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Joseph Bidez

Professor of Classical Philology and the History of Philosophy, University of Ghent
1867 to 1945

Classical scholar Joseph Marie Auguste Bidez was born 9 April 1867 in Frameries, Belgium, the son of a doctor. He studied philosophy and literature at the University of Liège and by 1894 had earned three doctorates, in philosophy, laws, and classical philology. He then began teaching classical philology at the University of Ghent, becoming a full professor in 1907. Among his more prominent students was George Sarton, known as the father of the history of science.

Bidez was considered an authority on Hellenism and late antiquity, especially the third and fourth centuries. Among his many works are the church histories of Philostorgius and Sozomen. After World War I and the German occupation of Belgium, Bidez refused to allow his Sozomen edition to be published in Germany as originally planned.

Bidez was also interested in the Roman emperor Julian, publishing La vie de l’empereur Julien in 1930, a work still highly regarded today. In 1938 he published with Franz Cumont (1868–1947), his colleague at the University of Ghent, the two-volume Les mages héllénises. Zoroastre, Ostanès et Hystaspe d’après la tradition grecque.

Bidez received many awards for his work, including honorary doctorates from the universities of Athens, Brussels, Rijsel, Paris and Utrecht. He became a corresponding member of the Royal Academy of Belgium in 1913 and was president in 1934. He was also a member of the Institut of France, the British Academy and the academies of Copenhagen, Berlin and Goteborg. In 1919 he and Henri Pirenne founded the Union Académique international; Bidez was president from 1931 to 1933.

Among his other publications are The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: With the Scholia (1898); Philostorgius kirchengeschichte, mit dem leben des Lucian von Antiochen und den fragmenten eines Arianischen Historiographen (1913); Catalogue of the manuscrits alchimiques grecs (1928); and Eos; ou, platon et L'Orient (1945; from his Gifford Lectures).

Bidez died in Ghent on 20 September 1945.

  • Therese Boyd