Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Non Uno Itinere

Pierre Hadot (1922-2010), The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Nature, tr. Michael Chase (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. 71 (footnote omitted, ellipses added):
This apologetic theme was to be used a few years later, in 384, in the Latin West, when the pagan prefect Symmachus protested against the emperor's decision to have the Altar of Victory removed from the hall of the Roman Senate: "We contemplate the same stars, the Heavens are common to us all, and the same world surrounds us. What matters the path of wisdom by which each person seeks the truth? One cannot reach such a great mystery by a single path." This admirable text ... should be inscribed in letters of gold on churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples at this beginning of the third millennium, which has opened under the somber banner of religious quarrels ...
The Latin, from Symmachus, Relationes 3.10:
eadem spectamus astra, commune caelum est, idem nos mundus involvit. quid interest, qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.

Jim O'Donnell writes in an email:
So in 384, the year of the relatio, the young Augustine pulled strings to get Symmachus to recommend him for appointment to the imperial chair in Milan, where he would meet Ambrose. In my 1992 commentary on the Confessions, ad 5.13.23 (the mention of Symmachus), I add:

"There are curious echoes of S.'s relatio in A. The one at sol. 1.13.23, 'sed non ad eam [sapientiam] una via pervenitur', was retracted at retr. 1.4.3, but cf. also vera rel. 28.51, 'quales patriarchae ac prophetae inveniuntur ab eis qui non pueriliter insiliunt, sed pie diligenterque pertractant divinarum et humanarum rerum tam bonum et tam grande secretum.' For both phrases, cf. S. rel. 3.10, 'uno itinere non potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.'"
The passage from the Retractions:
Item quod dixi: Ad sapientiae coniunctionem non una via perveniri, non bene sonat, quasi alia via sit praeter Christum qui dixit: Ego sum via. Vitanda ergo erat haec offensio aurium religiosarum, quamvis alia sit illa universalis via, aliae autem viae de quibus et in Psalmo canimus: Vias tuas, Domine, notas fac mihi, et semitas tuas doce me.

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