Marinus of Neapolis had a Roman name and his hometown had a Greek one, but he was not simply a “Greek” or “Roman” philosopher. He was by birth a Samaritan from what is now Nablus, Israel, where the few remaining Samaritan families have their home. In Marinus’ own day, followers of Samaritanism (a sister religion of Judaism) were under pressure to convert to Christianity, but he instead became a follower of Plato and a worshipper of the many gods.
Proclus of Lycia, the subject of Marinus’ work, is again neither Greek (as he is usually called today) nor Roman (as his name would suggest); he was, rather, a Lycian by birth, and educated in both Latin and Greek.
Marinus of Neapolis, Proclus, or, On Happiness.
The necessary pleasures from drink and food, he would only use as respite from his labors, so that he would not be overburdened by them; for he would only deal with them briefly. He would especially commend abstinence from ensouled beings.¹ But if ever some very important occasion called him to making use of them, he only tasted from them for the sake of piety.²
Every month, he would perform the Metroac purifications which were practiced by the Romans, or before then, by the Phrygians;³ he also observed the inauspicious days of the Egyptians more than they themselves;⁴ and he held particular personal fasts on certain days,⁵ quite openly – for he would not eat on any last-and-new day of the month, not even the evening before;⁶ just as he kept brilliant celebrations of the new moon,⁷ befitting their sacredness; and indeed he observed the noteworthy festivals of all peoples, so to speak, and the ancestral customs of each, and performed them in their customary fashion.⁸ And he was not in the habit of making them a pretext for some idleness, or for stuffing his body, but only wakeful gatherings, hymn-singing and the like.
His diligence in composing hymns is also evident, which encompassed not only praises for those revered by the Greeks, but also hymns Marnas of Gaza;⁹ Asclepius Leontuchus of Ascalon;¹⁰ another god, much honored by the Arabs, Theandrites;¹¹ and Isis, who is still honored in Philae;¹² and, in a word, all others. For he, this man most pious toward the gods, always had it at hand to say, that the philosopher must be a servant not only of some one city, nor of the ancestral customs of some, but a common hierophant of the entire cosmos.
So, this was how he practiced self-control, in a purificatory manner, and beseeming the sacred rites.
1: I.e., vegetarianism. On Abstinence from Ensouled Beings is also the title of a surviving treatise by Porphyry of Tyre.
2: So, these occasions seem to have been ceremonial.
3: I have not (yet) been able to ascertain what these purifications related to the Mother-of-Gods were, but Proclus and Marinus evidently perceived them as Roman and knew that they were originally Phrygian. Was this some ceremony connected to the yearly Roman festival of the Mother, practiced monthly by Proclus, who was especially devoted to her?
4: If these are the “Egyptian days”, it is no surprise that a Romanized Lycian might observe them more than Egyptians, since they seem to have been a development of Roman culture; but perhaps the reference is to something else. In any case, inauspicious days are those on which nothing new is undertaken and no rites are offered.
5: He did not only observe common fasts, then, but either more than were usual, or he took them more seriously than others.
6: The last day of the lunar month. If Proclus’ fast was unusual, it would likely not have been common practice.
7: The N(o)umenia, the first day of the lunar month, when the new moon appears. These were probably a feast, not a fast.
8: So, as Marinus will stress again below, Proclus did not see himself as a member of one religion or “polytheism”; this fits with his attitude in his writings, where he writes about Greek, Chaldaic and other traditions almost as if he were outside of ethnic boundaries, yet also as a believer and worshipper.
9: Marnas (Aramaic Marnā, ‘the Lord’) was a local god of Gaza popular in late antiquity, understood as Zeus Krētagenēs (‘Crete-born’).
10: Leontuchus means ‘lion-holding’ or ‘with lions’. The meaning of this byname is obscure, but worship of Asclepius (or Ešmun) in Canaan is known from other sources.
11: The name is Greek for something like “God-Man” (also Theandrios); he is mentioned in other late antique sources and was evidently popular at the time, but the Arabic-language name of the god remains unknown.
12: The temple of Isis at Philae was one of the last temples of Greek-speaking polytheists to be closed. It had also been perhaps the last bastion of Hieroglyphic literacy until around 400 CE.
Μαρίνου Νεαπολίτου Πρόκλος ἢ Περὶ εὐδαιμονίας.
