6th (vi) Oration of Julian: To the Uneducated Cynics
Introduction to the 6th Oration
The Sixth Oration is a sermon or rather a scolding addressed to the New Cynics, and especially to one of their number who had ventured to defame the memory of Diogenes. In the fourth Christian century the Cynic mode of life was adopted by many, but the vast majority were illiterate men who imitated the Cynic shamelessness of manners but not the genuine discipline, the self-sufficiency (autarkeia) which had ennobled the lives of Antisthenes, Diogenes and Crates. To the virtues of these great men Julian endeavours to recall the worthless Cynics of his day. In the two centuries that had elapsed since Lucian wrote, for the edification of degenerate Cynics, the Life of the Cynic Demonax, the dignified and witty friend of Epictetus, the followers of that sect had still further deteriorated. The New Cynics may be compared with the worst type of mendicant friar of the Middle Ages; and Julian saw in their assumption of the outward signs of Cynicism, the coarse cloak, the staff and wallet, and long hair, the same hypocrisy and greed that characterised certain of the Christian monks of his day. The resemblances between the Christians and the Cynics had already been pointed out by Aristides, and while in Julian's eyes they were equally impious, he has an additional grievance against the Cynics in that they brought discredit on philosophy. Like the Christians they were unlettered, they were disrespectful to the gods whom Julian was trying to restore, they had flattered and fawned on Constantius, and far from practising the austerities of Diogenes they were no better than parasites on society.
In this as in the Seventh Oration Julian's aim is to reform the New Cynics, but still more to demonstrate the essential unity of philosophy. He sympathised profoundly with the tenets of Cynicism, and ranked Diogenes with Socrates as a moral teacher. He reminds the Cynics whom he satirises that the famous admonition of Diogenes to “countermark” or “forge” a new coinage is not to be taken as an excuse for license and impudence, but like the Delphic precept “Know Thyself” warns all philosophers to accept no traditional authority, no convention that has not been examined and approved by the reason of the individual. His conviction that all philosophical tenets are in harmony if rightly understood, gives a peculiar earnestness to his Apologia for Diogenes. The reference in the first paragraph to the summer solstice seems to indicate that the Oration was written before Julian left Constantinople in order to prepare for the Persian campaign.
To the Uneducated Cynics
Behold the rivers are flowing backwards, as the proverb says! Here is a Cynic who says that Diogenes was conceited, and who refuses to take cold baths for fear they may injure him, though he has a very strong constitution and is lusty and in the prime of life, and this too though the Sun-god is now nearing the summer solstice. Moreover he even ridicules the eating of octopus and says that Diogenes paid a sufficient penalty for his folly and vanity in that he perished of this diet as though by a draught of hemlock. So far indeed is he advanced in wisdom that he knows for certain that death is an evil. Yet this even the wise Socrates thought he did not know, yes and after him Diogenes as well. At any rate when Antisthenes was suffering from a long and incurable illness Diogenes handed him a dagger with these words, “In case you need the aid of a friend.” So convinced was he that there is nothing terrible or grievous in death. But we who have inherited his staff know out of our greater wisdom that death is a calamity. And we say that sickness is even more terrible than death, and cold harder to bear than sickness. For the man who is sick is often tenderly nursed, so that his ill-health is straightway converted into a luxury, especially if he be rich. Indeed I myself, by Zeus, have observed that certain persons are more luxurious in sickness than in health, though even in health they were conspicuous for luxury. And so it once occurred to me to say to certain of my friends that it were better for those men to be servants than masters, and to be poor and more naked than the lily of the field than to be rich as they now are. For they would have ceased being at once sick and luxurious. The fact is that some people think it a fine thing to make a display of their ailments and to play the part of luxurious invalids. But, says someone, is not a man who has to endure cold and to support heat really more miserable than the sick? Well, at any rate he has no comforts to mitigate his sufferings.
Come now, let me set down for the benefit of the public what I learned from my teachers about the Cynics, so that all who are entering on this mode of life may consider it. And if they are convinced by what I say, those who are now aiming to be Cynics will, I am sure, be none the worse for it; and if they are unconvinced but cherish aims that are brilliant and noble, and set themselves above my argument not in words only but in deeds, then my discourse will at any rate put no hindrance in their way. But if there are others already enslaved by greed or self-indulgence, or to sum it up briefly in a single phrase, by the pleasures of the body, and they therefore neglect my words or even laugh them down just as dogs sometimes defile the front porticoes of schools and law-courts, ”'Tis all one to Hippocleides,” for indeed we take no notice of puppies who behave in this fashion. Come then let me pursue my argument under headings from the beginning in due order, so that by giving every question its proper treatment I may myself more conveniently achieve what I have in mind and may make it more easy for you also to follow. And since it is a fact that Cynicism is a branch of philosophy, and by no means the most insignificant or least honourable, but rivaling the noblest, I must first say a few words about philosophy itself.
