Ammonus Saccus


Ammonius ‘Sakkas’:

Nickname: Ammianus Marcellinus 22.16: Saccas Ammonius Plotini magister; Theodoret, Cur. 6.60-73. Cf. Suda, s.v. Origenes.

Ammonius Saccas was a philosopher in Alexandria, Egypt in the 2nd century AD who founded the school of Neoplatonism. He came from a poor background and had little formal education, originally working as a porter, but became a charismatic and influential teacher. He taught a syncretism of Plato, Aristotle, Egyptian, and Indian philosophies and theologies. Ammonius emphasized moral discipline and purifying the mind through contemplation. He had many famous pupils who helped spread Neoplatonism, such as Plotinus, Origen, and Longinus. However, Ammonius left no written works, and we know little of his specific doctrines.

The following was taken from and adapted by Beezone.

Front cover image for City and school in late antique Athens and Alexandria

City and school in late antique Athens and Alexandria

Berkeley : University of California Press, ©2006.

Summary: “This wide ranging study of late antique education explores the intellectual and doctrinal milieux of the two great cities of Athens and Alexandria to shed new light on the interaction between the pagan cultural legacy and Christianity. Where as previous scholarship has seen Christian reactions to pagan educational culture as the product of an empire wide process of development. Edward J. Watts crafts two narratives that reveal how differently education was shaped by the local power structures and urban contexts of each city.”–Jacket.

Chapter 6 –

Alexandrian Intellectual Life in the Roman Imperial Period

p. 155

One Alexandrian intellectual circle provides a glimpse into the relationships that facilitated such interaction. This was the circle of intellectuals involved with the school of the pagan teacher Ammonius Saccas (c. 175-242). The intellectuals associated with his school reveal how pagan schools facilitated philosophical discussion between Alexandrian Christians and pagans.

See more on Alexandria and the ancient school

Although a figure of great importance in the history of Greek thought, Ammonius is quite mysterious. He appears to have written no works of his own and, consequently, Ammonius is known only through the accounts of his students.70 But his associates included some of the most prominent pagan and Christian intellectuals of the third century and, for this reason, the school of Ammonius Saccas provides a unique window on the type of intellectual discourse that occurred between the most educated pagan and Christian scholars.

While he has been the subject of exhaustive (though often inconclusive) modern studies, Ammonius is mentioned in only four roughly contemporary ancient sources.71 The earliest witness to Ammonius’s teaching is found in Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus, a biography of one of the most accomplished students of Ammonius. In speaking about Plotinus’s education, Porphyry tells his readers that Plotinus was extremely hesitant to provide his associates with any details of his life. Even so, occasional references to his biography did leak out. One of these concerned his choice of a philosophical teacher. Porphyry writes:

In his twenty-eighth year Plotinus became eager to study philosophy and it was recommended that he go to the most renowned teachers in Alexandria at that time. He came away from their lectures so full of sadness that he communicated his experiences to a friend. That friend, who understood the desire of his heart, sent him to Ammonius, whom he had not yet tried. Plotinus, upon going and hearing him speak one time, told his friend “This is the man I was seeking.”72

Plotinus then became a member of Ammonius’s inner circle of students, and. from that day forward, “he stayed continually beside Ammonius” and ended up spending eleven years at the school.73

Porphyry’s text also contains another note about Ammonius that is derived not from Plotinus but from the Athenian philosopher Longinus. Porphyry recorded the preface of a book that Longinus wrote to refute the teachings of Plotinus. In this, Longinus described a number of contemporary philosophers. Of Ammonius, he notes, “[of the philosophers who did not write] were the Platonists Ammonius and Origen, beside whom [pl.] I studied for a great time.74 These were men who surpassed their contemporaries in their knowledge.”75

Although brief, these two passages reveal a number of important details about Ammonius Saccas and the arrangement of his school. First, it is clear that Ammonius was not one of the mainstream Alexandrian teachers. Plotinus began his philosophical studies in the 230s, a time when the Mouseion was still functioning as an institution. Indeed, it is likely that the “most renowned teachers in Alexandria” first visited by Plotinus were either Mouseion members or, possibly, other publicly funded professors. Ammonius clearly did not fit into this group.76

While Ammonius did not enjoy the prestige of such rivals, he clearly did have quite a reputation. Not only was he known in Alexandria, but it seems that he managed to attract students from abroad as well.77 These students could enroll in basic courses in philosophy or, if they were sufficiently skilled, they could enter Ammonius’s inner circle of students and become involved in more advanced discussions. Though it is somewhat controversial, there is good evidence for this sort of twofold division in Ammonius’s school.78 For example, in true Pythagorean fashion, Plotinus made a pact with Origen and Erennius (two other initiates of the circle) never to write or speak about Ammonius’s teaching.79 If the Pythagorean parallel is any indication, this pact was an agreement between members of the school’s inner circle.80 A further indication that Ammonius’s students were divided into two groups with different responsibilities and privileges comes from Longinus’s statements about his experience in the school. Longinus notes that he studied informally at the school81 and mentions that, while he was there, both Ammonius and a Platonist named Origen taught him.82 Because Longinus must have begun teaching long before Origen left the school of Ammonius, it seems that, while Longinus attended the school of Ammonius, Origen gave some of his instruction as a part of his duties as a member of Ammonius’s inner circle. As has been discussed above, members of a philosophical school’s inner circle were expected to do introductory teaching in the fourth and fifth centuries.83 There is no reason to assume that things would have been different in the third.

