ANTISTHENES (c. 446-366 B.C.)
the son of Antisthenes, was an Athenian. It was said,
however, that he was not of pure Attic blood. Hence his reply to one
who taunted him with this: "The mother of the gods too is a
For his mother was supposed to have
been a Thracian. Hence it was that, when he had distinguished
himself in the battle of Tanagra,3
he gave Socrates
occasion to remark that, if both his parents had been Athenians, he
would not have turned out so brave. He himself showed his contempt
for the airs which the Athenians gave themselves on the strength of
being sprung from the soil by the remark that this did not make them
any better born than snails or wingless locusts.
with, he became a pupil of Gorgias the rhetorician, and hence the
rhetorical style that he introduces in his dialogues, and especially
in his Truth
and in his Exhortations.
According to Hermippus he intended
at the public gathering for the Isthmian games to discourse on the
faults and merits of Athenians, Thebans and Lacedaemonians,
but begged to be excused when he saw throngs arriving
from those cities.
Later on, however, he came into touch with
Socrates, and derived so much benefit from him that he used to
advise his own disciples to become fellow-pupils with him of
Socrates. He lived in the Peiraeus, and every day would tramp the
five miles to Athens in order to hear Socrates. From Socrates he
learned his hardihood, emulating his disregard of feeling, and thus
he inaugurated the Cynic way of life. He demonstrated that pain is a
good thing by instancing the great Heracles and Cyrus, drawing the
one example from the Greek world and the other from the
He was the first to define statement (or
assertion) by saying that a statement is that which sets forth what
a thing was or is. He used repeatedly to say, "I'd rather be mad
than feel pleasure," and "We ought to make love to such women as
will feel a proper gratitude." When a lad from Pontus was about to
attend his lectures, and asked him what he required, the answer was,
"Come with a new book, a new pen, and new tablets, if you have a
mind to" (implying the need of brains as well).4
When someone inquired what sort of wife he ought to marry, he said, "If she's
beautiful, you'll not have her to yourself; if she's ugly, you'll
pay for it dearly." Being told that Plato was abusing him, he
remarked, "It is a royal privilege to do good and be ill spoken
When he was being initiated into the
Orphic mysteries, the priest said that those admitted into these
rites would be partakers of many good things in Hades. "Why then,"
said he, "don't you die ?"
because his parents were not both free-born, "Nor were they both
wrestlers," quoth he, "but yet I am a wrestler." To the question why
he had but few disciples he replied, "Because I use a silver rod to
eject them." When he was asked why he was so bitter in reproving his
pupils he replied, "Physicians are just the same with their
patients." One day upon seeing an adulterer running for his life
he exclaimed, "Poor wretch, what peril you might have escaped at the
price of an obol." He used to say, as we learn from Hecato in his
, that it is better to fall in with
crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured
when dead, in the other case while alive.
Being asked what
was the height of human bliss, he replied, "To die happy." When a
friend complained to him that he had lost his notes, "You should
have inscribed them," said he, "on your mind instead of on paper."
As iron is eaten away by rust, so, said he, the envious are consumed
by their own passion. Those who would fain be immortal must, he
declared, live piously and justly. States, said he, are doomed when
they are unable to distinguish good men from bad. Once, when he was
applauded by rascals, he remarked, "I am horribly afraid I have done
When brothers agree, no fortress is so
strong as their common life, he said. The right outfit for a voyage,
he said, is such as, even if you are shipwrecked, will go through
the water with you. One day when he was censured for keeping company
with evil men, the reply he made was, "Well, physicians are in
attendance on their patients without getting
fever themselves." "It is strange," said he, "that we weed out the
darnel from the corn and the unfit in war, but do not excuse evil
men from the service of the state." When he was asked what advantage
had accrued to him from philosophy, his answer was, "The ability to
hold converse with myself." Some one having called upon him over
the wine for a song, he replied, "Then you must accompany me on
the pipe." When Diogenes begged a coat of him, he bade him fold his
cloak around him double.
