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Encyclopedia > Diagoras of Melos

Diagoras the Atheist of Melos was a Greek poet and sophist of the 5th century BC. He became an atheist after an incident that happened against him went unpunished by the gods. He spoke out against the orthodox religions, and criticized the Eleusinian Mysteries. He once threw a wooden image of a god into a fire, remarking that the deity should perform another miracle and save itself. Milos (formerly Melos, and before the Athenian genocide Malos) is a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea. ... The poor poet A poet is a person who writes poetry. ... Sophism was originally a term for the techniques taught by a highly respected group of philosophy and rhetoric teachers in ancient Greece. ... Europe in 450 The 5th century is the period from 401 - 500 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian Era. ... For information about the band, see Atheist (band). ... The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every five years for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. ...


Diagoras has been called a student of Democritus, although some sources claim that he was bought from slavery by Democritus in 411 BC, when Melos was captured by Alcibiades, and then became his student. ‎ Democritus (Greek: ) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher (born at Abdera in Thrace around 460 BC). ... Milos (formerly Melos, and before the Athenian genocide Malos) is a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea. ... Alcibiades Cleiniou Scambonides (Greek: ; English /ælsɪbaɪədi:z/; 450 BC–404 BC), also transliterated as Alkibiades, was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. ...


The Roman philosopher Cicero, writing in the 1st century BC, tells of how a friend of Diagoras tried to convince him of the existence of the gods, by pointing out how many votive pictures tell about people being saved from storms at sea by "dint of vows to the gods", to which Diagoras replied that "there are nowhere any pictures of those who have been shipwrecked and drowned at sea." And Cicero goes on to give another example, where Diagoras was on a ship in hard weather, and the crew thought that they had brought it on themselves by taking this ungodly man onboard. He then wondered if the other boats out in the same storm also had a Diagoras onboard. Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust Marcus Tullius Cicero (IPA:Classical Latin pronunciation: , usually pronounced in American English or in UK English; January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, philosopher, widely considered one of Romes greatest orators... (2nd millennium BC - 1st millennium BC - 1st millennium) The 1st century BC started on January 1, 100 BC and ended on December 31, 1 BC. An alternative name for this century is the last century BC. The AD/BC notation does not use a year zero. ... Cicero at about age 60, from an ancient marble bust Marcus Tullius Cicero (IPA:Classical Latin pronunciation: , usually pronounced in American English or in UK English; January 3, 106 BC – December 7, 43 BC) was a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, philosopher, widely considered one of Romes greatest orators...


The Christian writer Athenagoras of Athens (second century AD) mentions that Diagoras was punished because he "divulged the Orphic doctrine, and published the mysteries of Eleusis and of the Cabiri, and chopped up the wooden statue of Hercules to boil his turnips."[1] Athenagoras (circa 133-190) was a Christian apologist of the second half of the 2nd century of whom little is known for certain, besides that he was Athenian (though possibly not originally from Athens), a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. ... ( 1st century - 2nd century - 3rd century - other centuries) Events Roman Empire governed by the Five Good Emperors ( 96– 180) – Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius. ... This article or section should be merged with Kabeiroi Greek fertility gods, the Cabari can be traced to Asia Minor. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Heracles. ...


Diagoras was condemned to death at Athens and a price was put on his head. He fled to Corinth, where he was said to have died. Athens (Greek: Αθήνα - Athína) is the largest city and capital of Greece, located in the Attica periphery of central Greece. ... Corinth, or Korinth (Greek: Κόρινθος, Kórinthos; see also List of traditional Greek place names) is a Greek city-state, on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece. ...


The incident is reported in Chapter 4 of Athenagoras the Athenian's A Plea for the Christians: Athenagoras (circa 133-190) was a Christian apologist of the second half of the 2nd century of whom little is known for certain, besides that he was Athenian (though possibly not originally from Athens), a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. ...

