Diogenes of Sinope

‘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.”‘

From Life of Diogenes by Diogenes Laertius, translated by C. D. Yonge


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