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brated as a statesman and lawgiver in his native place, and lived, according to Perizonius (ad Aelian. V. H. ii. 23), at the time of Artaxerxes Mnemon. The foolish Aelian, who has preserved this statement, declines any further discussion of this relation, although he knew more about it, under the pretext that he thought it objectionable to say anything in praise of a man who was so hostile to the gods (Seats ex^po^ Aiayopa^. But still he informs us, that Diagoras assisted Nicodorus in his legislation, which he himself praises as very wise and good. Wachsmiith (Hellen. AHerth. i. 2, p. SO) places this political activity of the two friends about the beginning of the Peloponnesian war.
We find Diagoras at Athens as early as b. c. 424, for Aristophanes in the Clouds (830), which were performed in that year,. alludes to him as a well-known character; and when Socrates, as though it were a mistake, is there called a Melian, the poet does so in order to remind his hearers at once of Diagoras and of his attacks upon the popular religion. In like manner Hippon is called a Melian, merely because he was a follower of Diagoras. It can scarcely be doubted that Diagoras was acquainted with Socrates, a connexion which is described in the scholia on Aristophanes as if he had been a teacher of Socrates. Fifteen years later, b. c. 411, he was involved, as Diodorus (xiii. 6) informs us, by the democratical party in a lawsuit about impiety (Sia€o\7Js tu%coj/ e-rr' dcregeta), and he thought it advisable to escape its result by flight. Religion seems to have been only the pretext for that accusation, for the mere fact of his being a Melian made him an object of suspicion with the people of Athens. In b. c. 416, Melos had been conquered and cruelly treated by the Athenians, and it is not at all impossible that Diagoras, indignant at such treatment, may have taken part in the party-strife at Athens, and thus have drawn upon himself the suspicion of the democratical party, for the opinion that heterodoxy was persecuted at Athens, and that the priests in particular busied themselves about such matters, is devoid of all foundation, (Bernhardy, Gescli. d. GrieoJi. Lit. i. p. 322.) All the circumstances of the case lead us to the conclusion, that the accusation of Diagoras was altogether and essentially of a political nature.
All that we know of his writings, and especially of his poems, shews no trace of irreligion, but on the contrary contains evidence of the most profound religious feeling. (Philodemus in the Herculanens. ed. Drummond and Walpole, p. 164.) Moreover, we do not find that out of Athens the charge of dcre€eta was taken notice of in any other part of Greece. All that we know for certain on the point is, that Diagoras was one of those philosophers who, like Socrates, certainly gave offence by their views concerning the Avorship of the national gods; but we know what liberties the Attic comedy could take in this respect with impunity. There is also an anecdote that Diagoras, for want of other fire-wood, once threw a Avooden statue of Heracles into the fire, in order to cook a dish of lentils, and, if there is any truth in it, it certainly shews his liberal aqcavs respecting polytheism and the'rude Avorship of images. (Meier, I. c. p, 445.) In like manner he may have ridiculed the common notions of the people respecting the actions of the gods, and their direct and personal interference 'with human affairs. This, too, is alluded to in
several very characteristic anecdotes. For example^ on his flight from Athens by sea to Pallene he Avas overtaken by a storm, and on hearing his fellow-passengers say, that this storm Avas sent them by the gods as a punishment, because they had an atheist on board, Diagoras shewed them other vessels at some distance Avhich Avere struggling Avith the same storm Avithout having a Diagoras on board. (Cic. de Nat. Deor. iii. 37.) This and similar anecdotes (Diog. Lae'rt. vi. 59) accurately describe the relation in Avhich our philosopher stood to the popular religion. That he maintained his OAvn position Avith great firmness, and perhaps Avith more freedom, Avit, and boldness than Avas advisable, seems to be attested by the fact, that he in particular obtained the epithet of aOsos in antiquity. Many modern Avriters maintain that this epithet ought not to be given to him, because he merely denied the direct interference of God with the Avorld ; but though atheists, in the proper sense of the word, have never existed, and in that sense Diagoras Avas certainly not an atheist, yet as he did not believe in the personal existence of the Athenian gods and their human mode of actings the Athenians could hardly have regarded him as other than an atheist. In the eulogy on his friend Nicodorus he sang Kara Sat^ao^a Kal
But to return to the accusation of Diagoras, in consequence of which he Avas obliged to quit Athens,, That time Avas one in Avhich scepticism was beginning to undermine the foundations of the ancient popular belief. The trial of those who had broken doAvn the statues of Hermes, the profanation of the mysteries, and the accusation of Alcibiades, are symptoms Avhich shew that the unbelief, nourished by the speculations of philosophers and by the artifices of the sophists, began to appear very dangerous to the conser Amative party at Athens. There is no doubt that Diagoras paid no regard to the established religion of the people, and he may occasionally have ridiculed it ; but he also ventured on direct attacks upon public institutions of the Athenian worship, such as the Eleusinian mysteries, Avhich he endeavoured to lower in public estimation, and he is said to have prevented many persons from becoming initiated in them. These at least are the points of which the ancients accuse him (Craterus, ap. Scliol. AristopJi. 1. c. ; Tarrhaeus, ap. Suid. ; Lysias, c. Andocid. p. 214; Joseph, c. Apion. ii. 37 ; Tatian, adv. Grace, p. 164, a.), and this statement is also supported by the circumstance, that Melanthius, in his work on the mysteries, mentions the decree passed against Diagoras. But, notwithstanding the absence of accurate information, Ave can discover political motives through all these religious disputes. Diagoras Avas a Melian, and consequently belonged to the Doric race ; he Avas a friend of the Doric Mantiiieia, Avhich was hated by Athens, and had only recently given up its alliance Avith Athens ; the Dorians and lonians Avere opposed to each other in various points of their Avorship, and this spark of hostility was kindled into a gioAving hatred by the Peloponnesian Avar. Diagoras fled from Athens in time to escape the consequences of the attacks Avhich his enemies had made upon him. He Avas therefore punished by Stelitetisis., that is, he was condemned, and the psephisma Avas engraved on a column, promising a prize for his head, and one talent to the person