chapter  XVII
240 Pages

Birth, Death, and Divinity in Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus

ByMark Edwards

The author argues that one of the cardinal aims of the Life is to make the reader privy to a mystery hidden from all the pupils and antagonists of Plotinus during his lifetime and not even discovered by the biographer until a short time before he prepared this work in commemoration of his master. Porphyry's Life of Plotinus is a prime example in any account of late antique biography. He argues that Porphyry's protagonist is intended to be, not merely a pagan saint, but a pagan Christ. Without at least one experience of divine illumination, Porphyry could not have offered such tendentious readings of the Oracle of Apollo, Plato's Symposium, and Plotinus's own allusions to the "god who sits within us". In the Life, the acolytes of other gods bestow their ignorant praises on the sage, who has disarmed them by his miracles, and after his death, the failure of understanding will be even more acute.