Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius

Book IV

Speusippus. Xenocrates. Polemo. Crates. Crantor. Arcesilaus. Bion. Lacydes. Carneades. Clitomachus.


The foregoing is the best account of Plato that we were able to compile after a diligent examination of the authorities. He was succeeded by Speusippus, an Athenian and son of Eurymedon, who belonged to the deme of Myrrhinus, and was the son of Plato’s sister Potone. He was head of the school for eight years beginning in the 108th Olympiad.1 He set up statues of the Graces in the shrine of the Muses erected by Plato in the Academy. He adhered faithfully to Plato’s doctrines. In character, however, he was unlike him, being prone to anger and easily overcome by pleasures. At any rate there is a story that in a fit of passion he flung his favourite dog into the well, and that pleasure was the sole motive for his journey to Macedonia to be present at the wedding-feast of Casander.

It was said that among those who attended his lectures were the two women who had been pupils of Plato, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius. And at the time Dionysius in a letter says derisively, “We may judge of your wisdom by the Arcadian girl who is your pupil. And, whereas Plato exempted from fees all who came to him, you levy tribute on them and collect it whether they will or no.”2 According to Diodorus in the first book of his Memorabilia, Speusippus was the first to discern the common element in all studies and to bring them into connexion with each other so far as that was possible. And according to Caeneus he was the first to divulge what Isocrates called the secrets of his art, and the first to devise the means by which fagots of firewood are rendered portable.

When he was already crippled by paralysis, he sent a message to Xenocrates entreating him to come and take over the charge of the school.3 They say that, as he was being conveyed to the Academy in a tiny carriage, he met and saluted Diogenes, who replied, “Nay, if you can endure to live in such a plight as this, I decline to return your greeting.” At last in old age he became so despondent that he put an end to his life. Here follows my epigram upon him:4

Had I not learnt that Speusippus would die thus, no one would have persuaded me to say that he was surely not of Plato’s blood; for else he would never have died in despair for a trivial cause.

Plutarch in the Lives of Lysander and Sulla makes his malady to have been “morbus pedicularis.”5 That his body wasted away is affirmed by Timotheus in his book On Lives. Speusippus, he says, meeting a rich man who was in love with one who was no beauty, said to him, “Why, pray, are you in such sore need of him? For ten talents I will find you a more handsome bride.”

He has left behind a vast store of memoirs and numerous dialogues, among them:

They comprise in all 43,475 lines. To him Timonides addresses his narrative in which he related the achievements of Dion and Bion.6 Favorinus also in the second book of his Memorabilia relates that Aristotle purchased the works of Speusippus for three talents.

There was another Speusippus, a physician of Alexandria, of the school of Herophilus.

1 348-344 B.C.

2 Romance seems to have been busy with the life of Speusippus. Athenaeus, vii. 279 e, quotes from the same forged letter of Dionysius to Speusippus bringing similar charges.

3 The most trustworthy account of what happened when Xenocrates was elected is furnished by Index Academicus, pp. 38 sq. ed. Mekler.

4 Anth. Pal. viii. 101.

5 Cf. supra, iii. 40.

6 Nothing is known of any such Bion having taken part in the expedition of Dion against Syracuse. There may be an error in the text arising from dittography.


Xenocrates, the son of Agathenor, was a native of Chalcedon. He was a pupil of Plato from his earliest youth; moreover he accompanied him on his journey to Sicily. He was naturally slow and clumsy. Hence Plato, comparing him to Aristotle, said, “The one needed a spur, the other a bridle.” And again, “See what an ass I am training and what a horse he has to run against.” However, Xenocrates was in all besides dignified and grave of demeanour, which made Plato say to him continually, “Xenocrates, sacrifice to the Graces.” He spent most of his time in the Academy; and whenever he was going to betake himself to the city, it is said that all the noisy rabble and hired porters made way for him as he passed. And that once the notorious Phryne tried to make his acquaintance and, as if she were being chased by some people, took refuge under his roof; that he admitted her out of ordinary humanity and, there being but one small couch in the room, permitted her to share it with him, and at last, after many importunities, she retired without success, telling those who inquired that he whom she quitted was not a man but a statue. Another version of the story is that his pupils induced Laïs to invade his couch; and that so great was his endurance that he many times submitted to amputation and cautery. His words were entirely worthy of credit, so much so that, although it was illegal for witnesses to give evidence unsworn, the Athenians allowed Xenocrates alone to do so. Furthermore, he was extremely independent; at all events, when Alexander sent him a large sum of money, he took three thousand Attic drachmas and sent back the rest to Alexander, whose needs, he said, were greater than his own, because he had a greater number of people to keep. Again, he would not accept the present sent him by Antipater, as Myronianus attests in his Parallels. And when he had been honoured at the court of Dionysius with a golden crown as the prize for his prowess in drinking at the Feast of Pitchers, he went out and placed it on the statue of Hermes just as he had been accustomed to place there garlands of flowers. There is a story that, when he was sent, along with others also, on an embassy to Philip, his colleagues, being bribed, accepted Philip’s invitations to feasts and talked with him. Xenocrates did neither the one nor the other. Indeed on this account Philip declined to see him. Hence, when the envoys returned to Athens, they complained that Xenocrates had accompanied them without rendering any service. Thereupon the people were ready to fine him. But when he told them that now more than ever they ought to consider the interests of the state – “for,” said he, “Philip knew that the others had accepted his bribes, but that he would never win me over” – then the people paid him double honours. And afterwards Philip said that, of all who had arrived at his court, Xenocrates was the only man whom he could not bribe. Moreover, when he went as envoy to Antipater to plead for Athenians taken prisoners in the Lamian war,7 being invited to dine with Antipater, he quoted to him the following lines:8

O Circe! what righteous man would have the heart to taste meat and drink ere he had redeemed his company and beheld them face to face?

and so pleased Antipater with his ready wit that he at once released them.

When a little sparrow was pursued by a hawk and rushed into his bosom, he stroked it and let it go, declaring that a suppliant must not be betrayed. When bantered by Bion, he said he would make no reply. For neither, said he, does tragedy deign to answer the banter of comedy. To some one who had never learnt either music or geometry or astronomy, but nevertheless wished to attend his lectures, Xenocrates said, “Go your ways, for you offer philosophy nothing to lay hold of.” Others report him as saying, “It is not to me that you come for the carding of a fleece.”

When Dionysius told Plato that he would lose his head, Xenocrates, who was present, pointed to his own and added, “No man shall touch it till he cut off mine.” They say too that, when Antipater came to Athens and greeted him, he did not address him in return until he had finished what he was saying. He was singularly free from pride; more than once a day he would retire into himself, and he assigned, it is said, a whole hour to silence.

He left a very large number of treatises, poems and addresses, of which I append a list:

These works comprise in all 224,239 lines.

Such was his character, and yet, when he was unable to pay the tax levied on resident aliens, the Athenians put him up for sale. And Demetrius of Phalerum purchased him, thereby making twofold restitution, to Xenocrates of his liberty, and to the Athenians of their tax. This we learn from Myronianus of Amastris in the first book of his Chapters on Historical Parallels. He succeeded Speusippus and was head of the school for twenty-five years from the archonship of Lysimachides, beginning in the second year of the 110th Olympiad.10 He died in his 82nd year from the effects of a fall over some utensil in the night.

Upon him I have expressed myself as follows:11

Xenocrates, that type of perfect manliness, stumbled over a vessel of bronze and broke his head, and, with a loud cry, expired.

There have been six other men named Xenocrates: (1) a tactician in very ancient times; (2) the kinsman and fellow-citizen of the philosopher: a speech by him is extant entitled the Arsinoëtic, treating of a certain deceased Arsinoë;12 (4) a philosopher and not very successful writer of elegies; it is a remarkable fact that poets succeed when they undertake to write prose, but prose-writers who essay poetry come to grief; whereby it is clear that the one is a gift of nature and the other of art; (5) a sculptor; (6) a writer of songs mentioned by Aristoxenus.

7 322 B.C.

8 Hom. Od. x. 383-5.

9 Supposed by Marsilius Ficinus to be the extant dialogue Axiochus attributed to Plato (cf. supra, iii. 62).

10 339-338 B.C.

11 Anth. Pal. vii. 102.

12 In the enumeration of the first three one has accidentally dropped out.


Polemo, the son of Philostratus, was an Athenian who belonged to the deme of Oea. In his youth he was so profligate and dissipated that he actually carried about with him money to procure the immediate gratification of his desires, and would even keep sums concealed in lanes and alleys.13 Even in the Academy a piece of three obols was found close to a pillar, where he had buried it for the same purpose. And one day, by agreement with his young friends, he burst into the school of Xenocrates quite drunk, with a garland on his head. Xenocrates, however, without being at all disturbed, went on with his discourse as before, the subject being temperance. The lad, as he listened, by degrees was taken in the toils. He became so industrious as to surpass all the other scholars, and rose to be himself head of the school in the 116th Olympiad.14

Antigonus of Carystus in his Biographies says that his father was foremost among the citizens and kept horses to compete in the chariot-race; that Polemo himself had been defendant in an action brought by his wife, who charged him with cruelty owing to the irregularities of his life; but that, from the time when he began to study philosophy, he acquired such strength of character as always to maintain the same unruffled calm of demeanour. Nay more, he never lost control of his voice. This in fact accounts for the fascination which he exercised over Crantor.15 Certain it is that, when a mad dog bit him in the back of his thigh, he did not even turn pale, but remained undisturbed by all the clamour which arose in the city at the news of what had happened. In the theatre too he was singularly unmoved. For instance, Nicostratus, who was nicknamed Clytemnestra, was once reading to him and Crates something from Homer; and, while Crates was deeply affected, he was no more moved than if he had not heard him. Altogether he was a man such as Melanthius the painter describes in his work On Painting. There he says that a certain wilfulness and stubbornness should be stamped on works of art, and that the same holds good of character. Polemo used to say that we should exercise ourselves with facts and not with mere logical speculations, which leave us, like a man who has got by heart some paltry handbook on harmony but never practised, able, indeed, to win admiration for skill in asking questions, but utterly at variance with ourselves in the ordering of our lives.

He was, then, refined and generous, and would beg to be excused, in the words of Aristophanes about Euripides, the “acid, pungent style,” which, as the same author says, is “strong seasoning for meat when it is high.”16 Further, he would not, they say, even sit down to deal with the themes of his pupils, but would argue walking up and down. It was, then, for his love of what is noble that he was honoured in the state. Nevertheless would he withdraw from society17 and confine himself to the Garden of the Academy, while close by his scholars made themselves little huts and lived not far from the shrine of the Muses and the lecture-hall. It would seem that in all respects Polemo emulated Xenocrates. And Aristippus in the fourth book of his work On the Luxury of the Ancients affirms him to have been his favourite. Certainly he always kept his predecessor before his mind and, like him, wore that simple austere dignity which is proper to the Dorian mode. He loved Sophocles, particularly in those passages where it seemed as if, in the phrase of the comic poet,

A stout Molossian mastiff lent him aid,

and where the poet was, in the words of Phrynichus,18

Nor must, nor blended vintage, but true Pramnian.

