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Stilpo of Megara Booklet


Diogenes Laertius: The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book 2


XIV. But he appears to have got the name of theos from Stilpo one day asking him, “Are you, Theodorus, what you say you are?” And when he said he was, “And you said that you are theos,” continued his questioner; he admitted that also. “Then,” continued the other, “you are theos.” And as he willingly received the title, the other laughed and said, “But you, wretched man, according to this principle, you would also admit that you were a raven, or a hundred other things.” One day Theodorus sat down by Euryclides the hierophant, and said to him, “Tell me now, Euryclides, who are they who behave impiously with respect to the mysteries?” And when Euryclides answered, “Those who divulge them to the uninitiated;” “Then,” said he, ” you also are impious, for you divulge them to those who are not initiated.”


III. But his successor was Phistamus of Elis; and the next in succession to him were Menedemus of Eretria, and Asclepiades of Philias, who came over from Stilpo. And down to the age of these last, they were called the Eliac school; but after the time of Menedemus, they were called the Eretrians. And we will speak of Menedemus hereafter, because he was the founder of a new sect.


VII. There are also other pupils of Eubulides, among whom is Apollonius Cronus, who was the preceptor of Diodorus of Iasos, the son of Aminias; and he too was surnamed Cronus, and is thus mentioned by Callimachus in his epigrams:

Momus himself did carve upon the walls,

Cronus is wise.

And he was a dialectician, and, as some believe, he was the first person who invented the Concealed argument, and the Horned one. When he was staying at the court of Ptolemy Soter, he had several dialectic questions put to him by Stilpo; and as he was not able to solve them at the moment, he was reproached by the king with many hard words, and among other things, he was nicknamed Cronus, out of derision. So he left the banquet, and wrote an essay on the question of Stilpo, and then died of despondency. And we have written the following epigram on him:

O Diodorus Cronus, what sad fate

Buried you in despair?

So that you hastened to the shades below,

Perplexed by Stilpo's quibbles-

You would deserve your name of Cronus better,

If C and r were gone.

VIII. One of the successors of Euclides was Icthyas, the son of Metellus, a man of great eminence, to whom Diogenes the Cynic addressed a dialogue. And Clinomachus of Therium, who was the first person who ever wrote about axioms and categorems, and things of that kind. And Stilpo the Megarian, a most illustrious philosopher, whom we must now speak of.


I. STILPO, a native of Megara in Greece, was a pupil of some of Euclides' school. But some say that he was a pupil of Euclides himself. And also of Thrasymachus, the Corinthian, who was a friend of Icthyas, as Heraclides informs us.

II. And he was so much superior to all his fellows in command of words and in acuteness, that it may almost be said that all Greece fixed its eyes upon him, and joined the Megaric school. And concerning him Philippus of Megara speaks thus, word for word: “For he carried off from Theophrastus, Metrodorus the speculative philosopher, and Timagoras of Gela; and Aristotle the Cyrenaic, he robbed of Clitarchus and Simias; and from the dialecticians' school also he won men over, carrying off Poeoneius from Aristides, and Dippilus of the Bosphorus from Euphantus, and also Myrmex of the Venites, who had both come to him to argue against him, but they became converts and his disciples.” And besides these men, he attracted to his school Phrasidemus the Peripatetic, a natural philosopher of great ability; and Alcimus the rhetorician, the most eminent orator in all Greece at that time; and he won over Crates, and great numbers of others, and among them Zeno the Phoenician.

III. And he was very fond of the study of politics. And he was married. But he lived also with a courtesan, named Nicarete, as Onetor tells us somewhere. And he had a licentious daughter, who was married to a friend of his named Simias, a citizen of Syracuse. And as she would not live in an orderly manner, some one told Stilpo that she was a disgrace to him. But he said, “She is not more a disgrace to me than I am an honour to her.”

