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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas
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1. The Problem. The problem of the origins or
sources of Cynicism has attracted the interest of
scholars since Ferdinand Dümmler published his dis-
sertation Antisthenica in 1882. Dümmler thought he
had found a whole series of polemical allusions to
Antisthenes in Plato's works. Dümmler's thesis was
soon pushed to extremes by other scholars, who gave
Antisthenes a central position in Greek philosophy.
Antisthenes' role as the founder of a philosophical
school was not called in question. Diogenes of Sinope
was regarded as his immediate pupil in accordance
with ancient tradition. Cynicism was regarded as an
ethical and mainly partical philosophical movement
with later additions of certain abstruse traits but still
essentially a bearer of a Socratic tradition.

Contrary to this conception of the problem we find
another radically different view. In this view Antis-
thenes was not an independent thinker or writer of
any particular importance and had nothing at all to
do with Cynicism. The linking together of Antisthenes
and Diogenes is then explained as a Stoic attempt to
derive the Stoa directly from Socrates. Cynicism is not
a philosophy, it is an asocial, amoral, and anti-intellec-
tual way of living. Without Diogenes there would be
no Cynics. He is the creator of the true Cynic type
with all its burlesque, asocial and anticultural features,
described in an abundance of Cynic anecdotes. The
picture of Diogenes as a type, conveyed by the anec-


dotes, is true in its main features, even though the
details are invented.

The problem of Cynicism is essentially a problem
concerning the sources. No original writings, with few
exceptions, have survived. Our knowledge of Cynicism
rests largely on quotations from late authors, on a rich
profusion of anecdotes, and on late spurious letters.
The interpretation of isolated sentences, torn from their
context, and of résumés must therefore be conjectural
and need to be viewed from the standpoint of the
history of the ideas associated with the so-called
Cynics. The widely differing positions taken up in this
field of research are due to the conditions suggested
here. The account of a few central themes in Cynicism
that will be given here rests solely on doxographical
material or such material as can be related to the

2. Early Authors. First we present a short survey
of persons and authors in the Cynic tradition during
the fourth and third centuries B.C.

Antisthenes—dates unknown, but still living at an
advanced age in Athens in 366—came from the
Sophists as a disciple of Gorgias. According to the
practice of the Sophists he gave instruction for a fee
in the gymnasium of Cynosarges outside the city-wall
of Athens, offering lessons intended for the education
of young Athenians without full citizenship. Antis-
thenes himself was not a full citizen of Athens, his
mother being a Thracian woman. The Cynosarges
contained a famous shrine of Heracles; the name
“Cynic,” it is usually believed was derived from
Cynosarges. Heracles as Cynic hero has his origin here.
Antisthenes was a prolific writer. Diogenes Laërtius,
in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers, gives us under
Antisthenes' name one of the longest lists of books, 66
titles in all, divided into ten sections. His literary out-
put belongs within the scope of the problems which
were of interest to the Sophists. Of this immense liter-
ary output nothing remains except two declamations
about Ajax and Odysseus, which betray the influence
of Gorgias' rhetorical style but show manifest traces
of Cynic “king-ideology” (which is discussed below).
Besides the life in Diogenes Laërtius there are only
a few scattered quotations, mostly in the writings of
late authors.

Diogenes of Sinope probably came to Athens as a
political exile in connection with the Persian satrap
Datames' capture of the Athenian colony of Sinope
on the south coast of the Black Sea in 370. He possibly
taught in Athens after the decade of 360-50. Among
his better known pupils were Onesicritus, Alexander's
admiral, who took part in the expedition to India and
wrote a novel on Alexander and descriptions of India;
furthermore, Anaximenes of Lampsacus, who carried
on an extensive literary activity, was the instructor of
Alexander and wrote a history of him. He is said to
have lived ca. 380-20. The ancient testimonies are
unanimous in placing Diogenes' death towards 320.
There are no reasons for doubting the existence of
personal contact between Antisthenes and Diogenes.
Besides direct teaching, Diogenes also carried on a
rather extensive literary activity. Diogenes Laërtius
gives a list of writings attributed to him that comprises
thirteen dialogues, seven tragedies, and letters; in a
second, shorter list, with mostly other titles, Diogenes
Laërtius enumerates thirteen works, besides letters.
With the letters are probably those spurious letters that
under the names of various philosophers were current
in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. No tragedies are
mentioned in this second list. That the teaching activity
presupposes some kind of literary activity and literary
reputation can hardly be doubted, but nothing remains.

