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The End of the Academy Antiochus and the Late Academy by John Glucker Review by: David Sedley

Phronesis, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1981), pp. 67-75 Published by: BRILL Stable URL: . Accessed: 26/11/2012 06:02
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The end of the Academy


The emphasisthroughoutthe 510 pages of John Glucker'sAntiochusand the Late Academy1 is on the externalhistoryof ancient Platonismand the characterof the allegianceswhich held it togetheras a movement. From the vantagepoint of the crucialriftbetweenPhilo of Larissaand Antiochus of Ascalonin 87 B.C.,Gluckerlooks backover the Academy'shistoryas an institutionand forwardto the questionof whatit meantto be an Academic, or a Platonist, over the succeeding six centuries. In his preface he emphasisesthe exploratory,non-definitivecharacterof the book, and in thatspiritI shall shortlyoffer some alternativesuggestionsconcerningone of its centraltopics. But for all its disavowalof 'authority' status the book deserves to become something of a classic. Together with J. P. Lynch's Aristotle's School(1972),on whose findingsit fruitfullybuilds,it mustnow be requiredreadingfor anyoneinterestedin the changingnatureof ancient philosophical sects during the Hellenistic and Roman Imperial eras. On the precise significance of such key terms as L&80ox(os, xao0y9rTi3s,
and OtipCOLS its compendious learning sheds abundant 8LTpTl4, light, and a vast wealth of historical detail is so skilfully reconstructed, and with such a flow of insights, that even at its most erudite the book is a delight to read. Very briefly, the most important conclusions are as follows. The private property near the Academy where Plato did much of his teaching probably left the school's ownership by the end of the 4th century B.C., and the main scene of activity in the school's Hellenistic sceptical phase was the public gymnasium of the Academy itself. It was nevertheless throughout this period a cohesive philosophical institution (a)oXi, 8LaTpLAT) whose scholarchs considered themselves both the titular and the spiritual heirs of Plato. The later Stoics' rediscovery of a dogmatist Plato, and their attempt to appropriate him as a forebear, eventually infected Antiochus and led to his advocacy of a dogmatist, Stoicising brand of Platonism within the Academy. Antiochus' secession effectively marked the demise of the New Academy as an institution. Nor, for that matter, did his creation of the Old


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Academy succeed in filling the vacuum: he established no school at all at Alexandria, and only a very short-lived one at Athens. After the mid-first century B.C. there was no such school as the Academy, and the gymnasium of that name never again served as a headquarters or public platform for Platonist philosophers. Academici thereafter becomes an antiquarian term for members of the school from Plato to Philo, and, more especially, for Academic sceptics. Under the latter guise it was adopted by Plutarch and Favorinus, who briefly resurrected Academic scepticism long after its institutional demise. But current Platonists came instead to be called simply Platonici, and the designation 'school' (aGoXi, bLUTpLO')was superseded by alZpEaLS, which signifies merely a 'persuasion' or 'school of thought' without institutional overtones. The shift from philosophical schools in Athens with their successions of scholarchs to 'persuasions' propagated in various parts of the Roman world, especially the east, by private tutors (xotOyclTaLi), equally affected all the other philosophical traditions, apart from the Epicurean, and is largely attributable to Athens' decline as an educational centre in the imperial age. It was not until the 5th and 6th centuries, with Plutarch of Athens, Proclus and their successors, that a Platonist sXoxnwas recreated in Athens, and even that had no connexion with the Academy or, in all probability, with any property that had once been Plato's. Nor, Glucker accepts, did Justinian close this school in 529. The effect of his enactments was no more than a curtailment of its teaching activity, and important scholarly work continued there. So bald a summary inevitably fails to do justice both to the book's vast wealth of supporting argument and to the importance of its findings. Glucker has expertly dismantled the entire edifice of an unbroken succession of Platonist scholarchs in the Academy from Plato's death to 529 A.D., constructed by Karl Zumpt in 1842-3 and still pervasive in its influence. Indeed, the title Antiochus and the Late Academy describes precisely the tradition which the book so efficiently explodes. Not only was there no "Late Academy", but Antiochus has no special claim to be the inaugurator of later Platonism. His school in Athens crumbled nearly as rapidly as the New Academy which it had eclipsed, and the subsequent birthplace of Middle Platonism was far away in the east of the Roman empire. Philosophical and doxographical analysis are kept to a minimum. Glucker plans to deal with these aspects fully in a separate volume, which must be eagerly awaited. But the issues are not always so neatly separable, and philosophical interpretations sometimes have to be developed to underpin historical arguments. This is particularly true of the central 68

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episode of the book, the rift between Philo and Antiochus, to which I now turn. In 87 B.C. the upheavals of the First Mithridatic War had driven Philo of Larissa, scholarch of the Athenian Academy, to exile in Rome. Meanwhile his pupils Antiochus of Ascalon and Heraclitus of Tyre were to be found in the East Mediterranean with the entourage of the quaestor L. Lucullus. It was while the party was at Alexandria that there occurred the celebrated furore described by Cicero at Ac. 2.11-12. Antiochus received from Rome a copy of Philo's latest work, the contents of which so outraged him that he pretended to doubt their authenticity. Heraclitus when challenged on this could cite no Academic precedent for them. Yet the work's authenticity was confirmed by two witnesses who had recently been with Philo in Rome. This scene of discord between his two revered masters, Antiochus and Philo, must have been distressing to Cicero, so why does he give it such emphasis? No doubt the main reason is that, as Glucker rightly emphasises, it stood as the opening scene of Antiochus' dialogue Sosus, which was Cicero's chief source for the A cademica, including the speech of Lucullus to which it is prefaced.2 But does it also represent the actual moment of schism between the New Academy and the 'Old'? Glucker's answer is that it does not: Antiochus had seceded some ten years earlier, and therefore already had a group of disciples in his 'Old Academy' to accompany him in Lucullus' entourage. (On pp. 20-7 there is a most illuminating discussion of the origin and basis of Antiochus' association with Lucullus.) Philo for his part, he suggests, had been chosen Academic scholarch on the grounds that he was too pusillanimous a non-entity ever to depart from Clitomachus' interpretation of Carneades, which at the time was holding its own against Metrodorus' less sceptical version. For many years he remained a mere mouthpiece for Clitomachean orthodoxy. But with Antiochus' defection to dogmatic Platonism, with Metrodorus' rival version of Carneades impressing itself upon him, and with his own increasisng worries about his standing in the Academy resulting from his exile to Rome in 87, he found himself jockeying for position with a new dictum which he hoped would vindicate him as the authentic voice of the entire Academic tradition: the Academy from Plato (especially Theaetetus) to himself had been united in the conviction that there is in rerum natura some sensory criterion of truth, although this was neither the Stoic 'cognitive impression' nor indeed any other that they could name - a compromise position 'sceptical in practice, but not in theory' (p. 82). So much for his attempt to regain ground lost to 69

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Antiochus. But once he had in his hands Antiochus' reply in the Sosus he was able to drop his new semi-dogmatist stance and to revert to his hardline Clitomachean scepticism, the ideal weapon against the Stoicism which Antiochus had now openly espoused. I hope that this outline does not do too much injustice to Glucker's elaborately argued thesis. I now proceed to air some objections and to sketch a partially different account. First, when and why did Antiochus formally secede? In defence of a date in the early 90's Glucker cites Cicero Ac. 2.69-70 as telling us that the secession occurred when he could still have joined the Stoic school of Mnesarchus and Dardanus, who can scarcely have been active later than the 90's. On the contrary, Cicero's question is: why didn't Antiochus secede at that time? Yet clearly Antiochus' Stoicising tendencies were well enough known in the 90's for it to be asked why he remained in the Academy. Why did he? Probably because of his strong sentimental attachment to the school's name and prestige (cf. Ac. 2.70, nominis dignitatem). Having, as he thought, rediscovered authentic Platonism, he will have conceived the ambition to become the man who restored it to Plato's own school. This meant biding his time until the headship became vacant through Philo's death,3 while canvassing his views among the school's membership with a view to securing his own election when the moment came. (To desert to the Stoa, or to found his own school elsewhere, would hardly have helped his electoral prospects.) This would explain why when changed circumstances brought him to Alexandria with Lucullus he already had a small group of followers in tow, and was in undisguised disagreement with the loyal Philonian Heraclitus, yet maintained superficially friendly relations (Ac. 2.11-12). Such a hypothesis can also help us understand why open hostilities between Antiochus and Philo broke out only when they were in exile. Sulla's depredations offered little hope of an early return to the Athenian Academy, and Antiochus will have felt that nothing further was to be gained by lying low. In Athens there had been no way of usurping the headship of the school, if only because the famous exhedra in the Academy from which the scholarch lectured was his own property, to be bequeathed to his successor together with the right to lecture there in public (on this see Glucker, p. 236, n. 29). But now, in exile, it was open to anyone to claim the status of Plato's authentic heir. This makes it hard to doubt that Antiochus, who alone stood to gain by the rift, made the first move, proclaiming with ample evidence from Plato's dialogues that only a dogmatist like himself could speak as the true voice of Platonism. Philo's Roman work then 70

