Democritus (/dɪˈmɒkrɪtəs/; Greek: Δημόκριτος, Dēmókritos, meaning "chosen of the people"; c. 460 – c. 370 BC) was an Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher primarily remembered today for his formulation of an atomic theory of the universe.[3]

Democritus was born in Abdera, Thrace,[4] around 460 BC, although there are disagreements about the exact year. His exact contributions are difficult to disentangle from those of his mentor Leucippus, as they are often mentioned together in texts. Their speculation on atoms, taken from Leucippus, bears a passing and partial resemblance to the 19th-century understanding of atomic structure that has led some to regard Democritus as more of a scientist than other Greek philosophers; however, their ideas rested on very different bases.[5] Largely ignored in ancient Athens, Democritus is said to have been disliked so much by Plato that the latter wished all of his books burned.[6] He was nevertheless well known to his fellow northern-born philosopher Aristotle. Many consider Democritus to be the "father of modern science".[7] None of his writings have survived; only fragments are known from his vast body of work.[8]

Bornc.460 BC
Diedc.370 BC (aged around 90)
EraPre-Socratic philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolPre-Socratic philosophy
Main interests
Notable ideas


Hendrik ter Brugghen - Democritus
Democritus by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1628
Rembrandt laughing 1628
Rembrandt, The Young Rembrandt as Democritus the Laughing Philosopher (1628–29)

Democritus was said to be born in the city of Abdera in Thrace, an Ionian colony of Teos,[9] although some called him a Milesian.[10] He was born in the 80th Olympiad (460–457 BC) according to Apollodorus of Athens,[11] and although Thrasyllus placed his birth in 470 BC,[11] the later date is probably more likely.[12] John Burnet has argued that the date of 460 is "too early" since, according to Diogenes Laërtius ix.41, Democritus said that he was a "young man (neos)" during Anaxagoras's old age (c.440–428).[13] It was said that Democritus's father was from a noble family and so wealthy that he received Xerxes on his march through Abdera. Democritus spent the inheritance which his father left him on travels into distant countries, to satisfy his thirst for knowledge. He traveled to Asia, and was even said to have reached India and Ethiopia.[14]

It is known that he wrote on Babylon and Meroe; he visited Egypt, and Diodorus Siculus states that he lived there for five years.[15] He himself declared[16] that among his contemporaries none had made greater journeys, seen more countries, and met more scholars than himself. He particularly mentions the Egyptian mathematicians, whose knowledge he praises. Theophrastus, too, spoke of him as a man who had seen many countries.[17] During his travels, according to Diogenes Laërtius, he became acquainted with the Chaldean magi. "Ostanes", one of the magi accompanying Xerxes, was also said to have taught him.[18]

After returning to his native land he occupied himself with natural philosophy. He traveled throughout Greece to acquire a better knowledge of its cultures. He mentions many Greek philosophers in his writings, and his wealth enabled him to purchase their writings. Leucippus, the founder of atomism, was the greatest influence upon him. He also praises Anaxagoras.[19] Diogenes Laertius says that he was friends with Hippocrates.[20] He may have been acquainted with Socrates, but Plato does not mention him and Democritus himself is quoted as saying, "I came to Athens and no one knew me."[21] Aristotle placed him among the pre-Socratic natural philosophers.[22]

The many anecdotes about Democritus, especially in Diogenes Laërtius, attest to his disinterest, modesty, and simplicity, and show that he lived exclusively for his studies. One story has him deliberately blinding himself in order to be less disturbed in his pursuits;[23] it may well be true that he lost his sight in old age. He was cheerful, and was always ready to see the comical side of life, which later writers took to mean that he always laughed at the foolishness of people.[24]

He was highly esteemed by his fellow citizens, because as Diogenes Laërtius says, "he had foretold them some things which events proved to be true," which may refer to his knowledge of natural phenomena. According to Diodorus Siculus,[25] Democritus died at the age of 90, which would put his death around 370 BC, but other writers have him living to 104,[26] or even 109.[27]

Popularly known as the Laughing Philosopher (for laughing at human follies), the terms Abderitan laughter, which means scoffing, incessant laughter, and Abderite, which means a scoffer, are derived from Democritus.[28] To his fellow citizens he was also known as "The Mocker".

Philosophy and science

Most sources say that Democritus followed in the tradition of Leucippus and that they carried on the scientific rationalist philosophy associated with Miletus. Both were thoroughly materialist, believing everything to be the result of natural laws. Unlike Aristotle or Plato, the atomists attempted to explain the world without reasoning as to purpose, prime mover, or final cause. For the atomists questions of physics should be answered with a mechanistic explanation ("What earlier circumstances caused this event?"), while their opponents search for explanations which, in addition to the material and mechanistic, also included the formal and teleological ("What purpose did this event serve?").


Later Greek historians consider Democritus to have established aesthetics as a subject of investigation and study,[29] as he wrote theoretically on poetry and fine art long before authors such as Aristotle. Specifically, Thrasyllus identified six works in the philosopher's oeuvre which had belonged to aesthetics as a discipline, but only fragments of the relevant works are extant; hence of all Democritus's writings on these matters, only a small percentage of his thoughts and ideas can be known.

Atomic hypothesis

The theory of Democritus held that everything is composed of "atoms", which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; that between atoms, there lies empty space; that atoms are indestructible, and have always been and always will be in motion; that there is an infinite number of atoms and of kinds of atoms, which differ in shape and size. Of the mass of atoms, Democritus said, "The more any indivisible exceeds, the heavier it is". But his exact position on atomic weight is disputed.[4]

Leucippus is widely credited with having been the first to develop the theory of atomism, although Isaac Newton preferred to credit the obscure Mochus the Phoenician (whom he believed to be the biblical Moses) as the inventor of the idea on the authority of Posidonius and Strabo.[30] The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes, "This theologically motivated view does not seem to claim much historical evidence, however".[31]

Democritus, along with Leucippus and Epicurus, proposed the earliest views on the shapes and connectivity of atoms. They reasoned that the solidness of the material corresponded to the shape of the atoms involved. Thus, iron atoms are solid and strong with hooks that lock them into a solid; water atoms are smooth and slippery; salt atoms, because of their taste, are sharp and pointed; and air atoms are light and whirling, pervading all other materials.[32] Using analogies from humans' sense experiences, he gave a picture or an image of an atom that distinguished them from each other by their shape, their size, and the arrangement of their parts. Moreover, connections were explained by material links in which single atoms were supplied with attachments: some with hooks and eyes others with balls and sockets.[33] The Democritean atom is an inert solid (merely excluding other bodies from its volume) that interacts with other atoms mechanically. In contrast, modern, quantum-mechanical atoms interact via electric and magnetic force fields and are far from inert.

The theory of the atomists appears to be more nearly aligned with that of modern science than any other theory of antiquity. However, the similarity with modern concepts of science can be confusing when trying to understand where the hypothesis came from. Classical atomists could not have had an empirical basis for modern concepts of atoms and molecules.

However, Lucretius, describing atomism in his De rerum natura, gives very clear and compelling empirical arguments for the original atomist theory. He observes that any material is subject to irreversible decay. Through time, even hard rocks are slowly worn down by drops of water. Things have the tendency to get mixed up: Mix water with soil and mud will result, seldom disintegrating by itself. Wood decays. However, there are mechanisms in nature and technology to recreate "pure" materials like water, air, and metals. The seed of an oak will grow out into an oak tree, made of similar wood as historical oak trees, the wood of which has already decayed. The conclusion is that many properties of materials must derive from something inside, that will itself never decay, something that stores for eternity the same inherent, indivisible properties. The basic question is: Why has everything in the world not yet decayed, and how can exactly some of the same materials, plants, and animals be recreated again and again? One obvious solution to explain how indivisible properties can be conveyed in a way not easily visible to human senses, is to hypothesize the existence of "atoms". These classical "atoms" are nearer to humans' modern concept of "molecule" than to the atoms of modern science. The other central point of classical atomism is that there must be considerable open space between these "atoms": the void. Lucretius gives reasonable arguments that the void is absolutely necessary to explain how gasses and liquids can flow and change shape, while metals can be molded without their basic material properties changing.

Void hypothesis

Dosso Dossi 026
1540 painting of Democritus by Dosso Dossi.[34]

The atomistic void hypothesis was a response to the paradoxes of Parmenides and Zeno, the founders of metaphysical logic, who put forth difficult to answer arguments in favor of the idea that there can be no movement. They held that any movement would require a void—which is nothing—but a nothing cannot exist. The Parmenidean position was "You say there is a void; therefore the void is not nothing; therefore there is not the void".[35][36] The position of Parmenides appeared validated by the observation that where there seems to be nothing there is air, and indeed even where there is not matter there is something, for instance light waves.

The atomists agreed that motion required a void, but simply ignored the argument of Parmenides on the grounds that motion was an observable fact. Therefore, they asserted, there must be a void. This idea survived in a refined version as Newton's theory of absolute space, which met the logical requirements of attributing reality to not-being. Einstein's theory of relativity provided a new answer to Parmenides and Zeno, with the insight that space by itself is relative and cannot be separated from time as part of a generally curved space-time manifold. Consequently, Newton's refinement is now considered superfluous.[37]


Giordano, Luca Democritus ca 1600
Democritus by Luca Giordano (c.1690).

