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Philo’s Role as a Platonist in Alexandria

Maren R. Niehoff
p. 35-62

Texte intégral

  • 1 I wish to thank the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 435/08) for supporting the research on whi (...)
  • 2 D.L. 3:61-62. While the critical signs correspond in many respects to those developed in connection (...)
  • 3 Tarrant 1993, 11-17; 98-103.
  • 4 See fragments and commentary in Dörrie 1987, 116-133; 350-355; see also Fraser 1972, 1:482-483.
  • 5 Bonazzi 2007; Dillon 1977, 114-135.
  • 6 Tarrant 1983, 180-187; cf. Bonazzi 2003. The commentator’s preoccupation with skepticism in the Aca (...)
  • 7 Baltes 1972, 22-24; Tobin 1985, 5-7.
  • 8 Eus. H.E. 6:19; Porph. On the Life of Plotinus 7-17 = preface to Plot. Ennead I.

1Alexandria occupies a special place in the history of Platonism1. The first edition of Plato’s works with text-critical signs was produced here in the second century BCE by Aristophanes of Byzantium2. The same scholar also introduced the trilogical division of the corpus, based on literary criteria, which was subsequently replaced by the tetralogical division of Tiberius’ court philosopher Thrasyllus3. Other Alexandrians significantly contributed to the interpretation of Plato’s works. Eratosthenes, the famous scientist and literary critic of the mid-third century BCE, was known as a Platonist interested in the mathematical aspects of philosophy4. More importantly, Eudorus in the first century BCE played a decisive role in the revival of Platonism5. He may also have authored the anonymous commentary on the Theaetetus, our earliest extant, running commentary on any of Plato’s works6. Another anonymous Platonic treatise most likely stems from Alexandria, namely On the Nature of the World and the Soul7. Finally, the city hosted important harbingers of Neo-Platonism. Ammonius Saccas, the “Socrates” of the new movement, taught here influential thinkers, such as Plotinus, who spent eleven years in Alexandria before establishing himself in Rome8.

  • 9 Boyancé 1963; Boyancé 1967.
  • 10 Runia 1986; Dillon 1977, 139-183; see also Hadas-Lebel 2003, 263-265; Berchman 1984, 23-53.
  • 11 Eudorus and Philo have been interpreted as Stoicizing Platonists by Dillon 1977, 139-183; Reydams-S (...)

2What role did Philo play in this context? Following Pierre Boyancé’s pioneering studies, scholars have increasingly recognized Philo’s place in Alexandrian Platonism9. In 1977 John Dillon provided the first systematic analysis of Philo as a Middle-Platonist; David T. Runia followed in 1986 with a detailed study of Plato’s Timaeus in Philo’s work10. While many scholars today agree that Philo was an avid reader of Plato’s works, familiar also with the tradition of their interpretation, it is debated what kind of Platonism he embraced. Did he adhere to a Stoicizing form widely spread by Antiochus or rather more to a distinctly Alexandrian branch of Platonism, which opposed Stoicism?Since Philo is often held to be rather unoriginal, reflecting contemporary discussions rather than shaping them, the dispute revolves mostly around Eudorus. Scholars, who identify this thinker as a student of Antiochus, claim the same for Philo, while scholars, who stress Eudorus’ independence from Antiochus, tend to argue that he was followed by Philo11.

  • 12 The exegetical dimension of Philo’s work has been emphasized by Nikiprowetzky 1977 and Runia 1993. (...)
  • 13 Inwood 2005.
  • 14 On Philo’s positive attitude towards Greek culture, which was subsequently nuanced by Roman prejudi (...)

3In the present article I wish to draw attention to Philo’s active role and overall significance in the context of Alexandrian Platonism, which I take to be very distinct. While Philo certainly was an exegete of the Mosaic Scriptures, his role is not limited to offering a synthesis between prevailing Platonic motifs and the Bible, which was subsequently emulated by Christian writers12. I suggest something of a paradigm shift, which the study of Seneca has recently undergone thanks to the work of Brad Inwood13. Hellenistic authors generally should not be studied merely as receptacles of previous ideas or as witnesses to otherwise lost traditions. Such arguments tend to be circular in any case. Instead, the particular choice and contribution of each writer in his cultural context as well as his special message must be appreciated. I shall argue that Philo is important beyond the Jewish community, who may have wondered how Scripture and philosophy can be reconciled. His works seriously engaged in the contemporary discourse and made substantial contributions to it, often adding new insights from a Jewish or Biblical perspective. It is interesting to compare him to subsequent Christian writers, such as Clement and Origen, who adopted a far more contrastive position to Greek culture and are thus rightly left out of the history of Platonism proper14.

  • 15 Niehoff 2010, chapters 5, 7-8, 10; Niehoff 2010b.
  • 16 Regarding the dating of Philo’s treatise to his mature period, see Runia 1981, 108-109.

4Philo’s active role as a Platonist thinker in Alexandria must be appreciated in light of his intellectual career. His views were not static, but evolved over time. Significant differences between his earlier and later works are an expression of his new and far more Roman orientation in the mature period of his life. I have argued elsewhere that the Allegorical Commentary is Philo’s earliest series of works, where he confronts Jewish colleagues in Alexandria, who applied text-critical Homeric methods to Scripture15. These colleagues were distinctly Aristotelian in their outlook, being criticized by Philo both for their literary assumptions and their scientific conclusions. In the Exposition of the Laws, by contrast, composed probably in the context of the embassy to Gaius (38-41 CE), Philo addresses a much broader and predominantly Roman audience. He attempts in these treatises to defend Judaism against contemporary adversaries, using notions which would resonate in contemporary Rome. Another work of crucial importance in our context is Philo’s treatise On the Eternity of the World, which also belongs to his more mature period, while not being part of the Exposition and most likely antedating it16. Philo addresses here a broader, non-Jewish audience without specifically aiming at an apology of Judaism.

  • 17 These two Platonic dialogues are the only ones explicitly referred to in Philo’s work and quoted at (...)

5Given the chronology and different audiences of Philo’s works, we must investigate the development of his attitude towards Plato’s thought and writings. Looking at the whole Philonic corpus, one immediately notices a significant shift of focus from the Theaetetus in the Allegorical Commentary to the Timaeus in On the Eternity and the Exposition17. I shall argue that Philo’s earlier works were firmly embedded in the contemporary Alexandrian discourse, giving priority to the Theaetetus and the ideal of assimilation to God. Philo significantly contributed to the interpretation of Plato’s work by suggesting, on the basis of Scripture, that skeptical approaches to epistemology can be overcome by the notion of Divine impregnation. Moreover, Philo for the first time interpreted the notion of assimilation to God as approaching the Divine powers. In both respects Philo strengthened the religious tendency of Alexandrian Platonism, introducing novel elements, which subsequently became central among Platonic thinkers.

6Philo’s treatise On the Eternity of the World is an innovative contribution to Platonism, the importance of which has not yet been properly appreciated. Philo for the first time takes serious note of the Stoic notion of conflagration, developing in reaction to it a new approach based on the Timaeus. He not only gave special attention to this dialogue in Alexandria, but also introduced a distinctly scholastic approach to the text. Inspired by the Biblical creation account and apparently aware of recent developments in Rome, Philo insisted against prevailing Alexandrian views on the literal meaning of Plato’s creation myth. Philo’s Platonism is thus highly distinct and had a visible impact on the author of the anonymous treatise On the Nature of the World and the Soul as well as on the second century Platonist Calvenus Tauros.

7The third context in which Philo is important as a Platonist is his treatise On the Creation of the World, which is part of the Exposition addressed primarily to a Roman audience. It is striking that in this work Philo discusses the Timaeus with a view to Stoic notions, trying to bridge the gap between their immanentist approach and Plato’s advocacy of a transcendent creator god. I shall argue that Philo’s compromise with Stoicism is directly connected to his appreciation of Rome’s political importance. The treatise On the Creation thus presents an epoch-making synthesis between Alexandrian and Roman discourses, Philo having become the most Romanized of the Alexandrian Platonists.

1. Philo as a Platonist in the Allegorical Commentary

  • 18 Tarrant 1983, 170-172; followed by Sedley 1997, 112-129, who emphasizes the authority given to Plat (...)

8The extensive fragments of an anonymous commentary on the Theaetetus illuminate important aspects of Alexandrian Platonism in the first century BCE. Harold Tarrant has shown that this commentary emerged in response to lively discussions of the dialogue, which had drawn considerable attention in the context of the question whether Plato committed himself to dogma or instead embraced an aporetic position18. The anonymous commentator himself refers to the following background:

  • 19 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:39-43 (ed. Diels-Schubart 36); the translation of this passage as well as oth (...)

On account of such expressions [in the Theaet.] some consider Plato as an Academic, who expounds nothing by way of dogma ( ̓Ακαδημαϊκὸν τὸν Πλάτωνα ὡϛ οὐδὲν δογματίζοντα)19.

  • 20 On the use of the term “Academic” in this period, see Tarrant 1983, 187; on the anonymous commentat (...)
  • 21 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:43 - 55:13; 7:14-20; see also Tarrant 1983, 180-184; Sedley 1997, 127; Bonazz (...)
  • 22 Antiochus saw the Stoics as a seamless continuation of Plato and Aristotle (Cic., Ac. 1:17); see al (...)
  • 23 Glucker 1978, 90-97.
  • 24 See also Tarrant 1983, 179-180.

9Reflecting contemporary usage, “Academic” refers here to a skeptical position among Platonists, all of whom the author of the commentary sees as belonging to one Academy20. While siding with those who believe that Plato developed definite views, he did not on this account adopt the approach of Antiochus of Ascalon. On the contrary, the commentator distanced himself from Stoic ideas and contrasted Plato’s notion of “assimilation to god” to the ideal of oikeiosis21. He thus seems to have been familiar with the kind of syncretism Antiochus advocated, but rejected it22. This fits our overall picture of Alexandria, where Antiochus briefly visited in the seventies BCE (Cic., Ac. 2:11-12). John Glucker challenged the prevailing view of Antiochus as founding on that occasion a whole school of Stoicism23. While Glucker may have exaggerated the image of a politician too busy with Lucullus’s expedition in the East to engage in any intellectual activity in Alexandria, it is remarkable that Antiochus’s thought left hardly any traces in Alexandrian literature. If Dio had indeed become his student, as Cicero may be taken to suggest, he had no apparent impact24.

