BMCR 2023.06.28

The Enneads of Plotinus: a commentary, volume 2

Paul Kalligas, The Enneads of Plotinus: a commentary, volume 2. Trans. Nickolaos Koutras. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2023. Pp. 424. ISBN 9780691158266.



This book is a translation into English from modern Greek of the fourth and fifth volumes of a series of six volumes of commentaries on the Enneads of Plotinus by Paul Kalligas. The first volume in that series appeared in 1994. The sixth and final volume appeared in 2018. Volume 1 of the translation (covering the commentaries on Enneads I-III) was published in 2014. The present volume covers Enneads IV-V. The translation of the commentary on Ennead VI will appear sometime in the future. In the original volumes, Kalligas included a Greek text based on the iterations of the edition by Paul Henry and H.R. Schwyzer, principally the editio maior appearing in three volumes (1951, 1959, 1973) and the editio minor in three volumes (1964, 1976, 1982). Kalligas’s Greek text includes in its apparatus textual suggestions and corrections by a number of scholars, including himself. These volumes also have a modern Greek translation of each of the Enneads as well as Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus found in the first volume. The volume containing the translation by Koutras does not include either the Greek text or, naturally, an English translation of the modern Greek translation of the ancient Greek. Hence, they have recourse to the English translation by A. H. Armstrong in seven volumes (1966-1988) adjusting some of Kalligas’s commentary material which is keyed to his own translation. The volume also includes a new preface by Kalligas, a key to the many, many variant readings suggested by him, and a basic bibliography. Each treatise in the Enneads is preceded by general introduction and a précis of the sections of the work. There is an appendix on how the Arabic tradition helps illuminate the Greek text.

In the last 25 years, there have appeared dozens of commentaries on individual treatises of the Enneads, especially in English and French, but also in German and Italian. In addition, there has been a slew of monographs, both comprehensive in scope and also more focused on particular issues. Kalligas’s commentary deftly summarizes the state of the art for numerous philological and philosophical issues. Although, understandably enough, other more focused works are able to explore complex issues in greater detail, it would be difficult to think of a single volume that is a more reliable guide to the mind of Plotinus. With the appearance of Volume 2, the English reader will have the essential basic guide to the works of the great Platonist.

A notable feature of the commentary is Kalligas’s enrichment of the index fontium of Henry and Schwyzer. That index originally contained almost 50 pages of the sources used by Plotinus throughout his writings, where the term ‘source’ refers to anything from a direct quotation to a subtle allusion. The principal sources are Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, but there are hundreds of references to the pre-Socratics, the poets, and figures in later ancient philosophy, including Plotinus’ near contemporaries. The importance of these sources for understanding the context of Plotinus’ often highly complex and abstract discussions is difficult to exaggerate. As Henry and Schwyzer well knew, their index constituted only a start to the process of recovering the full context of Plotinus’ logoi, a process that is no doubt impossible to complete. Since the appearance of the editio maior, scholars have added numerous additions to the index. Indeed, Henry and Schwyzer continued to do so themselves for decades after the edition appeared. Kalligas in his commentaries has added numerous fontes and parallel passages from the early Church fathers, the doxographers, papyri, the Hermetic corpus, the Nag Hammadi Codices, as well as parallel passages from Plotinus’ own interpreters and followers, especially Porphyry, making full use of Andrew Smith’s edition of the fragments of Porphyry (1994). Since Porphyry is the one to whom we owe the collection of Plotinus’ treatises into the edition known as the Enneads, and since Porphyry was a self-proclaimed assiduous follower of Plotinus, such material is an indispensable additional source for reckoning with some of the more obscure stretches of text.