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Clement of Alexandria, Acrobats, and the Elite

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Chapter Summary

For Clement of Alexandria the true gnostic was a virtual saint, whose search for perfection can be compared to the efforts of a vigorous athlete. The soul of a gnostic, according to Clement, is comparable to the body of the athlete in its strength and health. The search for perfection also requires another worldly virtue: that of courage, which, in the case of the true gnostic, is based on spiritual knowledge. In Classical times, acrobats appeared at Greek symposia, along with many other kinds of entertainers. Clement's attitude toward wealth cannot be explained in simple terms, for it has many aspects, not only social and cultural, but also moral and biblical. It was ultimately the intellectual and economic elite with whom our Alexandrian identified him. His elitist language combined with criticism of misused wealth was intended to induce the wealthy to accept his version of the new religion.

Keywords: acrobats brave; Clement of Alexandria; economic elite; spiritual knowledge

10.1163/9789004256934_008
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