ANTIOCHUS (’Αντιοχος)OF ASCALON—a Greek philosopher, b. around 130 BC, d. around 68 BC, a disciple of Philo of Laryssa, he started a movement called programmatic eclecticism in which he combined Platonic doctrines with certain Aristotelian and Stoic theses, and in this way his doctrine became a transitional link between the Academy and neo-Platonism.
In his youth he left Ascalon and went to Athens where he joined the disciples of Philo of Laryssa for several years. As Cicero relates, (Academica priori, II, 69) in Antiochus’ early writings there are clear traces of his master’s doctrine. Numenius (based on the testimony of Eusebius, Praeparatio Evangelica, XIV 9) and St. Augustine (C. Acad., III 41) relates that Antiochus was also a student of Mnesaron. Together with Philo of Laryssa he was in Rome from around the year 87 BC. There Philo won Cicero over to this school, and Antiochus made the acquaintance of Lucullus and was with Lucullus in Alexandria in 86 BC.
According to Philo of Laryssa, Antiochus took a position contrary to his teacher’s doctrine. After his teacher’s death, Antiochus directed the Academy. In the winter of 78 and 78 BC, Cicero heard him and our information on Antiochus’ life and doctrine comes from Cicero (Epistola ad Atticum, Tusculanae disputationes). Antiochus is considered as belonging to the Middle and Younger Academy (sometimes these two academies are both called the Younger Academy). In the fourth century AD, Plato’s Academy merged with the neo-Platonic Academy, a situation that lasted until 529 AD when Justinian dissolved it.
The main object of Antiochus’ philosophical interest was ethics. The decline of the Older Academy over approximately 40 years coincided with the arrival of Stoicism, and in this connection we must consider how Xenocrates’s version of Platonism influenced almost all Stoic theories. This influence is clearly evident in the ethics of the Stoics which developed in the course of a discussion with Polemon and which took up from him the basic principle of living in harmony with nature. Antiochus renewed the ethics of the Older Academy in the form in which Polemon presented it with many elements of Stoic thought. Antiochus looked at the historical connections between Polemon’s ethics and earlier schools and stated that the doctrines of earlier schools were in agreement with the Stoics. In this way Antiochus formulated the neo-Platonic approach of reconciling doctrines that were in apparent disagreement. Antiochus proposed the rejection of Skepticism in favor of the original Platonism of the Academy, which he thought could be combined with Aristotelianism and Stoicism. He thought that their differences were merely a matter of language. In this line he tried to show that the principle ideas of the Stoics could be found already in Plato (Sextus Empiricus, Πυρρωνειαι ‘υποθεσεις [Pyrroneiai hypotheseis], I 235). He departed from the Stoics, however, in stating that all masses are equal and in his doctrine of virtue, that virtue alone could be the foundation of a happy life (vita beata), but not in the highest degree (vita beatissima). In his other doctrines, he always agreed with the Stoics (Cicero, Academica priori, II 43).
Antiochus was a typical representative of Platonic dogmatic eclecticism which is closely related to Stoicism. He was influenced by writings attributed to Pseudoplatonicus: the Second Letter and Alcibiades Major. These writings had the character of an introduction to Platonic philosophy and they were often commented upon. They set the tone for later Platonism, beginning with Antiochus to Proclus and Olympiodorus. From Xenocrates, Antiochus took the threefold division of philosophy into logic (definition, etymology, demonstration, and the connection of dialectics with rhetoric), physics (the causes of the world), and ethics (on happiness).
Because his thought lacked originality he had little influence in later philosophy. In the first century BC Ariston of Alexandria was a follower of Antiochus’ doctrine. He is regarded, however, as an important preparatory stage on the way to neo-Platonism. Neo-Platonism does not always spring directly from Plato’s writings but just as often from the Platonic tradition of the Academy which was uninterrupted from Plato and Plotinus and which is apparent especially in many lines of thought in Seneca, Poseidonius, Antiochus, and Cicero.
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