Xenophanes de Colophon was a poet and wise traveler who had strong philosophical inclinations and who lived in ancient Greece during the 6th century and the beginning of the 5th century BC There are a significant number of fragments that have managed to survive despite the years, and the Poetic verses are available to us and indicate a wide range of issues. These include comments on religion , knowledge , the natural world , proper behavior at a banquet, as well as other teachings and social comments.

  • When was he born:  570 BC
  • Where he was born:  Colophon, Asia Minor
  • When he died:  478 a. C.
  • Where he died: Elea, Asia Minor

Who was Xenophanes?

Xenophanes was an important Greek philosopher founder of the Eleatic school who created controversy about polytheism and the conception that the Greeks had regarding the gods.

  • Biography of Xenophanes
  • Thought of Xenophanes
  • Contributions
  • Arche of Xenophanes
  • Plays
  • Phrases of Xenophanes

Biography of Xenophanes

Xenophanes was born in 570 BC in Colophon, a place near the coast of Asia Minor and died in Elea  in 478 BC. Xenophanes was probably exiled from Greece by the Persians who conquered Colophon around AD 546.

In 536 BC he moved to southern Italy, where he founded the Eleatic school . The story tells us that Xenophanes was a unique character for his thoughts and his attitude towards life, intelligent and challenging with regard to the order of things around him and that existed in the world.

After living for several years in Sicily for a time and wandering around the Mediterranean, he managed to settle in Elea , in southern Italy. In one of his poems, which only survive in fragments, he stated that his travels began 67 years earlier, when he was 25 years old; if this is so, he would have been at least 92 years old at his death .

Thought of Xenophanes

He is commonly remembered for his criticisms of popular religion , mainly against the false conceptions of the divine that for him were a by-product of the human propensity to anthropomorphize deities. According to Xenophanes, humans have been severely misled by this trend, as well as by scripture , and so he set about guiding his audience toward a perspective of religion that was based more on rationality and less on traditional beliefs.

Because of his philosophy, he is considered the founder of philosophical theology and the theory of knowledge , reflecting on the foundations and limits of this. He criticized the anthropomorphism of the Homeric gods, their immorality and their use as an educational model, believing in a unique God.


His thoughts regarding essential unity were very important to the birth of metaphysics . His conception of divinity made possible advancement with respect to the history of natural theology and theological philosophy . He made great philosophical and literary contributions that have managed to reach our culture. He had a fairly broad vision regarding divinity and the relationship it had with human beings and the world.

Arche of Xenophanes

The arche of Xenophanes is God , within a unique, immobile , inalienable and also infinite universe . For him, there was only one God who was both intelligent and who ruled all things in the universe through his spirit .


Actually, we do not have the complete works written by Xenophanes, but we do have fragments of them that were compiled by authors such as Aulo Gelio, Simplicio, Athenaeum of Náucratis, Clement of Alexandria and others. Approximately 120 verses have been preserved in this way .

The Elegies were works written from the metric point of view, they are written in the Ionic language and their main theme is the traditional elegy , criticism of the greed of the rich, true virtue and some autobiographical features .

The satires were texts written against poets and philosophers.

The Foundation of Colophon and the Colonization of Elea in Italy are epic poems.

He wrote the didactic poem ” On Nature “.

Phrases of Xenophanes

Some of his most recognized phrases are the following:

  • It takes a wise man to recognize a wise man.
  • If cows and horses had hands and could draw, cows would draw gods that looked like cows and horses would draw gods that looked like horses.
  • God is one, the greatest of gods and men, not like mortals in body or thought .
  • All things come from the earth , and all things end up becoming earth.
  • The sea is the source of water and the source of music ; for neither gusts of wind arise in the clouds and fly out from within them, with the exception of the great sea, nor would the currents of the rivers nor the rainwater exist in the sky, but by the sea; but the great sea is the engender of clouds and winds and rivers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *