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Open Access Olympiodorus and Proclus on the Climax of the Alcibiades

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Olympiodorus and Proclus on the Climax of the Alcibiades

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image of The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition

This paper examines the late Neoplatonic evidence for the text at the crucial point of the Alcibiades I, 133c, finding that Olympiodorus' important evidence is not in the lexis, which strangely has nothing to say. Perhaps it was dangerous in Christian Alexandria to record one's views here too precisely. Rather, they are found primarily in the prologue and secondarily in the relevant theoria. Olympiodorus believes that he is quoting from the work or paraphrasing closely, but offers nothing that can be paralleled in either the manuscripts or the Eusebian (or Stobaean) versions. Since both the manuscript text and the Eusebian text fail to satisfy, the evidence deserves consideration. Even if he were not in possession of a text that was wholly correct, Olympiodorus does at least offer an overall interpretation of the passage which neatly unites the daemonic and erotic aspects of Socrates' activities, and offers a real reason for Alcibiades to return Socrates' love. He is encouraged to reflect upon the nature of the divine being (not just a daemo but a theos in this work) controlling Socrates, so that he may behold the likeness of his own, woefully obscured, inner self, and so acquire the self-knowledge necessary for true political success.

The anonymous Prolegomena (unsurprisingly) are compatible with Olympiodorus, while Proclus' prologue again largely agrees with Olympiodorus' interpretation. For Proclus, Alcibiades must become an observer of Socrates knowledge and indeed of Socrates' whole life. 'For to desire to know the reason for Socrates' actions is to become the lover of the knowledge which is pre-established within him.' So the path towards a total understanding of his own inner intellective self lies via the contemplation of that being that is rooted within Socrates.

I also examine earlier Platonist evidence for the text and find little that is not in harmony with late Neoplatonism.


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