Xenocrates


Diogenes Laertius, Book IV - Xenocrates

6. Xenocrates, the son of Agathenor, was a native of Chalcedon. He was a pupil of Plato from his earliest youth; moreover he accompanied him on his journey to Sicily. He was naturally slow and clumsy. Hence Plato, comparing him to Aristotle, said, "The one needed a spur, the other a bridle." And again, "See what an ass I am training and what a horse he has to run against." However, Xenocrates was in all besides dignified and grave of demeanour, which made Plato say to him continually, "Xenocrates, sacrifice to the Graces." He spent most of his time in the Academy; and whenever he was going to betake himself to the city, it is said that all the noisy rabble and hired porters made way for him as he passed. 7. And that once the notorious Phryne tried to make his acquaintance and, as if she were being chased by some people, took refuge under his roof; that he admitted her out of ordinary humanity and, there being but one small couch in the room, permitted her to share it with him, and at last, after many importunities, she retired without success, telling those who inquired that he whom she quitted was not a man but a statue. Another version of the story is that his pupils induced Las to invade his couch; and that so great was his endurance that he many times submitted to amputation and cautery. His words were entirely worthy of credit, so much so that, although it was illegal for witnesses to give evidence unsworn, the Athenians allowed Xenocrates alone to do so. 8. Furthermore, he was extremely independent; at all events, when Alexander sent him a large sum of money, he took three thousand Attic drachmas and sent back the rest to Alexander, whose needs, he said, were greater than his own, because he had a greater number of people to keep. Again, he would not accept the present sent him by Antipater, as Myronianus attests in his Parallels. And when he had been honoured at the court of Dionysius with a golden crown as the prize for his prowess in drinking at the Feast of Pitchers, he went out and placed it on the statue of Hermes just as he had been accustomed to place there garlands of flowers. There is a story that, when he was sent, along with others also, on an embassy to Philip, his colleagues, being bribed, accepted Philip's invitations to feasts and talked with him. Xenocrates did neither the one nor the other. Indeed on this account Philip declined to see him. 9. Hence, when the envoys returned to Athens, they complained that Xenocrates had accompanied them without rendering any service. Thereupon the people were ready to fine him. But when he told them that now more than ever they ought to consider the interests of the state "for," said he, "Philip knew that the others had accepted his bribes, but that he would never win me over" then the people paid him double honours. And afterwards Philip said that, of all who had arrived at his court, Xenocrates was the only man whom he could not bribe. Moreover, when he went as envoy to Antipater to plead for Athenians taken prisoners in the Lamian war,[7] being invited to dine with Antipater, he quoted to him the following lines:[8]

O Circe! what righteous man would have the heart to taste meat and drink ere he had redeemed his company and beheld them face to face?

and so pleased Antipater with his ready wit that he at once released them.

10. When a little sparrow was pursued by a hawk and rushed into his bosom, he stroked it and let it go, declaring that a suppliant must not be betrayed. When bantered by Bion, he said he would make no reply. For neither, said he, does tragedy deign to answer the banter of comedy. To some one who had never learnt either music or geometry or astronomy, but nevertheless wished to attend his lectures, Xenocrates said, "Go your ways, for you offer philosophy nothing to lay hold of." Others report him as saying, "It is not to me that you come for the carding of a fleece."

11. When Dionysius told Plato that he would lose his head, Xenocrates, who was present, pointed to his own and added, "No man shall touch it till he cut off mine." They say too that, when Antipater came to Athens and greeted him, he did not address him in return until he had finished what he was saying. He was singularly free from pride; more than once a day he would retire into himself, and he assigned, it is said, a whole hour to silence.


Diogenes Laertius, Book IV - Polemo

And one day, by agreement with his young friends, he burst into the school of Xenocrates quite drunk, with a garland on his head. Xenocrates, however, without being at all disturbed, went on with his discourse as before, the subject being temperance. The lad, as he listened, by degrees was taken in the toils. He became so industrious as to surpass all the other scholars, and rose to be himself head of the school in the 116th Olympiad

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