1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Themistius
THEMISTIUS (317–?387), named εὐφραδής (“eloquent”), statesman, rhetorician and philosopher, was born in Paphlagonia and taught at Constantinople, where, apart from a short sojourn in Rome, he resided during the rest of his life. Though a pagan, he was admitted to the senate by Constantius in 355. He was prefect of Constantinople in 384 on the nomination of Theodosius. His paraphrases of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, Physics and De Anima are valuable; but the orations in which he panegyrizes successive emperors, comparing them to Plato’s “true philosopher,” and even to the “idea” itself, are servile and unworthy. Against this, however, should be set the description given by Boetius, “disertissirnns scriptor ac lucidus, et ornnia ad facilitatern intelligentiae revocans, ” and that of Gregory Nazianzen—with whom Themistius corresponded—βασιλέα λόγων. Themistius’s paraphrases of the De Coelo and of book Λ of the Metaphysics have reached us only through Hebrew versions. In philosophy Themistius was an eclectic. He held that Plato and Aristotle were in substantial agreement, that God has made men free to adopt the mode of worship they prefer, and that Christianity and Hellenism were merely two forms of the one universal religion.
The first edition of Themistius’s works (Venice, 1534) included the paraphrases and eight of the orations. Nineteen orations were known to Petavius, whose editions appeared in 1613 and 1618; Hardouin (Paris, 1684) gives thirty-three. Another oration was discovered by Angelo Mai, and published at Milan in 1816. The most recent editions are W. Dindorf’s of the orations (Leipzig, 1832), and L. Spengel’s of the paraphrases (Leipzig, 1866). The Latin translations of the Hebrew versions of the paraphrases of the De Coelo and book A of the Metaphysics were published at Venice in 1574 and 1558 respectively. A new edition of the latter by S. Landauer appeared in 1903. See Fabricius, Bibliotheca Graeca, vi. 790 seq.; E. Zeller, History of Greek Phil.; E. Baret, De Themist, sophista (Paris, 1853); Jourdain’s Recherches critiques sur l’âge et l’origine des traductions latines d’Aristote (Paris, 1819); see Neoplatonism. For Themistius’s Commentaries on Aristotle, see Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (Berlin), and also Themistii paraphrases Aristotelis librorurn quae snpersunt, ed. L. Spengel (1866, Teubner series, mentioned above).