HERACLITUS c. 535-475 BCE
Arche is logos
1. Language, speech
2. Definition, explanation, reason, measure
3. Systematic knowledge
Psuche, soul. The life-force of anything alive; what gives living things their appearance of life.
Pythagoras, c. 570-495 BCE
Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ancient Greek: Ἡπάκλειηορ ὁ θέζιορ—Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; c.
535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus,
Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his
early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. From
the lonely life he led, and still more from the riddling nature of his philosophy and his contempt
for humankind in general, he was called "The Obscure" and the "Weeping Philosopher".
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the
famous saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice" [1(see panta rhei, below). He
believed in the unity of opposites, stating that "the path up and down are one and the same", all
existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties. His cryptic utterance that "all
entities come to be in accordance with this Logos" (literally, "word", "reason", or "account") has
been the subject of numerous interpretations.
3 Ancient characterizations
o 3.1 The obscure
o 3.2 The weeping philosopher
o 4.1 Logos
o 4.2 Panta rhei, "everything flows"
o 4.3 Hodos ano kato, "the way up and the way down"
o 4.4 Dike eris, "strife is justice"
o 4.5 Hepesthai to koino, "follow the common"
o 5.1 Plato o 5.2 Stoics
o 5.3 Church fathers
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
The main source for the life of Heraclitus is Diogenes Laërtius, although some have questioned
the validity of his account as "a tissue of Hellenistic anecdotes, most of them obviously
fabricated on the basis of statements in the preserved fragments." Diogenes said that Heraclitus
flourished in the 69th Olympiad, 504-501 BCE. All the rest of the evidence – the people
Heraclitus is said to have known, or the people who were familiar with his work – confirms the
floruit. His dates of bi and death are based on a life span of 60 years, the age at which
Diogenes says he died, with the floruit in the middle.
Ephesus on the coast of Asia Minor, birthplace of Heraclitus
Heraclitus was born to an aristocratic family in Ephesus, Anatolia, in what is now called present-
day Efes, Turkey. His father was named either Blosôn or Herakôn. Diogenes says that he
abdicated the kingship (basileia) in favor of his brother and Strabo confirms that there was a
ruling family in Ephesus descended from the Ionian founder, Androclus, which stilept the title
and could sit in the chief seat at the games, as well as a few other privileges. How much power
the king had is another question. Ephesus had been part of the Persian Empire since 547 and was
ruled by a satrap, a more distant figure, as the Great King allowed the Ionians considerable
autonomy. Diogenes says that Heraclitus used to play knucklebones with the youths in the
temple of Artemis and when asked to start making laws he refused saying that the constitution
(politeia) was ponêra, [7which can mean either that it was fundamentally wrong or that he
considered it toilsome.
With regard to education, Diogenes says that Heraclitus was "wondrous" (thaumasios, which, as
Plato explains in the Theaetetus and elsewhere, is the beginning of philosophy) from childhood.
Diogenes relates that Sotion said he was a "hearer" of Xenophanes, which contradicts Heraclitus'
statement (so says Diogenes) that he had taught himself by questioning himself. Burnet states in any case that "... Xenophanes left Ionia before Herakleitos was born." Diogenes relates that as
a boy Heraclitus had said he "knew nothing" but later claimed to "know everything." His
statement that he "heard no one" but "questioned himself," can be placed alongside htatement
that "the things that can be seen, heard and learned are what I prize the most."
Diogenes relates that Heraclitus had a poor opinion of human affairs. He believed that Hesiod
and Pythagoras lacked untanding though learned and that Homer and Archilochus 
deserved to be beaten. Laws needed to be defended as though they were city walls. Timon
is said to have called him a "mob-reviler." Heraclitus hated the Athenians and his fellow
Ephesians, wishing the latter wealth in punishment for their wicked ways. Says Diogenes:
"Finally, he became a hater of his kind (misanthrope) and wandered the mountains ... making his
diet of grass and herbs."
Heraclitus' life as a philosopher was interrupted by dropsy. The physicians he consulted were
unable to prescribe a cure. He treated himself with a liniment of cow manure and baking in the
sun, believing that this methould remove the fluid. After a day of treatment he died and was
interred in the marketplace.
