10 Times Great Philosophers Revealed Their Personalities

Pythagoras was a cult leader, Socrates loved to dance + 8 other revelations

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Think of how many celebrities you know with personal lives for the world to see. How many of them do you share hobbies with? How many of them have made a humanizing slip-up?

People have been gossiping about celebrity lifestyles since the dawn of fame, but we often focus our attention on the lives of actors, athletes, and attention seekers. Famous academics and philosophers usually get a little more privacy.

This doesn’t mean their lives are any less interesting, however. An entire book, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laërtius, was written on the subject in the third century. A new edition reminds us that even eggheads can be just as amusing as rock stars.

Here are some of the most demystifying life stories of 10 famous philosophers. Take some of the details here with a grain of salt though, the book is rather uncritically written, and many details lack sources. Other details are supposedly confirmed by sources long since lost.

This hasn’t stopped other philosophers, Nietzsche and Montaigne among them, from admiring the text and it shouldn’t stop you.



Socrates is held in extremely high esteem as both a great philosopher and academia’s great martyr. In Diogenes’ biography, we are reminded of Socrates the man. He tells us of how Socrates served in the army, was often found socializing downtown, and edited his friends’ plays—including Euripides, one of the big three ancient Greek tragedians.

Perhaps most amusingly, Diogenes tells us that Socrates loved to dance and thought that “such exercise helped to keep the body in good condition.” He also learned how to play the lyre as an old man, just like your crazy uncle during his mid-life crisis, and “he saw no absurdity in learning a new accomplishment.”

In a showing of tremendous wit, when his wife told him he suffered unjustly, he asked her, “Would you have me suffer justly?” He also supposedly told a man that he would regret both getting married and being single, perhaps explaining that last remark.


Alexander and Aristotle

Aristotle teaching Alexander the Great. Engraving by Charles Laplante (Public domain, via Wikimedia Common)

Plato’s most famous student, Aristotle would go on to touch every branch of human thought that existed at the time. He tutored Alexander the great, wrote an ethical theory that still has a punch, and founded his own academy in Athens.

The most interesting detail that Diogenes tells us about Aristotle is that he had a lisp or stutter. Given that many of Aristotle’s works were given as lectures and recorded later, we must imagine that he either embraced it or worked around it. Diogenes gives us sources for this claim, but his book has long since become the authority on the matter. Accurate or not, Aristotle makes it on to many lists of celebrities with speech impediments.



Original Artwork: Engraving by Ambrose Tardieu (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Thales is the first philosopher in the western intellectual tradition and is most famous for his argument that water is the fundamental substance of the universe. He was also a noted mathematician, businessman, and sage.

Diogenes reminds us of his sharp wit. He records that when asked if there was a difference between life and death Thales responded that there was not. When he was then asked, “Why then, do you not die?” Thales retorted “Because it makes no difference.” On another occasion, he was asked which was older, nighttime or daytime. He replied, “Night is older, by one day.”


Plato and Aristotle

Plato (left) and his student Aristotle (Right) as imagined by Raphael.

Plato’s contribution to western thought is impossible to overstate. Philosopher Alfred Whitehead went so far as to suggest that all of European philosophy was “a series of footnotes to Plato.

Diogenes tells us a great many things about him. His name, allegedly, was given to him by his wrestling coach on account of his “robust figure”—the name is derived from the Greek word platys, meaning ‘broad’. Plato was skilled enough to participate in the Isthmian Games, which attracted athletes from all over Greece.

Platon was a common name, however, it would be strange for a family so wealthy and noble as Plato’s not to name him for an immediate male relative. Diogenes tells us that Plato’s real name was Aristocles, but this is impossible to confirm. Plato also called himself “Plato” later in his life, making the issue more difficult. In any case, we might know one of the greatest thinkers of all time by his stage name!

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The Voynich manuscript: Will this medieval mystery ever be solved?

Frayed, browned and in fragile condition, the Voynich manuscript currently resides deep in a basement at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library but digitized copies of it are available for free online.

Examining images from the manuscript.
Examining images from the manuscript.

Since it came to light over 100 years ago, many have tried and failed to decode the text — from US Army cryptographers to ordinary citizens postulating theories in the deepest corners of Reddit.

Its author and original title are unknown, and it is named for the collector and bookseller Wilfrid Voynich, who purchased it in 1912.

Ever since Voynich showed it off to the world, the incomprehensible text and cryptic illustrations have spurred countless theories about its meaning, origin, and the identity of its author. Some thought it might have been written by Leonardo Da Vinci or maybe even an autistic monk, others felt it might simply be an elaborate prank.

So what do we really know about the Voynich manuscript? Why has it captivated the imagination of so many through the decades? And will its mysteries ever be solved?

Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and a longtime Voynich scholar, says the first recorded appearance of the manuscript was when it was bought in the late 16th century by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, who believed it had been written by 13th century British philosopher and alchemist Roger Bacon.

Some of illustrations in the book resemble known plants, others less so.
Some of illustrations in the book resemble known plants, others less so.

