When He Studied Philosophy, He Dressed Like a Slob

From Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists (Aristocles of Pergamum)

“Aristocles of Pergamum was famous among sophists—I will relate as much as I have heard about him from older men. This man came from a consular rank; although from the time of childhood through adolescence he studied the work of the Peripatetic school, he moved on to the sophists and frequented Herodes’ lectures on extemporaneous speech in Rome. As a student of philosophy,  he was coarse and heedless in appearance, and his clothing was squalid; but as a sophist, he took delicate care—he reformed his squalid ways and introduced into his house the pleasures of the lyre, pipes, and voices as if he had heard them knocking at his door. Although in earlier days he had been rather restrained, now he frequently went to the theater and its great noise.

When he was becoming well-known in Pergamum and all of Greece nearby was fixated with him, Herodes traveled to Pergamum and sent his own students to him—he raised up Aristocles as a vote from Athena would.  His fashion of speech was clear and Attic, but it was readier for set-debate than forensic use—for his speech had no anger or sudden breaks; and his Atticism, if it were to be weighed against Herodes’ speech, would seem rather slight and to lack in weight and sound. Aristocles died when his hair was half-grey, when he was just starting to get old.”


γ′. ᾿Ονομαστὸς ἐν σοφισταῖς καὶ ᾿Αριστοκλῆς ὁ ἐκ τοῦ Περγάμου, ὑπὲρ οὗ δηλώσω, ὁπόσα τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἤκουον· ἐτέλει μὲν γὰρ ἐς ὑπάτους ὁ ἀνὴρ οὗτος, τὸν δὲ ἐκ παίδων ἐς ἥβην χρόνον τοὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ Περιπάτου φιλοσοφήσας λόγους ἐς τοὺς σοφιστὰς μετερρύη θαμίζων ἐν τῇ ῾Ρώμῃ τῷ ῾Ηρώδῃ διατιθεμένῳ σχεδίους λόγους. ὃν δὲ ἐφιλοσόφει χρόνον αὐχμηρὸς δοκῶν καὶ τραχὺς τὸ εἶδος καὶ δυσπινὴς τὴν ἐσθῆτα ἥβρυνε καὶ τὸν αὐχμὸν ἀπετρίψατο ἡδονάς τε, ὁπόσαι λυρῶν τε καὶ αὐλῶν καὶ εὐφωνίας εἰσί, πάσας ἐσηγάγετο ἐπὶ τὴν δίαιταν, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ θύρας αὐτῷ ἡκούσας, τὸν γὰρ πρὸ τοῦ χρόνον οὕτω κεκολασμένος ἀτάκτως ἐς τὰ θέατρα ἐφοίτα καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν τούτων ἠχώ. εὐδοκιμοῦντι δὲ αὐτῷ κατὰ τὸ Πέργαμον κἀξηρτημένῳ πᾶν τὸ ἐκείνῃ ῾Ελληνικὸν ἐξελαύνων ὁ ῾Ηρώδης ἐς Πέργαμον ἔπεμψε τοὺς ἑαυτοῦ ὁμιλητὰς πάντας καὶ τὸν ᾿Αριστοκλέα ἦρεν, ὥσπερ τις ᾿Αθηνᾶς ψῆφος. ἡ δὲ ἰδέα τοῦ λόγου διαυγὴς μὲν καὶ ἀττικίζουσα, διαλέγεσθαι δὲ ἐπιτηδεία μᾶλλον ἢ ἀγωνίζεσθαι, χολή τε γὰρ ἄπεστι τοῦ λόγου καὶ ὁρμαὶ πρὸς βραχὺ αὐτή τε ἡ ἀττίκισις, εἰ παρὰ τὴν τοῦ ῾Ηρώδου γλῶτταν βασανίζοιτο, λεπτολογεῖσθαι δόξει μᾶλλον ἢ κρότου τε καὶ ἠχοῦς ξυγκεῖσθαι. ἐτελεύτα δὲ ὁ ᾿Αριστοκλῆς μεσαιπόλιος, ἄρτι προσβαίνων τῷ γηράσκειν.

The Sayings of Bias According to Diogenes

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 1.85-86

“To become strong is nature’s work. To be able to speak advantages for one’s country is the province of the soul and thought. Fate may bring great wealth to many. He used to say that it is unfortunate to not be able to endure misfortune. It is a sickness of the soul to love the impossible. We must not obsess over another’s troubles. When asked what is difficult, he said “nobly enduring change for the worse.” While he was sailing with some irreverent men, it started to storm. As they were calling upon the gods, he said “be quiet—you don’t want them to know you’re sailing.” When an unholy man asked him what was sacred, he was silent. When the same man asked him the cause of his silence, he said “I am silent because you ask about things that have nothing to do with you.”

