Dr. R.M. (Bert) van den Berg

  • Lecturer
  • Classical languages and cultures
  • Neoplatonism
  • Proclus
  • Plato

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2680
E-Mail: r.m.van.den.berg@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, Griekse T&C
Office Address: Johan Huizingagebouw
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 1.16b


My research focuses on the philosophy of late antiquity (Neoplatonism, the philosophy of the commentators) and that of Proclus in particular. I am especially interested in such topics as Neoplatonic ethics, religious practice & theology, linguistic theories & literary criticism and their intersections.

Current project
The Neoplatonists on Moral Education
This project studies the theory and practice of moral education in the (Neo)Platonic tradition, i.e. the issue of how to render the young into virtuous people. I am especially interested in the way in which Neoplatonists appropriate existing moralizing literature (Hesiod’s Works and Days, Prodicus’ Choice of Hercules, the Pythagorean Golden Verses) and genres (history, rhetoric) and adapt it to fit their own psychological and ethical ideas.
Key publications:
R.M. van den Berg, ‘Proclus on Hesiod’s Works and Days and ‘Didactic Poetry’, Classical Quarterly 64 (2014), pp. 383-397.
R.M. van den Berg, ‘Proclus and Iamblichus on Moral Education’, Phronesis 59 (2014), pp. 272-296.

Previous projects:
The Neoplatonists on language and naming
This project examined the ideas of the Neoplatonists about language, its relation to the outside world it seeks to describe, and its function as an instrument in philosophical investigations as we find these in the ancient commentators on Aristotle’s Organon (Porphyry, Iamblichus, Ammonius) and especially in Proclus’ commentary on Plato’s Cratylus.
Key publication:
R.M. van den Berg, Proclus’ Commentary on the Cratylus in Context: Ancient Theories of Language and Naming, Brill (Leiden) 2008.

Proclus’ Hymns
For my PhD I examined the hymns of Proclus against the background of his literary theories and within the context of theurgy, the rituals by means of which the later Neoplatonists sought to attract divine assistance and illumination.
Key publication:
R.M. van den Berg, Proclus’ Hymns. Essays, Translations, Commentary, Brill (Leiden) 2001.

Curriculum vitae

Robbert (Bert) M. van den Berg (Amsterdam, 1970) studied Classics at Leiden University (MA August 1995). After qualifying as a secondary school teacher in Classics, he took up a position of junior research fellow at the Faculty of Philosophy of Leiden University from 1996 to 2000, working on his PhD on Proclus’ Hymns under the direction of Prof. David Runia. Upon obtaining his PhD he was a research associate to Richard Sorabji’s Ancient Commentators Project at King’s College, London (2000), and postdoctoral fellow of the Mediterranean Near-Eastern Studies program at Trinity College, Dublin (2000-2001). Between 2001 and 2005, he worked as a post-doctoral researcher of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), working on a project concerning the ancient reception of Plato's Cratylus. Since October 2001 he has been teaching ancient philosophy at the department of Classics at Leiden University.

Teaching activities

Introductory courses in ancient philosophy from Thales down to Damascius (BA1 and 2), BA-seminars on great philosophical texts such as Plato’s Politeia and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (BA3) and MA-seminars on Neoplatonism (Plotinus, Boethius) and other topics (e.g. ancient critics of democracy) related to my current research interests.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015