Life of Aristippus

September 29, 2010by

No writings from Aristippus, the chief figure of the Cyrenaic movement in Hellenism, have survived. But much about him can be learned from the pen of the Cynic Diogenes, who conveys the following in his The Lives & Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.

I. ARISTIPPUS was by birth a Cyrenean. but he came to Athens, as Aeschines says, having been attracted thither by the fame of Socrates.

II. He having professed himself a Sophist, as Phanias, of Eresus, the Peripatetic, informs us, was the first of the pupils of Socrates who exacted money from his pupils, and who sent money to his master. And once he sent him twenty drachmas, but had them sent back again, as Socrates said that his daemon would not allow him to accept them; for, in fact, he was indignant at having them offered to him. And Xenophon used to hate him; on which account he wrote his book against pleasure as an attack upon Aristippus, and assigned the main argument to Socrates. Theodorus also, in his Treatise on Sects, has attacked him severely, and so has Plato in his book on the Soul, as we have mentioned in another place.

III. But he was a man very quick at adapting himself to every kind of place, and time, and person,1 and he easily supported every change of fortune. For which reason he was in greater favour with Dionysius than any of the others, as he always made the best of existing circumstances. For he enjoyed what was before him pleasantly, and he did not toil to procure himself the enjoyment of what was not present. On which account Diogenes used to call him the king’s dog. And Timon used to snarl at him as too luxurious, speaking somewhat in this fashion:

Like the effeminate mind of Aristippus,
Who, as he said, by touch could judge of falsehood.

They say that he once ordered a partridge to be bought for him at the price of fifty drachmas; and when some one blamed him, “And would not you,” said he, “have bought it if it had cost an obol?” And when he said he would, “Well,” replied Aristippus, “fifty drachmas are no more to me.” Dionysius once bade him select which he pleased of three beautiful courtesans; and he carried off all three, saying that even Paris did not get any good by prefering one beauty to the rest. However, they say, that when he had carried them as far as the vestibule, he dismissed them; so easily inclined was he to select or to disregard things. On which account Strato, or, as others will have it, Plato, said to him, “You are the only man to whom it is given to wear both a whole cloak and rags.” Once when Dionysius spit at him, he put up with it; and when some one found fault with him, he said, “Men endure being wetted by the sea in order to catch a tench, and shall not I endure to be sprinkled with wine to catch a sturgeon?”

IV. Once Diogenes, who was washing vegetables, ridiculed him as he passed by, and said, “If you had learnt to eat these vegetables, you would not have been a slave in the palace of a tyrant.” But Aristippus replied, “And you, if you had known how to behave among men, would not have been washing vegetables.” Being asked once what advantage he had derived from philosophy, he said, “The power of associating confidently with every body.” When he was reproached for living extravagantly, he replied, “If extravagance had been a fault, it would not have had a place in the festivals of the Gods.” At another time he was asked what advantage philosophers had over other men; and he replied, “If all the laws should be abrogated, we should still live in the same manner as we do now.” Once when Dionysius asked him why the philosophers haunt the doors of the rich, but the rich do not frequent those of the philosophers, he said, “Because the first know what they want, but the second do not.”

On one occasion he was reproached by Plato for living in an expensive way; and he replied, “Does not Dionysius seem to you to be a good man?” And as he said that he did; “And yet,” said he, “he lives in a more expensive manner than I do, so that there is no impossibility in a person’s living both expensively and well at the same time.” He was asked once in what educated men are superior to uneducated men; and answered, “Just as broken horses are superior to those that are unbroken.” On another occasion he was going into the house of a courtesan, and when one of the young men who were with him blushed, he said, “It is not the going into such a house that is bad, but the not being able to go out.” Once a man proposed a riddle to him, and said, “Solve it.” “Why, you silly fellow,” said Aristippus, “do you wish me to loose what gives us trouble, even while it is in bonds?” A saying of his was, “that it was better to be a beggar than an ignorant person; for that a beggar only wants money, but an ignorant person wants humanity.” Once when he was abused, he was going away, and as his adversary pursued him and said, “Why are you going away?” “Because,” said he, “you have a license for speaking ill; but I have another for declining to hear ill.” When some one said that he always saw the philosophers at the doors of the rich men he said, “And the physicians also are always seen at the doors of their patients; but still no one would choose for this reason to be an invalid rather than a physician.”

