Bibliotherapy

Tiberianus-A Neo-Platonist ‘Hymn To The Creator’

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Oculus of the Roman Pantheon. Picture at Wikimedia Commons.

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an Hymn to the Creator ascribed to Plato, a poem preserved in the Anthologia Latina II (Minor Latin Poets II, Loeb Classical Library, 1934, rev. 1982) where it is introduced as a translation from the Greek made by “a certain Tiberianus.” It is an invocation of the Supreme Being blending Orphic, Pythagorean and Platonic elements.

it is highly probable that Tiberianus was associated with the circle of Roman Platonists flourishing at the beginning of the fourth century. It is easy to imagine that a Neoplatonist brought up in the school of Porphyry would be attracted by a hymn in which henotheistic(the worship of one god without denying the existence of other gods) belief, Orphic mysticism, and magic were joined with the metaphysics of the Timaeus, the most highly esteemed of the writings of Plato. If Tiberianus belonged to this circle, it is a fair conjecture that Porphyry’s ‘Philosophy of the Oracles’ was the literary source from which he drew the hymn ascribed to Plato.” From the full article by professor Hans Lewy (Yohanan Lewy, 1901-1945), link in the source section.

Professor Lewy is the author, besides works focusing on Philo of Alexandria, of ‘Chaldaean Oracles And Theurgy, Mystic Magic and Platonism in the Later Roman Empire’, published posthumously in 2011 by Michel Tardieu, from which we will share some highlights soon, as it is a treasure trove of source material and an important milestone in the ‘Chaldaean Oracles’ field of studies, Pierre Hadot states in an article published inside.

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English Translation, by Professor Hans Lewy

Almighty, borne by age-old heavens, amid Thy myriad virtues
Thou art ever One, and no one can measure Thee with number
or with time. Now (if by any name it is meet to invoke Thee)
Thou shalt be invoked by the unknown name in which Thou, the
Holy One, dost rejoice, whereat the mighty earth trembles, and
the wandering stars stand in their swift course. Thou art One
and likewise Many, Thou art First and Last, Thou art at once
the Center and the Survivor of the universe. For Thou art without
end, yet Thou bringest an end to the swift passage of time,
and on high, from eternity, Thou dost behold harsh fate swept
on with immutable whirl, Thou dost behold lives enclosed in time
and again led back and returned to the upper spheres — so that
the vitality, exhausted by births, which the universe has lost
may return to it and may again circulate through the (celestial)
bodies. If indeed we may turn our mind to Thee to assay Thy
holy form — wherewith Thou, the Immeasurable, dost gird the
stars and dost embrace all at once the vast ether, with limbs,
perchance, swift as the flash of lightning — Thou art as it were a
fiery radiance, by whose blaze Thou dost see all and dost rule
our sun and day. Thou art the whole race of gods, Thou the
cause and strength of all things, Thou art all nature, one god
innumerable, in Thee are both male, and female, to Thee was
once born this god, this universe, the home of both men and
gods, gleaming and sparkling with the sublime flower of youth.
Breathe Thy favor on my prayer, and grant me to know how
this universe was created, how born or made. Grant, O Father,
that I may know the sublime causes, by what bond Thou hast
sustained the cosmic mass, with what insubstantial numbers, even
and odd, Thou hast, in Thy greatness, woven the Soul, and what
vigorous force lives in the Swift Bodies.”

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Original Latin, edited by Professor Hans Lewy

Omnipotens, annosa poli quern suscipit aetas,

Quern sub millenis semper virtutibus unum

Nee numero quisquam poterit pensare nee aevo,

Nunc esto affatus, si quo te nomine dignum est,

Quo, sacer, ignoto gaudes, quod maxima tellus

Intremit et sistunt rapidos vaga sidera cursus.

Tu solus, tu multus item, tu primus et idem

Postremus mediusque simul mundique superstes.

Nam sine fine tui Iabentia tempora finis,

Altus ab aeterno spectans fera turbine certo

Rerum fata rapi vitasque involvier aevo

Atque iterum reduces supera in convexa referri,

Scilicet ut mundo redeat, quod partibus  austum

Perdiderit, refluumque iterum per corpora fiat.

Tu (siquidem fas est in temet tendere sensum

Et speciem temptare sacram, qua sidera cingis

Immensus Iongamque simul complecteris aethram

Fulmineis forsan rapida sub imagine membris)

Flammifiuum quoddam iubar es, quo cuncta coruscans

lpse vides nostrumque premis solemque diemque.

Tu genus omne deum, tu rerum causa vigorque,

Tu natura omnis, deus innumerabilis unus,

Tu sexu plenus toto, tibi nascitur olim

Hie deus, hie mundus, domus hie hominumque deumque,

Lucens, augusto stellatus fiore iuventae.

Quern (precor, aspires), qua sit ratione creatus,

Quo genitus factusve modo, da nosse volenti.

Da, pater, augustas ut possim noscere causas,

Mundanas olim moles quo foedere rerum

Sustuleris animamque levi quo maximus olim

Texueris numero, quo congrege dissimilique,

Quidque id sit vegetum, quod per cita corpora vivit.”

Possible representation of Plotinus and his students. A milieu Tiberianus must have been familiar with and where he may have translated his hymn. Sarcophagus in the Gregorian museum at the Vatican.

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About Tiberianus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberianus_(poet) 🌿 Loeb Classical Library, Minor Latin Poets: https://www.loebclassics.com/view/LCL434/1934/volume.xml / About Hans Lewy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yohanan_Levi 🌿 https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Hans_Lewy 🌿 Hans Lewy’s article: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1508259
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