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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF TIMON



I. APOLLONIDES, of Nicaea a philosopher of our school, in the first book of his Commentaries on the Silli, which he dedicated to Tiberius Caesar, says that Timon was the son of Timarchus, and a Phliasian by birth. And then, when he was young, he studied dancing, and afterwards he renounced that study, and went to Megara to Stilpo. And having spent some time there, he returned home again and married. Then he came with his wife to Elis, to see Pyrrho, and there he remained while his children were born; the elder of whom, he called Xanthus, and taught him medicine, and left him his successor in his sect of philosophy. And he was a man of considerable eminence, as Sotion tells us in his eleventh book. Afterwards, being in difficulty as to his means, he departed to the Hellespont and the Propontis; and living at Chalcedon as a Sophist, he earned a very high reputation and great popularity; from thence he departed, after having made a considerable fortune, and went to Athens, and remained there till his death, going across once for a short time to Thebes. He was also acquainted with king Antigonus, and with Ptolemy Philadelphus, as he himself testifies in his Iambics.

II. He was, says Antigonus, fond of drinking, and he at times occupied himself with works quite inconsistent with philosophy; for he wrote lyric and epic poems, and tragedies and satiric dramas, and thirty comedies, and sixty tragedies and Silli and amatory poems.

There are works of his also enumerated in a regular catalogue, extending to twenty thousand verses, which are mentioned by Antigonus, of Carystos, who also wrote his life. Of the Silli, there are three volumes; in which he attacks every one as if he were a Sceptic, and especially he lampoons the dogmatic philosophers under the form of parodies. The first volume of these Silli contain a long uninterrupted narration; but the second and third are in the form of dialogues. He is represented in them, as interrogating Xenophanes, the Colophonian, about every thing, and he utters a long continued discourse; in his second book he speaks of the more ancient philosophers; and in his third of the more modern ones; on which account some people have given the last book the name of the epilogue.

But the first book contains the same subjects, with this difference, that in that it is all confined to one single person; and its first line begins thus:

Come hither, all you over-busy Sophists.

III. He died when he was nearly ninety years old, as Antigonus tells us; and Sotion, in his eleventh book, makes the same statement. I have heard it said that he had only one eye, and, indeed, he used to call himself Cyclops.

IV. There was also another Timon, the misanthrope.

V. Now this philosopher was very fond of a garden, and also of solitude, as we are told by Antigonus. Accordingly it is reported, that Hieronymus, the Peripatetic, said of him, as among the Scythians, both they who fly, and they who pursue shoot with the bow, so in the case of the philosophers, those who pursue and those who fly both hunt for pupils, as Timon for instance.

VI. He was a man of very acute perceptions, and very quick at seeing the ridiculous side of any question: he was also very fond of learning, and a very clever man at devising plots for poets, and at composing dramas. And he used to associate with himself, in the composition of his tragedies, two other poets, named Alexander and Homer; and whenever he was disturbed by his maid-servants or by the dogs, he paid no attention to them, studying above all things to live in tranquillity. They tell a story, that Aratus asked him how he could procure an entire and correct copy of Homer's poetry, and he answered, "If he could fall in with an old manuscript which had never been corrected." And all his works used to lie about at random, and at times half eaten by mice; so that once when he was reading them to Zopyrus, the orator, and unrolling a volume, he read whatever passages came first, and when he got to the middle of the book he found a great gap, which he had not previously perceived, so very indifferent was he about such matters.

His constitution was so vigorous, that he could easily go without his dinner. And they say, that once when he saw Arcesilaus passing through the forum of the Cercipes, he said, "What are you doing here, where we freemen are?" And he used constantly to quote to those who invoked the testimony of their intellects to judge of the senses:

Attagas and Numenius are met.1

And this jesting manner was habitual with him. Accordingly he once said to a man, who was surprised at everything, "Why do you not wonder that we three men have only four eyes between us?" for he himself had only one eye, no more had Dioscorides, his pupil; but the man to whom he was speaking had his sight unimpaired. On another occasion, he was asked by Arcesilaus, why he had come from Thebes, and he said, "To laugh at you all when I see you face to face." But though he attacked Arcesilaus in his Silli, he has praised him in the book entitled the Funeral Banquet of Arcesilaus.

VII. He had no successor, as Menodotus tells us; but his school ceased, till Ptolemy the Cyrenean re-established it. According to the account given to us by Hippobotus and Sotion, he had as pupils, Dioscorides of Cyprus, and Nilolochus of Rhodes, and Euphranor of Seleucia, and Pracylus of the Troas, who was a man of such constancy of mind that, as Phylarchus relates in his History, he allowed himself to be punished as a traitor wholly undeservedly, not uttering one word of complaint against his fellow citizens; and Euphranor had for his pupil, Eubulus, of Alexandria, who was the master of Ptolemy, who was the master of Sarpedon and Heraclides. And Heraclides was the master of Aenesidemus, of Cnossus, who wrote eight books of Pyrrhonean discourses; he was also the master of Xeuxippus Polites, who was the master of Zeuxis Gonicpus, who was the master of Antiochus, of Laodicea, in Lycia. Antiochus again, was the master of Menodotus, of Nicomedia, a skilful physician, and of Theodos, of Laodicea; and Menodotus was the master of Herodotus, of Tarsus, the son of Arieus; Herodotus was the master of Sextus Empiricus, who left ten books of Sceptic Maxims, and other excellent works; and Sextus was the master of Saturninus Cythenas, who was also an empiric.

1. That is to say, the harmony between intellect and the senses will not last long. Attagas and Numenius were two notorious brigands.










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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