What is known of his philosophical work also suggests that Longinus received a philosophical training that differed significantly from that given to Plotinus and other inner-circle students. While Longinus claims that Ammonius and Origen had a great influence on his thought, his own work appears to be rather conventional.84 It certainly bore none of the imprint of Ammonius’s originality that one can presume to see in Plotinus.85 Furthermore, Longinus also gives no indication that he knew about the teachings that Ammonius’s inner circle students agreed to keep secret.86

The Life of Plotinus tells nothing more about Ammonias. The rest of our knowledge concerning him and his circle comes from excerpts of other works that are introduced by the Christian author Eusebius in the midst of a pseudobiography of the Christian thinker Origen.87 The most important reference found in Eusebius is lifted from Porphyry’s lost work Against the Christians. In it, Porphyry begins by criticizing Christian writers who, “in their efforts to find away” to explain away “the depravity of the Jewish scriptures”, resort to “interpretations which cannot be reconciled with these Scriptures. ‘Enigmas’ is the pompous name they give to the perfectly plain statements of Moses, glorifying them as oracles full of hidden mysteries.”88

Porphyry then claims that a teacher named Origen was the man most responsible for this and, through his numerous writings, “he attained great fame among the teachers of these doctrines.”89 He then discusses Origen’s education.

Origen was a hearer90 of Ammonius, who had the greatest proficiency in philosophy of our day; and, in his familiarity with philosophy, he owed a great debt to his master. But, as regards the right choice91 in life, he took the opposite course. For Ammonius was a Christian who was brought up in Christianity by his parents. However, when he began to think and study philosophy, he immediately changed to a way of life that conformed with the laws. But Origen, who was a Hellene educated in Hellenic doctrines, pressed forward to barbarian recklessness . . . and while in his life he lived abnormally and as a Christian, in his opinions about material and divine things, he played the Hellene and introduced Hellenic ideas into foreign fables.92

Eusebius then inserts his own comments. While he agrees that Porphyry is correct about Origen’s education, Eusebius maintains that he lied about Origen’s pagan birth and Ammonius’s conversion to paganism. As proof of the first claim, he mentions that his work has already made clear that Origen’s father was a Christian martyr. Then, to demonstrate the second point, Eusebius produces the title of a work called On the Harmony of Moses and Jesus that he claims Ammonius wrote.
One final piece of evidence that Eusebius introduces is a fragment of a letter that Origen himself wrote. In this, Origen states:

As I was devoted to the word, and the fame of our abilities was spreading abroad, heretics and men familiar with Greek learning and, most of all, philosophy, approached me. I thought it right to examine the doctrines of the heretics and also the claims philosophers make to speak about the truth. And we did this, imitating both Pantaenus, who, before us, helped many and acquired no small attainment in these matters, and also Heraclas (the one now seated among the Alexandrian presbyters) whom I found with the teacher of philosophy and who had been his follower93 for five years before I began to hear94 his teachings. And though he formerly wore ordinary dress, on his teacher’s account, he put it off and assumed a philosophic garb, which he keeps to this day, all the while never ceasing to study the books of pagan scholars.95

When reading these Eusebian passages, it is natural to attempt to connect the Christian Origen with the inner-circle student described in the Life of Plotinus. But the evidence argues strongly against such an identification. For one thing, as both Porphyry and Eusebius indicate, the Christian Origen wrote voluminously. The pagan Origen, by contrast, wrote only two texts, neither one of which has ever been attributed to the Christian Origen. In addition, some of the details of their lives are impossible to reconcile. Origen the Christian died in the Decian persecution of the 250s.96 The pagan Origen, however, visited the school of Plotinus while Porphyry was a student there.97 This visit, then, must have occurred in the later 260s, well after the death of Origen’s Christian counterpart. Origen was a common name in third century Egypt and it is not surprising that there were multiple men of that name involved in Ammonius’s school.98

If, as seems clear, the Life of Plotinus passages and the references in the Ecclesiastical History describe two different men named Origen, one must consider how deeply involved the Christian Origen was in the activities of the school. Both Porphyry and Origen help to answer this question. Porphyry describes Origen as an akroatesor casual student of Ammonius.99 Origen himself echoes this when he compares the deep devotion that Heraclas had to Ammonius with his own rather casual experience of listening to the lectures at the school.100 This meant that Origen’s level of involvement in the school likely mirrored that of Longinus. Indeed, if Eusebius is correct that Origen was also serving as a teacher of grammar at the time, it is difficult to imagine him being anything more than a casual student.101 As Porphyry separately indicates, both men received a thorough training in the teachings of Plato as well as an introduction to Pythagorean and Stoic doctrines. But, as casual members of the school, both men likely did not know about some of the more revolutionary teachings of Ammonius.102

