Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Ammonius Saccas
Ammonius Saccas. Next to nothing is known of this philosopher. That he obtained his name of Saccas (= σακκοφόρος) from having been a porter in his youth is affirmed by Suidas (under Origenes) and Ammianus Marcellinus (xxii. 528). He was a native of Alexandria; Porphyry asserts that he was born of Christian parents, and returned to the heathen religion. Eusebius (H. E. vi. 19, 7) denies this, but perhaps confounds him with another Ammonius, the author of a Diatessaron, still extant. That the founder of the Alexandrian school of philosophy (for such Ammonius Saccas was) should have been at the same time a Christian, though not impossible, seems hardly likely. Moreover, the Ammonius of Eusebius wrote books; whereas, according to both Longinus and Porphyry, Ammonius Saccas wrote none. Plotinus is said to have been most strongly impressed with his first hearing of Ammonius, and to have cried out, "This is the man I was looking for!" (τοῦτον ἐζήτουν), after which he remained his constant friend till the death of the elder philosopher. Among other disciples of Ammonius were Herennius, the celebrated Longinus, Heracles the Christian, Olympius, Antonius, a heathen called Origen, and also the famous Christian of that name. It is possible, however, that the Christians, Origen and Heracles, may have been the disciples of that Ammonius whom Eusebius confounds with Ammonius Saccas, and who was himself a Christian; but this cannot be certainly known. We may guess something concerning the philosophy of Ammonius Saccas from the fact that Plotinus was his pupil. Hierocles (ap. Photius) affirms that his aim was to reconcile the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, hence he appears to have combined mysticism and eclecticism. Nemesius, a bishop and a neo-Platonist of the close of the 4th cent., cites two passages, one of which he declares to contain the views of Numenius and Ammonius, the other he attributes to Ammonius alone. They concern the nature of the soul and its relation to the body; but they appear to have been merely the traditional views of Ammonius, not any actual written words of his. The life and philosophy of Ammonius have been discussed by Vacherot, Hist. de l᾿Ecole d᾿Alex. i. 342; Jules Simon, Hist. de l᾿Ecole d᾿Alex. i. 204; Dehaut in his historical essay on the life and teaching of our philosopher; and Zeller in his Philosophie der Griechen, who also mentions other writers on Ammonius.