2013-2016: Theories and Practices of Prayer in Late Antiquity – 2nd-6th centuries

Project development

Scientific report May 2013 – September 2016

  • Between the 1st of May 2013 and the 30th of September 2016, the Alexandru Dragomir Institute for Philosophy, Bucharest, has been hosting the project Theories and practices of prayer in Late Antiquity (2nd–6th c.), financed by CNCS-UEFISCDI, including four researchers: Andrei Timotin (project director), Marilena Vlad, Adrian Robu and Emanuela Timotin. The project deals with theories and practices of prayer in the philosophical and theological traditions in Late Antiquity, especially in Neoplatonism and in the patristic tradition, in the general context of the relation between philosophy and religion in the Graeco-Roman world. The interdisciplinary approach of this project allows a diachronic analysis of the philosophical problems in the frame of the philosophical-religious polemics of the period and in relation with the evolution of the religious practices in Late Antiquity.
  • The scientific plan of the project scheduled the completion and the submission for publication of 8 studies, among which 3 in ISI indexed journals and 5 in BDI indexed journals or in Proceedings of international conferences. It also established the presentation of 5 papers at international conferences or congresses.
  • The researchers involved in this project completed, during its implementation, 4 books (2 monographs at Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne and Brepols, and 2 edited books, at Brill and Brepols) and 15 articles, which were published or are forthcoming in prestigious international journals (4 of which in ISI indexed journals and 1 in an ERIH-A indexed journal), or in Proceedings of international conferences (10) (published at Brill, Winter Verlag, CEU Press, and Brepols). 18 papers were also presented at international conferences and congresses organised in France, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, United Kingdom, Ireland, Israel and Romania.
  • In the frame of the project an international conference was also organised, according to the scientific plan of the project. The conference, entitled Théories et pratiques de la prière dans l’Antiquité tardive (IIe-VIe s.) (23-24 October 2015, Bucharest, New Europe College), reunited 13 researchers, among which 8 from abroad (France, Netherlands, Italy and Israel). The Conference Proceedings volume, edited by Andrei Timotin and Philippe Hoffmann (directeur d’études, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris), is in preparation. The editors consider their publication at Brepols, in the collection Bibliothèque de l’École des Hautes Études.
  • Two panels were additionally organised in the frame of the project: Neoplatonic Theories of Prayer at the 11th Annual Conference of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies (Cardiff, June 12-15, 2013), and Demonology and Theurgy in Neoplatonism, at the 12th Annual Conference of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies (Lisbon, June 16-21, 2014). The panels, organised by Andrei Timotin in collaboration with John Dillon (Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin) and Luc Brisson (Emeritus, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris), reunited respectively five and six researchers from France, USA, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Greece and Romania.
  • The Proceedings volume of the Cardiff panel, Platonic Theories of Prayer, edited by Andrei Timotin in collaboration with John Dillon (Emeritus, Trinity College, Dublin), was published at Brill in 2016, in the series Studies in Platonism, Neoplatonism, and the Platonic Tradition.
  • A lecture given by Professor Brouria Bitton-Ashkelony (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) was also organised in the frame of the project at the Centre for Byzantine Studies “Sf. Petru și Andrei” (23rd of October 2015) in the frame of the Master of Religious studies (University of Bucharest) where Andrei Timotin is teaching.
  • A monograph (265 p.) on the topic of prayer in the Platonic Tradition (La prière dans la tradition platonicienne, de Platon à Proclus) was completed by Andrei Timotin, and it was sent and accepted for publication at Brepols in May 2016, in the series Recherches sur les rhétoriques religieuses. The monograph is forthcoming.
  • In the academic years 2014/2015 and 2015/2016, the history of the Platonic theories of prayer was also the topic of a Master seminar held by A. Timotin in the frame of the Master of Religious Studies at the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures of the University of Bucharest. In 2014/2015, A. Timotin coordinated a Master dissertation, Functions of prayer in the New Testament (author Adrian Oroșanu). This Master seminar has contributed to disseminate the results of the researches developed in the frame of the project in the Romanian universitary milieu.


