Polemon (scholarch)

Polemon (Πολέμων) of Athens was an eminent Platonic philosopher and Plato's third successor as scholarch or head of the Academy from 314/313 to 270/269 BC. A pupil of Xenocrates, he believed that philosophy should be practiced rather than just studied. Like most philosophers of the Hellenistic era, he thought that the supreme good was to live according to Nature.


Polemon was the son of Philostratus, a man of wealth and political distinction. In his youth, he was extremely profligate; but one day, when he was about thirty, on his bursting into the school of Xenocrates, at the head of a band of revellers, his attention was so arrested by the discourse, which the master continued calmly in spite of the interruption, and which chanced to be upon temperance, that he tore off his garland and remained an attentive listener, and from that day he adopted an abstemious course of life, and continued to frequent the school, of which, on the death of Xenocrates, he became the head, in 315 BC. According to Eusebius (Chron.) he died in 270/269 BC (or possibly, as in some manuscripts, 276/275 BC). Diogenes Laërtius also says that he died at a great age, and of natural decay.

Philosophy, associations, and literary interests

He esteemed the object of philosophy to be, to exercise men in things and deeds, not in dialectic speculations; his character was grave and severe; and he took pride in displaying the mastery which he had acquired over emotions of every sort.

He was a close follower of Xenocrates in all things, and an intimate friend of Crates and Crantor, who were his disciples, as well as Zeno and Arcesilaus; Crates was his successor in the Academy.

In literature he most admired Homer and Sophocles, and he is said to have been the author of the remark, that Homer is an epic Sophocles, and Sophocles a tragic Homer.


He left, according to Diogenes, several treatises, none of which were extant when the Suda was compiled. There is, however, a quotation made by Clement of Alexandria, either from him or from another philosopher of the same name, "in Concerning the Life in Accordance with Nature" (ἐν τοῖς περὶ τοῦ κατὰ φύσιν βίου), and another passage, upon happiness, which agrees precisely with the statement of Cicero, that Polemon placed the summum bonum (highest good) in living according to the laws of nature.


Ancient sources


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