VII. To the Wealthy (p. 59)
Here, Pseudo-Crates pulls no punches. He’s attacking the false and vainglorious style of the wealthy and powerful. Despite, it seems, their outward appearance of tunics, lupine beans, etc., it seems that they’ve learned nothing of the Cynic’s life. It’s fashion, then.
IIRC, we read that Roman Cynicism was generally made of weaker stuff than the Hellenic sort was. This letters seems more firmly Cynic, especially in the ‘gadfly’ or social critic role that Diogenes perfected.
VIII. To Diogenes (p. 59)
Pseudo-Crates here is lamenting, I suppose, that he has become somewhat famous… maybe infamous. Certainly Diogenes was both. This feels a touch disingenuous. A quiet life for a Cynic would be entirely possible at a retreat, or community. They could retire to some mountainplace, and be rid the cities. They could renounce their exhortations, condemnations, and social critique. Doing this would render them unnoticeable.
Yet, is it not the part of the Cynic to teach by example?
IX. To Mnasos (p. 61)
Ah! A firmly Roman sales pitch, then! As the rougher edges of Stoicism were dulled to be more palatable for Roman decorum, apparently so too does Cynicism need some polishing.
X. To Lysis (p. 61)
I had to do some looking up. I had assumed from the context that plectrum must have been a sort of cup, but it appears to be more akin to a guitar pick. The word “plectrum” comes from Latin plectrum, itself derived from Greek πλῆκτρον (plēktron), “anything to strike with, an instrument for striking the lyre, a spear point”.
So… what in hell does this mean? I thought maybe it’s meant like being under a whip, but I’m not sure.
Additionally, the plea to piety and the gifts of God do not have a Cynic feel to me, but rather a Stoic one. The claim of “nothing indecent or bad” that might happen does not seem to mesh with Cynic shamelessness (Gr: αναίδεια). The bit on pleasure seems to maybe fit with the “opportunistic and natural” hedonism of the Cynics, but clashes with the water-drinkers and Diogenes tossing out a sweetroll from his bowl.
The Epistles thus are challenging, and it’s an interesting experience to see what changes are made and where.
This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.