Thus he would call Homer the Sophocles of epic, and Sophocles the Homer of tragedy

He died at an advanced age of gradual decay, leaving behind him a considerable number of works. I have composed the following epigram upon him:19

Dost thou not hear? We have buried Polemo, laid here by that fatal scourge of wasted strength. Yet not Polemo, but merely his body, which on his way to the stars he left to moulder in the ground.

13 Cf. Lucian’s account of his follies (Bis accusatus, 16), the more piquant because put into the mouth of Academy pleading against Carouse, Μέθη.

14 316-312 B.C.

15 Cf. infra, §24.

16 Frag. 180 Dind.

17 Cf. supra, i. § 112 note.

18 Meineke, C.G.F. ii. 605.

19 Anth. Plan. ii. 380.


Crates, whose father was Antigenes, was an Athenian belonging to the deme of Thria. He was a pupil and at the same time a favourite of Polemo, whom he succeeded in the headship of the school. The two were so much attached to each other that they not only shared the same pursuits in life but grew more and more alike to their latest breath, and, dying, shared the same tomb. Hence Antagoras, writing of both, employed this figure:20

Passing stranger, say that in this tomb rest godlike Crates and Polemo, men magnanimous in concord, from whose inspired lips flowed sacred speech, and whose pure life of wisdom, in accordance with unswerving tenets, decked them for a bright immortality.

Hence Arcesilaus, who had quitted Theophrastus and gone over to their school, said of them that they were gods or a remnant of the Golden Age. They did not side with the popular party, but were such as Dionysodorus the flute-player is said to have claimed to be, when he boasted that no one ever heard his melodies, as those of Ismenias were heard, either on shipboard or at the fountain. According to Antigonus, their common table was in the house of Crantor; and these two and Arcesilaus lived in harmony together. Arcesilaus and Crantor shared the same house, while Polemo and Crates lived with Lysicles, one of the citizens. Crates, as already stated, was the favourite of Polemo and Arcesilaus of Crantor.

According to Apollodorus in the third book of his Chronology, Crates at his death left behind him works, some of a philosophical kind, others on comedy, others again speeches delivered in the assembly or when he was envoy. He also left distinguished pupils; among them Arcesilaus, of whom we shall speak presently – for he was also a pupil of Crates; another was Bion of Borysthenes, who was afterwards known as the Theodorean, from the school which he joined; of him too we shall have occasion to speak next after Arcesilaus.

There have been ten men who bore the name of Crates: (1) the poet of the Old Comedy; (2) a rhetorician of Tralles, a pupil of Isocrates; (3) a sapper and miner who accompanied Alexander; (4) the Cynic, of whom more hereafter; (5) a Peripatetic philosopher; (6) the Academic philosopher described above; (7) a grammarian of Malos; (8) the author of a geometrical work; (9) a composer of epigrams; (10) an Academic philosopher of Tarsus.

20 Anth. Pal. vii. 103.


Crantor of Soli, though he was much esteemed in his native country, left it for Athens and attended the lectures of Xenocrates at the same time as Polemo. He left memoirs extending to 30,000 lines, some of which are by some critics attributed to Arcesilaus. He is said to have been asked what it was in Polemo that attracted him, and to have replied, “The fact that I never heard him raise or lower his voice in speaking.” He happened to fall ill, and retired to the temple of Asclepius, where he proceeded to walk about. At once people flocked round him in the belief that he had retired thither, not on account of illness, but in order to open a school. Among them was Arcesilaus, who wished to be introduced by his means to Polemo, notwithstanding the affection which united the two, as will be related in the Life of Arcesilaus. However, when he recovered, he continued to attend Polemo’s lectures, and for this he was universally praised. He is also said to have left Arcesilaus his property, to the value of twelve talents. And when asked by him where he wished to be buried, he answered:21

Sweet in some nook of native soil to rest.

It is also said that he wrote poems and deposited them under seal in the temple of Athena in his native place. And Theaetetus the poet writes thus of him:22

Pleasing to men, more pleasing to the Muses, lived Crantor, and never saw old age. Receive, O earth, the hallowed dead; gently may he live and thrive even in the world below.

Crantor admired Homer and Euripides above all other poets; it is hard, he said, at once to write tragedy and to stir the emotions in the language of everyday life. And he would quote the line from the story of Bellerophon:23

Alas! But why Alas? We have suffered the lot of mortals.

And it is said that there are extant24 these lines of the poet Antagoras, spoken by Crantor on Love:

My mind is in doubt, since thy birth is disputed, whether I am to call thee, Love, the first of the immortal gods, the eldest of all the children whom old Erebus and queenly Night brought to birth in the depths beneath wide Ocean; or art thou the child of wise Cypris, or of Earth, or of the Winds? So many are the goods and ills thou devisest for men in thy wanderings. Therefore hast thou a body of double form.

He was also clever at inventing terms. For instance, he said of a tragic player’s voice that it was unpolished and unpeeled. And of a certain poet that his verses abounded in miserliness. And that the disquisitions of Theophrastus were written with an oyster-shell. His most highly esteemed work is the treatise On Grief. 25 He died before Polemo and Crates, his end being hastened by dropsy. I have composed upon him the following epigram:26

The worst of maladies overwhelmed you, Crantor, and thus did you descend the black abyss of Pluto. While you fare well even in the world below, the Academy and your country of Soli are bereft of your discourses.

21 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Adesp. 281.

22 Anth. Plan. ii. 28.

23 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Eur. 300.

