In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Proclus

  • Introduction
  • Collections of Papers
  • Studies on Neoplatonic Education and the Curriculum
  • Neoplatonic Interpretation
  • The Paths of Eros and Theurgy
  • Proclus’s Philosophical System
  • Knowledge and Truth
  • The One, the Henads, and Being
  • The Soul and Imagination
  • Ethics and Politics
  • Mathematics
  • The Status of Nature

Classics Proclus
Lucas Siorvanes
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0157


Proclus (b. 410/412–d. 485 CE) was head of the Athenian philosophy school in Late Antiquity, when Neoplatonism had incorporated the study of Aristotle, Pythagoreanism, Stoicism, and other philosophies. During his tenure he taught what was, in effect, the higher learning of the eastern Roman Empire, and his students included statesmen such as a Byzantine patrician who became emperor of Rome. Respected by his peers as the embodiment of philosophy, Proclus built on developments after Plotinus, with a special concern for the problems of unity and diversity. How do the many “levels” of thought and being relate to the ultimate One? Every plurality is defined in some way by unity. Valued as the good, unity is present in everything. Even matter is good, contra Plotinus. Proclus’s writings included commentaries on Plato, Euclid, Ptolemy, Plotinus, Homer, and Hesiod; his commentaries on Aristotle do not survive, but his monograph, the Elements of Physics, does. His most extensive treatises were on metaphysics and on the physical cosmos: their influence reached 19th-century philosophers and poets. About a third of Proclus’s works are extant, but they still give a total of more than one million, ninety-three thousand words.

Life of Proclus

We have two main sources for Proclus’s life. His biography was composed by his successor, Marinus, the text of which is available with French translation in Saffrey and Segonds 2001, and an English translation in Edwards 2000. Proclus is depicted as having fulfilled the ideals of the Neoplatonists on how to live best, for which see Blumenthal 1984. The second source is a fragmentary account of the Neoplatonists by the Athenian school’s last leader, Damascius, who described Proclus as the formidable face of philosophy, and as he who led the school of philosophy in Athens. This source is reconstructed and translated in Athanassiadi 1999.

  • Athanassiadi, P., ed. and trans. 1999. Damascius: The philosophical history. Athens, Greece: Apamea Cultural Association.

    A new arrangement of the fragments to yield a reconstructed Greek text. With English translation, apparatus, and introduction to the historical background.

  • Blumenthal, H. J. 1984. Marinus’ life of Proclus: Neoplatonist biography. Byzantion Wetteren 54.2: 469–494.

    Expands on the Neoplatonic concepts and values that underlie Proclus’s biography.

  • Edwards, M. 2000. Neoplatonic saints: The lives of Plotinus and Proclus by their students. Translated Texts for Historians 35. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.3828/978-0-85323-615-3

    Translation of the biography of Plotinus by Porphyry, and of Proclus by Marinus, with an introduction to the philosophical, literary, and historical contexts.

  • Saffrey, H. D., and A.-Ph. Segonds, eds. and trans. 2001. Marinus: Proclus ou sur le bonheur. Collection des Universités de France, Série Grecque 414. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    Latest Greek edition, with French translation. It contains extensive commentaries on the biographical and philosophical material, and on the embedded rhetorical structures.

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