Anaxagoras


Diogenes Laertius, book II Anaxagoras

When some one asked him if the hills at Lampsacus would ever become sea, he replied, "Yes, it only needs time." Being asked to what end he had been born, he replied, "To study sun and moon and heavens." To one who inquired, "You miss the society of the Athenians?" his reply was, "Not I, but they miss mine." When he saw the tomb of Mausolus, he said, "A costly tomb is an image of an estate turned into stone."[15] 11. To one who complained that he was dying in a foreign land, his answer was, "The descent to Hades is much the same from whatever place we start."

13. When news was brought him that he was condemned and his sons were dead, his comment on the sentence was, "Long ago nature condemned both my judges and myself to death"; and on his sons, "I knew that my children were born to die."


Pericles gained much from his association with Anaxagoras, and in particular he is thought to have risen above that superstition which amazement at the celestial phenomena produces in those who are ignorant of their causes and who, because of their inexperience, are fascinated and confused about things divine a state of mind which is changed by a scientific account, which creates a sure piety based on good hopes in place of a fearful and feverish superstition.

At the time it was Anaxagoras who was admired by those present ; but a little later it was Lampon for Thucydides was ousted and all public affairs came under Pericles. Plutarch, Pericles vi 155AB

In all these respects we are more unfortunate than the beasts. But by experience and memory and wisdom and skill, according to Anaxagoras, we exploit them, taking their honey and their milk, and plundering them and herding them together, so that here nothing depends on fortune but everything on planning. [B 21b] Plutarch, On Fortune 98F

Back To Top



Back to Collected Wisdom

Home Page

2009