24 Anth. Plan. iii. 60.

25Legimus omnes Crantoris, veteris Academici, de luctu; est enim non magnus, verum aureolus et, ut Tuberoni Panaetius praecipit, ad verbum ediscendus libellus “ (Cic. Ac. Pr. ii. 44).

26 Anth. Plan. ii. 381.


Arcesilaus, the son of Seuthes, according to Apollodorus in the third book of his Chronology, came from Pitane in Aeolis. With him begins the Middle Academy; he was the first to suspend his judgement owing to the contradictions of opposing arguments. He was also the first to argue on both sides of a question, and the first to meddle with the system handed down by Plato and, by means of question and answer, to make it more closely resemble eristic.

He came across Crantor in this way. He was the youngest of four brothers, two of them being his brothers by the same father, and two by the same mother. Of the last two Pylades was the elder, and of the former two Moereas, and Moereas was his guardian. At first, before he left Pitane for Athens, he was a pupil of the mathematician Autolycus, his fellow-countryman, and with him he also travelled to Sardis. Next he studied under Xanthus, the musician, of Athens; then he was a pupil of Theophrastus. Lastly, he crossed over to the Academy and joined Crantor. For while his brother Moereas, who has already been mentioned, wanted to make him a rhetorician, he was himself devoted to philosophy, and Crantor, being enamoured of him, cited the line from the Andromeda of Euripides:27

O maiden, if I save thee, wilt thou be grateful to me?

and was answered with the next line:28

Take me, stranger, whether for maidservant or for wife.

After that they lived together. Whereupon Theophrastus, nettled at his loss, is said to have remarked, “What a quick-witted and ready pupil has left my school!” For, besides being most effective in argument and decidedly fond of writing books, he also took up poetry. And there is extant an epigram of his upon Attalus which runs thus:29

Pergamos, not famous in arms alone, is often celebrated for its steeds in divine Pisa. And if a mortal may make bold to utter the will of heaven, it will be much more sung by bards in days to come.

And again upon Menodorus, the favourite of Eugamus, one of his fellow-students:30

Far, far away are Phrygia and sacred Thyatira, thy native land, Menodorus, son of Cadanus. But to unspeakable Acheron the ways are equal, from whatever place they be measured, as the proverb saith. To thee Eugamus raised this far-seen monument, for thou wert dearest to him of all who for him toiled.

He esteemed Homer above all the poets and would always read a passage from him before going to sleep. And in the morning he would say, whenever he wanted to read Homer, that he would pay a visit to his dear love. Pindar too he declared matchless for imparting fullness of diction and for affording a copious store of words and phrases. And in his youth he made a special study of Ion.

He also attended the lectures of the geometer Hipponicus, at whom he pointed a jest as one who was in all besides a listless, yawning sluggard but yet proficient in his subject. “Geometry,” he said, “must have flown into his mouth while it was agape.” When this man’s mind gave way, Arcesilaus took him to his house and nursed him until he was completely restored. He took over the school on the death of Crates, a certain Socratides having retired in his favour. According to some, one result of his suspending judgement on all matters was that he never so much as wrote a book.31 Others relate that he was caught revising some works of Crantor, which according to some he published, according to others he burnt. He would seem to have held Plato in admiration, and he possessed a copy of his works. Some represent him as emulous of Pyrrho as well. He was devoted to dialectic and adopted the methods of argument introduced by the Eretrian school. On account of this Ariston said of him:

Plato the head of him, Pyrrho the tail, midway Diodorus.32

And Timon speaks of him thus:33

Having the lead of Menedemus at his heart, he will run either to that mass of flesh, Pyrrho, or to Diodorus.

And a little farther on he introduces him as saying:

I shall swim to Pyrrho and to crooked Diodorus.

He was highly axiomatic and concise, and in his discourse fond of distinguishing the meaning of terms. He was satirical enough, and outspoken. This is why Timon speaks of him again as follows:

And mixing sound sense with wily cavils.34

Hence, when a young man talked more boldly than was becoming, Arcesilaus exclaimed, “Will no one beat him at a game of knuckle-bone?” Again, when some one of immodest life denied that one thing seemed to him greater than another, he rejoined, “Then six inches and ten inches are all the same to you?” There was a certain Hemon, a Chian, who, though ugly, fancied himself to be handsome, and always went about in fine clothes. He having propounded as his opinion that the wise man will never fall in love, Arcesilaus replied, “What, not with one so handsome as you and so handsomely dressed?” And when one of loose life, to imply that Arcesilaus was arrogant, addressed him thus:35

Queen, may I speak, or must I silence keep?

his reply was:36

Woman, why talk so harshly, not as thou art wont?

When some talkative person of no family caused him considerable trouble, he cited the line:37

Right ill to live with are the sons of slaves.

Of another who talked much nonsense he said that he could not have had even a nurse to scold him. And some persons he would not so much as answer. To a money-lending student, upon his confessing ignorance of something or other, Arcesilaus replied with two lines from the Oenomaus of Sophocles:38

Be sure the hen-bird knows not from what quarter the wind blows until she looks for a new brood in the nest.39

A certain dialectic, a follower of Alexinus, was unable to repeat properly some argument of his teacher, whereupon Arcesilaus reminded him of the story of Philoxenus and the brickmakers. He found them singing some of his melodies out of tune; so he retaliated by trampling on the bricks they were making, saying, “If you spoil my work, I’ll spoil yours.” He was, moreover, genuinely annoyed with any who took up their studies too late. By some natural impulse he was betrayed into using such phrases as “I assert,” and “So-and-so” (mentioning the name) “will not assent to this.”40 And this trait many of his pupils imitated, as they did also his style of speaking and his whole address.

