Page:Early Greek philosophy by John Burnet, 3rd edition, 1920.djvu/185

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171
PARMENIDES OF ELEA

the opening of the poem of Parmenides is an allegorical description of his conversion from some form of error to what he held to be the truth, and that it is thrown into the form of an Orphic apocalypse.[1] That would be quite natural if he had been a Pythagorean in his early days, so we need not hesitate to accept the tradition that he had. As regards the relation of Parmenides to the Pythagorean system, we shall have something to say later. At present we need only note that, like most of the older philosophers, he took part in politics; and Speusippos recorded that he legislated for his native city. Others add that the magistrates of Elea made the citizens swear every year to abide by the laws Parmenides had given them.[2]

85.The poem. Parmenides was the first philosopher to expound his system in metrical language. His predecessors, Anaximander, Anaximenes, and Herakleitos, wrote in prose, and the only Greeks who ever wrote philosophy in verse at all were just these two, Parmenides and Empedokles; for Xenophanes was not a philosopher any more than Epicharmos. Empedokles copied Parmenides; and he, no doubt, was influenced by the Orphics. But the thing was an innovation, and one that did not maintain itself.

The fragments of Parmenides are preserved for the most part by Simplicius, who fortunately inserted them in his commentary, because in his time the original work was already rare.[3] I follow the arrangement of Diels.

  1. We know too little of the apocalyptic poems of the sixth century B.C. to be sure of the details. All we can say is that Parmenides has taken the form of his poem from some such source. See Diels, "Über die poetischen Vorbilder des Parmenides" (Berl. Sitzb. 1896), and the Introduction to his Parmenides Lehrgedicht, pp. 9 sqq.
  2. Diog. ix. 23 (R. P. 111). Plut. Adv. Col. 1226 a, Παρμενίδης δὲ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ πατρίδα διεκόσμησε νόμοις ἀρίστοις, ὥστε τὰς ἀρχὰς καθ' ἕκαστον ἐνιαυτὸν ἐξορκοῦν τοὺς πολίτας ἐμμενεῖν τοῖς Παρμενίδου νόμοις. Strabo, vi. 1, p. 252, (Ἐλέαν) ἐξ ἧς Παρμενίδης καὶ Ζήνων ἐγένοντο ἄνδρες Πυθαγόρειοι. δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ δι' ἐκείνους καὶ ἔτι πρότερον εὐνομηθῆναι. We can hardly doubt that this too comes from Timaios.
  3. Simpl. Phys. 144, 25 (R. P. 117). Simplicius, of course, had the library of the Academy at his command. Diels estimates that we have about nine-tenths of the Ἀλήθεια and about one-tenth of the Δόξα.