Dog-Food and Autodidacticism: A Philosopher’s Death Scene

Diogenes Laertius on the Death and Early Childhood of Heraclitus 9.4-5

“Hermippos reports that he asked the doctors if anyone could dry his condition by emptying out his intestines. When they said they could not, he went out in the sun and ordered his servants to cover him with cow dung. He died the next day, stretched out in this way, and was buried in the market. Neanthes from Cyzicos claims that when he was incapable of peeling off the dung he stayed in place and, because he was unrecognizable in this shape, became dog-food.

Heraclitus was a wonder from a young age. As a youth he used to claim that he knew nothing, but when he was older he claimed he knew everything. He was the student of no one but used to claim “I inquired and learned everything from myself.”


῞Ερμιππος δέ φησι (FHG iii. 42) λέγειν αὐτὸν τοῖς ἰατροῖς εἴ τις δύναται ἔντερα κεινώσας ὑγρὸν ἐξερᾶσαι· ἀπειπόντων δέ, θεῖναι αὑτὸν εἰς τὸν ἥλιον καὶ κελεύειν τοὺς παῖδας βολίτοις καταπλάττειν· οὕτω δὴ κατατεινόμενον δευτεραῖον τελευτῆσαι  καὶ θαφθῆναι ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ. Νεάνθης δ’ ὁ Κυζικηνός φησι (FGrH

84 F 25) μὴ δυνηθέντα αὐτὸν ἀποσπάσαι τὰ βόλιτα μεῖναι καὶ διὰ τὴν μεταβολὴν ἀγνοηθέντα κυνόβρωτον γενέσθαι.

Γέγονε δὲ θαυμάσιος ἐκ παίδων, ὅτε καὶ νέος ὢν ἔφασκε μηδὲν εἰδέναι, τέλειος μέντοι γενόμενος πάντα ἐγνωκέναι· ἤκουσέ τ’ οὐδενός, ἀλλ’ αὑτὸν ἔφη (DK 22 B 101) διζήσασθαι καὶ μαθεῖν πάντα παρ’ ἑαυτοῦ.

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