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Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers (Greek: Βίοι καὶ γνῶμαι τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ εὐδοκιμησάντων; Latin: Vitae Philosophorum) is a biography of the Greek philosophers attributed to Diogenes Laërtius, written in Greek, the oldest extant manuscripts of which date from the late 11th to early 12th centuries.
The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers was written in Greek and professes to give an account of the lives and sayings of the Greek philosophers. The work doesn’t have an exact title in the manuscripts and appears in various lengthy forms.
Although it is at best an uncritical and unphilosophical compilation, its value, as giving us an insight into the private lives of the Greek sages, led Montaigne to write that he wished that instead of one Laërtius there had been a dozen. On the other hand, modern scholars have advised that we treat Diogenes’ testimonia with care, especially when he fails to cite his sources: “Diogenes has acquired an importance out of all proportion to his merits because the loss of many primary sources and of the earlier secondary compilations has accidentally left him the chief continuous source for the history of Greek philosophy”.
Organization of the work
Laërtius treats his subject in two divisions which he describes as the Ionian and the Italian schools. The biographies of the former begin with Anaximander, and end with Clitomachus, Theophrastus and Chrysippus; the latter begins with Pythagoras, and ends with Epicurus. The Socratic school, with its various branches, is classed with the Ionic; while the Eleatics and Pyrrhonists are treated under the Italic. He also includes his own poetic verse, albeit pedestrian, about the philosophers he discusses.