Among Diogenes' personal pupils, besides the
above-mentioned Onesicritus and Anaximenes, were a
number of Cynic authors, among others Monimus of
Syracuse, who wrote jocular poems with a serious
intent; Philiscus of Aegina, who besides dialogues
wrote tragedies intended for reading, in which Cynic
paradoxes were paraded; also, Crates of Thebes, who
likewise wrote jocular poems of which we get a fairly
good idea from fragments that have been preserved.
Metrocles of Maroneia, Crates' brother-in-law, origi-
nally a Peripatetic but later a pupil of Crates, played
an important role, in the generation immediately after
Diogenes, through his writings containing helpful
words for everyday use intended to strengthen the
philosophical attitude towards life. He had a decisive
influence on the creation of the type of Cynic philoso-
pher, and of the Diogenes legend.

In the generation after Metrocles we find a number
of important writers. Diogenes Laërtius mentions as
a pupil of Metrocles among others Menippus of
Gadara, originally a slave at Sinope, who continued
in the way which Monimus made vivid by putting forth
philosophical maxims in a jocular form. His style, a
mixture of prose and poetry, was imitated by Varro
in the latter's Saturae Menippeae, of which about 600
fragments have been preserved. In addition, to this
generation of authors belongs Bion the Borysthenite,
also a freedman, and a pupil of Theophrastus and
Xenocrates, but above all of Crates, the Cynic. Bion
was already considered in antiquity to be the originator
of the so-called diatribe style. Then we have Teles of
Megara, diatribist after the manner of Bion (of whom
a considerable number of extracts have been preserved
by Stobaeus), and Cercidas of Megalopolis. Cercidas
does not at all conform to the vulgar conception of
a Cynic. He served his native city as general, diplomat,


and lawgiver, but attained his greatest fame as Cynic
philosopher and poet. He was strongly influenced by
Diogenes as well as by Bion, whose diatribic style he

In the latter half of the third century Menedemus
from Asia Minor was active as a writer in a sternly
moralizing, polemical style. Finally, mention must be
made of the satirist Meleager of Gadara, poet and
Cynic philosopher in the Menippean style, who lived
at the end of the second century B.C.

3. Sophistic Background. From the point of view
of the history of ideas Cynicism as a practical-philo-
sophical movement begins with the Sophists. Most of
its theoretical motivation and ideological substance is
derived from the Sophists' nominalistic theory of
knowledge and materialism, the radical opposition to
society and its conventions through the assertion of
natural law as against positive law, and a ruthless and
unrestricted individualism. From the pedagogy of the
Sophists came also the interest in practical ethical
questions and educational problems. Antisthenes, who
began as a Sophist and in spite of his attacks on his
former teacher Gorgias always remained a Sophist,
later on attached himself to Socrates, whom he admired
highly and to whom he probably stood in a close
relationship. He was with Socrates in the prison, when
Socrates drank the hemlock. In Socrates Antisthenes
met with what was later associated with the Cynic type
in its serious form: poverty, voluntary asceticism,
physical insensibility and hardiness, psychical firmness,
and absolute personal integrity. Out of this encounter
Cynicism was born. With Antisthenes' successor
Diogenes the theoretical motivation receded to give
place to a practical demonstration against established
social behavior for the benefit of an individualism
pushed ad absurdum.

