1. A Greek philosopher, a native of Eretria, the son of a man named Cleisthenes, who, though of noble birth, belonging to the family of the Theopropidae, was poor, and worked for a livelihood either as a builder or as a tent-maker, both which trades were learnt and practised by Menedemus.
According to Diogenes Laertius, he seized the opportunity afforded by his being sent on some military service to Megara to hear Plato, and abandoned the army to addict himself to philosophy.
But it may be questioned whether he was old enough to have heard Plato before the death of the latter; if the duration of his life as given by Diogenes is accurate, it would have been impossible, for at the time of Plato's death he would have been only about four years old. Ritter considers the account to have arisen from a confusion of names.
According to the story in Athenaeus (iv. p. 168), he and his friend Asclepiades got their livelihood as millers, working during the night, that they might have leisure for philosophy in the day. Menedemus and his friend Asclepiades afterwards became disciples of Stilpo at Megara. From Megara they went to Elis, and placed themselves under the instruction of some disciples of Phaedo. On his return to Eretria Menedemus established a school of philosophy, which was called the Eretriac.
He did not, however, confine himself to philosophical pursuits, but took an active part in the political affairs of his native city, and came to be the leading man in the state, though at first he had been regarded with contempt and dislike.
He went on various embassies to Ptolemaeus (probably Ptolemaeus Ceraunus), to Lysimachus, and to Demetrius, and seems to have done his native city good service by procuring for it a remission of part of the tribute paid to Demetrius, and opposing the machinations of his emissaries.
At some period of his life he visited Cyprus, and greatly incensed the tyrant Nicocreon by the freedom of his remarks.
The story of his having been in Egypt and having something to do with the making of the Septuagint version, which is found in Aristeas, is no doubt erroneous.
He was in high favour with Antigonus Gonatas, and induced the Eretrians to address to him a public congratulation after his victory over the Gauls.
This led to his being suspected of the treacherous intention of betraying Eretria into the power of Antigonus.
According to one account, these suspicions induced him to quit Eretria secretly and take refuge in the sanctuary of Amphiaraus, at Oropus.
But some golden vessels belonging to the temple having been lost while he was there, the Boeotians compelled him to leave it.
He then betook himself to the court of Antigonus, where he shortly after died of grief.
According to another account, he went from Eretria to Antigonus for the purpose of inducing him to interfere to establish the freedom of his native city; but not succeeding, starved himself to death in the 74th year of his age, probably about the year B. C. 277.
As a teacher, his intercourse with his disciples was marked by the entire absence of all formality and restraint, though he seems to have been noted for the sternness with which he rebuked all kinds or dissoluteness and intemperance; insomuch, that the fear of incurring his censure seems occasionally to have acted as a salutary check.
He lived with his friend Asclepiades, between whom and himself there existed an intimacy which resembled that of Pylades and Orestes. For the latter part of his life, at any rate, he seems to have lived in considerable affluence. Athenaeus (x. p. 419) and Diogenes Laertius give a somewhat curious account of the convivial usages established at his entertainments. Menedemus was twice married.
He and Asclepiades married daughter and mother. His first wife he divorced when he rose to distinction in the government of Eretria, that he might marry one of rank and wealth, though the management of the household was still left to the former wife, whom Asclepiades married, his first wife being dead.
By his wife Oropia, Menedemus had three daughters.
He was remarkable in his old age for his bodily strength and vigour.
He is reported to have been of a somewhat superstitious turn of mind.
Epicrates, in a passage quoted by Athenaeus (ii. p. 59), classes Menedemus with Plato and Speusippus; but it appears, from Diogenes Laertius, that his opinion of Plato and Xenocrates was not very high. Of Stilpo lie had a great admiration.
Of the philosophy of Menedemus little is known, except that it closely resembled that of the Megarian school. [EUCLEIDES.] Its leading feature was the dogma of the oneness of the Good, which he carefully distinguished from the Useful.
All distinctions between virtues he regarded as merely nominal. The Good and the True he looked upon as identical.
In dialectics he rejected all merely negative propositions, maintaining that truth could be predicated only of those which were affirmative, and of these he admitted only such as were identical propositions.
He was a keen and vehement disputant, frequently arguing, if we may believe Antigonus Carystius, as quoted by Diogenes, till he was black in the face.
In his elocution he was not easy to be understood.
He never committed any of his philosophical doctrines to writing. (D. L. 2.125
; Athen. l.c.
; Cic. Academ.
2.42; Plut. De Adul. et Amici Disc.
p. 55c.; Strab. ix. p.393
c.; Ritter, Geschichte der Philosophie,