CERP: Day 23 – Diogenes Ep. 23-27


XXIII. To Lacydes, greetings (p. 117)
Ha!  I enjoyed both of Diogenes’ barbs.  One, that while Alexander may be King of the Macedonians, he is no king of Diogenes.  And two, that it is just as far to travel from A to B, as B to A, and therefore, since Alexander is not a King over Diogenes, since it is Alexander that desires the meeting, he can very well trundle himself to Athens for the meeting.

XXIV. To Alexander, greetings (p. 117)
Okay, so I did a little reading, and Hephaestion was the boyhood friend of Alexander.  Their friendship was maintained through adolescences and adulthood, even after Alexander became King.  It was reckoned like one of the great friendships of the sagas, that they were like “one soul in two bodies.”  The only evidence they may have been lovers is this one letter, which many historians discount.

Maybe, then, this is like Diogenes being beaten by Antisthenes’ club?  A test to see if he’s worthy of the teaching?  That’s speculation on my part.

XXV. To Hippon (p. 117)
The question here is about death and burial.  Diogenes main point is that worrying over virtue in life is enough of an occupation.

XXVI. To Crates (p. 119)
This made me chuckle.  The Cynic uniform is the mantle of Heracles!  Wear them proudly, defiantly.  By the by, hook a brother up with some beans?  Hahahaha!

XXVII. To Aniceres, greetings (p. 119)
Generally, the Spartans are well spoken of by the Cynics and Stoics.  Diogenes has a cautionary message here, that their external strength has set them up for moral decay.  There’s a poignant message for the west.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 20 – To Crates, To Metrocles, do well, To Crates, do well, To the same, do well


IX. To Crates (p. 103)

Ps-Diogenes relates to us the “initiation” of Crate into the Cynic life.  The thing that sticks out at me, is that he is bidden to come back, as it’s “not safe to linger where there is no one like you.”

This brings to mind Gadara, which is reported to have been a Cynic hub of sorts.  I usually picture Diogenes living alone, taking students irregularly.  But maybe that’s inaccurate.

X. To Metrocles, do well (p. 103)
Ps_Diogenes clearly here is making an argument for begging.  This tells us that like today, the idea of begging was distasteful to Diogenes’ audience.

Ps-Diogenes makes a couple arguments by analogy, showing how kings beg from their subjects; the sick beg from their doctors; and people from the objects of their desire.  Even Heracles begged, he says, as he received strength.

The issue is whether we request something fitting, or not fitting.  Then, if we give back something of greater value.  A Cynic’s begging, then, is a pedagogical tool as well as a necessity of life.  That we would go against the popular conception itself is a worthwhile thing in teaching the meaning of our respective philosophies.

XI. To Crates, do well (p. 105)
This letter contains an outlier.  Of course, Epictetus criticizes Diogenes’ statue-endeavors, even though he holds him generally in very high regard.  If the Cynic is only to be begging from the wise, would he ever meet with the frustrations that this letter suggests he inoculate himself against?

In the previous letter, it says even Heracles begged from these without sense, but we’ve been told up until now that such a thing is inappropriate.
XII. To the same, do well (p. 107)
Ps-Diogenes makes a good point, that philosophers and the untrained alike are moving towards what they believe to be good.  However, we’re focused on vastly differently things.  The fact that we discuss “apparent goods” and “actual goods” show that we recognize just how easy it is to make this mistake.  We ourselves made (still make?) it.

Indeed, then, as Ps-Diogenes notes, when the untrained person is nudged towards the actual good, and see show difficult the road, they’re turned aside.  Because they still see the “apparent good” a the place to end up.

I see lots of this in online Stoic communities.  Epictetus, Marcus, Seneca, and Musonius (so much of Musonius) state unequivocally that philosophers must engage in askesis, and folks trip over themselves to claim that it has no place in modern practice.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 15 – To Aper, do well, and to Dinomachus


XXXV. To Aper, do well (p. 89)
The Pseudo-Crates has two points which are worth highlighting.  First is the position which echos in Stoicism, that we are distressed when we fail to meet our desires or fail to avoid that to which we are averse.  Ps-Crates spells it out, that our desires are untenable, and our we are averse to those things which we necessarily must be exposed to.  This is problematic for us.

