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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF DEMETRIUS



I. DEMETRIUS was a native of Phalerus, and the son of Phanostratus. He was a pupil of Theophrastus.

II. And as a leader of the people at Athens he governed the city for ten years, and was honoured with three hundred and sixty brazen statues, the greater part of which were equestrian; and some were placed in carriages or in pair-horse chariots, and the entire number were finished within three hundred days, so great was the zeal with which they were worked at. And Demetrius, the Magnesian, in his treatise on People of the same Name, says that he began to be the leader of the commonwealth, when Harpalus arrived in Athens, having fled from Alexander. And he governed his country for a long time in a most admirable manner. For he aggrandised the city by increased revenues and by new buildings, although he was a person of no distinction by birth.

III. Though Favorinus, in the first book of his Commentaries, asserts that he was of the family of Conon.

IV. He lived with a citizen of noble birth, named Lamia, as his mistress, as the same author tells us in his first book.

V.V. Again, in his second book he tells us that Demetrius was the slave of the debaucheries of Cleon.

VI. Didymus, in his Banquets, says that he was called charitoblepharos, or Beautiful Eyed, and Lampeto, by some courtesan.

VII. It is said that he lost his eye-sight in Alexandria, and recovered it again by the favour of Serapis; on which account he composed the paeans which are sung and spoken of as his composition to this day.

VIII. He was held in the greatest honour among the Athenians, but nevertheless, he found his fame darkened by envy, which attacks every thing; for he was impeached by some one on a capital charge, and as he did not appear, he was condemned. His accusers, however, did not become masters of his person, but expended their venom on the brass, tearing down his statues and selling some and throwing others into the sea, and some they cut up into chamber-pots. For even this is stated. And one statue alone of him is preserved which is in the Acropolis. But Favorinus in his Universal History, says that the Athenians treated Demetrius in this manner at the command of the king; and they also impeached him as guilty of illegality in his administration, as Favorinus says. But Hermippus says, that after the death of Cassander, he feared the enmity of Antigonus, and on that account fled to Ptolemy Soter; and that he remained at his court for a long time, and, among other pieces of advice, counselled the king to make over the kingdom to his sons by Eurydice. And as he would not agree to this measure, but gave the crown to his son by Berenice, this latter, after the death of his father, commanded Demetrius to be kept in prison until he should come to some determination about him. And there he remained in great despondency; and while asleep on one occasion, he was bitten by an asp in the hand, and so he died. And he is buried in the district of Busiris, near Diospolis, and we have written the following epigram on him:

O asp, whose tooth of venom dire was full,
Did kill the wise Demetrius.
The serpent beamed not light from out his eyes,
But dark and lurid hell.

But Heraclides, in his Epitome of the Successions of Sotion, says that Ptolemy wished to transmit the kingdom to Philadelphus, and that Demetrius dissuaded him from doing so by the argument, "If you give it to another, you will not have it yourself." And when Menander, the comic poet, had an information laid against him at Athens (for this is a statement which I have heard), he was very nearly convicted, for no other reason but that he was a friend of Demetrius. He was, however, successfully defended by Telesphorus, the son-in-law of Demetrius.

IX. In the multitude of his writings and the number of lines which they amount to, he exceeded nearly all the Peripatetics of his day, being a man of great learning and experience on every subject. And some of his writings are historical, some political, some on poets, some rhetorical, some also are speeches delivered in public assemblies or on embassies; there are also collections of Aesop's Fables, and many other books. There are five volumes on the Legislation of Athens; two on Citizens of Athens; two on the Management of the People; two on Political Science; one on Laws; two on Rhetoric; two on Military Affairs; two on the Iliad; four on the Odyssey; one called the Ptolemy; one on Love; the Phaedondas, one; the Maedon, one; the Cleon, one; the Socrates, one; the Artaxerxes one; the Homeric, one; the Aristides, one; the Aristomachus, one; the Exhortatory, one; one on the Constitution; one on his Ten Years' Government; one on the Ionians; one on Ambassadors; one on Good Faith; one on Gratitude; one on Futurity; one on Greatness of Soul; one on Marriage; one on Opinion; one on Peace; one on Laws; one on Studies; one on Opportunity; the Dionysius, one; the Chalcidean, one; the Maxims of the Athenians, one; on Antiphones, one; a Historic Preface, one; one Volume of Letters; one called an Assembly on Oath; one on Old Age; one on Justice; one volume of Aesop's Fables; one of Apophthegms. His style is philosophical, combined with the energy and impressiveness of an orator.

