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Timon of Phlius (Greek: Τίμων, gen .: Τίμωνος; c. 320 BC – c. 230 BC) was a Greek skeptic philosopher, a pupil of Pyrrho, and a celebrated writer of satirical poems called Silloi (Greek: Σίλλοι). He was born in Phlius, moved to Megara, and then he returned home and married. He next went to Elis with his wife, and heard Pyrrho, whose tenets he adopted. He also lived on the Hellespont, and taught at Chalcedon, before moving to Athens, where he lived until his death. His writings were said to have been very numerous. He composed poetry, tragedies, satiric dramas, and comedies, of which very little remains. His most famous composition was his Silloi , a satirical account of famous philosophers, living and dead, in hexameter verse. The Silloi has not survived intact, but it is mentioned and quoted by several ancient authors.


1 Life

5 Notes


A fairly full account of Timon's life was given by Diogenes Laërtius, from the first book of a work on the Silloi by Apollonides of Nicaea; and some particulars are quoted by Diogenes from Antigonus of Carystus, and from Sotion. [1] He was a native of Phlius, and was the son of Timarchus. Being left an orphan while still young, he was at first a dancer in the theatre, but he abandoned this profession for the study of philosophy, and, having moved to Megara, he spent some time with Stilpo, and then he returned home and married. He next went to Elis with his wife, and heard Pyrrho, whose tenets he adopted, so far at least as his restless genius and satirical scepticism permitted him to follow any master. During his residence at Elis, he had children born to him, the eldest of whom, named Xanthus, he instructed in the art of medicine and trained in his philosophical principles. Driven again from Elis by straitened circumstances, he spent some time on the Hellespont and the Propontis, and taught at Chalcedon as a sophist with such success that he made a fortune. He then moved to Athens, where he lived until his death, with the exception of a short residence at Thebes. Among the great men with whom he became personally acquainted in the course of his travels were the kings Antigonus and Ptolemy II Philadelphus. He was also linked to several literary figures such as: Zopyrus of Clazomenae; [2] Alexander Aetolus and Homerus, whom he is said to have assisted in the composition of their tragedies; and Aratus, whom he is said to have taught. [3] He died at an age of almost ninety.


Timon appears to have been endowed by nature with a powerful and active mind, and with a quick perception of the weaknesses of people, which made him a skeptic in philosophy and a satirist in everything. According to Diogenes Laërtius, Timon was a one-eyed man; and he used even to make a jest of his own defect, calling himself Cyclops. Some other examples of his bitter sarcasms are recorded by Diogenes; one of which is worth quoting as a maxim in criticism: being asked by Aratus how to obtain the pure text of Homer, he replied, "If we could find the old copies, and not those with modern emendations." He is also said to have been fond of retirement, and of gardening; but Diogenes introduces this statement and some others in such a way as to suggest a doubt whether they ought to be referred to our Timon or to Timon of Athens, or whether they apply equally to both.