), the Syrian (o( *Su/ros), of Damascus, whence he derived his name, the last of the renowned teachers of the Neo-Platonic philosophy at Athens, was born towards the end of the fifth century of the Christian era. His national Syrian name is unknown.
He repaired at an early period to Alexandria, where he first studied rhetoric under the rhetorician Theon, and mathematics and philosophy under Ammonius, the son of Hermeas [see p. 146a.], and Isidorus. From Alexandria Damascius went to Athens, where Neo-Platonism existed in its setting glory under Marinus and Zenodotus, the successors of the celebrated Proclus.
He became a disciple of both, and afterwards their successor (whence his surname of ὁ διάδοχος
), and he was the last who taught in the cathedra of Platonic philosophy at Athens; for in the year 529 the emperor Justinian closed the heathen schools of philosophy at Athens, and most of the philosophers, and among them Damascius, emigrated to king Chosroes of Persia.
At a later time (533), however, Damascius appears to have returned to the West, since Chosroes had stipulated in a treaty of peace that the religion and philosophy of the heathen votaries of the Platonic philosophy should be tolerated by the Byzantine emperor. (Brucker, Hist. Philosoph.
ii. p. 345; Agathias, Scholast.
ii. p. 49, &c., p. 67, &c.) We have no further particulars of the life of Damascius; we only know that he did not, after his return, found any school either at Athens or at any other place, and that thus the heathen philosophy ended with its external existence.
But the Neo-Platonic ideas from the school of Proclus were preserved in the Christian church down to the later times of the middle ages.
Only one of Damascius's numerous writings has yet been printed, namely, Doubts and Solutions of the first Principles
, (Ἀπορίαι καὶ Λύσεις περὶ τῶν πρώτων ἀρχῶν
), which was published (but not complete) by J. Kopp, Francof. 1828. 8vo.
In this treatise Damascius inquires, as the title intimates, respecting the first principle of all things, which he finds to be an unfathomable and unspeakable divine depth, being all in one, but undivided.
The struggles which he makes in this treatise to force into words that which is not susceptible of expression, have been blamed by many of the modern philosophers as barren subtilty and tedious tautology, but received the just admiration of others.
This work is, moreover, of no small importance for the history of philosophy, in consequence of the great number of notices which it contains concerning the elder philosophers.
The rest of Damascius's writings are for the most part commentaries on works of Aristotle and Plato. Of these the most important are:
Ἀπορίαι καὶ λύσεις εἰς τὸν Πλάτωνος Παρμενίδην
in a manuscript at Venice.
A continuation and completion of Proclus's commentary on Plato's Parmenides
Printed in Cousin's edition of the works of Proclus, Paris, 1827, 8vo., vol. vi. p. 255, &c.
Other commentaries on Plato
We have references to some commentaries of Damascius on Plato's Timaeus, Alcibiades, and other dialogues, which seem to be lost.
3. Commentaries on Aristotle
Of the commentaries of Damascius on Aristotle's works we only know of the commentary on Aristotle's treatise "de Coelo," of which perhaps a fragment is extant in the treatise περὶ τοῦ γεννητοῦ
, published by Iriarte (Catal. MSS. Bibl. Madrid,
i. p. 130) under the name of Damascius. Such a commentary of Damascius as extant in manuscript (παρεκβολαί
, in Aristot. lib. i. de Coelo
) is also mentioned by Labbeus (Bibl. Nov. MSS.
pp. 112 169).
The writings of Damascius περὶ κινήσεως
, περὶ τόπου
, and περὶ χρόνου
, cited by Simplicius in his commentary on Aristotle's Physica
(fol. 189, b., 153, a., 183, b.), are perhaps only parts of his commentaries on the Aristotelian writings. Fabricius (Bibl. Graec.
vol. ii. p. 294) attributes to him the composition of an epitome of the first four and the eighth book of Aristotle's Physica.
But of much greater importance is Damascius's biography of his preceptor Isidorus (Ἰσιδώρου Βίος
, perhaps a part of the φιλόσοφος ἱοτορία
attributed to Damascius by Suidas, i. p. 506), of which Photius (Phot. Bibl. 242
, comp. 181) has preserved a considerable fragment, and gives at the same time some important information respecting the life and studies of Damascius.
This biography appears to have been reckoned by the ancients the most important of the works of Damascius.
, in 4 books, of which Photius (Phot. Bibl. 130
) also gives an account and specifies the respective titles of the books. (Comp. Westermann, Rerum Mirabil. Scriptorcs,
Proleg. p. xxix.) Photius praises the succinct, clear, and pleasing style of this work; though, as a Christian, he in other respects vehemently attacks the heathen philosopher and the tendency of his writings.
A fragment of a commentary on Hippocrates's
Besides all these writings, there is lastly a fragment of a commentary on Hippocrates's Aphorisms
in a manuscript at Munich, which is ascribed to this philosopher. (See below.)
There is also an epigram in the Greek Anthology (3.179
, ed. Jacobs, comp. Jacobs, Comment. in Anthol.
xiii. p. 880) likewise ascribed to him.
For further particulars, see Kopp's Preface to his edition of Damascius, περὶ πρώτων ἀρχῶν
, and Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. pp. 79, 83, 230.
Among the disciples of Damascius the most im portant are Simplicius, the celebrated commentator on Aristotle, and Eulamius.