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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF ZENO, THE ELEATIC



I. ZENO was a native of Elea. Apollodorus, in his Chronicles, says that he was by nature the son of Teleutagoras, but by adoption the son of Parmenides.

II. Timon speaks thus of him and Melissus:--

Great is the strength, invincible the might
Of Zeno, skilled to argue on both sides
Of any question, th' universal critic;
And of Melissus too. They rose superior
To prejudice in general; only yielding
To very few.

And Zeno had been a pupil of Parmenides, and had been on other accounts greatly attached to him.

III. He was a tall man, as Plato tells us in his Parmenides, and the same writer, in his Phaedrus, calls him also the Eleatic Palamedes.

IV. Aristotle, in his Sophist, says that he was the inventor of dialectics, as Empedocles was of rhetoric. And he was a man of the greatest nobleness of spirit, both in philosophy and in politics. There are also many books extant, which are attributed to him, full of great learning and wisdom.

V. He, wishing to put an end to the power of Nearches, the tyrant (some, however, call the tyrant Diomedon), was arrested, as we are informed by Heraclides, in his abridgment of Satyrus. And when he was examined, as to his accomplices, and as to the arms which he was taking to Lipara, he named all the friends of the tyrant as his accomplices, wishing to make him feel himself alone. And then, after he had mentioned some names, he said that he wished to whisper something privately to the tyrant; and when he came near him he bit him, and would not leave his hold till he was stabbed. And the same thing happened to Aristogiton, the tyrant slayer. But Demetrius, in his treatise on People of the same Name, says that it was his nose that he bit off.

Moreover, Antisthenes, in his Successions, says that after he had given him information against his friends, he was asked by the tyrant if there was any one else. And he replied, "Yes, you, the destruction of the city." And that he also said to the bystanders, "I marvel at your cowardice, if you submit to be slaves to the tyrant out of fear of such pains as I am now enduring." And at last he bit off his tongue and spit it at him; and the citizens immediately rushed forward, and slew the tyrant with stones. And this is the account that is given by almost every one.

But Hermippus says, that he was put into a mortar, and pounded to death. And we ourselves have written the following epigram on him:

Your noble wish, O Zeno, was to slay
A cruel tyrant, freeing Elea
From the harsh bonds of shameful slavery,
But you were disappointed; for the tyrant
Pounded you in a mortar. I say wrong,
He only crushed your body, and not you.

VI. And Zeno was an excellent man in other respects: and he was also a despiser of great men in an equal degree with Heraclitus; for he, too, preferred the town which was formerly called Hyele, and afterwards Elea, being a colony of the Phocaeans, and his own native place, a poor city possessed of no other importance than the knowledge of how to raise virtuous citizens, to the pride of the Athenians; so that he did not often visit them, but spent his life at home.

VII. He, too, was the first man who asked the question called Achilles,1 though Favorinus attributes its first use to Parmenides, and several others.

VIII. His chief doctrines were, that there were several worlds, and that there was no vacuum; that the nature of all things consisted of hot and cold, and dry and moist, these elements interchanging their substances with one another; that man was made out of the earth, and that his soul was a mixture of the before-named elements in such a way that no one of them predominated.

IX. They say that when he was reproached, he was indignant; and that when some one blamed him, he replied, "If when I am reproached, I am not angered, then I shall not be pleased when I am praised."

X. We have already said in our account of the Cittiaean, that there were eight Zenos; but this one flourished about the seventy-ninth Olympiad.





1. See the life of Parmenides.










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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