Phaedo, Diogenes and Epictetus Were Slaves, Then Philosophers

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 2.18

“On the fact that the Socratic Phaedo was a slave and that others also served as the same

Phaedo of Elis, a member of Socrates’s and Plato’s circle and very close to both of them, was a slave. (Plato used his name for that divine dialogue concerning the immortality of the soul.) This Phaedo, though a slave, was by birth free and noble and, as some have written, was forced as a boy into prostitution. Cebes, also of the Socratic circle, is reported to have purchased him at Socrates’ urging and to have exposed him to philosophical training. Later he became a famous philosopher and his fine writings on Socrates are still read.

There are many other slaves who later became famous philosophers including that Menippus whose books Marcus Varro imitated with the satires some call “Cynic” but he called “Menippean”. In addition to these two men, Pompylus, the slave of the Peripatetic Theophrastus, and Zeno the Stoic’s slave who was named Persaeus, and Epicurus’ slave, Mys, all lived as famous philosophers.

Diogenes the Cynic also lived as a slave—but he was sold into servitude from freedom. When Xeniades of Corinth wanted to purchase him and inquired what his skills were, Diogenes answered, “I know how to rule free men.” Then Xeniades, because he admired the answer, purchased him and entrusted him with his children, saying “Take my children to rule”.

The fact that Epictetus, the noble philosopher, was also a slave is too recent a memory to record as if it had been forgotten.”

Image result for epictetus

XVIII. Quod Phaedon Socraticus servus fuit; quodque item alii complusculi servitutem servierunt. 1 Phaedon Elidensis ex cohorte illa Socratica fuit Socratique et Platoni per fuit familiaris. 2Eius nomini Plato librum illum divinum de immortalitate animae dedit. 3 Is Phaedon servus fuit forma atque ingenio liberali et, ut quidam scripserunt, a lenone domino puer ad merendum coactus. 4 Eum Cebes Socraticus hortante Socrate emisse dicitur habuisseque in philosophiae disciplinis. 5 Atque is postea philosophus inlustris fuit, sermonesque eius de Socrate admodum elegantes leguntur. 6 Alii quoque non pauci servi fuerunt, qui post philosophi clari exstiterunt. 7 Ex quibus ille Menippus fuit, cuius libros M. Varro in saturis aemulatus est, quas alii “cynicas”, ipse appellat “Menippeas”. 8 Sed et Theophrasti Peripatetici servus Pompylus et Zenonis Stoici servus, qui Persaeus vocatus est, et Epicuri, cui Mys nomen fuit, philosophi non incelebres vixerunt. 9 Diogenes etiam Cynicus servitutem servivit. Sed is ex libertate in servitutem venum ierat. Quem cum emere vellet Xeniades Korinthios, ecquid artificii novisset, percontatus “novi” inquit Diogenes “hominibus liberis imperare”. 10 Tum Xeniades responsum eius demiratus emit et manu emisit filiosque suos ei tradens: “accipe” inquit “liberos meos, quibus imperes”. De Epicteto autem philosopho nobili, quod is quoque servus fuit, recentior est memoria, quam ut scribi quasi oblitteratum debuerit.

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