CERP: Day 4 – To Medocus, Hanno, the Son of the King,Tereus, the Cruel Despot of Thrace, and to Thrasylochus

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III. Anacharsis to the Tyrant Hipparchus (p. 41)

Here, we’re encouraged to take up a “sober and thoughtful” life.  This brings to mind the ὑδροκύων, or Cynic ‘water dog,’ who would only drink water.  The call back to one’s ‘father’s beneficence’ seems to me to be a clear example of the Romanization of Cynicism.  I have a hard time imagining Diogenes relying on the shame from not living up to one’s parents as a motivator to virtue.

IV. Anacharsis to Medocus (p. 41)

φθόνος is the word here used for ‘envy,’ which can be ill-will, malice, or envy of the good fortune of others. And πτόησις is ‘vehement emotion of excitement.’ The distinction I want to draw is between the Stoic πάθος (as passion) and this Cynic word πτόησις which is also translated as passion.

The Stoic passion is also variously translated as suffering, or unhealthy emotion, sometimes even lust.

The Cynic passion is a “fluttering excitement” especially as relates to fear or terror

This is the reason having the bi-lingual texts is really important. When we see the English word ‘passion,’ esp. if we’re coming from a Stoic perspective, we have a less clear view as to what’s being said.

So the message that ‘envy and passion’ are the signs of an inferior soul means something a bit more specific than we might have otherwise thought.

V. Anacharsis to Hanno (p. 43)

Here, Anacharsis is discussing his mode of life, his clothing and food.  Both of those things have been of interest to me over the past year (see:  Philosopher’s Cloak I and II, and Rule of Musonius).  The word we see here as cloak is χλαῖνα, which is simply a large rectangular, blanket-like garment.  It bears some etymological similarity to several Indo-European languages’ word for ‘wool.’

The uniform of the Philosopher is an interesting critter, and that it was such common thing for Cynics that other philosophers were worried they might be mistaken for Cynics is interesting as well.

VI. Anacharsis to the Son of the King (p. 43)

The example of how possessions and freedom are related is the crux of this short piece.  All it takes to ascend to the Cynics’ level of freedom is to renounce those very things holding one back.

VII. Anacharsis to Tereus, the Cruel Despot of Thrace (p. 45)

The adviser role of philosophers to those in power is an interesting one and a dangerous one.  We read that it was common for wealthy and influential folks to have a live-in philosopher, a sort of “nanny of the soul.”

This short letter does not strike me as overly Cynic, however, it seems a more Stoic taste.  The Despot is told to use his sovereignty well, to protect his people.  I would think that a “Citizen of Pera” would rather deny the sovereignty of the Despot, and cast dispersion of the social hierarchies and order which brought him to his position.

VIII. Anacharsis to Thrasylochus (p. 45)

In many respects, dogs seem to understand the cosmos a bit better than the average person.  His kindness and fierceness are always appropriate in a healthy dog.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

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