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Exile of philosophers during reign of Domitian

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman mosaic showing philosophers at Plato's Academy
Roman mosaic showing philosophers at Plato's Academy

According to ancient sources, at the beginning of his reign, Domitian (81-96 CE) was to lead to the expulsion of philosophers from Rome and Italy and forbid the Romans to deal with philosophy.

The emperor’s motives are not entirely clear; whether the decision resulted from a single event or perhaps the madness of the ruler. Suetonius was at that time a direct witness of the persecution of the intellectual opposition. The immediate cause was the condemnation of Junius Rusticus Arulenus in 93 CE, who wrote praise in honour of a certain Petus Trazea and Helvidius Priscus, who was sentenced to death much earlier1.

Domitian’s actions against philosophers could consist of even three stages; as to this, there are disagreements among scientists. What is certain, however, is that the exiles took place. We have many mentions in ancient writings and letters. Pliny the Younger mentions that his friend, the Stoic philosopher Artemidor2 was driven out. Tacitus, Cassius Dio and Flavius ​​Philostratus also speak about it.

  1. Suetonius, Domitian, 10
  2. Pliny the Younger, Letters, 3.11

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