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

Book V

 p539  Chapter 6
Heraclides (floruit 360 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 86 Heraclides, son of Euthyphro, born at Heraclea in the Pontus, was a wealthy man. At Athens he first attached himself to Speusippus. He also attended the lectures of the Pythagoreans and admired the writings of Plato. Last of all he became a pupil of Aristotle, as Sotion says in his Successions of Philosophers.​1 He wore fine soft clothes, and he was extremely corpulent, which made the Athenians call him Pompicus rather than Ponticus. He was mild and dignified of aspect. Works by him survive of great beauty and excellence. There are ethical dialogues:

 p541  Of Justice, three books.

Of Temperance, one book.

Of Piety, five books.

Of Courage, one book.

Of Virtue in general, one book.

A second with the same title.

Of Happiness, one book.

[link to original Greek text] 87 Of Government, one book.

On Laws, one book, and on subjects kindred to these.

Of Names, one book.

Agreements, one book.

On the Involuntary, one book.

Concerning Love, and Clinias, one book.

Others are physical treatises:

Of Reason.

Of the Soul, and a separate treatise with the same title.

Of Nature.

Of Images.

Against Democritus.

Of Celestial Phenomena, one book.

Of Things in the Under-world.

On Various Ways of Life, two books.

The Causes of Diseases, one book.

Of the Good, one book.

Against Zeno's Doctrines, one book.

A Reply to Metron's Doctrines, one book.

To grammar and criticism belong:

Of the Age of Homer and Hesiod, two books.

Of Archilochus and Homer, two books.

Of a literary nature are:

A work on passages in Euripides and Sophocles, three books.

p543 On Music, two books.

[link to original Greek text] 88 Solutions of Homeric Problems, two books.

Of Theorems, one book.

On the Three Tragic Poets, one book.

Characters, one book.

Of Poetry and Poets, one book.

Of Conjecture, one book.

Concerning Prevision, one book.

Expositions of Heraclitus, four books.

Expositions in Reply to Democritus, one book.

Solutions of Eristic Problems, two books.

Logical Proposition, one book.

Of Species, one book.

Solutions, one book.

Admonitions, one book.

A Reply to Dionysius, one book.

To rhetoric belongs:

Of Public Speaking, or Protagoras.

To history:

On the Pythagoreans.

Of Discoveries.

Some of these works are in the style of comedy, for instance the tracts On Pleasure and On Temperance; others in the style of tragedy, as the books entitled Of those in Hades, Of Piety, and Of Authority.

[link to original Greek text] 89 Again, he has a sort of intermediate style of conversation which he employs when philosophers, generals and statesmen converse with each other. Furthermore, he wrote geometrical and dialectical works, and is, besides, everywhere versatile and lofty in diction, and a great adept at charming the reader's mind.

 p545  It seems that he delivered his native city from oppressions by assassinating its ruler, as is stated in his work on Men of the Same Name by Demetrius of Magnesia, who also tells the following story about him: "As a boy, and when he grew up, he kept a pet snake, and, being at the point of death, he ordered a trusted attendant to conceal the corpse but to place the snake on his bier, that he might seem to have departed to the gods. [link to original Greek text] 90 All this was done. But while the citizens were in the very midst of the procession and were loud in his praise, the snake, hearing the uproar, popped up out of the shroud, creating wild confusion. Subsequently, however, all was revealed, and they saw Heraclides, not as he appeared, but as he really was."

I have written of him as follows:2

You wished, Heraclides, to leave to all mankind a reputation that after death you lived as a snake.​3 But you were deceived, you sophist, for the snake was really a brute beast, and you were detected as more of a beast than a sage.

Hippobotus too has this tale.

[link to original Greek text] 91 Hermippus relates that, when their territory was visited by famine, the people of Heraclea besought the Pythian priestess for relief, but Heraclides bribed the sacred envoys as well as the aforesaid priestess to reply that they would be rid of the calamity if Heraclides, the son of Euthyphro, were crowned with a crown of gold in his lifetime and after his death received heroic honours. The pretended oracle was brought home, but its forgers got nothing by it. For directly Heraclides was crowned in the theatre,  p547 he was seized with apoplexy, whereupon the envoys to the oracle were stoned to death. Moreover, at the very same time the Pythian priestess, after she had gone down to the shrine and taken her seat, was bitten by one of the snakes and died instantly. Such are the tales told about his death.

[link to original Greek text] 92 Aristoxenus the musician asserts that Heraclides also composed tragedies, inscribing upon them the name of Thespis. Chamaeleon complains that Heraclides' treatise on the works of Homer and Hesiod was plagiarized from his own. Furthermore, Autodorus the Epicurean criticizes him in a polemic against his tract Of Justice. Again, Dionysius the Renegade, or, as some people call him, the "Spark," when he wrote the Parthenopaeus, entitled it a play of Sophocles; and Heraclides, such was his credulity, in one of his own works drew upon this forged play as Sophoclean evidence. [link to original Greek text] 93 Dionysius, on perceiving this, confessed what he had done; and, when the other denied the fact and would not believe him, called his attention to the acrostic which gave the name of Pancalus, of whom Dionysius was very fond.​a Heraclides was still unconvinced. Such a thing, he said, might very well happen by chance. To this Dionysius, "You will also find these lines:

a. An old monkey is not caught by a trap.​4

b. Oh yes, he's caught at last, but it takes time."

And this besides: "Heraclides is ignorant of letters and not ashamed of his ignorance."5

Fourteen persons have borne the name of Heraclides: (1) the subject of this notice; (2) a fellow-citizen of his, author of Pyrrhic verses and tales;  p549 (3) a native of Cyme, who wrote of Persia in five books; (4) another native of Cyme, who wrote rhetorical textbooks; (5) of Callatis of Alexandria, author of the Succession of Philosophers in six books and a work entitled Lembeuticus, from which he got the surname of Lembus (a fast boat or scout); (6) an Alexandrian who wrote on the Persian national character; (7) a dialectician of Bargylis, who wrote against Epicurus; (8) a physician of the school of Hicesius; (9) another physician of Tarentum, an empiric; (10) a poet who was the author of admonitions; (11) a sculptor of Phocaea; (12) a Ligurian poet, author of epigrams; (13) Heraclides of Magnesia, who wrote a history of Mithradates; (14) the compiler of an Astronomy.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 That Heraclides was a member of the Academy is established beyond all doubt by the fact that he was a candidate for the headship of the School on the death of Speusippus: Index Acad. p38 Mekler. However, not only does Diogenes Laertius make him, on Sotion's authority, a pupil of Aristotle, but Aëtius also seems, III.2.5, to associate him with the Peripatetics (καθάπερ ἀμέλει πάντες οἱ Περιπατητικοί).

2 Anth. Pal. VII.104.

3 Or, reading ἄπαρτι for ἅπασι, "wished to leave a report behind you that immediately after death you became a living snake."

4 We should say, "An old bird is not caught with chaff."

5 Von Arnim's emendation (ὁ δὲ) gives a different turn to the story, viz. "And this besides: 'Heraclides is ignorant of letters.' This made Heraclides blush."

Thayer's Note:

a A bit of mild bowdlerizing. "Who was Dionysius' lover."

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Page updated: 5 Mar 18