The gift of the gods sent down to mankind with the glowing flame of fire from the sun through the agency of Prometheus along with the blessings that we owe to Hermes is no other than the bestowal of reason and mind. For Prometheus, the Forethought that guides all things mortal using a fiery breath to serve as an operative cause, gave to all things a share in incorporeal reason. And each thing took what share it could; lifeless bodies only a state of existence; plants received life besides, and animals soul, and man a reasoning soul. Now some think that a single substance is the basis of all these, and others that they differ essentially according to their species. But this question we must not discuss as yet, or rather not at all in the present discourse, and we need only say that whether one regards philosophy, as some people do, as the art of arts and the science of sciences or as an effort to become like God, as far as one may, or whether, as the Pythian oracle said, it means “Know thyself,” will make no difference to my argument. For all these definitions are evidently very closely related to one another.
However, let us begin with “Know thyself,” since this precept is divinely inspired. It follows that he who knows himself will know not only about his soul but his body also. And it will not be enough to know that a man is a soul employing a body, but he will also investigate the essential nature of the soul, and then trace out its faculties. And not even this alone will be enough for him, but in addition he will investigate whatever exists in us nobler and more divine than the soul, that something which we all believe in without being taught and regard as divine, and all in common suppose to be established in the heavens. Then again, as he investigates the first principles of the body he will observe whether it is composite or simple; then proceeding systematically he will observe its harmony and the influences that affect it and its capacity and, in a word, all that it needs to ensure its permanence. And in the next place he will also observe the first principles of certain arts by which the body is assisted to that permanence, for instance, medicine, husbandry and the like. And of such arts as are useless and superfluous he will not be wholly ignorant, since these too have been devised to humour the emotional part of our souls. For though he will avoid the persistent study of these last, because he thinks such persistent study disgraceful, and will avoid what seems to involve hard work in those subjects; nevertheless he will not, generally speaking, remain in ignorance of their apparent nature and what parts of the soul they suit. Reflect therefore, whether self-knowledge does not control every science and every art, and moreover whether it does not include the knowledge of universals. For to know things divine through the divine part in us, and mortal things too through the part of us that is mortal this the oracle declared to be the duty of the living organism that is midway between these, namely man; because individually he is mortal, but regarded as a whole he is immortal, and moreover, singly and individually, is compounded of a mortal and an immortal part.
Further, that to make oneself like God as far as possible is nothing else than to acquire such knowledge of the essential nature of things as is attainable by mankind, is evident from the following. It is not on the score of abundance of possessions that we count the divine nature happy, nor on the score of any other of those things that are commonly believed to be advantages, but it is because, as Homer says, “The gods know all things”; and indeed he says also of Zeus, “But Zeus was older and wiser.”
For it is in knowledge that the gods surpass ourselves. And it may well be that with them also what ranks as noblest is self-knowledge. In proportion then as they are nobler than we in their essential nature, that self-knowledge of theirs is a knowledge of higher things. Therefore, I say, let no one divide philosophy into many kinds or cut it up into many parts, or rather let no one make it out to be plural instead of one. For even as truth is one, so too philosophy is one. But it is not surprising that we travel to it now by one road, now by another. For if any stranger, or, by Zeus, any one of her oldest inhabitants wished to go up to Athens, he could either sail or go by road, and if he traveled by land he could, I suppose, take either the broad highways or the paths and roads that are short cuts. And moreover he could either sail along the coasts or, like the old man of Pylos, 1 “cleave the open sea.” And let no one try to refute me by pointing out that some philosophers in travelling by those very roads have been known to lose their way, and arriving in some other place have been captivated, as though by Circe or the Lotus-Eaters, that is to say by pleasure or opinion or some other bait, and so have failed to go straight forward and attain their goal. Rather he must consider those who in every one of the philosophic sects did attain the highest rank, and he will find that all their doctrines agree.
Therefore the god at Delphi proclaims, “Know Thyself,” and Heraclitus says, “I searched myself”; and Pythagoras also and his school and his followers down to Theophrastus, bid us become like God as far as possible, yes and Aristotle too. For what we are sometimes, God is always. It would therefore be absurd that God should not know himself. For he will know nothing at all about other things if he be ignorant of himself. For he is himself everything, seeing that in himself and near himself he keeps the causes of all things that in any way whatever have existence, whether they be immortal causes of things immortal,, or causes of perishable things, though themselves not mortal or perishable; for imperishable and ever-abiding are the causes of perpetual generation for the perishable world. But this line of argument is too lofty for the occasion.
Now truth is one and philosophy is one, and they whom I just now spoke of are its lovers one and all; and also they whom I ought in fairness to mention now by name, I mean the disciples of the man of Citium. For when they saw that the cities of Greece were averse to the excessive plainness and simplicity of the Cynic's freedom of manners, they hedged him about with screens as it were, I mean with maxims on the management of the household and business and intercourse with one's wife and the rearing of children, to the end, I believe, that they might make him the intimate guardian of the public welfare. And that they too held the maxim “Know Thyself” to be the first principle of their philosophy you may believe, if you will, not only from the works that they composed on this very subject, but even more from what they made the end and aim of their philosophic teaching. For this end of theirs was life in harmony with nature, and this it is impossible for any man to attain who does not know who and of what nature he is. For a man who does not know himself will certainly not know what it is becoming for him to do; just as he who does not know the nature of iron will not know whether it is suitable to cut with or not, and how iron must be treated so that it may be put to its proper use. For the moment however I have said enough to show that philosophy is one, and that, to speak generally, all philosophers have a single aim though they arrive at that aim by different roads. And now let us consider the Cynic philosophy.
If the Cynics had composed treatises with any serious purpose and not merely with a frivolous aim, it would have been proper for my opponent to be guided by these and to try in each case to refute the opinions that I hold on the subject; and then, if they proved to be in harmony with those original doctrines, he could not attack me for bearing false witness; but if they proved not to be in harmony, then he could have barred my opinions from a hearing, as the Athenians barred spurious documents from the Metroum. But, as I said, nothing of that sort exists. For the much-talked-of tragedies of Diogenes are now said to be the work of a certain Philiscus of Aegina; though even if they were by Diogenes there would be nothing out of the way in a wise man's jesting, since many philosophers have been known to do so. For Democritus also, we are told, used to laugh when he saw men taking things seriously. Well then I say we must not pay any attention to their frivolous writings, like men who have no desire at all to learn anything of serious interest. Such men when they arrive at a prosperous city abounding in sacrifices and secret rites of many kinds, and containing within it countless holy priests who dwell in the sacred enclosures, priests who for this very purpose, I mean in order to purify everything that is within their gates, have expelled all that is sordid and superfluous and vicious from the city, public baths and brothels, and retail shops, and everything of the sort without exception: such men, I say, having come as far as the quarter where all such things are, do not enter the city itself. Surely a man who, when he comes upon the things that have been expelled, thinks that this is the city, is despicable indeed if he depart on the instant, but still more despicable if he stay in that lower region, when he might by taking but a step across the threshold behold Socrates himself. For I will borrow those famous phrases of Alcibiades in his praise of Socrates, and I assert that the Cynic philosophy is very like those images of Silenus that sit in the shops of the statuaries, which the craftsmen make with pipes or flutes in their hands, but when you open them you see that inside they contain statues of the gods. Accordingly, that we may not make that sort of mistake and think that his jesting was sober earnest (for though there is a certain use even in those jests, yet Cynicism itself is something very different, as I shall presently try to prove), let us consider it in due course from its actual practice and pursue it like hounds that track down wild beasts in the chase.
Now the founder of this philosophy to whom we are to attribute it, in the first instance, is not easy to discover, even though some think that the title belongs to Antisthenes and Diogenes. At least the saying of Oenomaus seems to be not without good grounds : “The Cynic philosophy is neither Antisthenism nor Diogenism.” Moreover the better sort of Cynics assert that in addition to the other blessings bestowed on us by mighty Heracles, it was he who bequeathed to mankind the noblest example of this mode of life. But for my part, while I desire to speak with due reverence of the gods and of those who have attained to their functions, I still believe that even before Heracles, not only among the Greeks but among the barbarians also, there were men who practised this philosophy. For it seems to be in some ways a universal philosophy, and the most natural, and to demand no special study whatsoever. But it is enough simply to choose the honourable by desiring virtue and avoiding evil; and so there is no need to turn over countless books. For as the saying goes, “Much learning does not teach men to have understanding.” Nor is it necessary to subject oneself to any part of such a discipline as they must undergo who enter other philosophic sects. Nay it is enough merely to hearken to the Pythian god when he enjoins these two precepts, “Know Thyself,” and “Falsify the common currency.” Hence it becomes evident to us that the founder of this philosophy is he who, I believe, is the cause of all the blessings that the Greeks enjoy, the universal leader, law-giver and king of Hellas, I mean the god of Delphi. And since it was not permitted that he should be in ignorance of everything, the peculiar fitness of Diogenes did not escape his notice. And he made him incline to that philosophy, not by urging his commands in words alone, as he does for other men, but in very deed he instructed him symbolically as to what he willed, in two words, when he said, “Falsify the common currency.” For “Know Thyself” he addressed not only to Diogenes, but to other men also and still does: for it stands there engraved in front of his shrine. And so we have at last discovered the founder of this philosophy, even as the divine Iamblichus also declares, yes, and we have discovered its leading men as well, namely Antisthenes and Diogenes and Crates; the aim and end of whose lives was, I think, to know themselves, to despise vain opinions, and to lay hold of truth with their whole understanding; for truth, alike for gods and men, is the beginning of every good thing; and it was, I think, for her sake that Plato and Pythagoras and Socrates and the Peripatetic philosophers and Zeno spared no pains, because they wished to know themselves, and not to follow vain opinions but to track down truth among all things that are.
