The Succession of Philosophical Schools

Outline of the lines of philosophical succession, spanning the four main Hellenistic philosophical traditions, as described by Diogenes Laertius.

According to Diogenes Laertius’ The Lives of Eminent Philosophers, there were two major schools of ancient Greek philosophy, the Ionian and Italian (or Eleatic) schools, which divide into four distinct successions that survived down to the Hellenistic period.  The Ionian School was founded by Thales and Anaximander, and their succession led down to Socrates, at which point his followers, “Socratics”, divided into two sub-divisions: The Cynic-Stoic tradition founded by Antisthenes and the Academic tradition founded by Plato. Plato’s student Aristotle then split off to form his own tradition, creating three subdivisions of the Ionian succession.  The Italian school began with Pherecydes and Pythagoras and ended with Epicurus.

The Ionian School

  1. Anaximander (“pupil of Thales”)
  2. Anaximenes
  3. Anaxagoras
  4. Archelaus
  5. Socrates (“who introduced ethics or moral philosophy”)

[Diogenes doesn’t include Heraclitus in the Ionian succession.  Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes are usually described as part of the Milesian school.]

The Italian School

  1. Pythagoras (“pupil of Pherecydes”)
  2. Telauges (his son)
  3. Xenophanes
  4. Parmenides
  5. Zeno of Elea
  6. Leucippus
  7. Democritus (“who had many pupils”)
  8. Nausiphanes [and Naucydes] (“in particular”)
  9. Epicurus (Succession ends)

The Socratics

The Academic Succession

  1. Plato (Student of Socrates, “founder of the Old Academy”)
  2. Speusippus
  3. Xenocrates
  4. Polemo
  5. Crantor
  6. Crates
  7. Arcesilaus (“founder of the Middle Academy”, who introduced an emphasis on skepticism)
  8. Lacydes (“founder of the New Academy”)
  9. Carneades
  10. Clitomachus (Succession ends)

The Cynic-Stoic Succession

  1. Antisthenes (student of Socrates)
  2. Diogenes the Cynic (founder of Cynicism)
  3. Crates of Thebes
  4. Zeno of Citium (founder of the Stoa)
  5. Cleanthes
  6. Chrysippus (Succession ends)

The Peripatetic Succession

  1. Aristotle (student of Plato)
  2. Theophrastus (Succession ends)

Excerpt from Diogenes Laertius

But philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom, has had a twofold origin; it started with Anaximander on the one hand, with Pythagoras on the other. The former was a pupil of Thales, Pythagoras was taught by Pherecydes. The one school was called Ionian, because Thales, a Milesian and therefore an Ionian, instructed Anaximander; the other school was called Italian from Pythagoras, who worked for the most part in Italy.  And the one school, that of Ionia, terminates with Clitomachus and Chrysippus and Theophrastus, that of Italy with Epicurus. The succession passes from Thales through Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras, Archelaus, to Socrates, who introduced ethics or moral philosophy; from Socrates to his pupils the Socratics, and especially to Plato, the founder of the Old Academy; from Plato, through Speusippus and Xenocrates, the succession passes to Polemo, Crantor, and Crates, Arcesilaus, founder of the Middle Academy, Lacydes, founder of the New Academy, Carneades, and Clitomachus. This line brings us to Clitomachus.

There is another which ends with Chrysippus, that is to say by passing from Socrates to Antisthenes, then to Diogenes the Cynic, Crates of Thebes, Zeno of Citium, Cleanthes, Chrysippus. And yet again another ends with Theophrastus; thus from Plato it passes to Aristotle, and from Aristotle to Theophrastus. In this manner the school of Ionia comes to an end.

In the Italian school the order of succession is as follows: first Pherecydes, next Pythagoras, next his son Telauges, then Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno of Elea, Leucippus, Democritus, who had many pupils, in particular Nausiphanes [and Naucydes], who were teachers of Epicurus. (Diogenes Laertius)

london, uk

3 replies on “The Succession of Philosophical Schools”

Dear Dr. Robertson

What does this mean?

« there were four two major schools of ancient Greek philosophy, »


διὰ τοῦτο οὐ φοβηθησόμεθα ἐν τῷ ταράσσεσθαι

Regards, Richard

Leave a Reply

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