Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'Barbarian wisdom: Clement of Alexandria [VI] on barbarian and Hebrew philosophy (late second century CE),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified May 19, 2023, http://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=6462.
Ancient authors: Various authors as discussed in Clement of Alexandria, Tapestries / Stromateis 1.1.11 and 1.13.57-16.80 (link; link to Greek).
Comments: Clement of Alexandria’s Tapestries is a collection of a variety of his thoughts united under the idea of attaining “true knowledge.” In the process, he argues that aspects of true knowledge can be found in both Greek philosophy and, more importantly, in the perspectives of peoples usually categorized as “barbarians,” with the Hebrews / Judeans / Jews (and dependent Jesus adherents) being central to his point. Much of the selection below intends to show that, in fact, barbarians (including Moses and the Judeans) are responsible for the invention of many fundamental components of civilization, including philosophy and more practical techniques. He argues that, in fact, Greek civilization is late and derivative of barbarian wisdom, particularly Hebrew or Judean wisdom. Throughout, he cites a variety of other (now lost) works by Greek authors (in bold in the translation below) regarding inventions of “barbarian” peoples. Clement’s Exhortation to the Greeks, which is discussed at some length in several other posts on this site starting with the one at this link, also demonstrates the degree to which Clement was a participant in ethnographic culture.
Clement of Alexandria ethnographic series (primarily dealing with Exhortation to the Greeks but also with Tapestries) in order:
- part 1 on Scythians (link)
- part 2 on Egyptians (link)
- part 3 on Taurians and Greek human sacrifice (link)
- part 4 on Persian Magians and Scythians (link)
- part 5 on barbarian and Hebrew / Judean wisdom (link).
- part 6 on barbarian and Hebrew philosophy, dealing with Tapestries (link)
- part 7 on Brahmans and other Indians (link)
Source of the translation: W. Wilson, The Writings of Clement of Alexandria, vol. 1 (Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1867), public domain, thoroughly adapted and partially re-translated by Harland.
[Clement’s introduction of himself and his work on “true knowledge”]
1 [omitted material]. . . (11) Now this work of mine is not a writing rhetorically constructed for display. It is a collection of my memoranda stored up for old age as a remedy against forgetfulness, truly an image and outline of those vividly animated discourses which I was privileged to hear and of those blessed and truly remarkable men. One of these men was an Ionian from Greece and the others from greater Greece [i.e. the Greek diaspora]. One from Coele-Syria, one from Egypt, and others from the East. One was born in the land of Assyria, another by origin a Hebrew from Palestine. When I met the last one (who was superior in power), having tracked him down in his hiding-place in Egypt, I found rest. He was the true, Sicilian bee, gathering from the flowers of the prophetic and apostolic meadow a pure substance of true knowledge (gnōsis) in the souls of his hearers. But they preserved the tradition of the blessed teaching derived directly from the holy apostles, Peter, James, John, and Paul, the sons receiving it from the father (but few were like the fathers), came by God’s will to us also to plant those ancestral and apostolic seeds. . . [omitted material]
[Truth in Greek and barbarian wisdom]
. . .13 (57) Since truth is one (for the lie has ten thousand routes). Just as the female bacchic devotees tore off the limbs of Pentheus [Euripides, The Bacchai], so the sects (haireseis) of barbarian and Greek philosophy have ripped apart truth, and each sect confidently presents the part it obtained as the complete truth. In my opinion, everything is illuminated by the light of the rising sun. Therefore, let everyone, both Greeks and barbarians, who have reached for the truth (whether possessing quite a bit or just a part of truth) display whatever they have of the word of truth.
