Category: Theology > Philosophers on the Gods
- The conventional view : the mistaken view that pagan philosophy was monotheistic
- The many meanings of ho theós : some other senses of the phrase ‘the god’
- What is The God in pagan monism? : my reconstruction of the genealogy of The God
- Conclusion : with some comments on Heraclitus and Plato
- Appendix: a time line : a chronology of the philosophers mentioned in this article
1 The conventional view
From the time of ancient Jewish and Christian apologists (and later polemicists) down to contemporary scholarship, it has been argued – but more often assumed than really argued – that in pagan Greek-language philosophy, there is an implicit or even explicit acknowledgement of the so-called ‘one God’, whether that is said to constitute ‘pagan monotheism’ or only ‘monotheistic tendencies’.
Thus, not just among Jews and Christians but also among pagans, “no philosopher accepts the traditional gods as they are traditionally represented.” According to Michael Frede, “[e]ven if the order of things envisaged leaves room for beings which can be called ‘divine’, it is clear that they will be so fundamentally derivative and subordinate to the God that, for instance, talk of a ‘highest God’ is in some ways quite misleading”, because “[a]ny theory which postulates one divine being as a first principle automatically puts the status of all other beings one may want to call ‘divine’ into a perspective in which their divinity appears limited, subordinate, derived.”¹
But this reasoning is circular, even tautological. Yes, if divinity is attributed to a unique first principle alone, then the unique first principle alone is divine. But it is Frede himself who is positing that divinity is not really divinity if is limited, subordinate or derived. From where does he derive the impression that the ancients would have been forced to agree? Surely, the Theogony alone suffices to show that, in concept at least, gods can be derived from other gods without loss in degree of divinity, unless we should argue that Hesiod’s Chaos is more divine than his Zeus, although the latter is the king of the gods – which in turn shows that gods can be subordinate to other gods.
Frede’s erroneous reasoning is aided by a misreading of philosophical jargon. As he portrays it, “the Platonists, the Peripatetics, and the Stoics do not just believe in one highest god, they believe in something which they must [!] take to be unique even as a god. For they call it ‘God’ or even ‘the God’, as if in some crucial way it was the only thing which deserved to be called ‘god’.” But he cannot prove this, only repeat that it “must” be so: “If, thus, they also believe that there are further beings which can be called ‘divine’ or ‘god’, they must have thought that these further beings could be called ‘divine’ only in some less strict, diminished, or derived sense.”²
Now, internally plausible as that is, it is simply not the case that pagan philosophers contemplated the word theós (‘god’), decided it properly only belonged to one first principle, and for that reason added the definite article to it (ho theós, ‘the god’). Nor did they, from that (imaginary) moment on, use the word ‘god’ for other beings only in a secondary and derived way.³ They did indeed come to use the expression ‘The God’ for a first principle, but by a totally different route. On this page, I will lay out this discursive genealogy, which has been strangely underexplored in the scholarship. Hopefully, I can thereby show convincingly that this monistic sense of ‘The God’ is simply part of the intellectual history of what we call paganism and polytheism, and does not constitute a separate monotheistic strand of paganism.⁴
1: Michael Frede, “Monotheism and Pagan Philosophy in Later Antiquity”, in: Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity (1999), p. 49.
2: Ibid. p. 43.
3: For instance, there were no attempts to avoid the word ‘god’ – e.g., in favor of ‘daemon’, which would precisely mean a secondary or lesser divinity –, nor to restrict it or explain it away, as one sees in historical editions and expositions of the Bible. Only pagan authors with a Christian audience sometimes practice anything like this, such as Calcidius (whose Commentary on the Timaeus was dedicated to a bishop) and Olympiodorus (whose lectures were given to a mostly Christian student body).
4: Which is not to say that paganism and monotheism are like water and oil. Certainly, there are manifold historical entanglements, but this does not grant us permission to draw any arbitrary connections we wish.
2 The many meanings of ho theós
To begin with, however, a few words about the many other meanings of ho theós or ‘the god’ that I will not address at present, although a complete refutation of Frede’s article would have to. I hope to explain all of these in the future, so I will be as brief as possible here.
