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Ammonius / Amonios / Amonio / Amônio / Ammonius Saccas / Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς

Ammonius Saccas, Ἀμμώνιος Σακκᾶς (175-242 dC)


In the late fifth and early sixth centuries in Alexandria, Ammonius taught the most brilliant of the remaining Neoplatonists of both the Alexandrian and the Athenian schools, with the exception of the disaffected Damascius   who started in Alexandria as a rhetorician, turned to Isidore, not to Ammonius, for philosophy, and fled with Isidore from Alexandria after the violent persecution in 488-9 of Neoplatonists by Christians. Ammonius did, however, teach Philoponus  , Asclepius, Simplicius  , and probably Olympiodorus  . The first two wrote a number of commentaries ‘from the voice of’ Ammonius, in other words, based on the lectures of Ammonius, as were Proclus  ’ in at least one case on those of Syrianus  .

Although we shall see that Praechter was wrong to suggest that the Alexandrian Neoplatonists diverged from the Athenian by adopting Christianised monotheism, nonetheless Ammonius did introduce some changes of direction. I shall come later to his lack of interest in the magic of names. What is relevant here is his attitude to Aristotle  . Syrianus   in Athens, while expressing great esteem for Aristotle  , had thought it necessary to oppose him head on concerning certain subjects (in Metaph. 80,4-81,14). He and his pupil Proclus   saw that Aristotle   disagreed with Plato   both on the existence of Platonic Forms and on God’s role as Creator. They both argued that Aristotle   ought, on his own principles, to have agreed with Plato   (Syrianus   in Metaph. 117,25-118,11; ap. Asclepium in Metaph. 433,16; 450,22; Proclus   in Tim. 1, 266,28-268,24).

Ammonius turns this around. He held that Aristotle   actually did accept Plato  ’s Forms, at least in the guise of principles (logoi) in the [9] divine Intellect (Asclepius, in Metaph. 69,17-21, from the voice of Ammonius; cf. Zacharias, Ammonius, PG vol. 85, col. 952 Colonna). And he wrote a whole book designed to show that Aristotle   actually drew the conclusion that God was the efficient cause of the world’s existence, using some of the same arguments Proclus   said he should have used.

It would be wrong to deny that the works of both Plato   and Aristotle   were taught in both the Athenian and Alexandrian schools. And indeed Ammonius will have used Proclus  ’ lost commentary on Aristotle  ’s On Interpretation. But the extant commentaries of Syrianus  , and of his pupils Proclus   and Hermeias, and those of Damascius   in Athens are on Plato  , while those by, or from the voice of, Ammonius in Alexandria are on Aristotle  . [SorbajiPC3:9-10]