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Philosophy and Power in the Graeco-Roman WorldEssays in Honour of Miriam Griffin$

Gillian Clark and Tessa Rajak

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198299905

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198299905.001.0001

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The Creation of Orthodoxy in Neoplatonism

The Creation of Orthodoxy in Neoplatonism

(p.271) The Creation of Orthodoxy in Neoplatonism
Philosophy and Power in the Graeco-Roman World

Polymnia Athanassiadi

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines how alien the categories (in contradistinction to the actual words) ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ were to the pagan intellectuals of late antiquity as they revised their spiritual heritage. It also examines the extent to which the orthodox (or politically correct) understanding of the way to God was used by them as an instrument and a pretext for wielding worldly power.

Keywords:   Hellenic philosophers, Judaism, Christianity, orthodoxy, heresy, Neoplatonism

He did not want to compel either himself or his pupils to pursue the invisible truth through reasoning alone, herded together by syllogisms along a single road like the blind whom one guides on the right path. But he always strove to persuade them by placing eyes in their soul, or rather cleansing those which were already there.

Nothing could be more appropriate for describing Miriam's teaching ethos than the above lines, in which Damascius pays tribute to the man who converted him to philosophy—the Alexandrian Isidore. And nothing could be more alien to her mentality than the notion of orthodoxy, which thrives on exclusion and suppression. For what follows, however, Miriam is responsible—albeit indirectly—for it was after an interview with her that in October 1972 Somerville offered me a place to do graduate work at Oxford. Wisely though, Miriam limited herself—as she often reminds me—to the role of moral tutor.

The Changing Scene: αἵρεσις: from Choice to Heresy

The Roman Empire was a pluralist world. Many cults, religions, theo-sophies, and philosophies mingled to create its spiritual landscape. What is more, these alternative ways to God were not mutually exclusive, but formed an organic synthesis. Were we to represent them schematically, they would appear as converging lines on a pyramid or a cone, the apex of which symbolizes the end of the search for truth. But if all roads led to the same goal, it was possible, and even desirable, for the individual seeker to stray away from his path, so long as he did not lose sight of his destination. Rather such detours were encouraged in a society where toleration of other creeds was not a passive principle, but an active drive which produced through cross-fertilization syncretistic structures of often vertiginous complexity.

I would like to thank Michael Frede who read an earlier version of this paper. I have made several changes on the basis of his comments. Thanks are also due to Paul Kalligas who read the final proofs and suggested amendments.

(p.272) In this climate of spiritual promiscuity one religion, Judaism, stood apart in claiming a monopoly of God. Its self-righteousness was, however, not of the aggressive type, and proselytism of the religiously inferior ‘nations’ was not encouraged (Goodman 1994). As an offshoot of Judaism, Christianity also claimed exclusive knowledge of God, but at the same time recommended missionary activity as an obligation of the believer. Converting ‘the nations’ to the one true creed, and thus saving humanity from spiritual ignorance, was a duty for the good Christian.

The intolerance professed by the Christians as a principle of religious thinking and behaviour was not so much a new attitude in the multicultural world of the Mediterranean as a dynamic manifestation of latent trends. Yet however one defines it in sociological terms, spiritual intolerance led to tension and reaction: the Christians were persecuted, at first sporadically and from the mid-third century systematically,1 while on the intellectual level their social and physical persecution was complemented by polemic. A climate of litigiousness and aggression spread, affecting society at large. Slowly but surely, intolerance permeated mentahties, and by the early fourth century it was not only the Christians who thought in terms of one single truth and, more importantly, of a universal way of reaching this truth.

These developments are faithfully mirrored in the word atpeois and its changing fortunes during the centuries which lead from the ‘open’ world of the classical city-state to the ‘oecumenicity’ of the late Empire. From its broad classical meaning of'choice’ and ‘election’, the word aipcais came in Hellenistic times to designate a system of philosophical principles and also the group of individuals professing such a school of thought and way of life—the Epicurean, the Stoic, or the Cynic, to mention only the most obvious. For pagan intellectuals this was still the pre vailing meaning of the word in the fourth century, when their Christian contemporaries were already using it with the same semantic value that we now attach to the term ‘heresy’. For the Christians, in philosophical and theological matters there was one truth only (the ὀρθὴ δόξα), to be pursued by one sole path.

The ὀρθὴ δόξα was not a totally novel concept for late antique men, but a notion with firm roots in Plato, for whom it signified a cognitive landmark reached through inspiration or by empirical means. Moreover, the path leading to the ὀρθὴ δόξα was an individual process of free enquiry and not a single public road imposed by dogma. To the Christian Fathers, by contrast, the one true faith could only be reached by one sole path. All other (p.273) ways were deviations from the true road, indeed ‘heresies’—the wrong kind of choice. This way of thinking was so well entrenched in the Christian mind that as soon as Christianity became a religio licita, oecumenical councils were convened under imperial patronage with the intention of defining dogma not only positively, by the formulation of a ‘creed’, but also apophatically, by the condemnation of heterodoxy.

The polarization between a pagan and a Christian use of language as reflected in the usage of the word αἵρεσις does not necessarily illustrate two conflicting ways of perceiving reality. People did not five in watertight compartments, though many of those engaged in sectarian fighting pretended, or even fooled themselves, that they did. As a comment on the above and by way of introduction to the main themes of this paper, one may quote a phrase of the Emperor Juhan from a letter to the inhabitants of Bostra: talking of the religious policy of his predecessor, Juhan refers in a condescending manner—almost with repugnance—to ‘the so-called heretics’, τῶν λεγομένων αἱρετικῶν (Ep. 114. 435d). The meaning of the participle τῶν λεγομένων in Julian's phrase is clear enough; it suggests that the author is forced to use a familiar word with the semantic hue that it has acquired in the jargon of people with whom he has nothing in common. One of the aims of this paper is to discover how alien the categories (in contradistinction to the actual words) ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ were to the pagan intellectuals of late antiquity as they revised their spiritual heritage. A second objective is to examine the extent to which the orthodox (or politically correct) understanding of the way to God was used by them as an instrument and a pretext for wielding worldly power.

The Origins of Neoplatonism

The Precursor: Numenius

For the historian of philosophy the founder of Neoplatonism is Plotinus, with the nebulous figure of Ammonius Saccas lurking in the background. But this is the dispassionate verdict of outsiders. To those who were themselves part of the movement, the pivotal figure of regenerated Platonism was indisputably Iamblichus. To answer the question ‘why Iamblichus and not Plotinus?’, one must concentrate on what the Neoplatonists considered fundamental in their thought-world, and try to detect its historical roots. Such a search might well leave us with the unexpected answer ‘neither Plotinus nor Iamblichus!’ But let us start at the beginning.