And now, since it has become evident that Plato was not pursuing one aim and Diogenes another, but their end was one and the same; suppose one should inquire of the wise Plato: What value do you set on the precept “Know Thyself”? I am very sure that he would answer that it is worth everything, and indeed he says so in the Alcibiades. Come then tell us next, divine Plato, scion of the gods, how one ought to be disposed towards the opinions of the many? He will give the same answer, and moreover he will expressly enjoin on us to read his dialogue the Crito, where Socrates is shown warning us not to take heed of such things. At any rate what he says is: “But why, my dear good Crito, are we so concerned about the opinion of the multitude?” And now are we to ignore all this evidence, and without further question fence off from one another and force apart men whom the passion for truth, the scorn of opinion, and unanimity in zeal for virtue have joined together? And if Plato chose to achieve his aim through words, whereas for Diogenes deeds sufficed, does the latter on that account deserve to be criticised by you? Nay, consider whether that same method of his be not in every respect superior; since we see that Plato for himself forswore written compositions. “For”, he says, “there are no writings by Plato nor ever will be, and what now pass current as his are the work of Socrates, the ever fair and fever young.” Why then should we not from the practice of Diogenes study the character of the Cynic philosophy?
Now the body consists of certain parts such as eyes, feet and hands, but there are besides other parts, hair, nails, ordure, a whole class of accessories of that sort without which the human body cannot exist. Then is it not absurd for a man to take into account such parts, I mean hair or nails or ordure or such unpleasant accessories, rather than those parts that are most precious and important, in the first place, for instance, the organs of perception, and among these more especially the instruments whereby we apprehend, namely the eyes and ears? For these aid the soul to think intelligently, whether it be buried deep in the body and they enable it to purify itself more readily and to use its pure and steadfast faculty of thought, or whether, as some think, it is through them that the soul enters in as though by channels. For, as we are told, by collecting individual perceptions and linking them through the memory she brings forth the sciences. And for my own part, I think that if there were not something of this sort, either incomplete in itself or perfect but hindered by other things many and various, which brings about our apprehension of externals, it would not even be possible for us to apprehend the objects of sense-perception. But this line of argument has little to do with the present question.
Accordingly we must go back to the divisions of the Cynic philosophy. For the Cynics also seem to have thought that there were two branches of philosophy, as did Aristotle and Plato, namely speculative and practical, evidently because they had observed and understood that man is by nature suited both to action and to the pursuit of knowledge. And though they avoided the study of natural philosophy, that does not affect the argument. For Socrates and many others also, as we know, devoted themselves to speculation, but it was solely for practical ends. For they thought that even self-knowledge meant learning precisely what must be assigned to the soul, and what to the body. And to the soul they naturally assigned supremacy, and to the body subjection. This seems to be the reason why they practised virtue, self-control, modesty and freedom, and why they shunned all forms of envy, cowardice and superstition. But this, you will say, is not the view that we hold about them, for we are to think that they were not in earnest, and that they hazarded what is most precious in thus despising the body; as Socrates did when he declared, and rightly, that philosophy is a preparation for death. And since this was the aim that the Cynics pursued daily, we need not emulate them any more than the others, but we are to think them miserable beings and altogether foolish. But why was it that they endured those hardships? Surely not from ostentation, as you declared. For how could they win applause from other men by eating raw meat? Certainly you yourself do not applaud them for this. At any rate, when you imitate one of those Cynics by carrying a staff and wearing your hair long, as it is shown in their pictures, do you think that you thereby gain a reputation with the crowd, though you do not yourself think those habits worthy of admiration? One or two, indeed, used to applaud him in his own day, but more than ten times ten thousand had their stomachs turned by nausea and loathing, and went fasting until their attendants revived them with perfumes and myrrh and cakes. So greatly did that renowned hero shock them by an act which seems absurd to men “of such sort as mortals now are,” though, by the gods, it was not ignoble, if one should explain it according to the intention of Diogenes. For just as Socrates said of himself that he embraced the life of cross-examining because he believed that he could perform his service to the god only by examining in all its bearings the meaning of the oracle that had been uttered concerning him, so I think Diogenes also, because he was convinced that philosophy was ordained by the Pythian oracle, believed that he ought to test everything by facts and not be influenced by the opinions of others, which may be true and may be false. Accordingly Diogenes did not think that every statement of Pythagoras, or any man like Pythagoras, was necessarily true. For he held that God and no human being is the founder of philosophy. And pray what, you will say, has this to do with the eating of octopus? I will tell you.
