From HandWiki
Short description: Syrian Neoplatonist philosopher (c. 245 – c. 325)
Bornc. 245[1]
Chalcis ad Belum
Diedc. 325 (aged around 80)
Other namesIamblichus Chalcidensis, Iamblichus of Chalcis, Iamblichus of Apamea
Notable work
EraAncient philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
Main interests
Metaphysics, philosophical cosmology

Iamblichus (/ˈæmblɪkəs/ eye-AM-blik-əs; Greek: Ἰάμβλιχος, translit. Iámblichos; Arabic: يَمْلِكُ, romanized: Yamlīḵū; Aramaic: 𐡉𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡅‎, romanized: Yamlīḵū;[2][3] c. 245[4] – c. 325) was an Arab[5] neoplatonic philosopher.[6] He determined a direction later taken by neoplatonism. Iamblichus was also the biographer of the Greek mystic, philosopher, and mathematician Pythagoras.[7][8] In addition to his philosophical contributions, his Protrepticus is important for the study of the sophists because it preserved about ten pages of an otherwise unknown sophist known as the Anonymus Iamblichi.[9]


According to the Suda and Iamblichus' biographer, Eunapius, Iamblichus was born in Chalcis (later called Qinnašrīn) in Coele, now in northwest Syria.[10][11] Iamblichus was descended from the Emesene dynasty. He initially studied under Anatolius of Laodicea and later studied under Porphyry, a pupil of Plotinus (the founder of neoplatonism). Iamblichus disagreed with Porphyry about theurgy, reportedly responding to Porphyry's criticism of the practice in On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians.

He returned to Coele Syria around 304 to found a school in Apamea (near Antioch), a city known for its neoplatonic philosophers. Iamblichus designed a curriculum for studying Plato and Aristotle, and wrote commentaries on the two which survive only in fragments. Pythagoras was his supreme authority, and he wrote the ten-volume Collection of Pythagorean Doctrines with extracts from several ancient philosophers; only the first four volumes and fragments of the fifth survive.[12]

Iamblichus wrote the Exhortation to Philosophy in Apamea during the early fourth century.[13] Considered a man of great culture and learning, he was renowned for his charity and self-denial and had a number of students. According to Johann Albert Fabricius, he died sometime before 333 during the reign of Constantine the Great.[11]


Iamblichus detailed Plotinus' neoplatonic formal divisions, applied Pythagorean number symbolism more systematically, and (influenced by other Asian systems) interpreted neoplatonic concepts mythically.[14][11] Unlike Plotinus, who broke from platonic tradition by positing a separate soul, Iamblichus re-affirmed the soul's embodiment in matter and believed that matter was as divine as the rest of the cosmos.[14]

Cosmology and theology

Iamblichus placed the Monad at the head of his system, from which emanates the Nous (intellect, or demiurge) and the psyche. Plotinus represented the Nous as three stages: objective being, subjective life, and realized intellect. Iamblichus divided them into two spheres: intelligible (the objects of thought) and intellective (the domain of thought).[15]

Iamblichus and Proclus may have introduced a third sphere between the two worlds, separating and uniting them.[16] The identification of nous with the demiurge in the neoplatonic tradition was adopted and developed in Christian gnosticism. Augustine of Hippo follows Plotinus, identifying the nous with logos (the creative principle) as part of the Trinity.[17][18]

Iamblichus multiplied the number of divine entities according to universal mathematical theorems. He conceived of gods, angels, demons and heroes: twelve heavenly gods (whose number increases to 36 or 360), 72 other gods proceeding from them, 21 chiefs and 42 nature-gods. His divine realm extends from the Monad to material nature, where the soul descends into matter and becomes embodied in human form. These superhuman beings influence natural events and communicate knowledge about the future, and are accessible with prayers and offerings. Iamblichus posited that numbers are independent, occupying a middle realm between the limited and unlimited.[18] He believed that nature was bound by fate, differing from divine things which are not subject to fate and turn evil and imperfection to good ends; evil was generated accidentally in the conflict between the finite and the infinite.[18]


