Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter XIV.—Succession of Philosophers in Greece.
Chapter XIV.—Succession of Philosophers in Greece.
The Greeks say, that after Orpheus and Linus, and the most ancient of the poets that appeared among them, the seven, called wise, were the first that were admired for their wisdom. Of whom four were of Asia—Thales of Miletus, and Bias of Priene, Pittacus of Mitylene, and Cleobulus of Lindos; and two of Europe, Solon the Athenian, and Chilon the Lacedæmonian; and the seventh, some say, was Periander of Corinth; others, Anacharsis the Scythian; others, Epimenides the Cretan, whom Paul knew as a Greek prophet, whom he mentions in the Epistle to Titus, where he speaks thus: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. And this witness is true.” 1952 You see how even to the prophets of the Greeks he attributes something of the truth, and is not ashamed, 1953 when discoursing p. 314 for the edification of some and the shaming of others, to make use of Greek poems. Accordingly to the Corinthians (for this is not the only instance), while discoursing on the resurrection of the dead, he makes use of a tragic Iambic line, when he said, “What advantageth it me if the dead are not raised? Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.” 1954 Others have enumerated Acusilaus the Argive among the seven wise men; and others, Pherecydes of Syros. And Plato substitutes Myso the Chenian for Periander, whom he deemed unworthy of wisdom, on account of his having reigned as a tyrant. That the wise men among the Greeks flourished after the age of Moses, will, a little after, be shown. But the style of philosophy among them, as Hebraic and enigmatical, is now to be considered. They adopted brevity, as suited for exhortation, and most useful. Even Plato says, that of old this mode was purposely in vogue among all the Greeks, especially the Lacedæmonians and Cretans, who enjoyed the best laws.
The expression, “Know thyself,” some supposed to be Chilons. But Chamæleon, in his book About the Gods, ascribes it to Thales; Aristotle to the Pythian. It may be an injunction to the pursuit of knowledge. For it is not possible to know the parts without the essence of the whole; and one must study the genesis of the universe, that thereby we may be able to learn the nature of man. Again, to Chilon the Lacedæmonian they attribute, “Let nothing be too much.” 1955 Strato, in his book Of Inventions, ascribes the apophthegm to Stratodemus of Tegea. Didymus assigns it to Solon; as also to Cleobulus the saying, “A middle course is best.” And the expression, “Come under a pledge, and mischief is at hand,” Cleomenes says, in his book Concerning Hesiod, was uttered before by Homer in the lines:—“Wretched pledges, for the wretched, to be pledged.” 1956
The Aristotelians judge it to be Chilons; but Didymus says the advice was that of Thales. Then, next in order, the saying, “All men are bad,” or, “The most of men are bad” (for the same apophthegm is expressed in two ways), Sotades the Byzantian says that it was Biass. And the aphorism, “Practice conquers everything,” 1957 they will have it to be Perianders; and likewise the advice, “Know the opportunity,” to have been a saying of Pittacus. Solon made laws for the Athenians, Pittacus for the Mitylenians. And at a late date, Pythagoras, the pupil of Pherecydes, first called himself a philosopher. Accordingly, after the fore-mentioned three men, there were three schools of philosophy, named after the places where they lived: the Italic from Pythagoras, the Ionic from Thales, the Eleatic from Xenophanes. Pythagoras was a Samian, the son of Mnesarchus, as Hippobotus says: according to Aristoxenus, in his life of Pythagoras and Aristarchus and Theopompus, he was a Tuscan; and according to Neanthes, a Syrian or a Tyrian. So that Pythagoras was, according to the most, of barbarian extraction. Thales, too, as Leander and Herodotus relate, was a Phœnician; as some suppose, a Milesian. He alone seems to have met the prophets of the Egyptians. But no one is described as his teacher, nor is any one mentioned as the teacher of Pherecydes of Syros, who had Pythagoras as his pupil. But the Italic philosophy, that of Pythagoras, grew old in Metapontum in Italy. Anaximander of Miletus, the son of Praxiades, succeeded Thales; and was himself succeeded by Anaximenes of Miletus, the son of Eurustratus; after whom came Anaxagoras of Clazomenæ, the son of Hegesibulus. 1958 He transferred his school from Ionia to Athens. He was succeeded by Archelaus, whose pupil Socrates was.“From these turned aside, the stone-mason;
Talker about laws; the enchanter of the Greeks,”
says Timon in his Satirical Poems, on account of his quitting physics for ethics. Antisthenes, after being a pupil of Socrates, introduced the Cynic philosophy; and Plato withdrew to the Academy. Aristotle, after studying philosophy under Plato, withdrew to the Lyceum, and founded the Peripatetic sect. He was succeeded by Theophrastus, who was succeeded by Strato, and he by Lycon, then Critolaus, and then Diodorus. Speusippus was the successor of Plato; his successor was Xenocrates; and the successor of the latter, Polemo. And the disciples of Polemo were Crates and Crantor, in whom the old Academy founded by Plato ceased. Arcesilaus was the associate of Crantor; from whom, down to Hegesilaus, the Middle Academy flourished. Then Carneades succeeded Hegesilaus, and others came in succession. The disciple of Crates was Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic sect. He was succeeded by Cleanthes; and the latter by Chrysippus, and others after him. Xenophanes of Colophon was the founder of the Eleatic school, who, Timæus says, lived in the time of Hiero, lord of Sicily, and Epicharmus the poet; and Apollodorus says that he was born in the fortieth Olympiad, and reached to the times of Darius and Cyrus. Parmenides, accordingly, was the disciple of Xenophanes, and Zeno of him; then came Leucippus, p. 315 and then Democritus. Disciples of Democritus were Protagoras of Abdera, and Metrodorus of Chios, whose pupil was Diogenes of Smyrna; and his again Anaxarchus, and his Pyrrho, and his Nausiphanes. Some say that Epicurus was a scholar of his.
Such, in an epitome, is the succession of the philosophers among the Greeks. The periods of the originators of their philosophy are now to be specified successively, in order that, by comparison, we may show that the Hebrew philosophy was older by many generations. 1959
It has been said of Xenophanes that he was the founder of the Eleatic philosophy. And Eudemus, in the Astrological Histories, says that Thales foretold the eclipse of the sun, which took place at the time that the Medians and the Lydians fought, in the reign of Cyaxares the father of Astyages over the Medes, and of Alyattus the son of Crœsus over the Lydians. Herodotus in his first book agrees with him. The date is about the fiftieth Olympiad. Pythagoras is ascertained to have lived in the days of Polycrates the tyrant, about the sixty-second Olympiad. Mnesiphilus is described as a follower of Solon, and was a contemporary of Themistocles. Solon therefore flourished about the forty-sixth Olympiad. For Heraclitus, the son of Bauso, persuaded Melancomas the tyrant to abdicate his sovereignty. He despised the invitation of king Darius to visit the Persians.
Titus 1:12, 13.313:1953
[Though Canon Farrar minimizes the Greek scholarship of St. Paul, as is now the fashion, I think Clement credits him with Greek learning. The apostles example seems to have inspired the philosophical arguments of Clement, as well as his exuberance of poetical and mythological quotation.]314:1954
1 Cor. 15:32, 33.314:1955
“Nequid Nimis.” Μηδὲν ἄγαν.314:1956
Odyss., viii. 351.314:1957
Μελέτη πάντα καθαιρεῖ.314:1958
[Clements Attic scholarship never seduces him from this fidelity to the Scriptures. The argument from superior antiquity was one which the Greeks were sure to feel when demonstrated.]
Next: Chapter XV.—The Greek Philosophy in Great Part Derived from the Barbarians.
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