Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Democritus was born of a wealthy family at Abdera, in Thrace, early in the fifth century B.C. He is said to have derived some speculative notions from Magi left behind by Xerxes, and also to have heard Anaxagoras and Leucippus. Having spent his patrimony in travel, he returned to his native land and delighted his compatriots by reading one of his treatises; but he refused to take any part in public affairs, led a roving, solitary life, and died at an advanced age about 387 B.C. We only know his views by tradition. He is supposed to have derived them from Leucippus, and Epicurus was much indebted to them. According to him, the universe, self-existent eternally in the future as in the past, was composed wholly of atoms suspended in space. All material and mental phenomena he traced to combinations and motions of these particles, which were governed by the law of necessity. Sensation, in his view, was caused by constant emanations from bodies (eidola), and the notion of the gods was derived merely from magnified impressions of the human figure. The supreme object of life he regarded as the attainment of a state of placid quiescence, which he termed euthumia. He seems also to have preached cosmopolitanism, and ridiculed Greek patriotism. From his tendency to ridicule the follies of mankind he earned the name of "The Laughing Philosopher." He is not mentioned by Greek contemporaries, but his influence on later thinkers was considerable. Lucretius borrowed from him through Epicurus, and Cicero speaks of his writings with admiration.