State of the Field before my research

Domninus of Larissa was a 5th c. philosopher and member of the School of Athens. There is one treatise extant which is of certain ascription to him, a short text on arithmetic. This extant text together with some remarks in Damascius (a late antique philosopher and historian of the School of Athens, if we should indeed call him a “historian” and not a “tale-monger”) gave birth to an extraordinary picture of Domninus (going back to the eminent historian of mathematics Paul Tannery): a scientifically-minded, possibly Jewish, maverick philosopher, whose advocacy of serious science brought him into conflict with his colleagues; his sophistication was supposed to be evidenced by his extant mathematical treatises, one of which allegedly possessed distinctive Euclidean overtones. Only a few scholars had worked on Domninus before I did; almost none of them questioned Tannery’s view, which consequently made it into all lexica and handbooks.

My approach and results

Not only the arithmetical treatise, but also two more texts were regularly adduced in the context of Domninus. It seemed necessary to edit them to clearly assess their importance, and, first and foremost, to establish if they could be used as evidence for Domninus at all. Although these editions were rewarding (as the available edition of the one text did not use all available manuscripts, and the other text was hitherto completely unedited), I was able to show that these texts do not have a connection with Domninus and should be regarded as spurious. In the case of the Encheiridion, I proved through a circumstantial analysis that the only aspect which is “Euclidian” in the whole Encheiridion is that some Nicomachean definitions are substituted with definitions found in the Elements. However, this is not the case consistently; in plan and content, the Encheiridion is much closer to Nicomachus; and at any rate, we’re talking here about definitions, not about methods; hence there is definitely no Euclidean sophistication to be found in the Encheiridion. With regards to the Damascius evidence, again, a careful analysis showed that the description of Domninus as an especially competent mathematician is nothing out of the ordinary, but a recurring description Damascius applied to philosophers he did not regard as especially competent in the more lofty philosophical disciplines. All of this leads to the final conclusion that there is no reason to assign a special position to Domninus: he is a fairly standard late antique philosopher.

The reception

The Domninus book was published in the series Mathematica Graeca Antiqua. This means, that I, a German, composed a book in English, which was published in Italy financed by a French ANR research project. Up to now (January 2015), Domninus has received 12 reviews, in their overwhelming majority highly positive. The varying backgrounds of the reviewers are interesting to note: there is a “real” mathematician, several philologists (including a specialist of codicology), historians of science as well as scholars of ancient philosophy. Reviewers underline:

Here are a few snippets taken from some of the reviews (for a full list of such extracts, click here):

Complete list of reviews