  • I. During the period of the project implementation, Andrei Timotin has completed and sent for publication, excepting the 3 books mentioned above, 7 studies, among which 3 in ISI indexed journals (Revue de philologie, littérature et histoire anciennes, Laval théologique et philosophique and Rivista di storia della filosofia and ). All of them have been published.
    1. In the first one, La théorie de la prière de Jamblique. Sa fonction et sa place dans l’histoire du platonisme, the author highlighted the existence in Iamblichus’ De mysteriis of a functional transfer, at the cosmological level and also at the level of the theological explanation of the traditional cults, between the intermediary divine beings of the Middle-Platonic tradition and the ritual prayers considered as the highest point of the sacrificial rite. The study also stressed the complexity and the rigour of Iamblichus’ doctrine of prayer, and the technical character of the vocabulary he used in this context.
    2. Continuing this analysis, the author completed in 2014 a study on the Middle-Platonic demonology, published in Rivista di storia della filosofia (vol. 70, no. 2, 2015).
    3. According to the scientific plan of the project, the author also published a study about the rhetorical aspects of ancient prayer, by examining the polemic between Porphyry and Iamblichus concerning the presence (or the absence) in prayer of the coercion (anankè) and of the persuasion (peithô). The study (Contrainte et persuasion dans la prière. Un aspect de la polémique entre Porphyre et Jamblique) was published in Revue de philologie, littérature et histoire anciennes (88, 2014).
  • Andrei Timotin also sent for publication 4 studies on topics included in the scientific plan of the project in 2014:
    1. The first one deals with the Porphyry’s theory of prayer, his criticism of the traditional forms of prayer in the context of the polemics on this topic in pagan and Christian milieus in the 3rd century. The study develops the analysis presented at Cardiff, at the Annual Conference of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies, in 2013, and highlights Plotinus’ influence onto Porphyry’s criticism of the traditional prayer and theory of prayer. The study (Porphyry on prayer. Platonic tradition and religious trends in the third century) was published in the volume Platonic Theories of Prayer (Brill, 2016), edited by Andrei Timotin and John Dillon.
    2. Carrying on this study, Andrei Timotin also analysed the polemics between Porphyry and Iamblichus concerning the usefulness and the content of prayer as it is revealed in two works: Porphyry’ Letter to Anebo and Iamblichus’ Abamon Answer to Porphyry, better known as De mysteriis. The author highlights that Porphyry’s and Iamblichus’ theories of prayer are part of a common philosophical and theological project concerning the formation of a sui generis Platonic Religion and of a religious identity of the Platonism. This study develops the analysis presented in 2013 in a paper at the international Conference Il lato oscuro della Tarda Antichità. Controversie, identità, ortodossie ed eresie organised at Villa Vigoni (Italy). The article (À la recherche d’une religion platonicienne. La polémique entre Porphyre et Jamblique sur la prière) was recently published in the volume Formen und Nebenformen des Platonismus in der Spätantike (Winter Verlag, 2016). This analysis was carried on in 2015 in a study on the ritual prayers in Iamblichus’ works, presented in the paper Les prières rituelles chez Jamblique, at the international conference Il lato oscuro della Tarda Antichità. Testi, rituali, esperienze spirituali, Villa Vigoni (Italia), 8-11 October 2015.
    3. Andrei Timotin has also completed a study on Maximus of Tyre’s (2nd c.) conception of prayer, as it is presented in his discourse on this topic (Oratio 5, ed. Trapp), in press at Presses Universitaires de Marseille in a volume edited by Philippe Hoffmann and Brigitte Pérez-Jean. The author highlighted the relevance of Maximus of Tyre’s contribution to the formation of the Neoplatonic theories of prayer and, more generally, to the “platonisation” of the Graeco-Roman religion in Late Antiquity. This study (Le discours de Maxime de Tyr sur la prière (Dissertatio V) dans la tradition platonicienne) develops the analysis presented at the international conference Maxime de Tyr, entre rhétorique et philosophie au IIe siècle de notre ère (25-26 November 2013, Montpellier).
    4. In the Proceedings volume (in preparation) of the international conference organised at the New Europe College, A. Timotin has sent for publication a study on the presence (or the absence) of ‘passion’ (pathos) in prayer, as it is theorised in the Neoplatonism, by Porphyry and in the rhetorical theory, by Hermogene of Tarsus (2nd-3rd c.).
  • In 2016, following the completion of the monograph on Platonic theories of prayer (forthcoming at Brepols), Andrei Timotin presented a report on its own contribution in the context of modern historiography of ancient prayer, in a Conference (Storiografia. Scrittura del passato e Ricerca Storica) held at Collegio San Carlo in Modena (15-16 June 2016). In the same period, he also presented the results of a new research on a Neoplatonic anonymous hymn (6th c.), assigned in the manuscript tradition to Gregory of Nazianzus, at a Conference held at the Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Studies (19-22 June 2016), a section of which was devoted to the study of prayer in Late Antiquity (The Poetics of Christian Performance: prayer, Liturgy, and Their Environments in East and West).
  • For completing this research, Andrei Timotin benefited from research stays in Paris (École Pratique des Hautes Études) and Bologna (Fondazione per le scienze religiose). During these research stays, Andrei Timotin worked in many specialised libraries, as the library of École Pratique des Hautes Études, Bibliothèque de la Sorbonne, the libraries of Institut d’Études Augustiniennes and of the Laboratoire d’Études sur les Monothéismes, in Paris, and Biblioteca Universitaria and Biblioteca de la Fondazione per le scienze religiose, in Bologna. He also worked in some academic libraries Bucharest, especially in the Library of the Romanian Academy, where he used the international exchange service for having access to books and articles hard to find in Romania.


  • II. In the frame of her researches on the theories of prayer in the Late Neo-Platonism, Marilena Vlad studied the conceptions concerning prayer and silence of Damascius (6th century) and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. A first result of this research was presented at the panel Neoplatonic theories of prayer organised at the Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Neoplatonism (Cardiff, 12-16 June 2013). On the basis of this paper, Marilena Vlad prepared a study (Damascius and Dionysius on prayer and silence), which was published in the volume Platonic Theories of Prayer (Brill, 2016), edited by Andrei Timotin and John Dillon. In the frame of this research, Marilena Vlad also completed the study Parler de rien. Damascius sur le principe au-delà de l’Un, accepted for publication in the volume Langage des dieux, langage des démons, langage des hommes dans l’Antiquité, edited by Philippe Hoffmann and Luciana Soares, (Brepols, forthcoming).
  • In 2015, according to the scientific plan of the project, Mailena Vlad presented the paper Invoquer, nommer, être présent. Pseudo-Denys l’Aréopagite sur la prière at the conference Théories et pratiques de la prière dans l’Antiquité tardive (IIe-VIe s.) (23-24 October 2015, Bucharest, New Europe College). The study based on this paper was accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the conference edited by A. Timotin and Ph. Hoffmann (in preparation, volume envisaged at Brepols).
  • For completing these researches Marilena Vlad benefited from two research stays in Paris, at Laboratoire d’études sur les monothéismes (CNRS), in 2013 and 2015.


  • III. Another goal of the project was the completion of a study on the cult prayer in the frame of a study on the cults and the institutions in Byzantion in the Imperial period and of a study on the cult prayer in Megara in Late Antiquity. The results of these researches, realised by Adrian Robu, were published in two articles, Associations dionysiaques, communautés rurales et cultes à Byzance à l’époque impériale, in Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne (ERIH A indexed journal), suppl. 15, 2016, and Sacrifier aux héros des guerres médiques à la fin de l’Antiquité: autour de l’épigramme de Mégare IG VII 53, accepted for publication in the Proceedings volume of the conference Théories et pratiques de la prière dans l’Antiquité tardive (IIe-VIe s.) (23-24 October 2015, Bucharest, New Europe College).
  • The author has studied, according to the scientific plan of the project, a less known funerary epigram, assigned to Simonides (IG VII 53), attesting that Megara’s inhabitants carried on to offer sacrifices and cult prayers to the heroes dead in the wars against Persians in 4th-5th c. CE. This epigram was reinscriptionated in Late Antiquity on the initiative of a local priest, in a polemic and identitary context, aiming, on the one hand, to challenge the expansive Christianity, and on the other hand, to strength the civic identity by honouring local heroes.
  • Adrian Robu benefited from two research stays in Athens and Megara, in 2013 and 2014, having as an objective the examination of some inscription and iconographical documents in the collections of the Epigraphic Museum in Athens and Archaeological Museum in Megara. Adrian Robu also used some specialised libraries in Bucharest, especially the library of the Institute of Archaeology “Vasile Pârvan”.


