Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius


Pythagoras. Empedocles. Epicharmus. Archytas. Alcmaeon. Hippasus. Philolaus. Eudoxus.


Having now completed our account of the philosophy of Ionia starting with Thales, as well as of its chief representatives, let us proceed to examine the philosophy of Italy, which was started by Pythagoras,1 son of the gem-engraver Mnesarchus, and according to Hermippus, a Samian, or, according to Aristoxenus, a Tyrrhenian from one of those islands which the Athenians held after clearing them of their Tyrrhenian inhabitants. Some indeed say that he was descended through Euthyphro, Hippasus and Marmacus from Cleonymus, who was exiled from Phlius, and that, as Marmacus lived in Samos, so Pythagoras was called a Samian. From Samos he went, it is said, to Lesbos with an introduction to Pherecydes from his uncle Zoilus. He had three silver flagons made and took them as presents to each of the priests of Egypt. He had brothers, of whom Eunomus was the elder and Tyrrhenus the second; he also had a slave, Zamolxis, who is worshipped, so says Herodotus, by the Getans,2 as Cronos. He was a pupil, as already stated, of Pherecydes of Syros, after whose death he went to Samos to be the pupil of Hermodamas, Creophylus’s descendant, a man already advanced in years. While still young, so eager was he for knowledge, he left his own country and had himself initiated into all the mysteries and rites not only of Greece but also of foreign countries. Now he was in Egypt when Polycrates sent him a letter of introduction to Amasis; he learnt the Egyptian language, so we learn from Antiphon in his book On Men of Outstanding Merit, and he also journeyed among the Chaldaeans and Magi. Then while in Crete he went down into the cave of Ida with Epimenides; he also entered the Egyptian sanctuaries,3 and was told their secret lore concerning the gods. After that he returned to Samos to find his country under the tyranny of Polycrates; so he sailed away to Croton in Italy, and there he laid down a constitution for the Italian Greeks, and he and his followers were held in great estimation; for, being nearly three hundred in number, so well did they govern the state that its constitution was in effect a true aristocracy (government by the best).

This is what Heraclides of Pontus tells us he used to say about himself: that he had once been Aethalides and was accounted to be Hermes’ son, and Hermes told him he might choose any gift he liked except immortality; so he asked to retain through life and through death a memory of his experiences. Hence in life he could recall everything, and when he died he still kept the same memories. Afterwards in course of time his soul entered into Euphorbus and he was wounded by Menelaus. Now Euphorbus used to say that he had once been Aethalides and obtained this gift from Hermes, and then he told of the wanderings of his soul, how it migrated hither and thither, into how many plants and animals it had come, and all that it underwent in Hades, and all that the other souls there have to endure. When Euphorbus died, his soul passed into Hermotimus, and he also, wishing to authenticate the story, went up to the temple of Apollo at Branchidae, where he identified the shield which Menelaus, on his voyage home from Troy, had dedicated to Apollo, so he said: the shield being now so rotten through and through that the ivory facing only was left. When Hermotimus died, he became Pyrrhus, a fisherman of Delos, and again he remembered everything, how he was first Aethalides, then Euphorbus, then Hermotimus, and then Pyrrhus. But when Pyrrhus died, he became Pythagoras, and still remembered all the facts mentioned.

There are some who insist, absurdly enough, that Pythagoras left no writings whatever. At all events Heraclitus, the physicist,4 almost shouts in our ear, “Pythagoras, son of Mnesarchus, practised inquiry beyond all other men, and in this selection of his writings made himself a wisdom of his own, showing much learning but poor workmanship.” The occasion of this remark was the opening words of Pythagoras’s treatise On Nature, namely, “Nay, I swear by the air I breathe, I swear by the water I drink, I will never suffer censure on account of this work.” Pythagoras in fact wrote three books. On Education, On Statesmanship, and On Nature. But the book which passes as the work of Pythagoras is by Lysis of Tarentum, a Pythagorean, who fled to Thebes and taught Epaminondas.5 Heraclides, the son of Serapion, in his Epitome of Sotion, says that he also wrote a poem On the Universe, and secondly the Sacred Poem which begins:

Young men, come reverence in quietude

All these my words;

thirdly On the Soul, fourthly Of Piety, fifthly Helothales the Father of Epicharmus of Cos, sixthly Croton, and other works as well. The same authority says that the poem On the Mysteries was written by Hippasus to defame Pythagoras, and that many others written by Aston of Croton were ascribed to Pythagoras. Aristoxenus says that Pythagoras got most of his moral doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea. According to Ion of Chios in his Triagmi he ascribed some poems of his own making to Orpheus.6 They further attribute to him the Scopiads which begins thus:

Be not shameless, before any man.

Sosicrates in his Successions of Philosophers says that, when Leon the tyrant of Phlius asked him who he was, he said, “A philosopher,”7 and that he compared life to the Great Games, where some went to compete for the prize and others went with wares to sell, but the best as spectators; for similarly, in life, some grow up with servile natures, greedy for fame and gain, but the philosopher seeks for truth. Thus much for this part of the subject.

The contents in general of the aforesaid three treatises of Pythagoras are as follows. He forbids us to pray for ourselves, because we do not know what will help us. Drinking he calls, in a word, a snare, and he discountenances all excess, saying that no one should go beyond due proportion either in drinking or in eating. Of sexual indulgence, too, he says, “Keep to the winter for sexual pleasures, in summer abstain; they are less harmful in autumn and spring, but they are always harmful and not conducive to health.” Asked once when a man should consort with a woman, he replied, “When you want to lose what strength you have.”

He divides man’s life into four quarters thus: “Twenty years a boy, twenty years a youth, twenty years a young man, twenty years an old man; and these four periods correspond to the four seasons, the boy to spring, the youth to summer, the young man to autumn, and the old man to winter,” meaning by youth one not yet grown up and by a young man a man of mature age. According to Timaeus, he was the first to say, “Friends have all things in common” and “Friendship is equality”; indeed, his disciples did put all their possessions into one common stock. For five whole years they had to keep silence, merely listening to his discourses without seeing him,8 until they passed an examination, and thenceforward they were admitted to his house and allowed to see him. They would never use coffins of cypress, because the sceptre of Zeus was made from it, so we are informed by Hermippus in his second book On Pythagoras.

Indeed, his bearing is said to have been most dignified, and his disciples held the opinion about him that he was Apollo come down from the far north. There is a story that once, when he was disrobed, his thigh was seen to be of gold; and when he crossed the river Nessus, quite a number of people said they heard it welcome him. According to Timaeus in the tenth book of his History, he remarked that the consorts of men bore divine names, being called first Virgins, then Brides, and then Mothers.9 He it was who brought geometry to perfection, while it was Moeris who first discovered the beginnings of the elements of geometry: Anticlides in his second book On Alexander 10 affirms this, and further that Pythagoras spent most of his time upon the arithmetical aspect of geometry; he also discovered the musical intervals on the monochord. Nor did he neglect even medicine. We are told by Apollodorus the calculator that he offered a sacrifice of oxen on finding that in a right-angled triangle the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the squares on the sides containing the right angle. And there is an epigram running as follows:11

What time Pythagoras that famed figure found,

For which the noble offering he brought.

He is also said to have been the first to diet athletes on meat, trying first with Eurymenes12 – so we learn from Favorinus in the third book of his Memorabilia – whereas in former times they had trained on dried figs, on butter,13 and even on wheatmeal, as we are told by the same Favorinus in the eighth book of his Miscellaneous History. Some say it was a certain trainer named Pythagoras who instituted this diet,14 and not our Pythagoras, who forbade even the killing, let alone the eating, of animals which share with us the privilege of having a soul. This was the excuse put forward; but his real reason for forbidding animal diet was to practise people and accustom them to simplicity of life, so that they could live on things easily procurable, spreading their tables with uncooked foods and drinking pure water only, for this was the way to a healthy body and a keen mind. Of course the only altar at which he worshipped was that of Apollo the Giver of Life, behind the Altar of Horns at Delos, for thereon were placed flour and meal and cakes, without the use of fire, and there was no animal victim, as we are told by Aristotle in his Constitution of Delos.