  • 25 The extent of Eudorus’ material in Stobaeus requires systematic study, which I plan to carry out in (...)
  • 26 ἔστι οὖν Εὐδώρου το͂῝ ̓Αλεξανδρέωϛ ἀκαδημικοῦ φιλοσόφου διαίρεσιϛ (Stob., Ecl. 2:48, ed. Meineke 16 (...)
  • 27 τὸ δέ γε πολύφωον τοῦ Πλάτωνοϛ οὐ πολύδοξον. Εἴρηται δὲ καὶ τὰ πέρι τοῦ τέλουϛ αὐτῷ πολλαχῶϛ ... εἰ (...)
  • 28 Simplicius preserves fragments of his work on Aristotle’s Categories, which he criticized; see also (...)
  • 29 Τέλοϛ ὁμοίωσιν θεοῦ (Stob., Ecl. 2:65, ed. Meineke 21); cf. the Stoic interpretations of the aim of (...)

10Eudorus, who may be identical with the author of the anonymous commentary, expressed similar views in writings attributed to him25. Initially, it is worth noting that already in Antiquity he was identified as an “Academic” from Alexandria26. In his view, Plato had pronounced δόγμα, using different dialogues to express it in different ways27. The Timaeus treated physics, whereas the Republic was about ethics and the Theaetetus about logic (ibid.). Plato’s ideas are clearly distinguished from Aristotelian and Stoic approaches28. As a careful reader of the Theaetetus, Eudorus moreover identified the aim of ethics as « assimilation to god » rather than with the Stoics as « living in agreement with nature »29.

  • 30 Pap. Oxyr. 3210 in Dörrie 1987, 140 and commentary ibid., 396-397. The date of the papyrus is uncer (...)

11Our picture of Alexandrian Platonism is complemented by Papyrus Oxyr. 3210, which also affirms that Plato expressed definite convictions (τὰ δὲ αὐτῷ δοκοῦντα), using Socrates, Timaeus, the foreigner from Elea as well as the foreigner from Athens as mouthpieces30. The papyrus thus assigns a special place to the Timaeus as well as the Theaetetus, where the foreigner from Elea plays a central role.

  • 31 Her. 247-248; contra Dillon 2008, who ascribes Antiochus’ syncretism to Philo and interprets his ex (...)
  • 32 Her. 246, see also Aet. 7-13, where the different views of the world, mentioned in Her. 246, are id (...)

12Philo directly relates to these concerns of Alexandrian Platonists in the first century BCE, while ignoring the earlier literary approach developed at the Museum by Aristophanes. In the Allegorical Commentary he quotes at length from the Theaetetus and often refers to it regarding questions of epistemology and ethics. It is immediately clear that Philo took the opposite approach of Antiochus, distinguishing different schools and pointing to their disagreements throughout the history of philosophy31. Philo thus contrasts Plato’s argument for the indestructibility of the world to both the Aristotelian assumption of its eternity and the Stoic idea of recurrent conflagrations32.

  • 33 D.L. 3:58; Comm. Theaet. col. 2:18-21; 15:2-23; 17:225-232; Stob., Ecl. 2:66, ed. Meineke 21; see a (...)

13In a central passage of the Allegorical Commentary Philo addresses the subject of epistemology in connection with the Theaetetus, thus embracing the approach of the Alexandrian Platonists as well as Thrasyllus, who had identified epistemology as the central theme of this dialogue33. Philo provides the following report on disputes over the criterion of truth and its relation to Being (Her. 246):

Those who maintain that nothing exists, but everything is in the process of becoming are at strife with those who argue the opposite; those who argue at length that man is the measure of everything (οἳ πάντων χρημάτων ἄνθρωπον μέτρον εἶναι διεξόντεϛ) are in conflict with those who deny the criterion of both sense and mind; and, more generally, those who maintain that everything is beyond our apprehension oppose those who say that the vast majority of things can be grasped.

  • 34 πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπον εἶναι (Theaet. 152a).

14This report of philosophical arguments revolves around Theaet. 152a-d. The view of man as the measure of everything is a verbatim quotation of Protagoras in that passage34. Socrates mentions the maxim here in order to elaborate on Theaetetus’ argument that the human senses may be regarded as the criterion of truth. Moreover, the view of those, who believe that nothing truly exists, but everything is in the process of becoming, is derived from the same Platonic passage, where it is attributed to Protagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles and Homer. In the dialogue both arguments are shown to be problematic, Socrates making considerable efforts to define true existence and its correct apprehension, which cannot rely on the senses. He thus provides the arguments for those mentioned in the Philonic passage as holding opposite views.

15Philo then moves from these specific positions to the “general” (συνόλωϛ) dispute between the skeptics and those who assume the apprehensibility of most things. The Alexandrian context of Philo’s discussion becomes evident when we consider that the anonymous commentator had offered a strikingly similar interpretation of Theaet. 152a-d. He also read it in the context of contemporary skepticism, explicitly mentioning Pyrrhonic views on the unreliability of the senses (col. 63). The details of the argument suggest that the anonymous commentator referred by οἳ Πυρρώνειοι especially to Anesidemus, whose work was influential in Alexandria (D.L. 9:78-80).

  • 35 iudicium veritatis (Cic., Ac. 30-31).

16Philo’s reference in the above quoted passage to « those who say that the vast majority of things can be grasped » may have referred to Stoic interpretations of Theaet. 152. Antiochus had acknowledged Plato’s distrust in the physical world and the senses, but asserted that the mind is the « criterion of truth » and judge of the sense perceptions35. The anonymous commentator of the Theaetetus similarly knew of a group of interpreters, who were aware of the skeptical formulations in this dialogue and concluded that Plato dealt here with « things which cannot be proven, whereas in the Sophist [he treats] things which can be proven » (col. 2:32-39).

  • 36 Regarding Philo’s awareness of recent philosophical developments and his use of skeptical as well a (...)

17Philo thus interpreted a key-passage of the Theaetetus, addressing topics of intense philosophical interest to Alexandrian Platonists. His background closely corresponds to that of the anonymous commentator of the Theaetetus, both writing with a view to the recent split between Skeptics and Antiochus’ school36. More importantly, Philo, like the commentator, presents the dialogue as a key to positive epistemology (Her. 247):

While they [the previously mentioned schools] make a thorough investigation of the magnitude and movement of the heavenly bodies, they reach different opinions (ἑτεροδοξοῦσιν) and disagree with each other until the man versed in midwifery together with judgement (ὁ μαιευτικὸϛ ὁμοῦ καὶ δικαστικὸϛ ἀνὴρ) takes a seat with them and observes the products of the soul of each, throwing away that which is not worth rearing, while preserving the suitable elements and approving them for appropriate treatment.

18Philo paraphrases here the words of Socrates in the Theaetetus, who had introduced himself as the son of a midwife, practicing his mother’s art in the masculine realm of philosophy (Theaet. 149a). Socrates explains that the foremost task of male-midwifery is « to be able to test (βασανίζειν) in every way whether the mind of the young gives birth to a mere image, an imposture, or to lawful and true off-spring » (Theaet. 150b). A distinctly religious dimension is moreover introduced by Socrates’ reference to god, who « compels me to act as a midwife » and graciously prompts certain students to make progress in the perception of truth (Theaet. 150c-d).

  • 37 Πλάτωνα ἔχειν δόγματα (col. 55:9-10).

19The anonymous commentator of the Theaetetus also paid particular attention to this passage, identifying it as a proof of the view that Plato indeed formulated dogma37. He, too, dwells on the metaphor of midwifery, devoting greatest attention to a clear distinction between the intellectual pursuits of men and the rather more vulgar affairs of women. The commentator concludes that Socrates’ art is far superior to that of normal midwives (col. 52:22-39). Unfortunately, the papyrus is corrupt at this point, but the remaining fragments indicate that Socrates’ method of asking questions was identified as a form of promoting recollection in the student (col. 53:2-3).

  • 38 See also Bonazzi 2008, 236-237, who generally stresses the theological dimension of Alexandrian Pla (...)

20The last aspect of the commentary, which deserves our particular attention, is the interpretation of the religious dimension of the Platonic passage38. God’s role in the process of epistemology is stressed. Initially, he is said to have « prepared the souls not to learn, but to recollect » (col. 55:27-30). Alluding to a dialectic, which is unfortunately not further explained, the commentator briefly states: « if [the soul] gave birth through him [god], then it would no longer be recollection » (55:30-4). It is implied that divine impregnation is a safe way to knowledge, which circumvents the fallacies of normal epistemological processes. The commentary has thus reached an intellectual climax, dissolving the contrast between Socrates’ self-professed lack of wisdom and his promise of true insight by the notion of a spiritual birth fathered by god.

  • 39 Gen. 18:11; Philo interprets the Septuagint expression τὰ γυναικεῖα no longer in a physical sense, (...)

21In the Allegorical Commentary Philo eagerly develops this approach further. We have already seen that he identified Plato’s male-midwifery as a key to positive epistemology. Probably aware of the ideas expressed in the anonymous commentary on the Theaetetus, he stresses the religious dimension of this image. He mentions in this context the Biblical motif of Abraham’s ecstasy at the time of sun set (Gen. 15:9), interpreting it as an allusion to prophetic inspiration, which visits man only after his own mind, the sun, has completely set (Her. 249-266). The dialectic between human apprehension and Divine inspiration is further developed in numerous interpretations of the Biblical matriarchs, who are interpreted as allegories of souls having intercourse with God. Philo stresses that Divine impregnation can only take place when the senses are « barren » (Her. 51). Sarah, who is said to be menopausal and thus to have « left the ways of women », namely the senses, is a key-figure in this context39. She represents in Philo’s view a virtuous soul, which has intercourse with God, receives His sperm and thus gives birth to true wisdom (Cher. 43-45).

  • 40 For further details, see Niehoff 2010, chap. 8.

