Porphyry Criticism - Essay


M. J. Boyd (essay date July 1937)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Boyd, M. J. “The Chronology in Porphyry's Vita Plotini.Classical Philology 32, no. 3 (July 1937): 241-57.

[In the following essay, Boyd explains that there is some question about the accuracy of the statements made by Porphyry regarding the chronology of events in his Life of Plotinus, and he theorizes that the author used a particular system of reckoning to arrive at his dates.]

The ultimate source of all our knowledge of the chronological details of the life of Plotinus is the Vita Plotini of Porphyry.1 Yet, until Professor Oppermann produced his Die Chronologie in Porphyrios' “Vita Plotini,”2 no one...

(The entire section is 6618 words.)

Herbert A. Davidson (essay date 1969)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Davidson, Herbert A. Introduction to Averroes's Middle Commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge and on Aristotle's Categoriae, translated by Herbert A. Davidson, pp. xi-xxi. Cambridge, Mass.: The Mediaeval Academy of America, 1969.

[In the following excerpt, Davidson discusses the philosopher Averroes's less than enthusiastic opinion of Porphyry's Introduction, which he commented on together with Aristotle's Categories. Davidson notes that Averroes pointed out the errors in Porphyry's work as an introduction to the study of logic.]

By Averroes' time, eight of Aristotle's works had been grouped together to form a logical corpus, and Porphyry's...

(The entire section is 4252 words.)

Andrew Smith (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Andrew. Introduction to Porphyry's Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition, pp. xi-xviii. The Hague, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974.

[In the following excerpt, Smith compares Porphyry's main ideas with those of his influential teacher, Plotinus, and examines Porphyry's relationship to and attitude toward his teacher.]

Porphyry, who was born some twenty-eight years after Plotinus in 232-3 A.D. and probably about twenty years before Iamblichus,1 occupies in many ways a unique position in the history of Greek philosophy. He stands at the end of the final creative phase of Greek thought which culminates in Plotinus and at the beginning of...

(The entire section is 4184 words.)

Andrew Smith (essay date 1974)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Smith, Andrew. “General Conclusion.” In Porphyry's Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition, pp. 145-50. The Hague, The Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974.

[In the following excerpt, Smith offers an assessment of Porphyry's views on the human soul and his treatment and exposition of Neoplatonism.]

Porphyry's exposition of Neoplatonism led him to adopt a number of phrases and terms which occur again and again in his writings. It is, perhaps, one of the qualities which made him such a good teacher of Neoplatonism. One word which dominates his thought is σωτηρία, the salvation of the soul. It was until recently thought that Porphyry's main, if not sole,...

(The entire section is 2855 words.)

Edward W. Warren (essay date 1975)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Warren, Edward W. Introduction to Porphyry the Phoenician: Isagoge, translated by Edward W. Warren, pp. 9-23. Toronto, Can.: The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1975.

[In the following excerpt, Warren presents some biographical background on Porphyry before discussing his Isagoge in the context of the logical tradition and metaphysics, moving on to discuss Boethius's commentaries on the work.]


Porphyry was born at Tyre in Syria about 232 A.D. and died in Rome sometime between 301 and 306 A.D. He was educated in Syria and in Athens where he came under the influence of Longinus, who like Plotinus and the pagan...

(The entire section is 4346 words.)

Anthony Preus (essay date fall 1983)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Preus, Anthony. “Biological Theory in Porphyry's De abstinentia.Ancient Philosophy 3, no. 2 (fall 1983): 149-59.

[In the following essay, Preus discusses two biological theories—providential ecology and the rationality of animals—set forth in On the Abstinence from Animal Food.]


The earlier Neoplatonists are not famous for their contributions to biological science, for the good reason that they did not do any serious biological investigations.1 But the secondary literature has ignored the subject even more than it deserves. Although many pages have been written about Neoplatonic theories of the soul,...

(The entire section is 5716 words.)