For instance, eternity presents in an instant the future and the present, as well as the past. But truth, being much more powerful than limitless time, can collect its seeds even though they have fallen on foreign soil. For we will find that so many thoughts held by such sects – at least those that have not become utterly senseless and are not cut out from the order of nature (by cutting off Christ, as the group of women did with the man [Pentheus]) – even though they appear unlike one another, correspond in their origin and with the truth as a whole. For they coincide in a unity, either as a part or a form or a class. For instance, though the highest note is different from the lowest note, both still create one harmony. With numbers, an even number differs from an odd number, but both are needed for math, and this is also the case with shapes: the circle, triangle, square, and whatever other shapes differ from one another. So also all the parts of the whole universe, though differing one from another, preserve their relation to the whole. So, then, barbarian and Greek philosophy has torn off a piece of eternal truth not from the stories about Dionysos, but from the discourses about God pertaining to the eternally existing word (logos) [identified with Jesus]. Whoever brings the separated pieces back together and makes them one, will without a doubt contemplate the perfect word, the truth. (58) Therefore it is written in Ecclesiastes [1:16-18]: “I acquired wisdom that surpassed all others around me in Jerusalem, and my heart has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge, parables and understanding. This, too, is the choice of the spirit, because in abundance of wisdom is abundance of knowledge (gnōsis).” The one who is conversant with all kinds of wisdom will be, above all, one who knows (gnostikos). Now it is also written, “Abundance of the knowledge of wisdom will give life to him who is of it.” And, again, what this means is clarified by this saying, “All things are in the sight of those who understand” (all things, both Greek and barbarian; but one or the other alone is not complete) “ as is clear to those who wish to receive understanding. Choose instruction over silver, and knowledge above tested gold” (and prefer also perceptivity to pure gold), “for wisdom is better than precious stones, and no precious thing is as valuable as wisdom” [Proverbs 8:9-11].
[Succession of Greek philosophers]
14 (59) The Greeks say that after Orpheus and Linos and the most ancient of the poets that appeared among them, the so-called “seven sages (sophoi)” were the first admired for their wisdom. Four of them were from Asia: Thales of Miletos, Bias of Priene, Pittakos of Mitylene, and Cleoboulos of Lindos. Two were from Europe: Solon the Athenian, and Chilon the Lakedaimonian. Some say the seventh was Periander of Corinth, others say Anacharsis the Scythian, and others say Epimenides the Cretan.
Paul knew the latter as a Greek prophet, mentioning him in the Epistle to Titus [1:12-13] where he speaks like this: “It was one of them, their very own prophet, who said, ‘Cretans are always liars, vicious beasts, lazy gluttons.’ That testimony is true.” Do you see how Paul even attributes something true to the prophets of the Greeks, and is not ashamed when building some of them up and shaming others, to make use of Greek poems? When writing to the Corinthians (for this is not the only instance) about the resurrection of the dead, he makes use of a iambic verse from tragedy, saying, “What advantage is it to me if the dead are not raised? Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” [1 Corinthians 15:31-32].)
Others have counted Akousilaos the Argive among the seven wise men, and others Pherekydes of Syros. And Plato substitutes Myso the Chenian for Periander, whom he deemed unworthy of wisdom, on account of his having reigned as a tyrant.
(60) I will soon show that these Greek sages flourished after the time of Moses. Now we must consider how the style of the sages’ philosophy is Hebraic and enigmatic. They adopted brevity as suited for exhortation, and most helpful. Even Plato says that in the old days this mode was purposely in vogue among all the Greeks, especially the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] and Cretans, who had the best laws. Some attributed the expression, “know yourself” to Chilon. But Chamaileon, in his book On the Gods, ascribes it to Thales and Aristotle ascribes it to the Pythia [prophetess of the Delphic oracle]. It may be an injunction to the pursuit of knowledge. For it is not possible to know the parts without the essence of the whole, and one must study the origin of the universe in order to understand the nature of humanity. (61) Again, to Chilon the Lakedaimonian they attribute “let nothing be too much.” Strato, in his book On Inventions, ascribes this short saying to Stratodemos of Tegea but Didymos assigns it to Solon, and he attributes the saying “a middle course is best” to Cleoboulos. The expression “come under a pledge, and mischief is at hand,” Kleomenes says, in his book On Hesiod, was uttered before by Homer [Odyssey 8.351] in the lines: “pledges of the worthless are worthless pledges.” The Aristotelians consider this to be Chilon’s, but Didymus says the advice was that of Thales. Then, next in order, the saying “all men are bad” or “most men are bad” (for the same short saying is expressed in two ways), Sotades of Byzantion says that it belongs to Bias. And they attribute the aphorism “practice conquers everything” to Periander, as well as attributing the advice “know the opportunity” to Pittakos. Solon made laws for the Athenians, Pittakos for the Mitylenians. And at a late date, Pythagoras, the student of Pherekydes, first called himself a philosopher.