22This bold erotic language as well as the overriding emphasis on Divine impregnation, which replaces human epistemology, distinguishes Philo among Alexandrian Platonists. While the anonymous commentator on the Theaetetus had already led the way from a devaluation of the senses to a greater trust in God, Philo fully developed this approach into a distinctly religious belief. He was encouraged to do so by his close readings of the Mosaic Scriptures. Rejecting the critical, literary approach of his Jewish colleagues in Alexandria, Philo believed in the truth of the Biblical text and was eager to uncover hidden meanings in order to justify what would otherwise appear to be flaws40. For him, Scripture not only affirmed the existence of God, but also showed His benevolence towards man. Nothing in the text should be taken to indicate a less than proper religious and philosophical outlook.

23Philo’s interpretation of Eve precisely follows this pattern: he initially acknowledges that the literal account of her creation from Adam’s rib looks utterly “mythical” and then proceeds to interpret her as an allegory of sense-perception added to the previously created mind, symbolized by Adam (All. 2:19-24). Sense-perception is thus associated with the feminine realm, which prevents true wisdom and virtue (All. 2:44-48). While God’s opening of Leah’s womb is already mentioned here, it is only in subsequent contexts that Philo fully develops this allegory, reading the Biblical stories in light of the Theaetetus and, vice versa, the Theaetetus in light of Scripture. Deeply appreciating the Mosaic and the Platonic writings, Philo is able to stress a bold view of human epistemology, which is firmly anchored in religious beliefs.

24Moreover, the ethical dimension of the Theaetetus played an important role for Philo in the Allegorical Commentary. A central notion of the Platonic dialogue, namely the flight from this world, became the subject of a whole treatise of his Bible commentary (Fuga 2). Philo explicitly draws a connection between Scripture and Plato’s dialogue, referring to Theaet. 176a-d as a « noble utterance in the Theaetetus, where a man highly esteemed, one of those admired for their wisdom says… » (Fuga 63).

  • 41 Fuga 63 quoting Theaet. 176a.

25Interpreting Biblical stories about human refuge in light of the Theaetetus, Philo initially addresses the question of why Cain was protected by God on his flight rather than being killed. This difficulty on the literal level is solved by reference to Socrates, who asserted that « evils can never pass away »41. Philo then continues to quote additional lines from the Platonic dialogue, which are not immediately necessary for his argument. These lines are the famous sentences about the flight from earth to heaven (Fuga 63, quoting Theaet. 176b):

Wherefore we ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like god, as far as possible (φυγὴ δὲ ὁμοίωσιϛ θεῷ κατὰ τὸ δυνατόν) and to become like him is to become just, holy and wise.

  • 42 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:43 - 55:13; 7:14-20; see also Helleman 1990, 53-55, who noted a significant c (...)

26This passage from the Theaetetus was a central topic of discussion among Alexandrian Platonists. While we have hints in the extant parts of the anonymous commentary indicating as much, the columns directly interpreting the passage are unfortunately lost42. Luckily, we have Eudorus’ view preserved by Stobaeus. After identifying assimilation to god as the aim of ethics, Eudorus dwells on the precise meaning of this ideal and its limitations (Stob., Ecl. 2:66, ed. Meineke 21):

Plato describes this most clearly, adding “as far as possible”, wisely referring only to what was possible (μόνωϛ δυνατόν), namely [becoming like god] through virtue. The creation and government of the world belong to god, while the organization of life and the management of one’s existence belong to the wise man.

  • 43 See also Bonazzi 2008, 241-250, who stresses the tendency of Alexandrian Platonism towards transcen (...)

27Eudorus stresses here the essential gulf between man and god. The ideal of assimilation must, in his view, be appreciated in the specific sense of man imitating god’s virtue. This emphasis on the limitations of assimilation reflects a keen interest in the topic and probably responds to some previous speculations43.

  • 44 ̔Ο τῶν κακῶν καθαρὸϛ τόποϛ (Theaet. 177e).
  • 45 ̓Αλλὰ δι’ ὑπονοιῶν αὐτὸν τὸν θεόν (Fuga 75).

28Philo directly relates to this Alexandrian discussion and provides an innovative solution. Reading the Theaetetus in light of Biblical verses about a place of refuge for unintentional slayers (Ex. 21:12-14), he creatively weaves together motifs from both texts. Philo praises the Biblical term “place”, stressing that it « seems to me excellently said » (Fuga 75). The word τόποϛ must have aroused his attention, because it is also mentioned by Plato just after the Theaetetus passage, which he has quoted in detail. Socrates speaks here about the penalty of the wicked, who will be condemned to an evil life on earth, while « the blessed place that is pure of all evil will not receive them after death »44. God, the object of man’s assimilation, is thus implicitly associated with a place as well as with life after death. Philo creatively uses these themes, insisting that the term “place” in the Biblical text cannot be taken literally as a reference to a physical space, referring instead «  allegorically to God Himself »45.

  • 46 Fuga 77, referring to Deut. 19:2-5.

29Philo moreover recalls other Biblical verses mentioning places of refuge for slayers, giving special attention to the six cities of refuge46. The latter motif is interpreted in light of Theaet. 176c, where Socrates insists on the absolute righteousness of god, who must not be associated with any evil (Fuga 82). Philo undoubtedly understood Socrates’ statement ἡ μὲν γὰρ τούτου γνῶσιϛ σοφία as a reference to knowing God. True wisdom thus consists in knowing Him. Philo furthermore wonders how such insight can be gained in the context of assimilation to God. The Biblical motif of six cities of refuge provides him with an answer. Assuming that the place of refuge spoken of is God, Philo takes these cities to be six aspects of God, which can be reached by different kinds of persons. The ethically and philosophically most advanced person will take refuge to the « best mother-city », namely the Divine Logos. The other five cities represent His lower powers, ranging from the creative force to judgment, grace as well as the prescriptive and prohibitive aspects of the Deity (Fuga 94-95).

30Philo’s description of the most elated fugitive directly echoes Platonic language, showing beautifully how he read Mosaic Scripture and the Theaetetus in light of each other (Fuga 97):

[Moses] bids the swift runner to exert himself and run without taking a breath towards the supreme Divine Logos, Who is the source of wisdom, in order that he may draw from the stream and gain as a prize eternal life rather than death.

  • 47 The second century CE philosopher Albinus, for example, stresses that assimilation to God cannot re (...)

31Explaining the notion of refuge to the six cities in light of the Theaetetus, Philo has developed important new concepts, which enrich the interpretation of both texts. While sharing Eudorus’ concern for the essential difference between man and god, Philo insists that the gulf can be overcome, because aspects of Him can be known and reached by man. While God remains unique and unattainable in His essence, His Logos as well as His other Potencies can be approached. The significance of Philo’s intellectual achievement can be appreciated by looking at later Platonists, who regularly assumed intermediary figures to be the object of man’s assimilation to God47.

  • 48 On Philo as a mystic, see Liebes 2000, 73-110; Schäfer 2009, 154-174, and literature there.

32Reading the Mosaic and Platonic Scriptures in light of each other, Philo has offered both a distinct epistemology, which focuses on Divine impregnation, and a new notion of assimilation to God, which refers to His potencies. Recalling additional Biblical verses about « cleaving to the Lord » (Deut. 4:4) and « loving Him » (Deut. 30:20), Philo develops a mystical approach (Fuga 56-58)48. While Philo addressed in the Allegorical Commentary an internal Jewish audience, it is remarkable that some of his bold erotic language later resurfaces in Plotinus and the medieval Jewish Kabbalists. While none of them mentions his name, surely never having heard of his work, they nevertheless speak his religious language.

2. Philo’s Platonism in his treatise On the Eternity of the World

  • 49 For references to the Timaeus in the Allegorical Commentary, see esp. Plant. 131, Her. 246; Runia 1 (...)
  • 50 Stob., Ecl. 2:68, ed. Meineke 21.
  • 51 Plut., An. procr. 1013A-B; for details on Xenocrates and Crantor’s interpretations, see Niehoff 200 (...)
  • 52 See also Boyancé 1963, 79-80; contra Baltes 1972, 22, 26.
  • 53 Plutarch, who disagreed with the communis opinio, recorded the continuous influence of Xenocrates a (...)

33After completing the Allegorical Commentary Philo began to focus attention on the Timaeus. While he had previously used expressions from this dialogue, he now made it a central piece of his philosophy and Bible exegesis49. This move is remarkable in the context of Alexandria, where the Timaeus had been acknowledged as an important work of Plato, but not yet drawn the intensive kind of attention devoted to the Theaetetus. We have already seen that Eudorus identified the Timaeus as an expression of Plato’s dogma regarding physics50. The same author is mentioned by Plutarch as a metaphorical interpreter of the dialogue, following Xenocrates and Crantor, according to whom the creation of both the world and the soul are mere figures of speech not to be taken literally51. This is the only information we have about Eudorus’ interpretation of the Timaeus, certainly not enough to conjecture a whole commentary, as has sometimes been suggested52. Eudorus rather emerges as a traditional thinker with regard to the Timaeus, who related to the two most discussed aspects of the dialogue and adopted the prevalent position53. He seems to have had a much keener interest in the Theaetetus and devoted far more attention to a critique of Aristotle’s Categories.

  • 54 Aet. 49, 79-84; see also Arnaldez 1969, 55-56; Runia 1981, 124-126; Michel 1998, 497-498.
  • 55 Aet. 20-149, esp. 43, 76, 83. The subject of conflagration has been surprisingly ignored by scholar (...)
  • 56 Aet. 48, 90, 94, 76. Stoic views are explicitly mentioned in Aet. 4, 8, 18, 54, 76, 78, 102.
  • 57 Arius Didymus apud Stob., Ecl. 2:51 = SVF 1:552, 3:16; ed. and translation into English by Pomeroy (...)

