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Xenophanes
(ca.570 BC - ca.478 BC)

A wandering rhapsodist and pre-Socratic philosopher of Ancient Greece who is most famous for criticising the writings of Homer and Hesiod and stating that Man created God in his image.

Xenophanes was born in Colophon in Ionia during the Greek Archaic period. Banished from his home city he started touring the world, singing what he thought was right. He lived in the Greek colony of Elea on Sicily, and later became a teacher at the Pythagorean school.

The poet-philosopher was a satirist and a critic. He discussed several aspects of human life, but most of all he objected to the description of the gods done by Homer and Hesiod. Real gods could neither be born nor die, like humans do, and they didn't rape, murder and bicker either. These were all characteristics men had given them. How was the world to become better with ideals like these? There is only one God, Xenophanes said, who is eternal, all-powerful and omnipresent. This did not catch on at the time.

Xenophanes performed until his death, when he was over ninety years old. His hexameters and elegiac are still beautiful, through all the ages and translations. Quite a lot of fragments remain of his work, and his view is still best expressed by a selection of those:

The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black,
the Thracians that theirs have gray eyes and red hair.

Now if horses or oxen or lions had hands
or the power to paint and to make the works that men make,
then each one would represent their gods in
painting and sculpture with the same bodies
and forms as each one possesses

There is one god, greatest among gods and men,
who is not like human beings
either in form or in thought.

All things come from the earth, and in earth all things end.

There never was nor will be a man who has certain knowledge about the gods and about all the things I speak of. Even if he should chance to say the complete truth, yet he himself knows not that it is so. But all may have their fancy.

All things are earth and water that come into being and grow.

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