Iamblichus2. A celebrated Neo-Platonic philosopher, was born at Chalcis in Coele-Syria, and was perhaps a descendant of No. 1. He was a pupil of Anatolius and Porphyrius. Respecting his life we know very little beyond the fact that he resided in Syria till his death, making every year an excursion to the hot springs of Gadara. He died in the reign of Constantine the Great, and probably before A. D. 333. (Suidas, s.v. Ἰάμβλιχος; Eunapius, Iamblich.) He had studied with great zeal the philosophy of Plato and Pythagoras, and was also acquainted with the theology and philosophy of the Chaldaeans and Egyptians. The admiration which he enjoyed among his contemporaries was so great that they declared him to be equal to Plato himself, and that the difference of time was the only one existing between them. (Julian, Orat. iv. p. 146, Epist. 40.) We cannot join in this admiration, for although he pretended to be a follower of Plato, his Platonism was so much mixed up with notions and doctrines derived from the East, and with those of other Greek philosophers, especially Pythagoras, that it may justly be termed a syncretic philosophy. By means of this philosophy, which was further combined with a great deal of the superstition of the time, he endeavoured to oppose and check the progress of Christianity. He did not acquiesce in the doctrines of the earlier New Platonists, Porphyrius and Plotinus, who regarded the perception and comprehension of the Deity, by means of ecstasies, as the object of all philosophy; but his opinion was that man could be brought into direct communion with the Deity through the medium of theurgic rites and ceremonies, whence he attached particular importance to mysteries, initiations, and the like.
WorksIamblichus was the author of a considerable number of works, of which a few only have come down to us. The most important among them are:
Book 1. Περὶ τοῦ Πυθαγορικοῦ Βίου (On the Life of Pythagoras
The first book, entitled Περὶ τοῦ Πυθαγορικοῦ Βίου, contains a detailed account of the life of Pythagoras and his school, but is an uncritical compilation from earlier works; as howeverthese works are lost, thecompilation of Iamblichus is not without its peculiar value to us.
EditionsThis life of Pythagoras was first edited by J. Arcerius Theodoretus in Greek and Latin, Franeker, 1598, 4to. The most recent and best editions are those of L. Kuster (Amsterdam, 1707, 4to.) and Th. Kiessling (Leipzig, 1815, 2 vols. 8vo.)
Book 2. Προτρεπτικοὶ λόγοι εἰς φιλοσοφίαν (Introduction to Philosophy）
The second book, entitled Προτρεπτικοὶ λόγοι εἰς φιλοσοφίαν, forms a sort of introduction to the study of Plato, and is, like the former, for the most part compiled from the works of earlier writers, and almost without any plan or system.
The last chapter contains an explanation of 39 Pythagorean symbols.
EditionsThe first edition is that of Arcerius Theodoretus, and the best that of Th. Kiessling, Leipzig, 1813, 8vo.
Book 3. Περὶ κοινῆς μαθηματικῆς ἐπιστήμης (On common mathematical knowledge
The third book is entitled Περὶ κοινῆς μαθηματικῆς ἐπιστήμης, and contains many fragments of the works of early Pythagoreans, especially Philolaus and Archytas.
EditionsIt exists in MS. in various libraries, but for a long time only fragments were published, until at length Villoisonin his Anecdota Graeca (vol. ii. p. 188, &c.) printed the whole of it, after which it was edited separately by J. G. Fries, Copenhagen, 1790, 4to.
Book 4. Περὶ τῆς Νικομάχου ἀριθμητικῆς εἰσαγωγῆς (On the Arithmetical Education of Nikomachus
EditionsThe fourth book, entitled Περὶ τῆς Νικομάχου ἀριθμητικῆς εἰσαγωγῆς, was first edited by Sam. Tennulius, Deventer and Arnheim, 1668, 4to.
Books 5 and 6. On PhysicsThe fifth and sixth books, which treated on physics and ethics, are lost.
Book 7. Τὰ Θεολογούμενα τῆς ἀριθμητικῆς (
EditionsThe seventh, entitled Τὰ Θεολογούμενα τῆς ἀριθμητικῆς, is still extant, and has been published by Ch. Wechel (Paris, 1543, 4to) and Fr. Ast (Leipzig, 1817, 8vo.).
Books 8, 9, 10. Music, Geometry, and Spheric TheoryWith regard to the other books of this work, we know that the eighth contained an introduction to music (Iambl. Vit. Pyth. 120, ad Nicom. Arithm. pp. 73, 77, 172, 176), the ninth an introduction to geometry (ad Nicom. Arithm. pp. 141, 176), and the tenth the spheric theory of Pythagoras (ad Nicom. Arithm. p. 176).
Περὶ μυστηρίων, in one book. An Egyptian priest of the name of Abammon is there introduced as replying to a letter of Porphyrius. [PORPHYRIUS.] He endeavours to refute various doubts respecting the truth and purity of the Egyptian religion and worship, and to prove the divine origin of the Egyptian and Chaldaean theology, as well as that men, through theurgic rites, may commune with the Deity. Many critics have endeavoured to show that this work is not a production of Iamblichus, while Tennemann and others have vindicated its authenticity; and there are apparently no good reasons why the authorship should be denied to Iamblichus.