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Classifying Christians"Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity"$

Todd S. Berzon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520284265

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520284265.001.0001

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Heresiology as Ethnography

Heresiology as Ethnography

The Ethnographic Disposition

(p.27) 1 Heresiology as Ethnography
Classifying Christians

Todd S. Berzon

University of California Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes the forms and functions of ancient ethnography to provide the analytical foundation for the discussion of Christian heresiology as a mode of ethnographic writing. Through analysis of the works of Herodotus, Pliny, Josephus, Tacitus, Diodorus Siculus, and others, the chapter identifies the methodological, theoretical, and descriptive contours of classical ethnography. It proposes the idea of an ethnographic disposition, which captures the process and effects of writing people and defining cultural systems. The chapter also shows the bipartite scope of ethnographic writing about the ancient world: microscopic ethnography, which consists of descriptions of the customs and habits of peoples; and macroscopic ethnography, which uses grand paradigms such as genealogy, typology, and astrology to explain habits, customs, phenotypes, and behaviors.

Keywords:   ancient ethnography, Christian heresiology, ethnographic disposition, microscopic ethnography, macroscopic ethnography, ancient world

Let us go on again to another to expose once more the obscure, savage, poisonous teachings of the members of the remaining sects who, to the world’s harm, have gotten cracked by the bogus inspiration of the devil. After exposing the opinion of such people who yearn for the worst … and crushing it by God’s power because of its harmfulness, let us call on God for aid, sons of Christ, as we set our minds to the investigation of the others.


I handed out half-sticks of tobacco, then watched a few dances; then took pictures—but results very poor. Not enough light for snapshots; and they would not pose long enough for time exposures. —At moments, I was furious at them, particularly because after I gave them their portions of tobacco they all went away. On the whole my feelings toward the natives are decidedly tending to “Exterminate the brutes.”


This book seeks to enumerate the ways in which Christians articulated their ethnographic knowledge of the heretics—how they categorized it, described it, and constructed it.1 It also explores the theological categories and intellectual motivations that underlie heresiological ethnography. “Categories,” as the sociologist Rogers Brubaker notes, “structure and order the world for us. We use categories to parse the flow of experience into discriminable and interpretable objects, attributes, and events…. They thereby make the natural and social worlds intelligible, interpretable, communicable, and transformable.”2 For the heresiologists, heresy was a (p.28) way of imagining and categorizing the world in overtly theological terms: to understand how the world necessitated knowledge of heretical their own, how the heretics behaved, thought, and defined themselves and their own universality, how those behavioral and theological differences came to be. And because heresiological ethnography was an instrument of classification, it set the parameters not only for what constituted heresy but also for how to study it. As Brubaker explains:3

When we make sense of our experience by seeing objects, persons, actions, or situations as instances of categories, this always involves more than mere sorting. It always carries with it expectations and “knowledge” … about how members of those categories characteristically behave. Such beliefs and expectations are embodied in persons, encoded in myths, memories, narratives, and discourse, and embedded in institutions and organizational routines.

Heresiological literature did not simply describe and polemicize the customs, doctrines, and origins of the heretics; it also provided authoritative interpretations of their practices and theology. The heresiologists understood the truth of heresy in ways the heretics did not. They constructed and conveyed this knowledge to their readers as didactic ethnography.

In this chapter I wish to elaborate the contours of my usage of ancient and modern ethnographic evidence to illuminate the genre and practice of heresiology. I have necessarily been selective in my choice of ancient and modern examples with which to compare the Christian heresiologists. This is both an accession to the realities of limited space and an acknowledgment of the wide range of forms and styles that constitute bothethnographic writing and the analytical practice of comparison. Ethnography is neither singular nor systematic in either its ancient or its modern form. Rather, it comprises a variety of methods, discourses, interests, techniques, forms, and rhetorical tools. Comparison, as David Frankfurter rightly insists, “is the very foundation of generalization…. Our use of ‘religion,’‘science,’‘magic,’‘amulet,’‘canon’ … is not a simple ‘emic’ translation of some unambiguous Greek or Latin or Hebrew word but a second-order, heuristic category of classification that implies applicability to a particular spectrum of like data.”4 I have juxtaposed Christian and non-Christian sources not to suggest dependency of the former upon the latter but rather to highlight the continuities and discontinuities between the two. I am not claiming that the ethnographic patterns that I identify in this book “exist apart from their heuristic function in making sense of religion in context or that they grasp in any way the (p.29) totality of content or experience.”5 Instead, I hope that comparing Christian and non-Christian sources enables us to make better sense of heresiology as a genre that produces, organizes, and even destroys ethnographic knowledge. My aim is to emphasize how Christians used techniques of writing peoples in ways both similar to and different from Greek, Roman, and Jewish writers. I am interested in how the heresiologists contemplated and modified well-attested ethnographic problems to elaborate their own perspectives and understanding of the world in Christian terms.

I begin this chapter with a discussion of ethnography in the ancient world—as both a heuristic category and a literary process—in order to lay the foundation for my discussion of how early Christian writers theologized the writing of peoples. With specific attention to the writings of Josephus, Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, Tacitus, and others, I enumerate not only various ethnographic styles and contexts but also some of the fundamental interests and methods that informed the study of human diversity and difference in the ancient world. Comparison was always lurking over ethnographic writing to establish hierarchies of peoples both within and outside a given society, to create genealogical bonds, to defend traditions, and to justify slavery and conquest, among myriad other reasons. In that regard, Herodotus was quite right: “Custom is king of all” (νόμον πάντων βασιλέα εἴναι‎).6 Peoples were invariably presented as equivalent to their customs, behaviors, and traditions. The ethnographers of the ancient world compiled an astonishing amount of detail about the dietary practices, cultic rituals, dress, governments, economies, topographies, pedagogies, and so forth, of different categories of peoples. Ethnographic writing was often dominated by the comparative effort to create a disjuncture between a cultural center and a periphery organized around diverging habits and customs, behaviors and mentalities, and political structures and policies (among other factors). This binary, however, was part of a much larger ethnographic discourse that informed the study and classification of societies and their people, on the one hand, and the world and its peoples, on the other. Ethnographic mapping provided the intellectual space in which to theorize the causes and sources of human differences and similarities.7 And by blurring the distinction between individuals and the culture or nation to which they belonged, ethnographers denied a sense of individualism and independence of thought and behavior. Models of human difference depicted people as members of groups with readily identifiable and fixed dispositions.

(p.30) Ethnography in Antiquity: Genre, Tradition, and History

In the most rudimentary or, indeed, purely etymological sense, ethnography is the writing of peoples (ἔθνος‎, if we take it as a designation of peoplehood, community, or ethnicity).8 It names the literary activity by which peoples are rendered into the written word. While the idea of ethnography, facilitated by a certain curiosity, was a manifestly real preoccupation in the Greco-Roman world, the term “ethnography” as designating an academic discipline dates to the nineteenth century.9 As Tomoko Masuzawa has shown, anthropology was one of two disciplines—the other was Orientalism—formed in the nineteenth century to study non-European peoples, what she calls “the rest.”10 Anthropologists were specifically interested in the tribes and supposed primitives of the world, those peoples and places not covered by economics, political science, sociology, and Orientalism.11 It is with the work of the classicist and philologist Felix Jacoby that discussions of ethnography as an ancient genre or category truly began.12 Writing in the early twentieth century, Jacoby undertook anew the task of collecting, arranging, editing, and commenting upon the abundant fragments from ancient prose works that were lost or incomplete.13 In contrast to Carl Müller’s chronologically arranged Fragmenta Historicorum (p.31) Graecorum and Geographici Graeci Minores, Jacoby’s project, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (FGrH), proposed to organize ancient prose writers by literary style and genre.14 To justify his arrangement, Jacoby elaborated an integrated theory of Greek prose writing in which genres emerged out of an ur-prose tradition. He contended that prose writing in its earliest stages was a composite endeavor, indistinguishable by genre. Genealogy, mythography, ethnography, and geography were all part and parcel of historiography. This model of historiography (vis-à-vis Müller’s strict bifurcation of historical and geographical writing) posited historical writing as a capacious endeavor—which, Jacoby stressed, was the case throughout antiquity. Despite the differentiation and evolution of style and genre over time, Jacoby insisted that the various ancient genres remained essentially interdependent and forever interrelated.15

In the decades since the publication of Jacoby’s work, numerous scholars have offered incisive criticisms and augmentations of his underlying thesis.16 While it would be impossible to catalogue these abundant criticisms, it is nonetheless important to discuss how scholars have conceptualized ethnography as one of the “basic types of historical writing,”17 a tradition of writing about foreign lands, and a hybridized form of various methodological and textual conventions.18 Ethnography entailed surveying, categorizing, and theorizing this manifold diversity, and, (p.32) in turn, articulating a relational position to and even apart from it. Emma Dench, refining the work of Jacoby, situates ethnography in relation to history, as “a feature of ancient historical discourse,” and frames the totality of ethnography as relating to matters both minute and grandiose:19

When ancient historians engage in traditions of delineating the lands and customs of “other people,” they are drawn into rhetoric and practices that came to be regarded in antiquity as quintessentially historical. These include the assertion of the authority of the writer and his text, claims of veracity and the superiority of the account to that of predecessors. They also include interest in historical change, causation, and explanation (not least of imperial rule), patterns of the rise and fall of individuals and powers, and broadly didactic concerns such as the provision of vicarious experience and case studies of exemplary behavior.

