Olympiodorus: Life of Plato and On Plato First Alcibiades by Michael Griffin, Richard Sorabji

By Michael Griffin, Richard Sorabji

Olympiodorus (AD c. 500–570), most likely the final non-Christian instructor of philosophy in Alexandria, brought those lectures as an advent to Plato with a biography. For us, they could function an available creation to overdue Neoplatonism. Olympiodorus locates the 1st Alcibiades at first of the curriculum on Plato, since it is set self-knowledge. His students are newbies, in a position to procedure the hierarchy of philosophical virtues, just like the aristocratic playboy Alcibiades. Alcibiades must be aware of himself, a minimum of as someone with specific activities, earlier than he can succeed in the virtues of mere civic interplay. As Olympiodorus addresses frequently Christian scholars, he tells them that the several phrases they use are frequently symbols of truths shared among their faiths.

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Next after this is placed a part of the dialogue, which proves that we must not be content with physical advantages and so fall short of practices that accord with fully fulfilled excellence; and third after these is the part that provides the recollection of our true being and the discovery of the correct treatment, and brings a fitting end to the whole Introduction 37 theme of the discussions’ (tr. O’Neill 1965). 98 Olympiodorus offers a detailed treatment of each section from 11,7–16. 2. Olympiodorus’ interpretation: climbing the ladder As we have seen above, Olympiodorus follows the Iamblichean tradition in representing the Alcibiades as the ‘fore-gate’ to the temple of which the Parmenides is the aduton, the ‘holy of holies’.

74 Action that is ‘beneficial’ (sunoisi praxasin, 113D4–5), whether to the individual or to the city-state, is said to depend upon such agreement. The first two-thirds of the dialogue (106B–127E) establish that ‘self-care’ is a necessary prerequisite to this benefit. The final third of the dialogue (128A–135E) concludes that ‘self-knowledge’ must come first, for lacking this we may be deceived into caring for something which is not ‘ourselves’ (128A1), for instance, our ‘belongings’ (ta hêmetera). In fact, self-knowledge is identical with sôphrosunê (131B4, cf.

5), demonstrate only that the relationship between Socrates and Alcibiades was a popular subject in the fourth century. There is even less to say about the third century, except that their relationship continued to be of interest. 26 Introduction Moving forward to the first century, there are a number of echoes in Cicero (106–43 BC) of the most (historically) influential themes of the Alcibiades, including the tripartition of possible answers to the question of self-knowledge (Tusc. Disp. 65–70).

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