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Ocellus Luca'nus

Ὄκελλος Λευκανός), as his name implies, was a Lucanian, and a Pythagorean in some sense.

Ocellus is mentioned in a letter from Archytas to Plato, which is preserved by Diogenes Laertius (8.80), and in this letter the works above mentioned are enumerated. If the letter of Archytas is genuine, it proves that Ocellus lived some time before Archytas, for it speaks of the descendants of Ocellus. Nothing is said in the letter about Ocellus being a Pythagorean. Lucian (Pro Lapsu, &c. vol. i. p. 729, ed. Hemst.) speaks of Ocellus and Archytas as acquainted with Pythagoras, but we know that Archytas lived at least a hundred years after Pythagoras, and Lucian's historical facts are seldom to be relied on. Ocellus is mentioned by still later writers, but their evidence determines nothing as to his period.1


There were attributed to him a work, Περὶ Νόμου, or on Law; περὶ βασιλείας καὶ ὁσιότητος, on Kingly Rule and Piety; an περὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς φύσιος, on the Nature of the Whole, which last is extant, though whether it is a genuine work is doubtful, or, at least, much disputed.

περὶ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς φύσιος,
on the Nature of the Whole

As he was a Lucanian, Ocellus would write in the Doric dialect, and as the work attributed to him is in the Ionic, this has been made a ground for impugning its genuineness; but so far from being an argument against the genuineness of the work, this is in its favour, and only shows that some copyist had altered the dialect. Besides this, the fragments from this work, which Stobaeus cites, are in the Doric dialect. It is, however, always a doubtful matter as to early works, which are first mentioned by writers of a much later period, whether they are really genuine. If the existing work is not genuine we must suppose that when it was fabricated the original was lost. It is also possible that it is a kind of new modelled edition of the original; and it is also possible that the extant work is the original itself, which the brevity and simple close reasoning render a probable conclusion.

This small treatise is divided into four chapters. The first chapter shows that the whole (τὸ πᾶν, or κόσμος) had no beginning, and will have no end. He maintains that it is consistent with his views of the Cosmos that men have always existed, but he admits that the earth is subject to great revolutions, that Greece (Hellas) has often been and will be barbarous, and that it has sustained great physical changes. The object of the sexual intercourse, he says, is not pleasure, but the procreation of children and the permanence of the human race. Accordingly, the commerce of the sexes should be regulated by decency, moderation, and congruity in the male and female, in order that healthy beings may be produced, and that families may be happy; for families compose states, and if the parts are unsound, so will the whole be. The book appears to be a fragment. The physical philosophy is crude and worthless, but the fundamental ideas are clearly conceived and happily expressed.


The best editions are by A. F. W. Rudolphi, Leipzig, 1801-8, with copious notes and commentaries, and by Mullach; the latter edition bears the title, "Aristotelis de Melisso, Xenophane et Gorgia Disputationes cum Eleaticorum pilosophorum fragmentis, et Ocelli Lucani, qui fertur, de universe natura libello." Berlin, 1846. There is another good edition by Batteux, Paris, 1768, three vols. 12mo. An edition was published at Berlin, 1762, 8vo., by the Marquis d'Argens, with a French translation, and a good commentary.


Ocellus was translated into English by Thomas Taylor, 1831, 8vo.


1 GRC: 6/10/08: moved this paragraph up to separate the life from the works and to make this article more consistent with the rest.

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