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Philo'ponus, Joannes

Ἰωάννης Φιλόπονος), or JOANNES GRAMMA'TICUS ( Γραμματικός), an Alexandrine scholar of great renown, which he deserved but little on account of his extreme dullness and want of good sense, was called Φιλόπονος because he was one of the most laborious and studious men of his age. He lived in the seventh century of our era; one of his writings, Physica, is dated the 10th of May, A. D. 617. He calls himself γραμματικός, undonbtedly because he taught grammar in his native town, Alexandria, and would in earlier times have been called rhetor. He was a disciple of the philosopher Ammonius. Although his renown is more based upon the number of his learned productions, and the estimation in which they were held by his contemporaries, than upon the intrinsic value of those works, he is yet so strangely connected with one of the most important events of his time, though only through subsequent tradition, that his name is sure to be handed down to future generations. We allude to the capture of Alexandria by Amru in A. D. 639, and the pretended conflagration of the famous Alexandrine library. It is in the first instance said that Philoponus adopted the Mohammedan religion on the city being taken by Amru, whence he may justly be called the last of the pure Alexandrian grammarians. Upon this, so the story goes, he requested Amru to grant him the possession of the celebrated library of Alexandria. Having informed the absent khalif Omar of the philosopher's wishes, Amru received for answer that if the books were in conformity with the Koran, they were useless, and if they did not agree with it, they were to be condemned, and ought in both cases to be destroyed. Thus the library was burnt. We now know, however, that this story is most likely only an invention of Abul-faraj, the great Arabic writer of the 13th century, who was however a Christian, and who, at any rate, was the first who ever mentioned such a thing as the burning of the Alexandrine library. We consequently dismiss the matter, referring the reader to the 51st chapter of Gibbon's "Decline and Fall." It is extremely doubtful that Philoponus became a Mohammedan. His favourite authors were Plato and Aristotle, whence his tendency to heresy, and he was either the founder or one of the first and principal promoters of the sect of the Tritheists, which was condemned by the council of Constantinople of 681. The time of the death of Philoponus is not known.


The following is a list of his works: --

1. Τῶν εἰς τὴν Μωυσέως κοσμογονίαν ἐξηγητικῶν λόγοι ζ᾽

Τῶν εἰς τὴν Μωυσέως κοσμογονίαν ἐξηγητικῶν λόγοι ζ᾽, Commentarii in Mosaicam Cosmogoniam, lib. viii., dedicated to Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, who held that see from 610 to 639, and perhaps 641.


Ed. Graece et Latine by Balthasar Corderius, Vienna, 1630, 4to. The editor was deficient in scholarship, and Lambecius promised a better edition, which, however, has not appeared. Photius (Bibl. cod. 75) compares the Cosmogonia with its author, and forms no good opinion of either.


Disputatio de Paschale, "ad calcem Cosmogoniae," by the same editor.

3. Κατὰ Πρόκλου περὶ αἰδιότητος κόσμου λύσεις, λόγοι ιή

Κατὰ Πρόκλου περὶ αἰδιότητος κόσμου λύσεις, λόγοι ιή, Adversus Procli de Aeternitate Mundi Argumenta XVIII. Solutiones, commonly called De Aeternitate Mundi. The end is mutilated.


the text by Victor Trincavellus, Venice, 1535, fol.; Latin versions, by Joannes Mahotius, Lyon, 1557, fol., and by Casparus Marcellus, Venice, 1551, fol.


De quinque Dialectis Graecae Linguae Liber.


Graece, together with the writings of some other grammarians, and the Thesaurus of Varinus Camertes, Venice, 1476, fol. 1504, fol.; ad calcem Lexici Graeco-Latini, Venice, 1524, fol.; another, ibid. 1524, fol.; Basel, 1532, fol.; Paris, 1521, fol.

5. Συναγωγή των πρὸς διάφορον σημασίαν διαφόρως τονουμένων λέξεων

Συναγωγή των πρὸς διάφορον σημασίαν διαφόρως τονουμένων λέξεων, Collectio Vocum quae pro diversa significatione Accentum diversum accipiunt, in alphabetical order.


It has been often published at the end of Greek dictionaries. The only separate edition is by Erasmus Schmid, Wittenberg, 1615, 8vo, under the title of Cyrilli, vel, ut alii volunt, Joanni Philoponi Opusculum utilissimum de Differentiis Vocum Graecarum, quod Tonum, Spiritum, Genus, &c., to which is added the editor's Dissertatio de Prouunciatione Graeca Antiqua. Schmid appended to the dictionary of Philoponus about five times as much of his own, but he separates his additions from the text.


Commentarii in Aristotelem, viz.



Ed. : the text, Venice, 1536, fol.; Latin versions, by Gulielmus Dorotheus, Venice, 1541, fol.; Lucillus Philaltheus, ibid. 1544, 1548, 1553, 1555, fol.; Alexander Justinianus, ibid. 1560, fol.



Venice, 1504, fol., together with Anonymi Graeci Commentarii on the same work, ibid. 1534, fol., revised and with additions, together with Eustratii, episcopi Nicaeani (who lived about 1117) Commentarii on the same work. A Greek edition of 1534 is said to exist. Latin versions by Andreas Grateolus, Venice, 1542, fol., and Paris, 1543, fol.; by Martianus Rota, Venice, 1559, 1568, fol.


Philoponus speaks of his Scholia to the sixth book, whence we may infer that he commented upon the four last books also.


Greek Edition

Ed. : the text, cum Praefatione Victoris Trincavelli ad Casparum Contarenum Cardinalem, Venice, 1535, fol.

Latin Edition

Latin version, by Gulielmus Dorotheus, Venice, 1539, ibid. 1541, fol.; a better one by Baptista Rasarius, ibid. 1558, 1569, 1581, fol.



The text ad calcem Olympiodori "In Meteora," Venice, 1551, fol. Latine, by Joannes Baptistus Camotius, Venice, 1551, 1567, fol.



Greek Edition

Graece, cum Trincavelli Epistola ad Nicolaum laum Rodulphum Cardinalem, Venice, 1553, fol.

Latin Edition

Latine, by Gentianus Hervetus, Lyon, 1544, 1548. Venice, 1554, 1568; and by Matthaeus a Bove, Venice, 1544, 1581, all in fol.



Venice, 1527, fol., together with Alexander Aphrodiseus, Meteorologia.


Probably by Philoponus.


Greek Edition

Graece cum Petri Corcyraei Epistola Graeca ad Andream Matthaeum Aquavivam, Venice, 1526, fol.

Latin Edition

Latine, by the same, ibid. eodem anno. Black letter.



Latine by Franciscus Patricius, Ferrara, 1583, fol. The text was never published.

Other Works

Philoponus wrote many other works, some of which are lost, and others have never been published. Fabricius gives an "Index Scriptorum in Philop. De Mundi Aeternitate memoratorum," and an "Index Scriptorum in universis Philoponi ad Aristotelem Commentariis memoratorum," both of great length.

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 639, &c.; Cave, Hist. Lit. vol. i.


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