The knowledge of truth, according to Democritus, is difficult, since the perception through the senses is subjective. As from the same senses derive different impressions for each individual, then through the sensual impressions we cannot judge the truth. We can interpret the senses' data and grasp the truth only through the intellect, because the truth is in an abyss:

And again, many of the other animals receive impressions contrary to ours; and even to the senses of each individual, things do not always seem the same. Which then, of these impressions are true and which are false is not obvious; for the one set is no more true than the other, but both are alike. And this is why Democritus, at any rate, says that either there is no truth or to us at least it is not evident.[38]


Furthermore, they find Xenophanes, Zeno of Elea, and Democritus to be sceptics: … Democritus because he rejects qualities, saying,"Opinion says hot or cold, but the reality is atoms and empty space," and again, "Of a truth we know nothing, for truth is in a well."[39]

There are two kinds of knowing, the one he calls "legitimate" (γνησίη, gnēsiē, "genuine") and the other "bastard" (σκοτίη, skotiē, "secret"). The "bastard" knowledge is concerned with the perception through the senses; therefore it is insufficient and subjective. The reason is that the sensual perception is due to the effluences of the atoms from the objects to the senses. When these different shapes of atoms come to us, they stimulate our senses according to their shape, and our sensual impressions arise from those stimulations.[40]

The second sort of knowledge, the "legitimate" one, can be achieved through the intellect, in other words, all the sense data from the "bastard" must be elaborated through reasoning. In this way one can get away from the false perception of the "bastard" knowledge and grasp the truth through inductive reasoning. After taking into account the sense impressions, one can examine the causes of the appearances, draw conclusions about the laws that govern the appearances, and discover the causality (αἰτιολογία, aetiologia) by which they are related. This is the procedure of thought from the parts to the whole or else from the apparent to nonapparent (inductive reasoning). This is one example of why Democritus is considered to be an early scientific thinker. The process is reminiscent of that by which science gathers its conclusions:

But in the Canons Democritus says there are two kinds of knowing, one through the senses and the other through the intellect. Of these he calls the one through the intellect 'legitimate' attesting its trustworthiness for the judgment of truth, and through the senses he names 'bastard' denying its inerrancy in the discrimination of what is true. To quote his actual words: Of knowledge there are two forms, one legitimate, one bastard. To the bastard belong all this group: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. The other is legitimate and separate from that. Then, preferring the legitimate to the bastard, he continues: When the bastard can no longer see any smaller, or hear, or smell, or taste, or perceive by touch, but finer matters have to be examined, then comes the legitimate, since it has a finer organ of perception.[41]


In the Confirmations ... he says: But we in actuality grasp nothing for certain, but what shifts in accordance with the condition of the body and of the things (atoms) which enter it and press upon it.[42]

As well as:

Democritus used to say that 'he prefers to discover a causality rather than become a king of Persia'.[43]

Ethics and politics

Bramante heracleitus and democritus.jpeg
Crying Heraclitus and laughing Democritus, from a 1477 Italian fresco, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

The ethics and politics of Democritus come to us mostly in the form of maxims. As such, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has gone as far as to say that: "despite the large number of ethical sayings, it is difficult to construct a coherent account of Democritus's ethical views," noting that there is a "difficulty of deciding which fragments are genuinely Democritean".[44]

He says that "Equality is everywhere noble", but he is not encompassing enough to include women or slaves in this sentiment. Poverty in a democracy is better than prosperity under tyrants, for the same reason one is to prefer liberty over slavery. In his History of Western Philosophy, Bertrand Russell writes that Democritus was in love with "what the Greeks called democracy." Democritus said that "the wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world."[45] Democritus wrote that those in power should "take it upon themselves to lend to the poor and to aid them and to favor them, then is there pity and no isolation but companionship and mutual defense and concord among the citizens and other good things too many to catalogue". Money when used with sense leads to generosity and charity, while money used in folly leads to a common expense for the whole society—excessive hoarding of money for one's children is avarice. While making money is not useless, he says, doing so as a result of wrongdoing is the "worst of all things". He is on the whole ambivalent towards wealth, and values it much less than self-sufficiency. He disliked violence but was not a pacifist: he urged cities to be prepared for war, and believed that a society had the right to execute a criminal or enemy so long as this did not violate some law, treaty, or oath.[3]

Goodness, he believed, came more from practice and discipline than from innate human nature. He believed that one should distance oneself from the wicked, stating that such association increases disposition to vice. Anger, while difficult to control, must be mastered in order for one to be rational. Those who take pleasure from the disasters of their neighbors fail to understand that their fortunes are tied to the society in which they live, and they rob themselves of any joy of their own. Democritus believed that happiness was a property of the soul. He advocated a life of contentment with as little grief as possible, which he said could not be achieved through either idleness or preoccupation with worldly pleasures. Contentment would be gained, he said, through moderation and a measured life; to be content one must set one's judgment on the possible and be satisfied with what one has—giving little thought to envy or admiration. Democritus approved of extravagance on occasion, as he held that feasts and celebrations were necessary for joy and relaxation. He considers education to be the noblest of pursuits, but cautioned that learning without sense leads to error.[3]


Cone 3d
Right circular and oblique circular cones

Democritus was also a pioneer of mathematics and geometry in particular. We only know this through citations of his works (titled On Numbers, On Geometrics, On Tangencies, On Mapping, and On Irrationals) in other writings, since most of Democritus's body of work did not survive the Middle Ages. Democritus was among the first to observe that a cone and pyramid with the same base and height has one-third the volume of a cylinder or prism respectively .

