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Persaeus or Persaeus Cittieus

*Persai=os), surnamed Cittieus (Κιττιεύς), from his native town Cittium, in the south of Crete, was a favourite disciple of Zeno, the stoic, who was also of Cittium. Suidas (s. v.) states that he was also named Dorotheus, and that his father's name was Demetrius. Diogenes Laertius mentions that it was doubtful whether he was merely an intimate friend of Zeno's, or whether, after having been the slave of Antigonus Gonatus, and tutor to his son Alcyoneus, and then presented by that monarch to Zeno as a copyist, he had been freed by the philosopher. The opinion that he had been Zeno's slave prevails extensively in later writers, as in A. Gellius (2.18). But the notion is contradicted by the general current of his life, and seems to have originated in a remark of Bion Borysthenites. Bion having seen a bronze statue of Persaeus, bearing the inscription, Περσαῖον Ζήνωνος Κιτιέα, remarked that this was a mistake, for Περσαιον Ζήνωνος οἰκιτιέα. (Athen. 4.162d.) But from the sal nigrum which characterises Bion's sayings, this seems nothing more than a sneer at the servility which he thus insinuated that Persaeus, with whom he had come into rivalry at the court of Antigonus, manifested in his demeanour to Zeno. Indeed, if Persaeus had actually been Zeno's slave, the sarcasm would have been pointless. We learn from Diogenes Laertius, that Zeno lived in the same house with Persaeus, and he narrates an incident, which certainly supports the insinuation of Bion. The same story is told by Athenaeus (xiii. p. 607a. b.), on the authority of Antigonus the Carystian, somewhat differently, and not so much to Zeno's credit. Persaeus was in the prime of life in the 130th Olympiad, B. C. 260. Antigonus Gonatas had sent for Zeno. between B. C. 277 and 271 (Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 368, note i), when the philosopher was in his eightyfirst year. Zeno excused himself, but sent Persaeus and Philonides, with whom went also the poet Aratus, who had received instructions from Persaeus at Athens. Persaeus seems to have been in high favour with Antigonus, and to have guided the monarch in his choice of literary associates, as we learn from a sneer of Bion's, recorded by Laertius. At last, unhappily for himself, he was appointed to a chief command in Corinth, and hence he is classed by Aelian (Ael. VH 3.17), among those philosophers who have taken an active part in public affairs. According to Athenaeus (iv. p. 162c), who has no high opinion of his morality, his dissipation led to the loss of Corinth, which was taken by Aratus the Sicyonian, B. C. 243. Pausanias (2.8, 7.8) states that he was then slain. Plutarch doubtfully represents him as escaping to Cenchreae. But this may have been to put into his mouth when alive, what Athenaeus says of him when dead, that he who had been taught by Zeno to consider philosophers as the only men fit to be generals, had been forced to alter his opinion, being corrected by a Sicyonian youth.


We find a list of his writings in Laertius, in which we are startled to find Θυέστης. Athenaeus (4.140, p. 6e) agrees with Laertius, in attributing to him a work, entitled Πολιτεία Λακωνική. He also gives a general view of the contents of a work bearing his name, entitled Ζυμποτικοὶ Διάλογοι (iv. p. 162e.). But that the favourite pupil of Zeno, and the trusted friend of Antigonus for many years, could have written such a work as he describes, seems incredible. He very probably did write a book bearing the title Ὑπομνήματα Συμπότικα (as stated by Laertius), on the model of the Συμπόσιον of Plato; hence the Περὶ Γάμου and Περὶ Ἐρώτων, mentioned by Laertius as separate treatises of Persaeus. But, being the friend of Antigonus, he was deemed to be an enemy to Greek freedom; hence the inveterate enmity of Menedemus (D. L. 2.143), and hence spurious productions of a contemptible character were probably assigned to him. Lipsius, however (Manuduct. ad Stoic. Philosophy. 12.1), seems to be of an opinion quite the reverse. Suidas and Eudocia (p. 362) state that he wrote a history, which may refer to his political writings. He also wrote, according te Laertius, against the laws of Plato. Of his philosophical opinions, we know hardly anything. It is reasonable to conjecture that he adhered closely to the tenets of Zeno. Accordingly, we find him, on one occasion, convicting Ariston of inconsistency in not adhering in practice to his dogma, that the wise man was opinionless (ἀδόξαστος). We find him, however, if we can trust Laertius, agreeing with Ariston in his doctrine of indifference (ἀδιαφορία), and himself convicted of inconsistency by Antigonus--an incident which has been ingeniously expanded by Themistius. (Orat. xxxii. p. 358.) Cicero (de Nat. Deor. 1.15, where the old reading was Perseus) censures an opinion of his that divinity was ascribed not only to men who had improved the arts of life, but even to those material substances which are of use to mankind. Meursius (de Cypro, ii. p. 167) thinks that this is taken from a work of his entitled Ἠθικαὶ Σχολαὶ mentioned by Laertius. Minucius Felix (Octau. p. 22, ed. Lugd. Bat. 1652), alludes also to this opinion, but he seems to have derived his knowledge from Cicero, as the illustrations are Roman, and not Greek, as we might have expected. Dio Chrysostom (Orat. liii.) states that following the example of Zeno, Persaeus, while commenting on Homer, did not discuss his general merits, but attempted to prove that he had written κατὰ δοξάν, and not κατὰ ἀληθείαν.

Further Information

Comp. Diog. Laert. vii., with Lipsius, Meursius, ll. cc., and Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. iii. p. 570.


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