While one might be tempted to assume that Origen’s Christianity excluded him from the inner circle of the school, the experience of Heraclas suggests that this was not the case. Heraclas was an affluent pagan with a thoroughly classical education when he began attending the school of Ammonius. After a number of years at the school, Heraclas became intrigued by Christianity and approached Origen to learn more about the faith.103 The instruction he received led to his conversion. Despite his Christianity, Heraclas apparently retained an intimate personal relationship with Ammonius. Origen also suggests that, before he left the school to become a presbyter in the church, Heraclas was a member of the same inner circle that Plotinus later joined and that he remained involved with philosophy even following his entrance into ecclesiastical office.104 Heraclas’s experience, then, suggests quite strongly that Christians were welcome in the circle of Ammonius. More generally, it also reveals the depth of elite Christian engagement in high-level Alexandrian intellectual culture.
Heraclas’s case also suggests that Christian teachers could capitalize upon the ties between Christian and pagan intellectuals to attract intellectually inclined converts. Origen, for example, understood philosophical explanation to be a gateway through which students could be led to Christianity.105 For him, a philosophically tinged, religious education became a method to bring about conversion and the teacher became a type of missionary. In this, Origen was drawing upon a well-established Alexandrian tradition that mixed Christian teaching and pagan intellectual approaches. In the second century, for example, the Christian teacher Pantaenus, who had reportedly led missionary trips to areas as distant as India, seems to have drawn upon his background in Stoic philosophy and textual analysis to add a specifically intellectual flavor to Christian mission activity in Alexandria.106 Pantaenus and his younger contemporary Clement were so successful in attractively combining the techniques of pagan philosophical learning with Christian doctrine that the intellectual missionary efforts of each appear to have been given official sanction by the bishop of Alexandria.107

While both Pantaenus and Clement filled the dual roles of Christian teacher and missionary by mixing elements of Christianity and Alexandrian intellectual culture, Origen’s efforts represent the most developed such program. Indeed, in its organization, Origen’s teaching bore a strong resemblance to that seen in pagan philosophical schools during his lifetime. For the interested pagan intellectuals who approached him, Origen set up a plan of study that began with preliminary courses explaining the building blocks of philosophical study.108 In Platonic schools, students who passed through this elementary instruction would then begin a type of spiritual training through the study of Platonic dialogs. In Origen’s circle, students who had completed this elementary training (either with him or with some other teacher of philosophy) would also begin a spiritual training. In his case, however, the training was based upon a study of the Bible, which was organized so as to correspond to specific philosophical disciplines.109 These Biblical texts were closely examined, commented upon, and explained in a fashion similar to that seen in later Platonic circles. Students who completed Origen’s training were then left with a truly Christianized philosophical education.110

Gregory, a student who joined Origen’s circle while he taught in Caesarea, provides even more details about how Origen used philosophy to attract educated men to Christianity.111 Gregory came to Origen’s school as a pagan with training in philosophy and law. He was a visitor alone, drawn to Origen’s side by a recommendation from a family friend. Nevertheless, through constant exhortations to value philosophy and daily engagement in philosophic dialectics, Origen made Gregory begin to consider the Christian significance of pagan philosophy.112 Origen taught him Christian interpretations of physics, astronomy, geometry, and ethics.113 He did this, in Gregory’s words, by “picking out and placing before us everything that was useful and true in each of the philosophers … [while] counseling us not to pin our allegiance to any philosopher, even if all men swear that he is all-knowing, but to attach ourselves only to God and the Prophets.”114 This program, with its use of philosophy to underpin Biblical study, produced a religious conversion in Gregory that was firmly based upon intellectual training.

Eusebius leaves no doubt that Origen’s activities as a Christian teacher of and missionary to pagan intellectuals were done on his own initiative. Indeed, one must imagine that, while Origen was the most successful such Christian teacher, other less famous Christian teachers with ties to pagan intellectual circles also existed.115 This fact may explain why it was only later, after the great appeal of his program had become apparent, that Origen was 164 ALEXANDRIAN INTELLECTUAL LIFE
the teacher approached by Demetrios, the bishop of Alexandria, to become an officially supported Christian teacher; Origen’s efforts were only officially recognized when he had proven himself the city’s most competent Christian teacher.116
The young, intellectually inclined pagans who were converted by Origen did not lose interest in traditional philosophy. Heraclas, for example, still remained involved in Ammonius’s school after his encounters with Origen. Indeed, even after his career pulled him away from the teacher and his circle,117 Heraclas continued to wear the robes of a philosopher and allowed his philosophical identification to be recognized.118 He also maintained an active interest in philosophical discussion.
Heraclas and others like him show that, for some of the most cultivated Alexandrians, philosophy and Christianity were seen as perfectly compatible. The continued interest in intense philosophical study among Christian intellectuals meant that the Christian teaching tradition needed to show how this training complemented Christianity. When Christian leaders could not do this, there was a real risk that a Christian student would be led away from the church, a danger amply illustrated by the biography of Ammonius Sac-cas. Ammonius was born to Christian parents and raised as a Christian. As a youth, he was given a thorough classical education and, when he learned about philosophy, Ammonius converted to paganism.119 For Ammonius (and probably for others like him), philosophical study had demonstrated the superiority of paganism. In such circumstances, it was the responsibility of Christian teachers to provide compelling intellectual instruction that prevented such conversions from happening.

