Chapter 1. The Notion of Therapeia in Theodoret: The Apologetic Use and Role of Greek Medicine and Philosophy against the Greeks

As demonstrated both in particular comments scattered throughout his corpus of writings and more generally in the Therapeutikê, [1] Theodoret displays a thorough knowledge of Greek medicine. [2] While the use of insights from Greek medicine and philosophy is not unique to Theodoret—the practice goes back at least as far as the Gospels and the apostolic fathers [3] —it takes on a greater degree of complexity in the framework of Theodoret’s apologetics because of his focus on curing/persuading his audience to recognize Christianity’s superiority. Nowhere does this become more apparent than in the Therapeutikê, where the notion of therapeia is applied as a major theme for his enterprise.
Therapy, an important concept in ancient Greek philosophy, is just one example demonstrating the intimate connection between Greek philosophy and medicine. Medical concepts and analogies were used at a very early stage by Greek philosophers and poets for a variety of purposes. [4] Plato was one of the first philosophers to employ systematically analogies, metaphors, and imagery in order to argue various points or convey ideas to his readers. Aristotle, the Stoics, and Epicurus developed the figurative use of medical language further. [5]
In the prologue (προθεωρία) to the Therapeutikê, Theodoret programmatically states his aim and the approach he will take to accomplish it. He justifies the 12 treatises both as the therapy (θεραπεία) for those diseased (νοσούντων) and as assistance for those of sound mind in religious opinion. After this brief prologue Theodoret proceeds to elaborate on the notion of therapeia. He employs the medical analogy of health and disease, transposing this scheme to the soul:
Ἰατρικὴ θεραπεία ἔστι μέν που καὶ σώματος, ἔστι δ’ ἄρα καὶ ψυχῆς· καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ ταύτῃ κἀκείνῳ συχνὰ προσγίνεται πάθη, ἀλλὰ τῷ μὲν ἀκούσια, τῇ δέ, ὡς ἐπίπαν, αὐθαίρετα. Τοῦτο οὖν εὖ εἰδώς, οἷα δὴ πάνσοφος ὁ Θεὸς καὶ ψυχῶν καὶ σωμάτων καὶ τῶν ὅλων δημιουργός, ἑκατέρᾳ φύσει προσένειμεν ἁρμόδια φάρμακα, καὶ μέντοι καὶ ἰατροὺς ἐπέστησε, τοὺς μὲν ταύτην, τοὺς δὲ ἐκείνην ἐκπαιδεύσας τὴν ἐπιστήμην, καὶ στρατηγεῖν καὶ ἀριστεύειν κατὰ τῶν νοσημάτων ἐκέλευσεν. Ἀλλ’ οἱ μὲν τὸ σῶμα οὐκ εὖ διακείμενοι καὶ τὴν νόσον δυσχεραίνουσι καὶ ὑγείας ἱμείρονται καὶ τοῖς ἰατροῖς εἴκουσιν, οὐ μόνον ἤπια προσφέρουσι φάρμακα, ἀλλὰ κἂν τέμνωσι, κἂν καίωσι, κἂν λιμώττειν κελεύωσι, κἂν πικρῶν τινων καὶ ἀηδῶν μεστὰς προσφέρωσι κύλικας· καὶ διὰ τοιαύτης ἀνιαρᾶς ἐπιμελείας τὴν ὑγείαν καρπούμενοι, μισθὸν τοῖς οὕτως ἀκουμένοις ὀρέγουσι, καὶ τὴν θεραπείαν δεχόμενοι τὴν τῶν φαρμάκων οὐ περιεργάζονται σκευασίαν· τὴν γάρ τοι σωτηρίαν ποθοῦσιν, οὐ τὸν ταύτης τρόπον ἀνερευνῶσιν. Οἱ δὲ τῆς ἀπιστίας τὴν λώβην εἰσδεδεγμένοι οὐ μόνον ἀγνοοῦσι τὴν παγχάλεπον νόσον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἄκρας εὐκληρίας ἀπολαύειν ὑπολαμβάνουσιν· ἢν δέ τις τῶν ταῦτα θεραπεύειν ἐπισταμένων ἀλεξίκακον φάρμακον τῷ πάθει προσενεγκεῖν ἐθελήσῃ, ἀποπηδῶσιν αὐτίκα, καθάπερ οἱ φρενίτιδι κατεχόμενοι νόσῳ καὶ τὴν σφίσι προσφερομένην ἀποσείονται θεραπείαν καὶ τὴν ἰατρείαν ὡς ἀρρωστίαν ἀποδιδράσκουσιν. Χρὴ μέντοι τοὺς ταύτην μετιόντας τὴν ἐπιστήμην καὶ χαλεπαίνοντας φέρειν καὶ λοιδορουμένων ἀνέχεσθαι, κἂν πὺξ παίωσι, κἂν λακτίζωσι, τοιαῦτα γὰρ δὴ ἄττα πλημμελοῦσιν οἱ παραπαίοντες· καὶ οὐ δυσχεραίνουσι τούτων γινομένων οἱ ἰατροί, ἀλλὰ καὶ δεσμὰ προσφέρουσι καὶ καταιονῶσι βίᾳ τὰς κεφαλὰς καὶ πᾶσαν μηχανὴν ἐπινοοῦσιν, ὥστε τὸ πάθος ἐξελάσαι καὶ τὴν προτέραν τῶν μορίων ἁρμονίαν ἀποδοῦναι τῷ ὅλῳ. Τοῦτο δὴ καὶ ἡμῖν ποιητέον, καὶ τῶν οὕτω διακειμένων ἐπιμελητέον εἰς δύναμιν. Εἰ γὰρ καὶ ὀλίγοι λίαν εἰσὶν οἱ τῷ πάθει δεδουλωμένοι καὶ ἐοίκασιν ὑποστάθμῃ τινὶ παχείᾳ τῶν τοῦ διυλιστῆρος οὐ διϊκνουμένῃ πόρων διὰ παχύτητα, ἀλλ’ οὖν οὐκ ἀμελητέον αὐτῶν οὐδὲ παροπτέον φθειρομένους ὑπὸ τοῦ πάθους, ἀλλὰ πάντα πόρον ἐξευρητέον, ὥστε τὴν ἐπικειμένην αὐτοῖς ὁμίχλην ἀποσκεδάσαι καὶ τοῦ νοεροῦ φωτὸς ἐπιδεῖξαι τὴν αἴγλην. Οὐδεὶς γὰρ φιλόπονος γεωργὸς τὰς μὲν πολλὰς ἀκάνθας ἐκτέμνει, τὰς δὲ ὀλίγας ἐᾷ, ἀλλὰ κἂν δύο εὕρῃ, κἂν μίαν, πρόρριζον ἀνασπᾷ καὶ καθαρὸν ἀποφαίνει τὸ λήϊον. Πολλῷ δὴ οὖν μᾶλλον τοῦτο ποιητέον ἡμῖν· οὐ γὰρ ἐκτέμνειν, ἀλλὰ μεταβάλλειν τὰς ἀκάνθας ὁ τῆς ἡμετέρας γεωργίας παρακελεύεται νόμος. Φέρε τοίνυν καὶ ὡς ἀκάνθαις τὴν γεωργικὴν προσενέγκωμεν δίκελλαν καὶ τῇ μακέλλῃ τοῦ λόγου τὰς τῶν ἀκοῶν ἀνευρύνωμεν αὔλακας, ἵνα μηδὲν τῶν ἐν μέσῳ κειμένων κωλυμάτων ἐπίσχῃ τῆς ἀρδείας τὸ ῥεῖθρον· καὶ μὲν δὴ καὶ ὡς ἀρρωστοῦντας καταιονήσωμεν καὶ τὰ σωτήρια καὶ παιώνια προσενέγκωμεν φάρμακα.
Therapeutikê 1.1–2
There is a healing treatment for the body. There is also one for the soul. For while it is true that frequent ailments beset both body and soul, bodily ailments are for the most part involuntary, while spiritual ailments are voluntary. Well aware of this, God, the supremely wise creator alike of body and soul and all things, provided appropriate remedies for each part. He put physicians in charge. Some He taught the art of healing bodies, others the art of healing souls. The former He ordered to leaders and champions in the war against disease.
