Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 May 2006
SALIENT FEATURES OF LATE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY
Plotinus: a new reading of Plato
During the imperial age, in many centers of the Roman world, philosophy was taught in close connection to the doctrines of the great philosophers of the past: Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Zeno. Not only in Rome, Athens, Alexandria, but also in Pergamon, Smyrna, Apamea, Tarsus, Ege, Aphrodisias in the east of the empire, Naples and Marseille in the west, a “school” of philosophy disseminated either Platonism, Aristotelianism, Stoicism, or Epicureanism. Against this background, the thought of Plotinus represented a turning point in the history of philosophical ideas which was to play a decisive role in the creation of falsafa and to influence indirectly philosophy in the Middle Ages, in both Latin and Arabic.
Coming from Alexandria, where he studied Platonism under the guidance of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus arrived in Rome (244 C.E.) and opened a school. From his explicit claims, as well as the content of his treatises, we know that he was a Platonist and taught Platonism, but also took into account the doctrines of the other philosophers, especially Aristotle. As we learn from the biography that Porphyry prefaced to the edition of Plotinus’ works, in the daily meetings of the school the treatises of Aristotle, accompanied by their commentaries – especially those by Alexander of Aphrodisias – were read before Plotinus presented his lecture.