Pawlos the Philosopher Pawlos the Persian (mid-6th cent.) [Ch. of E.]

Author of philosophical works. Little is known about Pawlos’s life. Two works, explicitly attributed to him are preserved in Syriac. The first, published and translated by Land and partly translated into French by Teixidor, is a treatise on logic. It is largely based on what the Syrians knew as Aristotle’s logical works, i.e., Porphyry’s ‘Eisagoge’, the ‘Categories’, ‘On interpretation’, and the first part of the ‘Prior Analytics’. The author dedicated the work to the Sasanian king Khusrau I Anushirwan (r. 531–78), who is known to have had a vivid interest in Greek philosophy. The second work, which remains unpublished, is a commentary on Aristotle’s ‘On Interpretation’. The Arab authors al-Fārābī (d. 950) and Miskawayh (d. 1030) knew yet another work by Pawlos which, according to Gutas, must have been a general introduction into Aristotle’s philosophy, after the example of the Alexandrian Prolegomena.

It is uncertain in which language Pawlos wrote. A note that is preserved in two mss. of the commentary on ‘On interpretation’ states that Pawlos wrote the work in Persian and that Severos Sebokht (d. 666/7) translated it into Syriac. The treatise dedicated to Khusrau may also have been written originally in Persian. The question of whether Pawlos read the Aristotelian writings in Greek or in Syriac, and where he received his philosophical training cannot, in the present state of our knowledge, be answered. One further detail of Pawlos’s life, the veracity of which cannot be confirmed, is transmitted in Bar ʿEbroyo’s ‘Ecclesiastical Chronicle’ and in the ‘Chronicle of Siirt’: after having been foiled in his attempt to become bp., Pawlos converted to Zoroastrianism, the official religion of the Sasanian Empire.

Clearly familiar with the tradition of Alexandrian neo-Platonism, Pawlos may have been an important transmitter of late-ancient philosophy to the Sasanian court, thus preparing the ground for the ambitious translation project of the Abbasid rulers in the Islamic period.

See also Pawlos the Persian.


  • S. P.  Brock, ‘The Syriac commentary tradition’, in Glosses and commentaries on Aristotelian logical texts. The Syriac, Arabic, and medieval Latin traditions, ed. C. Burnett (1993), 8, 11, 13. (repr. in From Ephrem to Romanos, [1999], ch. XIII)
  • D. Gutas, ‘Paul the Persian on the classification of the parts of Aristotle’s philosophy: a milestone between Alexandria and Baghdad’, Der Islam 60 (1983), 231–67.
  • Gutas, Greek thought, Arabic culture, 25–6.
  • H. Hugonnard-Roche, ‘Le traité de logique de Paul le Perse: une interprétation tardo-antique de la logique aristotélicienne en syriaque’, Documenti e studi sulla tradizione filosofica medievale 11 (2000), 59–82. (repr. in his La logique d’Aristote du grec au syriaque [2004], 233–54)
  • J. P. N.  Land, Anecdota Syriaca, vol. 4 (1875), 1–32 (Syr.), 1–30 (LT), 99–113 (notes).
  • J.  Teixidor, ‘Les textes syriaques de logique de Paul le Perse’, Semitica 47 (1991), 117–38.

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