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THE LIVES AND OPINIONS OF EMINENT PHILOSOPHERS

BY DIOGENES LAERTIUS, TRANSLATED BY C.D. YONGE

LIFE OF MENEDEMUS



I. MENEDEMUS was a disciple of Colotes of Lampsacus.

II. He proceeded, as Hippobotus tells, to such a great degree of superstition, that he assumed the garb of a fury, and went about saying that he had come from hell to take notice of all who did wrong, in order that he might descend thither again and make his report to the deities who abode in that country. And this was his dress: a tunic of a dark colour reaching to his feet, and a purple girdle round his waist, an Arcadian hat on his head with the twelve signs of the zodiac embroidered on it, tragic buskins, a preposterously long beard, and an ashen staff in his hand.

III. These then are the lives of each of the Cynics; and we shall also subjoin some of the doctrines which they all held in common, if indeed it is not an abuse of language to call that a sect of philosophy at all, instead of, as some contend it should be termed, a mere system of life.

They wished to abolish the whole system of logic and natural philosophy, like Aristo of Chios, and thought that men should study nothing but ethics; and what some people assert of Socrates was described by Diocles as a characteristic of Diogenes, for he said that his doctrine was, that a man ought to investigate-

Only the good and ill that taketh place
Within our houses.

They also discard all liberal studies. Accordingly, Antisthenes said that wise men only applied themselves to literature and learning for the sake of perverting others; they also wish to abolish geometry and music, and everything of that kind. Accordingly, Diogenes said once to a person who was showing him a clock; "It is a very useful thing to save a man from being too late for supper." And once when a man made an exhibition of musical skill before him, he said:

"Cities are governed, so are houses too,
By wisdom, not by harp-playiug and whistling."1

Their doctrine is, that the chief good of mankind is to live according to virtue, as Antisthenes says in his Hercules, in which they resemble the Stoics. For those two sects have a good deal in common with one another, on which account they themselves say that cynicism is a short road to virtue; and Zeno, the Cittiaean lived in the same manner.

They also teach that men ought to live simply, using only plain food in moderate quantities, wearing nothing but a cloak, and despising riches, and glory, and nobleness of birth; accordingly some of them feed upon nothing beyond herbs and cold water, living in any shelter that they can find, or in tubs as Diogenes did; for he used to say that it was the peculiar property of the Gods to want nothing, and that, therefore, when a man wished for nothing he was like the Gods.

Another of their doctrines is, that virtue is a thing which may be taught, as Antisthenes affirms in his Heraclides; and that when it has once been attained it can never be lost. They also say that the wise man deserves to be loved, and cannot commit error, and is a friend to every one who resembles him, and that he leaves nothing to fortune. And everything which is unconnected with either virtue or vice they call indifferent, agreeing in this with Aristo, the Chian.

These then were the Cynics; and now we must pass on to the Stoics, of which sect the founder was Zeno, who had been a disciple of Crates,

1. This a parody on two lines in the Antiope of Euripides.

Gnô mê gar andros eu men oikountai poleis.
Eu d' oikos eis t' au polemon ischuei mega.

Which may be translated:

Wisdom it is which regulates both cities,
And private citizens, and makes their lot
Secure and happy; nor is her influence
Of less account in war.









Scanned and edited for Peithô's Web from The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, by Diogenes Laertius, Literally translated by C.D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853. Footnotes have been converted to endnotes. Some, but not all, of Yonge's spellings of ancient names have been updated.

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