Theodorus


Diogenes Laertius, Book II Aristippus

The Theodoreans derived their name from Theodorus, who has already been mentioned, and adopted his doctrines. Theodorus was a man who utterly rejected the current belief in the gods. And I have come across a book of his entitled Of the Gods which is not contemptible.

He considered joy and grief to be the supreme good and evil, the one brought about by wisdom, the other by folly. Wisdom and justice he called goods, and their opposites evils, pleasure and pain being intermediate to good and evil. Friendship he rejected because it did not exist between the unwise nor between the wise; with the former, when the want is removed, the friendship disappears, whereas the wise are selfsufficient and have no need of friends. It was reasonable, as he thought, for the good man not to risk his life in the defence of his country, for he would never throw wisdom away to benefit the unwise.

99. He said the world was his country. Theft, adultery, and sacrilege would be allowable upon occasion, since none of these acts is by nature base, if once you have removed the prejudice against them, which is kept up in order to hold the foolish multitude together. The wise man would indulge his passions openly without the least regard to circumstances. Hence he would use such arguments as this. "Is a woman who is skilled in grammar useful in so far as she is skilled in grammar?" "Yes." "And is a boy or a youth skilled in grammar useful in so far as he is skilled in grammar?" "Yes." 100. "Again, is a woman who is beautiful useful in so far as she is beautiful? And the use of beauty is to be enjoyed?" "Yes." When this was admitted, he would press the argument to the conclusion, namely, that he who uses anything for the purpose for which it is useful does no wrong. And by some such interrogatories he would carry his point.

He appears to have been called ?e?? (god) in consequence of the following argument addressed to him by Stilpo. "Are you, Theodorus, what you declare yourself to be?" To this he assented, and Stilpo continued, "And do you say you are god?" To this he agreed. "Then it follows that you are god." Theodorus accepted this, and Stilpo said with a smile, "But, you rascal, at this rate you would allow yourself to be a jackdaw and ten thousand other things."

101. However, Theodorus, sitting on one occasion beside Euryclides, the hierophant, began, "Tell me, Euryclides, who they are who violate the mysteries?" Euryclides replied, "Those who disclose them to the uninitiated." "Then you violate them," said Theodorus, "when you explain them to the uninitiated." Yet he would hardly have escaped from being brought before the Areopagus if Demetrius of Phalerum had not rescued him. And Amphicrates in his book Upon Illustrious Men says he was condemned to drink the hemlock.

102. For a while he stayed at the court of Ptolemy the son of Lagus, and was once sent by him as ambassador to Lysimachus. And on this occasion his language was so bold that Lysimachus said, "Tell me, are you not the Theodorus who was banished from Athens?" To which he replied, "Your information is correct, for, when Athens could not bear me any more than Semele could Dionysus, she cast me out." And upon Lysimachus adding, "Take care you do not come here again," "I never will," said he, "unless Ptolemy sends me." Mithras, the king's minister, standing by and saying, "It seems that you can ignore not only gods but kings as well," Theodorus replied, "How can you say that I ignore the gods when I regard you as hateful to the gods?" He is said on one occasion in Corinth to have walked abroad with a numerous train of pupils, and Metrocles the Cynic, who was washing chervil, remarked, "You, sophist that you are, would not have wanted all these pupils if you had washed vegetables." Thereupon Theodorus retorted, "And you, if you had known how to associate with men, would have had no use for these vegetables." 103. A similar anecdote is told of Diogenes and Aristippus, as mentioned above.[74]

The first time that he was expelled from Cyrene he is credited with a witty remark: "Many thanks,[75] men of Cyrene," said he, "for driving me from Libya into Greece."

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