Macrobius; Or, Philosophy, Science and Letters in the Year 400

Macrobius; Or, Philosophy, Science and Letters in the Year 400

Macrobius; Or, Philosophy, Science and Letters in the Year 400

Macrobius; Or, Philosophy, Science and Letters in the Year 400

Excerpt

I have attempted in this short book to give some account of a philosopher and man of letters who deserved better treatment than he has for some time received. If he was not a writer or thinker of the first order, he had at any rate a coherent doctrine, and the claim, which he modestly makes for himself, to have impressed on what he borrowed an individual Latin style, cannot be gainsaid. Most writers of later antiquity were compilers; but there are two kinds of compilation --books written with heads and without. Of the latter kind, the Lives of the Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius is an example. It has been described by Prof. Burnet as a scrap-book, which "has not been digested or composed by any single mind at all." Superficially, a remark of the latest editor of Sextus Empiricus (in the Teubner Series), expressing the fear that nearly everything he gives is collected from other people's writings, may seem to amount to the same thing; but to draw this inference regarding Sextus would be a complete error. There is no set of writings that bears more distinctly than his the mark of a single mind carrying through with conscious mastery a determinate philosophical thought. Macrobius is more obviously a compiler; but he too possessed conscious mastery over his material; and, as I have tried to show, we can still learn much from him both directly and by the study of his place in literature and philosophy.

To English readers, it must always be interesting to remember that Chaucer's account of his own dream in . . .

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