In this respect, Origen was one of the best Christian teachers. He headed a group devoted to the study of Christian scriptures and led discussions that drew heavily upon the philosophical tradition. Although his writings bear the unmistakable imprint of his philosophical training, one need not indulge in a systematic evaluation of Origen’s theology to see the role that philosophy played in his religious teaching.120 Origen himself describes this in a letter to his student Gregory:
Your natural ability enables you to be made an esteemed Roman lawyer or a Greek philosopher of one of the most notable schools. But I hoped that you would entirely apply your ability to Christianity. Indeed, in order to bring this about, I beg of you to take from your studies of Hellenic philosophy those things such as can be made encyclic or preparatory studies to Christianity.121
He then asks Gregory to:

Apply the things that are useful from geometry and astronomy to the explanation of the Holy Scriptures, so that, as the philosophers say about geometry, music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy (namely that they are assistants to philosophy), we may say such things about philosophy in relation to Christianity.122

Origen concludes by drawing upon a story in Exodus that mentions the Israelites’ using Egyptian gold to make items used for the worship of their God. His message in this is clear. Intellectual approaches and doctrines learned in philosophical schools played an integral role in creating an intellectually defined Christian teaching.

Indeed, the role of Origen’s circle was not simply to produce converts. It also helped converted Christians like Heraclas and Gregory to understand how their faith was complemented by the teachings of pagan philosophy. It provided them with a comfortable setting in which they could discuss philosophy, Christianity, and the Christian utility of philosophical culture. Origen helped such reflection by giving public lectures each Wednesday and Friday.123 A skilled teacher like Origen would use this setting to show his students that pagan philosophy was an asset to Christianity and not an inherently dangerous subject.

This was an important contribution because, while schools like that of Ammonius Saccas included Christians among their students, they were not particularly accepting of Christian intellectual culture.124 A number of third-century intellectuals wrote anti-Christian polemics that relied upon philosophy to demonstrate their points. While none of the surviving texts seem to have been composed in Alexandria, two philosophers with ties to the school of Ammonius did use philosophy to attack Christianity. Plotinus, the student of Ammonius Saccas, wrote a series of refutations of doctrines advocated by the Gnostics.125 While Plotinus attacked some teachings of one Christian group, his student Porphyry composed a comprehensive refutation of Christianity in c. 2 70.126 Both of these works were probably written in Rome, but the links between the Roman and Alexandrian cultural worlds at this time were strong, and these texts, which may or may not have been inspired by the Alexandrian cultural milieu, certainly circulated in the city.

The leaders of Christian study circles represented an important counter in these intellectual exchanges. They not only could teach Christians how to respond intelligendy to these criticisms, but they could also circulate classically structured texts that contained reasoned rebuttals to pagan attacks. Clement of Alexandria, for example, wrote the Protrepticus, a tract designed to encourage pagans to approach Christianity on intellectual grounds.127 Origen, too, wrote a different sort of work that aimed to convert by refuting the criticisms of Christianity leveled by the physician Celsus.128

Origen’s activities, then, reveal the interesting role a Christian teacher had to play. He was essentially the head of a sub-group of intellectuals. These men participated in the general Alexandrian philosophical and cultural world, but they also remained sensitive to the religious implications of their participation. Teachers like Origen steered young intellectuals towards Christianity and kept them secure in the faith through constant instruction. Though subsequent generations of Alexandrian Christian teachers seem to have abandoned Origen’s Platonically derived syllabus, the use of elements of pagan learning to introduce intellectually inclined converts to Christianity remained popular into the fourth century.129

Equally significant is the role played by schools like that of Ammonius Saccas. Ammonius himself had experience with both paganism and Christianity, and his school seems to have attracted students from both religious traditions. In his general classes, it seems that Ammonius was willing to provide a firm grounding in traditional philosophical methods to every one of his students (regardless of their religious identity). Among his inner circle, the teaching may have been less conventional and, perhaps, more religious in character. Nevertheless, the training that students received in Ammonius’s school provided a common set of concepts and philosophical approaches that greatiy facilitated cultural exchanges. At times, these techniques were used to convert people from one faith to another. On other occasions, they were used to criticize elements of either Christianity or paganism. But, although our sources sometimes obscure the fact, most often the philosophical training that both pagans and Christians received enabled them to constructively communicate ideas between one another. Philosophy was a social as well as a polemical tool and, in Alexandria, it served the former purpose much better.

