Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Timon of Phlius

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TIMON of Phlius, the well-known sillograph and sceptic philosopher, flourished about 280 B.C. He studied philosophy under Stilpo the Megarian and Pyrrho of Elis, the famous sceptic. Thereafter he spent some time in Chalcedon, where he made a fortune by teaching and lecturing. The rest of his life was passed chiefly at Athens, where he died at an advanced age.

The writings of Timon, if we may trust Diogenes Laertius (ix. ch. 12), were exceedingly numerous both in prose and in verse: besides the ZfXXoi, he is asserted to have written epic poems, tragedies, comedies, satyric dramas, and other varieties. But he is best known as the author of the 2iXXoc or sarcastic hexameter verses written against the Greek philosophers. They were divided into three books; in the first the author spoke in his own person, while in the second and third Xenophanes of Colophon replied to inquiries addressed to him by Timon about early and late philosophers. From the fragments that remain (about 140 lines or parts of lines, printed in Mullach, Frag. Phil. Græc., i. pp. 84-98) we see that Timon possessed some of the qualities of a great satirist together with a thorough command of the hexameter; but there is no trace of any loftier aim than to awaken derisive laughter. Philosophers are "excessively cunning murderers of many wise saws" (ver. 96); the only two whom he spares are Xenophanes, "the modest censor of Homer's lies" (v. 29), and Pyrrho, against whom "no other mortal dare contend" (v. 126). Besides the Zt XXot we have some lines preserved from the Iv5afj.oi, a poem in elegiac verse, which appears to have inculcated the tenets of scepticism, and one or two lines or parts of lines which cannot be with certainty assigned to either poem.