Porphyry, Ad Gaurum

In my last post I mentioned some works by Porphyry which have not been translated into English.  One of these was the Ad Gaurum, on how the soul enters the unborn child.  The text was edited: K. Kalbfleisch, Abhandlungen der königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin; Philosophische-historische Klasse, 1895 p. 33-62.  That is one of those infuriating German series which have both a scientific and a scholarly sub-class.  Even in paper form, it tends to be hard to find the right volume!  Inter-Library Loans get it wrong.  And so forth.

Since it was published in 1895, it should be out of copyright.  But I cannot find it online.  (UPDATE: It’s here)  But I then found this page from the IRHT in France.  Apparently the text is preserved in a single manuscript, Cod. Supp. gr. 635, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale.  And there have been three translations, one in French and two in German:

  • À Gauros. « Sur la manière dont l’embryon reçoit l’âme », par A. J. Festugière, La Révélation d’Hermès Trismégiste, t. III, Les doctrines de l’âme, Paris, 1953, Appendice II, p. 265-302.
  • Porphyrios, Die Beseelung der Embryonen, par K. Limburg, Diss. Köln, 1975.
  • Grundfragen der Embryonalentwicklung aus der Sicht eines Neuplatonikers : Übersetzung und Bearbeitung der Schrift des Porphyrios « Über die Beseelung der Embryonen », par U. Jurisch, Diss. med. Erlangen-Nürnberg 1991.

The German translations were both in dissertations.  I’m not sure how to access continental dissertations, I must say.

The page refers to the need to examine the manuscript under ultra-violet light because of water damage.  It all seems to be notes for a forthcoming text and translation, directed by Luc Brisson, which will be more extensive than the Festugière translation (which they refer to as excellent).

Apparently Porphyry makes use of material from Genesis in the book.  If so, it is really remarkable that the work has escaped attention.

UPDATE: The Festugiere book is still for sale.  Three volumes, $150.  Now that’s what I call a barrier to learning!


5 thoughts on “Porphyry, Ad Gaurum

  1. There is a short work by Porphyry that is preserved by Stobaeus titled “On What Depends On Us” (Πορφυρίου περὶ τοῦ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν). It is in Stobeus, Anthology, II, 8, 39-42, pgs. 163-173 in the critical edition by Wachsmuth and Hense: http://www.archive.org/details/joannisstobaeian01stovuoft

    It looks like this has only been translated into French, by Festugiere in vol. 3 of his translation of Proclus’ commentary on the Republic, pgs. 349-357.

    What would it take to get those 10 pages translated into English?

  2. I just learned that both the text by Porphyry on embryology you are working on and the text I’m looking for on free will have been translated, and the publication is either about to come out this year or it has already been released via the Ancient Commentators project:


    It looks like it may already be out in the UK, although it is still listed as not released here in the US until April 15.

  3. Chris,

    Thank you so much for this link. It looks as if the book is actually available now, and contains both texts.

    That is good news in a sense. But it also means — of course — it means that no-one can access it. For who but a specialist would have such a volume?

    Let me reply anyway to the first query, on what it would cost to translate 10 pages of that text. Translation from French could probably be accomplished by any of us, with the aid of Google Translate and some time.

    For Greek, I get people to do it for money, as I haven’t the time and I like to think that people with those skills would rather earn a bit of extra cash using them, than flipping burgers.

    My current rate is $1 for every 17 words of Greek. Looking at a page of that, it seems to be 9.3 words / line on average, 27 lines, i.e. 251 words / page, i.e. about $14.50 a page. So to do all 10 pages would cost around $145 … always provided you can find a translator!

    Not really a lot, is it?

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