Once it happened, that when he was sailing to Corinth, he was overtaken by a violent storm; and when somebody said, “We common individuals are not afraid, but you philosophers are behaving like cowards;” he said, “Very likely, for we have not both of us the same kind of souls at stake.” Seeing a man who prided himself on the variety of his learning and accomplishments, he said, “Those who eat most, and who take the most exercise, are not in better health than they who eat just as much as is good for them; and in the same way it is not those who know a great many things, but they who know what is useful who are valuable men.” An orator had pleaded a cause for him and gained it, and asked him afterwards, “Now, what good did you ever get from Socrates?” “This good,” said he, “that all that you have said in my behalf is true.” He gave admirable advice to his daughter Aretes, teaching her to despise superfluity. And being asked by some one in what respect his son would be better if he received a careful education, he replied, “If he gets no other good, at all events, when he is at the theatre, he will not be one stone sitting upon another.” Once when some one brought his son to introduce to him, he demanded five hundred drachmas; and when the father said, “Why, for such a price as that I can buy a slave.” ” Buy him then,” he replied, “and you will have a pair.”

It was a saying of his that he took money from his acquaintances not in order to use it himself, but to make them aware in what they ought to spend their money. On one occasion, being reproached for having employed a hired advocate in a cause that he had depending: “Why not,” said he; “when I have a dinner, I hire a cook.” Once he was compelled by Dionysius to repeat some philosophical sentiment; ” It is an absurdity,” said he, “for you to learn of me how to speak, and yet to teach me when I ought to speak:” and as Dionysius was offended at this, he placed him at the lowest end of the table; on which Aristippus said, “You wish to make this place more respectable.” A man was one day boasting of his skill as a diver; “Are you not ashamed,” said Aristippus, “to pride yourself on your performance of the duty of a dolphin?” On one occasion he was asked in what respect a wise man is superior to one who is not wise; and his answer was, “Send them both naked among strangers, and you will find out.” A man was boasting of being able to drink a great deal without being drunk; and he said, “A mule can do the very same thing.” When a man reproached him for living with a mistress, he said, “Does it make any difference whether one takes a house in which many others have lived before one, or one where no one has ever lived?” and his reprover said, “No.” “Well, does it make any difference whether one sails in a ship in which ten thousand people have sailed before one, or whether one sails in one in which no one has ever embarked?” “By no means,” said the other. “Just in the same way,” said he, “it makes no difference whether one lives with a woman with whom numbers have lived, or with one with whom no one has lived.” When a person once blamed him for taking money from his pupils, after having been himself a pupil of Socrates: “To be sure I do,” he replied, “for Socrates too, when some friends sent their corn and wine, accepted a little, and sent the rest back; for he had the chief men of the Athenians for his purveyors. But I have only Eutychides, whom I have bought with money.” And he used to live with Lais the courtesan, as Sotion tells us in the Second Book of his Successions. Accordingly, when some one reproached him on her account, he made answer, “I possess her, but I am not possessed by her; since the best thing is to possess pleasures without being their slave, not to be devoid of pleasures.” When some one blamed him for the expense he was at about his food, he said, “Would you not have bought those things yourself if they bad cost three obols?” And when the other admitted that he would, “Then,” said he, “it is not that I am fond of pleasure, but that you are fond of money.” On one occasion, when Simus, the steward of Dionysius, was showing him a magnificent house, paved with marble (but Simus was a Phrygian, and a great toper), he hawked up a quantity of saliva and spit in his face; and when Simus was indignant at this, he said, “I could not find a more suitable place to spit in.”

Charondas, or as some say, Phaedo, asked him once, “Who are the people who use perfumes?” “I do,” said he, “wretched man that I am, and the king of the Persians is still more wretched than I; but, recollect, that as no animal is the worse for having a pleasant scent, so neither is a man; but plague take those wretches who abuse our beautiful unguents.” On another occasion, he was asked how Socrates died; and he made answer, “As I should wish to die myself.” When Polyxenus, the Sophist, came to his house and beheld his women and the costly preparation that was made for dinner, and then blamed him for all this luxury, Aristippus after a while said, “Can you stay with me to day?” and when Polyxenus consented, “Why then,” said he, “did you blame me? it seems that you blame not the luxury, but the expense of it.” When his servant was once carrying some money along the road, and was oppressed by the weight of it (as Bion relates in his Dissertations), he said to him, “Drop what is beyond your strength, and only carry what you can.” Once he was at sea, and seeing a pirate vessel at a distance, he began to count his money; and then he let it drop into the sea, as if unintentionally, and began to bewail his loss; but others say that he said besides, that it was better for the money to be lost for the sake of Aristippus, than Aristippus for the sake of his money. On one occasion, when Dionysius asked him why he had come, he said, to give others a share of what he had, and to receive a share of what he had not; but some report that his answer was, “When I wanted wisdom, I went to Socrates; but now that I want money, I have come to you.” He found fault with men, because when they are at sales, they examine the articles offered very carefully, but yet they approve of men’s lives without any examination. Though some attribute this speech to Diogenes. They say that once at a banquet, Dionysius desired all the guests to dance in purple garments; but Plato refused, saying:

“I could not wear a woman’s robe, when I
Was born a man, and of a manly race.”

But Aristippus took the garment, and when he was about to dance, he said very wittily:

“She who is chaste, will not corrupted be
By Bacchanalian revels.”

He was once asking a favour of Dionysius for a friend, and when he could not prevail, he fell at his feet; and when some one reproched him for such conduct, he said, “It is not I who am to blame, but Dionysius who has his ears in his feet.” When he was staying in Asia, and was taken prisoner by Artaphernes the Satrap, some one said to him, “Are you still cheerful and sanguine?” “When, you silly fellow,” he replied, “can I have more reason to be cheerful than now when I am on the point of conversing with Artaphernes?” It used to be a saying of his, that those who had enjoyed the encyclic course of education, but who had omitted philosophy, were like the suitors of Penelope; for that they gained over Melantho and Polydora and the other maid-servants, and found it easier to do that than to marry the mistress. And Ariston said in like manner, that Ulysses, when he had gone to the shades below, saw and conversed with nearly all the dead in those regions, but could not get a sight of the Queen herself.

On another occasion, Aristippus being asked what were the most necessary things for well-born boys to learn, said, “Those things which they will put in practice when they become men.” And when some one reproached him for having come from Socrates to Dionysius, his reply was, “I went to Socrates because I wanted instruction (paideias), and I have come to Dionysius because I want diversion (paidias). As he had made money by having pupils, Socrates once said to him, “Where did you get so much?” and he answered, “Where you got a little.” When his mistress said to him, “I am in the family way by you,” he said, “You can no more tell that, than you could tell, after you had gone through a thicket, which thorn had scratched you.” And when some one blamed him for repudiating his son, as if he were not really his, he said, “I know that phlegm, and I know that lice, proceed from us, but still we cast them away as useless.”

One day, when he had received some money from Dionysius, and Plato had received a book, he said to a man who jeered him, “The fact is, money is what I want, and books what Plato wants.” When he was asked what it was for which he was reproached by Dionysius, “The same thing,” said he, “for which others reproach me.” One day he asked Dionysius for some money, who said, “But you told me that a wise man would never be in want,” “Give me some,” Aristippus rejoined, “and then we will discuss that point;” Dionysius gave him some, “Now then,” said he, “you see that I do not want money.” When Dionysius said to him:

“For he who does frequent a tyrant’s court,2
Becomes his slave, though free when first he came”
He took him up, and replied:

“That man is but a slave who comes as free.”

