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On the Date of the Trial of Anaxagoras

  • A. E. Taylor (a1)

It is a point of some interest to the historian of the social and intellectual development of Athens to determine, if possible, the exact dates between which the philosopher Anaxagoras made that city his home. As everyone knows, the tradition of the third and later centuries was not uniform. The dates from which the Alexandrian chronologists had to arrive at their results may be conveniently summed up under three headings, (a) date of Anaxagoras' arrival at Athens, (b) date of his prosecution and escape to Lampsacus, (c) length of his residence at Athens, (a) The received account (Diogenes Laertius ii. 7), was that Anaxagoras was twenty years old at the date of the invasion of Xerxes and lived to be seventy-two. This was apparently why Apollodorus (ib.) placed his birth in Olympiad 70 and his death in Ol. 88. I, thus giving the years 500–428 B.C. of our reckoning, (ib.) The further statement of Apollodorus that Anaxagoras ἤρξατο ϕιλοσοϕεῖν ⋯π⋯ Καλλίον has given rise to discussion; but when we remember that Demetrius of Phalerum had made what ‘Diogenes’ regards as an equivalent statement in his register of archons, and had said that Anaxagoras was twenty years old at the time, I think there can be no doubt of the meaning. Demetrius had clearly mentioned something about Anaxagoras which was looked on as giving the date at which he ‘began to philosophize,’ and had given his age at the time. The natural interpretation is that Demetrius mentioned the year of Anaxagoras’ arrival at Athens, and that this was taken as the time at which he ρξαtο φιλοσοφεlσ And it is further reasonable to suppose that this date was the source of the further statement of Demetrius, that Anaxagoras was born in or about 500 B.C. We may, I think, infer that Demetrius recorded the arrival of Anaxagoras in Athens under the year 480, giving his approximate age at that time.

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page 81 note 1 The full text, as given by Diels (Fragmente der Vorsokratiker3 I. P. 375), runs: λέγεται δέ καϒ⋯ τ⋯ν Ξ⋯ρξον διάβασιν εἰκοσιν ⋯τ⋯ν εῖναι, βεβιωκέναι δ⋯ ⋯βδομήκοντα δ⋯ο. ϕησι δ΄ ̓Απολόδωρος έν τοῖς χρονικοῖς ϒεϒε⋯σθαι αὐτ⋯ν τ⋯ι ⋯βδομηκοσϒ⋯ɩ όλυμπɩάδɩ, τεθνηκέναɩ δ⋯ τ⋯ɩ πρώτωɩ ⋯τεɩ τ⋯ς ⋯ϒδοηκοσϒ⋯ς ⋯ϒδόης. ⋯ρξαϒο δ⋯ ϕɩλοσοϕεῖν Άθ⋯νησιν ⋯πι Καλίον ⋯τ⋯ν είκοσιν ⋯ν ὥς ϕησι Δημήτριος ό φαληρε ν̀ς ⋯ν ϒ⋯ι τ⋯ν Αρϰόντων ⋯ναϒραϕ⋯ι ἕνθα και ϕασιν αν̓ϒ⋯ν ⋯τ⋯ν διαϒρῖψαι τριάκοντα. (Ther are no varients of reading which seriously affect the sence.)

page 81 note 2 What other statement is it reasonable to imagine occurring in a list of Athenian archons? Even if it had been possible to determine some date at which Anaxagoras ‘began to be philosopher’ before his arrival at Athens, is conceivable that that date would have been inserted by Demetrius in such a work?

page 82 note 1 The ⋯πι Καλλίον of the statement ascribed to Demetrius need cause no difficulty. For it is equally possible (1) that Καλλίον is simply an error for Καλλιάδον, which should be replaced in the text; (2) that it is an early correction of what Demetrius said, based on the very assumption which I am trying to disprove, that the trial of Anaxagoras belongs to the years just before the Peloponnesian War; or (3) that Καλλιάδης was commonly called Καλλίας ‘for short,’ just as Zeuxippus was currently known as Zeuxis, or Philistides (as Plato calls him) is most often spoken of in Greek history as Philistus. At any rate, if Demetrius said that Anaxagoras came to Athens at the age of twenty, it is clear, in view of the other current statement, that Anaxagoras was just twenty at the time of Xerxes’ expedition, and of the fourth-century belief that he had actually ‘educated’ Pericles, that Demetrius meant the notice to refer to ‘the year of Calliades.’

page 82 note 2 See Burnet, , Early Greek Philosophy, ed. I, pp. 272–3, ed. 2, p. 290 . Contrast the moreguarded statements (Greek Philosophy: Thales to Plato, p. 76): ‘his date is quite uncertain’; ‘we do not really know either the date of it (the trial of Anaxagoras) or the precise nature of the charge.’

page 83 note 1 Isocrates, op. cit., δνοῖν ⋯ϒένετο μαθηϒής, Άναξαϒόρον ϒε ϒο⋯ Κλαζομενίον κα⋯ Δάμωνος κ. τ. λ. σοϕ. Indeed, as a point of grammer, ισϒαῖν δ is obviously to be supplied with νοῖν.

page 84 note 1 This may be a good oppurtunity to call attention to a curious in Diels' Fragmente der Vorsokratiker arising from misapprehension of the real date of Anaxagoras' arrival at Athens. In D. L. ii. 16 we read of Archelaus, μαθηϒ⋯ς Ὰναξαϒόρου, διάσκαλος Σωκράϒους. ονϒος πρ⋯τος ⋯κτ⋯ ονίαςἹ τ⋯ν Φνσικ⋯ν ϕιλοσοϕίαν μετήϒαϒεν Άθηνάζε. Diels (Fr.3 I. 410), in despite of the order of words, insists on taking ούϒος to mean Anaxagoras. Of course it means Archelaus. He is said to have ‘translated physics from Ionia to Athens’ for the simple reason that he was the first native-born Athenian physicist. The words would not be true in a literal sence even of Anaxagoras, since it is now clear that he ‘began to philosophize,’ not in Ionia, but in Athens.

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The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
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