Metrodorus of Chios

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For other people of the same name, see Metrodorus (disambiguation).

Metrodorus of Chios (Ancient Greek: Μητρόδωρος ὁ Χίος; fl. 4th century BC) was a Greek Presocratic philosopher, belonging to the school of Democritus, and an important forerunner of Epicurus.

Metrodorus was a pupil of Nessus of Chios, or, as some accounts prefer, of Democritus himself.[1] He is said to have taught Diogenes of Smyrna, who, in turn, taught Anaxarchus.[1]

Metrodorus was a complete sceptic. He accepted the Democritean theory of atoms and void and the plurality of worlds, but held a theory of his own that the stars are formed from day to day by the moisture in the air under the heat of the Sun. According to Cicero[2] he said, "We know nothing, no, not even whether we know or not" and maintained that everything is to each person only what it appears to him to be. Metrodorus is especially interesting a forerunner of Anaxarchus, and as a connecting link between atomism proper and the later scepticism.

The following quote is attributed to him. If accurate, it demonstrates that Metrodorus had a cosmological philosophy that was advanced for the ancient world: "A single ear of wheat in a large field is as strange as a single world in infinite space."[3]


  1. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 58
  2. ^ Cicero, Academica, ii. 23 § 73; Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 58
  3. ^ Aëtius, Placita Philosophorum i.5.4