When someone asked what is sweet for men, he said “hope”. He used to say that it was sweeter to judge between enemies than friends. For one of the friends will become your enemy after but one of your enemies will become a friend.  When asked what a person delights doing, he said “making money”.

He used to advise us to measure life as if we had both a lot and a little time. And to love people as if they might some day hate them, since most people are bad. He also counselled this: approach deeds slowly, but once you begin an action, pursue it seriously. Don’t chatter quickly: for this marks insanity. Love wisdom. Speak of the gods that they exist. Don’t praise a worthless man because of wealth. Obtain what you want by persuasion not force. Whatever good you accomplish, credit the gods. Take wisdom as your guide from youth to old age: it is more certain than any other possession.”


[86] καὶ τὸ μὲν ἰσχυρὸν γενέσθαι τῆς φύσεως ἔργον: τὸ δὲ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ συμφέροντα τῇ πατρίδι ψυχῆς ἴδιον καὶ φρονήσεως. εὐπορίαν δὲ χρημάτων πολλοῖς καὶ διὰ τύχην περιγίνεσθαι. ἔλεγε δὲ ἀτυχῆ εἶναι τὸν ἀτυχίαν μὴ φέροντα: καὶ νόσον ψυχῆς τὸ τῶν ἀδυνάτων ἐρᾶν, ἀλλοτρίων δὲ κακῶν ἀμνημόνευτον εἶναι. ἐρωτηθεὶς τί δυσχερές, τὴν “ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον,” ἔφη, “μεταβολὴν εὐγενῶς ἐνεγκεῖν.” συμπλέων ποτὲ ἀσεβέσι, χειμαζομένης τῆς νεὼς κἀκείνων τοὺς θεοὺς ἐπικαλουμένων, “σιγᾶτε,” ἔφη, “μὴ αἴσθωνται ὑμᾶς ἐνθάδε πλέοντας.” ἐρωτηθεὶς ὑπὸ ἀσεβοῦς ἀνθρώπου τί ποτέ ἐστιν εὐσέβεια, ἐσίγα. τοῦ δὲ τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς σιγῆς πυθομένου, “σιωπῶ,” ἔφη, “ὅτι περὶ τῶν οὐδέν σοι προσηκόντων πυνθάνῃ.”

6 [87] Ἐρωτηθεὶς τί γλυκὺ ἀνθρώποις, “ἐλπίς,” ἔφη. ἥδιον ἔλεγε δικάζειν μεταξὺ ἐχθρῶν ἢ φίλων: τῶν μὲν γὰρ φίλων πάντως ἐχθρὸν ἔσεσθαι τὸν ἕτερον, τῶν δὲ ἐχθρῶν τὸν ἕτερον φίλον. ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ποιῶν ἄνθρωπος τέρπεται, ἔφη, “κερδαίνων.”

ἔλεγέ τε τὸν βίον οὕτω μετρεῖν ὡς καὶ πολὺν καὶ ὀλίγον χρόνον βιωσομένους, καὶ φιλεῖν ὡς μισήσοντας: τοὺς γὰρ πλείστους εἶναι κακούς. συνεβούλευέ τε ὧδε: βραδέως ἐγχείρει τοῖς πραττομένοις: ὃ δ᾽ ἂν ἕλῃ, βεβαίως τηρῶν διάμενε. μὴ ταχὺ λάλει: μανίαν γὰρ ἐμφαίνει. φρόνησιν ἀγάπα. περὶ θεῶν λέγε, ὡς εἰσίν. ἀνάξιον ἄνδρα μὴ ἐπαίνει διὰ πλοῦτον. πείσας λαβέ, μὴ βιασάμενος. ὅ τι ἂν ἀγαθὸν πράττῃς, εἰς θεοὺς ἀνάπεμπε. ἐφόδιον ἀπὸ νεότητος εἰς γῆρας ἀναλάμβανε σοφίαν: βεβαιότερον γὰρ τοῦτο τῶν ἄλλων κτημάτων.

Two Lives of Homer, One Rather Strange

The first ‘life’ of Homer listed below is extremely strange. The other is a rather short but typical variation on the others. For some additional “lives” see earlier posts.