[Three successions of philosophy: Pythagoras, Thales and Xenophanes]
(62) After these three men, there were three successions of philosophy named after the places where they were active: the Italian from Pythagoras, the Ionian from Thales, and the Eleatic from Xenophanes. Pythagoras was from Samos and was the son of Mnesarchos, as Hippobotos says. According to Aristoxenos, in his Life of Pythagoras, as well as Aristarchos and Theopompos, he was from Tyre. But according to Neanthes, Pythagoras was from Syria or Tyre. So according to most people, Pythagoras was a barbarian by descent.
Thales also was a Phoenician in the accounts of Leander and Herodotos record. Others suppose he was a Milesian. Thales alone seems to have met the prophets of the Egyptians. But no one is described as his teacher, nor is any one mentioned as the teacher of Pherekydes of Syros, who had Pythagoras as his student. (63) But the Italian philosophy, that of Pythagoras, stayed a long time in Metapontium in Italy. Anaximander of Miletos, the son of Praxiades, succeeded Thales; and was himself succeeded by Anaximenes of Miletos, the son of Eurystratos; after whom came Anaxagoras of Klazomenai, the son of Hegesiboulos. Anaxagoras transferred his school (diatribē) from Ionia to Athens. He was succeeded by Archelaos, and Socrates listened to him. (“In fact, the stone-mason, the law-talker, and charmer of the Greeks,” says Timon in his Satirical Poems, because of his leaving physics for ethics.) Antisthenes, after being a student of Socrates, introduced the Cynic philosophy. Plato withdrew to the Academy. Aristotle, after studying philosophy under Plato, withdrew to the Lyceum, and founded the Peripatetic sect. He was succeeded by Theophrastos, who was succeeded by Strato, and he by Lykon, then Kritolaos, and then Diodoros. Speusippos was the successor of Plato, his successor was Xenokrates, and the successor of the latter was Polemo. The students of Polemo were Krates and Krantor, with whom the old Academy founded by Plato ended. Archesilaos was the associate of Krantor; from whom, down to Hegesilaos, the Middle Academy flourished. (64) Then Karneades succeeded Hegesilaos, and others came in succession. The student of Krates was Zeno of Kition, the founder of the Stoic sect. He was succeeded by Kleanthes; and the latter by Chrysippos, and others after him. Xenophanes of Kolophon was the founder of the Eleatic school, who, Timaeus says, lived in the time of Hiero, lord of Sicily, and Epicharmus the poet. Apollodoros says that he was born in the fortieth Olympiad [ca. 620 BCE], and reached to the times of Darius and Cyrus [kings of Persia]. Parmenides, accordingly, was the student of Xenophanes, and Zeno of him; then came Leukippos, and then Demokritos. Protagoras of Abdera and Metrodoros of Chios were students of Demokritos, and Diogenes of Smyrna was a student of Metrodoros, Anaxarchos under him, and so too Pyrrho, and from him Nausiphanes. Some say that Epicurus was a scholar of his. This, in summary, is the succession of the philosophers among the Greeks.
[Chronology to demonstrate Hebrew philosophy was much older than Greek philosophy]
I must next explain in order the chronology of these founders of philosophy in order to show that, by comparison, the Hebrew philosophy was older by many generations. (65) I have already said that Xenophanes was the founder of the Eleatic philosophy. In the Astrological Investigations, Eudemos [of Rhodes] says that Thales predicted the eclipse of the sun which took place at the time that the Medians and the Lydians fought, in the reign of Cyaxares the father of Astyages over the Medes, and the reign of Alyattos the son of Croesus who ruled over the Lydians. Herodotos in his first book agrees with him. The date is about the fiftieth Olympiad [ca. 580 BCE]. Pythagoras is ascertained to have lived in the days of Polykrates the tyrant, about the sixty-second Olympiad [ca. 532 BCE]. Mnesiphilos is described as a follower of Solon, and was a contemporary of Themistokles. Solon therefore flourished about the forty-sixth Olympiad [ca. 596 BCE]. For Heraclitos, the son of Bauso, persuaded Melankomas the tyrant to abdicate his sovereignty. He rejected the invitation of king Darius to visit the Persians.
[Barbarian invention of philosophy as the origins of Greek wisdom]
15 (66) These are the times of the oldest sages and philosophers among the Greeks. I hardly need to say that the majority of them were barbarians by extraction and educated by barbarians. Pythagoras is shown to have been either a Tuscan or a Tyrian; Antisthenes was a Phrygian; and, Orpheus was an Odrysian or a Thracian. Most also show Homer to have been an Egyptian. Thales was a Phoenician by birth, and was said to have interacted with the prophets of the Egyptians. Likewise Pythagoras interacted with the same people, by whom he was circumcised so that he could enter the most sacred part of the sanctuary (adyton) and learn from the Egyptians the mystical philosophy. He spoke with the best among the Chaldeans and the Magians, and he gave a hint of what we now call the “assembly” (ekklēsia) [of Jesus followers] in his gathering place for fellow-students (homakoeion) which he maintained.
Plato also does not deny that he imported from the barbarians everything that is best in philosophy, and he admits that he went to Egypt. So Plato writes in the Phaedo [78A] that the philosopher can receive help from all sides: “Great indeed is Greece, O Kebes, where there are good men everywhere, and many are the descent groups (genē) of the barbarians.” (67) So Plato thinks that some of the barbarians are also philosophers. But Epicurus, on the other hand, supposes that only Greeks can philosophize. In the Symposium [209 D-E], Plato praises barbarians as makers of good laws and correctly refers to: “different people in many different places, both among Greeks and barbarians, with many temples established through such fine children.” And it is clear that the barbarians especially honoured their lawgivers and teachers, designating them gods. For, according to Plato [Phaedrus 247 C], they think that good souls leave “the place beyond the heavens” and submit to coming into this Tartaros, taking on a body and sharing all the evils of birth in their care for the family of humankind. It was them who made laws and proclaimed philosophy: “No greater blessing ever came from the gods to humankind, or ever will” [Timaeus 47 A-B].
(68) It seems to me that it was because they perceived the great benefit which is brought by sages that the sages themselves were honoured and philosophy cultivated publicly by all the Brahmans [in India] and by all the Odrysians and Getians [in Thrace]. The people of the Egyptians, the Chaldeans [in Babylonia], the inhabitants of Arabia Felix (as it is called), the inhabitants of Palestine, a large portion of the Persian people, and many other peoples alongside them produced sacred discourses about those sages. It is well known that Plato is always found praising the barbarians, remembering that both himself and Pythagoras learned the most and the noblest of their doctrines among the barbarians. For this reason, Plato also called the descent groups of the barbarians “descent groups of barbarian philosophers.” In the Phaedrus [274 E], Plato recognizes the Egyptian king and shows that he is wiser than the god Thoth (whom Plato knew as Hermes). But in the Charmides, it is evident that he knew certain Thracians who were said to make the soul immortal.
(69) Pythagoras is recorded as a student of Sonches, the highest prophet of the Egyptians; Plato is recorded as a student of Sechnyphis of Heliopolis; and, Eudoxos of Knidos is recorded as a student of Konyphis, who was also an Egyptian. In his book On the Soul, . . . [missing material]. Plato again clearly recognizes prophecy when he introduces a prophet announcing the word of Lachesis, uttering predictions to the souls whose destiny is becoming fixed. And in the Timaeus [22 B], Plato introduces the most wise Solon learning from the barbarian. The substance of the declaration is to the following effect: “O Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children. And no Greek is an old man. For you have no learning that is grey with age”.
Demokritos appropriated the Babylonian ethical discourses, for he is said to have combined with his own compositions a translation of the inscription (stelē) of Akikaros. You may find the distinction notified by him when he writes, “thus says Demokritos.” About himself, too, where, bragging about his erudition, he says, “I have travelled the earth than any man of my time, investigating the most remote parts. I have seen the most skies and lands, and I have heard of learned men in very great numbers. And in composition no one has surpassed me. In demonstration, not even those among the Egyptians who are called Arpenodaptians, with whom I lived in exile eighty years, surpassed me.” For Demokritos went to Babylon, Persia, and Egypt, to learn from the Magians and the priests. Pythagoras was enthusiastic about Zoroaster, the Magian of Persia. Those who follow the sect (or: heresy) of Prodikos claim to possess the secret books of Zoroaster.
