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Stilpo of Megara

Diogenes Laertius, Book 2 §113-120

113. 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.”

114. 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.”

115. 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.

116. 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 Θεός, said in derision, “Whence 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.

117. 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 elder?

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 questioner, “I knew,” said Stilpo, “that you would utter anything rather than what you ought.”

118. And once 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,” i.e. to be wanting in sense as well. And the other being annoyed replied with the following burlesque:

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.

119. 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 sold.”

120. Nine dialogues of his are extant written in frigid style, Moschus, Aristippus or Callias, Ptolemy, Chaerecrates, Metrocles, Anaximenes, Epigenes, To his Daughter, Aristotle. Heraclides relates that Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, was one of Stilpo's pupils; Hermippus that Stilpo died at a great age after taking wine to hasten his end.

I have written an epitaph on him also:[

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 The Wedding:

What Charinus says is just Stilpo's stoppers.

Diogenes Laertius, Book 7 §2

[Zeno] was a pupil of Crates, as stated above. Next they say he attended the lectures of Stilpo and Xenocrates for ten years – so Timocrates says in his Dion – and Polemo as well. It is stated by Hecato and by Apollonius of Tyre in his first book on Zeno that he consulted the oracle to know what he should do to attain the best life, and that the god's response was that he should take on the complexion of the dead. Whereupon, perceiving what this meant, he studied ancient authors. Now the way he came across Crates was this. He was shipwrecked on a voyage from Phoenicia to Peiraeus with a cargo of purple. He went up into Athens and sat down in a bookseller's shop, being then a man of thirty.

Plutarch, On Tranquility of the Mind 6.468a

Just as the licentiousness of his daughter did not prevent Stilpo from leading the most cheerful life of all the philosophers of his time; on the contrary, when Metrocles reproached him, he asked, “Is this my fault or hers?” And when Metrocles replied, “Her fault, but your misfortune,” he said, “What do you mean? Are not faults also slips?” “Certainly,” said Metrocles. “And are not slips also mischances of those who have slipped?” Metrocles agreed. “And are not mischances also misfortunes of those whose mischances they are?” By this gentle and philosophic argument he showed the Cynic's abuse to be but idle yapping.

Suda, Sigma 1114

Stilpo of Megara, philosopher, lived under the first Ptolemy; pupil of Pasikles the Theban; [it was Pasikles] who attended the lectures of his brother Krates and of Diokleides the Megarian; but others [say they were those of] Eukleides the associate of Plato. He was head of the Megarian school and he wrote no fewer than 20 dialogues.

cynics/stilpo_of_megara.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/14 23:19 (external edit)