IV. Ptolemy Soter, it is said, received him with great honour; and when he had made himself master of Megara, he gave him money, and invited him to sail with him to Egypt. But he accepted only a moderate sum of money, and declined the journey proposed to him, but went over to Aegina, until Ptolemy had sailed. Also when Demetrius, the son of Antigonus had taken Megara, he ordered Stilpo's house to be saved, and took care that everything that had been plundered from him should be restored to him. But when he wished Stilpo to give him in a list of all that he had lost, he said that he had lost nothing of his own; for that no one had taken from him his learning, and that he still had his eloquence and his knowledge. And he conversed with Demetrius on the subject of doing good to men with such power, that he became a zealous hearer of his.

V. They say that he once put such a question as this to a man, about the Minerva of Phidias: “Is Minerva the Goddess the daughter of Jupiter?” And when the other said, “Yes;” “But this,” said he, “is not the child of Jupiter, but of Phidias.” And when he agreed that it was so- “This then,” he continued, “is not a God.” And when he was brought before the Areopagus for this speech, he did not deny it, but maintained that he had spoken correctly; for that she was not a God (theos) but a Goddess (thea); for that Gods were of the male sex only.1 However the judges of the Areopagus ordered him to leave the city; and on this occasion, Theodorus, who was nicknamed theos, said in derision, “Whence did Stilpo learn this? and how could he tell whether she was a God or a Goddess?” But Theodorus was in truth a most impudent fellow. But Stilpo was a most witty and elegant-minded man. Accordingly when Crates asked him if the Gods delighted in adoration and prayer; they say that he answered, “Do not ask these questions, you foolish man, in the road, but in private.” And they say too that Bion, when he was asked whether there were any Gods, answered in the same spirit: “Will you not first, O! miserable old man, Remove the multitude?”

VI. But Stilpo was a man of simple character, and free from all trick and humbug, and universally affable. Accordingly, when Crates the Cynic once refused to answer a question that he had put to him, and only insulted his questioner– “I knew,” said Stilpo, ” that he would say anything rather than what he ought.” And once he put a question to him, and offered him a fig at the same time; so he took the fig and ate it, on which Crates said “O Hercules I have lost my fig.” “Not only that,” he replied, “but you have lost your question too, of which the fig was the pledge.” At another time, he saw Crates shivering in the winter, and said to him, “Crates, you seem to me to want a new dress,” meaning, both a new mind and a new garment; and Crates, feeling ashamed, answered him in the following parody:

“There2 Stilpo too, through the Megarian bounds,

Pours out deep groans, where Syphon's voice resounds,

And there he oft doth argue, while a school

Of eager pupils owns his subtle rule,

And virtue's name with eager chase pursues.”

And it is said that at Athens he attracted all the citizens to such a degree, that they used to run from their workshops to look at him; and when some one said to him, “Why, Stilpo, they wonder at you as if you were a wild beast,” he replied, “Not so; but as a real genuine man.”

VII. And he was a very clever arguer; and rejected the theory of species. And he used to say that a person who spoke of man in general, was speaking of nobody; for that he was not speaking of this individual, nor of that one; for speaking in general, how can he speak more of this person than of that person? therefore he is not speaking of this person at all. Another of his illustrations was, “That which is shown to me, is not a vegetable; for a vegetable existed ten thousand years ago, therefore this is not a vegetable.” And they say that once when he was conversing with Crates, he interrupted the discourse to go off and buy some fish; and as Crates tried to drag him back, and said, “You are leaving the argument;” “Not at all,” he replied,” “I keep the argument, but I am leaving you; for the argument remains, but the fish will be sold to some one else.”

VIII. There are nine dialogues of his extant, written in a frigid style: The Moschus; the Cnistippus or Callias; the Ptolemy; the Choerecrates; the Metrocles; the Anaximenes; the Epigenes; the one entitled To my Daughter, and the Aristotle.

IX. Heraclides affirms that Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, had been one of his pupils.

X. Hermippus says that he died at a great age, after drinking some wine, in order to die more rapidly. And we have written this epigram upon him:

Stranger, old age at first, and then disease,

A hateful pair, did lay wise Stilpo low.

The pride of Megara: he found good wine

The best of drivers for his mournful coach,

And drinking it, he drove on to the end.

And he was ridiculed by Sophibus the comic poet, in his play called Marriages:

The dregs of Stilpo make the whole discourse of this Charinus.


II. But when Menedemus was sent by the Eretrians to Megara, as one of the garrison, he deserted the rest, and went to the Academy to Plato; and being charmed by him, he abandoned the army altogether. And when Asclepiades, the Phliasian, drew him over to him, he went and lived in Megara, near Stilpo, and they both became his disciples. And from thence they sailed to Elis, where they joined Anchipylus and Moschus, who belonged to Phaedo's school. And up to this time, as I have already mentioned in my account of Phaedo, they were called Eleans; and they were also called Eretrians, from the native country of Menedemus, of whom I am now speaking.

XI. Of masters of philosophy, he used to despise Plato and Xenocrates, and Paraebates of Cyrene; and admired no one but Stilpo. And once, being questioned about him, he said nothing more of him than that he was a gentleman.

The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853

Plutarch: Life of Demetrius

The people, hearing this, at once threw down their shields, and, clapping their hands, with loud acclamations entreated Demetrius to land, calling him their deliverer and benefactor. And the Phalerian and his party, who saw that there was nothing for it but to receive the conqueror, whether he should perform his promises or not, sent, however, messengers to beg for his protection; to whom Demetrius gave a kind reception, and sent back with them Aristodemus of Miletus, one of his father's friends. The Phalerian, under the change of government, was more afraid of his fellow-citizens than of the enemy; but Demetrius took precautions for him, and, out of respect for his reputation and character, sent him with a safe conduct to Thebes, whither he desired to go. For himself, he declared he would not, in spite of all his curiosity, put his foot in the city, till he had completed its deliverance by driving out the garrison. So, blockading Munychia with a palisade and trench, he sailed off to attack Megara, where also there was one of Cassander's garrisons. But, hearing that Cratesipolis, the wife of Alexander son of Polysperchon, who was famous for her beauty, was well disposed to see him, he left his troops near Megara, and set out with a few light-armed attendants for Patrae, where she was now staying. And, quitting these also, he pitched his tent apart from everybody, that the woman might pay her visit without being seen. This some of the enemy perceived, and suddenly attacked him; and, in his alarm, he was obliged to disguise himself in a shabby cloak, and run for it, narrowly escaping the shame of being made a prisoner, in reward for his foolish passion. And as it was, his tent and money were taken. Megara, however, surrendered, and would have been pillaged by the soldiers, but for the urgent intercession of the Athenians. The garrison was driven out, and the city restored to independence. While he was occupied in this, he remembered that Stilpo, the philosopher, famous for his choice of a life of tranquillity, was residing here. He, therefore, sent for him, and begged to know whether anything belonging to him had been taken. “No,” replied Stilpo, “I have not met with anyone to take away knowledge.” Pretty nearly all the servants in the city had been stolen away; and so, when Demetrius, renewing his courtesies to Stilpo, on taking leave of him, said, “I leave your city, Stilpo, a city of freemen,” “certainly,” replied Stilpo, “there is not one serving man left among us all.”

Plutarch Lives. Revised/translated by A. H. Clough. Revised from Dryden's version. Also known as “Parallel Lives”, written in Greek ~100 AD. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1859.