Underlying much ethnographic writing in antiquity was an expansive and reflective disposition, what Dench calls the “ethnographic gaze”: “the characterization of ‘other peoples’ particularly with reference to their customs, practices, and the behavior that typifies them and/or their lands.”20 The particularities of peoples not only vibrantly color historical narratives but also illustrate how minutiae shape the course of history, cosmology, geography, and religious systems. Ethnography functioned as an intellectual-feedback loop in which the instantiation of ideology shaped interpretive strategies, the collection of data, and the consequent analysis, even as new data and its collection shaped ethnographic values and those same interpretive strategies. Ethnography did not simply describe the world as it was; it created an imagined sense of where the world had been, where it was now, and where it would be through the language of custom, habit, origins, discovery, and exchange.21 Ethnography’s capacity to explain the differences within the world, to foreshadow history, and to justify conquest and expansion was an immensely powerful ideological and textual tool.22 In other words, ethnography depicted various types of peoples with dispositions that created cultural, social, (p.33) and intellectual hierarchies defining the proper parameters for interaction and exchange.23

Following in the lineage of ancient historians who have disputed and altered Jacoby’s historiographic thesis, James Rives outlines an ethnographic tradition through a discussion of the interplay between literary form and descriptive content.24 In the introduction to his translation and commentary on Tacitus’s Germania, Rives contends that the ethnographic tradition originated with Hecataeus of Miletus’s now lost Periēgēsis or Periodos Gēs (“a leading around the world”), which presented the peoples and places of the Mediterranean world through the prism of an extended journey.25 Rives’s demarcation of tradition does not, however, posit an explicitly evolutionary progression (i.e., stages) of the ethnographic tradition. It offers instead a descriptive account of the broad forms of classical ethnography. Ethnography was, in some instances, reflective of the practical needs of sea captains and explorers, aiming “to publish, at the least, a basic record of the ports along seas or river routes,”26 whereas in other cases it served historiographical needs. As the historian Charles Fornara has noted: “Ethnographic tracts appear as digressions from the exposition of res gestae.27 The historical narrative “treat[ed] ethnography as an excursus within a longer historical composition.”28 Herodotus’s Histories discusses the Egyptians, Scythians, Libyans, and Persians at length;29 Caesar’s Gallic (p.34) War describes the Gauls and Germani;30 Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History discusses Arabia, Greece, Egypt, India, Scythia, Ethiopia, and Mesopotamia;31 and Sallust’s Jugurtha incorporates ethnographic details about the Numidians. In each case, these histories display and demonstrate the utility and the allure of ethnographic detail in service of the particularities of universal, political, military, and geographical historical narrative.32

Precisely because most ethnographic material was routinely subsumed within larger narratives and textual forms, many scholars have been reluctant to identify a formally structured genre or independent tradition of ethnography in the ancient world. Even so-called ethnographic monographs—Hellanicus of Lesbos’s Aigyptiaka and Persika, Xanthus the Lydian’s Lydiaka, Manetho’s Aigyptiaka, Berossus’s Babyloniaka, and the lost texts described by Jacoby—were brimming with historical and geographical details. As Rives explains,33

This tradition gained considerable momentum from the conquests of Alexander the Great, which brought Greeks into direct and regular contact with a huge range of peoples. As a result, there was a steady stream of ethnographic writers from the Ionian Megasthenes, who in the early third century BC composed a celebrated account of India (FGrH 715), down to the indefatigable Cornelius Alexander “Polyhistor”, “the very learned”, who in Rome during the last century BC composed works on Bithynia, Egypt, Libya, and India, among others (FGrH 273).

And whereas Rives concedes that the “larger historical component” of these texts “may even have overshadowed the ethnographic framework,”34 I remain sympathetic to the general position that ethnographic writing was a real interest and preoccupation of ancient authors. Scholars will surely continue to disagree about how to describe the ancient impulse for writing peoples, but they would no doubt agree that it remained a pervasive interest across radically different textual (p.35) genres.35 But however much the detail, form, and structure varied, these texts captured the seemingly endless depths of the world’s diverse configurations of peoples and places. From historiographical and historical narratives to philosophical treatises, to accounts of war, to travelogues, to astrological texts, to dramas, to geographies, to national or religious histories, the diverse array of texts from the ancient world that display an ethnographic impulse demonstrates the difficulty of isolating an ethnographic tradition. The diversity of techniques that inform the writing of peoples signifies that ethnography was and remains a constellation of preoccupations, born of ancient and modern moments, respectively.

It is easier, perhaps, to identify ethnographic curiosity than it is to speak of an ancient genre, a fixed tradition, or a formal style embedded within historiographical and geographical texts.36 Consider, for example, Tacitus’s description of the Jews in his Histories.37 Although his explicit concern is the Jewish War and the military campaign of Titus, he pauses his narrative to offer a brief history of Jerusalem, which, in fact, is an ethnographic excursus about the Jews and their history, temple, land, rituals, death rites, and meals.38 He notes, too, their general disposition toward one another and toward the rest of humanity: “The Jews are extremely loyal toward one another and always ready to show compassion, but toward every other people they feel only hate and enmity … and although as a race they are prone to lust, they abstain from intercourse with foreign women; yet among (p.36) themselves nothing is unlawful.”39 The point is not that Tacitus offered an honest or balanced account of the Jews but precisely that he provided a generalizing description, built on the reification of an entire community into a particular disposition and way of life defined by outré practices and obstinate attitudes. The Jews were a provincial group who not only abstained from interaction and intercourse with foreigners but readily adopted a specific bodily practice—namely circumcision—to stand apart: “They adopted circumcision to distinguish themselves from other peoples by this difference.”40 Louis Feldman is quite right that Tacitus and other Roman writers who generalized about the Jews “may have based their comments more on ethnographic tradition than on actual—and flawed—observation.”41 Insofar as ethnography “reveals the character and psychology of a people, and is a descriptive and aetiological key to their actions, and thus historical explanations,” it operates as an essentializing discourse.42 It is a discourse that casually links the history, practices, and beliefs of a people to a core mentality.

The Ethnographic Disposition

By corralling works together under the rubric or title “ethnography,” it becomes easier to observe how works that display the textual flavor of ethnography—considerations of territory, climate, topography, wonder, agriculture, religious customs, dress, eating habits, origins, governmental structure, and so forth—present, organize, and interpret their findings. The diversity of ways in which peoples were written pushes us toward a more capacious understanding of ethnography and ethnographic writing. The scope of writing peoples compels us to observe the multiplicity of authorial objectives encapsulated in the textual construction. I suggest that we ought to treat ethnography as a dispositional orientation that intersects with and shapes writings about history, geography, theology, and literature even as these thematic interests mold the very techniques of ethnographic writing. I follow the work of Emma Dench, Greg Woolf, and James Rives, among others, which has demonstrated that ethnographic writing in the ancient world, and even ethnographic (p.37) stereotyping, entailed a web of negotiations in the effort to comprehend the complexity of the surrounding world. Like them, in using ethnography as a textual marker I am intentionally implicating a wide array of ethnographic typologies and functions. What I call an “ethnographic disposition”—similar to Dench’s notion of an ethnographic gaze—encapsulates the literary process and effects of writing peoples and defining cultural systems.43 Ethnography was a discursive activity in which peoples were reified into textual units, assigned essential dispositions and distinctive practices and beliefs. It reflected an impulse for classifying peoples on the basis of how they behaved, where they came from, and how they came into existence. I am less intent than the historians of antiquity upon narrowly defining its perimeters—I reject the idea, for instance, that only a group described as an ἔθνος‎ can be written ethnographically—or to align it with a distinctly historical project. Rather, in discussing ethnography within the context of the making of late antique Christianity, I am interested in looking at the how Christians developed their own ethnographic vernacular and thus forged a Christian ethnographic discourse through their obsessive writings about the heretics. Heresiology is, in this reading, an exercise not only in appropriating certain ethnographic tropes, themes, aspirations, and fears but also in reimagining them through the principles of Christian theology and theological interpretation. The heretics people the Christian world in ways that make them the natural, however disdained, objects of ethnographic inquiry.

If ethnography is a multifaceted process in which information about a particular people is collected and then theorized, the ethnographic disposition represents the underlying rationale for such methodological and theoretical decisions. In analyzing the process of textual construction, I am posing two interrelated questions about this authorial method: What were the sources with which ethnography was written? And how was the information contained therein gathered? When an author explicitly states the methods and sources of his ethnographic inquiry (and in many cases we are leftmerely to infer), it tends to follow one of three lines: autopsy, witnesses (from testimony and conversation), or the recycling or reinterpretation of textual precedents. Writers as diverse as Lucian, Pausanias, Josephus, Ammianus, Tacitus, and Herodotus underscore their personal travels and involvement in the events, places, and peoples they identify and describe.44 (p.38) Historiographers, ethnographers, and geographers alike wrap themselves in the credibility—what Stephen Greenblatt has called the “discursive choice”—of autopsy: I have been; I have seen; I know.45 Josephus’s avowedly historiographical method, like Herodotus’s preferred process of assembling information, emphasizes his firsthand knowledge of events of the Jewish War, though not to the exclusion of alternative modes of inquiry. In contrast to the Greeks, who had written histories without visiting the pertinent sites and, furthermore, had “put together a few things from hearsay reports” (ἐκ παρακουσμάτων ὀλίγα συνθέντες‎), Josephus was an eyewitness to history: “I, on the contrary, have written a veracious account, at once comprehensive and detailed, of the war, having been present in person at all the events. I was in command of those whom we call Galilaeans, so long as resistance was possible.”46

In other cases, writers draw on the testimony of witnesses to bolster their narratives. In briefly recounting the history of Lydia, for example, Herodotus describes a protracted war between the Lydians, then ruled by King Alyattes, and the Milesians. During the course of battle, the Lydians inadvertently set fire to the temple of Athene at Assesos (they had intended merely to burn crops), which, Herodotus notes, was thought to have inflicted upon Alyattes a protracted and incurable illness. Seeking a remedy, the Lydians ventured to the oracle at Delphi, but “when the messengers came to Delphi the Pythian priestess would not reply to them before they should restore the temple of Athene at Assesos.”47 The details and context of the story need not concern us. What I wish to emphasize is Herodotus’s immediate point of clarification: “I know the truth, for the Delphians told me; the Milesians, however, add to the story.”48 Unspecified testimony, from unknown witnesses or simply “what I have heard,” to quote Pausanias, similarly guides authors writing about events, peoples, and places.49 Diodorus Siculus’s introduction to his discussion of the Ethiopians in his Library of History illustrates the piecemeal nature of writing ethnographically in a work of history:50

(p.39) Concerning the historians (τῶν συγγραφέων‎), we must distinguish among them, to the effect that many have composed works on bothEgypt and Ethiopia, of whom some have given credence to false report and others have invented many tales out of their own minds for the delectation of their readers, and so may justly be distrusted. For example, Agatharchides of Cnidus in the second Book of his work on Asia, and the compiler of geographies, Artemidorus of Ephesus, in his eighth Book, and certain others whose homes were in Egypt, have recounted most of what I have set forth above and are, on the whole, accurate in all they have written. For, to bear witness ourselves, during the time of our visit to Egypt, we associated with many of its priests and conversed with not a few ambassadors from Ethiopia as well who were then in Egypt; and after inquiring carefully of them about each matter and testing the stories of the historians, we have composed our accounts so as to accord with the opinions on which they most fully agree.

