Demonax | Hellenic Library
Buy me a cup of coffee
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 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.