1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Menedemus

MENEDEMUS, Greek philosopher, and founder of the Eretrian school of thought, was born at Eretria about 350 and died between 278 and 275 B.C. Though of noble birth, he worked as builder and tentmaker until he was sent with a military expedition to Megara, where, according to Diogenes Laertius, he heard Plato and resolved to devote himself to philosophy. It is more likely that he heard one of Plato’s followers, inasmuch as Plato died when he was only four years old, if the above dates are correct. At Megara he formed a life-long friendship with Asclepiades, with whom he toiled in the night that he might study philosophy by day. He was subsequently a pupil first of Stilpo and then of Phaedo of Elis, whose school he transferred to Eretria, by which name it was afterwards known. In addition to his philosophical work, he took a leading part in the political affairs of his city from the time of the Diadochi until his death, and obtained a remission of the tribute to Demetrius. His friendship with Antigonus Gonatas seems to have roused suspicion as to his loyalty, and he sought safety first in the temple of Amphiaraus at Oropus, and later with Antigonus, at whose court he is said to have died of grief. Other accounts say that he starved himself to death on failing to induce Antigonus to free his native city. His philosophical views are known only in part. Athenaeus quotes Epicrates as stating that he was a Platonist, but other accounts credit him with having preferred Stilpo to Plato. Diogenes Laërtius (ii. 134 and 135) says that he declined to identify the Good with the Useful, and that he denied the value of the negative proposition on the ground that affirmation alone can express truth. He probably meant to imply that qualities have no existence apart from the subject to which they belong. In ethics, we learn from Plutarch (De virt. mor. 2) and from Cicero (Acad. ii. 42) that he regarded Virtue as one, by whatever name it be called, and maintained that it is intellectual. Cicero’s evidence is the less valuable in that he always assumed that Menedemus was a follower of the Megarians. Diogenes says that he left no writings, and the Eretrian school disappeared after a short and unobtrusive existence.

Beside the ancient sources quoted above, see H. Mallett, Histoire de l’école de Mégare et des écoles d’Elis et d’Erétrie (1845). Also the articles Megarian School; Phaedo; Stilpo.