The free intellectual exchange between Alexandrian pagans and Christians extended far beyond the school of Ammonius. Before Ammonius began teaching, Christians like Clement had introduced philosophical ideas of varying sophistication into their writings. This trend also continued long after Ammonius passed from the scene. In the 290s, for example, the Platonist Alexander of Lycopolis wrote a polemical tract against the Manichees that was so full of Christian teaching that many modern scholars assumed he was himself a Christian.130 The intellectual discourse between educated Christians and pagans that this presupposes seems to have been a natural part of the Alexandrian cultural world.

While a certain level of engagement between pagan and Christian intellectuals can be seen in many of the major urban centers of the Roman empire, some of Alexandria’s specific attributes made it especially able to nurture such ties. Alexandria’s historic status as an important center of teaching certainly played a role. The large community of scholars attracted by the Mouseion and the Library had long sustained a sophisticated cultural life in the city. We do not know of any Christians who joined either institution but, through their networks of correspondents, it is likely that they had access to the works produced in them. Furthermore, Christians would have had access to teachers, like Ammonius Saccas, who worked outside of these institutions. The quality of teaching in their schools was sometimes even better than what was available in the public schools.
Christian teachers like Origen played a significant role in making this system work well for Christians. The intellectual circles these men headed pr< >-vided a forum within which the material taught in schools could be incoi-porated into Christian understandings of religion. Just as importantly, they taught Christian intellectuals how their philosophical education could complement their Christianity. While schools like that headed by Ammonius Saccas accepted Christians as students, they had little interest in respecting theii religious ideas and, in the case of particularly illogical ideas like allegorical scriptural interpretation, they were met with harsh criticism.131 In the minds of these teachers, Christianity had little positive impact upon their teaching. It was left to men like Origen to show Christian students how philosophy could complement and not inherently compete with their religious values. This was a job they readily accepted, and performed throughout the second and third centuries.
Despite their religious differences, educated Christians and pagans shared a great deal in Roman Alexandria. They shared a geographic space, a collection of educational institutions, and a common intellectual culture. Indeed, because conversions between the two faiths were not uncommon, they even shared people. It was inevitable that mixed intellectual circles comprised of pagans and Christians would develop, both in the Alexandrian schools and outside of them. This was only natural in Alexandria, a city abundani in diversity and erudition.








71. F. M. Schroeder (“AmmoniusSaccasfinAufstiegundNiedergangderRomischenWelfi.^.y [1987]: 493-526) has collected and summarized most of the modern scholarship. Since the publication of Schroeder’s piece, M. Edwards (“Ammonius, Teacher of Origen,” fournal of Ecclesiastical History 44 [1993]: 169—81) has added a new twist to the discussion.

72. VP3.7-13.
Ibid., 3.14-17. The verb Porphyry uses is -n-apa^evovra, a word that connotes personal intimacy. G. Fowden, “The Platonist Philosopher and His Circle in Late Antiquity,” iXoao^>la 7 (1977): 363 n.15, supposes that their association ended with Ammonius’s death. D. O’Brien, “Plotinus and the Secrets of Ammonius,” Hermathena 157 (1994): 117-53 (esp. 123-24), suggests that Plotinus left the circle before Ammonius’s death. Porphyry is silent about this, but his account seems to support Fowden’s position.
74. TTpoaeoiTt]0ap.ev. In this context, the verb seems to indicate habitual but informal study. It is the verb used to describe Plotinus’s study under the teacher of letters (VP 3.2) as well as the habitual but inattentive attendance of the painter who covertly painted Plotinus while pretending to listen to his lectures (VP 1.14).
75. VP 20.36-39.
76. On Ammonius’s outsider status see, for example,}. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 381-82.
77. Longinus is one such student.

78. This division of students has been questioned by M. Edwards, “Ammonius, Teacher of Origen,” 176 n. 16.
79. VP3.24K. As will be discussed below, this Origen is distinct from the Christian thinker of the same name.
80. For the Pythagorean idea that initiates were not to reveal any of the school’s doctrines see lamblichus, Vit. Pyth.
81. As implied by the verb (on which, see discussion n. 74 above).
82. Again, it is clear that this is not the Christian Origen.
83. Chrysanthius and Aedesius (Eunapius, Vit. Soph. 474) are the most prominent such students. For a discussion of this phenomenon, see chapter 3 above.
84. In VP 14.18-19, Plotinus described Longinus as “a scholar (^tAdAoyos) but not a philosopher.”
85. There has been significant debate about the degree to which Plotinus’s thought depends upon the teaching of Ammonius. Numenius (DeNatura Hominis 3.20) indicates that Ammonius presented some proto-Neoplatonic doctrines. On the other hand, it has been argued by H. Dorrie (Platonica Minora [Munich, 1976], 393-95) that the title of Origen’s lost work, That the King is the Only Maker, reveals a Middle Platonic interpretation of the doctrine of creation. If this is the case, then Ammonius’s teaching may have been much less revolutionary than Plotinus’s work. Nevertheless, when Origen visited his school, Plotinus was embarrassed and wanted to stop lecturing because “his audience already knew what he was going to say” (VP 14.24). Clearly Origen had already learned a great deal about some of the Plotinian doctrines.
86. One need only compare Plotinus’s dismissal of Longinus’s knowledge with his feelings about Origen.