Very fertile in invention, he could meet objection acutely or bring the course of discussion back to the point at issue, and fit it to every occasion. In persuasiveness he had no equal, and this all the more drew pupils to the school, although they were in terror of his pungent wit. But they willingly put up with that; for his goodness was extraordinary, and he inspired his pupils with hopes. He showed the greatest generosity in private life, being ever ready to confer benefits, yet most modestly anxious to conceal the favour. For instance, he once called upon Ctesibius when he was ill and, seeing in what straits he was, quietly put a purse under his pillow. He, when he found it, said, “This is the joke of Arcesilaus.” Moreover, on another occasion, he sent him 1000 drachmas.

Again, by introducing Archias the Arcadian to Eumenes, he caused him to be advanced to great dignity. And, as he was very liberal, caring very little for money, so he was the first to attend performances where seats were paid for, and he was above all eager to go to those of Archecrates and Callicrates, for which the fee was a gold piece. And he helped many people and collected subscriptions for them. Some one once borrowed his silver plate in order to entertain friends and never brought it back, but Arcesilaus did not ask him for it and pretended it had not been borrowed. Another version of the story is that he lent it on purpose, and, when it was returned, made the borrower a present of it because he was poor. He had property in Pitane from which his brother Pylades sent him supplies. Furthermore, Eumenes, the son of Philetaerus, furnished him with large sums, and for this reason Eumenes was the only one of the contemporary kings to whom he dedicated any of his works.

And whereas many persons courted Antigonus and went to meet him whenever he came to Athens, Arcesilaus remained at home, not wishing to thrust himself upon his acquaintance. He was on the best of terms with Hierocles, the commandant in Munichia and Piraeus, and at every festival would go down to see him. And though Hierocles joined in urging him to pay his respects to Antigonus, he was not prevailed upon, but, after going as far as the gates, turned back. And after the battle at sea,41 when many went to Antigonus or wrote him flattering letters, he held his peace. However, on behalf of his native city, he did go to Demetrias as envoy to Antigonus, but failed in his mission. He spent his time wholly in the Academy, shunning politics.

Once indeed, when at Athens, he stopped too long in the Piraeus, discussing themes, out of friendship for Hierocles, and for this he was censured by certain persons.42 He was very lavish, in short another Aristippus, and he was fond of dining well, but only with those who shared his tastes. He lived openly with Theodete and Phila, the Elean courtesans, and to those who censured him he quoted the maxims of Aristippus. He was also fond of boys and very susceptible. Hence he was accused by Ariston of Chios, the Stoic, and his followers, who called him a corrupter of youth and a shameless teacher of immorality. He is said to have been particularly enamoured of Demetrius who sailed to Cyrene, and of Cleochares of Myrlea; of him the story is told that, when a band of revellers came to the door, he told them that for his part he was willing to admit them but that Cleochares would not let him. This same youth had amongst his admirers Demochares the son of Laches, and Pythocles the son of Bugelus, and once when Arcesilaus had caught them, with great forbearance he ordered them off. For all this he was assailed and ridiculed by the critics abovementioned, as a friend of the mob who courted popularity. The most virulent attacks were made upon him in the circle of Hieronymus the Peripatetic,43 whenever he collected his friends to keep the birthday of Halcyoneus, son of Antigonus, an occasion for which Antigonus used to send large sums of money to be spent in merrymaking. There he had always shunned discussion over the wine; and when Aridices, proposing a certain question, requested him to speak upon it, he replied, “The peculiar province of philosophy is just this, to know that there is a time for all things.” As to the charge brought against him that he was the friend of the mob, Timon, among many other things, has the following:44

So saying, he plunged into the surrounding crowd. And they were amazed at him, like chaffinches about an owl, pointing him out as vain, because he was a flatterer of the mob. And why, insignificant thing that you are, do you puff yourself out like a simpleton?45

And yet for all that he was modest enough to recommend his pupils to hear other philosophers. And when a certain youth from Chios was not well pleased with his lectures and preferred those of the above-mentioned Hieronymus, Arcesilaus himself took him and introduced him to that philosopher, with an injunction to behave well.

Another pleasant story told of him is this. Some one had inquired why it was that pupils from all the other schools went over to Epicurus, but converts were never made from the Epicureans: “Because men may become eunuchs, but a eunuch never becomes a man,” was his answer.

At last, being near his end, he left all his property to his brother Pylades, because, unknown to Moereas, he had taken him to Chios and thence brought him to Athens. In all his life he never married nor had any children. He made three wills: the first he left at Eretria in the charge of Amphicritus, the second at Athens in the charge of certain friends, while the third he dispatched to his home to Thaumasias, one of his relatives, with the request that he would keep it safe. To this man he also wrote as follows:

“Arcesilaus to Thaumasias greeting.

“I have given Diogenes my will to be conveyed to you. For, owing to my frequent illnesses and the weak state of my body, I decided to make a will, in order that, if anything untoward should happen, you, who have been so devotedly attached to me, should not suffer by my decease. You are the most deserving of all those in this place to be entrusted with the will, on the score both of age and of relationship to me. Remember then that I have reposed the most absolute confidence in you, and strive to deal justly by me, in order that, so far as you are concerned, the provisions I have made may be carried out with fitting dignity. A copy is deposited at Athens with some of my acquaintance, and another in Eretria with Amphicritus.”

He died, according to Hermippus, through drinking too freely of unmixed wine which affected his reason; he was already seventy-five and regarded by the Athenians with unparalleled good-will.

