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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.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. I) Diogenes Laërtius
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Book II

 p241  Chapter 11

[link to original Greek text] 113 Stilpo, a citizen of Megara in Greece, was a pupil of some of the followers of Euclides, although others make him a pupil of Euclides himself, and furthermore of Thrasymachus of Corinth, who was the friend of Ichthyas, according to Heraclitus. And so far did he excel all the rest in inventiveness and sophistry that nearly the whole of Greece was attracted to  p243 him and joined the school of Megara. On this let me cite the exact words of Philippus the Megarian philosopher: "for from Theophrastus he drew away the theorist Metrodorus and Timagoras of Gela, from Aristotle the Cyrenaic philosopher, Clitarchus, and Simmias; and as for the dialecticians themselves, he gained over Paeonius from Aristides; Diphilus of Bosphorus, the son of Euphantus, and Myrmex, the son of Exaenetus, who had both come to refute him, he made his devoted adherents." [link to original Greek text] 114 And besides these he won over Phrasidemus the Peripatetic, an accomplished physicist, and Alcimus the rhetorician, the first orator in all Greece; Crates, too, and many others he got into his toils, and, what is more, along with these, he carried off Zeno the Phoenician.

He was also an authority on politics.

He married a wife, and had a mistress named Nicarete, as Onetor has somewhere stated. He had a profligate daughter, who was married to his friend Simmias of Syracuse. And, as she would not live by rule, some one told Stilpo that she was a disgrace to him. To this he replied, "Not so, any more than I am an honour to her."

[link to original Greek text] 115 Ptolemy Soter, they say, made much of him, and when he had got possession of Megara, offered him a sum of money and invited him to return with him to Egypt. But Stilpo would only accept a very moderate sum, and he declined the proposed journey, and removed to Aegina until Ptolemy set sail. Again, when Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, had taken Megara, he took measures that Stilpo's house should be preserved and all his plundered property restored to him. But when he requested that a schedule of the lost property should be drawn up,  p245 Stilpo denied that he had lost anything which really belonged to him, for no one had taken away his learning, while he still had his eloquence and knowledge.

[link to original Greek text] 116 And conversing upon the duty of doing good to men he made such an impression on the king that he became eager to hear him. There is a story that he once used the following argument concerning the Athena of Phidias: "Is it not Athena the daughter of Zeus who is a goddess?" And when the other said "Yes," he went on, "But this at least is not by Zeus but by Phidias, and, this being granted, he concluded, "This then is not a god." For this he was summoned before the Areopagus; he did not deny the charge, but contended that the reasoning was correct, for that Athena was no god but a goddess; it was the male divinities who were gods. However, the story goes that the Areopagites ordered him to quit the city, and that thereupon Theodorus, whose nickname was Θεός, said in derision, "Whence did Stilpo learn this? and how could he tell whether she was a god or a goddess?" But in truth Theodorus was most impudent, and Stilpo most ingenious.

[link to original Greek text] 117 When Crates asked him whether the gods take delight in prayers and adorations, he is said to have replied, "Don't put such a question in the street, simpleton, but when we are alone!" It is said that Bion, when he was asked the same question whether there are gods, replied:

Will you not scatter the crowd from me, O much-enduring elder?

In character Stilpo was simple and unaffected, and he could readily adapt himself to the plain man. For instance, when Crates the Cynic did not answer the question put to him and only insulted the questioner,​a  p247 "I knew," said Stilpo, "that you would utter anything rather than what you ought." [link to original Greek text] 118 And once when Crates held out a fig to him when putting a question, he took the fig and ate it. Upon which the other exclaimed, "O Hercules, I have lost the fig," and Stilpo remarked, "Not that but your question as well, for which the fig was payment in advance." Again, on seeing Crates shrivelled with cold in the winter, he said, "You seem to me, Crates, to want a new coat," i.e. to be wanting in sense as well.​1 And the other being annoyed replied with the following burlesque:2

And Stilpo I saw enduring toilsome woes in Megara, where men say that the bed of Typhos is. There he would ever be wrangling, and many comrades about him, wasting time in the verbal pursuit of virtue.

[link to original Greek text] 119 It is said that at Athens he so attracted the public that people would run together from the workshops to look at him. And when some one said, "Stilpo, they stare at you as if you were some strange creature." "No, indeed," said he, "but as if I were a genuine man." And, being a consummate master of controversy, he used to demolish even the ideas, and say that he who asserted the existence of Man meant no individual; he did not mean this man or that. For why should he mean the one more than the other? Therefore neither does he mean this individual man. Again, "vegetable" is not what is shown to me, for vegetable existed ten thousand years ago. Therefore this is not vegetable. The story goes that while in the middle of an argument with Crates he hurried off to buy fish, and, when Crates tried to detain him and urged that he was leaving the argument, his answer was, "Not I. I p249keep the argument though I am leaving you; for the argument will remain, but the fish will soon be sold."

[link to original Greek text] 120 Nine dialogues of his are extant written in frigid style, Moschus, Aristippus or Callias, Ptolemy, Chaerecrates, Metrocles, Anaximenes, Epigenes, To his Daughter, Aristotle. Heraclitus relates that Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, was one of Stilpo's pupils;​3 Hermippus that Stilpo died at a great age after taking wine to hasten his end.

I have written an epitaph on him also:4

Surely you know Stilpo the Megarian: old age and then disease laid him low, a formidable pair. But he found in wine a charioteer too strong for that evil team; he quaffed it eagerly and was borne along.

He was also ridiculed by Sophilus the Comic poet in his drama The Wedding:5

What Charinus says is just Stilpo's stoppers.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The pun upon καινοῦ ("new") and καὶ νοῦ ("mind as well") recurs VI.3.

2 Anth. Plan. Add. V. 13B.

3 Compare the anecdote in VII.24 from Apollonius of Tyre.

4 Anth. Plan. V.42.

5 Meineke, C. G. F., IV.386, s.v. Diphilus.

Thayer's Note:

a "Crates . . . insulted the questioner": actually, the Greek has "Crates . . . farted".

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Page updated: 18 Mar 18