❧ Early Neoplatonism (250–325 CE)

"Early Neoplatonism" can mean various things. It can mean Plotinus and Porphyry in distinction from Iamblichus, the dominant authority of later Neoplatonism. It can even mean just Plotinus, if one sees Porphyry as the first of a long row of diluters of the Plotinian vision (thankfully, this uncharitable view is becoming ever rarer). In my opinion, the most useful way of using "Early Neoplatonism" is to refer to the earliest cluster of Neoplatonic authors. After Iamblichus, there is a significant gap in our knowledge, followed by somewhat disparate remains mostly from the second half of the 4th century (what I call "Middle Neoplatonism"), and after another gap, the bulk of extant Greek philosophical writings ("Late Neoplatonism").

Accordingly, I include the following authors: Plotinus, whose Enneads (as edited by his student Porphyry) are extant in their complete form; Amelius, Porphyry's rival, of whom we have only a very few fragments; Porphyry himself, of whose broad work we have very significant remains; Iamblichus, from whose work we have a somewhat unfortunate but sizable selection; and Theodorus, who studied first with Porphyry and then with Iamblichus, whose remains are again very sparse. This picture is the result of the prominence of Iamblichus and his students in the Roman East, since Iamblichus (a) mostly accepted Plotinus' system, (b) used his teacher Porphyry's interpretations of Plotinus, albeit critically, rather than those of Amelius, and (c) Theodorus broke from Iamblichus and founded a separate, less long-lived lineage, which to some extent also drew on Amelius.

We also have one fragment and considerable indirect evidence about certain Christians (of a Gnostic group) in Plotinus' circle.

Although we are reasonably well informed about the activities of Iamblichus' students from Eunapius' Lives of Philosophers and Sophists and other sources, we know very little about their literary activities, but a few scattered remains still exist, and are listed here.

Plotinus of Lycopolis[?] (Egypt)


Christians in Plotinus' circle


Amelius Gentilianus (Tuscany)

(List of fragments)

Porphyry of Tyre (Phoenicia)

Porphyry of Tyre was one of the great polymaths of the Roman Empire. He was first educated in philosophy and philology by Cassius Longinus in Tyre. He then became a student of the philosopher Plotinus in Rome, where he also had a complicated relationship with Plotinus' long-standing student Amelius. Both Longinus and Plotinus were students of Ammonius Saccas.

List of his works

Original translations (on Academia.edu)

 Blog posts on Porphyry's Middle Platonist phase
"On Images" / "On Cult Statues" (Gr. Peri agalmatôn)
     #1: Statues and Powers
"On the Philosophy (to be Derived) from Oracles" (Gr. Peri tês ek logiôn philosophias)
     #2: Practical Theosophy

Blog posts on Porphyry's Neoplatonist phase

Ptolemy "al-Gharib"


Theodorus of Asine (in Greece),
his student P(e)isitheus,
& the later Theodoreans

List of fragments. The identity of Theodorus with "the philosopher of Rhodes", which I accept here, has been debated.

Iamblichus of Chalcis (in Syria)




Sopater of Apamea (in Syria)


Aedesius of Cappadocia (in Asia Minor)


Eustathius of Cappadocia (in Asia Minor)


Dexippus (unknown origin)

Student of Iamblichus. Author of a partially extant commentary on Aristotle's Categories, dependent on Porphyry and Iamblichus; otherwise unknown. English translation: J. Dillon, Dexippus: On Aristotle Categories, 1990.

Pseudo-Julian (from Damascus in Syria)

To quote from my own BA thesis:
The author of letters 180-197 (Bidez-Cumont) in the corpus of emperor Julian's correspondence, a student of Iamblichus, who was at the court of Licinius together with Sopater, seems not to have been a professional philosopher, but rather an orator. He repeatedly calls his teacher the savior of the Greeks and similar things, and shows himself, although a Syrian, most probably a Damascene, as culturally entirely Hellenized. [...] He exclusively uses Greek divine names, and ascribes the conventional attributes to the gods. Damascus is for him the city of Zeus; the words of praise about the shrines of the city could also be used for Rome if "East" were replaced by "West" (ep. 180). If we can learn little about Neoplatonism from these latters, they at least teach us that we need not always expect something novel from the Neoplatonists.

Euphrasius (from Greece)

Mentioned as one of the more prominent students of Iamblichus, but otherwise unknown.

Hierius of Sicyon (in Greece)

See my page on Middle Neoplatonism.

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