6. The last philosopher of any celebrity in the Neo-Platonic school of Alexandria.
He lived in the first half of the sixth century after Christ, in the reign of the emperor Justinian.
He was a younger contemporary, and possibly a pupil, of Damnascius; the partiality which he uniformly shows for him, and the preference which he gives him even above Proclus, seem to indicate this. Our knowledge of Olympiodorus is derived from those works of his which have come down to us. From a passage in his scholia to the Alcibiades Prior of Plato, Creutzer has acutely inferred that he taught before the Athenian school was finally suppressed by Justinian, that is, before A. D. 529 ; though the confiscations to which the philosophers were being subjected are alluded to. And in various other passages the philosophy of Proclus and Damascius is spoken of as still in existence.
From what we have of the productions of Olympiodorus he appears to have been an acute and clear thinker, and, if not strikingly original, far from being a mere copyist, though he follows Damasciuts pretty closely.
He was a man of extensive reading, and a great deal of valuable matter from the lost writings of other philosophers, as Iamblichus, Syriamnus, Damascius, and others, with historical and mythological notices, have come down to us through him at second hand.
In his sketches of the general plan and object of the dialogues of Plato, and of their dramatic construction and the characters introduced, he exhibited great ability.
A great deal that is valuable is also to be found in his analyses of the philosophical expressions of Plato.
His style, as might have been expected, is marked by several of the solecistms of his age, but exhibits in the main a constant endeavour after purity and accuracy. His scholia, as we have them, were put into a written form by his pupils, from notes which they took of his lectures, and are distributed into πράξεις
, or lessons.
The inscriptions which precede the scholia state that they were written ἀπὸ φωνῆς Ὀλυμπιοδώρου τοῦ μεγάλου φιλοσόφου.
This will probably account for many of the defects of style observable in Olympiodorus.
Of his compositions there have come down to us a life of Plato; a polemical work against Strato (inl MS. at Munich) ; anid scholia on the Gorgias, Philebus, Phaedo, and Alcibiades I. of Plato. Whether these were all the works of Plato on which he commented, or not, we do not know.
Life of Plato
The life of Plato was published in Wetstein's edition of Diogenes Laertius, in 1692, from the posthumous papers of Is. Casaubon. It was again published by Etwall, in his edition of three of Plato's dialogues, Lond. 1771
; and by Fischer, in his edition of some dialogues of Plato, Leipzig, 1783.
Scholia on the Phaedo
Some of the more important scholia on the Phaedo were published by Nathan Forster, Oxford, 1752
; by Fischer (l. c,); and im a more complete form
, by Mystoxides and Schinas, in their Συλλογὴ Ἑλληνικῶν ἀνεκδότων, Venice, 1816.
Scholia on other works of Plato
The scholia to the Gorgias were published by Routh, in his edition of the Euthydemus and Gorgias, Oxford, 1784
; those to the Philebus by Stallbaum, in his edition of Plato, Leipzig, 1826
; those on the Alcibiades by Creuzer, Frankfort, 1821.
Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. x. p. 631.