To eat meat some regard as natural to man, while others think that to follow this practice is not at all appropriate for man, and this question has been much debated. And if you are willing to make the effort, you can see with your own eyes swarms of books on the subject. These Diogenes thought it his duty to refute. At any rate his own view was as follows. If one can eat meat without taking too much trouble to prepare it, as can all other animals to whom nature has assigned this diet, and can do it without harm or discomfort, or rather with actual benefit to the body, then he thought that eating meat is entirely in accordance with nature. But if harm came of it, then he apparently thought that the practice is not appropriate for man, and that he must abstain from it by all means. Here then you have a theory on this question, though perhaps it is too far-fetched: but here is another more akin to Cynicism, only I must first describe more clearly the end and aim of that philosophy.
Freedom from emotion they regard as the end and aim; and this is equivalent to becoming a god. Now perhaps Diogenes observed that in the case of all other foods he himself had no particular sensations, and that only raw meat gave him indigestion and nausea, and took this for a proof that he was enslaved to vain opinion rather than reason; for flesh is none the less flesh, even though you cook it any number of times or season it with any number of sauces. This, I say, was why he thought he ought to rid and free himself altogether of this cowardice; for you may be sure that this sort of thing is cowardice. And in the name of the Law-Giving goddess, tell me why if we used cooked meats we do not eat them in their natural state also? You can give me no other answer than that this has become a custom and a habit with us. For surely we cannot say that before meat is cooked it is disgusting and that by being cooked it becomes purer than it was by nature. What then was it right for him to do who had been appointed by God like a general in command to do away with the common currency and to judge all questions by the criterion of reason and truth? Ought he to have shut his eyes and been so far fettered by this general opinion as to believe that flesh by being cooked becomes pure and fit for food, but that when it has not been acted upon by fire it is somehow abominable and loathsome? Is this the sort of memory you have? Is this your zeal for truth? For though you so severely criticised Diogenes the vain-glorious, as you call him though I call him the most zealous servant and vassal of the Pythian god for eating octopus, you yourself have devoured endless pickled food, “Fish and birds and whatever else might come to hand.” For you are an Egyptian, though not of the priestly caste, but of the omnivorous type whose habit it is to eat everything ” even as the green herb.” You recognise, I suppose, the words of the Galilaeans. I almost omitted to say that all men who live near the sea, and even some who live at a distance from it, swallow down sea-urchins, oysters and in general everything of the kind without even heating them. And then you think they are enviable, whereas you regard Diogenes as contemptible and disgusting, and you do not perceive that those shell-fish are flesh just as much as what he ate? Except perhaps that they differ in so far as the octopus is soft and shellfish are harder. At any rate the octopus is bloodless, like hard-shelled fish, but the latter too are animate things like the octopus. At least they feel pleasure and pain, which is the peculiar characteristic of animate things. And here we must not be put out by Plato's theory that plants also are animated by soul. But it is now, I think, evident to those who are in any way able to follow an argument, that what the excellent Diogenes did was not out of the way or irregular or contrary to our habits, that is if we do not in such cases apply the criterion of hardness and softness, but judge rather by the pleasure or distaste of the palate. And so it is not after all the eating of raw food that disgusts you, since you do the like, not only in the case of bloodless animals but also of those that have blood. But perhaps there is also this difference between you and Diogenes, that he thought he ought to eat such food just as it was and in the natural state, whereas you think you must first prepare it with salt and many other things to make it agreeable and so do violence to nature. I have now said enough on this subject.
Now the end and aim of the Cynic philosophy, as indeed of every philosophy, is happiness, but happiness that consists in living according to nature and not according to the opinions of the multitude. For plants too are considered to do well, and indeed all animals also, when without hindrance each attains the end designed for it by nature. Nay, even among the gods this is the definition of happiness, that their state should be according to their nature, and that they should be independent. And so too in the case of human beings we must not be busy about happiness as if it were hidden away outside ourselves. Neither the eagle nor the plane tree nor anything else that has life, whether plant or animal, vainly troubles itself about wings or leaves of gold or that its shoots may be of silver or its stings and spurs of iron, or rather of adamant; but where nature in the beginning has adorned them with such things, they consider that, if only they are strong and serviceable for speed or defence, they themselves are fortunate and well provided. Then is it not absurd when a human being tries to find happiness somewhere outside himself, and thinks that wealth and birth and the influence of friends, and generally speaking everything of that sort is of the utmost importance? If however nature had bestowed on us only what she has bestowed on other animals, I mean the possession of bodies and souls like theirs, so that we need concern ourselves with nothing beyond, then it would suffice for us, as for all other animals, to content ourselves with physical advantages, and to pursue happiness within this field. But in us has been implanted a soul that in no way resembles other animals; and whether it be different in essence, or not different in essence but superior in its activity only, just as, I suppose, pure gold is superior to gold alloyed with sand, for some people hold this theory to be true of the soul, at any rate we surely know that we are more intelligent than other animals. For according to the myth in the Protagoras, 1 nature dealt with them very generously and bountifully, like a mother, but to compensate for all this, mind was bestowed on us by Zeus. Therefore in our minds, in the best and noblest part of us, we must say that happiness resides.
