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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF ANAXARCHUS



I. ANAXARCHUS was a native of Abdera. He was a pupil of Diogenes, of Smyrna; but, as some say, of Metrodorus, of Chios; who said that he was not even sure that he knew nothing; and Metrodorus was a pupil of Nessus, of Chios; though others assert that he was a disciple of Democritus.

II. Anaxarchus too enjoyed the intimacy of Alexander, and flourished about the hundred and tenth Olympiad, He had for an enemy Nicocreon, the tyrant of Cyprus. And on one occasion, when Alexander, at a banquet, asked him what he thought of the entertainment, he is said to have replied, "O king, everything is provided very sumptuously; and the only thing wanting is to have the head of some satrap served up;" hinting at Nicocreon. And Nicocreon did not forget his grudge against him for this; but after the death of the king, when Anaxarchus, who was making a voyage, was driven against his will into Cyprus, he took him and put him in a mortar, and commanded him to be pounded to death with iron pestles. And then they say that he, disregarding this punishment, uttered that celebrated saying, "Beat the bag of Anaxarchus, but you will not beat Anaxarchus himself." And then, when Nicocreon commanded that his tongue should be cut out, it is said that he bit it off, and spit it at him. And we have written an epigram upon him in the following terms:

Beat more and more; you're beating but a bag;
Beat, Anaxarchus is in heav'n with Jove.
Hereafter Proserpine will rack your bones,
And say, Thus perish, you accursed beater.

III. Anaxarchus, on account of the evenness of his temper and the tranquillity of his life, was called the Happy. And he was a man to whom it was very easy to reprove men and bring them to temperance. Accordingly, he produced an alteration in Alexander who thought himself a God, for when he saw the blood flowing from some wound that he had received, he pointed to him with his finger, and said, "This is blood, and not:

Such stream as issues from a wounded God;
Pure emanation, uncorrupted flood,
Unlike our gross, diseas'd, terrestrial blood."1

But Plutarch says that it was Alexander himself who quoted these lines to his friends.

They also tell a story that Anaxarchus once drank to him, and then showed the goblet, and said:

Shall any mortal hand dare wound a God?




1. Hom. Il. v. 340. Pope's version, 422.










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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