Diogenes Laërtius

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Diogenes Laertius (ancient Greek: Διογένης Λαέρτιος, Diogenes Laertios; fl. c. 3rd century) was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.



Nothing is definitively known about his life. He must have lived after Sextus Empiricus (c. 200 AD), whom he mentions, and before Stephanus of Byzantium and Sopater (c. 500 AD), who quote him. His work makes no mention of Neoplatonism, even though it is addressed to a woman who was "an enthusiastic Platonist."[1] It is probable that he flourished in the first half of the third century, during the reign of Alexander Severus (222–235) and his successors.

The precise form of his name is uncertain. In the ancient manuscripts of his work, he is invariably referred to as "Laertius Diogenes," and this form of the name is repeated by Sopater,[2] and the Suda.[3] The modern form "Diogenes Laertius" is much rarer, and occurs in Stephanus of Byzantium,[4] and in a lemma to the Greek Anthology.[5] He is also referred to as "Laertes,"[6] or just "Diogenes."[7]

The origin of his name "Laertius" is equally uncertain. Stephanus of Byzantium, in one passage, refers to him as "Diogenes of Laertieus,"[8] implying that he was the native of some town, perhaps the Laerte in Caria, or the one in Cilicia. An alternative suggestion is that one of his ancestors had for a patron a member of the Roman family of the Laërtii.[9] The modern theory is that "Laertius" is a nickname, to distinguish him from the many other people called Diogenes in the ancient world, and derived from the Homeric epithet "Diogenes Laertiade," used in addressing Odysseus.[10]

His home town is unknown, assuming that his name does not refer to his place of origin. A disputed passage in his writings[11] has been used to suggest that it was Nicaea in Bithynia.[12]

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