(70) Alexander [Polyhistor], in his book On Pythagorean Symbols, reports that Pythagoras was a student of Zaratos the Assyrian (some think that he is Ezekiel; but he is not, as I will show), and claims that, in addition to these, Pythagoras consulted with Galatians and Brahmans. Klearchos the Peripatetic says that he knew a Judean who associated with Aristotle.
Herakleitos says that the sibyl [at Delphi] spoke not in a human way but by god’s aid. They say, accordingly, that at Delphi a stone was placed beside the oracle, and the first sibyl, who came from Helikon and was raised by the Muses, sat on it. But some say that she came from Malis, being the daughter of Lamia and granddaughter of Poseidon. In his epic verses, Serapion says that the sibyl contined her divination even after death. He writes that the air that came from her dead body was what caused oracular utterances in voices and omens. Furthermore, when her body decomposed into earth, a grass naturally grew out of it. Whatever animals happened to be there and ate the grass exhibited an accurate knowledge of the future by way of their entrails. He also thinks that the face seen in the moon is the sibyl’s soul. (71) So much for the sibyl.
Numa, the king of the Romans, was a Pythagorean and, aided by the precepts of Moses, prohibited from making an image of god in human form and making an image in the shape of a living creature. Accordingly, during the first hundred and seventy years, even though they built temples, they did not make images in sculpture or painting. For Numa secretly showed them that the highest Good could not be apprehended except by the mind alone. Thus philosophy, a thing of the highest utility, flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light on the peoples (ethnē). And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were the prophets among the Egyptians; the Chaldeans among the Assyrians; the Druids among the Galatians; the Samanaians among the Bactrians; those who philosophize among the Celts; and, the Magians of the Persians, who predicted the saviour’s birth, and came into the land of Judea guided by a star. The naked sages (gymnosophists) among the Indians are also in the number, and the other barbarian philosophers. There are two types [among the Indians], some called Sarmanians and the others Brahmans. The Sarmanians are also called Hylobians. Neither of the types inhabit cities, nor live in houses. Instead, they are clothed in the bark of trees, they feed on nuts, and they drink water in their hands. Just like those called Encratites today, they do not marry or have children. Also, some of the Indians obey the precepts of Buddha (Boutta) who they honour as a god because of his extreme holiness.
(72) Anacharsis was a Scythian, and it is recorded that he was superior to many Greek philosophers. And the Hyperboreans, Hellanikos relates, lived beyond the Riphaean mountains. They learned justice and did not eat meat, but rather nuts. They take everyone who is over sixty years old outside the gates and kill them. There are also among the Germans those called sacred women, who predict future events by inspecting the whirlpools of rivers and the eddies and by listening to the sounds of streams. These women did not allow the men to fight against [Julius] Caesar until the new moon shone.
[Judeans as the oldest barbarian people]
Among all these peoples, by far the most ancient is the Judean descent group (genos). Philo the Pythagorean (along with Aristoboulos the Peripatetic and several others who I will not name to save time here) shows that the philosophy of the Judeans was put into writing before Greek philosophy. The author Megasthenes, a contemporary of Seleukos Nikanor [reigned ca. 305-281 BCE], clearly writes as follows in the third section of his book On Indian Matters: “All that was said about nature by the ancients is said also by philosophers outside of Greece, some things by the Brahmans among the Indians and others by those called Judeans in Syria.” (73) Some of those more inclined to legends say that certain so-called Dactyls of Ida [a mountain on Crete] were the first sages, to whom are attributed the invention of so-called “Ephesian letters” and musical rhythms. For this reason “dactyls” in music received their name. Now the Dactyls of Ida were Phrygians and barbarians. Herodoros [of Herakleia, fifth century BCE] relates that Herakles was a seer and a student of physics [within philosophy] who received the columns of the universe from the barbarian Atlas, the Phrygian, a story which means that he was taught knowledge of the heavenly bodies. Hermippos of Berytos [early second century CE] calls Charon the Centaur wise, about whom the person who wrote The Battle of Giants says, “that he first led the race of mortals to righteousness by teaching them the solemnity of the oath, propitiatory sacrifices, and the figures of Olympos.” Achilles, who fought at Troy, was taught by Charon. Hippo, the daughter of the Centaur, who dwelt with Aiolus, taught him her father’s theory of physics. Euripides also refers to Hippo as follows: “Who first, by oracles, presaged, and by the rising stars, events divine.” By this Aeolos, Odysseus was received as a guest after the taking of Troy. Take note of these dates in comparison with the age of Moses, and with the oldest period of philosophy contemporary with Moses.
[Other Barbarian inventions: Astrology, purity regulations, land-measurement, medicine, etc.]
16 (74) Barbarians were inventors not only of philosophy but also of almost of every technical skill. Egyptians were the first to introduce astrology among men, and similarly with Chaldeans. The Egyptians first showed how to burn lamps, divided the year into twelve months, prohibited intercourse with women in temples, and proscribed entry into the temples after contact with a woman without purification. They were also the inventors of land-measurement (geōmetria). There are some who say that the Carians invented prediction based on the stars. The Phrygians were the first who paid attention to the flight of birds. And the Tuscans, neighbours of Italy, paid special attention to sacrifice. The Isaurians and the Arabians invented augury, as the Telmessians divination by dreams. The Tyrrhenians [sometimes identified with Etruscans] invented the trumpet and the Phrygians the flute. For Olympos and Marsyas were Phrygians.
(75) As Ephoros says, Kadmos was a Phoenician who invented letters among the Greeks, and this is why Herodotos [5.58] writes that they were called “Phoenician letters.” They say that the Phoenicians and the Syrians first invented letters. Apis, an indigenous Egyptian, invented medicine before Io came into Egypt. But afterwards they say that Asklepios improved the technical skill. Atlas the Libyan was the first who built a ship and navigated the sea. Kelmis and Damnaneus, Dactyls of Ida, first discovered iron in Cyprus. Another Idaean discovered the tempering of brass, according to Hesiod, a Scythian. The Thracians first invented what is called an harpē (a curved blade), and they were the first to use shields on horseback. Similarly also the Illyrians invented the round shield called the parma. Besides, they say that the Tuscans invented sculpting with clay, and that Itanus (who was a Samnite) first fashioned the oblong shield. Kadmos the Phoenician invented stone-cutting and discovered the gold mines on the Pangaean mountain. Further, another people, the Cappadocians, first invented the stringed instrument called the nabla, and the Assyrians did the same with the two-stringed instrument (dichord). The Carthaginians were the first that constructed a vessel with four banks of oars (quadrireme), and this was built by Bosporos, who was indigenous. (76) Medea, the daughter of Aietas, a Colchian [modern Georgia], first invented the dyeing of hair. Besides, the Noropians (they are a Paionian descent group, and are now called Noricum [modern Austria and Slovenia]) worked copper, and were the first that purified iron. Amykos the king of the Bebrykians was the first inventor of boxing-gloves.
In music, Olympos the Mysian practised the Lydian harmony. The people called Troglodytes invented the sambuca, a musical instrument. It is said that the crooked pipe was invented by Satyros the Phrygian; likewise also diatonic harmony was invented by Hyagnis, a Phrygian too. Notes were invented by Olympos, a Phrygian; as also the Phrygian harmony, the half-Phrygian scale, and the half-Lydian scale, by Marsyas, who belonged to the same region as those mentioned above. The Doric scale was invented by Thamyris the Thracian.
We have heard that the Persians were the first who fashioned the chariot, bed, and footstool. The Sidonians were the first to construct a vessel with three banks of oars (trireme). The Sicilians, close to Italy, were the first inventors of the phorminx, which is not much inferior to the lyre, and they invented castanets. In the time of Semiramis queen of the Assyrians, they relate that linen garments were invented. And Hellanikos says that Atossa queen of the Persians was the first who composed a letter.