Ethnographers such as Diodorus scrutinized textual precedents and drew upon them freely.51 Like historiographers and geographers, the ethnographers made textual choices and judgments in relation to an existing body of knowledge. They offered new interpretations, which had their own afterlives. The ancient tendency toward armchair ethnography—the interpretation of peoples via textual rather than experiential knowledge—displays how the ethnographic disposition relied upon a process of intertextual reading. Ethnographic analysis was, in many instances, doubly interpretive: ethnographers had to reinterpret the findings of previous authors who had already situated their data within their own narratives.

Ethnography in antiquity encompasses not only the collection of data but also its theorization, which attempts to explain the puzzles of the natural world and the people within it. Reflections on the practices, habits, and phenotypes of peoples—the facets of microscopic or particularistic investigation—engendered theorization and disquisition on the causes, conditions, and factors of human diversity (the macroscopic explanations of these microscopic data). The transformation of minutiae into grander historiographical arguments served not only to illuminate the observable differences among the people of the world but to regularize those differences in accordance with natural and supernatural phenomena. Such taxonomic or ideological ordering depended upon a chain of ethnographic knowledge.

(p.40) To organize and arrange ethnographic knowledge meant to posit the causes and effects of human diversity. Interpretive paradigms were utilized alongside data pools not only to try to explicate the causes and forces of the diversity of human behavior and habits but also to categorize the peoples of the observable world.

In his On Isis and Osiris (De Iside et Osiride), the biographer, historian, and middle Platonist Plutarch (ca. 46–120 C.E.), for instance, used the Egyptian myth and cult of Isis to expound his theory of the “structure and genesis of the cosmos.”52 Daniel Richter has persuasively argued that Plutarch dwelt on the myth of Isis and Osiris to solidify a cultural hierarchy between Greece and Egypt. To that end, Plutarch used allegory to argue “that the Egyptian cult of Isis, leftuninterpreted by Greek philosophy, is barbaric in the sense that it leads the soul to a superstitious and false apprehension of the divine.”53 The Egyptians did not possess an accurate knowledge about the meaning of their own traditions and culture. The interpretive maneuvers of Greek and Roman authors brought coherence and order to competing notions of culture and knowledge. It was the Greek or Roman—and eventually Christian—ethnographer, who “employing his expert training in the linked practices of observation and theorizing, could generate ethnographic knowledge.”54 It was the ethnographer alone who knew how to arrange, analyze, and interpret these data “into convincing wholes.”55 He provided ordered ideas of culture and cultural difference. As interpreters of knowledge, ethnographers articulated their understanding of the world around them and the cultures that inhabited it.56

In his discussion of ethnography in the ancient world, Greg Woolf identifies two of its dominant explanatory paradigms: genealogy and geography (the latter including subtypes such as climatology, cosmology, and astrology).57 The ordering of ethnographic knowledge, whereby a people was either situated with respect to (p.41) location (within a larger cosmological framework) or identified via a genealogical tree, offers a model through which to explain human diversity and “to map ethnic groups.”58 Whereas the quest to locate origins (either spatially or genetically) and thus to explain the cultural, religious, and geographical heterogeneity of the world represents but one dimension of the larger project of arraying ethnographic data, the preoccupation with validating ancestral lineage guides much of the ethnographic tradition. Genealogy served as a tangible measure of cultural and ethnic priority (and, in certain instances, superiority).59 Drawing upon the traditional appeal to genealogies, dating back to Homer, Woolf posits that it was possible to organize a line of descendants around a lone figure’s individual eponym if it was “located sufficiently far back in mythic times.”60 Another of the genealogical functions of ethnographic writing, specifically what Woolf identifies as the process of “situating particular individuals or families at the centre of an ethnic history,”61 holds the potential to distinguish specific population groups as well as to create associative bonds among them. Genealogies established proximity as much as they recorded separation: ties of fictive kinship proved functional tools by which communities were drawn together.62 Here, again, texts represented ideas that, in all likelihood, lacked historicity. But, as our authors knew, just as representation became a weapon by which alliances could be forged or hostility explained, it likewise brought to bear unintended or unforeseen problems of philosophical import. The collection of evidence of peoples’ ways of life, both by autopsy and with the aid of textual precedents, engendered problematic questions and realizations about the causes of human difference, the impossibility of cultural translation, the falsity of authorial objectivity, and the scope of ethnographic knowledge. There were certain methodological, philosophical, and textual assumptions that informed the process of ethnographic writing; others that became implicated in the writing process; and still more that emerged only from the process of writing peoples. As much as inquiry required ethnographic exempla, ethnographic writing demanded further inquiry and produced its own explanatory models.

In an oft-cited remark, Clifford Geertz observed that “doing ethnography is like trying to read (in the sense of ‘construct a reading of ’) a manuscript.”63 “Foreign, faded, full of ellipses, incoherencies, suspicious emendations, and tendentious commentaries,” a manuscript, like an ethnography, is defined by its layers of content and its polyvalent structure: it is a literary palimpsest.64 In much the same way that the manuscript presents itself as a textual relic with strata of meaning, my reading of heresiology as a Christianized mode of ethnography posits a similar effort to interpret the layers of heresy’s meaning in the history of Christianity. By using the work of their predecessors, the heresiologists of the later Roman Empire, most notably Theodoret, Augustine, Filastrius, and Epiphanius, strove to organize the heretical world in a system of knowledge and to construct it in terms favorable to their orthodoxy. At the outset of the second proem of the Panarion, Epiphanius reports concisely, if vaguely, on the sources he has consulted and the techniques he has employed in writing his text. Just as for Diodorus Siculus, who heralds “that enthusiasm for the work which enables every man to bring to completion the task which seems impossible,” for Epiphanius “a fondness for study” (φιλομαθίας‎) undergirds his exposition.65 Epiphanius’s articulation of a scholarly urge is a fitting rejoinder to the request “of beauty-loving men (ἐξ ἀνδρῶν φιλοκάλων‎) who urged my weakness on at various times and in various ways, and practically forced me to get at it.”66 The request from the presbyters Acacius and Paul, who asked Epiphanius to share his knowledge of the heretics, serves both to test the bishop’s intellectual skill and to validate his expertise.67

Although Hippolytus’s lost Syntagma and Irenaeus’s Adversus haereseon were the principal sources for the Panarion, there is evidence to suggest that Epiphanius consulted a number of other works, including Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History, Chronicle, and Praeparatio evangelica, an unspecified work of Clement of Alexandria, the Apostolic Constitutions, Filastrius of Brescia’s Diversarum haereseon liber, and the spurious chapter 30 of Tertullian’s Praescriptio haereticorum, known as the work of pseudo-Tertullian.68 The earlier heresiologies by Irenaeus and (p.43) Hippolytus offered evidence for Epiphanius’s historical-geographical-genealogical master narrative. A variety of texts—some heresiological, others not—provided details about the various sectarian groups that Epiphanius named and described.69 Composed over layers of heresiological tradition, Epiphanius subsumed the works of his forebears and contemporaries to suit his own theological, stylistic, and rhetorical needs. The Panarion, in short, assimilated data to project its omniscience and expertise. Hearsay and the occasional firsthand observation—“I happened on some with my own ears and eyes”—likewise complemented his self-professed bookishness.70 He writes, for example, of his knowledge of the Sethians: “I think I may have met with this sect in Egypt too—I do not precisely recall the country in which I met them. And I found out some things about it by inquiry in an actual encounter but have learned other things from treatises.”71

Epiphanius balanced his need for evidentiary corroboration—his text’s dependence on its predecessors—against his own claims of authorial control. His text was no mere compilation or catalogue: it was a highly ordered ethnography, at once macroscopically theorized and microscopically constructed. His text thus segued from its overarching master narrative into the details of lived heresy. What Epiphanius actually produced was a polemical dialogue—or rather, a series of dialogues—between Christianity’s unity and its diversity, which was modulated “with the help of other people’s words, created and distributed specifically as the words of others.”72 The Panarion’s polyvocality, the marshaling of orthodox sources alongside the presentation of quotations from the heretics themselves—was (p.44) harmonized via Epiphanius’s biblical prooftexts and ethnographic model. His universalizing genealogy, the subject of chapter 4 below, was corroborated and realized through the words both of his fellow Christians and of his heretical foes. By incorporating the writings of the heretics, the Panarion juxtaposed theological and intellectual opinions on Epiphanius’s terms. But the dialogic nature of his text is an illusion. In letting the heretics, on occasion, speak for themselves, Epiphanius used the heretics’ own words to refute them.

