Diogenes Laértius - Encyclopedia




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DIOGENES LAERTIUS (or LAllRTIUS DIOGENES), the biographer of the Greek philosophers, is supposed by some to have received his surname from the town of Laerte in Ciicia, and by others from the Roman family of the Lartii. Of the circum- stances of his life we know nothing. He must have lived after Sextus Empiricus (c. A.D. 200), whom he mentions, and before Stephanus of Byzantium (. A.D. 500), who quotes him. It is probable that he flourished during the reign of Alexander Severus (A.D. 222235) and his successors. His own opinions are equally uncertain. By some he was regarded as a Christian; but it seems more probable that he was an. Epicurean. The work by which he is known professes to give an account of the lives and sayings of the Greek philosophers. Although it is at best an. uncritical and unphilosophical compilation, its value, as giving us an insight into the private life of the Greek sages, justly led Montaigne to exclaim that he wished that instead of one Lartius there had been a dozen. He treats his subject in two divisions which he describes as the lonian and the Italian schools; the division is quite unscientific. The biographies of the former begin with Anaximander, and end with Clitomachus, Theophrastus and Chrysippus; the latter begins with Pythagoras, and ends with Epicurus. The Socratic school, with its various branches, is classed with the Ionic; while the Eleatics and sceptics are treated under the Italic. The whole of the last book is devoted to Epicurus, and contains three most interesting letters addressed to Herodotus, Pythocles and Menoeceus. His chief authorities were Diodes of Magnesias Cursory Notice (Eiri~pou,~) of Pubsophers and Favorinuss Miscellaneous History and Memoirs. From ,the statements of Burlaeus (Walter Burley, a 14th-Century monk) in his De vita el moribus philosophorum the text of Diogenes seems to have been much fuller than that which we now possess. In addition to the Lives, Diogenes was the author of awork in verse on famous men, in various metres.

BIBLi0G1tAPEY.Editio princeps (1533); H. Hubner and C. Jacobitz with commentary (1828-1833); C. G. Cobet (1850), text only. See F. Nietzsche, De Diogenis Lartii fontibus in Rheinisches Museum, xxiii., xxiv. (1868-1869); J. Freudenthal, Zu Quellenkunde Diog. Laert., in Hellenistische Studien, iii. (1879); 0. Maass, De biographis Graccis (1880); V. Egger, De fontibus Diog. Lairt. (1881). There is an English translation by C. D. Yonge in Bohns Classical Library.

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