Category: Persons

Philip of Opus

Philip from the city of Opus in Locris was a philosopher and a disciple of Plato in the Academy. He is now considered to be identical with the astronomer Philip of Medma.

Philip and Plato’s work

Even though we have no biographical references about his life, information on Philip’s work can be drawn from Diogenes Laertius and the Suda, the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia. In all probability, it was him who transcribed the platonic Laws and divided them into 12 books. He is also said to have composed the Epinomis, which in the Suda is referred to as the 13th book of the Laws. Diogenes Laertius mentions “Some say that Philippus of Opus copied out the Laws, which were left upon waxen tablets, and it is said that he was the author of the Epinomis” (Lives of Eminent Philosophers III 37). The entry “Philosophos” in the Suda credits to an anonymous person both the sorting of the Laws in 12 books and the addition to them of the Epinomis. The editor, LudolfKüster, claimed that the anonymous person was Philip of Opus.

The doubt over the authenticity of the Epinomis is prompted by the partial incompatibility of its stylistic features with the general platonic diction. Telling are the facts that the Epinomis had already been thought of as spurious in antiquity, and that the Laws was considered to be the last but incomplete work of Plato. The extent to which Philip edited the work remains uncertain. He is supposed to have copied and ironed out the shortcomings of the scattered pieces after collecting them in a coherent text. It is plausible that his preoccupation with Plato and his language allowed Philip to adopt his style and compose the Epinomis in a like manner. In this work, Philip aims at completing the topics broached in the Laws, and clarifying points that remained insufficiently analyzed by Plato. Proclus informs us that Philip -responding to Plato’s encouragement- studied mathematics and the philosophy of his teacher. However, it is not easy to discern whether the Epinomis conforms to the philosophy of Plato, or if it reaches such an autonomy as to reflect Philip’s thought alone.

Other works

We are aware of the fact that Philip was not only preoccupied with philosophy, but with other disciplines as well such as mathematics and astronomy. The Suda registers a plethora of titles attributed to him – none of which is extant: On the distance of the sun and moon; On gods; On freedom; On pleasure; On lightning; On the planets; Arithmetic;On Plato – which must have been a biography of his great teacher.

Author: Deny Konstantinidi
  • Hicks, R.D. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, 1972.
  • Hicks, R.D. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, 1972.
  • Tarán, L .
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