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Greco-Roman Ethical-Philosophical Influences in Bardaisan’s “Book of the Laws of Countries”

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

Bardaisan of Edessa’s Book of the Laws of Countries contains many elements of Greco-Roman ethical philosophy, ranging from loose allusions to fairly clear instances of direct borrowing. The influences from Greco-Roman philosophy are diverse, including Stoicism, Cynicism, Epicureanism, and the nebulously-defined “Middle Platonic” material that drew and innovated from both Platonic and Stoic sources. Specifically, we see in Laws several ethical concepts derived from Greco-Roman philosophy: the ideal human attitude to external forces, particularly the evils of society; the link between divinity, inner moral character, and proper ethics; the innate goodness of human character that can be improved and perfected based on an ideal of nature; and (closely aligned with the first concept) an understanding that moral virtue is determined by one’s individual, free will decisions, implying an innate valuation of the internal at the expense of the external.

Affiliations: 1: University of New Hampshire Durham, NH


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