Timaeus of Locri


Timaeus of Locri

Timaeus of Locri is a hero in Timaeus and Critias, two of Plato's dialogues. In both he seems to be a Pythagorean school philosopher. If a historical Timaeus of Locri ever existed, he might have flourished in the fifth century BC, but his historicity is uncertain as he exists only as a literary character in Plato; all other ancient sources are either based on Plato or are fictitious accounts. Throughout Plato's plays, Timaeus emerges as a rich aristocrat from Lokroi Epizephyrioi's Greek colonies, who had worked in high offices in his native town before moving to Athens, where Timaeus 'dialogue is being held. Plato does not specifically mark Timaeus a Pythagorean, but provides the reader with enough clues to conclude that. He appears competent in all fields of ancient philosophy, especially astronomy and natural philosophy. Historical presence of Timaeus in the antiquity was without doubt. Cicero states that Plato was travelling with Timaeus and other Pythagoreans to Italy to study. The account of this encounter prompted Macrobius, a late antiquity scholar, to believe that Timaeus may not have been in a face-to-face conversation with Socrates, who had been long dead by the time of Timaeus. Iamblichus mentions Timaeus among the Pythagorean school's most notable leaders. In his Lives and Thoughts of Eminent Thinkers, Diogenes Laërtius indicates that Timaeus 'character was founded upon the Pythagorean Philolaus. Specific parallels to Timaeus can be found in Proclus, Commentary on Plato's Timaeus; in Simplicius 'essay on Aristotle; and in Porphyry, where Timaeus discusses Pythagoras's house at Croton. Recent scholarship appears to throw off the historicity of Timaeus, viewing him as a fictional character created by Plato from characteristics known to him by the Pythagoreans, such as Archytas. The primary explanation for granting Timaeus the status of a literary novel is the lack of any knowledge that actually may not derive from Plato's dialogues. This has been pointed out as a counterargument that the bulk of characters mentioned in Plato's dialogues are in fact historical individuals. A work in Doric Greek entitled On the Origin of the Earth and the Soul, also named Timaeus Locrus after its supposed creator, begins by claiming that Locri's Timaeus claimed the following and goes on to summarise the ideas that Timaeus supports in Timaeus's Plato. The novel has been thoroughly preserved, in over fifty copies. This is largely in line with Plato; this omits the Theory of Forms in particular. On the earth and the soul was first mentioned in the second century AD sources and in antiquity its authenticity was not questioned. The novel was also believed to have been a significant source of dialogue for Plato; a legend going back to the third century BC claimed that Plato's Timaeus was plagiarised from a Pythagorean text, and this was associated with the Timaeus Locrus. Modern philology has shown that On the Earth and the Soul is a pseudepigraph from sometime from the early 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD and is based on Plato's Timaeus, rather than the other way around. The Pseudo-Timaeus uses a condensed method of logic and analysis, offering conclusions rather than arguments and omitting any dialogue, suggesting that perhaps it was meant as a description of the famously complicated original for use in a classroom context. While it may have emerged in part as a series of lecture notes to the original Platonic, it appears to omit difficult parts of the Timaeus rather than include explanations. Without knowledge of Plato's work, some of Pseudo-Timaeus 'theses are very hard to grasp. On the Earth and the Soul contains traces of middle Platonist theories and terminology; in fact, it parallels works by Eudorus of Alexandria and Philo, making it possible that the author resided in Alexandria and was acquainted with the philosophy of Eudorus. Through integrating ideas from Hellenistic Astronomy and Medicine, he modernised the natural philosophy of Plato's Timaeus.

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