The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.



Gellius, N. A, v. 3 ; comp. Athen. viii. 13, p. 354, c.), — appears to have arisen out of the statement of Aristotle, that Protagoras invented a sort of porter's knot (rv\7]} for the more convenient car­rying of burdens (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 53 ; comp. Frei, /. c. p. 6, &c.). Moreover, whether Protagoras was, as later ancient authorities assumed (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 50; Clem. Alex. Strom. i. p. 301, d., &c.), a disciple of Democritus, with whom in point of doctrine he had absolutely nothing in common, is very doubtful, and Frei (I. c. p. 24, &c.) has undertaken to show that Protagoras was some twenty years older than Democritus. If, in fact, Anaxagoras, as is confirmed in various ways, was born about b. c. 500, and was forty years older than Democritus, according to the latter's own statement (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 41 ; comp. 34), Pro­tagoras must have been older than Democritus, as it is certain that Protagoras was older than So­crates, who was born B. c. 468 (Plat. Protag. p. 317, c., 314, b., 361, e. ; comp. Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 42, 56), and died before him at the age of nearly seventy (Plat. Meno, p. 91, e. ; comp. Tlieaet. p. 171, d«, 164, e., Eutliyd. p. 286, c.; the as­sumption of others, that he reached the age of ninety years, Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 55, Schol. in Plat. de Rep. x. p. 600, is of no weight), after he had practised the sophistic art for forty years, and had by flight withdrawn himself from the accusation of Pythodorus, one of the Four Hundred, who go­verned Athens in b. c. 411 (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 54 ; comp. Philostratus, 1. c. Aristotle mentioned Eu-athlus, the disciple of Protagoras, as his accuser, Diog. Lae'rt. /. c.). Apollodorus, therefore, might very well assign the 84th Olympiad (b. c. 444) as the period when he flourished (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 54, 56). A more accurate determination of the date of his death, and thence of his birth, cannot be extracted from a fragment of the Silli of Timon (in Sext. Emp. adv. Math. ix. 57), and a passage of Plato (Tlieaet. p. 171, d.), as the placing to­gether of Protagoras and Socrates in them does not presuppose that their deaths were contem­poraneous. Nor are we justified in concluding from the boastful expression of the sophist (Plat. Prot. p. 317, c.), that he was twenty years older than Socrates. On the other hand, if Euripides alluded to his death in the Ixion (according to Philo-chorus in Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 55), he must have died before b. c. 406 or 407, i. e. before the death of Euripides. With preponderating probability, there­fore, Frei places the death of Protagoras in b. c. 411, assuming that Pythodorus accused him during the government of the Four Hundred (Quaest. Protag. p. 64), and accordingly assigns about B. c. 480 as the date of his birth.

That Protagoras had already acquired fame during his residence in Abdera cannot be inferred from the doubtful statement, that he was termed by the Abderites Ao7os, and Democritus (pt\ocro(f)ia or ffo(pia. (Aelian. Var. Hist. iv. 20 ; comp. Suid. s. w. Tlpwray. Ai7ju<fa/>., &c. Phavorinus, in Diog Lae'rt. ix. 50, gives to Protagoras the designation of o-o^m). He was the first who called himself a sophist, and taught for pay (Plat. Protag. p. 349, a.; Diog. Laert. ix. 52). He must have come to Athens before b. c. 445, since, according to the statement of Heracleides Ponticus (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 50), he gave laws to the Thurians, or, what is more probable, adapted for the use of the new colonists, who left Athens for the first time in


that year, the laws which had been drawn up at an earlier period by Charondas, for the use of the Chalcidic colonies (for according to Diod. xii. 11.3, and others, these laws were in force at Thurii likewise). Whether he himself removed to Thurii, we do not learn, but at the time of the plague we find him again in Athens, as he could scarcely have mentioned the strength of mind displayed by Pericles at the death of his sons, in the way he does (in a fragment still extant, Plut. de ConsoL ad Apoll. c. 33, p. 118, d.), had he not been an eye-witness. He had also, as it appears, returned to Athens after a long absence (Plat. Prot. p. 301. c.), at a time when the sons of Pericles were still alive (ibid. p. 314, e., 329, a.) A somewhat in­timate relation between Protagoras and Pericles is intimated also elsewhere. (Plut. Pericl. c. 36. p. 172, a.) His activity, however, was by no means restricted to Athens. He had spent some time in Sicily, and acquired fame there (Plat. Hipp. Maj. p. 282, d.), and brought with him to Athens many admirers out of other Greek cities through which he had passed (Plat. Prot. p. 315, a.). The impeachment of Protagoras had been founded on his book on the gods, which began with the statement: " Respecting the gods, I am unable to know whether they exist or do not exist." (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 51, &c.) The im­peachment was followed by his banishment (Diog. Lae'rt. ix. 52 ; Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 23 ; Euseb. Praep. Evang. xiv. 19, &c.), or, as others affirm, only by the burning of his book. (Philost. Vit. Soph. I. c. ; Joseph, c. Apion. ii. 37 ; Sext. Emp. adv. Math. ix. 56 ; Cic. Diog. Lae'rt. II. cc.)

From the list of the writings of Protagoras which Diogenes Lae'rtius (ix. 55) doubtless bor­rowed from one of his Alexandrine authorities (he describes them as still extant, e<rri rd treo^oViej/a avrov /3i§Aia rat/roc ; comp. Welcker's account of Prodikos, in his Kleine Schriften, ii. p. 447, 465), and which he gives probably with his accustomed negligence, one may see that they comprised very different subjects :—ethics (irepl dperw and irepl ovk opQtoS Tols dvBpwTrois 7rpacra'0/uez/a>j/, irepl ?), politics (irepl TroAirefas, Trepl rfjs ev Karao-rdaecos ; comp. Frei, p. 182, &c.), rhe­toric (dvrihoyiuv 5i^o, T€X.vr) epf<rrt/«yj/), and other subjects of different kinds (irpocnaKTiicds, irepl /na-0?7jUaTcoj>, irfpl TraArjs, TTfpl to>*> cv A'/Sou). The works which, in all probability, were the most im­portant of those which Protagoras composed, Truth ('AA?)'0eja), and On the Gods (Tlepl ®e£v\ are omitted in that list, although in another passage (ix. 51) Diogenes Lae'rtius refers to them. The first contained the theory refuted by Plato in the Theaetetus (Tlieaet. p. 161,c., 162, a., 166, c., 170, e.), and was probably identical with the work on the Existent (ITepi rou oj/Toy), attributed to Pro­tagoras by Porphyrius (in Eiiseb. Praep. Evang. x. 3, p. 468, Viger). This work was directed against the Eieatics (FLpds tovs *v to ov AeyovTas), and was still extant in the time of Porphyrius, who describes the argumentation of the book as similar to that of Plato, though without adding any more exact statements. With the doctrine that was pe­culiar to Protagoras we obtain the most complete acquaintance from the Theaetetus of Plato, which was designed to refute it, and the fidelity of the quotations in which is confirmed by the much more scanty notices of Sextus Empiricus and others. The sophist started from the fundamental presup-

N N 4

About | First



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of