Life of Homer 7 (Allen; Eustathius Comm. Ad. Od. 1713.17)

“Alexander the Paphian records that Homer was the son of Aithra and Dmasagoras, Egyptians and that his nurse was a prophetess, a certain daughter of Oros, a priest of Isis, from whose breasts once flowed honey into the child’s mouth. Then the child uttered nine voices during the night: a swallow’s, a peacock’s, a dove’s, a crow’s, a partridge’s, a water hen’s, a starling’s, a nightingale’s, and a blackbird’s.

The child was found playing with nine doves on his bed along with the Sybil who was being entertained among the child’s doves and had been inspired to improvise epic lines which began “Dmasagoras, man of much victory…” in which she also addressed Homer’s father as “very-famous” and “prince” and ordered him to build a temple for the nine Pierian Muses. And she was revealing the muses to him [Dmasagoras].Then he did that [what she ordered] and showed the accomplishment to the human child. And thus the poet reverenced the animals he played with as a child and he made the doves carry ambrosia to Zeus.”

᾿Αλέξανδρος δὲ ὁ Πάφιος ἱστορεῖ τὸν ῞Ομηρον υἱὸν Αἰγυπτίων Δμασαγόρου καὶ Αἴθρας· τροφὸν δὲ αὐτοῦ προφῆτίν τινα θυγατέρα ῎Ωρου ἱερέως ῎Ισιδος, ἧς ἐκ τῶνμαστῶν μέλι ῥεῦσαί ποτε εἰς τὸ στόμα τοῦ παιδίου. καὶ τὸ βρέφος ἐν νυκτὶ φωνὰς ἐννέα προέσθαι· χελιδόνος, ταῶνος, περιστερᾶς, κορώνης, πέρδικος, πορφυρίωνος, ψαρός, ἀηδόνος καὶ κοττύφου. εὑρεθῆναί τε τὸ παιδίον μετὰ περιστερῶν ἐννέα παῖζον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης, εὐωχουμένην δὲ παρὰ τοῖς τοῦ παιδὸς τὴν Σίβυλλαν ἐμμανῆ γεγονυῖαν ἔπη σχεδιάσαι, ὧν ἀρχὴ
Δμασαγόρα πολύνικε,

ἐν οἷς καὶ μεγακλεῆ καὶ στεφανίτην αὐτὸν προσειπεῖν, καὶ ναὸν κτίσαι κελεῦσαι ἐννέα Πιερίδων· ἐδήλου δὲ τὰς μούσας. τὸν δὲ καὶ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι καὶ τῷ παιδὶ ἀνδρωθέντι ἐξειπεῖν τὸ πρᾶγμα. καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτω σεμνῦναι τὰ ζῷα οἷς βρέφος ὢν συνέπαιζε, καὶ ποιῆσαι αὐτὰ τῷ Διὶ τὴν ἀμβροσίαν κομίζοντα.


Life of Homer 4 (Allen; 8 Most, Vita Scorialensis 1)
“Homer, the poet, was the son of Maiôn and Hurnetho, according to some. According to others, he was the son of Melês. Others attribute his lineage to Kalliopê the Muse. They say that he was named Melêsigenes or Melianaks, but after he was blinded he was named Homer—for the Aeolians call blind people “Homers”. Some say his country was Smyrna, others say it was Khios; even others say Kolophôn and some claim it is Athens. He traveled around singing his poems. Later, Peisistratos gathered together his poems, as this epigram shows:

The people of Erektheus ran me out of town after I was a tyrant
Three times and took me back three times.
Peisistratos, tremendous in councils, who gathered up
all the Homer that was sung separately before.
That golden one is our citizen
If we believe that Athens founded Smyrna

They say that he died after starving himself due to grief on the island Ios because he could solve the riddle which was posed to him by the fishermen. When he encountered them he asked: “Fisherman from Arcadia, what do you have?”
And they answered: “However much we caught, we left behind; but whatever we didn’t, we bring.”

And written on his gravestome is:

Here the earth covers over this sacred head,
The master of heroic men, godly Homer.”

῞Ομηρος ὁ ποιητὴς υἱὸς ἦν κατὰ μέν τινας Μαίονος καὶ ῾Υρνηθοῦς, κατὰ δ’ ἐνίους Μέλητος τοῦ ποταμοῦ καὶ Κριθηίδος νύμφης. ἄλλοι δ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ γένος εἰς Καλλιόπην τὴν Μοῦσαν ἀναφέρουσιν. φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν Μελησιγένη ἢ Μελησιάνακτα κεκλῆσθαι, τυφλωθέντα δ’ αὐτὸν ὕστερον ῞Ομηρον κληθῆναι· οἱ γὰρ Αἰολεῖς τοὺς τυφλοὺς ὁμήρους καλοῦσιν. πατρίδα δ’ αὐτοῦ οἱ μὲν Σμύρναν, οἱ δὲ Χίον, οἱ δὲ Κολοφῶνα, οἱ δ’ ᾿Αθήνας λέγουσιν. περιιὼν δὲ τὰς πόλεις ᾖδε τὰ ποιήματα. ὕστερον δὲ Πεισίστρατος αὐτὰ συνήγαγεν, ὡς τὸ ἐπίγραμμα τοῦτο δηλοῖ·

