Anaxilaus of Larissa

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Anaxilaus of Larissa

(described by Eusebius as a Pythagorean magician who was banished from Italy by Augustus in Olympiad 188, 1 [28 b.c.]).

He wrote about the “magical” or peculiar effects of some minerals, herbs, and animal substances and of the drugs made with them; in this connection he is cited several times by Pliny. He seems to have been famous for his magical tricks, since he is mentioned as the author of ludicra (“sports” or “tricks“) by Irenaeus and by Epiphanius. Anaxilaus may have been a source for Pliny in other instances where Pliny does not mention him by name, but it is impossible to prove it.

Because, in a magical papyrus now at Stockholm, Anaxilaus, is reported as quoting a recipe of Pseudo–Democritus, Diels assumed that through Anaxilaus the author of the papyrus knew at least part of the treatise of Pseudo–Democritus on alchemy. Wellmann, through a comparison of Pliny’s Natural History (XXV, 154), where Anaxilaus is mentioned, and Dioscorides’ De materia medica (IV, 79), infers that Anaxilaus was one of the authors used by Sextius Niger. Other passages, in Sextus Empiricus, Psellus, and others, that are parallel to passages where Anaxilaus is mentioned suggest that he was one of the important sources for magical and alchemical authors. The Anaxilaus mentioned by Diogenes Laertius (I, 107) may or may not be Anaxilaus of Larissa, but there is no reason to identify either with the Anaxilaïdes cited by Diogenes Laertius (III, 2) as the author of a work entitled On Philosophers, as Schwartz has suggested.


H. Diets provides a review of Lagercrantz’s book (see below) in Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 34 (1913), cols. 901–906. See also O. Lagercrantz, Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis. Recepte für Silber, Steine and Purpur (Uppsala–Leipzig, 1913); E. Schwartz, “Anaxilaides,” in Pauly-Wissowa, Real–Encyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswis senschaft, 1, 2 (Stuttgart, 1894), col, 2083; H. Stadler, Die Quellen des Plinius im 19. Buche der naturalis historia, inaugural dissertation (Munich, 1891), pp. 29–30; and M. Wellmann, “sextius Niger. Eine Quellenuntersuchung zu Dioscorides,” in Hermes, 24 (1889), 530–569; “Anaxilaos,” in Pauly-Wissonwa, Real–Encyclopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, 1, 2 (Stuttgart, 1894), col. 2084; “Die ΦγΣIKA des Bolos Demokritos und der Magier Anaxilaos aus Larissa, Teil 1,” in Abhandlungen der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1928), philosophisch–historische Klasse, no. 7; see pp. 77–80 for a collection of the fragments of Anaxilaus.

Anaxilaus is mentioned in the following classical works; Epiphanius, Contra haereses, 34, 1; Eusebius, Chronikon, Schoene ed., 11, 141; Irenaeus, Contra haereses, 1, 13, 1; and Pliny, Natural History, XIX, 20; XXV, 154, XXVIII, 181; XXX, 74; XXXII, 141; XXXV, 175.

L. Taran