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The Stupid Deaths of Greek Philosophers

Heraclitus

Death Date: 480 BCE

Tired of civilisation, Heraclitus decided to live in the mountains away from people. Whilst up there he lived on limited diet of grass and herbs, naturally this led to becoming malnutrition, eventually giving him an illness known as dropsy. He returned to the city in order to cure himself, he believed that being encased in cow manure would draw out the bad humours and leave him fighting fit. According to the legend he either did this in wet dung and ended up drowning or he did it on a particularly sunny day and was baked to death in the heat. Both are both horrible and ridiculous ways to go that’s for sure.

Empedocles

Death Date: 435 BCE

Empedocles was either a very deluded man or a cunning one, though not cunning enough it appears. There are two stories that describe his death, both similar but with certain details changing. One is that he truly believed that he was in fact a god, in order to prove this to his disciples he threw himself into the fiery mouth of Mount Etna, believing he would return as a god. The other story is similar except this one says that he jumped in in an attempt to fool people into thinking he was a god due to his body vanishing, unfortunately the volcano spat out one of his bronze sandals, revealing his hoax. Woops!

Diogenes

Death Date: 323 BCE

Diogenes was a very odd man with all sorts of bizarre stories to his name. It is fitting then that a few are attached to his death too. He was supposedly around the age of 90 when he died and there are three possible causes of death attached to the man, one was that he was attacked by a dog, another that he died after eating an octopus raw and the last that he committed suicide by holding his breath. Can’t have been an easy task. Supposedly he requested that on his death his body be left outside the castle walls for the wild animals to feast on, he also requested that they give him a stick to fend off those animals.

Chrysippus

Death Date: 207 BCE

Chrysippus is arguably one of histories greatest philosophers, much like many of these Ancient Greeks his work is still studied today, over 2000 years later. If the story of his death is anything to by, he is also a fine example of a scholar that also can have a laugh when the time calls. If anything, too much of a laugh. According to this tale he was taking a plate of figs back to his home when a wandering donkey came and gobbled the lot of them up, this amused Chrysippus immensely and he told a nearby lady to feed the ass pure wine to wash the figs down, she did so and supposedly this made him laugh to death, literally. It’s always nice to know someone went with a smile on their face, I guess.