1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Olympiodorus

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OLYMPIODORUS, the name of several Greek authors, of whom the following are the most important, (1) An historical writer (5th century A.D.), born at Thebes in Egypt, who was sent on a mission to Attila by the emperor Honorius in 412, and later lived at the court of Theodosius. He was the author of a history (Ἱστορικοὶ Λόγοι.) in 22 books of the Western Empire from 407 to 425. The original is lost, but an abstract is given by Photius, according to whom he was an alchemist (ποιητής). A MS. treatise on alchemy, reputed to be by him, is preserved in the National Library in Paris, and was printed with a translation by P. E. M. Berthelot in his Collection des alchimistes grecs (1887-1888). (2) A Peripatetic philosopher (5th century A.D.), an elder contemporary of Proclus. He lived at Alexandria and lectured on Aristotle with considerable success. His best-known pupil was Proclus, to whom he wished to betroth his daughter. (3) A Neoplatonist philosopher, also of Alexandria, who flourished in the 6th century of our era, during the reign of Justinian. He was, therefore, a younger contemporary of Damascius, and seems to have carried on the Platonic tradition after the closing of the Athenian School in 529, at a time when the old pagan philosophy was at its last ebb. His philosophy is in closing conformity with that of Damascius, and, apart from great lucidity of expression, shows no striking features. He is, however, important as a critic and a commentator, and preserved much that was valuable in the writings of Iamblichus, Damascius and Syrianus. He made a close and intelligent study of the dialogues of Plato, and his notes, formulated and collected by his pupils (ἀπὸ φωνῆς Ὀλυμπιοδώρου τοῦ μεγάλου φιλοσόφου), are extremely valuable. In one of his commentaries he makes the interesting statement that the Platonic succession had not been interrupted by the numerous confiscations it had suffered. Zeller points out that this refers to the Alexandrian, not to the Athenian, succession; but internal evidence makes it clear that he does not draw a hard line of demarcation between the two schools. The works which have been preserved are a life of Plato, an attack on Strato and Scholia on the Phaedo, Alcibiades I., Philebus and Gorgias. (4) An Aristotelian who wrote a commentary on the Meteorologica of Aristotle. He also lived at Alexandria in the 6th century, and from a reference in his work to a comet must have lived after A.D. 564. But Zeller (iii. 2, p. 582, n. 1) maintains that he is identical with the commentator on Plato (2, above) in spite of the late date of his death. His work, like that of Simplicius, endeavours to reconcile Plato and Aristotle, and refers to Proclus with reverence. The commentary was printed by the Aldine Press at Venice about 1550.