He was the first, they say, to declare that the soul, bound now in this creature, now in that, thus goes on a round ordained of necessity. He too, according to Aristoxenus the musician, was the first to introduce weights and measures into Greece. It was he who first declared that the Evening and Morning Stars are the same, as Parmenides maintains.15 So greatly was he admired that his disciples used to be called “prophets to declare the voice of God,” besides which he himself says in a written work that “after two hundred and seven years in Hades he has returned to the land of the living.” Thus it was that they remained his staunch adherents, and men came to hear his words from afar, among them Lucanians, Peucetians, Messapians and Romans.

Down to the time of Philolaus it was not possible to acquire knowledge of any Pythagorean doctrine, and Philolaus alone brought out those three celebrated books which Plato sent a hundred minas to purchase. Not less than six hundred persons went to his evening lectures; and those who were privileged to see him wrote to their friends congratulating themselves on a great piece of good fortune. Moreover, the Metapontines named his house the Temple of Demeter and his porch the Museum, so we learn from Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History. 16 And the rest of the Pythagoreans used to say that not all his doctrines were for all men to hear, our authority for this being Aristoxenus in the tenth book of his Rules of Pedagogy, where we are also told that one of the school, Xenophilus by name, asked by some one how he could best educate his son, replied, “By making him the citizen of a well-governed state.” Throughout Italy Pythagoras made many into good men and true, men too of note like the lawgivers Zaleucus and Charondas; for he had a great gift for friendship, and especially, when he found his own watchwords adopted by anyone, he would immediately take to that man and make a friend of him.

The following were his watchwords or precepts: don’t stir the fire with a knife, don’t step over the beam of a balance, don’t sit down on your bushel,17 don’t eat your heart, don’t help a man off with a load but help him on, always roll your bed-clothes up, don’t put God’s image on the circle of a ring, don’t leave the pan’s imprint on the ashes, don’t wipe up a mess with a torch, don’t commit a nuisance towards the sun, don’t walk the highway, don’t shake hands too eagerly, don’t have swallows under your own roof, don’t keep birds with hooked claws, don’t make water on nor stand upon your nail-and hair-trimmings, turn the sharp blade away, when you go abroad don’t turn round at the frontier.

This is what they meant. Don’t stir the fire with a knife: don’t stir the passions or the swelling pride of the great. Don’t step over the beam of a balance: don’t overstep the bounds of equity and justice. Don’t sit down on your bushel: have the same care of to-day and the future, a bushel being the day’s ration. By not eating your heart he meant not wasting your life in troubles and pains. By saying do not turn round when you go abroad, he meant to advise those who are departing this life not to set their hearts’ desire on living nor to be too much attracted by the pleasures of this life. The explanations of the rest are similar and would take too long to set out.

Above all, he forbade as food red mullet and blacktail, and he enjoined abstinence from the hearts of animals and from beans, and sometimes, according to Aristotle, even from paunch and gurnard. Some say that he contented himself with just some honey or a honeycomb or bread, never touching wine in the daytime, and with greens boiled or raw for dainties, and fish but rarely. His robe was white and spotless, his quilts of white wool, for linen had not yet reached those parts. He was never known to over-eat, to behave loosely, or to be drunk. He would avoid laughter and all pandering to tastes such as insulting jests and vulgar tales. He would punish neither slave nor free man in anger. Admonition he used to call “setting right.” He used to practise divination by sounds or voices and by auguries, never by burnt-offerings, beyond frankincense. The offerings he made were always inanimate; though some say that he would offer cocks, sucking goats and porkers, as they are called, but lambs never. However, Aristoxenus has it that he consented to the eating of all other animals, and only abstained from ploughing oxen and rams.

The same authority, as we have seen, asserts that Pythagoras took his doctrines from the Delphic priestess Themistoclea. Hieronymus, however, says that, when he had descended into Hades, he saw the soul of Hesiod bound fast to a brazen pillar and gibbering, and the soul of Homer hung on a tree with serpents writhing about it, this being their punishment for what they had said about the gods; he also saw under torture those who would not remain faithful to their wives. This, says our authority, is why he was honoured by the people of Croton. Aristippus of Cyrene affirms in his work On the Physicists that he was named Pythagoras because he uttered the truth as infallibly as did the Pythian oracle.18

He is said to have advised his disciples as follows: Always to say on entering their own doors:

Where did I trespass? What did I achieve?

And unfulfilled what duties did I leave?

Not to let victims be brought for sacrifice to the gods, and to worship only at the altar unstained with blood. Not to call the gods to witness, man’s duty being rather to strive to make his own word carry conviction. To honour their elders, on the principle that precedence in time gives a greater title to respect; for as in the world sunrise comes before sunset, so in human life the beginning before the end, and in all organic life birth precedes death. And he further bade them to honour gods before demi-gods, heroes before men, and first among men their parents; and so to behave one to another as not to make friends into enemies, but to turn enemies into friends. To deem nothing their own. To support the law, to wage war on lawlessness. Never to kill or injure trees that are not wild, nor even any animal that does not injure man. That it is seemly and advisable neither to give way to unbridled laughter nor to wear sullen looks. To avoid excess of flesh, on a journey to let exertion and slackening alternate, to train the memory, in wrath to restrain hand and tongue, to respect all divination, to sing to the lyre and by hymns to show due gratitude to gods and to good men. To abstain from beans because they are flatulent and partake most of the breath of life; and besides, it is better for the stomach if they are not taken, and this again will make our dreams in sleep smooth and untroubled.

Alexander in his Successions of Philosophers says that he found in the Pythagorean memoirs the following tenets as well.19 The principle of all things is the monad or unit; arising from this monad the undefined dyad or two serves as material substratum to the monad, which is cause; from the monad and the undefined dyad spring numbers; from numbers, points; from points, lines; from lines, plane figures; from plane figures, solid figures; from solid figures, sensible bodies, the elements of which are four, fire, water, earth and air; these elements interchange and turn into one another completely, and combine to produce a universe animate, intelligent, spherical, with the earth at its centre, the earth itself too being spherical and inhabited round about. There are also antipodes, and our “down” is their “up.” Light and darkness have equal part20 in the universe, so have hot and cold, and dry and moist; and of these, if hot preponderates, we have summer; if cold, winter; if dry, spring; if moist, late autumn. If all are in equilibrium, we have the best periods of the year, of which the freshness of spring constitutes the healthy season, and the decay of late autumn the unhealthy. So too, in the day, freshness belongs to the morning, and decay to the evening, which is therefore more unhealthy. The air about the earth is stagnant and unwholesome, and all within it is mortal; but the uppermost air is ever-moved and pure and healthy, and all within it is immortal and consequently divine. The sun, the moon, and the other stars are gods; for, in them, there is a preponderance of heat, and heat is the cause of life. The moon is illumined by the sun. Gods and men are akin, inasmuch as man partakes of heat; therefore God takes thought for man. Fate is the cause of things being thus ordered both as a whole and separately. The sun’s ray penetrates through the aether, whether cold or dense – the air they call cold aether, and the sea and moisture dense aether – and this ray descends even to the depths and for this reason quickens all things. All things live which partake of heat – this is why plants are living things – but all have not soul, which is a detached part of aether, partly the hot and partly the cold, for it partakes of cold aether too. Soul is distinct from life; it is immortal, since that from which it is detached is immortal. Living creatures are reproduced from one another by germination; there is no such thing as spontaneous generation from earth. The germ is a clot of brain containing hot vapour within it; and this, when brought to the womb, throws out, from the brain, ichor, fluid and blood, whence are formed flesh, sinews, bones, hairs, and the whole of the body, while soul and sense come from the vapour within. First congealing in about forty days, it receives form and, according to the ratios of “harmony,” in seven, nine, or at the most ten, months, the mature child is brought forth. It has in it all the relations constituting life, and these, forming a continuous series, keep it together according to the ratios of harmony, each appearing at regulated intervals. Sense generally, and sight in particular, is a certain unusually hot vapour. This is why it is said to see through air and water, because the hot aether is resisted by the cold; for, if the vapour in the eyes had been cold, it would have been dissipated on meeting the air, its like. As it is, in certain [lines] he calls the eyes the portals of the sun. His conclusion is the same with regard to hearing and the other senses.

The soul of man, he says, is divided into three parts, intelligence, reason, and passion. Intelligence and passion are possessed by other animals as well, but reason by man alone. The seat of the soul extends from the heart to the brain; the part of it which is in the heart is passion, while the parts located in the brain are reason and intelligence. The senses are distillations from these. Reason is immortal, all else mortal. The soul draws nourishment from the blood; the faculties21 of the soul are winds, for they as well as the soul are invisible, just as the aether is invisible. The veins, arteries, and sinews are the bonds of the soul. But when it is strong and settled down into itself, reasonings and deeds become its bonds. When cast out upon the earth, it wanders in the air like the body. Hermes is the steward of souls, and for that reason is called Hermes the Escorter, Hermes the Keeper of the Gate, and Hermes of the Underworld, since it is he who brings in the souls from their bodies both by land and sea; and the pure are taken into the uppermost region, but the impure are not permitted to approach the pure or each other, but are bound by the Furies in bonds unbreakable. The whole air is full of souls which are called genii22 or heroes; these are they who send men dreams and signs of future disease and health, and not to men alone, but to sheep also and cattle as well; and it is to them that purifications and lustrations, all divination, omens and the like, have reference. The most momentous thing in human life is the art of winning the soul to good or to evil. Blest are the men who acquire a good soul; 23 they can never be at rest, nor ever keep the same course two days together.

Right has the force of an oath, and that is why Zeus is called the God of Oaths. Virtue is harmony, and so are health and all good and God himself; this is why they say that all things are constructed according to the laws of harmony. The love of friends is just concord and equality. We should not pay equal worship to gods and heroes, but to the gods always, with reverent silence, in white robes, and after purification, to the heroes only from midday onwards. Purification is by cleansing, baptism and lustration, and by keeping clean from all deaths and births and all pollution, and abstaining from meat and flesh of animals that have died, mullets, gurnards, eggs and egg-sprung animals, beans, and the other abstinences prescribed by those who perform mystic rites in the temples. According to Aristotle in his work On the Pythagoreans, Pythagoras counselled abstinence from beans either because they are like the genitals, or because they are like the gates of Hades.  . . as being alone unjointed, or because they are injurious, or because they are like the form of the universe, or because they belong to oligarchy, since they are used in election by lot. He bade his disciples not to pick up fallen crumbs, either in order to accustom them not to eat immoderately, or because connected with a person’s death; nay, even, according to Aristophanes, crumbs belong to the heroes, for in his Heroes he says:24

Nor taste ye of what falls beneath the board !

Another of his precepts was not to eat white cocks, as being sacred to the Month and wearing suppliant garb – now supplication ranked with things good – sacred to the Month because they announce the time of day; and again white represents the nature of the good, black the nature of evil. Not to touch such fish as were sacred; for it is not right that gods and men should be allotted the same things, any more than free men and slaves. Not to break bread; for once friends used to meet over one loaf, as the barbarians do even to this day; and you should not divide bread which brings them together; some give as the explanation of this that it has reference to the judgement of the dead in Hades, others that bread makes cowards in war, others again that it is from it that the whole world begins.25

He held that the most beautiful figure is the sphere among solids, and the circle among plane figures. Old age may be compared to everything that is decreasing, while youth is one with increase. Health means retention of the form, disease its destruction. Of salt he said it should be brought to table to remind us of what is right; for salt preserves whatever it finds, and it arises from the purest sources, sun and sea.

This is what Alexander says that he found in the Pythagorean memoirs.26 What follows is Aristotle’s.

But Pythagoras’s great dignity not even Timon overlooked, who, although he digs at him in his Silli,27 speaks of

Pythagoras, inclined to witching works and ways,

Man-snarer, fond of noble periphrase.

Xenophanes28 confirms the statement about his having been different people at different times in the elegiacs beginning:

Now other thoughts, another path, I show.

What he says of him is as follows:

They say that, passing a belaboured whelp,

He, full of pity, spake these words of dole:

“Stay, smite not ! ’Tis a friend, a human soul;

I knew him straight whenas I heard him yelp !”

Thus Xenophanes. But Cratinus also lampooned him both in the Pythagorizing Woman and also in The Tarentines, where we read:29

They are wont,

If haply they a foreigner do find,

To hold a cross-examination

Of doctrines’ worth, to trouble and confound him

With terms, equations, and antitheses

Brain-bung’d with magnitudes and periphrases.

Again, Mnesimachus in the Alcmaeon:30

To Loxias we sacrifice: Pythagoras his rite,

Of nothing that is animate we ever take a bite.

And Aristophon in the Pythagorist:31

a. He told how he travelled in Hades and looked on the dwellers below,

How each of them lives, but how different by far from the lives of the dead

Were the lives of the Pythagoreans, for these alone, so he said,

Were suffered to dine with King Pluto, which was for their piety’s sake.

b. What an ill-tempered god for whom such swine, such creatures good company make;

and in the same later:

Their food is just greens, and to wet it pure water is all that they drink;

And the want of a bath, and the vermin, and their old threadbare coats so do stink

That none of the rest will come near them.

Pythagoras met his death in this wise.32 As he sat one day among his acquaintances at the house of Milo, it chanced that the house was set ablaze out of jealousy by one of the people who were not accounted worthy of admittance to his presence, though some say it was the work of the inhabitants of Croton anxious to safeguard themselves against the setting-up of a tyranny. Pythagoras was caught as he tried to escape; he got as far as a certain field of beans, where he stopped, saying he would be captured rather than cross it, and be killed rather than prate about his doctrines; and so his pursuers cut his throat.33 So also were murdered more than half of his disciples, to the number of forty or thereabouts; but a very few escaped, including Archippus of Tarentum and Lysis, already mentioned.

Dicaearchus, however, says that Pythagoras died a fugitive in the temple of the Muses at Metapontum after forty days’ starvation. Heraclides, in his Epitome of the Lives of Satyrus, says that, after burying Pherecydes at Delos, he returned to Italy and, when he found Cylon of Croton giving a luxurious banquet to all and sundry, retired to Metapontum to end his days there by starvation, having no wish to live longer. On the other hand, Hermippus relates that, when the men of Agrigentum and Syracuse were at war, Pythagoras and his disciples went out and fought in the van of the army of the Agrigentines, and, their line being turned, he was killed by the Syracusans as he was trying to avoid the beanfield; the rest, about thirty-five in number, were burned at the stake in Tarentum for trying to set up a government in opposition to those in power.

Hermippus gives another anecdote. Pythagoras, on coming to Italy, made a subterranean dwelling and enjoined on his mother to mark and record all that passed, and at what hour, and to send her notes down to him until he should ascend. She did so. Pythagoras some time afterwards came up withered and looking like a skeleton, then went into the assembly and declared he had been down to Hades, and even read out his experiences to them. They were so affected that they wept and wailed and looked upon him as divine, going so far as to send their wives to him in hopes that they would learn some of his doctrines; and so they were called Pythagorean women. Thus far Hermippus.

Pythagoras had a wife, Theano by name, daughter of Brontinus of Croton, though some call her Brontinus’s wife and Pythagoras’s pupil. He had a daughter Damo, according to the letter of Lysis to Hippasus, which says of him, “I am told by many that you discourse publicly, a thing which Pythagoras deemed unworthy, for certain it is that, when he entrusted his daughter Damo with the custody of his memoirs, he solemnly charged her never to give them to anyone outside his house. And, although she could have sold the writings for a large sum of money, she would not, but reckoned poverty and her father’s solemn injunctions more precious than gold, for all that she was a woman.”

They also had a son Telauges, who succeeded his father and, according to some, was Empedocles’ instructor. At all events Hippobotus makes Empedocles say:34

Telauges, famed

Son of Theano and Pythagoras.

