CERP: Day 5 – To Croesus


IX. Anacharsis to Croesus (p. 47)
Today’s letters has a section which jumped out at me:

“We protect our cattle from wild beasts, and in return receive milk and cheese.  We have weapons, not to attack other people, but to defend ourselves, if it should be necessary.”

The letters of the Pseudo-Anacharsis have seemed to veer fairly significantly from the Cynic route as I understand it.  How do we compare the position (which I agree with, by the way), that we have weapons for defense with the chreia of Diogenes rolling his barrel around the market when the city is under siege?  They seem to be two mutually exclusive positions.

Pseudo-Anacharis harshly criticizes the Greeks, saying that they ascribe their own evils to the Gods, and that they prize nothing which comes from toil, but then they admire toil itself.  The first claim paints them to be like children, the second little better than hypocrites.

 X. Anacharsis to Croesus (p. 51)
No earthly gold, merely the betterment of character.  An interesting parting note.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

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


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.

CERP: Day 3: Letters to the Athenians, and Solon.


I. Anacharsis to the Athenians (p. 37)
Anacharsis beings with an extended argument, showing how the Greeks profess something which is biased and unsubstantiated.  They are hung up on the manner of speech (particularly of foreigners), rather than paying attention to what is said.  He shows the hypocrisy in this, as they use foreign doctors, captains, merchants, etc.

Yet, they still maintain this … for lack of a better term… linguistic nationalism or ethnocentric focus.  I’m reminded of Diogenes’ quip about where in Greece good men might be found, and his response is something like, “In Greece?  Nowhere.  But there are good boys in Sparta.”

Anacharsis also uses the Spartans as an example, citing the commendable way in which they run their affairs coupled with crude Attic.  Anacharsis is challenging the νόμος regarding a Hellenocentric view of progress and society; specific a focus on Athens as Greece-per-se.

It’s funny to note how in latter times, the hallmarks of Greek philosophy were not of the same demos nor ethnos as Athens, coming from Cyprus, Turkey, and Asia minor.  It’s a good reminder that we might fight value elsewhere than the little plot of dirt on which we were born.

II. Anacharsis to Solon (p. 39)
The same theme as above is referenced, in this case in relation to hospitality.  I don’t know enough about the Greek culture of the time, but in the West hospitality is often taken very seriously.  Guest-right, and the obligations of a host are usually traditionally formed and social enforced ideas.

The pseudo-pun about a “Spartan dog” coming from the Scythian Dog… err… Cynic, caused me to chuckle.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 2 – Introduction to The Epistles of Anacharsis


Today’s reading is laying the historical groundwork for the following Epistles.  It’s pretty clearly stated that the author is not who it purports to be.  The choice of Anacharsis, being a non-Greek challenging the νόμος of the civilization is a bold one.

The introduction uses some linguistic analysis to determine approximate and relative dates for the authorship.  It claims that the language shows clearly at least two authors.

The distinction between Attic and Koine is one of grammar, word connotation, and relative complexity.  It’s currently above my paygrade to be able to tell them apart, however.

It’s interesting how linguistic analysis can be used in these context, though.  Linguistics (specifically Generative Grammar) is my academic background, so it’s nice to see it here as well.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.