Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Click here for the text in ancient Greek.]

[image ALT: Faire clic ici pour une page en français.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

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,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]

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

Book V

 p527  Chapter 5
(perhaps 350‑280 B.C.; supreme in Athens 318‑307 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 75 Demetrius, the son of Phanostratus, was a native of Phalerum. He was a pupil of Theophrastus, but by his speeches in the Athenian assembly he held the chief power in the State for ten years and was decreed 360 bronze statues, most of them representing him either on horseback or else driving a chariot or a pair of horses. And these statues were completed in less than 300 days, so much was he esteemed. He entered politics, says Demetrius of Magnesia in his work on Men of the Same Name,  p529 when Harpalus, fleeing from Alexander,​1 came to Athens. As a statesman he rendered his country many splendid services. For he enriched the city with revenues and buildings, though he was not of noble birth. [link to original Greek text] 76 For he was one of Conon's household servants,​2 according to Favorinus in the first book of his Memorabilia; yet Lamia, with whom he lived, was a citizen of noble family, as Favorinus also states in his first book. Further, in his second book Favorinus alleges that he suffered violence from Cleon, while Didymus in his Table-talk relates how a certain courtesan nicknamed him Charito-Blepharos ("having the eyelids of the Graces"), and Lampito ("of shining eyes"). He is said to have lost his sight when in Alexandria and to have recovered it by the gift of Sarapis; whereupon he composed the paeans which are sung to this day.

For all his popularity with the Athenians he nevertheless suffered eclipse through all‑devouring envy. [link to original Greek text] 77 Having been indicted by some persons on a capital charge, he let judgement go by default; and, when his accusers could not get hold of his person, they disgorged their venom on the bronze of his statues. These they tore down from their pedestals; some were sold, some cast into the sea, and others were even, it is said, broken up to make bedroom-utensils.​a Only one is preserved in the Acropolis. In his Miscellaneous History Favorinus tells us that the Athenians did this at the bidding of King Demetrius.  p531 And in the official list the year in which he was archon was styled "the year of lawlessness," according to this same Favorinus.

[link to original Greek text] 78 Hermippus tells us that upon the death of Casander, being in fear of Antigonus, he fled to Ptolemy Soter. There he spent a considerable time and advised Ptolemy, among other things, to invest with sovereign power his children by Eurydice. To this Ptolemy would not agree, but bestowed the diadem on his son by Berenice, who, after Ptolemy's death, thought fit to detain Demetrius as a prisoner in the country until some decision should be taken concerning him. There he lived in great dejection, and somehow, in his sleep, received an asp‑bite on the hand which proved fatal. He is buried in the district of Busiris near Diospolis.

[link to original Greek text] 79 Here are my lines upon him:3

A venomous asp was the death of the wise Demetrius, an asp withal of sticky venom, darting, not light from its eyes, but black death.

Heraclides in his epitome of Sotion's Successions of Philosophers says that Ptolemy himself wished to transmit the kingdom to Philadelphus, but that Demetrius tried to dissuade him, saying, "If you give it to another, you will not have it yourself." At the time when he was being continually attacked in Athens, Menander, the Comic poet, as I have also learnt, was very nearly brought to trial for no other cause than that he was a friend of Demetrius. However, Telesphorus, the nephew of Demetrius, begged him off.

[link to original Greek text] 80 In the number of his works and their total length in lines he has surpassed almost all contemporary Peripatetics. For in learning and versatility he has  p533 no equal. Some of these works are historical and others political; there are some dealing with poets, others with rhetoric. Then there are public speeches and reports of embassies, besides collections of Aesop's fables and much else. He wrote:

Of Legislation at Athens, five books.

Of the Constitutions of Athens, two books.

Of Statesmanship, two books.

On Politics, two books.

On Laws, one book.

On Rhetoric, two books.

On Military Matters, two books.

[link to original Greek text] 81 On the Iliad, two books.

On the Odyssey, four books.

And the following works, each in one book:


Concerning Love.






Concerning Homer.



An Exhortation to Philosophy.

Of the Constitution.

On the ten years of his own Supremacy.

Of the Ionians.

Concerning Embassies.

Of Belief.

Of Favour.

Of Fortune.

 p535  Of Magnanimity.

Of Marriage.

Of the Beam in the Sky.​4

Of Peace.

On Laws.

On Customs.

Of Opportunity.


Concerning Chalcis.

A Denunciation of the Athenians.

On Antiphanes.

Historical Introduction.


A Sworn Assembly.

Of Old Age.


Aesop's Fables.


[link to original Greek text] 82 His style is philosophical, with an admixture of rhetorical vigour and force. When he heard that the Athenians had destroyed his statues, "That they may do," said he, "but the merits which caused them to be erected they cannot destroy." He used to say that the eyebrows formed but a small part of the face, and yet they can darken the whole of life by the scorn they express. Again, he said that not only was Plutus blind, but his guide, Fortune, as well; that all that steel could achieve in war was won in politics by eloquence. On seeing a young dandy, "There," quoth he, "is a four-square Hermes for you, with trailing robe, belly, beard and  p537 all."​5 When men are haughty and arrogant, he declared we should cut down their tall stature and leave them their spirit unimpaired. Children should honour their parents at home, out‑of-doors everyone they meet, and in solitude themselves. [link to original Greek text] 83 In prosperity friends do not leave you unless desired, whereas in adversity they stay away of their own accord. All these sayings seem to be set down to his credit.

There have been twenty noteworthy men called Demetrius: (1) a rhetorician of Chalcedon, older than Thrasymachus; (2) the subject of this notice; (3) a Peripatetic of Byzantium; (4) one called the graphic writer, clear in narrative; he was also a painter; (5) a native of Aspendus, a pupil of Apollonius of Soli; (6) a native of Callatis, who wrote a geography of Asia and Europe in twenty books; (7) a Byzantine, who wrote a history of the migration of the Gauls from Europe into Asia in thirteen books, and another work in eight books dealing with Antiochus and Ptolemy and their settlement of Libya; [link to original Greek text] 84 (8) the sophist who lived at Alexandria, author of handbooks of rhetoric; (9) a grammarian of Adramyttium, surnamed Ixion because he was thought to be unjust to Hera; (10) a grammarian of Cyrene, surnamed Wine‑jar, an eminent man; (11) a native of Scepsis, a man of wealth and good birth, ardently devoted to learning; he was also the means of bringing his countryman Metrodorus into prominence; (12) a grammarian of Erythrae enrolled as a citizen of  p539 Mnos; (13) a Bithynian, son of Diphilus the Stoic and pupil of Panaetius of Rhodes; [link to original Greek text] 85 (14) a rhetorician of Smyrna. The foregoing were prose authors. Of poets bearing this name the first belonged to the Old Comedy; the second was an epic poet whose lines to the envious alone survive:

While he lives they scorn the man whom they regret when he is gone; yet, some day, for the honour of his tomb and lifeless image, contention seizes cities and the people set up strife;

the third of Tarsus, writer of satires; the fourth, a writer of lampoons, in a bitter style; the fifth, a sculptor mentioned by Polemo; the sixth, of Erythrae, a versatile man, who also wrote historical and rhetorical works.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 324 B.C.

2 The first sentence is paralleled by Aelian, Var. Hist. XII.43 Δημήτριον δὲ τὸν Φαληρέα οἰκότριβα γενέσθαι λέγουσιν ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας τῆς Τιμοθέου καὶ Κόνωνος. The insertion of this reference to the family of Conon has had the effect of separating two clauses which ought to be closely joined: καθάπερ οὐκ εὐγενὴς ὢν (the last words of § 75) and ἀστῇ καὶ εὐγενεῖ (in § 76). Hesychius in Suidas emphasizes the beauty of Demetrius. In a modern book the statement that, according to Favorinus, Demetrius was in Conon's family would find a more suitable place in a footnote.

3 Anth. Pal. VII.113.

4 "Of the Beam in Sky." Some render this "Of Opinion," but the word used in this sense is δόκησις: cf. Schäf. Schol. Par. Ap. Rh. II.1088.

5 Since Herms at Athens show neither drapery nor belly, but archaic hair, this saying would seem either to be incorrectly reported or to need a fresh interpretation. It has been suggested that a long lock pendent over the shoulder may lurk under σύρμα (cf.  Anth. Pal. V.13.2 σύρμα μένει πλοκάμων, and Ael. Var. Hist. XII.14 τὴν μὲν γὰρ κόμην ἀνασεσύρθαι), or that a Herm might sometimes have been made by cutting down a larger, draped, statue; or perhaps on festal days Herms were decked with robes. In Stobaeus, Flor. IV.68, Philip is credited with a sneer to the same effect on Athenians at large.

Thayer's Note:

a ἀμίδας, chamber-pots.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 28 Aug 18