τρίς με τυραννήσαντα τοσαυτάκις ἐξεδίωξε
δῆμος ᾿Ερεχθῆος καὶ τρὶς ἐπηγάγετο,
τὸν μέγαν ἐν βουλαῖς Πεισίστρατον ὃς τὸν ῞Ομηρον
ἤθροισα σποράδην τὸ πρὶν ἀειδόμενον·
ἡμέτερος γὰρ κεῖνος ὁ χρύσεος ἦν πολιήτης
εἴπερ ᾿Αθηναῖοι Σμύρναν ἐπῳκίσαμεν.

φασὶ δ’ αὐτὸν ἐν ῎Ιῳ τῇ νήσῳ διὰ λύπην ἀποκαρτερήσαντα τελευτῆσαι διὰ τὸ μὴ λῦσαι τὸ ζήτημα τὸ ὑπὸ τῶν ἁλιέων αὐτῷ προτεθέν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐπιστὰς ἤρετο·
ἄνδρες ἀπ’ ᾿Αρκαδίης ἁλιήτορες ἦ ῥ’ ἔχομέν τι;
οἱ δ’ ἀπεκρίναντο·
ὅσσ’ ἕλομεν λιπόμεσθ’, ὅσα δ’ οὐχ ἕλομεν φερόμεσθα.
ἐπιγέγραπται δ’ ἐν τῷ μνήματι αὐτοῦ
ἐνθάδε τὴν ἱερὴν κεφαλὴν κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτει
ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων κοσμήτορα, θεῖον ῞Ομηρον.

Xenophon and Alexander! — Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists (Introduction, 453)

“Xenophon the philosopher, the only philosopher who blessed philosophy in both word and deed (in respect to words he still exists in letters and writes of moral excellence; and he was the best in deeds, and through his examples he fathered generals. Alexander, I suggest, would not have been great if not for Xenophon), Xenophon says that it is necessary to record the minor deeds of serious men.”

Ξενοφῶν ὁ φιλόσοφος, ἀνὴρ μόνος ἐξ ἁπάντων φιλοσόφων ἐν λόγοις τε καὶ ἔργοις φιλοσοφίαν κοσμήσας (τὰ μὲν ἐς λόγους ἔστι τε ἐν γράμμασι καὶ ἠθικὴν ἀρετὴν γράφει, τὰ δὲ ἐν πράξεσί τε ἦν ἄριστος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐγέννα στρατηγοὺς τοῖς ὑποδείγμασιν• ὁ γοῦν μέγας ᾿Αλέξανδρος οὐκ ἂν ἐγένετο μέγας, εἰ μὴ Ξενοφῶν) καὶ τὰ πάρεργά φησι δεῖν τῶν σπουδαίων ἀνδρῶν ἀναγράφειν.

Speaking of Alexander, the sentiment of this passage reminds me of what Plutarch says in his Life of Alexander.


Plutarch Life of Alexander 1. 2-3

“A brief deed or comment or even some joke often shows the imprint of a man’s character more than battles of a thousand corpses, the greatest campaigns or sieges of cities.”

ἀλλὰ πρᾶγμα βραχὺ πολλάκις καὶ ῥῆμα καὶ παιδιά τις ἔμφασιν ἤθους ἐποίησε μᾶλλον ἢ μάχαι μυριόνεκροι καὶ παρατάξεις αἱ μέγισται καὶ πολιορκίαι πόλεων.

Plutarch, Perikles 1.2



“Since our mind possesses a natural love of knowledge and curiosity, shouldn’t we rebuke people who use it for unworthy things instead of noble and useful pursuits?”


ἆρ’ οὖν, ἐπεὶ φιλομαθές τι κέκτηται καὶ φιλοθέαμον ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ φύσει,λόγον ἔχει ψέγειν τοὺς καταχρωμένους τούτῳ πρὸς τὰ μηδεμιᾶς ἄξια σπουδῆς ἀκούσματα καὶ θεάματα, τῶν δὲ καλῶν καὶ ὠφελίμων παραμελοῦντας;

%d bloggers like this: