1. The son of Timarchus of Phlius, a philosopher of the sect of the Sceptics, and a celebrated writer of the species of satiric poems called Silli
), flourished in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, about B. C. 279, and onwards.
A pretty full account of his life is preserved by Diogenes Laertius, from the first book of a work on the Silli (ἐν τῷ πρώτῳ τῶν εἰς τοὺς σίλλους ὑπομνηάτων
) by Apollonides of Nicaea ; and some particulars are quoted by Diogenes from Antigonus of Carystus, and from Sotion (D. L. 9.12
. §§ 109-115). Being left an orphan while still young, he was at first a choreutes
in the theatre, but he abandoned this profession for the study of philosophy, and, having removed to Megara, he spent some time with Stilpon, and then he returned home and married.
He next went to Elis with his wife, and heard Pyrrhon, whose tenets he adopted, so far at least as his restless genius and satirical scepticism permitted him to follow any master. During his residence at Elis, he had children born to him, the eldest of whom, named Xanthus, he instructed in the art of medicine and trained in his philosophical principles, so that he might be his successor and representative (καὶ διάδοχον βίου κατέλιπε
; but these words may, however, mean that he left him heir to his property). Driven again from Elis by straitened circumstances, he spent some time on the Hellespont and the Propontis, and taught at Chalcedon as a sophist with such success that he realised a fortune.
He then removed to Athens, where he lived until his death, with the exception of a short residence at Thebes. Among the great men, with whom he became personally acquainted in the course of his travels, which probably extended more widely about the Aegean and the Levant than we are informed, were the kings Antigonus and Ptolemy Philadelphus.
He is said to have assisted Alexander Aetolus and Homerus in the composition of their tragedies, and to have been the teacher of Aratus (Suid. s. v. Ἄραγος
). " These indications," says Mr. Clinton, " mark his time.
He might have heard Stilpo at Megara twenty-five years before the reign of Philadelphus" (Fast. Hellen.
vol. iii. s. aa. 279, 272
He died at the age of almost ninety. Among his pupils were Dioscurides of Cyprus, Nicolochus of Rhodes, Euphranor of Seleuceia, and Praÿlus of the Troad.
Timon appears to have been endowed by nature with a powerful and active mind, and with that quick perception of the follies of men, which betrays its possessor into a spirit of universal distrust both of men and truths, so as to make him a sceptic in philosophy and a satirist in every thing.
According to Diogenes, Timon had that physical defect, which some have fancied that they have found often accompanied by such a spirit as his, and which at least must have given greater force to its utterances; he was a one-eyed man; and he used even to make a jest of his own defect, calling himself Cyclops. Some other examples of his bitter sarcasms are recorded by Diogenes; one of which is worth qoting as a maxim in criticism : being asked by Aratus how to obtain the pure text of Homer, he replied, " If we could find the old copies, and not those with modern emendations."
He is also said to have been fond of retirement, and of gardening; but Diogenes introduces this statement and some others in such a way as to suggest a doubt whether they ought to be referred to our Timon or to Timon the misanthrope, or whether they apply equally to both.
The writings of Timon are represented as very numerous.
According to Diogenes, in the order of whose statement there appears to be some confusion, he composed ἔπη
, καὶ τραγῳδίας
, καὶ σατύρους
, καὶ δράματα κωμικὰ τριάκοντα
, τραγικὰ δὲ ἑξήκοντα
, σίλλους τε καὶ κιναίδους
The double mention of his tragedies raises a suspicion that Diogenes may have combined two different accounts of his writings in this sentence; but perhaps it may be explained by supposing the words τραγικὰ δὲ ἑξήκοντα
to be inserted simply in order to put the number
of his tragedies side by side with that of his comedies. Some may find another difficulty in the passage, on account of the great number and variety of the poetical works ascribed to Timon ; but this is nothing surprising in a writer of that age of universal imitative literature; nor, when the early theatrical occupations of Timon are borne in mind, is it at all astonishing that his taste for the drama should have prompted him to the composition of sixty tragedies and thirty comedies, besides satyric dramas. One thing, however, it is important to observe.