34Philo drew attention to the Timaeus in the context of the question whether the world is destructible. His professed target is the Stoic theory of conflagration, which assumes a continuous cycle of world destructions and new creations (Aet. 8-10). Philo rejects this view of the Stoics, because it assumes a demiurge not protecting his creation from the destructive fire. The notion of Divine providence (πρόνοια) is thus abandoned54. It is remarkable how central the Stoics have become in this context. Philo devotes almost the entire treatise to a description of various Stoic views and their refutation, relying also on Theophrastus’ earlier arguments against this school55. Throughout the Allegorical Commentary he had mentioned the conflagration only once (Her. 228) and never explicitly referred to the Stoics. In his treatise On the Eternity, by contrast, he distinguishes Chrysippus as « the most esteemed » of the Stoics from Cleantes, Panaitius and others56. Posidonius and Antiochus are strikingly missing from this list. Philo focuses on the traditional or “orthodox” Stoics, who enjoyed a considerable revival in the work of Arius Didymus as well as Philo’s direct contemporary Seneca57.

  • 58 The Aristotelian orientation of the Alexandrian library, the Museum as well as the vast output of H (...)
  • 59 Regarding Apollodorus, see FGH 2:1021-1023, test. 1, 5; regarding Didymus, see Plut., Ant. 80.
  • 60 Philo introduces this anecdote as something he has heard (ὡϛ ἔστιν ἀκούειν, Aet. 11).

35Philo’s growing interest in the Stoics is remarkable in Alexandria where the Aristotelian tradition had been dominant58. To be sure, Apollodorus and Arius Didymus had developed an interest in Stoic philosophy before him, but they left the city for Athens and Rome respectively, Arius becoming Augustus’ court philosopher59. Wishing to refute the notion of conflagration, Philo initially appeals to Peripatetic views, which he could expect to be appealing in Alexandria. He thus reports an anecdote about Aristotle, who mockingly suggested that the idea of a conflagration provokes worse fears than the prospect of one’s house being ruined60. This pseudepigraphic tradition is approved, Aristotle being praised for having spoken « piously and wisely » (Aet. 10). Philo furthermore appeals to the wider discussion of Aristotle’s position (Aet. 12):

Some say that the author of this doctrine was not Aristotle but certain Pythagoreans. I have read (ἐνέτυχον) a work written by Ocellus a Lucian, entitled “Concerning the Nature of the Universe”, in which he not only declares that the universe is uncreated and indestructible, but shows it by demonstrations.

  • 61 Cf. Aet. 5-6 to Oc., Nat. Univ. 1:4-6, ed. Mullachius 153-154.
  • 62 Cf. Aet. 5 (ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντοϛ οὐδὲν γίνεται οὐδ’ εἰϛ τὸ μὴ
    ὂν φθείρεται) to Oc., Nat. Univ. (...)

36Philo relates here for the first time in the extant literature from Antiquity to a work, which was subsequently identified as a source of inspiration for Plato, who supposedly received it from a Pythagorean friend (D.L. 8:80). Ocellus’ treatise sought to refute the idea of conflagration on Aristotelian grounds and evidently impressed Philo. He indeed follows it closely in his opening remarks, distinguishing, like Ocellus, two meanings of the term destruction, namely change from better to worse and complete annihilation61. Philo rejects the latter meaning like his predecessor, insisting with him that « nothing comes into being out of the non-existent, and nothing is destroyed into non-existence »62.

  • 63 ὑπὸ Πλάτωνοϛ ἐν Τιμαίῳ δηλοῦσθαι (Aet. 13).

37While Ocellus had revived Aristotelian arguments, stressing man’s direct experience of a stable world, Philo introduces a distinctly textual and scholastic dimension. He draws attention to the Timaeus as an authoritative text, where Plato shows that the universe is both created and indestructible63. A full quotation of the scene of the gods’ assembly is provided, where the eldest deity presents himself as the Maker and Father protecting his creation from dissolution (Aet. 14). The paradox of a creation, which is nevertheless indestructible, is thus solved by reference to god’s personal will.

38Significantly departing from his Aristotelian predecessors in Alexandria as well as from Eudorus, Philo insisted that the scene of the assembly of gods leads to an overall literal interpretation of the Timaeus. He was acutely aware of the fact that his position countered the prevalent metaphorical interpretation of Plato’s dialogue. Aristotle had already mentioned some students of Plato, who took the Platonic notion of creation as a mere image « for the purpose of instruction » (Caelo 280a2). Philo not only opposes such interpretations, but accuses its advocates of tampering with the text (Aet. 14):

Some believe, producing falsifications (σοφιζόμενοι), that when Plato spoke of the cosmos as being created (κατὰ Πλάτωνα γενητὸν λέγεσθαι τὸν κόσμον), he did not mean a beginning of creation, but rather implied that, if really it had been created (εἴπερ ἐγίγνετο), it would not have been formed in any other way than that mentioned or else that [the cosmos was spoken of as created] because its parts were observed to come into being and undergo change.

  • 64 Dillon 1989, 59.
  • 65 Tim. 27c (ed. Burnet 1902); see also Dillon 1989, 57, on this “ideologically neutral” and thus orig (...)
  • 66 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 186.

39Philo refers here to the famous passage in Tim. 27c, which Alexander of Aphrodisias subsequently identified as a prime locus of ideological text emendations. John Dillon has shown that Alexander is an important witness to earlier tampering with the text64. Metaphorical readers had changed Timaeus’ opening remark « we who are now to discourse about the universe – how it came into being or perhaps had no beginning of existence (ἧ|ͅ γέγονεν ἢ καὶ ἀγενέϛ ἐστιν)65. The Christian writer John Philophonus mentions the following reading of the second century Platonist Tauros: εἰ γέγονεν εἰ καὶ ἀγενέϛ ἐστιν66. Taurus thus used a Vorlage, which perfectly suited his own metaphorical interpretation by suggesting that the notion of creation was only a vague option temporarily raised by Plato.

40Dillon tentatively suggested Tauros as the probable emendator. The Philonic evidence, however, leads us to look for an earlier figure. Philo may provide our earliest indication of a tampering with Tim. 27c. His criticism of metaphorical readers, who misrepresented Plato’s notion of γενητόν as εἴπερ ἐγίγνετο refers precisely to the passage in question and anticipates Tauros’ reading. Philo is likely to have been familiar with a text of the Timaeus, which had already been adapted to the metaphorical reading.

  • 67 Tarrant 1993, 178-213.
  • 68 For details on Thrasyllus’ theory of the Logos, based on the fragments from Porphyry, see Tarrant 1 (...)
  • 69 Cic., ND 2:142; Lévy 2003, 106, who identified this argument as a Stoic reading of the Timaeus, whi (...)

41Can such a metaphorical interpreter and emendator of the Timaeus be identified? Harold Tarrant forcefully argued that Thrasyllus, Philo’s slightly older contemporary in Rome, who was also of Alexandrian origin, played an influential role in the editing of Plato’s works67. Believing in philosophy as a sacred rite, Thrasyllus was not reluctant to introduce subtle changes to the texts in order to adapt them to his own philosophical tendencies. Tim. 27c, however, is not mentioned by Tarrant. Could Thrasyllus nevertheless have been responsible for this fateful change of the Platonic text? Thrasyllus’ theory of a two-fold Logos renders him a likely candidate. The Stoicizing idea of an immanent Logos, which is the ultimate source of all existence as well as its controller, would seem to support a metaphorical reading of the Timaeus68. Thrasyllus is thus likely to have emended the mythological image of the Platonic creator god, suggesting instead the more philosophical notion of a prime cause on which the cosmos is continually dependent. Cicero’s Stoic spokesman Balbus argued in this spirit that Nature is the most cunning artificer, alone able to produce as skillful a construction as the human senses69.

  • 70 in Timaeo mundum, aedificavit Platonis deus (Disp. Tusc. 1:63); si semper fuerunt, ut Aristoteli pl (...)
  • 71 See also Cic., Tim. 5, ed. Ax 1938. Given Cicero’s academic affiliation, demonstrated by Lévy 1992, (...)

42Moreover, living in Rome, Thrasyllus is likely to have reacted to Cicero’s recent work on the Timaeus. The latter not only translated significant parts of this dialogue, but also distinguished Plato’s literal notion of creation from Aristotle’s assumption of an eternal world. While Cicero introduced in his translation a certain Stoicizing dimension to the Timaeus, he insisted that « Plato’s god in the Timaeus created the world », while according to Aristotle things « have always existed »70. Cicero thus kept the Platonic and the Aristotelian tradition strictly apart and drew new attention to Plato’s original image of a creator god71. If Thrasyllus indeed favoured a metaphorical reading of the Timaeus, as is likely, he could easily have regarded it necessary to counter Cicero’s work by circulating the “proper” version of the dialogue.

  • 72 Whether or not Aristarchus ever pronounced the famous principle, preserved by Porphyry, that « Home (...)
  • 73 For details, see Niehoff 2010, chapter 8.

43Philo responded to the recent interpretations of Tim. 27c by a typically Alexandrian device: he sought to establish the authorial intention of the disputed line by considering it in the context of the overall literary work. Alexandrian Homer scholars had developed this method, reaching a climax with Aristarchus in the second century BCE72. Among Homeric scholars in Alexandria and, following them, Jewish Bible exegetes every line of the foundational text was studied in light of the author’s overall style and message. In the Allegorical Commentary Philo had studied the Mosaic Scriptures by paying careful attention to Moses’ intention and characteristic style73. This hermeneutic method could now be applied to the Timaeus. Philo insists that the literal interpretation of Tim. 27c is « more truthful » to the fact that Plato « throughout the whole treatise » (διὰ παντὸϛ τοῦ συγγράμματοϛ) calls the demiurge « Father and Maker and Artificer » (Aet. 15).

  • 74 Aet. 16 referring to Ar., Caelo 280a; for details on Philo’s praise of Aristotle in this context, s (...)

44Philo furthermore explains in view of his Alexandrian audience that Aristotle attests the original literal meaning of the Timaeus. Praising Aristotle lavishly as Plato’s outstanding student and most reliable philosopher, Philo draws attention to his famous criticism of Plato’s theory of creation, which assumes a literal interpretation of the Timaeus74. This argument, too, derives from Philo’s wish to establish Plato’s authorial intention. The internal literary considerations, to which he had already referred, are now complemented by external evidence from a student known to have been close to Plato.

