Menedemus a Greek philosopher and teacher, flourished in the 3d century BC.
Life.-He was born in Eretria of a noble family, the Theopropidae. Being poor, he labored as a tent-maker and builder for a livelihood. According to Diogenes Laertius, he was sent on some military service to Megara, where he profited by the occasion to hear Plato. He then relinquished the army, and devoted himself to philosophy. But it is not probable that he was old enough to have' heard Plato before 'the death of the latter. If the length of his life as Diogenes gives it is correct, it would not have been possible; for at the period of Plato's death he would have been only four years of age. According to the story in Athenseus (iv, p. 168), he and his friend Asclepiades labored for a maintenance as millers, passing the night in toil in order to gain time for philosophy during the day. They subsequently became pupils of Stilpo at Megara, whence they proceeded to Elis, to profit by the instructions of some disciples of Phaedo. Menedemus, onhis return to Eretria, established a school of philosophy, which was- called the Eretrian. He did not devote himself entirely to philosophy, but was an active-participant in the politics of his native city, becoming the most influential man in the state, although in his earlier days he was regarded with dislike. He was sent on various missions to Ptolemaeus (probably Ptolemaeus Ceraunus), to Lysimachus, and to Demetrius, and obtained for his native city a repeal of a portion of the tax paid to Demetrius. During some portion of his life he visited Cyprus, and greatly enraged the tyrant Nicocreon by his freely-expressed opinions. The story of his being in Egypt, and sharing in the making of the Septuagint version, which is found in Aristeas, is doubtless unworthy of credence. He enjoyed the favor of Antigonus Gonatus, and persuaded the Eretrians to present to him a public congratulation after his victory over the Gauls. This induced the suspicion of an intention on his part of betraying Eretria into the power of Antigonus. According to one account, these surmises led him to depart secretly from Eretria, and take refuge in the sanctuary of Amphiaraus at Oropus. Some golden vessels, the property of the temple, being lost while he was there, the Boeotians compelled him to leave, when he fled to the court of Antigonus, where he soon died of grief, probably in the year BC. 277, at the age of seventy-four. Another account says that he went to Antigonus to solicit his interference in behalf of the! freedom of his native city.
As a Philosopher and Teacher.-As a teacher, Menedemus, in his intercourse with his disciples, was characterized by the absence of formality and restraint, although noted for the severity with which he rebuked all dissoluteness and intemperance, so that the fear of his censure seems to have acted as a check. He lived with his friend Asclepiades, between whom and himself there existed a close friendship. In the latter part of his life he seems to have lived in affluence. Of the philosophy of Menedemus little is known, excepting that it closely resembled that of the Megarian school, and that of Phaedo of Elis. Indeed, he may be said to have continued Philo's philosophy. Its leading feature was the dogma of the oneness of the Good, which he carefully distinguished from the Useful. All distinctions between virtues he regarded as merely nominal. The Good and the True he looked upon as identical. In dialectics he rejected all merely negative propositions, maintaining that truth could be predicated only of those which were affirmative, and of these he admitted such alone as were identical propositions. He was a vehement and keen disputant, but none of his philosophical controversies or doctrines were committed to writing. Epicrates, in a passage quoted by Athenseus (ii, p. 59), classes Menedemus with Plato and Speusippus; but it appears from Diogenes Laertius that his opinion of Plato and Xenocrates was not very high. Stilpo he greatly admired. See Diogenes Laertius, 2:125144; Plutarch, De Adul.
et Amic. Disc. p. 55; Strabo, ix, p. 393; Ritter, Geschichte der Philosophie, bk. vii, c. 5.