[Summary of Clement’s sources and argument]
(77) These things are reported by Scamon of Mitylene [FGrHist 3 B 475], Theophrastos of Ephesos, Kydippos of Mantineia, Antiphanes, Aristodemos [FGrHist 3 B 383] and Aristotle, as well as Philostephanos and Strato the Peripatetic in his books On Inventions. I have added a few details from them in order to confirm the inventive and practical ability of the barbarians. The lifestyles of the Greeks have been improved by them. And if any one objects to barbarian language, Anacharsis says, “All the Greeks speak Scythian to me” [Epistle 1]. Anacharsis was held in admiration by the Greeks. He said, “My covering is a cloak; my supper, milk and cheese” [Epistle 5]. Do you see that the barbarian philosophy offers actions rather than words? (78) The apostle [Paul] says this: “So with yourselves, if you utter speech in a tongue that is not intelligible, how will any one know what is said? For you will be speaking into air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning. But if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a barbarian to the speaker and the speaker a barbarian to me. . . Therefore, he who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret.” [1 Corinthians 14.9-11, 13 [RSV adapted].
[Skills in oral instruction and in writing came late to the Greeks]
Yes, and skills in oral instruction and writing entered Greece late. Alkmaion, the son of Perithos, of Krotona [ca. sixth century BCE], first composed a treatise on nature. And it is related that Anaxagoras of Klazomenai, the son of Hegesiboulos, first published a book in writing. The first to adapt music to poetical compositions was Terpander of Antissa [ca. seventh century BCE], and he set the laws of the Lakedaimonians [Spartans] to music. Lasos of Hermione [ca. sixth century BCE] invented the choral hymn (dithyramb); Stesichoros of Himera [ca. sixth century BCE], the hymn; Alkman the Spartan, the choral song; Anakreon of Teos [ca. sixth century BCE], love songs; Pindar the Theban [ca. 518-438 BCE], the dance accompanied with song. Timotheus of Miletos [ca. 450-360 BCE] was the first to execute those musical compositions called “nomoi” on the lyre, with dancing. (79) Moreover, Archilochos of Paros invented iambic poetry, and Hipponax of Ephesos invented “limping iambic” poetry. Tragedy owed its origin to Thespis of Athens [ca. 535-533 BCE], and comedy to Susarion of Ikaria [ca. 581-560 BCE]. Their dates are handed down by the grammarians. But it would be tedious to represent them accurately. resently, however, Dionysos, on whose account the Dionysian spectacles are celebrated, is later than Moses. They say that Antiphon [ca. 480-411 BCE] of Rhamnous, the son of Sophilos, first invented ethical exhortation and rhetorical figures, and was the first to compose a legal defence for a fee, and wrote a forensic speech for delivery, as Diodoros says. Apollodoros of Kyme first assumed the name of critic, and was called a grammarian. Some say it was Eratosthenes of Cyrene [ca. 275-194 BCE] who was first called a grammarian, since he published two books which he entitled Grammatical Matters. The first who was called a grammarian, as we now use the term, was Praxiphanes, the son of Dionysophenes of Mitylene. Zeleukos the Lokrian was reported to have been the first legislator. Others say that it was Menos the son of Zeus, in the time of Lynkeus. He comes after Danaos, in the eleventh generation from Inachos and Moses, as we will show a little further on. And Lykourgus, who lived many years after the taking of Troy, legislated for the Lakedaimonians a hundred and fifty years before the Olympiads. We have spoken before about the time of Solon.
(80) Drakon, who was also a legislator, has his birth recorded in around the thirty-ninth Olympiad [ca. 624 BCE]. Antilochos, who wrote about the learned men from the age of Pythagoras to the death of Epicurus, which took place in the tenth day of the month Gamelion, makes up altogether three hundred and twelve years [i.e. ca. 582-271 BCE]. Moreover, some say that Phanothea, the wife of Ikarios, invented the heroic hexameter; others say it was Themis, one of the Titanides. However, in his work On the Pythagorean Philosophy, Didymos relates that Theano of Kroton was the first woman philosopher and composer of poetry.
[Conclusion about Greek philosophy]
According to some, Greek philosophy in one way or another teaches the truth accidentally, obscurely, and partially. Others would have it started by the devil (diabolos). Several suppose that certain powers descended to inspire all philosophy [cf. 1 Enoch 1-36]. But even if Greek philosophy does not fully comprehend the extent of the truth and, furthermore, is too weak to fulfill the commandments of the Lord, it nonetheless prepares the way for the truly royal teaching. In some way or another, it offers training, shapes character, and prepares the person who believes in Providence to receive the truth.