4. Political Ideas. The Sophists, who almost without
exception were of non-Athenian descent, wrote a
number of critical and comparative descriptions of the
constitutions of various states. The points of view var-
ied considerably between conservative and radical
ideas, and various attempts were made at justifying
society's demands for subordination. Protagoras put this
justification in a mythical form as innate feelings of
right and wrong, thus giving society a foundation in
irrational, religious conceptions. Law and nature are
not contradictory notions; on the contrary, they are
complementary to each other. The Sophist Antiphon,
on the other hand, equated nature and truth in contrast
to law, which means a violation of nature. As an exam-
ple he cites the fictions difference between social
classes and between Greeks and barbarians, differences
which have no foundation in nature.

In this political literary activity Antisthenes took
part. According to Diogenes Laërtius he wrote a con-
siderable number of political pamphlets under tradi-
tional titles. Our information about this literary output
is scanty. Antisthenes criticized the tyrants for their
excessive greed which led them to the greatest crimes.
He also criticized Pericles and other politicians in
special pamphlets, and appeared in public with his
political criticism. More important are the conclusions
that can be drawn about Antisthenes' political writings
by viewing the fragments in relation to the Sophistic

The Sophist Antiphon wrote a book about Concord.
The word has on one side a political sense, concord
between warring groups of society, but on the other
side it had undergone a development in an individ-
ualistic direction and acquired the sense of harmony
with oneself. Plato defines the wicked man as one who
is not in harmony with himself, and he says that what
is in opposition to itself, can hardly be a friend of
anything else. The formula “to be in harmony with
oneself” was familiar to Plato in his early writings. In
the Stoa the concept of concord was defined as knowl-
edge about common advantages. Only the wise pos-
sessed this knowledge. A number of fragments from
Antisthenes' writings must be read in this connection:
criticism of the existing society with its demand for
political concord on the basis of the law, in contrast
to this the concord that exists in accordance with
nature above the law and in opposition to it, e.g.,
between brothers and above all between the wise. This
concord is based on the philosopher's ability to hold
converse with himself, to be in harmony with himself,
which is possible only for the wise.

Antisthenes, like Antiphon, took up the cudgels
against the traditional code of morality and its laws,
and set up the antithesis: nomos versus physis (“cus-
tom” or “convention” versus “nature”). In a religious
fragment he makes use of this antithesis to show that
polytheism exists only according to law; according to
nature there is only one god. In a political fragment
this antithesis recurs: the wise man must not live in
accordance with the established laws but with the law
of virtue. There are other utterances that seem to show
that Antisthenes used this and similar expressions in
polemics against democracy.

The wise man's ethical superiority to other men leads
to another antithesis with political consequences, the
contrast between the good and the bad. The bad must
be separated from the state just as the weeds are sepa-
rated from the corn or the cowards from the battle.
The good must unite, become friends and allies in the
ethical battle. Their weapon is virtue and this weapon
can never be lost. This virtue, which is itself a law
in opposition to the laws of society, is teachable. Still


it demands no great learning but practical training.
Family ties and difference of sex do not count here.
Human fellowship can only be based on equal spiritual
qualities, irrespective of all conventions. It can as a
matter of fact exist only between the wise.

Politics and pedagogy were closely connected in the
Sophistic. The aim of the Sophists was to create by
instruction conditions for success in society. But the
content and value of this Sophistic instruction were
called in question. Antisthenes sought a solution of the
problem of politics in opposition to Plato, whose theory
of ideas he polemized against and rejected. We do not
know how far the state in Cynic writings approximated
Plato's ideal of the state, but there were some striking
parallels: in both cases there was a question of an
ethical aristocracy with justice and virtue as central
concepts, a philosopher state with no possibility of
realization in practical life. As to the Cynics this led
to the idea of a simple and remote life in harmony
with nature, which education should aim at.

5. Cynic Pedagogy. Diogenes Laërtius' account (VI
70f.) of Diogenes' maxims is a summary of early Cynic
pedagogy. The theme is “the double training,” the
necessary training of body and soul, and the passage
is one of the few sources of information about early
Cynic ideology of Heracles. Both forms of training are
equally necessary for him who wants to learn how to
act rightly. More explicit information as to the methods
of this pedagogy is given in Diog. L. VI 30f. Diogenes
Laërtius quotes a certain Eubulus who wrote a book
about how Diogenes was sold as a slave and became
the teacher of Xeniades' two sons. These he trained
in various sorts of athletics, not in an exaggerated way
but only enough to keep them in good physical condi-
tion. The pupils also had to learn by heart passages
from poets and historians, and the writings of Diogenes
himself. Part of the education also consisted in learning
a simple way of living as to food, drink, and clothes,
and modest behavior. Thus Diogenes appears here as
a representative of the traditional type of education,
which reminds one of Xenophon's Cyropaedia and
shows a certain affinity to Prodicus' allegory on
Heracles. As a youth Heracles chose the virtuous
woman Aretē instead of the woman of pleasure, Kakia,
when he was confronted by both where paths crossed.
The passages in Diog. L. VI 30 and 70 correspond to
each other. Diogenes proclaimed a pedagogical doc-
trine which has left traces in early Cynic literature.
The story of the sale of Diogenes into slavery has been
treated by several Cynic writers in the next generation.
The quotation from Eubulus (Diog. L. VI 30) represents
a serious variant of the story. In this variant Diogenes
appears outwardly as a slave but inwardly as free and
a master. Whether and how far the version of the sale
into slavery given by Lucian, where Diogenes appears
in a caricatured form, goes back to an early burlesque
variant (Menippus?) is doubtful. The pedagogy of the
Eubulus version is of an idyllic character which has
its counterpart in a hedonistic theme in the doxography
Diog. L. VI 71: the despising of pleasure is the greatest
pleasure. In Lucian we meet a Cynic pedagogy of quite
another character in line with the many Diogenes
anecdotes representing traits of rigorous asceticism and
abstruse shamelessness.

It is easy to relate the varying motifs in the Eubulus
pedagogy to ideas generally known in the fourth cen-
tury B.C.: the ruler-teacher motif, the slave-ruler motif,
the idyllic training in hunting, archery, riding, and
other forms of athletics as a complement to reading
and learning by heart select passages from the works
of poets and other writers. Even the framework itself,
the sale of Diogenes into slavery, had its model in
Euripides' play Syleus, where Heracles is sold as a
slave. But while Eubulus' pedagogy with its archaic,
Spartan education (paideia) was disappearing from the
Cynic tradition, a burlesque variant was being created
which left its most important traces in Lucian several
centuries later. Instead of Eubulus' mild, hedonistically
tinged asceticism we find a coarse and vulgar asceticism
which was self-contained and was the form of Cynicism
that Lucian criticized, and which furnished the mate-
rial for countless popular anecdotes.

The idyllic existence which Eubulus' pedagogy de-
scribes has to a certain extent its counterpart in some
fragments of an early Cynic poem (Crates' poem, Pera)
which describes in allegorical form an ideal society.

Crates' social background was different from that
of Antisthenes and Diogenes. He was a full citizen of
Thebes but distributed his wealth, which was consid-
erable, among his fellow citizens. Teles describes him
as a sort of pre-Christian Saint Francis, who derived
the highest ethical values from his voluntary poverty.
Apuleius provides an interesting example of Heracles
as an ethical model in his description of Crates. Here
we find a picture of the Cynic saint, reconciler and
adviser of men, punisher of all evil. In Crates we find
the dream of the far-off state, which no evil men or
evil conditions can reach. Pera—the type of wallet
associated with the Cynics—stands as name and symbol
of this state. Crates praises self-sufficing simplicity,
isolation, and freedom. A simple way of life brings
contentedness. The inhabitants of Pera are men who
are not the slaves of pleasure, but who love freedom,
the eternal queen.