This story is told by Diocles, in his book on the Lives of the Philosophers; but others attribute the rejoinder to Plato. He once quarrelled with Aeschines, and presently afterwards said to him, “Shall we not make it up of our own accord, and cease this folly; but will you wait till some blockhead reconciles us over our cups?” “With all my heart,” said Aeschines. “Recollect, then,” said Aristippus, “that I, who am older than you, have made the first advances.” And Aschines answered, “You say well, by Juno, since you are far better than I; for I began the quarrel, but you begin the friendship.” And these are the anecdotes which are told of him.

V. Now there were four people of the name of Aristippus; one, the man of whom we are now speaking; the second, the man who wrote the history of Arcadia ; the third was one who, because he had been brought up by his mother, had the name of mêtrodidantos given to him; and he was the grandson of the former, being his daughter’s son; the fourth was a philosopher of the New Academy.

VI. There are three books extant, written by the Cyrenaic philosopher, which are, a history of Africa, and which were sent by him to Dionysius; and there is another book containing twenty-five dialogues, some written in the Attic, and some in the Doric dialect. And these are the titles of the Dialogues– Artabazus; to the Shipwrecked Sailors; to the Exiles; to a Beggar; to Lais; to Porus; to Lais about her Looking-glass; Mercury; the Dream; to the President of the Feast; Philomelus; to his Domestics; to those who reproached him for possessing old wine and mistresses; to those who reproached him for spending much money on his eating; a Letter to Arete his daughter; a letter to a man who was training himself for the Olympic games; a book of Questions; another book of Questions; a Dissertation addressed to Dionysius; an Essay on a Statue; an Essay on the daughter of Dionysius; a book addressed to one who thought himself neglected; another to one who attempted to give him advice. Some say, also, that he wrote six books of dissertations; but others, the chief of whom is Sosicrates of Rhodes, affirm that he never wrote a single thing. According to the assertions of Sotion in his second book; and of Panoetius, on the contrary, he composed the following books,- one concerning Education; one concerning Virtue; one called An Exhortation; Artabazus; the Shipwrecked Men; the Exiles; six books of Dissertations; three books of Apophthegms; an essay addressed to Lais; one to Porus; one to Socrates; one on Fortune. And he used to define the chief good as a gentle motion tending to sensation.

VII. But since we have written his life, let us now speak of the Cyrenaics who came after him; some of whom called themselves Hegesiaci, some Annicerci, others Theodorei. And let us also enumerate the disciples of Phaedo, the chief of whom were the Eretrians. Now the pupils of Aristippus were his own daughter Arete, and Aethiops of Ptolemais, and Antipater of Cyrene. Arete had for her pupil the Aristippus who was surnamed mêtrodidantos, whose disciple was Theodorus the atheist, but who was afterwards called theos. Antipater had for a pupil Epitimedes of Cyrene who was the master of Pyraebates, who was the master of Hegesias, who was surnamed peisithanatos (persuading to die), and of Anniceris who ransomed Plato.

VIII. These men then who continued in the school of Aristippus, and were called Cyrenaics, adopted the following opinions.- They said that there were two emotions of the mind, pleasure and pain; that the one, namely pleasure, was a moderate emotion; the other, namely pain, a rough one. And that no one pleasure was different from or more pleasant than another; and that pleasure was praised by all animals, but pain avoided. They said also that pleasure belonged to the body, and constituted its chief good, as Paraetius also tells us in his book on Sects; but the pleasure which they call the chief good, is not that pleasure as a state, which consists in the absence of all pain, and is a sort of undisturbedness, which is what Epicurus admits as such; for the Cyrenaics think that there is a distinction between the chief good and a life of happiness, for that the chief good is a particular pleasure, but that happiness is a state consisting of a number of particular pleasures, among which, both those which are past, and those which are future, are both enumerated. And they consider that particular pleasure is desirable for its own sake; but that happiness is desirable not for its own sake, but for that of the particular pleasure. And that the proof that pleasure is the chief good is that we are from our childhood attracted to it without any deliberate choice of our own; and that when we have obtained it, we do not seek anything further, and also that there is nothing which we avoid so much as we do its opposite, which is pain. And they assert, too, that pleasure is a good, even if it arises from the most unbecoming causes, as Hippobotus tells us in his Treatise on Sects; for even if an action be ever so absurd, still the pleasure which arises out of it is desirable, and a good.

Moreover, the banishment of pain, as it is called by Epicurus, appears to the Cyrenaics not to be pleasure; for neither is the absence of pleasure pain, for both pleasure and pain consist in motion; and neither the absence of pleasure nor the absence of pain are motion. In fact, absence of pain is a condition like that of a person asleep. They say also that it is possible that some persons may not desire pleasure, owing to some perversity of mind; and that all the pleasures and pains of the mind, do not all originate in pleasures and pains of the body, for that pleasure often arises from the mere fact of the prosperity of one’s country, or from one’s own; but they deny that pleasure is caused by either the recollection or the anticipation of good fortune-though Epicurus asserted that it was-for the motion of the mind is put an end to by time. They say, too, that pleasure is not caused by simple seeing or hearing. Accordingly we listen with pleasure to those who give a representation of lamentations; but we are pained when we see men lamenting in reality. And they called the absence of pleasure and of pain intermediate states; and asserted that corporeal pleasures were superior to mental ones, and corporeal sufferings worse than mental ones. And they argued that it was on this principle that offenders were punished with bodily pain; for they thought that to suffer pain was hard, but that to be pleased was more in harmony with the nature of man, on which account also they took more care of the body than of the mind.

And although pleasure is desirable for its own sake, still they admit that some of the efficient causes of it are often troublesome, and as such opposite to pleasure; so that they think that an assemblage of all the pleasures which produce happiness, is the most difficult thing conceivable. But they admit that every wise man does not live pleasantly, and that every bad man does not live unpleasantly, but that it is only a general rule admitting of some exceptions. And they think it sufficient if a person enjoys a happy time in consequence of one pleasure which befalls him. They say that prudence is a good, but is not desirable for its own sake, but for the sake of those things which result from it. That a friend is desirable for the sake of the use which we can make of him; for that the parts of the body also are loved while they are united to the body; and that some of the virtues may exist even in the foolish. They consider that bodily exercise contributes to the comprehension of virtue; and that the wise man will feel neither envy, nor love, nor superstition; for that these things originate in a fallacious opinion. They admit, at the same time, that he is liable to grief and fear, for that these are natural emotions. They said also that wealth is an efficient cause of pleasure, but that it is not desirable for its own sake. That the sensations are things which can be comprehended; but they limited this assertion to the sensations themselves, and did not extend it to the causes which produce them. They left out all investigation of the subjects of natural philosophy, because of the evident impossibility of comprehending them; but they applied themselves to the study of logic, because of its utility.

Meleager, in the second book of his Treatise on Opinions, and Clitomachus in the first book of his Essay on Sects says, that they thought natural philosophy and dialectics useless, for that the man who had learnt to understand the question of good and evil could speak with propriety, and was free from superstition, and escaped the fear of death, without either. They also taught that there was nothing naturally and intrinsically just, or honourable, or disgraceful; but that things were considered so because of law and fashion. The good man will do nothing out of the way, because of the punishments which are imposed on, and the discredit which is attached to, such actions; and that the good man is a wise man. They admit, too, that there is such a thing as improvement in philosophy, and in other good studies. And they say that one man feels grief more than another; and that the sensations are not always to be trusted as faithful guides.

IX. But the philosophers who were called Hegesiaci, adopted the same chief goods, pleasure and pain; and they denied that there was any such thing as gratitude, or friendship, or beneficence, because we do not choose any of those things for their own sake, but on account of the use of which they are, and on account of these other things which cannot subsist without them. But they teach that complete happiness cannot possibly exist; for that the body is full of many sensations, and that the mind sympathizes with the body, and is troubled when that is troubled, and also that fortune prevents many things which we cherished in anticipation; so that for all these reasons, perfect happiness eludes our grasp. Moreover, that both life and death are desirable. They also say that there is nothing naturally pleasant or unpleasant, but that owing to want, or rarity, or satiety, some men are pleased and some vexed; and that wealth and poverty have no influence at all on pleasure, for that rich men are not affected by pleasure in a different manner from poor men. In the same way they say that slavery and freedom are things indifferent, if measured by the standard of pleasure, and nobility and baseness of birth, and glory and infamy. They add that, for the foolish man it is expedient to live, but to the wise man it is a matter of indifference; and that the wise man will do everything for his own sake; for that he will not consider any one else of equal importance with himself; and he will see that if he were to obtain ever such great advantages from any one else, they would not be equal to what he could himself bestow. They excluded the sensations, inasmuch as they had no certain knowledge about them; but they recommended the doing of everything which appeared consistent with reason.

