Xenophanes Biography

Not much can be said of Xenophanes through evidence in history. The majority of his works only survive in fragments mentioned by other philosophers throughout antiquity. Xenophanes was born in 570 BCE in Colophon and later died roughly around 480 BCE or 470 BCE. He was a pre-Socratic philosopher, poet and the founder of the Eleatic school of Philosophy, even though it is commonly disputed that Parmenides was the founder of the school. In his time, Xenophanes rejected the idea that gods and goddess resembled humans in form, saying "if oxen worshiped gods, they would worship gods that resembled oxen." He also rejected the idea of plurality in the gods and philosophized that there was one primordial god that is unchanging, universal, immobile and abstract. Fragments of his poetry are found criticizing the belief in the pantheon and the anthropomorphic belief of Greek gods. Alongside his rejections toward the Hesiod and Homeric opinions of deities and accepting a universal singular god, Xenophanes may have possibly been the root of monotheistic thought throughout Western civilization. It is also evident that Xenophanes took up teaching the Pythagorean School for a few years, accepting and adopting a mathematical perspective of philosophy and the world around us. It has been debated whether or not that Xenophanes should be considered an adequate philosopher since he is not an original philosopher like many other pre-Socratic philosophers, but mainly a poet. His attack on the polytheistic way of life and the introduction to a radical new way of thought that only accepted one god was very controversial to fellow Greeks of his time. Not until the 1950s was he seen as more of an important philosopher who was raising issues that were way beyond his time and focused mainly on the times of the modern age.


"Xenophanes ." By N. S. Gill

"Xenophanes of Colophon ." The European Graduate School. Graduate and Post Graduate Studies