Proclus Lycaeus (February 8, 412 – April 17, 487), surnamed "The Successor" (Greek Πρόκλος ὁ Διάδοχος Próklos ho Diádokhos), was a Greek Neoplatonist philosopher.
Born to a rich family in Constantinople, he studied rhetoric, philosophy and mathematics in Alexandria of Egypt. He came back to Constantinopole and was a successful lawyer for a short time. However as he preferred philosophy, he went to Athens in 431 to study at the famous Academy which was founded 800 years before by Plato. He lived in Athens until the end of his life, except for a one year exile due to his political-philosophical activity which was not tolerated by the Christian regime. He became head master of Athens' School of Philosophy.
His work can be divided in two parts. In the first part are his Memorandi on Plato's works, the first written when he was 28 years old: The Memorandum on Timaeus, on Plato's Republic, on Plato's Alcibiades, on Plato's Parmenides and on Plato's Cratylus. In these works, Proclus analyzes and restates Plato's thought - much misinterpreted and distorted at the time.
The second part is theological: Theologia Platonica, Chrestomatheia, Hymni, Epigrammata et.al. Because of Christian persecution, the knowledge of the Hellenic religion was fading. Proclus taught the symbolism of Greek myths and analyzed them with great care and wisdom. For example, he tells us that, in Greek myths, "marriage is the undivided union of creative powers".
By combining his own views with those of his teachers — Plutarch, Syrianus, Porphyry, and Iamblichus — he inspired the New England Transcendentalists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, who declared in 1843 that, in reading Proclus, “I am filled with hilarity & spring, my heart dances, my sight is quickened, I behold shining relations between all beings, and am impelled to write and almost to sing.”
Note: Not to be confused with St Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, who died circa 446.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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