Oddcast episode

Levan Gigineishvili on Ioane Petritsi and the Mediæval Georgian Proclus-Reception

We are delighted to speak with Levan Gigineishvili on the life, work, and though of Ioane Petritsi (11th-12th centuries), Georgian philosopher and assiduous reader of Proclus.

We begin with a few contextual remarks about Georgia herself – language, distinctive script, early Christianisation (before Constantine!) and concomitant political alignment with Rome rather than Sassanian Persia, and finally Georgia’s messy position with regard to the Council of Chalcedon. We then turn to introducing Petritsi in his eleventh/twelfth-century context, covering:

  • the tenth-century beginnings of properly-philosophical (as opposed to theological) literature being translated into Georgian,
  • the monastic and philosophical projects of the Georgian king David ‘the Builder’, which paved the way for,
  • the life of Ioane Petritsi. We don’t know much about his life, but we know he studied in East Rome, was persecuted and had to head back to Georgia where he also ran into unspecified trouble, but seemingly was able to set up a philosophical school of some time on his home soil,
  • the philosophical labours of Michæl Psellos, and then of John Italos, who really stirred things up at Constantinople in roughly the generation prior to Petritsi’s. Either man might have taught Petritsi, or neither,
  • the extraordinary philosophical school at the Gelati, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelati_Monastery which for a brief time was the foremost philosophical school in eastern Christendom,
  • and finally, Petritsi’s Georgian translation of and commentary on Proclus’ Elements of Theology, perhaps the most honest reading of Proclus from the middle ages.

Interview Bio:

Levan Gigineishvili is Professor at the Institute of Classics, Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies of the Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University. He has published widely on Petritsi (including a monograph in English), on Proclus, on philosophy, and on philosophic theology.

Works Cited in this Episode:


Psalm 82:6: ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.’

Rustaveli’s The Knight in Panther’s Skin is a thirteenth-century Georgian epic poem.


Lela Alexidze and Lutz Bergemann, editors. Ioane Petrizi Kommentar zur Elementation theologica des Proklos. Übersetzung aus dem Altgeorgischen, Anmerkungen, Indices und Einleitung. B.R. Grüner, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, PA, 2009.

Garth Fowden. From Empire to Commonwealth: The Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1993.

Recommended Reading:

SHWEP Recommended Reading Ioane Petritsi


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