Those who are sick in body bear the illness badly and desire health. They entrust themselves to the care of physicians who not only prescribe gentle drugs but also cut, cauterize, order diets and offer portions of bitter and ill-tasting medicines. Through such unpleasant treatments they reap good health and hand a fee to those who treated them. As long as they receive treatment they are not concerned about the preparation of the remedies. They long for good health; how it is achieved they do not inquire into. Those who have contracted the stain [λώβην] of unbelief not only do not perceive the seriousness of the illness but suppose they are enjoying the peak of health. If one with skill in healing wishes to offer a therapeutic drug for the disease, they immediately back away like those afflicted with delirium, and they shrug off the proffered remedy and run from the cure as they run from sickness. Those of this profession must put up with ill-tempered patients and endure abuse, when the sick strike with the fists and kick. The delirious do such mistaken things. Doctors are not upset by such demonstrations. They confine them in restraining garments, and anoint their heads forcefully, and devise every means to drive out the sickness and restore the former harmony of the parts of the whole body.
This is what we must do. We must, to the best of our ability, look after the spiritually sick. Even if there are but a few afflicted with this illness and resemble a thick sediment which does not pass through the holes of the strainer on account of its coarseness, still they must not be neglected and overlooked and allowed to waste away their illness. Every means must be sought so as to dissipate the mist that has settled upon them and to show the radiance of the spiritual light. No industrious farmer cuts away the majority of thorns and leaves a few, but if he finds two, or even one, he hacks them out by the roots and leaves the meadow clean. Much more should we act in a similar fashion. For the law of our husbandry dictates that the thorns should be not eradicated, but transformed.
Come now, and just as we apply the hoe in agriculture to the thorns, so with the mattock of the word let us widen the furrow of their ears so that nothing will impede the irrigation of their senses. Similarly, just as in the case of those who are ill, let us apply saving and healing medicines.
It is this powerful analogy that establishes Theodoret’s approach. [6] The symptoms of unbelief (ἀπιστία, literally lack of pistis) are paralleled with those of madness. Just as insanity involves fundamental changes in perception and the physical state, so lack of pistis—construed as a psychosomatic phenomenon—affects deeply those who suffer from it. [7]
The medicalization of religious deviance was pervasive in the literature of the time. [8] Porphyry and Julian had attacked Christians on multiple occasions, accusing Christianity of being a disease and Christians of being sick. [9] In his portrayal of pagan madness, Theodoret draws on images from the treatment of madness by contemporary doctors. [10] Literary madness is tied closely to the physical condition, described in Greek medical literature with an eye ultimately to the spiritual implications of the disease. [11] The other important feature of the metaphor is its ability to “restore the former harmony of the parts of the whole body,” [12] stressing the holistic nature of the offered therapy. By implication disease is construed as a disruption of the harmony of the whole. Logos is the means by which Theodoret seeks to restore the mental health of those who suffer from the disease. Another point should be stressed: by using this elaborate analogy in the beginning of the Therapeutikê, Theodoret is aiming at making himself—he is, after all, the person administering this treatment—ethically respectable by assuming the implied role of the physician. And, as any good physician who must show the dramatic workings of a disease to patients who ignore or are reluctant to accept it, Theodoret uses the arresting and thoroughgoing analogy to illustrate the effects of the disease and the urgency with which its cure must be applied. [13] Further, in the same way that the physician’s authority is based on medical knowledge and the mastery of medical skill, Theodoret must show his knowledge of Greek philosophy and culture in order to establish himself as an authoritative figure entitled to administer the necessary cure. He proceeds to define one of the passions/symptoms that he will attempt to cure, namely oiêsis. [14] The term means self-conceit, but it is used in a complex way. [15] On the face of it, oiêsis denotes the deep-seated feeling of intellectual and cultural superiority that Greek ideals and education could inculcate in people who—on account of their history—were thoroughly imbued in them. Oiêsis is not only a disease of the soul (pathos), it is an emotion with cognitive content greater than other emotions, if only because of its association with a nexus of judgments. In other words, it is a complex cognitive disposition. [16] Furthermore, it is a cultural attitude that prompts some (on Theodoret’s admission) to resist the new way of life that Christianity enjoins.
But how exactly does oiêsis affect people? In Therapeutikê 2.4–5 Theodoret gives a description of the symptoms:
Τίς ἀπολογίας ὑπολείπεται λόγος τοῖς νῦν μεσημβρίᾳ τυφλώττουσι καὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς μύουσιν, ἵνα μὴ τοῦ φωτὸς ἀπολαύσωσιν;οὐκ ἐᾷ δὲ αὐτοὺς τὴν ἀχλὺν ἀποσκεδάσαι τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν τὸ τῆς οἰήσεως πάθος. Πάντων γὰρ ἄμεινον εἰδέναι νομίζουσι τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἐπειδὴ τοῖς τῶν ἐλλογίμων ἀνδρῶν μαθήμασιν ἐνετράφησαν ... Οὐδὲ μὴν ἐκεῖνο ξυνορῶσιν, ὡς τῆς ἀληθείας οὐ πάντως ἡ εὐγλωττία διδάσκαλος.
Therapeutikê 2.5
What defense, he says, remains for these people who at midday are still blind and press their eyes shut in order not to take advantage of the light? The disease of self-conceit [τὸ τῆς οἰήσεως πάθος] will not let them remove the mist [ἀχλὺν ἀποσκεδάσαι] from their eyes. They think they knew the truth better than all men since they were nurtured in the learning of their famous men ... Neither do they understand that beauty of language is not the perfect teacher of truth.
And in a passage in On Providence he uses a similar analogy to describe the resistance of the pagans to the truth of Christianity:
Καὶ οὗτοι δὲ ὁμοίως ἐκείνοις , πᾶσι τοῖς ὁρωμένοις καὶ γινομένοις ἐπιμέμφονται. Ἀλλ’ ἐκείνοις μὲν ἡ νόσος παρὰ γνώμην συμβαίνει, καὶ ἀλγυνόμενοι λίαν τῶν σιτίων ἀπέχονται, καὶ μεταλαβεῖν ποθοῦντες ὑπὸ τῆς νόσου κωλύονται· τούτοις δὲ ἑκούσια καὶ αὐθαίρετα πολεμεῖ τὰ πάθη, καὶ τὸ δυσάρεστον ἔχουσιν, οὐ περὶ σιτία καὶ ὄψα, ἀλλὰ περὶ πάντα τὰ σοφῶς καὶ δικαίως ὑπὸ τῆς θείας προμηθείας οἰκονομούμενα.
PG 83:668
Those who blame everything they see and experience resemble them [i.e. sick men]. The sick, however, are smitten by disease against their will and they refuse food because of grievous pain: they desire to eat, but are hindered by illness. The others are preyed on by sufferings [πάθη] that are voluntary and self-chosen; they are difficult, not in matters of food and drink, but in everything that is arranged by the wisdom and justice of the divine providence. [17]
These descriptions stress an important feature that inheres in Theodoret’s depiction of the pagan reaction to Christianity. Pagan beliefs are presented as a psychosomatic disease that has a direct impact on the people whom it afflicts. The use of the image of the mist in particular is employed to highlight the symptoms of the disease. [18] The emphasis on the physicality of what is presented as a moral and intellectual failing is foundational in Theodoret’s apologetics against pagans.
Some passages present this disease as an outright mental crippling (ἀναπηρία). The language of disease then allows Theodoret to illustrate vividly how deeply pagan preconceptions (προλήψεις) [19] affect human nature and, consequently, how deep the intended therapy is meant to reach. In a passage in On Providence he addresses his audience in these words:
Οἱ μὲν εὖ μάλα πως τὸ σῶμα διακείμενοι, τῆς ἀπὸ τῶν ἰατρῶν θεραπείας οὐ δέονται· ἀκραιφνὴς γὰρ ὑγεία τῆς τῶν φαρμάκων ἐπικουρίας οὐκ ἐνδεής· οἱ δ’ ὑπὸ νόσου πολεμούμενοι, καλεῖν εἰώθασι τοὺς ἰατροὺς εἰς βοήθειαν, καὶ τοῖς ὅπλοις τῆς τέχνης κατὰ τῶν παθῶν χρώμενοι συνεργοῖς, ὥσπερ τινὰς πολεμίους ἐκ τῶν σωμάτων διώκειν ἐπιχειροῦσιν. Ἰατρικὴ γὰρ τέχνη σωμάτων ἐπίκουρος, καὶ παθῶν ἐπίβουλος. Καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς τοίνυν οἱ μὲν ἐρρωμένας ἔχοντες, καὶ τῇ τῆς εὐσεβείας ὑγείᾳ λαμπρυνομένας, τῶν διδασκαλικῶν φαρμάκων οὐ χρῄζουσιν· οἱ δὲ προλήψει πονηρᾷ κατεχόμενοι, καὶ τῶν βδελυρῶν δογμάτων τὴν νόσον δεξάμενοι, καὶ τῷ χρόνῳ τὴν διάθεσιν ἕξιν ἐργασάμενοι, πολλῶν μὲν δέονται καθαρτηρίων, τὴν μοχθηρὰν ἐκείνην ὕλην ἀναμοχλεῦσαι δυναμένων, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς καθαρὰς ἀποφῆναι· πολλῶν δὲ φαρμάκων, τοὺς γεννητικοὺς ἐκείνης πόρους τῷ δραστηρίῳ κλώντων τε καὶ φραττόντων, καὶ τὰς πονηρὰς ὠδῖνας παυόντων. Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν παγχάλεπος καὶ δυστράπελος τῶν τὴν κτίσιν προνοίας ἀποστερεῖν ἐπιχειρούντων ἡ νόσος, δύο μὲν αὐτοῖς ἤδη φάρμακα προηνέγκαμεν, ἐκ τῶν τῆς κτίσεως μορίων ταῦτα κεράσαντες· ἵνα δὲ πρόρριζον ἀνασπάσωμεν τὴν νόσον, καὶ τέλεον αὐτοὺς τῆς χαλεπῆς ἀπαλλάξωμεν ἀρρωστίας, καὶ τρίτον αὐτοῖς κατασκευάσαι τε καὶ προσενεγκεῖν πειρασόμεθα.
