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Flavius Philostratus: On Heroes
Ellen Aitken, Jennifer K. Berenson

ISBN 9781589830370
Status Available
Price: $24.95
Binding Paperback
Publication Date May 2003

Philostratus’s On Heroes, presented here in English translation without the critical Greek text, is a fictional dialogue set at the tomb of Protesilaos, the first hero to die in the Trojan War. Returning to life, Protesilaos reveals his insights about Homer, the Trojan War, its heroes, and their cults. The author of the Life of Apollonius of Tyana here molds heroic traditions to promote for his own day a renewed Greek cultural and religious outlook. The text’s lively and provocative interaction with Homer’s poems reveals that they are not fixed cultural artifacts but rather malleable symbols of religious and cultural identity. For those interested in religious practices, this text provides vivid and detailed descriptions of the workings of hero cults and explores issues of religious authority and revealed knowledge. With an insightful introduction and notes, an extensive glossary, maps, and topical bibliographies, Maclean and Aitken provide a volume that is indispensable for the study of Homer, heroes, literature, religion, and culture in the Roman Empire and Late Antiquity.

Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean is Associate Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Roanoke College. Ellen Bradshaw Aitken is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Harvard Divinity School. Together they have also translated Flavius Philostratus: Heroikos (Greek text plus introduction and English translation) and edited Philostratus’s Heroikos: Religion and Cultural Identity in the Third Century C.E..

“A minor work by Philostratus? Nonsense! If you are at all interested in Homer, in heroes, in the Second Sophistic, in the Severan dynasty, in the Trojan War, in the creation of canons, or in battles over memory—to name just a handful of relevant topics—then you must read the Heroikos. … Aitken and Maclean have done us a tremendous—and timely—service.”
—Susan E. Alcock, Department of Classical Studies, University of Michigan

“The Heroikos of Philostratus opens an intriguing window onto the religious and literary culture of early-third-century Rome. As exemplified in the lively yet erudite prose style of this dialogue, the learned classicism of the period venerated ancient traditions but subjected them to critical scrutiny. Aitken and Maclean have made this significant text accessible with an eminently readable translation. Their introduction and notes situate Philostratus and his work within the literary context and cultural politics of his time and thus usefully illuminate the significance of his engagement with ‘heroes’ of old. The volume will be a welcome tool for students of Greco-Roman literature, religion, and culture.”
—Harold W. Attridge, Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament, Yale Divinity School

Hardback edition available from Brill Academic Publishers (

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