Heraclides Lembus

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Heraclides Lembus (Greek: Ἡρακλείδης Λέμβος, Hērakleidēs Lembos) was an Ancient Greek statesman, historian and philosophical writer.

Heraclides was an Egyptian civil servant who lived during the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (2nd century BC).[1] The Suda mentions a Heraclides of Oxyrhynchus,[1] but according to Diogenes Laërtius[2] he originated from Callatis or Alexandria. He was also named the son of Sarapion ('Lembus' is a nickname meaning 'cockboat').

He is said to have negotiated the treaty that ended Antiochus IV's invasion of Egypt in 169 BC.[1] That Agatharchides of Cnidus became known by being his secretary is further evidence to his importance in the Ptolemaic administration.[3]


His works (mainly excerpts and epitomes from earlier writers) survive only in fragments.

  • Histories (Ἱστορίαι) in at least 37 books, dealing with historical and mythological subjects. The five extant fragments exhibit: the foundation of Rome by Greeks returning from the Trojan war;[4] human beauty highly esteemed in Sparta;[5] a frog plague;[6] Demetrius Poliorcetes and his father Antigonus Monophthalmus in love with the same courtesan;[7] philological eccentricities concerning Alexarchus, the brother of Cassander inventing words.[8] An epitome was, presumably, made by Hero of Athens,[9] a rhetor tentatively dated to the first century AD.[10]
  • Lembeutikos Logos (Λεμβευτικὸς λόγος), about which nothing is known, apart from an obscure connection to his nickname.[2]
  • an epitome of Sotion's Successions of Philosophers.[11]
  • an epitome of Satyrus' Lives.[12]
  • an epitome of Hermippus's On Lawgivers.[13]
  • excerpts he made of Aristotle's Constitutions and Customs and Traditions of the Barbarians (Νόμιμα βαρβαρικά). The fragments of these largely lost works (only the Constitution of the Athenians (Aristotle) extant) were published in 1847 as Heraclidis politiarum quae extant, by F. G. Schneidewin.
  • a biography of Archimedes (doubtful), mentioned by Eutocius.[14]


As a historian Heraclides has been discounted, as the selection criteria in his excerpts show a certain inclination towards the weird and sensational, e.g.:

Pantaleon, who was overbearing and severe, ruled among them [the Elians]. He castrated ambassadors who had come to him, and compelled them to eat their testicles.

— Constitution of the Elians, Dilts (1971) Excerpt no. 21, p. 23

His prime merit lies in the faithful transmission of otherwise lost sources (e.g. the missing first part of the Constitution of the Athenians).[15]

The Histories were, presumably, criticised by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in The Arrangement of Words with regard to his Asiatic style.[16]


  1. ^ a b c Suda, Heraclides η462
  2. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, v. 94
  3. ^ Photius Bibliotheca Cod. 213, 171a. P. M. Fraser, Ptolemaic Alexandria I, p. 174
  4. ^ Festus 269
  5. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 13.566a
  6. ^ Athenaeus 8.333a-b, from Book 21
  7. ^ Athenaeus 13.578a-b, from Book 36
  8. ^ Athenaeus 3.98e, from Book 37
  9. ^ Suda, Heron η552
  10. ^ Wilhelm Kroll, "Heron (4)". Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft VIII,1 (1945) Sp. 992.
  11. ^ Diogenes Laërtius v. 79; viii. 7; x. 1
  12. ^ Diogenes Laërtius, viii. 40; ix. 26
  13. ^ POxy. XI.1367
  14. ^ Commentarius in dimensionem circuli (Archimedis opera omnia ed. Heiberg-Stamatis (1915), vol. 3, p. 228); Commentaria in conica (Apollonii Pergaei quae Graece exstant, ed. Heiberg (1893) vol. 2, p. 168: "Hērakleios")
  15. ^ Dilts (1971) p. 8-9; Daebritz (1945) Sp. 491.18ff.
  16. ^ Dion. Hal., De comp. verb. 4 (line 112 Ed. Usener-Radermacher)


  • Mervin R. Dilts, Heraclidis Lembi. Excerpta Politiarum (1971), editor and translator M. R. D. (Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies Monographs no. 5)
  • Miroslav Marcovich, Heraclidis Lembi Excerpta Politiarum, The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 96, No. 1 (Spring, 1975), pp. 16–18
  • C. Müller, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum (1841–1870) 2, 197-224 (Constitutions, wrongly attributed to Heraclides Ponticus) and 3, 167-171.
  • Rudolf Daebritz, "Herakleides Lembos (51)". Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft VIII,1 (1945) Sp. 488-491.

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