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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).



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.)


References in periodicals archive ?
Iamblichus of Chalcis was one of the more illustrious of the sequence of famous teachers who kept alive the traditions of Pythagorean and Platonic doctrines in the Roman empire.
This paper examines the works of three contemporaries--the Neoplatonic philosophers Porphyry of Tyre and Iamblichus of Chalcis and the Christian bishop Eusebius of Caesarea--in order to explore the ways in which ancient linguistic theories and practices served as a kind of border-post in which late-ancient intellectuals constructed and contested imperial subjectivities.
The idiom of mathematics appears to be a convenient way to describe and vouchsafe the Platonic conception of soul, as shown in Section 155, "Die Seele ist eine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]," with selections from Iamblichus of Chalcis and Posidonios of Apamea.