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Ma'ximus Ephe'sius

one of the teachers of the emperor Julian, who is not to be confounded with Maximus Epirota, whose name is likewise conspicuous among the learned friends of that emperor. Maximus, the subject of this notice, was a native of either Ephesus or Smyrna, and belonged to a rich and distinguished family. He early embraced the doctrine of the Pythagorean Platonists, and obtained great reputation by his lectures on philosophy and Pagan divinity. Ammilectures Marcellinus, quoted below, calls him " Maximus ille philosophus, vir ingenti nomine doctrinarum." The philosopher Aedesius, whose disciple he was, recommended him to prince Julian, afterwards emperor, who came to Ephesus for the sole purpose of hearing Maximus. Julian held him in high esteem, and it is said as well as believed that chiefly through him he was induced to abjure Christianity. Besides philosophy, Maximus excelled in magic, and there is a story that he foretold Julian his subsequent elevation to the throne, which, after all, did not require a very considerable degree of supernatural knowledge. In 361, Maximus and the philosopher Chrysanthus were invited by Julian to repair to his court at Constantinople. They consulted the stars before they set out, and the signs having been found unfavourable, Chrysanthus refused to go, but Maximus thought, probably, that the favour of an emperor was a better augury than the constellation of the stars, and hastened to make his court to Julian. This time the philosophy of Maximus proved sound, for he rose to great eminence at court; but he nevertheless injured his reputation, among the heathens no less than among the Christians, by listening too much to flattery. It was this, perhaps, which Chrysanthus had read in the stars. When Julian set out on his campaign against the Persians, Maximus prophesied a fortunate issue, and accompanied him on the expedition, from which we might infer that Maximus believed in the truth of his prophecies. As it happened, however, that the issue was most lamentable, he, on his safe return, was sadly ridiculed by the inhabitants of Antioch, who were by no means a dull people, as Julian found to his cost. For some time Maximus was honoured by the emperors Valens and Valentinian, till the public voice accused him and Priscus of having caused by their sorceries the illness which befell the two emperors in the month of April, 364. They were consequently summoned to Constantinople, where Priscus cleared himself, but Maximus less fortunate was condemned to pay a heavy fine, and, being unable to raise the money, was sent to Ephesus, where he was kept in prison till the end of 365. During all the time he was exposed to such cruel tortures that he requested his wife to bring him poison, which she did; but instead of giving it to her husband she swallowed it and died instantly. He owed his delivery to the philosopher Thenmistius, who spoke on his behalf in Constantinople, and to Clearchus, who held the supreme command in Asia, and he even recovered a portion of his property which had been confiscated. In 371 Maximus was accused of being an accomplice in a conspiracy against the life of Valens, and it seems that he was guilty, inasmuch as he knew of the plot but did not reveal it. He was also accused of sorcery and sentenced to death, and his head was accordingly struck off, philosophy dving with him, as Libanius says. Julian wrote different letters to Maximus which are extant (15, 16, 38, 39). Maximus had two brothers,Claudianus, who taught philosophy at Alexandria, and Nymphidianus, who lectured at Smyrna; both of them gained fame.


Περὶ καταρχῶν

Maximus of Ephesus is believed by some to be the author of Περὶ καταρχῶν alias ἀπαρχῶν, De Electionum Auspiciis, an astrological poem in hexameter verse. The beginning of it is lost; 610 verses are extant. This poem, however, is ascribed with more justice, as it seems, to Maximus Epirota; but Ruhnken thinks that it was composed by Callimachus, a contemporary of Apollonius Rhodius.


This poem was first published by Fabricius, quoted below, with a Latin version by Joh. Rentdorf.

Further Information

Maximus of Ephesus is frequently mentioned by the historians of the time: Maximus, in Eunapius, Βίοι φιλοσόφων καὶ σοφιστῶν; Liban. Orat. v. xii; Amm. Marc. 29.1; Fabric. Bill. Graec. vol. iii. pp. 499, 527, vol. iv. p. 158, vol. ix. p. 322, &c.; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp. vol. vi. pp. 490, &c., 512, 560, 568, gives a critical review of the life of Maximus.


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