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Roman Stoic Precreation Discourse

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image of Religion and Theology

AbstractCosmological imagery figures prominently in the precreation discourse of Roman Stoics, more so than in the precreation discourse of Jewish and Christian writers of the Hellenistic-Roman period. Roman Stoics imagine a realm of eternal time and space beyond the world of ordinary human experience and understanding. What humans can know of this realm is not revealed to them by a deity who dwells there, but by the spirits of virtuous souls who speak to select family members from the places where they dwell in the afterlife. Two examples are Aeneas’ father Anchises who describes primal reality to his son in the underworld, in Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid, and Scipio Africanus, the Roman soldier and statesman, who speaks of similar matters when his grandson of the same name travels to the outermost realm of heaven in a dream, in Book VI of Cicero’s Republic. The myth and philosophy from which Cicero and Virgil draw their images of the primordial realm make the rhetography of their precreation discourse much richer than that found in Jewish and Christian precreation discourse of the period. Also, the relationship between rhetography and rhetology is more complex in Roman Stoic discourse and poses challenges for translators and interpreters of Cicero and Virgil.

Affiliations: 1: Union College 310 College St., Barbourville, KY, USA 40906, Email:


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