Stephanus of Alexandria[a] (Greek: Στέφανος Αλεξανδρεύς; fl. c. 580 – c. 640) was a Byzantine philosopher and teacher who, besides philosophy in the Neo-Platonic tradition, also wrote on alchemy, astrology and astronomy. He was one of the last exponents of the Alexandrian academic tradition before the Islamic conquest of Egypt.[1]


Stephanus studied at Alexandria, probably under Elias. He is often named alongside Elias and David as among the Christians of the school of Olympiodorus. According to John Moschus, he was teaching and writing commentaries in Alexandria in the 580s, where he was involved in the controversy over Monophysitism, apparently taking positions on both sides. John calls him a "sophist and philosopher".[1]

Shortly after the accession of the Emperor Heraclius in 610, Stephanus moved to Constantinople, the capital of the empire, "thereby bridging late Alexandria and the medieval Byzantine world."[1] Whether he was invited by the emperor is not known. He took up a position as "ecumenical professor" (oikoumenikos didaskalos)[b] at the Imperial Academy teaching Plato, Aristotle, the quadrivium,[c] alchemy and astrology. Among his students were the philosopher known as Pseudo-Elias and Tychicus of Trebizond, the teacher of the Armenian polymath Anania Shirakatsi.[1]

Many works are attributed to Stephanus, some falsely, most written at Constantinople.[1] Agapius of Hierapolis, writing of the treaty between Heraclius and the Persian king Kavad II in 628, states that Stephanus was "famous among the philosophers at that time".[3] Stephanus died sometime before the death of Heraclius in 641.[1] His identification with Stephanus of Athens has been proposed, but is unlikely.[2]


1. A commentary on Aristotle. Editions:

2. A commentary on the Isagogue of Porphyry. Editions:

3. Astronomical and chronological works. Editions:

4. Alchemical works. Scholars are divided as to whether or not these are authentic works of the same Stephen of Alexandria due to the style of writing. The translator, F. Sherwood Taylor accepts them as his.[4] A compendium of alchemical texts including the poem De Chrysopoeia (On how to make gold) is extant in two manuscripts, Venice Cod. Marcianus 299 and Paris BNF 2327.


5. Astrological works.

6. A horoscope of Muhammad and a prophecy of the rise of Islam attributed to Stephanus is apocryphal. It must date from after 775, since it mentions the Caliph al-Mahdi.[3]


  1. ^ Also Stephanus Alexandrinus, Stephanos Alexandreus, Stephanos of Alexandria, Stephen of Alexandria.
  2. ^ He is also celebrated as an "ecumenical master" in the alchemical tradition.[2]
  3. ^ Arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Keith Dickson (2008), "Stephanos of Alexandria (ca 580? – 640? CE)", in Paul T. Keyser; Georgia L. Irby-Massie (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists: The Greek Tradition and Its Many Heirs, Routledge, pp. 759–760.
  2. ^ a b Cristina viano (2008), "Stephanos of Alexandria (Alch.) (ca 580 – ca 640 CE)", in Paul T. Keyser; Georgia L. Irby-Massie (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists: The Greek Tradition and Its Many Heirs, Routledge, pp. 760–761.
  3. ^ a b Robert G. Hoyland (1997), Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam, Darwin Press, pp. 302–305.
  4. ^ Linden, Stanton J. (2003). The Alchemy Reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Cambridge University Press. p. 54.

Further reading



Articles and studies: