Diogenes of Sinope (c. 404-323 BCE) was a Greek Cynic philosopher best known for holding a lantern to the faces of the citizens of Athens claiming he was searching for an honest man. He was most likely a student of the philosopher Antisthenes (445-365 BCE) and, in the words of Plato (allegedly), was “A Socrates gone mad.” He was driven into exile from his native city of Sinope and settled in Athens. He had written to a friend to rent him a small house there but, when this friend failed to find a place, Diogenes threw his cloak into a large, empty, wine cask outside the temple of Cybele near the Agora and called it home. He lived in the cask his entire time in Athens. He became interested in the teachings of Antisthenes and asked to be admitted to his school. Antisthenes at first refused him as a student, even beating him with his staff to drive him away, but eventually was worn down by his persistence. Diogenes would take his teacher's beliefs to an extreme degree. Like Antisthenes, Diogenes believed in self-control, the importance of personal excellence in one's behavior (in Greek, arete, usually translated as "virtue"), and the rejection of all that was considered unnecessary in life such as personal possessions and social status. He was so ardent in his beliefs that he lived them very publicly in the market place of Athens. He owned nothing, lived on the streets of Athens, and seems to have subsisted on the charity of others. He owned a cup which served also as a bowl for food but threw it away when he saw a boy drinking water from his hands and eating food off a piece of bread, realizing one did not even need a bowl for sustenance.
For Diogenes, a reasonable life is one lived in accordance with nature and with one's natural inclinations. To be true to oneself, then, no matter how "mad' one may appear, was to pursue a life worth living. Whether true or another fable, the tale of Diogenes' capture by pirates and his being sold into slavery in Corinth bears testimony to the strength of his convictions. When asked what talent he had he replied, “That of governing men” and then demanded to be sold to Xeniades saying, “Sell me to that man; for he wants a master.” Even though he was a slave at this point, and in no position to demand anything, he believed so completely in himself that others felt compelled to listen to him and do what he said. Xeniades, for example, placed Diogenes in charge of tutoring his young sons and, in time, the philosopher became part of the family. He lived in Corinth with Xeniades' family for the rest of his life and died there at the age of ninety. His cause of death has been given as either severe food poisoning from eating a raw ox's foot, rabies from a dog bite, or suicide by holding his breath.
Much of what is known about his life in Athens and Corinth comes from the work The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (3rd century CE). Some of the most amusing anecdotes are those relating his continual feud with Plato whom he considered a pretentious, prattling, snob. When Plato defined a human being as a "featherless biped", Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it to Plato's Academy. He released it into one of the classrooms, saying, "Behold - Plato's human being." Plato was then forced to add "with broad, flat, nails" to his definition. The following is The Life of Diogenes from Laertius' work. The translation is by C.D. Yonge.
I. 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. 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 customs1 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
IV. He was very violent in expressing his haughty disdain of others. He said that the scholê (school) of Euclides was cholê (gall). And he used to call Plato's diatribê (discussions) katatribê (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." 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 Favorinus, 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." Sotion too, in his fourth book, states, that the Cynic made the following speech to Plato: Diogenes once asked him for some wine, and then for some dried figs; so he sent him an entire jar full; and Diogenes said to him, "Will you, if you are asked how many two and two make, answer twenty? In this way, you neither give with any reference to what you are asked for, nor do you answer with reference to the question put to you." He used also to ridicule him as an interminable talker. When he was asked where in Greece he saw virtuous men; "Men," said he, "nowhere; but I see good boys in Lacedaemon." 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." "That orators were anxious to speak justly, but not at all about acting so." Also, "That misers blamed money, but were preposterously fond of it." He often condemned those who praise the just for being superior to money, but who at the same time are eager themselves for great riches. He was also very indignant at seeing men sacrifice to the Gods to procure good health, and yet at the sacrifice eating in a manner injurious to health. He often expressed his surprise at slaves, who, seeing their masters eating in a gluttonous manner, still do not themselves lay hands on any of the eatables. 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."
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 he 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.
V. 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.
VI. 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 consequence 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 anapêroi (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.
He used to say that he was the hound of those who were praised; but that none of those who praised them dared to go out hunting with him. A man once said to him, "I conquered men at the Pythian games:" on which he said, "I conquer men, but you only conquer slaves." When some people said to him, "You are an old man, and should rest for the remainder of your life;" "Why so?" replied be, "suppose I had run a long distance, ought I to stop when I was near the end, and not rather press on?" 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."2 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. 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 fore finger, he will not be thought so. Another of his sayings was, that things of great value were often sold for nothing, and vice versa. 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 saperda3 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 Diocles 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.
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." 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 similar 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?" A profligate eunuch had written on his house, "Let no evil thing enter in." "Where," said Diogenes, "is the master of the house going?" After having anointed his feet with perfume, he said that the ointment from his head mounted up to heaven, and 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." 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. 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 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. 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."4 When Lysias, the drug-seller, asked him whether he thought that there were any Gods: "How," said he, "can I help 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."
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 Chaeronea 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.5 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." On one occasion, when he had seen the hieromnemones6 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." 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 Callisthenes, 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.
On one occasion he was working with his hands 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 said to him, "The better you do it, the worse you do it." 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 triganthrôpoi (thrice men), instead of trigathloi (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 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 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, 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 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." When he was asked why athletes are insensible to pain, he said, "Because they are built up of pork and beef."
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 Harmodius and Aristogiton are made." When he was asked how Dionysius treats his friends, he said, "Like bags; those which are full he hangs up, and those which are empty he throws away." A man who was lately married put an inscription on 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 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."
On one occasion he saw two Centaurs very badly painted; he said, "Which of the two is the worst?"7 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, he said, "He deserves to be hung by his name."8 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, (aleimmation), or for other garments (all' himation). 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.9
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."10
And he addressed a man who was buying delicacies at a great expense:
Not long, my son, will you on earth remain,
If such your dealings.11
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."
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; and if for women, you are profligate." 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, saying:
Keep well aloof, O stranger, from all tyrants.12
And presently he added :
He drove the olive off (mastixen d' elaan).13
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.14
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 your 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."
A certain person was admiring the offerings in the temple at Samothrace,15 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 (cheirôn);" 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."16 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 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." 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."
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." 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." 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 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 marketplace, 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."17 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 something, he said to then, "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 (hupoleimaios) 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 (hupobeblêmenos)." 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 he replied, "A Citizen of the world" (kosmopolitês). 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,18 and said to him:
"Spoil all the rest, but keep your hands from Hector."
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 reproached 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 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 cut 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."19
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 slaves were called andrapoda , he replied, "Because they have the feet of men (tous podas andron) 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 said, "Because I hope 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."
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 (korês), he said, "Take care, lest when you are curing the eye of the maiden, you do not hurt the pupil."20 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." 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 not absurd to dine in the market-place." And as he was continually doing manual work 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 would 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.
This used to be the language which he held, and he used to show in practice, really altering men's habits, and deferring in all things rather to the principles of nature than to those of law; saying that he was adopting the same fashion of life as Hercules had, preferring nothing in the world to liberty; and saying that everything belonged to the wise, and advancing arguments such as I mentioned just above. For instance: every thing belongs to the Gods; and the Gods are friends to the wise; and all the property of friends is held in common; therefore everything belong to the wise. He also argued about the law, that without it there is no possibility of a constitution being maintained; for without a city there can be nothing orderly, but a city is an orderly thing; and without a city there can be no law; therefore law is order. And he played in the same manner with the topics of noble birth, and reputation, and all things of that kind, saying that they were all veils, as it were, for wickedness; and that that was the only proper constitution which consisted in order. Another of his doctrines was that all women ought to be possessed in common; and he said that marriage was a nullity, and that the proper way would be for every man to live with her whom he could persuade to agree with him. And on the same principle he said, that all people's sons ought to belong to every one in common; and there was nothing intolerable in the idea of taking anything out of a temple, or eating any animal whatever, and that there was no impiety in tasting even human flesh; as is plain from the habits of foreign nations; and he said that this principle might be correctly extended to every case and every people. For he said that in reality everything was a combination of all things. For that in bread there was meat, and in vegetables there was bread, and so there were some particles of all other bodies in everything, communicating by invisible passages and evaporating.
VII. And he explains this theory of his clearly in the Thyestes, if indeed the tragedies attributed to him are really his composition, and not rather the work of Philistus, of Aegina, his intimate friend, or of Pasiphon, the son of Lucian, who is stated by Favorinus, in his Universal History, to have written them after Diogenes' death.
VIII. Music and geometry, and astronomy, and all things of that kind, he neglected, as useless and unnecessary. But he was a man very happy in meeting arguments, as is plain from what we have already said.
IX. And 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, (the same Xeniades whom we have mentioned before), 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, on 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.
X. 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.
XI. 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 son
Of Jove, and a most heavenly-minded dog,
The wise Diogenes.
Others say that he, while intending to distribute a polypus 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 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 art
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 bits 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,
XII. The following books are attributed to him. The dialogues entitled the Cephalion; the Icthyas; the Jackdaw; the Leopard; the People of the Athenians; the Republic; one called Moral Art; one on Wealth; one on Love; the Theodorus; the Hypsias; the Aristarchus; one on Death; a volume of Letters; seven Tragedies, the Helen, the Thyestes, the Hercules, the Achilles, the Medea, the Chrysippus, and the Oedippus.
But Sosicrates, in the first book of his Successions, and Satyrus, in the fourth book of his Lives, both assert that none of all these are the genuine composition of Diogenes. And Satyrus affirms that the tragedies are the work of Philiscus, the Aeginetan, a friend of Diogenes. But Sotion, in his seventh book, says that these are the only genuine works of Diogenes: a dialogue on Virtue; another on the Good; another on Love; the Beggar; the Solmaeus ; the Leopard; the Cassander; the Cephalion; and that the Aristarchus, the Sisyphus, the Ganymede, a volume of Apophthegms, and another of Letters, are all the work of Philiscus.
XIII. There were five persons of the name of Diogenes. The first a native of Apollonia, a natural philosopher; and the beginning of his treatise on Natural Philosophy is as follows: "It appears to me to be well for every one who commences any kind of philosophical treatise, to lay down some undeniable principle to start with." The second was a Sicymian, who wrote an account of Peloponnesus. The third was the man of whom we have been speaking. The fourth was a Stoic, a native of Seleucia, but usually called a Babylonian, from the proximity of Seleucia to Babylon. The fifth was a native of Tarsus, who wrote on the subject of some questions concerning poetry which he endeavours to solve.
XIV. Athenodorus, in the eighth book of his Conversations, says, that the philosopher always had a shining appearance, from his habit of anointing himself.
1. The passage is not free from difficulty; but the thing which misled Diogenes appears to have been that nomisma, the word here used, meant both "a coin, or coinage," and "a custom."
2. This line is from Euripides, Medea, 411.
3. The saperda was the coracinus (a kind of fish) when salted.
4. This is probably an allusion to a prosecution instituted by Demosthenes against Midias, which was afterwards compromised by Midias paying Demosthenes thirty minae, or three thousand drachmae. See Dem. Or. cont. Midias.
5. This is a pun upon the similarity of Athlias's name to the Greek adjective athlios, which signifies miserable.
6. The heiromnêmones were the sacred secretaries or recorders sent by each Amphictyonic state to the council along with their pulagoras, (the actual deputy or minister, L. & S. Gr. & Eng. Lex., in voc.
7. There is a pun here. Cheirôn is the word used for worse. Chiron was also the most celebrated of the Centaurs, the tutor of Achilles.
8. There is a pun intended here; as Diogenes proposed Didymus a fate somewhat similar to that of the beaver.
Cupiens evadere damno
9. This is taken from Homer, Il. 10. 387. Pope's Version, 455.
10. This is also from Homer. Il. 2. 95. Pope's Version, 120.
11. This is a parody on Homer, Il 14. 95, where the line ends hoi' agoreueis "if such is your language;" which Diogenes here changes to of agorazeis, if you buy such things.
12. This is a line of the Phoenissae of Euripides, v. 40.
13. 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.
14. This line occurs, Hom. Il. 5 83.
15. 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.
16. Eurytion was another of the Centaurs, who was killed by Hercules.
17. This is a pun on the similarity of the sound, Tegea, to tegos, a brothel.
18. The Greek is eranon aitoumenos pros ton eranarchên ephê, - eranos was not only a subscription or contribution for the support of the poor, but also a club or society of subscribers to a common fund for any purpose, social, commercial, or charitable or especially political. . . . On the various eranoi v. Böckh, P. E. i. 328. Att. Process. p. 540, s. 99. L. & S. in voc. eranos.
19. Hom. Il. 3. 65.
20. There is a pun here; korê means both "a girl" and "the pupil of the eye." And ptheirô, "to destroy," is also especially used for " to seduce."
Author's Note: Grateful Acknowledgment to Peitho's Web site for their generous translation of Diogenes Laertius: http://classicpersuasion.org/pw/diogenes/