Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Heraclides Ponticus

Heraclides Ponticus, Greek philosopher and miscellaneous writer, born at Heraclea in Pontus, flourished in the 4th century BC.

He studied philosophy at Athens under Speusippus, Plato and Aristotle. According to Suidas, Plato, on his departure for Sicily, left his pupils in charge of Heraclides. The latter part of his life was spent at Heraclea. He is said to have been vain and fat, and to have been so fond of display that he was nicknamed Pompicus, or the Showy (unless the epithet refers to his literary style).

Various idle stories are related about him. On one occasion, for instance, Heraclea was afflicted with famine, and the Pythian priestess at Delphi, bribed by Heraclides, assured his inquiring townsmen that the dearth would be stayed if they granted a golden crown to that philosopher. This was done; but just as Heraclides was receiving his honour in a crowded assembly, he was seized with apoplexy, while the dishonest priestess perished at the same moment from the bite of a serpent.

On his death-bed he is said to have requested a friend to hide his body as soon as life was extinct, and, by putting a serpent in its place, induce his townsmen to suppose that he had been carried up to heaven. The trick was discovered, and Heraclides received only ridicule instead of divine honours (Diogenes LaŽrtius v. 6). Whatever may be the truth about these stories, Heracides seems to have been a versatile and prolific writer on philosophy, mathematics, music, grammar, physics, history and rhetoric. Many of the works attributed to him, however, are probably by one or more persons of the same name.

The extant fragment of a treatise On Constitutions (C. W. Muller, F. H. G. ii. 197?207) is probably a compilation from the Politics of Aristotle by HeraŽlides Lembos, who lived in the time of Ptolemy VI Philometor (181-146). See Otto Voss, De Heraclidis Pontici vitaet scriptis (1896).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.