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Biographies (37)

Men in the armed forces


ILIS (Ancient city) ILIA
Hieronymus, (Hieronumos). Of Elis, a lochagus in the army of the Ten Thousand Greeks, who is mentioned by Xenophon as taking a prominent part in the discussion that ensued after the death of Clearchus and the other generals, as well as on other occasions during the retreat and subsequent operations. (Xen. Anab. iii. 1.34, vi. 2.10, vii. 1.32, 4.18.)




ILIS (Ancient city) ILIA
, , 360 - 270

   The founder of the Sceptical or Pyrrhonian School of philosophy, a native of Elis in the Peloponnesus. He is said to have been poor, and to have followed at first the profession of a painter. He is then said to have been attracted to philosophy by the books of Democritus, to have attended the lectures of Bryson, a disciple of Stilpon, to have attached himself closely to Anaxarchus, and with him to have joined the expedition of Alexander the Great. During the greater part of his life he lived in retirement, and endeavoured to render himself independent of all external circumstances. His disciple Timon extolled with admiration his supreme repose of soul and his indifference to pleasure or pain. So highly was he valued by his fellow-citizens that they made him their high-priest, and erected a monument to him after his death. The Athenians conferred upon him the rights of citizenship. We know little respecting the principles of his sceptical philosophy, and the tales told about him by Diogenes Laertius are probably the invention of his enemies. He asserted that certain knowledge on any subject was unattainable, and that the great object of man ought to be to lead a virtuous life. Pyrrho wrote no works, except a poem addressed to Alexander, which was rewarded by the latter in a royal manner. Pyrrho's philosophical system was first reduced to writing by his disciple Timon the Sillographer. He reached the age of ninety years, but his dates are uncertain.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Pyrrho was the starting-point for a philosophical movement known as Pyrrhonism that flourished several centuries after his own time. This later Pyrrhonism was one of the two major traditions of sceptical thought in the Greco-Roman world (the other being located in Plato's Academy during much of the Hellenistic period). Perhaps the central question about Pyrrho is whether or to what extent he himself was a sceptic in the later Pyrrhonist mold. The later Pyrrhonists claimed inspiration from him; and, as we shall see, there is undeniably some basis for this. But it does not follow that Pyrrho's philosophy was identical to that of this later movement, or even that the later Pyrrhonists thought that it was identical; the claims of indebtedness that are expressed by or attributed to members of the later Pyrrhonist tradition are broad and general in character (and in Sextus Empiricus' case notably cautious -- see Outlines of Pyrrhonism 1.7), and do not in themselves point to any particular reconstruction of Pyrrho's thought. It is necessary, therefore, to focus on the meager evidence bearing explicitly upon Pyrrho's own ideas and attitudes. How we read this evidence will also, of course, affect our conception of Pyrrho's relations with his philosophical contemporaries and predecessors.

1. Life
2. The Nature of the Evidence
3. The Aristocles Passage
4. Other Reports on Pyrrho's General Approach
5. Reports on Pyrrho's Demeanor and Lifestyle
6. "The Nature of the Divine and the Good"
7. Influences on Pyrrho
8. Pyrrho's Influence
Other Internet Resources
Related Entries

Richard Bett, ed.

Outlines of Pyrrhonism: Book 1

Sextus Empiricus, Translated by Rev. R.G. Bury, Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1933

Pyrrho and Pyrrhonism

  Pyrrhonism is a system of scepticism, the founder of which was Pyrrho, a Greek philosopher, about whom very little is known except that he died in 270 B. C. The best known of Pyrrho's disciples was Timon of Philius, known as the sillographer.
  Pyrrho's scepticism was so complete and comprehensive that the word Pyrrhonism is sometimes used as a synonym for scepticism. The scepticism of Pyrrho's school covered three points.
  (1) All the dogmatists, that is to say, all the philosophers who believed that truth and certitude can be attained, were mere sophists; they were self-deceived and deceivers of others.
  (2) Certitude is impossible of attainment, not only because of the possibility that our faculties deceive us, but also because, in themselves, things are neither one thing nor the other, neither good nor evil, beautiful nor ugly, large nor small. Or, rather, things are both good and evil, beautiful and ugly, large and small, so that there is no reason why we should affirm that they are one thing rather than the other. This conviction was expressed in the famous saying, ouden mallon, nothing is more one thing than another; the paper is not more white than black, the piece of sugar is not more sweet than bitter, and so forth.
 (3) The reality of things being inaccessible to the human mind, and certitude being impossible of attainment, the wise man doubts about everything; that is, he recognizes the futility of inquiry into reality and abstains from judging. This abstention is called apoche. It is the foundation of happiness. Because he alone can attain happiness who cultivates imperturbability, ataraxia; and then only is the mind proof against disquietude when we realize that every attempt to attain the truth is doomed to failure.
  From this account of the principles of Pyrrhonism, it is evident that Pyrrho's aim was ethical. Like all the philosophers of the period in which he lived, he concerned himself principally with the problem of happiness. The Stoics sought to find happiness on the realization of the reign of law in human nature as well as in nature. The Epicureans grounded happiness on the conviction that transitory feeling is the one important phenomenon in human life. The Eclectics placed the intellectual basis of happiness in the conviction that all systems of philosophy are equally true. The Pyrrhonist, as well as the other sceptics of that period, believed that there is no possibility of attaining happiness unless one first realizes that all systems of philosophy are equally false and that the real truth of things cannot be attained. Pyrrhonism is, therefore, an abdication of all the supposed rights of the mind, and cannot be dealt with by the ordinary rules of logic or by the customary canons of philosophical criticism.

William Turner, ed.
Transcribed by: Douglas J. Potter
This text is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.

Ancient Greek Skepticism

  Although all skeptics in some way cast doubt on our ability to gain knowledge of the world, the term 'skeptic' actually covers a wide range of attitudes and positions. There are skeptical elements in the views of many Greek philosophers, but the term 'ancient skeptic' is generally applied either to a member of Plato's Academy during its skeptical period (c. 273 B.C.E to 1st century B.C.E.) or to a follower of Pyrrho (c. 365 to 270 B.C.E.). Pyrrhonian skepticism flourished from Aenesidemus' revival (1st century B.C.E.) to Sextus Empiricus, who lived sometime in the 2nd or 3rd centuries C.E. Thus the two main varieties of ancient skepticism: Academic and Pyrrhonian. The term 'skeptic' derives from a Greek noun, skepsis, which means examination, inquiry, consideration. What leads most skeptics to begin to examine and then eventually to be at a loss as to what one should believe, if anything, is the fact of widespread and seemingly endless disagreement regarding issues of fundamental importance. Many of the arguments of the ancient skeptics were developed in response to the positive views of their contemporaries, especially the Stoics and Epicureans, but these arguments have been highly influential for subsequent philosophers and will continue to be of great interest as long as there is widespread disagreement regarding important philosophical issues.
  Nearly every variety of ancient skepticism includes a thesis about our epistemic limitations and a thesis about suspending judgment. The two most frequently made objections to skepticism target these theses. The first is that the skeptic's commitment to our epistemic limitations is inconsistent. He cannot consistently claim to know, for example, that knowledge is not possible; neither can he consistently claim that we should suspend judgment regarding all matters insofar as this claim is itself a judgment. Either such claims will refute themselves, since they fall under their own scope, or the skeptic will have to make an apparently arbitrary exemption. The second sort of objection is that the alleged epistemic limitations and/or the suggestion that we should suspend judgment would make life unlivable. For, the business of day-to-day life requires that we make choices and this requires making judgments. Similarly, one might point out that our apparent success in interacting with the world and each other entails that we must know some things. Some responses by ancient skeptics to these objections are considered in the following discussion.
(Hankinson [1995] is a comprehensive and detailed examination of ancient skeptical views. See Schmitt [1972] and Popkin [1979] for discussion of the historical impact of ancient skepticism, beginning with its rediscovery in the 16th Century, and Fogelin [1994] for an assessment of Pyrrhonian skepticism in light of contemporary epistemology. The differences between ancient and modern forms of skepticism has been a controversial topic in recent years-see especially, Annas [1986], [1996], Burnyeat [1984], and Bett [1993].)

