These two texts are fundamental for the understanding not only of Neoplatonism but also of the conventions of biography in late antiquity. Neither has received such extensive annotation before in English, and this new commentary makes full use of recent scholarship. The long introduction is intended both as a beginner’s guide to Neoplatonism and as a survey of ancient biographical writing.
Scholia from the Byzantine era on Lucian of Samosata era are unusually abundant and unusually prodigal in invective. Hostility was inspired not only by the Peregrinus, in which Lucian ridicules the Church and its martyrs, but by dialogues which were read as oblique assaults on Christianity because they slighted all belief in providence and regard for things divine. Most assaults are bombastic rather than eloquent, and deaf to Lucian's humour; Arethas, a younger contemporary of Photius, attempts without success to outdo (...) the satirist in wit and in philosophy. Photius himself, however, hints that his lampoons on pagan credulity might supply a Christian arsenal, and the author of the spurious Philopseudes comes closer to Lucian's manner than any of the scholiasts, initially in defence of monotheism, and then for some partisan object which continues to afford matter for debate. (shrink)
As befits the proem to so original and immense an undertaking, this passage echoes, in order to retort them upon their inventors, the mythopoeic commonplaces of other ancient schools. One such commonplace was the assertion that some man was the first to effect a revolution in life or thought: those who held with Empedocles that Pythagoras was the first to see beyond his generation, or with Aristotle that Thales was the earliest cosmogonist and Plato the first discoverer of happiness, must (...) learn that neither scientific truth nor human felicity was known before Epicurus. A figure dear to Plato and his admirers was that of the Gigantomachy: if he himself professed to fear that contemporary atomists would drag the heavens to earth, and Aristotle showed similar apprehensions with regard to some of Plato's own interpreters, they were right to foresee the destruction of their own systems, wrong to suppose that this portended anything but deliverance to mankind. (shrink)
The following excerpt from Proclus' Commentary on the Timaeus appears as Fr. 37 in the edition of the fragments of Numenius by Des Places.1 It is the aim of this study to ascertain the original place of the fragment in his work, and to show that it belongs to a second-century school of allegorical commentary on the ancient theologians, and particularly on Pherecydes of Syros, of which Numenius will have been one of the brightest luminaries.
Porphyry's Life of Plotinus is the earliest extant memoir of a philosopher by his pupil. Historians of philosophy have embraced it as a key to the intellectual development of Plotinus, while historians of the third century have found it an invaluable supplement to the fragmentary records of this era. Yet few have cared to read it as an original work of literature, or even as the mature work of a scholar and philosopher who for centuries eclipsed his master in influence, (...) if not in reputation. In consequence, attention has not been paid to certain striking peculiarities in Porphyry's selection and arrangement of materials, which, if studied, will shed light on the form and purpose of the whole biography. This article is devoted to a strange chapter which, as in any ancient writing, we should expect to be the most instructive because it is the first. (shrink)
Damis is a character in, and his memoirs the putative source of, Philostratus' Life of Apollonius of Tyana. Many scholars have doubted the existence of these memoirs, some the very existence of the man. Against the latter party Graham Anderson has advanced an ingenious argument, which attempts to prove that the Damis whose existence has been doubted is identical with a bearer of the same name to whom existence has hardly ever been ascribed. His evidence comprises: Lucian's dialogue Zeus the (...) Tragedian, in which a certain Damis appears as the Epicurean tormentor of the popular divinities; a tale now extant in mediaeval Persian, in which a philosopher named Dini performs a similar function; the testimony of Origen that Moiragenes numbered among the men seduced by Apollonius ‘the illustrious Euphrates and a certain Epicurean’ . Between these reports he detects the following parallels. (shrink)
Herennius Philo of Byblos is the subject of a notice in the Suda, which states that he was a grammarian born in Nero's time who lived to such an advanced age that he was still composing works in the reign of Hadrian. The titles listed include: On the Acquisition and Choice of Books; On Cities and their Eminent Citizens; and On the Reign of Hadrian . His name, like that of Flavius Josephus, could imply the patronage of a Roman family; (...) we may suppose that, like Porphyry and Maximus of Tyre, he was a Phoenicean by origin who had adopted the tongue and culture of the Greeks. (shrink)
The Clementine Recognitions and Clementine Homilies, both of which evolved between the second and the fourth centuries after Christ, are treated all too frequently as material for historians, not for critics. A book on the ancient novel is sufficiently erudite if the author shows that he has read them; the Homilies are omitted in a volume of translations under the title of Collected Ancient Greek Novels. It might be said that this is as it should be, since the Homilies are (...) largely what their title advertises, and even the Recognitions contain much that is extrinsic to the plot. By itself this threadbare plot holds little to engage us, and it is disposed of in a few pages in the works of Hägg and Perry. My object is to show that this neglect is undeserved. (shrink)
At one point in his treatise against the ‘Gnostics’ Plotinus treats his adversaries as men of flesh and blood, not merely as proponents of false books and false beliefs: For I feel a certain shame with regard to some of my friends , who, having chanced upon this doctrine before the beginning of our friendship, have continued to adhere to it for reasons that I cannot understand. Not that they themselves show any compunction in saying what they say: they may (...) believe what they say to be true , but perhaps they rather wish others to be persuaded of the truth of their own opinions. (shrink)
That the most poetic of all the Greek philosophers should also be the severest judge of the poets was a perpetual embarrassment to his disciples and an invitation to enemies who could never have found their way into the difficulties of his thought. At the hands of Colotes, an early Epicurean, Plato became the butt of his own asperities; the allegorist Heraclitus, showing equal contempt for Plato and for ‘the Phaeacian Epicurus’, found that philosophy lent itself to vices for which (...) the Iliad and the Odyssey had no name. Proclus, in his Commentary on the Republic, has the task of reconciling Homer with Plato, and of showing that the mythopoeic faculty is an instrument of the profoundest thought in both. (shrink)