Ammonius Hermiae

Ammonius Hermiae

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Ammonius Hermiae was a Greek
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 philosopher, and the son of the Neoplatonist philosophers Hermias
Hermias (philosopher)
Hermias was a Neoplatonist philosopher who was born in Alexandria c. 410 AD. He went to Athens and studied philosophy under Syrianus. He married Aedesia, who was a relative of Syrianus, and who had originally been betrothed to Proclus, but Proclus broke the engagement off after receiving a divine...

 and Aedesia
Aedesia
Aedesia was a female philosopher of the Neoplatonic school who lived in Alexandria in the fifth century. She was a relation of Syrianus and the wife of Hermias, and was equally celebrated for her beauty and her virtues. After the death of her husband, she devoted herself to relieving the wants...

. He was a pupil of Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

 in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, and taught at Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 for most of his life, writing commentaries on Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, and other philosophers.

Life


Ammonius' father, Hermias
Hermias
Hermias was an obscure Christian Apologist, presumed to have lived in 3rd century. Nothing is known of him, except his name. He wrote a Derison of gentile philosophers, a short parody on Greek Philosophy themes...

, died when he was a child, and his mother, Aedesia, raised him and his brother, Heliodorus
Heliodorus of Alexandria
Heliodorus of Alexandria was a Neoplatonist philosopher who lived in the 5th century. He was the son of Hermias and Aedesia, and the younger brother of Ammonius. His father, Hermias, died when he was young, and his mother, Aedesia, raised him and his brother in their home city of Alexandria until...

, in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. When they reached adulthood, Aedesia accompanied her sons to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 where they studied under Proclus
Proclus
Proclus Lycaeus , called "The Successor" or "Diadochos" , was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher, one of the last major Classical philosophers . He set forth one of the most elaborate and fully developed systems of Neoplatonism...

. Eventually, they returned to Alexandria, where Ammonius, as head of the Neoplatonist school in Alexandria, lectured on Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 for the rest of his life. According to Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

, during the persecution of the pagans
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

 at Alexandria in the late 480's, Ammonius made concessions to the Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 authorities so that he could continue his lectures. Damascius, who scolds Ammonius for the agreement that he made, does not say what the concessions were, but it may have involved limitations on the doctrines he could teach or promote. He was still teaching in 515, since Olympiodorus
Olympiodorus the Younger
Olympiodorus the Younger was a Neoplatonist philosopher, astrologer and teacher who lived in the early years of the Byzantine Empire, after Justinian's Decree of 529 A.D. which closed Plato's Academy in Athens and other pagan schools...

 heard him lecture on Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's Gorgias in that year. He also taught Asclepius of Tralles
Asclepius of Tralles
Asclepius of Tralles was a student of Ammonius Hermiae. Two works of his survive:*Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, books I-VII.*Commentary on Nicomachus' Introduction to Arithmetic...

, John Philoponus
John Philoponus
John Philoponus , also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, was a Christian and Aristotelian commentator and the author of a considerable number of philosophical treatises and theological works...

, Damascius
Damascius
Damascius , known as "the last of the Neoplatonists," was the last scholarch of the School of Athens. He was one of the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into the empire...

 and Simplicius
Simplicius of Cilicia
Simplicius of Cilicia, was a disciple of Ammonius Hermiae and Damascius, and was one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He was among the pagan philosophers persecuted by Justinian in the early 6th century, and was forced for a time to seek refuge in the Persian court, before being allowed back into...

.

Writings


Of his reputedly numerous writings, only his commentary on Aristotle's De Interpretatione survives intact. A commentary on Porphyry
Porphyry (philosopher)
Porphyry of Tyre , Porphyrios, AD 234–c. 305) was a Neoplatonic philosopher who was born in Tyre. He edited and published the Enneads, the only collection of the work of his teacher Plotinus. He also wrote many works himself on a wide variety of topics...

's Isagogue may also be his, but it is somewhat corrupt and contains later interpolations.

In De Interpretatione, Ammonius contends that divine foreknowledge makes void the contingent. Like
Boethius in his second Commentary and The Consolation of Philosophy, this argument maintains the effectiveness of prayer. Ammonius cites Iamblichus who said knowledge is intermediate between the knower and the known, since it is the activity of the knower concerning the known.

In addition, there are some notes of Ammonius' lectures written by various students which also survive:
  • On Aristotle's Categories (anonymous writer)
  • On Aristotle's Prior Analytics I (anonymous writer)
  • On Aristotle's Metaphysics 1-7 (written by Asclepius
    Asclepius of Tralles
    Asclepius of Tralles was a student of Ammonius Hermiae. Two works of his survive:*Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, books I-VII.*Commentary on Nicomachus' Introduction to Arithmetic...

    )
  • On Nicomachus
    Nicomachus
    Nicomachus was an important mathematician in the ancient world and is best known for his works Introduction to Arithmetic and Manual of Harmonics in Greek. He was born in Gerasa, in the Roman province of Syria , and was strongly influenced by Aristotle...

    ' Introduction to Arithmetic (written by Asclepius)
  • On Aristotle's Prior Analytics (written by John Philoponus
    John Philoponus
    John Philoponus , also known as John the Grammarian or John of Alexandria, was a Christian and Aristotelian commentator and the author of a considerable number of philosophical treatises and theological works...

    )
  • On Aristotle's Posterior Analytics (written by John Philoponus)
  • On Aristotle's On Generation and Corruption (written by John Philoponus)
  • On Aristotle's On the Soul (written by John Philoponus)


He was also an accomplished astronomer
Astronomer
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies such as planets, stars and galaxies.Historically, astronomy was more concerned with the classification and description of phenomena in the sky, while astrophysics attempted to explain these phenomena and the differences between them using...

; he lectured on Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 and is known to have written a treatise on the astrolabe
Astrolabe
An astrolabe is an elaborate inclinometer, historically used by astronomers, navigators, and astrologers. Its many uses include locating and predicting the positions of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and longitude, surveying, triangulation, and to...

.

Further reading

  • Ammonius: On Aristotle Categories, translated by S. M. Cohen and G. B. Matthews. London and Ithaca 1992.
  • Ammonius: On Aristotle's On Interpretation 1-8, translated by D. Blank. London and Ithaca 1996.
  • Ammonius: On Aristotle's On Interpretation 9, with Boethius: On Aristotle's On Interpretation 9, translated by D. Blank (Ammonius) and N. Kretzmann (Boethius). London and Ithaca 1998
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On Coming-to-be and Perishing 1.1-5, translated by C. J. F. Williams. London and Ithaca 1999
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On Coming-to-be and Perishing 1.6-2.4, translated by C. J. F. Williams. London and Ithaca 1999.
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On the Soul 2.1-6, translated by W. Charlton. London and Ithaca 2005
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On the Soul 2.7-12, translated by W. Charlton. London and Ithaca 2005
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On the Soul 3.1-8, translated by W. Charlton. London and Ithaca 2000
  • John Philoponus: On Aristotle On the Intellect (de Anima 3.4-8), translated by W. Charlton. London and Ithaca 1991.

External links

  • Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca
    Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca
    Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca [edita consilio et auctoritate academiae litterarum Regiae Borussicae] ' is the standard collection of extant ancient Greek commentaries on Aristotle. The 23 volumes in the series were released between the years 1882 and 1909 by the publisher Reimer...

    , Vol. 4 parts 2-6, Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin, Edita consilio et auctoritate Academiae litterarum regiae borussicae (1882).