Firstly, ho theós (‘the god’) like ho ánthrōpos (‘the human’) can have a generic or collective meaning. If the latter is translated as ‘humanity’ or ‘humankind’ (instead of the archaic singular ‘man’), then the former could be rendered as ‘godkind’, or simply ‘the gods’. Often when translations switch back and forth between ‘the gods’ and ‘God’, this is only a variation between an ordinary plural and a generic/collective singular, which should also be rendered in the plural in English.
Secondly, ho theós can refer to a god whose identity is established through context, even if their name is not. For instance, Plato in the Timaeus often refers to ‘the god’ when he means the Demiurge or primary creator, whom he consciously does not give a proper name. But the same phrase can also refer collectively to the ‘young gods’ whom the Demiurge creates, so that translations which mechanically translate ho theós as ‘God’ lead to a confused picture of what actions are due to which deities.
Relatedly, philosophers sometimes use ho theós as an established idiom to refer to a specific entity or deity, such as again the Demiurge in some Platonists, for other Platonists the One (when it is distinct from the Demiurge), and the First Mover among Aristotelians (see Peripatetics on the Gods). However, it should be noted that these idioms are not yet present as such in Plato and Aristotle, but were derived from them by later followers. When used in this sense, ‘the god’ may also be called ‘the First God’, in distinction to all the other beings who are also gods.
Fourthly, ho theós has a comparative sense, often based in Stoicism. For the Stoics, ‘the god’ idiomatically refers to the cosmic god or world soul (see The Stoics on the Gods), which is understood as a kind of fiery substance or mind pervading and governing the whole cosmos. Thus, in describing other philosophies, the same term was used to designate whatever “powers that extend into the elements or bodies”, be that some subtler element or body, incorporeal mind, or something else (Aëtius, quoted by John Stobaeus, Anthology 1.1.29). In other cases, the comparative sense hews closer to Platonism, and picks out the closest analogue to the Demiurge.
Here, I will be excluding all of these usages (and any others I omitted), and focus only on one sense: that in which some pagan philosophers say or mean that there is ‘one god’, who they refer to simply as ‘the god’ (or The God, as I will stylize it from now on). Despite overlap and various historical connections, this is different from—
- the comparative sense, because it is the philosophers in question themselves who use the word, not outsiders who are applying it comparatively;
- from the idiomatic sense equivalent to ‘the First God’, because that use historically implies or presupposes the existence of other gods who are not (part of) the First God;
- from the contextual use of definiteness, because unlike such circumstantial expressions, it is a real technical term;
- from the generic or collective usage, because it refers to one entity rather than a class.
While at the same time, it is also distinct from the monotheistic use of ‘God’ (also ho theós in ancient Greek). Rather, I will refer to it as the monist sense, monism – as we will see – not being at all opposed to polytheistic religion.
3 What is The God in pagan monism?
Another clarification that I should make is that I am not talking about all pagan monism, nor about a type of monism that can be defined in the abstract. Platonic philosophy can also be monist in a sense, for instance, but it has little or nothing to do with the present subject. My concern will be with a grouping of philosophers tied together by the specific historical relationships of influence that produced the concept of The God which is at issue for us.
Concretely, I will be talking about the so-called Eleatic school, both what we can tell about their actual teachings and how these were received by posterity; about the Socratic philosophers Antisthenes and Euclid of Megara; and finally (in terms of chronology) the Stoics.
I want to begin out of chronology, with Antisthenes, the founder of the Cynics (4th cent. BCE). The little we hear of his view of the gods sounds, at first, like an explicit confession of monotheism and rejection of polytheism, and therefore should be addressed first.
Namely, according to Philodemus’ On Piety, “it is said by Antisthenes in his book on natural philosophy (gr. Physikós) that there are many gods according to law (or ‘convention’, nómos), but one according to nature (phýsis)”, which P. R. Bosman calls “probably the least ambiguous formulation of monotheism in all antiquity”,¹ further speculating that the Cynics so often criticized conventional piety “because they regard traditional polytheism as obstructing the way of an Antisthenic theology of a single God κατὰ φύσιν [‘according to nature’]”.² But this is a gross misjudgment.
As I have discussed elsewhere, the distinction between natural and legal theology was something internal to pagan intellectual culture, and does not position the natural philosopher as an outsider to their own society. And certainly, Antisthenes did not identify his contemporaries as adherents of “traditional polytheism”, because this is a category constructed in modern times by way of opposition with Christianity – whereas Antisthenes’ sentiment is not oppositional, but something more nuanced.
