A native of Messana in Sicily. He was a scholar of Aristotle's, and is called a Peripatetic
philosopher by Cicero (De Off.
ii. 5); but, though he wrote some works on
philosophical subjects, he seems to have devoted his attention principally to geography and
statistics. His chief philosophical work was two dialogues on the soul, each divided into
three books, one dialogue (Κορινθιακοί
) being supposed to
have been held at Corinth, the other at Mitylené (Λεσβιακοί
). In these he argued against the existence of the
soul. The greatest performance, however, of Dicaearchus was a treatise on the geography,
politics, and manners of Greece, which he called Βίος
, “The Life of Greece,” a title imitated by Varro in
his Vita Populi Romani.
All the philosophical writings of Dicaearchus are
lost. His geographical works have shared the same fate, except a few fragments. We have
remaining one hundred and fifty verses of his Ἀναγραφὴ τῆς
, or “Description of Greece,” written in iambic
trimeters; and also two fragments of the Βίος Ἑλλάδος
one containing a description of Boeotia and Attica, and another an account of Mount Pelion.
Dicaearchus's maps were extant in the time of Cicero (Ep. ad Att.
Cicero was very fond of the writings of Dicaearchus, and speaks of him in terms of warm
admiration (Ad Att.
ii. 2). In one of the extant fragments Dicaearchus quotes
Posidippus, and must therefore have been alive in B.C. 289. There is an edition of the
fragments of Dicaearchus by Fuhr (Darmstadt, 1841)