In Crates' new kingdom there is no war. Men do
not fight with each other for food since where frugality
reigns there is enough for all. Crates embraces Cynic
pacifism, which may well have been introduced by


Antisthenes. The poem is a mixture of fun and serious-
ness. What Crates describes in the Pera is a never-never
land. There is no question of a state in the usual sense:
Pera is a dream, which the Christian Fathers compared
with the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the Cynic ideal
community, without the difficulties of sustaining itself,
of war or wickedness, a society in which dwell such
men as the Cynics endeavor to fashion by education.

The doxography Diog. L. VI 70ff. contains in section
72 an account of Diogenes' political views. It is possible
that the passage is a summary of the content of
Diogenes' book, Politeia, which described a philosopher
state and contained principles that were later adopted
by the Stoa. The elements of this account can in any
case easily be related to the political debate of the
fifth and fourth centuries: the wise are god's friends,
hence everything belongs to them; noble birth and
fame are valueless things; common possession of wives
and children should take the place of marriage; the
purpose of the state is to afford its citizens protection
and help; this the state cannot do without law, conse-
quently, law is necessary for the state. Then the ques-
tion arises, which state is the right one. The Sophist
Antiphon had shown in his book Truth that the histori-
cal state was unable to provide the legal protection
that men needed. The answer to the question about
the right state is also given: the only right state is the
world state. The expression “the right state” was a term
accepted in the political writings of the fourth century.
What is new in the Diogenes doxography is that it is
applied to a “cosmos-state.”

6. Scientific Views of the Cynics. The doxography
contains in section 73 a passage of scientific, theoretical
character. Cynicism may have derived its view of
nature via the Sophists from Anaxagoras (who had
considerable influence on Athenian philosophical
views), from Diogenes of Apollonia, and from the
Atomists. It is easy to find fragments which tie up with
the main theme of this passage. The source quoted is
Diogenes' tragedy Thyestes, with the reservation that
the tragedies may not be genuine. Diogenes

... saw no impropriety either in stealing anything from
a temple or eating the flesh of any animal; nor even anything
impious in touching human flesh, this, he said, being clear
from the custom of some foreign nations. Moreover, accord-
ing to right reason, as he put it, all elements are contained
in all things and pervade everything: since not only is meat
a constituent of bread, but bread of vegetables; and all other
bodies also, by means of certain invisible passages and
particles, find their way and unite with all substances in
the form of vapor.

It is quite possible to date this passage to the fourth
century B.C. The idea that lies behind it is old; the
scientific terms are early technical terms, and even if
the whole line of reasoning in this section is foreign
to the traditional view of Diogenes, which ignores his
intellectual side, we must still reckon with the possi-
bility that Diogenes justified his radical views with
plausible and appropriate scientific arguments. He was
not, however, interested in physical or logical problems
for their own sake.

This part of Diogenes' doxography is the only place
in the whole Diogenes tradition where we have a
reference to a really scientific theory as a justification
of Diogenes' views. Elsewhere he adduces simple,
eristic arguments to support a radical thesis or to
explain an objectionable phenomenon. The passage
contains no word about the desirability of the realiza-
tion of the theory in actual society or in any ideal state.

7. Cynic Asceticism. Lucian's version of Cynicism
represents the aspect of Cynicism that has become best
known thanks to a profusion of anecdotes. The most
varied anecdotes, some strictly rigorous and coarsely
hedonistic, some serious and burlesque, and both sym-
pathetic and hostile to civilization, have attached
themselves to Diogenes of Sinope. Various scholars
have maintained that the rigorous type of anecdotes
is primary and genuinely Diogenic, whereas the
hedonistic type of anecdotes was introduced in the
Diogenes tradition by Crates and especially his disci-
ples Bion and Menippus, as a more human reaction.
A strict and rigorous movement also continued, which
actually even attempted to outdo Diogenes himself.
Diogenes appears as a misanthrope in the pessimistic
28th letter. Most words of rebuke occur in the Cynic
texts of Roman imperial times. The creation of the
legend began immediately after Diogenes' death and
took place simultaneously along two lines—the strict
and rigorous, and the hedonistic.

At a definite point we can see how a rigorous type
of asceticism evidently influenced the Diogenes legend.
Onesicritus, Alexander's admiral, tells, in Strabo, the
story of his encounter with an Indian ascetic sect, the
so-called Gymnosophists. Naked and motionless, in
various positions on the rocks, they endured the heat
of the equatorial sun until the evening. The motive
for their harsh asceticism is conveyed in the following

Man trains the body for toil in order that his opinions may
be strengthened, whereby he may put a stop to dissensions
and be ready to give good advice to all, both in public and
in private.

Onesicritus is comparing oriental asceticism with the
form of asceticism he had come to know at home in
Greece in the Cynicism of Diogenes. The comparison
is to the disadvantage of Cynicism. In the Gymnosoph-
ists he found ascetics of a far more radical type than


he had previously encountered. In this respect he puts
Pythagoras, Socrates, and Diogenes on the same plane:
they failed because they put law before nature. This
rigorous type of asceticism is reflected in the anecdotes
about Diogenes rolling in the hot sand or embracing
in winter statues covered with snow, and others.

Within the Cynic movement itself the increasing
oriental influence on Greek religion, following the time
of Alexander, created a necessity to maintain the
school's saint Diogenes as a thoroughgoing, rigorous
ascetic. Onesicritus' comparison between Indian and
Greek ascetic philosophy was no isolated phenomenon.
The story recurs as one of the sources in a papyrus
from the second century B.C.

It remains an open question how much of the harsh,
rigorous asceticism goes back as far as the historical
Diogenes. It may be assumed that it does, to a certain
extent. The history of ideas shows clearly that the
eudaemonistic, Socratic asceticism, which is pedagog-
ically motivated and has its background in the peda-
gogical debate of the fifth and fourth centuries, belongs
to Cynic philosophy from its beginning.

8. Cynic Hero and King Ideology. The Heracles
mythology contained a great many features that let
themselves be easily applied to Cynic philosophy. The
suffering Heracles appears as a benefactor in the
drama. In Euripides' Heracles the theme philanthropia
through suffering is clearly delineated. But the drama
did not advance to the position of Antisthenes in re-
garding pain as something good. Antisthenes demon-
strated that pain is a good thing by instancing the great
Heracles and Cyrus, drawing the one example from
the Greek world and the other from the barbarians.
An important step towards the possibility of using
Heracles for philosophical, ethical purposes had al-
ready been taken in the Ionian criticism of the myths.
In the extensive Ionian literature about Heracles the
Sophist Herodorus of Heraclea in Pontus was the cre-
ator of the allegories of the philosophic Heracles. In
the Sophist Prodicus' allegory of the Choice of
Heracles there appears a philanthropical as well as an
ascetic theme, a hedonistic attraction towards a sim-
pler, more natural way of life as a reaction against
artificiality and excessive civilization. Antisthenes' view
of pain as something good is fully consistent with
Prodicus' description of Heracles. The myth of
Heracles offered a multitude of possibilities for a phil-
osophic sect which, because of its origin in circles
without full political rights, was burdened by social
and political discontent.

The fragments of Antisthenes' Heracles are not very
extensive. The main points are: Heracles receives in-
struction in virtue from the wise centaur Chiron, pain
is something good, the purpose of life is to live accord
ing to virtue, virtue can be taught and when once
acquired cannot be lost.

As to Diogenes the doxography Diog. L. VI 70 offers
an example of early Heracles ideology. Heracles is the
prototype for the pedagogic ideas propagated here.
The passage ends with a reference to Heracles:

... allowing [sc. Diogenes] convention no such authority
as he allowed to natural right, and asserting that the manner
of life he lived was the same as that of Heracles when he
preferred liberty to everything.

The Heracles mythology had been dealt with at
great length and in various aspects in the fifth century,
but Heracles declined rapidly in popularity both in
Cynic and in extra-Cynic literature. The vogue he
enjoyed during the whole fifth century in epic, lyric,
tragedy, and finally in the allegorical and rationalistic
interpretation of myth did not continue into the fourth
century. The only thing which survived apart from the
sterile references scattered throughout literature is the
allegory and the ethical propaganda in Cynic circles.

