previous next

Chapter 3. PARMENIDES1 [flor. c. 500 B.C.]

[21] Parmenides, a native of Elea, son of Pyres, was a pupil of Xenophanes (Theophrastus in his Epitome makes him a pupil of Anaximander).2 Parmenides, however, though he was instructed by Xenophanes, was no follower of his. According to Sotion3 he also associated with Ameinias the Pythagorean, who was the son of Diochaetas and a worthy gentleman though poor. This Ameinias he was more inclined to follow,

and on his death he built a shrine to him, being himself of illustrious birth and possessed of great wealth ; moreover it was Ameinias and not Xenophanes who led him to adopt the peaceful life of a student.

He was the first to declare that the earth is spherical and is situated in the centre of the universe. He held that there were two elements, fire and earth, and that the former discharged the function of a craftsman, the latter of his material. [22] The generation of man proceeded from the sun as first cause ; heat and cold, of which all things consist, surpass the sun itself. Again he held that soul and mind are one and the same, as Theophrastus mentions in his Physics, where he is setting forth the tenets of almost all the schools. He divided his philosophy into two parts dealing the one with truth, the other with opinion. Hence he somewhere says4 :

Thou must needs learn all things, as well the unshakeable heart of well-rounded truth as the opinions of mortals in which there is no sure trust.5

Our philosopher too commits his doctrines to verse just as did Hesiod, Xenophanes and Empedocles. He made reason the standard and pronounced sensations to be inexact. At all events his words are6 :

And let not long-practised wont force thee to tread this path, to be governed by an aimless eye, an echoing ear and a tongue, but do thou with understanding bring the muchcontested issue to decision.

[23] Hence Timon7 says of him8:

And the strength of high-souled Parmenides, of no diverse opinions, who introduced thought instead of imagination's deceit.

It was about him that Plato wrote a dialogue with the title Parmenides or Concerning Ideas.

He flourished in the 69th Olympiad.9 He is believed to have been the first to detect the identity of Hesperus, the evening-star, and Phosphorus, the morning-star ; so Favorinus in the fifth book of his Memorabilia ; but others attribute this to Pythagoras, whereas Callimachus holds that the poem in question was not the work of Pythagoras. Parmenides is said to have served his native city as a legislator : so we learn from Speusippus in his book On Philosophers. Also to have been the first to use the argument known as "Achilles [and the tortoise]" : so Favorinus tells us in his Miscellaneous History.

There was also another Parmenides, a rhetorician who wrote a treatise on his art.

1 Diels (op. cit. p. 141) compares Hippolytus, Ref. Haer. i. 11. 1, 2 ; Plutarch, Strom. 5 ; Aëtius, i. 3. 14, iv. 9. 1, iv. 5. 12, iii. 15. 7 ; ultimately from Theophrastus, Phys. Opin. Fr. 6. 7, 17.

2 Diels considers this sentence to be a marginal note of an editor referring to Xenophanes, not Parmenides.

3 Sotion would thus appear to separate Parmenides from Xenophanes. Compare note a on p. 426. Diels conjectures that an epitaph on the Pythagoreans mentioned is the ultimate authority here.

4 Fr. 1. 28 D.

5 The text of Parmenides had suffered in the course of time. Here Laertius, like Sextus Empiricus and Plutarch, read εὐπειθέ ος ἀτρεκὲ ς ; Proclus, two centuries later, εὐφεγγ έος ; but Simplicius, on De caelo, enables us to go behind our author by citing (as he no doubt would have wished to do) the better reading.

6 Fr. 1. 34 D.

7 Fr. 44 D.

8 Cf. Od. xi. 601.

9 504-500 b.c.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (R.D. Hicks, 1972)
hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: