Cynicism
Overview
Cynicism in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school
School (discipline)
A school of thought is a collection or group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, discipline, belief, social movement, cultural movement, or art movement....

 of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics . Their philosophy was that the purpose of life
Meaning of life
The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general. This concept can be expressed through a variety of related questions, such as "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the meaning of it all?" It has...

 was to live a life of Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 in agreement with Nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth
Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

, power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

, health
Health
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

, and fame
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

, and by living a simple life
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 free from all possessions. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans.
Encyclopedia
Cynicism in its original form, refers to the beliefs of an ancient school
School (discipline)
A school of thought is a collection or group of people who share common characteristics of opinion or outlook of a philosophy, discipline, belief, social movement, cultural movement, or art movement....

 of Greek philosophers known as the Cynics . Their philosophy was that the purpose of life
Meaning of life
The meaning of life constitutes a philosophical question concerning the purpose and significance of life or existence in general. This concept can be expressed through a variety of related questions, such as "Why are we here?", "What is life all about?", and "What is the meaning of it all?" It has...

 was to live a life of Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 in agreement with Nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth
Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

, power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

, health
Health
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

, and fame
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

, and by living a simple life
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 free from all possessions. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans. They believed that the world
World
World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth....

 belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering
Suffering
Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, is an individual's basic affective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm. Suffering may be qualified as physical or mental. It may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable. Factors of duration and...

 was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

 and conventions
Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....

 which surrounded society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

. Many of these thoughts were later absorbed into Stoicism
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

.

The first philosopher to outline these themes was Antisthenes
Antisthenes
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers...

, who had been a pupil of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 in the late 5th century BCE. He was followed by Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

, who lived in a tub on the streets of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. Diogenes took Cynicism to its logical extreme
Logical extreme
A logical extreme is a logical construct that is often useful in testing hypotheses. The use of a logical extreme is often the simplest way to disprove a hypothesis. Quite simply, a logical extreme is the statement of an extreme or even preposterous position that is nonetheless consistent with the...

s, and came to be seen as the archetypal Cynic philosopher. He was followed by Crates of Thebes
Crates of Thebes
Crates of Thebes, was a Cynic philosopher. Crates gave away his money to live a life of poverty on the streets of Athens. He married Hipparchia of Maroneia who lived in the same manner that he did. Respected by the people of Athens, he is remembered for being the teacher of Zeno of Citium, the...

 who gave away a large fortune so he could live a life of Cynic poverty in Athens. Cynicism spread with the rise of Imperial Rome in the 1st century, and Cynics could be found begging and preaching throughout the cities of the Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. It finally disappeared in the late 5th century, although many of its ascetic and rhetorical ideas were adopted by early Christianity
Early Christianity
Early Christianity is generally considered as Christianity before 325. The New Testament's Book of Acts and Epistle to the Galatians records that the first Christian community was centered in Jerusalem and its leaders included James, Peter and John....

.

Origin of the Cynic name

The name Cynic derives (genitive: kynos). One explanation offered in ancient times for why the Cynics were called dogs was because the first Cynic, Antisthenes
Antisthenes
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers...

, taught in the Cynosarges
Cynosarges
Cynosarges was a public gymnasium located just outside the walls of Ancient Athens on the southern bank of the Ilissos river.Its name derives from Cynos-argos and means white or swift dog...

 gymnasium at Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. The word Cynosarges means the place of the white dog. It seems certain, however, that the word dog was also thrown at the first Cynics as an insult for their shameless rejection of conventional manners, and their decision to live on the streets. Diogenes
Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

, in particular, was referred to as the Dog, a distinction he seems to have revelled in, stating that "other dogs bite their enemies, I bite my friends to save them." Later Cynics also sought to turn the word to their advantage, as a later commentator explained:
There are four reasons why the Cynics are so named. First because of the indifference of their way of life, for they make a cult of indifference and, like dogs, eat and make love in public, go barefoot, and sleep in tubs and at crossroads. The second reason is that the dog is a shameless animal, and they make a cult of shamelessness, not as being beneath modesty, but as superior to it. The third reason is
that the dog is a good guard, and they guard the tenets of their philosophy. The fourth reason is that the dog is a discriminating animal which can distinguish between its friends and enemies. So do they recognize as friends those who are suited to philosophy, and receive them kindly, while those unfitted they drive away, like dogs, by barking at them.

Philosophy

Cynicism is one of the most striking of all the Hellenistic philosophies
Hellenistic philosophy
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic civilization following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.-Pythagoreanism:...

. It offered people the possibility of happiness and freedom from suffering in an age of uncertainty. Although there was never an official Cynic doctrine, the fundamental principles of Cynicism can be summarised as follows:
  1. The goal of life is happiness
    Eudaimonia
    Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

     which is to live in agreement with Nature
    Nature
    Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

    .
  2. Happiness depends on being self-sufficient, and a master of mental attitude.
  3. Self-sufficiency is achieved by living a life of Arete
    Arete
    Areté is the term meaning "virtue" or "excellence", from Greek ἈρετήArete may also be used:*as a given name of persons or things:**Queen Arete , a character in Homer's Odyssey.***197 Arete, an asteroid....

    .
  4. The road to arete is to free oneself from any influence such as wealth, fame, or power, which have no value in Nature.
  5. Suffering is caused by false judgments of value, which cause negative emotions and a vicious character.


Thus a Cynic has no property and rejects all conventional values of money, fame, power or reputation. A life lived according to nature requires only the bare necessities required for existence, and one can become free by unshackling oneself from any needs which are the result of convention. The Cynics adopted Hercules
Heracles
Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

 as their hero, as epitomizing the ideal Cynic. Hercules "was he who brought Cerberus
Cerberus
Cerberus , or Kerberos, in Greek and Roman mythology, is a multi-headed hound which guards the gates of the Underworld, to prevent those who have crossed the river Styx from ever escaping...

, the hound of Hades, from the underworld, a point of special appeal to the dog-man, Diogenes."
According to Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

, "Cerberus and Cynic are surely related through the dog."

The Cynic way of life required continuous training, not just in exercising one's judgments and mental impressions, but a physical training as well:
[Diogenes] used to say, that there were two kinds of exercise: that, namely, of the mind and that of the body; and that the latter of these created in the mind such quick and agile impressions at the time of its performance, as very much facilitated the practice of virtue; but that one was imperfect without the other, since the health and vigour necessary for the practice of what is good, depend equally on both mind and body.


None of this meant that the Cynic would retreat from society. Cynics would in fact live in the full glare of the public's gaze and would be quite indifferent in the face of any insults which might result from their unconventional behaviour. The Cynics are said to have invented the idea of cosmopolitanism
Cosmopolitanism
Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all human ethnic groups belong to a single community based on a shared morality. This is contrasted with communitarian and particularistic theories, especially the ideas of patriotism and nationalism...

: when he was asked where he came from, Diogenes replied that he was "a citizen of the world, (kosmopolitês)."

The ideal Cynic would evangelise; as the watchdog of humanity, it was their job to hound people about the error of their ways. The example of the Cynic's life (and the use of the Cynic's biting satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

) would dig-up and expose the pretensions which lay at the root of everyday conventions.

Although Cynicism concentrated solely on ethics, Cynic philosophy had a big impact on the Hellenistic
Hellenistic period
The Hellenistic period or Hellenistic era describes the time which followed the conquests of Alexander the Great. It was so named by the historian J. G. Droysen. During this time, Greek cultural influence and power was at its zenith in Europe and Asia...

 world, ultimately becoming an important influence for Stoicism
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

. The Stoic Apollodorus
Apollodorus of Seleucia
Apollodorus of Seleucia, , was a Stoic philosopher, and a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon.He wrote a number of handbooks on Stoicism, including ones on Ethics and Physics which are frequently cited by Diogenes Laërtius....

 writing in the 2nd century BCE stated that "Cynicism is the short path to virtue."

History of Cynicism

The classical Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 Cynics regarded virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 as the only necessity for happiness
Eudaimonia
Eudaimonia or eudaemonia , sometimes Anglicized as eudemonia , is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing" has been proposed as a more accurate translation...

, and saw virtue as entirely sufficient for attaining happiness. Classical Cynics followed this philosophy to the extent of neglecting everything not furthering their perfection of virtue and attainment of happiness, thus, the title Cynics, derived from the Greek word κύων (meaning "dog") because they allegedly neglected society, hygiene, family, money, etc., in a manner reminiscent of dogs. They sought to free themselves from conventions; become self-sufficient; and live only in accordance with nature. They rejected any conventional notions of happiness involving money, power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

, or fame
Celebrity
A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media...

, to lead entirely virtuous, and thus happy, lives
Personal life
Personal life is the course of an individual's life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices contributing to one's personal identity. It is a common notion in modern existence—although more so in more prosperous parts of the world such as Western Europe and North America...

.

The ancient Cynics rejected conventional social values, and would criticise the types of behaviours, such as greed, which they viewed as causing suffering. Emphasis on this aspect of their teachings led, in the late 18th and early 19th century, to the modern understanding of cynicism as "an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others." This modern definition of cynicism is in marked contrast to the ancient philosophy, which emphasized "virtue and moral freedom in liberation from desire."

Influences

Various philosophers, such as the Pythagoreans, had advocated simple living
Simple living
Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include reducing one's possessions or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they need rather than want...

 in the centuries preceding the Cynics. In the early 6th century BCE, Anacharsis
Anacharsis
Anacharsis was a Scythian philosopher who travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea to Athens in the early 6th century BCE and made a great impression as a forthright, outspoken "barbarian", apparently a forerunner of the Cynics, though none of his works have...

, a Scythian sage had combined plain living together with criticisms of Greek customs in a manner which would become standard among the Cynics. Perhaps of importance were tales of India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n philosophers, known to later Greeks as the Gymnosophists
Gymnosophists
Gymnosophists is the name given by the Greeks to certain ancient Indian philosophers who pursued asceticism to the point of regarding food and clothing as detrimental to purity of thought ....

, who had adopted a strict asceticism
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 together with a disrespect for established laws and customs
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...

. By the 5th century BCE, the Sophists had begun a process of questioning many aspects of Greek society such as religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

, law
Law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

 and ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

. However, the most immediate influence for the Cynic school was Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

. Although he was not an ascetic, he did profess a love of Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 and an indifference to wealth
Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

, together with a disdain for general opinion. These aspects of Socrates' thought, which formed only a minor part of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's philosophy, became the central inspiration for another of Socrates' pupils, Antisthenes
Antisthenes
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers...

.

Antisthenes

The story of Cynicism traditionally begins with Antisthenes
Antisthenes
Antisthenes was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers...

 (c. 445–365 BCE),
who was an older contemporary of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and a pupil of Socrates
Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

. At about 25 years his junior, Antisthenes was one of the most important of Socrates' disciples. Although later classical authors had little doubt about labelling him as the founder of Cynicism, his philosophical views seem to be more complex than the later simplicities of pure Cynicism. In the list of works ascribed to Antisthenes by Diogenes Laërtius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

, writings on Language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, Dialogue
Dialogue
Dialogue is a literary and theatrical form consisting of a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people....

 and Literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 far outnumber those on Ethics or Politics
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, although they may reflect how his philosophical interests changed with time. It is certainly true that Antisthenes preached a life of poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

:
I have enough to eat till my hunger is stayed, to drink till my thirst is sated; to clothe myself as well; and out of doors not [even] Callias
Callias III
Callias , son of Hipponicus by the former wife of Pericles, an Alcmaeonid and the third member of one of the most distinguished Athenian families to bear the name of Callias...

 there, with all his riches, is more safe than I from shivering; and when I find myself indoors, what warmer shirting do I need than my bare walls?

Diogenes of Sinope

Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

 (c. 412–323 BCE) dominates the story of Cynicism like no other figure. He originally came to Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, fleeing his home city, after he and his father, who was in charge of the mint at Sinope
Sinop, Turkey
Sinop is a city with a population of 36,734 on İnce Burun , by its Cape Sinop which is situated on the most northern edge of the Turkish side of Black Sea coast, in the ancient region of Paphlagonia, in modern-day northern Turkey, historically known as Sinope...

, got into trouble for falsifying the coinage. (The phrase "defacing the currency" later became proverbial in describing Diogenes' rejection of conventional values.) Later tradition claimed that Diogenes became the disciple of Antisthenes, but it is by no means certain that they ever met. What is true is that Diogenes adopted Antisthenes' teachings and embraced the ascetic
Asceticism
Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

 way of life, pursuing a lifestyle of self-sufficiency (autarkeia), austerity (askēsis), and shamelessness (anaideia). There are countless anecdotes about his extravagant asceticism (sleeping in a tub), shameless behaviour (eating raw meat), and his biting satire ("bad people obey their lusts as servants obey their masters"), and although it is impossible to tell which of these stories are genuine, they do illustrate the broad character of the man, including an ethical seriousness.

Crates of Thebes

Crates of Thebes
Crates of Thebes
Crates of Thebes, was a Cynic philosopher. Crates gave away his money to live a life of poverty on the streets of Athens. He married Hipparchia of Maroneia who lived in the same manner that he did. Respected by the people of Athens, he is remembered for being the teacher of Zeno of Citium, the...

 (c. 365–c. 285 BCE) is the third figure who dominates Cynic history. He is notable because he renounced a large fortune to live a life of Cynic poverty in Athens. He is said to have been a pupil of Diogenes, but again this is uncertain. Crates married Hipparchia of Maroneia after she had fallen in love with him and together they lived like beggars on the streets of Athens, where Crates was treated with respect. Crates' later fame (apart from his unconventional lifestyle) lies in the fact that he became the teacher of Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium was a Greek philosopher from Citium . Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of virtue in...

, the founder of Stoicism
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

. The Cynic strain to be found in early Stoicism (such as Zeno's own radical views on sexual equality spelled out in his Republic
The Republic (Zeno)
The Republic of Zeno was a work written by Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoic philosophy at the beginning of the 3rd century BCE. Although it has not survived, it was his most famous work, and various quotes and paraphrases were preserved by later writers...

) can be ascribed to Crates' influence.

Other Cynics

There were many other Cynics in the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE, including Onesicritus
Onesicritus
Onesicritus , a Greek historical writer, who accompanied Alexander on his campaigns in Asia. He claimed to have been the commander of Alexander's fleet but was actually only a helmsman; Arrian and Nearchus often criticize him for this. When he returned home, he wrote a history of Alexander's...

 (who sailed with Alexander the Great to India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

), and the moral satirists Bion of Borysthenes
Bion of Borysthenes
Bion of Borysthenes , c. 325 – c. 250 BC, was a Greek philosopher. After being sold into slavery, and then released, he moved to Athens, where he studied in almost every school of philosophy. It is, however, for his Cynic-style diatribes that he is chiefly remembered...

 and Menippus of Gadara
Menippus
Menippus of Gadara, was a Cynic and satirist. His works, which are all lost, were an important influence on Varro and Lucian. The Menippean satire genre is named after him.-Life:...

. However, with the rise of Stoicism in the 3rd century BCE, Cynicism as a serious philosophical activity underwent a decline,
and it is not until the Roman era that Cynicism underwent a revival.

Cynicism in the Roman World

There is little record of Cynicism in the 2nd or 1st centuries BCE; Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 (c. 50 BCE), who was much interested in Greek philosophy
Greek philosophy
Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE and continued through the Hellenistic period, at which point Ancient Greece was incorporated in the Roman Empire...

, had little to say about Cynicism, except that "it is to be shunned; for it is opposed to modesty, without which there can be neither right nor honor." However, by the 1st century CE, Cynicism reappeared with full force. The rise of Imperial Rome, like the Greek loss of independence under Philip
Philip II of Macedon
Philip II of Macedon "friend" + ἵππος "horse" — transliterated ; 382 – 336 BC), was a king of Macedon from 359 BC until his assassination in 336 BC. He was the father of Alexander the Great and Philip III.-Biography:...

 and Alexander three centuries earlier, may have led to a sense of powerlessness and frustration among many people, which allowed a philosophy which emphasized self-sufficiency and inner-happiness to flourish once again. Cynics could be found throughout the empire, standing on street corners, preaching about Virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

. Lucian
Lucian
Lucian of Samosata was a rhetorician and satirist who wrote in the Greek language. He is noted for his witty and scoffing nature.His ethnicity is disputed and is attributed as Assyrian according to Frye and Parpola, and Syrian according to Joseph....

 complained that "every city is filled with such upstarts, particularly with those who enter the names of Diogenes, Antisthenes, and Crates as their patrons and enlist in the Army of the Dog," and Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides
Aelius Aristides was a popular Greek orator , who lived during the Roman Empire. He is considered to be a prime example of the Second Sophistic, a group of showpiece orators who flourished from the reign of Nero until ca. 230 AD. His surname was Theodorus...

 observed that "they frequent the doorways, talking more to the doorkeepers than to the masters, making up for their lowly condition by using impudence." The most notable representative of Cynicism in the 1st century CE was Demetrius
Demetrius the Cynic
Demetrius , a Cynic philosopher from Corinth, who lived in Rome during the reigns of Caligula, Nero and Vespasian .He was the intimate friend of Seneca, who wrote about him often, and who describes him as the perfect man:...

, whom Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

 praised as "a man of consummate wisdom, though he himself denied it, constant to the principles which he professed, of an eloquence worthy to deal with the mightiest subjects." Cynicism in Rome was both the butt of the satirist and the ideal of the thinker. In the 2nd century CE, Lucian, whilst pouring scorn on the Cynic philosopher Peregrinus Proteus
Peregrinus Proteus
Peregrinus Proteus was a Cynic philosopher, from Parium in Mysia. Leaving home at a young age, he first lived with the Christians in Palestine, before eventually being expelled from that community and adopting the life of a Cynic philosopher and eventually settling in Greece...

, nevertheless praised his own Cynic teacher, Demonax
Demonax
Demonax was a Cynic philosopher. Born in Cyprus, he moved to Athens, where his wisdom, and his skill in solving disputes, earned him the admiration of the citizens. He taught Lucian, who wrote a Life of Demonax in praise of his teacher...

, in a dialogue.

Cynicism came to be seen as an idealised form of Stoicism
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

, a view which led Epictetus
Epictetus
Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

 to eulogise the ideal Cynic in a lengthy discourse. According to Epictetus, the ideal Cynic "must know that he is sent as a messenger from Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 to people concerning good and bad things, to show them that they have wandered." Unfortunately for Epictetus, many Cynics of the era did not live up to the ideal: "consider the present Cynics who are dogs that wait at tables, and in no respect imitate the Cynics of old except perchance in breaking wind
Flatulence
Flatulence is the expulsion through the rectum of a mixture of gases that are byproducts of the digestion process of mammals and other animals. The medical term for the mixture of gases is flatus, informally known as a fart, or simply gas...

."

Unlike Stoicism, which declined as an independent philosophy after the 2nd century CE, Cynicism seems to have thrived into the 4th century. The Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 (ruled 361–363), like Epictetus, praised the ideal Cynic and complained about the actual practitioners of Cynicism.

The final Cynic noted in classical history is Sallustius of Emesa
Sallustius of Emesa
Sallustius of Emesa was a Cynic philosopher, who lived in the latter part of the 5th century AD.His father Basilides was a Syrian; his mother Theoclea a native of Emesa, where probably Sallustius was born, and where he lived during the earlier part of his life. He applied himself first to the...

 in the late 5th century. A student of the Neoplatonic philosopher Isidore of Alexandria
Isidore of Alexandria
Isidore of Alexandria was an Egyptian or Greek philosopher and one of the last of the Neoplatonists. He lived in Athens and Alexandria toward the end of the 5th century AD. He became head of the school in Athens in succession to Marinus, who followed Proclus.-Life:Isidore was born in Alexandria...

, he devoted himself to living a life of Cynic asceticism.

Jesus as a Jewish Cynic

Some historians have noted the similarities between the life and teachings of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and those of the Cynics. Some scholars have argued that the Q document, the hypothetical common source for the gospels of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

 and Luke
Gospel of Luke
The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

, has strong similarities with the teachings of the Cynics. Scholars on the quest for the historical Jesus
Quest for the Historical Jesus
The quest for the historical Jesus is the attempt to use historical rather than religious methods to construct a verifiable biography of Jesus. As originally defined by Albert Schweitzer, the quest began in the 18th century with Hermann Samuel Reimarus, up to William Wrede in the 19th century...

, such as Burton L. Mack
Burton L. Mack
Burton L. Mack is an author and scholar of early Christian history and the New Testament. He is John Wesley Professor emeritus in early Christianity at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California. Mack is primarily a scholar of Christian origins, approaching it from the angle of...

 and John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan
John Dominic Crossan is an Irish-American religious scholar and former Catholic priest known for co-founding the Jesus Seminar. Crossan is a major figure in the fields of biblical archaeology, anthropology and New Testament textual and higher criticism. He is also a lecturer who has appeared in...

 of the Jesus Seminar
Jesus Seminar
The Jesus Seminar is a group of about 150 critical scholars and laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk under the auspices of the Westar Institute....

, have argued that 1st century CE Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 was a world in which Hellenistic
Hellenization
Hellenization is a term used to describe the spread of ancient Greek culture, and, to a lesser extent, language. It is mainly used to describe the spread of Hellenistic civilization during the Hellenistic period following the campaigns of Alexander the Great of Macedon...

 ideas collided with Jewish thought and traditions. The city of Gadara, only a day's walk from Nazareth
Nazareth
Nazareth is the largest city in the North District of Israel. Known as "the Arab capital of Israel," the population is made up predominantly of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel...

, was particularly notable as a center of Cynic philosophy, and Mack has described Jesus as a "rather normal Cynic-type figure." For Crossan, Jesus was more like a Cynic sage from an Hellenistic Jewish tradition than either a Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 who would die as a substitute for sinners
Substitutionary atonement
Technically speaking, substitutionary atonement is the name given to a number of Christian models of the atonement that all regard Jesus as dying as a substitute for others, "instead of" them...

 or a Messiah who wanted to establish an independent Jewish state of Israel. Other scholars doubt that Jesus was deeply influenced by the Cynics, and see the Jewish prophetic tradition as of much greater importance.

Cynic influences on early Christianity

Many of the ascetic practices of Cynicism may have been adopted by early Christians, and Christians often employed the same rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

al methods as the Cynics. Some Cynics were actually martyred for speaking out against the authorities. One Cynic, Peregrinus Proteus
Peregrinus Proteus
Peregrinus Proteus was a Cynic philosopher, from Parium in Mysia. Leaving home at a young age, he first lived with the Christians in Palestine, before eventually being expelled from that community and adopting the life of a Cynic philosopher and eventually settling in Greece...

, lived for a time as a Christian before converting to Cynicism, whereas in the 4th century, Maximus of Alexandria, although a Christian, was also called a Cynic because of his ascetic lifestyle. Christian writers would often praise Cynic poverty, although they scorned Cynic shamelessness: Augustine
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 stating that they had, "in violation of the modest instincts of men, boastfully proclaimed their unclean and shameless opinion, worthy indeed of dogs." The ascetic orders of Christianity also had direct connection with the Cynics, as can be seen in the wandering mendicant
Mendicant
The term mendicant refers to begging or relying on charitable donations, and is most widely used for religious followers or ascetics who rely exclusively on charity to survive....

 monks of the early church who in outward appearance, and in many of their practices were little different from the Cynics of an earlier age.

See also

  • Asceticism
    Asceticism
    Asceticism describes a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various sorts of worldly pleasures often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals...

  • Cynic epistles
    Cynic epistles
    The Cynic epistles are a collection of letters expounding the principles and practices of Cynic philosophy mostly written in the time of the Roman empire but purporting to have been written by much earlier philosophers....

  • Encratites
    Encratites
    The Encratites were an ascetic 2nd century sect of Christians who forbade marriage and counselled abstinence from meat. Eusebius says that Tatian was the author of this heresy...

  • List of ancient Greek philosophers
  • List of Cynic philosophers
  • Natural law
    Natural law
    Natural law, or the law of nature , is any system of law which is purportedly determined by nature, and thus universal. Classically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior. Natural law is contrasted with the positive law Natural...

  • Stoicism
    Stoicism
    Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...



Primary sources

  • Diogenes Laërtius
    Diogenes Laertius
    Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

    , Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Book VI: The Cynics
  • Dio Chrysostom
    Dio Chrysostom
    Dio Chrysostom , Dion of Prusa or Dio Cocceianus was a Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st century. Eighty of his Discourses are extant, as well as a few Letters and a funny mock essay In Praise of Hair, as well as a few other fragments...

    , Cynic Discourses: Oration 6, Oration 8, Oration 9, Oration 10.
  • Epictetus
    Epictetus
    Epictetus was a Greek sage and Stoic philosopher. He was born a slave at Hierapolis, Phrygia , and lived in Rome until banishment when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece where he lived the rest of his life. His teachings were noted down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses...

    , Discourse 3.22, On Cynicism
  • Pseudo-Lucian, The Cynic

Secondary sources

  • R. Bracht Branham, Marie-Odile Goulet-Cazé, (editors), (1996), The Cynics: The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and Its Legacy. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21645-8
  • Ian Cutler, (2005), Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert. McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-2093-6
  • William D. Desmond, (2006), The Greek Praise of Poverty: Origins of Ancient Cynicism. University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 0-268-02582-7
  • William D. Desmond, (2008), Cynics. Ancient Philosophies Series. Acumen Publishing. ISBN 1-84465-129-0
  • F. Gerald Downing, (1992), Cynics and Christian Origins. T. & T. Clark. ISBN 0-567-09613-0
  • Donald R. Dudley, (1937), A History of Cynicism from Diogenes to the 6th Century A.D. Bristol Classical Paperbacks. ISBN 1-85399-548-7 (Available at the Internet Archive)
  • Luis E. Navia, (1996), Classical Cynicism: A Critical Study. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30015-1

External links

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