Thomas Johnson (Iamblichus) – Vida e obra

Iamblichus was “born” at Chalcis, in Syria, about 260 A.D., and “died” about 330. He consecrated his life to the services of Philosophy, spending his time in contemplation, teaching and writing: his disciples were numerous, and his fame as a teacher and thinker was great and widely-diffused. “It is well known to every tyro in Platonism that he was dignified by all the Platonists that succeeded him with the epithet of divine; and after the encomium passed on [16] him by the acute Emperor Julian, ‘that he was posterior indeed in time but not in genius to Plato,’ all further praise of him would be as unnecessary, as the defamation of him by certain modem critics is contemptible and idle. For these homunculi, looking solely to his deficiency in point of style and not to the magnitude of his intellect, perceive only his little blemishes, but have not even a glimpse of his surpassing excellence.” [Thomas Taylor]

I. De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum, Chaldaeorum, Assyriorum: On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans and Assyrians. Edited by Parthey, Greek and Latin, Berlin, 1857. Translated by Thomas Taylor, London, 1821; second edition, London, 1895. A new translation by Prof. Alexander Wilder appeared in The Platonist, and a thorough revision of this version is now in manuscript. This famous work is of the greatest value to all students of ancient lore, and “is the most copious, the clearest, and the most satisfactory defense extant of genuine ancient theology.”

II. De Secta Pythagorica: On the Pythagorean School. This treatise was in ten books, of which only five are extant. 1. De Vita Pythagorica Liber: On the Pythagoric Life, or Life of Pythagoras. Edited by Nauck, St. Petersburg, 1884. Translated by Thomas Taylor, London, 1818. “A most interesting work; and the benefits are inestimable, which the dissemination of it is calculated to produce.” 2 .Adhortatio ad Philosophiam: Exhortation to the Study of Philosophy. Edited by Pistelli, Leipzig, 1888. English translation in this volume. 3. De Communi Mathematica Scientia: On the Common Mathematical Science. Edited by Festa, Leipzig, 1891. “He who reads and understands this admirable work will clearly perceive the essence, power, and energies of the whole of the mathematical science; what the common speculation of it is, and to what genera it is extended; what the principles of the mathematical sciences are, and in what they differ from other principles; what the nature is of the principles of other essences, and how principles of this kind impart a common cause to all the mathematical sciences, etc…. All this, and still more than this, the reader may learn from this invaluable work.” The fact that there is no English version of [17] this book is a special argument for the reader to learn Greek. 4. Commentarius in Nicomachi Arithmeticam Introductionem: Commentary on Nicomachus’ Introduction to Arithmetic. Edited by Pistelli, Leipzig, 1894. Taylor’s Theoretic Arithmetic contains “the substance of all that has been written on this subject by Theon of Smyrna, Nicomachus, Iamblichus, and Boethius.” 5-6-7. De Physicis, Ethicis, et Divinis quae in Numerorum Doctrina Observantur: On the Natural, Ethical and Divine Conceptions which are Perceived in the Science of Numbers. Of these only the seventh, the Theologumena Arith meticae, or Theological Speculations on Arithmetic, is extant. Edited by Ast, Leipzig, 1817. 8. Institutiones Musicae ad Mentem Pythagoreorum. Lost. 9. Institutiones Geometricae ad Mentem Pythagoreorum. Lost. 10. Institutiones Sphericae ad Mentem Pythagoreorum. Lost.

III. De Divinitate Imaginum Liber: On the Divinity of Images. Only fragments remain.

TV. Epistolae ad Aretem, Macedonium, Sopatrem, Asphalium, etc. Many fragments of the Letters are preserved by Stobaeus.

V. De Diis: Concerning the Gods. Lost. “From this work the Emperor Julian derived most of the dogmata contained in his elegant Oration to the Sovereign Sun.’ ”

VI. Commentaries on the Parmenides, Timaeus and Phaedo of Plato. Lost. “The inestimable value of the first and second of these Commentaries is sufficiently evident from the frequent mention made of them by Proclus in his writings on these dialogues; and from the admirable passages in them which he has fortunately preserved.” Olympiodorus’ quotations from the Commentary on the Phaedo plainly prove that it is equal in value to the others.

VII. Concern ing the Perfection of the Chaldaic Philosophy. Lost. “The twenty-seventh book of this great work is cited by Damascius in his treatise On First Principles, and this whole discourse was studied with avidity by Proclus, and enabled him, as we are informed by Marinus, to ascend to the very summit of theurgic virtue.”

VIII. Commentaries on the Categories and Prior Analytics of Aristotle. Lost.

IX. De Anima: On the Soul. Fragments have been preserved by [18] Stobseus, and Priscianus Lydus, in his Commentary on Theophrastus. Simplicius, in his Commentary on the de Anima of Aristotle, often cites this treatise of Iamblichus.

X. Monobiblon: a book showing that the transmigrations of souls are not from men to irrational animals, nor from irrational animals to men, but from animals to animals, and from men to men. Lost. Quoted by Nemesius De Natura Hominis, ii, 7.

XI. Alypii Vita: Life of Alypius. Lost.

XII. Treatise On the Best Judgment. Lost. Cited by Syrianus in his Commentary on Hermogenes.

XIII. In Platonis Dialogos Commentariorum Fragmenta·. Fragments of the Commentaries on Plato’s Dialogues. Edited with translation and commentary by J.M. Dillon, Leiden, 1973.

Every word written by Iamblichus is highly prized by all who desire to gain more than a superficial knowledge of the Platonic system. The fragments of his letters are replete with insights richly worthy of apprehension.