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The Schools of Platonic Philosophy of the Roman Empire: The Evidence of the Biographies

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Chapter Summary

Within the range of ancient philosophical education, it was a tradition unique to the Platonists of the Roman Empire that scholarchs wrote the biographies of their predecessors. Two of these, one from third-century Rome and other from fifth-century Athens, are preserved intact. A third, conveys a wealth of information about the Platonists of Athens and Alexandria at the end of the fifth century. The study of Platonic philosophy, like philosophical education in the other schools, is a subject that no ancient author addresses in its own right, and so one can inevitably left with more questions than answers. Plotinus' peculiar position in the history of Greek philosophy gives his biography a unique importance. The Life of Plotinus provides important support for the notion that students of philosophy typically shopped around, listening to teacher after teacher in one center of learning, and then in some cases moving all to other centers.

Keywords: ancient philosophical education; fifth-century Athens; Greek philosophy; Platonic philosophy; Roman empire



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