Who was historys first cynic and why was he called

Who was history’s first cynic (and why was he called that) G1

1 of 4 “Diogenes Sitting on his Barrel” by JeanLéon Gérôme (1860) — Photo: BBC “Diogenes Sitting on his Barrel” by JeanLéon Gérôme (1860) — Photo: BBC

Alexander the Great (356 BC 323 BC) had heard of it.

Plato (428/427 BC 348/347 BC) described him as “delusional Socrates”.

There are no shortage of stories about the eccentricities of this philosopher, who lived like a vagabond in the streets of Greek cities, often expressing his thoughts with jokes and irony.

He was said to be happier, fairer, and braver than any other king, and Alexander, who was already king, sought him out and found him lying in the sun.

When asked, “Can I get you something?” the philosopher replied, “You can step aside and stop blocking the sunlight.”

According to Plutarch’s (AD 46120) version of this anecdote, “Alexander was so impressed and in awe of the man’s arrogance and greatness that he felt nothing but contempt for him that he told his followers, who laughed.” The philosopher said as he walked away, “If I weren’t Alexander, I’d like to be Diogenes.”

Who was Diogenes?

2 of 4 “Diogenes Sitting on his Barrel” by JeanLéon Gérôme (1860) — Photo: BBC “Diogenes Sitting on his Barrel” by JeanLéon Gérôme (1860) — Photo: BBC

Diogenes of Sinope (400 BC 325 BC) was a cynic. In fact, he was the first cynic, although the founder of the cynic school was his teacher, the Athenian philosopher Antisthenes (440 BC 365 BC), pupil of Socrates (470 BC 399 BC) , was.

But it was Diogenes who earned the nickname, sometimes taken as an insult but a compliment.

Over time: In ancient Greece, “cynic” had a different meaning.

Today the word describes a person who is “hypocritical, unscrupulous, who takes a strong stand against moral and social standards,” “exemplifies immoral, sarcastic, or derisive behavior,” or “has an attitude of disregard for the day”.

The origin of this adjective may surprise you: it derives from kynes, meaning “dog”.

But what does cynicism have to do with dogs?

This is where Diogenes’ unusual behavior comes into play.

He was born in the late 5th century B.C. and banished from his homeland of Sinope (modernday Turkey), an Ionian colony on the Black Sea, for a rather shady affair involving coin forgery.

Deprived of all his possessions and even his citizenship, he proclaimed himself a cosmopolitan and wandered around Greek cities, believing that social conventions hinder personal freedom and hinder the path to a good life.

life in a barrel

3 of 4 “Diogenes and Plato” by Mattia Preti (1649) Photo: GETTY IMAGES via BBC “Diogenes and Plato” by Mattia Preti (1649) Photo: GETTY IMAGES via BBC

For him, wealth, privilege, and power, traditional signs of a successful life, should be despised rather than admired.

A prosperous life was a virtuous life lived in harmony with nature, and that kind of life required only the most basic needs.

Instead of striving for fame and fortune, or at least some way of earning a living to pay for food and lodging, Diogenes made his home on the streets and slept outdoors, sometimes in a barrel.

He always strived for greater simplicity.

Seeing a boy using a piece of bread to eat lentils and his hands to drink water, he said, “That boy taught me I have superfluous things,” and got rid of his bowl and spoon, the only thing he had. and his robe. how overcast it was.

He ate what nature (or the good souls) gave him and attended to all his needs in public without the slightest shame.

One day, when reprimanded for masturbating in the agora, Diogenes replied, “I wish hunger could be relieved so easily by mere belly rubbing!”.

Because of this lifestyle, they called him “Diógenes, o Kynikós”, which means “like a dog” or “hound” or in Portuguese “Diógenes, the cynic”.

But he didn’t like the nickname.

Dogs were a good symbol of their philosophy: they lived happily with little, ate everything and slept where they could.

As she said to Diogenes, “I wag my tail for those who give me, I bark for those who give me nothing, and I bite the scoundrels.”

Moreover, he “roared the truth” without fear or favoritism.

He didn’t just tacitly advocate his beliefs to set an example.

On the contrary, when he wasn’t preaching, he insulted passersby and the powerful, and humorously criticized those who adhered to what he considered unnatural social orders.


4 of 4 In ‘The School of Athens’ by Raphael (15101511) Diogenes sits alone in the middle on the stairs wearing a blue toga Photo: GETTY IMAGES via BBC In ‘The School of Athens’ by Raphael (1510 1511), Diogenes sits alone on the central staircase, wearing a blue toga Photo: GETTY IMAGES via BBC

Although he left little or nothing in writing, convinced that virtue is revealed by deeds and not theory, his philosophical ideas survived thanks to the accounts of authors who later revisited them, in works such as “The Life, Opinions, and Propositions of the Most Famous Philosophers” by Diogenes Laertius (3rd century AD).

Many are highlighted by anecdotes, some of which may be apocryphal and in a very personal style.

Diogenes, for example, used to enter the theater walking against the flow of people leaving. When asked why, he replied, “It’s the approach I’ve followed my whole life.”

To anyone who asked when lunch was due, he said, “If you’re rich, when you want; if you are poor, when you can.”

To explain why people gave alms to beggars but not philosophers, he pointed out: “Because people wait to become lame or blind, but never to become philosophers.”

One of his most memorable acts was challenging Plato’s definition of man, for which he received praise: an animal, twolegged and without feathers.

Diogenes, very critical of Plato, plucked a bird, took it to the Academy, and announced, “Here is Plato’s man.”

Plato humorously replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll add one more thing to the definition: It’s a featherless biped with long fingernails.”

With the same attitude, he exposed the meaninglessness of civilized life with both deeds and words, rejected ideas and practices such as bringing delicacies from other countries, and argued that what was produced locally should be consumed should import to avoid wasting resources and human costs.

And although he lived in poverty, he insisted that not everyone should live like him, but wanted to show that happiness and independence were possible even under reduced circumstances.

  • selfsufficiency, or the ability to possess within oneself all that is necessary for happiness;
  • lack of shame or disregard for conventions that prohibit harmless actions;
  • frankness or an uncompromising zeal to expose vice and hubris and urge people to reform;
  • Moral excellence acquired through methodical training or asceticism.

Diogenes gained a following that became known as the “Cynic Philosophers” or “Little Dogs” and continued to be so called some 900 years after his death.

But not everyone stayed true to their teachings.

According to the 2ndcentury writer Lucian of Samosata (125 BC180 BC), the cynics of his day were hypocrites and unprincipled materialists who only preached what Diogenes had practiced.

Centuries later, Renaissance people read Lucian’s writings and began using the word “cynic” to describe people who criticized others without contributing anything of value, explained William Desmond, an Irish philosopher and author of several books on cynics.

This usage brought the word closer to its current meaning.