Carneades


Diogenes Laertius, Book IV - Carneades

62. Carneades, the son of Epicomus or (according to Alexander in his Successions of Philosophers) of Philocomus, was a native of Cyrene. He studied carefully the writings of the Stoics and particularly those of Chrysippus, and by combating these successfully he became so famous that he would often say:

Without Chrysippus where should I have been?

The man's industry was unparalleled, although in physics he was not so strong as in ethics. Hence he would let his hair and nails grow long from intense devotion to study. Such was his predominance in philosophy that even the rhetoricians would dismiss their classes and repair to him to hear him lecture.

63. His voice was extremely powerful, so that the keeper of the gymnasium sent to him and requested him not to shout so loud. To which he replied, "Then give me something by which to regulate my voice." Thereupon by a happy hit the man replied in the words, "You have a regulator in your audience." His talent for criticizing opponents was remarkable, and he was a formidable controversialist. And for the reasons already given he further declined invitations to dine out. One of his pupils was Mentor the Bithynian, who tried to ingratiate himself with a concubine of Carneades; so on one occasion (according to Favorinus in his Miscellaneous History), when Mentor came to lecture, Carneades in the course of his remarks let fall these lines by way of parody at his expense:

64. Hither comes an old man of the sea, infallible, like to Mentor in person and in voice.[61] Him I proclaim to have been banished from this school.

Thereupon the other got up and replied:

Those on their part made proclamation, and these speedily assembled.[62]

He seems to have shown some want of courage in the face of death, repeating often the words, "Nature which framed this whole will also destroy it." When he learnt that Antipater committed suicide by drinking a potion, he was greatly moved by the constancy with which he met his end, and exclaimed, "Give it then to me also." And when those about him asked "What?" "A honeyed draught," said he. At the time he died the moon is said to have been eclipsed, and one might well say that the brightest luminary in heaven next to the sun thereby gave token of her sympathy.

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