45In the last part of his discussion Philo points out that long before Hesiod and Plato « Moses the lawgiver of the Jews said in the Holy Books that the cosmos is created and indestructible » (Aet. 19). He uses the same phrase as for the description of Plato’s position, namely γενητὸν καὶ ἄφθαρτον ἔφη τὸν κόσμον. Explaining to his non-Jewish audience that the Torah contains five books, the first of which is called Genesis, Philo quotes Gen. 1:1 and freely paraphrases Gen. 8:22 in support of his argument.

46Philo’s introduction of the Mosaic Scriptures to the philosophical discourse in Alexandria is highly significant. It is obviously not prompted by apologetic motifs, as the Genesis account is apparently unknown to his audience and is thus unlikely to have provoked critical reactions, which required a response. Rather, Philo seems to point to his source of inspiration. The striking parallel between the Biblical creation account and the literal interpretation of the Timaeus led him to insist on the latter against the advocates of a metaphorical interpretation. In this context, too, Philo emerges as a thinker, who read the Mosaic and the Platonic texts in light of each other, making substantial new contributions to the interpretation of Plato’s dialogues. His firm belief in the absolute truth of Scripture, which he saw confirmed by Plato, encouraged him to advocate views, which countered current fashions among readers of Plato’s works in Alexandria. Philo’s re-discovery of the Timaeus further strengthened the religious orientation of Alexandrian Platonism. His insistence on the literal meaning of the dialogue drew attention to an interpretation, which had been advocated by Cicero in Rome.

47Philo thus developed a distinct form of Platonism in his treatise On the Eternity of the World. His detailed discussion of Stoic views as well as his response to what appears like a very early tampering with the text of the Timaeus suggests that he began to pay attention to Roman discussions. Seeing that Philo’s treatise was addressed to a wider, non-Jewish audience, we must ask whether his views were noted by subsequent Platonists. While his name is not explicitly mentioned in the extant discussions of the Timaeus, literary evidence indicates that Philo’s treatise had some influence. Both the author of the anonymous treatise On the Nature of the World and the Soul and the second century Platonist Tauros seem to have taken it seriously.

  • 75 Baltes 1972, 19-20, 23-24.
  • 76 Ibid. 23.
  • 77 Both arguments against a first century BCE date can be found in Baltes 1972, 21-23.

48The treatise On the Nature of the World and the Soul by the pseudepigraphic Timaeus of Locros (TL) has been described by Matthias Baltes as a rather unoriginal work of a student, who frequently refers to what « one says »75. Baltes pointed to TL’s proximity to Eudorus, especially in matters of the soul, and saw him as belonging to his circle of students76. At the same time, however, he admitted that this early dating can be questioned by considering that TL is first mentioned only in the second century CE. Moreover, Baltes identified important notions in TL, such as the contrast between an ideal and a sense-perceptible cosmos, which appear for the first time in Philo’s writings77. These problems encourage us to date the TL after Philo and to suggest that Philo, the more original thinker, may have had a significant impact on this pseudepigraphic writer. The very fact that a writer with little intellectual initiative wrote a treatise, purporting to present the original ideas of the Timaeus, is likely to reflect the efforts of Philo, who had drawn special attention to this dialogue. While Eratosthenes and Eudorus had discussed the notion of the soul in the Timaeus, Philo had taken a serious interest in its cosmology and stressed the overall authority of this text.

49Moreover, TL advocates the literal creation of the world without justifying his position. As we have seen, Philo wrote at a time when the metaphorical interpretation of the Timaeus was so prevalent that he made special efforts to argue for its literal sense. Eudorus himself had followed Xenocrates and Crantor, favouring a metaphorical reading. An unoriginal mind such as TL would hardly have departed from his teacher’s dogma, certainly not without providing some explanation. We thus have to look in another direction.

  • 78 TL 8; note that Plato used the terms ἀπειργάζετο and δεδημιούργηται (Tim. 28c, 29a). Before the Chr (...)
  • 79 TL 9, cf. Philo, Aet. 13; see also Baltes 1972, 55, who recognized the background of Tim. 41a7, wit (...)

50Important clues are provided by the fact that TL closely echoes Philo’s language and arguments. TL’s use of the Septuagint expression « [god] created (ἐποίησεν) the world » is striking in light of the fact that pagans at that time were still ignorant of the Greek Bible78. This expression, however, had been quoted by Philo in Aet. 19 and is thus likely to have inspired TL. Moreover, TL follows Philo’s lead in stressing the importance of the scene of the assembly of gods as a key to understanding the paradox of a creation, which is at the same time indestructible. TL stresses with Philo that the creator god « would never want to dissolve » the world, which he himself has created79. The style and contents of TL suggest Philo’s impact in Alexandria. He seems to have convinced at least one other Platonist that the Timaeus is a central Platonic text, whose creation account needs to be taken literally.

  • 80 Cf. Arnaldez 1969, 58-62, who pointed to some resemblances between Philo’s discussion On the Eterni (...)
  • 81 διαφόρωϛ περὶ τούτου οἱ φιλόσοφοι ἠνέχθησαν (apud Philop., Aet. 6:8, ed. Rabe 145).
  • 82 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 186.
  • 83 This conclusion corresponds to the image of Tauros, offered by Dörrie 1973, reprinted 1976, 312-313 (...)

51Philo’s influence is moreover visible in a subsequent Platonist, who did not embrace his interpretation of the Timaeus. Tauros enthusiastically advocated a metaphorical reading of Plato’s creation account, but apparently took Philo’s interpretation so seriously that he responded to its details in the process of expounding his own view80. In contrast to earlier metaphorical interpreters of the Timaeus, Tauros admitted from the beginning that the precise meaning of Tim. 27c was highly controversial. « Philosophers », he said, « differ in their opinion regarding this »81. Moreover, he relies on the emended text, as we have seen before, and makes a special effort to justify it by reference to Il. 3:21582. This additional proof-text indicates that Tauros could no longer use the emended version in the same naïve spirit as those metaphorical readers mentioned by Philo. He probably read Philo’s criticism of it and supported his choice by appealing to Homer’s authority83.

52Unlike earlier metaphorical interpreters of the Timaeus, Tauros admits that Plato plainly speaks of the creation of the world on the literal level. He suggests that Plato thus spoke to unsophisticated readers, while dropping hints for philosophers able to perceive the truth, namely that the world is uncreated. Strikingly, the motivation Tauros attributes to Plato is precisely Philo’s argument about providence:

  • 84 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 87, translation by Taylor 1831, 45-46.

For Plato, knowing that the multitude apprehend that alone to be a cause which has a precedence in time, and not conceiving it possible for anything otherwise to be the cause, and also inferring, from this opinion, that they might be led to disbelieve in the existence of providence (περὶ προνοίαϛ), wishing likewise to inculcate this dogma that the world is governed by providence (βουλόμενοϛ δὲ τοῦτο τὸ δόγμα ἐμποιῆσαι ὅτι προνοίᾳ ὁ κόσμοϛ διοικεῖται), he tacitly manifests it to those who are abundantly able to understand that the world is unbegotten according to time; but to those who are not able to understand this he indicates that it is created. He is also anxious that they may believe this, in order that at the same time they may be persuaded in the existence of providence (εὔχεταὶ γε πιστεῦσαι αὐτοὺϛ ἵνα ἅμα πειαθῶσιν καὶ περὶ τῆϛ προνοίαϛ)84.

53This passage shows that while Tauros prefers the metaphorical interpretation of the Timaeus, he is acutely aware of the theological advantages of the literal reading. Indeed, the notion that Plato teaches the dogma of providence in this dialogue seems to be presupposed. As we saw before, it was Philo, who had drawn attention to this religious dimension of the Timaeus, using it as authoritative evidence against what appeared to him as the Stoic denial of providence. Tauros probably took the literal meaning of the Timaeus seriously, because he was familiar with Philo’s arguments. An additional indication of Philo’s influence is the fact that Tauros gives special attention to Aristotle’s and Theophrastus’ interpretations of this dialogue, trying to show that they were on his side rather than on the side of literal readers, such as Philo.

3. Philo as a Platonist in Stoic Garb in the Exposition

  • 85 Regarding the time-span of the embassies in Rome, see Harker 2008, 9-47; regarding the violence in (...)
  • 86 Philo, Spec. 1:1, 2:60; regarding the Roman background of these stereotypes, see Schäfer 1997, 82-9 (...)

54Philo played special attention to the Timaeus in his treatise On the Creation of the World (Opif.), where he turned to a Roman audience in the defense of Judaism. As the head of the Jewish embassy to Gaius, sent to Rome in order to secure Jewish rights after the pogrom in Alexandria, Philo was well aware of the fact that Jews and their traditions did not enjoy the most favourable reputation in the capital. The members of the parallel Egyptian embassy, Apion and Chaermon, who also spent at least three years in Rome, made considerable efforts to expose their disadvantages85. Philo was thus particularly sensitive to Roman stereotypes, such as the image of circumcision as a barbaric rite and Sabbath observance as an expression of Jewish laziness86.

  • 87 Regarding the dating of the Exposition, see esp. Spec. 3:1-1, where Philo complains about having re (...)
  • 88 The expression of a therapy of the soul is borrowed from Seneca’s biographer Griffin 2008, 23-58; r (...)
  • 89 Schwabe 1931, XXV-XXVIII, also noted Stoic elements besides a strong influence of Plato’s Timaeus, (...)

55By the time Philo wrote his Exposition, probably in the early 40s CE, Rome was intellectually in the midst of an orthodox Stoic revival87. Augustus’ court philosopher Arius Didymus had shown the way; Philo’s direct contemporary Seneca developed an influential therapy of the soul on the basis of earlier Stoic thinkers88. Philo was eager to appeal to a Roman audience, presenting Judaism in a way that would appear positive in their eyes and related to the current discussion. The result was a considerable shift of focus. While retaining his Platonic orientation and special appreciation of the Timaeus, which aroused little interest in contemporary Rome, Philo now made efforts to present the message of the dialogue in a manner more palatable for Roman tastes89. At stake was especially the question whether Plato could be interpreted as advocating a Stoic type of immanentist philosophy. While speaking in a Roman voice, Philo tried to harmonize what were in fact unbridgeable contrasts, thus creating some internal tensions in On the Creation.

56It is initially remarkable that throughout the treatise Philo mentions with no word the Stoic notion of conflagration. While this doctrine had been his main target in On the Eternity, he now avoids stating an explicit contrast between the Mosaic Scriptures and a significant principle of Stoicism. Philo thus no longer accuses the Stoic school of abandoning belief in providence. Even at the end of the treatise On the Creation, where Philo contrasts Moses’ dogma to a variety of other philosophical positions, the Stoics are not mentioned. While Philo contrasts the Mosaic school to both Aristotelian notions of the world’s eternity and polytheistic beliefs, he ignores the Stoic notion of a conflagration (Opif. 170-171). This notion, however, was evidently on Philo’s mind, because he cautiously criticizes the assumption that there are « many worlds » (Opif. 171).

57While Philo had previously criticized current metaphorical interpretations of the Timaeus, thus responding to recent interpretations and probably also to earlier text emendations, he now chooses a far more cautious approach. He no longer presents his views in a straightforward and confrontational manner, but instead provides explanations, which a Roman reader could easily understand in a specifically Stoic sense. Philo thus presents both the Timaeus and the Mosaic creation account wrapped in the language of the contemporary Roman discourse.

58Philo opens his account On the Creation by his famous consideration of the connection between Scripture and the Law of Nature. The very fact that Moses started his law book with an account of the creation of the world suggests in Philo’s view the following philosophical conclusions (Opif. 3; translated by D. Runia with changes):

The beginning is, as I said, most marvelous. It contains an account of the making of the world, implying that the world is in harmony with the law and the law with the world (ὡϛ τοῦ κόσμου τῷ νόμῳ καὶ τοῦ νόμου τῷ κόσμῳ συνᾴδοντοϛ) and that the man who observes the law is thus a citizen of the world (καὶ τοῦ νομίμου ἀνδρὸϛ εὐθὺϛ ὄντοϛ κοσμοπολίτου), directing his actions in relation to the [rational] purpose of nature, in accordance with which the entire world also is administered.

  • 90 See esp. Post. 27; Det. 30; All. 3:145, where man’s nature is identified with his bodily needs and (...)
  • 91 See the different formulations of this ideal carefully preserved by Arius apud Stob., Ecl. 51, 6a, (...)
  • 92 Sen., Ep. 95:51-3, 45:9, 90:34; Ira 1:5-6; Inwood 2005, 224-248.
  • 93 See esp. Seneca’s view in Ep. 65:19.

59While Philo in the Allegorical Commentary referred to the notion of φύσιϛ in a variety of ways, sometimes even in the opposite sense of the Stoics90, he now invites his readers to consider Moses as devout Stoic. He suggests that the Jewish lawgiver started with the creation account in order to alert his readers to values, which were currently en vogue in Rome. While Arius Didymus in the Augustan period had already stressed that Cleantes, Chrysippus, Diogenes as well as other Stoics defined the aim of ethics as « living in accordance with Nature », Seneca made it a specially central theme of his ethics91. Indeed, if we imagine for a moment Seneca reading Philo’s above-quoted argument, we can easily imagine him agreeing enthusiastically. Seneca would have responded by stressing that he, too, speaks of the laws of nature and the brotherhood of man constituted by nature. He also believed in nature’s rational purpose, guiding everything according to a stable, yet hidden plan, which man is invited to accept as part of his ethical orientation in life92. Reading the above Philonic passage, Seneca would moreover have been impressed that Moses was a Stoic in the sense that he, too, stressed Nature as the artificer of everything rather than a personal creator God93.

60If Seneca had continued to read Philo’s treatise On the Creation, he would have encountered other highly congenial material. Occasionally, he would have been surprised to come across different, far more transcendental perspectives, but then he would be reassured by Philo’s additional explanations, that his overall impression of a deep convergence between Mosaic and Stoic doctrine is appropriate. Seneca would thus have been gratified to learn from Philo that Moses recognized the following principle (Opif. 8-9; translated by D. Runia with changes):

It is absolutely necessary that among existing things (ἐν τοῖϛ οὖσι) there is an activating cause on the one hand and a passive object on the other (τὸ μὲν εἶναι δραστήριον αἴτιον, τὸ δὲ παθητόν), and that the activating cause is the absolutely pure and unadulterated intellect of the universe (ὁ τῶν ὅλων νοῦϛ), superior to excellence and superior to knowledge and even superior to the good and the beautiful itself. But the passive object, which is of itself without soul and unmoved, when set in motion and shaped and ensouled by the intellect (ὑπὸ τοῦ νοῦ͂), changed into the most perfect piece of work, this world.

  • 94 Lévy 2003, 104; for indications of earlier Stoic appropriations of the Timaeus, see Sedley 2007, 22 (...)
  • 95 See also Lévy 2008, 18, who stresses the similarity between the Philonic and the Ciceronian passage (...)

61Any contemporary Roman reader would easily recognize the above passage as an exposition of Stoic philosophy. The Stoic spokesman in Cicero’s Academica had already postulated that the physics of his school rested on a system « that combines the efficient cause (ex effectione) and matter (ex materia), which is fashioned and shaped by the efficient cause » (Ac. 1:6). Cicero himself had translated the term οὐσία in the Timaeus as “material”, thus significantly contributing to the Roman interpretation of the dialogue94. Philo’s explanations thus read almost like a translation of such Latin discussions95. At heart, however, he evidently remained a Platonist. In the above passage his original transcendental perspective is echoed in the phrase about the mind of the universe being « superior to excellence and superior to knowledge and even superior to the good and the beautiful itself ».

  • 96 Opif. 12 analyzed by Runia 1986, 93-95; Runia 2001, 119-121.
  • 97 Sterling 1992 and Winston 1980.

62Accusing now the Aristotelians of denying providence when advocating an eternal world, Philo introduces the Timaeus almost through the backdoor. He points to the « Father and Maker » of the universe, who takes care of his creation (Opif. 9-10). Moreover, in a passage which David Runia has rightly identified as being closely modeled on Tim. 27e-28b Philo offers Platonic ontology, distinguishing between true being and creation96. At this point we can imagine Seneca raising a brow, wondering whether Philo indeed thought of Moses as believing in a personal creator God, without whom the visible world could not have been shaped. This image may well have appeared too mythological. Seneca’s doubts, however, would subsequently have been diffused. Philo would have appeared as merely using a more personal language for the previously mentioned, abstract notion of an active principle and a passive object. Alternatively, Seneca would have been reassured by Philo’s following interpretation of the six days of creation, where he stresses that no amount of time was necessary for the creation of the world, the number six instead referring to the principle of order that underlies the cosmos (Opif. 13-14). This point is made so forcefully that some modern scholars have interpreted these Philonic statements as an indication that Philo thought of the world as eternal97.

  • 98 Wolfson 1947 1:204-217; see also Runia 2001, 137-139; Radice 2009, 132.

63Similar tensions between more transcendental and more immanentist perspectives are visible in the following section, where Philo introduces the notion of a beautiful pattern and an intelligible Idea (Opif. 16). Using Classical Platonic terms, such as ἰδέα and παράδειγμα, Philo closely follows Tim. 28a5-b2. Harry Wolfson already noted that Philo significantly departs from his Vorlage when suggesting that God first « formed the intelligible world » (προεξετύπου τὸν νοητόν)98. The pattern was thus created rather than being eternally existent, as Plato thought. This innovation on the part of Philo is usually perceived to be an adaptation of Platonic philosophy to Judaism. On this account, Philo the Jew could not accept the notion of a wholly autonomous Idea and thus subsumed it to God’s authority. While this explanation may well have its truth, it is not the whole story. We have to remember that Philo addresses in the Exposition a broader Roman audience. In the Allegorical Commentary, written for Alexandrian Jews, he once spoke of « the idea of ideas », which served God as a pattern in the creation of the world (καθ’ ἣν ὁ θεὸϛ ἐτύπωσε), without mentioning God’s initial shaping of that idea (Migr. 103). What then may have been Philo’s motivation in his treatise On the Creation?

  • 99 Lévy 2003, 100-101.

64Philo was aware of writing to an audience not inclined towards Platonic transcendentalism and thus tried to explain the Timaeus in more palpable, Stoic terms. Cicero in his Latin translation of Tim. 28a-b had already adapted the image of the demiurge to Stoic sensitivities, suggesting that he is a “quasi” creator and “labours to create” (molitur efficere)99. These translations of the Timaeus into Roman language help us to understand Philo’s Exposition. It is remarkable that he devotes nine paragraphs to explain the relationship between the intelligible model and the sense-perceptible copy, being overwhelmingly concerned with the question whether one can think of the model as being « in some place »
(Opif. 17). If indeed one would accept this interpretation, one would reduce the Platonic idea to some material substance or principle. Philo dismisses such an approach, using the image of the architect and his plans for the construction of a city (Opif. 17-20).

  • 100 Opif. 20, 24.
  • 101 εἰ δέ τιϛ ἐθελήσειε γυμνοτέροιϛ χρήσασθαι τοῖϛ ὀνόμασιν (Opif. 24).

65It is well known that Philo’s discussion of the image of the architect is rather convoluted and even implies some contradictions. The intelligible world is thus once said to have its place in the Divine Logos, while in another context it is said to be « nothing else than the word of God when He was engaged in the process of creation »100. The second formulation is significantly introduced by the following phrase: « should someone desire to use simpler words »101. Philo thus proposed it as an explanation for a reader, who may have found the previous discussion a little perplexing. It is highly significant that this explanation is a translation of Platonic transcendentalism into more Stoic notions. The Logos can now be perceived as identical to the ideas and constituting the rational, divine principle of Nature. On this account, the Platonic ideas have become far more material, while the creator God has once more been transformed into more impersonal agency. The process of creation is in the centre rather than a personal Demiurge.

  • 102 Opif. 21; see also Runia 2001, 144.

66Philo has indeed made a considerable compromise with Stoicism. While starting out with a verbatim quotation of Tim. 28a, he offered several interpretations of the relationship between the model and the copy, concluding with a formulation reminiscent of Stoic notions. It is moreover characteristic of his overall intellectual development that his most pointed reference to the Timaeus as « one of the men of old » is a paraphrase of Tim. 29d7-33, where the ungrudging benevolence of the demiurge is mentioned102. The notion of a benevolent power operating in Nature was, of course, also shared by the Stoics. By contrast, the scene of the assembly of gods, where the demiurge asserts his personal power and subdues the laws of Nature, is no longer mentioned. Philo has thus gone a long way from Alexandria, where he had chosen that Platonic scene as the focal point of his discussion in On the Eternity of the World.

67By way of conclusion I would like to stress Philo’s active and creative engagement with Plato’s thought and works. He did not simply follow Alexandrian fashions of philosophy, but read Plato’s works for himself, making significant contributions to the current discussion. The starting point of Philo’s thought on Plato was distinctly Alexandrian. Like his predecessors Eudorus and the anonymous commentator on the Theaetetus, he assumed that Plato advocated dogma. For him, too, epistemology and man’s assimilation to God were central concerns, which were discussed in the context of the Theaetetus. Philo’s simultaneous immersion in the Mosaic Scriptures led him to offer new interpretations of the Platonic dialogue, which stressed God’s role in epistemology and His powers as objects of man’s assimilation.

68Philo’s Jewish background thus contributed to his exegesis of Plato’s works. His firm belief in the truth of Scripture led him to take a pioneering role in the interpretation of the Timaeus. He drew attention to this dialogue in Alexandria, fervently opposing Stoic notions and advocating a scholastic, literal approach to the text. Philo’s position on this issue seems to have enjoyed considerable popularity in Alexandria, leaving an impact on other Platonists, such as Tauros.

69Philo’s contribution to Platonism in the later part of his career is similarly significant, because he offers an innovate synthesis of Platonic transcendentalism and Stoic immanentism. His treatise On the Creation of the World exemplifies the importance of Rome, whose political role had crucial implications for the philosophical discourse of the time. As a Jew, who had experienced ethnic violence in Alexandria and was awaiting Claudius’ verdict, he was especially sensitive to current discourses in Rome. His intellectual flexibility is remarkable and extended to numerous other fields beyond the question of his Platonism. These deserve to be studied on another occasion and indicate the importance of Philo for a proper understanding of Hellenistic philosophy.

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Notes

1 I wish to thank the Israel Science Foundation (grant no. 435/08) for supporting the research on which this article is based. Mauro Bonazzi, Yehuda Liebes, David Runia and two anonymous readers offered constructive comments on an earlier draft. Parts of this article were presented in a French lecture at the Sorbonne on June 12, 2010. I thank the audience, especially Carlos Lévy, for their astute comments.

2 D.L. 3:61-62. While the critical signs correspond in many respects to those developed in connection with Homeric scholarship in Alexandria, there is not sufficient evidence to argue, as Schironi 2005 did, that Aristophanes’ student Aristarchus composed running commentaries on Plato’s works.

3 Tarrant 1993, 11-17; 98-103.

4 See fragments and commentary in Dörrie 1987, 116-133; 350-355; see also Fraser 1972, 1:482-483.

5 Bonazzi 2007; Dillon 1977, 114-135.

6 Tarrant 1983, 180-187; cf. Bonazzi 2003. The commentator’s preoccupation with skepticism in the Academy supports in my view an early first century BCE date. Note that Crantor and other early interpreters of Plato’s works did not yet produce running commentaries, as has sometimes been assumed, but instead interpreted key-passages (Niehoff 2007, 164-170).

7 Baltes 1972, 22-24; Tobin 1985, 5-7.

8 Eus. H.E. 6:19; Porph. On the Life of Plotinus 7-17 = preface to Plot. Ennead I.

9 Boyancé 1963; Boyancé 1967.

10 Runia 1986; Dillon 1977, 139-183; see also Hadas-Lebel 2003, 263-265; Berchman 1984, 23-53.

11 Eudorus and Philo have been interpreted as Stoicizing Platonists by Dillon 1977, 139-183; Reydams-Schils 1999. Philo’s connection to a distinct form of Alexandrian Platonism with Pythagorean tendencies has been stressed by Boyancé 1963; Tarrant 1983; Bonazzi 2008, who also argues for Philo’s original contribution in this context. See also Lévy 1998; Carlier 2008, who have pointed to cases where Philo uses Stoic terms, but subverts their meaning.

12 The exegetical dimension of Philo’s work has been emphasized by Nikiprowetzky 1977 and Runia 1993. Radice 1998 stressed that Philo’s philosophical originality has generally been overlooked by modern scholarship.

13 Inwood 2005.

14 On Philo’s positive attitude towards Greek culture, which was subsequently nuanced by Roman prejudices, see Niehoff 2001, 137-158. Regarding the relationship between Christian thinkers and the Classical tradition, which is often interpreted in terms of a harmonious continuation, see Dörrie 1987, 16-41; Goldhill 2001.

15 Niehoff 2010, chapters 5, 7-8, 10; Niehoff 2010b.

16 Regarding the dating of Philo’s treatise to his mature period, see Runia 1981, 108-109.

17 These two Platonic dialogues are the only ones explicitly referred to in Philo’s work and quoted at length; see the references to the Theaetetus in Fuga 63, 82 and to the Timaeus in Aet. 13-16, 25-27, 38, 52, 141; Opif. 119.

18 Tarrant 1983, 170-172; followed by Sedley 1997, 112-129, who emphasizes the authority given to Plato by the commentator. While Sedley suggested that the emergence of commentary activity has to do with the development of koine Greek, which estranged readers from the Classical texts and thus made explanations necessary, it seems more likely that the anonymous commentary on the Theaetetus emerged under the influence of Homeric scholarship at the Museum in Alexandria.

19 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:39-43 (ed. Diels-Schubart 36); the translation of this passage as well as others in this article is mine.

20 On the use of the term “Academic” in this period, see Tarrant 1983, 187; on the anonymous commentator’s inclusive approach to the Platonic tradition, see Bonazzi 2006.

21 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:43 - 55:13; 7:14-20; see also Tarrant 1983, 180-184; Sedley 1997, 127; Bonazzi 2008, 246-248.

22 Antiochus saw the Stoics as a seamless continuation of Plato and Aristotle (Cic., Ac. 1:17); see also Karamanolis 2006, 44-84.

23 Glucker 1978, 90-97.

24 See also Tarrant 1983, 179-180.

25 The extent of Eudorus’ material in Stobaeus requires systematic study, which I plan to carry out in the future. In the meantime, however, I accept the standard attributions.

26 ἔστι οὖν Εὐδώρου το͂῝ ̓Αλεξανδρέωϛ ἀκαδημικοῦ φιλοσόφου διαίρεσιϛ (Stob., Ecl. 2:48, ed. Meineke 16).

27 τὸ δέ γε πολύφωον τοῦ Πλάτωνοϛ οὐ πολύδοξον. Εἴρηται δὲ καὶ τὰ πέρι τοῦ τέλουϛ αὐτῷ πολλαχῶϛ ... εἰϛ δὲ ταὐτὸ καὶ σύμφωνον τοῦ δόγματοϛ συντελεῖ (Stob., Ecl. 2:68, ed. Meineke 21).

28 Simplicius preserves fragments of his work on Aristotle’s Categories, which he criticized; see also Stob., Ecl. 2:56-58, ed. Meineke 18-19; Dörrie 1944, reprinted in 1976, 304-307.

29 Τέλοϛ ὁμοίωσιν θεοῦ (Stob., Ecl. 2:65, ed. Meineke 21); cf. the Stoic interpretations of the aim of ethics preserved by Arius Didymus apud Stob., Ecl. 2:51 = SVF 1:552; see also Dörrie 1944, reprinted in 1976, 303-304; Bonazzi 2007b, who doubts the identification of Stobaeus’ above-quoted passage with Eudorus, but points to Stob., Ecl. 2:42, 13-23, as important evidence of Eudorus’ anti-Stoic psychology.

30 Pap. Oxyr. 3210 in Dörrie 1987, 140 and commentary ibid., 396-397. The date of the papyrus is uncertain, but must have preceded the source of Diogenes Laertius, probably Thrasyllus, who repeats some phrases almost verbatim and rejects one particular aspect of the argument.

31 Her. 247-248; contra Dillon 2008, who ascribes Antiochus’ syncretism to Philo and interprets his explicit criticism of Stoic doctrine (e.g. Praem. 11-13) in terms of « elegantly subsume[ing] » Antiochus’ position.

32 Her. 246, see also Aet. 7-13, where the different views of the world, mentioned in Her. 246, are identified respectively as Stoic and Aristotelian. Note that Tim. 41a is quoted in this context to demonstrate the Platonic position.

33 D.L. 3:58; Comm. Theaet. col. 2:18-21; 15:2-23; 17:225-232; Stob., Ecl. 2:66, ed. Meineke 21; see also Tarrant 1983, 167-168.

34 πάντων χρημάτων μέτρον ἄνθρωπον εἶναι (Theaet. 152a).

35 iudicium veritatis (Cic., Ac. 30-31).

36 Regarding Philo’s awareness of recent philosophical developments and his use of skeptical as well as Pyrrhonic views, see Lévy 2005, 85-102; Lévy 2008.

37 Πλάτωνα ἔχειν δόγματα (col. 55:9-10).

38 See also Bonazzi 2008, 236-237, who generally stresses the theological dimension of Alexandrian Platonism.

39 Gen. 18:11; Philo interprets the Septuagint expression τὰ γυναικεῖα no longer in a physical sense, but as a broad reference to the feminine realm of the senses, emotions and passions (Fuga 128; Cher. 50); for further details on the image of Sarah in Philo’s writings, see Niehoff 2004.

40 For further details, see Niehoff 2010, chap. 8.

41 Fuga 63 quoting Theaet. 176a.

42 Comm. Theaet. col. 54:43 - 55:13; 7:14-20; see also Helleman 1990, 53-55, who noted a significant connection between Philo’s quotation of this text and previous Alexandrian interpretations of it.

43 See also Bonazzi 2008, 241-250, who stresses the tendency of Alexandrian Platonism towards transcendentalist positions (as opposed to Stoic immanentism); for Platonic views on the similarity between man and god, see Karfic 2010, 82-97.

