The greatest philosophers of the ancient world were celebrated not just for their voluminous writings on arcane topics, but also for their eccentric lives and witty sayings. They were geniuses, and yet were also remembered as charismatic oddballs. Perhaps, then, it’s not surprising that there were so many bizarre tales about the means of their deaths. Below I’ve selected what seemed to be the five most incredible tales of the deaths of the philosophers, all dutifully recorded by the gossiper and historian Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Philosophers.
Category Archives: Weird and Wonderful
5. Empedocles, 484-424 BC
Visitors who see this fresco at the Met museum are often amazed at what seems to be a pre-Renaissance understanding of perspective. One visitor wrote that this “looks like an entire city–perspectivally rendered! The Middle Ages lost those lessons on perspective for sure.”
The statement picks up on a very common triumphalist attitude towards perspective. Perspective is a lesson to be learned by all good art students, it is the golden standard of realism, and the Renaissance Masters either discovered it or rescued it, after the utter ignorance of the Middle Ages.
But what do we mean by “perspective”? Did the Romans use linear perspective? And is the linear model really the best anyone could come up with?