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Cyprian Norwid and the History of Greece

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Maciej Junkiert

Ancient Greek history holds a special place in the works of many 19th-c. writers. The same goes for Cyprian Norwid, one of the most eminent poets in the history of Polish literature, a thinker, and an artist. This book scrutinizes Norwid’s fascination with Greek history and culture, especially his peculiar synthesis of Greek thought and Christianity. It focuses on the key themes of the relationship of Platonism with early Christian writings and their presence in Norwid’s contemporary culture, the opposition of memory and history in 19th-c. literature and social life, and the image of the artist and its influence on social life in modern everyday. The book analyzes Norwid’s oeuvre in a broad comparison with representatives of French, German, and British literature and the humanities.

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Chapter III. Norwid’s Christian Platonism: About Quidam

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1. The Hellenization of Christianity

Since the publication of Adolf von Harnack’s Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte in 1887, we observe the development of an influential research trend in theology, which treats Greek philosophical thought as a decisive element in the shape of Christianity, extremely detrimental from the point of view of the future fate of religion.1 According to the supporters of this thesis, the process of the so-called Hellenization of Christianity was to lead to the contamination of the original nature of Christianity by Greek metaphysics, which played a key role in the process of solidifying Christian doctrine. The influence of classical traditions allegedly distorted the doctrine of Revelation, corrupted Christians with pagan morality and vision of the world, and led to the elevation of reason at the expense of faith. In this way, as Harnack wrote, “the Greek spirit” developed “on the soil of the Gospel.”2

Anti-Hellenists were especially interested in the turn of the second and third century AD and the events that focused on Alexandria, where since about 180 AD there was a catechetical school3 led by Panthen of ←139 | 140→Sicily,4 a converted stoic, who played an important role in the process of making Christianity more attractive, turning it into a religion for the intellectual elite. Especially, since their representatives eagerly joined heretical sects. Henry Chadwick describes this phenomenon as follows: “As Christianity penetrated the well-educated society of Alexandria, the choice for the convert seemed too often to be...

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