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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF ANACHARSIS



I. ANACHARSIS the Scythian was the son of Gnurus, and the brother of Caduides the king of the Scythians; but his mother was a Grecian woman; owing to which circumstance he understood both languages.

II. He wrote about the laws existing among the Scythians, and also about those in force among the Greeks, urging men to adopt a temperate course of life; and he wrote also about war, his works being in verse, and amounting to eight hundred lines: he gave occasion for a proverb, because he used great freedom of speech, so that people called such freedom the Scythian conversation.

III. But Sosicrates says that he came to Athens in the forty-seventh Olympiad, in the archonship of Eucrates. And Hermippus asserts that he came to Solon's house, and ordered one of the servants to go and tell his master that Anacharsis was come to visit him, and was desirous to see him, and, if possible, to enter into relations of hospitality with him. But when the servant had given the message, he was ordered by Solon to reply to him that, "Men generally limited such alliances to their own countrymen." In reply to this Anacharsis entered the house, and told the servant that now he was in Solon's country, and that it was quite consistent for them to become connected with one another in this way. On this, Solon admired the readiness of the man, and admitted him, and made him one of his greatest friends.

IV. But after some time, when he had returned to Scythia, and shown a purpose to abrogate the existing institutions of his country, being exceedingly earnest, in his fondness for Grecian customs, he was shot by his brother while he was out hunting, and so he died, saying, "That he was saved on account of the sense and eloquence which he had brought from Greece, but slain in consequence of envy in his own family." Some, however, relate that he was slain while performing some Grecian sacrificatory rites. And we have written this epigram on him:

When Anacharsis to his land returned,
His mind was turn'd, so that he wished to make
His countrymen all live in Grecian fashion—
So, ere his words had well escaped his lips,
A winged arrow bore him to the Gods.

V. He said that a vine bore three bunches of grapes. The first, the bunch of pleasure; the second, that of drunkenness; the third that of disgust. He also said that he marvelled that among the Greeks, those who were skilful in a thing contend together; but those who have no such skill act as judges of the contest. Being once asked how a person might be made not fond of drinking, he said, "If he always keeps in view the indecorous actions of drunken men." He used also to say, that he marvelled how the Greeks, who make laws against those who behave with insolence, honour Athletae because of their beating one another. When he had been informed that the sides of a ship were four fingers thick, he said, "That those who sailed in one were removed by just that distance from death." He used to say that oil was a provocative of madness, "because Athletae, when anointed in the oil, attacked one another with mad fury."

"How is it," he used to say, "that those who forbid men to speak falsely, tell lies openly in their vintners' shops?" It was a saying of his, that he "marvelled why the Greeks, at the beginning of a banquet, drink out of small cups, but when they have drunk a good deal, then they turn to large goblets." And this inscription is on his statues—"Restrain your tongues, your appetites, and your passions." He was once asked if the flute was known among the Scythians; and he said, "No, nor the vine either." At another time, the question was put to him, which was the safest kind of vessel? and he said, "That which is brought into dock." He said, too, that the strangest things that he had seen among the Greeks was, that "They left the smoke1 in the mountains, and carried the wood down to their cities." Once, when he was asked, which were the more numerous, the living or the dead? he said, "Under which head do you class those who are at sea." Being reproached by an Athenian for being a Scythian, he said, "Well, my country is a disgrace to me, but you are a disgrace to your country." When he was asked what there was among men which was both good and bad, he replied, "The tongue." He used to say "That it was better to have one friend of great value, than many friends who were good for nothing." Another saying of his was, that "The forum was an established place for men to cheat one another, and behave covetously." Being once insulted by a young man at a drinking party, he said, "O, young man, if now that you are young you cannot bear wine, when you are old you will have to bear water."

VI. Of things which are of use in life, he is said to have been the inventor of the anchor, and of the potter's wheel.

VII. The following letter of his is extant:


ANACHARSIS TO CROESUS.

O king of the Lydians, I am come to the country of the Greeks, in order to become acquainted with their customs and institutions; but I have no need of gold, and shall be quite contented if I return to Scythia a better man than I left it. However I will come to Sardis, as I think it very desirable to become a friend of yours.

1. Some propose to read karpon, fruit, instead of kapnon, smoke, here; others explain this saying as meaning that the Greeks avoided houses on the hills in order not to be annoyed with the smoke from the low cottages, and yet did not use coal, but wood, which made more smoke.










Scanned and edited for Peithô's Web from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Some, but not all, of Yonge's spellings of ancient names have been updated.

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