PG 83:588
Those who indeed are sound in body are in no need of the physicians’ care. Unimpaired health does not need the assistance of drugs. But those who are attacked by disease are accustomed to call on the assistance of doctors, and avail themselves of the help of the weapons of medical science against sufferings as if they were trying to repel enemies from the human body. For medical skill protects bodies and wars on diseases. Likewise, those who are sound in soul [τὰς ψυχὰς τοίνυν οἱ μὲν ἐρρωμένας ἔχοντες] and enjoy a healthy spiritual life do not need doctrinal remedies. Those, however, who are hidebound by some wretched preconception [προλήψει πονηρᾷ κατεχόμενοι] and are victims of loathsome doctrines, having contracted the disease over a period, are in need of many purgations potent to their soul. They also need many remedies capable by their action of closing and blocking up its productive pores, and of putting an end to the wretched sufferings. Dangerous, indeed, and difficult to deal with is the disease of those who try to deprive creation of Providence. Accordingly, we have already applied two treatments to them compounded from the elements of creation. To eradicate the disease and rid them completely of this troublesome malady, let us try to apply a third preparation for them. [20]
The passage illustrates Theodoret’s ability to diagnose in startlingly medical/philosophical terms the symptoms of pagan beliefs and to describe the methods by which they cause disease in the soul. In tune with the general approach that we have seen, two kinds of therapy are applied: the replacement of erroneous judgments by those that are morally correct and the assuaging of physical excess as a precondition for psychosomatic health.
The use of Greek philosophical terminology (particularly Stoic and Epicurean) shows how Theodoret plays off of the intellectual background of the theory of emotions in order to articulate his apologetics. [21] What he shares with the Greek philosophical tradition is the attribution of a cognitive aspect to the emotions. [22] Their disorder causes errors in judgment, which, according to the Stoics, calls for emotional extirpation. Caution must be taken, though, against assimilating Theodoret’s approach too closely to any of the above schools, since he makes an eclectic use of them. By his time their teachings have been filtered down and sufficiently interwoven, making it difficult to argue for the reception of a distinctive, singular tradition that descends directly from the Peripatetic, Stoic, or Epicurean school. [23]
How do emotions (πάθη) operate in Theodoret’s view? In Therapeutikê 5.76–77.1f., he discusses their role, accepting the immortality of the soul and the rule of its rational faculty over the emotions:
μάθετε θείων δογμάτων ἀλήθειαν, σώματος θείαν διάπλασιν, ψυχῆς φύσιν ἀθάνατον καὶ τὸ ταύτης λογικὸν ἡγούμενον τῶν παθῶν καὶ τὰ πάθη ἀναγκαῖα τῇ φύσει καὶ χρήσιμα. Ἥ τε γὰρ ἐπιθυμία προυργιαιτάτη, καὶ ὁ θυμὸς ὡσαύτως, ὁ ταύτης ἀντίπαλος. Δι’ ἐκείνην μὲν γὰρ καὶ τῶν θείων ὀριγνώμεθα καὶ τῶν ὁρωμένων ὑπερορῶντες τὰ νοητὰ φανταζόμεθα καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς βαδίζοντες τὸν ἐν οὐρανοῖς δεσπότην ἰδεῖν ἱμειρόμεθα καὶ ἀρετῆς ἐφιέμεθα, καὶ μέντοι καὶ διαζῶμεν καὶ ἐδωδῆς μεταλαγχάνομεν καὶ ποτῶν, καὶ πρὸς τούτοις αὔξεται διὰ τῆς ἐννόμου παιδοποιΐας τὸ γένος.
... learn the truth of the divine teachings: the body’s formation by God, the immortal nature of the soul, the reasonable part of which controls the passions, which also have a necessary and useful function to play in human nature. The concupiscible part, for instance, has a most important role, as has the irascible, its sparring partner. Thanks to the first we desire eternal things and look down on visible things; thus we imagine the intelligibles and, while still walking this earth, we long to see our Master in the heavens and aspire after virtue. And during our mortal life we have our share of food and drink, and besides these the human race is multiplied by the legitimate procreation.
He construes the role of emotions in terms of antithetical pairs where each holds its opposite in check. Take, for example, desire. It is by means of its correct assignment that people approach God, or perform the important task of procreation. To better describe the modus operandi of emotions Theodoret employs an image reminiscent of the platonic charioteer: [24]
Ὁ δέ γε θυμὸς ξυνεργὸς ἐδόθη τῷ λογισμῷ, ἵνα τῆς ἐπιθυμίας κωλύῃ τὴν ἀμετρίαν. Ἐπειδὴ γὰρ καὶ πέρα τῶν κειμένων ὅρων ᾄττειν ἐπιχειρεῖ, ξυνέζευξεν αὐτῇ οἷόν τινα πῶλον τὸν θυμὸν ὁ ποιητὴς ἀνθέλκοντα, ὅταν γε ἐκείνη πέρα τῆς χρείας προβαίνειν βιάζηται. Καὶ καθάπερ ἀντίπαλον μὲν τῷ ψυχρῷ τὸ θερμόν, κεραννύμενα δὲ ἀλλήλοις κρᾶσιν ἀρίστην ἐργάζεται, οὕτως ἡ ἐπιθυμία καὶ ὁ θυμός, ἀλλήλοις κεραννύμενα καὶ ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων κολαζόμενα, τῆς ἀρετῆς τὴν ἀρίστην ἀπεργάζεται κρᾶσιν. Ἔχει δὲ τῶν δρωμένων τὸ κράτος ὁ λογισμός, ὥστε καὶ ταύτην ἐπέχειν καὶ τοῦτον αὖ νύττειν, ἢ τοῦτόν γε ἄγχειν καὶ διεγείρειν ἐκείνην. Καὶ γὰρ ἡ ἐπιθυμία τοῦ θυμοῦ παύει τὴν ἀμετρίαν, καὶ ὁ θυμὸς αὖ πάλιν κολάζει τῆς ἐπιθυμίας τὴν ἀπληστίαν. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἀποτελεῖται, τοῦ λογισμοῦ τὰς ἡνίας ἐπιστημόνως κατέχοντος· ἢν δὲ οὗτος, ἢ τῷ χαλαρῷ καὶ λείῳ τῆς ἐπιθυμίας καταθελχθεὶς ἢ τῷ θυμῷ ᾄττοντι παρὰ καιρὸν ξυνεξορμήσας, χαυνοτέρας ἢ προσῆκε τὰς ἡνίας ἐάσῃ, οἱ μὲν ἀτάκτως καθάπερ ἵπποι θέουσιν ἐνδακόντες τὸν χαλινόν, ὁ δὲ συρόμενος φέρεται, καταγέλαστός τε καὶ ἐπονείδιστος τοῖς ὁρῶσι γινόμενος. Ταύτῃ τοι καὶ δίκας εἰσπράττεται, ὡς ἐθελοντὴς ὑπομείνας τὸ πάθος.