The composition of tragedies and comedies by the same author is an almost certain indication that his dramas were intended only to be read, and not to be acted. No remains of his dramas have come down to us.
Of his epic poems we know very little; but it may be presumed that they were chiefly ludicrous or satirical poems in the epic form. Possibly his Python
), which contained a long account of a conversation with Pyrrhon, during a journey to Pytho, may be referred to this class; unless it was in prose (Diog. 9.64,105; Euseb. Praep. Ev.
xiv. p. 761a.).
It appears probable that his ᾿Ἀρκεσιλάου περίδειπνον
was a satirical poem in epic verse (Diog. 9.115; Ath. ix. p. 406e.). Whether he wrote parodies on Homer or whether he merely occasionally, in the course of his writings, parodied passages of the Homeric poems, cannot be determined with certainty from the lines in his extant fragments which are evident parodies of Homer, such, for example, as the verse preserved by Diogenes,
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι ὅσοι πολυπράγμονές ἐστε σοφισταί
, which is an obvious parody on the Homeric invocation (II.
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι
Satiric Compositions (）
The most celebrated of his poems, however, were the satiric compositions called Silli
), a word of somewhat doubtful etymology, but which undoubtedly describes metrical compositions, of a character at once ludicrous and sarcastic.
The invention of this species of poetry is ascribed to Xenophanes of Colophon. [XENOPHANES.] The Silli
of Timon were in three books, in the first of which he spoke in his own person, and the other two are in the form of a dialogue between the author and Xenophanes of Colophon, in which Timon proposed questions, to which Xenophanes replied at length.
The subject was a sarcastic account of the tenets of all philosophers, living and dead; an unbounded field for scepticism and satire. They were in hexameter verse, and, from the way in which they are mentioned by the ancient writers, as well as from the few fragments of them which have come down to us, it is evident that they were very admirable productions of their kind. (Diog. l.c. ;
Aristocles apud Euseb. Praep. Ev.
xiv. p. 763c.; Suid. s. vv. σιλλαίνει
; Ath. passim ; Gel. 3.17
.) Commentaries were written on the Silli
by Apollonides of Nicaea, as already mentioned, and also by Sotion of Alexandria. (Ath. viii. p. 336d.)
The poem entitled Ἰνδαλμοί
, in elegiac verse, appears to have been similar in its subject to the Silli
(D. L. 9.65
). Diogenes also mentions Timon's ἰαμβοί
(9.110), but perhaps the word is here merely used in the sense of satirical poems in general, without reference to the metre.
He also wrote in prose, to the quantity, Diogenes tells us, of twenty thousand lines.
These works were no doubt on philosophical subjects, but all we know of their specific character is contained in the three references made by Diogenes to Timon's works περὶ αἰσθήσεως
, περὶ ζητήσεως
, and κατὰ σοφίας
The fragments of his poems have been collected by H. Stephanus, in his Poesis Philosophica, 1573, 8vo.
; by J. F. Langenrich, at the end of his Dissertationes Ill. de Timone Sillographo, Lips. 1720, 1721, 1723, 4to.
; by Brunck, in his Analecta, vol. ii. pp. 67, foll.
; by F. A. Wölke, in his monograph De Graecorum Syllis, Varsav. 1820, 8vo.; and by F. Paul, in his Dissertatio de Sillis, Berol. 1821, 8vo.
See also Creuzer and Daub's Studien,
vol. vi. pp. 302, foll.; Ant. Weland, Dissert. de praecip. Parodiarum Homericarum Scriptoribus apud Graecos,
pp. 50, foll. Gotting. 1833, 8vo.; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. pp. 623-625; Menag. ad Diog. Laert. l.c. ;
Welcker, die Griech. Tragöd.
pp. 1268, 1269; Bode, Gesch. d. Hellen. Dichtk.
vol. ii. pt. i. pp. 345-347; Ulrici, vol. ii. p. 317 ; Clinton, F. H.
vol. iii. p. 495.