Plato says that Zeno was "tall and fair to look upon" and was "in the days of his youth … reported to have been beloved by Parmenides" (Parmenides 127).
Other perhaps less reliable details of Zeno's life are given in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers, where it is reported that he was the son of Teleutagoras, but the adopted son of Parmenides, was "skilled to argue both sides of any question, the universal critic," and further that he was arrested and perhaps killed at the hands of a tyrant of Elea.
According to Plutarch, Zeno attempted to kill the tyrant Demylus, and failing to do so, "with his own teeth bit off his tongue, he spit it in the tyrant’s face.
Plato says that Zeno's writings were "brought to Athens for the first time on the occasion of" the visit of Zeno and Parmenides (Parmenides 127). Plato also has Zeno say that this work, "meant to protect the arguments of Parmenides," was written in Zeno's youth, stolen, and published without his consent (Parmenides 128). Plato has Socrates paraphrase the "first thesis of the first argument" of Zeno's work as follows: "if being is many, it must be both like and unlike, and this is impossible, for neither can the like be unlike, nor the unlike like" (Parmenides 127).
According to Proclus in his Commentary on Plato's Parmenides, Zeno produced "not less than forty arguments revealing contradictions" (p. 29).
Zeno's arguments are perhaps the first examples of a method of proof called reductio ad absurdum, literally meaning to reduce to the absurd. Parmenides is said to be the first individual to implement this style of argument. This form of argument soon became known as the epicheirema. In Book VII of his Topica, Aristotle says that an epicheirema is a dialectical syllogism. It is a connected piece of reasoning which an opponent has put forward as true. The disputant sets out to break down the dialectical syllogism. Zeno is thought to have devised forty different epicheiremata to support aspects of Parmenides' monism. This destructive method of argument was maintained by him to such a degree that Seneca the Younger commented a few centuries later, If I accede to Parmenides there is nothing left but the One; if I accede to Zeno, not even the One is left.