Diogenes and the Cynics

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Diogenes of Sinope

The Cynics were created after the death of Socrates in 339 B.C. They were like hippies. They dressed is shabby clothes, begged for spare change and taunted sports fans when they left the stadiums. They even went as far as urinating and shitting in public as a kind of performance art. They gave us the words cynical and cynics

The Cynics are said to have been founded by Antisthenes (445- 360 B.C.) a disciple of Socrates, but Diogenes of Sinope is regarded as the voice and embodiment of the movement’s viewpoint and ideas. They stressed the private individual's search for happiness, satisfaction of animal gratification and turned up their noses to social convention and material possessions.

Charilaos Platanakis wrote for Encyclopædia Britannica: “Membership in the Cynic fellowship entailed free access to, but not ownership of, material goods, as well as acceptance of stealing and begging. Crates of Thebes and some Cynics of the Roman era opted for milder ways of expressing their indifference to material goods—namely, by endorsing redistribution of wealth or generous donations of personal property to the needy. In the history of political thought, Cynics are often regarded as the first anarchists, because they regarded the destruction of the state—which, owing to its hierarchical nature, was the cause of a plethora of misfortunes—as the only salvation for the human species. However, Cynics were equally skeptical of democracy and freedom, which entail duties that compromise self-sufficiency and provide rights that are unnecessary.”

Websites on Ancient Greece and Rome: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia hsc.edu/drjclassics ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization pbs.org/empires/thegreeks ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Ancient-Greek.org ancientgreece.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Ancient City of Athens stoa.org/athens; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Forum Romanum forumromanum.org ; “Outlines of Roman History” forumromanum.org; “The Private Life of the Romans” forumromanum.org|; BBC Ancient Rome bbc.co.uk/history;
The Roman Empire in the 1st Century pbs.org/empires/romans; The Internet Classics Archive classics.mit.edu ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review bmcr.brynmawr.edu; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors roman-emperors.org; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library web.archive.org ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame /web.archive.org ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History unrv.com

Diogenes Laërtius on The Cynics

In his book “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers,” the biographer Diogenes Laërtius (A.D. 180-240) wrote: “They wished to abolish the whole system of logic and natural philosophy, like Aristo of Chios, and thought that men should study nothing but ethics; and what some people assert of Socrates was described by Diodes as a characteristic of Diogenes, for he said that his doctrine was, that a man ought to investigate: “Only the good and ill that taketh place/ Within our houses. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius:“The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell &Sons, 1895)]


“They also discard all liberal studies. Accordingly, Antisthenes said that wise men only applied themselves to literature and learning for the sake of perverting others ; they also wish to abolish geometry and music, and everything of that [258] kind. Accordingly, Diogenes said once to a person who was showing him a clock; "It is a very useful thing to save a man from being too late for supper." And once when a man made an exhibition. of musical skill before him, he said: "Cities are governed, so are houses too,/By wisdom, not by harp-playing and whistling."

“Their doctrine is, that the chief good of mankind is to live according to virtue, as Antisthenes says in his Hercules, in which they resemble the Stoics. For those two sects have a good deal in common with one another, on which account they themselves say that cynicism is a short road to virtue; and Zeno, the Cittiaean lived in the same manner. They also teach that men ought to live simply, using only plain food in moderate quantities, wearing nothing but a cloak and despising riches, and glory, and nobleness of birth; accordingly some of them feed upon nothing beyond herbs and cold water, living in any shelter that they can find, or in tubs as Diogenes did; for he used to say that it was the peculiar property of the Gods to want nothing, and that, therefore, when a man wished for nothing he was like the Gods.

“Another of their doctrines is, that virtue is a thing which. may be taught, as Antisthenes affirms in his Heraclides; and that when it has once been attained it can never be lost. They also say that the wise man deserves to be loved, and cannot commit error, and is a friend to every one who resembles him, and that he leaves nothing to fortune. And everything which is unconnected with either virtue or vice they call indifferent, agreeing in this with Aristo, the Chian.”

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes (c. 404—323 B.C.) is the philosopher most associated with the Cynics. The son of a Crimean banker who was exiled to Greece for his involvement a counterfeiting scandal, he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Before he was sold he said his only skill was governing men and that he should sold to someone who wanted to learn such a skill. Diogenes ended up teaching children in Corinth, where he became so famous that Alexander the Great once came to visit. When Alexander asked if he could do anything for Diogenes, the philosophers said, yeah, Alexander could stop standing between him and the sun.


Diogenes was a great admirer of Socrates and was known as an eccentric. He believed that wisdom could be obtained by giving up material possession expect a cloak and a wooden bowl. He used to sleep in a cask and a tub. Once he was spotted walking through the streets in the daytime holding a lantern. When he was asked why, he said, “I am seeking an honest man."

Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The most illustrious of the Cynic philosophers, Diogenes of Sinope serves as the template for the Cynic sage in antiquity. An alleged student of Antisthenes, Diogenes maintains his teacher’s asceticism and emphasis on ethics, but brings to these philosophical positions a dynamism and sense of humor unrivaled in the history of philosophy. Though originally from Sinope, the majority of the stories comprising his philosophical biography occur in Athens, and some of the most celebrated of these place Alexander the Great or Plato as his foil.

“It is disputed whether Diogenes left anything in writing. If he did, the texts he composed have since been lost. In Cynicism, living and writing are two components of ethical practice, but Diogenes is much like Socrates and even Plato in his sentiments regarding the superiority of direct verbal interaction over the written account. Diogenes scolds Hegesias after he asks to be lent one of Diogenes’ writing tablets: “You are a simpleton, Hegesias; you do not choose painted figs, but real ones; and yet you pass over the true training and would apply yourself to written rules”. In reconstructing Diogenes’ ethical model, then, the life he lived is as much his philosophical work as any texts he may have composed. [Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

Life of Diogenes of Sinope

Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The exceptional nature of Diogenes’ life generates some difficulty for determining the exact events that comprise it. He was a citizen of Sinope who either fled or was exiled because of a problem involving the defacing of currency. Thanks to numismatic evidence, the adulteration of Sinopean coinage is one event about which there is certainty. The details of the defacing, though, are murkier: “Diocles relates that [Diogenes] went into exile because his father was entrusted with the money of the state and adulterated the coinage. But Eubulides in his book on Diogenes says that Diogenes himself did this and was forced to leave home along with his father”. Whether it was Diogenes or his father who defaced the currency, and for whatever reasons they may have done so, the act led to Diogenes’ relocation to Athens. [Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Diogenes’ biography becomes, historically, only sketchier. For example, one story claims that Diogenes was urged by the oracle at Delphi to adulterate the political currency, but misunderstood and defaced the state currency. A second version tells of Diogenes traveling to Delphi and receiving this same oracle after he had already altered the currency, turning his crime into a calling. It is, finally, questionable whether Diogenes ever consulted the oracle at all; the Delphic advice is curiously close to Socrates’ own injunction, and the interweaving of life and legend in Diogenes’ case is just as substantial.

“Once in Athens, Diogenes famously took a tub, or a pithos, for an abode. In Lives of Eminent Philosophers, it is reported that Diogenes “had written to some one to try and procure a cottage for him. When this man was a long time about it, he took for his abode the tub in the Metroön, as he himself explains in his letters”. Apparently Diogenes discovered that he had no need for conventional shelter or any other “dainties” from having watched a mouse. The lesson the mouse teaches is that he is capable of adapting himself to any circumstance. This adaptability is the origin of Diogenes’ legendary askēsis, or training. Diogenes Laertius reports that Diogenes of Sinope “fell in” with Antisthenes who, though not in the habit of taking students, was worn out by Diogenes’ persistence Although this account has been met with suspicion, especially given the likely dates of Diogenes’ arrival in Athens and Antisthenes’ death, it supports the perception that the foundation of Diogenes’ philosophical practice rests with Antisthenes.

“Another important, though possibly invented, episode in Diogenes’ life centers around his enslavement in Corinth after having been captured by pirates. When asked what he could do, he replied “Govern men,” which is precisely what he did once bought by Xeniades. He was placed in charge of Xeniades’ sons, who learned to follow his ascetic example. One story tells of Diogenes’ release after having become a cherished member of the household, another claims Xeniades freed him immediately, and yet another maintains that he grew old and died at Xeniades’ house in Corinth. Whichever version may be true (and, of course, they all could be false), the purpose is the same: Diogenes the slave is freer than his master, who he rightly convinces to submit to his obedience.

“Though most accounts agree that he lived to be quite old— some suggesting he lived until ninety— the tales of Diogenes’ death are no less multiple than those of his life. The possible cause of death includes a voluntary demise by holding his breath, an illness brought on by eating raw octopus, or death by dog bite. Given the embellished feel of each of these reports, it is more likely that he died of old age.

Philosophical Practice of Diogenes: A Socrates Gone Mad

Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote: “When Plato is asked what sort of man Diogenes is, he responds, “A Socrates gone mad” Plato’s label is representative, for Diogenes’ adaptation of Socratic philosophy has frequently been regarded as one of degradation. Certain scholars have understood Diogenes as an extreme version of Socratic wisdom, offering a fascinating, if crude, moment in the history of ancient thought, but which ought not to be confused with the serious business of philosophy. This reading is influenced by the mixture of shamelessness and askēsis which riddle Diogenes’ biography. This understanding, though, overlooks the centrality of reason in Diogenes’ practice. [Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Diogenes’ sense of shamelessness is best seen in the context of Cynicism in general. Specifically, though, it stems from a repositioning of convention below nature and reason. One guiding principle is that if an act is not shameful in private, that same act is not made shameful by being performed in public. For example, it was contrary to Athenian convention to eat in the marketplace, and yet there he would eat for, as he explained when reproached, it was in the marketplace that he felt hungry. The most scandalous of these sorts of activities involves his indecent behavior in the marketplace, to which he responded “he wished it were as easy to relieve hunger by rubbing an empty stomach”.

Diogenes looking for an honest man

“He is labeled mad for acting against convention, but Diogenes points out that it is the conventions which lack reason: “Most people, he would say, are so nearly mad that a finger makes all the difference. For if you go along with your middle finger stretched out, some one will think you mad, but, if it’s the little finger, he will not think so”). In these philosophical fragments, reason clearly has a role to play. There is a report that Diogenes “would continually say that for the conduct of life we need right reason or a halter”. For Diogenes, each individual should either allow reason to guide her conduct, or, like an animal, she will need to be lead by a leash; reason guides one away from mistakes and toward the best way in which to live life. Diogenes, then, does not despise knowledge as such, but despises pretensions to knowledge that serve no purpose.

“He is especially scornful of sophisms. He disproves an argument that a person has horns by touching his forehead, and in a similar manner, counters the claim that there is no such thing as motion by walking around. He elsewhere disputes Platonic definitions and from this comes one of his more memorable actions: “Plato had defined the human being as an animal, biped and featherless, and was applauded. Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words, ‘Here is Plato’s human being.’ In consequence of which there was added to the definition, ‘having broad nails’”. Diogenes is a harsh critic of Plato, regularly disparaging Plato’s metaphysical pursuits and thereby signaling a clear break from primarily theoretical ethics.

“Diogenes’ talent for undercutting social and religious conventions and subverting political power can tempt readers into viewing his position as merely negative. This would, however, be a mistake. Diogenes is clearly contentious, but he is so for the sake of promoting reason and virtue. In the end, for a human to be in accord with nature is to be rational, for it is in the nature of a human being to act in accord with reason. Diogenes has trouble finding such humans, and expresses his sentiments regarding his difficulty theatrically. Diogenes is reported to have “lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about, ‘I am searching for a human being’” .

“For the Cynics, life in accord with reason is lived in accord with nature, and therefore life in accord with reason is greater than the bounds of convention and the polis. Furthermore, the Cynics claim that such a life is the life worth living. As a homeless and penniless exile, Diogenes experienced the greatest misfortunes of which the tragedians write, and yet he insisted that he lived the good life: “He claimed that to fortune he could oppose courage, to convention nature, to passion reason”.

Diogenes Laërtius on Diogenes of Sinope’s Crazy Early Life

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Diogenes was a native of Sinope, the son of Tresius, a money-changer. And Diocles says that he was forced to flee from his native city, as his father kept the public bank there, and had adulterated the coinage. But Eubulides, in his essay on Diogenes, says, that it was Diogenes himself who did this, and that he was banished with his father. And, indeed, he himself, in his Perdalus, says of himself that he had adulterated the public money. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“Others say that he was one of the curators, and was persuaded by the artisans employed, and that he went to Delphi, or else to the oracle at Delos, and there consulted Apollo as to whether he should do what people were trying to persuade him to do; and that, as the God gave him permission to do so, Diogenes, not comprehending that the God meant that he might change the political customs of his country if he could, adulterated the coinage; and being detected, was banished. as some people say, but as other accounts have it, took the alarm and fled away of his own accord. Some again, say that he adulterated the money which he had received from his father; and that his father was thrown into prison and died there; but that Diogenes escaped and went to Delphi, and asked, not whether he might tamper with the coinage, but what he could do to become very celebrated, and that in consequence he received the oracular answer which I have mentioned.

“And when he came to Athens he attached himself to Antisthenes; but as he repelled him, because he admitted no one; he at last forced his way to him by his pertinacity. And once, when he raised his stick at him, he put his head under it, and said, "Strike, for you will not find any stick hard enough to drive me away as long as you continue to speak." And from this time forth he was one of his pupils; and being an exile, he naturally betook himself to a simple mode of life.

“And when, as Theophrastus tells us, in his Megaric Philosopher, he saw a mouse running about and not seeking for a bed, nor taking care to keep in the dark, nor.looking for any of those things which appear enjoyable to such an animal, he found a remedy for his own poverty. He was, according to the account of some people, the first person who doubled up his cloak out of necessity, and who slept in it; and who carried a wallet, in which he kept his food; and who used whatever place was near for all sorts of purposes, eating, and sleeping, and conversing in it. In reference to which habit he used to say, pointing to the Colonnade of Jupiter. and to the Public Magazine, "that the Athenians had built him places to live in." Being attacked with illness, he supported himself with a staff; and after that he carried it continually, not indeed in the city, but whenever he was walking in the roads, together with his wallet, as Olympiodorus, the chief man of the Athenians tells us; and Polymeter, the orator, and Lysanias, the son of Aeschorion, tell the same story.

“When he had written to some one to look out and get ready a small house for him, as he delayed to do it, he took a cask which he found in the Temple of Cybele, for his house, as he himself tells us in his letters. And during the summer he used to roll himself in the warm sand, but in winter he would embrace statues all covered with snow, practising himself, on every occasion, to endure anything. He would frequently praise those who were about to marry, and yet did not marry; or who were about to take a voyage, and yet did not take a voyage; or who were about to engage in affairs of state, and did not do so; and those who were about to rear children, yet did not rear any; and those who were preparing to take up their abode with princes, and yet did not take it up. One of his sayings was, "That one ought to hold out one’s hand to a friend without closing the fingers."

“He was greatly beloved by the Athenians; accordingly, when a youth had broken his cask they beat him, and gave Diogenes another. And Dionysius, the Stoic, says that after the battle of Chnronea he was taken prisoner and brought to Philip; and being asked who he was, replied, "A spy, to spy upon your insatiability." And Philip marvelled at him and let him go. Once, when Alexander had sent a letter to Athens to Antipater, by the hands of a man named Athlias, he, being present, said, "Athlias from Athlius, by means of Athlias to Athlius. When Perdiccas threatened that he would put him to death if he did not come to him, he replied, "That is nothing strange, for a scorpion or a tarantula could do as much: you had better threaten me that, if I kept away, you should be very happy." He used constantly to repeat with emphasis that an easy life had been given to man by the Gods, but that it had been overlaid by their seeking for honey, cheese-cakes, and unguents, and things of that sort. On which account he said to a man, who had his shoes put on by his servant, "You are not thoroughly happy, unless he also wipes your nose for you; and he will do this, if you are crippled in your hands."

Diogenes Takes Up Teaching After Being Sold By Pirates

Fable of Diogenes

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: He bore being sold with a most magnanimous spirit. For as he was sailing to Aegina, and was taken prisoner by some pirates, under the command of Scirpalus, he was carried off to Crete and sold; and when the Circe asked him what art he understood, he said, "That of governing men." And presently pointing out a Corinthian, very carefully dressed, he said, "Sell me to that man; for he wants a master." Accordingly Xeniades bought him and carried him away to Corinth; and then he made him tutor of his sons, and committed to him the entire management of his house. And he behaved himself in every affair in such a manner, that Xeniades, when looking over his property, said, "A good genius has come into my house." And Cleomenes, in his book which is called the Schoolmaster, says, that he wished to ransom all his relations, but that Diogenes told him that they were all fools; for that lions did not become the slaves of those who kept them, but, of the contrary, those who maintained lions were their slaves. For that it was the part of a slave to fear, but that wild beasts were formidable to men. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“Hermippus, in his Sale of Diogenes, says that he was taken prisoner and put up to be sold, and asked what he could do; and be answered, "Govern men." And so he bade the crier "give notice that if any one wants to purchase a master, there is one here for him." When he was ordered not to sit down; "It makes no difference," said he, "for fish are sold, be where they may." He used to say, that he wondered at men always ringing a dish or jar before buying it, but being content to judge of a man by his look alone. When Xeniades bought him, he said to him that he ought to obey him even though he was his slave; for that a physician or a pilot would find men to obey them even though they might be slaves.

“And Eubulus says, in his essay entitled, The Sale of Diogenes, that he taught the children of Xeniades, after their other lessons, to ride, and shoot, and sling, and dart. And then in the Gymnasium he did not permit the trainer to exercise them after the fashion of athletes, but exercised them himself to just the degree sufficient to give them a good colour and good health. And the boys retained in their memory many sentences of poets and prose writers, and of Diogenes himself; and he used to give them a concise statement of everything in order to strengthen their memory; and at home he used to~ teach them to wait upon themselves, contenting themselves with plain food, and drinking water. And he accustomed them to cut their hair close, and to eschew ornament, and to go without tunics or shoes, and to keep silent, looking at nothing except themselves as they walked along. He used, also to take them out hunting; and they paid the greatest attention and respect to Diogenes himself, and spoke well of him to their parents.

And the same author affirms, that he grew old in the household of Xeniades, and that when he died he was buried by his sons. And that while he was living with him, Xeniades once asked him how he should bury him; and he said, "On my face ;" and when he was asked why, he said, "Because, in a little while, everything will be turned upside down." And he said this because the Macedonians were already attaining power, and becoming a mighty people from having been very inconsiderable. Once, when a man had conducted him into a magnificent house, and had told him that he must not spit, after hawking a little, he spit in his face, saying that he could not find a worse place. But some tell this story of Aristippus. Once, he called out, "Holloa, men." And when some people gathered round him in conesequence, he drove them away with his stick, saying, "I called men, and not dregs." This anecdote I have derived from Hecaton, in the first book of his Apophthegms. They also relate that Alexander said that if he had not been Alexander, he should have liked to be Diogenes. He used to call annátêriu (cripples), not those who were dumb and blind, but those who had no wallet (pêra). On one occasion he went half shaved into an entertainment of young men, as Metrocles tells us in his Apophthegms, and so was beaten by them. And afterwards he wrote the names of all those who had beaten him, on a white tablet, and went about with the tablet round his neck, so as to expose them to insult, as they were generally condemned and reproached for their conduct.

“And the man had the gift of persuasion in a wonderful degree; so that he could easily overcome any one by his arguments. Accordingly, it is said that an Aeginetan of the name of Onesicritus, having two Sons, sent to Athens one of them, whose name was Androsthenes, and that he, after having heard Diogenes lecture, remained there; and that after that, he sent the elder, Philiscus, who has been already mentioned, and that Philiscus was charmed in the same manner. And last of all, he came himself, and then he too remained, no less than his son, studying philosophy at the feet of Diogenes. So great a charm was there in the discourses of Diogenes. Another pupil of his was Phocion, who was surnamed the Good; and Stilpon, the Megarian, and a great many other men of eminence as statesmen.

Diogenes of the Merits of Poverty

Diogenes asking for alms

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Once, when he was invited to a banquet, he said that he would not come: for that the day before no one had thanked him for coming. He used to go bare foot through the snow, and to do a number of other things which have been already mentioned. Once he attempted to eat raw meat, but he could not digest it. On one occasion he found Demosthenes, the orator, dining in an inn; and as he was slipping away, he said to him, "You will now be ever so much more in an inn." [This line is from Euripedes, Medea, 411.] Once, when some strangers wished to see Demosthenes, he stretched out his, middle finger and said, "This is the great demagogue of the Athenian people." When some one had dropped a loaf, and was ashamed to pick it up again, he, wishing to give him a lesson, tied a cord round the neck of a bottle and dragged it all through the Ceramicus. He used to say, that he imitated the teachers of choruses, for that they spoke too loud, in order that the rest might catch the proper tone. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

Another of his sayings, was that most men were within a finger’s breadth of being mad. If, then, any one were to walk along, stretching out his middle finger, he will seem to be mad; but if he puts out his forefinger, he will not be thought so. Another of his sayings was, that things of great value were often sold for nothing, and vice versâ. Accordingly, that a statue would fetch three thousand drachmas, and a bushel of meal only two obols; and when Xeniades had bought him, he said to him, "Come, do what you are ordered to." And when he said —"The streams of sacred rivers now, Run backwards to their source!" “Suppose," rejoined Diogenes, "you had been’ sick, and had bought a. physician, could you refuse to be guided by him, and tell him—"The streams of sacred rivers now, Run backwards to their source"

“Once a man came to him, and wished to study philosophy as his pupil; and he gave him a saperda [The saperda was the corancinus (a kind of fish) when salted.] and made him follow him. And as he from shame threw it away and departed, he soon afterwards met him and, laughing, said to him, "A saperda has dissolved your friendship for me." But Diodes tells this story in the following manner; that when some one said to him, "Give me a commission, Diogenes," he carried him off, and gave him a halfpenny worth of cheese to carry. And as he refused to carry it, " See," said Diogenes, "a halfpenny worth of cheese has broken off our friendship."

“On one occasion he saw a child drinking out of its hands, and so he threw away the cup which belonged to his wallet, saying, "That child has beaten me in simplicity." He also threw away his spoon, after seeing a boy, when he had broken his vessel, take up his lentils with a crust of bread. And he used to argue thus, — "Everything belongs to the gods; and wise men are the friends of the gods. All things are in common among friends; therefore everything belongs to wise men." Once he saw a woman falling down before the Gods in an unbecoming attitude; he, wishing to cure her of her superstition, as Zoilus of Perga tells us, came up to her, and said, "Are you not afraid, O woman, to be in such an indecent attitude, when some God may be behind you, for every place is full of him?" He consecrated a man to Aesculapius, who was to run up and beat all these who prostrated themselves with their faces to the ground; and he was in the habit of saying that the tragic curse had come upon him, for that he was—“Houseless and citiless, a piteous exile, From his dear native land; a wandering beggar, Scraping a pittance poor from day to day.”

Diogenes on Plato, Socrates and Philosophy In General

Diogenes Laërtius (A.D. 180-240) wrote: “He was very violent in expressing his haughty disdain of others. He said that the scholê (school) of Eueides was cholê (gall). And he used to call Plato’s discussions disguise. It was also a saying of his that the Dionysian games were a great marvel to fools; and that the demagogues were the ministers of the multitude. He used likewise to say, "that when in the course of his life he beheld pilots, and physicians, and philosophers, he thought man the wisest of all animals; but when again he beheld interpreters of dreams, and soothsayers. and those who listened to them, and men puffed up with glory or riches, then he thought that there was not a more foolish animal than man," Another of his sayings was, "that he thought a man ought oftener to provide himself with a reason than with a halter." [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“On one occasion, when no one came to listen to him while he was discoursing seriously, he began to whistle. And then when people flocked round him, he reproached them for coming with eagerness to folly, but being lazy and indifferent about good things. One of his frequent sayings was, "That men contended with one another in punching and kicking, but that no one showed any emulation in the pursuit of virtue." He used to express his astonishment at the grammarians for being desirous to learn everything about the misfortunes of Ulysses, and being ignorant of their own. He used also to say, "That the musicians fitted the strings to the lyre properly, but left all the habits of their soul ill-arranged." And, "That mathematicians kept their eyes fixed on the sun and moon, and overlooked what was under their feet." "

“On one occasion, when he noticed Plato at a very costly entertainment tasting some olives, he said, "O you wise man! why, after having sailed to Sicily for the sake of such a feast, do you not now enjoy what you have before you ?" And Plato replied, "By the Gods, Diogenes, while I was there I ate olives and all such things a great deal." Diogenes rejoined, "What then did you want to sail to Syracuse for? Did not Attica at that time produce any olives?"

“But Phavorinus, in his Universal History, tells this story of Aristippus. At another time he was eating dried figs, when Plato met him, and he said to him, "You may have a share of these;" and as he took some and ate them, he said, "I said that you might have a share of them, not that you might eat them all." On one occasion Plato had invited some friends who had come to him from Dionysius to a banquet, and Diogenes trampled on his carpets, and said, "Thus I trample on the empty pride of Plato;" and Plato made him answer, "How much arrogance are you displaying, O Diogenes when you think that you are not arrogant at all." But, as others tell the story, Diogenes said, "Thus I trample on the pride of Plato ;" and that Plato rejoined, "With quite as much pride yourself, O Diogenes." ....When Plato was discoursing about his "ideas," and using the nouns "tableness " and "cupness ;" "I, O Plato!" interrupted Diogenes, "see a table and a cup, but I see no tableness or cupness." Plato made answer, "That is natural enough, for you have eyes, by which a cup and a table are contemplated; but you have not intellect, by which tableness and cupness are seen."

Diogenes gives Plato a plucked chicken

“On one occasion, he was asked by a certain person, "‘What sort of a man, O Diogenes, do you think Socrates?" and he said, "A madman." Another time, the question was put to him, when a man ought to marry? and his reply was, "Young men ought not to marry yet, and old men never ought to marry at all." When asked what he would take to let a man give him a blow on the head ?" he replied, "A helmet." Seeing a youth smartening himself up very carefully, he said to him, "If you are doing that for men, you are miserable [a fool]; and if for women, you are profligate [a knave]." Once he saw a youth blushing, and addressed him, "Courage, my boy, that is the complexion of virtue." Having once listened to two lawyers, he condemned them both; saying, "That the one had stolen the thing in question, and that the other had not lost it." When asked what wine he liked to drink, he said, "That which belongs to another," A man said to him one day, "Many people laugh at you." "But I," he replied, am not laughed down." When a man said to him, that it was a bad thing to live; "Not to live," said he, "but to live badly." When some people were advising him to make search for a slave who had run away," he said, "It would be a very absurd thing for Manes to be able to live without Diogenes, but for Diogenes not to be able to live without Manes." When he was dining on olives, a cheese-cake was brought in, on which he threw the olive away [mistranslation: rather he threw away the cake], saying: “Keep well aloof, O stranger, from all tyrants. [This is a line of the Phcenissn of Euripides, v. 40] And presently he added: “He drove the olive off (mastixen d' elaan) [The pun here is on the similarity of the noun elaan, an olive, to the verb elaan, to drive; the words mastixen d' elaan are of frequent occurrence in Homer.]

“When he was asked what sort of a dog he was, he replied, "When hungry, I am a dog of Melita; when satisfied, a Molossian; a sort ‘which most of those who praise, do not like to take out hunting with them, because of the labour of keeping up with them; and in like manner, you cannot associate with me, from fear of the pain I give you." The question was put to him, whether wise men ate cheese-cakes, and he replied, "They eat everything, just as the rest of mankind." When asked why people give to beggars and not to philosophers, he said, "Because they think it possible that they themselves may become lame and blind, but they do not expect ever to turn out philosophers." He once begged of a covetous man, and as he was slow to give, he said, "Man, I am asking you for something to maintain me (eis trophên) and not to bury me (eis taphên)." When some one reproached him for having tampered with the coinage, he said, "There was a time when I was such a person as you are now; but there never was when you were such as I am now, and never will be." And to another person who reproached him on the same grounds, he said, "There were times when I did what I did not wish to, but that is not the case now." When he went to Myndus, he saw some very large gates, but the city was a small one, and so he said, "Oh men of Myndus, shut your gates, lest your city should steal out." On one occasion, he saw a man who had been detected stealing purple, and so he said: “A purple death, and mighty fate o’ertook him. [Homer. Il. v. 83]

“When Craterus entreated him to come and visit him, he said, "I would rather lick up salt at Athens, than enjoy a luxurious table with Craterus." On one occasion, he met Anaximenes, the orator, who was a fat man, and thus accosted him; "Pray give us, who are poor, some of our belly; for by so doing you will be relieved yourself, and you will assist us " And once, when he was discussing some point, Diogenes held up a piece of salt fish, and drew off the attention of his hearers; and as Anaximenes was indignant at this, he said, "See, one pennyworth of salt fish has put an end to the lecture of Anaximenes." Being once reproached for eating in the market-place, he made answer, "I did, for it was in the market-place that I was hungry." Some authors also attribute the following repartee to him.. Plato saw him washing vegetables, and so, coming up to him, he quietly accosted him thus, "If you had paid court to Dionysius, you would not have been washing vegetables." "And," he replied, with equal quietness, "if you had washed vegetables, you would never have paid court to Dionysius." When a man said. to him once, "Most people laugh at you;" "And very likely," he replied, "the asses laugh at them; but they do not regard the asses, neither do I regard them." Once he saw a youth studying philosophy, and said to him, "Well done; inasmuch as you are leading those who admire your person to contemplate the beauty of your mind."

Diogenes on the Pretentiousness of Learnedness, Wealth and Status

Raphael's Diogenes

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “On one occasion a man was reading some long passages, and when he came to the end of the book and showed that there was nothing more written, "Be of good cheer, my friends," exclaimed Diogenes, "I see land." A man once proved to him syllogistically that he had horns, so he put his hand to his forehead and said, "I do not see them." And in a simi1ar manner he replied to one who had been asserting that there was no such thing as motion, by getting up and walking away. When a man was talking about the heavenly bodies and meteors, "Pray how many days," said he to him, "is it since you came down from heaven ?" [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“A profligate eunuch had written on his house, "Let no evil thing enter in." "Where," said Diogenes, "is the master of the house going [to go to get in]?" After having anointed his feet with perfume, he said that the ointment from his head mounted up to heaven, [but] that from his feet up to his nose. When the Athenians entreated him to be initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, and said that in the shades below the initiated had the best seats; ."It will," he replied, "be an absurd thing if .Aegesilaus and Epaminondas are to live in the mud, and some miserable wretches, who have been initiated, are to be in the islands of the blest." Some mice crept up to his table, and he said, "See, even Diogenes maintains his favourites [parasutes]." Once, when he was leaving the bath, and a man asked him whether many men were bathing, he said, "No ;" but when a number of people came out, he confessed that there were a great many [bathers]. When Plato called him a dog, he said, "Undoubtedly, for I have come back to those who sold me."

“Plato defined man thus: "Man is a two-footed, featherless animal," and was much praised for the definition; so Diogenes plucked a cock and brought it into his school, and said, "This is Plato’s man." On which account this addition, was made to the definition, "With broad flat nails." A man once asked him what was the proper time for supper, and he made answer, "If you are a rich man, whenever you please; and if you are a poor man, whenever you can." When he was at Megara he saw some sheep carefully covered over with skins, and the children running about naked; and so he said, "It is better at Megara to be a man’s ram, than his son." A man once struck him with a beam, and then said, "Take care." "What," said he, "are you going to strike me again?" He used to say that the demagogues were the servants [lackeys] of the people; and garlands the blossoms of glory. Having lighted a candle in the day time, he said, "I am looking for a man." On one occasion he stood under a fountain, and as the bystanders were pitying him, Plato, who was present, said to them, "If you wish really to show your pity for him, come away;" intimating that he was only acting thus out of a desire for notoriety [out of vanity]. Once, when a man had struck him with his fist, he said, "O Hercules, what a strange thing that I should be walking about with a helmet on without knowing it!".

“When Midias struck him with his fist and said, "There are three thousand drachmas for you ;" the next day Diogenes took the cestus of a boxer and beat him soundly, and said, "There are three thousand drachmas for you." When Lysias, the drug-seller, asked him whether he thought that there were any Gods: "How," said he, "can I help [but] thinking so, when I consider you to be hated by them?" but some attribute this reply to Theodorus. Once he saw a man purifying himself by washing, and said to him, "Oh, wretched man, do not you know that as you cannot wash away blunders in grammar by purification, so, too, you can no more efface the errors of a life in that same manner?"

“He used to say that men were wrong for complaining of fortune; for that they ask of the Gods what appear to be good things, not what are really so. And to those who were alarmed at dreams he said, that they did not regard what they do while they are awake, but make a great fuss about what they fancy they see while they are asleep. Once, at the Olympic games, when the herald proclaimed, "Dioxippus is the conqueror of men ;" he said, "He is the conqueror of slaves, I am the conqueror of men."

Diogenes Defends Stealing and Masturbating in the Market

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “On one occasion, when he had seen the hieromnemones [The heironmêmones were the sacred secretaries of a deputy or minister] leading off one of the stewards who had. stolen a goblet, he said, "The great thieves are carrying off the little thief." At another time, seeing a young man throwing stones at a cross, he said, "Well done, you will be sure to reach the mark [viz., end up at the gallows]." Once, too, some boys got round him and said, "We are taking care that you do not bite us;" but he said, "Be of good cheer, my boys, a dog does not eat beef." He saw a man giving himself airs because he was clad in a lion’s skin, and said to him, "Do not go on disgracing the garb of nature." When people were speaking of the happiness of. Calisthenes, and saying what splendid treatment he received from Alexander, he replied, "The man then is wretched, for he is forced to breakfast and dine whenever Alexander chooses." When he was in want of money, he said that he reclaimed it from his friends and did not beg for it. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“On one occasion he was working with his hands [viz., masturbating] in the market-place, and said, "I wish I could rub my stomach in the same way, and so avoid hunger." When he saw a young man going with some satraps to supper, he dragged him away and led him off to his relations, and bade them take care of him. He was once addressed by a youth beautifully adorned, who asked him some question; and he refused to give him any answer, till he satisfied him whether he was a man or a woman. And on one occasion, when a youth was playing the cottabus in the bath, he sad to him, "The better you do it, the worse you do it [to yourself]." Once at a banquet, some of the guests threw him bones, as if he had been a dog; so he, as he went away, put up his leg against them as if he had been a dog in reality. He used to call the orators, and all those who speak for fame trisanthropoi (thrice men), instead trisathlioi (thrice miserable). He said that a rich but ignorant man, was like a sheep with a golden fleece. When he saw a notice on the house of a profligate man, "To be sold." "I knew," said he, "that you who are so incessantly drunk, would soon vomit up your owner." To a young man, who was complaining of the number of people who sought his acquaintance, he said, "Do not make such a parade of your vanity."

“Having been in a very dirty bath, he said, "I wonder where the people, who bathe here, clean themselves." When all the company was blaming an indifferent [stout] harp-player, he alone praised him, and being asked why he did so, he said, "Because, though he is such as he is, he plays the harp and does not steal." He saluted a harp player who was always being left alone by his hearers, with, "Good morning, cock;" and when the man asked him, "Why so ?" he said, "Because you, when you sing, make every one get up." When a young man was one day making a display of himself [in giving speeches], he having filled the bosom of his robe with lupins, began to eat them; and when the multitude looked at him, he said, "that he marvelled at their leaving the young man to look at him." And when a man who was very superstitious said to him "With one blow I will break your head;" "And I," he replied, "with one sneeze [from the left] will make you tremble." When Hegesias entreated him to lend him one of his books, he said, "You are a silly fellow, Hegesias. for you will not take painted figs, but real ones; and yet you overlook the genuine practice of virtue, and seek for what is merely written." A man once reproached him with his banishment, and his answer was, "You wretched man, that is what made me a philosopher." And when, on another occasion, some one said to him, "The people of Sinope condemned you to banishment," he replied, "And I condemned them to remain where they were." Once he saw a man who had been victor at the Olympic games, feeding (nemonta) sheep, and he said to him, " You have soon come across my friend from the Olympic games, to the Nemean [lit.: Shepherd's Bush]." When he was asked by athletes are insensible to pain, he said, "Because they are built up of pork and beef."

Diogenes on Dogs, Courtesans and Alexander the Great

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Once Alexander the Great came and stood by him, and said, "I am Alexander, the great king." "And I," said he, "am Diogenes the dog [cuôn, also, Cynic]." And when he was asked to what actions of his it was owing that he was called a dog, he said, "Because I fawn upon those who give me anything, and bark at those who give me nothing, and bite the rogues."...And another of his sayings was that he opposed confidence to fortune, nature to law, and reason to suffering. Once, while he was sitting in the sun in the Craneum, Alexander was standing by, and said to him, "Ask any favour you choose of me." And he replied, " Cease to shade me from the sun." [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“On one occasion he was gathering some of the fruit of a fig-tree, and when the man who was guarding it told him a man hung himself on this tree the other day, " I, then," said he, " will now purify it." Once he saw a man who had been a conqueror at the Olympic games looking very often at a courtesan; " Look," said he, "at that warlike ram, who is taken prisoner by the first [foxy] girl he meets." One of his sayings was, that good-looking courtesans were like poisoned mead.”

“On one occasion he was eating his dinner in the market-place, and the bystanders kept constantly calling out "Dog;" but he said, "It is you who are the dogs, who stand around me while I am at dinner." When two effeminate fellows were getting out of his way, he said, "Do not be afraid, a dog does not eat beetroot." Being once asked about a debauched boy, as to what country he came from, he said, "He is a Tegean." Seeing an unskilful wrestler professing to heal a man he said, "What are you about, are you in hopes now to overthrow those who formerly conquered you ?" On one occasion he saw the son of a courtesan throwing a stone at a crowd, and said to him, "Take care, lest you hit your father." When a boy showed him a sword that he had received from one to whom he had done some discreditable service, he told him, "The sword is a good sword, but the handle is infamous." And when some people were praising a man who had given him some-thing, he said to them, "And do not you praise me who was worthy to receive it?" He was asked by some one to give him back his cloak; but he replied, "If you gave it me, it is mine; and if you only lent it me, I am using it." A supposititious son of somebody once said to him, that he had gold in his cloak; "No doubt," said he, "that is the very reason why I sleep with it under my head." When he was asked what advantage he had derived from philosophy, he replied, "If no other, at least this, that I am prepared for every kind of fortune." The question was put to him what countryman he was, and ho replied, "A Citizen of the world." Some men were sacrificing to the Gods to prevail on them to send them sons, and he said, "And do you not sacrifice to procure sons of a. particular character?" Once he was asking the president of a society for a contribution, and said to him:—“"Spoil all the rest, but keep your hands off Hector."

Alexander the Great visits Diogenes

“He used to say that courtesans were the queens of kings; for that they asked them for whatever they chose. When the Athenians had voted that Alexander was Bacchus, he said to them, "Vote, too, that I am Serapis." When a man rproached him for going into unclean places, he said, "The sun too penetrates into privies, but is not polluted by them." When supping in a temple, as some dirty loaves were set before him, he took them up and threw them away, saying that nothing dirty ought to come into a temple; and when some one said to him, "You philosophize without being possessed of any knowledge," he said, "If I only pretend to wisdom, that is philosophizing." A man once brought him a boy, and said that he was a very clever child, and one of an admirable disposition." "What, then," said Diogenes, "does he want of me?" He used to say, that those who utter virtuous sentiments but do not do them, are no better than harps, for that a harp has no hearing or feeling. Once he was going into a theatre while every one else was coming out of it; and when asked why he did so, "It is," said he, "what I have been doing all my life." Once when he saw a young man putting on effeminate airs, he said to him, "Are you not ashamed to have worse plans for yourself than nature had for you? for she has made you a man, but you are trying to force yourself to be a woman." When he saw an ignorant man tuning a psaltery, he said to him, "Are you not ashamed to be arranging proper sounds on a wooden instrument, and not arranging your soul to a proper life?" When a man said to him, "I am not calculated [fitted] for philosophy," he said, "Why then do you live, if you have no desire to live properly?" To a man who treated his father with contempt, he said, "Are you not ashamed to despise him to whom you owe it that you have it in your ,power to give yourself airs at all?" Seeing a handsome young man chattering in an unseemly manner he said, "Are you not ashamed to draw a sword out of lead out of a scabbard of ivory?" Being once reproached for drinking in a vintner’s shop, he said, "I have my hair cut, too, in a barber’s." At another time, he was attacked for having accepted a cloak from Antipater, but he replied: — "Refuse not thou to heed/ The gifts which from the mighty Gods proceed." [Homer, lliad, iii 65]

“A man once struck him with a broom, and said, "Take care." so he struck him in return with his staff, and said, "Take care." “He once said to a man who was addressing anxious entreaties to a courtesan, "What can you wish to obtain, you wretched man, that you had not better be disappointed in?" Seeing a man reeking all over with unguents, he said to him, "Have a care, lest the fragrance of your head give a bad odour to your life." One of his sayings was, that servants serve their masters, and that wicked men are the slaves of their appetites. Being asked why [footmen ]slaves were called andrapoda, he replied, "Because they have the feet of men (tous podas andrôn), and a soul such as you who are asking this question." He once asked a profligate fellow for a mina; and when he put the question to him, why he asked others for an obol, and him for a mina, he saidm "Because I hope I to get something from the others another time, but the Gods alone know whether I shall ever extract anything from you again." Once he was reproached for asking favours, while Plato never asked for any; and he said;—"He asks as well as I do, but he does it/ Bending his head, that no one else may hear."

Diogenes on Art Imitating Life

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: ““He once asked for a statue; and being questioned as to his reason for doing so, he said, "I am practising disappointment." Once he was begging of some one (for he did this at first out of actual want), he said, "If you have given to any one else, give also to me; and if you have never given to any one, then begin with me." On one occasion, he was asked by the tyrant, "What sort of brass was the best for a statue ?" and he replied, "That of which the statues of Haromodius and Aristogiton are made." When he was asked how Dionysius treats his friends, he said, "Like bags; those which are full he hangsup, and those which are empty he throws away." A man who was lately married put an inscription en his house, " Hercules Callinicus, the son of Jupiter, lives here; let no evil enter." And so Diogenes wrote in addition, "An alliance is made after the war is over." He used to say that covetousness was the metropolis of all evils. Seeing on one occasion a profligate man in an inn eating olives, he said, "If you had dined [viz., breakfasted] thus, you would not have supped thus." One of his apophthegms was, that good men were the images of the Gods; another, that love was the business of those who had nothing to do. When he was asked what was miserable in life, he answered, "An indigent old man." And when the question was put to him, what beast inflicts the worst bite, he said, " Of wild beasts the sycophant, and of tame animals the flatterer."[Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

Diogenes tells Alexander to stop blocking the sun

“On one occasion he saw two Centaurs very badly painted; he said, "Which of the two is the worst [cheirôn: Chiron was the name for the celebrated Centaur tutor of Achilles]?" He used to say that a speech, the object of which was solely to please, was a honeyed halter. He called the belly, the Charybdis of life. Having heard once that Didymon the adulterer, had been caught in the fact [viz., in the act], he said, "He deserves to be hung by his name [viz., by his balls]." When the question was put to him, why gold is of a pale colour, he said, " Because it has so many people plotting against it." When he saw a woman in a litter, he said," The cage is not suited to the animal." And seeing a runaway slave sitting on a well, he said, "My boy, take care you do not fall in." Another time, he saw a little boy who was a stealer of clothes from the baths, and said, "Are you going for unguents, or for other garments." Seeing some women hanging on olive trees, he said, "I wish every tree bore similar fruit." At another time, he saw a clothes’ stealer, and addressed him thus :
What moves thee, say, when sleep has clos’d the sight,
To roam the silent fields in dead of night
Art thou some wretch by hopes of plunder led,
Through heaps of carnage to despoil the dead
[Homer, Illiad, x. 343, 387]

“When he was asked whether he had any girl or boy to wait on him, he said, "No." And as his questioner asked further, "If then you die, who will bury you?" He replied, "Whoever wants my house." Seeing a handsome youth sleeping without any protection, he nudged him, and said, "Wake up—“Mix’d with the vulgar shall thy fate be found,
Pierc’d in the back, a vile dishonest wound. [Homer, Illiad, v 40, viii 95]
And he addressed a man who was buying delicacies at a great expense :
“Not long, my son, will you on earth remain,
If such [be] your dealings. [Cf., Homer, Illiad, xiv 95, Pope's translation]

“A certain person was admiring the offerings in the temple at Samothrace [The Samothracian Gods were Gods of the sea, and it was customary for those who had been saved from shipwreck to make them an offering of some part of what they had saved; and of their hair, if they had saved nothing but, their lives], and he said to him, "They would have been much more numerous, if those who were lost had offered them instead of those who were saved;" but some attribute this speech to Diagoras the Thelian. Once he saw a handsome youth going to a banquet, and said to him, "You will come back worse ;" and when he the next day after the banquet said to him, "I have left the banquet, and was no worse for it;" he replied, "You were not Chiron, but Eurytion." [Eurytion was another Of the Centaurs, who was killed by Hercules.] He was begging once of a very ill-tempered man, and as he said to him, "If you can persuade me, I will give you something ;" he replied, "If I could persuade you, I would beg you to hang yourself." He was on one occasion returning from Lacedaemon (Sparta) to Athens; and when some one asked him, "Whither are you going, and whence do you come?" he said, " I am going from the men’s apartments to the women’s."

Diogenes on Sports and Training the Mind

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Another time he was returning from the Olympic games, and when some one asked him whether there had been a great multitude there, he said, "A great multitude, but very few men." He used to say that debauched men resembled figs growing on a precipice; the fruit of which is not tasted by men, but devoured by crows and vultures. When Phryne had dedicated a golden statue of Venus at Delphi, he wrote upon it, "From the profligacy of the Greeks." [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“One day he saw an unskilful archer shooting; so he went and sat down by the target, saying, "Now I shall be out of harm’s way." He used to say, that those who were in love were disappointed in regard of the pleasure they expected. When he was asked whether death was an evil, he replied, "How can that be an evil which we do not feel when it is present?" When Alexander was once standing by him, and saying, "Do not you fear me ?" He replied, " No; for what are you, a good or an evil?" And as he said that he was good, "Who, then," said Diogenes, "fears the good ?" He used to say, that education was, for the young sobriety, for the old comfort, for the poor riches, and for the rich an ornament." When Didymus the adulterer was once trying to cure the eye of a young girl, he said, "Take care, lest when you are curing the eye of the maiden, you do not hurt the pupil." A man once said to him, that his friends laid plots against him; "What then," said he, " are you to do, if you must look upon both your friends and enemies in the same light ?"

“On one occasion he was asked, what was the most excellent thing among men; and he said, " Freedom of speech (parrêsia)." He went once into a school, and saw many statues of the Muses, but very few pupils, and said, "Gods, and all my good schoolmasters, you have plenty of pupils." He was in the habit of doing everything in public, whether in respect of Venus or Ceres; and he used to put his conclusions in this way to people: "If there is nothing absurd in dining, then it is not absurd to dine in the market-place. But it is not absurd to dine, therefore it is riot absurd to dine in the market-place." And as he was continually doing manual work [viz., masturbating] in public, he said one day, "Would that by rubbing my belly I could get rid of hunger." Other sayings also are attributed to him, which it would take a long time to enumerate, there is such a multiplicity of them.

“He used to say, that there were two kinds of exercise: that, namely, of the mind and that of the body; and that the latter of these created in the mind such quick and agile phantasies at the time of its performance, as very much facilitated the practice of virtue; but that one was imperfect without the other, since the health and vigour necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body. And he used to allege as proofs of this, and of the ease which practice imparts to acts of virtue, that people could see that in the case of mere common working trades, and other employments of that kind, the artisans arrived at no inconsiderable accuracy by constant practice; and that any one may see how much one flute player, or one wrestler, is superior to another, by his own continued practice. And that if these men transferred the same training to their minds they wou1d not labour in a profitless or imperfect manner. He used to say also, that there was nothing whatever in life which could be brought to perfection without practice, and that that alone was able to overcome every obstacle; that, therefore, as we ought to repudiate all useless toils, and to apply ourselves to useful labours, and to live happily, we are only unhappy in consequence of most exceeding folly. For the very contempt of pleasure, if we only inure ourselves to it, is very pleasant; and just as they who are accustomed to live luxuriously, are brought very unwillingly to adopt the contrary system; so they who have been originally inured to that opposite system, feel a sort of pleasure in the contempt of pleasure.

Diogenes’ Death

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “ He is said to have died when he was nearly ninety years of age, but there are different accounts given of his death. For some say that he ate an ox’s foot raw, and was in consequence seized with a bilious attack, of which he died; others, of whom Cercidas, a Megalopolitan or Cretan, is one, say that he died of holding his breath for several days; and Cercidas speaks thus of him in his Meliambics:
He, that Sinopian who bore the stick,
Wore his cloak doubled, and in th’ open air
Dined without washing, would not bear with life
A moment longer: but he shut his teeth,
And held his breath. He truly was the so[n]
Of Jove, and a most heavenly-minded dog,
The wise Diogenes. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“Others say that he, while intending to distribute a polypus [viz., octopus] to his dogs, was bitten by them through the tendon of his foot, and so died. But his own greatest friends, as Antisthenes tells us in his Successions, rather sanction the story of his having died from holding his breath. For he used to live in the Craneum, which was a Gymnasium at the gates of Corinth. And his friends came according to their custom, and found him with his head covered; and as they did not suppose that he was asleep, for he was not a man much subject to the influence of night or sleep, they drew away his cloak from his face, and found him no longer breathing; and they thought that he had done this on purpose, wishing to escape the remaining portion of his life.

“On this there was a quarrel, as they say, between his friends, as to who should bury him, and they even came to blows; but when the elders and chief men of the city came there, they say that he was buried by them at the gate which leads to the Isthmus. And they placed over him a pillar, and on that a dog in Parian marble. And at a later period his fellow [247] citizens honoured him with brazen statues, and put this inscription on them :
“E’en brass by lapse of time doth old become,
But there is no such time as shall efface.
Your lasting glory, wise Diogenes;
Since you alone did teach to men the
Of a contented life: the surest path
To glory and a lasting happiness.

“We ourselves have also written an epigram on him in the proceleusmatic metre.
A. Tell me, Diogenes, tell me true, I pray,
How did you die; what fate to Pluto bore you?
B. The savage bite of an envious dog did kill me.

“Some, however, say that when he was dying, he ordered his friends to throw his corpse away without burying it, so that every beast might tear it, or else to throw it into a ditch, and sprinkle a little dust over it. And others say that his injunctions were, that he should be thrown into the Ilissus; that so he might be useful to his brethren. But Demetrius, in his treatise on Men of the Same Name, says that Diogenes died in Corinth the same day that Alexander died in Babylon. And he was already an old man, as early as the hundred and thirteenth olympiad.”



Antisthenes (c. 446—366 B.C.) is regarded as the founder of the Cynic movement but there is some dispute about that claim. Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote: “Known in antiquity as an accomplished orator, a companion of Socrates, and a philosopher, Antisthenes presently gains renown from his status as either a founder or a forerunner of Cynicism. He was the teacher to Diogenes of Sinope, and he is regarded by Diogenes Laertius as the first Cynic philosopher. He is credited with the authorship of over sixty titles, appears as one of the primary interlocutors in Xenophon’s Memorabilia and Symposium, and is mentioned as one of those present at Socrates’ death by Plato, with whom it seems he had a falling out. Antisthenes’ philosophical interests engage ethics rather than metaphysics or epistemology, and he advocates the practice of virtue through an ascetic life and the cultivation of wisdom. Like Socrates before him, Antisthenes adheres to ethical intellectualism, and like the Stoics who follow the Cynics, he claims that virtue is sufficient for happiness. [Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Antisthenes’ influence is primarily upon the “school” of Cynicism, both as a precursor and originator. Antisthenes’ life and thought provide a connection between Socrates and the Cynics. Diogenes Laertius makes just this point: “From Socrates he learned his hardihood, emulating his disregard of feeling, and thus he inaugurated the Cynic way of life”(D.L. 6.2). Some scholars are more dubious. Dudley, for example, claims that Antisthenes was a follower of Socrates, and nothing more. The attribution of “first Cynic” to Antisthenes is, on Dudley’s account, merely an invention of the Alexandrian writers of Successions meant to give the Stoic school the proper Socratic pedigree.

“Branham and Goulet-Cazé propose that Antisthenes be considered a “forerunner” (The Cynics 7), and Navia claims that “in both Antisthenes and Diogenes we come upon one reaction to the problem of human existence, and one radical solution… for Cynicism emerged among the Greeks from both, as if from twin sources” (Classical Cynicism 67). The subtler approaches of Branham, Goulet-Cazé, and Navia grasp the impossibility of resolving the debate. The sources of antiquity have combined the tradition of Diogenes with that of Antisthenes. Thus, the Cynic movement is viewed as having begun with the Socratic ethical practices of Antisthenes, practices which receive their more robust instantiations through the life of Diogenes of Sinope.

“The claim that Antisthenes had no connection to the Cynics is, given Antisthenes’ unique ethical position, tenuous. Antisthenes endorses the Socratic position, but contributes his own understanding of virtue and his insistence upon the importance of askēsis. His asceticism is comparable to that of Socrates, but his animosity toward pleasure and his pride in his poverty resembles better the position of later Cynics. Finally, the privileging of virtue and the claim that virtue is itself sufficient for happiness will be central to Stoic ethics. “Antisthenes gave the impulse to the indifference of Diogenes, the continence of Crates, and the hardihood of Zeno, himself laying the foundations of their state” (D.L. 6.15).

Life of Antisthenes

Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote: “It is primarily through Xenophon’s dialogues and Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers that certain aspects of Antisthenes’ life and thought are known. These sources are not, however, without problems: Xenophon is portraying Antisthenes as an interlocutor, which leads some scholars to question whether this character is in fact representative of the historical Antisthenes; Diogenes Laertius is thought of as a dubious source due to his penchant for recounting contradictory stories from multiple sources. Though each source is questionable independently, when they are treated in conjunction they provide a sketch of Antisthenes as both a Socratic and a Cynic thinker. [Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“Born probably in either 446 or 445 B.C.E. of an Athenian father, also named Antisthenes, and a Thracian mother, Antisthenes was a nothos, which means literally someone born of an illegitimate union (due to being born from a slave, foreigner, or prostitute, or because one’s parents were citizens but not legally married) and therefore was not an Athenian citizen. Initially he was a pupil of Gorgias the rhetorician, and the rhetorical sounding titles that are ascribed to him by Diogenes Laertius almost certainly derive from this first phase of his career. In fact, of his prolific literary corpus, only his Ajax and Odysseus are extant, and both offer a demonstration of his rhetorical training under Gorgias.

“After meeting Socrates and deriving great benefit from him, Antisthenes abandoned his study of rhetoric for philosophy and even encouraged his own pupils to join him under Socrates’ tutelage. His close friendship with Socrates is well documented in Xenophon’s dialogues, and his importance would have been aided by his position as an older and esteemed member of Socrates’ circle. In the years immediately following Socrates’ death, then, it is likely that Antisthenes was regarded as Socrates’ most important follower (see Kahn 4-5).

“What little is known about Antisthenes’ life is marked by both his asceticism and humor. It is claimed that he was the first to double his cloak in order to sleep in it, and recommended this to Diogenes of Sinope (though Diogenes of Sinope is also claimed to be the first to do so) and that, in addition, he was equipped with those elements that would later be distinctive of the Cynics: the wallet and the staff. He chose to live in poverty, and more than one of the surviving anecdotes surrounds the ragged state of his cloak, usually involving those areas where the cloak is torn. In addition to eschewing luxuries so many of his fellow Athenians sought, he demonstrated an ad hoc and improvisational sense of humor which allowed him to ridicule commonly held beliefs and the mores of Athenian culture, a practice which would be perfected by Diogenes of Sinope.

Antisthenes’s Philosophy

Antisthenes in Thomas Stanley's History of Philosophy

Julie Piering of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock wrote: “Xenophon’s treatment of Antisthenes combines well with the details Diogenes Laertius provides of his philosophical position at 6.10-12. Though the list of his “favorite themes” is lengthy, it represents the central aspects of his ethical thought. In sum, the basic tenets are:
Virtue can be taught.
Only the virtuous are noble.
Virtue is itself sufficient for happiness, since it requires “nothing else except the strength of a Socrates” (D.L. 6.11).
Virtue is tied to deeds and actions, and does not require a great deal of words or learning.
The wise person is self-sufficient.
Having a poor reputation is something good, and is like physical hardship.
The law of virtue rather than the laws established by the polis will determine the public acts of one who is wise.
The wise person will marry in order to have children with the best women.
The wise person knows who are worthy of love, and so does not disdain to love.
[Source: Julie Piering, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

“These themes, revolving as they do around virtue and the activity of the wise man, bear an unmistakable resemblance to Socrates’ convictions. The teachability of virtue, the emphasis on deeds over words, and the prominence of erōs are all explicitly found in Socratic literature. Furthermore, according to Diocles, Antisthenes held virtue to be the same for men as for women, a position that is echoed, if in a more inchoate form, in Socratic thought.

“Antisthenes’ ethical views also, however, represent an innovation, and do not merely repeat those held by Socrates. First, the unambiguous statement of virtue as sufficient for happiness is a shift from Socrates’ hedging on this matter. Virtue and happiness are completely coincident and open to all. Second, he begins to separate morality and legality in a way that Socrates apparently did not. In Plato’s Crito, Socrates is clear that one is morally obliged to abide by the laws of one’s state, unless one can convince the state to change the laws. The Cynics show no such regard for nomos, a term which means both law and convention, whether it is in relation to cultural codes or legal regulations. By loosening law and virtue Antisthenes sets the stage for the more radical positions of Diogenes of Sinope and Crates.

“Antisthenes takes a stronger position than did Socrates on the abstention from physical pleasures, claiming, he says, to prefer madness to pleasure (D.L. 6.3). The pursuit of pleasure is dangerous insofar as it can recommend precarious activities (as is recounted in the story of an adulterer fleeing for his life who Antisthenes claims could have escaped peril “at the price of an obol,” but more importantly, its effect on self-sufficiency is ruinous. One can become enslaved to pleasure and so lose all hope of being truly free. For this reason “When someone extolled luxury his reply was, ‘May the sons of your enemies live in luxury’” (D.L. 6.8). “Finally, he is much more obviously anti-theoretical than Socrates. Whereas Socrates claims to know nothing of theoretical philosophy, Antisthenes suggests that it is useless. Though the terms are not yet coined, the distinction is between metaphysics and ethics, and Antisthenes focuses upon the latter only. His privileging of practice over learning, or deeds over words, is clearly anti-theoretical, but it should not be viewed as opposed to reason. Reason, for Antisthenes, is the foundation of virtue. “Wisdom is a most sure stronghold which never crumbles away nor is betrayed. Walls of defense must be constructed in our own impregnable reasonings” (D.L. 6.13). Antisthenes’ caution against pleasure, his praise of poverty, and his privileging of reason will be palpable in the Cynics who follow him and Stoic cultivation of indifference.

Diogenes Laërtius on the Life of Antisthenes

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Antisthenes was an Athenian, the son of Antisthenes. And he was said not to be a legitimate Athenian; in reference to which he said to some one who was reproaching him with the circumstance, "The mother of the Gods too is a Phrygian;" for he was thought to have had a Thracian mother. On which account, as he had borne himself bravely in the battle of Tanagra, he gave occasion to Socrates to say that the son of two Athenians could not have been so brave. And he himself, when disparaging the Athenians who gave themselves great airs as having been born out of the earth itself, said that they were not more noble as far as that went than snails and locusts. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“Originally he was a pupil of Gorgias the rhetorician; owing to which circumstance he employs the rhetorical style of language in his Dialogues, especially in his Truth and in his Exhortations. And Hermippus says, that he had originally intended in his address at the assembly, on account of the Isthmian games, to attack and also to praise the Athenians, and Thebans, and Lacedaemonians; but that he afterwards abandoned the design, when he saw that there were a great many spectators come from those cities. Afterwards, he attached himself to Socrates, and made such progress in philosophy while with him, that he advised all his own pupils to become his fellow pupils in the school of Socrates. And as he lived in the Piraeus, he went up forty furlongs to the city every day, in order to hear Socrates, from whom he learnt the art of enduring, and of being indifferent to external circumstances, and so became the original founder of the Cynic school.

Raphael's Antishenes

“He used to argue that labour was a good thing, by adducing the examples of the great Hercules, and of Cyrus, one of which he derived from the Greeks and the other from the barbarians....He was also the first person who ever gave a definition of discourse, saying, "Discourse is that which shows what anything is or was." And he used continually to say, "I would rather go mad than feel pleasure." And, "One ought to attach one’s self to such women as will thank one for it." He said once to a youth from Pontus, who was on the point of coming to him to be his pupil, and was asking him what things he wanted, "You want a new book, and a new pen, and a new tablet ;" — meaning a new mind. And to a pen who asked him from what country he had better marry a wife, he said, "If you marry a handsome woman, she will be common ; if an ugly woman, she will he a punishment to you."

“ He was told once that Plato spoke ill of him, and he replied, "It is a royal privilege to do well, and to be evil spoken of." When he was being initiated into the mysteries of Orpheus, and the priest said that those who were initiated enjoyed many good things in the shades below, "Why, then," said he "do not you die?" Being once reproached as not being the son of two free citizens, he said, "And I am not the son of two people skilled in wrestling; nevertheless, I am a skilful wrestler." On one occasion he was asked why he had but few disciples, and said, "Because I drove them away with a silver rod." When he was asked why he reproved his pupils with bitter language, he said, "Physicians too use sever remedies for their patients." Once he saw an adulterer running away, and said, "O unhappy man! how much danger could you have avoided for one obol!" He used to say, aas Hecaton tells us in his Apophthegms, "That it was better to fall among crows [The Greek is, es korakas, which was a proverb for utter destruction.] than among flatterers; for that they only devour the dead, but the others devour the living." When he was asked what was the most happy event that could take place in human life, he said, "To die while prosperous."

Diogenes Laërtius on the Sayings of Antisthenes

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “On one occasion one of his friends was lamenting to him that he had lost his memoranda, and he said to him, "You ought to have written them on your mind, and not on paper." A favourite saying of his was, "That envious people were devoured by their own disposition, just as iron is by rust." Another was, "That those who wish to be immortal ought to live piously and justly." He used to say too, "That cities were ruined when they were unable to distinguish worthless citizens from virtuous ones." [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“On one occasion he was being praised by some wicked men, and said, "I am sadly afraid that I must have done some wicked thing." One of his favourite sayings was, "That the fellowship of brothers of one mind was stronger than any fortified city." He used to say, "That those things were the best for a man to take on a journey, which would float with him if he were shipwrecked." He was once reproached for being intimate with wicked men, and said, "Physicians also live with those who are sick; and yet they do not catch fevers." He used to say, "that it was an absurd thing to clean a cornfield of tares, and in war to get rid of bad soldiers, and yet not to rid one’s self in a city of the wicked citizens." When he was asked what advantage he had ever derived from philosophy, he replied, "The advantage of being able to converse with myself." At a drinking party, a man once said to him, "Give us a song," and he replied, "Do you play us a tune on the flute."

“When Diogenes asked him for a tunic, he bade him fold his cloak. He was asked on one occasion what learning was the most necessary, and he replied, "To unlearn one’s bad habits." And he used to exhort those who found themselves ill spoken of, to endure it more than they would any one’s throwing stones at them. He used to laugh at Plato as conceited; accordingly, once when there was a fine procession, seeing a horse neighing, he said to Plato, "I think you too would be a very frisky horse:" and he said this all the more, because Plato kept continually praising the horse. At another time, he had gone to see him when he was ill, and when he saw there a dish in which Plato had been sick, he said, " I see your bile there, but I do not see your conceit." He used to advise the Athenians to pass a vote that asses were horses; and, as they thought that irrational, he said, "Why, those whom you make generals have never learnt to be really generals, they have only been voted such."

“A man said to him one day, "Many people praise you." "Why, what evil," said he, "have I done?" When he turned the rent in his cloak outside, Socrates seeing it, said to him, "I see your vanity through the hole in your cloak." On another occasion, the question was put to him by some one, as Phanias relates, in his treatise on the Philosphers of the Socratic school, what a man could do to show himself an honourable and a virtuous man; and he replied, "If you atttend to those who understand the subject, and learn from them that you ought to shun the bad habits which you have." Some one was praising luxury in his hearing, and he said, "May the children of my enemies be luxurious." Seeing a young man place himself in a carefully studied attitude before a modeller, he said, "Tell me, if the brass could speak, on what would it pride itself?" And when the young man replied, "On its beauty." "Are you not then," said he, "ashamed to rejoice in the same thing as an inanimate piece of brass?" A young man from Pontus once promised to recollect him, if a vessel of salt fish arrived; and so he took him with him, and also an empty bag, and went to a woman who sold meal, and filled his sack and went away; and when the woman asked him to pay for it, he said, "The young man will pay you, when the vessel of salt fish comes home."

Diogenes Laërtius on the Wisdom of Antisthenes

Diogenes and Antisthenes

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “And the doctrines he adopted were these. He used to insist that virtue was a thing which might be taught; also, that the nobly born and virtuously disposed, were the same people; for that virtue was of itself sufficient for happiness, and was in need of nothing, except the strength of Socrates. He also looked upon virtue as a species of work, not wanting many arguments, or much instruction; and he taught that the wise man was sufficient for himself; for that everything that belonged to any one else belonged to him. He considered obscurity of fame a good thing, and equally good with labour. And he used to say that the wise man would regulate his conduct as a citizen, not according to the established laws of the state, but according to the law of virtue. And that he would marry for the sake of having children, selecting the most beautiful woman for his wife. And that he would love her; for that the wise man alone knew what objects deserved love. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“Diodes also attributes the following apophthegms to him. To the wise man, nothing is strange and nothing remote. The virtuous man is worthy to be loved. Good men are friends. It is right to make the brave and just one’s allies. Virtue is a weapon of which a man cannot be deprived. It is better to fight with a few good men against all the wicked, than with many wicked men against a few good men. One should attend to one’s enemies, for they are the first persons to detect one’s errors. One should consider a just man as of more value than a relation. Virtue is the same in a man as in a woman. What is good is honourable, and what is bad is disgraceful. Think everything that is wicked, foreign. Prudence is the safest fortification; for it can neither fall to pieces nor be betrayed. One must prepare one’s self a fortress in one’s own impregnable thoughts.

“VI. He used to lecture in the Gymnasium called Cynosarges, not far from the gates; and some people say that it is from that place that the sect got the name of Cynics. And he himself was called Haplocyon (downright dog).....He was the first person to set the fashion of doubling his cloak, as Diocles says, and he wore no other garment. And he used to carry a stick and a wallet; but Neanthes says that he was the first person who wore a cloak without folding it. But Sosicrates, in the third book of his Successions, says that Diodorus, of Aspendos, let his beard grow, and used to carry a stick and a wallet.

“VIII. He is the only one of all the pupils of Socrates, whom Theopompus praises and speaks of as clever, and able to persuade whomsoever he pleased by the sweetness of his conversation. And this is plain, both from his own writings, and from the Banquet of Xenophon. He appears to have been the founder of the more manly Stoic school; on which account Athenaeus, the epigrammatist, speaks thus of them
O ye, who are learned in Stoic fables,
Ye who consign the wisest of all doctrines
To your most sacred books; you say that virtue
Is the sole good; for that alone can save
The life of man, and strongly fenced cities.
But if some fancy pleasure their best aim,
One of the Muses ‘tis who has convinc’d them.

“He was the original cause of the apathy of Diogenes, and the temperance of Crates, and the patience of Zeno, having himself, as it were, laid the foundations of the city which they afterwards built. And Xenophon says, that in his conversation and society, he was the most delightful of men, and in every respect the most temperate.


Menippus (310-255 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher from Gadara in Syria and an adherent of the Cynic School of philosophy,. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “ He was born at Sinope in Asia Minor, but his family was originally from Gadara, in Palestine. According to Diogenes Laertius, he was at first a slave, but afterward obtained his freedom by purchase, and eventually succeeded, by dint of money, in obtaining citizenship at Thebes. Here he pursued the employment of a money lender, and obtained from this the title "one who lends money at daily interest". Having been defrauded, and having lost, in consequence, all his property, he hung himself in despair. Menippus was the author of several works, now completely lost; they satirized the follies of human kind, especially of philosophers, in a sarcastic tone Among other productions, he wrote a piece entitled "The Sale of Diogenes," and another called "Necromancy." They were a medley of prose and verse, and became models for the satirical works of Varro (hence called Saturae Menippeae. It is suggested that the Necromancy inspired an imitator of Lucian to compose the "Menippus, or Oracle of the Dead," which is found among the works of the native of Samosata. [Source:Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “ Menippus was also a Cynic, and a Phoenician by descent, a slave by birth, as Achaicus tells us in his Ethics; and Diodes informs us that his master was a native of Pontus, of the name of Baton; but that subsequently, in consequence of his importunities and miserly habits, he became rich, and obtained the rights of citizenship at Corinth. He never wrote anything serious; but his writings are full of ridiculous matter; and in some respects similar to those of Meleager, who was his contemporary. And Hermippus tells us that he was a man who lent money at daily interest, and that he was called a usurer; for he used to lend on nautical usury, and take security, so that he amassed a very great amount of riches. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“But at last he fell into a snare, and lost all his money. and in a fit of despair he hung himself, and so he died. And we have written a playful epigram on him:
This man was a Syrian by birth,
And a Cretan usurious hound,
As the name he was known by sets forth,
You’ve heard of him oft I’ll be bound;
His name was Menippus—men entered his house,
And stole all his goods without leaving a louse,
When (from this the dog’s nature you plainly may tell)
He hung himself up, and so went off to hell.

“But some say that the books attributed to him are not really his work, but are the composition of Dionysius and Zopyrus the Colophonians, who wrote them out of joke, and then gave them to him as a man well able to dispose of them. There were six persons of the name of Menippus; the first was the man who wrote a history of the Lydians, and made an abridgment of Xanthus; the second was this man of whom we have been speaking; the third was a sophist of Stratonice, a Carian by descent; the fourth was a statuary: the fifth and the sixth were painters, and they are both mentioned by Apollodorus. The writings left by the Cynic amount to thirteen volumes; a Description of the Dead; a volume called Wills; a volume of Letters in which the Gods are introduced; treatises addressed to the Natural Philosophers, and Mathematicians, and Grammanans; one on the Generations of Epicurus, and on the Observance of the Twentieth Day by the philosophers of his school; and one or two other essays.


Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Crates was a Theban by birth, and the son of Ascondus. He also was one of the eminent disciples of the Cynic. But Hippobotus asserts that he was not a pupil of Diogenes, but of Bryson the Achaean. There are the following sportive lines of his quoted
The waves surround vain Peres’ fruitful soil,
And fertile acres crown the sea-born isle;
Land which no parasite e’er dares invade,
Or lewd seducer of a hapless maid;
It bears figs, bread, thyme, garlic’s savoury charms,
Gifts which ne’er tempt men to detested arms,
They’d rather fight for gold than glory’s dreams, [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“He was also nicknamed Door-opener, because he used to enter every house and give the inmates advice. These lines, too, are his
All this I learnt and pondered in my mind,
Drawing deep wisdom from the Muses kind,
But all the rest is vanity.

“There is a line, too, which tells us that he gained from philosophy
A peck of lupins, and to care for nobody.
This, too, is attributed to him:—
Hunger checks love; and should it not, time does.
If both should fail you, then a halter choose.
He flourished about the hundred and thirteenth olympiad.

Crates and Money

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Antisthenes, in his Successions, says that he, having once, in a certain tragedy, seen Telephus holding a date basket, and in a miserable plight in other respects, betook himself to the Cynic philosophy; and having turned his patrimony into money (for he was of illustrious extraction), he collected three hundred talents by that means, and divided them among the citizens. And after that he devoted himself to philosophy with such eagerness, that even Philemon the comic poet mentions him. Accordingly he says:
And in the summer he’d a shaggy gown,
To inure himself to hardship: in the winter
He wore mere rags. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“There is also an account-book of his much spoken of, which is drawn up in such terms as these:
Put down the cook for minas half a score,
Put down the doctor for a drachma more:
Five talents to the flatterer; some smoke
To the adviser, an obol and a cloak
For the philosopher; for the willing nymph,
A talent

“But Diodes says that it was Diogenes who persuaded him to discard all his estate and his flocks, and to throw his money into the sea; and he says further, that the house of Crates was destroyed by Alexander, and that of Hipparchia under Philip. And he would very frequently drive away with his staff those of his relations who came after him, and endeavoured to dissuade him from his design; and he remained immoveable.

“V. Demetrius, the Magnesian, relates that he deposited his money with a banker, making an agreement with him, that if his sons tuned out ordinary ignorant people, he was then to restore it to them; but if they became philosophers, then he was to divide it among the people, for that they, if they were philosophers, would have no need of anything. And Eratosthenes tells us that he had by Hipparchia, whom we shall mention hereafter, a son whose name was Pasicles, and that when he grew up, he took him to a brothel kept by a female slave, and told him that that was all the marriage that his father designed for him; but that marriages which resulted in adultery were themes for tragedians; and had exile and bloodshed for their prizes; and the marriages of those who lived with courtesans were subjects for the comic poets, and often produced madness as the result of debauchery and drunkenness.

Sayings of Crates

Diogenes Laërtius wrote: Phavorinus, in the second book of his Commentaries, relates a witty saying of his; for he says, that once, when he was begging a favour of the master of a gymnasium, on the behalf of some acquaintance, he touched his thighs; and as he expressed his indignation at this, he said, "Why, do they not belong to you as well as your knees?" He used to say that it was impossible to find a man who had never done wrong, in the same way as there was always some worthless seed in a pomegranate. On one occasion he provoked Nicodromus, the harp-player. and received a black eye from him ; so he put a plaster on his forehead and wrote upon it, "Nicodromus did this." He used to abuse prostitutes designedly, for the purpose of practising himself in enduring reproaches. When [252] Demetrius Phalereus sent him some loaves and wine, he attacked him for his present, saying, "I wish that the fountains bore loaves;" and it is notorious that he was a water drinker. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“He was once reproved by the aediles of the Athenians, for wearing fine linen, and so he replied, "I will show you Theophrastus also clad in fine linen." And as they did not believe him, he took them to a barber’s shop, and showed him to them as he was being shaved. At Thebes he was once scourged by the master of the Gymnasium, (though some say it was by Euthycrates, at Corinth), and dragged out by the feet; but he did not care, and quoted the line
I feel, O mighty chief, your matchless might,
Dragged, foot first, downward from th’ ethereal height.[Cf., Homer, Illiad i 591] “But Diocles says that it was by Menedemus, of Eretria, that he was dragged in this manner, for that as he was a handsome man, and supposed to be very obsequious to Asclepiades, the Phliasian, Crates touched his thighs and said, "Is Asclepiacles within?" And Menedemus was very much offended, and dragged him out, as has been already, said; and then Crates quoted the above-cited line.

“Zeno, the Cittiaean, in his Apophthegms, says, that he once sewed up a sheep’s fleece in his cloak, without thinking of it; and he was a very ugly man, and one who excited laughter when he was taking exercise. And he used to say, when he put up his hands, "Courage, Crates, as far as your eyes and the rest of your body is concerned;—

“IX. "For you shall see those who now ridicule you, convulsed with disease, and envying your happiness, and accusing themselves of slothfulness." One of his sayings was, "That a man ought to study philosophy, up to the point of looking on generals and donkey-drivers in the same light." Another was, that those who live with flatterers, are as desolate as calves when in the company of wolves; for that neither the one nor the other are with those whom they ought to be, or their own kindred, but only with those who are plotting against them.

“X. When he felt that he was dying, he made verses on himself, saying:
You’re going, noble hunchback, you are going
To Pluto’s realms, bent double by old age.
For he was humpbacked from age.

“XI. When Alexander asked him whether he wished to see the restoration of his country, he said, "What would be the use of it? for perhaps some other Alexander would come at some future time and destroy it again.
But poverty and dear obscurity,
Are what a prudent man should think his country
For these e’en fortune can’t deprive him of."
He also said that he was:
A fellow countryman of wise Diogenes,
Whom even envy never had attacked.


Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Metrocles was the brother of Hipparchia; and though he had formerly been a pupil of Theophrastus, he had profited so little by his instructions, that once, thinking that, while listening to a lecture on philosophy, he had disgraced himself by his inattention, he fell into despondency, and shut himself up in his house, intending to starve himself to death. Accordingly, when Crates heard of it, he came to him, having been sent for; and eating a number of lupins, on purpose, he persuaded him by numbers of arguments, that he had done no harm; for that it was not to be expected that a man should not indulge his natural inclinations and habits; and he comforted him by showing him that he, in a similar case, would certainly have behaved in a similar manner. And after that, he became a pupil of Crates, and a man of great eminence as a philosopher. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“He burnt all his writings, as Hecaton tells us in the first book of his Apophthegms, and said: ‘These are the phantoms of infernal dreams”; As if he meant that they were all nonsense. But some say that it was the notes which he had taken of the lectures of Theophrastus which he burnt, quoting the following verse : “Vulcan, draw near, ‘tis Thetis asks your aid. [Homer, Illiad, xviii 395]. He used to say that some things could be bought with money, as for instance a house; and some with time and industry, as education; that wealth was mischievous; if a man did not use it properly.

He died at a great age, having suffocated himself.. His pupils were Theomentus and Cleomenes, Demetrius of Alexandria, the son of Theombrotus, Timarchus of Alexandria, the son of Cleomenes, and Echecles, of Ephesus. Not but what Echecles was also a pupil of Theombrotus; and Menedemus, of whom we shall speak hereafter, was his pupil. Menippus, of Sinope, too, was a very eminent person in his school.


Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Hipparchia, the sister of Metrocles, was charmed among others, by the doctrines of this school.Both she and Metrocles were natives of Maronea. She fell in love with both the doctrines and manners of Crates, and could not be diverted from her regard for him, by either the wealth, or high birth, or personal beauty, of any of her suitors, but Crates was everything to her; and she threatened her parents to make away with herself, if she were not given in marriage to him. Crates accordingly, being entreated by. her parents to dissuade her from this resolution, did all he could; and at last, as he could not persuade her, he rose up, and placing all his furniture before her, he said, "This is the bridegroom whom you are choosing, and this is the whole of his property; consider these facts, for it will not be possible for you to become his partner, if you do not also apply yourself to the same studies, and conform to the same habits that he does." But the girl chose him; and assuming the same dress that he wore, went about with him as her husband, and appeared with him in public everywhere, and went to all entertainments in his company. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“And once when she went to sup with Lysimachus, she attacked Theodorus, who was surnamed the Atheist; proposing to him the following sophism; "What Theodorus could not be called wrong for doing, that same thing Hipparchia ought not to be called wrong for doing. But Theodorus does no wrong when he beats himself; therefore Hipparchia does no wrong when she beats Theodorus." He made no reply to what she said, but only pulled her clothes about; but Hipparchia was neither offended nor ashamed, as many a woman would have been; but when he said to her: "Who is the woman who has left the shuttle/ So near the warp? [This line is from the Bacchae of Euripedes, v. 1228]

“"I, Theodorus, am that person," she replied; "but do I appear to you to have come to a wrong decision, if I devote that time to philosophy, which I otherwise should have spent at the loom?" And these and many other sayings are reported of this female philosopher.

“IV. There is also a volume of letters of Crates extant [From this last paragraph it is inferred by some critics, that originally the preceding memoirs of Crates, Metrocles, and Hipparchia. formed only one chapter or book.], in which he philosophizes most excellently; and in style is very little inferior to Plato. He also wrote some tragedies, which are imbued with a very sublime spirit of philosophy, of which the following lines are a specimen
‘Tis not one town, nor one poor single house,
That is my country; but in every land
Each city and each dwelling seems to me,
A place for my reception ready made.
And he died at a great age, and was buried in Boeotia.

Demonax, Monimus and Onesicritus

According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Demonax was a philosopher of the second century CE. who tried to revive the philosophy of the Cynic School. Born in Cyprus, Demonax went to Athens, where he became so popular that people vied with on another in presenting him with food, and even the young children gave him great quantities of fruit. Much less austere than Diogenes, whom he took as his philosophic model, he nevertheless rebuked vice unsparingly, and was charged with neglecting the Eleusinian Mysteries, to which he replied: "If the mysteries are bad, no one should be initiated; and if they are good, they ought to be open to everyone." He was friend of Epictetus, who once rebuked him for not marrying, but was silenced by Demonax, who said, "Very well; give me one of your daughters for a wife" — Epictetus being himself a bachelor. Demonax lived to be nearly a hundred, and on his death was buried with great magnificence. See the Demonax of Lucian, in which the character of the philosopher is painted in glowing colors. [Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) ]

On the Cynic Monimus, Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Monimws was a Syracusan, and a pupil of Diogenes, but also a slave of some Corinthian money-changer, as Sosicrater tells us. Xeniades, who bought Diogenes, used often to come to him, extolling the excellency of Diogenes both in actions and words, till he excited a great affection for the man in the mind of Monimus. For he immediately feigned madness, and threw about all the money and all the coins that were on the table, until his master discarded him, and then he straightway went to Diogenes and became his pupil. He also followed Crates the Cynic a good deal, and devoted himself to the same studies as he did; and the sight of this conduct of his made his master all the more think him mad...“III. He wrote some jests mingled with serious treatises, and two essays on the Appetites, and an Exhortation [to Philosophy]. [Source: Diogenes Laërtius: “The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers Book VI: The Cynics”, A.D. early 3rd century, translated by C.D. Yonge (London: George Bell & Sons, 1895)]

“And he was a very eminent man, so that even Menander, the comic poet, speaks of him; accordingly, in one of his plays, namely in the Hippocomus [viz., The Groom], he mentions him thus :
There is a man, O Philo, named Monimus,
A wise man, though little known, and one [249]
Who bears a wallet at his back, and is nobt
Content with one but three. He never spoke
A single sentence, by great Jove I swear,
Like this one, "Know thyself," or any other
Of the oft-quoted proverbs: all such sayings
He scorned, as he did beg his way through dirt;
Teaching that all opinion is but vanity.
But he was a man of such gravity that he despised glory, and sought only for truth.

On the Cynic Onesicritus, Diogenes Laërtius wrote: “Onesicritus is called by some authors an .Aeginetan, but Demetrius the Magnesian affirms that he was a native of Astypahia. He also was one of the most eminent of the disciples of Diogenes. And he appears in some points to resemble Xenophon. For Xenophon joined in the expedition of Cyrus, and Onesicritus in that of Alexander; and Xenophon wrote the Cyropadia, and Onesicritus wrote an account of the education of Alexander. Xenophon, too, wrote a Panegyric on Cyrus, and Onesicritus one on Alexander. They were also both similar to one another in style, except that a copyist is naturally inferior to the original.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy /plato.stanford.edu, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “History of Warfare” by John Keegan (Vintage Books); “History of Art” by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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