Monotheism; image rhetoric; late antiquity
The present paper asks how Macrobius thinks his extensive allegories of statues of the gods and other elements of traditional religion are possible. He can be shown to espouse a Neoplatonic theory of images. This entails that truthful images are only possible of the Soul and the lower levels of the world, whereas the two highest hypostases cannot be grasped by language and man-made images. Even so, as the sun is an image of the highest principle, Macrobius’ reduction of all deities to the sun can be understood as a discourse on the highest deity, albeit obliquely. How are images, then, truthful? He defends a common theory of inspiration, according to which the creators of images participate in the Logos when creating them. Philosophy is seen as the primordial discipline, containing the knowledge necessary to create and interpret images. These conclusions allow us to pinpoint more precisely the differences between Middle and Neoplatonism.
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