previous next


“Xenophanes was the son of Dexius, or according to Apollodorus, of Orthomenes, and was of Colophon. He is mentioned by Timon, who says: “Xenophanes, the faintly-modest trouncer that hath trod Old Homer underfoot and lo! forged an inhuman God, Round, motionless, sans hurt or harm, more brainy than the brain . . .1

” Banished from his birthplace <he lived> at Zancle in Sicily, <took part in the settlement of Elea by a colony from that city, and taught there;> but he also taught at Catana. He was no man's pupil according to some writers, according to others a pupil of Boton of Athens,2 according to others again, of Archelaus. Sotion makes him contemporary with Anaximander.3 Of his works some are in the epic metre, and some are elegies and iambi attacking Hesiod and Homer and denouncing what they say about the Gods. He used moreover to give public recitations of his poems. He is said to have opposed the views of Thales and Pythagoras and even assailed Epimenides.4 He lived to a very great age, as indeed he says himself (fr. 7).5

Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers

“The famous Colophonians are these: Mimnermus ..., and the physical philosopher Xenophanes, who wrote the Lampoons in verse.6Strabo Geography
“According to the 3rd Book of Aristotle's Poetics , Socrates was attacked by Antilochus of Lemnos ... just as Homer in his lifetime by Syagrus and after his death by Xenophanes of Colophon; so too Hesiod in his lifetime by Cercops, and after his death by the same Xenophanes.” Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers
“We did not despair of philosophy and give it up for lost because philosophers, instead of putting forth what they have to teach or tell in verse, like Orpheus, Hesiod, Parmenides, Xenophanes, Empedocles, and Thales, came later to abandon the use of metre, and still —with one exception, yourself —avoid it.7Plutarch The Oracles of the Delphian Priestess
“When some one told Xenophanes that he had seen eels alive in hot water, he said ‘If so, we shall be able to boil them in cold.’” Plutarch Common Notions against the Stoics
“Again, suppose a fellow-guest invite you to dice with him over the wine, be not put out of countenance for fear of the gibes of the company, but like Xenophanes when Lasus of Hermiona called him a coward for refusing a like invitation, confess yourself a craven and a coward indeed when it comes to doing ill.” Plutarch Bashfulness
“Eleatic Stranger. Our own Eleatics, from Xenophanes' day and even earlier, have told their tales on the assumption that what we call all is one.8Plato The Sophist
“Compare Xenophanes' remark that it is just as impious to say that the Gods were born as to say that they died, either statement implying their non-existence at some time or other.” Aristotle Rhetoric

Aristotle Rhetoric

“Compare what Xenophanes replied to his fellow-citizens of Elea when they asked him whether or no they should make sacrifice and sing dirges for Leucothea, ‘If you believe her immortal sing no dirges, if mortal make no sacrifice.’9

Aristotle Rhetoric

“According to Xenophanes the volcano in Lipara was inactive once for sixteen years and then broke out again.” Aristotle On Wonders [lava-streams]
“Xenophanes maintains that the moon is inhabited and that it is a land of many cities and mountains.” Cicero Prior Academics
“You think Empedocles mad, but to me his sound is full worthy of his sense. . . . Parmenides and Xenophanes, though their verse is not so good, use it like angry men to chide what they believe to be the arrogance of those who have the face to say they know when nothing can be known.” Cicero Prior Academics
“You Xenophaneses, Diagorases, Hippons, Epicuruses, and the rest of that God-forsaken catalogue, I bid you all go hang!” Aelian
“Xenophanes, son of Dexinous and a pupil of Archelaus the physical philosopher, lived to be ninety-one.10Lucian Longevity:
“Heracleitus was the most lofty-minded of men and haughty too, witness the book in which he says ‘Much learning teacheth not understanding, or it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, or again Xenophanes and Hecataeus,’ for wisdom was one thing, namely to understand thought, which guided all things everywhere.” Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers
“Xenophanes declares that there are four elements, and worlds innumerable but not contiguous.11 Clouds are made when the vapour from the sun is carried upwards and lifts them into ‘that which encompasses.’ The substance of God is spherical, in no way resembling man. He is all eye and all ear, but does not breathe. He is the totality of mind and thought, and is eternal. Xenophanes was the first to declare that everything which comes into existence is destructible, and that the soul is breath.12Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers

Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers

“Xenophanes wrote a poem too, called The Founding of Colophon , and another called The Colonising of Elea in Italy , 2000 lines in all. He flourished in the 60th Olympiad (540-37 B.C.).13 According to Demetrius of Phaleron in his Old Age and Panaetius the Stoic in his Cheerfulness , he buried his sons with his own hands, like Anaxagoras. He seems to have been sold into slavery by ... <and set free by> the Pythagoreans Parmeniscus and Orestades, if we may believe Favorinus in the 1st Book of his Memorials .

Diogenes Laertius Lives of the Philosophers

See also Suid. Ξενοφάνης , Plut. Reg. Apoph. Hiero 4, Vit. Hom. 2. 93, Gal. Hist. 3, Str. 12. 550, Philo Prov. 2. 39, Ath. 14. 632 d ( quoted p. 226), Sext. Emp. Math. i. 257, Clem. Al. Str. 353 (301 e), Theol. Arith. 40 Ast.

1 the last 2 ll. occur only in Sext. Emp. Hypot. i. 224; in line 1 Diog. has the accus.

2 Diog. or his authority, perh. by a slip, seems to confuse Xenophanes with Xenophon

3 611-546 B.C

4 cf. Plut. Comm. Hes. 19, Procl. ad Hes. Op. 284, Sch. Il. 2. 212

5 cf. Ath. quoted on p. 168

6 cf. Apul. Fl. 4, Tz. ad Dion. Per. 940

7 cf. Diog. L. 9.22

8 cf. Cic. Acad. 2. 118

9 cf. Plut. Superst. 13, Amat. 18, Is. et Os. 70, Apophth. Lac. 26

10 cf. Censor. 15. 3

11 or overlapping

12 the translation closely follows R. D. Hicks

13 Jerome gives 532, Euseb. 550 and 544 (Arm. version 540); Apollod. ap. Clem. Al. Str. i. 353 puts his birth as early as Ol. 40 (620-17 B.C.), cf. Sext. Emp. Math. i. 257

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (J. M. Edmonds, 1931)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: