modesty is wont to cover the face with a blush of shame, and to make it more pleasing" (Off. 1.18.83). 621 Orat. 8.10 (NPNF² 7:241). 622 77-9 (Carm.II 2.6); also cited by Koen De Temmerman, ―Blushing Beauty: Characterizing Blushes in Chariton‘s Callirhoe,‖ MNEM 60 (2007): 235-252; 245. Similarly, in his "Against cosmetics" Gregory states "For women, there is one lovely flower, the noble blushing, modesty" (vv 255-6, cited by De Temmerman, "Blushing Beauty," 245).
This dissertation set out to explore the role that physiognomic thought played in early
Christian discourses of persuasion which had not previously received the scholarly attention that it warrants. It sought to explicate how physiognomic rhetoric informed and shaped discourses of self-identity, and how was this similar or dissimilar to contemporaneous pagan usage.
The results of this study have shown that the physiognomic enterprise was alive and well in early Christian discourse, utilized in a variety of ways depending on what the rhetorical situation called for. Much like their pagan contemporaries, physiognomic tropes were used to condemn their opponents or to bolster their own images appears in a variety of different genres: apologies, letters, manuals of instruction, tractates, and even in fictive narrative. Moreover, this work has shown that ancient physiognomy encompassed a wide range of phenomena. It not only concerned the ‗natural‘ physical features of the body, but also more performative ones, such as voice, gait, posture, facial expressions, grooming habits, and to some extent dress.
In situations of condemning or undermining the credibility of an opponent, physiognomy was generally used to make accusations against an opponent, whose every bodily movement was scrutinized. Unflattering conclusions about a rival‘s character were then drawn often by comparing his body and bodily habits to stereotypes about animals, women, slaves, eunuchs, as well as other socially marginal figures. Frequently the implicit charge of effeminacy was conveyed by these authors against their opponents. In antiquity this was a common trope that indicated that the male in question was insufficiently masculine. Undermining an opponent's masculinity served to not only remove his credibility and denigrate his character regarding the proper hierarchy of elite males being in positions of authority, but so too did it suggest a deceptive character. From the perspective of these authors, these men sought to portray
themselves as masculine, but their bodies made clear this attempt at deception. If they were deceptive in this respect, this had implications for a deceptive character more broadly, and thus undermined the potential validity of their rhetorical positions or arguments.
Related to this, the lack of control of the body was implied or outright suggested, which in turn also undermined the subject's credibility on the social hierarchy. If a man could not adequately control his body, he would be unfit to control his household or, more specifically as pertained to Christianity, he would be unfit to be in a position of authority within the church.
As derogatory and inaccurate as some of these descriptions seem to modern readers — although the extent to which they accurately reflect the reality of a given physical appearance is ultimately unknowable — this work has shown that they were more than ad hominem attacks.
Rather, sizing up an opponent in physiognomic terms was considered a persuasive form of argumentation and one of the most reliable means of undermining an opponent. This is because the body was conceived of as a system of signs that, once decoded, revealed the person‘s true nature and intentions, much more than words ever could. For physiognomically minded early
Christian authors, regardless of what arguments their opponents might make, ultimately their bodies spoke louder (and were more persuasive) than mere words and, unlike speech, did not lie.
Of course, as discussed, physiognomy was ultimately a subjective enterprise, particularly in the different valences of meaning being ascribed to a given physical trait. This was apparent throughout the work, but particularly in the positive meaning given to ascetic traits. Paleness and an emaciated body were not typically thought of as praiseworthy in the broader physiognomic consciousness, but in a Christian context where this was thought to attest to self-control regarding physical indulgences it was valued as physical proof of moderation and control over the passions and desires of the body.
In utilizing physiognomic thought to persuade onlookers of their purported moral authority, early Christian authors offered the bodies and bodily comportment of members of their community to visually attest to their superior characters. As this work has noted, physiognomic discourse was nearly always one by males, regarding males, and for other males, particularly elite males. This is predominantly because they were in competition with rivals in the public and predominately masculine world of Greco-Roman politics and culture. However, here we also saw physiognomic discourse aimed at women, which was something of a departure in ancient physiognomy. However, as was shown, when women were addressed, it was most often as an extension of the male group they represented — for these male early Christian writers as "their" women, who were held to be (or encouraged to be) exemplary and embodied models of the values and honor of their male counterparts. And, in turn, to be held as superior specimens of idealized womanhood, as constructed by elite males, to be contrasted with pagan women contemporaries (however polemically contrived) regarding the ideals of chastity and moderation.
In other words, this discourse still served the interest of male competition, albeit how they controlled and kept in check "their" women.
The work also addressed the importance of "looking the part" in the ancient world, both as an exemplar of the philosophic ideal, as well as the failure to do so regarding Jesus' deemed unattractiveness in contrast to the ancient ideal of divine beauty. In the former instance, I suggested that previous attempts to identify what aspect of Paul's character was being conveyed in the physical description of him in the Acts of Paul and Thecla had faltered, in particularly in how his so-called 'unibrow' was understood. I argued that if the alternative translation of 'knitted brow' was employed, all of the other seemingly disparate attributes accorded to him formed a coherent and recognizable whole: that of the proto-typical ancient philosopher, and of Socrates in
particular. Visually portraying Paul as such coheres well not only with how is depicted in the narrative, but also other early Christian traditions that sought to portray him as a philosopher. In the APTh, Paul looks the part — his philosophical capabilities are 'proved' physiognomically in how he looks. This provided traction for representing not only Paul as a philosopher, but early
Christianity as a philosophy itself, which had as one of its founding figures a man of intellectual prowess.
The discussion of the conception of Jesus as physically unattractive discussed how physiognomic assumptions about the divine (or individuals who were favoured by the divine) were used by some early Christian detractors to undermine — or even disprove — early
Christian claims of his divinity. This showed that physiognomic principles were used in this discourse of legitimacy, with the aim of persuading readers or an audience of the erroneous claims of Jesus' divine status. This chapter also addressed the rather curious phenomenon — especially when contrasted with their contemporaries Philo and Josephus regarding Moses' purported unattractiveness — of the adherence to (or even promotion of) the idea of Jesus' lacklustre physique, even among Christian authors who were shown to operate with a physiognomic mindset, and even in the face of this polemic against Jesus from detractors. This was tentatively explained by suggesting that as rhetorical strategy the potential payoff for utilizing this idea outweighed the negative implications, although many of these authors also evinced some degree of discomfort in doing so. Jesus did not, according to tradition, "look the part" of a divine figure as it was conceptualized in antiquity, but this nonetheless still played a role in rhetorical discourse of persuasion.
While the examples of physiognomic thought that were addressed were selective, predicated on the more noteworthy examples, this work has shown that physiognomy played an
important role in many forms of early Christian discourse. With this established, no doubt many other examples and avenues of exploration have been opened up.
Appendix One: Images of Paul and Socrates
The apostle Paul in the Catacomb of St. Thecla, Rome.
Source: Permission and photograph: Getty Images.
Figure 2 (next page):
The Apostle Paul on the Junius Bassus catacomb, Fourth Century CE.
Photograph: John Marshall (used with permission).
Figure 3: Socrates (Roman Copy from the Third century BCE) Source: Permission from Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen, Denmark. Inv. 1417. Photograph: John Kloppenborg (used with permission).
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