“The World City” – a forthcoming article on Nemesius of Emesa

Stoic philosophers in antiquity held that ‘the world … is like a city and a polity’, and that the nature of humankind is like ‘a code of civil law’ (Cicero, De Finibus III 62–67).

Bodleian Libraries, Mandorla Mappa Mundi, English manuscript of Ranulf Higden, ca 1400In his late-antique text, De Natura Hominis (ca. 390 A.D.), Nemesius of Emesa rejects a number of Stoic tenets. His world city is not theirs. Furthermore, Nemesius criticizes aspects of the Platonic world city as it is sketched in the Timaeus, and in a rich vein of post-Platonic texts and commentaries. Nevertheless, I will argue here that the 4th-century Syrian philosopher-bishop – like the Stoics and Platonists – held that the human person is a natural-born world-citizen who is in communion with the whole of creation, and indeed, with the Demiurge (since humankind is, as Nemesius says, a ‘child of God’).

This is why Nemesius opens his De Natura Hominis with an elaborate description of divine creation as a form of οἰκείωσις, and why his text ends with a closely reasoned defence of divine providence as a form of διοίκησις.

It is the idea of a ‘world city’, I claim here, which gives structural and conceptual unity to Nemesius’ De Natura Hominis – a unity which his 19th and 20th-century source-critical interpreters failed to recognize.



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