Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


Regents of the University of California


Late Antiquity witnessed a revolution in textuality. Numerous new technologies transformed the practices through which readers accessed written knowledge. Editors reconfigured existing works in order to facilitate new modes of access and new possibilities of knowledge. Despite recent investigations of late ancient knowing, tables of contents have been neglected. Addressing this lacuna, I analyze two examples from the early fourth century: Porphyry of Tyre’s outline of the Enneads in his Life of Plotinus and Eusebius of Caesarea’s Gospel canons. Using tables of contents, Porphyry and Eusebius reconfigured inherited corpora; their creative interventions generate and constrain possibilities of reading—sometimes in ways which run against the grain of the assembled material. I thus argue that Porphyry and Eusebius employed tables of contents to structure textual knowledge—and readers’ access to it—by embracing the dual possibilities of order and creativity in order to offer new texts to their readers. This dual function—of affording structure and inviting creative use—was significant in the construction of composite works which characterized much late ancient intellectual production. The examples of Porphyry and Eusebius illuminate broader late ancient practices of collecting and cataloguing textual knowledge.


Published as Coogan, J. (2021). Transforming Textuality: Porphyry, Eusebius, and Late Ancient Tables of Contents. Studies in Late Antiquity, 5(1), 6–27. © 2021 by the Regents of the University of California. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center.

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