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representsa bid to regain the initiativeby finding a positionof mitigated scepticismwhich could with some plausibilitybe fatheredon Platono less than on the New Academy,thus vindicatinghis own Platonicpedigree. I am not persuaded by the depiction of Philo as the Clitomacheans' puppet, so weak as to abandon his full-blooded sceptical creed when polemical needs dictated and to resumeit as quicklywhen circumstances changed again. Our evidence suggests ratherthan his move away from Clitomachean scepticism was a gradual one (especially Numenius ap.Euseb.Pr.ev. XIV 9, 1-2),influencedabove all by Metrodorus. Glucker denies that there is any evidence for a 'Metrodoranphase' before the Roman period (p. 67), but there is plenty. First, the novel emphasis on ev&pyeoxt attributedto the Academics by Lucullusat Ac. 2.34 is certainly non-Clitomacheanand probably Metrodoran,as Gluckerhimself argues (pp. 77-8); but the targetof the speech is explicitlythe orthodoxAcademy prior to Philo's Roman heresy, the Academy with which the speech's sourceAntiochushad grownso familiarin the pastdecadeor more,and the text gives no support(contrastAc. 2.32) to Glucker'sassumptionthat these upholdersof ?v&pyCLa are a meresplintergroup.Second,the interpretation of Carneadesas allowingthe wise man to hold qualifiedopinions,and thus to abandon strictFigoxij, is jointly attributedto Metrodorus and Philo (Ac. 2.78). The referencecannot be restrictedto Philo'sRomanphase, because the sameview had been upheld by Catulusin the I (Ac. 2.148,cf. 59), and Gluckerhas himself now demonstrated thatCatulusspoke for the orthodox Philonian Academy (pp. 417-8). Third, Philo is known to have developed a full set of ethical doctrines(Stob. Ec. II 6.2.40).Even assuming that he disowned any claim to certaintyabout them (cf. Aenesidemus, Photius Bibl. 212), these doctrines look worlds away from the noncommittal scepticism of Clitomachus,who had recognisedthe primarily dialecticalcharacterof Carneades' arguments and admittedhe nevercould find out what Carneades himself believed. Whether or not specifically Metrodoran, they too are symptomatic of Philo'sdriftinto dogmatism. The fact is that afterthe death of Clitomachus,Metrodorus becamethe leading 'authority' on Carneades'philosophy,and it is hardlysurprising that Philo, who had never himself known the great man, should have grownincreasingly dependenton someone who could boast intimateacquaintance with him. Thus even granting that the Roman heresy was a short-lived ad hominem tactic, Philo was not likely thereafter to return to the Clitomachean scepticism of his youth, but rather to continue with the 'Metrodoran' outlook of more recentyears.4 What was the heresywith which Philo so shockedAntiochusin 87 B.C.? 71

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is concernedthings "So far as the Stoic criterion,the cognitiveimpression, are unknowable, but so far as the nature of the things themselves is concerned they are knowable" (S.E. PH 1.235; cf. Cicero Ac. 2.18). Glucker rightly infers from Cicero's evidence that the heresy was to attribute this position to the entire Academy from Plato on. His own above, is essentially interpretation of the position,which was summarised that of Brochard. I am a little puzzledby the groundswhich he supplies:
"To use an illustration, a philosopher who argues, say, that nothing exists, has already admitted, if only in theory, the concept of existing and existent things. Similarly, a philosopher arguing for the impossibilityof grasping our objects has alreadyadmitted in theory that objects are graspable."(p. 80)

If I deny that a square circle can be drawn, am I thereby admitting, if only in theory, the concept of a square circle? And even if the thesis could be made internally coherent, I do not feel that Glucker marshalls adequate grounds on which Philo might have attributed to Arcesilaus and Carneades "'aview which accepted - albeit in theory - the possibility of adequate sense-perception". At one point, however, a more promising formulation seems to be in the offing: "that there is a truth - even in the realm of sense-perception - but that we have no safe criterion for discovering it in practice" (p. 82). This seems to me to point to a historically far more plausible interpretation: "The world is unknowable to us, but only contingently, due to human cognitive incapacity - the lack of an infallible criterion of truth such as the