Telauges wrote nothing, so far as we know, but his mother Theano wrote a few things. Further, a story is told that being asked how many days it was before a woman becomes pure after intercourse, she replied, “With her own husband at once, with another man never.” And she advised a woman going in to her own husband to put off her shame with her clothes, and on leaving him to put it on again along with them. Asked “Put on what?” she replied, “What makes me to be called a woman.”

To return to Pythagoras. According to Heraclides, the son of Serapion, he was eighty years old when he died, and this agrees with his own description of the life of man, though most authorities say he was ninety. And there are jesting lines of my own upon him as follows:35

Not thou alone from all things animate

Didst keep, Pythagoras. All food is dead

When boil’d and bak’d and salt-besprinkle-d;

For then it surely is inanimate.


So wise was wise Pythagoras that he

Would touch no meats, but called it impious,

Bade others eat. Good wisdom: not for us

To do the wrong; let others impious be.

And again:37

If thou wouldst know the mind of old Pythagoras,

Look on Euphorbus’ buckler and its boss.

He says “I’ve lived before.” If, when he says he was,

He was not, he was no-one when he was.

And again, of the manner of his death:38

Woe! Woe! Whence, Pythagoras, this deep reverence for beans? Why did he fall in the midst of his disciples? A bean-field there was he durst not cross; sooner than trample on it, he endured to be slain at the cross-roads by the men of Acragas.

He flourished in the 60th Olympiad39 and his school lasted until the ninth or tenth generation. For the last of the Pythagoreans, whom Aristoxenus in his time saw, were Xenophilus from the Thracian Chalcidice, Phanton of Phlius, and Echecrates, Diocles and Polymnastus, also of Phlius, who were pupils of Philolaus and Eurytus of Tarentum.

There were four men of the name of Pythagoras living about the same time and at no great distance from one another: (1) of Croton, a man with tyrannical leanings; (2) of Phlius, an athlete, some say a trainer; (3) of Zacynthus; (4) our subject, who discovered the secrets of philosophy 40, and to whom was applied the phrase, “The Master said” (Ipse dixit ), which passed into a proverb of ordinary life. Some say there was also another Pythagoras, a sculptor of Rhegium, who is thought to have been the first to aim at rhythm and symmetry; another a sculptor of Samos; another a bad orator; another a doctor who wrote on hernia and also compiled some things about Homer; and yet another who, so we are told by Dionysius, wrote a history of the Dorian race. Eratosthenes says, according to what we learn from Favorinus in the eighth book of his Miscellaneous History, that the last-named was the first to box scientifically, in the 48th Olympiad,41 keeping his hair long and wearing a purple robe; and that when he was excluded with ridicule from the boys’ contest, he went at once to the men’s and won that; this is declared by Theaetetus’s epigram:42

Know’st one Pythagoras, long-haired Pythagoras,

The far-fam’d boxer of the Samians?

I am Pythagoras; ask the Elians

What were my feats, thou’lt not believe the tale.

Favorinus says that our philosopher used definitions throughout the subject matter of mathematics; their use was extended by Socrates and his disciples, and afterwards by Aristotle and the Stoics.

Further, we are told that he was the first to call the heaven the universe and the earth spherical,43 though Theophrastus says it was Parmenides, and Zeno that it was Hesiod. It is said that Cylon was a rival of Pythagoras, as Antilochus44 was of Socrates.

Pythagoras the athlete was also the subject of another epigram as follows:45

Gone to box with other lads

Is the lad Pythagoras,

Gone to the games Olympian

Crates’ son the Samian.

The philosopher also wrote the following letter:

Pythagoras to Anaximenes.

“Even you, O most excellent of men, were you no better born and famed than Pythagoras, would have risen and departed from Miletus. But now your ancestral glory has detained you as it had detained me were I Anaximenes’s peer. But if you, the best men, abandon your cities, then will their good order perish, and the peril from the Medes will increase. For always to scan the heavens is not well, but more seemly is it to be provident for one’s mother country. For I too am not altogether in my discourses but am found no less in the wars which the Italians wage with one another.”

Having now finished our account of Pythagoras, we have next to speak of the noteworthy Pythagoreans; after them will come the philosophers whom some denominate “sporadic” [i.e. belonging to no particular school]; and then, in the next place, we will append the succession of all those worthy of notice as far as Epicurus, in the way that we promised. We have already treated of Theano and Telauges: so now we have first to speak of Empedocles, for some say he was a pupil of Pythagoras.

1 Compare Clement Alex. Strom. i. 62 Πυθαγόρας μὲν οὖν Μνησάρχου Σάμιος, ὥς φησιν Ἱππόβοτος, ὡς δὲ Ἀριστόξενος ἐν τῷ Πυθαγόρου βίῳ, καὶ Ἀρίσταρχος καὶ Θεόπομπος, Τυρρηνὸς ἦν, ὡς δὲ Νεάνθης, Σύριος ἢ Τύριος, ὥστε εἷναι κατὰ τοὺς πλείστους τὸν Πυθαγόραν βάρβαρον τὸ γένος. Porphyry also (V. Pyth. i.) favours the connexion with Phoenicia, so that the boy Pythagoras was instructed there by Chaldaeans before, on his return to Samos, he enjoyed the instruction of Pherecydes of Syros and of Hermodamas of Samos.

2 iv. 93 sq.

3 Compare Clement Alex. Strom. i. 66 Θαλῆς.  . . τοῖς Αἱγυπτίων προφήταις συμβεβληκέναι εἴρηται, καθάπερ καὶ ὁ Πυθαγόρας αὐτοῖς γε τούτοις δι’ οὓς καὶ περιετέμνετο, ἵνα δὴ καὶ εἰς τὰ ἄδυτα κατελθὼν τὴν μνστικὴν παρὰ Αλγυπτίων ἐκμάθοι φιλοσοφίαν. Cf. also Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 18 sq.

4 Fr. 129 D., 17 B.

5 6-7 ἔνιοι μὲν καθηγησαμένου. Hesychius in Suidas (s.v.), an authority older than Schol. Plat. 600 B, proves that this passage is a coherent whole. The fragment of Heraclitus (B 129 Diels, 17 Byw.) is certainly genuine. There may be, in ἱστορίην, an allusion to the study of mensuration in Egypt. The pretended explanation, “he spoke thus because.  . .” introduces an extract from a work which, like all those attributed to Pythagoras, must have been a late forgery.

6 F.H.G. Fr. 12, ii. p. 49. The same fragment is found in Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 131 Ἴων δὲ ὁ Χῖος ἐν τοῖς Τριαγμοῖς καὶ Πυθαγόραν εἰς Ὀρφέα ἀνενεγκεῖν τινα ἱστορεῖ. The verbal agreement, except for τινα ἱστορεῖ, is exact.

7 Cf. i. 12, whence it would seem that Sosicrates used Heraclides of Pontus as his authority for this anecdote.

8 Because he lectured at night; cf. 15; νυκτερινὴ ἀκρόασις.

9 The allusion is to the Nymphs and the heavenly pair, mother and daughter (Demeter and Persephone).

10 Scriptorum Alex. ill. fr. p. 147.

11 Anth. Pal. vii. 119.

12 The story of Eurymenes was known to Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 18. We can still see how these quotations made by D. L. himself from Favorinus disturb the context.

13 Or rather “soft cheese”; cf. supra, i. 7, note.

14 Cf. Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 25, and Porphyry, De abstinentia, i. 26.

15 Cf. inf. ix. 23.

16 See, however, Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 4, who cites as his authority Timaeus the Sicilian historian (F.H.G. i. p. 211, Fr. 78), who was not improbably the source used by Favorinus.

17 The χοῖνιξ was about a quart, in dry measure.

18 The word Πυθαγόρας being taken to be a compound from Πύθιος and ἀγορεύειν.

19 For the doctrines of Pythagoras (25-35) Alexander is taken as D. L.’s authority (see Introd. pp. xxvi, xxvii) This indefatigable pedant is known to have written a special work on the Pythagorean system. Our author may not have possessed this work by Alexander, but he probably had access to a public library containing it. In any case he deserves praise for the selection. Between Alexander Polyhistor in the first century B.C. and the threshold of the third century A.D. there had been an enormous increase in neo-Pythagorean literature, mostly dealing with mystical properties of numbers and with ethics based upon theology. All this D. L. ignores, going back to a Hellenistic document long forgotten.

