Chapter 1. SPEUSIPPUS (circa 407-339 B.C.)
(Head of the Academy, 347-339 B.C.)
The foregoing is the best account of Plato that we
were able to compile after a diligent examination of
the authorities. He was succeeded by Speusippus,
an Athenian and son of Eurymedon, who belonged
to the deme of Myrrhinus, and was the son of Plato's
sister Potone. He was head of the school for eight
years beginning in the 108th Olympiad.1
up statues of the Graces in the shrine of the Muses
erected by Plato in the Academy. He adhered
faithfully to Plato's doctrines. In character, however,
he was unlike him, being prone to anger and easily
overcome by pleasures. At any rate there is a story
that in a fit of passion he flung his favourite dog
into the well, and that pleasure was the sole motive
for his journey to Macedonia to be present at the
wedding-feast of Casander.
It was said that among those who attended his
lectures were the two women who had been pupils
of Plato, Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of
Phlius. And at the time Dionysius in a letter says
derisively, "We may judge of your wisdom by the
Arcadian girl who is your pupil. And, whereas
Plato exempted from fees all who came to him, you
levy tribute on them and collect it whether they will
According to Diodorus in the first book of
, Speusippus was the first to
the common element in all studies and to bring them
into connexion with each other so far as that was
And according to Caeneus he was the first
to divulge what Isocrates called the secrets of his
art, and the first to devise the means by which fagots
of firewood are rendered portable.
When he was already crippled by paralysis, he
sent a message to Xenocrates entreating him to
come and take over the charge of the school.3
say that, as he was being conveyed to the Academy
in a tiny carriage, he met and saluted Diogenes, who
replied, "Nay, if you can endure to live in such a
plight as this, I decline to return your greeting."
At last in old age he became so despondent that
he put an end to his life. Here follows my epigram
Had I not learnt that Speusippus would die thus, no one
would have persuaded me to say that he was surely not of
Plato's blood; for else he would never have died in despair
for a trivial cause.
Plutarch in the Lives of Lysander and Sulla makes
his malady to have been "morbus pedicularis."5
That his body wasted away is affirmed by Timotheus
in his book
Speusippus, he says, meeting
a rich man who was in love with one who was no
beauty, said to him, "Why, pray, are you in such
sore need of him? For ten talents I will find you a
more handsome bride."
He has left behind a vast store of memoirs and
numerous dialogues, among them:
Aristippus the Cyrenaic.
On Wealth, one book.
On Pleasure, one book.
On the Gods,
A Reply to Cephalus,
Clinomachus or Lysias,
Of the Soul,
A Reply to Gryllus,
Criticism of the Arts, each in one book.
Memoirs, in the form of dialogues.
Treatise on System, in one book.
Dialogues on the Resemblances in Science, in ten
Divisions and Hypotheses relating to the Resemblances.
On Typical Genera and Species.
A Reply to the Anonymous Work.
Eulogy of Plato.
Epistles to Dion, Dionysius and Philip.
Arrangements of Commentaries.
They comprise in all 43,475 lines. To him Timonides addresses his narrative in which he related the
achievements of Dion and Bion.6
Favorinus also in
the second book of his
Aristotle purchased the works of Speusippus for three
There was another Speusippus, a physician of
Alexandria, of the school of Herophilus.