I have written upon him as follows:46

Why, pray, Arcesilaus, didst thou quaff so unsparingly unmixed wine as to go out of thy mind? I pity thee not so much for thy death as because thou didst insult the Muses by immoderate potations.

Three other men have borne the name of Arcesilaus: a poet of the Old Comedy, another poet who wrote elegies, and a sculptor besides, on whom Simonides composed this epigram:47

This is a statue of Artemis and its cost two hundred Parian drachmas, which bear a goat for their device. It was made by Arcesilaus, the worthy son of Aristodicus, well practised in the arts of Athena.

According to Apollodorus in his Chronology, the philosopher described in the foregoing flourished about the 120th Olympiad.48

27 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Eur. 129.

28 Ib. 132.

29 Anth. Plan. iii. 56.

30 Anth. Plan. ii. 382.

31 If this be so, the study of the poet Ion (§ 31) must have remained unpublished.

32 A parody of Homer, Il. vi. 181: a chimaera has a lion’s front, a dragon’s tail, and the body of a goat.

33 Cf. Hom. Od. v. 346.

34 Or possibly with Wachsmuth: “mixing jest in wily fashion (αἱμυλίως) with abuse.”

35 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Adesp. 282.

36 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Adesp. 283: cf. Wilam. Antiq. v. Kar. p. 74.

37 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Eur. 976.

38 Nauck, T.G.F. ², Soph. 436.

39 “Men pay little heed to obvious facts except when their own interests are concerned.” So A. C. Pearson, ad loc., Soph. Fragments, 477 (vol. ii. p. 130), who takes διέξοδοι in the more specific sense: “passage of the winds (through her body),” the reference being to the old fable of the wind-egg (Aristoph. Aves, 695, Aristot. Hist. An. vi. 2, 560 a 6). To the usurer τόκος would suggest interest on loans.

40 The use of these phrases was inconsistent with the suspension of judgement professed by Arcesilaus.

41 The reference may be to one of the naval victories gained by Antigonus over the Egyptian fleet towards the end of his reign, at Cos and again at Andros. See W. W. Tarn, Antigonus Gonatas, pp. 378, 461-6.

42 It has been suggested that the sense would be improved if Ἀθήνησι were transposed to come between τὸν and πολιτισμὸν, adding; καὶ πρὸς τὰς θέσεις λέγων after πολιτισμὸν ἐκτοπίζων instead of after Πειραιεῖ. This account seems in some respects to confirm the impression conveyed by the sentence a little higher up, beginning πολλῶν δὲ καὶ τὸν Ἀντίγονον.  . . ἑκάστοτε.

43 οἱ περὶ Ἱερώνυμον τὸν Περιπατητικόν is said by Stephanus to be a marginal gloss. The reading of the mss. is παρὰ Ἱερωνύμῳ τῷ Π.

44 Cf. infra, v. 59.

45 Frag. 34 D. Cf. the rhythm, Hom. Il. i. 326 and iv. 482.

46 Anth. Pal. vii. 104.

47 Anth. Plan. iii. 9.

48 300-296 B.C.


Bion was by birth a citizen of Borysthenes [Olbia]; who his parents were, and what his circumstances before he took to philosophy, he himself told Antigonus in plain terms. For, when Antigonus inquired:

Who among men, and whence, are you? What is your city and your parents?49

he, knowing that he had already been maligned to the king, replied, “My father was a freedman, who wiped his nose on his sleeve” – meaning that he was a dealer in salt fish – “a native of Borysthenes, with no face to show, but only the writing on his face, a token of his master’s severity. My mother was such as a man like my father would marry, from a brothel. Afterwards my father, who had cheated the revenue in some way, was sold with all his family. And I, then a not ungraceful youngster, was bought by a certain rhetorician, who on his death left me all he had. And I burnt his books, scraped everything together, came to Athens and turned philosopher.

This is the stock and this the blood from which I boast to have sprung.50

Such is my story. It is high time, then, that Persaeus and Philonides left off recounting it. Judge me by myself.”

In truth Bion was in other respects a shifty character, a subtle sophist, and one who had given the enemies of philosophy many an occasion to blaspheme, while in certain respects he was even pompous and able to indulge in arrogance. He left very many memoirs, and also sayings of useful application. For example, when he was reproached for not paying court to a youth, his excuse was, “You can’t get hold of a soft cheese with a hook.” Being once asked who suffers most from anxiety, he replied, “He who is ambitious of the greatest prosperity.” Being consulted by some one as to whether he should marry – for this story is also told of Bion – he made answer, “If the wife you marry be ugly, she will be your bane; if beautiful, you will not keep her to yourself.”51 He called old age the harbour of all ills; at least they all take refuge there. Renown he called the mother of virtues; beauty another’s good; wealth the sinews of success. To some one who had devoured his patrimony he said, “The earth swallowed Amphiaraus, but you have swallowed your land.” To be unable to bear an ill is itself a great ill. He used to condemn those who burnt men alive as if they could not feel, and yet cauterized them as if they could. He used repeatedly to say that to grant favours to another was preferable to enjoying the favours of others. For the latter means ruin to both body and soul. He even abused Socrates, declaring that, if he felt desire for Alcibiades and abstained, he was a fool; if he did not, his conduct was in no way remarkable. The road to Hades, he used to say, was easy to travel; at any rate men passed away with their eyes shut. He said in censure of Alcibiades that in his boyhood he drew away the husbands from their wives, and as a young man the wives from their husbands. When the Athenians were absorbed in the practice of rhetoric, he taught philosophy at Rhodes. To some one who found fault with him for this he replied, “How can I sell barley when what I brought to market is wheat?”

