Heraclides Ponticus

Heraclides Ponticus ( the Elder) (c. 390 BC in Heraclea Pontica; † after 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher.


Heraclides came from an old, wealthy family of Heraclea Pontica, now Karadeniz Ereğli on the southwest coast of the Black Sea. As a youth he went to Athens, where he joined Plato's Academy. Plato apparently liked him because he trusted him for the time of his third journey to Sicily ( 361-360 ) to the management of the Academy. After the death of Speusippus, the successor of Plato, Heraclides 339/338 school principal ( Scholarch ) wanted to be the Academy, but was defeated in a vote which Xenocrates and then left the academy. He then retired to his hometown. He probably had some students.

Writings and teaching

Of the numerous writings of Heraclides in addition to a number of titles only fragments have been preserved. Among his works were about the good, about the species ( to the idea of ​​teaching), On the Nous, On the Pythagoreans, On the Nature, about the celestial phenomena, about virtue, about the poetry and the poet and about the music. With questions of political theory he studied the scriptures about the rule and about the laws. He also wrote pamphlets against the doctrine of Zeno of Elea and against Democritus.

In some of his works Heraclides has presented his teachings according to Plato's model in dialogue form; while he was prominent historical or mythical characters appear as interlocutors. From the Pythagoreans, he was impressed and influenced, but the Pythagorean vegetarianism he refused. He summed up the soul as corporeal and light-like. He assumed that in addition to the earth and other heavenly bodies are inhabited.

Some ancient authors have Heraclides not the Platonic Academy, but the school of Aristotle attributed. In this they were mistaken though, but can be seen from the fact that at least some of his views to those of Aristotle were similar.

Its astronomical model can not be determined with certainty because of the scarce and uncertain source products. He at any rate to the daily rotation of the Earth axis and is considered the first representative of this view. The previously held belief that he Mercury and Venus introduced himself as satellites of the sun and thus the system of Tycho Brahe anticipated part is discarded in the recent research, or at least greatly doubted. The wording of the source ( Calcidius ) According to Heraclides came from concentric movement of Venus and the sun.


The slope of the Heraclides to the exotic and the fantastic has been criticized in antiquity. In Athens, he was known for his bravado and was therefore derided as " Pompikos ". Cicero valued his education and his literary skills, but criticized him because he had his books filled with " childish fairy tale" ( puerilibus Fabulis ). By fantastic inventions to Heraclides pleasure and amazement have effected so that some critics as included his works are more likely to popular fiction to philosophy. Timaeus of Tauromenion and Plutarch characterized him as a teller of fables.

Demochares, a contemporary of Heraclides and opponents of the philosophers, claimed Heraclides have used a famine caused by natural disasters in his home region in order to gain by bribing the consulted by his fellow citizens Oracle of Delphi an oracle, which contained the statement that it golden with a to honor wreath. Upon leaving the theater in which the answer of the oracle was announced, Heraclides was overthrown and died of a head injury suffered thereby. Although the details of Demochares ' hateful representation are implausible, it ties in well to a historical process, and may contain a kernel of truth.

The promontory Heraclides on the Moon is named after the thinker.

Sources and fragments

  • Eckart Schütrumpf (ed.): Heraclides of Pontus. Texts and translation. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick 2008, ISBN 978-1-4128-0721-0 ( critical edition of the fragments and sources with English translation).
  • Fritz Wehrli: Heraclides Ponticus, 2nd edition, Schwabe, Basel 1969 ( edition of the fragments and sources with commentary; through the new issue of Schütrumpf obsolete ).