In Dio Chrysostomus in the first century A.D. we find
relatively unequivocal themes of Cynic Heracles prop-
aganda; there is an attempt to achieve a refined picture
of Heracles along Cynic lines, in which the divine
character of the hero is rationalized and his labors are
given an allegorical interpretation. His virtues are
individual-ethical, but the philanthropia theme is pre-
served and a firm front maintained against intellectual-
ism and athleticism. This use of Heracles by Dio was
due to Dio's becoming acquainted with a Cynic way
of life and Cynic literature. Diogenes in Dio Chrysos-
tomus Or. 8 compares himself with Heracles. The
moral struggle against pleasure is designated by the
term labor, and Heracles is held up as an example.
We find in Dio Chrysostomus a picture of Heracles
which has nothing in common with the athletic, sensual
Heracles of satyrical drama and comedy. He is adapted
to the Cynic ideal of behavior and appears in his new
guise as a Cynic saint, a portrait for which Dio was
indebted to earlier Cynic sources.

The most important feature in Dio's characterization
of Heracles is the education, the double paideia, the
“human” and the “divine”; the “divine” paideia repre-
sents the true Cynic pedagogics with Heracles as a
model in opposition to Sophistic Rhetoric and vulgar
Cynicism. Dio's views on this subject, maybe through
early Stoic intermediaries, were influenced by classical
Cynicism. In Dio we find the ideas and problems of
the fourth century B.C. with its interest in the rela-
tionship between education and politics, its opposition
to the Sophists' unsuccessful efforts in this field, and
the individual-ethical form given to educational and
political theories with the important central themes:


to govern oneself = to govern men; education =
authority; philosopher = ruler. The Cynic educational
theory is a pedagogy for rulers. From the point of view
of the history of ideas it belongs together with Xeno-
phon's Cyropaedia and the Aristippean polemic in
Xenophon's Memorabilia II 1. A basic idea common
to these texts is the part played by the paragon in their
pedagogic theory: the ruler is a model and his position
is based on his moral supremacy.

Antisthenes described Cyrus' development according
to the scheme slave-king (doulos-basileus), and used the
same theme in his portrayal of Odysseus. The theme
recurs in the idealization of Diogenes, and its main
point was to show the philosophical inner freedom
which is founded on moral perfection and not on out-
ward circumstances. The application of the theme to
Diogenes has taken place among the authors of the
generation after Diogenes. In Dio Chrysostomus we
find this Cynic theme elaborated in detail, and there
is no doubt that Dio reflects early Cynic basileus-
ideology. In Dio's Cynic speeches there occur a num-
ber of catalogues of virtues and vices of a relatively
fixed form. The man who does not possess the right
qualities, i.e., a character firmly formed along individ-
ual-ethical lines, is not a basileus at all. Although
Xerxes is by external standards the most powerful of
kings and by his external power can perform the most
unbelievable things, he is weaker than those who do
not even possess an obol, if he does not possess the
right, i.e., the Cynic character. The term “basileus”
belongs properly only to the morally perfect ruler, a
king with pronounced individual-ethical qualities, with
simple, uncomplicated social functions illustrated by
comparison to a herdsman, and by the father figure.
He is an idyllic type who belongs historically to Xeno-
phon's portrait of Cyrus.

But in his writings Dio presents a further portrait
of the king, namely the basileus as a solitary, poor,
and suffering figure. This portrait is modelled on
Diogenes, but probably originated in the works of
Antisthenes. The model for this type of basileus was
Heracles with his solitariness, nakedness, poverty,
homelessness, suffering. Yet with all this Heracles was
the son of Zeus and worthy of kingship. In Dio we
find that Diogenes plays the part of the suffering
basileus: in his humiliation, exposed to men's abuse and
ill-treatment he resembled a real king and ruler in his
garment of a poor man. The philosopher in his simple
tribon (the philosopher's cloak) must submit to suffer-
ing and ignominy. This “abuse” theme is an insep-
arable component of the Cynic type of behavior. The
Cynic is reviled for his poverty, for consorting with
bad men, for his humble origin, and for his appearance
and demeanor. We have in Dio veritable catalogues
of suffering and struggle. The philosopher must endure
hunger, thirst, cold, ill-treatment, poverty, and igno-
miny, but he does so without complaining; on the con-
trary, he considers these burdens easy to carry. The
eudaemonistic motivation of the moral struggle, the
endurance, the absence of effort and strain in this
struggle, in which, on the contrary, he engages with
ease and joy, are all typical Cynic traits. The noble
man, who is also perfect, is identical with the true king,
the basileus disguised as a slave.

The best known example of the use of the doulos-
motif is the antithesis Diogenes-Alexander the
Great. This antithesis belongs to the first half of the
third century B.C. Dio Chrysostomus describes Alex-
ander as an unfree and unhappy man full of erroneous
ideas about the true values of life. Diogenes' aim is
to teach Alexander what true kingship is. Diogenes not
only gives instruction about the true king, but he views
himself as the real king. Alexander is unfree or a slave,
whereas Diogenes is the freest of men. In order to
become a real king Alexander must exchange his royal
splendor for the philosopher's ragged cloak and first
learn to master himself before he can rule others. Still
more, he must put on the slave's garment and serve
those who are superior to himself. He must deliberately
walk the road of suffering and service and submit to
the philosopher's instruction and way of life, in order
that in this way he may avoid false kingship.

The Cynic preaching contained, among other things,
a conception of kingship of a unique character—the
solitary, poor, and suffering basileus. The Cynic
Heraclean allegory has played a decisive role in this
connection. Even Antisthenes' works on Odysseus and
Cyrus have been influenced by the same and similar
motifs. After his death Diogenes is described in the
role of the slave-king who is mocked and ridiculed,
but at last raised above all surrounding adversities.

The other side of this Cynic conception of kingship
is the purely ethical. We are concerned with a question,
popular and much discussed in the fourth century B.C.,
the question of the true king's ethical qualifications and
their indispensability as conditions for the position of
basileus. Xenophon and Plato have both given evi-
dence, each one in his own way, of the central role
which this pedagogical motif has played in the Socratic
circle. The Antisthenic-Diogenic theory of the double
paideia must be looked upon as emanating from the
same Socratic source. The stress falls on individual
ethics, the “divine” paideia. “Human” paideia, al-
though hazardous and misleading, is allowed to have
some value, but only in relation to “divine” paideia.
The pedagogical theories of Dio Chrysostomus,
brought forth in argument against the Sophists, are
directly influenced by the Socratic-Cynic pedagogy.



F. D. Caizzi, Antisthenis Fragmenta (Milan, 1966). D. R.
Dudley, A History of Cynicism. From Diogenes to the 6th
A.D. (London, 1937). R. Höistad, Cynic Hero and
Cynic King: Studies in the Cynic Conception of Man

(Uppsala, 1948). A. O. Lovejoy and G. Boas, Primitivism and
Related Ideas in Antiquity. A Documentary History of
Primitivism and Related Ideas
(Baltimore, 1935). K.
Praechter, Die Philosophie des Altertums (Berlin, 1926),
gives exhaustive lists of text editions and literature. F. Sayre,
Diogenes of Sinope. A Study of Greek Cynicism (Baltimore,
1938); idem, The Greek Cynics (Baltimore, 1948). R. Vischer,
Das einfache Leben (Göttingen, 1965). C. J. de Vogel, Greek
Philosophy: A Collection of Texts
(Leyden, 1950-59). K. von
Fritz, Quellenuntersuchungen zu Leben und Philosophie des
Diogenes von Sinope, Philologus,
Supplementband 18:2
(Leipzig, 1926).


[See also Law, Natural; Nature; Platonism; Pre-Platonic
Conceptions of Human Nature; Rationality; Stoicism.]