), a native of Cilicia (Agathias, 2.30; Suid. s. v. πρέσβεις
- it is inaccurately that Suid. s. v. Damascius
calls him a countryman of Eulamius the Phrygian), was a disciple of Ammonius (Simpl. in Phys. Ausc.
f. 42, 43, &c.), and of Damascius (ibid.
150, a. b., 183, b., 186, &c.), and was consequently one of the last members of the Neo-Platonic school.
Since this school had found its head-quarters in Athens, it had, under the guidance of Plutarchus the son of Nestorius, of Syrianus, Proclus, Marinus, Isidorus and Damascius (from about A. D. 400 to 529), become the centre of the last efforts to maintain the ancient Hellenic mythology against the victorious encroachments of Christianity, and was therefore first attacked by the imperial edicts promulgated in the fifth century against the heathen cultus. Athens had preserved temples and images longer than other cities; yet Proclus, who had rejoiced in dwelling between the temples of Aesculapius and Bacchus, lived long enough to be compelled to witness the removal of the consecrated statue of Minerva from the Parthenon. (Marinus, Vita Procli,
100.29.) Proclus died in A. D. 485.
The promise of the goddess, who had appeared to him in a dream, that she would thenceforth inhabit his house, served to console him (ibid.
100.30). Against personal maltreatment the followers of the ancient faith found legal protection (Cod. Theod. 16. tit. 10), until, under the emperor Justinianus, they had to endure great persecutions.
In the year 528 many were displaced from the posts which they held, robbed of their property, some put to death, and in case they did not within three months come over to the true faith, they were to be banished from the empire.
In addition, it was forbidden any longer to teach philosophy and jurisprudence in Athens (A. D. 529; Malalas, xviii. p. 449. 51, ed. Bonn; comp. Theophanes, 1.276, ej. ed.). Probably also the property of the Platonic school, which in the time of Proclus was valued at more than 1000 gold pieces (Damasc. ap. Phot. p. 346, ed. Bekk.), was confiscated ; at least, Justinian deprived the physicians and teachers of the liberal arts of the provisionmoney (σιτήσεις
), which had been assigned to them by previous emperors, and confiscated funds which the citizens had provided for spectacles and other civic purposes (Procop. Arcan.
100.26). Accordingly, seven philosophers, among whom were Simplicius, Eulamius, Priscianus, and others, with Damascius, the last president of the Platonic school in Athens at their head, resolved to seek protection at the court of the famous Persian king Kosroes, who had succeeded to the throne in A. D. 531.
But, disappointed in their hopes, they returned home, after Kosroes, in a treaty of peace concluded with Justinian, probably in A. D. 533, had stipulated that the above-mentioned philosophers should be allowed to return without risk, and to practise the rites of their paternal faith (Agathias 2.30 ; comp. C. G. Zumpt, Ueber den Bestand der philosophischen Schulen in Athen,
in the Schriften der Berl. Akademie,
1843). Of the subsequent fortunes of the seven philosophers we learn nothing.
As little do we know where Simplicius lived and taught.
That he not only wrote, but taught, is proved by the address to his hearers in the commentary on the Physica Auscultatio
of Aristotle (f. 173), as well as by the title of his commentary on the Categories.
He had received his training partly in Alexandria, under Ammmonius (see especially Simplicius in ll. de Caelo,
f. 113), partly in Athens, as a disciple of Damascius ; and it was probably in one of these two cities that he subsequently took up his abode; for, with the exception of these cities and Constantinople, it would have been difficult to find a town which possessed the collections of books requisite for the composition of his commentaries, and he could hardly have had any occasion to betake himself to Constantinople.
As to his personal history, especially his migration to Persia, no definite allusions are to be found in the writings of Simplicius. Only at the end of his explanation of the treatise of Epictetus (p. 331, ed. Heins.) Simplicius mentions, with gratitude, the consolation which he had found under tyrannical oppression in such ethical contemplations; from which it may be concluded, though certainly with but a small amount of probability, that it was composed during, or immediately after, the above-mentioned persecutions. Of the commentaries on Aristotle, that on the books de Caelo
was written before that on the Physica Auscultatio,
and probably not in Alexandria, since he mentions in it an astronomical observation made during his stay in that city by Ammonius (l.c.
f. 113; Brandis, Scholia in Arist.
p. 496. 28). Simplicius wrote his commentary on the Physica Auscultatio
after the death of Damascius, and therefore after his return from Persia (in Arist. Phys. Ausc.
f. 184, &c.).
