Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Theophrastus

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THEOPHRASTUS (Θεόφραστος), the Greek philosopher, was a native of Eresus in Lesbos. (Strabo, xiii. p. 618 ; Diog. Laërt. v. 36, &c.) Before he left his native city the bent of his mind was directed towards philosophy by Leucippus or Alcippus, a man of whom we know nothing further. Leaving Eresus, he betook himself to Athens, where he attached himself at first to Plato, but afterwards to Aristotle. (Diog. Laërt. l. c.) The story that the latter changed the name of this, his favourite pupil, from Tyrtamus to Theophrastus (for the purpose, as is stated, of avoiding the cacophony, and of indicating the fluent and graceful address of the young man; Strabo, l. c.; Diog. Laërt. v. 38, ib. Menag.), is scarcely credible. Nor can we place more reliance on the accounts that this change of name took place at a later period. (He is already called Theophrastus in Aristotle's will; see Diog. Laërt. v. 12, &c.) The authorities who would lead us to suppose this express themselves very indistinctly. (Cic. Orat. 19; Siquidem et Theophrastus divinitate loquendi nomen invenit; Quintil. Inst. Orat. xi. 1, in Theophrasto tam est eloquendi nitor ille divinus ut ex eo nomen quonque traxisse dicatur.) It is much more likely that the proper name itself, which occurs elsewhere (Steph. Thesaur. Ling. Graec. ed. nov. Paris), suggested attempts to connect it with the eloquence which so eminently distinguished the Eresian. To prove the love of Aristotle for Theophrastus we do not need to betake ourselves to the above story, or to the doubtful expression of the former with respect to the latter, that "he needed the rein, not the spur," an expression which Plato is also said to have made use of with respect to Aristotle (Diog. Laërt. v. 39, ib. Menag.) ; it is proved in a much more indubitable manner by the will of the Stagirite, and by the confidence which led him, when removing to Chalcis, to designate Theophrastus as his successor in the presidency of the Lyceum (Diog. Laert. v. 36; comp. A. Gell. Noct. Att. xiii. 5). It is not unlikely, moreover, that Theophrastus had been the disciple of Aristotle during the residence of the latter in Stageira, while engaged in the education of Alexander: at all events Theophrastus, in his will, mentions an estate that he possessed at Stageira (Diog. Laërt. v. 52), and was on terms of the most intimate friendship with Callisthenes, the fellow-pupil of Alexander (Diog. Laert. v. 44, ib. Menag.). Two thousand disciples are said to have gathered round Theophrastus, and among them such men as the comic poet Menander. (Diog. Laert. v. 37, 36.) Highly esteemed by the kings Philippus, Cassander, and Ptoleniaeus, he was not the less the object of the regard of the Athenian people, as was decisively shown when Agonis ventured to bring an impeachment against him, on the ground of impiety {l. c. 37; comp. Aelian, V. H. iv. 19). Nevertheless, when, according to the law of Sophocles (01. 118. 3), the philosophers were banished from Athens, Theophrastus also left the city, until Philo, a disciple of Aristotle, in the very next year, brought Sophocles to punishment, and procured the repeal of the law. (Diog. Laert. v. 38, ib. Menag.; comp. C. G. Zumpt, Ueber den Bestand der philosophischen Schulen in Athen, &c., Berlin, 1843, p. 17.) Whether Theophrastus succeeded Aristotle without opposition, and also came into possession of the house and garden where the former taught in the Lyceum (not far fiom the present royal palace in Athens), is uncertain. In the will of Aristotle no express directions were left on this point. Still there is nothing at variance therewith in the statement that Theophrastus, after the death of Aristotle, with the assistance of Demetrius Phalereus, obtained a garden of his own. (The words of Diogenes Laertius, v. 39, are very obscure; the καί in the words λέγεται δ' αύτόν καί κήπον σχείν μετά τήν Άριστοτέλους τελευτήν, Δημητρίυ τού Φαληρέως….τούτοv συμπράξαντος, appears rather to refer to a previous possession than to exclude it.) That the executor of the will of Aristotle instituted a sale of the estate, respecting which no directions had been left in the will, and that Demetrius in- terposed, in order to secure a permanent possession for the head of the school, we cannot, with Zumpt {l. c. p. 8), conclude from the above words. The garden, provided with houses, colonnades, walks, &c., whether it was exclusively the private property of Theophrastus, or was, at least, inherited in part by him from Aristotle, is made over by the former in his will to Strato and his other friends, provided they had a mind to philosophize together, as a common and inalienable possession (Diog. Laert. v. 51, &c.), A similar testamentary disposition of the property was made by Strato and Lycon, the succeeding heads of the school. (Diog. Laert. v. 61, &c., 70.)

Theophrastus reached an advanced age ; whether that of eighty-five years (Diog. Laert. v. 40) or more (Hieronymns, Epist. ad Ncpotian. even speaks of 107 years), we leave undecided. But the state- ment contained in the letter to Polycles, prefixed to his Characteres, according to which this book was composed in the ninety-ninth year of the author, although Tzetzes {CIdl. ix. 941) already read it so, may very well rest on a clerical error (comp. Ca- saubon. ad Tkcophr. Charact. Prolog, p. 85) ; and if Theophrastus was the head of the school for thirty-five years (Diog. Laert. v. 36, 58),he would, even had he only reached his hundredth year, have been older than Aristotle. If he reached the age of eighty-seven, he was ten years younger, and was born 01. 101. 3. Theophrastus is said to have closedshis life, which was devoted to restless activity (Diog. Laert. v. 36 ; comp. Suid.), with the com- plaint respecting the short duration of human existence, that it ended just when the insight into its problems was beginning. (This complaint, ex- pressed in diflferent forms, we read in Cicero, Tusc. iii. 28 ; Hieron. I.e. ; Diog. Laert. v. 41.) The whole people took part in his funeral obsequies. (Diog. Laert. I.e.) His faithful aiFection for Ari- stotle, which he had transferred to Nicomachus, the son of the latter and his own disciple, expresses itself in the directions contained in his will respect- ing the preparation and preservation of the statues or busts of the Stagirite and his son (Diog. Laert. v. 51, 52) ; and still more in the way in whicli he exerted himself to carry out the philosophical en- deavours of his teacher, to throw light upon the difficulties contained in his books, to fill up the gaps in them, and, with respect to individual dogmas, to amend them. II. The preceding statement finds its confirma- tion in the list of the writings of the Eresian given us, though with his usual haste, by Diogenes Laertius, but probably borrowed from authorities like Hermippus and Andronicus (Schol. at the end of the Metaphysics of Theophrastus), and the state- ments respecting them contained in other writers, which Menage has already, at least in part, collected in his notes. Thus Theophrastus, like Aristotle, had composed a first and second Analytic (Diog. Laert. V. 42, ib. Menag.), and, at least in the case of the former, had connected his treatise with that of his great predecessor, in the manner indicated above (see below, section III.). He had also written books on Topics (Diog. Laert. v. 42, 45, 50), and on the confutation of fallacies (ib. 42, 45) ; the former again, at all events, with a careful regard to the Topica of Aristotle. The work of Theophrastus " On Affirmation and Denial " (irepi Karacpda-ecos Koi aTTocpda-eus^ Diog. Laert. v. 44) seems to have corresponded to that of Aristotle " On Judgment " (irepl epfX7]velas). To the books of Aristotle on the "Principles of Natural Philosophy " {Physica Auscultatio), on Heaven, and on Meteorological Phenomena, Theophrastus had had regard in cor- responding works. (Diog. Laert. v. 42, 50, 47.) Further, he had written on the Warm and the Cold (Diog. Laert. v. 44, ib. Menag.), on Water, Fire (Diog. Laert. v. 45), the Sea (ib.), on Coagu- lation and Melting (irepl ir-n^ews Kol Ti^|6«y), on various phenomena of organic and spiritual life (Diog. Laert. v. 45, ib. Menag., 43, 46, 49, 43, 44) ; on the Soul and Sensuous Perception (ib. 46), not without regard to the corresponding works of Aristotle, as may at least in part be demonstrated. In like manner we find mention of monographies of Theophrastus on the older Greek physiologians Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Archelaus (Diog. Laert. v. 42, 43), Diogenes of ApoUonia, De- mocritus (ib. 43), which were not unfrequently made use of by Simplicius ; and also on Xenocrates (ib. 47), against the Academics (49), and a sketch of the political doctrine of Plato (ib. 43), which shows that the Eresian followed his master likewise in the critico-historical department of inquiry. That he also included general history within the circle of his scientific investigation, we see from the quo- tations in Plutarch's lives of Lycurgus, Solon, Aristides, Pericles, Nicias, Alcibiades, Lysander, Agesilaus, and Demosthenes, which were probably borrowed from the work on Lives {irepl fiiwv 7', Diog. Laert. v. 42), But his principal endeavours were directed to the supplementation and continua- tion of the labours of Aristotle in the domain of natural history. This is testified not only by a number of treatises on individual subjects of zoo- logy, of which, besides the titles, but few fragments remain, but also by his books on Stones and Metals, and his works on the History, and on the Parts of Plants, which have come down to us en- tire. In politics, also, he seems to have trodden in the footsteps of Aristotle. Besides his books on the State, we find quoted various treatises on Education (ib. 42, 50), on Royalty (ib. 47, 45), on the Best State, on Political Morals, and particularly his works on the Laws, one of which, containing a re- capitulation of the laws of various barbaric as well as Grecian states (Noficov Karb. (Ttoix^'iov k8 Diog. Laert. v. 44, ib. Menag.), was intended to form a •pendant to Aristotle's delineation of Politics, and must have stood in close relation to it. (Cic. de Fin. V. 4.) Of the books of Theophrastus on oratory and poetry, almost all that we know is, that in them also Aristotle Avas not passed by without reference. (Cic. de Invent, i. 35.) Theophrastus, without doubt, departed farther from his master in his ethical writings {ih. 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 49, 50), as also in his metaphysical investigations respecting motion, the soul, and the Deity, {lb. 47, 48.) Besides the writings belonging to the above- mentioned branches of science, Theophrastus was the author of others, partly of a miscellaneous kind, as, for instance, several collections of problems., out of which some things at least have passed into the Problems which have come down to us under the name of Aristotle (Diog. Laert. v. 45, 47, 48; comp. I Plin. //. N. xxviii. 6 ; Arist. Probl. xxxiii. 12), I and commentaries (Diog. Laert. v. 48, 49 ; comp. I 43), partly dialogues (Basil. Magn. Epist. 167), to I which probably belonged the 'EpiariKos (Diog. Laert. I V.43; Athen. xii. 2, xiii. 2), Megacles (Diog. Laert. ! 47), Callisthenes iji Trepl ir4vdovs^ Diog. Laert. v. 44; Cic. Tusc. iii. 10; Alex. Aphrod. de Anima ii. extr.), and MeyapiKSs (Diog. Laert. v. 44), and letters (Diog. Laert. v. 46, 50), partly books on ma- thematical sciences and their history (Jb. 42, 46, 48,60). Besides the two great works on botany {vepi fvTuu {(TTopia, in ten books, written about 01. 118; see Schneider, TheopL 0pp. iv. p. 586 ; and airia (puaiKd, in six books), we only possess some VOL. III. THEOPHRASTUS. 1089 more or less ample fragments of works by Theo- phrastus, or extracts from them, among which the ethical characters, that is, delineations of charac- ter, and the treatise on sensuous perception and its objects (irepl alaQ-fja-ews [koI alaOrjTwv]) are the most considerable, the first important as a con- tribution to the ethical history of that time, tht latter for a knowledge of the doctrines of the more ancient Greek philosophers respecting the subject indicated. With the latter class of works we may connect the fragments on smells (ir^pl baixcov), on fatigue (Trepi Koirwv)., on giddiness {irepX iKiyyuv)^ on sweat (irepl iSpcoroi/), on swooning (Trepl AeiTro- i/zyXias), on palsy (Trepl 7rapaA.yo-ews), and on honey (irepl fxeAiTos). To physics, in the narrower sense of the word, belong the still extant sections on fire {irepl irvDos), on the winds (vrepl avijuuv), on the signs of waters, winds, and storms (irepl <Tr]iJ.elwv iSdrcav Kal Trpev/j.a.Twv /col x^'M'^^'w "^al cvSiwy^ probably out of the fourth book of the Meteorology of Theophrastus : Trepi fxerapaiwy : see Plut. Quacst. Gr. vii. ; comp. Schneider, iv. p. 719, &c.) To the zoology belong six other sections. Also the trea- tise on stones (irepl Aiduiv, written 01. 116. 2, see Schneider, /. c. iv. p. 585), and on metaphysics {twv fxerh ra (pvcriKa), are only fragments, and there is no reason for assigning the latter to some other author because it is not noticed in Hermippus and Andronicus, especially as Nicolaus (Daiiias- cenus) had already mentioned it (see the scholia at the end of the book). But throughout the text of these fragments and extracts is so corrupt that the well-known story of the fate of the books of Aristotle and Theophrastus [Aristoteles] might very well admit of application to them. The same is the case with the books on colours, on indivisible lines, and on Xenophanes, Gorgias, and Melissus, which may with greater right be assigned to Theo- phrastus than to his master, among whose works we now find them. (Respecting the first of these books — Trepl xpcw/iaTwj/ — see Schneider, ^. c. iv p. 864 ; respecting the second, Diog. Laert. v. 42, ib. Menag.) Much superior to the older editions of Theophrastus {Aldina, 1498, Basileensis, 1541, Camotiana, Venet. 1552, that of Daniel Heinsius, 1613, &c.) is that by J. G. Schneider {Theophrasti Eresii quae supersunt opera., Lips. 1 8 1 8-2 1 . 5 vols.), which, however, still needs a careful revision, as the piecemeal manner in which the critical appa- ratus came to his hands, and his own ill health compelled the editor to append supplements and corrections, twice or thrice, to the text and com- mentary. Fried. Wimmer has published a new and much improved edition of the history erf plants, as the first volume of the entire works of Theophrastus. {Theophrasti opera quae supersunt omnia cmcndata edidit cum apparaiu critico Fr. Wimmer., Tomus primus historiam plantarum con- tinens, Vratislaviae, 1842. 8vo.) For the explanation of the history of plants con- siderable contributions were made before Schneider by Bodaeus a Stapel (Amstelod. 1644, fol.) and J. Stackhouse. {Tkeophr. Eres. de historia planta- rum libriX.graece cum syllabo generum et spederum glossario et notis, curante Job. Stackhouse, Oxon. 1813. 2 vols. 8vo.) III. How far Theophrastus attached himself to the Aristotelic doctrines, how he defined them more closely, or conceived them in a diflferent form, and what additional structures of doctrine he formed upon them, can be determined but very partially


owing to the scantiness of the statements which we have, and what belongs to this subject can be merely indicated in this place. In the first place, Theophrastus seems to have carried out still further the grammatical foundation of logic and rhetoric, since in his book on the elements of speech ( eV T<p T6pl Tov yov aroix^itp, I. iv t<^ Trepl rwv rov Koyov (TToix^iuv)^ respecting which again others had written, he distinguished the main parts of speech from the subordinate parts, and again, direct (Kvpia Ae'lfs) from metaphorical expressions, and treated of the affections (irddr}) of speech (Simpl. in Categ. 8, Basil.), and further distinguished a twofold reference of speech {axif^i'S) — to things (7r^7/xaTo), and to the hearers, and referred poetry and rhetoric to the latter (Ammon. de Interpr. 53; Schol. in Arist. p. 108. 27). In what he taught respecting judgment (eV t^j irepl Ka.ra.<^a.(riuis [woi a7ro(^ao-€a)s] — de affirmalione ei negatione) he had treated at length on its oneness (Alex, in Anal. Pr. f. 128, 124 ; Schol. in Arist. p. 184. 24. 183, b. 2; Boeth. de Interpr, pp. 291, 327), on the different kinds of negation (Ammon. in Arist. de Interfr. 128, b. 129, 134; Schol. in Arist. p. 121. 18), and on the difference between unconditioned and con- ditioned necessity (Alex. I. c. f. 12. 6 ; Schol. in Arist. p. 149. 44). In his doctrine of syllogisms he brought forward the proof for the conversion of universal affirmative judgments, differed from Aristotle here and there in the laying down and arranging the modioi the syllogisms (Alex. I. c. 14, 72, 73, 82. 22, b, 35; Boeth. deSi/U. categ. ii. 594. 5, f. 603, 615), partly in the proof of them (Alex. I. c. 39, b), partly in the doctrine of miocture^ i. e. of the influence of the modality of the premises upon the modality of the conclusion (Alex. I. c. 39, b. &c. 40, 42, 56, b. 82, 64, b. 51 ; Joh. Ph. xxxii, b. &c.). Then in two separate works he had treated of the reduction of arguments to the syllo- gistic form {h.vqyfj.ivwv ywu els t^ ax'hf^'^Ta) and on the resolution of them (Trepi avaKvaews (XvXKoyKrfJiwv. Alex. 115); further, of hypothetical conclusions (Alex, in Arist. Anal. Pr. 109, b. &c. 131, b. ; Joh. Phil. Ix. &c. Ixxv. ; Boeth. de Syll. hypoth. p. 606). For the doctrine of proof, Galenus quotes the second Analytic of Theophrastus, in conjunction with that of Aristotle, as the best treatises on that doctrine {de Hippocr. et Plat.Dogm. ii. 2. p. 213, Lips. 253, Basil.) In different mo- nographies he seems to have endeavoured to expand it into a general theory of science. To this too may have belonged the proposition quoted from his Topics^ that the principia of opposites {rHv iuavriuv) are themselves opposed, and cannot be deduced from one and the same higher genus. (Simpl. in Categ. f. 5 ; Schol. p. 89. 15 ; comp. Alex, in Metaph. p. 342. 30, Bonitz.) For the rest, some inconsiderable deviations from the Aristotelic definitions are quoted from the Topica of Theophrastus. (Alex, in Top. 5, 68, 72, 25, 31.) With this treatise, that upon ambiguous words or ideas (irepi rod TToo-axcSs, ir. t. ttoAAoxcSs. Alex. ib. 83, 189), which, without doubt, corresponded to the book E of Aristotle's Metaphysics, seems to have been closely connected. Theophrastus introduced his Physics with the proof that all natural existence, being corporeal, that is composite, presupposes principia (Simpl. in Pkys. f. 1,6, in Schneider v. 7), and before every- thing else, motion, as the basis of the changes common to all (ib. 5, 6; Schncid. ib. 6). Denying THEOPHRASTUS. the subsistence of space, he seems to have been disposed, in opposition to the Aristotelic definition, to regard it as the mere arrangement and position (Ta|ts and i^^crtj) of bodies (Simpl. /.c. 149, b. 141; Schneid. p. 213, f. 9, 8). Time he designated as an accident of motion, without, as it seems, conceiving it, with Aristotle, as the numerical determination of motion. (Simpl. f. 87, b; Joh. 213. 4.) He departed more widely from his master in his doctrine of motion, since on the one hand he extended it over all categories, and did not limit it to those laid down by Aristotle (Simpl, ifi Categ. Schneid. p. 212; comp. Simpl. in Phys. 94, 201,202, 1. Schneid. 214. 10); and on the other hand, while he conceived it, with Aristotle, as an activity, not carrying its own end in itself (areATjs), of that which only exists potentially (Simpl. I. c. and f. 94, 1. Schneid. 11), and therefore could not allow that the activity expended itself in motion, he also recognised no activity without motion (Simpl. in Categ. Schneid. 212. 2), and so was obliged to refer all activities of the soul to motion, the desires and affections to corporeal motion, judgment (/cpiVejs) and contemplation to spiritual motion. (Simpl. in Phys. 225 ; Schneid. 215. 13.) The conceivableness of a spirit entirely independent of organic activity, must therefore have appeared to him very doubtful ; yet he appears to have con- tented himself with developing his doubts and difficulties on the point, without positively rejecting it (Themist. in Arist. de An. 89, b. 91, b; Schneid. 215. 15). Other Peripatetics, as Dicaearchus, Aristoxenus, and especially Straton, more unreservedly and unconditionally gave a sensualistic turn to the Aristotelic doctrine. Theophrastus seems, generally speaking, where the investigation overstepped the limits of experience, to have shown more acuteness in the development of difficulties than in the solution of them, as is especially apparent in the fragment of his metaphysics. In a penetrating and unbiassed conception of phenomena, in acuteness of reflection and combination respecting them and within their limits, in compass and certainty of experimental knowledge, he may have stood near Aristotle, if he did not come quite up to him : the incessant endeavour of his great master to refer phenomena to their ultimate grounds, his profundity in unfolding the internal connections between the latter, and between them and pheno- mena, were not possessed by Theophrastus. Hence even in antiquity it was a subject of complaint that Theophrastus had not expressed himself with pre- cision and consistency respecting the Deity, and had understood thereby at one time Heaven, at another an (enlivening) breath {irvev^a^ Clem. Alex. Protrept. p. 44. b; Cic. de Nat. Deor. i. 13); that he had not been able to comprehend a happi- ness resting merely upon virtue (Cic. Acad. i. 10, Tusc. V. 9), or, consequently, to hold fast by the unconditional value of morality, and, although blameless in his life, had subordinated moral re- quirements to the advantage at least of a friend. (A. Gell. N. A. i. 3. § 23), and had admitted in prosperity the existence of an influence injurious to them. (In particular, fault was found with his expression in the Callisthenes, vitam regit fortuna non sapientia, Cic. Tttsc. iii. 10 ; comp. Alex. Aphrod. de Anima^ ii. extr.) That in the definition of pleasure, likewise, he did not coincide with Aristotle, seems to be indicated by the titles of two of his writings, one of which treated of pleasure generally, the other of pleasure, as Aristotle had defined it (Diog. Laert. v. 44, Trepi tjSovtjs us ^Apia- TOTeATjs) ; and although, like his teacher, he pre- ferred contemplative (theoretic), to active (practical) life (Cic. ad Att. ii. 16), he was at the same time disposed to set the latter free from the fetters of family life, &c. in a manner of which the former would not have approved (Hieron. adv. Joviiiian. i, 189, Bened.) Respecting Theophrastus's treatment of botany in his two chief works, see J. G. Schneider, " de Auctoritate, Integritate, Argumento, Ordine, Methodo et Pretio Librorum, de Historia et Causis Plantarum" {Theophr.Opp. v. p. 227 — 264.) Comp. R. Sprengel, Geschichte der Botanik, vol, i. p. 52, &c.

[Ch. A. B.]