Blog Archive

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"Yes, stand out of my sunlight" Diogenes of Sinope (/daɪˈɒdʒəˌniːz/; Greek: Διογένης ὁ Σινωπεύς, Diogenēs ho Sinōpeus). Also known as Diogenes the Cynic (Ancient Greek: Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogenēs ho Kunikos)

Diogenes of Sinope (/dˈɒəˌnz/; Greek: Διογένης ὁ Σινωπεύς, Diogenēs ho Sinōpeus) was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes the Cynic (Ancient Greek: Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogenēs ho Kunikos), he was born in Sinope (modern-day Sinop, Turkey), an Ionian colony on the Black Sea,[1] in 412 or 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC.[2]

Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure. His father minted coins for a living, and when Diogenes took to debasement of currency, he was banished from Sinope.[1] After being exiled, he moved to Athens to debunk cultural conventions. Diogenes modelled himself on the example of Heracles. He believed that virtue was better revealed in action than in theory. He used his simple lifestyle and behaviour to criticise the social values and institutions of what he saw as a corrupt society. He declared himself a cosmopolitan. There are many tales about him dogging Antisthenes' footsteps and becoming his "faithful hound".[3] Diogenes made a virtue of poverty. He begged for a living and slept in a large ceramic jar[4] in the marketplace. He became notorious for his philosophical stunts such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. He embarrassed Plato, disputed his interpretation of Socrates and sabotaged his lectures. Diogenes was also responsible for publicly mocking Alexander the Great.

Diogenes and Alexander

Alexander the Great visits Diogenes at Corinth by W. Matthews (1914)
Main article: Diogenes and Alexander

It was in Corinth that a meeting between Alexander the Great and Diogenes is supposed to have taken place.[30] The accounts of Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius recount that they exchanged only a few words: while Diogenes was relaxing in the sunlight in the morning, Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied,
"Yes, stand out of my sunlight". Alexander then declared, "If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes", to which Diogenes replied, "If I were not Diogenes, I should also wish to be Diogenes."[31] In another account of the conversation, Alexander found the philosopher looking attentively at a pile of human bones. Diogenes explained, "I am searching for the bones of your father but cannot distinguish them from those of a slave."[32]
Death

There are conflicting accounts of Diogenes' death. He is alleged variously to have held his breath; to have become ill from eating raw octopus;[33] or to have suffered an infected dog bite.[34] When asked how he wished to be buried, he left instructions to be thrown outside the city wall so wild animals could feast on his body. When asked if he minded this, he said, "Not at all, as long as you provide me with a stick to chase the creatures away!" When asked how he could use the stick since he would lack awareness, he replied "If I lack awareness, then why should I care what happens to me when I am dead?"[35] At the end, Diogenes made fun of people's excessive concern with the "proper" treatment of the dead. The Corinthians erected to his memory a pillar on which rested a dog of Parian marble.[36]