“Diogenes the Cynic” (Διογένης ὁ Κυνικός, Diogenēs ho Kynikos) was a Greek philosopher, contemporary and critic of Plato and founder of ‘cynic’ philosophy. Banished from his birth town (Sinope)1, Diogenes moved to Athens and became a critic of “modern life” there, describing himself as a “citizen of the world” (cosmopolites) and living as a beggar. He believed that virute was revelead in action, rather than theory, and lived a non-traditional fashion2. Diogenes was known for sleeping in a large ceramic jar in the marketplace and carrying a lamp during the day “looking for an honest man”.

He destroyed the single wooden bowl he possessed on seeing a peasant boy drink from the hollow of his hands. He then exclaimed: “Fool that I am, to have been carrying superfluous baggage all this time!”

According to stories, Diogenes was captured by pirates on the way to Aegina and sold to Xeniades to tutor his children in Corinth, where he spent the rest of his life. Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius recount that Diogenes the Cynic met Alexander the Great in Corinth:

Alexander, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favour he might do for him. Diogenes replied, “Yes, stand out of my sunlight.” Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.” “If I were not Diogenes, I would still wish to be Diogenes,” Diogenes replied.

=== Diogenes Syndrome

A behavioural disorder which afflicts the elderly and is characterised by self-neglect and hoarding; an inaccurate name considering Diogenes' attitude towards possessions.

  1. for “currency debasement”, which probably means minting “light” coins or shaving precious metals from existing coinage — considering Diogenes' father was a “minter”, he may well have had the experience. ↩︎

  2. …which is putting it lightly: he was said to have urinated on those who disagreed with him; defecated in the theatre; and masturbated in public. (When questioned on the last he would reply, “If only it were as easy to banish hunger by rubbing my belly!"). ↩︎