chapter  5
13 Pages

Syriac Translations of Plutarch, Lucian and Themistius: A Gnomic Format for an Instructional Purpose?


A selection of texts by Plutarch, Lucian and Themistius were translated into Syriac during Late Antiquity. Plutarch’s De cohibenda ira1 and De capienda ex inimicis utilitate,2 Ps.-Plutarch’s De exercitatione,3 Lucianʼs De calumnia4 and Themistiusʼ De amicitia5 and De virtute6 are literary works by pagan authors that were translated between the fifth and the sixth centuries. They survive today in Syriac manuscripts that were written between the seventh and the ninth centuries.7 Given the absence of prefaces, colophons or any information external to the texts, there is no explicit indication about the identity of the translators or about the origin of the translations. The only viable path to understand why Syrian scholars were interested in Plutarch, Lucian and Themistius is a close analysis of what the texts themselves (and their manuscripts) say.