Stoicspostulate- and not to any intrinsicdefectof the worlditself."Could

this have been pinned on Plato? Despite Glucker's interesting exploitation of the Theaetetus in this connexion, it was the Timaeus that held the field as the official handbook to Plato's doctrines, including epistemology, and we should turn to it first. I believe that the dispute between Philo and Antiochus hinges on the interpretation of the Timaeus' grounds for resting content with an dixCs FIOos.On a selective reading it could certainly be

made to yield the heretical doctrine as I propose to interpret it:


... remembering that I the speaker and you the judges are human, so that

it is appropriate that on these matters we should accept the likely story and not inquire further" (Timaeus 29c-d; cf., on the soul, ib. 72d, Rep. 612a, Phdr. 246a). The implication is that firm truth about the sensible world is

availableto god but not to man. It was presumably this passage,alongwith

Timaeus 40d, that later earned Plato the title of honorary Sceptic, on the ground that "he leaves the truth to gods and sons of gods, and seeks the likely story" (D.L. 9.72). One tradition assigns precisely the same position 72

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to Arcesilausand Carneades(Epiphanius,Adv.haer. III 29-30,Diels Dox. p. 592), and it could without difficulty be traced back to Socrates(e.g. Plato, ApoL 23a). That there is in the sensible world a realitycapable of being known, and perhaps actually known to god, but inaccessible to human cognitive capacities, was a compromise between out-and-out scepticism and the newly resurrectedPlatonic dogmatism.It sanctioned philosophicalspeculationwhile maintainingthe principleof &xaTaxXmPiJ, and could with some plausibilitybe fatheredon both Plato and the New Academy. It was, indeed, entirely consistent with the policy of qualified belief alreadyadopted by Philo himself. Antiochus'display of outrage was, I suspect, a little disingenuous.He must have spotted at once that Philo's rather desperate attempt to reappropriate Plato'smantle had played rightinto his hands.Not only was the newly formulatedposition one which had apparentlynever been expressly stated in the New Academy before, but, more important,it was easily exposed on the evidence of the Timaeus itself as a gross misrepresentationof Plato.Herewe surelyhave the answerto an old puzzle,why Antiochusin the Sosus, as represented by Varroat Ac. 1.30-2,playedup an anti-empiricistinterpretation of Plato so sharplyat variancewith his own views. The early Platonists,he says there,consideredthe senses dull and slow and quite incapable of perceivingtheir objects,"becausethese were eithertoo small to be objectsof sensation,or else in such rapidmotionthat nothing was ever single, stable or even the same, since everythingwas in continualebb and flow". Here Antiochushas pickedout fromthe Timaeus (especially29c, 56b-c) a rival and more fundamentalset of groundsfor the need to be content with a 'likely story'about the sensible world,grounds which in defiance of Philo allot as much blame to the world as to human inadequacy. By contrast,a passageof Sextus(M 7.141-4)long recognisedas deriving from Antiochus' Canonica shows only too clearly what lengths he was preparedto go to in other circumstancesto assimilatethe Timaeus' epistemologyto StoicXaT&XJ7144. So if in the Sosus he was prepared to abandon Platonicancestryfor his own Stoicisingtheoryof knowledge,he musthave had an extremely pressing motive, and the proposed interpretationof Philo's heresy has the merit of supplying that motive. Antiochus'general positionwas not seriouslydamagedby this momentary lapseinto historical truth,because as immediatesourcefor his own epistemology he could (and did: Ac. 1.33, 35, 40-2) invoke the 'corrections' of those minor Platonists Aristotleand Zeno.
Christ's College, Cambridge.


