Unlike modern nationalist movements whose origin stories usually link “nations” to seemingly pure ethnic groups in an ancient past, late ancient narratives of identity followed the Classical tradition in often hooking their heritage to a specific mythical, semi-divine founder. An obvious example of this practice is the story in Livy and others about Romulus, who ascended to the heavens after founding the city of Rome. Late ancient philosophical schools had a similar convention, imagining a “chain of Hermes” that connected eminent figures such as Proclus1 through a golden string of links to the god and thus to divine wisdom. Equivalent is the Christian notion of apostolic succession in bishops like...

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