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

 p483  Chapter 2
Theophrastus (c. 370‑286 B.C.)
(Head of the School from 323 B.C.)

[link to original Greek text] 36 Theophrastus was a native of Eresus, the son of Melantes, a fuller, as stated by Athenodorus in the eighth book of his Walks. He first heard his countryman Alcippus lecture in his native town and afterwards he heard Plato, whom he left for Aristotle. And when the latter withdrew to Chalcis he took over the school himself in the 114th Olympiad.​1 A slave of his named Pompylus is also said to have been a philosopher, according to Myronianus of Amastris in the first book of his Historical Parallels. Theophrastus was a man of remarkable intelligence and industry and, as Pamphila says in the thirty-second book of her Memorabilia, he taught Menander the comic poet. [link to original Greek text] 37 Furthermore, he was ever ready to do a kindness and fond of discussion. Casander certainly granted him audience and Ptolemy made overtures to him. And so highly was he valued at Athens that, when Agnonides ventured to prosecute him for impiety, the prosecutor himself narrowly escaped punishment. About 2000 pupils used to attend his lectures. In a letter to Phanias the  p485 Peripatetic, among other topics, he speaks of a tribunal as follows:​2 "To get a public or even a select circle such as one desires is not easy. If an author reads his work, he must re‑write it. Always to shirk revision and ignore criticism is a course which the present generation of pupils will no longer tolerate." And in this letter he has called some one "pedant."

[link to original Greek text] 38 Although his reputation stood so high, nevertheless for a short time he had to leave the country with all the other philosophers, when Sophocles the son of Amphiclides proposed a law that no philosopher should preside over a school except by the permission of the Senate and the people, under penalty of death. The next year, however, the philosophers returned, as Philo had prosecuted Sophocles for making an illegal proposal. Whereupon the Athenians repealed the law, fined Sophocles five talents, and voted the recall of the philosophers, in order that Theophrastus also might return and live there as before. He bore the name of Tyrtamus, and it was Aristotle who re‑named him Theophrastus on account of his graceful style. [link to original Greek text] 39 And Aristippus, in his fourth book On the Luxury of the Ancients, asserts that he was enamoured of Aristotle's son Nicomachus, although he was his teacher. It is said that Aristotle applied to him and Callisthenes what Plato had said of Xenocrates and himself (as already related), namely, that the one needed a bridle and the other a goad; for Theophrastus interpreted all his meaning with  p487 an excess of cleverness, whereas the other was naturally backward. He is said to have become the owner of a garden of his own after Aristotle's death, through the intervention of his friend Demetrius of Phalerum. There are pithy sayings of his in circulation as follows: "An unbridled horse," he said, "ought to be trusted sooner than a badly-arranged discourse." [link to original Greek text] 40 To some one who never opened his lips at a banquet he remarked: "Yours is a wise course for an ignoramus, but in an educated man it is sheer folly." He used constantly to say that in our expenditure the item that costs most is time.

He died at the age of eighty-five, not long after he had relinquished his labours. My verses upon him are these:3

Not in vain was the word spoken to one of human kind, "Slacken the bow of wisdom and it breaks." Of a truth, so long as Theophrastus laboured he was sound of limb, but when released from toil his limbs failed him and he died.

It is said that his disciples asked him if he had any last message for them, to which he replied: "Nothing else but this, that many of the pleasures which life boasts are but in the seeming. [link to original Greek text] 41 For when we are just beginning to live, lo! we die. Nothing then is so unprofitable as the love of glory. Farewell, and may you be happy. Either drop my doctrine, which involves a world of labour, or stand forth its worthy champions, for you will win great glory. Life holds more disappointment than advantage. But, as I can no longer discuss what we ought to do, do you go on with the inquiry into right conduct."  p489 With these words, they say, he breathed his last. And according to the story all the Athenians, out of respect for the man, escorted his bier on foot. And Favorinus tells that he had in his old age to be carried about in a litter;​4 and this he says on the authority of Hermippus, whose account is taken from a remark of Arcesilaus of Pitane to Lacydes of Cyrene.

[link to original Greek text] 42 He too​a has left a very large number of writings. I think it right to catalogue them also because they abound in excellence of every kind. They are as follows:

Three books of Prior Analytics.

Seven books of Posterior Analytics.

On the Analysis of Syllogisms, one book.

Epitome of Analytics, one book.

Two books of Classified Topics.

Polemical discussion on the Theory of Eristic Argument.

Of the Senses, one book.

A Reply to Anaxagoras, one book.

On the Writings of Anaxagoras, one book.

On the Writings of Anaximenes, one book.

On the Writings of Archelaus, one book.

Of Salt, Nitre and Alum, one book.

Of Petrifactions, two books.

On Indivisible Lines, one book.

Two books of Lectures.

Of the Winds, one book.

Characteristics of Virtues, one book.

Of Kingship, one book.

Of the Education of Kings, one book.

Of Various Schemes of Life, three books.

[link to original Greek text] 43 Of Old Age, one book.

On the Astronomy of Democritus, one book.

p491 On Meteorology, one book.

On Visual Images or Emanations, one book.

On Flavours, Colours and Flesh, one book.

Of the Order of the World, one book.

Of Mankind, one book.

Compendium of the Writings of Diogenes, one book.

Three books of Definitions.

Concerning Love, one book.

Another Treatise on Love, one book.

Of Happiness, one book.

On Species or Forms, two books.

On Epilepsy, one book.

On Frenzy, one book.

Concerning Empedocles, one book.

Eighteen books of Refutative Arguments.

Three books of Polemical Objections.

Of the Voluntary, one book.

Epitome of Plato's Republic, two books.

On the Diversity of Sounds uttered by Animals of the same Species, one book.

Of Sudden Appearances, one book.

Of Animals which bite or gore, one book.

Of Animals reputed to be spiteful, one book.

Of the Animals which are confined to Dry Land, one book.

[link to original Greek text] 44 Of those which change their Colours, one book.

Of Animals that burrow, one book.

Of Animals, seven books.

Of Pleasure according to Aristotle, one book.

Another treatise on Pleasure, one book.

Theses, twenty-four books.

On Hot and Cold, one book.

On Vertigo and Dizziness, one book.

On Sweating Sickness, one book.

 p493  On Affirmation and Negation, one book.

Callisthenes, or On Bereavement, one book.

On Fatigues, one book

On Motion, three books.

On Precious Stones, one book.

On Pestilences, one book.

On Fainting, one book.

Megarian Treatise, one book.​b

Of Melancholy, one book.

On Mines, two books.

On Honey, one book.

Compendium on the Doctrines of Metrodorus, one book.

Two books of Meteorology.

On Intoxication, one book.

Twenty-four books of Laws distinguished by the letters of the alphabet.

Ten books of an Epitome of Laws.

[link to original Greek text] 45 Remarks upon Definitions, one book.

Of Smells, one book.

On Wine and Oil.

Introduction to Propositions, eighteen books.

Of Legislators, three books.

Of Politics, six books.

A Political Treatise dealing with important Crises, four books.

Of Social Customs, four books.

Of the Best Constitution, one book.

A Collection of Problems, five books.

On Proverbs, one book.

On Coagulation and Liquefaction, one book.

On Fire, two books.

On Winds, one book.

Of Paralysis, one book.

 p495  Of Suffocation, one book.

Of Mental Derangement, one book.

On the Passions, one book.

On Symptoms, one book.

Two books of Sophisms.

On the solution of Syllogisms, one book.

Two books of Topics.

Of Punishment, two books.

On Hair, one book.

Of Tyranny, one book.

On Water, three books.

On Sleep and Dreams, one book.

Of Friendship, three books.

Of Ambition, two books.

[link to original Greek text] 46 On Nature, three books.

On Physics, eighteen books.

An Epitome of Physics, two books.

Eight books of Physics.

A Reply to the Physical Philosophers, one book.

Of Botanical Researches, ten books.

Of Botanical Causes, eight books.

On Juices, five books.

Of False Pleasure, one book.

One Dissertation on the Soul.

On Unscientific Proofs, one book.

On Simple Problems, one book.

Harmonics, one book.

Of Virtue, one book.

Materials for Argument, or Contrarieties, one book.

On Negation, one book.

On Judgement, one book.

Of the Ludicrous, one book.

Afternoon Essays, two books.

 p497  Divisions, two books.

On Differences, one book.

On Crimes, one book.

On Calumny, one book.

Of Praise, one book.

Of Experience, one book.

Three books of Letters.

On Animals produced spontaneously, one book.

Of Secretion, one book.

[link to original Greek text] 47 Panegyrics on the Gods, one book.

On Festivals, one book.

Of Good Fortune, one book.

On Enthymemes, one book.

Of Discoveries, two books.

Lectures on Ethics, one book.

Character Sketches, one book.

On Tumult or Riot, one book.

On Research, one book.

On Judging of Syllogisms, one book.

Of Flattery, one book.

Of the Sea, one book.

To Casander on Kingship, one book.

Of Comedy, one book.

Of Metres, one book.c

Of Diction, one book.

A Compendium of Arguments, one book.

Solutions, one book.

On Music, three books.

On Measures, one book.

Megacles, one book.

On Laws, one book.

On Illegalities, one book.

A Compendium of the Writings of Xenocrates, one book.

 p499  Concerning Conversation, one book.

On Taking an Oath, one book.

Rhetorical Precepts, one book.

