93 - Pythagorean Theorems: Iamblichus

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Iamblichus fuses Platonism with pagan religious conviction and sets the agenda for Neoplatonism in generations to come.



Further Reading

• E. Afonasin, J.M. Dillon, and J.F. Finamore (eds), Iamblichus and the Foundations of Late Platonism (Leiden: 2012).

 • H.J. Blumenthal, and E.G. Clark (eds), The Divine Iamblichus (London: 1993).

 • E.C. Clarke, J.M. Dillon and J.P. Hershbell (trans.), Iamblichus: On the Mysteries (Atlanta: 2003).

 • B.P. Copenhaver, Hermetica (Cambridge: 1992).

 • J.M. Dillon, “Iamblichus’ Noera Theoria of Aristotle’s Categories,” Syllecta Classica 8 (1997), 65-77.

 • J.M. Dillon, “Iamblichus’ Defence of Theurgy: Some Reflections,” Journal of the Platonic Tradition 1 (2007), 30-41.

 • J.F. Finamore, Iamblichus and the Theory of the Vehicle of the Soul (Chico, CA: 1985).

 • J.F. Finamore and J.M. Dillon, Iamblichus: De Anima (Leiden: 2002).

 • H. Lewy, The Chaldean Oracles and Theurgy (Paris: 1978).

 • G. Shaw, Theurgy and the Soul: The Neoplatonism of Iamblichus (University Park: 1995).

 • C. Steel, The Changing Self: A Study on the Soul in Later Neoplatonism (Brussels: 1978).


Freeman Presson on 6 May 2014

Emperor Julian's Treatment of Christianity

I recall reading that Julian removed some sponsorship from Christian establishments, but did not preside over any persecutions. I'm sure some of the Bishops howled as if they were being tortured, though...

Very enlightening otherwise!

In reply to by Freeman Presson

Peter Adamson on 7 May 2014

Julian a persecutor?

Well, perhaps it depends what we understand by "persecution." I didn't mean to suggest he was feeding them to the lions, but he did do things like forbid them from teaching which would have put some Christians out of a job, he took measures against Christian cities, and he confiscated church property. But you're probably right that "persecution" is too strong a word, perhaps I should change that in the book version.

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Freeman Presson on 7 May 2014

Emperor Julian's Treatment of Christianity

Sounds good!

In reply to by Peter Adamson

Freeman Presson on 7 May 2014

Emperor Julian's Treatment of Christianity

Plus, I have learned that the topic of religious persecution under the Empire is a powerful lesson in epistemology. Much propaganda has been spread on either side (such as, for example, Christians being fed to lions in the Coliseum).

One thing we know for sure about that: neither Christian nor Pagan martyrs were fed to giraffes.

Ben Embley on 31 May 2018

Gaps or missing rungs


I'm working my way through the podcasts. Up until now, I was mostly filling in "gaps" in my knowledge of individual philosophers or topics, but with Iamblichus, I've encountered someone who in himself is a "gap" in my knowledge of the history of philosophy. So thanks for this!

I'm wondering about the comment you make at about 16:30 in the podcast: heroes and demons must exist, according to Iamblichus, because their absence from the universe would leave a kind of gap in the realized metaphysical possibilities. I guess it's sort of like missing rungs of a ladder stretching from lower beings to higher ones.

Do you have any recommendations where I could read more about this specific idea of Iamblichus' in the primary or secondary literature (which books of his or any modern books/articles)? It seems to me that this idea is an important antecedent to medieval thinkers like Aquinas saying that "the perfection of the universe" requires angels/intellectual substances/non-materal beings between humans and God. It would be interesting to read more about it in Iamblichus himself. If you have any ideas, thanks very much in advance!

In reply to by Ben Embley

Peter Adamson on 31 May 2018

Iamblichus on gaps

That's actually a harder question to answer than you might think because Iamblichus' works are not as well preserved as we would like, so often we know about him via later thinkers. Though it doesn't mention him by name, Proclus' "Elements of Theology" might be a good place to start since there Proclus carries on, in a systematic way, Iamblichus' program. And if you can get hold of it the Blumenthal/Clark volume mentioned in the reading above would also probably help quite a bit.

sven on 8 May 2020

Gods in Statues

Hi Peter, thank you for your great series. In one of your episodes you discuss the Ancient practice of caling on the gods to inhabit statues of veneration , so the supplicant might gain greater access to the God during ritual. I can't remember the name of this practice which you mentioned, but would you be kind enough to tell me? The word started with a T..., Tele- or Theo- something. 


Thank you!

In reply to by sven

Peter Adamson on 8 May 2020


The word you're looking for is "theurgy", I probably talked about it most in the Iamblichus episode.

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