), of Samos, a Greek philosopher, the son of Ithagenes, is said to have been likewise distinguished as a statesman, and to have commanded the fleet which first conquered a part of the Athenian armament which blockaded the island under the command of Pericles; but it is stated afterwards that he was conquered by Pericles, in Ol. 85. Thucydides does not mention Melissus. (Plut. Per. 26
; comp. Themist.
2, ad v. Colot.
This account is supported by the statement of Apollodorus, that Melissus flourished in Ol. 84; but it is irreconcilable with the account which represents him as personally connected with Heracleitus, who lived at a much earlier period. (D. L. 9.24
There seems to be less reason for doubting that he was a disciple of Parmenides, and it is quite certain that he was acquainted with the doctrines of the Eleatics, which in fact he completely adopted, though he took up the letter rather than the spirit of their system, as is proved by the fragments of his work, which was written in prose, and in the Ionic dialect. They have been preserved by Simplicius, and their genuineness is attested by the work of Aristotle or Theophrastus.
He proves that the coming into existence and the annihilation of any thing that exists are both inconceivable, whether it be supposed that it arises from a non-existence or from some existence.
But even here Melissus is unable to maintain the pure idea of existence, which we find in Parmenides, for he denies that existence, and still more absolute existence (τὸ ἁπλῶς ἐόν
) can arise from non-existence. Parmenides could not have admitted the difference of degrees of existence, which is here assumed, any more than the parts of existence which Melissus assumes as possible, or at least as not absolutely opposed to the idea, since he thinks it necessary to prove that no part of existence could have come into existence any more than existence itself. (Simplic. in Aristot. Phys.
f. 22, b; Aristot. De Xenoph. Gorg. et Meliss.
The inference of Melissus which now follows, that things which have neither beginning nor end must be infinite and unlimited in magnitude, and accordingly one
(ibid. and Simplic. f. 23, b. fragm.
2 and 7-10; in Brandis, Commentat. Eleatic.),
is manifestly erroneous, since, without even attempting a mediation, he assumes infinitude of space in things which have no beginning or end in time.
The simplicity of existence he infers from its unity, and he appears to have endeavoured very minutely to show that no change could take place either in quantity or quality, and neither internal nor external motion. (Fr. 4. 11, &c.; Aristot. l.c.) From this he then argued backwards, and assumed the impossibility of finding existence in the actual world. (Simplic. De Coelo,
f. 138, and the corrected text of the Schol. in Aristot.
ed. Brands, p. 509b.)
He thus made the first, though weak attempt, which was afterwards carried out by Zeno with far more acuteness and sagacity, to prove that the foundations of all knowledge derived from experience are in themselves contradictory, and that the reality of the actual world is inconceivable.
The fragments of Melissus are collected by Ch. A. Brandis, Cmmentationum Eleaticarum, pars prima, p. 185, &c.
, and by Mullach, Aristotelis de Melisso, Xenophane, et Georgia Disputationes, cum Eleaticorum philosoplorum fragmentis, &c., Berol. 1846.