(and Pseudo-Domninus)

1 Domninus of Larissa

Domninus of Larissa (5th century), a Syrian, studied at Athens under Syrianus, alongside Proclus. Late in life he briefly taught a young Asclepiodotus of Aphrodisia.

The main source on his life is the Suda article about him, which preserves fragments from the Philosophical History of Damascius; the Life of Proclus by Marinus also mentions him in passing. An anecdote in Damascius which mentions that Domninus broke a prohibition against pork consumption has been misinterpreted to mean that he was Jewish; but the same custom was current among pagan Syrians.

His work on philosophy in the narrower sense has been lost, although we know from Damascius that Proclus wrote a lost treatise against his interpretation of Plato, and he wrote a reply to this. In his commentary on the Timaeus (vol. 1, p. 109-110), Proclus criticises Domninus for reading the myth of Phaëthon as a naturalistic allegory. In the realm of logic, Dominus composed a commentary on the Sophistical Refutations of Aristotle, the last copy of which was lost as late as 1671, in a library fire. (Whether this lost work had any impact on later writing about the Sophistical Refutations, I do not know.)

Damascius judged mathematics to be Domninus’ forte, and we are fortunate to still have a very short work from him, the Enchiridion (or Handbook) of Arithmetical Introduction, a brief treatment of number theory based on Euclid and the Arithmetical Introduction (or Introduction/Isagoge to Arithmetic) of Nicomachus of Gerasa. The Enchiridion has been translated into English by Brown 2000 and Riedlberger 2013. Another work on mathematics, an Elements of Arithmetic, is referred to in the Enchiridion, but not extant.

Against earlier scholarship, which viewed Domninus as a rare rationalist among the generally irrational Neoplatonists, and a follower of Euclid rather than the Pythagorean mathematician Nicomachus, recent work has shown that he was in fact “a fairly standard late antique Platonic philosopher” (Riedlberger 2013, p. 91-92).

2 Pseudo-Domninus

Two other works have been falsely ascribed to Domninus, simply because they are transmitted together with the Enchiridion. They are How to remove a ratio from a ratio and a set of Scholia on Nicomachus. Both may be from anonymous late Neoplatonists (5th/6th centuries), but not from Domninus himself. They have been edited by Riedlberger 2013; but as he notes, there are still many unpublished sets of scholia on Nicomachus.

Domninus is not to be conflated with Damianus of Larissa.

3 Literature

Peter Brown, “The Manual of Domninus”, in: Harvard Review of Philosophy 8 (2000), pp. 82-100.

Peter Riedlberger, Domninus of Larissa: Enchiridion and Spurious Works, Fabrizio Serra editore, 2013.