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(īăm`blĭkəs), d. c.330, Syrian philosopher, a leading exponent of NeoplatonismNeoplatonism
, ancient mystical philosophy based on the doctrines of Plato. Plotinus and the Nature of Neoplatonism

Considered the last of the great pagan philosophies, it was developed by Plotinus (3d cent. A.D.).
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. A pupil of Porphyry, he was deeply impressed by the doctrines of Plotinus. In his own teachings he combined with Plato's ideas many of those of Pythagoras and much that was mystical and even magical, derived from Asia. His following was large and enthusiastic in his own time, and in the 15th and 16th cent. he was studied with admiring interest. Of his writings on mathematical and philosophical subjects there remain several parts of an extensive work on the philosophy of Pythagoras. His work On the Egyptian Mysteries survives, but his commentaries on Plato and Aristotle have disappeared.


See J. Finamore, Iamblichus and the Theory of the Vehicle of the Soul (1985); S. Gersh, Middle Platonism and Neoplatonism: The Latin Tradition (2 vol., 1986).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Born circa A.D. 250 in Chalcis, Syria; died circa 330. Greek philosopher and founder of the Syrian school of Neo-platonism; follower of Porphyry.

Iamblichus continued the Neoplatonist tendency toward further differentiation of the basic concepts of Plotinus (“the One,” “the Intelligence,” or nous, and “the Soul”) and combined the latter’s teachings with Eastern mysticism. Of Iamblichus’ large compendium of Pythagorean teachings, five treatises are extant. The extremely elaborate multilevel system that he worked out consisted of the gods above the world, who were pure intellects and pure soul; the heavenly gods, who commanded the 12 world spheres—earth, water, air, fire, the seven planets, and the ether; the subheavenly deities; and finally the “guardian” deities and demons of various peoples and individuals. This system represented Iamblichus’ attempt to defend the polytheism of ancient mythology in the face of triumphant Christian monotheism.

In his treatise On the Egyptian Mysteries, Iamblichus sought to interpret and classify such classical religious rites as divination and the offering of sacrifices. Of great historical and philosophical importance is the method used by Iamblichus in his commentary on Plato’s dialogues (which he treated in all their various aspects—for example, from the ethical, logical, cosmological, and physical point of view); this method determined the course of all later Neoplatonic commentaries, including those of Pico della Mirandola and other members of the Platonic Academy in Florence.


Jamblichi de mysteriis liber. Edited by G. Parthey. Berlin, 1857.
Jamblichi de vita Pythagorica liber. Edited by A. Nauck. St. Petersburg, 1884.


Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1940. Pages 372–75.
Ueberweg, F. Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, 12th ed., vol. 1: Die Philosophie des Altertums. Berlin, 1926. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
They want to damp down apocalyptic anticipation, and they build bridges with the pagan religious thought of the age: speculation about cosmic powers (Iamblichus), a mystical monism (Plotinus), with a dash of theurgy (the Hermetic Corpus).
Rather, the primary extension is a line." (This commentary is generally thought to be derived from that of Syrianus, who had access to lost writing of Iamblichus, who in turn preserved evidence from Aristotle's lost writings on the Pythagoreans.) The unit that is (conceptually?) primary is not per se undivided or indivisible.
Indeed, they say, before the Neoplatonists, the dialogue was valued more by rhetoricians and writers that by philosophers, but Iamblichus made it one of the 12 dialogues that he alleged conveyed the whole of Plato's philosophy.
his late ancient, or Hellenistic, disciples, including Iamblichus and
At the beginning of his commentary ([s3;1-6) Damascius presents different positions: some, relying on the subtitle given by Thrasyllus, say that it is pleasure; a certain Pisitheus (pupil of Theodorus of Asine) that it is intelligence; Iamblichus, Syrianus, and Proclus that it is the final cause of the universe and the immanent good to all; Proclus again, that it is only the Good (a mixture of pleasure and intelligence) of all animated beings.
(9.) Iamblichus, On the Pythagorean Way of Life: Text, Translation,
Yet Cooper's entry also includes the risible tale (derived from Iamblichus) in which Pythagoras instructs an ox not to eat beans, a bizarre dietary restriction that elicited much mockery as well as ingenious explanations from later commentators.
Representing Pythagorean friendship in a monistic context, Iamblichus broadly represents his predecessor's ideal as a translation of the gods' love for man among one another (sec On the Pythagorean Life, trans.
Iamblichus and the others note the unprecedented success of his lectures gathering more and more participants.