Biographies DAMASKOS (Ancient city) SYRIA - GTP - Greek Travel Pages

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Biographies (9)

Historians

Nicolaus Damascenus

   Nicolaus, (Nikolaos). Called Damascenus. A Greek historian of Damascus. At the suggestion of the Jewish king, Herod the Great, whose intimate friend he was, and who had recommended him to Augustus (B.C. 6), he wrote an autobiography, of which fragments remain; a comprehensive history of the world down to his own times in 144 books, which is partly preserved in fragments exhibiting an agreeable style. A portion of his panegyrical biography of Augustus has come down to us. The remains of Nicolaus are edited by Dindorf in the Hist. Graeci (1870).

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Damascenus Nicolaus, (Nikolaos Damaskenos), a famous Greek polyhistor, who lived in the time of Herod the Great and the emperor Augustus, with both of whom he was connected by intimate friendship. He was, as his name indicates, a native of Damascus, and the son of Antipater and Stratonice. His parents were distinguished no less for their personal character than for their wealth, and his father, who was a highly esteemed orator, was not only invested with the highest magistracies in his native place, but was employed on various embassies. Nicolaus and his brother Ptolemaeus were instructed from their childhood in everything that was good and useful. Nicolaus in particular shewed great talents, and even before he attained the age of puberty, he obtained the reputation of being the most accomplished among the youths of his age; and at that early age he composed tragedies and comedies, which met with general applause. But he soon abandoned these poetical pursuits, and devoted himself to rhetoric, music, mathematics, and the philosophy of Aristotle. Herod carried on his philosophical studies in common with Nicolaus, and the amicable relation between the two men was strengthened by these common pursuits. In B. C. 14, he prevailed upon Herod to interfere with Agrippa on behalf of the citizens of Ilium, who were to be severely punished for having been apparently wanting in attention to Agrippa's wife, Julia, the daughter of Augustus. It was about the same time that he used his influence with Herod to prevail upon Agrippa to put an end to the annoyances to which the Jews in lonia were constantly exposed. In a conversation with Herod Nicolaus once directed his attention to the advantages which a prince might derive from history; and the king, who was struck by the truth of the observation, entreated Nicolaus to write a history. Nicolaus complied with the request, and compiled a most voluminous work on universal history, the accomplishment of which, in his opinion, surpassed even the hardest among the labours of Heracles. In B. C. 13, when Herod went to Rome to pay Augustus a visit, he took Nicolaus with him, and both travelled in the same vessel. On that occasion, Nicolaus made Augustus a present of the finest fruit of the palm-tree, which Augustus henceforth called Nicolai, a name by which that fruit was known down to the middle ages. Some writers speak of cakes (plakountes) which Nicolaus presented to Augustus, but this is evidently a mistake. (Suid. s. v. Nikolaos; Athen. xiv.; Plut. Sympos. viii. 4; Isidor. Orig. xvii. 7; Plin. H. N. xiii. 4.) When Herod, by his success against some Arab chiefs, had drawn upon himself the enmity of Augustus, and the latter declined to receive any ambassadors, Herod, who knew the influence which Nicolaus possessed with the emperor, sent him to negotiate. Nicolaus, by very skilful management, succeeded in turning the anger of Augustus against the Arabs, and in restoring the friendship between Augustus and Herod. When Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Herod, were suspected of plotting against their father, Nicolaus endeavoured to induce the king not to proceed to extremities against his sons, but in vain: the two sons were put to death, and Nicolaus afterwards degraded himself by defending and justifying this cruel act of his royal friend. On the death of Herod, Archelaus succeeded to the throne, chiefly through the exertions of Nicolaus. We have no account of what became of Nicolaus after this event, and how long he survived it.
  Plutarch (l. c.) describes Nicolaus as possessing a tall and slender figure, with a red face. In private life, as well as in intercourse with others, he was a man of the most amiable disposition: he was modest, just, and liberal in a high degree; and although he disgraced himself by his flattery and partiality towards Herod, he neglected the great and powerful at Rome so much, that he is censured for having preferred the society of plebeians to that of the nobles. The information which we have here given is derived partly from a life of Nicolaus, written by himself, of which a considerable portion is still extant, from Suidas, and from Josephus. (Antiq. Jud. xvi. 15, 16,17, xvii. 7, 11) The writings of Nicolaus were partly poetical, partly historical, and partly philosophical. With regard to his tragedies, we know only the title of one, called Sosanis or Sosannes (Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg. 976), but no fragments are extant. A considerable fragment of one of his comedies, which consists of 44 lines, and gives us a favourable opinion of his poetical talent, is preserved in Stobaeus. The most important, however, among his works were those of an historical nature. 1. The first is his autobiography, which we have already mentioned. 2. A universal history, which consisted of 144 books. (Athen. vi.) Suidas states, that it contained only 80 books, but the 124th is quoted by Josephus. (Antiq. Jud. xii. 3.) The title historia katholike, under which this work is mentioned by Suidas, does not occur elsewhere. As far as we can judge from the fragments still extant, it treated chiefly of the history of the Asiatic nations; but whether the Assuriakai historiai of which Photius (Bibl. Cod. 189) speaks is the same as the universal history, or only a portion of it, or whether it was a separate work, cannot be determined with any certainty. The universal history was composed at the request of Herod, and seems to have been a hurried compilation, in which Nicolaus, without exercising any criticism, incorporated whatever he found related by earlier historians. 3. A life of Augustus. This work is lost, like the rest, with the exception of excerpta which were made from it by the command of Constantinus Porphyrogenitus. These excerpta shew that the author was not much concerned about accuracy, and that the biography was more of a eulogy than of a history. Some writers have been of opinion, that this biography formed a part of the universal history; but there seems to be no ground for this hypothesis. 4. A life of Herod. There is no express testimony for a separate work of this name, but the way in which Josephus speaks of the manner in which Nicolaus treated Herod, and defended his cruelties, or passed them over in silence, if he could not defend them, scarcely admits of a doubt as to the existence of a separate work on the life of Herod. 5. Ethon paradoxon sunagoge, that is, a collection of singular customs among the various nations of the earth. It was dedicated to Herod (Phot. Bibl. Cod. 189), and Stobaeus has preserved many passages from it. Valesius and others think that these passages did not originally belong to a separate work, but were extracted from the universal history. Of his philosophical works, which consisted partly of independent treatises and partly of paraphrases of Aristotle's works, no fragments are extant, except a few statements in Simplicius' commentaries on Aristotle. The extant fragments of Nicolaus were first edited in a Latin version by N. Cragius, Geneva, 1593, 4to. The Greek originals with a Latin translation were first edited by H. Valesius in his "Excerpta Polybii, Diodori," &c., Paris, 1634, 4to. The best and most complete edition, with Latin translations by Valesius and H. Grotius, is that of J. C. Orelli, Leipzig, 1804, 8vo. It also contains a good dissertation on the life and writings of Nicolaus by the Abbe Sevin, which originally appeared in the Memoires de l'Acad. des Inscript. vi. In 1811, Orelli published a supplement to his edition, which contains notes and emendations by A. Coray, Creuzer, Schweighauser, and others.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Mathematicians

Euclid

We read that Euclid, son of Naucrates, grandson of Zenarchus, called the author of geometry, a philosopher of somewhat ancient date, a Greek by nationality domiciled at Damascus, born at Tyre, most learned in the science of geometry, published a most excellent and most useful work entitled the foundation or elements of geometry, a subject in which no more general treatise existed before among the Greeks: nay, there was no one even of later date who did not walk in his footsteps and frankly profess his doctrine.

Architects

Apollodorus of Damascus

Apollodorus (Apollodoros). A Greek architect of Damascus, who lived for a time at Rome, where, among other things, he built Trajan's Forum and Trajan's Column. He was first banished and then put to death under Hadrian, A.D. 129, having incurred that emperor's anger by the freedom of his criticisms. We have a work by him on engines of war, addressed to Hadrian.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Apollodorus of Damascus, lived under Trajan and Hadrian. The former emperor employed him to build his Forum, Odeum, and Gymnasium, at Rome; the latter, on account of some indiscreet words uttered by the architect, first banished him and afterwards put him to death. (Dion Cass. lxix. 4; Spartian. Hadrian. 19)

Philosophers

Damascius

   (Damaskios). A philosopher, a native of Damascus. He commenced his studies under Ammonius at Alexandria, and completed them at Athens under Marinus, Isidorus, and Zenodotus. According to some, he was the successor of Isidorus. It is certain, however, that he was the last professor of Neo-Platonism at Athens. He appears to have been a man of excellent judgment, and to have had a strong attachment for the sciences, particularly mathematics. He wrote a work entitled Aporiai kai Luseis peri ton Proton Archon, "Doubts and Solutions concerning the Origin of Things." Of this only two fragments remain--one preserved by Photius, which forms a biographical sketch of Isidorus of Gaza; the other treating Peri Gennetou, "Of what has been procreated." The remains of this work were edited, with a valuable preface, by J. Kopp (Frankfort, 1828). A Venetian MS. contains an unedited work of his, entitled Aporiai kai Luseis eis ton Platonos Parmeniden, "Doubts and Solutions relative to the Parmenides of Plato."

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Damascius (Damaskios), the Syrian (ho Suros), of Damascus, whence he derived his name, the last of the renowned teachers of the Neo-Platonic philosophy at Athens, was born towards the end of the fifth century of the Christian era. His national Syrian name is unknown. He repaired at an early period to Alexandria, where he first studied rhetoric under the rhetorician Theon, and mathematics and philosophy under Ammonius, the son of Hermeas, and Isidorus. From Alexandria Damascius went to Athens, where Neo-Platonism existed in its setting glory under Marinus and Zenodotus, the successors of the celebrated Proclus. He became a disciple of both, and afterwards their successor (whence his surname of ho diadochos), and he was the last who taught in the cathedra of Platonic philosophy at Athens; for in the year 529 the emperor Justinian closed the heathen schools of philosophy at Athens, and most of the philosophers, and among them Damascius, emigrated to king Chosroes of Persia. At a later time (533), however, Damascius appears to have returned to the West, since Chosroes had stipulated in a treaty of peace that the religion and philosophy of the heathen votaries of the Platonic philosophy should be tolerated by the Byzantine emperor. (Brucker, Hist. Philosoph. ii.; Agathias, Scholast. ii.) We have no further particulars of the life of Damascius; we only know that he did not, after his return, found any school either at Athens or at any other place, and that thus the heathen philosophy ended with its external existence. But the Neo-Platonic ideas from the school of Proclus were preserved in the Christian church down to the later times of the middle ages.
  Only one of Damascius's numerous writings has yet been printed, namely, "Doubts and Solutions of the first Principles," (Aporiai kai Luseis peri ton proton archon), which was published (but not complete) by J. Kopp, Francof. 1828. 8vo. In this treatise Damascius inquires, as the title intimates, respecting the first principle of all things, which he finds to be an unfathomable and unspeakable divine depth, being all in one, but undivided. The struggles which he makes in this treatise to force into words that which is not susceptible of expression, have been blamed by many of the modern philosophers as barren subtilty and tedious tautology, but received the just admiration of others. This work is, moreover, of no small importance for the history of philosophy, in consequence of the great number of notices which it contains concerning the elder philosophers.
  The rest of Damascius's writings are for the most part commentaries on works of Aristotle and Plato. Of these the most important are: 1. Apopiai kai luseis eis ton Platonos Parmeniden in a manuscript at Venice. 2. A continuation and completion of Proclus's commentary on Plato's Parmenides, printed in Cousin's edition of the works of Proclus, Paris, 1827, 8vo., vol. vi. We have references to some commentaries of Damascius on Plato's Timaeus, Alcibiades, and other dialogues, which seem to be lost. 3. Of the commentaries of Damascius on Aristotle's works we only know of the commentary on Aristotle's treatise "de Coelo," of which perhaps a fragment is extant in the treatise peri tou gennetou, published by Iriarte (Catal. MSS. Bibl. Madrid, i.) under the name of Damascius. Such a commentary of Damascius as extant in manuscript (parekbolai, in Aristot. lib. i. de Coelo) is also mentioned by Labbeus (Bibl. Nov. MSS.). The writings of Damascius peri kineseos, peri topou, and peri chronou, cited by Simplicius in his commentary on Aristotle's Physica (fol. 189, b., 153, a., 183, b.), are perhaps only parts of his commentaries on the Aristotelian writings. Fabricius (Bibl. Graec. vol. ii.) attributes to him the composition of an epitome of the first four and the eighth book of Aristotle's Physica. 4. But of much greater importance is Damascius's biography of his preceptor Isidorus (Isidorou Bios, perhaps a part of the philosophos hiotoria attributed to Damascius by Suidas, i.), of which Photius (Cod. 242, comp. 181) has preserved a considerable fragment, and gives at the same time some important information respecting the life and studies of Damascius. This biography appears to have been reckoned by the ancients the most important of the works of Damascius. 5. Logoi Paradoxoi, in 4 books, of which Photius (Cod. 130) also gives an account and specifies the respective titles of the books. (Comp. Westermann, Rerum Mirabil. Scriptorcs, Proleg.) Photius praises the succinct, clear, and pleasing style of this work; though, as a Christian, he in other respects vehemently attacks the heathen philosopher and the tendency of his writings. 6. Besides all these writings, there is lastly a fragment of a commentary on Hippocrates's "Aphorisms" in a manuscript at Munich, which is ascribed to this philosopher. There is also an epigram in the Greek Anthology (iii. 179, ed. Jacobs, comp. Jacobs, Comment. in Anthol. xiii.) likewise ascribed to him.
  Among the disciples of Damascius the most im portant are Simplicius, the celebrated commentator on Aristotle, and Eulamius.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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