1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Proclus

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PROCLUS, or Proculus (A.D. 410–485), the chief representative of the later Neoplatonists, was born at Constantinople, but brought up at Xanthus in Lycia. Having studied grammar under Orion and philosophy under Olympiodorus the Peripatetic, at Alexandria, he proceeded to Athens. There he attended the lectures of the Neoplatonists Plutarch and Syrianus, and about 450 succeeded the latter in the chair of philosophy (hence his surname Diadochus, which, however, is referred by others to his being the “successor” of Plato). As an ardent upholder of the old pagan religion Proclus incurred the hatred of the Christians, and was obliged to take refuge in Asia Minor. After a year’s absence he returned to Athens, where he remained until his death. His epitaph, written by himself, is to be found in Anthologia palatina, vii. 451. Although possessed of ample means, Proclus led a most temperate, even ascetic life, and employed his wealth in generous relief of the poor. He was supposed to hold communion with the gods, who endowed him with miraculous powers. He acted up to his famous saying that “the philosopher should be the hierophant of the whole world ” by celebrating Egyptian and Chaldaean as well as Greek festivals, and on certain days performing sacred rites in honour of all the dead.

His great literary activity was chiefly devoted to the elucidation of the writings of Plato. There are still extant commentaries on the First Alcibiades, Parmenides, Republic, Timaeus and Cratylus. His views are more fully expounded in the Περὶ τῆς κατὰ Πλάτωνα θεολογίας (In Platonis theologian). The Στοιχείωσις θεολογική (Institutio theologica) contains a compendious account of the principles of Neoplatonism and the modifications introduced in it by Proclus himself. The pseudo-Aristotelian De causis is an Arabic extract from this work, ascribed to Alfarabius (d. 950), circulated in the west by means of a Latin translation (ed. O. Bardenhewer, Freiburg, 1882). It was answered by the Christian rhetorician Procopius of Gaza in a treatise which was deliberately appropriated without acknowledgment by Nicolaus of Methone, a Byzantine theologian of the 12th century (see W. Christ, Geseh. der griechischen Litteratur, 1898, § 692). Other philosophical works by Proclus are Στοιχείωσις φυσικὴ ἢ Περὶ κινήσεως (Institutio physica sive De motu, a compendium of the last five books of Aristotle’s Περὶ φυσικῆς ἀκροάσεως, De physica auscultatione), and De providential et fato, Decem dubitationes circa providentiam, De malorum subsistentia, known only by the Latin translation of William of Moerbeke (archbishop of Corinth, 1277–1281), who also translated the Στοιχείωσις θεολογική into Latin. In addition to the epitaph already mentioned, Proclus was the author of hymns, seven of which have been preserved (to Helios, Aphrodite, the Muses, the Gods, the Lycian Aphrodite, Hecate and Janus, and Athena), and of an epigram in the Greek Anthology (Anthol. pal. iii. 3, 166 in Didot edition.) His astronomical and mathematical writings include Ὑποτύπωσις τῶν αστρονομικῶν ὑποθέσεων (Hypotyposis astronomicarum positionum, ed. C. Manitius, Leipzig, 1909); Περὶ σφαίρας (De sphaera); Παράφρασις εἰς τὴν ΠΤολεμαίου τετράβιβλον, a paraphrase of the difficult passages in Ptolemy’s astrological work Tetrabiblus; Είς τὸ πρῶτον τῶν Εὐκλείδου στοιχείων, a commentary on the first book of Euclid’s Elements; a short treatise on the effect of eclipses (De effectibus eclipsium, only in a Latin translation).

His grammatical works are: a commentary on the Works and Days of Hesiod (incomplete); some scholia on Homer; an elementary treatise on the epistolary style, Περὶ ἐπιστολιμαίου χαρακτῆρος (Characteres epistolici), attributed in some MSS. to Libanius. The Χρηστομαθία γραμματική by a Proclus, who is identified by Suïdas with the Neoplatonist, is probably the work of a grammarian of the 2nd or 3rd century, though Wilamowitz-Möllendorff (Philolog. Untersuch. vii.; supported by O. Immisch in Festschrift Th. Gomperz, pp. 237-274) agrees with Suïdas. According to Suïdas, he was also the author of 'E1riXetp1§ ;.w.ra ui Kara Xpwnai/6.'>v (Animadversiones duodeviginti in christianos). This work, identified by W. Christ with the Institutio theological, was answered by Ioannes Philoponus (7th century) in his De aeternitate mundi. Some of his commentary on the Chaldaean oracles (Aéyia Xakéaixé) has been discovered in modern times.

There is no complete edition of the works of Proclus. The selection of V. Cousin (Paris, 1864) contains the treatises De providentia et fato, Decem dubitationes, and De malorum subsistentia, the commentaries on the Alcibiades and Parmenides. The Institutio theologica has been edited by G. F. Creuzer in the Didot edition of Plotinus (Paris, 1855); the In Platonis theologian has not been reprinted since 1618, when it was published by Aemilius Portus with a Latin translation. Most recent editions of individual works are: Commentaries on the Parmenides, French translation with notes by A. E. Chaignet (1900–1903); Republic, by W. Kroll (1899–1901); Timaeus, by E. Diehl (1903–); Hymns, by E. Abel (1883) and A. Ludwich (1895); commentary on Euclid by G. Friedlein (1873); Λόγια Χαλδαϊκά, by A. Jahn (1891); Characteres epistolici, by A. Westermann (1856), Scholia to Hesiod in E. Vollbehr’s edition (1844). Thomas Taylor, the “Platonist,– translated the commentaries on the Timaeus and Euclid, The Theology of Plato, the Elements of Theology, and the three Latin treatises.

On Proclus generally and his works see article in Suïdas; Marinus, Vita Procli; J. A. Fabricius, Bibliotheca graeca (ed. Harles), ix. 363–445; W. Christ, Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur (1898), 2623; J. E. Sandys, Hist. of Classical Scholarship (1906), i. 372; J. B. Bury, Later Roman Empire (1889), i. 13, where Proclus is styled the “Hegel of Neoplatonism "; on his philosophy, T. Whittaker, The Neo-Platanists (1901), and Neoplatonism.

Extracts from the Χρεστομαθία are preserved in Photius (Cod. 239), almost the only source of information regarding the epic cycle; on the question of authorship, see Christ § 637, and Sandys, p. 379; also D. B. Monro’s appendix to his ed. of Homer’s Odyssey, xiii.-xxiv. (1901).