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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

From Here to the Hereafter:Genesis and Apogenesis in Ancient Philosophy and Architecture


From the third-century-CE Platonic philosopher, Porphyry, we learn that the midsummer solstice was regarded as the point of entry for souls from heaven into this world, a process called genesis. Its opposite, apogenesis, the return of souls to heaven, occurred at the midwinter solstice. Midway between the solstices lie the equinoxes, which were regarded as the points of cosmic balance, where the lord of genesis took his seat to oversee the processes of genesis and apogenesis. Porphyry taught in Rome, and it is in that city, I argue, that we find major buildings which instantiate this world view. I argued the case for the Pantheon in this regard in my book, ‘Time in Antiquity.’ Here I extend the argument to the palace of the emperor, Nero.

Insights Paper