Eunapius remarked that Iamblichus's writings were neither eloquent nor graceful— or, "as Plato used to say of Xenocrates, he has not sacrificed to the Hermaic graces" (Vit. soph. 458). This, although only in part, may help to explain why our English translation of the De mysteriis has been so long in the making! Hans Dieter Betz first approached John Dillon and Jackson Hershbell some years ago, suggesting a follow-up to their collaboration on the translation of the De vita pythagorica. John worked on his translation during a year spent in Paris in 1996, while Jack attempted to plough through the seemingly interminable Books II and III in Minnesota. Due to extenuating circumstances, including illness and a heavy workload, the project was temporarily shelved.
John and I met in 1998 and I joined the team for a second wind in 1999. The three of us met in Dublin in November of that year, and John and I again in May 2000. The collaboration has been both stimulating and, at last, greatly productive, and we feel that this edition offers a substantial contribution to the accessibility of this strange and often turgid text. We have not attempted a full textual commentary, which, in any case, would be inappropriate in that we do not offer a substantially new version of the text; we have, however, provided extensive notes which aim to place Iamblichus firmly where he belongs—in the world of Platonism, and as a commentator on Egyptian and Assyrian magic.
We owe a huge debt to Johan Thorn, who has studied our work in enormous detail and furnished us with a huge number of valuable corrections and improvements. My own special thanks are owed to Jack and to John, from whose collaboration I have learned so much, and to John Fitzgerald who has been unfailingly supportive and has helped me with the editing far more than he should. Juggling an edition of the De mysteriis with full-time school-teaching has been an experience to say the least, and it is his support that has helped to make this possible.
Emma C. Clarke