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Greek Philosopher: Diogenes

Updated on December 4, 2016

412 - 322 BC

The celebrated Greek cynic philosopher who is said to have lived in a tub, wearing the coarsest clothing and living on the plainest food. Many of his sayings have been preseved, and serve for occasional quotation.

'Diogenes' by John William Waterhouse, 1882
'Diogenes' by John William Waterhouse, 1882

About Diogenes

Diogenes was born in Sinope, in Pontus, an Ionian Greek colony on the Southern Shores of the Black Sea (present-day Turkey).

His father, Icesias, a banker, was convicted of debasing the coinage, and Diogenes, being implicated in the matter, was obliged to leave Sinope.

He traveled to Athens, where he convinced the Cynic philosopher Antisthenes to take him as a disciple. Diogenes then plunged into a life of austerity and self-mortification. He wore coarse clothing, ate the plainest food, and accepted relief from the Athenians. He slept on bare ground, in the open streets, or under porticoes. His eccentric life did not, however, lose him respect of the Athenians, who admired his contempt of comfort.

Practical good was the chief aim of his philosophy; and he did not conceal his disdain for literature and the fine arts. He laughed at men of letters for reading the sufferings of Odysseus while neglecting their own, and at orators who studied how to enforce truth but not how to practice it.

On a voyage to Aegina he was seized by pirates and carried to Crete, where he was sold as a slave.

When asked what business he was proficient in, he answered, "In commanding." He was purchased by a certain Xeniades of Corinth, who recognized his worth, set him free, and made him tutor to his children.

Alexander the Great

According to a popular story, on one occasion Diogenes had an interview with Alexander III, King of Macedonia. The king opened the conversation with "I am Alexander the Great", and the philosopher answered, "And I am Diogenes the Cynic".

Alexander then asked him in what way he could serve him. "You can stand out of the sunshine," the philosopher replied. Alexander is said to have been so struck with the Cynic's self-possession that he went away remaking, "If I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes."

Diogenes died at Corinth, according to tradition, on the same day as Alexander.

Alexander the Great meets the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope circa 335 BC.
Alexander the Great meets the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope circa 335 BC.

Cynicism

The Cynic sect of Greek philosophers who rejected the values of civilisation, living the simplest, barest existence. According to popular legend, he made his home in a barrel.

The name of the sect came from the ancient Greek word kunos, meaning 'dog', because of the lowly style of life that Diogenes adopted, shunning social conventions as contrary to nature. The present meaning of the word 'cynic' developed from this general scorn for mankind.

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    • Jaspals profile image

      Jaspal Singh 

      5 years ago from India / Australia

      I love to read about this great man, Diogenes. Thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • Nomascus concolor profile image

      Nomascus concolor 

      6 years ago from A Country called Earth

      Love hearing about Diogène stories and quotes. A strong man with simple values. Great hub, thanks for sharing!

    • profile image

      Manel Dahmani 

      6 years ago

      coooooooooooooooooooooooooool

    • profile image

      D. Socrates Carlon 

      7 years ago

      The pre-Socratics did well in their philosophies but our modern world sees most of their philosophies as archaic as compared to the Socratics. Reading and practicing philosophical concepts is my hobby. Thanks for the site.

    • profile image

      Joe Maquette 

      8 years ago

      @adorababy : You are right, he was almost subversive.

    • adorababy profile image

      adorababy 

      8 years ago from Syracuse, NY

      Diogenes was the epitome of unconventional. He followed his own dictates to the point he was given the epithet "dog," from which the name "cynic" is derived

    • hubber-2009 profile image

      hubber-2009 

      8 years ago from India

      Diogenes is also called the Sage of Death..

    • profile image

      Haley 

      8 years ago

      I like this site.

    • loua profile image

      loua 

      9 years ago from Elsewhere, visiting Earth ~ the segregated community planet

      Enjoyed thoroughly, thanks

    • success79 profile image

      success79 

      9 years ago

      This is certainly interesting. I embrace plilosophy

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