User Tools

Site Tools


cynics:teles

Teles

Donald Dudley, History of Cynicism "Cynicism in the 3rd Century (d-e)"

(d) Teles

It is a curious turn of literary fortune that Teles, apparently a fourth-rate writer of little originality, known in no reference of earlier date than Stobaeus, should be represented by larger fragments than Crates, Bion, and Menippus, whose works were admired and frequently alluded to in classical times. Teles comes down to us in extracts made by Stobaeus from an epitome made by an otherwise unknown Theodorus there may have been other middlemen involved in the process. The fragments are edited and the date and sources of Teles discussed in Hense, Teletis reliquiae ; he has also occupied the attention of Wilamowitz and Cronert. As a result of these studies it is known that Teles was a Megarian school- master who flourished in the second half of the third century ; the one reference which can be definitely dated shows that the diatribe peri phyges; was composed later than 240, and delivered to an audience of youths at Megara ; Teles has a Megarian name, his writings employ certain Doric forms, and he alludes to himself as paidagogos; The seven fragments are diatribes ; four on such familiar Cynic themes as Exile, Self-Sufficiency, Poverty and Wealth ; that entitled peri peristaseon is a warning against mempsimoria ; while two have a polemical purpose, being respectively directed against the Hedonist doctrine that Pleasure is the End, and the popular view that outward appearance is the true criterion of justice (peri tou dokein kai tou einai).

A literary judgement of Teles must be based on the evidence we possess, and can only be unfavourable. It is of course always possible that this evidence does him much less than justice ; it is uncertain whether his diatribes were published as delivered or from the notes of an auditor, and in all ages it is the fate of lecturers to be remembered for their jokes rather than for their matter. But in six of the seven frag- ments, if we take away borrowed passages and anecdotes, Teles himself is represented by little more than a few connecting sentences. This may be due to the successive “ cuttings ” of Theodorus, Stobaeus, and whatever other epitomators took a hand in it ; but it implies at least that Teles' own work was less interesting than what he quoted. A further difficulty is that Theodorus (presumably) maintains an annoying running commentary to ensure that his reader is missing nothing You see the joke ? ' he asks anxiously, and again, on the bravery of Spartan women, What woman of our day would have acted thus ? ' These comments are not always easy to distinguish from what may have been Teles' remarks to his class, e.g. Would any of us have gone to sleep in such circumstances ? ' (of Socrates' fortitude in prison). But in the first diatribe there is less extraneous matter than in the others and some judgement can be formed of Teles' style.

A. They say it is better to seem just than to be just. Well, is it better to seem good than to be good ? B. Hardly. A. Again, are actors esteemed for seeming to be good, or for being good ? B. For being good. A. And do men become accounted good harpists by seeming to be good harpists, or for being good ? B. For being good. A. And in general, do men become successful in all things rather by seeming to be good, or by being good ? B. By being good. A. By the presence of that quality success is assured, rather than by its absence ; so that it does seem a better thing to be good than to seem good, and the just man is good, not he who appears to be just. . . .

And so on. However edifying this may have been to the youth of Megara, it is deficient in both literary and logical virtues. But, like many bad authors, Teles is of interest in reflecting the literary tastes of his audience. His great heroes are Socrates, Diogenes, and Crates ; and Cynic literature is freely quoted, especially Bion. There are references to hoi archaioi presumably the older Cynic authors, and explicit quotations from Crates and Metrocles, though it cannot be decided whether he got them at first hand, or, as Hense maintains, through Bion, or through books of chreiai. Socrates he knows at best through the Xenophontic tradition ; the allusion to the Phaedo can hardly be at first hand, for it is coupled with a magnificent howler about the last words of Socrates which argues a very dubious source. Stilpo is naturally drawn upon as an eminent Megarian philosopher. Of quotations from the poets the great majority are from Homer, in all ages the schoolbook of Hellas. The only gnomic poet quoted is Theognis. Of the tragedians Euripides is quoted six times, Sophocles once, Aeschylus not at all ; there are several quotations from unknown authors. The Old Comedy is not quoted, and the New Comedy represented by Philemon and not Menander. Finally there are references to mythological characters such as Heracles, Cadmus, Tantalus, Oedipus, and Perseus, to familiar historical personages, Aristeides, Lysander, Callias, and to contemporaries, Ptolemy, Antigonus, Chremonides. Several admiring references to Sparta imply that her valorous conduct on such occasions as her resistance to Pyrrhus maintained during the third century the Spartan reputation for andreia. The taste catered for is clearly a popular one whose chief interest lay in the didactic aspect of literature.

