The Three Ammonii

There are three Platonist philosophers named Ammonius. Stay on your toes!

I. Ammonius the Peripatetic

  • 1st c. AD
  • Middle Platonist
  • Called “the Peripatetic” for knowledge of Aristotle (but integrating Aristotle into a Platonic curriculum was not his innovation; eclectic/syncretic approaches to Stoic and Aristotelian doctrine had already been part of Platonism in 1st c. BC)
  • Teacher of Plutarch (46 AD – 120 AD), prolific Middle Platonist and Delphic priest
  • Appears as a character in PERI TOY EI (“On the ‘E’ at Delphi”)

II. Ammonius Saccas

  • fl. 3rd. c. AD
  • Transitional figure between late Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism
  • Considered Plato and Aristotle to be defending same  doctrine
  • Alexandria
  • Teacher of Origen* and Plotinus (c. 204 AD – 270 AD)

III. Ammonius Hermiae

  • 440 AD – c. 520 AD
  • Neoplatonist
  • Student of Proclus Lycaeus (412 AD – 485 AD)
  • Son of Hermias (b. 410 AD), a student of Proclus’s predecessor Syrianus; brother of Heliodorus, another Alexandrian Neoplatonist
  • Teacher of Damascius (458 AD – c. 538 AD; last scholarch of Athens’ Neoplatonic Academy), Olympiodorus (495 AD – 570 AD; “the Younger”), Simplicius (490 AD –  560 AD), John Philoponus (490 AD – 560 AD), Ascelpius of Trailles (d. circa 565 AD)
  • Revived Alexandria as a major center of philosophy; his students include authors of the final major Aristotelian commentaries of antiquity (Simplicius, Philiponus, Damascius), participants at the 553 Council of Constantinople (Philiponus, as an advocate for the miaphysite perspective), and the teachers of the majority of subsequent Christian Aristotelians
  • Substantially simplified and clarified the elaborate system of Plotinist metaphysics codified by Proclus


[*] N.b., Ammonius Saccas taught both the famous Origen (“the Christian”) and also another “Origen the Pagan” who was the first teacher of Plotinus’s disciple Porphyry. This has inspired various hypotheses about possible conflation/confusion/confabulation in the accounts concerning the students of Ammonius Saccas, as you can imagine. Likewise his student Cassius Longinus, a friend of Plotinus, was often confused with the 1st c. author of “On the Sublime” (PERI HYPSOUS). And to be exhaustive about these philological curiosities: Ammonius Saccas’s own teacher, Hermeias, is easily confused with the philosopher Hermias, the father of Ammonius Hermiae.

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