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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF XENOPHANES



I. XENOPHANES was the son of Dexius, or, as Apollodorus says, of Orthomenes. He was a citizen of Colophon; and is praised by Timon. Accordingly, he says:

Xenophanes, not much a slave to vanity,
The wise reprover of the tricks of Homer.

He, having been banished from his own country, lived at Zande, in Sicily, and at Catana.

II. And, according to the statements made by some people, he was a pupil of no one; but, as others say, he was a pupil of Boton the Athenian; or, as another account again affirms, of Archelaus. He was, if we may believe Sotion, a contemporary of Anaxemander.

III. He wrote poems in hexameter and in elegiac verse; and also he wrote iambics against Hesiod and Homer, attacking the things said in their poems about the Gods. He also used to recite his own poems. It is said likewise, that he argued against the opinions of Thales and Pythagoras, and that he also attacked Epimenides. He lived to an extreme old age; as he says somewhere himself:

Threescore and seven long years are fully passed,
Since first my doctrines spread abroad through Greece:
And 'twixt that time and my first view of light
Six lustres more must added be to them:
If I am right at all about my age,
Lacking but eight years of a century.

His doctrine was, that there were four elements of existing things; and an infinite number of worlds, which were all unchangeable. He thought that the clouds were produced by the vapour which was borne upwards from the sun, and which lifted them up into the circumambient space. That the essence of God was of a spherical form, in no respect resembling man; that the universe could see, and that the universe could hear, but could not breathe; and that it was in all its parts intellect, and wisdom, and eternity. He was the first person who asserted that everything which is produced is perishable, and that the soul is a spirit. He used also to say that the many was inferior to unity. Also, that we ought to associate with tyrants either as little as possible, or else as pleasantly as possible.

When Empedocles said to him that the wise man was undiscoverable, he replied, "Very likely; or it takes a wise man to discover a wise man." And Sotion says, that he was the first person who asserted that everything is incomprehensible. But he is mistaken in this.

Xenophanes wrote a poem on the Founding of Colophon; and also, on the Colonisation of Elea, in Italy, consisting of two thousand verses. And he flourished about the sixtieth olympiad.

IV. Demetrius Phalereus, in his treatise on Old Age, and Phenaetius the Stoic, in his essay on Cheerfulness, relate that he buried his sons with his own hands, as Anaxagoras had also done. And he seems to have been detested by the Pythagoreans, Parmeniscus, and Orestades, as Phavorinus relates in the first book of his Commentaries.

V. There was also another Xenophanes, a native of Lesbos, and an iambic poet.

These [Heraclitus and Xenophanes] are the Promiscuous or unattached philosophers.










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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