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Biographies (6)


Cleanthes, 4th/3rd c. B.C.

Cleanthes (Kleanthes), a Greek philosopher, a native of Assos in Asia Minor. He was originally a boxer (Diog. Laert. vii. 168), and while attending at Athens the lectures of Zeno, the founder of the Stoic philosophy, gained a livelihood at night by carrying water. He was Zeno's disciple for nineteen years, and in B.C. 263 succeeded him as head of the Stoic school. He died in his eightyfirst year by voluntary starvation. A beautiful Hymn to Zeus is the only one of his writings that has come down to us, of which a good edition is that of Pearson (London, 1891). The titles of the others are given by Diogenes Laertius.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Cleanthes (Kleanthes), a Stoic, born at Assos in Troas about B. C. 300, though the exact date is unknown. He was the son of Phanias, and entered life as a boxer, but had only four drachmas of his own when he felt himself impelled to the study of philosophy. He first placed himself under Crates, and then under Zeno, whose faithful disciple he continued for nineteen years. In order to support himself and pay Zeno the necessary fee for his instructions, he worked all night at drawing water from gardens, and in consequence received the nickname of Phreantles. As he spent the whole day in philosophical pursuits, he had no visible means of support, and was therefore summoned before the Areiopagus to account for his way of living. The judges were so delighted by the evidence of industry which he produced, that they voted him ten minae, though Zeno would not permit him to accept them. By his fellow-pupils he was considered slow and stupid, and received from them the title of the Ass, in which appellation he said that he rejoiced, as it implied that his back was strong enough to bear whateverZeno put upon it. Several other anecdotes preserved of him shew that he was one of those enthusiastic votaries of philosophy who naturally appeared from time to time in an age when there was no deep and earnest religion to satisfy the thinking part of mankind. We are not therefore surprised to hear of his declaring that for the sake of philosophy he would dig and undergo all possible labour, of his taking notes from Zeno's lectures on bones and pieces of earthenware when he was too poor to buy paper, and of the quaint penitence with which he reviled himself for his small progress in philosophy, by calling himself an old man "possessed indeed of grey hairs, but not of a mind". For this vigour and zeal in the pursuit, he was styled a second Hercules; and when Zeno died, B. C. 263, Cleanthes succeeded him in his school. This event was fortunate for the preservation of the Stoical doctrines, for though Cleanthes was not endowed with the sagacity necessary to rectify and develop his master's system, yet his stern morality and his devotion to Zeno induced him to keep it free from all foreign corruptions. His poverty was relieved by a present of 3000 minas from Antigonus, and he died at the age of eighty. The story of his death is characteristic. His physician recommended to him a two days' abstinence from food to cure an ulcer in his mouth, and at the end of the second day, he said that, as he had now advanced so far on the road to death, it would be a pity to have the trouble over again, and he therefore still refused all nourishment, and died of starvation.
  The names of the numerous treatises of Cleanthes preserved by Laertius (vii. 175) present the usual catalogue of moral and philosophical subjects: peri areton, peri hedones, peri theon, &c. A hymn of his to Zeus is still extant, and contains some striking sentiments. His doctrines were almost exactly those of Zeno. There was a slight variation between his opinion and the more usual Stoical view respecting the immortality of the soul. Cleanthes taught that all souls are immortal, but that the intensity of existence after death would vary according to the strength or weakness of the particular soul, thereby leaving to the wicked some apprehension of future punishment; whereas Chrysippus considered that only the souls of the wise and good were to survive death (Plut. Place. Phil. iv. 7). Again, with regard to the ethical principle of the Stoics, to " live in unison with nature", it is said that Zeno only enunciated the vague direction, homologoumenos zein, which Cleanthes explained by the addition of tei phusei (Stob. Ecl. ii. p. 132). By this he meant the universal nature of things, whereas Chrysippus understood by the nature which we are to follow, the particular nature of man, as well as universal nature (Diog. Laert. vii. 89). This opinion of Cleanthes was of a Cynical character, and held up as a model of an animal state of existence, unimproved by the progress of civilization. Accordingly we hear that his moral theory was even stricter than that of ordinary Stoicism, denying that pleasure was agreeable to nature, or in any way good. The direction to follow universal nature also led to fatalist conclusions, of which we find traces in the lines agou de m o Zeu, kai su g he Pepromene, hopoi poth' humin eimi diatetagmenos, k. t. l.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Aug 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks



Hermias (or Hermeias). A Mysian eunuch, tyrant of Assos, and the friend and patron of Aristotle, who married his adopted daughter Pythias. In B.C. 344 Hermias was seized by Mentor, the Greek general of the king of Persia, and by him sent to the Persian court, where he was put to death.

Hermeias or Hermias. Tyrant or dynast of the cities of Atarneus and Assos, in Mysia, celebrated as the friend and patron of Aristotle. He is said to have been an eunuch, and to have begun life as a slave, but whether he obtained his liberty or not, he appears to have early risen to a confidential position with Eubulus, the ruler of Atarneus and Assos. If, however, Strabo's statement, that he repaired to Athens, and there attended the lectures of both Plato and Aristotle, be correct, we cannot doubt that he had at that time obtained his freedom, though he remained attached to the service of Eubulus, who had raised himself from the situation of a banker to the undisputed government of the two cities already mentioned. In this position Eubulus maintained himself till his death, in defiance, it would appear, of the authority of Persia (see Arist. Pol. ii. 4), and on that event Hermias seems to have succeeded to his authority without opposition. The exact period of his accession is unknown, and we know not how long he had held the sovereign power when he invited Aristotle and Xenocrates to his little court, about the year B. C. 347. The long sojourn of Aristotle with him, and the warm attachment which that philosopher formed towards him, are strong arguments in favour of the character of Hermias: yet the relations between them did not escape the most injurious suspicions, for which there was doubtless as little reason as for the obloquy with which Aristotle was loaded when, after the death of Hermias, he married Pythias, the niece, or, according to other accounts, the adopted daughter of his friend and benefactor (Strab. xiii.; Pseud. Ammon. vit. Aristot.; Aristocles ap. Euseb. Praep. Ev. xv. 2; Diog. Laert. v. 3).
  Of other occurrences under the rule of Hermias we know nothing; but he appears to have maintained himself in the undisputed sovereignty of his little state, and in avowed independence of Persia, until the year 345, when the Greek general, Mentor, who was sent down by the Persian king to take the command in Asia Minor, decoyed him, by a promise of safe conduct, to a personal interview, at which, in defiance of his pledge, he seized and detained him as a prisoner. After making use of his signet to enforce the submission of the governors left in the cities subject to his rule, Mentor sent him as a captive to the court of Artaxerxes, where he was soon after put to death (Diod. xvi. 52; Strab. xiii.; Diog. Laert. v. 6).
  Aristotle testified his reverence for the memory of his friend, not only by erecting a statue to him at Delphi, but by celebrating his praises in an ode or hymn, addressed to Virtue, which has fortunately been preserved to the present day (Athen. xv.; Diog. Laert. v. 6, 7.) Concerning the relations of the philosopher with Hermias, and the injurious imputations to which they gave rise, see the article Aristotle at Stageira.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Aug 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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