Timon of Athens (person)

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This is about the figure who inspired Shakespeare's Timon of Athens. For the Greek philosopher see Timon of Phlius.
Timon renounces society (1803 engraving for Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act IV, Scene 1)

Timon of Athens (Greek: Τίμων ὁ Ἀθηναῖος, gen.: Τίμωνος) was a citizen of Athens whose reputation for misanthropy grew to legendary status. According to the historian Plutarch, Timon lived during the era of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC – 404 BC).


According to Lucian, Timon was the wealthy son of Echecratides who lavished his money on flattering friends. When funds ran out, friends deserted and Timon was reduced to working in the fields. One day, he found a pot of gold and soon his fair-weather friends were back. This time, he drove them away with dirt clods.

Both Aristophanes and Plato Comicus mention Timon as an angry despiser of mankind who held Alcibiades in high regard because he correctly believed Alcibiades would someday harm Athens.

Cultural references[edit]

  • In Lysistrata, the chorus of old women claim that although Timon hated men, he was friendly and courteous towards women.
  • After his defeat at Actium (2 September 31 BC), Mark Antony built a temple in Alexandria which he named the Timonium, after Timon of Athens, as Antony considered himself to be, like Timon, in the wilderness after being wronged and mistreated by his friends.
  • According to local history, much of the area of present-day Timonium, Maryland was once part of a large plantation. Upon the early death of its owner, his widow went into mourning and renamed the estate "Timonium".[citation needed]
  • Timon is the inspiration for the William Shakespeare play Timon of Athens.
  • Timon is the eponym of the words Timonist, Timonism, Timonian, and Timonize.
  • Jonathan Swift claims to maintain a different sort of misanthropy than Timon in a letter to Alexander Pope.
  • William Saxey (died 1612), a judge noted for misanthropy, was called "Timon that endureth no man".


  • Armstrong, A. Macc. "Timon of Athens - A Legendary Figure?", Greece & Rome, 2nd Ser., Vol. 34, No. 1 (April 1987), pp. 7–11