The Syriac text of our History is, on the whole,good, and thetranslation of it given herein has been made as literal as possible:there are, however, a few passages in which the text is eitherdefective or garbled, and these have been carefully pointed out. Thetranslator of the original Persian text into Syriac assumed that hisreaders would be well acquainted with the general history of theperiod, and therefore did not trouble to supplement his work with thedetails which the occidental reader needs to understand the narrative.I have therefore collected a number of the most essential facts, bothhistorical and archaeological, and grouped them in the series ofparagraphs which form the Introduction, instead of printing them at thefoot of the page in the usual way. This arrangement will enable thereader to peruse the translation uninterruptedly. It seemed to me to beunnecessary to annotate the passages which deal with the relics of thesaints, and their resting places, for the credulity of many Christianpeoples in the XIIIth century is too well known to need mention. It issurprising to find our author solemnly recording that he was shown thestone on which Peter the Apostle was sitting when the Cock crew!
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yy (b. 233, died after 301) was aSyrian, his original name Malchus meaning "king" or "royal", which hechanged at the advice of his teachers to Basileus, then to Porphyry. Hestudied at Athens under Longinus, Ammonius' disciple, then at Rome in263 under Plotinus. After a visit to Sicily he returned to Rome andgave expository lectures on the philosophy of Plotinus. He marriedMarcella, a friend's widow, simply for the sake of educating herchildren. At the time there were many sects which produced spuriousapocalyptic works which they attributed to various distinguishedauthorities of ancient times, and with some of these Porphyry was ledinto controversy, especially against a book published under the name of"Zosimus" and purporting to give an account of the religious tenets ofthe Persians. This work he showed to be a recent forgery, and in doingso applied sound principles of criticism. The inquiry led him intocontroversy With the Christians, and for several centuries his writingswere viewed by the Christians as the most serious attack made upontheir faith. Only fragments of his work in this direction are preservedby Christian apologetical writers, but it is clear that his method oftreatment was by way of historical criticism as already developed inthe school of Alexandria. In one treatise, heapplied the method of allegorical interpretation to the story ofUlysses' visit to the cave of the nymphs in Homer, 13,I 08-1 I2As a writer, Porphyry was distinguished by a clear insightinto the meaning of the literary work he examined, and had anexceptionally lucid manner of stating that meaning. His orintroduction to the Categories of Aristotle was used for many centuriesin east and west as the clearest and most practical manual OfAristotelian logic, indeed that logic was to a great extent popularizedby the excellence of its presentation in the His"Sententiae"represent his exposition of Plotinus, again lucidlyexpressed but much preoccupied with his ethical teaching. He wrote ahistory of philosophy, of which his extant nodoubt formed a part. Like many neo-Platonists he was a vegetarian andascete, which accorded with the tradition inherited from Pythagoras, asappears in the life of Apolloniu. s of Tyana, a religious and mor-alreformer of the first century. One of his treatises, deals with this ascetic ideal. He does not recommendabstinence from flesh for all, admitting that it is unsuitable forsoldiers and athletes, but commends it to those who are occupied withphilosophy: he disapproves the offering of animal victims in sacrifice,which he regards as a barbarous survival of the days when men had falseideas about the gods and as akin to human sacrifices which wereobsolete since the days of Hadrian, animal sacrifices being in manycases a commutation of older human sacrifices. Animals have somemeasure of reason, and so have certain rights, they do not exist solelyfor the service of men. Abstinence from flesh food was practised by theEssenes, by the Egyptian priests, and by the Indian Sarmanoi, by whichhe denotes Buddhist priests about whom he obtained information from theSyrian Bar Daisan who had contact with an Indian embassy proceeding toRome (Porphyry, 4, i8). He repudiates thedoctrine of transmigration of souls which to many people had nadePythagoreanism ridiculous. He was the author also of several works onpsychology and mathematics.
How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs
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