October 18, 2023
Episode 177: Gretchen Reydams-Schils on Calcidius and the Timæus
Gretchen Reydams-Schils has a book on Calcidius – translator into Latin of part of Plato’s Timæus, and commentator thereon – hot off the press. In it she discusses the philosophical choices Calcidius makes, what kind of Platonism he espouses, and a number of related topics. We are delighted to tap into this wisdom in this episode of the podcast
We discuss what we know of the basic bio of Calcidius (which takes about three seconds, because we we know so little), and then move on to the more salient point of what type of philosopher he was. First of all, was he a Christian? As with many late-antique intellectuals, we have no reason to think so but no reason to assume otherwise either. Secondly, what kind of Platonist was he? Well, weirdly for the time and place, he seems to have been more or less a ‘Middle Platonist’. We discuss Calcidius’ ‘anti-esotericist’ position on the wisdom of Plato and its dissemination. We then get into some of the fascinating choices Calcidius makes philosophically in more detail. We discuss the undeniable influence of Numenius of Apamea on Calcidius, and the also undeniable, but more difficult-to-pin-down influence of Porphyry of Tyre. Finally, we discuss some of the Nachleben of a work which became, in the Latinate part of Europe, for many centuries, for all intents and purposes, ‘Plato’.
Gretchen Reydams-Schils in Professor in Classics, Philosophy, and Theology at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana in the United States. She has published extensively on ancient Platonist and Stoic ideas, including a great book about ancient reception of Plato’s Timæus (Demiurge and Providence: Stoic and Platonist Readings of Plato’s Timaeus, Brepols 1999), and most recently a volume on Calcidius (see Recommended Reading below).
Works Cited in this Episode:
Alcinoüs: see John Dillon, editor. Alcinous: The Handbook of Platonism. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1993. Translated with an introduction by John Dillon.
Calcidius, the ‘anti-esoteric passage’: see the Preface to his work, Cap. 3 in particular.
Porphyry on matter: see Yuri Arzhanov, editor. Porphyry “On Principles and Matter”: A Syriac Version of a Lost Greek Text with an English Translation, Introduction, and Glossaries. Number 34 in Scientia Graeco-Arabica. De Gruyter, Berlin, 2021.
John Dillon. The Middle Platonists: A Study of Platonism 80 BC to AD 220. Duckworth, London, 1977 [pp. 401-408 discuss Calcidius as one of a number of ‘loose ends’ of Middle Platonism].
George Boys-Stones. Post-Hellenistic Philosophy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001.
Paul Dutton. Medieval Approaches to Calcidius. In Gretchen Reydams-Schils, editor, Plato’s Timæus as Cultural Icon, pages 183-205. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN, 2003.
Russel E. Gmirkin. Plato’s Timaeus and the Biblical Creation Accounts: Cosmic Monotheism and Terrestrial Polytheism in the Primordial History. Routledge, London/New York, NY, 2022.
Pierre Hadot. Porphyre et Victorinus. Études Augustiniennes, Paris, 1968.
Editions and Translations
John Magee, editor and translator. On Plato’s Timaeus by Calcidius. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2016.
Jan Hendrik Waszink, editor. Timæus a Calcidio translatus commentarioque instructus. The Warburg Institute & Brill, London/Leiden, 1962.
Gretchen Reydams-Schils. Calcidius on Plato’s Timæus: Greek Philosophy, Latin Reception and Christian Contexts. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2020.
J. C. M. Van Winden. Calcidius on Matter: His Doctrines and Sources. Brill, Leiden, 1959.
Nachleben and Influence
Christina Hoenig. Plato’s Timaeus and the Latin Tradition. Cambridge Classical Studies. The University Press, Cambridge, 2018.
R. Klibansky. The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition During the Middle Ages: Outlines of a Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi. Warburg Institute, London, 1939.
Gretchen Reydams-Schils, ed. Plato’s Timaeus as Cultural Icon. University of Notre Dame Press, 2003.
Anti-esotericism, Augustine of Hippo, Boethius, Calcidius, Interview, Late Platonism, Macrobius, Marius Victorinus, Marsilio Ficino, Middle Platonism, Nous, Numenius, Plato, Platonism, Porphyry, School of Chartres, Soul