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Xenophanes

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.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Melissus

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

Book IX

 p429  Chapter 3
Parmenides1 [flor. c. 500 B.C.]

[link to original Greek text] 21 Parmenides, a native of Elea, son of Pyres, was a pupil of Xenophanes (Theophrastus in his Epitome makes him a pupil of Anaximander).2 Parmenides, however, though he was instructed by Xenophanes, was no follower of his. According to Sotion3 he also associated with Ameinias the Pythagorean, who was the son of Diochaetas and a worthy gentleman though poor. This Ameinias he was more inclined to follow,  p431 and on his death he built a shrine to him, being himself of illustrious birth and possessed of great wealth; moreover it was Ameinias and not Xenophanes who led him to adopt the peaceful life of a student.

He was the first to declare that the earth is spherical and is situated in the centre of the universe. He held that there were two elements, fire and earth, and that the former discharged the function of a craftsman, the latter of his material. [link to original Greek text] 22 The generation of man proceeded from the sun as first cause; heat and cold, of which all things consist, surpass the sun itself. Again he held that soul and mind are one and the same, as Theophrastus mentions in his Physics, where he is setting forth the tenets of almost all the schools. He divided his philosophy into two parts dealing the one with truth, the other with opinion. Hence he somewhere says:4

Thou must needs learn all things, as well the unshakeable heart of well-rounded truth as the opinions of mortals in which there is no sure trust.5

Our philosopher too commits his doctrines to verse just as did Hesiod, Xenophanes and Empedocles. He made reason the standard and pronounced sensations to be inexact. At all events his words are:6

And let not long-practised wont force thee to tread this path, to be governed by an aimless eye, an echoing ear and a tongue, but do thou with understanding bring the much-contested issue to decision.

[link to original Greek text] 23 Hence Timon7 says of him:8

p433 And the strength of high-souled Parmenides, of no diverse opinions, who introduced thought instead of imagination's deceit.

It was about him that Plato wrote a dialogue with the title Parmenides or Concerning Ideas.

He flourished in the 69th Olympiad.9 He is believed to have been the first to detect the identity of Hesperus, the evening-star, and Phosphorus, the morning-star; so Favorinus in the fifth book of his Memorabilia; but others attribute this to Pythagoras, whereas Callimachus holds that the poem in question was not the work of Pythagoras. Parmenides is said to have served his native city as a legislator: so we learn from Speusippus in his book On Philosophers. Also to have been the first to use the argument known as "Achilles <and the tortoise>": so Favorinus tells us in his Miscellaneous History.

There was also another Parmenides, a rhetorician who wrote a treatise on his art.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Diels (op. cit. p141) compares Hippolytus, Ref. Haer. I.11.1, 2; Plutarch, Strom. 5; Aëtius, I.3.14, IV.9.1, IV.5.12, III.15.7; ultimately from Theophrastus, Phys. Opin. Fr. 6.7, 17.

2 Diels considers this sentence to be a marginal note of an editor referring to Xenophanes, not Parmenides.

3 Sotion would thus appear to separate Parmenides from Xenophanes. Compare note a on p426. Diels conjectures that an epitaph on the Pythagoreans mentioned is the ultimate authority here.

4 Fr. 1.28 D.

5 The text of Parmenides had suffered in the course of time. Here Laertius, like Sextus Empiricus and Plutarch, read εὐπειθέος ἀτρεκὲς; Proclus, two centuries later, εὐφεγγέος; but Simplicius, on De caelo, enables us to go behind our author by citing (as he no doubt would have wished to do) the better reading.

6 Fr. 1.34 D.

7 Fr. 44 D.

8 Cf. Od. XI.601.

9 504‑500 B.C.


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