Xenophaneis a Greek philosopher, was born at Colophon, Ionia, probably about 570 B.C. He was the son of Orthlomenes, or, according to others, of Dexius. He left his native land as an exile, and betook himself to the Ionian colonies, Sicily, Zancle, and Catana. There can be no doubt that, as the founder of the Eleatic school, he lived for some time at least in Elea (Velia, in Italy, founded by the Phocieans about 536 B.C.), the foundation of which he had sung. His death occurred probably about 480 B.C., though amid the conflicting statements concerning his age it is best to say that he lived between the times of Pythagoras and Heraclitus, for he mentions the one and is mentioned by the other.
Xenophanes was a poet as well as a philosopher. He wrote an epic of two thousand verses on the founding of Elea, and a poem on the foundation of his native city, Colophon. His philosophical doctrines were expressed in poetic form, and from the few fragments of his poetry which remain, and the brief notices of him by other writers, we collect what we know of his doctrines. He attacked Hesiod and Homer, in hexameter verses, elegiacs, and iambic verses, for their representations of the deities, to whom those poets attribute all the vices and weaknesses of men. He taught that God was one, unlike men either in form or mind. He pointed out the fact that men, in their representations of the gods, depict them as having bodies like their own, and declared that if animals could make representations of the deity, they would make them like themselves. Assuming that the deity is the most powerful of beings, he proves that he must of necessity be one, all alike, all endued with equal powers of seeing, comprehending, and hearing. He asserted that the deity is of a spherical form, neither limited nor unlimited, neither moving nor at rest. God rules and directs all, and things as they appear to us are the imperfect manifestations of the One eternal. He maintains that God's true nature cannot be known. He has been charged with being a pantheist, but from this accusation Cousin takes some pains to defend him. In the early history of philosophy the language of the science was not well defined, so that many expressions which have since come to mean certain things did not then have those meanings. Certain expressions of Xenophanes have been quoted by modern writers to prove his pantheism; but other quotations, as, for example, those of Aristotle, show that he speaks of God as a Being eternal, and distinct from the visible universe.
See Diogenes Laertius, Xenophanes; Ritter, Geschichte der Philosophie, volume 1; Cousin, Nouveaux Fragmens Philosophiques, art. Xenophane; Simon Karsten, Xenophanis Colophonii Carminum Reliquae, de Vita ejus et Studiis Dissernit, Fragmenta Explicavii, Placita Illustravit; Smith, Dict. of Greek and Rom. Biog. and Myth. s.v.