Neoplatonism refers to a philosophical and religious[1][2][3][4][5] system, beginning with the work of Plotinus in 245 AD,[6] that teaches interpretations of the philosophy and theology[7][8] of Plato,[6] extending[9] the Middle Platonism of the intervening centuries, c. 80–c. 245 AD.[10] The English term 'neoplatonism',[11] or 'Neo-Platonism',[12][note 1] or 'Neoplatonism'[14] comes from 18th[15] and 19th century Germanic scholars (Germanic term: 'Neu-Platonische' in the 18th century; 'Neuplatoniker' in the 19th century)[16] who wanted to systematize history into nameable periods.[17]

Neoplatonism was founded[17] in c. 245 AD by the Egyptian[18] philosopher Plotinus when he moved from Alexandria to Rome and established a school,[19] where he taught an interpretation of Plato's philosophy[6] until c. 270 AD.[20] The neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry continued the teaching of Plotinus in Rome, until his death in 305 AD,[21] as did the philosopher Iamblichus, who later in his life taught neoplatonic philosophy in Syria, until he died in c. 330 AD.[22] During the middle of the 4th century, neoplatonism rapidly became the religion of a well educated minority, and November 361 AD[23] saw the proclamation of the neoplatonist[24] Roman emperor Julian.[22] By 415 AD, the brilliant[22] neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia had been the leading thinker in Alexandria for nearly 35 years,[25] and in Athens in the early 5th century, the neoplatonic philosopher Plutarch of Athens became head of the school of Plato in Athens, succeeding the orthodox Platonic Academy.[22] In 437 AD,[26] about five years after Plutarch had died,[27] his former student, the neoplatonist philosopher Proclus became head of the neoplatonic school of Athens.[28] Proclus, a prolific[29] writer of ancient Greek philosophy and regarded by some 21st century scholars as the greatest[30] neoplatonic philosopher of the 5th century, remained head of the neoplatonic school of Athens for nearly 50 years, until he died in 485 AD.[31]

The neoplatonism of late antiquity in Athens ended in 529 AD[32][33] after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I confirmed his Novum Justinianeum Codicem, or Codex Justinianus,[34] on the 7th of April 529 AD,[35] and administrators[36] enforcing the new laws, after they had legal force on the 16th of April 529 AD,[37] closed the last neoplatonic school in Athens,[6] probably between 529–531 AD,[38] where at the time it was headed by the Syrian philosopher Damascius.[39] Some 20th and 21st century scholars say Damascius then travelled east to establish a neoplatonic school in Charrae (present-day Harran,[40] Turkey) in the Persian Empire.[41] After the closure of the neoplatonic school in Athens in 529 AD, Alexandria became the leading neoplatonic school,[42] where Olympiodorus, the last[43] neoplatonic leader of the school, lectured until slightly after 565 AD.[44]

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