Plutarch: Against Colotes, the Disciple and Favorite of Epicurus

22. Having done with Socrates and Plato, he next attacks Stilpo. Now as for those his true doctrines and good discourses, by which he managed and governed himself, his country, his friends, and such kings and princes as loved him and esteemed him, he has not written a word; nor yet what prudence and magnanimity was in his heart, accompanied with meekness, moderation, and modesty. But having made mention of one of those little sentences he was wont in mirth and raillery to object against the sophisters, he does, without alleging any reason against it or solving the subtlety of the objection, stir up a terrible tragedy against Stilpo, saying that the life of man is subverted by him, inasmuch as he affirms that one thing cannot be predicated of another. “For how,” says he, “shall we live, if we cannot style a man good, nor a man a captain, but must separately name a man a man, good good, and a captain a captain; nor can say ten thousand horsemen, or a fortified town, but only call horsemen horsemen, and ten thousand ten thousand, and so of the rest?” Now what man ever was there that lived the worse for this? Or who is there that, hearing this discourse, does not immediately perceive and understand it to be the speech of a man who rallies gallantly, and proposes to others this logical question for the exercise of their wits? It is not, O Colotes, a great and dangerous scandal not to call man good, or not to say ten thousand horsemen; but not to call God God, and not to believe him to be God, — as you and the rest do, who will not confess that there is a Jupiter presiding over generation, or a Ceres giving laws, or a Neptune fostering the plants, — it is this separation of names that is pernicious, and fills our life with audaciousness and an atheistical contempt of the Gods. When you pluck from the Gods the names and appellations that are tied to them, you abolish also the sacrifices, mysteries, processions, and feasts. For to whom shall we offer the sacrifices preceding the tilling of the ground? To whom those for the obtaining of preservation? How shall we celebrate the Phosphoria, or torch-festivals, the Bacchanals, and the ceremonies that go before marriage, if we admit neither Bacchantes, Gods of light, Gods who protect the sown field, nor preservers of the state? For this it is that touches the principal and greatest points, being an error in things, — not in words, in the structure of propositions, or use of terms.

Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878).

Crates of Thebes: Poems

Stilpo: And again, on seeing Crates pinched with the cold in winter, he remarked ‘You seem to me, Crates, to need a new coat’ which also means a coat and wits, or as we might put it ‘Why not weave the wool you gather?’; annoyed by this, Crates replied with the following parody:

And Stilpo eke saw I in toilsome woe At Megara, where' tis said Typhoeus sleeps; There wrangled he, with comrades thronged, and ran A letter-shifting goose-chase after Virtue.

Elegy and Iambus. with an English Translation by. J. M. Edmonds. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press. London. William Heinemann Ltd. 1931. 2.

Eusebius: Preparation for the Gospel Book 14

'Arcesilaus and Zeno became disciples of Polemon, for I am going to mention them again at last. Of Zeno I remember to have said that he attended Xenocrates and then Polemon, and afterwards became a Cynic in the School of Crates: but now let him be accounted to have also derived something from Stilpo and those Heracleitean discourses.

'For since as fellow disciples of Polemon Arcesilaus and Zeno were emulous of each other, the one of them took as his allies in their mutual contest Heracleitus, and Stilpo, and also Crates, among whom he was made by Stilpo a disputant, by Heracleitus austere, and by Crates cynical: but the other, Arcesilaus, has Theophrastus, and Crantor the Piatonist, and Diodorus, and then Pyrrho, and of these Crantor made him persuasive, Diodorus sophistical, and Pyrrho versatile, and reckless, and nothing at all.

ARISTOCLES 42 'BUT there came others uttering language opposed to these. For they think we ought to put down the senses and their presentations, and trust only to reason. For such were formerly the statements of Xenophanes and Parmenides and Zenon and Melissus, and afterwards of Stilpo and the Megarics. Whence these maintain that “being” is one, and that the “other” does not exist, and that nothing is generated, and nothing perishes, nor is moved at all.

Eusebii Pamphili Evangelicae Praeparationis. Libri XV. Ad codiced manuscriptos denuo collatos recensuit anglice nunc primum reddidit notis et indicibus instruxit. E. H. Gifford, S. T. P. Olim Archidiaconus Londinensis. Tomus III. Pars prior OXONII.