Epiphanius’s usage of extended quotations from the heretics not only valorizes his own investigative efforts—“to show all studious persons who are in search of truths of faith that I do not accuse people without reason but do my best to base what I say on reliable evidence”—it also enables him to insist on the radical disjuncture between his own voice and those of his opponents.73 With passages from Ptolemy, Marcion, Origen (from his commentary on the first Psalm), Arius, Marcellus, Basil of Ancyra, George of Laodicea, Acacius, Melitius, Aetius, the Gnostic texts Ascents of James and the Travels of Peter, a Gospel according to the Hebrews, and the Book of Elkasai, Epiphanius, more than any other late antique heresiologist, turns the heretics’ own writings against them.74 He takes Irenaeus’s maxim that “the very manifestation of their doctrine is a victory against them” to its textual extreme.75 The heresiologists saw themselves as the rightful interpreters of other peoples’ traditions, practices, and habits. Thus Epiphanius explained the true nature of the heretics not simply to those who asked for his expertise—bothEpiphanius and Augustine received appeals to produce their heresiologies—but also to the heretics themselves.76 The Panarion, most emphatically, reads as a dialogue both with and against heretical groups: the locution “you see”—as in “Don’t you see?” or “Isn’t it obvious?”—pervades the text.77 The motif of seeing was used both in conversation with the heretics—“and you see, Origen, that your novel (p.45) nonsense is worthless”78—and with orthodox Christians, as a plea of avoidance: “And do you see how much there is of this charlatan’s silly nonsense and drunken forgetfulness?”79 The goal of heresiology was not just to deter Christians from becoming or associating with the heretics but also to reorient the heretics toward orthodoxy.80 Epiphanius’s text thus operated as an act of ethnographic illumination: it revealed the true nature and the teachings of the heretics not simply to ostracize them but, in fact, to bring them into the fold.

Tomoko Masuzawa and Christopher Herbert have likewise shown how Victorian ethnographers and philologists offered authoritative interpretations of the traditions and practices of foreign peoples. These Victorian writers located the original form of cultures and religions, uncovering the meanings that eluded the very people who lived them.81 Buddhism, for instance, came to be regarded as a world religion only when Western academics (in the nineteenth century) began to study its texts in earnest. Precisely because, as Masuzawa notes, “there were no native adherents to be found in contemporary India, the land of Buddhism’s origin … the very essence of this newly recognized religion was in the hands of European learned society. With the proper critical skills, those highly trained, monumentally devoted scholars would be in the best position, if not to say exclusive position, to grasp Buddhism’s essential character.”82 There arose, then, a distinction between true or original Buddhism, which was the proper domain of Western philologists, and Buddhism on the ground, which belonged to missionaries, travelers, and casual observers. Similarly, Victorian ethnographers used their “intimate acquaintance” with primitive peoples “to make rational sense of them.”83 The task of the Victorian ethnographers of Polynesia, as Herbert deftly explains, was to find an answer to the “interpretive riddle” that defined primitive peoples’ seemingly contradictory ways of life: to identify a way to represent the incoherencies of primitive peoples with an essential unity.84 As Herbert, quoting Malinowski, avers: “‘The natives obey the forces and commands of the tribal code, but they do not comprehend it’; almost by definition, only the learned European ethnographer can do that.”85 From Plutarch to the apologists and the heresiologists through the early comparative philologists and Victorian anthropologists, the discourse of (p.46) ethnographic inquiry was fashioned via claims of interpretive expertise. The heresiologists, with their insistence on a radical distinction between truth and falsity, offered their own hermeneutical expertise as writers of other Christian peoples. They discovered, elaborated, and classified the very nature of the heretics and heresy. The heresiologists were ethnographic interpreters: they found original forms and essences, forms unknown to the heretics themselves.

If Christianity can be said to have developed a discourse for itself in various manifestations and to various ends, heresiology serves very much as the science (in the Foucauldian sense) of heresy. To follow the analysis that Foucault offers in his Archaeology of Knowledge, heresiology perpetuates and produces a structural form (the catalogue) that encompasses a field and discourse of knowledge.86 When “a group of statements” and its attendant claims, norms, and coherence exercise “a dominant function (as a model, a critique, or a verification) over knowledge,” a discursive formation emerges as a body of knowledge (it reaches what Foucault calls “a threshold of epistemologization”).87 As Foucault goes on to explain:88

At this level, scientificity does not serve as a norm: in this archaeological history, what one is trying to uncover are discursive practices in so far as they give rise to a corpus of knowledge, in so far as they assume the status and role of a science. To undertake a history of the sciences at this level is not to describe discursive formations without regard to epistemological structures; it is to show how the establishment of a science, and perhaps its transition to formalization, have come about in a discursive formation, and in modifications to its positivity…. The analysis of discursive formations, of positivities, and knowledge in their relations withepistemological figures and with the sciences is what has been called, to distinguish it from other possible forms of the history of the sciences, the analysis of the episteme. This episteme may be suspected of being something like a world-view, a slice of history common to all branches of knowledge, which imposes on each one the same norms and postulates, a general stage of reason, a certain structure of thought that the men of a particular period cannot escape—a great body of legislation written once and for all by some anonymous hand.

Christian heresiologists simultaneously peeled back and erected layers of meaning, symbols, and language to explicate their understanding of the known world and elaborate a Christian discourse of history through the notion of heresy. They constructed a regime of knowledge, a worldview oriented by heresy. As an episteme, heresy functions as “the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures, sciences, and possibly (p.47) formalized systems.”89 Though the task of the heresiologist was explicitly polemical, it nonetheless signaled a classificatory impulse built upon the development of discourse of theologically oriented ethnography. Heresiological literature functioned as an expression of a Christian ethnographic disposition, which, above all else, negotiated the immensely difficult task of representing abominable yet alluring—and, indeed, theologically necessary—peoples in textual form.

Ethnography provided an especially useful lens through which to explore the contradictory logic of late antique Christian techniques of classification. Governed by theological principles and the discourse of truth and falsity, Christian ethnographic writing pitted the desire for comprehensive knowledge of the peoples and practices of the world against the repulsion of errant and devious traditions. Discovery of the heretics was a double-edged sword: it announced and textualized their falsity even as it sought to erase them completely. The Christian pursuit of knowledge of foreign peoples and practices was invariably corrective; it was designed to provide peoples with a new way of life. The heretics held enormous explanatory potential for the message of Christian orthodoxy; their theological purpose was to provide a contrast with truth by exemplifying error. But that very purpose created a dangerous dependency whereby orthodoxy required the constant meddling of heresy. Orthodox writers created, used, and theorized the object of their own demise. Therein lay one of the fundamental paradoxes of heresiological inquiry: the structures for classifying knowledge themselves broke down to reveal the impossibility of the heresiologists’ endeavor itself. For, as Foucault notes, an episteme “opens up an inexhaustible field and can never be closed.”90 In that sense, heresiology was governed by an ethos of fear of contamination and an anxiety of permanence, as Michel-Yves Perrin has argued persuasively.91 I submit that the anxiety Perrin ascribes to the heresiologists is built upon an ethnographic logic of cultural exchange. It is not just a fear of abstract doctrine but one of lived and continuous contact with the heretics: “In all the instructions delivered to both the catechumens and the faithful to ‘run away from heretics’ rings out distinctly: not only is this a merely intellectual rejection of opinions, ideas or beliefs considered to be wrong, but true believers must protect themselves from any physical contact with the people who champion them.”92 To that end, the heresiological project was a manifestation of ethnographic expertise. It provided expert knowledge to lay people in order to prevent contact and exchange. Thus it was as ethnography that heresiology prevented individual encounters with the heretics.93

(p.48) Christian ethnographers wrote about and thus constructed Christianity as if it were a world, an expansive theological topography in need of exploration, classification, and investigation, that fed a loop of ethnographic discourse and exchange. Like the Scythians of Herodotus and the Germans of Tacitus as well as the philosophical schools of Diogenes Laertius’s Lives of the Eminent Philosophers and the Jewish sects of Josephus’s Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities, the heretics were emblematic of certain erroneous traditions of knowledge, custom, and culture.94 But unlike the Sadducees or Platonists, who existed among Jews and pagans as legitimate schools of thought, the heretics were defined by a disposition of hubris and transgression, which was central to Christian narratives of sacred history and theological theorizations of human diversity. Indeed, like the nations of Greek and Roman texts, which exemplified the diversity of the known world and galvanized efforts to understand it, the heretics became tools through which Christians told their own ethnographic history of diversity and difference as a history of error. In writing about and explaining their own internal differences, the heresiologists deployed, and in some cases simply invented, ancient paradigms of ethnography in order to classify and ultimately defeat the Christian plurality around them. Concurrently, Christian writers framed the plurality of opinions and groups endemic to their own Christian world as the underlying explanation for the manifest diversity within the known world. Christian self-investigation conceptualized the internal diversity of the church as a larger disquisition on the nature and causes of all human diversity. Christian authors engulfed the church and its intellectual traditions within a polemical project of ethnography: to write the peoples of Christianity in order to contest and, it was hoped, to control them.95 Heresiology posed the relationship between human diversity and Christian diversity quite directly; the differences and variety within the world of Christianity and the world (p.49) writ large were recast as interdependent phenomena. The history of human difference paralleled and even became the history of sectarianism. The heretics, like the nations and the cultures that they represented, were treated as creatures of custom, susceptible to the piercing eye of Christian ethnographers. In exploring how Christians wrote their indigenous peoples, the heretics, I am explicitly casting heresiology as a textual endeavor that sought to rationalize the topography, customs, and wonders of its Christian and non-Christian environments.

In this light, Irenaeus’s description of the Marcosians, a Gallic offshoot of the Valentinians, in his Against the Heresies serves as an apt illustration of Christian heresiology as ethnography.96 He dwells at great length upon their cosmic mythology, interest in numbers and letters, misinterpretation of scripture, use of apocryphal writings, and so on, but he commences his ethnographic description with the figure of Marcus himself. Irenaeus begins by telling his readers that Marcus boasted of “correcting his teacher [Valentinus]”;97 that he was skilled in the magical arts; that he “deceived many men and not a few women”;98 and “was a forerunner of the Antichrist.”99 In Irenaeus’s telling, Marcus views himself as the “matrix and receptacle of Silence (according to the teaching of Colorbasus),” as the font of the divine Monad.100 Irenaeus enumerates in detail certain ritual illusions that Marcus performed, most notably a faux eucharistic rite that worked to ensnare the minds of weak women.101 He explains: “As he feigns to give thanks over the cup mixed with wine, and draws out at great length the prayer of invocation, he makes the cup appear to be purple or red so that it seems that Grace, who is from the regions that are above all things, dropped her own blood into the cup because of his invocation.”102 Those who observe this wondrous ritual long for Grace to “rain upon them.”103 Women who have rejected his magic and returned to the church accuse Marcus of using love potions and charms in order to defile them sexually.104 In his description of this rejection, Irenaeus insists that these women “withdrew from such company” (ἐχωρίσθησαν τοῦ τοιούτου θιάσου‎).105 The Greek θιάσος‎ connotes more than just a company of persons; rather, it serves to identify a cultic retinue, a (p.50) frenzied devotion, usually to Dionysus. It has the sense of a cult society. In this case, true Christian women knew to flee this devious social group.106

Insofar as Marcus positioned himself at the center of a complex cosmic system—oriented around numbers, letters, symbols, and the generation of cosmic beings—he garnered his authority from the possession of secret knowledge given to him by “the most exalted Tetrad.”107 Marcus transferred that knowledge to his disciples, who, as Irenaeus reports, insisted on their perfection vis-à-vis other Christians:108

Some of his disciples, too, who wandered about among them, deceived many silly women and defiled them. They boasted of being so perfect that no one was able to come up to the greatness of that knowledge, not even were one to mention Peter or Paul, or any other of the apostles, and that they knew more than all others and alone imbibed the greatness of the knowledge and the unspeakable Power; and so they are free to do all things without fear of anyone in regard to anything.

Irenaeus insisted that the so-called perfect knowledge of the Marcosians was the direct cause of their libertine approach to life. Like Christ’s apostles, Marcus’s disciples preached a gospel, only theirs was a gospel of arrogance and hubris. For my purposes what is especially intriguing is how Irenaeus’s description of Marcus and the Marcosians oscillates between the singular “he” of Marcus and the plural “they” of his disciples. In some cases, Irenaeus’s comments about Marcus’s disciples portrayed them as extensions of Marcus himself. Chapter 14 of Book 1, for instance, is concerned with Marcus alone, whereas chapter 15 adopts the language of both Marcus and Marcosians. The remaining chapters—16 through 20—all use pluralized language: “they” adulterate scripture with apocryphal writings; “they” distort and misinterpret the Pentateuch; “they” propound an incorrect theory of creation; and “they” practice various rites of redemption.109 As Ismo Dunderberg notably remarks: “Irenaeus did not call the Marcosians a school, like other Valentinians, but a cult society (thiasos).”110

But Irenaeus’s lengthy discussion of Marcosian rites suggests that there were occasions on which they not only separated themselves from the larger Christian (p.51) congregation but also from each other.111 The Marcosians were not a monolithic group; they were a movement, rife with inconsistency and incoherence. For instance, “they hand down [redemption] in such a varied and discordant manner.”112 Irenaeus lists, by my count, seven different redemptive practices, or perspectives, or both. (1) “Some prepare a bridal chamber,” complete with mystical invocations, which produces a spiritual marriage “after the likeness of the conjugal unions on high.”113 (2) Others are baptized in water with an invocation to “the unknown Father of the universe, into Truth, the Mother of all, into him who descended upon Jesus.”114 (3) “Still others pronounce Hebrew names over those who are being initiated in order to bewilder them still more,”115 while (4) “others” invoke a different redemptive formula.116 (5) A fifth position advocates that “it is useless to lead the people to the water. So they mix oil and water together.”117 (6) Certain Marcosians rejected this overtly visible—that is, material—consecration; instead, they insisted that “redemption too must be spiritual; for the inner spiritual man is redeemed by knowledge.”118 (7) The final position pertains to redemptive procedures at death, when the individual is anointed with water and oil while invocations are made.119 All these ritual variations operated out of the shared belief that the death rite represented the culmination of the Marcosians’ secret knowledge about the cosmos and its creator. The performance of the rite enabled followers of Marcus to shed their material beings and ascend without interference, as eternal beings, into the upper reaches of the cosmic real. As Irenaeus explains: “The purpose of this is that these [dying] may become incomprehensible and invisible to the Principalities and Powers, and that their inner person may ascend above the invisible things.”120

In his description of the father of all Christian heresy, Simon Magus, Epiphanius similarly stressed the habits of the Simonians. He reports that Simon compelled his followers to make offerings consisting of a mixture of dirt, semen, and menstrual emissions. In the eyes of the Simonians, “these are mysteries of life and (p.52) the fullest knowledge” (γνώσεώς τε τῆς τελειοτάτης‎).121 “But for anyone,” immediately corrects the bishop, “to whom God has given understanding, knowledge is above all else a matter of regarding these things as abomination instead, and death rather than life.”122 The heretical preoccupation with fantastical “principalities and authorities” within “various heavens” condemns this higher cosmological ordering to the exuberance of the human mind.123 Decried both because they supplant the singularity of the Godhead and because they elevate the human mind beyond its means, these opinions denature, in Epiphanius’s reasoning, the truth of scripture, the life-giving force of the Lord, and the transcendent divinity itself.124 “How,” he asks, “can unnatural acts be life-giving, unless perhaps it is the will of demons?”125 Because the customs of the heretics are the products of human arrogance—themselves the product of demonic temptation—they emerge as emblems of theological reasoning gone awry. And reasoning is not without tangible, observable consequences: how the heretics think and what they think about orients the totality of their error-filled way of life.

In the aggregate, the heresiologists’ descriptions of the customs and habits of the heretics reveal their underlying disposition to be not only arrogant and deceitful but also savage and insane. The Theodosian Code, redacted in the first half of the fifth century, made repeated reference to the madness and insanity of the heretics, most famously in a law delivered on May 30, 428, by the emperors Theodosius II and Valentinian III:126 “The madness of the heretics must be so suppressed that they shall know beyond doubt, before all else, that the churches which they have taken from the orthodox … shall immediately be surrendered to the catholic church, since it cannot be tolerated that those who ought not to have churches of their own should continue to detain those possessed or founded by the orthodox.”127 Here, the operative principle is the radical disjuncture between heresy and orthodoxy, the need for a literal as well as theological wall between the two. As such, they can share neither customs nor buildings in common. An earlier law, (p.53) delivered in February 407, specified this point in purely ideological terms: “We have recently published our opinion in regard to the Donatists. Especially, however, do we prosecute with the most deserved severity the Manichaeans and the Phyrgians and the Priscillianists. Therefore, this class of men shall have no customs and no laws in common with the rest of mankind.128 The laws of the Code promoted a policy of classificatory segregation based on theological, ecclesiastical, and customary principles. Taken together, the two laws cited here (among others to be discussed in the next chapter) displayed an insistence that the heretics must be kept apart from all things associated not just with orthodox Christianity but with the entirety of the human race. The heretics were, as the discursive logic of the Code implies, a category unto themselves. The laws regarding the heretics were informed by the fear of a perceived parity between orthodox and heretical Christians—a sense that the heretics would gain legitimacy by appearing to be orthodox—on the physical landscape of the Roman Empire. Heretics could not be acknowledged to have sacred space, and they certainly could not be permitted to have churches.

But looming over this effort to construct the heretics in very precise ways was the reality that heresy, like all ethnographic objects, was beyond the reach of those who studied it. And the heresiologists were aware of these epistemological and translational dilemmas. Reports about the customs and habits of heretics, as representations of diverse ways of life, became meditations on the limited capacity of Christian authors to know, comprehend, and codify the history of sectarianism. In writing people, the ethnographer constructed microscopic or particular ways of life, behavior, and so forth, while also aligning these particularities with causes and effects or macroscopic theories and paradigms of ethnographic discourse. Indeed, the heresiologists did not simply deny their objects of study the name “Christian.” More important, they theorized with the heretics about the relationship between human difference, knowledge (its acquisition, study, and contemplation), and the epistemological limits governing the textualization of an ever-diversifying world. Heresiological literature illustrated that the Christian oikoumenē was mired in division, strife, and contestation; to survey its contents was not simply to describe its inhabitants but to articulate its possibility, its potential to be whole. What lingers, to borrow Emma Dench’s observation about ancient Roman ethnography, is that the spread of Christianity feeds a self-reflective ethnographic process. Christianity, through its writers and preachers, emerges as its own ethnographical subject, bringing the gaze inward to trace its own history and its own foreignness in order to bracket its defects and articulate its own essence.129 In itemizing the nature of the heretics, having arranged them genealogically, (p.54) chronologically, or typologically, the heresiologists attempt to impose order on their heterodox objects via claims to an ethnographic expertise, a proper understanding of the nature and limits of Christian knowledge about the world.

Conclusion: The Problem of Ethnographic Knowledge

“The making of ethnography is artisanal, tied to the worldly work of writing,” writes James Clifford in his introduction to the essays that constitute Writing Culture.130 He further identifies six ways in which “ethnographic writing is determined”: contextually (by environment), rhetorically (by expressive conventions), institutionally (within and against traditions, powers), generically (the distinctiveness of the ethnographic genre), politically (who represents whom and how), and historically (the ever-changing conventions of ethnography).131 The discursive, poetic, and performative qualities of ethnographic writing draw attention to how ethnography is produced. The conditions within which an ethnography is written determine its questions, form, subject, and method.132 Likewise, the facets or contingencies that govern our own histories in our times determine the reception and the writing of ethnography in ways beyond our control. For Clifford, writing—and ethnographic writing in particular—is only partly the property of its authors. The production of ethnography entails more than interpretation, representation, and translation; it engenders a system of relationships between subject and object, informants and expert, and reader and author, which, in turn, cultivate phenomenological and epistemological consonance and dissimilitude. The performative spectacle of ethnography, the fantastical and the ordinary alike, is bound, authoritatively, to the phenomenological experience of autopsy, translated and transformed by the words of the ethnographic page.

In emphasizing the discursive components of ethnography (over and against visualist tendencies), Clifford thrusts expressive speech and the anthropologist’s own voice to the fore of the ethnographic experience. The once-automatic authority ascribed to the anthropologist (with respect to his object of study) slowly frayed in the wake of the complex and ongoing critiques of representation itself. As the classic ethnographies of the early and mid-twentieth century distinguished between authorial subjectivity and textual objectivity,133 the former was (p.55) understood to be a stylistic flourish, not a determinative feature. The ethnographic text was the reportage by an author but not of the author. Clifford, however, insists upon a renewed focus on the means by which cultural texts are produced, not simply interpreted:134

An interest in the discursive aspects of cultural representation draws attention not to the interpretation of cultural “texts” but to their relations of production. Divergent styles of writing are, with varying degrees of success, grappling with these new orders of complexity—different rules and possibilities within the horizon of a historical movement…. It is enough to mention here the general trend toward a specification of discourses in ethnography: who speaks? who writes? when and where? with or to whom? under what institutional and historical constraints?

The ethnographer’s role in the ethnography itself, both having written it and having to some extent produced the data, exposes the dilemma of ethnographic description: writing peoples is always representative and interpretive. It is never free from the inclinations and preconceptions of its author. In serving the interests of its author, ethnography necessarily translates peoples into the vernacular of its author and his or her culture.

In his Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, Clifford Geertz analyzes the complexities undergirding the production of ethnographic texts. He describes the problem in terms of signature (how the author or author-function is “made manifest in the text”) and in terms of discourse (what is it that the author authors?).135 Signature has cast a long shadow over ethnographic writing precisely because it has framed the problem not in terms of narrative but in terms of epistemology, namely “how to prevent subjective views from coloring objective facts.”136 Geertz continues: “The clash between the expository conventions of author-saturated texts and those of author-evacuated ones that grows out of the particular nature of the ethnographic enterprise is imagined to be a clash between seeing things as one would have them and seeing things as they really are.”137 Though he finds the subjective anxieties of authorization to be overstated, anthropologists, he laments, have too often conceived the problem of ethnographic description in terms of “the mechanics of knowledge” surrounding fieldwork.138 The self/other dilemma of fieldwork was (p.56) prioritized over those of self/text process (the former somehow conceived as naturally solving the latter). Geertz diagnoses the problem of anthropological authorship through a discussion of Foucault’s “What Is an Author?,” which asserts a difference between producers of texts and founders of discursivity, and Roland Barthes’s “From Work to Text,” which hones a distinction between authors who produce works and writers who produce texts.139 For Geertz, the anthropologist is both the Barthesian author and writer, “caught between wanting to create a bewitching verbal structure … and wanting to communicate facts and ideas.”140 And although the distinction between writing and authoring may lack, for Geertz, intrinsic value,141 it nonetheless signals the tension between the practicalities of textual representation in the service of information (the text as a physical object with knowledge) and consciousness about the vernacular of knowledge production. Process and product are linked together as inseparable facets of ethnographic writing.

Anthropology, in Geertz’s estimation, is trapped “mule-like” between its scientific aspirations and its literary explication.142 Framed in terms of signature and discourse, the problem becomes a negotiation of uncertainty: “The uncertainty that appears in signature terms as how far, and how, to invade one’s text appears in discourse terms as how far, and how, imaginatively to compose it.”143 Although heresiology is an extreme example of tendentious textual representation, the genre represents a prolonged engagement with the struggle to capture people in the written word, even when such words are divorced from objectivity, fact, and accuracy. Writing peoples without regard for accuracy involves its own sense of perils, exasperations, and impossibilities. In that sense, the ensuing chapters take seriously the various rhetorical maneuvers of the heresiologists by which they signal their fears, hopes, and dilemmas in writing about the heretics. Though organizationally, contextually, and stylistically distinct, the heresiological works of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, Epiphanius, Augustine, and Theodoret all reflect the authors’ efforts to delineate their own roles as ethnographers and caretakers of the Christian tradition. Although the ideological rigidity of Christian discourse—the imposition of a discourse of truth—resists certain ethnographic needs, the danger of knowledge in a radically changing world is framed not just as an institutional problem but as a conceptual one: What can be known?

The pervasive rhetoric of travel, discovery, and peoplehood connotes an imaginative sense of ethnographic exposition.144 In conjunction with its overtly polemical (p.57) tone and character, my reading of heresiology as ethnography demonstrates that while writing heretics was configured within the rhetoric of an emerging orthodox Christianity, analogous to the moralizing or civilizing discourse in Greco-Roman ethnography, the ethnographic process was equally perilous because of its inevitable finitude and limits. The genre of heresiology interrogates the value of social discourse, attempts to define and parse the limits of Christian knowledge, and organizes the world of heresy, all while reflecting on the very nature of writing itself. In searching for information about the heresies while trying to understand and even justify their place within a world governed by the Christian God, heresiology often became a grander disquisition on the processes by which the world itself, and its divine architect, could and can be comprehended and systematized. Understanding heresy was an endeavor to explicate the expansiveness and limits of human comprehension of both natural and divine phenomena. The particularities of heretical habits were the microcosms of a larger macroscopic vision and history of the Christian world, and this polemical ethnography encapsulates the tension between knowing, knowing too much, and the very capacity to know at all. But there remains an unpredictable, even elusive quality to heresiologies, which indicates their literary complexity. While the stated justification for these massive compilations of evidence and commentary is altogether obvious, their findings and the implications of those findings impose a series of uncalculated conceptual and theoretical hazards. Despite its superficial protestations, heresiology is an epistemological vortex, impossible both in its conceit and in its execution.


(1.) The two epigraphs to this chapter are cited from Epiphanius, Pan. 38.8.6–7 (GCS 31:71), and Bronislaw Malinowksi, A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 69.

(2.) Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), 71.

(3.) Ibid. 72.

(4.) David Frankfurter, “Comparison in the Study of Religions of Late Antiquity,” in Comparer en histoire des religions antiques: Controverses et propositions, ed. Claude Calame and Bruce Lincoln (Liège: Presses Universitaires de Liège, 2012), 83–98, at 85.

(5.) Ibid. 88.

(6.) Translation altered from Herodotus, Hist. 3.38, trans. A. D. Godley, LCL 118 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1921), 50–51.

(7.) On similarities and connections between ancient peoples, in particular, see Erich S. Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011), 223–351.

(8.) For a useful discussion of the term ethnos, see C. P. Jones, “Ἔθνος‎ and Γένος‎ in Herodotus,” CQ 46.2 (1996): 315–20. See also the work of Jonathan M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997) and Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). As he explains in the former, while “the English words ‘ethnic’ and ‘ethnicity’ are derived from the Greek ethnos (plural, ethne), even the most cursory survey of the ancient sources is sufficient to demonstrate that ethnos could embrace a wider variety of meanings than simply ‘ethnic group.’ While it certainly can describe groups of people, its use does not appear to be strictly circumscribed in any defined sociological sense” (33). It can refer to descriptions of all sorts of people who share a common identification, including philosophers, soldiers, foreigners, sects, and religious leaders.

(9.) It is true, of course, that ethnography as a practice and anthropology as a discipline have long and quite complex histories. On this point, see the work of Dell Hymes, ed., Reinventing Anthropology (New York: Vintage, 1974); John J. Honigmann, The Development of Anthropological Ideas (New York: Dorsey, 1976); Henrika Kuklick, The Savage Within: The Social History of British Anthropology, 1885–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991); and Thomas C. Patterson, A Social History of Anthropology in the United States (New York: Berg, 2001).

(10.) Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions; or, How European Universalism Was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 15.

(11.) Ibid. 15.

(12.) Carl Müller, ed., Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, 5 vols. (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1841–70); and his Geographi Graeci Minores, 3 vols. (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1855–61). See also, Felix Jacoby, “Über die Entwicklung der griechischen Historiographie und den Plan einer neuen Sammlung der griechischen Historikerfragmente,” Klio 9 (1909): 80–123.

(13.) Some fragments are simply references to the author, his birthplace, or the title or content of his work, or both. Other, more substantive fragments include actual citations and/or substantive discussion (and naturally disagreement) about the author’s claims, project, conclusions, and argument.

(14.) See Felix Jacoby, Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker (FGrH), 3 vols. in 7 (Berlin, Weidmann, 1923–59).

(15.) Hecataeus of Miletus served as Jacoby’s prime example of the origins of ethnography, genealogy, history, and geography, the latter two of which were united by Herodotus. For Jacoby, the various strands of historical writing began as indistinguishable endeavors and even as they slowly emerged as distinct genres (with Herodotus and Hecataeus), they were forever interrelated and, in essence, never really distinct. See Jacoby, “Über die Entwicklung der griechischen Historiographie.” For a recapitulation of Jacoby in a more modern guise, see Oswyn Murray, “History,” in Greek Thought: A Guide to Classical Knowledge, ed. Jacques Brunschwig and Geoffrey E. R. Lloyd, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1996), 328–37. On Hecataeus, see Lucio Bertelli, “Hecataeus: From Genealogy to Historiography,” in The Historian’s Craftin the Age of Herodotus, ed. Nino Luraghi (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 67–95; and Katherine Clarke, Between Geography and History: Hellenistic Constructions of the Roman World (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 56–66.