20 Cf. Soph. El. 87 γῆς ἰσόμοιρ’ ἀήρ.

21 The word λόγους is translated above by “ratios,” i.e. proportionalities. With ἀνέμους compare the Stoic air-currents.

22 The Greek daemons (δαίμονες) are, according to Hesiod, W. and D. 121-126, superhuman beings, guardians and benefactors of mankind, watching over the earth whereon once they lived.

23 if it be bad

24 Meineke, C.G.F. ii. 1070.

25 This may have some hidden sense: but it is tempting to adopt τόπου for τούτου with the Borbonicus.

26 Alexander is cited above(24). εὑρηκέναι comes in both sections. This means that, in the Lives of Pythagoras which D. L. consulted, the extract from Alexander has displaced a passage which came from a spurious Aristotelian treatise Περὶ Πυθαγορείων.

27 Fr. 58 D.

28 Fr. 7 D.

29 Cratin. minor, Meineke, C.G.F. iii. 376.

30 Meineke, C.G.F. iii. 567.

31 Meineke, C.G.F. iii. 362.

32 In the account which follows two passages should be distinguished: (1) συνεδρεύοντος συνέβη, and (2) οὔτω δὲ καὶ(40) ἀσιτήσαντα. A similar combination of Neanthes and Dicaearchus is found in Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 55 sqq., Neanthes apparently insisting on the absence, and Dicaearchus on the presence, of the master at the time when the brotherhood were attacked and scattered. Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 251 sq., cites Nicomachus, whose version agrees with that of Neanthes.

33 This passage, partly in direct (γενόμενος, ἔστη, εἰπών) and partly in reported speech (καταληφθῆναι. ἀποσφαγῆναι), receives some light from the story of Myllias and his wife Timycha as given by Iamblichus, Vit. Pyth. 189-194, on the authority of Hippobotus and Neanthes (cf. also Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 61, where the story of Damon and Phintias is said to have been transferred by Hippobotus and Neanthes to the same trusty pair, Myllias and Timycha). The story in Iamblichus represents a band of Pythagoreans pursued by a tyrant’s myrmidons and caught in a plain where beans were growing, all of them preferring to die where they stood rather than trample on the beans; but this story might be located anywhere. It has nothing inherently to do with the end of Pythagoras. What remains, τὸν δὲ Π. καταληφθῆναι διεξιόντα, may be compared with Porphyry, Vit. Pyth. 57, where we are told that the disciples made a bridge of their own bodies over the fire and thus the master escaped from the burning house but, in despair at the extinction of his school, chose a voluntary dealth. The words οὕτω δέ which follow come in awkwardly, as they are separated from the sentence about the fire.

34 Fr. 155 D.

35 Anth. Pal. vii. 121.

36 Anth. Plan. v. 34.

37 Anth. Plan. v. 35.

38 Anth. Pal. vii. 122.

39 540-536 B.C. Cf. Clem. Alex. Strom. i. 65 “in the 62nd Olympiad” [532-528 B.C.], eight years later, and contemporary with Polycrates of Samos.

40 and taught them

41 588-584 B.C.

42 Anth. Plan. iii. 35.

43 As Favorinus seems to have paid special attention to discoveries and the invention of names (cf. ii. 1, 20, viii. 12, 47, ix. 23, 34), it seems likely that he is our author’s authority here; so probably a different book of Favorinus is cited.

44 Apelt suggests Antiphon, comparing Xen. Mem. i. 6.

45 Anth. Plan. iii. 16.


Empedocles was, according to Hippobotus, the son of Meton and grandson of Empedocles, and was a native of Agrigentum. This is confirmed by Timaeus in the fifteenth book of his Histories, and he adds that Empedocles, the poet’s grandfather, had been a man of distinction. Hermippus also agrees with Timaeus. So, too, Heraclides, in his treatise On Diseases,46 says that he was of an illustrious family, his grandfather having kept racehorses. Eratosthenes also in his Olympic Victories records, on the authority of Aristotle, that the father of Meton was a victor in the 71st Olympiad.47 The grammarian Apollodorus in his Chronology tells us that

He was the son of Meton, and Glaucus says he went to Thurii, just then founded.48

Then farther on he adds:

Those who relate that, being exiled from his home, he went to Syracuse and fought in their ranks against the Athenians seem, in my judgement at least, to be completely mistaken. For by that time either he was no longer living or in extreme old age, which is inconsistent with the story.

For Aristotle and Heraclides both affirm that he died at the age of sixty. The victor with the riding-horse in the 71st Olympiad was

This man’s namesake and grandfather,

so that Apollodorus in one and the same passage indicates the date as well as the fact.

But Satyrus in his Lives states that Empedocles was the son of Exaenetus and himself left a son named Exaenetus, and that in the same Olympiad Empedocles himself was victorious in the horse-race and his son in wrestling, or, as Heraclides49 in his Epitome has it, in the foot-race. I found50 in the Memorabilia of Favorinus a statement that Empedocles feasted the sacred envoys on a sacrificial ox made of honey and barley-meal, and that he had a brother named Callicratides. Telauges, the son of Pythagoras, in his letter to Philolaus calls Empedocles the son of Archinomus.

That he belonged to Agrigentum in Sicily he himself testifies at the beginning of his Purifications:51

My friends, who dwell in the great city sloping down to yellow Acragas, hard by the citadel.

So much for his family.

Timaeus in the ninth book of his Histories says he was a pupil of Pythagoras, adding that, having been convicted at that time of stealing his discourses, he was, like Plato, excluded from taking part in the discussions of the school; and further, that Empedocles himself mentions Pythagoras in the lines:52

And there lived among them a man of superhuman knowledge, who verily possessed the greatest wealth of wisdom.

Others say that it is to Parmenides that he is here referring.

Neanthes states that down to the time of Philolaus and Empedocles all Pythagoreans were admitted to the discussions. But when Empedocles himself made them public property by his poem, they made a law that they should not be imparted to any poet. He says the same thing also happened to Plato, for he too was excommunicated. But which of the Pythagoreans it was who had Empedocles for a pupil he did not say. For the epistle commonly attributed to Telauges and the statement that Empedocles was the pupil of both Hippasus and Brontinus he held to be unworthy of credence.

Theophrastus affirms that he was an admirer of Parmenides and imitated him in his verses, for Parmenides too had published his treatise On Nature in verse. But Hermippus’s account is that he was an admirer not so much of Parmenides as of Xenophanes, with whom in fact he lived and whose writing of poetry he imitated, and that his meeting with the Pythagoreans was subsequent. Alcidamas tells us in his treatise on Physics that Zeno and Empedocles were pupils of Parmenides about the same time, that afterwards they left him, and that, while Zeno framed his own system, Empedocles became the pupil of Anaxagoras and Pythagoras, emulating the latter in dignity of life and bearing, and the former in his physical investigations.

Aristotle in his Sophist calls Empedocles the inventor of rhetoric as Zeno of dialectic. In his treatise On Poets he says that Empedocles was of Homer’s school and powerful in diction, being great in metaphors and in the use of all other poetical devices. He also says that he wrote other poems, in particular the invasion of Xerxes and a hymn to Apollo, which a sister of his (or, according to Hieronymus, his daughter) afterwards burnt. The hymn she destroyed unintentionally, but the poem on the Persian war deliberately, because it was unfinished. And in general terms he says he wrote both tragedies and political discourses. But Heraclides, the son of Sarapion, attributes the tragedies to a different author. Hieronymus declares that he had come across forty-three of these plays, while Neanthes tells us that Empedocles wrote these tragedies in his youth, and that he, Neanthes, was acquainted with seven of them.

Satyrus in his Lives says that he was also a physician and an excellent orator: at all events Gorgias of Leontini, a man pre-eminent in oratory and the author of a treatise on the art, had been his pupil. Of Gorgias Apollodorus says in his Chronology that he lived to be one hundred and nine. Satyrus quotes this same Gorgias as saying that he himself was present when Empedocles performed magical feats. Nay more: he contends that Empedocles in his poems lays claim to this power and to much besides when he says:53

And thou shalt learn all the drugs that are a defence to ward off ills and old age, since for thee alone shall I accomplish all this. Thou shalt arrest the violence of the unwearied winds that arise and sweep the earth, laying waste the cornfields with their blasts; and again, if thou so will, thou shalt call back winds in requital. Thou shalt make after the dark rain a seasonable drought for men, and again after the summer drought thou shalt cause tree-nourishing streams to pour from the sky. Thou shalt bring back from Hades a dead man’s strength.

Timaeus also in the eighteenth54 book of his Histories remarks that Empedocles has been admired on many grounds. For instance, when the etesian winds once began to blow violently and to damage the crops, he ordered asses to be flayed and bags to be made of their skin. These he stretched out here and there on the hills and headlands to catch the wind and, because this checked the wind, he was called the “wind-stayer.” Heraclides in his book On Diseases 55 says that he furnished Pausanias with the facts about the woman in a trance. This Pausanias, according to Aristippus and Satyrus, was his bosom-friend, to whom he dedicated his poem On Nature thus:56

Give ear, Pausanias, thou son of Anchitus the wise!

Moreover he wrote an epigram upon him:57

The physician Pausanias, rightly so named, son of Anchitus, descendant of Asclepius, was born and bred at Gela. Many a wight pining in fell torments did he bring back from Persephone’s inmost shrine.

At all events Heraclides testifies that the case of the woman in a trance was such that for thirty days he kept her body without pulsation though she never breathed; and for that reason Heraclides called him not merely a physician but a diviner as well, deriving the titles from the following lines also:58

My friends, who dwell in the grcat city sloping down to yellow Acragas, hard by the citadel, busied with goodly works, all hail! I go about among you an immortal god, no more a mortal, so honoured of all, as is meet, crowned with fillets and flowery garlands. Straightway as soon as I enter with these, men and women, into flourishing towns, I am reverenced and tens of thousands follow, to learn where is the path which leads to welfare, some desirous of oracles, others suffering from all kinds of diseases, desiring to hear a message of healing.

Timaeus explains that he called Agrigentum great, inasmuch as it had 800,000 inhabitants.59 Hence Empedocles, he continues, speaking of their luxury, said, “The Agrigentines live delicately as if tomorrow they would die, but they build their houses well as if they thought they would live for ever.”

It is said that Cleomenes the rhapsode recited this very poem, the Purifications, at Olympia:60 so Favorinus in his Memorabilia. Aristotle too declares him to have been a champion of freedom and averse to rule of every kind, seeing that, as Xanthus relates in his account of him, he declined the kingship when it was offered to him, obviously because he preferred a frugal life. With this Timaeus agrees, at the same time giving the reason why Empedocles favoured democracy, namely, that, having been invited to dine with one of the magistrates, when the dinner had gone on some time and no wine was put on the table, though the other guests kept quiet, he, becoming indignant, ordered wine to be brought. Then the host confessed that he was waiting for the servant of the senate to appear. When he came he was made master of the revels, clearly by the arrangement of the host, whose design of making himself tyrant was but thinly veiled, for he ordered the guests either to drink wine or have it poured over their heads. For the time being Empedocles was reduced to silence; the next day he impeached both of them, the host and the master of the revels, and secured their condemnation and execution. This, then, was the beginning of his political career.

Again, when Acron the physician asked the council for a site on which to build a monument to his father, who had been eminent among physicians, Empedocles came forward and forbade it in a speech where he enlarged upon equality and in particular put the following question: “But what inscription shall we put upon it? Shall it be this?

Acron the eminent physician of Agrigentum, son of Acros, is buried beneath the steep eminence of his most eminent native city?”61

Others give as the second line:

Is laid in an exalted tomb on a most exalted peak.

Some attribute this couplet to Simonides.

Subsequently Empedocles broke up the assembly of the Thousand three years after it had been set up, which proves not only that he was wealthy but that he favoured the popular cause. At all events Timaeus in his eleventh and twelfth books (for he mentions him more than once) states that he seems to have held opposite views when in public life and when writing poetry.62 In some passages one may see that he is boastful and selfish. At any rate these are his words:63

All hail! I go about among you an immortal god, no more a mortal, etc.

At the time when he visited Olympia he demanded an excessive deference, so that never was anyone so talked about in gatherings of friends as Empedocles.

Subsequently, however, when Agrigentum came to regret him, the descendants of his personal enemies opposed his return home; and this was why he went to Peloponnesus, where he died. Nor did Timon let even him alone, but fastens upon him in these words:64

Empedocles, too, mouthing tawdry verses; to all that had independent force, he gave a separate existence; and the principles he chose need others to explain them.

As to his death different accounts are given. Thus Heraclides,65 after telling the story of the woman in a trance, how that Empedocles became famous because he had sent away the dead woman alive, goes on to say that he was offering a sacrifice close to the field of Peisianax. Some of his friends had been invited to the sacrifice, including Pausanias. Then, after the feast, the remainder of the company dispersed and retired to rest, some under the trees in the adjoining field, others wherever they chose, while Empedocles himself remained on the spot where he had reclined at table. At daybreak all got up, and he was the only one missing. A search was made, and they questioned the servants, who said they did not know where he was. Thereupon someone said that in the middle of the night he heard an exceedingly loud voice calling Empedocles. Then he got up and beheld a light in the heavens and a glitter of lamps, but nothing else. His hearers were amazed at what had occurred, and Pausanias came down and sent people to search for him. But later he bade them take no further trouble, for things beyond expectation had happened to him, and it was their duty to sacrifice to him since he was now a god.

Hermippus tells us that Empedocles cured Panthea, a woman of Agrigentum, who had been given up by the physicians, and this was why he was offering sacrifice, and that those invited were about eighty in number. Hippobotus, again, asserts that, when he got up, he set out on his way to Etna; then, when he had reached it, he plunged into the fiery craters and disappeared, his intention being to confirm the report that he had become a god. Afterwards the truth was known, because one of his slippers was thrown up in the flames; it had been his custom to wear slippers of bronze. To this story Pausanias is made (by Heraclides) to take exception.66

Diodorus of Ephesus, when writing of Anaximander, declares that Empedocles emulated him, displaying theatrical arrogance and wearing stately robes. We are told that the people of Selinus suffered from pestilence owing to the noisome smells from the river hard by, so that the citizens themselves perished and their women died in childbirth, that Empedocles conceived the plan of bringing two neighbouring rivers to the place at his own expense, and that by this admixture he sweetened the waters. When in this way the pestilence had been stayed and the Selinuntines were feasting on the river bank, Empedocles appeared; and the company rose up and worshipped and prayed to him as to a god. It was then to confirm this belief of theirs that he leapt into the fire. These stories are contradicted by Timaeus, who expressly says that he left Sicily for Peloponnesus and never returned at all; and this is the reason Timaeus gives for the fact that the manner of his death is unknown. He replies to Heraclides, whom he mentions by name, in his fourteenth book. Pisianax, he says, was a citizen of Syracuse and possessed no land at Agrigentum. Further, if such a story had been in circulation, Pausanias would have set up a monument to his friend, as to a god, in the form of a statue or shrine, for he was a wealthy man. “How came he,” adds Timaeus, “to leap into the craters, which he had never once mentioned though they were not far off? He must then have died in Peloponnesus. It is not at all surprising that his tomb is not found; the same is true of many other men.” After urging some such arguments Timaeus goes on to say, “But Heraclides is everywhere just such a collector of absurdities, telling us, for instance, that a man dropped down to earth from the moon.”