Diogenes Laertius: The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book 7


One day at a banquet he was reclining in silence and was asked the reason: whereupon he bade his critic carry word to the king that there was one present who knew how to hold his tongue. Now those who inquired of him were ambassadors from King Ptolemy, and they wanted to know what message they should take back from him to the king. On being asked how he felt about abuse, he replied, “As an envoy feels who is dismissed without an answer.” Apollonius of Tyre tells us how, when Crates laid hold on him by the cloak to drag him from Stilpo, Zeno said, “The right way to seize a philosopher, Crates, is by the ears: persuade me then and drag me off by them; but, if you use violence, my body will be with you, but my mind with Stilpo.”

The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853 | Zeno only, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, translated by Robert Drew Hicks, Wikisource

Plutarch: Of the Tranquillity of the Mind

And yet did the report never arrive thee that Alcibiades debauched this king’s wife, Timaea? — and that she herself whispered archly to her maids, that the child was not the genuine offspring of her husband, but a young Alcibiades? Yet this did not obstruct the glory of the man; for, notwithstanding his being a cuckold, he was the greatest and most famous among the Greeks. Nor did the dissolute manners of his daughter hinder Stilpo from enlivening his humor and being the jolliest philosopher of his time; for when Metrocles upbraided him with it, he asked him whether he was the offender or his mad girl. He answered, that it was her sin but his misfortune. To which Stilpo replied: But are not sins lapses? No doubt of it, saith Metrocles. And is not that properly called lapse, when we fall off from the attainment of those things we were in the pursuit of? He could not deny it. He pursued him further with this question: And are not these unlucky traverses misfortunes to them who are thus disappointed? Thus by a pleasant and philosophical reasoning he turned the discourse, and showed the Cynic that his calumny was idle and he barked in vain.

Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878).

Plutarch: Of Bashfulness

Bion used to compare these men to pitchers: Take them, said he, by the ears, and you may move them as you please. Thus Alexinus, the sophist, was reporting many scandalous things in the lyceum of Stilpo the Megarian; but when one present informed him that Stilpo always spake very honorably of him, Why truly, says he, he is one of the most obliging and best of men. But now Menedemus, when it was told him that Alexinus often praised him, replied: That may be, but I always talk against him; for he must be bad who either praises a bad man or is blamed by an honest one. So wary was he of being caught by such baits, agreeably to that precept of Hercules in Antisthenes, who cautioned his sons not to be thankful to such as were used to praise them, — thereby meaning no more than that they should be so far from being wheedled thereby as not even to return their flatteries. That of Pindar was very apposite, and enough to be said in such a case: when one told him, I cry you up among all men, and speak to your advantage on all occasions; and I, replied he, am always very thankful, in that I take care you shall not tell a lie.

Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878).

Plutarch: How a Man May be Sensible in his Progress in Virtue

Now it is much more probable that the faculties of the sense may be so brought in subjection by undergoing such exercise as we speak of, that all its imaginations and motions may be smoothed and made agreeable to right reason, even when we are asleep and keep not sentry. It is reported of Stilpo the philosopher, that he thought he saw Neptune in his sleep, and that he seemed very much displeased with him, because he had not (as was usual with his priests) sacrificed an ox in honor of him. Not in the least daunted at the apparition, he thus boldly accosted it: Neptune! what’s this business you here complain of? You come hither like a child, and are angry with me, because I did not borrow money and run in debt to please you, and fill the city with costly odors, but privately sacrificed to you in my own house such ordinary victims as I could get. At this confident reply, Neptune smiled, and (as the story goes) reached him his hand, as an assurance of his good-will to him, and told him that for his sake he would send the Megarians abundance of fish that season.

Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878).

Plutarch: The Contradictions of the Stoics

I would willingly therefore ask the Stoics, whether they think these Megarian interrogatories to be more forcible than those which Chrysippus has written in six books against custom; or rather this should be asked of Chrysippus himself. For observe what he has written about the Megarian reason, in his book concerning the Use of Speech, thus: “Some such things fell out in the discourse of Stilpo and Menedemus; for, whereas they were renowned for wisdom, their disputing has turned to their reproach, their arguments being part clumsy, and the rest violently sophistical.”

Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878).

stilpo/the-stilpo-of-megara-booklet.txt · Last modified: 2015/05/24 13:52 by frank