He used to say that those in Hades would be more severely punished if the vessels in which they drew water were whole instead of being pierced with holes. To an importunate talker who wanted his help he said, “I will satisfy your demand, if you will only get others to plead your cause and stay away yourself.” On a voyage in bad company he fell in with pirates. When his companions said, “We are lost if we are discovered,” “And I too,” he replied, “unless I am discovered.” Conceit he styled a hindrance to progress. Referring to a wealthy miser he said, “He has not acquired a fortune; the fortune has acquired him.” Misers, he said, took care of property as if it belonged to them, but derived no more benefit from it than if it belonged to others. “When we are young,” said he, “we are courageous, but it is only in old age that prudence is at its height.” Prudence, he said, excels the other virtues as much as sight excels the other senses. He used to say that we ought not to heap reproaches on old age, seeing that, as he said, we all hope to reach it. To a slanderer who showed a grave face his words were, “I don’t know whether you have met with ill luck, or your neighbour with good.” He used to say that low birth made a bad partner for free speech, for –

It cows a man, however bold his heart.52

We ought, he remarked, to watch our friends and see what manner of men they are, in order that we may not be thought to associate with the bad or to decline the friendship of the good.

Bion at the outset used to deprecate the Academic doctrines,53 even at the time when he was a pupil of Crates. Then he adopted the Cynic discipline, donning cloak and wallet. For little else was needed to convert him to the doctrine of entire insensibility.

Next he went over to Theodorean views, after he had heard the lectures of Theodorus the Atheist, who used every kind of sophistical argument. And after Theodorus he attended the lectures of Theophrastus the Peripatetic. He was fond of display and great at cutting up anything with a jest, using vulgar names for things. Because he employed every style of speech in combination, Eratosthenes, we hear, said of him that he was the first to deck philosophy with bright-flowered robes. He was clever also at parody. Here is a specimen of his style:

O gentle Archytas, musician-born, blessed in thine own conceit, most skilled of men to stir the bass of strife.54

And in general he made sport of music and geometry. He lived extravagantly, and for this reason he would move from one city to another, sometimes contriving to make a great show. Thus at Rhodes he persuaded the sailors to put on students’ garb and follow in his train. And when, attended by them, he made his way into the gymnasium, all eyes were fixed on him. It was his custom also to adopt certain young men for the gratification of his appetite and in order that he might be protected by their goodwill.55 He was extremely selfish and insisted strongly on the maxim that “friends share in common.” And hence it came about that he is not credited with a single disciple, out of all the crowds who attended his lectures. And yet there were some who followed his lead in shamelessness. For instance, Betion, one of his intimates, is said once to have addressed Menedemus in these words: “For my part, Menedemus, I pass the night with Bion, and I don’t think I am any the worse for it.” In his familiar talk he would often vehemently assail belief in the gods, a taste which he had derived from Theodorus. Afterwards, when he fell ill (so it was said by the people of Chalcis where he died), he was persuaded to wear an amulet and to repent of his offences against religion. And even for want of nurses he was in a sad plight, until Antigonus sent him two servants. And it is stated by Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History that the king himself followed in a litter.

Even so he died, and in these lines56 I have taken him to task:

We hear that Bion, to whom the Scythian land of Borysthenes gave birth, denied that the gods really exist. Had he persisted in holding this opinion, it would have been right to say, “He thinks as he pleases: wrongly, to be sure, but still he does think so.” But in fact, when he fell ill of a lingering disease and feared death, he who denied the existence of the gods, and would not even look at a temple, who often mocked at mortals for sacrificing to deities, not only over hearth and high altars and table, with sweet savour and fat and incense did he gladden the nostrils of the gods; nor was he content to say “I have sinned, forgive the past,” but he cheerfully allowed an old woman to put a charm round his neck, and in full faith bound his arms with leather and placed the rhamnus and the laurel-branch over the door, being ready to submit to anything sooner than die. Fool for wishing that the divine favour might be purchased at a certain price, as if the gods existed just when Bion chose to recognize them! It was then with vain wisdom that, when the driveller was all ashes, he stretched out his hand and said “Hail, Pluto, hail!”

Ten men have borne the name of Bion: (1) the contemporary of Pherecydes of Syria, to whom are assigned two books in the Ionic dialect; he was of Proconnesus; (2) a Syracusan, who wrote rhetorical handbooks; (3) our philosopher; (4) a follower of Democritus and mathematician of Abdera, who wrote both in Attic and in Ionic: he was the first to affirm that there are places where the night lasts for six months and the day for six months;57 (5) a native of Soli, who wrote a work on Aethiopia; (6) a rhetorician, the author of nine books called after the Muses; (7) a lyric poet; (8) a Milesian sculptor, mentioned by Polemo; (9) a tragic poet, one of the poets of Tarsus, as they are called; (10) a sculptor of Clazomenae or Chios, mentioned by Hipponax.

49 Hom. Od. x. 325.

50 Hom. Il. vi. 211.

51 Cf. infra, vi. 3.

52 Eur. Hipp. 424.

53 i.e. he had his doubts. Reiske, however, by his conjecture προῄρητο gives the statement a totally different turn, viz. that Bion had at the outset preferred the Academy.

54 Cf. Hom. Il. iii. 182 ὦ μάκαρ Ἀτρεΐδη, μοιρηγενές, ὀλβιόδαιμον. The address; πάντων ἐκπαγλότατ᾽ ἀνδρῶν occurs in Il. i. 146 and xviii. 170.