(16.) See G. Schepens, “Jacoby’s FGrHist: Problems, Methods, Prospects,” in Collecting Fragments/Fragmente sammeln, ed. Glenn W. Most (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 144–72; Joseph E. Skinner, The Invention of Greek Ethnography: From Homer to Herodotus (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 30–58; Clarke, Between Geography and History, 59–76; Charles Fornara, The Nature of History in Ancient Greece and Rome (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998); Emma Dench, Romulus’ Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 41–46; and Eram Almagor and Joseph Skinner, eds., Ancient Ethnography: New Approaches (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), esp. 1–22.

(18.) On the idea of an ethnographic tradition, see Richard F. Thomas, Lands and Peoples in Roman Poetry: The Ethnographical Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge Philological Society, 1982).

(19.) Emma Dench, “Ethnography and History,” in A Companion to Greek and Roman Historiography, ed. John Marincola (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2007), 493–503, at 493.

(20.) Ibid. 496.

(21.) On ethnography and representation in antiquity, see François Hartog, The Mirror of Herodotus: The Representation of the Other in the Writing of History, trans. Janet Lloyd (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), 310–70. On discovery and exchange, see Jerry H. Bentley, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); and Greg Woolf, Tales of the Barbarians: Ethnography and Empire in the Roman West (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 8–31.

(22.) See Claude Nicolet, Space, Geography, and Politics in the Early Roman Empire, trans. Hélène Leclerc (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991); Elizabeth Rawson, “Geography and Ethnography,” in her Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic (London: Duckworth, 1985), 250–66; and C. R. Whittaker, Rome and Its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire (New York: Routledge, 2004), 63–87.

(23.) Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 170–94.

(24.) James B. Rives, “Introduction,” in Tacitus, Germania: Translated with Introduction and Commentary, ed. and trans. James B. Rives (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 11–21.

(25.) Ibid. 12–15. The first book of Hecataeus’s text covered Europe, and a second considered Asia, Libya, and Egypt.

(26.) This is what Rives calls the “periegetic tradition,” which encompassed two related generic forms: the more technical periplous narrative (“sailing around”) and the less formal, more expansive periēgēsis (“leading around”). Notable works include the anonymous Periplous of the Erythraian Sea, Arrian of Nicomedia’s Periplous of the Euxine Sea, pseudo-Skylax’s Periplous, and the fragmentary periplous of Pytheas of Massalia. On the details, see Scott Fitzgerald Johnson, “Travel, Cartography, and Cosmology,” in The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, ed. Scott Fitzgerald Johnson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 562–94.

(27.) Fornara, Nature of History, 14. See also, Wiebke Vergin, Das Imperium Romanum und seine Gegenwelten: Die geographisch-ethnographischen Exkurse in den “Res Gestae” des Ammianus Marcellinus (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2013).

(29.) Herodotus’s Histories discusses the peoples and customs of Egypt (2.2–182), Scythia (4.5–82), Libya (4.168–99), and Persia (his comments on Persian customs and habits are interspersed throughout the text, though Book 7 contains the most ethnographic information). See Rosaria Vignolo Munson, Telling Wonders: Ethnographic and Political Discourse in the Work of Herodotus (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001); and Rosaria Vignolo Munson, ed., Herodotus, vol. 1, Herodotus and the Narrative of the Past, and Herodotus, vol. 2, Herodotus and the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(30.) See Andrew M. Riggsby, Caesar in Gaul and Rome: War in Words (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006), 47–72.

(31.) For more on Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History, see Iris Sulimani, Diodorus’ Mythistory and the Pagan Mission: Historiography and Culture-Heroes in the First Pentad of the “Bibliotheke” (Leiden: Brill, 2011); and Kenneth S. Sacks, Diodorus Siculus and the First Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).

(32.) On the relationship between universal history and ethnography, see Walter Ameling, “Ethnography and Universal History in Agatharchides,” in East & West: Papers in Ancient History Presented to Glen W. Bowersock, ed. T. Corey Brennan and Harriet I. Flower (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008), 13–59.

(33.) Rives, “Introduction,” 13. If, as Rives hypothesizes, treatises of independent ethnography may have seemed historical to their readers, the notion of an independent ethnographic tradition remains muddied and problematic. But the diffusion of ethnography across genres need not preclude an effort to trace its discursive, methodological, and rhetorical emphases.

(35.) See, for instance, Anthony Kaldellis, Ethnography after Antiquity: Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). While Kaldellis’s emphasis on the capacity of ethnography to induce internal self-reflection is immensely important, his focus on historiographical writing is but one illustration of a much larger ethnographic project in antiquity and beyond.

(36.) See, for example, Lucian of Samosata’s A True Story (Vera hist.), trans. A. M. Harmon, LCL 14 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1913). A parody of an ethnographic journey, A True Story mocked the tradition of “poets, historians and philosophers … who have written much that smacks of miracles and fables, … imaginary travels and journeys of theirs, telling of huge beasts, cruel men and strange ways of living” (Vera hist. 1.2–3 [LCL 14:248–51]). What unfolds in Lucian’s text is the ethnographic imagination gone wild. He writes of a journey to the moon and a great battle between the Moonites and Sunites, a foray inside the stomach of a whale, a short stay at an island made of cheese, an extended respite on the Isle of the Blessed, as well as encounters with vulture dragoons, grass-plume riders, millet shooters, garlic fighters, flea archers, sparrowcorns, crane dragoons, mergoats, clan crawfish, corkfeet, Calypso, etc. Parody works, of course, only by operating from a place of established tradition or sense of truth—in this case, a sense of the trajectory of ethnographic writing.

(37.) For an incisive and exhaustive discussion of this passage as ethnographic analysis, see René Bloch, Antike Vorstellungen vom Judentum: Der Judenexkurs des Tacitus im Rahmen der griechischrömischen Ethnographie (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2002), esp. 68–97.

(38.) For a detailed analysis of Tacitus’s writings about the Jews, see Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, 179–96; and Louis H. Feldman, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 45–50, 94–98, 183–96, 299–304, 430–36.

(39.) Tacitus, Hist. 5.5.1, trans. Clifford H. Moore, LCL 249 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931), 180–83. The same sentiment appears in Josephus, C. Ap. 2.258, trans. H. St. J. Thackery, LCL 186 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1926), 396–97, where he paraphrases Apollonius Molon: “Of these facts Apollonius Molon took no account when he condemned us for refusing admission to persons with other preconceived ideas about God, and for declining to associate with those who have chosen to adopt a different mode of life.”

(42.) I. G. Kidd, Posidonius, vol. 3, The Translation of the Fragments (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 56.

(43.) See also James Romm, The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought: Geography, Exploration, and Fiction (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), who emphasizes the narrative, literary quality of investigations into the peoples and places at the farthest ends of the earth.

(44.) On autopsy, see O. Kimball Armayor, Herodotus’ Autopsy of the Fayoum: Lake Moeris and the Labyrinth of Egypt (Amsterdam: Gieben, 1985); Rosalind Thomas, Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, Science and the Art of Persuasion (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 168–248; John Marincola, Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 63–85, 276–79; and Hartog, Mirror of Herodotus, 260–370.

(45.) Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 123.

(47.) Herodotus, Hist. 1.19, trans. A. D. Godley, LCL 117 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1981), 22–23.

(48.) Herodotus, Hist. 1.20 (LCL 117:22). Translation modified. He continues at 1.20, “The Milesians add to the story, that Periander son of Cypselus, being a close friend of Thrasybulus who then was sovereign of Miletus, learnt what reply the oracle had given to Alyattes and sent him a dispatch to tell Thrasybulus, so that thereby his friend should be forewarned and make his plans accordingly” (LCL 117:22).

(49.) Pausanias, Descr. 3.7.1, trans. W. H. S. Jones and H. A. Ormerod, LCL 188 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1926), 38–39.

(50.) Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 3.11, trans. C. H. Oldfather, LCL 303 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1979), 112–14.

(51.) Because there is no evidence that writing people required an especially rigorous program of travel and observation, though this was true in certain cases (see Caesar, Pausanias, Herodotus, and Pytheas of Massalia, among others), reliance upon earlier sources was a routine component of ethnographic writing. Unlike contemporary ethnographers who venture into the field to observe their subjects firsthand—this has not always been the case, of course: think Durkheim, Frazer, and Benedict—ancient writers wrote freely of peoples with whom they seemingly had no personal contact at all. On the use of libraries to produce ethnography, see Woolf, Tales of the Barbarians, 66–79. Because much ethnography was written with second-order data, it seems apposite to think of our ancient authors as armchair or uncritical anthropologists.

(52.) Daniel S. Richter, “Plutarch on Isis and Osiris: Text, Cult, and Cultural Appropriation,” TAPA 131 (2001): 191–216, at 191–92.

(53.) Ibid. 209.

(55.) Ibid. 43.

(56.) See also the excellent discussion of Ellen O’Gorman, “No Place Like Rome: Identity and Difference in the Germania of Tacitus,” Ramus 22.2 (1993): 135–54.

(57.) Woolf, Tales of the Barbarians, 32–58. For geography, see 44–51; climatology, 44–48; astrology, 48–51. As Woolf explains, “genealogy and geography each offered general explanatory frameworks or paradigms within which ethnographic data might be made to make sense…. Paradigms also contribute to the structuring of knowledge when it is encoded in text. Ethnography, after all, literally means ‘writing people.’ As a discipline of recording it always involves the translation of people into texts. Paradigms operate in some ways like master narratives, and in others rather like sets of generic conventions” (36). On ethnography as conditioned by its allegorical possibilities (i.e., ethnography as a genre and practice of multiple meanings and multiple readings), see James Clifford, “On Ethnographic Allegory,” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, ed. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986), 98–121.

(59.) See Elias Bickerman, “Origines gentium,” CP 47.2 (1952): 65–81; T. P. Wiseman, “Legendary Genealogies in Late-Republican Rome,” GR 21.1 (1974): 153–64; Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity, 40–51, 77–89, and Hellenicity, 15–29; Robert L. Fowler, “Genealogical Thinking, Hesiod’s Catalogue, and the Creation of the Hellenes,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 44 (1998): 1–19; and Isaac, Invention of Racism, 109–48.

(62.) See Gruen, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity, 253–307; and Christopher P. Jones, Kinship Diplomacy in the Ancient World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999).

(63.) Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” in his The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays by Clifford Geertz (New York: Perseus, 1973), 3–30, at 10.

(64.) Ibid. 10.

(67.) For the Letter of Acacius and Paul, see Epiphanius, Pan. 1.1–13 (GCS, n. F., 10:153–54).

(68.) Richard Adelbert Lipsius, Zur Quellengeschichte des Epiphanios (Vienna: Braumüller, 1865), offers the most systematic review of Epiphanius’s sources. Aline Pourkier, L’hérésiologie chez Épiphane de Salamine (Paris: Beauchesne, 1992), 53–75, surveys the literature more briefly (though she juxtaposes the knowledge of the various sources throughout his work). It remains inconclusive whether Epiphanius knew any of Justin’s work or the Elenchos of Hippolytus. Pourkier, 93–117, offers a systematic comparison between the works of Hippolytus and Epiphanius. On Justin’s reference to his lost work, Against All the Schools of Thought That Have Arisen (The Syntagma), see Alain Le Boulluec, La notion d’hérésie dans la littérature grecque, IIe–IIIe siècles, vol. 1 (Paris: Études Augustiniennes, 1985), 36–91; and now Geoffrey S. Smith, Guilt by Association: Heresy Catalogues in Early Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 49–86.

(69.) See the brief remarks of Frank Williams, trans. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book I, Sects 1–46, 2nd ed. (Boston: Brill, 2009), xxv–xxvii.

(70.) Epiphanius, Pan. pro. 2.2.4 (GCS, n. F., 10:170). The rarity with which eyewitness testimony is invoked—by the heresiologist himself or by a source—is hardly dispositive insofar as ancient ethnography was primarily a venture undertaken with written sources. Much emphasis, especially with respect to Augustine’s De haeresibus, is placed on the collection of relevant material. Theodoret also trumpets his usage of sources and signals his genre’s dependence upon his intellectual antecedents and contemporaries. See the diagram of heresiological interdependence in Gérard Vallée, A Study in Anti-Gnostic Polemic: Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Epiphanius (Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1981), 6. Glenn Melvin Cope, “An Analysis of the Heresiological Method of Theodoret of Cyrus in the ‘Haereticarum fabularum compendium’” (Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1990), ventures into a fairly detailed discussion of Theodoret’s sources—contesting, for example, Vallée’s claim that Theodoret was unaware of the Panarion.

(72.) Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), 188.

(74.) Epiphanius, Pan. 31.5.1–6.10; 32.4.4–5.6; 33.3.1–7.10; 42.1–78; 64.6.1–7.4, 64.12.1–16.7; 66.6.1–6.11, 66.25.3–31.8; 69.7.2–8.5; 72.2.1–3.5; 73.2.1–22.8; 76.11.1–12.37. In acknowledging his Panarion’s literary dependence upon the writings of Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Clement, and other earlier Christian writers, Epiphanius underscores the continuity and tension within the textual tradition of heretical refutation. Heresiology, in its later iterations, bore the mark of a genre in tension with itself. Authors not only edited their texts numerically; they considered the structural mechanisms by which the undertaking could be limited, including scriptural strictures and efforts to define in precise terms the meaning of heresy.

(76.) Augustine was asked by the deacon of Carthage Quodvultdeus for a brief heresiological handbook. See Augustine, Epistles 221–24 in CCSL 46:273–81. See my discussion of this exchange and Augustine’s text in chapter 7 below.

(77.) While the motif of seeing (ὁρᾷς‎) is found in nearly every entry of the Panarion, certain examples illustrate the point especially well: 31.28.1; 37.8.11; 48.3.6, 48.7.10; 51.10.3, 51.33.8; 57.5.2; 62.6.3; 65.5.7; 66.54.3; 69.62.8; 70.4.1; 73.36.4; 76.8.12, 76.38.2; 79.6.5.

(80.) See Caroline Humfress, Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 235–37.

(81.) Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions; and Christopher Herbert, Culture and Anomie: The Ethnographic Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

(85.) Ibid. 43.

(86.) Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972), 184.

(87.) Ibid. 186–87.

(88.) Ibid. 190–91.

(89.) Ibid. 191.

(91.) Michel-Yves Perrin, “The Limits of the Heresiological Ethos in Late Antiquity,” in Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity, ed. David M. Gwynn and Susanne Bangert (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 201–27.

(92.) Ibid. 204.

(93.) The great historian of the later Roman Empire A. H. M Jones famously asked in an article from 1959, “Were the Ancient Heresies National or Social Movements in Disguise?,” JTS 10.2 (1959): 280–98. Although Jones answered firmly in the negative, it is nonetheless clear from the extant evidence that the heresiologists explicitly invoked the language of ethnic reasoning in their delineation of the nature, origin, and identity of the heretics. Moreover, the facets of ethnographic writing incorporate more, much more, than a rote delineation of the qualities or criteria of nationhood. The ethnographic mark of heresiology turns as much on its descriptions of peoples as it does on the author’s gaze upon the structure and capacity of his text to contain and define a field of knowledge.

(94.) On Diogenes Laertius, see Jørgen Mejer, “Diogenes Laertius and the Transmission of Greek Philosophy,” ANRW 2.36.5 (1992): 3556–602. The latter part of 36.5 (3556–792) contains several essays on doxography, Diogenes, and Hippolytus of Rome, while the entirety of 36.6 pursues these themes. The best study of ancient Jewish sectarianism remains Albert I. Baumgarten’s The Flourishing of Jewish Sects in the Maccabean Era: An Interpretation (Leiden: Brill, 1997). See also Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006), 110–66; and now Jonathan Klawans, Josephus and the Theologies of Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(95.) On orthodox control of heresy, see Daniel Boyarin, “Apartheid Comparative Religion in the Second Century: Some Theory and a Case Study,” JMEMS 36.1 (2006): 3–34.

(96.) Irenaeus, Adv. haer. 1.13–20. On the Marcosians and their death rite, in particular, see Nicola Denzey Lewis, “Apolytrosis as Ritual and Sacrament: Determining a Ritual Context for Death in Second-Century Marcosian Valentinianism,” JECS 17.4 (2009): 525–61.

(106.) On women and the cult of Dionysus, see Ross S. Kraemer, “Ecstasy and Possession: The Attraction of Women to the Cult of Dionysus,” HTR 72.1–2 (1979): 55–80.

(109.) On their use of spurious writings, see Adv. haer. 1.20. On their errant cosmic and scriptural interpretations, see Adv. haer. 1.16 and 1.18, respectively. On creation, Adv. haer. 1.17. On death rites, Adv. haer. 1.21.

(110.) Ismo O. Dunderberg, “The School of Valentinus,” in A Companion to Second-Century “Christian Heretics,” ed. Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen (Boston: Brill, 2008), 83. For more on the idea of thiasos, see Walter Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1987), 31–34, 38, 41–45.

(111.) David Brakke, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2010), suggests that the Valentinians (and likely the Marcosians as well) “[did] not separate themselves from other Christians; rather, many of them [were] members of the same congregations as followers of Irenaeus and his allies” (36).

(116.) “The name which has been hidden from every Deity, Dominion, and Truth, with which Jesus the Nazarene clothed himself within the regions of the light of Christ—of Christ who lives by the Holy Spirit for the angelic redemption” (Adv. haer. 1.21.3 [SC 264:300]).

(126.) On the history and compilation of the Code, see John F. Matthews, Laying Down the Law: A Study of the Theodosian Code (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).

(127.) CTh 16.5.65 (Theodosiani libri XVI cum Constitutionibus Sirmondianis, ed. Theodor Mommsen and Paul M. Meyer [Berlin: Weidmann, 1905], 878). Translation from Clyde Pharr, The Theodosian Code and Novels and the Sirmondian Constitutions (Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2001), 462. On the Theodosian Code and the motif of insanity, see Richard Flower, “‘The Insanity of the Heretics Must Be Restrained’: Heresiology in the Theodosian Code,” in Theodosius II: Rethinking the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, ed. Christopher Kelly (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 172–94. See also, Humfress, Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity, 233–68.

(128.) CTh 16.5.40 (Mommsen and Meyer, 867–68); emphasis added.

(130.) James Clifford, “Introduction: Partial Truths,” in Clifford and Marcus, Writing Culture, 1–26, at 6.

(131.) Ibid. 6.

(133.) For examples of so-called classical ethnography, which tends not to problematize the relationship between subject and object, see the works of Ruth Benedict, Raymond Firth, Margaret Mead, Paul Radin, and Franz Boas. See also Mary Louise Pratt, “Fieldwork in Common Places,” and Renato Rosaldo, “From the Door of His Tent: The Fieldworker and the Inquisitor,” in Clifford and Marcus, Writing Culture, 27–50 and 77–97; Patricia A. Adler and Peter Adler, “Of Rhetoric and Representation: The Four Faces of Ethnography,” The Sociological Quarterly 49 (2008): 1–30; and John Van Maanen, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

(135.) Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 8.

(136.) Ibid. 9.

(139.) Ibid. 17–20.

(140.) Ibid. 20.

(141.) Ibid. 19–20.

(142.) Ibid. 20.

(144.) On the relationship between empire, imaginative ethnography, and Christian expansion, see Harry O. Maier, “Dominion from Sea to Sea: Eusebius of Caesarea, Constantine the Great, and the Exegesis of Empire,” and Karla Pollmann, “Unending Sway: The Ideology of Empire in Early Christian Latin Thought,” in The Calling of the Nations: Exegesis, Ethnography, and Empire in a Biblical-Historic Present, ed. Mark Vessey et al. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011), 149–75 and 176–99.