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'The science of fiction: knowledge, competitiveness and expertise in Late-Antique heresiology.' - Dr Richard Flower

This paper will explore a group of texts that might not, on first encounter, seem particularly 'scientific' (or even to belong in a Classics department): late-antique polemical catalogues of Christian heresies, usually referred to as heresiologies. These writings, which enjoyed great popularity from the late fourth century onwards, listed different groups of people - some real, some extinct, some fictional - but all regarded by the authors as threats to the faithful. Despite the tendentious and questionable nature of some of the information they contained, however, heresiologies deserve, in my opinion, to be considered alongside other forms of 'technical' and encyclopaedic literature from the ancient world, including the works of Pliny the Elder and Galen. This paper will explore how heresiologists, especially Epiphanius, the late-fourth-century bishop of Salamis on Cyprus, engaged with the methods and traditions of classical technical writings in order to present their texts are part of a secure and uncontentious field of knowledge and to portray themselves as reliable and authoritative experts in this field. It will also examine how, as the genre of heresiology developed, different writers actively sought to position themselves within its literary tradition and to compete with their predecessors and contemporaries for primacy and status.

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Amory 308