In the second century ad Numenius of Apamea made two large claims: that in order to understand Plato one must revert to Pythagoras, and (p.274) additionally that ‘those initiations, dogmas and rituals that the Brahmans, the Jews, the Magi and the Egyptians hold in accordance with Plato’ should be seen as the touchstones of truth. Indeed that Plato's truth, which was lost to the Greeks, was preserved by ‘the thriving nations’ (τὰ ἔθνη τὰ εὐδοκιμοῦντα: fr. 1a).2

Numenius, whom his contemporaries and immediate successors invariably describe as a ‘Pythagorean philosopher’,3 is a mysterious figure, as too little of what he has produced survives; yet the impression created by the fragments of his works, that he was a boldly revisionist thinker, is corroborated by a cluster of outward testimonies. His connection with the new revelation of the age—the Chaldaean Oracles—though obscure, is beyond doubt; indeed for E. R. Dodds, Numenius constitutes the missing link between the Oracles and Porphyry (i960: 11).4 More importantly, his influence on Plotinus was felt to be so great that the latter had to be formally defended against the accusation of plagiarism (Porphyry, V. Plot. 17.1). And though on the evidence of what survives it is not possible to assess Plotinus’ debt to Numenius, it is nevertheless clear that the two men shared a breadth of vision transcending scholastic boundaries and a comparable revisionist insight into Plato's thought which served them as the basis for the formulation of revolutionary theories and methodologies.5 Porphyry (p.275) too, as it now emerges from recent research, was crucially influenced by Numenius before becoming himself an inspiration to later Platonists both pagan and Christian (P. Hadot 1996; Tardieu 1996), a fact fully realized by Eusebius, who not only singled out Numenius as a dangerously original theologian, but, following Origen, identified him with the critical turning-point in the history of Platonism.6

As the self-appointed arbiter of Plato's thought, Numenius denounced the diado che (succession) of Plato as spurious and called for a new beginning. He then defined Platonic orthodoxy by mustering criteria of selection consisting in methodologies both of inclusion and of exclusion. To this end he rewrote the history of the school as doctrine and prosopography, accepting as genuinely Platonic much of the contemporary Oriental wisdom’, while charging every single diadoch with the betrayal of the Platonic dogmas.7 A first attempt at defining Platonic orthodoxy!

A Beginning: Iamblichus of Apamea

The common spring from which Plotinus, Iamblichus, and Porphyry drank, the elusive Numenius saw himself, and was seen by his immediate successors, as a landmark in the spiritual history of the age; but, as is often the case with exceptionally original thinkers, a screen was raised between himself and posterity: his innovations had to be digested by the following generation and spelt out to the world according to the understanding of individual interpreters. Paramount among these was Iamblichus, the boundaries of whose originality in defining Platonism and setting out the norms by which it can be assessed clearly lie in Numenian terrain. Yet, while suspecting the magnitude of his debt to his Apamean predecessor, all we can do today is concentrate on the concept of orthodoxy that Iamblichus himself created, and go on to study its transfiguration at the hands of his epigoni who used it as a means of wielding social and spiritual power.

Already in the consciousness of his contemporaries Iamblichus was a major religious reformer, endowed with all the formal and essential characteristics of a prophet, ‘as if appointed for the salvation of the entire human (p.276) race’ (Ps.-Jul. Ep. 187. 406c). An acute sense of cosmic divinity and a sure instinct for what was significant in tradition irrespective of origin enabled him to become an oecumenical exegete and a holy man of wide fame, who performed miracles if put under pressure but, more importantly and more durably, allied the newly structured Platonic and Pythagorean system of thought with the authority of revelation. Returning to his native Syria after long years of peregrination in Egypt and Italy, and significantly enough settling in Apamea, the Chalcidian Iamblichus injected Platonism with Hermetic wisdom, of which he seems to have been himself for many years an authoritative exegete (Athanassiadi 1995: 245–6), and carried out the immense task of sanctioning the recently revealed Chaldaean Oracles as the holy book of Hellenism.8 Moreover, in tune with the spirit of the age, he established a canon of texts to be read in a specific order and manner: his selection of Platonic dialogues became, as it were, the Old Testament of Hellenism, with the Chaldaean Oracles functioning as the New Testament of the new faith. In all these respects Iamblichus distanced himself from Plotinus, who had ignored, or even attacked, recent theosophical wisdom, drawing his material for discussion exclusively from the store of Greek philosophical liter ature, where he did not limit his choice of texts to a set curriculum, but gleaned through the entire tradition in a manner that was perhaps too liberal and unprescriptive to be followed by disciples of lesser ability. More significantly, Plotinus did not believe in the primacy of grace. Following on the tradition of Greek rationalism, he founded his exegesis on minute argument and discussion (V. Plot. 13), presenting the mystic union not as a matter of divine intervention but as a result of intense personal effort in the intellectual and the moral spheres.9

Like Plotinus, on the other hand, Iamblichus was a systematic theologian and a gifted teacher. Yet if his immediate appeal proved so much stronger, this is only because he was also a hierophant who gave meaning, and even depth, to ritual (Athanassiadi 1993a: 119–20). Seeing himself as the pedagogue of mankind in spiritual matters,10 he painstakingly mapped out a way—indeed, the way—to perfection, with all its practical and theoretical milestones. He thus established a canon of texts, which remained unaltered throughout late antiquity, and propagated the use of the structured com- (p.277) mentary as the only method of research and teaching for that curriculum. At the same time, using Pythagorean numerical symbolism, he divided the path to God into ten stages, which are mirrored with exemplary clarity in the ten books of his substantially extant Συναγωγὴ τῶν Πυθαγορείων Δογμάτων (O'Meara 1989: 30–105).

Pupils flocked to ‘the sacred hearth’ of Apamea from all over the Mediterranean world (Ps.-Jul. Ep. 187. 405d) to share a life which combined in a traditionalmanner the notions of παιδεία and παιδιά—one where pleasure went hand in h and with the pursuit of wisdom and the practice of a pious routine.11 The incidental information provided by Eunapius on the circle's daily activities, when read against the background of Iamblichus’ Pythagorean Life, suggests an atmosphere of philosophical and human intimacy, which seems consciously to reproduce Pythagorean models. Master and pupils lived together. They discussed philosophical issues formally, but also at their evening gatherings, while drinking their wine; they took long walks to holy sites in the Syrian countryside, and also more secular excursions to bathing stations. The pupils were teased by Iamblichus’ slaves for their belief that their teacher was divine and they in their turn pestered the master for miracles and other tokens of his sanctity. The surviving letters of Iamblichus to his friends and pupils, and the correspondence of a pupil—a certain Julian who seems to have been a high official at Licinius’ court—allow us further insights into the ambience of the circle, the diversity of its concerns, and the dominant ideology which animated it.12 In one of his addresses to his beloved master, Julian puts his finger on a point of cardinal importance: Iamblichus’ systematic sanctification of Greek letters. ‘Just as in a lyre the harmonious combination of various notes achieves musical perfection, in the same way you have succeeded in uniting not just Pindar or Democritus or the most ancient Orpheus, but the entirety of that Hellenic spirit which is on record as having reached the very summit of philosophy’ (Ps.-Jul. Ep. 187.405d).

Here we have the first clear formulation of what the Emperor Julian was to express in negative terms in his edict on education and his pastoral letters: that Greek culture as defined by Iamblichus was sacred, that what he had left out was profane, despite its antiquity and other philosophical (p.278) credentials, whereas what he had sanctioned from even the most recent ‘wisdom of the Barbarians’ represented the highest form of spirituality. As presented by Iamblichus, the ingredients of the new paganism were a set number of texts, a given hermeneutic methodology, and a ritual framework. Its authorized language was Greek, while the vehicle through which its message would reach the world was the circle of disciples who gathered around the Exegete of the divine mysteries. The need for a ‘metropolitan’ theology expressed only in Greek was firmly launched by Iamblichus, and in the following centuries every effort was made to integrate all local gods, cults, and myths in a systematic thought-world which bore the formal name of Ἑλληνισμὸς, in response and open challenge to the term Χριστιανισμός.

The Rift

Both during Iamblichus’ own lifetime and after his death, some of his spiritual heirs went away to wield worldly power,13 while others embraced an academic career in the traditional centres of learning of the Eastern Mediterranean (Eunapius V. Phil. 6. 2. 1). As holy men and scholars they spread the teaching of their master widely, each according to the way in which he had imbibed it. Thus the Cappadocian Aedesius, who was recognized as Iamblichus’ direct successor (6. 4. 1), seems to have inherited, together with his master's breadth of outlook, his qualities as an affable man, a cool-headed philosopher, and a diviner in intimate contact with the cosmic powers (6.4.5;9.2;4.1–4). Unfortunately, so full and balanced an attitude was not displayed in the generation that followed and, of the four most prominent pupils of Aedesius, Eusebius and Priscus were noted for their combative rationalism, whereas Maxim us and Chrysanthius became famous as manipulators of the divine hierarchy (7.2. 1), not least through their connection with the Emperor Julian.

The rift thus occurred within a few years of Iamblichus’ death, but what is of interest for present purposes is that, to judge from the available evidence, the rationalists did not claim descent from Iamblichus. Another figure from the recent past, Theodore of Asine, emerges as their mentor. His followers, ‘the Theodoreans’, disparaged Iamblichus as an ambitious showman, rejected the authority of the Chaldaean Oracles, and equated philosophical research with dialectics (Julian, Ep. 12). Indeed Priscus, whom Julian beseeches to shut his ears against the propaganda of ‘the (p.279) Theodoreans’, denigrated Aedesius to his face as a ‘traitor’ to philosophy (V.Pktl. 8.1.9).14

But the key figure in this debate in more than one respect is the Emperor Julian; for he seems to have both precipitated and exacerbated developments which were latent in Neoplatonism before his appearance at Pergamon in 351. No sooner had he been introduced to the two methodologies than he knew where his heart lay. This moment is caught in a famous exchange between master and pupil: when the sober Eusebius, who, with reference to Maximus of Ephesos, warns Julian against ‘the tricks and impostures of conjurers which deceive and beguile the senses’, indeed against ‘madmen who are led astray by material powers’ (7. 2. 3), Julian retorts with sarcasm: Ί am off! Stick to your books; as for me, you have shown me the man I was looking for!’ (7. 2. 12). Converted to Maximus’ ‘violent way’ of dealing with the supernatural,15 the impulsive and uncompromising Julian used word and action in his campaign for orthodoxy. In fact he stands as the first clear landmark in Hellenism of a choice to be made between the one right way and numerous blind alleys.

From his position as worldly and spiritual leader of the Roman Empire—at once bast leus and pontifex maximus—Julian defined the content of Hellenism, a term that he did not coin but to which he gave new weight and universal currency (Athanassiadi 1992). To disseminate his idea of Hellenism as the indivisible spiritual, cultural, and political force which would cement the oecumenical state that he now ruled by God's grace, Julian had recourse to all the practical and intellectual weapons at his disposal: formal legislation, encyclical letters to the priesthood of which he was the hierarchical chief, systematic polemic, and finally dogmatic or canonical writings which reflect his own view of Iamblichanism. As he confessed, Ί am mad (μέμηνα) about Iamblichus in philosophy and my namesake in theosophy’ (Ep. 12).16

If the extent to which Iamblichus would have recognized his own teaching in Julian's Hellenism is a matter for speculation, what is important for us at this stage of the argument is that, to Julian's mind, his programme was (p.280) the very embodiment of Iamblichus’ spirit. His educational absolutism, as expounded in his edict on education which prohibited the Christians from teaching what they did not consider holy—that is, the entirety of Greek letters—his definitive banishing of the Epicureans and the Sceptics from the province of Greek letters, and finally his denunciation of latter-day Cynics as heretics are the first indications of a new conception of intellectual protectionism that we do not find fully articulated before the era of Justinian.17

Back in the time of Julian the battle between rationalists and visionaries was still undecided, though the balance was already tilting towards the latter. The dogma of the agreement of Plato with Aristotle enunciated by Ammonius Saccas (Hierocles ap. Photius, Bibl. Cod. 214. 172a) and endorsed by Iamblichus had not yet acquired universal value, and for the best part of the fourth century the influential and long-lived Themistius continued commenting on Aristotle in a distinctly untheological manner, and advising Court and Senate on political ideology and social behaviour. As well as old-fashioned Aristotelians, the Cynics and the Epicureans led a campaign against oracles, which explains the rage with which Juhan attacks them (Eus. Praep. Ev. 4. 3. 14; Julian Ep. 89b. 301b—c). By the end of the fourth century, however, the direction in which Greek philosophy was to move had been settled. After a long interval of dissociation from Plato, Athens emerged as the authorized seat of Platonic studies,18 yet this time the road passed through Apamea.19 The nebulous figure of the Eleusinian hierophant Nestorius with his well-attested Chaldaean connection and the clear-cut figure of his son, the Platonic diadoch Plutarch, were the men who set the firm bases for the perpetuation of the Iamblichan philosophical model in Athens, not just as theory but also as a practical way of fife.20

