Zeno took part in a revolt against Nearchus, tyrant of Elea, but was detected and apprehended. Nearchus then ordered him to be pounded to death in a mortar, unless he would tell the names of the other conspirators. When the philosopher was nearly dead he called the tyrant to him, as if to make a confession. Nearchus bending down put his ear close to the mouth of the dying man, when Zeno bit it off. This account is given as the origin of the phrase, “A remark more biting than Zeno.”
Curious Questions by Sara H. Killikelly, 1889.