Five Guys Named Thales

As I have written before, I like the Classics thought game of trading some extant piece of literature for something we have allegedly lost (of roughly the same length, importance, or genre). Playing this game well, of course, requires knowing what is lost. Sometimes, I read Diogenes Laertius just for the names of the lost works. There is an elegant beauty in them. I suppose the work mentioned in this passage would probably be boring, but I would still read it.

Vita Philosophorum: Thales 1.38

“There were other people named Thales, as Demetrius the Magnesian writes in his On People with the Same Name, five of them: the orator from Kallatia, who had a difficult style; a painter from Sikyon who was quite talented. The third was really old, from around the time of Hesiod and Homer. Duris mentions the fourth in his On Painting. The fifth was more recent and not well known, but he is mentioned by Dionysus in his Criticisms.

Γεγόνασι δὲ καὶ ἄλλοι Θαλαῖ, καθά φησι Δημήτριος ὁ Μάγνης ἐν τοῖς Ὁμωνύμοις, πέντε· ῥήτωρ Καλλατιανός, κακόζηλος·ζωγράφος Σικυώνιος, μεγαλοφυής·τρίτος ἀρχαῖος πάνυ, κατὰ Ἡσίοδον καὶ Ὅμηρον καὶ Λυκοῦργον· τέταρτος οὗ μέμνηται Δοῦρις ἐν τῷ Περὶζωγραφίας· πέμπτος νεώτερος, ἄδοξος, οὗ μνημονεύει Διονύσιος ἐν Κριτικοῖς.


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6 thoughts on “Five Guys Named Thales

  1. Last week I was in London. I went to the Keats house- and was moved to see the original Manuscript of arguably the most beautiful poem in the language- Ode to a Nightgale. Now, looking closely at the beautiful rapture of his script, I noticed that the title in the original Manuscript is “Ode To The Nightgale”- not the current “Ode to a Nightingale”-. It was curious- perhaps the reason for the change is lost before the first edition- perhaps Charles Brown, if not Keats himself, made the change- but Keats was nearly gone to us- lost in the first raptures of the quick consumption at the time, with death less than a year away, and Brown had allegedly found the manuscript placed in the back of one of Keats’ notebooks. Has the original title been lost to us ?

    Then another sense of something lost- not the sense of loss Keats must have felt after comforting his brother in the last months of his consumption- but- in his upstairs bedroom there is a sketch of Keats dying, and a note on the bed that tells us his words upon discovering arterial blood in his plegm. I wept at this. Sadly, in this bloodless time in poetics, this emotion- weeping- or any emotion is lost- and discouraged- however not lost to me.

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