P r o c l u s
GRAMMAR AND POETICAL WORKS
ON THE WHOLE
T H E W O R K S
O F P R O C L U S
The works of Proclus are numerous and varied. Only a part
has survived to our days. But what remains is imposing due to its volume
and to its richness.
He touched every theme, since high
metaphysics until the most concrete scientific problems. He used all styles,
since the schematic and concise account until the plethoric dissertation.
The chronology of his works are uncertain
and gave place to controversies without end. The best way is to classify
his works following their substance.
Commentaries on Plato
Proclus has been before everything
a commentator of Plato, whose dialogues are for him as Holy Scriptures.
It is over its exegesis that he built his own philosophy. To some one he
explains that it's difficult to differentiate his own thoughts from the
ones by Plato. Anyway a material difference exists between his platonic
writings and his own original works.
Two commentaries on Plato have at
the eyes of Proclus a special importance because they have the fundamental
texts of the philosopher. They are Parmenides and Timaeus,
where are exposed on one hand the principles of being and on the other
the principles of nature.
Proclus consecrated to both commentaries
long developments, minutes, where he explains successively each remark.
But his commentaries have arrived to us incomplete. Each one has no more
them one third of the entire work.
Other commentaries, also fragmented
in different proportions, are consecrated to the first Alcibiades,
to Cratylus and to the
The commentaries on Cratylus
and on The Republic are reflections written on the margins of the
The commentary on Cratylus
seems to be extracted from the papers of Proclus by a disciple.
A certain number of commentaries
are now lost. Proclus wrote on Phaedo, on Gorgias, on Phaedrus,
on Theaetetus and on Philebus, on The Sophist, on
the discourse of Diotima on The Banquet.
It is probable that he wrote on Crito
and the second
Alcibiades. It is much more uncertain if he wrote
on Pythagoras and on The Laws.
About the date of his writings all
we know with certainty is that his explanations on Timaeus was written
by him at age 28. It's what Marinus tells us.
To the platonic commentaries we must
add those consecrated to the moral, political and economical works by Aristotle
The editions of his works in modern
times ascend to the 16th century, with the one by Bale near 1540. In English,
Thomas Taylor has made his translation around 1820.
Non original works
Between the non original works, the
commentaries on The Chaldean Oracles has survived only as small
extracts, edited by Jahn in 1891.
They are related with the texts about
religious symbolism of theurgic inspiration today disappeared, with the
only exception of a small piece concerning sacrifice and magic, edited
in 1516 at Venice.
Another fragment can be added, transmitted
to us under the title of De arcanis naturae in a work published
in 1607 at Paris.
Also vanished are a commentary on
the Gods of Homer, another one on Works and Days by Hesiod, a book
on the Mother of the Gods and an introduction to Theurgy.
Marinus tells us he had asked him
a complete commentary on the Orphic Poems. Proclus answered him he was
prevented to do it due to some ill-omened dreams.
The properly philosophical works can
be divided into writings about Theology and opuscules concerning moral
The Elements of Theology is
a systematic exposition composed of 211 propositions rigorously linked
and demonstrated of Proclus' metaphysic. It's an abstract compression of
his thought, which may be recommended due to its logical order and to the
absence of any digression. Usually it's considered to be a work of youth,
or from an early date, but without being possible to give it a date. In
any case it gives testimony of incontestable maturity. It has been translated
in English in 1933 by Dodds, with a highly valuable critical study.
The Platonic Theology results
of the effort to take from the work of Plato, specially from Parmenides,
the elements of an original structure where is expressed all the philosophy
of Proclus. It is the most voluminous and the most massive of all works
by Proclus. It is generally attributed to the later years of his life.
Thomas Taylor translated this work around 1820.
Concerning moral in its relations
with Theology, Proclus wrote three small treaties which survived in a latin
translation. They are entitled De decem dubitationibus circa Providentiam,
De providentia et fato et eo quod in nobis (ad Theodorum mechanicium)
and De malorum substantia. Dodds qualifies them as works of circumstance.
The second one is effectively addressed to a friend of Proclus who had
put to him some questions. It seems to have been written in the maturity
of the author, before the
Proclus also wrote a text against
the Christians entitled
Eighteen arguments against the Christians,
preserved in the refutation by Jean Philipon published in 1535 at Venice,
and translated in Latin by Mahotius in 1557 at Lyon.
The scientific works by Proclus are
about mathematics, physics and astronomy.
The commentary on the first book
by Euclid is more then an exegetical work, because Proclus develops there
ideas of Platonic inspiration, but which are proper to him, about the Intelligible,
the Soul and about the Extension. His mathematical explanations are largely
based on the ones by Geminus, a scholar from the first century BCE.
The Institutio physica concerns
movement. It is not a commentary on Aristotle, but a series of definitions
ordered, just as only he knows how to do. This work usually is attributed
to the youth of Proclus. According to some it is even precedent to the
The resumed exposition on the astronomical
expositions is a book where Proclus, addressing himself to friends who
questioned him, synthesizes the knowledge of his time about the celestial
mechanism, in accordance with Hipparcus and Ptolemy. He also wrote a paraphrase
on the four books by Ptolemy. To this one we must add a treaty on the Sphere,
also about the problems of the cosmos which is a partial copy of Introduction
to the phenomenons by Geminus. He also wrote an opuscule on the Astrolabe.
Linguistics, grammar and poetical works
We have from him fragments of a Chrestomathia
grammatica and a Chrestomathia Poetica, and a work entitled
by a 16th century editor as De conscribendis epistolis.
Proclus composed a certain number
of poems of philosophical and religious inspiration, which are animated
with a large breath.
On the whole
On the whole, the encyclopedic production
of Proclus who was called correctly "the Aristotle of the Alexandrine mysticism"
testifies an impressive intellectual fecundity. Its substance is reach,
it resumes and crowns the efforts of several centuries.
His writing knows how to be elegant
and pure. The structure of his prose is generally of sterling qualities;
the one of his verses is always. There is in him the artist and at the
same time the philosopher and the wise man.
Athena Encyclopedia - Rituals - Hymns: Proclus'
Hymn to Athena
and his On the Sacred Art: An extract from a lost work of Proclus,
which is almost certainly his Commentary on the Chaldean Oracles.
the Signs of Divine Possession: Another extract from a lost work of
Proclus, which is almost certainly his Commentary on the Chaldean Oracles.
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©1999 Roy George