  • IV. The scientific plan of the project in the period 2013-2015 schedules the completion of a study on the presence of biblical motifs in charms and apocryphal prayers. This research was completed by Emanuela Timotin and has as a result two articles and two papers presented at international conferences organised at Pécs (15-17 May 2015) and Cork (6-8 May 2016).
  • The first article investigates the ancient apocryphal prayers concerning Archangel Michael’ struggle against a hail-demon. Emanuela Timotin studied the growing Christianisation process of these prayers in the Middle Age to the Early Modern period, both in Western and Eastern Europe. The article, Eastern Christian Prayers against Hailstorms: Aquatic Demons and Divine Powers in Canonical and Apocryphal Contexts, was accepted for publication in the volume Spirit Possession. European Contributions to Comparative Studies, edited by Éva Pócs and András Zempléni, forthcoming at CEU Press.
  • The second article, entitled The Ancient Narrative about the Child-Killing Demon and Its Survival in Romanian Charms, which will be submitted for publication in the Journal for Ethnography and Folklore (ISI indexed journal), analyzes the manuscript transmission in Eastern Europe of an apocryphal ancient prayer concerning the evil influence of a female demon on babies and on their mothers and its neutralization by a supernatural character, identified with St. Sisinnios in the Christianised version of the prayer.
  • A paper entitled Ancient Magical Practices on the Border of Western and Eastern Christianity was presented by Emanuela Timotin at the conference Charms, Charmers and Charming. A Three Days International Conference at Pécs Committee of the Humgarian Academy Sciences (Pécs, 15-17 May 2015). Emanuela Timotin also took part in the 4th Conference on Jewish and Christian apocryphal literature (Lausanne-Genève, 7-10 January 2014) and presented, at the 9th International Conference of the Committee for Charms, Charmers and Charming, Innovation and Tradition (6-8 May 2016, University of Cork), a paper about the reasons and contexts in which the saints can be depicted as having an evil character in some apocryphal prayers.
  • Emanuela Timotin’s researches on the topic scheduled in the scientific plan of the project were also illustrated in a lot of chapters of her work Paroles protectrices, paroles guérisseuses. La tradition manuscrite des charmes roumains (XVIIe-XIXe s.), published in 2015 at Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne.
  • In this work, the author has studied the manuscript transmission of some apocryphal prayers from Late Antiquity to Early Modern Period, showing the influence of the Ancient and Byzantine Tradition onto a textual tradition attested in Old Romanian literature. Among the Ancient and Byzantine texts studied in this work there are two amulets, Greek (Ist-IInd c.) and Slavonic (Xth-XIth c.) against headache (p. 42-45), Byzantine amulets (Xth-XIIth c.) for preventing premature birth (p. 65-69), Late Antique Greek and Latin prayers (Vth-VIIIth) against hailstorm (p. 216-224), invocations to the moon in Greek magical papyri (p. 315-319) etc.
  • Emanuela Timotin has also studied, according to the scientific plan of the project, the circulation of biblical motifs in apocryphal prayers/charms, analysing the presence in these texts of motifs as the decapitation of John the Baptist (p. 97-103), Christ soothing the storm on the sea (p. 220-224), Peter’s mother-in-law suffering from fever (p. 34-37 and 109-111) and the beginning of the Gospel of John 1, 1 (p. 109). As a part of the researches on which this work is based, namely those related to the Ancient and Byzantine texts, was completed in the frame of the project, the publication of the book was supported by a grant from the project budget representing ca. 25 % of the publication cost, the rest of 75 % being covered by Presses de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne.
  • For completing these researches, Emanuela Timotin benefited from two research stays in Paris (École Pratique des Hautes Études) and Cracow (Polish Academy of Sciences), in 2013 and 2015. She also used the international exchange service of the Library of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest for having access to works hard to find in the Romanian libraries.


  • V. Alexandru Dragomir Institute for Philosophy made its logistics and research tools available to the researchers involved in this project. The library of the Institute, including a rich collection of philosophical texts, academic books and journals, was enriched with scientific literature relevant for the project, especially recent critical editions and translations of philosophical and religious texts from Late Antiquity. The equipment of the institute was also enriched with logistics tools required by the current research activity of the members of the research team.


  • The presentation of the activity of the research team demonstrates that all the scientific goals of the project were highly completed, the results being substantially superior to those scheduled in the scientific plan of the project.


  • I also believe that the high scientific level of these results, proven by the publication of four books (monographs and edited books) at prestigious international publishing houses such as Brill, Presses de l’université Paris-Sorbonne or Brepols, and by the publication of numerous articles in ISI or ERIH A indexed journals and in Proccedings of international conferences (at Brill, Winter Verlag, Brepols or CEU Press) shows not only the quality of these results, but also the important visibility these results have at international academic level. The visibility of these researches was strengthened by the participation in 15 international congresses and conferences organised abroad and by the organization of an international conference in Bucharest enjoying a wide international participation. The dissemination of the research results was also done, since 2014, through classes on the project topic at University of Bucharest, in the frame of the Master of Religious Studies.
  • All these arguments show not only that the members of the research team were able to ensure wide international visibility for their researches, but also to impose on the international academic agenda, in the field of ancient philosophy, a special topic and a set of problems that were not analysed in depth so far. These researches have been validated and recognized, in the last years, by the scientific community and have significantly contributed to enrich our knowledge about the ancient philosophical reflection on the religious phenomena and about the forms of philosophical religiosity that emerge and develop in the late antique platonisms.


Funding 2016: 71690,07 lei

Funding 2015 : 237031,16 lei

Funding 2014: 165970 lei

Funding 2013: 197611,87 lei