Therapeutikê 5.78–79
The irascible power has been given as a collaborator of reason, in order to check the immoderate desires. Since the latter tries to bound beyond the set limits, the Creator yoked it to the concupiscence as a colt to hold it back when it forces its way beyond its bounds. Just as heat is the opposite of cold but mixed they produce the best mixture, so the concupiscence and the irascible mixed with one another and checked by each other produce the best temper (krasin) of virtue. Reason maintains control over acts so that it can restrain the concupiscible and incite the irascible, or rather throttle the latter and urge on the former. For the concupiscible checks the excesses of the irascible, and the irascible chastises the greediness of the concupiscible. All this is done perfectly if reason skillfully holds on to the reins. But if reason, either through being enchanted by the slack and smooth of the concupiscible or if it is urged on in an untimely fashion by the goading of the irascible, allowing the reins to be slacker than is fitting, the passions, like horses, gallop in a disorderly fashion, champing the bit, and reason, [like] the rider, is dragged along and becomes an object of ridicule and censure to the spectators. For this he is punished because he voluntarily endured the passion.
The function, then, of the emotions is equated with natural and inherent psychological states. Human intellect rules over thûmos and epithumia, which produce a balance that constitutes virtue (ἀρετή). Pathê become diseases when they throw the soul into violent motion that interferes with judgment. Theodoret expresses the ideal harmonization of these mental dispositions in a passage in On Providence, a polemic treatise against the pagan notion of divine providence. In an analysis of how virtues operate he says:
Οὐκοῦν φρόνησις μὲν ἔστι τοῦ ἐν ἡμῖν λογικοῦ ἡ ἐγρήγορσις, ὥσπερ ἀμέλει παραφροσύνη καὶ ἀφροσύνη πάλιν, ἡ τούτου μέθη ἐκ τῶν παθῶν τικτομένη, καὶ οἷόν τις νεφέλη γενομένη, καὶ πυκνουμένη, καὶ ἐπιπροσθοῦσα, καὶ συνορᾷν αὐτὸν οὐκ ἐῶσα τὸ δέον. Τοῦ λογικοῦ τοιγαροῦν ἡ ὑγεία φρόνησις ὀνομάζεται. Καὶ σωφροσύνην δὲ πάλιν προσαγορεύομεν, τὴν τῶν παθῶν ἐλευθερίαν. Σῶον γὰρ πάλιν καὶ ἄρτιον τοῦ λογικοῦ τὸ φρόνημα κεκτημένου, χαλᾷ μὲν τὰ πάθη, καὶ ὑπορρεῖ, καὶ σκεδάννυται, καὶ τὸ φλεγμαῖνον αὐτῶν διαλύεται, φέρεται δὲ εὐτάκτως ἐπὶ τῶν ἵππων ὁ ἡνίοχος νοῦς. Τὴν τῶν παθῶν τοίνυν εὐταξίαν, καὶ τοῦ ἡνιόχου τὴν ὑγείαν, σωφροσύνην ὀνομάζομεν. Ἀνδρίαν δὲ καλοῦμεν, τὴν δικαίαν τοῦ θυμοειδοῦς κίνησιν· ὥσπερ αὖ πάλιν θρασύτητα, τὴν ἄδικόν τε καὶ ἄτακτον. Δικαιοσύνην δέ, τὴν ὀρθὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ἡγεμονίαν, καὶ τῶν ὑπηκόων παθῶν τὴν συμμετρίαν. Τοῦ γὰρ ἐπιθυμητικοῦ καὶ θυμοειδοῦς ἡ πρὸς τὸ λογικὸν εὐαρμοστία, καὶ ἡ πρὸς ἄλληλα εὐκρασία, τὴν τῆς δικαιοσύνης ἡμῖν πραγματεύεται κτῆσιν.
PG 83:645–648
Prudence [φρόνησις] is an innate watchfulness of reason, as opposed to folly [παραφροσύνη] and sensuality [ἀφροσύνη] which is reason intoxicated by passion, clouded, darkened, obscured, and prevented from observing what it should. Sound reasoning, then, is called prudence. We define temperance as freedom from the domination of the passions. For when intellect was and is possessed of sound and perfect wisdom, the passions abate, recede and subside, cool down, and the intellect rides securely in the saddle. This ordering of the passions [εὐταξίαν] and the soundness of the ruling mental faculty we call temperance [σωφροσύνην]. Fortitude [ἀνδρίαν] we define as the due movement of passion; on the other hand, unlawful and uncontrolled passion is called audacity. Justice is the right ordering of the soul and the due subordination of the passions. For the possession of justice results to us when concupiscence and anger are harmonized with reason and there is no conflict between them. [25]
Sôphrosunê ‘prudence’ then, is the ideal state whereby passions are well-ordered, and justice is the proper rule of the soul over the symmetrically ordered emotions. [26]
An important feature in Theodoret’s approach is that logoi have a therapeutic effect [27] and are accordingly used as an alexipharmakos therapeia. But how exactly do they function in the procedure that he follows? In Therapeutikê 1.127–128 he describes his approach in the following way:
Καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ τὰ σώματα θεραπεύοντες ἐκ τῶν ἰοβόλων θηρίων ὀνησιφόρα κατασκευάζουσι φάρμακα, καὶ τῶν ἐχιδνῶν τὰ μὲν ἀποβάλλοντες, τὰ δὲ ἕψοντες, πολλὰς διὰ τούτων ἐξελαύνουσι νόσους, οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς, τὰ τῶν ὑμετέρων ποιητῶν καὶ ξυγγραφέων καὶ φιλοσόφων πονήματα μεταχειρισάμενοι, τὰ μὲν ὡς δηλητήρια καταλείπομεν, τὰ δὲ τῇ τῆς διδασκαλίας ἐπιστήμῃ διασκευάσαντες, ἀλεξιφάρμακον ὑμῖν θεραπείαν προσφέρομεν· καὶ οὓς ἀντιπάλους ἡμῶν ὑπειλήφατε, τούτους τῶν ἡμετέρων λόγων ἀποφαίνομεν ξυνηγόρους καὶ τῆς πίστεως δείκνυμεν διδασκάλους. Οὕτω, ξὺν Θεῷ φάναι, καὶ τὴν ἄλλην ὑμῖν διδασκαλίαν προσοίσομεν.
And just as those who cure the body prepare effective remedies from the venom of wild beasts, even from vipers; they first throw away some parts and boil the rest, and with this they cure many sicknesses. So we take the works of your poets, historians and philosophers. Some parts we reject as dangerous and harmful; other parts we inject with the knowledge of our teaching and offer you these as a preventive treatment. And even those whom you regard as our enemies we show you that they champion our teachings and we make you see that even they teach you the faith. In this way, with God’s help, we will present to you the rest of our teaching. [28]
Theodoret’s elaborate analogy outlines an approach that is twofold: he seeks to criticize but also to instruct. These two principles permeate the Therapeutikê. His critique and refutation of pagan religion is internal. It appeals throughout the work to the reader’s own cherished religious and cultural loyalties. And yet it leads to conclusions that very few, if any, would have accepted, at least initially. According to his stated aims, Theodoret sets out to refute false beliefs starting from the convictions of Christianity’s opponents. This kind of “homeopathic” therapy is based on the extensive use of opinions—understood as proofs—which are consonant with Christian teaching. He employs testimonies (martyriai) taken from Greek philosophers, poets, et al. These proofs, taken from their original context, act as pharmaka ‘medicine’: in this case, prestigious opinions (δόξαι) that are used to refute other opinions hostile to Christianity. [29] Theodoret appropriates these doxai and frames them to reflect his own interpretations. They are carefully selected, applied with specificity and psychological insight, and deployed in such a way as to initiate within the reader a reflection—as rational argument—on the unreflective elements that constitute the pagan underlying belief.
Mastery of external martyriai confers on Theodoret’s enterprise a greater therapeutic efficiency. These homeopathic [30] arguments/pharmaka show that not only has Theodoret not ignored Greek contributions and intuitions, he has a full command and mastery of them with the attendant implication that he knows their intrinsic value well. Instead of imposing his perspective on readers, Theodoret positions himself as helping them to arrive at a balanced and thorough view as opposed to the narrow and partial view of those entrenched in conventional, if cherished, belief systems. Theodoret works systematically through the full range of knowledgeable quotations that address cultural concerns in order to provide a coherent presentation of a Christian view of the world. It is important to stress that the aim at coherence implies, ultimately, rightness of view. If erroneous beliefs can be changed, then the audience may shift from one emotion to another and, with that shift, reform their entire judgment about a given set of circumstances, a premise based on the supposition that beliefs can be created, modified, or taken away by discourse and argument. [31]
Consequently, to grasp how Theodoret conceives of the notion of therapy is to understand in great part how he views the nature and function of rhetoric as well as the nature and function of his apologetic enterprise. If persuasion is the removal or alteration of the wrong emotions—or the fostering of the right emotions—in the audience, then the Therapeutikê, with its calculated tone and highly structured character, stands in direct association with Greek rhetorical tradition on the craft of persuasion by appealing to emotions. [32]
Those who are too eagerly and uncritically devoted to Greek paideia are constantly referred to in the protheôria, as well as in the beginning of the first dialexis (among other places), and they form Theodoret’s assumed audience. From his comments we can infer that they are committed to the ideas and ways of life that he is refuting and that this commitment forms the basis for their conviction of the superiority of Greek philosophy and culture—intertwined as it is with paganism—over its Christian counterpart. [33]
In a revealing passage Theodoret proceeds to define health and disease:
Ταῦτα δὲ οὐ τηνάλλως ἀδολεσχῶ, ἀλλ’ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων δεικνύναι τὰ θεῖα πειρώμενος καὶ ἀξιῶν ὑμᾶς, ὦ ἄνδρες, καὶ ἐπ’ ἐκείνων τόνδε διατηρῆσαι τὸν ὅρον καὶ ὑγιεῖς μὲν καὶ ἀρτίους ἀποκαλεῖν τοὺς τὴν ἀληθῆ θεολογίαν ἀσπαζομένους, ἣν καὶ ἡ φύσις ἐξ ἀρχῆς παραδέδωκε, καὶ τὰ θεῖα ὕστερον ἐκράτυνε λόγια, ἀναπήρους δ’ αὖ προσαγορεύειν μὴ μόνον ἐκείνους, οἳ οὐδένα θεὸν εἶναι νομίζουσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτους, οἳ εἰς πολλὰ τὸ θεῖον κατεμέρισαν σέβας καὶ τῷ δημιουργῷ τῶν ὅλων τὴν κτίσιν ξυνέταξαν. Οὔκουν μόνοι γε ἄθεοι Διαγόρας ὁ Μιλήσιος καὶ ὁ Κυρηναῖος Θεόδωρος καὶ Εὐήμερος ὁ Τεγεάτης καὶ οἱ τούτοις ἠκολουθηκότες, παντάπασι φάντες μὴ εἶναι θεούς, ὡς ὁ Πλούταρχος ἔφη, ἀλλὰ καὶ Ὅμηρος καὶ Ἡσίοδος καὶ αἱ τῶν φιλοσόφων ξυμμορίαι, παμπόλλους μὲν θεῶν μυθολογήσαντες ὁρμαθούς, ἀνδραποδώδεις δέ τινας καὶ παθῶν ἀνθρωπίνων ἀποφήναντες δούλους.
Therapeutikê 3.3–4
I do not say this for the sake of idle chatter but in an attempt to explain divine matters in human terms, and to beg you, my friends, to preserve on this point this rule: regard as “wholesome” and “sound” [ὑγιεῖς μὲν καὶ ἀρτίους] those who have embraced the true theology—what was given by nature at the beginning of time and confirmed later by the divine oracles—but label as “crippled” [ἀναπήρους], on the other hand, not merely those who deny the existence of God but also those who have divided the worship of the gods into many pieces, and who have placed the Creator and His creation on the same footing. The only atheists are not just Diagoras of Miletus, Theodore of Cyrene, Euhemerus of Tegea, and their devotees, who absolutely deny the existence of gods, as we learn from Plutarch, but also Homer, Hesiod, and the schools of philosophers who in their fables have invented hosts of gods and presented them as totally enslaved to human passions.
It is interesting to note that the criterion for mental health in this context becomes the espousal of the true theology that has existed ab initio in nature, as opposed to the thinking of those who “divided the divine into many pieces and put the Creator together with the created world” (οἳ εἰς πολλὰ τὸ θεῖον κατεμέρισαν σέβας καὶ τῷ δημιουργῷ τῶν ὅλων τὴν κτίσιν ξυνέταξαν, Therapeutikê 3.3).
This illuminates the whole of Theodoret’s apologetic approach in the Therapeutikê. Pagans are held to be diseased on the basis of the fact that they suffer from emotions that prevent them from acknowledging the true religion, Christianity. Healing the emotions restores the rational faculties of the soul and, by implication, moral reasoning.
In Dialexis VII. On the Sacrifices, Theodoret employs the motif of the Deus medicus, who administers the laws as pharmakon to the Israelites in order to heal them from the disease of the idolatry of the Egyptians:
Τόδε τὸ φάρμακον ὁ πάνσοφος ἰατρὸς τῇ Αἰγυπτίᾳ προσενήνοχε νόσῳ, θύειν μὲν διὰ τὴν τῶν θυόντων ἀσθένειαν ξυγχωρήσας, τὰ δὲ σεβόμενα παρ᾿ αὐτῶν ἱερατεύειν κελεύσας, ἵνα τῷ θύειν μάθωσι μὴ θεοὺς νομίζειν τὰ ὡς ἱερεῖα θυόμενα.
Therapeutikê 7.18–19
The supremely wise physician [πάνσοφος ἰατρός] found this remedy [φάρμακον] for the Egyptian disease [νόσῳ], namely, to permit them to sacrifice because of their weakness, but ordered them to sacrifice what the Egyptians worshipped in order that by sacrificing these animals they would understand that if they were victims for sacrifice they could not be gods.
Explaining the way God proceeded to cure the disease of idolatry, Theodoret says:
Δεισιδαίμονας γὰρ αὐτοὺς καὶ γαστριμάργους εἰδώς, πάθει πάθος ἀντέταξε καὶ τῇ δεισιδαιμονίᾳ τὴν γαστριμαργίαν ἀντέστησεν.
Therapeutikê 7.20
Knowing [God] that they [the Israelites] were superstitious and gluttonous, He pitted sickness against sickness [πάθει πάθος] and set superstition against gluttony.
And further:
Οὐ τοίνυν ἱερείων δεόμενος οὐδὲ κνίσης ὀριγνώμενος, θύειν προσέταξεν ὁ Θεός, ἀλλὰ τῶν ἀρρωστούντων θεραπεύων τὰ πάθη. Οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὰ τῶν εὐήχων ὀργάνων ἠνέσχετο, οὐ τῇ τούτων ἀρμονίᾳ τερπόμενος, ἀλλὰ κατὰ βραχὺ παύων τῶν εἰδώλων τὸν πλάνον.
Therapeutikê 7.21
God enjoined sacrifice not because He needed victims or delighted in the odor of burning victims, but to heal the ills of the ailing. For the same reason He put up with melodious instruments, not because He enjoyed their harmony but to put a quick stop to the error of idolatry.
And concluding the analogy, Theodoret comments:
Ὡς οὐ δεόμενος θυσιῶν ὁ Θεὸς οὐδὲ καπνῷ καὶ κνίσῃ καὶ τοῖς μουσικοῖς ὀργάνοις ἐπιτερπόμενος ταῦτα τελεῖσθαι προσέταξεν, ἀλλὰ τῆς ἐκείνων προμηθούμενος ἰατρείας.
Therapeutikê 7.35
God ordered those rites not because He needed sacrifices or delighted in smoke and smell and musical instruments but to provide for their healing [ἰατρείας].
This is not the only case where the Deus medicus motif is blended with the broader notion of therapeia. [34] The motif was widespread in late antique Christian writing based on the healing activity of Jesus. [35] Healing constituted one of the main aspects of Jesus’ ministry and one of the main signs of His divinity. Because of this, the notion of healing became the focal point of an intense debate between pagans and Christians. [36] Traces of this debate are also present in the Therapeutikê:
Τοῦτο γὰρ δὴ καὶ ὁ Πορφύριος, ἐν οἷς καθ’ ἡμῶν ξυνέγραψεν, εἴρηκεν· “Νυνὶ δέ” φησι “θαυμάζουσιν, εἰ τοσούτων ἐτῶν κατείληφε νόσος τὴν πόλιν, Ἀσκληπιοῦ μὲν ἐπιδημίας καὶ τῶν ἄλλων θεῶν οὐκέτι οὔσης· Ἰησοῦ γὰρ τιμωμένου, οὐδεμιᾶς δημοσίας τις θεῶν ὠφελείας ᾔσθετο.” Ταῦτα ὁ πάντων ἡμῖν ἔχθιστος Πορφύριος εἴρηκε, καὶ ἀναφανδὸν ὡμολόγησεν, ὡς πιστευόμενος ὁ Ἰησοῦς φρούδους ἀπέφηνε τοὺς θεούς, καὶ μετὰ τὸν σταυρὸν καὶ τὸ σωτήριον πάθος οὐκέτι φενακίζει τοὺς ἀνθρώπους Ἀσκληπιός, οὐδὲ ἄλλος τις τῶν καλουμένων θεῶν. Ἅπαντα γὰρ αὐτῶν τὸν ὁρμαθόν, οἷόν τινας νυκτερίδας, τῷ σκότῳ παρέπεμψεν ἀνατεῖλαν τὸ φῶς.
