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PORPHYRY
Form: Greek, Porphyrios.
A Greek scholar and philosopher; in the latter capacity a votary of Neoplatonism. He was born 233 A.D. at Batamea in Syria, and received his education at Tyre, and afterwards studied grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy at Athens with Longinus, who instead of his Syrian name Malehus ("king"), gave him the Greek name Porphyrios ("clad in royal purple"). The fame of the Neoplatonist Plotinus drew him in 263 to Rome, where, after some initial opposition, he for six years enthusiastically devoted himself to the study of the Neoplatonic philosophy. Being attacked by a dangerous Mucholy, the result of overwork, he went, on the advice of Plotinus, to Sicily, whence after five years he returned to Rome, strengthened in mind and body. Here, until his death (304), he taught philosophy in the spirit of Plotinus, especially by bringing the teaching of his master within the reach of general knowledge by his clear and attractive exposition. His most important scholar was Iamblichus. A man of varied culture, Porphyry was particularly prolific as an author in the domain of philosophy, grammar, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, and music; however, most of his works, including the most important, are lost, among them a treatise against the Christians in fifteen books, which was publicly burned under Theodosius II (435). We have to lament the loss of his history of Greek philosophy before Plato in four books, of which we now possess only the (certainly uncritical) Life of Pythagords, and that not complete. Besides this there are preserved a Life of Plotinus ; a Compendium of the System of Plotinus, in the form of aphorisms; a work on abstaining from animal food (De Abstinentia) in four books, from the Pythagorean point of view, valuable for its fulness of information on philosophy, and on the religions, forms of ritual, and customs of various peoples; an Introduction to the Categories of Aristotle, and a commentary on the same, in the form of questions and answers; a compendium of his own practical philosophy in the form of a Letter to Marcella, a widow without property, and with seven children, whom Plotinus married in his old age on account of her enthusiasm for philosophy; Scholia on Homer, discussions on a number of Homeric questions, an allegorical interpretation of the Homeric story of the grotto of the Nymphs in the Odyssey; and a Commentary on the Harmonics of Ptolemy.
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