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02/12/2007
Anaxarchos

Bala Katerina
Source: C.E.T.I.
© Eastern Macedonia – Thrace Region
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Anaxarchos lived during the 4th century (380-322 B.C.), belongs to the Avdira School of Philosophy and he resonates the ideas of Democritus and Protagoras leaning to skepticism. According to Diogenis from Laerti (Philosophers’ lives, book IX: §58-60), Anaxarchos studied with Diogenes from Smirni, a pupil of Mitrodoros from Chios.

His passion for life and the enjoyment he obtained from everything compose his special personal characteristics. He followed the concept of “living prosperously” without tensions and passions. This is why he was called “eudaemonist”.

He was a personal friend of Alexander the Great and followed him to his major expedition for conquering Asia. Ancient writers like Arianos (95 -175 ì.×.), Ploutarchos (47 -127 ì.×.), Diogenes from Laerti etc. give information on Anaxarchos, especially regarding his relation to Alexander the Great. According to these resources, Anaxarchos is presented to be more an adulator than a friend of Alexander the Great and was also accused of boosting the negative side of Alexander’s personality along with pandering his arrogance. Ploutarchos describes an incident where Alexander while being drank killed Klitos, one of his Eteri (the part of Alexander’s host that consisted of exceptional warriors). Eventually, Alexander acted theatrically expressing in this way his remorses and Anaxarchos convinced him that the king is beyond the law. Arianos’, in his work “Analisi” [Analysis], comments on Anaxarchos and his willing Eteri to kneel in front of him: Alexander was supposed to be a god, not Dionysos and Hercules… there is no doubt that when Alexander would die, people would worship him as a god• so it would be fair enough to grace him while he was alive and not after his death, because then it would be worthless.

Regarding the virtues and aspirations of a competent leader he said: Erudition avails people but it also impairs. It is of benefit for a capable man, but it is tricky for the ones who speak publicly. It is important to choose when to speak. This is a component of wisdom. If they do not speak at a proper time, they will be accused of fatuity –even if what they say is wise.
Anaxarchos did not accept any stable criteria for truth. His philosophical theory supported that all beings that we see or hear, are placed in a scenography or a continuous state of sleep and dream or a state of madness. As a result, the quality of our behavior is insensible.
Anaxarchos was known for his candor and freedom of expressing his opinion. It is said that this was the reason for being tortured to death by his enemy, the tyrant of Cyprus, Nikokreondas. According to the texts, Anaxarchos was driven ashore Cyprus, Nikokreon arrested him and then gave the order of throwing him in a big cylindrical vessel that was bitten with big beetles. During his torture Anaxarchos said: Ptise, ptise, ptise ton Anaxarchou thilakon. Anaxarchos gar ou ptisis [Beat, go on beating the body of Anaxarchos. You won’t beat Anaxarchos). When Nikokreon gave the order of cutting his tongue, Anaxarchos cut his tongue with his teeth and spitted it to the face of the tyrant. He was admired by ancient people for his valor.