- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Harvard University Press (January 1, 1925)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0674992032
- ISBN-13: 978-0674992030
- Product Dimensions: 4 x 1 x 6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Volume I, Books 1-5 (Loeb Classical Library No. 184)
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by Robert Drew Hicks) neatly sums up the approach of
Diogenes in compiling this amazing amount of material
about the ancient philosophers. Some of the material
is valuable, some is stuff...but even the "stuff" is
pretty interesting coming from such an "ancient"
compilier (one dating for Diogenes is (ca. A.D. 225-
According to Herbert S. Long in his "Introduction"
to Vol. 1 (there are 2 volumes in the complete set of
the Loeb Classical Library Diogenes published by Harvard
Univ. Press -- Vol. 1: ISBN 0-674-99203-2 and Vol. 2:
ISBN 0-674-99204-0) -- Diogenes ranges from being a
source of valuable information about the lives of the
ancient philosophers to a source of highly readable,
even entertaining, but sometimes unreliable thought
A few things Long has to say are: "His account of Plato,
one of his longest, clearly shows how superficial and
unreliable he was [sigh...]." "The tone of his work as
a whole suits better a man of the world who happened to
be interested in philosophers, but more as men and writers
than as philosophers in a technical sense." Which means
that Diogenes can appeal to the general reader who is
interested in anecdotes and fascinating out-of-the-way
puns and "gossip" about the philosophers (as compiled
from tomes of secondary and tertiary sources)-- as well
as to the scholar interested in seeing the effect of
a compiler/synthesizer as a source of information.
According to Long, again, "Diogenes has acquired an
importance out of all proportion to his merits because
the loss of many primary sources and of the earlier
secondary compilations has accidentally left him the
chief continuous source for the history of Greek
Volume I of the 2-volume set includes Books I through
V, containing a "Prologue" and going from the beginning
with Thales in Book I to Aristotle at the beginning of
Book V. Volume II begins with Book VI and goes through
Book X, with Antisthenes at the beginning of Book VI
and ending with the entire Book X devoted to Epicurus.
Diogenes starts out his work by taking to task those
who claim that philosophy arose among the barbarians,
who rest their claims with the Persians and their Magi,
the Babylonians and Assyrians with their Chaldaeans,
the Indians with their Gymnosophists, and the Celts
and Gauls with their Druids.
But Diogenes assertively states: "These authors forget
that the achievements which they attribute to the
barbarians belong to the Greeks, with whom not merely
philosophy but the human race itself began." [!!!]
One example of his interesting material concerns
the ancient figure of "Linus": "Linus again was (so
it is said) the son of Hermes and the Muse Urania. He
composed a poem describing the creation of the world,
the courses of the sun and moon, and the growth of
animals and plants. * * * Linus died in Euboea, slain
by the arrow of Apollo, and this is his epitaph:
Here Theban Linus, whom Urania bore,/ The fair-
crowned Muse, sleeps on a foreign shore."
Very provocative...certainly worth deeper
investigation...so, why not plunk down your dollars and
have a go at Diogenes!
He wrote down EVERYTHING HE KNEW and almost didn't note any differentiation in his own "communications". LAERTIUS STANDS FOR THE ENCYCLOPAEDIC AUTODIDACT, a man who always excells in zeal ... and lack of being fastidious and scepsis towards his subject. His so IMPORTANT, MARVELOUS LIFEWORK contains - in 10 books - the description of the lives of about 80 philosophers, from the "SEVEN WIZARDS" until Epicure.
While the vast majority of the sources out of which Diogenes Laertius collected his knowledge have definitely dried up, are destroyed, HIS COMPILATION about the life and the doctrines and theories of all the famous Greek thinkers that were known to him, IS OF INVALUABLE IMPORTANCE up until today for life itself, for history and of course for philosophy. We very probably would never have known now about "his protagonists", about Greek philosophy.
What is more, thanks to the many anecdotes, epigrams, letters, citations, testaments, etc... THIS OEUVRE IS EASILY READABLE ... WITH A LOT OF HUMOR !!
However this is a book of REFERENCE (for philosophy), I RECOMMEND IT WARMLY TO ALL READERS: AN OUTSTANDING OEUVRE that is very RARE in its genre. YOU DO NOT AT ALL HAVE TO BE A PHILOSOPHER TO READ THIS: IT IS AS IF YOU READ A NOVEL ABOUT WHO DID WHAT. A BOOK THAT YOU WILL ENJOY (sic!) AND NEVER EVER IN YOUR LIFE WILL FORGET ABOUT!