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Porphyry and ‘Neopythagorean’ Exegesis in Cave of the Nymphs and Elsewhere

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Porphyry’s position in the ancient hermeneutic tradition should be considered separately from his place in the Platonic tradition. He shows considerable respect for allegorizing interpreters with links to Pythagoreanism, particularly Numenius and Cronius, prominent sources in On the Cave of the Nymphs. The language of Homer’s Cave passage is demonstrably distinctive, resembling the Shield passage in the Iliad, and such as to suggest an ecphrasis to early imperial readers. Ecphrasis in turn suggested deeper significance for the story. While largely content to follow Numenian trends in interpreting Homer’s cave symbolically and in relation to multiple belief-systems, Porphyry shows occasionally signs of wanting to adhere more closely to Homeric evidence, resorting to symbolic interpretation mainly when no more straightforward truth is on offer.

Affiliations: 1: University of Newcastle, Australia, ; 2: University of Newcastle, Australia,


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