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This webpage reproduces one of the
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Diogenes Laërtius

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. I) Diogenes Laërtius
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Book II

 p189  Chapter 7
Aeschines (c. 400 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 60 Aeschines was the son of Charinus the sausage-maker, but others make his father's name Lysanias. He was a citizen of Athens, industrious from his birth up. For this reason he never quitted Socrates: hence Socrates' remark, "Only the sausage-maker's son knows how to honour me." Idomeneus declared  p191 that it was Aeschines, not Crito, who advised Socrates in the prison about making his escape,​1 but that Plato put the words into the mouth of Crito because Aeschines was more attached to Aristippus than to himself. It was said maliciously — by Menedemus of Eretria in particular — that most of the dialogues which Aeschines passed off as his own were really dialogues of Socrates obtained by him from Xanthippe. Those of them which are said to have no beginning (ἀκέφαλοι) are very slovenly and show none of the vigour of Socrates; Pisistratus of Ephesus even denied that they were written by Aeschines. [link to original Greek text] 61 Persaeus indeed attributes the majority of the seven to Pasiphon of the school of Eretria, who inserted these among the dialogues of Aeschines. Moreover, Aeschines made use of the Little Cyrus, the Lesser Heracles and the Alcibiades of Antisthenes as well as dialogues by other authors. However that may be, of the writings of Aeschines those stamped with a Socratic character are seven, namely Miltiades, which for that reason is somewhat weak; then Callias, Axiochus, Aspasia, Alcibiades, Telauges, and Rhinon.

They say that want drove him to Sicily to the court of Dionysius, and that Plato took no notice of him, but he was introduced to Dionysius by Aristippus, and on presenting certain dialogues received gifts from him. [link to original Greek text] 62 Afterwards on his return to Athens he did not venture to lecture owing to the popularity of Plato and Aristippus. But he took fees from pupils, and subsequently composed forensic speeches for aggrieved clients. This is the point of Timon's reference to him as "the might of Aeschines, that not unconvincing writer." They say that Socrates,  p193 seeing how he was pinched by poverty, advised him to borrow from himself by reducing his rations. Aristippus among others had suspicions of the genuineness of his dialogues. At all events, as he was reading one at Megara, Aristippus rallied him by asking, "Where did you get that, you thief?"

[link to original Greek text] 63 Polycritus of Mende, in the first book of his History of Dionysius, says that he lived with the tyrant until his expulsion from Syracuse, and survived until the return of Dion, and that with him was Carcinus the tragic poet. There is also extant an epistle of Aeschines to Dionysius. That he had received a good rhetorical training is clear from his defence of the father of Phaeax the general, and from his defence of Dion. He is a close imitator of Gorgias of Leontini. Moreover, Lysias attacked him in a speech which he entitled "On dishonesty." And from this too it is clear that he was a rhetorician. A single disciple of his is mentioned, Aristotle, whose nickname was "Story."

[link to original Greek text] 64 Panaetius thinks that, of all the Socratic dialogues, those by Plato, Xenophon, Antisthenes and Aeschines are genuine; he is in doubt about those ascribed to Phaedo and Euclides; but he rejects the others one and all.

There are eight men who have borne the name of Aeschines: (1) our subject himself; (2) the author of handbooks of rhetoric; (3) the orator who opposed Demosthenes; (4) an Arcadian, a pupil of Isocrates; (5) a Mitylenean whom they used to call the "scourge of rhetoricians"; (6) a Neapolitan, an Academic philosopher, a pupil and favourite of Melanthius of Rhodes; (7) a Milesian who wrote upon politics; (8) a sculptor.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

1 Idomeneus, it may be conjectured, relied on some Socratic dialogue in which the part assigned by Plato to Crito was given to Aeschines.

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Page updated: 15 Feb 18