Invariably described as ‘divine’, Iamblichus became the one unchallengeable authority, the sole guide on the path to philosophical and spiritual perfection for all the official exegetes who flourished in Athens and (p.281) abroad until well into the sixth century. He was the norm of orthodoxy at a time when the struggle to define dogma had become the main task both of the Christian Church and of the Neoplatonic Diado che (Athanassiadi 1993b: 11–12). Chiefly responsible for this development is the man who dominated the international philosophical scene for the best part of the fifth century, the Athenian successor Proclus, who seems to have played for Neoplatonism the combined roles of an Athanasius and a Cyril.

Proclus as Defender of Iamblichanism

The Succession

Proclus was in his early twenties when in 432 he arrived in Athens from Alexandria and was adopted by Plutarch and Syrianus as their spiritual offspring (Marinus, V. Prodi 11). He went on to inherit the diadoche and, more importantly, shape and dominate the Neoplatonic scene at home and abroad. A compulsive writer, an exemplary saint, sage, and leader of the pagan community, as he emerges from Marinus’ biography and Damascius’ Philosophical History, Proclus had no difficulty, through his daily pious routine, systematic teaching, and voluminous writings, in propagating his own view of Iamblichan Platonism as the authorized version.

Proclus died in 485 at the age of 75. In the last five years of his fife he was progressively struck by senility, yet by that time he was such a venerable figure that not only did he keep his post as diadoch, but he was actively involved in the complicated (and often vicious) struggle for the succession. This fascinating contest is reported in all its recondite detail by the last holder of Plato's chair; in his Philosophical History Damascius tells us that, ‘fearing that the golden chain of Plato might forsake Athens’ (fr. 98ε), Proclus drew up a list of successors, choosing his candidates among a chorus of pure Platonists (τῷ ἀκηράτω χορῷ fr. 152). Though we have no sure way of reconstructing this fist in its entirety, Damascius provides sufficient evidence as regards both the personalities participating in it and the criteria of their selection.

The heir apparent had for many years been Zenodotus, ‘the only man thought worthy of the nickname “the darling of Proclus”’ (fr. 99b). Though certainly of the orthodox persuasion (since we find him in the early 490s teaching Damascius theoretical philosophy),21 Zenodotus seems not to have been unimaginative enough to be selected to carry the torch upon (p.282) Proclus’ death. This task fell on Marinus, a convert to Hellenism, who ‘through hard work and tireless effort, … succeeded in burying with his own name the reputations of many people more gifted and also older than himself’ (fr. 97c). A literal-minded, fearful and malleable man, with fragile health and minimal self-respect (frs. 38a, 97j), Marinus was chosen by Proclus to write his authorized biography, indeed to personalize and simplify through a neatly structured hagiographical text the norms of scholarship and sanctity valid in the school.21a

But there were others too: the ingenious Asclepiodotus, and the eccentric Isidore. The first, to whom Proclus had dedicated his commentary on the quintessentially theological Neoplatonic dialogue, the Parmenides, was, according to Damascius (fr. 80), ‘the sharpest and most learned of all his contemporaries’, yet his final verdict on him is that he was of ‘uneven intelligence, especially when it came to divine matters—the invisible and intelligible essence of Plato's lofty thought’ (fr. 85a). For this reason, despite the enormous and many-sided pressure that he exerted on Proclus, not least through his influential father-in-law (Athanassiadi 1999a: Appendix Π: 348–9), Asclepiodotus was not included in the final list.

Isidore, on the other hand was the opposite of Asclepiodotus, as Damascius notes in a passage of clear polemical intent:

His senses were moderately acute, merely serving his needs; and not only the senses, but also the wax mould which is the imagination did not surpass the average as regards its memory nor was it altogether free of forgetfulness. For it seems that God wanted to show that he was a soul rather than a combination of soul and body, and that he had not deposited philosophy in this combination but had established it in the soul alone. (PHfr. I4)22

Unlike the innovative Asclepiodotus, Isidore was a staunch defender of the Iamblichan view of the history of philosophy.

Among the ancient philosophers [Isidore] worshipped as divine Pythagoras and Plato [considering them] to be among those winged souls who dwell in the supra-celestial regions, in the plain of Truth, in the meadow of divine forms. But after Plato he particularly devoted himself to Iamblichus and his friends and adepts, the best of whom he claimed was his own fellow citizen Syrianus, the teacher of Proclus. (fr.34d)

(p.283) This insistence on what constitutes Neoplatonic orthodoxy—clearly in the face of opposition—must have been one of the main reasons for which Proclus looked upon Isidore as a worthy successor.

By the early 480s, however, when Proclus was putting pressure on him to accept the succession, Isidore was already an acclaimed teacher in Alexandria. His mentor, as it appears from Damascius’ account, was not so much Proclus as the holy Sarapio, an urban hermit who spent his days in absolute solitude ‘meditating in silence. A seeker of the Truth and a man with a theoretical cast of mind, he could not bear to occupy himself with the technicalities of philosophy, but immersed himself in those vigorous concepts which fill one with God’ (fr. 111). Unlike Proclus, who emerges as a great master of analytical thinking, Sarapio had a wholly negative view of learning that he bequeathed, alongside his ‘two or three books’ (the Orphica), to Isidore and through him to Damascius (fr. 111).23

It may indeed be argued that in his obstinate refusal to assume the Platonic succession, or even be included in ‘the hst’ (frs. 98c-d), Isidore was not solely led by his reluctance to shoulder the burdens of a post which combined academic and spiritual duties with a heavy administrative load. The example of his admired Sarapio may not have been unconnected with his choice to remain in Alexandria, where he already enjoyed universal fame at a time of reasonable security (fr. 106b). Conversely the hovering around the ailing Proclus of two tycoons—Asclepiodotus of Aphrodisias and Theagenes of Athens, respectively scheming on account of a son-in-law (the younger Asclepiodotus) and a son (Hegias)—must have confirmed Isidore in his decision to keep away. The climate in Athens in the early 480s was particularly insalubrious and Marinus who is lumped together with Isidore as a ‘true philosopher’ for the purpose of a contrast with Asclepiodotus ‘who was equipped with all the things which give glamour to this life’ (fr. 103b), had to leave Athens for a period ‘as he suspected that plots were being directed against his very fife’ (fr. 101c). Finally Theagenes seems to have reached a compromise by persuading Proclus to include Hegias in the hst of diadochoi (fr. 145); while the pressure brought by Proclus and Marinus on Isidore (frs. 98c, 103c) eventually bore fruit and he accepted, however reluctantly, ‘the vote on the succession’ (frs. 103ε, 148c).

The Holy Life

Iamblichus’ pupils shared a common life with their master. They took their meals together, drank their wine while discussing the mysteries of being, and made excursions to holy places thus allying pleasure with piety. They (p.284) even insisted on communal prayer, denying their master any privacy (V. Phil. 5. 1–2). From the information that we possess there emerges the picture of an informal circle rather than a school, bathing in an ambience of mild asceticism. Proclus’ establishment, on the other hand, had more the air of an institution than that of a circle, where the rules of an ascetic life were enforced by a superintendent who taught at the Academy alongside with Proclus. This was Salustius, an old-fashioned Cynic who went round at all seasons barefooted (PH frs. 66b—c). No great lover of humanity, he was endowed with a sharp sense of the ridiculous and a sarcastic sense of humour which he used in order to make fun of self-important people, attack the wicked, and terrorize the not-so-bright (frs. 66a, 66b, 66e). When candidates applied for admission to the Academy, Salustius set them a series of tests, which to Damascius’ mind were traps rather than a straightforward exam. Having had their nervous system and intellectual ability tested ‘like gold in fire’ (fr. 66f), once admitted to the Academy, the students went on to hear on a regular basis that they should give up philosophy as a calling beyond their abilities (frs. 66a, 66e).

On a more mundane note, ‘Salustius went in and out of the students’ dwelling place [and] saw that the cooking pots were absolutely immaculate and free from smoke, as if they were on display for sale in the market-place; for he laid particular stress on adhering to a diet of uncooked food for a long time’ (fr. 66d). This culinary philosophy was in tune with Proclus’ well-attested ascetic tastes and his insistence on a pure fife.24 Where the two men differed, however, was their attitude to good form. In genuine Cynic fashion, Salustius only cared about inner discipline, ‘knew how to get to the core of things’ (fr. 66a), and never missed an opportunity of decrying social convention even in its most innocent aspects. Proclus, on the other hand, was a great believer in decorous behaviour over the tiniest things. He was shocked, for instance, by Isidore's charming habit of reproducing the cries of birds, and even more by his ‘imitation of sparrows and hens and other birds fluttering their wings as they rouse themselves for flight’ (fr. 591)—a performance that Isidore chose to give during the solemnity of the Chaldaean rituals. An even more telling illustration of Proclus’ attachment to form concerns his order to the young Isidore to assume a coarse cloak as an indication that he had adhered to ‘the better fife’ (fr. 59b). While attempting to argue that a taste for asceticism should normally follow rather than precede (p.285) one's decision to embark on the study of philosophy (fr. 59d), Isidore–perhaps with some encouragement from Salustius too—ignored this injunction; and, when at some point in the 470s Salustius had a definitive quarrel with Proclus and left for Alexandria, Isidore went with him (fr. 60).25

An important item of Iamblichanism was the profession of cult and ritual. As ‘the hierophant of the entire world’, Proclus did not tire of expressing both in private and in public his religious fervour towards both the traditional Graeco-Roman gods and the ethnic deities of the Hellenistic oecoumene. He prayed every day at dawn and dusk, visited the shrines of the gods on appointed days, dedicated religious hymns to universal and regional gods alike, and revived local cults at home and abroad (V. Prodi 15, 19, 29, 32, 36). In promoting pagan oecumenism through an intense and dangerous personal campaign, he certainly upheld the Iamblichan model of piety. His example was followed by both Isidore and Damascius. The latter in particular boosted the Proclean programme by harking back to Iamblichan methods of popularization (Athanassiadi 1999a: 46).

But the objective circumstances were so inimical that, far from investing the philosopher with power, the promotion of ‘pagan holiness’ hampered his public image.26 Increasingly marginalized in social and political terms, the pagan philosopher realized that the only power he could wield in society was of a spiritual order, and that the seeds of this power could only be sown in the classroom and in the solitude of the study. The fruit of his efforts would thus reach posterity by the twin avenues of orality and of the written word, and the only sure way of achieving this objective was, as Iamblichus had decreed, hermeneutics.27

(p.286) Interpreting Plato

Neither the curriculum of undergraduate and graduate studies nor the methodological approach decreed by lamblichus were in any way questioned by the generations of scholars who taught at the Academy, but the authority of lamblichus as the indisputable interpreter of Platonic theology did not go unchallenged: ‘We see and hear not a few among those who philosophize, having the opinion, some that lamblichus is utterly inaccessible, others that he glorified in wilful grandiloquence rather than the truth of things’ (ΡΗϊτ. 34b), reported Damascius, while Isidore had to reiterate his devotion and loyalty to lamblichus in the face of constant provocation (fr. 34d). The significant detail in Isidore's view of the school's progress is that Syrianus, and not Proclus, was the best of the Moderns. In this connection it is worth recalling that at a relatively early stage in the history of Athenian Neoplatonism Syrianus wrote a didactic work on the agreement between Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato, which must have reproduced the main lines of Iamblichan syncretism both as ideology and method (Suda 4. 479. 1–2). But the most revealing comment of Damascius comes in the guise of a damning general criticism on the teaching of philosophy, presumably as practised by Proclus. Isidore ‘did not want to compel either himself or his pupils to pursue the invisible truth through reasoning alone, herded together by syllogisms along a single road like the blind whom one guides on the right path. But he always strove to persuade them by placing eyes in their soul, or rather cleansing those which were already there’ (fr.38b).

Such was not Proclus’ way. Indeed we have sufficient evidence on his methods of constructing orthodoxy: they consisted in guiding those who were prepared to listen by commenting on the prescribed texts, and in silencing any opposition by means of exclusion, or even slander. For his authority did not go unchallenged. ‘The best of Proclus’ pupils’, Asclep iodo tus, had in the end to be excluded from the Succession because he was impossible to control. ‘He delighted in new ideas because of his extraordinary intelligence’ (CAGix. 795· 13–17)· This judgement is passed on to us by one of the epigoni, Simplicius, who is clearly repeating what he heard from his own master, Damascius. One may note in passing that nothing of what ‘the extremely sharp and erudite’ Asclepiodotus wrote survives—a circumstance which might not be irrelevant to Proclus’ ability to control orthodox thinking.

An even more interesting case than Asclepiodotus—indeed one of outright damnatio memoriae—concerns Domninus, the gifted fellow student of (p.287) Proclus and one on whom the status of diadoch had been conferred, possibly by Syrianus.28 Domninus went down in history as ‘a rather superficial’ philosopher, since ‘he distorted many of Plato's doctrines by introducing his own views. However, he was held to proper account for this falsification at the hands of Proclus, who wrote against him a whole treatise “purificatory” as its title indicates “of Plato's doctrines’” (W/fr. 89a).29 But that was only half of Domninus’ crime. He also transgressed on the norms of a pious life and ate meat every day, insisting that he had to do so for medical reasons, and interpreting in a far-fetched way the Pythagorean prohibitions on a meat diet to suit his purposes, so that it would appear that ‘in his way of life he did not display that perfection that would entitle him to be called a true philosopher’ (fr. 89a).

If we did not have the fragments of Damascius’ Philosophical History; we would not know anything about Domninus’ condemnation or Isidore's liberal teaching methodology and unconventional personality; or any other non-mainstream attitudes and behaviour among the men of Proclus’ circle. As it is we know that Isidore (who significantly enough seems to have written nothing) was a difficult teacher, one who often ‘spoke too profoundly for his pupils’ understanding’, and gave them insoluble problems to deal with (frs. 37b, 37c). His manner was far from clear as a result of personal deficiencies, at once intellectual and personal, which Damascius—possibly reproducing his master's point of view—turns into virtues. For example we learn that

when lecturing, he lacked the linguistic skill necessary to present his views satisfactorily. And yet, not being unaided in this respect either by nature or by training, he still made zealous efforts at clarity. Leaving to others the graceful display of words, he occupied himself with revealing the thing itself, pronouncing concepts rather than words, or rather not even concepts as he brought to light the very essence of the things themselves (fr. 37d).

A man ‘who had not read many books’, but who, ‘in the infinite rapture of his yearning after God resembled a seer who divined the truth by instinct’ (fr. 37ε), Isidore was a true bacchus, who through his passionate enthusiasm could convert people to the philosophical life. Indeed we know of at least two ‘technicians’, the Aristotelian Dorus (fr. 134a with note in Athanassiadi (p.288) 1999a) and, most importantly, the rhetorician Damascius (Athanassiadi 1999a: 32–6), whose soul Isidore ‘unfurled for sailing on the vast sea of truth’ {PHfr. 134a).

The Irreverent Damascius

It was through Proclus’ triple activity—oral teaching, writing, and divine worship—that recognizable standards of orthodoxy were finally established for Hellenism, with the Athenian Academy acquiring all the formal and essential characteristics of a late antique theological college. Nor was his an achievement of one place and one time only. As a token of his lasting reputation, we possess the bulk of Proclus’ writings, transmitted and preserved throughout the Christian centuries; this voluminous output establishes him as the supreme exegete of Plato, the transmitter of and quintessential commentator on Iamblichus—now co-terminous with orthodoxy—and consequently the indisputable authority on late pagan theology.30 To such an extent was Proclus seen as the elucidator of Iamblichus’ thought that, instead of battling with the Syrian's intractable text, people read his Athenian popularizer and exegete. The ultimate consequence of this was the loss of Iamblichus’ systematic writings, such as his commentaries on the Platonic dialogues of the curriculum and on the Chaldaean Oracles, so that our view of them depends primarily on the references which are to be found in Proclus’ works.31

Since Proclus was an intelligent, diligent, and honest reader who genuinely admired his Syrian predecessor, it is reasonable to assume that the way he represents him faithfully mirrors the true Iamblichus. For many decades such a supposition was treated as tantamount to certainty, but recently, since the work of the last diadoch of the Platonic Academy, the Syrian Damascius, with its abundant reference to Iamblichus, began to be studied, scholars are beginning to discover with a certain amount of surprise and unease that Damascius not only contradicts Proclus on important theological issues, but also bases his metaphysical theories on an interpretation of Iamblichus which goes totally against the Proclean view. Indeed, (p.289) as his own pupil, Simplicius, states ‘Damascius did not hesitate to oppose many of Proclus’ doctrines because of his taste for hard work and also his appreciation oflamblichus’ theories’ (CAGix. 795. 15–17).

What Simplicius reproduces here is clearly Damascius’ own point of view, a proposition that the last head of the Academy must have reiterated in his formal lectures and private conversations in a multitude of ways. The implication is that Proclus had failed to understand lambhchus and misrepresented him, so that, in the name of Platonic orthodoxy, the new holder of Plato's chair had to take corrective action. Judging from his surviving works, and especially his systematic work On the First Principles and his no less systematic Commentary on the Parmenides, Damascius fulfilled this task with ferocious methodicality: in both these works he systematically questioned Proclus’ authority as the exegete of Neoplatonic m etap hysi cs, while affirm ing hi s own link wi th Iamblichu s. Itistrue(andof the utmost significance for the argument of this paper) that, under the pretext of interpreting lambhchus, Damascius expounded a personal theological system which nevertheless proved too difficult to grasp as a theoretical structure and too vague to follow as a practical way—indeed, a system which, by being too critical and too liberal, confused people rather than guiding them.

The extent of Iamblichus’ responsibility for Damascius’ formidable metaphysics may be an unanswerable question. However, a common Syrian origin (which meant that the two men were exposed during their formative years to the specifically Semitic conception of God as wholly transcendent)32 may not be irrelevant in this connection, and may well constitute a suitable starting-point on the right path for investigating the sources of Damascius and the breadth of his originality. What is important, however, for the present argument is that Damascius based his authority as the head of the regenerated Academy on the claim that he understood lambhchus. To his mind this empathy with the ‘second founder of Platonism’ enabled him to relaunch the ship of faith on its right course from which it had drifted away as a result of Proclus’ inexpert steering.

Such, however, was not posterity's view. And while Proclus was seen, in Psellos’ phrase, as ‘the ultimate harbour from which all science and precise understanding could be obtained’ (Chronogr. 6. 38), Damascius was held responsible ‘for the shipwreck of Neoplatonism’.33 To be fair, the two men (p.290) had their share in the creation of their respective images. Proclus’ attitude to himself and to the world was a balanced attitude, inspired by modesty and good will. His basic optimism and his need and ability to communicate his thought to others carried his uncomplicated understanding of the Platonic theology down to the present day with exemplary clarity. Conversely, Damascius’ deeply pessimistic view of man and the world earned him the charge of misanthropy in his capacity as a social historian,34 and of nihilism in theology.35

Indeed, Damascius’ acute sense of the tragic condition of mankind makes him express himself like a philosopher of the absurd avant la lettre, a style that one would not have expected his Byzantine descendants to appreciate. If his craving for the absolute was fully in tune with the spirit of the age in which he lived, the irreverent manner in which he systematically exposed relativity in society and in the human soul, and the undignified way in which he wept over ‘the compulsion of our miserable nothingness’ (De Princ. 3. 141), were features that met with angry incomprehension from posterity. Indeed his overcritical attitude towards everything and everybody is still a cause of mystification among scholars. For Damascius revolts against God in the manner of a modern existentialist while at the same time deriding and scorning reason and intellectual achievement in themanner of a Byzantine holy man.

The most direct reason, however, for Damascius’ lack of appeal among his contemporaries and immediate successors may be sought in his very understanding of Iamblichus. Proclus had established, in Iamblichus’ name, an orthodoxy which was a good mix of all the ingredients required for the creation of a successful system.36 His theology was sufficiently exotic to intrigue without shocking, with a ritual aspect that was at once attractive and respectable, and a hierarchical structure that was eminently logical and therefore easy to comprehend. But above all the Proclean vision was human, even benign, with the elements of hope and love paramount, and in this respect at least Proclus’ understanding of Neoplatonism was true to the Iamblichan psychology.37 By contrast, Damascius concentrated (p.291) on Iamblichus’ metaphysics, stressing the system's ‘hard monotheism’ and, over and above that, viewing it in the light of his own despair and putting it into words too soon and in too complicated a philosophical idiom. Like his master, Isidore, he respected his readers’ critical faculty too much to offer his ideas in a dogmatic form. Yet by doing that, he was neither convincing enough nor sufficiently reassuring at a time when people sought unequivocal answers to the difficult questions.

A more careful reading of Damascius may—or may not—lead to a drastic revision of our appreciation of his contribution to philosophy. What is of essence to the present argument however is that, with all his originality and independence of mind, Damascius accepted the premise of a spiritual orthodoxy which was co-terminous with Iamblichus’ understanding of Plato. His negative theology is put forward primarily as the correct reading of Iamblichus and therefore as the orthodox Platonic way from which his predecessors had deviated. (p.292)


(1) On the dynamic nature of anti-Christian persecution, see the dialogue between Sherwin-White (1952, 1964) and de Ste Croix (1954, 1963, 1964).

(2) It must be pointed out that the dependence of Plato on Pythagoras had already been put forward, and in rather aggressive terms, by Moderatus of Gades.

(3) Among others Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea, Nemesius, and Calcidius. Cf. Dodds i960: 11, who calls him ‘a Pythagorean rather than a Middle Platonist’. On the psychology and theology of Numenius, Frede1987:1034–75.

(4) This judgement was later modified by Dodds 1961:271. For the more balanced view that ‘both the Oracles and Numenius are influenced by the same currents of thought, Pythagorean, Gnostic and Hermetic’, Dillon 1977: 364, cf. 393. My recent involvement with the Chaldaean Oracles leads me to the hypothesis that Julian the Theurgist, to whom we owe the poem, and his father, Julian the Chaldaean, who was instrumental in the editing of the divine revelation, belonged to a priestly caste linked with the temple of Bel at Apamea. Both men must have moved in the circle of Numenius, influencing him and at the same time taking in his own ideas. And it was this mutual and long-term give and take that gave shape to both the Chaldaean revelation and the system of Numenius, which was born in conjunction with the Oracles and developed in close interrelation with them.

(5) As E. R. Dodds put it epigrammatically in the discussion following his paper: ‘The ghost of Numenius haunted Plotinus all his life because they were the same unsettled and in the end insoluble problems which both men attempted to deal with’ (i960: 59). Significant evidence linking the two men is provided by their ardent admirer, the literal-minded Amelius, who, having collected and copied out all of Numenius’ works, learned almost all of them by heart, while in the course of the twenty-four years that he spent at Plotinus’ feet, he produced no less than a hundred books of notes based on the master's seminars (Porphyry, V. Plot. 3. 38 ff.; cf. 14.13 for Plotinus’ use of Numenius’ works). Then, as he saw his place as favourite pupil and spokesman for the circle devolve to the newly arrived Porphyry, Amelius left Rome for Apamea where he spent the rest of his days, probably as head of a circle which propagated the doctrines of Numenius. The formation of a ‘Numenian’ circle by Amelius, which may in due.

(6) Praep.Ev. 11. 9. 8,11.17.11,14.4.16; Origen CC 5. 57, 1.15.

(7) The work, which survives in fragmentary form (frs. 24–8), was entitled On the Dissensionofthe Academics from Plato.

(8) For my hypothesis that the Chaldaean Oracles were produced, codified, and kept in thetemple of Bel at Apamea, see Athanassiadi 1999: 153–6. Iamblichus’ Commentary on theChaldaean Oracles numbered at least twenty-eight books (cf. Damascius, Deprinc. 2.1).

(9) ‘To set oneself above the mind, is to fall away from it.’ Enn. 3.9.

(10) Cf. the expressions ‘universal blessing of the Hellenes’ and ‘saviour of humanity as awhole’ used by one of Iamblichus’ pupils on his account: Ps.-Jul., Epp. 187. 406c and 181.449b respectively.

(11) A detail worth noting in this connection is that Iamblichus celebrated Pleasure as a goddess: Damascius, In Phil. 19. 5. For the traditional mode, cf. the expression of Iamblichus’ pupil Julian who describes the circle as being τοῦ παλαιοῦ κόμματος (Ep. 187. 4o6d).

(12) For the identification of Julian, T. D. Barnes 1978: 99–106. I find the newly advanced hypothesis by Vanderspoel (1999) that the epistolographer may be the maternal grandfather of the Em per or Julian, Julius Julianus, lacking in probability.

(13) An extreme case is that of Iamblichus’ favourite pupil, the Apamean Sopater, who, after becoming Constantine's mentor, fell from grace as a result of court machinations, and paid with his life for the influence that he had exerted upon the emperor: Eunapius, V. Phil. 6. 2.

(14) On the rift between the two schools of paganism, see my analysis (with new prosopo-graphical data) 1991: 271–8.

(15) To Chrysanthius, who at the sight of inauspicious signs is reluctant to go along withhelping Julian in his religious campaign, Maximus puts across as a principle that one mustcompel the divine nature until it bends towards the servant (ἐκβιάζεσθαι τὴν τοῦ θείον φύσινἄχρις ἀν ἐπικλίνῃ πρὸς τὸν θεραπεύοντα: 7.3.12).

(16) The namesake is Julian the Theurgist, to whom the authorship of the Chaldaean Oracleswas attributed. In his Hymn to King Helios Julian admits that his treatment is entirely based onIamblichus (isod), an acknowledgement that he makes a point of reiterating at the end of theoration (157d).

(17) Iamblichus, in the tradition of Numenius and Amelius, was a tolerant man.

(18) There was never an Alexandrian school of Neoplatonism as such: see I. Hadot 1978.

(19) Justifiably Dillon calls the Athenian school of the 2nd cent, ad ‘an empty name’ (1977: 265). And the fate of Longinus, who dominated the Athenian scene in the middle of the 3rd cent., is a perfect example of the damnatio memoriae suffered by those who did not adopt ‘the correct approach’ to Plato. Remembered simply as a ‘living library and walking museum’ (V. Pkii. 4. 1. 3), he was totally ignored by the genealogists of the Platonic succession (cf. Hierocles ap. Photius, Bibl. Cod. 214,173a ad fin.), for whom Plotinus’ aphorism'Longinus is a scholar but certainly not a philosopher!’ (Porphyry, V. Plot. 14. 19–20) provided the definitive verdict.

(20) On the identity of Nestorius, and his connection with Iamblichan Neoplatonism see Athanassiadi iqqqa: 173, 355.

(21) Photius, Bibl. Cod. 181 and Athanassiadi 1999a: 43–4 and 341 with nn. for clarification.

(21a) See now the translation and commentary by Edwards 2000; the new Budé edition (H.-D. Saffrey and A.-Ph. Segonds, Paris, 2001) has little of substance to add.

(22) What follows is an open attack on Asclepiodotus: Ί have indeed chanced upon some who are outwardly splendid philosophers in their rich memory of a multitude of theories; in the shrewd flexibility of their countless syllogisms; in the constant power of their extraordinary perceptiveness. Yet within they are poor in matters of the soul and destitute of true knowledge.’

(23) Cf. fr. 35a for ‘the noisy babble of books’.

(24) The Antiochene Hilarius is not admitted by Proclus to read philosophy on account of ‘his customary hedonism’ (4iab); on Proclus’ emphasis on virginity as a philosophical characteristic, Marinus, V. Prodi and PH frs. 56, 97b, 59 ε, 59a, 59 d. Marinus reports that the ascetic feats of the young Proclus were such that Plutarch and Syrianus feared for his life (V. Prodi 12).

(25) Whether the influence of Salustius on Isidore served him as a stepping stone for hisadherence to Sarapio is a question worth exploring, especially as some of the qualities thatIsidore cultivated under this dual influence may have been instrumental in shapingDamascius’ attitude to philosophy.

(26) The case of Hegias, who seems to have been the diadoch of the Academy in the 490s istelling: ‘Aspiring to be the most pious of men, he completed work on the shrines of his relativesall over Attica, secretly, for he did not have their approval, and restored many holy placeswhich had been lying in ruins for a long time, with an enthusiasm which was more indiscreetthan pious. Thus he became notorious among his compatriots, attracting to himself dangerousenemies, of whom some desired the huge fortune that he possessed, and others conspiredagainst him with the backing of the established order” (PH fr. 145b).

(27) A symbolic illustration of this is to be found in Marin us, V. Prodi 30: when, towards the endof Proclus’ life, ‘those who move the immovable’ took away from the celia of the Parthenon thecultic statue of Athena, the goddess, in the guise of a venerable lady, came to the doorstep of thephilosopher and asked him if she could reside with him. This piece of Neoplatonic mythology, which mirrors the mood of the circle immediately after Proclus’ death, also carries unequivocal messianic undertones for the adepts of the Platonic theology: repudiated from all officialplaces, wisdom and learning went into hibernation in anticipation of more propitious times.

(28) For a possible interpretation of the term diadochos, see Athanassiadi 1990: 43.

(29) As is clear from many passages in Damascius’ Philosophical History, by the time ofProclus there was only one orthodox way of interpreting Plato, and heretics were duly dealtwith. Those who wished to remain within the Orthodox mainstream and receive the approvalof their contemporaries and posterity had to destroy any of their own works which deviatedfrom the dogmatic norm: cf. the case of Marinus, frs. 38a, 97J.

(30) As the crowning achievement of a life devoted to Plato, Proclus wrote a Platonic Theology in many volumes; for the history of the text Saffrey and Westerink 1968: pp. cl-clx. Psellus'attitude to Proclus is indicative, if not characteristic, of the respect that the Byzantines paid totheir late antique forebear: for references to Proclus in Psellus, cf. the index locorum in his Philosophka Minora i and ii (ed. J. M. Duffy and D.J. C. Meara).

(31) It is by no means coincidental that out of the ninety fragments which have been preservedfrom Iamblichus’ Commentary on the Timaeus, eighty-eight have been transmitted by Proclusalone.

(32) ’ For the recognition of the fact, Damascius De Princ. 2.100 with Combès 1986.

(33) Zeller's famous phrase (Zeller and Mondolfo 1961: vi. 218) not only encapsulates the mood of the generations between the 6th and the 19 th cents., with very few remarkable exceptions, but seems also to have worked as a binding charm on scholarship for over a century after it was written.

(34) Cf. Photius’ damning comments on the Philosophical History: Bib I. Cod. 181.

(35) One comes back to Zeller's angry comment (n. 33), which concludes an analysis portraying Damascius as a i9th-cent. nihilist.

(36) For belief among the epigoni in Proclus’ infallibility in the understanding of Iamblichus, see the note that Simplicius scribbled in the margin of Proclus’ In Timaeum (Proclus, ThéologiePlatonicienne I, Paris 1968, p. CLIII): Σιμπλικίου πόνος οὑτος Ῐάμβλιχε δῶτερ ἐάων, ἴλαθινικηθείς, ἀλλ’ὑπὸ σῶν ἐπέων. (This is the work of Simplicius. Iamblichus, giver of goodthings, I Be gracious in defeat—since it came through your own words.)

(37) See the good analysis of Iamblichus’ innovations in the domain of psychology byG. Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul, Pennsylvania 1995, passim.