ιθʹ. Τὰς δὲ ἀπὸ σίτων καὶ ποτῶν ἀναγκαίας ἡδονὰς, ἀπαλλαγὰς πόνων ἐποιεῖτο, ἵνα μὴ ἐνοχλοῖτο ὑπ’ αὐτῶν· βραχέα γὰρ τούτων προσεφέρετο. Τὰ πολλὰ δὲ τὴν τῶν ἐμψύχων ἀποχὴν ἠσπάζετο· εἰ δέ ποτε καιρός τις ἰσχυρότερος ἐπὶ τὴν τούτων χρῆσιν ἐκάλει, μόνον ἀπεγεύετο καὶ τούτων ὁσίας χάριν. Τὰς δὲ Μητρῳακὰς παρὰ Ῥωμαίοις ἢ καὶ πρότερόν ποτε παρὰ Φρυξὶ σπουδασθείσας καστείας ἑκάστου μηνὸς ἥγνευεν, καὶ τὰς παρ’ Αἰγυπτίοις δὲ ἀποφράδας ἐφύλαττε μᾶλλον ἢ αὐτοὶ ἐκεῖνοι, καὶ ἰδικώτερον δέ τινας ἐνήστευεν ἠμέρας ἐξ ἐπιφανείας. Πᾶσαν γὰρ ἔνην καὶ νέαν τοῦ μηνὸς μηδὲ προδειπνήσας ἠσίτει, ὥσπερ δὴ τὰς νουμηνίας λαμπρῶς ἐπετέλει καὶ ἱεροπρεπῶς, καὶ τὰς παρὰ πᾶσι δὲ, ὡς εἰπεῖν, ἐπισήμους ἑορτὰς, καὶ τὰ παρ’ ἑκάστοις πάτρια, δρῶν ἐνθέσμως διετέλεσε, καὶ οὐδὲ ταύτας ὥσπερ ἕτεροι πρόφασιν ἐποιεῖτο ἀναπαύλης τινὸς ἢ καὶ πληρώσεως τοῦ σώματος, ἐντυχιῶν δὲ ἀγρύπνων καὶ ὑμνῳδίας καὶ τῶν ὁμοίων· δηλοῖ δὲ ἡ τῶν ὕμνων αὐτοῦ πραγματεία, οὐ τῶν παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησι μόνον τιμηθέντων ἐγκώμια περιέχουσα, ἀλλὰ καὶ Μάρναν Γαζαῖον ὑμνοῦσα, καὶ Ἀσκληπιὸν Λεοντοῦχον Ἀσκαλωνίτην, καὶ Θεανδρίτην [not Θυ-] ἄλλον Ἀραβίοις πολυτίμητον θεὸν, καὶ Ἴσιν τὴν κατὰ τὰς Φίλας ἔτι τιμωμένην, καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ἁπλῶς ἅπαντας. Καὶ γὰρ πρόχειρον ἐκεῖνο εἶχεν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔλεγεν ὁ θεοσεβέστατος ἀνὴρ, ὅτι τὸν φιλόσοφον προσήκει οὐ μιᾶς τινὸς πόλεως, οὐδὲ τῶν παρ’ ἐνίοις πατρίων εἶναι θεραπευτὴν, κοινῇ δὲ τοῦ ὅλου κόσμου ἱεροφάντην. Καὶ οὕτω μὲν αὐτῷ καθαρτικῶς καὶ ἱεροπρεπῶς παρεσκεύαστο τὰ τῆς ἐγκρατείας.
λγʹ. Ἀλλ’ εἰ οὕτως ἐθέλοιμι πᾶσιν ἐπεξιέναι καὶ τὴν φιλίαν αὐτοῦ φράζειν τὴν πρὸς τὸν Πᾶνα τὸν Ἑρμοῦ, καὶ τὴν πολλὴν εὐμένειαν καὶ σωτηρίαν, ἧς ἔτυχεν Ἀθήνῃσι παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, ἔτι γε μὴν τὴν εὐμοιρίαν ὅσην ἔλαχε παρὰ τῆς Μητρὸς τῶν Θεῶν ἐπεκδιηγεῖσθαι, ἐφ’ ᾗ δὴ μάλιστα ηὔχει καὶ σφόδρα εὐφραίνετο, ἀδολεσχεῖν ἴσως ἂν δόξαιμι τοῖς ἐντυγχάνουσιν, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ ἄπιστα λέγειν. Πολλὰ γὰρ ἦν καὶ μεγάλα καὶ τὰ παρὰ τῆς θεοῦ εἰς αὐτὸν ὁσημέραι πραττόμενά τε καὶ λεγόμενα, ὧν διὰ τὸ πλῆθος καὶ τὸ ἀπροσδόκητον συγγραφῆς οὐδὲ τὴν μνήμην ἔχω γε νῦν πάνυ διηρθρωμένην. Εἰ δέ τις ἐπιποθεῖ κατιδεῖν αὐτοῦ καὶ ταύτην τὴν ἐπιτηδειότητα, λαβέτω εἰς χεῖρας τὴν Μητρῳακὴν αὐτοῦ βίβλον. Ὄψεται γὰρ, ὡς οὐκ ἄνευ θείας κατακωχῆς τὴν θεολογίαν τὴν περὶ τὴν θεὸν ἐξεφῃνεν ἅπασαν, καὶ τὰ ἄλλα τὰ μυθικῶς περὶ αὐτὴν καὶ τὸν Ἄττιν δρώμενά τε καὶ λεγόμενα φιλοσόφως ἀνέπτυξεν, ὡς μηκέτι θράττεσθαι τὴν ἀκοὴν ἐκ τῶν ἀπεμφαινόντων θρήνων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων τῶν ἐκεῖ κρυφίως λεγομένων.