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Sosipatra of Ephesus (Greek: Σωσιπάτρα) was a Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic who lived in the first half of the 4th century CE. The story of her life is told in Eunapius' Lives of the Sophists.

Life and education[edit]

She was born in Ephesus. When she was five years old, two men came to work on her father's estate. When they produced a bounteous harvest beyond all expectation, they persuaded him to hand Sosipatra, and his estate, over to their care. The father was told to leave home for five years, during which Sosipatra was educated by the two men in ancient Chaldean wisdom. When the father returned, Sosipatra was radiant in her beauty, and was said to have possessed extraordinary psychic and clairvoyant abilities. It is implied that the two men were supernatural beings.


She later married Eustathius of Cappadocia, apparently in the full knowledge that he would die before her. Eunapius tells us that "her surpassing wisdom made her own husband seem inferior and insignificant." Eustathius and Sosipatra had three sons, one of whom, Antoninus, became a significant philosopher and theurgist in his own right.

After the death of her husband, she retired to Pergamon, where her skill as a philosopher made her as popular as Aedesius who also taught philosophy there. Eunapius tells us that after the students had attended the lectures of the Neoplatonist philosopher Aedesius, they would go to hear Sosipatra's.


A relative of hers called Philometer was in love with her, and cast a spell on her in order to win her love. She confessed her conflicting emotions to Maximus, who was a pupil of Aedesius and would later become the teacher of the emperor Julian. Maximus was able to detect the presence of the spell and was able to counter it with a spell of his own, defeating Philometer's intent. Because he was ashamed, Sosipatra was able to forgive Philometer, and later we hear of how on one occasion, when she was lecturing on the afterlife of the soul, she had a vision of Philometer in an accident, and was able to send servants to help.


Further reading[edit]

  • Denzey Lewis, Nicola. 2014. "Living Images of the Divine: Female Theurgists in Late Antiquity." In Daughters of Hecate: Women and Magic in the Ancient world. Edited by Kimberly B. Stratton and Dayna S. Kalleres, 274–297. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Dickie, Matthew W. 2000. "Who Practised Love-magic in Classical Antiquity and in the Late Roman World?" Classical Quarterly 50.2: 563–583.
  • Dodds, E. R. 1973. The Ancient Concept of Progress and other Essays on Greek Literature and Belief. Oxford: Clarendon.
  • Fowden, Garth. 1982. "The Pagan Holy Man in late Antique Society." Journal of Hellenic Studies 102:33–59.
  • Johnston, Sarah Iles. 2012. "Sosipatra and the Theurgic Life: Eunapius Vitae Sophistorum 6.6.5–6.9.24." In Reflections on Religious Individuality: Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian Texts and Practices. Edited by Jörg Rüpke and Wolfgang Spickermann, 99–117. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Lewy, Hans. 1978. Chaldaean Oracles and Theurgy: Mysticism, Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire, 3d ed. Edited by M. Tardieu. Paris: Études Augustiniennes.
  • O’Meara, Dominic. 2003. Platonopolis. Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Oxford: Clarendon.
  • Penella, Robert J. 1990. Greek Philosophers and Sophists in the Fourth century A.D. Studies in Eunapius of Sardis. Leeds, UK: Francis Cairns.
  • Tanaseanu-Döbler, Ilinca. 2013. "Sosipatra – Role Models for “Divine” Women in Late Antiquity." In Divine Men and Women in the History and Society of Late Hellenism. Edited by Maria Dzielska and Kamilla Twardowska, 123–147. Kraków, Poland: Jagiellonian Univ. Press.
  • Urbano, Arthur P. 2013. The Philosophical Life: Biography and the Crafting of Intellectual Identity in Late Antiquity. Washington, DC: Catholic Univ. of America Press.