Hippobotus assures us that formerly there was in Agrigentum a statue of Empedocles with his head covered, and afterwards another with the head uncovered in front of the Senate House at Rome, which plainly the Romans had removed to that site. For portrait-statues with inscriptions are extant even now. Neanthes of Cyzicus, who tells about the Pythagoreans, relates that, after the death of Meton, the germs of a tyranny began to show themselves, that then it was Empedocles who persuaded the Agrigentines to put an end to their factions and cultivate equality in politics.

Moreover, from his abundant means he bestowed dowries upon many of the maidens of the city who had no dowry. No doubt it was the same means that enabled him to don a purple robe and over it a golden girdle, as Favorinus relates in his Memorabilia, and again slippers of bronze and a Delphic laurel-wreath. He had thick hair, and a train of boy attendants. He himself was always grave, and kept this gravity of demeanour unshaken. In such sort would he appear in public; when the citizens met him, they recognized in this demeanour the stamp, as it were, of royalty. But afterwards, as he was going in a carriage to Messene to attend some festival, he fell and broke his thigh; this brought an illness which caused his death at the age of seventy-seven. Moreover, his tomb is in Megara.

As to his age, Aristotle’s account is different, for he makes him to have been sixty when he died; while others make him one hundred and nine. He flourished in the 84th Olympiad.67 Demetrius of Troezen in his pamphlet Against the Sophists said of him, adapting the words of Homer:68

He tied a noose that hung aloft from a tall cornel-tree and thrust his neck into it, and his soul went down to Hades.

In the short letter of Telauges which was mentioned above69 it is stated that by reason of his age he slipped into the sea and was drowned. Thus and thus much of his death.

There is an epigram of my own on him in my Pammetros in a satirical vein, as follows:70

Thou, Empedocles, didst cleanse thy body with nimble flame, fire didst thou drink from everlasting bowls.71 I will not say that of thine own will thou didst hurl thyself into the stream of Etna; thou didst fall in against thy will when thou wouldst fain not have been found out.

And another:72

Verily there is a tale about the death of Empedocles, how that once he fell from a carriage and broke his right thigh. But if he leapt into the bowls of fire and so took a draught of life, how was it that his tomb was shown still in Megara?

His doctrines were as follows, that there are four elements, fire, water, earth and air, besides friendship by which these are united, and strife by which they are separated. These are his words:73

Shining Zeus and life-bringing Hera, Aidoneus and Nestis, who lets flow from her tears the source of mortal life,

where by Zeus he means fire, by Hera earth, by Aidoneus air, and by Nestis water.

“And their continuous change,” he says, “never ceases,”74 as if this ordering of things were eternal. At all events he goes on:75

At one time all things uniting in one through Love, at another each carried in a different direction through the hatred born of strife.

The sun he calls a vast collection of fire and larger than the moon; the moon, he says, is of the shape of a quoit, and the heaven itself crystalline. The soul, again, assumes all the various forms of animals and plants. At any rate he says:76

Before now I was born a boy and a maid, a bush and a bird, and a dumb fish leaping out of the sea.

His poems On Nature and Purifications run to 5000 lines, his Discourse on Medicine to 600. Of the tragedies we have spoken above.

46 v. 67.

47 496 B.C.

48 445-444 B.C.

49 i.e. Heraclides Lembus.

50 Cf. Introd. p. xiv.

51 Fr. 112 D.

52 Fr. 129 D.

53 Fr. 111 D.

54 According to Beloch this should be the twelfth book; cf. inf. 66.

55 v. 67.

56 Fr. 1 D.

57 Fr. 156 D.

58 Fr. 112 D.

59 According to the vulgate, an unknown writer Potamilla is the authority cited by Diogenes. Diels, however (Frag der Vorsokr. ii.3 p. 196), prefers the reading of two mss. ποταμὸν ἄλλα (sc. ὑπομνήματα or ἀντίγραφα λέγει), regarding this as derived from a marginal note which was afterwards put in the text. In the Palatine ms. the gloss is ποταμὸν ἄλλοι. Apelt, however, suggests ποτ’ ἀμέλει, not as a scholium, but as part of the text.

60 Cf. Athenaeus xiv. 620 d, whence it appears that the ultimate authority is Dicaearchus; ἐν τῷ Ὀλυμπικῷ, F.H.G. ii. p. 249, fr. 47. Here again a citation from Favorinus seems to disturb the context.

61 Anth. Plan. v. 4.

62 This emphasis on the political leanings of Empedocles, backed by the authority of Timaeus, looks strange after the anecdote, also from Timaeus, of 64, 65, nor is it clear that the attack on the close oligarchical corporation of the Thousand really took place at a later date (ὕστερον). That D. L. is working in two passages of Timaeus, in the second of which the first is not pre-supposed, is an obvious suggestion.

63 Fr. 112. 4 D.

64 Fr. 42 D.

65 In the list of the writings of Heraclides of Pontus (see v. 86 sqq.) occurs Περὶ τῶν ἐν ᾅδου, a dialogue on a similar subject, if not actually identical, with Περὶ τῆς ἄπνου. In the latter Pausanias was one of the characters; see next note.

66 ἀντέλεγε. The imperfect tense is convincing proof that D. L. (or his source) is drawing upon the dialogue, and not narrating facts as a historian; D. L. must be giving a large extract from the dialogue Περὶ τῆς ἄπνου, beginning in the second paragraph of 67. Only D. L. has inserted, in 69, (1) a note from Hermippus and (2) a resume from Hippobotus of the very passage in the dialogue Περὶ τῆς ἄπνου with which D. L. has been dealing in 67-69.

67 444-441 B.C.

68 Od. xi. 278.

69 viii. 53.

70 Anth. Pal. vii. 123.

71 i.e. the craters of Etna.

72 Anth. Pal. vii. 124.

73 Fr. 6 D.

74 Fr. 17. 6 D.

75 Fr. 17. 7 D.

76 Fr. 117 D.


Epicharmus of Cos, son of Helothales, was another pupil of Pythagoras. When three months old he was sent to Megara in Sicily and thence to Syracuse, as he tells us in his own writings. On his statue this epigram is written:77

If the great sun outshines the other stars,

If the great sea is mightier than the streams,

So Epicharmus’ wisdom all excelled,

Whom Syracuse his fatherland thus crowned.

He has left memoirs containing his physical, ethical and medical doctrines, and he has made marginal notes in most of the memoirs, which clearly show that they were written by him. He died at the age of ninety.

77 Anth. Pal. vii. 78.


Archytas of Tarentum, son of Mnesagoras or, if we may believe Aristoxenus, of Hestiaeus, was another of the Pythagoreans. He it was whose letter saved Plato when he was about to be put to death by Dionysius. He was generally admired for his excellence in all fields; thus he was generalissimo of his city seven times, while the law excluded all others even from a second year of command. We have two letters written to him by Plato, he having first written to Plato in these terms:

“Archytas wishes Plato good health.

“You have done well to get rid of your ailment, as we learn both from your own message and through Lamiscus that you have: we attended to the matter of the memoirs and went up to Lucania where we found the true progeny of Ocellus [to wit, his writings]. We did get the works On Law, On Kingship, Of Piety, and On the Origin of the Universe, all of which we have sent on to you; but the rest are, at present, nowhere to be found; if they should turn up, you shall have them.”

This is Archytas’s letter; and Plato’s answer is as follows:

“Plato to Archytas greeting.

“I was overjoyed to get the memoirs which you sent, and I am very greatly pleased with the writer of them; he seems to be a right worthy descendant of his distant forbears. They came, so it is said, from Myra, and were among those who emigrated from Troy in Laomedon’s time, really good men, as the traditional story shows. Those memoirs of mine about which you wrote are not yet in a fit state; but such as they are I have sent them on to you. We both agree about their custody, so I need not give any advice on that head. Farewell.”

These then are the letters which passed between them.

Four men have borne the name of Archytas: (1) our subject; (2) a musician, of Mytilene; (3) the compiler of a work On Agriculture; (4) a writer of epigrams. Some speak of a fifth, an architect, to whom is attributed a book On Mechanism which begins like this: “These things I learnt from Teucer of Carthage.” A tale is told of the musician that, when it was cast in his teeth that he could not be heard, he replied, “Well, my instrument shall speak for me and win the day.”

Aristoxenus says that our Pythagorean was never defeated during his whole generalship, though he once resigned it owing to badfeeling against him, whereupon the army at once fell into the hands of the enemy.

He was the first to bring mechanics to a system by applying mathematical principles; he also first employed mechanical motion in a geometrical construction, namely, when he tried, by means of a section of a half-cylinder, to find two mean proportionals in order to duplicate the cube.78 In geometry, too, he was the first to discover the cube, as Plato says in the Republic .79

78 Cf. T. L. Heath, History of Greek Mathematics, i. 246-249.

79 528 b.


Alcmaeon of Croton, another disciple of Pythagoras, wrote chiefly on medicine, but now and again he touches on natural philosophy, as when he says, “Most human affairs go in pairs.” He is thought to have been the first to compile a physical treatise, so we learn from Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History; and he said that the moon [and] generally [the heavenly bodies] are in their nature eternal.

He was the son of Pirithous, as he himself tells us at the beginning of his treatise:80 “These are the words of Alcmaeon of Croton, son of Pirithous, which he spake to Brontinus, Leon and Bathyllus: ‘Of things invisible, as of mortal things, only the gods have certain knowledge; but to us, as men, only inference from evidence is possible,’ and so on.” He held also that the soul is immortal and that it is continuously in motion like the sun.

80 Fr. 1 Diels


Hippasus of Metapontum was another Pythagorean, who held that there is a definite time which the changes in the universe take to complete and that the All is limited and ever in motion.

According to Demetrius in his work on Men of the Same Name, he left nothing in writing. There were two men named Hippasus, one being our subject, and the other a man who wrote The Laconian Constitution in five books; and he himself was a Lacedaemonian.


Philolaus of Croton was a Pythagorean, and it was from him that Plato requests Dion to buy the Pythagorean treatises.81 He (Dion) was put to death because he was thought to be aiming at a tyranny.82 This is what we have written upon him:83

Fancies of all things are most flattering;

If you intend, but do not, you are lost.

So Croton taught Philolaus to his cost,

Who fancied he would like to be their king.84

His doctrine is that all things are brought about by necessity and in harmonious inter-relation. He was the first to declare that the earth moves in a circle,85 though some say that it was Hicetas of Syracuse.

He wrote one book, and it was this work which, according to Hermippus, some writer said that Plato the philosopher, when he went to Sicily to Dionysius’s court, bought from Philolaus’s relatives for the sum of forty Alexandrine86 minas of silver, from which also the Timaeus was transcribed. Others say that Plato received it as a present for having procured from Dionysius the release of a young disciple of Philolaus who had been cast into prison.

According to Demetrius in his work on Men of the Same Name, Philolaus was the first to publish the Pythagorean treatises, to which he gave the title On Nature, beginning as follows: “Nature in the ordered universe was composed of unlimited and limiting elements, and so was the whole universe and all that is therein.”

81 Cf. iii. 9.

82 The subject of ἐτελεύτα would naturally be Philolaus, and so D. L. understood it; but the original reference was clearly to Dion.

83 Anth. Pal. vii. 126.

84 Or in prose: “My chief advice to all men is: to lull suspicion to rest. For even if you don’t do something, and people fancy you do, it is ill for you. So Croton, his native land, once put Philolaus to death, fancying he wished to have a tyrant’s house.”

85 i.e. round the central fire. See T. L. Heath, Aristarchus. 187 sqq.

86 Hermippus (F.H.G. iii. 42, fr. 25) seems to forget that Alexander was not born until after Plato’s death. Cf. vii. 18.


Eudoxus of Cnidos, the son of Aeschines, was an astronomer, a geometer, a physician and a legislator. He learned geometry from Archytas and medicine from Philistion the Sicilian, as Callimachus tells us in his Tables. Sotion in his Successions of Philosophers says that he was also a pupil of Plato. When he was about twenty-three years old and in straitened circumstances, he was attracted by the reputation of the Socratics and set sail for Athens with Theomedon the physician, who provided for his wants. Some even say that he was Theomedon’s favourite. Having disembarked at Piraeus he went up every day to Athens and, when he had attended the Sophists’ lectures, returned again to the port. After spending two months there, he went home and, aided by the liberality of his friends, he proceeded to Egypt with Chrysippus the physician, bearing with him letters of introduction from Agesilaus to Nectanabis, who recommended him to the priests. There he remained one year and four months with his beard and eyebrows shaved, and there, some say, he wrote his Octateris. From there he went to Cyzicus and the Propontis, giving lectures; afterwards he came to the court of Mausolus. Then at length he returned to Athens, bringing with him a great number of pupils: according to some, this was for the purpose of annoying Plato, who had originally passed him over.87 Some say that, when Plato gave a banquet, Eudoxus, owing to the numbers present, introduced the fashion of arranging couches in a semicircle. Nicomachus, the son of Aristotle, states that he declared pleasure to be the good.88 He was received in his native city with great honour, proof of this being the decree concerning him. But he also became famous throughout Greece, as legislator for his fellow-citizens, so we learn from Hermippus in his fourth book On the Seven Sages, and as the author of astronomical and geometrical treatises and other important works.

He had three daughters, Actis, Philtis and Delphis. Eratosthenes in his writings addressed to Baton tells us that he also composed Dialogues of Dogs; others say that they were written by Egyptians in their own language and that he translated them and published them in Greece. Chrysippus of Cnidos, the son of Erineus, attended his lectures on the gods, the world, and the phenomena of the heavens, while in medicine he was the pupil of Philistion the Sicilian.

Eudoxus also left some excellent commentaries. He had a son Aristagoras, who had a son Chrysippus, the pupil of Athlius. To this Chrysippus we owe a medical work on the treatment of the eye, speculations upon nature having occupied his mind.

Three men have borne the name of Eudoxus: (1) our present subject; (2) a historian, of Rhodes; (3) a Sicilian Greek, the son of Agathocles, a comic poet, who three times won the prize in the city Dionysia and five times at the Lenaea, so we are told by Apollodorus in his Chronology. We also find another physician of Cnidos mentioned by Eudoxus89 in his Geography as advising people to be always exercising their limbs by every form of gymnastics, and their sense-organs in the same way.

The same authority, Apollodorus, states that Eudoxus of Cnidos flourished about the 103rd Olympiad,90 and that he discovered the properties of curves. He died in his fifty-third year. When he was in Egypt with Chonuphis of Heliopolis, the sacred bull Apis licked his cloak. From this the priests foretold that he would be famous but short-lived, so we are informed by Favorinus in his Memorabilia.

There is a poem of our own upon him, which runs thus:91

It is said that at Memphis Eudoxus learned his coming fate from the bull with beautiful horns. No words did it utter; for whence comes speech to a bull? Nature did not provide the young bull Apis with a chattering tongue. But, standing sideways by him, it licked his robe, by which it plainly prophesied “you shall soon die.” Whereupon, soon after, this fate overtook him, when he had seen fifty-three risings of the Pleiades.

Eudoxus used to be called Endoxos (illustrious) instead of Eudoxus by reason of his brilliant reputation.

Having now dealt with the famous Pythagoreans, let us next discuss the so-called “sporadic” philosophers. And first we must speak of Heraclitus.

87 The suggestion of hostile relations is held to be without foundation both by Tannery, Astronomie ancienne, p. 296, note 4, and T. L. Heath, Aristarchus, p. 192.

88 The reference is to the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle (i. 12, 1101 b 27; x. 2, 1172 b 9 sq.). That Nicomachus wrote the treatise called after him was a common error into which Cicero also fell (De fin. v. 12).

89 The wording suggests that this physician’s name was not Eudoxus, but rather Chrysippus. He may have been the Chrysippus of Cnidos mentioned supra, vii. 186 (cf. Wilamowitz, Antig. v. Kar. 324-326); see, however, Pauly-Wissowa, s.v. Chrysippos, 15 and 16.

90 368-364 B.C.

91 Anth. Pal. vii. 744.

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