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Xenophanes of Colophon

Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Xenophanes of Colophon
    Book Description:

    In this book, James Lesher presents the Greek texts of all the surviving fragments of Xenophanes' teachings, with an original English translation on facing pages, along with detailed notes and commentaries and a series of essays on the philosophical questions generated by Xenophanes' remarks.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2782-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    J. H. LESHER
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    Xenophanes is reported to have been the son of Dexius, Dexinos, or Orthomenes (A1, A6) and to have come from the small (now non-existent) Ionian town of Colophon. By his own reckoning (fragment 8) he lived into his nineties, spending much of his life as a bard or travelling poet ‘tossing about’ the Greek world from Ionia to Sicily to the Italian mainland (A1). His birth date has been set as early as 620 bc and as late as 540 bc but most modern studies opt for a date sometime in the fourth decade of the sixth century, that is,...

    (pp. 9-44)

    Except where noted to the contrary, the text presented here follows that in EdmondsGreek Elegy and Iambus, vol. 1. To simplify identification I list Edmonds’ fragments 4, 5, 6–6a, 7, 8, 9, 21a, 21b, and 42 by the numbers assigned to them in Diels (1901) and D-K (fragments 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 4, 42, 21a, and 45 respectively). Edmonds’ fragment 43 (AristotleRhetoric1377a) appears as testimonium A14 in part 3, ‘Sayings.’ For other editions, see the citations for Diehl, Diels (1901), D-K, Untersteiner (1956), and Heitsch (1983) in the Bibliography. Six fragments are contained in the...


    • 1 On Men and Morals
      (pp. 47-77)

      The basic features of Xenophanes’ sympotic poem are clear enough: the poet describes a banquet scene brimming with good food and drink, piety, and festive spirits, and calls for conduct that befits both the occasion and the gods, whom we must hold always in high regard. The specific details of the highly descriptive first half of the poem (lines 1–12) can also be accounted for on the basis of similar depictions of other festive occasions (e.g.,Odyssey9.5–11, 203–11). But in many other respects – the meaning of the moral injunctions that make up the second half...

    • 2 On the Divine
      (pp. 78-119)

      We may take two points of interpretation as fairly well settled: in this fragment Xenophanes alludes to a belief in metempsychosis or the transmigration of the soul and, second, his story is intended as ridicule. It does not follow from just these, however, that metempsychosis was the specific target for Xenophanes’ ridicule, nor can we be entirely sure how much of the story was fact and how much fiction.

      Lines 1–3 It is not completely certain thatµινhere actually refers to Pythagoras, but fragment 7 is almost universally regarded as among the best pieces of evidence we have...

    • 3 On Nature
      (pp. 120-148)

      Since it can be determined through astronomical calculation that a solar eclipse would have been visible across a large portion of Asia Minor on 28 May 585 bc, historians of early Greek thought have long employed the story of Thales’ successful prediction of a solar eclipse in order to set the approximate starting date for philosophical inquiry. Thales’ achievement, described by Herodotus (1.74) as ‘foretelling the alteration of the day into night’ is but one of many accomplishments credited to the famous scientist-philosopher from Miletus. Yet the story of Thales’ prediction has also long been regarded as more fable than...

    • 4 On Human Understanding
      (pp. 149-186)

      Xenophanes’ comments here on divine revelation and mortal discovery have commonly been read as an early expression – perhaps the very first expression – of a ‘faith in human progress’ (as usually explained, a conviction that mankind has made and will continue to make improvements in the arts and in the conditions of life across a broad front). Nevertheless, the fragment remains problematic in many respects. Xenophanes did not actually speak of an advance by mankind as a whole, but only of the success open to individual ‘seekers’ (zētountes); and he spoke only in broad terms of ‘discovering better’ making...

    (pp. 187-222)

    A detailed accounting of the origins and reliability of all the Xenophanes testimonia would call for another volume longer than this one. Nevertheless, some comments are in order by way of introduction to this complex and controversial body of material. Many testimonia have already been alluded to in earlier chapters in connection with particular fragments; additional explanatory notes accompany fourteen of the selections which follow; and additional information is provided in the following section, Sources and Authorities. The doxographical tradition for Xenophanes is the subject of recent discussions by Finkelberg, Lebedev, Mansfeld, and Wiesner (see the Select Bibliography).

    For the...

    (pp. 225-234)
    (pp. 235-244)

  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-267)