Christoph Meiselbach M.A. - Dissertation project
Urban Ascetics - Proclus and the Neo-Platonic Way of Life in Late Antique Athens
My doctoral thesis is an investigation of the way of life of Neo-Platonic philosophers in 5th century Athens. The Vita Procli of Marinus serves as the fundamental source for my analysis. This geographical and chronological limits result from the consideration that, although Neo-Platonic ways of life are described in several biographies from the 3rd to 6th centuries, an attempt to analyze these sources within the framework of a doctoral dissertation would only yield superficial results. Although there are some constant features in these biographies, only by putting them into their social context might one achieve a detailed analysis of Neo-Platonic ways of life that goes beyond a relatively simple analysis. Furthermore, the literary genre of biography yields only limited results unless it is compared alongside archaeological and literary evidence. It is not my intention to offer another life of Proclus, but his biography shall serve as a model of a philosopher’s way of life in its specific chronological and spatial environment. For this reason my thesis focuses in many respects on Marinus as the author of the Vita Procli rather than on Proclus himself.
Naturally, other biographies will be used as comparative evidence, but because, in my opinion, one cannot speak of "the" Neo-Platonic way of life, they only serve as supporting material. Even a cursory look at these sources suffices to make out significant differences between the depiction of certain philosophers such as Plotinus (Vita Plotini) and Sosipatra, Iamblichus (Vitae Sophistarum) or Proclus. This is why each of these sources requires a separate treatment. In my view, each Neo-Platonic way of life consists of certain philosophical constants and the circumstances of individual philosophers or schools. Since the school of Athens proves to be the longest lasting, it was chosen as the subject of my thesis.