Of Wealth, one book.

On the Art of Poetry, one book.

Problems in Politics, Ethics, Physics, and in the Art of Love, one book.

[link to original Greek text] 48 Preludes, one book.

A Collection of Problems, one book.

On Physical Problems, one book.

On Example, one book.

On Introduction and Narrative, one book.

Another tract on the Art of Poetry, one book.

Of the Wise, one book.

On Consultation, one book.

On Solecisms, one book.

On the Art of Rhetoric, one book.

The Special Commonplaces of the Treatises on Rhetoric, seventeen books.

On Acting, one book.

Lecture Notes of Aristotle or Theophrastus, six books.

Sixteen books of Physical Opinions.

Epitome of Physical Opinions, one book.

On Gratitude, one book.

Character Sketches, one book.d

On Truth and Falsehood, one book.

The History of Theological Inquiry, six books.

Of the Gods, three books.

Geometrical Researches, four books.

[link to original Greek text] 49 Epitomes of Aristotle's work on Animals, six books.

Two books of Refutative Arguments.

Theses, three books.

Of Kingship, two books.

Of Causes, one book.

p501 On Democritus, one book.

Of Calumny, one book.e1

Of Becoming, one book.

Of the Intelligence and Character of Animals, one book.

On Motion, two books.

On Vision, four books.

Relating to Definitions, two books.

On Data, one book.

On Greater and Less, one book.

On the Musicians, one book.

Of the Happiness of the Gods, one book.

A Reply to the Academies, one book.

Exhortation to Philosophy, one book.

How States can best be governed, one book.

Lecture-Notes, one book.

On the Eruption in Sicily, one book.

On Things generally admitted, one book.

On Problems in Physics, one book.f

What are the methods of attaining Knowledge, one book.

On the Fallacy known as the Liar, three books.

[link to original Greek text] 50 Prolegomena to Topics, one book.

Relating to Aeschylus, one book.

Astronomical Research, six books.

Arithmetical Researches on Growth, one book.

Acicharus, one book.

On Forensic Speeches, one book.

Of Calumny, one book.e2

Correspondence with Astycreon, Phanias and Nicanor.

Of Piety, one book.

Evias, one book.

On Times of Crisis, two books.

On Relevant Arguments, one book.

 p503  On the Education of Children, one book.

Another treatise with the same title, one book.

Of Education or of the Virtues or of Temperance, one book.

An Exhortation to Philosophy, one book.g

On Numbers, one book.

Definitions concerning the Diction of Syllogisms, one book.

Of the Heavens, one book.

Concerning Politics, two books.

On Nature.

On Fruits.

On Animals.

In all 232,808 lines. So much for his writings.

[link to original Greek text] 51 I have also come across his will, couched in the following terms:

