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Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs (De antro nympharum) (1917) Preface to the online edition.

The Neo-platonist philosopher Porphyry (234 - ca. 305 A.D.) wrote this work as a commentary on 11 verses of Homer's Odyssey, from book 13.  In these verses, Homer describes the cave of the water-nymphs or Naiads on the island of Ithaca.  Porphyry's work treats this as an allegory of the way in which the souls of men originate in each generation.  He draws upon an eclectic mix of sources to illustrate his theme, including Plato, Zoroaster, Heraclitus, the bible and some references to Egyptian and Chaldaean oracles.  The Greek title is Πορφυριου περι του εν οδυσσειαι των νυμφων αντρου.

The translation given here was transcribed from a 1917 reprint of the translation made by the English Platonist Thomas Taylor (1758-1835) in Select Works of Porphyry (1823) and often reprinted since.  The 1917 version is available online at in PDF form.

The work has reached us in the following manuscripts:



Shelfmark & Notes

Date /


Rome, Vatican Library  Vaticanus Graecus 305.  Two correctors worked on the manuscript.  The second was Janus Lascaris, who annotated it between 1515-7, in preparation for his edition of the text published in 1518. 13
M Venice, Marcianus Library Marcianus Graecus IX, 4.  Corrections exist in a single hand. 13

The following editions of the text exist, with Latin translations:

The work was also summarised by the Byzantine writer Michael Psellus in the 11th century.  An edition of this was published by J. F. Boissonade, Michael Psellus: De operatione daemonum, Nuremberg, 1838, pp. 52-56.


More modern English translations exist:

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2007. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Greek text is rendered using unicode.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts