Although not a native of Miletus, but of Ephesus, Heraclitus, both by his
nationality as an Ionian and by his position in the development of
philosophic conceptions, falls naturally to be classed with the philosophers
of Miletus. His period may be given approximately as from about 560 to 500
B.C., though others place him a generation later. Few authentic particulars
have been preserved of him. We hear of extensive travels, of his return to
his native city only to refuse a share in its activities, of his retirement
to a hermit’s life.
He seems to have formed a contrast to the preceding philosophers in his
greater detachment from the ordinary interests of civic existence; and much
in his teaching suggests the ascetic if not the misanthrope. He received the
nickname of ‘The Obscure,’ from the studied mystery in which he was supposed
to involve his teaching. He wrote not for the vulgar, but for the gifted
few. ‘Much learning makes not wise’ was the motto of his work; the man of
gift, of insight, that man is better than ten thousand.