Diogenes Laërtius


Philosopher, Writer (3rd century)

The most important biographer of the Ancient Greek philosophers was Diogenes Laërtius, who lived and flourished most probably during the 3rd century AD. His book Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, comprised of 10 books provides some of the most valuable information on the development and history of the philosophy of more than 70 philosophers and is one of the most significant sources worldwide for the study of Greek philosophy. Strangely, he is one of the very few, if not, the only Ancient Greek writer whose work has survived completely.

Diogenes never belonged to any philosophic School. Instead, by working independently he dedicated his research mostly on the philologic part of philosophy, studying the lives of the philosophers, writing down events concerning their lives, personal facts and sayings.

The proemium of the book contains a description on the foundations of philosophy as laid by the Greeks themselves, not by the Persian magi, the Chaldeans, the Druids or the Indians as misconceived. The first book is dedicated to the Seven Sages (which are 11 in number). The second contains Socrates with his predecessors and some of his followers up until Menedemus. The third book is entirely devoted to Plato alone. The fourth features the philosophers who succeeded Plato in the Academy while the fifth contains Aristotle and the Peripatetics. The sixth is about the Cynic School, the seventh about the Stoics and the eighth about the Pythagoreans. The ninth book contains all those philosophers who are uncategorized such as the Eleatics, the Atomists and the Skeptics. The final book is entirely devoted to Epicurus and the Epicurean philosophy.

Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers has been marked for its subjective character and reliability, but also for some of its minor inconsistencies. Except from being a valuable tool for studying not only the lives but also the doctrines and ideas of eminent philosophers, the book is quite entertaining to read because of it being a conglomeration of amusing stories and Diogenes’ own poetic narrative.


  1. “Diogenes Laertius”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. Diogenes Laertius (3rd cn. C.E.). Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. Web. Retrieved on November 4, 2016.
Diogenes Laërtius

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