1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Aeschines (Athenian philosopher)

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AESCHINES (5th century B.C.), an Athenian philosopher. According to some accounts he was the son of a sausage-maker, but others say that his father was Lysanias (Diog. Laert. ii. 60; Suidas, s.v.) He was an intimate friend of Socrates, who is reported to have said that the sausage-maker’s son alone knew how to honour him. Diogenes Laertius preserves a tradition that it was he, not Crito, who offered to help Socrates to escape from prison. He was always a poor man, and Socrates advised him “to borrow from himself, by diminishing his expenditure.” He started a perfumery shop in Athens on borrowed capital, became bankrupt and retired to the Syracusan court, where he was well received by Aristippus. According to Diog. Laert. (ii. 61), Plato, then at Syracuse, pointedly ignored Aeschines, but this does not agree with Plutarch, De adulatore et amico (c. 26). On the expulsion of the younger Dionysius, he returned to Athens, and, finding it impossible to profess philosophy publicly owing to the contempt of Plato and Aristotle, was compelled to teach privately. He wrote also forensic speeches; Phrynichus, in Photius, ranks him amongst the best orators, and mentions his orations as the standard of the pure Attic style. Hermogenes also spoke highly of him (Περὶ ἰδεῶν). He wrote several philosophical dialogues: (1) Concerning virtue, whether it can be taught; (2) Eryxias, or Erasistratus; concerning riches, whether they are good; (3) Axiochus: concerning death, whether it is to be feared,—but those extant on the several subjects are not genuine remains. J. le Clerc has given a Latin translation of them, with notes and several dissertations, entitled Silvae Philologicae, and they have been edited by S. N. Fischer (Leipzig, 1786), and K. F. Hermann, De Aeschin. Socrat. relig. (Gött. 1850). The genuine dialogues appear to have been marked by the Socratic irony; an amusing passage is quoted by Cicero in the De inventione (i. 31).

See Hirzel, Der Dialog. i. 129-140; T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers, vol. iii. p. 342 (Eng. trans. G. G. Berry, London, 1905).