It then apparently traveled around Europe, disappearing for 250 years, before eventually being acquired by Voynich. Although Voynich never revealed where he got the manuscript, Davis says that his wife disclosed after his death that he had bought it from Jesuits outside of Rome.

In 2011, carbon-dating revealed the parchment dates back to the early 15th century, somewhere between 1404 to 1438. Analysis of the ink confirmed it was consistent with what was used during that period.

That dating rules out some of the names postulated as being the author, like Bacon, Da Vinci and Voynich himself. But beyond those facts, the manuscript offers more questions than answers.

It’s that sense of mystery that has captured the public imagination, and compelled so many to attempt to decipher its meaning.

Davis concludes “It’s magical. It really is. There’s nothing like it.”



Debate stirs over mysterious “void” found inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

6 pictures

A new imaging technique is suggesting there is a large, previously undiscovered void inside the Great...
A new imaging technique is suggesting there is a large, previously undiscovered void inside the Great Pyramid of Giza(Credit: HIP Institute)

A team of scientists has discovered a mysterious “big void” inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid in the Giza complex. The void was discovered using a novel scanning technology called cosmic-ray muon radiography, and while the scanning team is suggesting this could be an undiscovered inner structure, some Egyptologists are not convinced.

The ScanPyramids project was launched in 2015The project is scanning several major Egyptian sites using a variety of new imaging technologyThe team explored the Great Pyramid of Giza in 2016The muon particle imaging process involves three separate detection techniques

The scanning project, called ScanPyramids, was launched in late 2015 and set out to scan four specific Egyptian pyramids using a variety of new and innovative scanning technologies. In the case of the Great Pyramid, the team deployed a scanning technique that detects the path of muon particles, an elementary particle that is created when cosmic rays collide with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The team developed three separate muon-detection techniques and investigated the path of these particles through the Great Pyramid. The path of muons is straight unless they hit a dense or solid object, and then they can be slightly deflected. By measuring these particle tracks scientists can identify whether they are moving through solid rock or if there are empty spaces.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists recently revealed the discovery of a large void above the Grand Gallery in the Great Pyramid. The discovery was confirmed using all three muon detection processes and it is suspected to be about 30 meters (100 ft) long.

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The Chinese may have beaten the famous voyage of Columbus by 70 years

By April Holloway,
November 17, 2017 8:14 pm Last Updated: November 17, 2017 8:14 pm

There are a few controversial claims floating around that the Americas were reached by oversea cultures before Columbus made his well-known visit to the “New World” in 1492. For example, Italian physicist and philologist Lucio Russo has presented the argument that the ancient Greeks reached America long before Columbus.

Another intriguing argument suggests the Chinese “discovered” the Americas 70 years prior to the famous voyage.

The suggestion that the Chinese arrival predated Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas is a major argument of the amateur historian Gavin Menzies. In fact, it seems that Menzies has made his career by going against the mainstream view of the past.


Three of his more debated books are “1421: The Year China Discovered the World,”a book claiming a Chinese fleet led by Admiral Zheng He reached the Americas in 1421; its sequel “1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance”; and a text that mainstream thinkers regularly mock, “The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History’s Greatest Mystery Revealed.”

A Chinese map from 1418 seems to show parts of North and South America, according to Menzies.

The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas. (Public domain)
The supposed map from 1418 showing some of the Americas. (Public domain)

You may wonder about Menzies’s claims. In the text “Who Discovered America: The Untold History of the Peopling of the Americas,” Menzies argues a Chinese map from 1418 provides evidence for his argument that the Chinese explored the Americas in 1421.

Specifically, Menzies makes mention to a map charted by Admiral Zheng He which appears to show North American rivers and coasts and something of South America. DNA studies are also used as his evidence for indigenous Americans being related to the waves of Asian settlers he asserts reached the Americas.

Menzies says the map helps explain the Chinese names of some places in Peru.

A Christie’s Auctions’ appraiser has allegedly confirmed the authenticity of the map. Historians are also said to have stated the map was written in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Menzies says that the map’s validity can also be used to explain the Chinese names of several towns and regions in Peru.

Menzies has been repeatedly criticized and mocked by the mainstream academic community.

Woodblock print representing Zheng He's ships. (Public domain)
Woodblock print representing Zheng He’s ships. (Public domain)

For example, University of London history professor Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has suggested that Menzies’s books are “the historical equivalent of stories about Elvis Presley in (the supermarket) and close encounters with alien hamsters.”

While it’s true Menzies may not be correct in his claims, it is extremely unfortunate that a person courageous enough to make his assertions has been so widely mocked for presenting an idea that dares to go against the mainstream.

Republished with permission. Read the original at

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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In Beyond Science, The Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities.



How Spanish, not English, was nearly the world’s language
Professor of History, Yale University

Want to know the reason much of North America speaks English and not Spanish? It all boils down to a single day in the English Channel in August of 1588, says Yale University history professor John Lewis Gaddis. The Spanish Armada was cleverly chased out of British waters by a rag-tag British fleet that set old ships on fire and pointed them right at the anchored Spanish fleet, causing the Spaniards to cut anchor and flee. Because of the way the wind was blowing, the Spanish ships had to sail all the way around the British Isles (about 2,000 nautical miles) to get home and were soundly defeated. That led, John posits, to the rise of the British empire. John’s latest book is the fascinating On Grand Strategy.

