From Chapter VI., Anaxagoras of Klazomenai
123. Anaxagoras at Athens
Anaxagoras is said to have been the teacher of Perikles, and the fact is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the testimony of Plato. In the Phaedrus15 he makes Sokrates say: "For all arts that are great, there is need of talk and discussion on the parts of natural science that deal with things on high; for that seems to be the source which inspires high-mindedness and effectiveness in every direction. Perikles added this very acquirement to his original gifts. He fell in, it seems, with Anaxagoras, who was a scientific man; and, satiating himself with the theory of things on high, and having attained to a knowledge of the true nature of mind and intellect, which was just what the discourses of Anaxagoras were mainly about, he drew from that source whatever was of a nature to further him in the art of speech." This clearly means that Perikles associated with Anaxagoras before he became a prominent politician. So too Isokrates says that Perikles was the pupil of two "sophists," Anaxagoras and Damon.16 There can be no doubt that the teaching of Damon belongs to the youth of Perikles,17 and it is to be inferred that the same is true of that of Anaxagoras.
A more difficult question is the alleged relation of Euripides to Anaxagoras. The oldest authority for it is Alexander of Aitolia, poet and librarian, who lived at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphos (c. 280 B.C.). He referred to Euripides as the "nursling of brave Anaxagoras."18 The famous fragment on the blessedness of the scientific life might just as well refer to any other cosmologist as to Anaxagoras, and indeed suggests more naturally a thinker of a more primitive type.19 On the other hand, it is likely enough that Anaxagoras did not develop his system all at once, and he doubtless began by teaching that of Anaximenes. Besides there is one fragment which distinctly expounds the central thought of Anaxagoras, and could hardly be referred to any one else.20
14. That might explain the charge of "Medism" which was perhaps brought against him at his trial (§ 124). It is also perhaps, significant that Apollodoros (and probably Demetrios of Phaleron) spoke of him as twenty years old κατὰ τὴν Ξέρξου διάβασιν, which means, of course, the crossing of the Hellespont, and would hardly be relevant if Anaxagoras had not been with Xerxes then. It is certainly difficult to see what else could bring a young Klazomenian to Athens at that date.
15. 270 a (R. P. 148 c).
16. Isokrates, Περὶ ἀντιδόσεως, 235. Περικλῆς δὲ δυοῖν (σοφισταῖν) ἐγένετο μαθητής, Ἀναξαγόρου τε τοῦ Κλαζομενίου καὶ Δάμωνος..
17. Damon (or Damonides) must have been politically active about 460 B.C. (Meyer, Gesch. des Altert. iii. 567; Wilamowitz, Aristoteles and Athen, i. 134) so that he must have been born about 500 B.C. He was ostracised before 443 B.C. according to Meyer, and an ostrakon with the name of Damon son of Damonides has been found (Brckner, Arch. Anx., 1914, P. 95). If we suppose that he was ostracised in 445 and returned in 435, his subsequent relations with Sokrates are quite natural. Plato can hardly have known him personally. On the whole subject, see Rosenberg in Neue Jahrb. xxxv. p. 205 sqq.
18. Gell. xv. 20, "Alexander autem Aetolus hos de Euripide versus composuit"; ὁ δ' Ἀναξαγόρου τρόφιμος χαιοῦ (so Valckenaer for ἀρχαίου) κτλ..
19. See Introd. p. 10, n. 3.
20. R. P. 150 b.
Created for Peithô's Web from Early Greek Philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition (1920). London: A & C Black Ltd. Burnet's footnotes have been converted to chapter endnotes. Greek unicode text entered with Peithô's Younicoder.
Web design by Larry Clark and RSBoyes (Agathon). Peithô's Web gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Anthony Beavers in the creation of this web edition of Burnet. Please send comments to: