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July 11, 2022 2 min read


The meme shows the order of teachers and students of the most famous Greek philosophers, whereby Aristotle was rather regarded as the educator of Alexander the Great. A major break came only with the Cynics, of whom Diogenes of Sinope, above all others, achieved enduring fame. The anecdotal tradition of his alleged deeds, which can be read in Diogenes Laertios and Epitktetus, undoubtedly contributed to this. The Cynics, in fact, did not write down doctrines and theories because they were entirely practical. In this point they even have similarities with Socrates. Nevertheless, they stand out because of a new radicalism that, especially in ancient Athens, had to lead to an absolute affront to bourgeois life.

The greatest contrast to the affluence of the Athenian city-state was probably the ascetic lifestyle of the Cynics. Antisthenes, the teacher of Diogenes, is said to have carried only a stick and a cross-bag, which Diogenes tried to surpass by even throwing away his cup when he observed a child drinking from his folded palms; he did the same with his bowl. He is even said to have begged a statue for a gift in order to practice the art of having something knocked off.

Here we can clearly see the tendency to self-sufficiency, the principle of the Cynics to increase their material asceticism to a kind of autarky. That possessions and dependence or fame are by no means paths to happiness for the Cynics is clearly expressed in the following quote, "When one happily praised Callisthenes, saying that he led a life of wealth and splendor with Alexander, he replied to Diogenes, 'The unfortunate one, who only has to be commanded to every meal by Alexander.'"

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