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Hierocles of Alexandria

Hierocles of Alexandria, Neoplatonist writer, flourished c. AD 430.

He studied under the celebrated Neoplatonist Plutarch at Athens, and taught for some years in his native city. He seems to have been banished from Alexandria and to have taken up his abode in Constantinople, where he gave such offence by his religious opinions that he was thrown into prison and cruelly flogged.

The only complete work of his which has been preserved is the commentary on the Carmina Aurea of Pythagoras. It enjoyed a great reputation in middle age and Renaissance times, and there are numerous translations in various European languages. Several other writings, especially one on providence and fate, a consolatory treatise dedicated to his patron Olympiodorus of Thebes, are quoted or referred to by Photius and Stobaeus.

The collection of some 260 witticisms, attributed to Hierocles and Philagrius, has no connexion with Hierocles of Alexandria, but is probably a compilation of later date, founded on two older collections. It is now agreed that the fragments of the Elements of Ethics preserved in Stobaeus are from a work by a Stoic named Hierocles, contemporary of Epictetus, who has been identified with the "Hierocles Stoicus vir sanctus et gravis" in Aulus Gellius (ix. 5. 8). This theory is confirmed by the discovery of a papyrus (ed. H. von Arnim in Berliner Kiassikertexte, Iv. 1906.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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