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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF HERACLIDES



I. HERACLIDES was the son of Euthyphron, and was born at Heraclea, in Pontus; he was also a wealthy man.

II. After he came to Athens, he was at first a disciple of Speusippus, but he also attended the schools of the Pythagorean philosophers, and he adopted the principles of Plato; last of all he became a pupil of Aristotle, as we are told by Sotion in his book entitled the Successions.

III. He used to wear delicate garments, and was a man of great size, so that he was nicknamed by the Athenians Pompicus1 instead of Ponticus. But he was of quiet manners and noble aspect.

IV. There are several books extant by him, which are exceedingly good and admirable. They are in the form of dialogue; some being Ethical dialogues; three on the subject of Justice; one on Temperance; five on Piety; one on Manly Courage; one, and a second which is distinct from it, on Virtue; one on Happiness; one on Supremacy; one on Laws and questions connected with them; one on Names; one called Covenants; one called The Unwilling Lover; and the Clinias.

Of the physical dialogues, one is on the Mind; one on the Soul; one on the Soul, and Nature and Appearances; one addressed to Democritus; one on the Heavenly Bodies; one on the State of Things in the Shades below; two on Lives; one on the Causes of Diseases; one on the Good; one on the doctrines of Zeno; one on the Doctrines of Metron.

Of his grammatical dialogues, there are two on the Age of Homer and Hesiod; two on Archilochus and Homer.

There are some on Music too; three on Euripides and Sophocles, and two on Music. There are also two volumes, Solutions of Questions concerning Homer; one on Speculations; one, the Three Tragedians; one volume of Characters; one dialogue on Poetry and the Poets; one on Conjecture; one on Foresight; four, being Explanations of Heraclitus; one, Explanations with reference to Democritus; two books of Solutions of Disputed Points; one, the Axiom; one on Species; one book of Solutions; one of Suppositions; one addressed to Dionysius.

Of rhetorical works, there is the dialogue on the being an Orator, or the Protagoras.

Of historical dialogues, there are some on the Pythagoreans, and on Inventions. Of these, some he has drawn up after the manner of Comic writers; as, for instance, the one about Pleasure, and that about Temperance. And some in the style of the Tragedians, as, for instance, the dialogues on the State of Things in the Shades below; and one on Piety, and that on Supremacy. And his style is a conversational and moderate one, suited to the characters of philosophers and men occupied in the military or political affairs conversing together. Some of his works also are on Geometry, and on Dialectics; and in all of them he displays a very varied and elevated style; and he has great powers of persuasion.

V. He appears to have delivered his country when it was under the yoke of tyrants, by slaying the monarch, as Demetrius of Magnesia tells us, in his treatise on People of the Same Name.

VI. And he gives the following account of him. That he brought up a young serpent, and kept it till it grew large; and that when he was at the point of death, he desired one of his faithful friends to hide his body, and to place the serpent in his bed, that he might appear to have migrated to the Gods. And all this was done; and while the citizens were all attending his funeral and extolling his character, the serpent hearing the noise, crept out of his clothes and threw the multitude into confusion. And afterwards everything was revealed, and Heraclides was seen, not as he hoped to have been, but as he really was. And we have written an epigram on him which runs thus :

You wish'd, O Heraclides, when you died,
To leave a strange belief among mankind,
That you, when dead, a serpent had become.
But all your calculations were deceived,
For this your serpent was indeed a beast,
And you were thus discovered and pronounced another.

And Hippobotus gives the same account.

But Hermippus says that once, when a famine oppressed the land, the people of Heraclea consulted the Pythian oracle for the way to get rid of it; and that Heraclides corrupted the ambassadors who were sent to consult the oracle, and also the priestess, with bribes; and that she answered that they would obtain a deliverance from their distresses, if Heraclides, the son of Euthyphron, was presented by them with a golden crown, and if when he was dead they paid him honours as a hero. Accordingly, this answer was brought back from the oracle to Heraclea, but they who brought it got no advantage from it; for as soon as Heraclides had been crowned in the theatre, he was seized with apoplexy, and the ambassadors who had been sent to consult the oracle were stoned, and so put to death; and at the very same moment the Pythian priestess was going down to the inner shrine, and while standing there was bitten by a serpent, and died immediately. This then is the account given of his death.

VII. And Aristoxenus the musician says, that he composed tragedies, and inscribed them with the name of Thespis. And Chameleon says, that he stole essays from him on the subject of Homer and Hesiod, and published them as his own. And Aretodorus the Epicurean reproaches him, and contradicts all the arguments which he advanced in his treatise on Justice. Moreover, Dionysius, called the Deserter, or as some say Spentharus, wrote a tragedy called Parthenopaeus, and forged the name of Sophocles to it. And Heraclides was so much deceived that he took some passages out of one of his works, and cited them as the words of Sophocles; and Dionysius, when he perceived it, gave him notice of the real truth; and as he would not believe it, and denied it, he sent him word to examine the first letters of the first verses of the book, and they formed the name of Panculus, who was a friend of Dionysius. And as Heraclides still refused to believe it, and said that it was possible that such a thing might happen by chance, Dionysius sent him back word once more, "You will find this passage too:

An aged monkey is not easily caught;
He's caught indeed, but only after a time."

And he added, "Heraclides knows nothing of letters, and has no shame."

VIII. And there were fourteen persons of the name of Heraclides. First, this man of whom we are speaking; the second was a fellow citizen of his, who composed songs for Pyrrhic dances, and other trifles; the third was a native of Cumae, who wrote a history of the Persian war in five books; the fourth was also a citizen of Cumae, who was an orator, and wrote a treatise on his art; the fifth was a native of Calatia or Alexandria who wrote a Succession in six books, and a treatise on Ships, from which he was called Lembos; the sixth was an Alexandrian, who wrote an account of the peculiar habits of the Persians; the seventh was a dialectician of Bargyleia, who wrote against Epicurus; the eighth was a physician, a pupil of Nisius; the ninth was a physician of Tarentum, a man of great skill; the tenth was a poet, who wrote Precepts; the eleventh was a sculptor of Phocaea; the twelfth was an Epigrammatic poet of considerable beauty; the thirteenth was a Magnesian, who wrote a history of the reign of Mithridates; the fourteenth was an astronomer, who wrote a treatise on Astronomy.





1. From pompê, a procession.










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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