Whatever our disparagement of Teles as a writer, we can but be grateful that these fragments have been preserved ; without them we should know little of third-century diatribe or of Bion.

(e) Educational Theory

The Cynics had always laid great stress on paideia though Teles is the only known case of a Cynic schoolmaster. During the third century Cynic works on education appeared in which Diogenes was depicted as the ideal paidagogos ; two such books known to us were the Paidagogikos, of Cleomenes and the Diogenous prasis of Eubulus. The fragment pre- served from the latter is of especial interest, for it outlines a curriculum supposed to have been adopted by Diogenes in educating the sons of his master Xeniades of Corinth. After their other studies he taught them to ride, to shoot with the bow, to sling stones and hurl javelins. He also took them out hunting . . . Such exercises were presumably recommended as involving ponos, and it is interesting to be told that in the wrestling-school he would not permit the master to give them full athletic training, but only sufficient to keep them in colour and in good condition'. The Cynics deprecated specialization in athletics and several apophthegms directed against athletes were attributed to Diogenes. 'He would wonder that men would strive to outdo each other in digging and kicking, and yet no one strove to become a good man. Athletes are so stupid because they are built up of pigs-flesh and bulls-flesh; a victory at the Great Games was won over slaves, the Cynic's victory over men. The point was, of course, that the athlete's abounding energy might be better directed. The boys' intellectual development was to be secured by making them learn by heart many passages from the poets, historians, and the works of Diogenes himself ; and he would try every short cut to improve their memories '. We see from the quotations and historical allusions in Teles that the poets and historians were esteemed for their didactic value, they provided logoi chestoi. As for behaviour, he taught them to wait on themselves, to eat plain food, and to drink water. They were made to crop their hair, and wear it unadorned, and to go about lightly clad and barefoot ; in the streets they were to be silent and not to stare about them.' The educational programme thus fostered on Diogenes is a compound of various existing systems, interpreted in a Cynic spirit. The ordinary Greek elementary education (ta grammata) forms its backbone, augmented by features derived from Sparta (hunting) and from the Persian system described by Xenophon in the Cyropaedia (shooting with the bow, riding). The regimen is that of the Cynic autarkeia, but the aim of the system is not to produce little Cynics, as paidagogos in the literal, largos in a figurative sense, the Cynic labours not on behalf of his movement but of mankind.

The papyri dealing with the theme of aischrokerdeia are on the same literary level as the diatribes of Teles. They are obviously part of an anthology ; Knox's theory that the compilation is due to Cercidas is attractive and probable. Addressed to a certain Parnos, who ' lends a ready ear to ennobling verse ', they are an expression of disgust at an age of shameless commercialism whose keynote is the line of Sophocles, The author announces his own intention of abiding by ' That old rule of simplicity, to be no slave of luxury, nor of the stomach's pleasures '. Though Business Ethics have driven Faith and Justice from the earth, and Zeus and the gods of popular belief are apparently impotent, the righteous man can live in the knowledge that a day will come … for I see many who grow rich on shamelessness, yet their wealth all vanished as though it had never been '. There follows a remarkable outburst.

estin gar estin, os tade skopei daimon
os en chronoi to theion ou kataischunei,
nemei d' heskastoi ten kataision moiran

The deity in question is, one may conjecture, Nemesis ; Theophrastus, asked what powers govern human life, answered Euergesia kai timoria, divinities also recognized by Democ- ritus. 1 To enforce the warning against aischrokerdeia an iambic poem of Phoenix of Colophon is cited ; it deals with profiteers where * houses are fair and noble and worth a fortune, but they themselves would be no bargain at three obols a head '. Gerhard's very full discussion of these fragments shows how the ' commonplaces ' and similes they contain are those regarded as especially appropriate to the theme of aischrokerdeia ; and Fiske points out the parallels in Horace, Satires, i. i.
Source modified. Source

cynics/teles.txt · Last modified: 2014/01/14 23:20 (external edit)