87. On the larger nature of this piece, see the study of P. Cox (Biography in Late Antiquity: The Quest for the Holy Man [Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983], 69-1 o 1) as well as R. M. Grant, “Eusebius and His Lives of Origen,” in Forma Futuri: Studi in onore del Cardinale Michele Pellegrino (Turin, 1975), 635-49; an<1 B Nautin, Origene: Sa vie et son oeuvre (Paris, 1977).
88. Porphyry in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 6. 19.4.
89. HE6.19.5.
90. aKpoaT-f.
91. TTpoalpeocs. This is a play on the word used to indicate one’s philosophical allegiance.
92. HE 6.19.6-7. For the significant contrast between upbringing and education in this passage, see P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity, 92-93; and W. C. Van Unnik, Tarsus orJerusalem? trans. G. Ogg (London, 1962), 32-33. Porphyry’s text is additionally interesting in light of contemporary discussions about the relationship between “Hellenism” as a cultural and religious identifier in late antiquity (see, for example, the discussions of G. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity [Ann Arbor, 1990]; R. Lyman, “Hellenism and Heresy,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 11.2 [2003]: 209-22; and S. Elm, “Hellenism and Historiography: Gregory of Nazianzus and Julian in Dialog,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33.3 [2003]: 493-515). Because he aims to criticize Origen on both intellectual and religious grounds, Porphyry consciously exploits two possible understandings of the term “Hellene.” He is, in essence, linking the cultural significance of Hellenism with the possible religious connotation of the term “Hellene.” According to Porphyry’s construction, Origen was born a Hellene (one with a pagan religious identity) and was educated in Hellenic doctrines (a sort of cultural training). Unlike Ammonius’s conversion from Christianity to philosophy, Origen’s conversion to Christianity represents a repudiation of both the religious and the cultural aspects of his Hellenism. This is a particularly damning indictment of his intellectual projects.
93- TTpocKapTep^aavra. This word is often found in the New Testament. In Origen’s other writings, it frequently connotes a strong personal devotion to a superior (e.g., Fr. In Lamenta-tionem 109.6, where it describes the Israelites’ devotion to God).
94. aKOv’eiv.
95. .HE6.19.12-14.
96. Eusebius, HE 6.39.
97. VP 14.24.

98. Dillon, The Middle Platonists, 449 n. 84.
99. H. R. Schwyzer (Ammonias Sakkas, der Lehrer Plotins [Opladen, 1983], 36) first called attention to the importance of Origen’s being called an oKpoa-rqs (or casual student). M. Edwards, “Ammonius, Teacher of Origen,” 174-76, has recently argued that no distinction existed between the status of Plotinus and that of Origen while both men studied philosophy. He maintains that this is the case because Origen is called an aKpoar-qs and Plotinus agreed not to share the teachings expressed in the aKpodaeis of Ammonius. According to this reasoning, both men were simply hearers of lectures. This reconstruction, however, ignores a crucial distinction between the meanings of the two words. As we have seen earlier, aKpoarf was a technical term that was understood to indicate a casual student (a modern equivalent may be something like “underclassman”). aKpdaais had no such clear meaning. It could be either the lectures given to the general student population or special doctrines discussed only among the inner circle of the school. Philostratus in 1A 585 mentions that the members of Herodes Atticus’s inner circle listened to a special, exclusive aKpdaais that followed the aKpdaais open to all! In Porphyry’s work a clear distinction is made between an aKpoarps and a A/ArnrTp (“Eax^ 8i aKpoards per rrXeiovs, ^rfarras Be Kai 3id fiAoaopiav avvdvras, VPy.i), but the term aKpdaais carries no such distinguishing feature. It seems to be a general term simply used to describe the teachings in a philosophical school (on this term, see as well C. Scholten, “Die alexandrinische Kate-chetenschule,” fahrbuchfur Antike und Christentum^B [1995]: 26). Because Plotinus and the other close associates of Ammonius took a vow not to reveal this teaching, it is clear that these particular aKpdaaeis of Ammonius could not have been accessible to the general public. However, in VP 20.67, the philosopher Heliodorus is criticized for never going beyond the teachings his elders expressed in their aKpdaaeis. For such a criticism to be leveled, the teachings of his mentors must have been publicly available. Another use of the term, in the Life of Pythagoras, reveals -■ that Porphyry thought it appropriate to use for even the most basic summary of a teacher’s ideas. Porphyry remarks that Pythagoras converted a crowd of people to his way of thought through one aKpdaais (Vit. Pyth, 20.3). Consequently, the idea that Plotinus and Origen had the same status in the school is not sustainable.
100. F. M. Schroeder, “Ammonius Saccas,” 508, questions whether Origen’s letter even refers to Ammonius. While Eusebius is not well informed about Origen’s philosophical training (P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity, 94), he does introduce this text into a discussion about Origen’s education. Nowhere else in the account does he mention Origen’s having any other teachers. It then seems reasonable to assume that the teacher it describes is Ammonius.

101. Eusebius, HE&.2.. Origen was still a teacher of grammar when he was approached by the future converts Plutarch and Heraclas, each of whom he had encountered during his study with Ammonius.
102. The recent suggestion of M. Edwards {Neoplatonic Saints: The Lives of Plotinus andPro-clus by their Students [Liverpool, 2000], 14 n. 75) that an deporn-f: was able to attend all the meetings of the inner circle but not permitted to speak, is not supported by the sources.
103. “While Origen was lecturing … some of the Greeks came to him to hear the word of God. The first of them was Plutarch … the second was Heraclas, the brother of Plutarch.” HE 6.3.1-2.
104. The emphasis that Origen places upon Heraclas’s wearing the garb of a philosopher indicates the difference in their status at the school. The privilege of wearing the tribon was a rite of passage granted to a mature philosopher (on this, see chapter 4). While Ammonius granted this honor to Heraclas, the Christian Origen apparently never attained this level.
105. E.g., Origen, Homilies onJeremiah, 15.2.8. On this idea, see P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity, 94; P. Nautin, “Origene Predicateur,” in Origene: Homelies surJeremie i—n, ed. P. Nautin, Sources Chretiennes 232 (Paris, 1976), 152.

106. On Pantaenus’s philosophical training, see Eusebius, HE 5.10.1. On his teaching in general, see A. Tuilier, “Les evangelistes et les docteurs de la primitive eglise et les origines de 1’EcoIe (didaskaleion) d’Alexandrie,” Studia Patristica 17.2 (1982): 738-42.
107. This sanction came through the controversial institution that has been called the Catechetical School of Alexandria. The Catechetical School is not clearly described by any ancient source (for a typical description, see Eusebius, HE 5.10), and modern opinions about its nature vary widely. For a survey of some not entirely modern opinions, see A. Le Boulluec, “L’Ecole d’Alexandrie. De quelques aventures d’un concept historiographique,” in ’AXe^avbpivd. Hei-lenisme, judaisme et christianisme a Alexandria, Melanges offerts a C. Mondesert, 403-17 (Paris, 1987). Aparticularly convincing picture of the early institution is that found in C. Scholten, “Die Alexah-drinische Katechetenschule.” Scholten’s notion (p. 34) that the “professors” of the school were often independent teachers whose teaching and missionary activities were sanctioned by the church hierarchy seems correct. See also the portraits of R. van den Broek, “The Christian ‘School’ of Alexandria in the Second and Third Centuries,” in Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East, ed. J. W. Drijvers and A. M. MacDonald, 39-47 (Leiden, 1995); and A. van den Hoek, “The ‘Catechetical’ School of Early Christian Alexandria and its Philonic Heritage,” Harvard Theological Review 90 (1997): 59-87. van den Hoek’s attempt to identify the liturgical role of these prominent Alexandrian teachers is particularly interesting. It is unlikely, however, that their liturgical and evangelical roles overshadowed their intellectual pursuits. It seems more likely that, in their identity as Christian “teachers,” they headed small circles of intellectually inclined individuals who understood their teaching and preaching as complementary activities.
108. On this course of study see, C. Scholten, “Die Alexandrinische Katechetenschule,’ 24-25; and I. Hadot, “Les Introductions aux commentaires exegetiques chez les auteurs neo-platoniciens et les auteurs Chretiens,” in Les Regies de Tlnterfnetation, ed. M. Tardieu, 99—123 (Pans, 1987), esp. 110-11.

109. Scholten, “Die Alexandrinische Katechetenschule,” 24-27.
110. Ibid., 27, and I. Hadot, “Les Introductions aux commentaires exegetiques,” 115-16.
111. The similarity between Origen’s methods in Caesarea and those used in Alexandria is affirmed by J. W. Trigg, “God’s Marvelous Oikonomia: Reflections of Origen’s Understanding of Divine and Human Pedagogy in the Address Ascribed to Gregory Thaumaturgus,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001): 34; and by R. van den Broek, “The Christian ‘School’ of Alexandria,”45-47.
112. Gregory Thaumaturge, Address to Origen 6-8. The identification of this Gregory with the Thaumaturge has been questioned by P. Nautin, Origene: Sa vie et son oeuvre, 161,184. Against this, seej. W. Trigg, “God’s Marvelous Oikonomia,” 29.
113. Address to Origen, 8-11. On this ordering of teaching see J. W. Trigg, “God’s Marvelous Oikonomia,” 28-29; P. Cox, Biography in Late Antiquity, 95; and, more generally, H. Crouzel, L’Ecole d’Origene a Cesaree,” Bulletin de litterature eccUsiastique 71 (1970): 15-27.
114. Address to Origen, 14—15.
115. C. Scholten (“Die Alexandrinische Katechetenschule,” 36) lists the names of some earlier such teachers.

