) of THEBES, the son of Ascondus, repaired to Athens, where he became a scholar of the Cynic Diogenes, and subsequently one of the most distinguished of the Cynic philosophers.
He flourished, according to Diogenes Laertius (6.87), in B. C. 328, was still living at Athens in the time of Demetrius Phalereus (Athen. 10.422
c.; D. L. 6.90
), and was at Thebes in B. C. 307, when Demetrius Phalereus withdrew thither. (Plut. Mor.
Crates was one of the most singular phaenomena of a time which abounded in all sorts of strange characters. Though heir to a large fortune, he renounced it all and bestowed it upon his native city, since a philosopher had no need of money ; or, according to another account, he placed it in the hands of a banker, with the charge, that he should deliver it to his sons, in case they were simpletons, but that, if they became philosophers, he should distribute it among the poor. Diogenes Laertius has preserved a number of curious tales about Crates, which prove that he lived and died as a true Cynic, disregarding all external pleasures, restricting himself to the most absolute necessaries, and retaining in every situation of life the most perfect mastery over his desires, complete equanimity of temper, and a constant flow of good spirits. While exercising this self-controul, he was equally severe against the vices of others; the female sex in particular was severely lashed by him; and he received the surname of the "Door-opener," because it was his practice to visit every house at Athens, and rebuke its inmates.
In spite of the poverty to which he had reduced himself, and not-withstanding his ugly and deformed figure, he inspired Hipparchia, the daughter of a family of distinction, with such an ardent affection for him, that she refused many wealthy suitors, and threatened to commit suicide unless her parents would give their consent to her union with the philosopher. Of the married life of this philosophic couple Diogenes Laertius relates some very curious facts.
Crates wrote a book of letters on philosophical subjects, the style of which is compared by Laertius (6.98) to Plato's; but these are no longer extant, for the fourteen letters which were published from a Venetian manuscript under the name of Crates in the Aldine collection of Greek letters (Venet. 1499, 4to.), and the thirty-eight which have been published from the same manuscript by Boissonade (Notices et Extraits des Manuscr. de la Bibl. du Roi,
vol. xi. part ii. Paris, 1827) and which are likewise ascribed to Crates, are, like the greater number of such letters, the composition of later rhetoricians.
Tragedies and other poems
Crates was also the author of tragedies of an earnest philosophical character, which are praised by Laertius, and likewise of some smaller poems, which seem to have been called Παίγνια
, and to which the Φακῆς ἐγκώμιον
quoted by Athenaeus (iv. p. 158b.) perhaps belonged.
Lost life of Crates by Plutarch
Plutarch wrote a detailed biography of Crates, which unfortunately is lost.
D. L. 6.85
; Brunck, Anal.
i. p. 186 ; Jacobs, Anth. Graec.
i. p. 118; Brucker, Hist. Philosophy.
i. p. 888; Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
iii. p. 514.