After the Phys. Ausc.
Simplicius seems to have applied himself to the Metaphysica,
and then to the books on the soul (de Anima.
In the commentary on the latter he refers to his explanations on the Physica Auscultatio
and on the Metaphysica
(in Arist. de Anima
, 55, b., 7, 61). When it was that he wrote his explanations of the Categories, whether before or after those on the above-mentioned Aristotelian treatises, it is impossible to ascertain.
Simplicius, in his mode of explaining and understanding his author, attaches himself to the Neo-Platonists; like them, he endeavours, frequently by forced interpretations, to show that Aristotle agrees with Plato even on those points which he controverts, and controverts them only that, by setting aside superficial interpretations, he may lead the way to their deeper, hidden meaning.
In his view not only Plotinus, but also Syrianus, Proclus, and even Ammonius, are great philosophers, who have penetrated into the depths of the wisdom of Plato. Many of the more ancient Greek philosolphemata also he brings into much too close a connection with Platonism.
He is however, advantageously distinguished from his predecessors, whom he so extravagantly admires, partly in confounding and jumbling things together much less than they do, especially in making very much less frequent application of spurious Orphic, Hermetic, Chaldaic, and other Theologumena
of the East, and in not giving himself up to a belief in the magical theurgic superstition; partly in proceeding much more carefully and modestly in the explanation and criticism of particular points, and in striving with unwearied diligence to draw from the original sources a thorough knowledge of the older Greek philosophy. His commentaries may, therefore, without hesitation, be regarded as the richest in their contents of any that have come down to us bearing on the explanation of Aristotle.
But for them, we should be without the most important fragments of the writings of the Eleatics, of Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Diogenes of Apollonia, and others, which were at that time already very scarce (in Phys. Ausc.
f. 31), as well as without many extracts from the lost books of Aristotle. Theophrastus and Eudemus : but for them we should hardly be able to unriddle the doctrine of the Categories, so important for the system of the Stoics.
It is true he himself complains that in his time both the school and the writings of the followers of Zeno had perished (in Arist. de Caelo,
But where he cannot draw immediately from the original sources, he looks round for guides whom he can depend upon, who had made use of those sources.
In addition, we have to thank him for such copious quotations from the Greek commentaries from the time of Andronicus Rhodius down to Ammnonius and Damascius, that, for the Categories and the Physics, the outlines of a history of the interpretation and criticism of those books may be composed (comp. Ch. A. Brandis, über die Reihenfolge der Bücher des Aristotelischen Organons und ihre Griechischcn Ausleger,
in the Schriften der Berliner Akademie,
With a correct idea of their importance, Simplicius has made the most diligent use of the commentaries of Alexander Aphrodisiensis and Porphyrius; and although he often enough combats the views of the former, he knew how to value, as it deserved, his (in the main) sound critical exegetical sense.
He has also preserved for us intelligence of several more ancient readings, which now, in part, have vanished from the manuscripts without leaving any trace, and in the paraphrastic sections of his interpretations furnishes us here and there with valuable contributions for correcting or settling the text of Aristotle. Not less valuable are the contributions towards a knowledge of the ancient astronomical systems for which we have to thank him in his commentary on the books de Caelo.
We even find in his writings some traces of a disposition for the observation of nature. (Comm. in Phys. Ausc.
173, 176; de Anima,
35, b. 36.)
That Simplicius continued averse to Christianity cannot be doubted, although he abstains from assailing peculiarly Christian doctrines, even when he combats expressly and with bitterness the work of his contemporary, Johannes Grammation or Philoponus, directed against the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity of the universe (in Arist. de Caelo,
6, b, &c., 72; in Phys. Ausc. 257, 262,
&c., 312, &c., 320); whether it was that he feared the church, which had now attained to unrestricted dominion, or that he no longer felt himself firmly enough rooted in the heathen faith. In Ethics he seems to have abandoned the mystical pantheistic purification-theory of the Neo-Platonists, and to have found full satisfaction in the ethical system of the later stoics, which approximated to that of Christianity, however little he was disposed towards their logical and physical doctrines, which indeed were almost given up by Epictetus.
Of the commentaries of Simplicius on Aristotle which have come down to us, that on the books de Anima
is palpably inferior to the rest in the copiousness of its information respecting the dotrines of earlier philosophers, as well as in the care shown in making use of preceding interpreters, though there is no reason for considering it spurious.
Besides these commentaries of Simplicius which have been preserved, he himself mentions explanations on the metaphysical books (see above), and an epitome of the Physica
of Theophrastus. (Simplicius, in Arist. de Anima,
Simplicius's commentary on the Categories was the first that was published (by Zacharias Calliergus, Venet. 1499. fol.), under the title, Σιμπλικίου διδασκαλου τοῦ μεγάλου σχόλια ἀπὸ φωνῆς αὐτοῦ εἰς τας Ἀριστοτέλους κατηγορίας. A second edition was published at Basle, in 1551, by Michael Isingrin. A Latin translation of this work, by Guil. Dorotheus, was published at Venice, 1541, by Hieron. Scotus. An anonymous translation was published in the same place in 1550 and 1567. Fabricius mentions two other translations, published at Venice in 1500 and 1516. The earlier translation of Guil. de Moerbeka appears to be still unprinted. Then, in 1526, Franciscus Asulanus, the heir of the Aldi, published the commentary on the Physica Auscultatio,
and, in the same year, the commentary on the books de Caelo (Venet. fol.). The Latin translation of the former by Lucilius Philaltheus was published at Venice, by Hieron Scotus, in 1543, 1565, 1567, and 1587, and at Paris in 1545, fol.
; the translation of the latter by Guil. de Moerbeka was published at Venice in 1540, fol.
, that by Guil. Dorotheus at the same place in 1544, and, without the name of the translator, at the same place, in 1548, 1555, 1563, and 1584, fol. That the printed Greek text of the commentary on the books de Caelo is probably a re-translation from the Latin version of Moerbeka, was first suggested by Amad. Peyron, who at the same time gave specimens of the genuine Greek text, in the fragments of Empedocles and Parmenides (Empedoclis et Parmenidis fragmenta ex codice Taurinesis Bibliothecae restituta et illustrata, ab A. Peyron, Lips. 1810.) Extracts from this commentary, according to the genuine text, which exists in a number of manuscripts, may be found in the Scholia in Aristotelem, ed. Ch. A. Brandis, Berol. 1836, pp. 468-518. A complete and amended edition of the commentaries of Simplicius on the Physica Auscultation and the treatise de Caelo, is being prepared by C. Gabr. Cobet. in conjunction with Simon Karsten. The commentary on the books de. Anima was published, together with the explanations of Alexander Aphrodisiensis on the book de Sensu et Sensibili, and the paraphrase of Michael Ephesius on the so-called Parva Naturalia, in Greek, also by Asulanus, Venet. 1527. The Latin translation by Joh. Faseolus was published at Venice in 1543, fol.
, and another by Evangel. Lungus, in 1564 and 1587.
The introduction (prooemium), which is wanting in the Greek edition, is printed separately in Iriarte, Catalog. Bibl. Matrit.
p. 182. The " Interpretation of the Enchiridion of Epictetus " (ἐξήγησις εἰς τὸ Ἐπικτήτου ἐγχειρίδιον
) was first published in Greek, at Venice, in 1528, 4to., and in a Latin translation, at Venice, in 1546, 1560, fol.
, and at Basle in 1560 and 1568. It was next published by Dan. Heinsius (Lugd. Batav. 1611)
; and lastly by Joh. Schweighäuser, in Epicteteae Philosophiae Monumenta, vol. iv.
The notes on it in vol. iv. pp. 175-496.
[Ch. A. B.