116. Eusebius makes this clear in HE6.3. See also C. Scholten, “Die Alexandrinische Kate-chetenschule,” 19. Unless one wishes to posit the existence of some unknown interim administrator, the significant gap between Clement’s tenure and Demetrius’s recognition of Origen’s ability suggests that the “Catechetical School” was not an institution in any formal sense. Its head was probably a prominent Christian intellectual who, like a poet laureate, was given the title to reward his teaching and missionary work with the expectation that he would continue to serve as the official intellectual voice of the city’s Christian community. If the head of the “Catechetical School” is so understood, it is likely that Eusebius is correct in suggesting that Origen was given this title.
117. HE 6.15.1 indicates that Heraclas eventually served as a teacher at the Alexandrian school of Christian instruction that Origen once headed. This is impossible to date, however.
118. It is worth noting with C. Scholten (“Die Alexandrinische Katechetenschule,” 04) the possible polemical intent of Origen’s comment to this effect.
119. As noted above, Eusebius argues against the claims made by Porphyry that Ammonius had converted. Eusebius’s arguments are not of the same strength as those of Porphyry. While Eusebius evidently knew Ammonius only from his writings, Porphyry had a close relationship with Ammonius’s student Plotinus, as well as encounters with others of Ammonius s inner circle. Given these personal interactions with Ammonius’s followers, it is reasonable to assume that Porphyry could have confidently and accurately relayed a fact as basic as Ammonius’s religious self-identification.

120. Among the many studies describing the philosophical content of Origen’s writings see H. Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition (Oxford, 1966), 66-95; and the specific but telling study ofj. M. Rist, “The Importance of Stoic Logic in the Contra Celsum,” m Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought, ed. H.J. Blumenthal and R. A. Markus, 64-78 (London, 1981).
121. Origen, Philocalia 13.1.2-11. This Gregory seems to be distinct from Gregory the Thau-maturge.
122. Philocalia 13.1.12 ff.
123. Socrates Scholasticus, HE5.22.

124. Origen himself alludes to the hostility with which Christian thought was received initially by his pagan contemporaries (Homilies in Jeremiah 20.5).
125. Plotinus, Enneads, 2.9,3.8, 5.5, and 5.8. These writings are mentioned by Porphyry at VP 16. Porphyry mentions that they were written to rebut the ideas of followers of two unknown teachers. For more on this, see J. Igai, “The Gnostics and ‘The Ancient Philosophy* in Plotinus,” in Neoplatonism and Early Christian Thought, ed. H. J. Blumenthal and R. A. Markus, 138-49 (London, 1981).
126. Now preserved only in fragments. On this see A. von Harnack, Porphyrius “Gegen de Christen ” (Berlin, 1916). See as well as the insightful comments of T. D. Barnes, “Porphyry Against the Christians: Date and Attribution of Fragments,” Journal of Theological Studies 24 (1973): 424-42; and A. Smith, Porphyry’s Place in the Neoplatonic Tradition: A Study in Post-Plotinian Neoplatonism (The Hague, 1974). For the implications of a date in the 290s, see in part E. DePalma Digeser, “Lactantius, Porphyry, and the Debate over Religious Toleration,” Journal of Roman Studies 88 (1998): 129-46.
127. On the Protrepicus, see the recent edition of M. Marcovich (Clementis Alexandrini Pro-trepicus [Leiden, 1995]).
128. For the philosophical content of the Contra Celsum see, among many others, J. M. Rist, “The Importance of Stoic Logic in the Contra Celsum,” 64-65; and L. Roberts, “Origen and Stoic Logic,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Association 101 (1970): 433-44.

129. For a survey of such teachers (most of whom are noted as heads of the Catechetical school), see C. Scholten, “Die Alexandrinische Katechetenschule,” 32-34.
130. He was not a Christian, however. On Alexander see G. Fowden, “The Platonist Philosopher and His Circle,” 367; and, especially, J. Mansfeld, “Alexander and the History of Neoplatonism,” in An Alexandrian Platonist Against Dualism: Alexander of Lycopolis’ Treatise “Critique of the Doctrines of Manichaeus,” trans. P. W. van der Horst and J. Mansfeld, 6-48 (Leiden, 1974)> and reprinted in J. Mansfeld, Studies in Later Greek Philosophy and Gnosticism (London, 1989), ch. 13.

131. Such as that of Porphyry. See, however, C. Scholten (“Die Alexandrinische Kate-chetenschule,” 27 n. 75) for the similarity of Origenistic allegory and some Platonic tradition-of exegesis.