Chapter 5. CLEANTHES
Cleanthes, son of Phanias, was a native of
Assos. This man, says Antisthenes in his Successions
, was at first a pugilist. He arrived in Athens,
as some people say, with four drachmas only, and meeting with Zeno
he studied philosophy right nobly and adhered to the same doctrines
throughout. He was renowned for his industry, being indeed driven by
extreme poverty to work for a living. Thus, while by night he used
to draw water in gardens, by day he exercised himself in arguments :
hence the nickname Phreantles or Welllifter was given him. He is
said to have been brought into court to answer the inquiry how so
sturdy a fellow as he made his living, and then to have been
acquitted on producing as his witnesses the gardener in whose garden
he drew water
and the woman who sold the meal which he used to
crush. The Areopagites were satisfied and voted him a
donation of ten minas, which Zeno forbade him to
accept. We are also told that Antigonus made him a present of three
thousand drachmas. Once, as he was conducting some youths to a
public spectacle, the wind blew his cloak aside and disclosed the
fact that he wore no shirt, whereupon he was applauded by the
Athenians, as is stated by Demetrius of Magnesia in his work on Men of the Same Name.
This then also increased the
admiration felt for him. There is another story that Antigonus when
attending his lectures inquired of him why he drew water and
received the reply, "Is drawing water all I do ? What ? Do I not dig
? What ? Do I not water the garden ? or undertake any other labour
for the love of philosophy ?" For Zeno used to discipline him to
this and bid him return him an obol from his wages.1
And one day he
produced a handful of small coin before his acquaintance and said,
"Cleanthes could even maintain a second Cleanthes, if he liked,
whereas those who possess the means to keep themselves yet seek to
live at the expense of others, and that too though they have plenty
of time to spare from their studies." Hence Cleanthes was called a
second Heracles. He had industry, but no natural aptitude for
physics, and was extraordinarily slow. On which account Timon
describes him thus2
this that like a bell-wether ranges over the ranks of men, a
dullard, lover of verse, hailing from Assos,3
a mass of rock, unventuresome.
used to put up with gibes from his fellowpupils and did not mind
being called the ass, telling
them that he
alone was strong enough to carry the load of Zeno.
Once when he was
reproached with cowardice, he replied, "That is why I so seldom go
wrong." Again, when extolling his own manner of life above that of
the wealthy, he used to say that, while they were playing at ball,
he was at work digging hard and barren ground. He would often find
fault with himself too, and one day when Ariston heard him doing
this and asked, "Who is it you are scolding so ?" he, laughing,
said, "An old man with grey hairs and no wits." To some one who
declared that Arcesilaus did not do what he ought, his reply was,
"No more of this ; do not censure him. For if by his words he does
away with duty, he maintains it at all events by his deeds." And
Arcesilaus rejoined, "I am not to be won by flattery." Whereupon
Cleanthes said, "True, but my flattery consists in alleging that
your theory is incompatible with your practice."
one inquired of him what lesson he ought to give his son, Cleanthes
in reply quoted words from the Electra
Silence, silence, light be thy step.Eur. El. 140.
Lacedaemonian having declared that toil was a good thing, he was
overjoyed and said,
Thou art of gentle
blood, dear child.Hom. Od. iv.
Dicit autem Hecato in Sententiis eum, cum
adulescens quidam formosus dixisset, Si pulsans ventrem ventrizat,
pulsans coxas coxizat, dixisse, Tibi habeas, adulescens,
coxizationes : nempe vocabula quae conveniunt analogia non semper
etiam significatione conveniunt. Once in conversation with a youth
he put the question, "Do you see ?" and when the
youth nodded assent, he went on, "Why, then, don't I see that you
He was present in the theatre when the poet Sositheus
uttered the verse--
Driven by Cleanthes'
folly like dumb herds,Nauck, T.G.F.2, p.
and he remained unmoved in the same
attitude. At which the audience were so astonished that they
applauded him and drove Sositheus off the stage. Afterwards when the
poet apologized for the insult, he accepted the apology, saying
that, when Dionysus and Heracles were ridiculed by the poets without
getting angry, it would be absurd for him to be annoyed at casual
abuse. He used to say that the Peripatetics were in the same case as
lyres which, although they give forth sweet sounds, never hear
themselves. It is said that when he laid it down as Zeno's opinion
that a man's character could be known from his looks, certain witty
young men brought before him a rake with hands horny from toil in
the country and requested him to state what the man's character was.
Cleanthes was perplexed and ordered the man to go away ; but when,
as he was making off, he sneezed, "I have it," cried Cleanthes, "he
To the solitary man who talked to himself he
remarked, "You are not talking to a bad man." When some one twitted
him on his old age, his reply was, "I too am ready to depart ; but
when again I consider that I am in all points in good health and
that I can still write and read, I am content to wait." We are told
that he wrote down Zeno's lectures on oyster-shells and the
blade-bones of oxen through lack of money to buy paper. Such was he
; and yet, although Zeno
had many other eminent
disciples, he was able to succeed him in the headship of the
He has left some very fine writings, which are as
Of Zeno's Natural Philosophy, two
Interpretations of Heraclitus, four books.
A Reply to Democritus.
A Reply to Herillus.
Of Impulse, two
Of the Gods.
Of Duty, three books.
Of Good Counsel.
Of the Virtues.
Of Natural Ability.
The Art of Love.
Of Logic, three
Of the End.
On the Thesis that Virtue is the same in Man and
On the Wise Man turning Sophist.
Lectures, two books.
On Insoluble Problems.
Of Moods or Tropes.
This, then, is
the list of his works.
His end was as follows. He had severe
inflammation of the gums, and by the advice of his doctors he
abstained from food for two whole days. As it happened, this
treatment succeeded, so that the doctors were for allowing him to
resume his usual diet. To this, however, he would not consent, but
declaring that he had already got too far on the road, he went on
fasting the rest of his days until his death at the same age as Zeno
according to some authorities, having spent nineteen years as Zeno's
My lighter verse7
on him runs thus :
praise Cleanthes, but praise Hades more,
Who could not bear
to see him grown so old,
So gave him rest at last among the
Who'd drawn such load of water while alive.