Metrodorus of Chios

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

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] Pyrrho was Anaxarchus' student.

Like Pyrrho, Metrodorus was a sceptic. He accepted the Democritean theory of atoms and void and the plurality of worlds.[2] He also 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[3] 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 as 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."[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 58
  2. ^ Englert, Walter G. (2008). "Metrodoros of Khios (400 – 350 BCE)". In Keyser, Paul T.; Irby-Massie, Georgia L. (eds.). The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists: The Greek tradition and its many heirs. Routledge. p. 554. ISBN 978-0415340205. ... On Nature (Περὶ φύσεως) combined skeptical views about the possibility of knowledge with an atomic analysis of the nature of reality. Following Demokritos, he taught that everything was made up of atoms and the void, and that there are an infinite number of worlds (κόσμοι). Includes references.
  3. ^ Cicero, Academica, ii. 23 § 73; Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, ix. 58
  4. ^ Aëtius, Placita Philosophorum i.5.4
  5. ^ Guthrie, W.K.C. (1965). A History of Greek Philosophy, Volume II: The Presocratic Tradition from Parmenides to Democritus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 405. ISBN 0-521-29421-5. As a follower of Democritus picturesquely expressed it, it is as unlikely that a single world should arise in the infinite as that one single ear of corn should grow on a large plain. [footnote 2 text: Metrodorus of Chios, as reported by Aëtius (DK, 70A6.)]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Metrodorus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 300. Metrodorus, Volume 18, p. 300.