Therapeutikê 12.96–97
That is exactly what Porphyry said in the writing which he directed against us: One is astonished today at the fact that for so many years the city had been the prey of disease when Asclepius and the other gods were sojourning there, but now that Jesus is held in honor it does not experience the least public benefit from any of the gods. That is what Porphyry, our worst enemy, has to say. And he recognized clearly that once faith in Jesus was established He made all the gods disappear and after the Cross and His saving passion, neither Asclepius nor any other of the so-called gods could any longer dupe the people/human beings. Because the Light has risen and banished the lot of them like bats to darkness.


Emotions are intrinsic to Theodoret’s “therapeutic” enterprise, since his portrayal of pagan disease is a theoretically based one. His method of employing medical/philosophical notions to counter those pagan adherents reluctant to acknowledge the superiority of Christianity has been clearly established.
However, different frames of reference, such as literature, philosophy, and medicine, can help illuminate more fully what Theodoret attempts to convey. His use of traditional imagery and Stoic and Platonic vocabulary certainly had a long pedigree, but its application as a tool in religious conversion displays striking independence and originality. In contrast to the Greek philosophers, for whom the cure of the emotions formed only part of a broader investigation toward a moral worldview, Theodoret’s view of the cure of the emotions is central, as it is intimately connected with σωτηρία ‘salvation’.
Notions of health and disease become important tools of analysis that enable Theodoret to diagnose the latent, wavering religious loyalties of his audience. They also sharpen the antithesis between Christianity and paganism in a concrete and forceful way by presenting Greek beliefs as the inversion of health.


[ back ] 1. Through medical imagery, analogies, and the episodes describing healing that punctuate his narratives, especially the Religious History and the Ecclesiastical History, the image of the doctor is never allowed to slip from view. Borelli 2007:467–477; Guinot 2002:131–151. Canivet has very competently discussed Theodoret’s medical knowledge and sources but has failed to pursue their implications for Theodoret’s literary and apologetic aims.
[ back ] 2. Canivet 1957:307; Adnès and Canivet 1967:53–82 and 1967:149–179.
[ back ] 3. Leven 1987; Ferngren 2009.
[ back ] 4. See Cordes 1994, Leschhorn 1985, Ruess 1957 and 1967:95–103, Kornexl 1970, Wells 1998, and Wilfried 1978. See Rolke 1975, esp. for the Stoic use of medical imagery.
[ back ] 5. Recent work in ancient Greek philosophy has forcefully brought out the importance of passion and the function of emotions and has generated a complex discussion. See Nussbaum 1986:31–74 and 1994, Sorabji 2000, Konstan 2006, Graver 2007, and Tsouna 2009:249–265.
[ back ] 6. The same analogy is employed in On Providence: “Let us imitate the best doctors who seeing their patients refusing to take nourishment and nauseated by the food set before them, outwit by medical tricks and break down their refusal to eat. By mixing pleasant seasonings with the rather dry and bitter fare they manage to make the ill-tasting victuals more palatable to the sick. Our adversaries, like the sick criticize all they see and all that happens. Illness befalls the sick against their will, and in excruciating pain they refuse to take food. Though they would like to partake, they are prevented by the illness. But voluntary and self-aroused passions war against our adversaries and their nausea is caused not by foods and delicacies but by all the wise and just arrangements of Providence” (PG 83:668c, trans. Halton).
[ back ] 7. See Grant 2006:369–404.
[ back ] 8. For the way it informed the late Roman legal system, see Zuccotti 1992.
[ back ] 9. E.g. Porphyry Against the Christians fr. 27, ed. Muscolino 2009:224–225; Julian Epistles 36d: “Though indeed it might be proper to cure these, even against their will, [ἄκοντας ἰᾶσθαι] as one cures the insane, [φρενιτίζοντας] except that we concede indulgence to all for this sort of disease [νόσου]. For we ought, I thought, to teach, but not punish, the demented” (trans. Wright LCL).
[ back ] 10. But what is also interesting is that, by using the image of “a thick sediment which does not pass through the holes of the strainer on account of its coarseness,” he is perhaps alluding to the idea found in medical literature that madness results from some blockage in the veins and a kind of asphyxia.
[ back ] 11. On madness as a psychosomatic disease in the ancient world, cf. Moss 1967:709–722. For a fuller treatment, cf. Pigeaud 1987; Stok 1996:2282–2409.
[ back ] 12. Therapeutikê 1.5: “τὴν προτέραν τῶν μορίων ἁρμονίαν ἀποδοῦναι τῷ ὅλῳ.”
[ back ] 13. A strikingly similar analogy, with supporting rationale, is found in Stobaeus’ Anthology in a summary of a book by the Academic Skeptic Philon of Larissa (110/9–86 BC): “Philo was a Larissan by birth, an academic philosopher, a student of Clitomachus, and someone who made reasonable progress [in his works]. Philo showed acuity in his other writings as well as his division of philosophical doctrine, which I append [since it is relevant to my work]. He says that the philosopher is like a doctor. Just as it is the function of the doctor, then first to persuade the sick person to accept his therapy, and secondly to undermine the arguments of those urging him against treatment, so it is also for the philosopher. Each of these, however, is found in what is called the protreptic discourse [since a protreptic discourse is one which exhorts to virtue]. Of this, one part displays the great utility of virtue, while the other refutes those arguing against or attacking, or otherwise slandering philosophy. The discourse after this, the second, has the second place in the analogy with medicine. Just as it is the function of the doctor, after persuading the patient to accept it, to introduce therapy—part of which consists in eradicating the causes productive of disease, and part in inserting causes conducive to health—so it is also with the science of philosophy. For after protreptic, the philosopher tries to introduce therapeutic, for which he uses stimulants of two kinds. One kind introduces the discourse which is destructive of falsely begotten beliefs (through which the critical faculties of the soul are diseased); the other the discourse which inserts beliefs in a healthy state. Thus the second subject is that concerning the protreptic was introduced. The third subject will again correspond to the third medical function. For as in medicine every effort concerns the end, i.e. health, so in philosophy it concerns happiness. But the discourse concerning lives is conjoined to the discourse on ends. For it is not sufficient in medicine to create health, but there is also a need to provide rules about health by attending to which patients will safeguard the good condition of the body; so also there is a need in life for certain theorems which will bring about the safeguarding of the end” (Stobaeus 2.2.2, 1–51, trans. Brittain 2001:255–256 [emphasis mine]). Theodoret seems to be following most of the steps in the order described in this synopsis. The method is almost identical! On this passage, see Schofield 2002:91–109.
[ back ] 14. In a similar manner a dogmatist’s oiêsis needs to be cured by the skeptic: “Because of his love of humanity the skeptic wishes to cure by argument [ἰᾶσθαι λόγῳ], so far as he can, the conceit and precipitancy of the dogmatists. Accordingly, just as the doctors who treat physical symptoms [σωματικῶν παθῶν] have remedies that differ in strength and prescribe the severe ones for people with severe symptoms and milder ones for those mildly affected, so too the skeptic sets forth arguments differing in strength. And in the case of those who are severely afflicted with precipitancy he employs arguments that are weighty and capable of vigorously disposing of the dogmatists’ symptom of conceit [τὸ τῆς οἰήσεως τῶν δογματικῶν πάθος], but in the case of those who have this symptom in a superficial and easily curable way, and are capable of being restored to health by milder persuasion, he uses milder arguments. Hence the person motivated by skepticism does not hesitate to advance at one time arguments that are weighty in persuasiveness and at another time such as even appear weak—he does this purposely, on the assumption that many times the latter suffice for accomplishing his task” (Sextus Empiricus Outlines of Pyrrhonism 3.279, trans. Mates 1996).
[ back ] 15. Instead of discussing the pathê one by one Theodoret also employs such terms as alazoneia, tûphos, agnoia, lobê, nosos, and he is far from consistent in his use of these terms. However, these emotions are interconnected, especially alazoneia and tûphos, and they form a complex system. For the use of these terms by the church fathers, see Adnès 1982:907–933 and Prokopé and Kehl 1989:795–858. Tûphos is a medical term used to describe a kind of fever accompanied by stupor (LSJ). On its use by various Greek and Christian authors, see Courcelle 1975:245–288 and Decleva Caizzi 1980:53–66.
