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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF STILPO



I. STILPO, a native of Megara in Greece, was a pupil of some of Euclides' school. But some say that he was a pupil of Euclides himself. And also of Thrasymachus, the Corinthian, who was a friend of Icthyas, as Heraclides informs us.

II. And he was so much superior to all his fellows in command of words and in acuteness, that it may almost be said that all Greece fixed its eyes upon him, and joined the Megaric school. And concerning him Philippus of Megara speaks thus, word for word: "For he carried off from Theophrastus, Metrodorus the speculative philosopher, and Timagoras of Gela; and Aristotle the Cyrenaic, he robbed of Clitarchus and Simias; and from the dialecticians' school also he won men over, carrying off Poeoneius from Aristides, and Dippilus of the Bosphorus from Euphantus, and also Myrmex of the Venites, who had both come to him to argue against him, but they became converts and his disciples." And besides these men, he attracted to his school Phrasidemus the Peripatetic, a natural philosopher of great ability; and Alcimus the rhetorician, the most eminent orator in all Greece at that time; and he won over Crates, and great numbers of others, and among them Zeno the Phoenician.

III. And he was very fond of the study of politics. And he was married. But he lived also with a courtesan, named Nicarete, as Onetor tells us somewhere. And he had a licentious daughter, who was married to a friend of his named Simias, a citizen of Syracuse. And as she would not live in an orderly manner, some one told Stilpo that she was a disgrace to him. But he said, "She is not more a disgrace to me than I am an honour to her."

IV. Ptolemy Soter, it is said, received him with great honour; and when he had made himself master of Megara, he gave him money, and invited him to sail with him to Egypt. But he accepted only a moderate sum of money, and declined the journey proposed to him, but went over to Aegina, until Ptolemy had sailed. Also when Demetrius, the son of Antigonus had taken Megara, he ordered Stilpo's house to be saved, and took care that everything that had been plundered from him should be restored to him. But when he wished Stilpo to give him in a list of all that he had lost, he said that he had lost nothing of his own; for that no one had taken from him his learning, and that he still had his eloquence and his knowledge. And he conversed with Demetrius on the subject of doing good to men with such power, that he became a zealous hearer of his.

V. They say that he once put such a question as this to a man, about the Minerva of Phidias: "Is Minerva the Goddess the daughter of Jupiter?" And when the other said, "Yes;" "But this," said he, "is not the child of Jupiter, but of Phidias." And when he agreed that it was so- "This then," he continued, "is not a God." And when he was brought before the Areopagus for this speech, he did not deny it, but maintained that he had spoken correctly; for that she was not a God (theos) but a Goddess (thea); for that Gods were of the male sex only.1 However the judges of the Areopagus ordered him to leave the city; and on this occasion, Theodorus, who was nicknamed theos, said in derision, "Whence did Stilpo learn this? and how could he tell whether she was a God or a Goddess?" But Theodorus was in truth a most impudent fellow. But Stilpo was a most witty and elegant-minded man. Accordingly when Crates asked him if the Gods delighted in adoration and prayer; they say that he answered, "Do not ask these questions, you foolish man, in the road, but in private." And they say too that Bion, when he was asked whether there were any Gods, answered in the same spirit:

"Will you not first, O! miserable old man, Remove the multitude?"

VI. But Stilpo was a man of simple character, and free from all trick and humbug, and universally affable. Accordingly, when Crates the Cynic once refused to answer a question that he had put to him, and only insulted his questioner-- "I knew," said Stilpo, " that he would say anything rather than what he ought." And once he put a question to him, and offered him a fig at the same time; so he took the fig and ate it, on which Crates said "O Hercules I have lost my fig." "Not only that," he replied, "but you have lost your question too, of which the fig was the pledge." At another time, he saw Crates shivering in the winter, and said to him, "Crates, you seem to me to want a new dress," meaning, both a new mind and a new garment; and Crates, feeling ashamed, answered him in the following parody:

"There2 Stilpo too, through the Megarian bounds,
Pours out deep groans, where Syphon's voice resounds,
And there he oft doth argue, while a school
Of eager pupils owns his subtle rule,
And virtue's name with eager chase pursues."

And it is said that at Athens he attracted all the citizens to such a degree, that they used to run from their workshops to look at him; and when some one said to him, "Why, Stilpo, they wonder at you as if you were a wild beast," he replied, "Not so; but as a real genuine man."

VII. And he was a very clever arguer; and rejected the theory of species. And he used to say that a person who spoke of man in general, was speaking of nobody; for that he was not speaking of this individual, nor of that one; for speaking in general, how can he speak more of this person than of that person? therefore he is not speaking of this person at all. Another of his illustrations was, "That which is shown to me, is not a vegetable; for a vegetable existed ten thousand years ago, therefore this is not a vegetable." And they say that once when he was conversing with Crates, he interrupted the discourse to go off and buy some fish; and as Crates tried to drag him back, and said, "You are leaving the argument;" "Not at all," he replied," "I keep the argument, but I am leaving you; for the argument remains, but the fish will be sold to some one else."

VIII. There are nine dialogues of his extant, written in a frigid style: The Moschus; the Cnistippus or Callias; the Ptolemy; the Choerecrates; the Metrocles; the Anaximenes; the Epigenes; the one entitled To my Daughter, and the Aristotle.

IX. Heraclides affirms that Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, had been one of his pupils.

X. Hermippus says that he died at a great age, after drinking some wine, in order to die more rapidly. And we have written this epigram upon him:

Stranger, old age at first, and then disease,
A hateful pair, did lay wise Stilpo low.
The pride of Megara: he found good wine
The best of drivers for his mournful coach,
And drinking it, he drove on to the end.

And he was ridiculed by Sophibus the comic poet, in his play called Marriages:

The dregs of Stilpo make the whole discourse of this Charinus.

1. The quibble here is, that theos is properly only masculine, though it is sometimes used as feminine.

2. The Greek is a parody on the descriptions of Tantalus and Sisyphus. Hom. Od. ii. 581, 592. See also, Dryden's Version, B. ii. 719.










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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