Self-Portrait in Three Colors

Gregory of Nazianzus's Epistolary Autobiography

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Bradley K. Storin
Christianity in Late Antiquity
  • Berkeley: 
    University of California Press
    , September
     298 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


A seminal figure in late antique Christianity and Christian orthodoxy, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus published a collection of more than 240 letters. Whereas these letters have often been cast aside as readers turn to his theological orations or autobiographical poetry for insight into his life, thought, and times, Self-Portrait in Three Colors focuses squarely on them, building a provocative case that the finalized collection constitutes not an epistolary archive but an autobiography in epistolary form—a single text composed to secure his status among provincial contemporaries and later generations. Shedding light on late-ancient letter writing, fourth-century Christian intelligentsia, Christianity and classical culture, and the Christianization of Roman society, these letters offer a fascinating and unique view of Gregory’s life, engagement with literary culture, and leadership in the church. As a single unit, this autobiographical epistolary collection proved a powerful tool in Gregory’s attempts to govern the contours of his authorial image as well as his provincial and ecclesiastical legacy.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Bradley K. Storin is assistant professor of the history of Christianity in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University.


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