Sosipatra of Pergamum

When she was five years old, according to her biographer Eunapius, two aged travellers took over care of the vineyard at her family's country estate near Ephesus. The prodigious harvest they produced earned them an invitation to the family table. The mysterious wanderers said that what they had done with the grapes was as nothing compared to what theycould achieve with young Sosipatra in five years, if the father consented. So he gave the child into their custody, "and into what mysteries they initiated her no one knew, and with what religious rite they consecreated the girl was not revealed..."

When her father returned, Sosipatra was able to tell him all that had happened on his journey, even what had been said, "as though she had been driving with him." The astonished father asked the old men who they were. They replied that they were Chaldeans (which had become a name for magi, astrologers and diviners). Casting a sleep on the father, the teachers gave Sosipatra garments of initiation and a chest of books, and departed.

            Sosipatra had learned all "the works of the poets, philosophers, and orators," and was able to explain the most difficult works with ease and clarity. Her fame spread, and students flocked to her. She married the eminent Eustatius, who although a pagan was appointed as ambassador to the king of Persia. However outstanding he was, Eunapius observed, "Sosipatra... by her surpassing wisdom made her own husband seem inferior and insignificant." She foretold to Eustatius that she would bear three children, who would attain divine but not worldly happiness, and predicted how many years he himself would live. The biographer added that "her words had the same force as an immutable oracle," since everything turned out as Sosipatra had predicted.

            In later years she married Aedesius, another eminent philosopher. "In her own home Sosipatra held a chair of philosophy that rivalled his... [and the students] positively adored and revered the woman's inspired teaching." Like Hypatia, Sosipatra had to fob off an inflamed student, Philometer, who was suspected of using love magic on her. The famous theurgist Maximus performed a counter-rite. Though no one else was present, Sosipatra was able to describe his ceremony and the omens it revealed.  Maximus was awestruck at "the woman's divine nature."

            Some time afterwards, Sosipatra was delivering an inspired discourse on the soul. She suddenly broke off, exclaiming that Philometer had been in an accident. Her description of the overturning of his carriage and his injuries also proved to be accurate in every detail. [Eunapius, 395- 415] Little more information about Sosipatra survives beyond these admiring stories from Eunapius.

Her prophecies were so renowned that the Algerian bishop Augustine felt obliged to account for them a generation later. He struggled to explain the known accuracy of such pagan prophecies, including Sosipatra's son's prediction of the destruction of the Serapeum, as “the divination of demons.” [Flint 152] Ammianus Marcellinus referred to another example, in which a divination correctly spelled out the name of Valens’ successor as THEOD... Those present jumped to the conclusion that Theodorus was meant, but it turned out to be Theodosius. [Rerum Gestarum, XXIX, I, 29-32, in Flint, 218-19]

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