Robert Lamberton (essay date 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lamberton, Robert. “Plotinian Neoplatonism: Porphyry.” In Homer the Theologian: Neoplatonist Allegorical Reading and the Growth of the Epic Tradition, pp. 108-33. Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 1986.

[In the following excerpt, Lamberton examines Porphyry's sometimes conflicting treatment and interpretation of Homer in his Homeric Quotations and in his essay on the cave of the nymphs in the Odyssey.]


It is to Porphyry, the disciple, editor, and friend of Plotinus, that we owe the single largely complete essay in the explication of a Homeric text—one might even say of a literary text—that...

(The entire section is 11175 words.)

Colin Spencer (essay date 1993)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Spencer, Colin. “Plato to Porphyry.” In The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism, pp. 87-107. London, Eng.: Fourth Estate, 1993.

[In the following excerpt, Spencer comments briefly on Porphyry's praise of the vegetarian lifestyle, as well as on his ideas about respect for all creatures as argued in On the Abstinence from Animal Food.]

Porphyry was born in ad 232 in Tyre, Phoenicia. His original name was Malchus, which is a Syrian name meaning King. His name was hellenised at Athens by his Greek teacher of rhetoric, hence Porphyry—purple-robed. Besides Plotinus, another of his teachers was Origen, an early Christian theologian whose extraordinary...

(The entire section is 1298 words.)

Gillian Clark (essay date 1999)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Clark, Gillian. “Translate into Greek: Porphyry of Tyre on the New Barbarians.” In Constructing Identities in Late Antiquity, edited by Richard Miles, pp. 112-32. New York: Routledge, 1999.

[In the following essay, Clark explores Porphyry's major writings in order to glean how the philosopher may have understood himself—as an intellectual in exile, a Roman, a Greek, a Neoplatonist, and a man in search of God in solitude.]

[Amelius] dedicated the book to Basileus, to me. The name Basileus belonged to me, Porphyry, because I had been called Malkos in my ancestral language (it was my father's name too), and Malkos means basileus, if...

(The entire section is 7871 words.)

M. J. Edwards (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Edwards, M. J. “Birth, Death, and Divinity in Porphyry's Life of Plotinus.” In Greek Biography and the Panegyric in Late Antiquity, edited by Tomas Hägg and Philip Rousseau, with the assistance of Christian Hogel, pp. 52-71. Berkeley, Cal.: University of California Press, 2000.

[In the following essay, Edwards analyzes the Life of Plotinus and suggests that in this work Porphyry attempts to solve the mysteries about his teacher Plotinus—including his supernatural capacities—that remained obscure during his lifetime. The critic also characterizes the work as more than a biography, calling it a gospel of sorts.]

Open any book about...

(The entire section is 7898 words.)

Gillian Clark (essay date 2000)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Clark, Gillian. Introduction to Porphyry: On Abstinence from Killing Animals, pp. 1-28. London, Eng.: Duckworth, 2000.

[In the following excerpt, Clark offers background information on the dating, composition, and influences on Porphyry's On the Abstinence of Animal Food, before presenting a detailed analysis of his arguments for vegetarianism and the just treatment of animals.]


On Abstinence from Killing Animals, written in the last third of the third century ce, is a treatise in the form of an open letter from Porphyry of Tyre to his friend Firmus Castricius. Both were...

(The entire section is 12337 words.)

Jonathan Barnes (essay date 2003)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Barnes, Jonathan. Introduction to Porphyry: Introduction, translated by Jonathan Barnes, pp. ix-xxiv. Oxford, Eng.: Clarendon Press, 2003.

[In the following essay, Barnes discusses the nature and purpose of Isagoge, which he maintains is not so much an introduction to Aristotle's Categories as it is a primary text and a handbook to philosophy and logic.]

For a thousand years and more, Porphyry's Introduction was every student's first text in philosophy. St Jerome learned his logic from it (ep 50 1). Boethius observed that ‘everyone after Porphyry's time who has tackled logic has started with this book’ (in Isag1...

(The entire section is 10308 words.)