Hermarchus or Hermarch (Greek: Ἕρμαρχoς, Hermarkhos; c. 325-c.
250 BC), sometimes incorrectly written Hermachus (Greek:
Ἕρμαχoς, Hermakhos), was an
Epicurean philosopher. He was the
disciple and successor of
Epicurus as head of the school. None of his
writings survive. He wrote works directed against Plato, Aristotle,
and Empedocles. A fragment from his Against Empedocles, preserved by
Porphyry, discusses the need for law in society. His views on the
nature of the gods are quoted by Philodemus.
Hermarchus was a son of Agemarchus, a poor man of
Mytilene (in insular
Greece), and was at first brought up as a rhetorician, but afterwards
became a faithful disciple of Epicurus, who left to him his garden,
and appointed him his successor as the head of his school, about 270
BC. He died in the house of Lysias at an advanced age, and left
behind him the reputation of a great philosopher.
Cicero has preserved
a letter of
Epicurus addressed to him.
Diogenes mentioned from a letter written by Epicurus, "All my books to
be given to Hermarchus. And if anything should happen to Hermarchus
before the children of Metrodorus grow up, Amynomachus and Timocrates
shall give from the funds bequeathed by me, so far as possible, enough
for their several needs, as long as they are well ordered. And let
them provide for the rest according to my arrangements; that
everything may be carried out, so far as it lies in their power."
Hermarchus was the author of several works, which are characterised by
Diogenes Laërtius as "excellent" (Greek: κάλλιστα):
Πρὸς Ἐμπεδoκλέα - Against
Empedocles (in 22 books)
Περὶ τῶν μαθημάτων - On the mathematicians
Πρὸς Πλάτωνα - Against Plato
Πρὸς Ἀριστoτέλην - Against Aristotle
All of these works are lost, and we know nothing about them but their
titles. But from an expression of Cicero, we may infer that his
works were of a polemical nature, and directed against the philosophy
Plato and Aristotle, and on Empedocles.
A long fragment (quotation or paraphrase) from an unspecified work of
Hermarchus' has been preserved by Porphyry. This fragment is
probably from his Against Empedocles. In this fragment, Hermarchus
discusses the reasons for punishment for murder. He argues that early
law-makers were guided by the principle that murder was not good for
society, and were able to educate other people that this was a
rational principle. They then created punishments for those people who
could not be educated. For everyone who understood that murder was not
useful, laws would not be needed; punishments are only needed for
those who fail to understand this. For Hermarchus, this was an example
of social progress and an increase in rationality.
Philodemus in his On the Way of Life of the Gods, quotes the view
Hermarchus that the gods breathe, because the gods are living
beings and all living things breathe.
Philodemus goes on to say
that, according to Hermarchus, the gods must talk to one another,
because conversation is conducive to happiness:
And one must say that they use speech and converse with one another;
for, he [Hermarchus] says, we would not consider them more fortunate
and indestructible if they did not, but rather similar to mute human
beings. For since in fact all of us who are not maimed make use of
language, to say that the gods either are maimed or do not resemble us
in this respect (there being no other way either they or we could give
shape to utterances) is extremely foolish, especially since
conversation with those like themselves is a source of indescribable
pleasure to the good.
^ Dorandi, Tiziano (1999). "Chapter 2: Chronology". In Algra, Keimpe;
et al. The Cambridge History of Hellenistic Philosophy. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. pp. 51–52.
^ Laërtius, Diogenes (1925). "Epicurus". Lives of the Eminent
Philosophers. 2:10. Translated by Hicks, Robert Drew (Two volume ed.).
Loeb Classical Library. § 17, 24.
^ Cicero, De Finibus, ii. 30 Archived 2006-07-09 at the Wayback
^ Diogenes Laertius. "Lives Of Eminent Philosophers II: 6 10".
^ Laërtius 1925, § 24.
^ A small papyrus fragment showing the title of his "Against
Empedocles", was actually found at Oxyrhynchus, POxy 3318
^ Cicero, De Natura Deorum, i. 33 Archived 2005-09-12 at the Wayback
^ Cicero, Academica, ii. 30; Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, xiii. 53;
Photius, Bibliotheca, 167.
^ Porphyry, De Abstinentia i. 7-12; 26
^ Catherine Osborne, (2007), Dumb Beasts and Dead Philosophers:
Humanity and the Humane in Ancient Philosophy and Literature, page
202. Oxford University Press.
^ A. A. Long, (2006), From
Epicurus to Epictetus: Studies in
Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy, pages 196-7. Oxford University
^ PHerc 152/7
^ Keimpe Algra, (1999), The Cambridge History of Hellenistic
Philosophy, page 456. Cambridge University Press
Philodemus quoted in Michael Wigodsky, Emotions and Immortality in
Philodemus "On the Gods" and the "Aeneid". in David Armstrong, Vergil,
Philodemus, and the Augustans, page 219. (2004). University of Texas
Dionysius of Lamptrai
Diogenes of Tarsus
Alcaeus and Philiscus
Zeno of Sidon
Diogenes of Oenoanda
Epicureanism (cf. Hedonism)
On the Nature of Things
List of English translations of De rerum natura