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Daemonic Trickery, Platonic Mimicry: Traces of Christian Daemonological Discourse in Porphyry’s De Abstinentia

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

Porphyry of Tyre’s discussion of daemons and animal sacrifice in De Abstinentia strays from traditional Platonic formulations of daemonic involvement in the Graeco-Roman cult. As a result, scholars have struggled to identify the intellectual pedigree for Porphyry’s daemonology. By contrast, I propose that Porphyry draws upon Christian Platonic daemonologies, best represented in the writings of Origen of Alexandria. To substantiate this hypothesis, I first outline the dissonance between Porphyry’s daemonology and his Hellenic predecessors, before outlining the several daemonological tenets he shares with Christian writers. Second, I note the extensive conceptual commonalities between Origen and Porphyry’s respective daemonologies, Finally, I reexamine Porphyry’s attribution of his daemonology to “certain Platonists,” a claim which, when read in light of Porphyry’s Vita Plotini, places Origen squarely within the intellectual circles from which Porphyry was drawing his daemonological discourse.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Religious StudiesUNC-Chapel Hill125 Saunders Hall, Campus Box #3225Chapel Hill, NC


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