Now consider whether Diogenes did not above all other men profess this belief, since he freely exposed his body to hardships so that he might make it stronger than it was by nature. He allowed himself to act only as the light of reason shows us that we ought to act; and the perturbations that attack the soul and are derived from the body, to which this envelope of ours often constrains us for its sake to pay too much attention, he did not take into account at all. Thus by means of this discipline the man made his body more vigorous, I believe, than that of any who have contended for the prize of a crown in the games; and his soul was so disposed that he was happy and a king no less if not even more than the Great King, as the Greeks used to call him in those days, by which they meant the king of Persia. Then does he seem to you of no importance, this man who was “cityless, homeless, a man without a country, owning not an obol, not a drachma, not a single slave,” nay, not even a loaf of bread and Epicurus says that if he have bread enough and to spare he is not inferior to the gods on the score of happiness. Not that Diogenes tried to rival the gods, but he lived more happily than one who is counted the happiest of men, and he used actually to assert that he lived more happily than such a man. And if you do not believe me, try his mode of life in deed and not in word, and you will perceive the truth.
Come, let us first test it by reasoning. You think, do you not, that for mankind freedom is the beginning of all good things, I mean of course what people are always calling good? How can you deny it? For property, money, birth, physical strength, beauty and in a word everything of the sort when divorced from freedom are surely blessings that belong, not to him who merely seems to enjoy them, but to him who is that man's master? Whom then are we to regard as a slave? Shall it be him whom we buy for so many silver drachmas, for two minae or for ten staters of gold? Probably you will say that such a man is truly a slave. And why? Is it because we have paid down money for him to the seller? But in that case the prisoners of war whom we ransom would be slaves. And yet the law on the one hand grants these their freedom when they have come safe home, and we on the other hand ransom them not that they may become slaves, but that they may be free. Do you see then that in order to make a ransomed man a slave it is not enough to pay down a sum of money, but that man is truly a slave over whom another man has power to compel him to do whatever he orders, and if he refuse, to punish him and in the words of the poet “to inflict grievous pains upon him”? Then consider next whether we have not as many masters as there are persons whom we are obliged to conciliate in order not to suffer pain or annoyance from being punished by them? Or do you think that the only sort of punishment is when a man lifts up his stick against a slave and strikes him? Yet not even the harshest masters do this in the case of all their slaves, but a word or a threat is often enough. Then never think, my friend, that you are free while your belly rules you and the part below the belly, since you will then have masters who can either furnish you the means of pleasure or deprive you of them; and even though you should prove yourself superior to these, so long as you are a slave to the opinions of the many you have not yet approached freedom or tasted its nectar, “I swear by him who set in my breast the mystery of the Four!” But I do not mean by this that we ought to be shameless before all men and to do what we ought not; but all that we refrain from and all that we do let us not do or refrain from, merely because it seems to the multitude somehow honourable or base, but because it is forbidden by reason and the god within us, that is, the mind. As for the multitude there is no reason why they should not follow common opinions, for that is better than that they should be altogether shameless, and indeed mankind is predisposed to the truth by nature. But a man who has attained to a life in accordance with intelligence and is able to discover and estimate right reasons, ought on no account whatever to follow the views held by the many about good and bad conduct.
An oath used by the Pythagoreans, who regarded the tetrad, the sum of the first four numbers, as symbolical of all proportion and perfection. Since therefore one part of our souls is more divine, which we call mind and intelligence and silent reason, whose herald is this speech of ours made up of words and phrases and uttered through the voice; and since there is yoked therewith another part of the soul which is changeful and multiform, something composite of anger and appetite, a many-headed monster, we ought not to look steadily and unswervingly at the opinions of the multitude until we have tamed this wild beast and persuaded it to obey the god within us, or rather the divine part. For this it is that many disciples of Diogenes have ignored, and hence have become rapacious and depraved and no better than any one of the brute beasts. And to prove that this is not my own theory, first I will relate to you something that Diogenes did, which the many will ridicule but to me it seems most dignified. Once when, in a crowd of people among whom was Diogenes, a certain youth made an unseemly noise, Diogenes struck him with his staff and said.” And so, vile wretch, though you have done nothing that would give you the right to take such liberties in public, you are beginning here and before us to show your scorn of opinion?” So convinced was he that a man ought to subdue pleasure and passion before he proceeds to the final encounter of all and strips to wrestle with those opinions which to the multitude are the cause of evils innumerable.
