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Culture //

You won’t believe how these 6 Greek philosophers died, it’s pretty bizarre but you should probably read on (and pay us money) to find out, hey

Tom Gardner has the latest from Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greek philosophers died as they lived: preposterously. These are the six Greek philosophers who died in the most utterly ridiculous ways.

6. The delusional Empedocles earns a special mention for Most Dramatic Death. In about 430 BC, trying to prove that he was an immortal god, he decided to jump into a Sicilian volcano. His trick failed: his sandal was thrown from the volcano, disproving his divinity, and he was roasted alive.

 5. We all know that one person who pedantically corrects everybody’s grammar. In 300 BC, Philitas of Cos was that person. Ancient sources claim that he studied grammatical mistakes so intently that he wasted away. Soon, he had to put lead weights in his shoes to stop the wind from blowing him away. But eventually his pedantry caught up with him, and he wasted away into nothing.

 4. Diogenes the Cynic was an eccentric character. He lived in a barrel. He didn’t believe in civilisation and did not hesitate to urinate on other people or defecate in the theatre. According to his biography: “Once, when a man had conducted him into a magnificent house, and had told him that he must not spit, he spit in his face, saying that he could not find a meaner place to spit.” Charming.

Weary of life, Diogenes successfully committed suicide by holding his breath for a very long time. A different account says that he died from eating a raw octopus.

 3. You may know Heraclitus from his aphorism “It is not possible to step twice into the same river”. But his death is less well-known. When Heraclitus’s doctors could not cure him of his chronic illnesses, he self-prescribed a treatment of being buried in dung. After covering himself in manure and sitting around for a while, he realised that he couldn’t free himself and he died soon after, still trapped in a huge pile of actual shit.

 2. Anaxarchus is a top contender in the stakes for ridiculous deaths. The ancient philosopher made an enemy of Nicocreon, a powerful tyrant. In order to get revenge, Nicocreon crushed Anaxarchus up using a giant mortar and pestle. A murder weapon worthy of Cluedo.

 1. The most preposterous death of all is that of Chrysippus. One day in 206 BC, he was carrying home a plate of figs when a passing donkey decided to eat them all up. Chrysippus chortled: “Why not give the donkey some wine to go with the figs!” He found the situation so hilarious that he laughed and laughed and laughed, and eventually died of excessive laughter.

Although you may think that Chrysippus was a bit simple, he is the central philosopher of early Stoicism and the author of hundreds of important philosophical works. So maybe
it’s you who doesn’t get the joke.