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Crates of Thebes | Diogenes Laertius, Book 6 §85-93

85. Crates, son of Ascondas, was a Theban. He too was amongst the Cynic's famous pupils. Hippobotus, however, alleges that he was a pupil not of Diogenes, but of Bryson the Achaean. The following playful lines are attributed to him:

There is a city Pera in the midst of wine-dark vapour, Fair, fruitful, passing squalid, owning nought, Into which sails nor fool nor parasite Nor glutton, slave of sensual appetite, But thyme it bears, garlic, and figs and loaves, For which things' sake men fight not each with other, Nor stand to arms for money or for fame.

86. There is also his widely circulated day-book, which runs as follows:

Set down for the chef ten minas, for the doctor One drachma, for a flatterer talents five, For counsel smoke, for mercenary beauty A talent, for a philosopher three obols.

He was known as the “Door-opener” – the caller to whom all doors fly open – from his habit of entering every house and admonishing those within. Here is another specimen of his composition:

That much I have which I have learnt and thought, The noble lessons taught me by the Muses: But wealth amassed is prey to vanity.

And again he says that what he has gained from philosophy is

A quart of lupins and to care for no one.

This too is quoted as his:

Hunger stops love, or, if not hunger, Time, Or, failing both these means of help, – a halter.

87. He flourished in the 113th Olympiad.

According to Antisthenes in his Successions, the first impulse to the Cynic philosophy was given to him when he saw Telephus in a certain tragedy carrying a little basket and altogether in a wretched plight. So he turned his property into money, – for he belonged to a distinguished family, – and having thus collected about 200 talents, distributed that sum among his fellow-citizens. And (it is added) so sturdy a philosopher did he become that he is mentioned by the comic poet Philemon. At all events the latter says:

In summer-time a thick cloak he would wear To be like Crates, and in winter rags.

Diocles relates how Diogenes persuaded Crates to give up his fields to sheep pasture, and throw into the sea any money he had.

88. In the home of Crates Alexander is said to have lodged, as Philip once lived in Hipparchia's. Often, too, certain of his kinsmen would come to visit him and try to divert him from his purpose. These he would drive from him with his stick, and his resolution was unshaken. Demetrius of Magnesia tells a story that he entrusted a banker with a sum of money on condition that, if his sons proved ordinary men he was to pay it to them, but, if they became philosophers, then to distribute it among the people: for his sons would need nothing, if they took to philosophy. Eratosthenes tells us that by Hipparchia, of whom we shall presently speak, he had a son born to him named Pasicles, and after he had ceased to be a cadet on service, Crates took him to a brothel and told him that was how his father had married.

89. The marriage of intrigue and adultery, he said, belonged to tragedy, having exile or assassination as its rewards; while the weddings of those who take up with courtesans are material for comedy, for as a result of extravagance and drunkenness they bring about madness.

This man had a brother named Pasicles, who was a disciple of Euclides.

Favorinus, in the second book of his Memorabilia, tells a pleasant story of Crates. For he relates how, when making some request of the master of the gymnasium, he laid hold on his hips; and when he demurred, said, “What, are not these hip-joints yours as much as your knees?” It was, he used to say, impossible to find anybody wholly free from flaws; but, just as in a pomegranate, one of the seeds is always going bad. Having exasperated the musician Nicodromus, he was struck by him on the face. So he stuck a plaster on his forehead with these words on it, “Nicodromus's handiwork.”

90. He carried on a regular campaign of invective against the courtesans, habituating himself to meet their abuse.

When Demetrius of Phalerum sent him loaves of bread and some wine, he reproached him, saying, “Oh that the springs yielded bread as well as water!” It is clear, then, that he was a water-drinker. When the police-inspectors found fault with him for wearing muslin, his answer was, “I'll show you that Theophrastus also wears muslin.” This they would not believe: so he led them to a barber's shop and showed them Theophrastus being shaved. At Thebes he was flogged by the master of the gymnasium – another version being that it was by Euthycrates and at Corinth; and being dragged by the heels, he called out, as if it did not affect him:

Seized by the foot and dragged o'er heaven's high threshold:

91. Diocles, however, says that it was by Menedemus of Eretria that he was thus dragged. For he being handsome and being thought to be intimate with Asclepiades the Phliasian, Crates slapped him on the side with a brutal taunt; whereupon Menedemus, full of indignation, dragged him along, and he declaimed as above.

Zeno of Citium in his Anecdotes relates that in a fit of heedlessness he sewed a sheepskin to his cloak. He was ugly to look at, and when performing his gymnastic exercises used to be laughed at. He was accustomed to say, raising his hands, “Take heart, Crates, for it is for the good of your eyes and of the rest of your body.

92. You will see these men, who are laughing at you, tortured before long by disease, counting you happy, and reproaching themselves for their sluggishness.” He used to say that we should study philosophy to the point of seeing in generals nothing but donkey-drivers. Those who live with flatterers he declared to be as defenceless as calves in the midst of wolves; for neither these nor those have any to protect them, but only such as plot against them. Perceiving that he was dying, he would chant over himself this charm, “You are going, dear hunchback, you are off to the house of Hades, – bent crooked by old age.” For his years had bowed him down.

93. When Alexander inquired whether he would like his native city to be rebuilt, his answer was, “Why should it be? Perhaps another Alexander will destroy it again.” Ignominy and Poverty he declared to be his country, which Fortune could never take captive. He was, he said, a fellow-citizen of Diogenes, who defied all the plots of envy. Menander alludes to him in the Twin Sisters in the following lines:

Wearing a cloak you'll go about with me, As once with Cynic Crates went his wife: His daughter too, as he himself declared, He gave in marriage for a month on trial.
Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (1925) by Diogenes Laërtius, translated by Robert Drew Hicks

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