[ back ] 16. Oiêsis is cognate with the verb oiomai ‘to think, to have an opinion that could be potentially false or wrong’. Oiêsis is employed with an eye to the subjective and potentially illusory knowledge that people affected by it can possess. A few lines below in the same passage, Theodoret provides an excerpt from Timon of Phlius (320–230 BCE) that supports precisely this reading: “Οὐ μόνον ἄρα ἡμεῖς τὸ τῆς οἰήσεως ἐπιπροσθεῖν ὑμῖν εἰρήκαμεν πάθος· πάλαι γὰρ καὶ πρόπαλαι ταύτην ὁ Τίμων τῶν ὑμετέρων φιλοσόφων τὴν κατηγορίαν πεποίηται. Ἄλλο δέ ἐστιν εἰδέναι, καὶ ἄλλο τὸ οἴεσθαι εἰδέναι, μηδὲν ἐπιστάμενον. Πολλῷ γάρ τινι διαφέρουσιν, ὦ φιλότης, ἀλλήλοιν ἀλήθεια καὶ στοχασμὸς ἀληθείας· ὁ μὲν γὰρ στοχασμὸς καὶ διαμαρτίας ἔχει πολλάς, ἡ δὲ ἀλήθεια ἐκπαιδεύειν οὐδὲν ἐναντίον ἀνέχεται. Τοιγαροῦν ἄλλως τις ἀληθείας πέρι τεκμαιρόμενος λέγει, καὶ ἄλλως αὐτὴ ἑαυτὴν ἑρμηνεύει·” (“We are not the only ones who said that self-conceit is the malady which has blinded you, since long, long ago Timon has made the same complaint against your philosophers: To know is one thing; but to think that you know when you know nothing is another. There is a great difference, my friend, between truth and mere conjecture. For conjecture admits of many errors, but truth does not tolerate any contradictory teaching. That is why the language of the person making conjectures about truth is one thing, while the appearance under which truth is interpreted is something else.” Therapeutikê 2.21–22).
[ back ] 17. Trans. Halton 1988.
[ back ] 18. On the use of this metaphor by Christian authors as polemic against paganism, see Agosti 2011:33–50.
[ back ] 19. It is worth noting that for Theodoret pagan religion is based on unreflective preconceptions that constitute the criteria of religious truth. The term that Theodoret twice employs in the Therapeutikê is πρόληψις, a technical term that had an important background in Epicurean epistemology. In both passages the seat of προλήψεις is the soul. This is where Theodoret’s arguments (pharmaka) are applied and are expected to effect the cure. The role of these preconceptions is complex, but for our discussion it is important to stress the fact that, along with feelings and perceptions, they are the prerequisites for any investigation and principles beyond proof that provide the basis for the formation of judgments or beliefs. Apologetics, ethics, and logic are thus inextricably linked. As a result, preconceptions play an important cognitive role. For a detailed discussion of the term πρόληψις, see Asmis 1999:260–294. From Therapeutikê 9.73.1: “ Ἐπειδὴ τοίνυν καὶ τῶν νόμων καὶ τῶν νομοθετῶν κατάδηλον ἐκ ξυγκρίσεως γεγένηται τὸ διάφορον, καὶ τὰ μὲν ὤφθη λογισμῶν ἀνθρωπίνων εὑρήματα, τὰ δὲ θεόσδοτα καὶ σωτήρια, δέξασθε, ὦ ἄνδρες, τὰ θεσπέσια δῶρα καὶ τὸν μεγαλόδωρον καὶ φιλόδωρον μὴ ἀτιμάσητε χορηγόν. Εἴσεσθε δὲ αὐτῶν τὸ θεοπρεπὲς ἀκριβέστερον, εἰ τούτοις ἐντύχητε τὴν πονηρὰν τῶν ψυχῶν ἐξελάσαντες πρόληψιν” (“Since the difference has now been clearly demonstrated between both the laws and the legislators [by the preceding comparative study]—on the one hand, those that are the products of human device have been shown and, on the other, those that are heavenly, salutary products—receive, my friends, the divine gifts and do not dishonor the One who has donated to us this great and loving largess. And you will recognize their divine dimensions more accurately if you encounter them after expelling wretched prejudice from your souls”).
[ back ] 20. Trans. Halton 1988.
[ back ] 21. On the theory of emotions in Aristotle, see Cooper 1999:406–423 and Fortenbaugh 1975. On the theory of emotions in Stoicism, see Brenan 1998:21–70, Frede 1986:93–112, Vögtle 1962, and Hengelbrock 1971.
[ back ] 22. In the words of Nussbaum 1994: “... there is in Greek thought about emotions, from Plato and Aristotle straight on through Epicurus, an agreement that the emotions are not simply blind surges of affect, stirrings or sensations that are identified, and distinguished from one another, by their felt quality alone. Unlike appetites such as thirst and hunger, they have an important cognitive element: they embody ways of interpreting the world. The feelings that go with the experience of emotion are hooked up with and rest upon beliefs or judgments that are their basis or ground, in such a way that the emotion as a whole can appropriately be evaluated as true and false, also as rational and irrational, according to our evaluation of the grounding belief. Since the belief is the ground of the feeling, the feeling, and therefore the emotion as a whole, can be modified as a modification of belief” (369). The literature on this topic is enormous and reflects a very nuanced understanding of its role in Greek philosophy and literature. See Pigeaud 1981, Rodis-Lewis 1970, and Dörrie 1956:3–42.
[ back ] 23. Borgeaud 2007:189–222, esp. Dillon’s comments in the discussion (226–227).
[ back ] 24. Theodoret’s contemporary Isidore of Peluse uses the image of the charioteer to illustrate the effects of balanced and imbalanced passions thus: “ὁ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνελευθέρων τῆς σαρκὸς παθῶν ἐξανδραποδισθεὶς (ἵνα καὶ παχυτέρῳ χρήσωμαι παραδείγματι), ἔοικεν ἡνιόχῳ, ἐκπεπτωκότι μὲν τοῦ ἅρματος, συρομένῳ δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν ἡνιῶν, τῶν μὴ ἀπολυουσῶν αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ συμπλεκομένων αὐτῷ, δίκην τῆς ῥαθυμίας ἀπαιτουμένῳ. Ἔνθα δὴ τῶν κατὰ φύσιν τἀναντία ἐκβαίνει. Δέον γὰρ τὸ ἅρμα ὑπὸ τῆς τέχνης τοῦ ἡνιόχου ἄγεσθαι καλῶς, ὁ ἡνίοχος ὑπὸ τῶν ἵππων σύρεται κακῶς. Τῆς γὰρ κατὰ φύσιν ἡγεμονίας ἀνατροπή, ἡ παρὰ φύσιν παρατροπή, διὸ χρὴ τὸν νοῦν κυβερνᾷν τὸ σῶμα.” Ep. 384, PG 78:1557.
[ back ] 25. The passage betrays a familiarity with Greek philosophical understandings of affective order and disorder. There are indications that, for instance, the Stoic philosopher Zeno held a similar view on the analogy between the health of the body and the soul that is cast in medical terms: “Ὥσπερ γὰρ τὴν τοῦ σώματος ὑγίειαν εὐκρασίαν εἶναι τῶν ἐν τῷ σώματι θερμῶν καὶ ψυχρῶν καὶ ξηρῶν καὶ ὑγρῶν, οὕτω καὶ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς ὑγίειαν εὐκρασίαν εἶναι τῶν ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ δογμάτων. Καὶ ὁμοίως ὥσπερ ἰσχὺς τοῦ σώματος τόνος ἐστὶν ἱκανὸς ἐν νεύροις, οὕτω καὶ ἡ τῆς ψυχῆς ἰσχὺς τόνος ἐστὶν ἱκανὸς ἐν τῷ κρίνειν καὶ πράττειν ἢ μή. Ὥσπερ τε τὸ κάλλος τοῦ σώματός ἐστι συμμετρία τῶν μελῶν καθεστώτων αὐτῷ πρὸς ἄλληλά τε καὶ πρὸς τὸ ὅλον, οὕτω καὶ τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς κάλλος ἐστὶ συμμετρία τοῦ λόγου καὶ τῶν μερῶν αὐτοῦ πρὸς <τὸ> ὅλον τε αὐτῆς καὶ πρὸς ἄλληλα” (Stobaeus 2.7.5).