Do you not know how people lure away the young from philosophy by continually uttering now one slander and then another against all the philosophers in turn? The genuine disciples of Pythagoras and Plato and Aristotle are called sorcerers and sophists and conceited and quacks. If here and there among the Cynics one is really virtuous he is regarded with pity. For instance I remember that once my tutor said to me when he saw my fellow-pupil Iphicles with his hair unkempt and his clothes in tatters on his chest and wearing a wretched cloak in severe winter weather: “What evil genius can have plunged him into this sad state which makes not only him pitiable but even more so his parents who reared him with care and gave him the best education they could! And now he goes about in this condition, neglecting everything and no better than a beggar!” At the time I answered him with some pleasantry or other. But I assure you that the multitude hold these views about genuine Cynics also. And that is not so dreadful, but do you see that they persuade them to love wealth, to hate poverty, to minister to the belly, to endure any toil for the body's sake, to fatten that prison of the soul, to keep up an expensive table, never to sleep alone at night, provided only that they do all this in the dark and are not found out? Is not this worse than Tartarus? Is it not better to sink beneath Charybdis and Cocytus or ten thousand fathoms deep in the earth than to fall into a life like this, enslaved to lust and appetite, and not even to these simply and openly, like the beasts, but to take pains so that when we act thus we may be hidden under cover of darkness ? And yet how much better is it to refrain altogether from all this! And if that be difficult the rules of Diogenes and Crates on these matters are not to be despised: “Fasting quenches desire, and if you cannot fast, hang yourself.” Do you not know that those great men lived as they did in order to introduce among men the way of plain living? “For” says Diogenes, ” it is not among men who live on bread that you will find tyrants, but among those who eat costly dinners.” Moreover Crates wrote a hymn to Plain Living: “Hail, goddess and Queen, darling of wise men, Plain Living, child of glorious Temperance.” Then let not the Cynic be like Oenomaus I shameless or impudent, or a scorner of everything human and divine, but reverent towards sacred things, like Diogenes. For he obeyed the Pythian oracle nor did he repent of his obedience. But if anyone supposes that because he did not visit the temples or worship statues or altars this is a sign of impiety, he does not think rightly. For Diogenes possessed nothing that is usually offered, incense or libations or money to buy them with. But if he held right opinions about the gods, that in itself was enough. For he worshipped them with his whole soul, thus offering them as I think the most precious of his possessions, the dedication of his soul through his thoughts. Let not the Cynic be shameless, but led by reason let him first make subservient to himself the emotional part of his soul so that he may entirely do away with it and not even be aware that he is superior to pleasures. For it is nobler to attain to this, I mean to complete ignorance whether one has any such emotions. And this comes to us only through training. And that none may think I say this at random I will add for your benefit a few lines from the lighter verse of Crates : “Glorious children of Memory and Olympian Zeus, ye Muses of Pieria, hearken to my prayer! Give me without ceasing victuals for my belly which has always made my life frugal and free from slavery. … To my friends make me useful rather than agreeable. As for money I desire not to amass conspicuous wealth, seeking after the wealth of the beetle or the substance of the ant; nay, I desire to possess justice and to collect riches that are easily carried, easily acquired, of great avail for virtue. If I may but win these I will propitiate Hermes and the holy Muses not with costly dainties but with pious virtues.” If it be of any use to write for you about such things I could recite still more maxims by this same Crates. But if you will read Plutarch of Chaeronea, who wrote his Life, there will be no need for you to learn his character superficially from me.
But let me go back to what I said before, that he who is entering on the career of a Cynic ought first to censure severely and cross-examine himself, and without any self-flattery ask himself the following questions in precise terms; whether he enjoys expensive food; whether he cannot do without a soft bed; whether he is the slave of rewards and the opinion of men; whether it is his ambition to attract public notice and even though that be an empty honour l he still thinks it worth while. Nevertheless he must not let himself drift with the current of the mob or touch vulgar pleasure even with the tip of his finger, as the saying is, until he has succeeded in trampling on it; then and not before he may permit himself to dip into that sort of thing if it come his way. For instance I am told that bulls which are weaker than the rest separate themselves from the herd and pasture alone while they store up their strength in every part of their bodies by degrees, until they rejoin the herd in good condition, and then they challenge its leaders to contend with them, in confidence that they are more fit to take the lead. Therefore let him who wishes to be a Cynic philosopher not adopt merely their long cloak or wallet or staff or their way of wearing the hair, as though he were like a man walking imshaved and illiterate in a village that lacked barbers' shops and schools, but let him consider that reason rather than a staff and a certain plan of life rather than a wallet are the mintmarks of the Cynic philosophy. And freedom of speech he must not employ until he have first proved how much he is worth, as I believe was the case with Crates and Diogenes. For they were so far from bearing with a bad grace any threat of fortune, whether one call such threats caprice or wanton insult, that once when he had been captured by pirates Diogenes joked with them; as for Crates he gave his property to the state, and being physically deformed he made fun of his own lame leg and hunched shoulders. But when his friends gave an entertainment he used to go, whether invited or not, and would reconcile his nearest friends if he learned that they had quarrelled. He used to reprove them not harshly but with a charming manner and not so as to seem to persecute those whom he wished to reform, but as though he wished to be of use both to them and to the bystanders.
