Antisthenes

Antisthenes the founder of the Cynics, was the son of Antisthenes, an Athenian. He flourished B.C. 366. In his youth he fought at Tanagra (B.C. 426), and was a disciple first of Gorgias, and then of Socrates, whom he followed until his death. He is said to have been instrumental in securing the punishment of the persecutors of the latter philosopher. He taught in the Cynosarges, a gymnasium for the use of Athenians born of foreign mothers, near the Temple of Hercules. From this circumstance some derive the name Cynic, while others derive it from κύων, a dog, on account, of the habits of the sect. He died at Athens at the age of seventy. His writings were very numerous, chiefly dialogues.

His philosophical system pertained chiefly to ethics. The wise man, he claimed, conforms his acts to perfect virtue; and pleasure is not only unnecessary to him, but a positive evil. He is said to have held that pain and infamy are blessings. He did not, however, contemn the pleasures which- spring from the soul, and the enjoyments of a wisely chosen friendship. The aim of the true man must be to become, as far as possible, independent of everything outside, using it as needful, but not desiring it as a gratification. Such a mastery of self he called virtue, and it was enough for happiness. Once attained, it can never be lost. Antisthenes did not encourage the formality of a school, and even drove away the curious and enthusiastic with his staff except Diogenes, who would not go away; but he taught many by his example and by his sarcastic words. The Cynic adopted a peculiar garb; at first, perhaps, for reasons of economy, but subsequently as a symbol of his profession. "A rough cloak, which could be doubled to counterfeit an inner garment," and served the purpose of a night covering; a wallet, in which provisions could be carried; a staff to support his steps, and perhaps something from which to drink, constituted the property of the barefooted Cynic; arid to these was afterwards added a long beard." The followers of Antisthenes lived on the alms of the public, and wandered from place to place. Many of their habits were decidedly indecent. Whatever they had to do, they deemed it their duty to do in public; for the wise man is a citizen of the world, and not of a particular city. Some of the Cynics even maintained the advisability of a community of wives. Antisthenes was a voluminous writer; his works, according to Diogenes Laertius, filled ten volumes. Of these scarcely anything is left. The fragments which remain have been collected by Winckelmann (Antisthenes, Fragmenta [Turici, 18423), and this small work, with the account of him given in Ritter, Gesch. der Philosophie (vii, 4), will supply all the information that can be desired. See Smith, Dict. of Greek and Rom. Biog. and Mythol. s.v.; Encyclop. Brit. (9th ed.), s.v.

 
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