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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: May 2011

Introduction to Part VI

from VI - Late Platonism

In this section, we turn to the last phase of pagan ancient philosophy. The date 529 ce when the Emperor Justinian officially closed the Academy in Athens is conventionally taken to be the terminus of non-Christian philosophy. Of course, this is something of an overstatement. The philosophers Olympiodorus, Damascius and Simplicius all lived up to a generation beyond this date. They were apparently, however, not allowed to teach in public. We have no record of any openly non-Christian philosopher in the ancient world after the last quarter of the sixth century ce. Nevertheless, ancient Greek philosophy itself did live on within the Church and in the seventh century, within the early schools of Islamic philosophy. The history of ancient philosophy as intellectual infrastructure for religion as opposed to autonomous enterprise will be canvassed in the last two sections.

Here we are concerned with those philosophers, mainly in Athens and Alexandria, who sought to articulate and defend the Platonic inheritance. Scholars in the early part of the twentieth century sometimes maintained that the Alexandrian and Athenian ‘branches’ of Platonism differed in their focus on either religion or metaphysics. This view is generally regarded today as mistaken or greatly oversimplified. Modern research has led to the view that the interchanges between Athens and Alexandria were frequent and fruitful during this period. The supposed emphasis on religion among the Alexandrian Platonists is probably to be accounted for by the strong Christian political domination.

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The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity
  • Online ISBN: 9781139095464
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