They asserted also that errors ought to meet with pardon; for that a man did not err intentionally, but because he was influenced by some external circumstance; and that one ought not to hate a person who has erred, but only to teach him better. They likewise said that the wise man would not be so much absorbed in the pursuit of what is good, as in the attempt to avoid what is bad, considering the chief good to be living free from all trouble and pain: and that this end was attained best by those who looked upon the efficient causes of pleasure as indifferent.

X. The Annicereans, in many respects, agreed with these last; but they admitted the existence in life of friendship and gratitude and respect for one’s parents, and the principle of endeavouring to serve one’s country. On which principle, even if the wise man should meet with some annoyance, he would be no less happy, even though he should have but few actual pleasures. They thought that the happiness of a friend was not to be desired by us for its own sake; for that in fact such happiness was not capable of being felt by the person’s neighbour; and that reason is not sufficient to give one confidence, and to authorise one to look down upon the opinions of the multitude; but that one must learn a deference for the sentiments of others by custom, because the opposite bad disposition being bred up with infirm and early age. They also taught that one ought not to make friends solely on account of the advantage that we may derive from them, and not discard them when these hopes or advantages fail; but that we ought rather to cultivate them on account of one’s natural feelings of benevolence, in compliance with which we ought also to encounter trouble for their sakes, so that though they consider pleasure the chief good, and the deprivation of it an evil, still they think that a man ought voluntarily to submit to this deprivation out of his regard for his friend,

XI. The Theodoreans, as they are called, derived their name from the Theodorus who has been already mentioned, and adopted all his doctrines.

XII. Now Theodorus utterly discarded all previous opinions about the Gods: and we have met with a book of his which is entitled, On Gods, which is not to be despised; and it is from that that they say that Epicurus derived the principal portions of his sentiments. But Theodorus had been a pupil of Anniceris, and of Dionysius the Dialectician, as Antisthenes tells us in his Successions of Philosophers.

XIII. He considered joy and grief as the chief goods: and that the former resulted from knowledge, and the latter from ignorance. And he called prudence and justice goods: the contrary qualities evils, and pleasure and pain something intermediate. He discarded friendship from his system, because it could not exist either in foolish men or in wise men. For that, in the case of the former, friendship was at an end the moment that the advantage to be derived from it was out of sight. And that wise men were sufficient for themselves, and so had no need of friends. He used also to say that it was reasonable for a good man not to expose himself to danger for the sake of his country, for that he ought not to discard his own prudence for the sake of benefiting those who had none. And he said that a wise man’s country was the World. He allowed that a wise man might steal, and commit adultery and sacrilege, at proper seasons: for that none of these actions were disgraceful by nature, if one only put out of sight the common opinion about them, which owes its existence to the consent of fools. And he said that the wise man would indulge his passions openly, without any regard to circumstances: on which principle he used to ask the following questions: “Is a woman who is well instructed in literature of use just in proportion to the amount of her literary knowledge?” “Yes,” said the person questioned. “And is a boy, and is a youth, useful in proportion to his acquaintance with literature?” “Yes.” “Is not then, also, a beautiful woman useful in proportion as she is beautiful; and a boy and a youth useful in proportion to their beauty?” “Yes.” “Well then, a handsome boy and a handsome youth must be useful exactly in proportion as they are handsome?” “Yes.” “Now the use of beauty is, to be embraced.” And when this was granted he pressed the argument thus:- If then a man embraces a woman just as it is useful that he should, he does not do wrong; nor, again, will he be doing wrong in employing beauty for the purposes for which it is useful. And with such questions as these he appeared to convince his hearers.