X. When he was told that the Athenians had thrown down his statues, he said, "But they have not thrown down my virtues, on account of which they erected them." He used to say that the eyebrows were not an insignificant part of a man, for that they were able to overshadow the whole life. Another of his sayings was that it was not Plutus alone who was blind, but Fortune also, who acted as his guide. Another, that reason had as much influence on government, as steel had in war. On one occasion, when he saw a debauched young man, he said, "There is a square Mercury with a long robe, a belly, and a beard." It was a favourite saying of his, that in the case of men elated with pride one ought to cut something off their height, and leave them their spirit. Another of his apophthegms was, that at home young men ought to show respect to their parents, and in the streets to every one whom they met, and in solitary places to themselves. Another, that friends ought to come to others in good fortune only when invited, but to those in distress of their own accord.

These are the chief sayings attributed to him.

XI. There were twenty persons of the name of Demetrius, of sufficient consideration to be entitled to mention. First, a Chalcedonian, an orator, older than Thrasymachus; the second, this person of whom we are speaking; the third was a Byzantine, a Peripatetic philosopher; the fourth was a man surnamed Graphicus, a very eloquent lecturer, and also a painter; the fifth was a native of Aspendus, a disciple of Apollonius, of Soli; the sixth was a native of Colatia, who wrote twenty books about Asia and Europe; the seventh was a Byzantine, who wrote an account of the crossing of the Gauls from Europe into Asia, in thirteen books, and the History of Antiochus and Ptolemy, and their Administration of the Affairs of Africa, in eight more; the eighth was a Sophist who lived in Alexandria, and who wrote a treatise on Rhetorical Art; the ninth was a native of Adramyttium, a grammarian, who was nick-named Ixion, in allusion to some crime he had committed against Juno; the tenth was a Cyrenean, a grammarian, who was surnamed Stamnus,1 a very distinguished man; the eleventh was a Scepsian, a rich man of noble birth, and of great eminence for learning. He it was who advanced the fortunes of Metrodorus his fellow citizen; the twelfth was a grammarian of Euthyrae, who was made a citizen of Lemnos; the thirteenth was a Bythinian, a son of Diphilus the Stoic, and a disciple of Pamotus of Rhodes; the fourteenth was an orator of Smyrna. All of these were prose writers.

The following were poets:-The first a poet of the Old Comedy. The second an Epic poet, who has left nothing behind him that has come down to us, except these lines which be wrote against some envious people:

They disregard a man while still alive,
Whom, when he's dead, they honour; cities proud,
And powerful nations, have with contest fierce,
Fought o'er a tomb and unsubtantial shade.

The third was a native of Tarsus; a writer of Satires. The fourth was a composer of Iambics, a bitter man. The fifth was a statuary, who is mentioned by Polemo. The sixth was a native of Erythrae, a man who wrote on various subjects, and who composed volumes of histories and relations.2





1. stamnos, means an earthenware jar for wine.

2. The foregoing account hardly does justice to Demetrius, who was a man of real ability, and of a very different class to the generality of those whom the ancients dignified with the title of philosophers. He was called Phalereus to distinguish him from his contemporary Demetrius Poliorcetes. His administration of the affairs of Athens was so successful, that Cicero gives him the praise of having re-established the sinking and almost prostrate power of the republic (Cic. de Rep. ii. 1.). As an orator, he is spoken of by the same great authority with the highest admiration. Cicero calls him "a subtle disputer, not vehement, but very sweet, as a pupil of Theophrastus might be expected to be." (de Off. i. 3). In another place he praises him as possessed of great learning, and as one who "rather delighted than inflamed the Athenians." (de Clav. Orat. 37.) And says, "that he was the first person who endeavoured to soften eloquence, and who made it tender and gentle; preferring to appear sweet as indeed he was, rather than vehement." (Ibid 38.) In another place he says, "Demetrius Phalereus the most polished of all those orators" (he has been mentioning Demosthenes, Hyperides, Lycurgus, Aeschines, and Dinarchus) "in my opinion." (de Orat. ii. 23.) And he praises him for not confining his learning to the schools, but for bringing it into daily use, and employing it as one of his ordinary weapons. (de Leg. iii. 14.) And asks who can be found besides him who excelled in both ways, so as to be pre-eminent at the same time as a scholar, and a governor of a state. (Ibid.) He mentions his death in the oration for Rabirius Postumus, 9. He appears to have died about B.C. 282.










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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