Anthropology, biology, and cosmology

His work on nature is known through citations of his books on the subjects, On the Nature of Man, On Flesh (two books), On Mind, On the Senses, On Flavors, On Colors, Causes concerned with Seeds and Plants and Fruits, and Causes concerned with Animals (three books).[3] He spent much of his life experimenting with and examining plants and minerals, and wrote at length on many scientific topics.[46] Democritus thought that the first humans lived an anarchic and animal sort of life, going out to forage individually and living off the most palatable herbs and the fruit which grew wild on the trees. They were driven together into societies for fear of wild animals, he said. He believed that these early people had no language, but that they gradually began to articulate their expressions, establishing symbols for every sort of object, and in this manner came to understand each other. He says that the earliest men lived laboriously, having none of the utilities of life; clothing, houses, fire, domestication, and farming were unknown to them. Democritus presents the early period of mankind as one of learning by trial and error, and says that each step slowly led to more discoveries; they took refuge in the caves in winter, stored fruits that could be preserved, and through reason and keenness of mind came to build upon each new idea.[3][47]

Democritus held that originally the universe was composed of nothing but tiny atoms churning in chaos, until they collided together to form larger units—including the earth and everything on it.[3] He surmised that there are many worlds, some growing, some decaying; some with no sun or moon, some with several. He held that every world has a beginning and an end and that a world could be destroyed by collision with another world. To epitomize Democritus's cosmology, Russell calls on Shelley: "Worlds on worlds are rolling ever / From creation to decay, / Like the bubbles on a river / Sparkling, bursting, borne away".[48]

Twentieth-century appraisals

According to Bertrand Russell, the point of view of Leucippus and Democritus "was remarkably like that of modern science, and avoided most of the faults to which Greek speculation was prone."[49]

Karl R. Popper[45] admired Democritus's rationalism, humanism, and love of freedom and writes that Democritus, along with fellow countryman Protagoras, "formulated the doctrine that human institutions of language, custom, and law are not taboos but man-made, not natural but conventional, insisting, at the same time, that we are responsible for them."



  • Pythagoras
  • On the Disposition of the Wise Man
  • On the Things in Hades
  • Tritogenia
  • On Manliness or On Virtue
  • The Horn of Amaltheia
  • On Contentment
  • Ethical Commentaries

Natural science

  • The Great World-ordering (may have been written by Leucippus)
  • Cosmography
  • On the Planets
  • On Nature
  • On the Nature of Man or On Flesh (two books)
  • On the Mind
  • On the Senses
  • On Flavours
  • On Colours
  • On Different Shapes
  • On Changing Shape
  • Buttresses
  • On Images
  • On Logic (three books)


  • Heavenly Causes
  • Atmospheric Causes
  • Terrestrial Causes
  • Causes Concerned with Fire and Things in Fire
  • Causes Concerned with Sounds
  • Causes Concerned with Seeds and Plants and Fruits
  • Causes Concerned with Animals (three books)
  • Miscellaneous Causes
  • On Magnets


  • On Different Angles or On contact of Circles and Spheres
  • On Geometry
  • Geometry
  • Numbers
  • On Irrational Lines and Solids (two books)
  • Planispheres
  • On the Great Year or Astronomy (a calendar)
  • Contest of the Waterclock
  • Description of the Heavens
  • Geography
  • Description of the Poles
  • Description of Rays of Light


  • On the Rhythms and Harmony
  • On Poetry
  • On the Beauty of Verses
  • On Euphonious and Harsh-sounding Letters
  • On Homer
  • On Song
  • On Verbs
  • Names

Technical works

  • Prognosis
  • On Diet
  • Medical Judgment
  • Causes Concerning Appropriate and Inappropriate Occasions
  • On Farming
  • On Painting
  • Tactics
  • Fighting in Armor


  • On the Sacred Writings of Babylon
  • On Those in Meroe
  • Circumnavigation of the Ocean
  • On History
  • Chaldaean Account
  • Phrygian Account
  • On Fever and Coughing Sicknesses
  • Legal Causes
  • Problems[50]

Eponymous institutions


Democritus was depicted on the following contemporary coins/banknotes:

See also


  1. ^ The idea that atoms and void as the fundamental constituents of the world (DK B125: "ἐτεῇ δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν").


  1. ^ DK 68 B118.
  2. ^ DK 59 A80: Aristotle, Meteorologica 342b.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Barnes (1987).
  4. ^ a b Russell, pp. 64–65.
  5. ^ Stephen Toulmin and June Goodfield, The Architecture of Matter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 56.
  6. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, ix. 40: "Aristoxenus in his Historical Notes affirms that Plato wished to burn all the writings of Democritus that he could collect".
  7. ^ Pamela Gossin, Encyclopedia of Literature and Science, 2002.
  8. ^ Democritus at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  9. ^ Aristotle, De Coel. iii.4, Meteor. ii.7
  10. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 34, etc.
  11. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 41.
  12. ^ "The latter date [460 BC] is perhaps somewhat preferable, especially given the evident temptation to classify Democritus as older than Socrates on generic grounds, i.e. that Democritus was the last 'scientific' philosopher, Socrates the first 'ethical' one". Cynthia Farrar, 1989, The Origins of Democratic Thinking: The Invention of Politics in Classical Athens, page 195. Cambridge University Press
  13. ^ John Burnet (1955). Greek Philosophy: Thales to Plato, London: Macmillan, p. 194.
  14. ^ Cicero, de Finibus, v.19; Strabo, xvi.
  15. ^ Diodorus, i.98.
  16. ^ Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, i.
  17. ^ Aelian, Varia Historia, iv. 20; Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 35.
  18. ^ Tatian, Orat. cont. Graec. 17. "However, this Democritus, whom Tatian identified with the philosopher, was a certain Bolus of Mendes who, under the name of Democritus, wrote a book on sympathies and antipathies" – Owsei Temkin (1991), Hippocrates in a World of Pagans and Christians, p. 120. JHU Press.
  19. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, ii.14; Sextus vii.140.
  20. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, ix.42.
  21. ^ Diogenes Laertius 9.36 and Cicero Tusculanae Quaestiones 5.36.104, cited in p. 349 n. 2 of W. K. C. Guthrie (1965), A History of Greek Philosophy, vol. 2, Cambridge.
  22. ^ Aristotle, Metaph. xiii.4; Phys. ii.2, de Partib. Anim. i.1
  23. ^ Cicero, de Finibus v.29; Aulus Gellius, x.17; Diogenes Laërtius, ix.36; Cicero, Tusculanae Quaestiones v.39.
  24. ^ Seneca, de Ira, ii.10; Aelian, Varia Historia, iv.20.
  25. ^ Diodorus, xiv.11.5.
  26. ^ Lucian, Macrobii 18
  27. ^ Hipparchus ap. Diogenes Laërtius, ix.43.
  28. ^ Brewer, E. Cobham (1978) [reprint of 1894 version]. The Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Edwinstowe, England: Avenel Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-517-25921-4.
  29. ^ Tatarkiewicz, Wladyslaw (1 Apr 2006). History of Aesthetics: Edited by J. Harrell, C. Barrett and D. Petsch. A&C Black. p. 89. ISBN 0826488552. Retrieved 2015-05-06.
  30. ^ Derek Gjertsen (1986), The Newton Handbook, p. 468.
  31. ^ Sylvia Berryman (2005). "Ancient Atomism", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. – Retrieved on 15 July 2009.
  32. ^ Pfeffer, Jeremy, I.; Nir, Shlomo (2001). Modern Physics: An Introduction Text. World Scientific Publishing Company. p. 183. ISBN 1-86094-250-4.
  33. ^ See testimonia DK 68 A 80, DK 68 A 37 and DK 68 A 43. See also Cassirer, Ernst (1953). An Essay on Man: an Introduction to the Philosophy of Human Culture. Doubleday & Co. p. 214. ASIN B0007EK5MM.
  34. ^ "Periodo presocrático". Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte. Archived from the original on 21 June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  35. ^ Russell, p. 69.
  36. ^ Aristotle, Phys. iv.6
  37. ^ Russell, pp. 69–71.
  38. ^ Aristotle, Metaphysics iv.1009 b 7.
  39. ^ Diogenes Laërtius (tr. Hicks, 1925), ix.72. See also Bakalis (2005, p.86)
  40. ^ Fr. 135 (Bakalis (2005)): Theophrastus 12, De Sensu [On the Senses], 49–83.
  41. ^ Fr. 11 (Bakalis (2005)): Sextus vii.138.
  42. ^ Fr. 9 (Bakalis (2005)): Sextus vii.136.
  43. ^ Fr. 118 (Bakalis (2005))
  44. ^ "Democritus (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)". Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  45. ^ a b Popper, Karl R. (1945). The Open Society and its Enemies. Vol I.: The Spell of Plato. London: George Routledge & Sons.
  46. ^ Petronius ch. 88.
  47. ^ Diodorus I.viii.1–7.
  48. ^ Russell, pp. 71–72.
  49. ^ Russell (1972, p.85).
  50. ^ Barnes (1987), pp. 245–246
  51. ^ "Drachma Banknotes & Coins". Bank of Greece. Archived from the original on 1 January 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  52. ^ J. Bourjaily. Banknotes featuring Scientists and Mathematicians. – Retrieved on 7 December 2009.


  • Bailey, C. (1928). The Greek Atomists and Epicurus. Oxford.
  • Bakalis, Nikolaos (2005). Handbook of Greek Philosophy: From Thales to the Stoics: Analysis and Fragments, Trafford Publishing, ISBN 1-4120-4843-5.
  • Barnes, Jonathan (1982). The Presocratic Philosophers, Routledge Revised Edition.
  • _____ (1987). Early Greek Philosophy, Penguin.
  • Burnet, J. (2003). Early Greek Philosophy, Kessinger Publishing
  • Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC). Bibliotheca historica.
  • Diogenes Laërtius (3rd century AD). Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers.
  • Freeman, Kathleen (2008). Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Forgotten Books, ISBN 978-1-60680-256-4.
  • Guthrie, W. K. (1979) A History of Greek Philosophy—The Presocratic tradition from Parmenides to Democritus, Cambridge University Press.
  • Kirk, G. S., J. E. Raven and M. Schofield (1983). The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Laërtius, Diogenes (1925). "Others: Democritus" . Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. 2:9. Translated by Hicks, Robert Drew (Two volume ed.). Loeb Classical Library.
  • Melchert, Norman (2002). The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-19-517510-7.
  • Pyle, C. M. (1997). 'Democritus and Heracleitus: An Excursus on the Cover of this Book,' Milan and Lombardy in the Renaissance. Essays in Cultural History. Rome, La Fenice. (Istituto di Filologia Moderna, Università di Parma: Testi e Studi, Nuova Serie: Studi 1.) (Fortuna of the Laughing and Weeping Philosophers topos)
  • Petronius (late 1st century AD). Satyricon. Trans. William Arrowsmith. New York: A Meridian Book, 1987.
  • Russell, Bertrand (1972). A History of Western Philosophy, Simon & Schuster.
  • Sextus Empiricus (c. 200 AD). Adversus Mathematicos.

Further reading

External links

Alexandroupoli Airport

Alexandroupoli Airport "Dimokritos" or "Democritus" (Greek: Κρατικός Αερολιμένας Αλεξανδρούπολης "Δημόκριτος", Kratikós Aeroliménas Alexandrúpolis "Dimókritos") (IATA: AXD, ICAO: LGAL) is an airport 7 km east of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece on main national road E90. It is located near the village of Apalos, which belongs to the municipality of Alexandroupoli. The airport was built in 1944. In 1955 it became an international airport whereas the current buildings and runway were constructed in 1975.The airport was named after Democritus, the ancient philosopher born in Abdera.

Arnold (crater)

Arnold is a lunar impact crater that is located in the north-northeastern part of the visible Moon, near the lunar limb. This location gives the crater a notably oval appearance due to foreshortening, although the formation is actually relatively round. It lies to the northeast of the Mare Frigoris, to the north of the crater Democritus. West of Arnold is the smaller crater Moigno.

The ancient rim of Arnold has been worn and rounded by ages of subsequent bombardment. There is a gap in the wall to the southwest, marked by the tiny crater Arnold J, and the wall is relatively low along the eastern edge. The northern half of the rim is the most intact, particularly to the northeast where is joins the satellite crater Arnold A.

The inner floor of Arnold crater has been resurfaced by lava, and is relatively flat except for a number of tiny craterlets. The most notable crater in the interior is Arnold F, in the northwest section. If the crater once possessed a central peak, no sign of this feature now remains.


Atomism (from Greek ἄτομον, atomon, i.e. "uncuttable, indivisible") is a natural philosophy that developed in several ancient traditions.

References to the concept of atomism and its atoms appeared in both ancient Greek and ancient Indian philosophical traditions. The ancient Greek atomists theorized that nature consists of two fundamental principles: atom and void. Unlike their modern scientific namesake in atomic theory, philosophical atoms come in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, each indestructible, immutable and surrounded by a void where they collide with the others or hook together forming a cluster. Clusters of different shapes, arrangements, and positions give rise to the various macroscopic substances in the world.The particles of chemical matter for which chemists and other natural philosophers of the early 19th century found experimental evidence were thought to be indivisible, and therefore were given the name "atom", long used by the atomist philosophy. Although the connection to historical atomism is at best tenuous, elementary particles have become a modern analog of philosophical atoms.

Christos Spirtzis

Christos Spirtzis (Greek: Χρήστος Σπίρτζης; born 1969 in Athens) is a Greek engineer and centre-left independent politician. Since 28 January 2015 he has been the Alternate Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks in the government of Alexis Tsipras.

Democritus (crater)

Democritus is a lunar impact crater that is located on the northern part of the Moon, just to the north of the Mare Frigoris. Just to the south of Democritus is the lava-flooded crater Gärtner, which forms a bay on the mare. Directly to the north is Arnold, another flooded formation.

Democritus University of Thrace

The Democritus University of Thrace (DUTH; Greek: Δημοκρίτειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θράκης), established in July 1973, is based in Komotini, Greece and has campuses in the Thracian cities of Xanthi, Komotini, Alexandroupoli and Orestiada.

The University today comprises eight Schools — School of Humanities, Engineering School, Law School, School of Agricultural Sciences, School of Education Sciences, School of Economic and Social Sciences, School of Health Sciences and Physical Education and Sport Sciences and eighteen Departments. As of 2017, there is a student population of 18000 registered undergraduates and 3500 registered postgraduates, a research and teaching personnel of over 600 as well as approximately 300 administrative staff. As a university it is state-owned and fully self-administered. It is thus supervised and subsidized by the Greek State and the Minister for National Education and Religious Affairs. The University plays an important role in strengthening the national and cultural identity of the region of Thrace, and contributes to the high level of education in Greece.


Epicurus (341–270 BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher who founded a highly influential school of philosophy now called Epicureanism. He was born on the Greek island of Samos to Athenian parents. Influenced by Democritus, Aristotle, and possibly the Cynics, he turned against the Platonism of his day and established his own school, known as "the Garden", in Athens. He and his followers were known for eating simple meals and discussing a wide range of philosophical subjects, and he openly allowed women to join the school as a matter of policy. An extremely prolific writer, he is said to have originally written over 300 works on various subjects, but the vast majority of these writings have been lost. Only three letters written by him—the Letters to Menoeceus, Pythocles, and Herodotus—and two collections of quotes—the Principle Doctrines and the Vatican Sayings—have survived intact, along with a few fragments and quotations of his other writings. His teachings are better recorded in the writings of later authors, including the Roman poet Lucretius, the philosopher Philodemus, the philosopher Sextus Empiricus, and the biographer Diogenes Laërtius.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear— and aponia—the absence of pain— and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that the root of all human neurosis is death denial, and the tendency for human beings to assume that death will be horrific and painful, which he claimed causes unnecessary anxiety, selfish self-protective behaviors, and hypocrisy. According to Epicurus, death is the end of both the body and the soul and therefore should not be feared. Likewise, Epicurus taught that the gods, though they do exist, have no involvement in human affairs and do not punish or reward people for their actions. Nonetheless, he maintained that people should still behave ethically because amoral behavior will burden them with guilt and prevent them from attaining ataraxia.

Like Aristotle, Epicurus was an empiricist, meaning he believed that the senses are the only reliable source of knowledge about the world. He derived much of his physics and cosmology from the earlier philosopher Democritus (c. 460–c. 370 BC). Like Democritus, Epicurus taught that the universe is infinite and eternal and that all matter is made up of extremely tiny, invisible particles known as atoms. All occurrences in the natural world are ultimately the result of atoms moving and interacting in empty space. Epicurus deviated from Democritus in his teaching of atomic "swerve", which holds that atoms may deviate from their expected course, thus permitting humans to possess free will in an otherwise deterministic universe.

Though popular, Epicurean teachings were controversial from the beginning. Epicureanism reached the height of its popularity during the late years of the Roman Republic, before declining as the rival school of Stoicism grew in popularity at its expense. It finally died out in late antiquity in the wake of early Christianity. Epicurus himself was popularly, though inaccurately, remembered throughout the Middle Ages as a patron of drunkards, whoremongers, and gluttons. His teachings gradually became more widely known in the fifteenth century with the rediscovery of important texts, but his ideas did not become acceptable until the seventeenth century, when the French Catholic priest Pierre Gassendi revived a modified version of them, which was promoted by other writers, including Walter Charleton and Robert Boyle. His influence grew considerably during and after the Enlightenment, profoundly impacting the ideas of major thinkers, including John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Jeremy Bentham, and Karl Marx.

Evripidis Stylianidis

Evripidis Stylianidis (Greek: Ευριπίδης Στυλιανίδης, also transliterated Evripidis Stilianides) is a Greek politician who has served as Minister for the Interior, Minister for Education and Minister for Transport and Communications. He is a member of New Democracy.

Heraclitus and Democritus (Rubens)

Heraclitus and Democritus is a 1603 painting by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. It is now held in the National Sculpture Museum in Valladolid. It shows the ancient Greek philosophers Heraclitus and Democritus.

Rubens produced the work as a commission for Francisco Gómez de Sandoval Rojas y Borja, valet to Philip III of Spain. It passed through several collections, ending up in that of the Syrian oil magnate Akram Ojjeh. After Ojjeh's death, it was sold to the Spanish Ministry of Culture for 175,000,000 pesetas in December 1999 via Christie's of London.

Johann Conrad Dippel

Johann Conrad Dippel (10 August 1673 – 25 April 1734) was a German pietist theologian, alchemist and physician.


Leucippus (; Greek: Λεύκιππος, Leúkippos; fl. 5th cent. BCE) is reported in some ancient sources to have been a philosopher who was the earliest Greek to develop the theory of atomism—the idea that everything is composed entirely of various imperishable, indivisible elements called atoms. Leucippus often appears as the master to his pupil Democritus, a philosopher also touted as the originator of the atomic theory. However, a brief notice in Diogenes Laërtius’s life of Epicurus says that on the testimony of Epicurus, Leucippus never existed. As the philosophical heir of Democritus, Epicurus's word has some weight, and indeed a controversy over this matter raged in German scholarship for many years at the close of the 19th century. Furthermore, in his Corpus Democriteum, Thrasyllus of Alexandria, an astrologer and writer living under the emperor Tiberius (14–37 CE), compiled a list of writings on atomism that he attributed to Democritus to the exclusion of Leucippus. The present consensus among the world's historians of philosophy is that this Leucippus is historical. The matter must remain moot unless more information is forthcoming from the record.

Leucippus was most likely born in Miletus, although Abdera and Elea are also mentioned as possible birthplaces.

Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis

The Papyrus Graecus Holmiensis (also known as the Stockholm papyrus) is a collection of craft recipes compiled in Egypt c. 300 AD. It is written in Greek. The Stockholm papyrus has 154 recipes for dyeing, coloring gemstones, cleaning (purifying) pearls, and imitation gold and silver. Certain of them may derive from the Pseudo-Democritus. Zosimos of Panopolis, a Greek alchemist of c. 300 AD, gives similar recipes. Some of these recipes are found in medieval Latin collections of technological recipes, notably the Mappae clavicula.

Leyden papyrus X derives from the same (or very similar) sources, and is written in a similar (possibly the same) hand, using chemically identical ink. The Stockholm papyrus and Leyden papyrus X were both found in Thebes by Giovanni Anastasi, who donated the Leyden papyrus to the Dutch government in 1828 and the Stockholm papyrus to the Swedish government in 1832. The Stockholm papyrus was first published by Otto Lagercrantz in 1913. Whereas Leyden papyrus X deals with metallurgy, the Stockholm papyrus deals with gems, pearls and textile dyeing.

Pavlos Polakis

Pavlos Polakis (Greek: Παύλος Πολάκης; born 1965) is a Greek surgeon and politician.

Since 2010, Polakis has been the mayor of the city of Sfakia on the island of Crete, being reelected in 2014. In the January 2015 legislative election, he became a member of the Hellenic Parliament for Chania. He was appointed to the First Cabinet of Alexis Tsipras as Alternate Minister of the Interior and Administrative Reconstruction. Reelected in the September 2015 legislative election, Polakis was appointed Alternate Minister of Health in the Second Tsipras Cabinet.

Philosophy of motion

Philosophy of motion is a branch of philosophy concerned with exploring questions on the existence and nature of motion. The central questions of this study concern the epistemology and ontology of motion, whether motion exists as we perceive it, what is it, and, if it exists, how does it occur. The philosophy of motion is important in the study of theories of change in natural systems and is closely connected to studies of space and time in philosophy.

The philosophy of motion was of central concern to Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, particularly the pre-Socratic philosophers such as Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Heraclitus and Democritus. As such, it was influential in the development of the philosophy of science in general.

Pluralist school

The Pluralist school was a school of pre-Socratic philosophers who attempted to reconcile Parmenides' rejection of change with the apparently changing world of sense experience. The school consisted of Anaxagoras, Archelaus, and Empedocles. It can also be said to have included the Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. The Pluralists rejected the idea that the diversity of nature can be reduced to a single principle (monism). Anaxagoras posited that nature contained an innumerable number of principles, while Empedocles reduced nature to four elements (fire, air, earth, and water) which could not be reduced to one another and which would be sufficient to explain change and diversity.


Protagoras (; Greek: Πρωταγόρας; c. 490 BC – c. 420 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He is numbered as one of the sophists by Plato. In his dialogue Protagoras, Plato credits him with inventing the role of the professional sophist.

Protagoras also is believed to have created a major controversy during ancient times through his statement that, "Man is the measure of all things", interpreted by Plato to mean that there is no absolute truth but that which individuals deem to be the truth.

Although there is reason to question the extent of the interpretation of his arguments that has followed, that concept of individual relativity was revolutionary for the time, and contrasted with other philosophical doctrines that claimed the universe was based on something objective, outside human influence or perceptions.


Pseudo-Democritus was an unidentified Greek philosopher writing on chemical and alchemical subjects under the pen name "Democritus," probably around 60 AD. He was the second most respected writer on alchemy (after Hermes Trismegistus). Four of his books survive, including Natural and Secret Questions. His works are quoted extensively by Zosimos of Panopolis and by early medieval Byzantine alchemical writers, and he is mentioned in the Stockholm papyrus.

Natural and Secret Questions describes "An art, purporting to relate to the transmutation of metals, and described in a terminology at once Physical and Mystical"; the book includes straightforward recipes for making imitation gold and silver.

Robert Burton (scholar)

Robert Burton (8 February 1577 – 25 January 1640) was an English scholar at Oxford University, best known for the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy. He was also the incumbent of St Thomas the Martyr, Oxford, and of Seagrave in Leicestershire.

Vasiliki Tsirogianni

Vasiliki Tsirogianni is a Greek beauty pageant titleholder who was crowned Star Hellas 2012 and was represented her country at the Miss Universe 2012 pageant.


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