Only a fraction of Iamblichus' books have survived; knowledge of his system is preserved in fragments of writings preserved by Stobaeus and others: notes by his successors (especially Proclus), his five extant books and sections of his work on Pythagoreanism. In addition to these, Proclus attributed to him the On the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians, also known as The Theurgia. Although stylistic and doctrinal differences exist between this book and Iamblichus' other works, it originated from his school at least.[11]

Editions and translations

  • On the Mysteries (De mysteriis), ed. Gustav Parthey, Teubner, 1857;[19] ed. Edouard des Places, Collection Budé, 1989.
    • English translations: Thomas Taylor, 1821,;[20][21] Alexander Wilder, 1911;[22][23] Emma C. Clarke, John M. Dillon, and Jackson P. Hershbell, 2003, ISBN:1-58983-058-X.
  • The Life of Pythagoras[24]
  • On the Pythagorean Way of Life (De vita pythagorica), ed. Theophil Kießling, Leipzig, 1816;[25] ed. August Nauck, St. Petersburg, 1884; ed. Ludwig Deubner, Teubner, 1937 (rev. Ulrich Klein, 1975).
    • English translations: Gillian Clark, 1989, ISBN:0-85323-326-8; John M. Dillon and Jackson Hershbell, 1991, ISBN:1-55540-523-1
  • On General Mathematical Science (Περὶ τῆς κοινῆς μαθηματικῆς ἐπιστήμης, De communi mathematica scientia), ed. Nicola Festa, Teubner, 1891 (reprint 1975) [26]
  • Protrepticus, ed. Ermenegildo Pistelli, Teubner, 1888 (repr. 1975);[27] ed. des Places, Budé, 1989.
    • English translation: Thomas Moore Johnson, Iamblichus' Exhortation to the Study of Philosophy, Osceola, Mo., 1907 (repr. 1988, ISBN:0-933999-63-1).
  • In Nicomachi arithmeticam introductionem, Teubner, ed. Pistelli, Teubner, 1894[28] (rev. Klein, 1975)
  • Letters: John M. Dillon and Wolfgang Polleichtner, Iamblichus of Chalcis: The Letters, 2009, ISBN:1-58983-161-6.
  • Fragmentary commentaries on Plato and Aristotle
    • Bent Dalsgaard Larsen, Jamblique de Chalcis: Exégète et philosophe (vol. 2, appendix: Testimonia et fragmenta exegetica), Universitetsforlaget i Aarhus, 1972 (Greek texts only).
    • John M. Dillon (ed. and trans.), Iamblichi Chalcidensis in Platonis dialogos commentariorum fragmenta, Leiden: Brill, 1973.
    • John F. Finamore and John M. Dillon, Iamblichus' De Anima: Text, Translation, and Commentary, Leiden: Brill, 2002, ISBN:1-58983-468-2.
  • Theological Principles of Arithmetic (Theologumena arithmeticae, an anonymous work ascribed to Iamblichus or Anatolius of Laodicea), ed. Friedrich Ast, Leipzig, 1817; ed. Vittorio de Falco, Teubner, 1922.
    • English translation: Robin Waterfield, Pseudo-Iamblichus: The Theology of Arithmetic, translation, introduction, notes; foreword by K. Critchlow, Phanes Press, 1988, ISBN:0-933999-72-0.


Iamblichus was praised by his followers, and contemporaries credited him with miraculous powers. The Roman emperor Julian, not content with Eunapius' modest eulogy that Iamblichus was inferior to Porphyry only in style, regarded him as second only to Plato and said that he would give all the gold in Lydia for one of his letters. During the 15th- and 16th-century revival of interest in his philosophy, Iamblichus' name was rarely mentioned without the epithet "divine" or "most divine".[11]