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NOTES John Glucker, Antiochus and the Late Academy, Hypomnemata 56, Vandenhoek & Ruprecht,G6ttingen, 1978; pp. 510. Paperback;DM 90.-. 2 On the sources of the Academica, examined in an appendix, Glucker's major new insight is that Catulus' speech in the lost I was based on that of Heraclitusin the Sosus - both representingPhilonian orthodoxy priorto the heresyof 87. But I doubt his suggestion that Lucullus'speech is based partly(Ac. 2.13-39) on the Stoic Sosus' reply to Heraclitusin the Sosus, and partly (ib. 40-60) on a later work of Antiochus.Ac. 2.12 (cf. ib. 60) makes it quite plain that the source was Antiochus',not Sosus', speech in reply to Heraclitus. Nor can he switch to a different source at 40, since Antiochus' unius diei disputatio(ib. 49) against familiarNew Academic counterarguments (Glucker needlessly takes these to be new counterarguments devised by Philo afterreadingthe Sosus) is surely meant to be understood as occupying one of the compluresdies (ib. 12) of the Sosus dialogue. Ac. 2.61 is probably meant to emphasise Lucullus' intimacy with Antiochus ratherthan to signal a second source. On the sourcesof Cicero'sspeech, see note 3 below. I It may be objected that in that case Antiochus would not have taught in the Ptolemaeum on his return to Athens, but in the Academy, now that Philo was off the scene. Philo never returnedto Athens, Glucker tells us (although I have not managed to locate any evidence for this in his book), and Cicero Fin. 5 implies that at any rate by 79 B.C. there were no lectures to be heard in the Academy. But Fin. 5.6 can be read quite naturally as implying that there are still lectures in the Academy: young Lucius is restrictedto a choice between 'hearing Antiochus' and 'hearing about Carneades',and finds himself torn between the two. Charmadas,despite his advanced years, may well have succeeded Philo for a while. At least, I am not persuadedby Glucker'sattemptto kill him off before 79 B.C. with Valesius' emendation Charmadas for Carneadesat Fin. 5.4: illa moveorexhedra;modoenimfuil Carneadis[Carneades: codd]; quem viderevideor(est enim nota imago), a sedequeipsa tanta ingeni magnitudineorbatadesiderariillam vocem puto. That 'recently'should be used of someone fifty years dead is not surprising,given the contrastwith relicsof Pythagorasin the previoussentence. Carneadesis suggested by ingenimagnitudine (Charmadas'claim to fame being eloquence ratherthan intellect,Ac. 2.16), and above all by illam vocem,which remindsus of Carneades'celebratedstentorian tones (D.L. 4.63). Besides, was Charmadasreally a likely subject for a famous painting? In short,if Charmadaswas dead by this date Fin. 5.4 is not evidence of it. But doesn'tAc. 2.17, Philone autem vivo patrociniumAcademiae non defuil, imply that Philo had no successor?(p. 105) No: as Glucker observes elsewhere (p. 413), by patrociniumhere Cicerowould probablymean only liierarydefence. So Antiochus'failureto set himselfup in the Academy on his returnto Athens may well be due not to indifferenceon his part but to the fact that Philo and his successorshad not yet relinquishedtheir right to teach there. 4 This seems to rule out Glucker's hypothesisthat the whole of Cicero'sspeech in Ac. 2 is based on Philo's later reply to the Sosus. The hypothesis accounts well for 69-71 and 109-146,but the rest of the speech is far closer to Clitomachus than to the Philonian Academics attacked in Lucullus' speech. It repeatedly invokes Clitomachus' interprePhilo'sfollowers tation of Carneades,and in particularputs much more stresson E'roxA. had little use for i'roxiA now that they accepted Metrodorus' doctrine of qualified assent, and that must be why Lucullus' attack focuses almost exclusively on a'X(TQiXThPQ,to which they still adhered. Note too that for Cicero the sorites is a weapon against all


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natural distinctions (Ac. 2.92), implying wholesale scepticism, while the Philonians attacked by Lucullusemploy it merelyagainst the cognitive impression(ib. 47-9), and are expected to be embarrassed by the consequence that it would if valid be fatal to all natural distinctions (ib. 50). 1 am not moved by Glucker'sobjections to a Clitomachean origin (pp. 412-3): 1 cannot see why Cicero's citations of chapter and verse from Clitomachus should count against it; and that Cicero's speech can be argued to deal adequately with the points made by Lucullus tells us nothing about the chronological order of their respective sources, since most of these were clearly stock debating points between Stoics and Academics. The multipleorigin of Cicero'sspeech is easily explained. Antiochus had obviously not provided in the Sosus an adequate New Academic reply to his own speech, and to deal with it comprehensivelyCicero had to sew togetherhis own patchwork of material from Philo and Clitomachus, the former providing the best ad hominem rejoinders.the latter the best defence of scepticism.


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