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Plato

This webpage reproduces one of the
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

by
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,
please let me know!

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Xenocrates

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

Book IV

 p375  Chapter 1
Speusippus (circa 407‑339 B.C.)
(Head of the Academy, 347‑339 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] The foregoing is the best account of Plato that we were able to compile after a diligent examination of the authorities. He was succeeded by Speusippus, an Athenian and son of Eurymedon, who belonged to the deme of Myrrhinus, and was the son of Plato's sister Potone. He was head of the school for eight years beginning in the 108th Olympiad.1 He set up statues of the Graces in the shrine of the Muses erected by Plato in the Academy. He adhered faithfully to Plato's doctrines. In character, however, he was unlike him, being prone to anger and easily overcome by pleasures. At any rate there is a story that in a fit of passion he flung his favourite dog into the well, and that pleasure was the sole motive for his journey to Macedonia to be present at the wedding feast of Casander.

[link to original Greek text] It was said that among those who attended his lectures were the two women who had been pupils of Plato, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius. And at the time Dionysius in a letter says derisively, "We may judge of your wisdom by the Arcadian girl who is your pupil. And, whereas Plato exempted from fees all who came to him, you  p377 levy tribute on them and collect it whether they will or no."2 According to Diodorus in the first book of his Memorabilia, Speusippus was the first to discern the common element in all studies and to bring them into connexion with each other so far as that was possible. And according to Caeneus he was the first to divulge what Isocrates called the secrets of his art, [link to original Greek text] and the first to devise the means by which fagots of firewood are rendered portable.

When he was already crippled by paralysis, he sent a message to Xenocrates entreating him to come and take over the charge of the school.3 They say that, as he was being conveyed to the Academy in a tiny carriage, he met and saluted Diogenes, who replied, "Nay, if you can endure to live in such a plight as this, I decline to return your greeting." At last in old age he became so despondent that he put an end to his life. Here follows my epigram upon him:4

Had I not learnt that Speusippus would die thus, no one would have persuaded me to say that he was surely not of Plato's blood: for else he would never have died in despair for a trivial cause.

[link to original Greek text] Plutarch in the Lives of Lysander and Sulla makes his malady to have been "morbus pedicularis."5 That his body wasted away is affirmed by Timotheus in his book On Lives. Speusippus, he says, meeting a rich man who was in love with one who was no beauty, said to him, "Why, pray, are you in such sore need of him? For ten talents I will find you a more handsome bride."

 p379  He has left behind a vast store of memoirs and numerous dialogues, among them:

Aristippus the Cyrenaic.

On Wealth, one book.

On Pleasure, one book.

On Justice,

On Philosophy,

On Friendship,

On the Gods,

The Philosopher,

A Reply to Cephalus,

Cephalus,

Clinomachus or Lysias,

The Citizen,

Of the Soul,

A Reply to Gryllus,

[link to original Greek text] Aristippus,

Criticism of the Arts, each in one book.

Memoirs, in the form of dialogues.

Treatise on System, in one book.

Dialogues on the Resemblances in Science, in ten books.

Divisions and Hypotheses relating to the Resemblances.

On Typical Genera and Species.

A Reply to the Anonymous Work.

Eulogy of Plato.

Epistles to Dion, Dionysius and Philip.

On Legislation.

The Mathematician.

Mandrobolus.

Lysias.

Definitions.

Arrangements of Commentaries.

 p381  They comprise in all 43,475 lines. To him Timonides addresses his narrative in which he related the achievements of Dion and Bion.6 Favorinus also in the second book of his Memorabilia relates that Aristotle purchased the works of Speusippus for three talents.

There was another Speusippus, a physician of Alexandria, of the school of Herophilus.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 348‑344 B.C.

2 Romance seems to have been busy with the life of Speusippus. Athenaeus, VII.279E, quotes from the same forged letter of Dionysius to Speusippus bringing similar charges.

3 The most trustworthy account of what happened when Xenocrates was ejected is furnished by Index Academicus, pp38 sq. ed. Mekler.

4 Anth. Pal. VIII.101.

5 Cf. supra, III.40.

6 Nothing is known of any such Bion having taken part in the expedition of Dion against Syracuse. There may be an error in the text arising from dittography.


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