“One Has To Be So Terribly Religious To Be An Artist”: Divine Inspiration and theophilia in Aelius Aristides’ Hieroi Logoi

and Georgia Petridou


This paper deals with the close link between divine epiphany and artistic inspiration in the life and work of one of the most renowned rhetoricians of the second century AD, Aelius Aristides. The argument in a nutshell is that when Aristides lays emphasis on the divinely ordained character of the Hieroi Logoi, in particular, and his literary and rhetorical composition, in general, he taps into a rich battery of traditional theophilic ideas and narratives (oral and written alike). These narratives accounted for the interaction of divine literary patrons and matrons with privileged members of the intellectual elite to provide thematic or stylistic guidance to their artistic enterprises. Thus, Aristides makes wider claims about his own status of theophilia (lit. ‘the state of being dear to the gods’), a status that was much-praised and much-prized in the Graeco-Roman world, and one that functioned as a status-elevating mechanism in the eyes of both his contemporaries and posterity. Furthermore and on a different level, he also utilizes his theophilic aspirations to elevate his prose-hymns (a genre he invented) to the higher and already established level of encomiastic poetry, which Greeks regarded for centuries as fit for the ears of the gods.

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Archiv für Religionsgeschichte is a specialised journal dealing primarily with religions of the ancient world. The different aspects of the field of research are covered in essays, reports on the main areas of religious studies and in individual articles.