XIV. But he appears to have got the name of theos from Stilpo one day asking him, “Are you, Theodorus, what you say you are?” And when he said he was, “And you said that you are theos,” continued his questioner; he admitted that also. “Then,” continued the other, “you are theos.” And as he willingly received the title, the other laughed and said, “But you, wretched man, according to this principle, you would also admit that you were a raven, or a hundred other things.” One day Theodorus sat down by Euryclides the hierophant, and said to him, “Tell me now, Euryclides, who are they who behave impiously with respect to the mysteries?” And when Euryclides answered, “Those who divulge them to the uninitiated;” “Then,” said he, ” you also are impious, for you divulge them to those who are not initiated.”

XV. And indeed he was very near being brought before the Areopagus if Demetrius of Phalereus had not saved him. But Amphicrates in his Essay on Illustrious Men, says that he was condemned to drink hemlock.

XVI. While he was staying at the court of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, he was sent once by him to Lysimachus as an ambassador. And as he was talking very freely, Lysimachus said to him, “Tell me, Theodorus, have not you been banished from Athens?” And he replied, “you have been rightly informed; for the city of the Athenians could not bear me, just as Semele could not bear Bacchus; and so we were both cast out.” And when Lysimachus said again, “Take care that you do not come to me again;” “I never will,” he replied, “unless Ptolemy sends me.” And as Mythras, the steward of Lysimachus was present, and said, “You appear to me to be the only person who ignores both Gods and Sovereigns;” “How,” rejoined Theodorus, “can you say that I ignore the Gods, when I look upon you as their enemy?”

XVII. They say also that on one occasion he came to Corinth, bringing with him a great many disciples; and that Metrocles the Cynic, who was washing leeks said so him, “You, who are a Sophist, would not have wanted so many pupils, if you had washed vegetables.” And Theodorus, taking him up, replied, “And if you had known how to associate with men, you would not have cared about those vegetables.” But this rejoinder, as I have said already, is attributed both to Diogenes and Aristippus.

XVIII. Such was Theodorus, and such were his circumstances and opinions. But at last he went away to Cyrene, and lived there with Megas, being treated by him with the greatest distinction. And when he was first driven away from Cyrene, he is reported to have said very pleasantly, “You do wrong, O men of Cyrene, driving me from Africa to Greece.”

XIX. But there were twenty different people of the name of Theodorus. The first was a Samian, the son of Rhoeus; he it was who advised the putting of coals under the foundations of the temple of Diana at Ephesus; for as the ground was very swampy, he said that the coals, having got rid of their ligneous qualities would retain their solidity in a way that could not be impaired by water. The second was a Cyrenean, a geometrician, and had Plato for one of his pupils. The third was the philosopher whom we have been describing. The fourth was an author who wrote a very remarkable treatise on the art of exercising the voice. The fifth was a man who wrote a treatise on Musicial Composers, beginning with Terpander. The sixth was a Stoic. The seventh was the historian of Rome. The eighth was a Syracusan, who wrote an Essay on Tactics. The ninth was a citizen of Byzantium, who was a political orator. The tenth was another orator, who is mentioned by Aristotle in his Epitome of the Orators. The eleventh was a Theban, a statuary. The twelfth was a painter, who is mentioned by Polemo. The thirteenth was also a painter, who is spoken of by Menodotus. The fourteenth was an Ephesian, a painter, mentioned by Theophanes in his Essay on Painting. The fifteenth was an epigrammatic poet. The sixteenth wrote an essay on Poets. The seventeenth was a physician, a pupil of Athenaeas. The eighteenth was a Chian, a Stoic philosopher. The nineteenth was a citizen of Miletus, another Stoic. The twentieth was a tragic poet.


1. This is exactly the character that Horace gives of him:

Omnis Aristippum decuit color et status et res;
Tentantem majora, fere praesentibus aequum.
Ep. i. 23, 24.

2. Plutarch, in his life of Pompey, attributes these lines to Sophocles, but does not mention the play in which they occurred.

Via The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853.