Greek Philosopher: Xenophanes

570 - 480 BC

Xenophanes, a native of Colophon in Asia Minor, the son of Dexius. According to some he was no man's pupil, according to others he was a pupil of Boton of Athens.

Since Xenophanes' was a wandering poet and a maker of satires and elegies, his writings are more closely related to religion and to conduct than to philosophy.

For many years he wandered around Greece and Sicily as a poet and minstrel before settling down in in Phoenician colony of Elea, in southern Italy in 540 BC and founded a school there.

Known as the Eleatic School, he taught philosophical concepts which were later broadened and systemized by his disciple, the Greek philosopher Parmenides.

In his writings Xenophanes cleverly satirized the polytheistic beliefs of earlier Greek poets and of his own contemporaries. He ridiculed their deities as gods created in the image of the men who worshiped them. He attacked the old relgion because its gods were guilty of wicked actions.

He decried the extravagant interest of the Greeks in athletics and insists that wisdom is preferable to physical strength. He touched on rules of etiquette, with the admonition that too much drinking is to be avoided.

The most important part of Xenophanes' writings for philosophy is to be found in the attacks upon the traditional views of the gods. In a manner similar to that of Euripides, Xenophanes decries the attribution of all manner of vice and crime to the deities. This is the motive for his criticism of the writings of Homer and Hesiod.

The attribution of depravity to gods follows from the anthropomorphic conception of deity, Men create gods in their own images, just as animals would construct deities with animal characteristics, had they the ability to draw.

He felt that humans should reject polytheistic anthropomorphism and recognize instead a single nonhuman deity underlying and unifying all worldly phenomena.

In other works he ridiculed the doctrine of transmigration of souls and deplored Greek preoccupation with athleticism and luxurious living at the expense of wisdom. Only fragments of his poems have survived.

More by this Author

  • Greek Philosopher: Democritus

    The Greek philosopher to whom the conception of the Atomic theory is attributed. He visualised atoms - the word is Greek for 'indivisable' - as moving through space, then colliding to form the universe and all natural...

  • Greek Philosopher: Diogenes

    The celebrated Greek cynic philosopher who is said to have lived in a tub, wearing the coarsest clothing and living on the plainest food. Many of his sayings have been preseved, and serve for occasional quotation. ...

  • How Do Deodorants Work?

    Perspiration is the moisture given off by the skin from activity of the sweat glands. The characteristic odor of sweat is caused by the breakdown, or decompostion, of the sweat by bacteria. Deodorant antiperspirants...

Comments 1 comment

Dame Scribe profile image

Dame Scribe 7 years ago from Canada

and he left his mark on our world which we learn about to this day. Thanks Darkside. He must've been quite the instructor. :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    • New Encyclopedia, Volume 25, 1971, Funk & Wagnalls. Page 343.
    • Standard College Dictionary, 1963, Funk & Wagnalls. Page 1553.
    • Pictorial Knowledge, Volume 10, circa 1950, Newnes. Page 411.
    • Early Greek Philosophy, 4th Edition, 1964, Milton C. Nahm. Page 79.

    Click to Rate This Article