The second point, is that if the message of the philosopher speaks to us, being bent over a tome like to read the epic poets is not the way.  We must emulate those whom we admire, not merely study them.


XXXVI. To Dinomachus (p. 89)
Ps-Crates again beats us over the head with instructions in begging.  It seems to me this is a more important part of Cynic practice that I at first (or even at recent) suspected.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 14 – XXXIV. To Metrocles (p. 85)


XXXIV. To Metrocles (p. 85)
This is one of the first true chreia of Diogenes in the letters.  I’ve read other versions of his being captured by pirates.  In the other, some wealthy man bought Diogenes to be a tutor for his children when Diogenes announced he could rule men.

The parable-like nature of the chreia are interesting, they’re well designed and the lessons they teach are couched in an artful way.

The question Diogenes asks about freedom is one worth pondering, if despite the liberties of bodies, are our minds/souls enslaved by pleasures and vice?

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 13 – To the same (Hipparchia) x 4


XXX. To the Same (p. 81)
I still have a hard time imagining that Hipparchia is sitting in some room weaving and embroidering for Crates so she seems a dutiful wife.  Isn’t this the same Hipparchia whose coupling in public turned Zeno away from the Cynic path?

XXXI. To the Same (p. 81)
Here, the Pseudo-Crates states the goal of philosophy for the Cynic is wisdom, and that a would-be philosopher should go to great ends to acquire it.  In other places, we see freedom and natural purpose as goals as well.

XXXII. To the Same (p. 83)
I’m well and truly sure that these anecdotes of Hipparchia are not representative of the women and philosopher she was.

XXXIII. To the Same (p. 83)
Here, Crates is congratualting Hipparchia for the birth of their “pup.”  He asks her to send the boy to him to be educated in Cynic Philosophy, and makes a statement about storks and dogs.  The Greek word here is πελαργόν, which is a stork.  I’m not sure what the meaning is here, maybe some cultural reference?

Ps-Crates makes references to animals several times, their ability to live without the nomos of society, for instance.  But I’m not sure what the stork reference here is about.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 12- To the Thessalians, the Athenians, the same, the same, Hipparchia, the same


XXIV. To the Thessalians (p. 75)
Again, we have a pseudo-Stoic sounding introduction, that horses were created for the sake of men.  I’m not sure Diogenes would agree with this statement.  I think it would be more clear to him that men were created for the sake of themselves, and that is where they ought to focus.

XXV. To the Athenians (p. 75)
Crates shouts across the century directly to my fellow citizens.  A small political side, my country is currently in the midst of a mass delusion, in which they believe they can make certain things ‘free’ which can only be gotten by the labor of others.  Unless there’s a slave caste of doctors, nurses, construction workers, electric workers, facilities managers, educators, etc, then certain things in society which must be paid for will continue to be paid for.

Nevertheless, Crates suggests that they simply vote themselves wealthy, vote themselves the recipients of “free” things, and all manner of voting will solve the problems which yesteryear’s voting brought about!

XXVI. To the Same (p. 77)
The less that we might not own things, but merely lease them or posses them for a time is a useful one.  I’m not sure that I’m willing to extend that Diogenes, or any of the Wise, then, own all things being that they are friends of the gods, the gods own everything, and friends share all things.

That seems as conspicuously useful to the Cynic as plenary indulgences were for the Catholic Church…

XXVII. To the Same (p. 77)
I didn’t mean to anticipate the moral of this letter in the last… but i did.  So just read that one again.

XXVIII. To Hipparchia (p. 79)
I have a hard time imagining Hipparchia sitting at home weaving and embroidering robes for Crates.  This smacks of latter revisionism to appeal to the traditional roles of Roman women, rather than the feisty firebrand that was Hipparchia.

XIX. To the Same (p. 79)
This seems more along the lines of the philosophical admonitions I can imagine Hipparchia and Crates sharing with each other.


