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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. II) Diogenes Laërtius
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers


 p399  Chapter 7
(Perhaps late fifth century)

[link to original Greek text] (84) Philolaus of Croton was a Pythagorean, and it was from him that Plato requests Dion to buy the Pythagorean treatises.​1 He (Dion) was put to death because he was thought to be aiming at a tyranny.​2 This is what we have written upon him:3

Fancies of all things are most flattering;

If you intend, but do not, you are lost,

So Croton taught Philolaus to his cost,

Who fancied he would like to be their king.​4

[link to original Greek text] 85 His doctrine is that all things are brought about by necessity and in harmonious inter-relation. He was the first to declare that the earth moves in a circle,​5 though some say that it was Hicetas of Syracuse.

He wrote one book, and it was this work which, according to Hermippus, some writer said that Plato the philosopher, when he went to Sicily to Dionysius's court, bought from Philolaus's relatives  p401 for the sum of forty Alexandrine​6 minas of silver, from which also the Timaeus was transcribed. Others say that Plato received it as a present for having procured from Dionysius the release of a young disciple of Philolaus who had been cast into prison.

According to Demetrius in his work on Men of the Same Name, Philolaus was the first to publish the Pythagorean treatises, to which he gave the title On Nature, beginning as follows: "Nature in the ordered universe was composed of unlimited and limiting elements, and so was the whole universe and all that is therein."

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Cf.  III.9.

2 The subject of ἐτελεύτα would naturally be Philolaus, and so D. L. understood it; but the original reference was clearly to Dion.

3 Anth. Pal. VII.126.

4 Or in prose: "My chief advice to all men is: to lull suspicion to rest. For even if you don't do something, and people fancy you do, it is ill for you. So Croton, his native land, once put Philolaus to death, fancying he wished to have a tyrant's house."

5 i.e. round the central fire. See T. L. Heath, Aristarchus, 187 sqq.

6 Hermippus (F. H. G. III.42, fr. 25) seems to forget that Alexander was not born until after Plato's death. Cf. VII.18.

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Page updated: 5 Mar 18