, a native of the island of Melos, surnamed the Atheist, lived in the ninety-first olympiad, or 412 B. C. and was a follower of Democritus. Having been sold as a captive in his youth, he was redeemed by Democritus for 10,000 drachmas, and instead of being made his servant, was trained up in the study of philosophy, for which he had probably showed a capacity. At the same time he cultivated polite learning, and distinguished himself in the art of lyric poetry, which was so successfully practised about that period by Pindar, Bacchylis, and others. His name has been transmitted to posterity as an. avowed advocate for the rejection of all religious belief; and although Clemens Alexandrinus and others have taken pains to exculpate him, by pleading that his only intention was to ridicule heathen superstitions, the general voice of antiquity has so strongly asserted his atheistical principles, that we cannot refuse credit to the report without allowing too much indulgence to historical scepticism. It is easy to conceive, that one who had studied philosophy in the school of Democritus, who admitted no other principles in nature than atoms and a vacuum, would reject the whole doctrine of Deity as inconsistent with the system which he had embraced. And it is expressly asserted by ancient writers, that when, in a particular instance, he saw a perjured person escape punishment *, he publicly declared his disbelief of divine providence, and from that time not only spoke with ridicule of the gods, and of all religious ceremonies, but even attempted to lay open the sacred mysteries, and to dissuade the people from submitting to the rites of initiation. These public insults offered to religion brought upon him the general hatred of the Athenians; who, upon his refusing to obey a summons to appear in the courts of judicature, issued forth a decree, which was inscribed upon a brazen column, offering the reward of a talent to any one who should kill him, or two talents to any one who should bring him alive before the

* The story is thus told: Diagoras work as his own. Diagoras, consiclcrdelighted in making verses, and had ing that he who had injured him had

composed a poem, which a certain poet not only escaped unpunished for his

had stolen from him. He sued the theft and perjury, but also acquired

thief; who swore he was not guilty of glory thereby, concluded that there

the crime, and soon after he gained a was no providence, nor any gods, and

great reputation by publishing that wrote some books to prove it. | judges. This happened in the ninety-first olympiad. From that time, Diagoras became a fugitive in Attica, and at last fled to Corinth, where he died. It is said, that being on board a ship during a storm, the terrified sailors began to accuse themselves for having received into their ship a man so infamous for his impiety; upon which Diagoras pointed out to them other vessels, which were near them on the sea in equal danger, and asked them, whether they thought that each of these ships also carried a Diagoras? and that afterwards, when a friend, in order to convince him that the gods are not indifferent to human affairs, desired him to observe how many consecrated tablets were hung up in the temples in grateful acknowledgment of the escapes from the dangers of the sea, he said, in reply, “True but here are no tablets of those who have suffered shipwreck, and perished in the sea.” But there is reason to suspect that these tales are mere inventions; for similar stories have been told of Diogenes the Cynic, and others. 1


Gen. Dict. —Moreri. Brueker.