- Mini Bio
- Name: Xenophanes
- Born: 560 BC, Colophon, Ancient Greece (now Turkey)
- Died: 478 BC, Elea, Ancient Greece (now Italy)
- Occupation: Poet, philosopher and social critic
- Existing works: In total 45 fragments of his poetry and testimonia have survived the ravages of time
- Poetry preserved by: Fragments of his poetry and works were mostly preserved to history by Athenaeus, Sextus Empiricus, and Simplicius
- Historical importance: An important part of the Ancient Greek jigsaw linking the early Greek poets Hesiot and Homer with Socrates, Plato and Aristotle
- Best known for: Criticising and applying rational thinking to theocratic beliefs and scientific discourse
- Trivia: Not fully recognised in the traditional sense of an ancient Greek philosopher mostly because insufficient fragments of his work remain to classify him as such
"For all things are from the earth and to the earth all things come in the end"Xenophanes
"If oxen and horses had hands and were able to draw ... horses would draw the shapes of gods to look like horses and oxen would draw them to look like oxen"Xenophanes
"God sees all over, thinks all over, hears all over. He remains always in the same place, without moving. ... But without toil he sets all things in motion by the thought of his mind"Xenophanes
"Homer and Hesiod ascribed to the gods whatever is infamy and reproach among men: theft and adultery and deceiving each other"Xenophanes
"The gods have not revealed all things from the beginning to mortals but, by seeking, men find out, in time, what is better"Xenophanes
"Even if a man should chance to speak the most complete truth, yet he himself does not know it; All things are wrapped in appearances"Xenophanes
"Mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes like theirs, and voice and form"Xenophanes
"Ethiopians say that their gods are snub nosed and black. Thracians that they are pale and red-haired"Xenophanes
"There is one god, greatest among gods and men, similar to mortals neither in shape nor in thought"Xenophanes
"She whom men call `Iris' is in reality a cloud, purple, red, and green to the sight"Xenophanes
"God is one, supreme among gods and men, and not like mortals in body or in mind"Xenophanes
"It isn't right to judge strength as better than good wisdom"Xenophanes
"Let these things, then, be taken as like the truth"Xenophanes
"No man knows distinctly anything, and no man ever will"Xenophanes
"It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man"Xenophanes
"Men always makes gods in their own image"Xenophanes
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Xenophanes was the 5th century BC poet and philosopher who dared to question strongly held beliefs and systems and outright criticised those who claimed to know the truth about anything that could not be observed first hand.
Xenophanes was an orator and critic of classical poetry who as an ancient Greek and not a modern day geek travelled far and wide to communicate his message and so fulfilled a need for enlightenment and entertainment back in his day. He explained the limitations of human knowledge and eloquently pointed out that beliefs should be classed as opinions and not truths so as to avoid the pitfalls of dogmatism.
Indeed, the historical author F.R. Pickering was quoted as saying of him:
“Xenophanes is a natural epistemologist, who claims that statements concerning the non-evident realm of the divine as well as the far-reaching generalisations of natural sciences cannot be known with certainty but must remain the objects of opinion”.
He was the most discussed of all the Pre-Socratic philosophers and his influence was felt by all Greek thinkers up until Aristotle's era who pigeon holed him as the founder of Eleatic philosophy.
Xenophanes legacy is he laid the foundations of reason in Greek ethical and religious thinking that led to a systematic approach to scientific thinking
The words of the great ancient Greeks have echoed through time keeping them relevant even in the 21st century, so this is my compilation of 16 of the best Xenophanes quotes
Quotes About Xenophanes
Philosophy historian J.H. Lesher gave this assessment of his work:
"Without explicitly announcing their banishment, Xenophanes has dispatched an array of traditional sea, river, cloud, wind, and rain deities to the explanatory sidelines"
The philosopher Plato shared this observation:
"The Eleatic school, beginning with Xenophanes and even earlier, starts from the principle of the unity of all things"
The biologist Theophrastus simply described Xenophanes’ teaching as:
"The all is one and the one is God"