44 ̔Ο τῶν κακῶν καθαρὸϛ τόποϛ (Theaet. 177e).

45 ̓Αλλὰ δι’ ὑπονοιῶν αὐτὸν τὸν θεόν (Fuga 75).

46 Fuga 77, referring to Deut. 19:2-5.

47 The second century CE philosopher Albinus, for example, stresses that assimilation to God cannot refer to the ὑπερουράνιοϛ θεόϛ, but speaks of assimilation πρὸϛ τὸ θεῖον (Didasc. 2.2.5); see also Tarrant 1983, 186; Dörrie 1944, reprinted in 1976, 305.

48 On Philo as a mystic, see Liebes 2000, 73-110; Schäfer 2009, 154-174, and literature there.

49 For references to the Timaeus in the Allegorical Commentary, see esp. Plant. 131, Her. 246; Runia 1986 passim.

50 Stob., Ecl. 2:68, ed. Meineke 21.

51 Plut., An. procr. 1013A-B; for details on Xenocrates and Crantor’s interpretations, see Niehoff 2007, 164-165, and literature there.

52 See also Boyancé 1963, 79-80; contra Baltes 1972, 22, 26.

53 Plutarch, who disagreed with the communis opinio, recorded the continuous influence of Xenocrates and Crantor among subsequent Platonists (An. procr. 1012D).

54 Aet. 49, 79-84; see also Arnaldez 1969, 55-56; Runia 1981, 124-126; Michel 1998, 497-498.

55 Aet. 20-149, esp. 43, 76, 83. The subject of conflagration has been surprisingly ignored by scholars, such as Brehier 1925, who saw Philo as a devout follower of the Stoics and (over)-interpreted all of his works in light of this school.

56 Aet. 48, 90, 94, 76. Stoic views are explicitly mentioned in Aet. 4, 8, 18, 54, 76, 78, 102.

57 Arius Didymus apud Stob., Ecl. 2:51 = SVF 1:552, 3:16; ed. and translation into English by Pomeroy 1999, 36-41. Regarding Seneca, see Sen., Ira 1:8.2, 3:3 et passim; Inwood 2005, 41-61.

58 The Aristotelian orientation of the Alexandrian library, the Museum as well as the vast output of Homeric scholarship there have been emphasized by Fraser 1972, 1:305-335; Montanari 1993; Schironi 2009. The Jewish philosopher and exegete Aristobulus, who has often mistakenly been interpreted as a Stoic, also shows a distinctly Aristotelian orientation; for details see Walter 1964, who argued that he was not a Stoic; Niehoff 2010, chapter 4, who showed that he was Aristotelian.

59 Regarding Apollodorus, see FGH 2:1021-1023, test. 1, 5; regarding Didymus, see Plut., Ant. 80.

60 Philo introduces this anecdote as something he has heard (ὡϛ ἔστιν ἀκούειν, Aet. 11).

61 Cf. Aet. 5-6 to Oc., Nat. Univ. 1:4-6, ed. Mullachius 153-154.

62 Cf. Aet. 5 (ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ μὴ ὄντοϛ οὐδὲν γίνεται οὐδ’ εἰϛ τὸ μὴ
ὂν φθείρεται) to Oc., Nat. Univ. 10 (καὶ μὴν οὐδέ εἰϛ τὸ μὴ ὂν ἀμήχανον γὰρ τὸ
ὂν ἀπολέσθαι ἐκ τῶν μὴ ὄντων ἤ εἰϛ τὸ μὴ ὂν ἀναλυθῆναι). Regarding the Aristotelian background of this argumentation see Caelo 297b18-280a22.

63 ὑπὸ Πλάτωνοϛ ἐν Τιμαίῳ δηλοῦσθαι (Aet. 13).

64 Dillon 1989, 59.

65 Tim. 27c (ed. Burnet 1902); see also Dillon 1989, 57, on this “ideologically neutral” and thus original version of the text.

66 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 186.

67 Tarrant 1993, 178-213.

68 For details on Thrasyllus’ theory of the Logos, based on the fragments from Porphyry, see Tarrant 1993, 108-147.

69 Cic., ND 2:142; Lévy 2003, 106, who identified this argument as a Stoic reading of the Timaeus, which replaces the Platonic notion of a demiurge.

70 in Timaeo mundum, aedificavit Platonis deus (Disp. Tusc. 1:63); si semper fuerunt, ut Aristoteli placet… (ibid. 1:70); on Cicero’s significance, see Dörrie 1969, reprinted 1976, 158-159; on his Stoicizing translations of the Timaeus, see Lévy 2003.

71 See also Cic., Tim. 5, ed. Ax 1938. Given Cicero’s academic affiliation, demonstrated by Lévy 1992, his position is not surprising. I take the literal meaning to be the original, see also: Vlastos 1965, 401-419; Hackforth 1959, 17-22; Sedley 2007, 98-107; contra Cornford 1937, 24-27; Taylor 1928, 59-63; Finkelberg 1996, 391-409; Ferrari 2010, 62-81.

72 Whether or not Aristarchus ever pronounced the famous principle, preserved by Porphyry, that « Homer is to be elucidated from Homer », Aristarchus paid special attention to the internal coherence of the entire corpus; for details, see Fraser 1972, 1:464; Porter 1992, 70-80; Schironi 2009, 288-290.

73 For details, see Niehoff 2010, chapter 8.

74 Aet. 16 referring to Ar., Caelo 280a; for details on Philo’s praise of Aristotle in this context, see Niehoff 2007, 174-176.

75 Baltes 1972, 19-20, 23-24.

76 Ibid. 23.

77 Both arguments against a first century BCE date can be found in Baltes 1972, 21-23.

78 TL 8; note that Plato used the terms ἀπειργάζετο and δεδημιούργηται (Tim. 28c, 29a). Before the Christian era there is no evidence of pagan writers having read the Septuagint. The Platonist Celsus in the mid-second century CE, of course, pays serious attention to the Greek Bible, attempting to show that the Christians have chosen an inferior text as their canon.

79 TL 9, cf. Philo, Aet. 13; see also Baltes 1972, 55, who recognized the background of Tim. 41a7, without realizing, however, Philo’s role in bringing this passage to the general attention of Alexandrian Platonists.

80 Cf. Arnaldez 1969, 58-62, who pointed to some resemblances between Philo’s discussion On the Eternity and Taurus, but overlooked that Taurus follows in the footsteps of Philo’s opponents.

81 διαφόρωϛ περὶ τούτου οἱ φιλόσοφοι ἠνέχθησαν (apud Philop., Aet. 6:8, ed. Rabe 145).

82 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 186.

83 This conclusion corresponds to the image of Tauros, offered by Dörrie 1973, reprinted 1976, 312-313, as a scholarly Platonist, familiar with the history of Platonic exegesis and eager to provide further proofs of traditional views.

84 Apud Philop., Aet. 6:21, ed. Rabe 87, translation by Taylor 1831, 45-46.

85 Regarding the time-span of the embassies in Rome, see Harker 2008, 9-47; regarding the violence in Alexandria, see Horst 2003.

86 Philo, Spec. 1:1, 2:60; regarding the Roman background of these stereotypes, see Schäfer 1997, 82-92, 98-100; Niehoff 2010, chapter 10.

87 Regarding the dating of the Exposition, see esp. Spec. 3:1-1, where Philo complains about having recently been drawn into political turmoil, which disturbed his intellectual work.

88 The expression of a therapy of the soul is borrowed from Seneca’s biographer Griffin 2008, 23-58; regarding his orthodox Stoic ethics, see Inwood 2005, 41-61.

89 Schwabe 1931, XXV-XXVIII, also noted Stoic elements besides a strong influence of Plato’s Timaeus, but did not interpret this feature in terms of Philo’s intellectual development and increasing orientation to a Roman discourse, but rather as a sign of Philo’s borrowing from Posidonius. The latter solution, however, is difficult to accept both because of the paucity of the Posidonian fragments and the fact that this Stoic, unlike others, is never mentioned by Philo. See also Dörrie 1969, reprinted 1976, 156, who argues for Posidonius’ highly marginal role in the revival of Platonism in the first century BCE, stressing that the extant fragments do not suggest a commentary work on the Timaeus and hardly go beyond the general Stoic strategy of pointing to similarities between their own views and that of Plato and Aristotle.

90 See esp. Post. 27; Det. 30; All. 3:145, where man’s nature is identified with his bodily needs and pleasures.

91 See the different formulations of this ideal carefully preserved by Arius apud Stob., Ecl. 51, 6a, ed. Pomeroy 36-39; see also White 2003, 124-152; Schofield 2003, 233-256; Brehier 1925, 23-32; Schwabe 1931, XXV-XXVIII; the discussion of the Philonic passage has often taken recourse to Cicero; see review and bibliography in Runia 2001, 106-108; Martens 2003.

92 Sen., Ep. 95:51-3, 45:9, 90:34; Ira 1:5-6; Inwood 2005, 224-248.

93 See esp. Seneca’s view in Ep. 65:19.

94 Lévy 2003, 104; for indications of earlier Stoic appropriations of the Timaeus, see Sedley 2007, 225-230.

95 See also Lévy 2008, 18, who stresses the similarity between the Philonic and the Ciceronian passages.

96 Opif. 12 analyzed by Runia 1986, 93-95; Runia 2001, 119-121.

97 Sterling 1992 and Winston 1980.

98 Wolfson 1947 1:204-217; see also Runia 2001, 137-139; Radice 2009, 132.

99 Lévy 2003, 100-101.

100 Opif. 20, 24.

101 εἰ δέ τιϛ ἐθελήσειε γυμνοτέροιϛ χρήσασθαι τοῖϛ ὀνόμασιν (Opif. 24).

102 Opif. 21; see also Runia 2001, 144.

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Maren R. Niehoff, « Philo’s Role as a Platonist in Alexandria », Études platoniciennes, 7 | 2010, 35-62.

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Maren R. Niehoff, « Philo’s Role as a Platonist in Alexandria », Études platoniciennes [En ligne], 7 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2015, consulté le 20 novembre 2017. URL : http://etudesplatoniciennes.revues.org/623 ; DOI : 10.4000/etudesplatoniciennes.623

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