Main article: On Nature (Heraclitus)
Diogenes states that Heraclitus' work was "a continuous treatise On Nature, but was divided into
three discourses, one on the universe, another on politics, and a third on theology." Theophrastus
says (in Diogenes) "...some parts of his work are half-finished, while other parts make a strange
Diogenes also tells us that Heraclitus deposited his book as a dedication in the great temple of
Artemis, the Artemisium, one of the largest temples of the 6th century BCE and one of the Seven
Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient temples were regularly used for storing treasures, and
were open to private individuals under exceptional circumstan; furthermore, many subsequent
philosophers in this period refer to the work. Says Kahn: "Down to the time of Plutarch and
Clement, if not later, the little book of Heraclitus was available in its original form to any reader
who chose to seek it out." Diogenes says: "the book acquired such fame that it produced
partisans of his philosophy who were called Heracliteans."
As with other pre-Socratics, his writings survive only in fragments quoted by other authors. Heraclitus (figured by Michelangelo) sits apart from the other philosophers in Raphael's School
At some time in antiquity he acquired this epithet denoting that his major sayings were difficult
to understand. Timon of Phlius calls him "the riddler" (ainiktēs) according to Diogenes
Laërtius,who had just explained that Heraclitus wrote his book "rather unclearly"
(asaphesteron) so that only the "capable" should attempt it. By the time of Cicero he had become
"the dark" (Ancient Greek ὁ Σκοηεινόρ — ho Skoteinós) because he had spoken nimis
obscurē, "too obscurely", concerning nature and had done so deliberately in order to be
misunderstood. The customary English translation of ὁ Σκοηεινόρ follows the Latin, "the
The weeping philosopher
Diogenes Laërtius ascribes to Theophrastus the theory that Heraclitus did not complete some of
his works because of melancholia. Later he was referred to as the "weeping philosopher," as
opposed to Democritus, who is known as the "laughing philosopher." [17If Stobaeus writes
correctly, Sotion in the early 1st century CE was already combining the two in the imaginative
duo of weeping and laughing philosophers: "Among the wise, instead of anger, Heraclitus was 
overtaken by tears, Democritus by laughter." The view is expressed by the satirist Juvenal:
The first of prayers, best known at all the temples, is mostly for riches... Seeing this then do you
not commend the one sage Democritus for laughing... and the master of the other school
Heraclitus for his tears? The motif was also adopted by Lucian of Samosata in his "Sale of Creeds," in which the duo is
sold together as a complementary product in the satirical auction of philosophers. Subsequently
they were considered an indispensable feature of philosophic landscapes. Montaigne proposed 
two archetypical views of human affairs based on them, selecting Democritus' for himself.
The weeping philosopher makes an appearance in William Shakespeare's The Merchant of
Venice. Donato Bramante painted a fresco, "Democritus and Heraclitus," in Casa Panigarola
Main article: Logos
"The idea that all things come to pass in accordance with this Logos" and "the Logos is
common," is expressed in two famous but obscure fragments:
This Logos holds always but humans always prove unable to understand it, both before hearing it
and when they have first heard it. For though all things come to be in accordance with this
Logos, humans are like the inexperienced when they experience such words and deeds as I set
out, distinguishing each in accordance with its nature and saying how it is. But other people fail
to notice what they do when awake, just as they forget what they do while asleep. (DK 22B1)
For this reason it is necessary to follow what is common. But although the Logos is common,
most people live as if they had their own private understanding. (DK 22B2)
The meaning of Logos also is subject to interpretation: "word", "account", "plan", "formula",
"measure", "proportion", "reckoning." Though Heraclitus "quite deliberately plays on the
various meanings of logos", there is no compelling reason to suppose that he used it in a
speciechnical sense, significantly different from the way it was used in ordinary Greek of his
The later Stoics understood it as "the account which governs everything," and Hippolytus, in
the 3rd century AD, identified it as meaning the Christian Word of God. 
Panta rhei, "everything flows"
Πάνηα ῥεῖ (panta rhei) "everything flows" either was not spoken by Heraclitus or did not survive
as a quotatif his. This famous aphorism used to characterize Heraclitus' thought comes from
Simplicius, a neoplatonist, and from Plato's Cratylus. The word rhei (cf. rheology) is the
Greek word for "to stream, and to the etymology of Rhea according to Plato's Cratylus."  Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen
The philosophy of Heraclitus is summed up in his cryptic utterance:
ποηαμοῖζι ηοῖζιν αὐηοῖζιν ἐμϐαίνοςζιν, ἕηεπα καὶ ἕηεπα ὕδαηα ἐπιππεῖ.
Potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin, hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei
"Ever-newer waters flow on those who step into the same rivers ."
The quote from Heraclitus appears in Plato's Cratylus twice; in 401,d as: 
ηὰ ὄνηα ἰέναι ηε πάνηα καὶ