Chapter 9. CARNEADES (c. 213-129 B C.)
Carneades, the son of Epicomus or (according
to Alexander in his
Successions of Philosophers
Philocomus, was a native of Cyrene. He studied
carefully the writings of the Stoics and particularly
those of Chrysippus, and by combating these successfully he became so famous that he would often say:
Without Chrysippus where should I have
The man's industry was unparalleled, although in
physics he was not so strong as in ethics. Hence he
would let his hair and nails grow long from intense
devotion to study. Such was his predominance in
philosophy that even the rhetoricians would dismiss
their classes and repair to him to hear him lecture.
His voice was extremely powerful, so that the
keeper of the gymnasium sent to him and requested
him not to shout so loud. To which he replied,
"Then give me something by which to regulate
my voice." Thereupon by a happy hit the man
replied in the words, "You have a regulator in your
audience." His talent for criticizing opponents was
remarkable, and he was a formidable controversialist.
And for the reasons already given he further declined
invitations to dine out. One of his pupils was Mentor
the Bithynian, who tried to ingratiate himself with
a concubine of Carneades; so on one occasion
(according to Favorinus in his
when Mentor came to lecture, Carneades in the
course of his remarks let fall these lines by way of
parody at his expense:
Hither comes an old man of the sea, infallible, like to
Mentor in person and in voice.1
Him I proclaim to have
been banished from this school.
Thereupon the other got up and replied:
Those on their part made proclamation, and these speedily
He seems to have shown some want of courage in
the face of death, repeating often the words, "Nature
which framed this whole will also destroy it." When
he learnt that Antipater committed suicide by
drinking a potion, he was greatly moved by the
constancy with which he met his end, and exclaimed,
"Give it then to me also." And when those about
him asked "What?" "A honeyed draught," said
he. At the time he died the moon is said to have
been eclipsed, and one might well say that the
brightest luminary in heaven next to the sun thereby
gave token of her sympathy.
According to Apollodorus in his
departed this life in the fourth year of the 162nd
at the age of eighty-five
of his to Ariarathes, king of Cappadocia, are extant.
Everything else was compiled by his pupils; he
himself left nothing in writing. I have written upon
him in logaoedic metre as follows4
Why, Muse, oh why wouldst thou have me censure
Carneades? For he is ignorant who knoweth not how he
feared death. When wasting away with the worst of
diseases, he would not find release. But when he heard
that Antipater's life was quenched by drinking a potion,
"Give me too," he cried, "a draught to drink." "What?
pray what?" "Give me a draught of honeyed wine."
He had often on his lips the words, "Nature which holds
this frame together will surely dissolve it." None the less
he too went down to the grave, and he might have got there
sooner by cutting short his tale of woes.
It is said that his eyes went blind at night without
his knowing it, and he ordered the slave to light the
lamp. The latter brought it and said, "Here it is."
"Then," said Carneades, "read."
He had many other disciples, but the most illustrious of them all was Clitomachus, of whom we have
next to speak.
There was another Carneades, a frigid elegiac poet.