As regards, first of all, the allegation that we are atheists-for I will meet the charges one by one, that we may not be ridiculed for having no answer to give to those who make them-with reason did the Athenians adjudge Diagoras guilty of atheism, in that he not only divulged the Orphic doctrine, and published the mysteries of Eleusis and of the Cabiri, and chopped up the wooden statue of Hercules to boil his turnips, but openly declared that there was no God at all. But to us, who distinguish God from matter, and teach that matter is one thing and God another, and that they are separated by a wide interval (for that the Deity is uncreated and eternal, to be beheld by the understanding and reason alone, while matter is created and perishable), is it not absurd to apply the name of atheism? If our sentiments were like those of Diagoras, while we have such incentives to piety-in the established order, the universal harmony, the magnitude, the colour, the form, the arrangement of the world-with reason might our reputation for impiety, as well as the cause of our being thus harassed, be charged on ourselves.[1]

J. M. Robertson writes on Diagoras that The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every five years for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. ... This article or section should be merged with Kabeiroi Greek fertility gods, the Cabari can be traced to Asia Minor. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Heracles. ...

It was about that time ["415 B.C."] that the poet Diagoras of Melos ["active in Athens in the last decades of the 5th cent. BC" (Ox. Classical Dict., 1996)] was proscribed for atheism, he having declared that the non-punishment of a certain act of iniquity proved that there were no Gods. It has been surmised, with some reason, that the iniquity in question was the slaughter of the Melians by the Athenians in 416 B.C., and the Athenian resentment in that case was personal and political rather than religious. For some time after 415 the Athenian courts made strenuous efforts to punish every discoverable case of impiety; and parodies of the Eleusinian mysteries were alleged against Alkibiades and others. Diagoras, who was further charged with divulging the Eleusinian and other mysteries, and with making firewood of an image of Herakles, telling the god thus to perform his thirteenth labour by cooking turnips, became thenceforth one of the proverbial atheists of the ancient world, and a reward of a silver talent was offered for killing him, and of two talents for his capture alive; despite which he seems to have escaped.[2]

Jennifer Michael Hecht writes on Diagoras that Milos (formerly Melos, and before the Athenian genocide Malos) is a volcanic island in the Aegean Sea. ... The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every five years for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. ... For the son of Alexander the Great, see Heracles (Macedon). ... Jennifer Michael Hecht (b. ...

The poet Diagoras of Melos was perhaps the most famous atheist of the fifth century. Although he did not write about atheism, anecdotes about his unbelief suggest he was self-confident, almost teasing, and very public. He revealed the secret rituals of the Eleusinian mystery religion to everyone and "thus made them ordinary," that is, he purposefully demystified a cherished secret rite, apparently to provoke his contemporaries into thought. In another famous story, a friend pointed out an expensive display of votive gifts and said, "You think the gods have no care for man? Why, you can see from all these votive pictures here how many people have escaped the fury of storms at sea by praying to the gods who have brought them safe to harbor." To which Diagoras replied, "Yes, indeed, but where are the pictures of all those who suffered shipwreck and perished in the waves?" A good question. Diagoras was indicted for profaning the mysteries, but escaped. A search was out for him throughout the Athenian empire, which indicated that the charges were serious, but he was not found.[3]

See also

Theodorus of Cyrene was an Greek mathematician of the 5th century BC who was admired by Plato, who mentions him in several sources. ...

References

  1. ^ Athenagoras the Athenian, A Plea for the Christians, Chapter 4
  2. ^ A History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern, to the Period of the French Revolution, J.M. Robertson, Fourth Edition, Revised and Expanded, In Two Volumes, Vol. I, Watts, 1936. p173 - 174
  3. ^ Hecht, Jennifer Michael (2003). "Whatever Happened to Zeus and Hera?, 600 BCE-1 CE", Doubt: A History. Harper San Francisco, 9-10. ISBN 0060097957. 

 
 

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