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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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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. I) Diogenes Laërtius
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

Book IV

 p437  Chapter 9
Carneades (c. 213‑129 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 62 Carneades, the son of Epicomus or (according to Alexander in his Successions of Philosophers) of Philocomus, was a native of Cyrene. He studied  p439 carefully the writings of the Stoics and particularly those of Chrysippus, and by combating these successfully he became so famous that he would often say:

Without Chrysippus where would I have been?

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

[link to original Greek text] 63 His voice was extremely power­ful, so that the keeper of the gymnasium sent to him and requested him not to shout so loud. To which he replied, "Then give me something by which to regulate my voice." Thereupon by a happy hit the man replied in the words, "You have a regulator in your audience." His talent for criticizing opponents was remarkable, and he was a formidable controversialist. And for the reasons already given he further declined invitations to dine out. One of his pupils was Mentor the Bithynian, who tried to ingratiate himself with a concubine of Carneades; so on one occasion (according to Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History), when Mentor came to leisure, Carneades in the course of his remarks let fall these lines by way of parody at his expense:

[link to original Greek text] 64 Hither comes an old man of the sea, infallible, like to Mentor in person and in voice.​1 Him I proclaim to have been banished from this school.

Thereupon the other got up and replied:

 p441  Those on their part made proclamation, and these speedily assembled.​2

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

[link to original Greek text] 65 According to Apollodorus in his Chronology, he departed this life in the fourth year of the 162nd Olympiad​3 at the age of eighty-five years. Letters of his to Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, are extant. Everything else was compiled by his pupils; he himself left nothing in writing. I have written upon him in logaoedic metre as follows:4

Why, Muse, oh why wouldst thou have me censure Carneades? For he is ignorant who knoweth not how he feared death. When wasting away with the worst of diseases, he would not find release. But when he heard that Antipater's life was quenched by drinking a potion, [link to original Greek text] 66 "Give me too," he cried, "a draught to drink." "What? pray what?" "Give me a draught of honeyed wine." He had often on his lips the words, "Nature which holds this frame together will surely dissolve it." None the less he too went down to the grave, and he might have got there sooner by cutting short his tale of woes.

It is said that his eyes went blind at night without  p443 his knowing it, and he ordered the slave to light the lamp. The latter brought it and said, "Here it is." "Then," said Carneades, "read."

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

There was another Carneades, a frigid elegiac poet.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Carneades applies two lines from the Odyssey, namely IV.384 and (with a change to the masculine participle) II.268 or 401.

2 Hom. Il. II.52.

3 129‑128 B.C.

4 Anth. Plan. V.39.

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Page updated: 15 Feb 18