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Alcinous, Albinus, Nigrinus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

H.A.S. Tarrant
University of Sydney


Debate continues as to whether the Didascalicus (or Isagoge, or Epitome) ascribed to Alcinous in the MSS. is a work of Albinus, the Platonist of the mid-second century A.D., pupil of Gaius and teacher of Galen. While there are similarities between the work and the paltry remains of Albinus, these are not sufficient to prove any more than that Alcinous was influenced by roughly the same kind of Platonism as Albinus was, and that he wrote in a style comparable at times.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1985

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1 Didascalicus or Didaskalikos is now the normal title, but the editions usually referred to do not use it. Hermann, C. Fr.Platonis Dialogi 6 (Lips. 1853) calls itlsagoge (the same title as he applies to Albinus’ Prologus),Google Scholar while Louis, P. (Paris 1945) calls it Epitome.Google ScholarWitt, R.E., Albinus and the History of Middle Platonism (Cambridge 1937) championed the name Didascalicus.Google Scholar

2 Since Freudenthal, J.Der Platoniker Albinos und der falsche Alkinoos (Berlin 1875)Google Scholar a substantial majority have accepted Albinus’ authorship, but it is methodologically correct in the present situation to treat the work separately from other evidence for Albinus. Giusta, M. (Atti Tor. Classe di Scienze morali, storiche e filologiche 95 (1960–1), 167 ff.Google Scholar made a fine challenge to the established view, and this was backed by important articles from John Whittaker in Phoenix 28 (1974), 320 ff. and 450 ff. Mazzarelli, C. (Riv. di Filos. Neoscol 72 (1980), 606–39) has argued again for Albinus’ authorship.Google Scholar

3 Libr. Prop. 2, 97.10 Müller; the episode is usually dated between A.D. 149 and 157. Galen had previously heard a pupil of Gaius for a brief time in A.D. 143 or shortly after (An. Morb. 32.1–5 Marquardt).

4 4 Obviously one cannot expect much similarity in chapters where the author slavishly follows a source, as at the beginning of 12. However I believe that we can identify such parts stylometrically: see Phronesis 28 (1983), 96 n.45.

5 See Mazzarelli, (op. cit.), 621.Google Scholar

6 Material in Photius Bibl I1b19 (Bekker) may just be a reference to the present work.

7 Even to a Greek, if one may judge from the similarity which Proclus detects between the name Alcinous and the adjective (In Remp. 2.111.8) on the basis of the pun at Rep. 614b.

8 The inscription to the ‘Gods below’ is undated, but must be late to judge from the fact that we twice find Υ for I, once in the name itself; and possible a Υ for Γ as well (ΥAΛΛOε). The fact that the man is a manumitted slave may have a bearing on the unusual name.

9 Trypho, (Porph., V.Plot 13).Google Scholar

10 E.g. Panaetius can be included among ‘Platonics’ by Proclus In Tim. 1.162.13; Numenius is occasionally called a Platonist too. Carneades could be called a sophist (Philostr. VS. 1.4). Antiochus of Ascalon was often suspected of really being a Stoic (e.g. Numenius, fr. 28 des Places, S.E., PH. 1.235, Cic.Ac. 2.134).

11 It no doubt suits Philostratus to refer to Alcinous as a Stoic, for Stoics were probably the last people with whom one might associate Marcus’ florid style; indeed the term ‘Stoic’ might come close to one of abuse here, or at least tend to be dismissive.

12 See in particular Porphyry’s description of Ptolemy’s practice in the Harmonica (In Ptol. Harm. 5.7 ff. Düring) and Longinus’ account of the writings of Euclides, Proclinus, and Democritus (Porph., V.Plot 20).

13 Didasc. 12,166.35 ff. Hermann and Stob. Ecl 1.135.19 Wachsmuth, with Eus. P.E. 11.545b-d; Diels (Dox. 447) presents the material in a convenient form.

14 See particularly 418b–419b.

15 It is well known that the most extensive work of Albinus of which we have any details was the ten (or eleven) books of Platonic Outlines of Gaius’ Lectures (pinax of Parisinus Graecus 1962). Other known works are all Plato-dependent.

16 See Baldwin, BarryStudies in Lucian (Toronto 1973), 29.Google Scholar

17 Baldwin(op.cit. passim) believes that such influence pervades Lucian’s works. Others, e.g. Robinson, ChristopherLucian (London 1975), 45 ff.,Google Scholar think that it was less extensive.

18 See 1,4–7, 35–38.

19 See 3, 12–17,29–30,34.

20 See 1, 8–12, 18, 20, 24, 30, 31.

21 See Robinson, (op.cit), 53: ‘the hysteric aroused by a revivalist preacher’.Google Scholar

22 Lucian’s Satire (New York 1981), 19.

23 Op. cit, 157.

24 That this was a normal practice for one who saw himself as a philosopher and a Platonist can be seen from Apuleius, Flor. 5; Maximus Tyrius surely employed it too.

25 See 2, 4, 18,20,24.

26 See Donini, P.Le Scuole, L’Anima, L’Impero (Torino 1982), 103113.Google Scholar

27 See 14, 15, 17, 23 and compare Didasc. 1.152.15–19 Hermann.

28 See 25; cf. Didasc. 35.

29 See 1 (OCT 32.6) and 24 (40.11); cf. Didasc. 30, 184.

30 See Robinson, (op. cit), 1819.Google Scholar

31 Plato, Ep. VII 341 cd; a popular passage by the late second century.

32 See Phaedrus 267cd.

33 See Rep. 605c ff., Phil. 48a.

34 For the satirical element see Robinson (op.cit.), 53.

35 For references see Hall (op.cit), 158; also Caster, M.‘La composition du Nigrinos’, Mélanges M. Octave Navarre (Toulouse 1935), 471485.Google Scholar

36 The only reason to link Lucian with the converts is that the dialogue is meant to indicate his attitude and seriousness towards Nigrinus (see the Epistle); but we are not told that this attitude is such as has been adopted by the first convert, or indeed by either convert.

37 See Baldwin (op. cit.), 21.

38 Cf. the convert’s dislike of ‘acting’ the part of Nigrinus, 8–12.

39 See the Hermotimus, where, as Hall observes( 155), philosophy is the quarrel over the shadow of an ass (71) and a fraud (75).

40 There are two further references which should be added to those which I have already given: W. Theiler came nearer than most to the view of ‘Alcinous’ expressed here when he suggested in 1945 that the name was a ‘Gräzisierung des römischen Namens Albinos’, see Phyllobolia Für Peter von der Mühll (Basel 1945), 69, conveniently reprinted in Forschungen zum Neuplatonismus (Berlin 1966), 82. And Aldo Quacquarelli stressed that Nigrinus, like Alcinous, was a reworking of the name Albinus, La Retorica antica al bivio (Rome 1956), 44–49; his theory was rejected by Hall (op.cit.), 163 on the grounds that one does not use a pseudonym for a man whom you intend to praise. But it should be obvious that Nigrinus is not being praised.

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