Porphyrius

, a philosopher of great name among the ancients, was born A. D. 233, in the reign of Alexander Severus. He was of Tyre, and had the name of Malchus, in common with his father, who was a Syrophcenician. St. Jerome and St. Augustin' have called him Bataneotes whence Fabricius suspects, that the real place of his nativity was Batanea, a town of Syria and that he was carried thence with a colony to Tyre. His father very early introduced him to the study of literature and philosophy under the Christian preceptor Origen, probably while he was teaching at Caesarea in Palestine. He then went to Athens, where he had the famous Longinus for his master in rhetoric, who changed his Syrian name Malchus, as not very pleasing to Grecian ears, into that of Porphyrius, which answers to it in Greek. It is in a great measure owing to this able teacher, that we find so many proofs of erudition, and so much elegance of style, in the writings of PorphyFrom this time, we have little information | concerning him until he proceeded to Rome, where, at thirty years of age, he heard Plo’tinus, whose life he has written, and inserted in it many particulars concerning himself*. Five years after, he went to reside at Lilybseum in Sicily, on which account he is sometimes called Siculus and here, as Eusebius and Jerome relate, he composed those famous books against the Christians, which, for the name and authority of the man, and for the acuteness and learning with, which they were written, were afterwards thought so considerable, as to be suppressed by particular edicts, under the reigns of Constantine and Theodosius. Some have surmised, that these books are still extant, and secretly preserved in the Duke of Tuscany’s library; but there is little doubt that they were destroyed by the mistaken zeal of the Christians. The circumstances of Porphyrius’s life, after his arrival in Sicily, are little known except that he died at Rome, towards the end of Dioclesiari’s reign, about the year 304. Some have imagined that he was. in the early part of his life a Christian, but afterwards, through some disgust or other, deserted that profession, and became its decided enemy; while others have hinted, that he embraced Christianity when he was old, and after he had written with great acrimony against it; but for neither of these opinions is there any good authority.

Porphyrius wrote a great number of books, the far greater part of which have perished. Some have wished that his books against the Christians had come down to us, because they are firmly persuaded that, among innumerable blasphemies against Christ and his religion, which might easily have been confuted, many admirable things would have been found. We doubt, however, whether the world

*" Porphyrius was six years a diligent choly to produce a resolution, which he

student of the Eclectic system; and formed about the thirty-sixth year of

became so entirely attached to his mas- his age, of putting an end to his life;

ter, and so perfectly acquainted with purposing hereby, according to the

his doctrine, that Plotinus esteemed Platonic doctrine, to release his soul

him one of the greatest ornaments of from her wretched prison, the body,

his school, and frequently employed From this mad design he was, however,

him in refuting the objections of his dissuaded by his master, who advised

opponents, and in explaining to his him to divert his melancholy by taking

younger pupils the more difficult parts a journey to Sicily, to visit his friend

of his writings he even intrusted him Probus, an accomplished and excellent

with the charge of methodising and man, who lived near Lilybaaum. Porcorrecting his works. The fanatical pbyrius followed the advice of Plotinus,

spirit of the philosophy, to which Por- and recovered the vigour and trauquiU

phyrius addicted himself,concurred with lity of his mind.“Brucker. his natural propensity towards | melanwould have reaped any great benefit from these, since neither his judgment nor his integrity was equal to his learning; and neither the splendour of his diction, nor the variety of his reading, can atone for the credulity or the dishonesty, which fill the narrative parts of his works with so many extravagant tales; or interest the judicious reader in the abstruse subtleties, and mystical flights of his philosophical writings. Of his works which remain, the four following,” De abstinentia ab esu animalium“” De vita Pythagone“” Sententite ad intelligibilia ducentes“” De Antro Nymphorum“with a fragment” De Styge,“preserved by Stobaeus, were printed at Cambridge in 1655, 8vo, with a Latin version, and the Life of Porphyry subjoined, by Lucas Holstenius. The” Life of Pythagoras,“which, however, is but a fragment, has since been published by Kusterus, at Amsterdam, 1707, in 4to, in conjunction with that written by Jamblichus, who was a disciple of this philosopher. It should have been observed, that the above pieces of Pythagoras, printed at Cambridge, were published jointly with Epictetus and Arrian’s Commentary, and the Tabula Cebetis. His treatise” De Antro Nymphorum“was reprinted in Greek and Latin, with notes, by R. M. Van Goens, at Utrecht in 1765, 419; anc1jac.de Rhoer published a new edition of the treatise” De Abstinentia" at the same place in 1767. 1

1 Brucker. Cave,- Lardner’s Works. Saxii Onemast.