Diogenes the most noted of the Cynics, was born about 412 B.C. He was the son of Icesias, a money-changer of Sinope, in Pontus. One account states that they were detected in adulterating coin, and that father and son were compelled to leave their native city. But according to another account, Icesias died in prison, and Diogenes fled to Athens with a single attendant, whom, upon his arrival, he dismissed with the remark, "If Manes could live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without him?" Thereupon he discarded all superfluities of dress and utensils, retaining only a wooden bowl, his cloak, and his wallet. The first of these, however, was also relinquished, on seeing, a boy drink from the hollow of his hand. He now went to Cynosarges, the seat of the famous Antisthenes, where he cheerfully endured all the abuse heaped upon him by his master and fellow- disciples. Thus introduced to the favorable consideration of the Cynics, and willing to endure any hardship for the sake of wisdom, he soon outstripped his master in learning and extravagance of life. The story that he took up his abode in a cask belonging to the temple of Cybele does not rest upon unquestioned evidence. But that he was accustomed to inure himself to the vicissitudes of the weather by rolling himself in the hot sand in summer, and embracing statues covered with snow in winter, are facts resting on the best of authority. At Athens he was held in great esteem. He ridiculed and despised all intellectual pursuits which did not directly and obviously tend to some immediate and practical good. He abused literary men for reading about the evils of Ulysses, and neglecting their own musicians for stringing the lyre harmoniously while they left their minds discordant; men of science for troubling themselves about the moon and stars while they neglected what lay immediately before them; orators for learning to say what was right, but not to practice it. His numerous witty apothegms are handed down by Diogenes Laertius, and generally display that unwise contempt for the common opinions and pursuits of men which is so unlikely to reform them.
Diogenes was making a voyage to AEgina, when the ship was taken by pirates, and he carried to Crete and sold as a slave. When interrogated as to his trade, he answered that he understood no trade but "to govern men," and begged to be sold to a man "that wanted a master." Such a purchaser was found in the person of Xeniades of Corinth, over whom he acquired great influence, receiving from him his freedom, and being appointed to take charge of the education of his children. He remained in the house of Xeniades during the remainder of his life. He is believed to have died in 323 B.C. It was during his residence at Corinth that the celebrated meeting between him and Alexander the Great is said to have taken place. The king is reported to have begun the conversation by saying, "I am Alexander the Great;" to which the philosopher replied, "And I am Diogenes the Cynic." The king then inquired whether he could do anything to oblige him. But the only request Diogenues had to make was that Alexander should stand from between him and the sun. The king is said to have admired the Cynic so much that he said, "If I were not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes." He appears never to have returned to Athens. The mode of his death is unknown, although various stories have been repeated concerning it. His own desire was that his body should be thrown to the beasts of the field, but Xeniades gave him an honorable interment. At Corinth there was a pillar erected to his memory, on which rested a dog of Parian marble. He has been charged with indecencies of various kinds, which have cast a stain upon his memory; but there is no certain foundation for much that has been said, and the conduct of the later Cynics was such as to reflect discredit on the very name. The Cynics answered arguments by facts. When some one was arguing in support of the Eleatic doctrine of the impossibility of motion, Diogenes rose and walked. See Smith, Dict. of Greek and Rom. Biog. and Myth. s.v.; Encyclop. Britannica, 9th ed. s.v.; Ueberweg, Hist. of Philos. 1:94.