Chapter 11. STILPO
Stilpo, a citizen of Megara in Greece, was a pupil
of some of the followers of Euclides, although others
make him a pupil of Euclides himself, and furthermore
of Thrasymachus of Corinth, who was the friend of
Ichthyas, according to Heraclides. And so far did
he excel all the rest in inventiveness and sophistry
that nearly the whole of Greece was attracted to
him and joined the school of Megara. On this let
me cite the exact words of Philippus the Megarian
philosopher: "for from Theophrastus he drew away
the theorist Metrodorus and Timagoras of Gela,
from Aristotle the Cyrenaic philosopher, Clitarchus,
and Simmias; and as for the dialecticians themselves,
he gained over Paeonius from Aristides; Diphilus of
Bosphorus, the son of Euphantus, and Myrmex, the
son of Exaenetus, who had both come to refute him,
he made his devoted adherents."
And besides these
he won over Phrasidemus the Peripatetic, an accomplished physicist, and Alcimus the rhetorician, the
first orator in all Greece; Crates, too, and many
others he got into his toils, and, what is more, along
with these, he carried off Zeno the Phoenician.
He was also an authority on politics.
He married a wife, and had a mistress named
Nicarete, as Onetor has somewhere stated. He had
a profligate daughter, who was married to his friend
Simmias of Syracuse. And, as she would not live
by rule, some one told Stilpo that she was a disgrace
to him. To this he replied, "Not so, any more than
I am an honour to her."
Ptolemy Soter, they say, made much of him, and
when he had got possession of Megara, offered him
a sum of money and invited him to return with him
to Egypt. But Stilpo would only accept a very
moderate sum, and he declined the proposed journey,
and removed to Aegina until Ptolemy set sail.
Again, when Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, had
taken Megara, he took measures that Stilpo's house
should be preserved and all his plundered property
restored to him. But when he requested that a
schedule of the lost property should be drawn up,
Stilpo denied that he had lost anything which really
belonged to him, for no one had taken away his learning, while he still had his eloquence and knowledge.
And conversing upon the duty of doing good to
men he made such an impression on the king that
he became eager to hear him. There is a story that
he once used the following argument concerning the
Athena of Phidias: "Is it not Athena the daughter
of Zeus who is a goddess?" And when the other
said "Yes," he went on, "But this at least is not
by Zeus but by Phidias," and, this being granted,
he concluded, "This then is not a god." For this
he was summoned before the Areopagus; he did
not deny the charge, but contended that the reasoning was correct, for that Athena was no god but a
goddess; it was the male divinities who were gods.
However, the story goes that the Areopagites ordered
him to quit the city, and that thereupon Theodorus,
whose nickname was
, said in
did Stilpo learn this? and how could he tell whether
she was a god or a goddess?" But in truth Theodorus was most impudent, and Stilpo most ingenious.
When Crates asked him whether the gods take
delight in prayers and adorations, he is said to have
replied, "Don't put such a question in the street,
simpleton, but when we are alone!" It is said that
Bion, when he was asked the same question whether
there are gods, replied:
Will you not scatter the crowd from me, O much-enduring
In character Stilpo was simple and unaffected, and
he could readily adapt himself to the plain man.
For instance, when Crates the Cynic did not answer
the question put to him and only insulted the ques-
tioner, "I knew," said Stilpo, "that you would utter
anything rather than what you ought."
when Crates held out a fig to him when putting a
question, he took the fig and ate it. Upon which
the other exclaimed, "O Heracles, I have lost the
fig," and Stilpo remarked, "Not only that but your
question as well, for which the fig was payment in
advance." Again, on seeing Crates shrivelled with
cold in the winter, he said, "You seem to me, Crates,
to want a new coat,"
to be wanting in sense
And the other being annoyed replied with
the following burlesque2
And Stilpo I saw enduring toilsome woes in Megara,
where men say that the bed of Typhos is. There he would
ever be wrangling, and many comrades about him, wasting
time in the verbal pursuit of virtue.
It is said that at Athens he so attracted the public
that people would run together from the workshops
to look at him. And when some one said, "Stilpo,
they stare at you as if you were some strange creature." "No, indeed," said he, "but as if I were a
genuine man." And, being a consummate master
of controversy, he used to demolish even the ideas,
and say that he who asserted the existence of Man
meant no individual; he did not mean this man or
that. For why should he mean the one more than
the other? Therefore neither does he mean this
individual man. Again, "vegetable" is not what
is shown to me, for vegetable existed ten thousand
years ago. Therefore this is not vegetable. The
story goes that while in the middle of an argument
with Crates he hurried off to buy fish, and, when
Crates tried to detain him and urged that he was
leaving the argument, his answer was, "Not I. I
keep the argument though I am leaving you; for
the argument will remain, but the fish will soon be
Nine dialogues of his are extant written in frigid
Callias, Ptolemy, Chaerecrates, Metrocles, Anaximenes, Epigenes, To his
Heraclides relates that Zeno, the
founder of the Stoic school, was one of Stilpo's pupils3
Hermippus that Stilpo died at a great age after
taking wine to hasten his end.
I have written an epitaph on him also4
Surely you know Stilpo the Megarian; old age and then
disease laid him low, a formidable pair. But he found in
wine a charioteer too strong for that evil team; he quaffed
it eagerly and was borne along.
He was also ridiculed by Sophilus the Comic poet
in his drama
What Charinus says is just Stilpo's stoppers.