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Full Access Eusebius C. Hier. 6.5 on Man and Fowl: An Instance of Christian-Pagan Dialogue on a Theurgic Ritual

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Eusebius C. Hier. 6.5 on Man and Fowl: An Instance of Christian-Pagan Dialogue on a Theurgic Ritual

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Eusebius (C. Hier. 6.5), relying on the universal law of locus proprius, rejects the practice of men acting like winged creatures. The allusion appears to be specifically to a Chaldaean ritual in which initiates imitate the cries and other sounds of birds rising for flight in an apparent enactment of the ‘rising’ soul. Greek and Coptic sources (Damascius, Hermias and Shenoute) help reconstruct the ritual. This relates to the image of Apollonius of Tyana as theurgist and magician, but originally it may have been part of the controversies about Paul’s dogma of resurrection (1Thess. 4.17). Porphyry (C. Chr. fr. 35 Harn.) employs the same arguments as Eusebius to ridicule Paul’s notion about men caught up in clouds to meet God in air. Rather than taking this as a matter of coincidence, it would seem that Eusebius, who wrote an extensive riposte (now lost) to Porphyry’s tract, probably replied to Porphyry’s ridicule of Paul by counter-ridiculing the pagan flight-ritual.


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Affiliations: 1: University of Crete, Department of Philology Galou Campus, Rethymno, 74100, Crete Greece, Email:


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