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1. A celebrated Peripatetic philosopher, geographer, and historian, and a contemporary of Aristotle and Theophrastus. He was the son of one Pheidias, and born at Messana in Sicily, though he passed the greater part of his life in Greece Proper, and especially in Peloponnesus. He was a disciple of Aristotle (Cic. de Leg. 3.6), and a friend of Theophrastus, to whom he dedicated some of his writings. Most of Aristotle's disciples are mentioned also among those of Plato, but as this is not the case with Dicaearchus, Osann (Beiträge zur Griech. u. Röm. Lit. ii. p. 1, &c.) justly infers that Dicaearchus was one of Aristotle's younger disciples. From some allusions which we meet with in the fragments of his works, we must conclude that he survived the year B. C. 296, and that he died about B. C. 285. Dicaearchus was highly esteemed by the ancients as a philosopher and as a man of most extensive information upon a great variety of things. (Cic. Tusc. 1.18, de Off. 2.5; Varro, de Re Rust. 1.2.)


Dicaearchus' works, which were very numerous, are frequently referred to, and many fragments of them are still extant, which shew that their loss is one of the most severe in Greek literature. His works were partly geographical, partly political or historical, and partly philosophical; but it is difficult to draw up an accurate list of them, since many which are quoted as distinct works appear to have been only sections of greater ones. The fragments extant, moreover, do not always enable us to form a clear notion of the works to which they once belonged. Among his geographical works may be mentioned--

1. On the heights of mountains.

(Plin. H. N 2.65; Geminus, Elem. Astron. 14.) Suidas (s. v. Δικαίαρχος) mentions καταμετρήσεις τῶν ὲν Πελοποννήσῳ ὀρῶν, but the quotations in Pliny and Geminus shew that Dicaearchus's measurements of heights were not confined to Peloponnesus, and Suidas therefore probably quotes only a section of the whole work.

2. Γῆς περίοδος

(Lydus, de Mens. p. 98. 17, ed. Bekker). This work was probably the text written in explanation of the geographical maps which Dicaearchus had constructed and given to Theophrastus, and which seem to have comprised the whole world, as far as it was then known. (Cic. Att. 6.2; comp. D. L. 5.51.)

3. Ἀναγραφὴ τῆς Ἐλλάδος

Ἀναγραφὴ τῆς Ἐλλάδος. A work of this title, dedicated to Theophrastus, and consisting of 150 iambic verses, is stll extant under the name of Dicaearchus; but its form and spirit are both unworthy of Dicaearchus, and it is in all probability the production of a much later writer, who made a metrical paraphrase of that portion of the Γῆς περίοδος which referred to Greece. Buttmann is the only modern critic who has endeavoured to claim the work for Dicaearchus in his "de Dicaearcho ejusque operibus quae inscribuntur Βίος Ἐλλάδος et Ἀναγραφὴ τῆς Ἑλλάδος," Naumburg, 1832, 4to. But his attempt is not very successful, and has been ably refuted by Osann. (Allgem. Schulzeitung for 1833, No. 140, &c.)

4. Βίος τῆς Ἑλλάδος

Βίος τῆς Ἑλλάδος, was the most important among the works of Dicaearchus, and contained an account of the geographical position, the history, and the moral and religious condition of Greece. It contained, in short, all the information necessary to obtain a full knowledge of the Greeks, their life, and their manners. It was probably subdivided into sections; so that when we read of works of Dicaearchus περὶ μουσικῆς, τερὶ μουσικῶν ἀγώνων, τερὶ Διονυσιακῶν ἀγώνων, and the like, we have probably to consider them only as portions of the great work, Βίος τῆς Ἑλλάδος. It is impossible to make out the plan of the work in detail with any accuracy : the attempt, however, has been made by Marx. (Crenzer's Meletem. 3.4, p. 173, &c.) We know that the work consisted of three books, of which the first contained the history and a geographical description of Greece, so as to form a sort of introduction to the whole work. The second gave an account of the condition of the several Greek states; and the third, of the private and domestic life, the theatres, games, religion, &c. of the Greeks. Of the second book a considerable fragment is still extant; but in its present form it cannot be considered the work of Dicaearchus himself, but it is a portion of an abridgment which some one made of the Βίος τῆς Ἑλλάδος.

5. εἰς Τροφωνίου κατάβασις

To this class of writings we may also refer εἰς Τροφωνίου κατάβασις, a work which consisted of several books, and, as we may infer from the fragments quoted from it, contained an account of the degenerate and licentious proceedings of the priests in the cave of Trophonius. (Cic. Att. 6.2, 13.31; Athen. 13.594, xiv. p. 641.) The geographical works of Dicaearchus were, according to Strabo (ii. p.104), censured in many respects by Polybius; and Strabo himself (iii. p. 170) is dissatisfied with his descriptions of western and northern Europe, which countries Dicaearchus had never visited.

6. Τριπολιτικός

Of a political nature was Τριπολιτικός (Athen. 4.141 ; Cic. Att. 13.32), a work which has been the subject of much dispute. Passow, in a programme (Breslau, 1829), endeavoured to establish the opinion that it was a reply to Anaxiimenes's Τρικάρανος or Τριπολιτικός, in which the Lacedaemonians, Athenians, and Thebans, had been calumniated. Buttmann thought it to have been a comparison of the constitutions of Pellene (Pallene), Corinth, and Athens (comp. Cic. Att. 2.2), and that Dicaearchus inflicted severe censure upon those states for their corrupt morals and their vicious constitutions. A third opinion is maintained by Osann (l.c. p. 8, &c.), who taking his stand on a passage in Photius (Bibl. Cod. 37) where an εἶδος Δικαιαρχικόν of a state is mentioned as a combination of the three forms of government, the democratical, aristocratical, and monarchical, infers that Dicaearchus in his Τριπολιτικός, explained the nature of that mixed constitution, and illustrated it by the example of Sparta. This opinion is greatly supported by the contents of the fragments. Osann goes even so far as to think that the discussion on politics in the sixti book of Polybius is based upon the Τριπολιτικός of Dicaearchus. Cicero intended to make use of this work, which seems to have been written in the form of a dialogue, for his treatise de Gloria. (Ad Att. 13.30.)

7. Λεσβιακοί

Among his philosophical works may be mentioned Λεσβιακοί, in three books, which derived its name from the fact that the scene of the philosophical dialogue was laid at Mytilene in Lesbos. In it Dicaearchus endeavored to prove that the soul was mortal. (Cic. Tusc. 1.31.) Cicero (Cic. Att. 13.12) when speaking of a work πεπὶ ψυχῆς, probably means the Λεσβιακοί.

8. Κορινθιακοί

Another philosophical work, Κορινθιακοί, which likewise consisted of three books, was a sort of supplement to the former. (Cic. Tusc. 1.10.) It is probably the same work as the one which Cicero. in another passage (de Off. 2.5), calls "de Interitu Hominum."

Excerpts of the
Life of Greece

Some other works, such as Πολιτεία Σπαρτιατῶν (Suid.), Ὀλυμπικὸς ἀγών or λόγος (Athen. 14.620), Παναθηναικός (Schol. ad Aristoph. Vesp. 564), and several others, seem to have been merely chapters of the Βίος τῆς Ἑλλάδος.

περὶ τῆς ἐν Ἰλίῳ Θυσίας

A work περὶ τῆς ἐν Ἰλίῳ Θυσίας (Athen. 13.603) seems to have referred to the sacrifice which Alexander the Great performed at Ilium.

Φαίδρου περισσῶν

The work Φαίδρου περισσῶν has no foundation except a false reading in Cicero (Cic. Att. 13.39), which has been corrected by Petersen in his Phaedri Epicurei Fragm. p. 11.

Other Works

There are lastly some other works which are of a grammatical nature, and are usually believed to have been the productions of our philosopher, viz. Περὶ Ἀλκαίου (Athen. xi. pp. 460, 479, xv. pp. 666, 668), and ὑποθέσεις τῶν Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέονς μύθων (Sext. Empir. ad v. Geometr. p. 310), but may have been the works of Dicaearchus, a grammarian of Lacedaemon, who, according to Suidas, was a disciple of Aristarchus, and seems to be alluded to in Apollonius. (De Pronom. p. 320.)

Further Information

A valuable dissertation on the writings of Dicaearchus is contained in Osann (l.c. p. 1, &c.), and the fragments have been collected and accompanied by a very interesting discussion by Maximil. Fuhr, Dicaearchi Messenii quae supersunt composite, edita et illustrate, Darmstadt, 1841, 4to.

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  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.12
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.31
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.32
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 13.39
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 2.2
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 6.2
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