Lives of the Eminent Philosophers: By Diogenes Laertius

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Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
7.8 X 9.4 X 1.8 inches | 4.4 pounds

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About the Author

Diogenes Laertius was a Greek writer who probably lived in the first half of the third century AD. Nothing is known about his life, apart from his authorship of the Lives of the Eminent Philosophers. He also wrote poems, most of them now lost.

Pamela Mensch is a translator of ancient Greek whose works include The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander, Herodotus' Histories, and Plutarch's The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives.

James Miller is Professor of Liberal Studies and Politics and Faculty Director of Creative Publishing & Critical Journalism at the New School for Social Research. He has authored and edited an array of works, including Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche, The Passion of Michel Foucault, and
History and Human Existence: From Marx to Merleau-Ponty.

Consulting Editors:
James Allen
Tiziano Dorandi
Jay R. Elliott
Anthony Grafton
A.A. Long
Glenn Most
James Romm


"Now, readers can consult the Lives in a beautiful English translation by Pamela Mensch. This translation will undoubtedly supersede that by Robert Hicks, published in 1925 and until now the standard English version. [...] Oxford University Press have also done a wonderful job. The footnotes...are well judged, providing important background information without overwhelming the text. Embellishment is provided in the form of many philosophically inspired artworks, all handsomely reproduced [...] A set of essays by leading scholars such as Anthony Grafton, Ingrid Rowland and Dorandi himself help introduce the Lives and its reception to general readers. The book is like no history of philosophy that such readers will be used to." -- Times Literary Supplement

"A handsome new volume of Diogenes Laertius's Lives of the Eminent Philosophers provides an opportunity to revisit the biographer and the popular assumptions about him. I am delighted to have acquired Pamela Mensch's new translation of his major work, an edition you can't read on the subway but whose large dimensions are redeemed by the readable translation, glossy color images, and a collection of new accompanying essays (The New School's James Miller is the editor) ... Biographies can certainly get far more scandalous than Lives, but the personal lives of our intellectual ancestors are always juicy, forbidden fruits." -- Ben Shields, Paris Review

"The English translation by Pamela Mensch is lively, fresh, engaging, and eminently readable. Given the number of vagaries, jokes, technicalities, and such that proliferate in the Greek, this is a most impressive achievement. The copious notes, helpfully placed beneath the translation on each page, are superb at giving required information on names, dates, places, technical terms, and so forth in a crisp and accurate manner... This book offers a wealth of material on Diogenes Laertius: a translation, notes, a companion, a bibliography, all in one volume. It is a truly first-class resource, and everyone involved, including Oxford University Press, should be heartily congratulated for a brilliant achievement. That a book of this kind can be made affordable should be a salutary lesson for other academic publishers. I cannot recommend it highly enough." -- Sean McConnell, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This book will be useful to all students studying Greek philosophy, as both a reference to the past and a look into the birth of Greek philosophy ... Recommended." --CHOICE

"Diogenes Laertius presented afresh with all the generosity, visual richness, and breadth of reference he deserves-a wonderful edition." --Sarah Bakewell, author of At the Existentialist Caf� and How to Live

"In this superbly produced and edited volume, the compendious work of the learned Diogenes Laertius at last receives the prominence that his unique contribution to our knowledge and understanding of ancient philosophy requires. The admirable translation by doyenne Pamela Mensch is accompanied by a full apparatus of the latest scholarship, including essays by over a dozen of the most eminent philosophers and historians of philosophy of our own day." --Paul Cartledge, author of Democracy: A Life

"Diogenes Laertius is not Nietzsche's 'dim-witted watchman' of the history of Greek philosophy, but a fascinating and underrated figure. This is a wonderful edition, brilliantly translated, with a helpful introduction and accompanying set of essays by first-rate scholars. Although a precious source for many ancient philosophers, especially Epicurus, Diogenes Laertius is much more than a dull compiler. For anyone interested in the relations between philosophy and life, this book remains an excellent, accessible, and hugely entertaining starting point. Highly recommended." --Simon Critchley, author of The Book of Dead Philosophers

"Diogenes Laertius' Lives provides a uniquely valuable and entertaining window on early Western philosophy-if it is used wisely. This welcome edition and translation by Pamela Mensch and James Miller, together with its substantial accompanying essays, enables contemporary readers to make the most of it." --Anthony Gottlieb, author of The Dream of Reason and The Dream of Enlightenment

"This splendid new translation of Diogenes Laertius' Lives is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in the therapeutic legacy of ancient Greek philosophy. Quirky, notoriously unreliable, relentlessly curious, it is also magnificent bedside reading, still able after many centuries to instruct and delight." --Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

"At last, thanks to Pamela Mensch's elegant and faithful translation, we can enjoy Diogenes Laertius' history of Greek philosophy for its own sake, as a wonderful compendium of doctrine and lore, as well as for the precious information (and sometimes misinformation) it provides about everything from the Pre-Socratics to Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and Epicurus. The notes are crisp and clear, illustrations are apt and abundant, and the translation is based on the most authoritative edition of the Greek text. It is a wonderful achievement." --David Konstan, author of Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea

"[A] magnicent new edition packed with illustrations and notes...One certainly receives good value for the money." -- The Washington Post

"The book itself is beautifully done. James Miller sets the stage superbly-'we behold a meticulous codified panorama of the ancient philosophers'-and the illustrations include not only the usual Greek and Roman statues but many modern works of art inspired by ancient Greek philosophy. Besides the sixteen scholarly essays there are also a guide to further reading and a glossary of ancient sources." -- The University of Bookman

"Surely one of the most opulent, generous, and flatly surprising offerings from any major publisher in 2018 is this translation by Pamela Mensch of Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius, new from Oxford University Press." -- Open Letters Review

"This [translation] by Pamela Mensch, a distinguished translator of ancient Greek, is superior in three respects. First, it is based on a more accurate edition of the Greek text, made by Tiziano Dorandi in 2013. Second, Mensch avoids the bowdlerization that the Hicks translation was often guilty of. Third, the Mensch translation is furnished with a weighty apparatus of footnotes that are delightfully revealing of Greek history and folkways. Other virtues of this new edition of Lives include the hundreds of philosophy-inspired artworks with which the editor has chosen to adorn the text (a de Chirico, a Daumier, a Francesco Clemente) and sixteen superb essays by such scholars as Anthony Grafton, Ingrid Rowland, and Glenn W. Most." -- New York Review of BooksR