Table of Contents (Clicking on the links below will take you to those parts of this article)
1. The Distinction Between Academic and Pyrrhonian Skepticism
2. Academic Skepticism
- a. Arcesilaus
    i. Platonic innovator
    ii. Attack on the Stoics
    iii. On suspending judgment
    iv. Dialectical Interpretation
    v. Practical Criterion: to eulogon
- b. Carneades
    i. Socratic Dialectic
    ii. On ethical theory
    iii. On the Stoic sage
    iv. On epistemology
    v. Practical criterion: to pithanon
    vi. Dialectical skeptic or fallibilist?
- c. Philo and Antiochus
- d. Cicero
3. Pyrrhonian Skepticism
- a. Pyrrho and Timon
- b. Aenesidemus
    i. Revival of Pyrrhonism
    ii. The Ten Modes
    iii. Tranquility
- c. Sextus Empiricus
    i. General Account of Skepticism
    ii. The path to skepticism
    iii. The Modes of Agrippa
    iv. Skepticism versus relativism
    v. The skeptical life
4. Skepticism and the Examined Life
5. Greek and Latin texts, commentaries, and translations
6. Select Bibliography

Harold Thorsrud, ed.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
New Mexico State University

Ancient Skepticism

  Ancient skepticism encompasses two schools of ancient philosophy. One is Pyrrhonism, which claims Pyrrho of Elis (4th-3rd c. B.C.) as its founder, though Pyrrho's ties to "Pyrrhonism" are loose and indirect. The other school is Academic Skepticism, which comprises a skeptical phase of Plato's Academy that stretches from the 3rd to the early 1st century B.C. The latter influences many later thinkers associated with the Academy (most notably, Cicero and Plutarch). Its relationship to subsequent phases of the Academy has been studied by Tarrant.
  The figures associated with these two schools include Pyrrho, Timon of Phlius, Arcesilaus, Carneades, Clitomachus, Philo of Larissa, Cicero, Aenesidemus, Agrippa and Sextus Empiricus. Cicero and Sextus are significant because their works have served as vehicles that convey skeptical arguments and views to medieval, renaissance, modern and contemporary philosophy (Diogenes Laertius is another ancient author who plays an important role in this regard). Their influence is well documented in Floridi, Popkin and Schmitt (see the bibliography below).
  Pyrrhonism, which flourished during and after the 1st c. B.C., is the most mature variant of ancient skepticism. In part this is because Pyrrhonians like Sextus freely borrow and incorporate the arguments, themes and opinions they find in earlier skeptics and in other skeptically inclined philosophers. The latter include figures like Protagoras, Socrates, Gorgias, Democritus, Aristippus and Diogenes of Sinope (Diogenes "the Cynic"). In Sextus, the result is a rich collection of sceptically inclined arguments on a broad array of topics. Recent editions of his works make these arguments increasingly available for detailed scrutiny and discussion.

1. Overview
2. The Historical Context
3. Pyrrho and Equanimity
4. Appearances
5. Arcesilaus and the Academy
6. Carneades
7. Carneades as Dialectician
8. Carneades and Practical Life
9. The Arguments for Pyrrhonism
10. The Practical Criterion
11. The Logic of Ancient Skepticism
Other Internet Resources
Related Entries

Leo Groarke, ed.

Comprehensive Bibliography on Skeptical Thought in the Ancient World (1998), by Richard Carrier


, , 485 - 415

Hippias. A Greek sophist of Elis and a contemporary of Socrates. He taught in the towns of Greece, especially at Athens. He had the advantage of a prodigious memory, and was deeply versed in all the learning of his day. He attempted literature in every form which was then extant. He was among the first to undertake the composition of dialogues. In the two Platonic dialogues named after him (Hippias Maior and Hippias Minor), he is represented as excessively vain and arrogant.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Hippias, the Sophist, was a native of Elis, and a son of Diopeithes. He was a disciple of Hegesidamus (Suid. s. v.), and the contemporary of Protagoras and Socrates. Owing to his talent and skill, his fellow-citizens availed themselves of his services in political matters, and in a diplomatic mission to Sparta (Plat. Hipp. maj.; Philostr. Vit. Soph. i. 11). But he was in every respect like the other sophists of the time: he travelled about in various towns and districts of Greece for the purpose of acquiring wealth and celebrity, by teaching and public speaking. His character as a sophist, his vanity, and his boastful arrogance, are well described in two dialogues of Plato, the Hippias meizon and the Hippias elatton (Hippias major and Hippias minor). The former treats of the question about the beautiful, and in a manner which gives ample scope for putting the knowledge and presumption of Hiippias in a ludicrous light; the other handles the deficiency of our knowledge, and exposes the ridiculous vanity of the sophist. The latter dialogue is considered by Schleiermacher and Ast to be spurious. Ast even goes so far as to reject the Hippias major also; but it is not easy to get over the difficulty which arises from the fact of Aristotle (Metaphys. v. 29) and Cicero (de Orat. iii. 32) mentioning it, though without expressly ascribing it to Plato; but however this may be, the dialogues must at any rate have been written by a person and at a time when there was no difficulty in forming a correct estimate of the character of Hippias. If we compare the accounts of Plato with those given by other writers, it cannot be denied that Hippias was a man of very extensive knowledge, that he occupied himself not only with rhetorical, philosophical, and political studies, but was also well versed in poetry, music, mathematics, painting and sculpture, nay, that to a certain extent he had a practical skill in the ordinary arts of life, for he used to boast of wearing on his body nothing that he had not made himself with his own hands, such as his seal-ring, his cloak, and shoes (Plat. Hipp. maj., Hipp. min., Protag.; Philostr. l. c.; Themist. Orat. xxix). But it is at the same time evident that his knowledge of all these things was of a superficial kind, that he did not enter into the details of any particular art or science, and that he was satisfied with certain generalities, which enabled him to speak on everything without a thorough knowledge of any. This arrogance, combined with ignorance, is the main cause which provoked Plato to his severe criticism of Hippias, in which he is the more justified, as the sophist enjoyed a very extensive reputation, and thus had a proportionate influence upon the education of the youths of the higher classes. His great forte seems to have consisted in delivering extempore show speeches; and once his sophistic vanity led him to declare that he would travel to Olympia, and there deliver before the assembled Greeks an oration on any subject that might be proposed to him (Plat. Hipp. min.); and Philostratus in fact speaks of several such orations delivered at Olympia, and which created great sensation. Such speeches must have been published by Hippias, but no specimen has come down to us. Socrates (ap. Plat. Hipp. min.) speaks of epic poetry, tragedies, dithyrambs, and various orations, as the productions of Hippias; nay, his literary vanity seems not to have scrupled to write on grammar, music, rhythm, harmony, and a variety of other subjects (Plat. Hipp. maj.; comp. Philostr. l. c.; Plat. Num. 1, 23; Dion Chrys. Orat. lxxi.). He seems to have been especially fond of choosing antiquarian and mythical subjects for his show speeches. Athenaeus (xiii.) mentions a work of Hippias under the title Sunagoge, which is otherwise unknown. An epigram of his is preserved in Pausanias (v. 25). His style and language are not censured for any thing particular by the ancients.

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Jan 2006 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Antinomian: A name often given to the sophist Hippias of Elis because of his argument against the observance of law (nomos), which was as follows: Whatever is contrary to nature is an evil: Law forces men to many things that are contrary to their inclinations, and hence to their nature: Law, therefore, is an evil and should not be respected.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Hippias, by Plato

Hippias's Trisecting the Angle

Dividing one angle into three equal angles seems a trivial problem. That is probably why it irked the Greeks so. Instead of being a simple problem, it is a complex, non-planar problem, as the Greeks soon discovered ..
One of the earliest ways discovered was that of Hippias of Elis(circa 425 BC). Hippias used a curve he had invented, called the quadratrix. With this curve, the problem of trisecting an angle could be reduced to the trisection of a line segment. The following picture is one construction of such segment trisect. The great benefit of this method was that it could be generalized to divide any angle into any number of parts..

Phaedo (Phaedon, a Socratic philosopher)

, , 420 - 360

Phaedon. A Greek philosopher, was a native of Elis, and of high birth, but was taken prisoner, probably about B.C. 400, and was brought to Athens. It is said that he ran away from his master to Socrates, and was ransomed by one of the friends of the latter. Phaedon was present at the death of Socrates, while he was still quite a youth. He appears to have lived in Athens some time after the death of Socrates, and then returned to Elis, where he became the founder of a school of philosophy. He was succeeded by Plistanus, after whom the Elean School was merged in the Eretrian. The dialogue of Plato, which contains an account of the death of Socrates, bears the name of Phaedon.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Life of Phaedo, by Diogenis Laertius

Alexinos (4th-3rd cent. B.C.)

A follower of Eubulides, who attacked Aristotle and Zeno the Stoic.

Among the different people who succeeded Eubulides, was Alexinus of Elis, a man very fond of argument, on which account he was nicknamed Elenchinos. He had an especial quarrel with Zeno; and Hermippus relates of him that he went from Elis to Olympia, and studied philosophy there; and that when his pupils asked him why he lived there, he said that he wished to establish a school which should be called the Olympic school; but that his pupils being in distress, through want of means of support and finding the situation unhealthy for them, left him; and that after that Alexinus lived by himself, with only one servant. And after that, when swimming in the Alpheus, he was pricked by a reed, and the injury proved fatal, and he died. And we have written an epigram on him which runs thus :

Then the report, alas! was true,
That an unhappy man,
While swimming tore his foot against a nail;
For the illustrious sage,
Good Alexinus, swimming in the Alpheus,
Died from a hostile reed.
And he wrote not only against Zeno, but he composed other works also, especially one against Ephorus the historian.

This extract is from the Life of Euclides by Diogenis Laertius, translated by C.D. Yonge
Cited Nov2004 from the URL below

Alexinus (Alexinos), a philosopher of the Dialectic or Megarian school and a disciple of Eubulides, from his eristic propensities facetiously named Elenxinos, who lived about the beginning of the third century before Christ. He was a native of Elis, and a contemporary of Zeno. From Elis he went to Olympia, in the vain hope, it is said, of founding a sect which might be called the Olympian; but his disciples soon became disgusted with the unhealthiness of the place and their scanty means of subsistence, and left him with a single attendant. None of his doctrines have been preserved to us, but from the brief mention made of him by Cicero (Acad. ii. 24), he seems to have dealt in sophistical puzzles, like the rest of his sect. Athenaeus (xv.) mentions a paean which he wrote in honour of Craterus, the Macedonian, and which was sung at Delphi to the sound of the lyre. Alexinus also wrote against Zeno, whose professed antagonist he was, and against Ephorus the historian. Diogenes Laertius has preserved some lines on his death, which was occasioned by his being pierced with a reed while swimming in the Alpheus. (Diog. Laert. ii. 109, 110).

This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Oct 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks



A tragic poet, who lived in the 4th cent. B.C. and was a son of the philosopher Hippias.

Isokrates .. marrying Plathane, the widow of Hippias of Elis, he adopted Aphareus, one of her three sons,--afterwards a rhetorician and a tragic poet of some mark. It was a somewhat rare distinction for an eminent Athenian to have had only one lawsuit;-- and in this--a challenge to take the trierarchy, or exchange properties, offered to him in 345 by one Megakleides--Isokrates, who was ill at the time, was represented in court by Aphareus.
This extract is from Isokrates life, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos, by Sir Richard C. Jebb
Cited Nov2004 from the URL below



Callon, a native of Elis, who sculptured a Hermes at Olympia (Paus. v. 27.5) and a chorus of thirty-five Messenian boys, together with their leader and the flute-player, who had all perished on the passage from Messana to Rhegium. The whole group was dedicated by the Messenians at Olympia. (Paus. v. 25.1). Callon must have lived before B. C. 436.



Aristotimus (Aristotimos), became tyrant in Elis with the help of Antigonus Gonatas, and after reigning for six months in the most cruel manner, was killed by Hellanicus, Cylon, and others. (Paus. v. 5.1)


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