COLLOQUIUM: Irini Viltanioti, KU Leuven, "Porph. Fr. 381, 382, and 383 Smith: Homerica or Platonica?"

Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall

The attribution of Fr 381, 382, and 383 Smith to Porphyry and the exact work to which these fragments belong are a matter of controversy among scholars. In this paper, I propose a new solution to this problem. Fr. 381-383 Smith, are preserved by John Stobaeus (I 49, 59; I 49, 60; I 49, 61 respectively), who explicitly ascribes Fr. 381 to Porphyry (Πορφυρίου), but only mentions τοῦ αὐτοῦ for Fr. 382 and 383. In addition, Stobaeus does not determine the title of the treatise(s) from which the fragments derive. Bernardakis (1896), Sandbach (1967), and Jones (1916) associate Fr. 382 and Fr. 383 with Plutarch, considering them either as direct quotations of Plutarch or as Porphyry’s testimonies on Plutarch. Buffière (1956) takes these fragments as being Porphyry’s, whereas Deuse (1983) thinks that they are probably not Porphyry’s, but that, if one is to give credit to Stobaeus, they could belong to an early middle-Platonic phase of Porphyry’s work. In his Teubner edition (1993), Smith labels all three fragments as Excerpta apud Stobaeum ex ignoto Porphyrii Opere and situates them under the rubric of Homerica. Zambon (2002) does not exclude the hypothesis according to which Fr. 382 and 383 Smith quote Plutarch, while Castelletti (2006) proposes an association with On Styx. In this paper, I argue that Fr. 381-383 are Porphyry’s, but that they derive not from a treatise dedicated to Homeric exegesis, but rather from a Platonic commentary or from an essay in which Porphyry engaged with Platonic exegesis. With respect to Fr. 381, on the basis of the fragment’s content (practice of death, life and death as a pair of opposites, Pythagorean references), this treatise could be the Commentary on the Phaedo, if such commentary existed (see Viltanioti, forth. 2018), or an essay relevant to the soul and afterlife, which Porphyry would have associated with the interpretation of Plato’s Phaedo. In the case of Fr. 382, the content (immortality and tripartition of the soul, transmigration, Homeric and Pythagorean references) fits the Commentary on the Republic (Fr. 181-187 Smith) as well as On What is in Our Power (Fr. 268-271 Smith), which both deal with the myth of Er in Book X of the Republic. We know from Proclus’ testimony (Porph. Fr. 183 Smith) that, in his interpretation of the myth of Er, Porphyry attached special importance to the Homeric overtones and critisized those who, like the Epicurean Colotes, tended to overook them – an approach which is, I submit, coherent with Porphyry’s project of Homeric exegesis (on which see Viltanioti, forth. 2017). This would explain the Homeric nuances in Fr. 382 and Fr. 383. In addition, the comparison between Porph. Fr. 382, 50-51 Smith and Porph. Fr. 182, 1-7 Smith, in which Proclus refers to the criticism of Colotes’ views on Plato’s use myth, indicates that Fr. 382 was probably part of the text that Proclus used. Now, given that Fr. 381- 283 are quoted together by Stobaeus, it is likely that they all derive from the same work. We know from Proclus that, in his essay on the myth of Er, Porphyry brought in the interpretation of the Phaedo (Fr. 185 Smith). It seems therefore justified to suppose that Fr. 381-383 belong to Porphyry’s commentary on the myth of Er. As for the title of the work, it has been persuasively argued that the testimonies which Andrew Smith groups under the title of Commentary on the Republic – a title not mentioned in the sources -, most likely derive from On What is in Our Power (Περὶ τοῦ ἐφ᾽ἡμῖν), the title and surviving fragments of which are preserved by Stobaeus (II 8, 39-42). If this insight is correct, then Fr. 381-383 which are also preserved by Stobaeus, could easily belong to On What is in Our Power. In conclusion, Porph. Fr. 381-383 Smith should be attached to Porphyry’s Platonic commentaries and read in association with the hierarchy of authorities – especially, among others, Plato, Pythagoras, and Homer –within Porphyry’s “universalizing Platonism” (O’Meara2006, 27).