This is a fascinating romp through the ranks of the pre-Socratic Philosophers; all seventeen of them presenting their different theories on the first principle, or starting point, of the origin of the universe (was it water or air, etc.). This is a common motif in the early Greek apologists. For instance, Pseudo-Justin, Cohort. ad Graec. 8 reads: “It is logical, then, since you cannot learn any religious truths from your own teachers, whose ignorance is evident to you from their contradictions, to turn to our [Christian] forefathers.” But the present work is outstanding for the presentations of the seventeen philosophers.
Take chapter 18 as a sample: My soul up to now has busied itself with these concerns to get the measure of the universe. But Epicurus, leaning forward, says to me:
“My friend, you have merely measured a single world, but there are many unlimited worlds. So, once more I am compelled to measure other heavens, other upper airs, and these are numerous. So, having gathered provisions sufficient for a few days, I will embark on a tour of the worlds of Epicurus. Entering a new world, just like entering another city, I will measure the whole in a few days. And from there I fly on to a third world, then a fourth, a fifth, a tenth, a twentieth, a thousandth, and so on.”
Doesn't this sound as modern as a news bulletin from the Aeronautical Satellite Space Center in the second half of the twentieth century? Judged by this two-tiered description of the early Christian apologetical enterprise, we can conclude that Hermias accomplishes something of a doxographical tour-de-force on the first part, but, as far as our surviving evidence goes, stops short of the second. To show disarray in the ranks of the philosophers, however, was the necessary clearing-ground in apologetics for the presentation of Christian revelation. It was also a useful school exercise for prospective philosophers and theologians in the school of Origen.