Isidore of Alexandria

Isidore (* probably 445-450; † 517-526 ) was a late ancient philosopher ( Neoplatonist ) and leader of the Neo-Platonic school in Athens. It dealt mainly with metaphysics. Of his works, which included hymns, nothing has been preserved.


Isidore was born in Alexandria. His family apparently belonged to the circle of the local neo-Platonists, who were heathens in opposition to the Christian state religion. His uncle Aegyptus was a friend of the philosopher Hermias of Alexandria. First Isidore received his philosophical training in his hometown under the direction of two unnamed brothers who are usually identified with Asclepiades and Heraiskos of Alexandria; his model was the very reclusive ascetic Sarapion. Later, he went to Athens, where at that time the famous philosopher Proclus led the Neo-Platonic school, which continued the tradition of the Platonic Academy. Isidore was a pupil of Proclus, who appreciated him, and whom he greatly admired. He also studied the teachings of Aristotle with Marinos of Neapolis, the future successor of Proclus.

Later, Isidore returned to Alexandria. There he ran into trouble when the Christian authorities vorgingen against the Neoplatonists (probably 482-484 ), and had to leave the city. Shortly after the death of Proclus (April 17, 485), he went again to Athens. The new headmaster Marinos liked him, but Isidor held by Marinos little and did not regard him as worthy Diadochos ( head of the school, literally meaning " successor " [ Plato ] ). Marinos wrote a commentary on Plato's dialogue Philebus and asked Isidore for an opinion. As Isidor criticized the work and expressed the opinion that the existing Philebus Commentary of Proclus was sufficient Marinos burned his writing. The two philosophers had also disagreement on the interpretation of Plato's dialogue Parmenides, the Marinos had also commented. Finally, it also came to Athens to tensions between Christians and Platonists, who were so dangerous that Marino is his life no longer felt safe and fled to Epidaurus, whence he never returned. Isidor was elected his successor, but he was given the post of headmaster in honor only and therefore did not have to exercise the associated duties. The school was then in a crisis that Isidor regarded as so hopeless that he was considering leaving Athens. Whether he implemented this intention into action is unknown.

A student, friend and admirer of Isidore was Damascius, the last head of the 515, the Neo-Platonic school was the latest. With him Isidor undertook a journey to the Orient, which took him to Gaza, the Arabian Peninsula, Bosra, Damascus and Heliopolis ( Baalbek ). Damascius dedicated to his teacher a biography that has survived only in part, in the library of Photius and in some fragments in the Suda. This Isidor is described as very truthful and frank.

Isidor was married to a woman named Domna, who died after the birth of a son, Isidore named after his teacher Proclus.


  • Polymnia Athanassiadi ( eds): Damascius: The Philosophical History. Apamea Cultural Association, Athens 1999, ISBN 960-85325-2-3 ( critical edition of the fragments and excerpts of the biography of Isidore with English translation)
  • Clemens Zintzen (ed.): Damascii vitae Isidori reliquiae. Olms, Hildesheim, 1967 ( critical edition of the fragments and excerpts of the biography of Isidore )
  • Rudolf Asmus (ed.): The life of the philosopher Isidore of Damascius of Damascus. Meiner, Leipzig 1911 ( German translation of excerpts and fragments of the biography of Isidore )