"All will be well; but in case anything should happen, I make these dispositions. I give and bequeath all my property at home​5 to Melantes and Pancreon, the sons of Leon. It is my wish that out of the trust funds at the disposal of Hipparchus​6 the following appropriations should be made. First, they should be applied to finish the rebuilding of the Museum with the statues of the goddesses, and to add any improvements which seem practicable to beautify them.​7 Secondly, to replace in the temple the bust of Aristotle with the rest of the dedicated offerings which formerly were in the temple. Next, to rebuild the small cloister adjoining the Museum  p505 at least as handsomely as before, and to replace in the lower cloister the tablets containing maps of the countries traversed by explorers. [link to original Greek text] 52 Further, to repair the altar so that it may be perfect and elegant. It is also my wish that the statue of Nicomachus should be completed of life size. The price agreed upon for the making of the statue itself has been paid to Praxiteles, but the rest of the cost should be defrayed from the source above mentioned. The statue should be set up in whatever place seems desirable to the executors entrusted with carrying out my other testamentary dispositions. Let all that concerns the temple and the offerings set up be arranged in this manner. The estate at Stagira belonging to me I give and bequeath to Callinus. The whole of my library I give to Neleus. The garden and the walk and the houses adjoining the garden, all and sundry, I give and bequeath to such of my friends hereinafter named as may wish to study literature and philosophy there in common,​8 [link to original Greek text] 53 since it is not possible for all men to be always in residence, on condition that no one alienates the property or devotes it to his private use, but so that they hold it like a temple in joint possession and live, as is right and proper, on terms of familiarity and friendship. Let the community consist of Hipparchus, Neleus, Strato, Callinus, Demotimus, Demaratus, Callisthenes, Melantes, Pancreon, Nicippus. Aristotle, the son of Metrodorus and Pythias, shall also have the right to study and associate with them if he so desire. And the oldest of them shall pay every attention to him, in order to ensure for him the utmost proficiency in philosophy. Let me be buried in any spot in the garden which seems most suitable,  p507 without unnecessary outlay upon my funeral or upon my monument. [link to original Greek text] 54 And according to previous agreement let the charge of attending, after my decease, to the temple and the monument and the garden and the walk be shared by Pompylus in person, living close by as he does, and exercising the same supervision over all other matters as before; and those who hold the property shall watch over his interests. Pompylus and Threpta have long been emancipated and have done me much service; and I think that 2000 drachmas certainly ought to belong to them from previous payments made to them by me, from their own earnings, and my present bequest to them to be paid by Hipparchus, as I stated many times in conversation with Melantes and Pancreon themselves, who agreed with me. I give and bequeath to them the maidservant Somatale. [link to original Greek text] 55 And of my slaves I at once emancipate Molon and Timon and Parmeno; to Manes and Callias I give their freedom on condition that they stay four years in the garden and work there together and that their conduct is free from blame. Of my household furniture let so much as the executors think right be given to Pompylus and let the rest be sold. I also devise Carion to Demotimus, and Donax to Neleus. But Euboeus must be sold. Let Hipparchus pay to Callinus 3000 drachmas. And if I had not seen that Hipparchus had done great service to Melantes and Pancreon and formerly to me, and that now in his private affairs he has made shipwreck, I would have appointed him jointly with Melantes and Pancreon to carry out my wishes. [link to original Greek text] 56 But, since I saw that it  p509 was not easy for them to share the management with him, and I thought it more advantageous for them to receive a fixed sum from Hipparchus, let Hipparchus pay Melantes and Pancreon one talent each and let Hipparchus provide funds for the executors to defray the expenses set down in the will, as each disbursement falls due. And when Hipparchus shall have carried out all these injunctions, he shall be released in full from his liabilities to me. And any advance that he has made in Chalcis in my name belongs to him alone. Let Hipparchus, Neleus, Strato, Callinus, Demotimus, Callisthenes and Ctesarchus be executors to carry out the terms of the will. [link to original Greek text] 57 One copy of the will, sealed with the signet-ring of Theophrastus, is deposited with Hegesias, the son of Hipparchus, the witnesses being Callippus of Pallene, Philomelus of Euonymaea, Lysander of Hyba, and Philo of Alopece. Olympiodorus has another copy, the witnesses being the same. The third copy was received by Adeimantus, the bearer being Androsthenes junior; and the witnesses are Arimnestus the son of Cleobulus, Lysistratus the son of Pheidon of Thasos, Strato the son of Arcesilaus of Lampsacus, Thesippus the son of Thesippus of Cerameis, and Dioscurides the son of Dionysius of Epicephisia."

Such is the tenor of his will.

There are some who say that Erasistratus the physician was also a pupil of his, and it is not improbable.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 323 B.C.

2 In the extract from the letter Theophrastus seems to be considering the best means of preparing for publication what he has to say, possibly in lecture, before the large class which, as we have just been informed, sometimes numbered 2000. It is difficult to see how this topic can have been worked into a letter on the law courts as such, and there is much to be said for Mr. Wyse's emendation διδασκαλίου. If this be accepted, the whole letter would be about means or subjects of instruction in lecture.

3 Anth. Pal. VII.110.

4 Cf.  a similar statement about Bion, also attributed to Favorinus.

5 i.e. at Eresus.

6 Mentioned below, §§ 53, 54, 55, 56.º We infer that he had been acting as trustee not only for Theophrastus but for the School, which in the eye of the law was a religious foundation.

7 Evidently the Museum had suffered in some recent political troubles, perhaps the second siege of Athens by Demetrius Poliorcetes, 296‑294 B.C. Plut. Demetr. 33, 34; Paus. I.25.8. There was, however, a serious disturbance when Athens revolted from Macedon, 289‑287, for which see Plut. Demetr. 46, and Paus. I.25.2; 26.1 f. This latter event is nearer to the death of Theophrastus in Ol. 123.

8 Cf.  IV. § 70.

Thayer's Notes:

a Diogenes is referring to the many writings of Aristotle, which he has just catalogued in the previous chapter, V.21 ff.

b Diogenes himself gives us a tidbit of the work, in his chapter on Diogenes the Cynic, VI.22.

c The Loeb edition brackets this item, both in the English translation and in the Greek text, without indicating why: but it's a duplicate in the Greek text. This does not show in the English translation, where the second identical title has been translated differently as "On Measures".

d The Loeb edition brackets this item, without indicating why: it duplicates a previous title.

e1 e2 The Loeb edition brackets these items, without indicating why: they duplicate a previous title.

f The Loeb edition brackets this item, without indicating why: presumably because it was felt to duplicate a previous entry — yet the list does not repeat this title, neither in the English translation nor in the original Greek.

g The Loeb edition brackets this item, without indicating why: it duplicates a previous title.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 10 Jul 18