In a different passage in Compendium of Heretical Falsehoods, PG 83:484–488, Theodoret likens ἀρετή with the right medicine and ἀμετρία ‘disproportion’ with λώβη ‘damage’ (usually with medical overtones): “Εὑρίσκομεν δὲ ὅμως πολλοὺς διὰ τούτων κατωρθωκότας τὴν ἀρετήν. Οὔτε οὖν κακὸν τὸ ἀγαθοῦ γιγνόμενον ὄργανον, οὔτ’ αὖ πάλιν ἀγαθὸν τὸ ἐργαλεῖον ἑτέρῳ πρὸς πονηρίαν γιγνόμενον. Τὴν μέσην τοίνυν ἔχει τάξιν, καθάπερ τὰ φάρμακα. Καὶ γὰρ τὸ ὄπιον, καὶ τὸ κώνειον, εἰ ἄριστα κριθείη παρὰ τῶν ἰατρῶν, ἀλεξιφάρμακα γίγνεται· εἰ δὲ παρὰ τὸν τῆς τέχνης ληφθῇ λόγον, δηλητήρια καὶ ὀλέθρια. Ἔστι δὲ ὅτε ἄρτος καὶ οἶνος νόσον τοῖς χρωμένοις ἐπάγουσι· λώβην γὰρ ἡ ἀμετρία γεννᾷ. Οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὴν εὐπραξίαν, καὶ τὴν δυσπραγίαν, οἱ μὲν σοφῶς κυβερνῶντες σωτήρια κατασκευάζουσι φάρμακα· οἱ δὲ ἀφρόνως καὶ ἀσυνέτως, ἀφορμὰς ὀλέθρου διὰ τούτων εἰσδέχονται. Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν, καὶ ὅσα τούτοις προσόμοια, εὐκαρπία γῆς, καὶ ἀκαρπία, εὔπλοιά τε καὶ ναυαγία, τῆς θείας προνοίας ἐξήρτηται. Διὸ δὴ στέργειν ἅπαντας χρὴ τὰ παρ’ αὐτῆς γιγνόμενα, καὶ μὴ πολυπραγμονεῖν τὰς αἰτίας· ἀνέφικτος γὰρ τῶν θείων πηδαλίων ὁ λόγος· ἐπιμελεῖσθαι δὲ τῶν ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, καὶ τὴν μὲν κακίαν πάμπαν ἀποσκευάζεσθαι, εἰσοικίζεσθαι δὲ τὴν ἀρετήν, καὶ τοῖς ταύτης μορίοις φαιδρύνεσθαι· καὶ καθάπερ αἱ φιλόκοσμοι γυναῖκες κομμωτικῇ τέχνῃ τὸ σῶμα λαμπρύνουσιν, οὕτω τῆς ψυχῆς καλλωπίζειν τὴν ὥραν τοῖς τῆς σωφροσύνης, καὶ δικαιοσύνης, καὶ ἀνδρείας, καὶ φρονήσεως ἄνθεσιν. Ἐφ’ ἡμῖν γὰρ τούτων ἡ κτῆσις” (“... equally we find many who through these have accomplished virtue. Therefore, the good instrument cannot become evil, neither again can the good instrument become for someone else evil. So then, it has a middle order just as medicine. For opium and hemlock, if it be judged by the physicians, becomes an antidote, but it be taken apart from the reasoning of [physician’s] art, [is] destructive and deadly. Sometimes bread and wine bring sickness to those who use [them]. For intemperate usage produces damage. So indeed some who govern wisely prepare the saving medicine both fortunate and misfortunate. But those [who govern] foolishly and stupidly admit the means of destruction through these things. Therefore, these things, and whatever resemble these things, the fruitfulness and the unfruitfulness of the earth, both a fair voyage and a shipwreck, hang upon divine providence. Wherefore it is necessary to be satisfied with all things that happen because of this, and not to investigate the causes. Because the Word of the divine rudders is beyond understanding. But [it is necessary] to care about [these] things [that happen] to us, and, on the one hand, wholly to get rid of evil, and, on the other, to give entrance to virtue and to brighten up with the parts of this. Just as women who love worldly things take pride in the body with the beautification art, so also we wisely devote [ourselves] to beautify, the season of the soul with the flowers of self-control, righteousness, and fortitude. For the acquiring of these things is up to us,” trans. Cope).
[ back ] 26. The term is reminiscent of Aristotle’s notion of sôphrosunê and relevant terms like phronêsis. See Aubenque 1963. For a history of the term sôphrosunê and a thorough discussion of its diachronic significance, see North 1966a. In this connection it is interesting to mention Theodoret’s remark in his commentary to St. Paul’s epistles, where he defines sôphrosunê as health of the mind in contrast to huperifaneia which is defined as disease of the mind: “Σωφροσύνην δὲ ἐνταῦθα τὴν τῶν φρενῶν ὑγείαν ἐκάλεσε, διδάσκων ὡς ἡ ὑπερηφάνεια νόσος φρενῶν” (“Now, he called a healthy mind sober judgment here to bring out that haughtiness is a disease of the mind,” Commentary on the Fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, PG 82:188, trans. Hill).
[ back ] 27. There are many stages in the development of this tradition. For the therapeutic effect of logoi in Greek philosophy, see Laín Entralgo 1970, Thome 1995, Voelke 1993, esp. chapters 5 and 7, Nussbaum 1986:31–74, and Von Staden 2002:803–822.
[ back ] 28. The point is reiterated in several passages throughout the Therapeutikê, for instance, in the concluding remark of Therapeutikê 12.98: “For this reason I undertook this work, and as if by gathering herbs from all over I have prepared for you a wholesome remedy [φάρμακον].”
[ back ] 29. In a similar vein Theodoret applies the same “therapeutic” method in the refutation of the heretical views of his interlocutor in the work Eranistês. As is his habit in the preface of the work, he exposes the rationale of the Eranistês. In Eranistês 28.17–21 he refers to the “therapeutic” aim of the treatise: “τρισαθλίαν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς ἐπορίσαντο περιφάνειαν. Καινῶν γὰρ δογμάτων προστάται γενέσθαι ποθήσαντες, ἐκ πολλῶν αἱρέσεων ἠρανίσαντο τὴν ἀσέβειαν καὶ τὴν ὀλέθριον ταύτην συνέθηκαν αἵρεσιν. Ἐγὼ δὲ αὐτοῖς βραχέα διαλεχθῆναι πειράσομαι, καὶ τῆς αὐτῶν χάριν θεραπείας καὶ τῆς τῶν ὑγιαινόντων ἕνεκα προμηθείας.” Note here that the causes of the disease are diagnosed as being perifaneia ‘pride’. Proofs from authoritative fathers of the church are adduced as pharmaka suitably adjusted to the needs of the interlocutor with the aim to cure. The Eranistês is one more work where Theodoret exhibits an ability to organize in a rigorous, logical way a “therapeutic” discourse. Rational arguments are used in order to refute and persuade.
[ back ] 30. A principle based on Hippocratic medicine; see Müller 1965:225–249. For a similar comment on the “homeopathic” nature of Theodoret’s arguments, see Wyss 1959:209.
[ back ] 31. In the Greek philosophy and rhetorical theory on which Theodoret is drawing, passions are conceived as states or conditions of the soul resulting from what it has experienced. A potent means of inducing or altering these states is logoi. Particularly on the rhetorical use of emotions, see Wisse 1992:218–224 and Webb 1997:112–127.
[ back ] 32. Interestingly enough, Julian, in the letter where he attacks Christians for teaching classical literature, begins thus: “Παιδείαν ὀρθὴν εἶναι νομίζομεν οὐ τὴν ἐν τοῖς ῥήμασιν καὶ τῇ γλώττῃ πολυτελῆ εὐρυθμίαν, ἀλλὰ διάθεσιν ὑγιῆ νοῦν ἐχούσης διανοίας, καὶ ἀληθεῖς δόξας ὑπέρ τε ἀγαθῶν καὶ κακῶν, καλῶν τε καὶ αἰσχρῶν” (“I hold that a proper education results, not in laboriously acquired symmetry of phrases and language, but in a healthy condition of mind that has understanding and true opinions about things good and evil, honorable and base,” Ep. 36, trans. Wright [LCL]).
[ back ] 33. See Chapter Five.
[ back ] 34. The theme allows for a considerable variety of applications in Theodoret’s work. God, and occasionally Christ, is the healer and the purveyor of pharmaka, Therapeutikê 7.16.
[ back ] 35. On this motif and its well-documented pedigree, see Dumeige 1972:115–141 and 1980: 891-901; Fichtner 1982:1–18. For the importance of this motif in early Christian iconography, see Knipp 1998, Hagen Hein 1974, and, more recently, Dörnemann 2003.
[ back ] 36. See Ruttimann 1987, Duprez 1970, and Schadewaldt 1967:1755–1761. For the positive attitude of the church fathers towards healing and its relationship to medicine, see Schadewaldt 1965:115–130.