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(b. Neapolis [the Biblical Shechem, now Nablus], Palestine; fl. second half of fifth century a.d.; d. Athens[?])


Marinus, probably a Samaritan (perhaps also a Jew), became a convert to the Hellenic-pagan way of life.1 He joined the Platonic Academy when Proclus, who dedicated his commentary on the Myth of Er in Plato’s Republic to him, was its head. 2 After Proclus’ death in a.d. 485 Marinus became the president of the Academy; he was evidently—and, as far as one can judge, rightly—considered the best representative of the views of Proclus, whom he praised and eulogized in an extant biography.

If one wants to assess the change in the philosophical climate since Plotinus’ death in a.d. 270, it is very instructive to compare Porphyry’s Life of Prochlus, written two centuries later. Marinus, however, does not seem to have been merely a dogmatic follower of his systematizing predecessor; he did not hesitate to adopt an independent and more realistic, down-to-earth attitude wherever he deemed it necessary. In his exegesis of Plato he rightly maintained, for instance, that Plato, when writing the Parmenides, had not, as Proclus’ other disciples thought, been concerned with gods but with εϊδη, “Forms.” Like other late Neoplatonists, he appreciated mathematics very highly: “I wished everything were mathematics.”3

Marinus proposed a new solution to the Peripatetic-Academic problem of the Active Intelligence (vȏυς πoιητkóς) by localizing it, as did the great Aristotelian Alexander of Aphrodisias (ca. A.D. 200), in the superlunary world but no longer identifying it with the First Cause. He placed it below the First Cause, as an “angelic, spiritual” being, making it a kind of intermediary between the highest stage of man’s intellect and the unchanging superior world.4 His view became, in due course, important for Islamic Arabic philosophers and was, with slight modifications, adopted by two of the most outstanding among them, al-Fārābī and Ibn Sīnā.5


1. Damascius, Vita Isidori, R. Asmus, ed., ch. 141: τò ‘Eλληνικòν ήγάπησεν.

2. See Proclus, In rem publicam, W. Kroll, ed., II, pp. 96, 200.

3. Elias, Prolegomena, A. Busse, ed., in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca XVIII, pp. 28, 29: εϊθε πάντα μαθήματα ην.

4. See Pseudo-Philoponus, De Anima, M. Hayduck, ed., in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca, p. 535.

5. See R. Walzer in “Aristotle’s Active Intellect (vȏυς πoιητιkóς) in Greek and Early Islamic Philosophy,” in Potino e il Neoplatonismo in Oriente e in Occidente (Rome, 1974).


I. Original Works. The only extant philosophical work by Marinus is the biography of Proclus, J. Boissonade, ed. (Leipzig, 1814), repr. in Procli opera inedita, V. Cousin, ed., 2nd ed. (Paris, 1864), and in Diogenes Laërtius, C. G. Cobet, ed. (Paris, 1878). There is an English trans. from the Greek in L. G. Rosan, The Philosophy of Proclus (New York, 1949).

II. Secondary Literature. The best account of Marinus is in F. Ueberweg and K. Praechter, Die Philosophie des Altertums, XIII (Tübingen, 1953), pp. 631 ff. His influence on Islamic Arabic philosophers is discussed by R. Walzer, in Le néoplatonisme (Paris, 1971), pp. 319 ff.

R. Walzer

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