Yet this was not the chief end and aim of those Cynics, but as 1 said their main concern was how they might themselves attain to happiness and, as I think, they occupied themselves with other men only in so far as they comprehended that man is by nature a social and political animal; and so they aided their fellow-citizens, not only by practising but by preaching as well. Then let him who wishes to be a Cynic, earnest and sincere, first take himself in hand like Diogenes and Crates, and expel from his own soul and from every part of it all passions and desires, and entrust all his affairs to reason and intelligence and steer his course by them. For this in my opinion was the sum and substance of the philosophy of Diogenes.
And if Diogenes did sometimes visit a courtesan though even this happened only once perhaps or not even once let him who would be a Cynic first satisfy us that he is, like Diogenes, a man of solid worth; and then if he see fit to do that sort of thing openly and in the sight of all men, we shall not reproach him with it or accuse him. First however we must see him display the ability to learn and the quick wit of Diogenes, and in all other relations he must show the same independence, self-sufficiency, justice, moderation, piety, gratitude, and the same extreme carefulness not to act at random or without a purpose or irrationally. For these too are characteristic of the philosophy of Diogenes. Then let him trample on vaingloriousness, let him ridicule those who though they conceal in darkness the necessary functions of our nature for instance the secretion of what is superfluous yet in the centre of the market-place and of our cities carry on practices that are most brutal and by no means akin to our nature, for instance robbery of money, false accusations, unjust indictments, and the pursuit of other rascally business of the same sort. On the other hand when Diogenes made unseemly noises or obeyed the call of nature or did anything else of that sort in the market-place, as they say he did, he did so because he was trying to trample on the conceit of the men I have just mentioned, and to teach them that their practices were far more sordid and insupportable than his own. For what he did was in accordance with the nature of all of us, but theirs accorded with no man's real nature, one may say, but were all due to moral depravity.
In our own day, however, the imitators of Diogenes have chosen only what is easiest and least burdensome and have failed to see his nobler side. And as for you, in your desire to be more dignified than those early Cynics you have strayed so far from Diogenes' plan of life that you thought him an object of pity. But if you did not believe all this that I say about a man whom all the Greeks in the generation of Plato and Aristotle admired next to Socrates and Pythagoras, a man whose pupil was the teacher of the most modest and most wise Zeno, and it is not likely that they were all deceived about a man as contemptible as you make him out to be in your travesty, well, in that case, my dear sir, perhaps you might have studied his character more carefully and you would have progressed further in your knowledge of the man. Was there, I ask, a single Greek who was not amazed by the endurance of Diogenes and by his perseverance, which had in it a truly royal greatness of soul? The man used to sleep in his jar on a~bed of leaves more soundly than the Great King on his soft couch under a gilded roof; he used to eat his crust with a better appetite than you now eat your Sicilian courses; he used to bathe his body in cold water and dry himself in the open air instead of with the linen towels with which you rub yourself down, my most philosophic friend! It becomes you well to ridicule him because, I suppose, like Themistocles you conquered Xerxes, or Darius like Alexander of Macedon. But if you had the least habit of reading books as I do, though I am a statesman and engrossed in public affairs, you would know how much Alexander is said to have admired Diogenes' greatness of soul. But you care little, I suppose, for any of these things. How should you care? Far from it! 1 You admire and emulate the life of wretched women.
However, if my discourse has improved you at all you will have gained more than I. But even if I accomplish nothing at the moment by writing on such a great subject thus hastily, and, as the saying is, without taking breath 2 for I gave to it only the leisure of two days, as the Muses or rather you yourself will bear me witness then do you abide by your former opinions, but I at any rate shall never regret having spoken of that great man with due reverence.
The Loeb Classical Library, Edited by T. E. Page, Litt.D. and W. H. D. Rouse, Litt.D. The Works of the Emporer Julian, Volume II with an English Translation by Winmer Cave Wright, Ph. D.