See also


  1. Dillon, John M. (2009). Iamblichi Chalcidensis in Platonis Dialogos Commentariorum Fragmenta (Revised Second ed.). Wiltshire, UK: The Prometheus Trust. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-898910-45-9. 
  2. Sami Aydin (29 August 2016). Sergius of Reshaina: Introduction to Aristotle and his Categories, Addressed to Philotheos. BRILL. pp. 183–. ISBN 978-90-04-32514-2. OCLC 1001224459. 
  3. Gawlikowski, M. The Journal of Roman Studies, vol. 84, [Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, Cambridge University Press], 1994, pp. 244–46,
  4. Dillon, John M. (2009). Iamblichi Chalcidensis in Platonis Dialogos Commentariorum Fragmenta (Revised Second ed.). Wiltshire, UK: The Prometheus Trust. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-898910-45-9. 
  5. Shahîd, Irfan; Šahīd, ʿIrfān (1984) (in en). Rome and the Arabs: A Prolegomenon to the Study of Byzantium and the Arabs. Dumbarton Oaks. ISBN 9780884021155. 
  6. Graindor, Paul; Grégoire, Henri (1999) (in en). Byzantion: Revue Internationale Des Études Byzantines. Fondation Byzantine. 
  7. Iamblichus (December 1986) (in en). Iamblichus' Life of Pythagoras. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co. ISBN 9780892811526. 
  8. Iamblichus, ca 250-ca 330; Taylor, Thomas (1918). The life of Pythagoras ;. Internet Archive. Krotona ; Hollywood, Calif. : Theosophical Pub. House. 
  9. B. Cassin, 'Anonymus Iamblichi', in Brill's New Pauly
  10. Clarke, E.C.; Dillon, J.M.; Hershbell, J.P. (2003). De Mysteriis. Society of Biblical Literature: Writings from the Greco-Roman world. Society of Biblical Literature. p. xviii. ISBN 978-1-58983-058-5. Retrieved 2023-11-23. "Eunapius reports (Vit. soph. 457) that Iamblichus was born in Chalcis “in Coele (Syria).” After Septimus Severus’s division of the Syrian command in 194 C.W., this refers not to southern but to northern Syria, and so the Chalcis in question must be Chalcis ad Belum, modern Qinnesrin, a strategically important town to the east of the Orontes valley, on the road from Beroea (Aleppo) to Apamea, and from Antioch to the East."  The son of a wealthy, well-known family,
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Sorley (1911), p. 213.
  12. Anthon, C. (1841). A Classical Dictionary: containing an account of the principal proper names mentioned in ancient authors ... Together with an account of coins, weights and measures, etc. Harper & Bros.. Retrieved 2023-08-28. 
  13. "Introduction to Iamblichus' Exhortation to Philosophy (upcoming talk)". 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Shaw (2006).
  15. Sorley (1911), pp. 213–214.
  16. O'Meara', Dominic J. Pythagoras Revived: Mathematics and Philosophy in Late Antiquity, Oxford University Press.
  17. Gundel, Hans Georg (Gießen); Brisson, Luc (Paris); Fusillo, Massimo (L'Aquila); Galli, Lucia (Florence) (2006-10-01), "Iamblichus" (in en), Brill's New Pauly (Brill), doi:10.1163/1574-9347_bnp_e520890,*-e520890, retrieved 2021-12-15 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Sorley (1911), p. 214.
  19. "De mysteriis liber". 1857. 
  20. Iamblichus; Porphyry. Iamblichus on the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians. C. Whittingham. ISBN 9780608371542. Retrieved 19 September 2022. 
  21. "On the Mysteries - Translated by Thomas Taylor". 
  22. "Theurgia, Or The Egyptian Mysteries". 
  23. "Iamblichus: Theurgia or On the Mysteries of Egypt". 
  24. "The Life of Pythagoras". 
  25. "Iamblichi Chalcidensis ex Coele-Syria De vita Pythagorica liber : Graece et Latine". 
  26. "Iamblichi De communi mathematica scientia liber". 1891. 
  27. (Chalcidensis), Jamblichus (1888). "Protrepticus". 
  28. Iamblichus. In Nicomachi arithmeticam introductionem liber. B. G. Teubner. ISBN 9783519014447. Retrieved 19 September 2022. 



External links