Studies in the letters of St. Basil of Caesares and of Theodoret of Cyrus, with special reference to their assimilation of Hellenic culture
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The first section of this thesis is devoted to en analysls of Basil's personality and activities, as evinced by his letters. This affords important insight into his attitude toward friendship, which is the subject of Section Two. Basil's expressions of sentiment about friendship provide a fruitful (and neglected) body of evidence for estimating his own character. They are so frequent, that they offer a standard of friendship-in-action against which to judge the theoretical approaches to friendship of the classical (and post-classical) Greek philosophers. Some similarities between classical Greek theories and Basil's ideas about this subject have been pointed out, as well as some basic differences. Also, some Biblical passages have been considered, which are echoed, or to which a closer reference is made, in Basil's correspondence. Uchoes do not always mean a clear and conscious derivation. Nevertheless, patterns and sentences about friendship as shown throughout the Bible are likely to have created a definite atmosphere, and offered criteria of behaviour to St. Basil. He gives the traditional notion of friendship, as founded on a natural feeling, a Christian orientation. If as early as in classical writers friendship is based upon virtue, Basil and the other Christian writers give further emphasis to its ethical-religious value: friendship is thus regarded as a grace from God. According to such a "mystical" conception, friendship is able to join in bonds of love even persons who live separated from each other or who have never met: for they live in communion of faith and ideals. The assimilation of the Hellenic cultural aspects of style, imagery and vocabulary is investigated in the third section of this thesis by reference to the letters of Theodoret of Cyrus. Th:s stresses the importance of the connection of Christian letterwriting with the rhetorical tradition. Both in theory and in practice, Theodoret displays consideration for the value of words and of rhetorical ability. He thus undertakes the task begun by the earlier fathers of the Church, and gives Christian ideals the customary literary and stylistic modes of classical antiquity. The Christian faith required precision of speech and dialectical training, and needed to be able to handle the same arms as the heathen. Theodoret can be considered as one of the major exponents of that Hellenic culture which was to be assimilated more and more (and so to be changed) into a wholly different climate of civilisation, pervaded by Orthodox Christianity; and, in particular, as an exponent of that Atticistic movement, the purity of which was to fade, overwhelmed progressively through contact with the more practical language of everyday. The deliberately repeated use of figures of speech in Theodoret's letters, as well as the usually accurate employment of metaphors and comparisons (though not to such extent as to be overwhelming), illustrate his close adherence to the rules of rhetoric. And the language of Theodoret's correspondence shows clear signs of having been influenced by the same cultural notion which moved the Atticists.