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The Tacoma Bridge collapse of 1940 in Washington, USA was a calamity of the world’s third longest suspension bridge back then and had a crucial impact on engineering. It caused the governing of the modeling of all the long-span bridges in the future.

Worst structural collapses: The iconic Tacoma bridge collapses to the winds.

Image credits: University of Washington Libraries Digital Collection’s photostream/Flickr , Botaurus-stellaris/Wikimedia

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge was an iconic, long-span bridge built in the state of Washington in the USA in the 1930s. It was opened to traffic on t July 1940. Leon Moisseiff planned the building’s design to be far more flexible than the acceptable standard ratios.

On 7 November 1940, strong winds of 40 mph battered the area and the bridge oscillated significantly. The bridge towers were made of strong, structural carbon steel, yet they proved no match for the violent movements which eventually caused the bridge to collapse. Fortunately, there were no fatalities except for a dog. The estimated loss from the mishap was $6.4 million.

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Boy unearths lost treasure of 10th century Danish king

Published  2018 Apr 17

Danish king coin found 2

Written by Isabella Gómez and Christina Zdanowicz, CNN —
A 13-year-old boy and an amateur archaeologist have helped to uncover a unique stash of lost treasure thought to be associated with the legendary Danish King “Harry Bluetooth,” who brought Christianity to Denmark in the 10th century.
René Schön and his student Luca Malaschnitschenko are reported to have been scouring a field with metal detectors in January, on the German island of Rügen close to Denmark in the Baltic sea, when they chanced upon what they believed to be a piece of aluminum.

Only on closer inspection did they realize it was silver, German national news agency DPA reported.

Thanks to their find, archaeologists from the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, embarked on an excavation of the 400 square meter site last weekend.

The excavation uncovered more than 600 coins and pieces of silver, including, jewelry, neck rings, brooches, pearls and a Thor’s hammer dating back to the late 10th century.

According to a statement released by the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Office for Culture and Historic Preservation, approximately 100 coins from the salvaged treasure trove are thought to have belonged to Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson who reigned from around AD958 to 986 and whose name is today linked to bluetooth technology.

“This is the largest single find of Bluetooth coins in the southern Baltic Sea region and is therefore of outstanding importance,” excavation director Michael Schirren told DPA.
Among the discoveries were several silver coins bearing images of a Christian cross, believed by historians to be among Denmark’s first independent coins.

The Viking-born king is regarded by historians as the founder of the Danish empire and is credited with unifying the country under one flag.

He is believed to have converted to Christianity some time around 960, a decision that historians link to a decline in pagan traditions throughout the kingdom.



Abandoned Train – – Abandoned Steam Engine Train – Skeleton Coast – Namibia – 622ccc3f121cfb3e345284d4ca685a13 – “Dead End” by Keith Alexander, South African visual artist.















The Tewa Village in Hopiland

Heady feelings of triumph for the people of the central New Mexico pueblos didn’t last long after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  Governor Otermín’s attempted return reminded the Puebloans that the Spanish would eventually return, and remembering how they seemed to stand in the path of any conquering army, they decided to relocate.  When the Spanish did return, many more relocated, and after the failed revolt in 1696,many pueblos were abandoned entirely, out of fear of retribution.  Some of these refuges found a home on the Hopi First Mesa [in what is, today, Arizona].

For the full story, see the chapter entitled The Tewa Village in Hopi in the book Forgotten Tales of New Mexico by Ellen Dornan published by The History Press. ISBN: 978-1609494858. $13.00. 176 pages. 5″x7″.


Georgia Land Claims

The present state of Georgia, USA, at one time, during it’s colonial period, had a land claim running form the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Pacific, including most of modern-day southern California…!

For a map of this astounding claim, see Figure 59 in the chapter on Georgia in the book How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein.   ISBN: 978-0-06143-138-8, 334 pages, $23.00, published by Harper Collins, New York, NY.

A later map of the colonies. This one from Wikipedia:


1715 - Map of North America by Herman Moll

1715 – Map of North America by Herman Moll

1766 - Bowles's Map of North America

1766 – Bowles’s Map of North America

1818 – Map of the United States by John Melish

1826 - Map of North America, México, Louisiana, and the Missouri Territory

1826 – Map of North America, México, Louisiana, and the Missouri Territory

1826 - Map of North America

1826 – Map of North America

1776 - Colonial America Map by Matthaus Lotter

1776 – Colonial America Map by Matthaus Lotter

1718 - Cart du Paraguay du Chili, Mer du Sud, Mer du Nord

1718 – Carte du Paraguay du Chili, Mer du Sud, Mer du Nord

1970 - Map of Africa, Ethnolinguistic Groups

1970 – Map of Africa, Ethnolinguistic Groups