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Conversion to Philosophy in Diogenes Laertius: Forms and Functions

I offer a typological classification of the various forms of conversion to philosophy as they appear in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives and tenets of eminent philosophers, with the purpose of making clear that it was a well-constituted biographical topic, which doesn’t differ very much from one school to another. Moreover, I review the functions of these conversions as different means to legitimate socially a philosopher. This analysis allows us to shed light to the image that ancient Greeks had about their own philosophers who differed from other “cultural agents”, like poets, and from other characters traditionally established in the collective imaginary, like heroes. In the same vein, the analysis also allows to illuminate the similarities and differences between the conversion of the ancient Greek philosophers and the Christian saints.

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