This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 11 – To Metrocles, Metrocles the Cynic, Metrocles, Ganymedes


XX. To Metrocles (p. 71)
I had read before about Crates’ running, and the young men who then followed him.  I didn’t realize that came from the Epistles.  The philosophers of the Cynic and Stoic schools who were runners, or wrestlers, or boxers as well is an interesting phenomenon, and is very different from our modern stereotype.

XXI. To Metrocles the Cynic (p. 71)
I was asked almost two years ago, I think, whether Stoics were born or made.  Crates seems to have his idea on which it is for Cynics.

XXII. To Metrocles (p. 73)
Short and to the point.  I still think many Cynics must have been hungry fellows if they are only accepting ‘their due’ from the wise and virtuous.

XXIII. To Ganymedes (p. 73)
Again, the Pseudo-Crates makes the uniform of the philosopher akin to weapons.  I chuckled, at the poor devil Ganymedes beset on all sides by lovers!  Yet, all it takes is the uniform… and life … of a Cynic to drive them away!

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 10 – To his students, to the same, the youths, Patrocles.


XVI. To His Students (p. 67)
This reminds me of the section of the Discourses, where Epictetus says that a Phidian statue is one formed according to the art of Phidias.

Show me a man moulded to the pattern of the judgements that he utters, in the same way as we call a statue Phidian that is moulded according to the art of Phidias. Show me one who is sick and yet happy, in peril and yet happy, dying and yet happy, in exile and happy, in disgrace and happy. Show him me. By the gods I would fain see a Stoic. Nay you cannot show me a finished Stoic; then show me one in the moulding, one who has set his feet on the path.

Book II, 19.

So too, is a Stoic one formed in the doctrine of Zeno et al.  This calls to that, and says that Cynicism is Diogenean.  An interesting parallel.

I like viewing the “uniform” of the Cynics as ‘the weapons of the Gods.’  That’s an interesting take, again more in the Stoic style than I think Diogenes himself would have done.

XVII. To the Same (p. 67)x
The begging of the Cynics is something I have trouble with.  Not for others, but for myself.  It’s clearly an ego thing.  I have no problem giving a dollar when asked, but I would hate to be the one who has to ask.

Pseudo-Crates states that what’s shameful is no the act of begging, but in being unworthy of the donation.  That’s a point worth thinking about.

XVIII. To the Youths (p. 69)
Pseudo-Crates here is appealing, in a strange way, to human’s desire for stability.  If you sleep on the ground, drink water, and eat from your work; then what does a famine, a wildfire, or sour wine matter to you?

The Cynic is untouchable by most of the things which cause men the majority of their fear and anguish.  Uncertainty, indeed Fate itself, is practically eliminated.

XIX. To Patrocles (p. 69)
Here, we’re reminded that a beard and cloak do not a philosopher make.  Instead, the true philosopher elevates those things to the status which we see in them.  Crates speaks against Odysseus, who was esteemed so highly as to be one of legendary possible sages for some, Odysseus and Heracles.

Peudo-Crates is feisty today.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 9 – To his students, to Orion, to Eumoplus, the youths, and his students.


XI. To His Students (p. 63)
“Practice” here is, ἀσκεῖτε, which we know to be the root from which we get the word ‘ascetic,’ meaning training or exercise.

XII. To Orion (p. 63)
Here we see a call to send children to the philosopher’s school, so that they might be educated or trained in virtue.

XIII. To Eumoplus (p. 65)
On the facebook group, someone asked about the word ‘short-cut’ here in the English.  The Greek has  σύντομος, which is simply a short-cut, esp. for  road or path.  Here, Pseudo-Crates lays out a pretty formal argument in favor of Cynicism.

XIV. To the Youths (p. 65)
Pseudo-Crates says what he means and means what he says when he suggests barley cakes and water, over fish and wine.

XV. To His Students (p. 65)
Here, virtue (ἀρετή) are the wages of toil (πόνος).  That’s a rather economic way of thinking of the Cynic labors.  As we expect to receive for what we give, philosophy promises a better return that mere exchange.  It’s not quid pro quo, but rather the alchemists transmutation of a lesser into a greater.   A good parable.

This is part of the Cynic Epistles Reading Plan.

CERP: Day 8 – To the Wealthy, Diogenes, Mnasos, and Lysis


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.