55 See, however, supra, 49.

56 Anth. Plan. v. 37.

57 Possibly Pytheas of Massilia in his “Northern Voyage” had had experience of Arctic winters and summers.


Lacydes, son of Alexander, was a native of Cyrene He was the founder of the New Academy and the successor of Arcesilaus: a man of very serious character who found numerous admirers; industrious from his youth up and, though poor, of pleasant manners and pleasant conversation. A most amusing story is told of his housekeeping. Whenever he brought anything out of the store-room, he would seal the door up again and throw his signet-ring inside through the opening, to ensure that nothing laid up there should be stolen or carried off. So soon, then, as his rogues of servants got to know this, they broke the seal and carried off what they pleased, afterwards throwing the ring in the same way through the opening into the store-room. Nor were they ever detected in this.

Lacydes used to lecture in the Academy, in the garden which had been laid out by King Attalus, and from him it derived its name of Lacydeum. He did what none of his predecessors had ever done; in his lifetime he handed over the school to Telecles and Evander, both of Phocaea. Evander was succeeded by Hegesinus of Pergamum, and he again by Carneades. A good saying is attributed to Lacydes. When Attalus sent for him, he is said to have remarked that statues are best seen from a distance. He stadied geometry late, and some one said to him, “Is this a proper time?” To which he replied, “Nay, is it not even yet the proper time?”

He assumed the headship of the school in the fourth year of the 134th Olympiad,58 and at his death he had been head for twenty-six years. His end was a palsy brought on by drinking too freely. And here is a quip of my own upon the fact:59

Of thee too, O Lacydes, I have heard a tale, that Bacchus seized thee and dragged thee on tip-toe60 to the underworld. Nay, was it not clear that when the wine-god comes in force into the frame, he loosens our limbs? Perhaps this is why he gets his name of the Loosener.

58 July 241-June 240 B.C.

59 Anth. Pal. vii. 105.

60 Or “with trailing toes.” The vases show bodies carried in the arms or flung over the shoulders with the toes just touching the ground.


Carneades, the son of Epicomus or (according to Alexander in his Successions of Philosophers ) of Philocomus, was a native of Cyrene. He studied carefully the writings of the Stoics and particularly those of Chrysippus, and by combating these successfully he became so famous that he would often say:

Without Chrysippus where should I have been?

The man’s industry was unparalleled, although in physics he was not so strong as in ethics. Hence he would let his hair and nails grow long from intense devotion to study. Such was his predominance in philosophy that even the rhetoricians would dismiss their classes and repair to him to hear him lecture.

His voice was extremely powerful, so that the keeper of the gymnasium sent to him and requested him not to shout so loud. To which he replied, “Then give me something by which to regulate my voice.” Thereupon by a happy hit the man replied in the words, “You have a regulator in your audience.” His talent for criticizing opponents was remarkable, and he was a formidable controversialist. And for the reasons already given he further declined invitations to dine out. One of his pupils was Mentor the Bithynian, who tried to ingratiate himself with a concubine of Carneades; so on one occasion (according to Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History ), when Mentor came to lecture, Carneades in the course of his remarks let fall these lines by way of parody at his expense:

Hither comes an old man of the sea, infallible, like to Mentor in person and in voice.61 Him I proclaim to have been banished from this school.

Thereupon the other got up and replied:

Those on their part made proclamation, and these speedily assembled.62

He seems to have shown some want of courage in the face of death, repeating often the words, “Nature which framed this whole will also destroy it.” When he learnt that Antipater committed suicide by drinking a potion, he was greatly moved by the constancy with which he met his end, and exclaimed, “Give it then to me also.” And when those about him asked “What?” “A honeyed draught,” said he. At the time he died the moon is said to have been eclipsed, and one might well say that the brightest luminary in heaven next to the sun thereby gave token of her sympathy.

According to Apollodorus in his Chronology, he departed this life in the fourth year of the 162nd Olympiad63 at the age of eighty-five years. Letters of his to Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, are extant. Everything else was compiled by his pupils; he himself left nothing in writing. I have written upon him in logaoedic metre as follows:64

Why, Muse, oh why wouldst thou have me censure Carneades? For he is ignorant who knoweth not how he feared death. When wasting away with the worst of diseases, he would not find release. But when he heard that Antipater’s life was quenched by drinking a potion, “Give me too,” he cried, “a draught to drink.” “What? pray what?” “Give me a draught of honeyed wine.” He had often on his lips the words, “Nature which holds this frame together will surely dissolve it.” None the less he too went down to the grave, and he might have got there sooner by cutting short his tale of woes.

It is said that his eyes went blind at night without his knowing it, and he ordered the slave to light the lamp. The latter brought it and said, “Here it is.” “Then,” said Carneades, “read.”

He had many other disciples, but the most illustrious of them all was Clitomachus, of whom we have next to speak.

There was another Carneades, a frigid elegiac poet.

61 Carneades applies two lines from the Odyssey, namely iv. 384 and (with a change to the masculine participle) ii. 268 or 401.

62 Hom. Il. ii. 52.

63 129-128 B.C.

64 Anth. Plan. v. 39.


Clitomachus was a Carthaginian, his real name being Hasdrubal, and he taught philosophy at Carthage in his native tongue. He had reached his fortieth year when he went to Athens and became a pupil of Carneades. And Carneades, recognizing his industry, caused him to be educated and took part in training him. And to such lengths did his diligence go that he composed more than four hundred treatises. He succeeded Carneades in the headship of the school, and by his writings did much to elucidate his opinions. He was eminently well acquainted with the three sects – the Academy, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics.

The Academics in general are assailed by Timon in the line:

The prolixity of the Academics unseasoned by salt.

Having thus reviewed the Academics who derived from Plato, we will now pass on to the Peripatetics, who also derived from Plato. They begin with Aristotle.

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:02