IAMBLICHUS (c. 250-325)

Born in Chalcis in Coele-Syria, Iamblichus was a successor of Porphyry in the Neoplatonist tradition. Whereas Plotinus and Porphyry were skeptical and disapproved of magic, he is reported to have defended theurgy, as it was called. Tradition also includes his performing acts of levitation and conjuring spirits. Among his extant writings are “On the Pythagorean Life,” “Exhortation to Philosophy,” three treatises on mathematics, and a lengthy defense of ritualistic magic, “De Mysteriis.” Modern of his works runs from “superficial” to “worthless,” but he did advance the theory that evil has its origin in the will, and he disputed Plotinus’ doctrine of the soul’s divinity.

He placed great emphasis on the mysticism of numbers, sanctified myths, and speculated on an infinitely increased number of Divine Beings, expanding and glorifying the Olympic religion of the Greeks.

Lost writings include a treatise “On the Soul” ( preserved in the anthology of Stobaeus), “On the Gods,” and commentaries on Plato and Aristotle (quoted by Proclus).


  • Deubner, L., ed. De vita Pythagorica liber. Leipzig, 1937.
  • Dodds, E. R. Proclus’ Elements of Theology, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1963. Festa, Nicolaus, ed. De communi mathematica scientia liber. Stuttgart, 1975.
  • Harnack, A. History of Dogma, Vol. 1, pp. 347-56. Repr. New York, 1961.
  • Merlan, P. From Platonism to Neoplatonism, 3rd ed. rev. The Hague, 1968.
  • Pistelli, H., ed. Iamblichi in Nicomachi arithmeticam introductionem liber. Stuttgart, 1975.