By way of illustration, take this report from Clement of Alexandria: “I follow Antisthenes, who says, ‘I would shoot Aphrodite, if I could lay hold of her, because she has ruined many of our beautiful and noble women’. And he says that Eros is a vice of nature; but those who are overcome by it, call the sickness a god in their misfortune. For through these things, he shows that the uneducated are overcome through their ignorance of pleasure, which we must not seek, even if it is called a god (or ‘goddess’, theós), that is, even if it happens to be divinely given for the necessity of reproduction” (Stromata 126.96.36.199).
Here, Antisthenes has no difficulty translating the conventional theology – that Eros (Desire) and his mother Aphrodite are deities – into natural theology – that desire and pleasure are divinely bestowed. He does not construct a simple opposition between the two, as if natural philosophy exploded the link between divinity and sexuality, but rather validates that connection. At the same time, of course, he opposes the conventional approach to these deities and to sex, and makes a joke about the conventional (or mythical) Aphrodite that others could have found blasphemous. Still, this is comfortably pagan discourse, and not “radical monotheism”, as Bosman would have it.
The same holds for Antisthenes’ dictum, that “the god is similar (in shape) to no one; wherefore no one can understand them from an image” (Clement, Stromata 188.8.131.52 and elsewhere). This might have been a somewhat controversial statement in his own day, but the idea that divine images are at best symbolic, at worst pure invention, was already centuries old and would become perfectly mainstream not much later.
Antisthenes’ place firmly within polytheistic tradition becomes even clearer if we trace the pagan reception of the idea “that there are many gods according to law, but one according to nature”, which was used not to oppose, but to explain, to anchor divine plurality.
Thus, in explaining Iliad 2.400, where among the Greeks, “one sacrifices to one, another to another”, the ancient Scholia explain that Homer “is showing that they come from many places; for each sacrifices to their ancestral gods, because while the divine (tò theîon) is one by nature (phýsei), it is many by convention (thései).”
In Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound 209, the eponymous character mentions “my mother, Themis and Earth, one form of many names”, which the scholiast explains as follows: “The divine is one by nature, but manifold by names.”
More applications of the same conception, only less similar in wording, could be adduced, and they would show the same pattern: nature is called upon to validate the unity of the divine beneath superficial distinctions, not to contradict plurality with unity.
It is only in the hands of an Epicurean polemicist – who is attempting to discredit Antisthenes – that an opposition is construed: “Antisthenes, in the book which is entitled Physicus, overturns the power and nature of the gods by saying that the popular gods are many, the natural (god) one” (Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods 1.32, who is using an Epicurean source).
Closer to Antisthenes’ actual point seems the formulation in Lactantius, although he is also a (Christian) polemicist: “Antisthenes, in the Physicus, said that there is one natural god, albeit peoples and cities have their own popular gods” (Lactantius, On the Wrath of God 11.14). Similarly, Minucius Felix: “Antisthenes, that there are many popular gods, but preeminently one natural (god)” (Octavius 19). Lactantius also gives us a little more information about the attributes of the natural god: “Antisthenes says that there may be many popular gods, but nevertheless one natural (god), that is, the creator (artifex) of the entire whole”³ (Lactantius, Divine Institutes 1.5.18).
In sum, while Antisthenes had some definite beliefs about the natural god, including that he was one, he regarded the plurality of the gods as a matter of convention, not as an opposed natural theology. Nor did he set forth his own conventional theology wherewith to replace the established conventions, as Christianity may be said to have done.
If it nevertheless seems absurd to call someone who said there was one god anything but a monotheist, let me point out that mónos means not simply ‘one’ but ‘only one’, and it is simply not the thrust of Antisthenes’ claim that there is only one god, absolutely speaking.⁴ Convention is not nature, but it is real!
Nor does it naturally follow from his natural theology that conventional worship of the gods should be actively dismantled and replaced (with a different system of worship, as if this would not also be a convention?). To say that it does is to impose a monotheistic framework onto someone operating in a wholly different intellectual context; in other words, to ignore history for the sake of a tidy taxonomy.
One might wish to refrain from calling him a polytheist (although I would not), but Antisthenes is a definitely pagan thinker whose ideas are embedded in the mainstream of pagan Greek learning, and historically unconnected to the tradition of monotheistic thought, nor so similar that we must make that connection ahistorically. Except by the most superficial criteria, he is not a monotheist.
1: P. R. Bosman, “Traces of Cynic Monotheism in the Early Roman Empire”, in: Acta Classica 51 (2008), pp. 1–20, here p. 2.
2: Ibid. p. 6.
3: This quite plausible claim, that Antisthenes’ natural god is a demiurge, coheres well with Pseudo-Heraclitus, Letter 4, which is adduced by Bosman as an instance of “Cynic monotheism” (ibid. p. 9). But the connection to Antisthenes and the basis for a “monotheistic” interpretation are tenuous. Far more interesting is another “trace” identified by Bosman, a text describing the encounter of Alexander and the Indian gymnosophists (Pap. Geneva inv. 271, discussed ibid. pp. 11–12), but it deserves a more sustained treatment than I can give here.
4: Some conclude from this that philosophers like Antisthenes should be named henotheists rather than monotheists, from ancient Greek hén, ‘one’. But it is obvious that, conceptually, this category is an offshot from the concept from monotheism, whereas historically, the phenomenon we are trying to describe is part and parcel of pagan intellectual history, and in no way separated from it. Antisthenes may not neatly fit the literal meaning of ‘polytheism’ (although I think he fits well enough), but we should also keep in mind that ‘polytheism’ was not chosen as a self-descriptor, but rather coined as a counter-term to Christianity. To split up polytheism once again into polytheism and ‘henotheism’, ‘pagan monotheism’ or anything of the sort is to project the pagan/monotheist split into historical paganism, where it is just not salient.
(cf. The Stoics on the Gods)
It is probably not correct to call Antisthenes himself a monist. Nevertheless, he merits inclusion here because his view of the god(s) appears to have exerted a strong influence on the Stoics and their monist teaching about The God. At any rate, the Stoa’s founder Zeno studied with a Cynic teacher (Crates of Thebes), and the Stoics maintain the same basic distinction between conventional theology and natural theology – which latter holds that the divine is one – that we have seen in Antisthenes, except that they develop this principle into quite a complex system, which is not in evidence in the Cynics.
The Epicureans, once again, construe the Stoic position as being oppositional, as in Philodemus’ On Piety: “Now, all who have followed Zeno, even if they admit the divine (daimónion) – as some do not admit it, and others do not admit it in certain respects¹ – say there is one god. Indeed, let the universe be ensouled, and those who admit many (gods) would be misleading.”²
But this is only Philodemus’ own interpretation of what the Stoics mean by there being ‘one god’, which he uses to set up his polemic against them: “So, let them show to the multitude that they reject [gap in the text] when they say that there is one god, not many, nor all those whom common report (phḗmē) has handed down, whereas we (Epicureans) not only affirm that there are as many as the Panhellenes (‘all Greeks’) say, but even more. Further, they have not wanted³ to admit them to be such as all people honor them, and we agree they are like. For they believe that they are not anthropomorphic (anthrōpoeideîs), but rather that they are airs, breaths (pneúmata) and aethers!”
But it is simply a misrepresentation of the Stoic position to say that, because there “is one god”, therefore the gods handed down by tradition are “not admitted”. They are indeed not anthropomorphic, but they exist – only not as entirely separate individuals (which is the Epicurean understanding), but as parts of a single whole. In fact, this is how the Stoics see the entire world: as an integral organism, organized by a shared intelligence. Human beings have only a small portion of this all-pervading intelligent spirit (which is understood as a subtle fiery ‘breath’), but their souls are still characterized as divine, and as part of The God (see, e.g., Seneca, Letter 41, which I intend to translate in The Stoics on the Gods). So, while the Stoics reject bodily anthropomorphism, they do preserve the notion of a kind of analogy between humans and gods, and the gods are as real to them as individual people are.
What connects the Stoics to Antisthenes, however, is that they regard the exact distinctions drawn between different gods – and the names, myths and ceremonies assigned to them respectively – as being due to human convention. These conventions are not arbitrary fictions; they refer to the real nature of things, to real “airs, breaths and aethers” that pervade the cosmos as parts of The God. But one divine name does not necessarily refer to one thing only, nor does each divine power only have one name. They can be divided and subdivided in various ways, and some deities, like the three Graces, do not have reference to physical entities at all, but rather to moral concepts.⁴ The worship of such popular gods too constitutes nothing other than worship of the natural gods by means of popular convention – referring to them obliquely by their gifts, moral example, etc. –, but their number and names are symbolic, rather than (in the case of the Graces) picking out three definite divine beings in the world who answer to the names Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thalia.
Differently put, because of the rich symbolic potential of conventional theology, the Stoics were not motivated to ‘correct’ it on the basis of their natural theology (as one might expect them to do from a monotheistic perspective), but rather saw the two as mutually supportive. Symbolic interpretation of Homer and Hesiod, in particular, could lend Stoic doctrines the support of the most revered authorities. At the same time, it had the potential to solve exegetical problems for the poets’ admirers, who found it difficult to take the myths about the gods – with their internecine wars and endless immoralities and indignities – at face value. Thus, Stoic theology was incorporated into grammatical learning as a tool of interpretation, even if most grammarians can hardly be assumed to have cared about the subtleties of Stoic physics or ethics.
The most striking examples of how Stoic theology was put to use in poetic interpretation, to my mind, can be found in the tradition of Vergilian exegesis, and primarily in the commentaries of Servius. In the commentary on Vergil’s Aeneid 4.638, he writes concerning the expression ‘Stygian Jupiter’ (i.e., Zeus of the underworld = Pluton, since Styx is an underworld river):
“‘Stygian Jupiter’: that is, Pluton. And one should know that the Stoics say there is one god, whose names (nōmina) vary with respect to his activities (acta) and duties (officia).
“Hence, the divine powers (nūmina) are said to be of both genders, so that they are each masculine insofar as they are active (in actū), but feminine insofar as they have a passive nature (patiendī nātūra); hence the line, ‘descended into the embrace of his happy spouse’ [Vergil, Georgics 2.326, referring to the heavens raining onto the earth].
“And they are named after their activities, as ‘Jupiter’ is the ‘helping father’ (iuvāns pater); ‘Mercury’ is so named because he presides over merchandise (mercibus praeest), and ‘Liber’ after ‘liberty’.
“So, for this reason, (Dido) here calls Jupiter ‘Stygian’, because she is about to sacrifice to those below (īnferī), just as elsewhere, (Vergil writes) ‘it was said to be sacred to Juno Inferna’ [Vergil, Aeneid 6.138].
“Hence is also the address of Jupiter: ‘dwellers of heaven (caelicolae), my limbs, gods, whom my power (nostra potestās) has fashioned divided according to your offices (membra … officiīs dīvīsa)’ [from an unknown poet].”
We must be grateful to Servius here, who could have given a much simpler explanation of why Pluton might be called Jupiter, but instead has given a mini-disquisition on Stoic theology. All the gods are powers (nūmina) and names (nōmina) of one god, divided by their responsibilities and activity and passivity/receptivity, explaining both why they are distinct and why they are not entirely so, as well as their (symbolically) gendered interactions. Servius also refers to the idea that every god is both masculine and feminine, or ἀρσενόθηλυς, two more times in the Aeneid commentary (6.64; 10.89), explaining in the former instance that such things, “which we cannot say openly, are said subtextually” by the poet, when he uses a masculine pronoun to refer to Venus.
Another important instance is found in the Georgics commentary, where Vergil writes, “O you most resplendent luminaries of the cosmos, Liber and mother Ceres!” (Georgics 1.5–6). Servius refers this, correctly I think, to the Sun and Moon, and explains the strange choice of names for the two stars as follows:
“The Stoics say that there is only one god (or more freely, ‘that the gods are one’, non esse nisi ūnum deum), and that his power is one and the same, which is called by various names on account of his services (officia) to us. Therefore, they call the same (god) the Sun, the same Liber, and the same Apollo; and again they call the same Moon, Diana, the same Ceres, the same Juno, and the same Proserpine. Following them (the Stoics), he invoked Liber and Ceres in place of Sun and Moon.”
This is a little harder to follow than the previous scholium. The very basic idea is of course the same, that there is one god with many names, which allows the poet to sometimes use the names a little more freely. But in application, it reminds me of the way that the scholiasts on Homer and Aeschylus used the sentiment of Antisthenes, in that the ultimate unity of the gods practically does not matter. Rather, the salient point seems to be that “one god can have multiple divine powers (nūmina)” (Servius, On the Aeneid 1.666), as Servius elsewhere observes of Juno (ibid. 1.9). In this case, Liber and Apollo are said to be the same as the Sun, and Diana, Ceres, Juno and Proserpine the Moon – for all of which there are parallels in the Latin grammarians. Not that this contradicts the ultimate unity of the gods, of course; but it indicates a kind of layered oneness, even if it is not explicitly described as such, where some gods are one with the Moon, others with the Sun, but Sun and Moon are one with The God.
This, I should say, is exactly consonant with doctrinal Stoicism, even if some of the details in Servius derive more from the study of Latin poetry than from a reading of the Greek philosophers. The God is not an indistinct oneness, but structures itself and the cosmos according to a definite pattern, which is differentiated into all the variety of nature. So, albeit the divisions and names of the gods have their meaning in relation to us, they still refer to the real organization of the cosmos (as the Stoics understood it, at least). As such, I consider it inaccurate to call the gods “aspects” of The God, or anything along those lines. This would imply that the plurality of the gods exists purely in the eye of the beholder, while The God in itself is undifferentiated – a notion that is alien to the Stoic system.
1: If there were Stoics that did not admit the divine, they did not leave much of a legacy, and Philodemus does not name any. Those who “admit it in certain respects” are to vague to identify with anyone in particular.
2: I am working on a translation of Philodemus’ whole chapter against Stoic theology; see The Stoics on the Gods.
3: Reading με‹με›λλήκασιν rather than Gomperz’ μεμήκασιν, with Moser, Essler and Damiani (off-site link). I owe awareness of this reading to Mischa Hooker.
4: [Philodemus Cornutus Seneca Grace. (generosity and gratitude), virtues as living beings]
Euclid of Megara and the Eleatics
I hope that the connections I have drawn between the Stoics and Antisthenes are convincing, and explain the character of a certain strand of polytheistic theology more satisfactorily than appeals to “monotheism”. But the precedent of Antisthenes only accounts for the Stoic position that there is one god with many powers and conventional names; it does not explain how Zeno came to identify The God as the totality of things, in a monist sense. Now, to be entirely accurate, the Stoics often speak of two principles, The God and matter, the active and passive. Ultimately, however, they believe that both principles are corporeal, and that in the course of eternity, matter periodically dissolves into The God – all things becoming pure intellectual fire – and then reemerges from him. At root, then, all things are one, and all things are The God.
It is my contention that the precedent for calling a monist principle ‘The God’ was set by a group of philosophers who were given the designation of Eleatics, and by their later successors, the Megarics. Zeno is said to have studied under one of the most prominent of the latter, Stilpo, as well as under Crates the Cynic. The evidence that the Megarics could have constituted the link between the Stoics and the Eleatics is admittedly scant, consisting only of the following statement from Diogenes Laërtius, that Euclid of Megara “held that The Good is one, although called by many names; for sometimes, (he called it) Wisdom, sometimes God, and at other times Intellect, and so on. But he rejected what is contrary to The Good, saying that it does not exist” (Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers 2.106). I submit that this Megaric doctrine, while being essentially a reiteration of Eleatic ideas, was far more amenable to being combined with Antisthenes’ concept of the natural god, and that Zeno did exactly this.
But since we hear no more of Euclid’s own opinions about The God, at least not under that name, let us go back to the Eleatics, and see how they came to this concept, how they elucidated it, why it received its name, and from whom.
The first Eleatic – although we will complicate this in a moment – was the poet Xenophanes. His poetry is now lost, except for a not insignificant number of fragments, but a clear picture of his philosophy, as it was construed by later philosophers, emerges from the ancient reports. Whether this picture accurately represents what he wrote is another matter, which we will discuss only very briefly.
Cicero tells us that that, according to Xenophanes, “all things are one (ūnum esse omnia), and this is immutable, and it is The God (id esse deum), never originated but eternal, and spherical in shape” (Lucullus …).
-Cicero, Lucullus: Xenophanes paulo etiam anti- quior unum esse omnia, neque id esse mutabile, et id esse deum neque natum umquam et sempiternum, conglobata figura.
-Cicero, De Natura Deorum: Tum Xenophanes, qui mente adiuncta omne praeterea, quod esset infinitum, deum voluit esse, de ipsa mente item reprehendetur ut ceteri, de infinitate autem vehementius, in qua nihil neque sentiens neque coniunctum potest esse. Nam Parmenides quidem commenticium quiddam: co- ronae similem efficit (στεφάνην appellat) continentem 10 ardorum lucis orbem, qui cingit caelum, quem appel- lat deum; in quo neque figuram divinam neque sen- sum quisquam suspicari potest. multaque eiusdem monstra, quippe qui bellum qui discordiam qui cupidi- tatem ceteraque generis eiusdem ad deum revocet, quae 15 vel morbo vel somno vel oblivione vel vetustate de- lentur; eademque de sideribus, quae reprehensa in alio iam in hoc omittantur.
-Pseudo-Aristotle De Xenophane (i.e. the part about him?)
-Cicero, De divinatione: Phi- losophorum vero exquisita quaedam argumenta, cur esset vera divinatio, collecta sunt; e quibus, ut de antiquissumis loquar, Colophonius Xenophanes unus, 5 qui deos esse diceret, divinationem funditus sustulit; reliqui vero omnes praeter Epicurum balbutientem de natura deorum divinationem probaverunt, sed non uno modo.
-Cicero, Lucullus: Megaricorum fuit nobilis disciplina, cuius ut scriptum video princeps 10 Xenophanes quem modo nominavi, deinde eum secuti Parmenides et Zeno ( * * itaque ab is Eleatici philosophi nominabantur), post Euclides Socratis discipulus Me- gareus, a quo idem illi Megarici dicti, qui id bo- num solum esse dicebant quod esset unum et simile 15 et idem semper; hi quoque multa a Platone a Mene- demo autem, quod is Eretria fuit, Eretriaci appellati, quorum omne bonum in mente positum et mentis acie qua verum cerneretur, Erilli similia, sed opinor expli- cata uberius et ornatius.
Calcidius:  Sunt tamen qui immobilem fore defendant et eandem ex omnibus in unam molem redactam, unum omnia esse censentes immobile sine ortu et sine interitu, ut Xenophanes, Melissus, Parmenides; sed Parmenides quidem unum omne perfectum et definitum pronuntiat, Melissus infinitum et indeterminatum.
Philodemus about Xenophanes, Parmenides?
-Diogenes: ousian qeou sfairoeidh etc.
-definitely talks about gods in plural
-Simplicius, On Physics vol. 9, p. 22, l. 27
-Asclepius, On Metaphysics p. 41.27
-Alexander, On Metaphysics p. 44.6
-Rhetorica 1399b, 1400b
-Pseudo-Galenus, De historia philosophia 7.19
-Sextus Pyrrh. Hyp. 1.225; 3.218
-Clement, Stromata 184.108.40.206
-gods no names?
-Stobaeus <Παρμενίδης> τὸ ἀκίνητον καὶ πεπερασμένον σφαιροειδές.
Melissus (and Zeno)
-Parmenides 1.1.29b.35 <Μέλισσος> καὶ <Ζήνων> τὸ ἓν καὶ πᾶν καὶ μόνον ἀίδιον καὶ ἄπειρον.
Melissus, acc. DL, nothing to be said about the gods
-OLYMPIODOR. de arte sacra (Collection des Alchym. grecs Berthelot II) p. 81, 3 Ruelle μίαν τοίνυν ἀκίνητον <καὶ> 13.4 ἄπειρον ἀρχὴν πάντων τῶν ὄντων ἐδόξαζεν Μέλισσος τὸ θεῖον.
-When Crates asked him whether the gods take delight in prayers and adorations, he is said to have replied, „Don’t put such a question in the street, simpleton, but when we are alone!“
The history of philosophy cannot be mapped out like a family tree, because filiation occurs by rejection, syncretism and innovation as much as by carrying an inheritance forward. Stoic theology, therefore, cannot be reduced to a mechanical combination of Cynic and Eleatic–Megaric theology. So, if I have achieved any plausibility in the foregoing genealogy, I am obliged to point out that it is a simplistic representation of a much more complicated, fluid reality. Zeno studied under Academics (followers of Plato) as well as under Cynics and Megarics, and he read still more, including the works of Heraclitus.
[… Heraclitus, Plato/Platonists (Theophrastus), Anaxagoras? …]
5 Appendix: a timeline