Philip of Opus

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Philip (or Philippus) of Opus (Greek : Φίλιππος Ὀπούντιος), was a philosopher and a member of the Academy during Plato's lifetime. Philip was the editor of Plato's Laws. Philip of Opus is probably identical with the Philip of Medma (or Mende), the astronomer, who is also described as a disciple of Plato.

Opus was an ancient Greek city that was the chief city of a tribe of Locri, who were called from this place the Opuntian Locrians, and the territory, the Opuntian Locris.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

The Academy was founded by Plato in c. 387 BC in Athens. Aristotle studied there for twenty years before founding his own school, the Lyceum. The Academy persisted throughout the Hellenistic period as a skeptical school, until coming to an end after the death of Philo of Larissa in 83 BC. The Platonic Academy was destroyed by the Roman dictator Sulla in 86 BC.


Plato's Laws and Epinomis

According to Diogenes Laërtius, Philip of Opus was a disciple of Plato, [1] who was responsible for transcribing Plato's Laws into twelve books, and writing the thirteenth book (the Epinomis ) himself:

Diogenes Laërtius late antique biographer of classical Greek philosophers

Diogenes Laërtius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is definitively known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is a principal source for the history of ancient Greek philosophy. His reputation is controversial among scholars because he often repeats information from his sources without critically evaluating it. He also frequently focuses on trivial or insignificant details of his subjects' lives while ignoring important details of their philosophical teachings and he sometimes fails to distinguish between earlier and later teachings of specific philosophical schools. However, unlike many other ancient secondary sources, Diogenes Laërtius generally reports philosophical teachings without attempting to reinterpret or expand on them, which means his accounts are often closer to the primary sources. Due to the loss of so many of the primary sources on which Diogenes relied, his work has become the foremost surviving source on the history of Greek philosophy.

The Laws is Plato's last and longest dialogue. The conversation depicted in the work's twelve books begins with the question of who is given the credit for establishing a civilization's laws. Its musings on the ethics of government and law have established it as a classic of political philosophy alongside Plato's more widely read Republic.

The Epinomis is a dialogue attributed to Plato. Some sources in antiquity began attributing its authorship to Philip of Opus, and many modern scholars consider it spurious. The dialogue continues the discussion undertaken in Plato's Laws.

Some say that Philip the Opuntian transcribed his [Plato's] work, Laws, which was written in wax [wooden tablets coated with wax]. They also say that the Epinomis [the thirteenth book of the Laws], is his. [2]

In the Suda , Philip is listed anonymously under the heading of philosophos ("philosopher"), his name being lost from the beginning of the entry:

<i>Suda</i> literary work

The Suda or Souda is a large 10th-century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Soudas (Σούδας) or Souidas (Σουίδας). It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers. The derivation is probably from the Byzantine Greek word souda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold", with the alternate name, Suidas, stemming from an error made by Eustathius, who mistook the title for the author's name.

Philosopher who divided the Laws of Plato into 12 books; for he himself is said to have added the 13th. And he was a pupil of Socrates and of Plato himself, occupied with the study of the heavens. Living in the time of Philip of Macedon, he wrote the following: On the distance of the sun and moon; On gods; On time; On myths; On freedom; On anger; On reciprocation; On the Opuntian Lokrians; On pleasure; On passion; On friends and friendship; On writing; On Plato; On eclipse(s) of the moon; On the size of the sun and moon and earth; On lightning; On the planets; Arithmetic; On prolific numbers; Optics; Enoptics; Kykliaka; Means; etc. [3]

Since the entry is located under the heading philosophos, the defect presumably existed in the source from which the Suda borrowed. It was not until the 18th century when Ludolf Küster, the editor of the Suda, [4] identified this anonymous entry with the Philip of Opus mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius.

Philip the astronomer

Because he is identified in the Suda as an astronomer, it is generally assumed that Philip of Opus is the same person as Philip of Medma, (also called Philip of Mende) [5] who was an astronomer and mathematician and a disciple of Plato. Philip of Medma is mentioned by several ancient writers, such as Vitruvius, [6] Pliny the Elder, [7] Plutarch, [8] (who states that he demonstrated the figure of the Moon), Proclus, [9] and Alexander of Aphrodisias. His astronomical observations were made in the Peloponnese and in Locris (where Opus was a principal city), and were used by the astronomers Hipparchus, Geminus of Rhodes, and Ptolemy. He is said by Stephanus of Byzantium [10] to have written a treatise on the winds.

Astronomer Scientist who studies celestial bodies

An astronomer is a scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth. They observe astronomical objects such as stars, planets, moons, comets, and galaxies – in either observational or theoretical astronomy. Examples of topics or fields astronomers study include planetary science, solar astronomy, the origin or evolution of stars, or the formation of galaxies. Related but distinct subjects like physical cosmology, which studies the Universe as a whole.


Medma or Mesma, was an ancient Greek city of Southern Italy, on the west coast of the Bruttian peninsula, between Hipponium and the mouth of the Metaurus. The site is located at Rosarno, Province of Reggio Calabria, Calabria.

Mende (Chalcidice) ancient Greek city

Mende, also Mendae or Mendai (Μένδαι), or Menda (Μένδα), or Mendis, was an ancient Greek city located on the western coast of the Pallene peninsula in Chalkidiki, facing the coast of Pieria across the narrow Thermaic Gulf and near the modern town of Kalandra.


  1. Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 37, 46
  2. Diogenes Laërtius, iii. 37
  3. Suda, Philosophos
  4. Ludolf Küster, Suidae Lexicon, Cambridge, 1705
  5. The tradition of calling him "Philip of Mende" seems to have arisen from the Latin translation of Proclus, by Francesco Barocius, (lib. ii. c. 4) which is presumably an error of either of the printer or translator, or perhaps of the manuscript.
  6. Vitruvius, Architect. ix. 7, s. ut alii 4
  7. Pliny, Naturalis Historia, xviii. 31. s. 74
  8. Plutarch, Quod non possit suaviter vivi secund. Epicur. Opera
  9. Proclus, In I. Euclid. Element. Lib. Commentar.
  10. Stephanus, De Urbibus s. v. Medme

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William Smith (lexicographer) English lexicographer

Sir William Smith was an English lexicographer. He also made advances in the teaching of Greek and Latin in schools.

<i>Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology</i> encyclopedia/biographical dictionary

The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is an encyclopedia/biographical dictionary. Edited by William Smith, the dictionary spans three volumes and 3,700 pages. It is a classic work of 19th-century lexicography. The work is a companion to Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities and Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography.

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