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Neoplatonist philosopher and mystic

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Plotinus, born and raised in Egypt, studied philosophy in Alexandria. After briefly joining the Roman expedition in 244 against the Persians, with the idea of learning about Eastern philosophies, he settled in Rome where he single-handedly tried to revive the classical Hellenistic philosophy as an antidote to the ruin and misery of the crumbling world around him. Because it was based on the views of Plato, the philosophical movement which Plotinus founded came to be called Neoplatonism.

Under the auspices of the Emperor Gallienus, Plotinus became extremely influential throughout the Roman Empire and for a time it seemed as if his mission would succeed. At one point the Emperor agreed to let him build a second city near Rome, based on Plato's Republic, to be called Platonopolis. It would have been the center for the new philosophical revival. But then, suddenly, for reasons unknown, the Emperor withdrew the offer. Plotinus turned instead to writing.

Plotinus stands at the crossroads between the Greek tradition spanning the seven centuries from Thales to Sextus Empiricus and the beginning of Christendom. Although he did not begin writing until he was forty-nine, his works, edited posthumously by his student Porphyry into fifty-four books called the Enneads, covered every major branch of philosophy except politics. In them, under the influence of all the ancient thinkers, especially Parmenides and Pythagoras, Plotinus tried to resurrect Plato's philosophy. Plotinus' works importantly influenced the Catholic theology that came with the end of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Christian era of the Middle ages.


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Plotinus is often accredited as the founder of Neo-Platonism. In an attempt to revive Platonic thought, this third century philosopher and mystic wrote about issues such as virtue, happiness, reason, body, and soul, with Plato's philosophy as his guide. Like Plato, Plotinus had much disdain for material things and instead embraced the idea of a higher realm of immaterial intelligibility. Plotinus located the source of creation in a supreme "One." Plotinus believed this "One" transcended being, nonbeing, multiplicity, and division. The Enneads were compiled by Plotinus' student, Porphyry, who gathered together his teacher's essays and arranged and edited them himself. These writings had a significant impact on the religious metaphysicians and mystics from the ancient world. Plotinus has also influenced many thinkers of Islam, Indian Monism, and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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Works about Plotinus