Being asked what learning is the most
necessary, he replied, "How to get rid of having anything to
unlearn." And he advised that when men are slandered, they should
endure it more courageously than if they were pelted with
And he used to taunt Plato with being conceited. At
all events when in a procession he spied a spirited charger he said,
turning to Plato, "It seems to me that you would have made just such
a proud, showy steed." This because Plato was constantly praising
horseflesh. And one day he visited Plato, who was ill, and seeing
the basin into which Plato had vomited, remarked, "The bile I see,
but not the pride."
He used to recommend the Athenians to vote that
asses are horses.6
When they deemed this
absurd, his reply was, "But yet generals are found among you who had
had no training, but were merely elected." "Many men praise you,"
said one. "Why, what wrong have I done?" was his rejoinder. When he
turned the torn part of his cloak so that it came into view,
Socrates no sooner saw this than he said, "I spy your love of fame
peeping through your cloak."7
his work on the Socratics tells us how some one asked him
what he must do to be good and noble, and he replied,
"You must learn from those who know that the faults you have are to
be avoided." When some one extolled luxury his reply was, "May the
sons of your enemies live in luxury."
To the youth who was
posing fantastically as an artist's model he put this question,
"Tell me, if the bronze could speak, on what, think you, would it
pride itself most?" "On its beauty," was the reply. "Then," said he,
"are you not ashamed of delighting in the very same quality as an
inanimate object?" When a young man from Pontus promised to treat
him with great consideration as soon as his boat with its freight of
salt fish should arrive, he took him and an empty wallet to a
flour-dealer's, got it filled, and was going away. When the woman
asked for the money, "The young man will pay," said he, "when his
boatload of salt fish arrives."
Antisthenes is held
responsible for the exile of Anytus and the execution of Meletus.
For he fell in with some youths from Pontus whom the fame of
Socrates had brought to Athens, and he led them off to Anytus, whom
he ironically declared to be wiser than Socrates; whereupon (it is
said) those about him with much indignation drove Anytus out of the
city. If he saw a woman anywhere decked out with ornaments, he would
hasten to her house and bid her husband bring out his horse and
arms, and then, if the man possessed them, let his extravagance
alone, for (he said) the man could with these defend himself; but,
if he had none, he would bid him strip off the finery.
him were the following. He would prove that virtue can be taught;
nobility belongs to none other than the
And he held virtue to be sufficient in itself to ensure
happiness, since it needed nothing else except the strength of a
Socrates. And he maintained that virtue is an affair of deeds and
does not need a store of words or learning; that the wise man is
selfsufficing, for all the goods of others are his; that ill
repute is a good thing and much the same as pain; that the wise man
will be guided in his public acts not by the established laws but by
the law of virtue; that he will also marry in order to have children
from union with the handsomest women; furthermore that he will not
disdain to love, for only the wise man knows who are worthy to be
Diocles records the following sayings of his: To the
wise man nothing is foreign or impracticable. A good man deserves
to be loved. Men of worth are friends. Make allies of men who are at
once brave and just. Virtue is a weapon that cannot be taken away.
It is better to be with a handful of good men fighting against all
the bad, than with hosts of bad men against a handful of good men.
Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover
your mistakes. Esteem an honest man above a kinsman. Virtue is the
same for women as for men. Good actions are fair and evil actions
foul. Count all wickedness foreign and alien.
Wisdom is a
most sure stronghold which never crumbles away nor is betrayed.
Walls of defence must be constructed in our own impregnable reasonings. He used to converse in the gymnasium of Cynosarges (White
hound) at no great distance from the gates, and some think that the
Cynic school derived its name from Cynosarges. Antisthenes
himself too was nicknamed a hound pure and simple. And
he was the first, Diocles tells us, to double his cloak and be
content with that one garment and to take up a staff and a wallet.
Neanthes too asserts that he was the first to double his mantle.
Sosicrates, however, in the third book of his Successions of Philosophers
says this was first
done by Diodorus of Aspendus, who also let his beard grow and used a
staff and a wallet.
Of all the Socratics Antisthenes alone is
praised by Theopompus, who says he had consummate skill and could by
means of agreeable discourse win over whomsoever he pleased. And
this is clear from his writings and from Xenophon's Banquet.
It would seem that the most manly section
of the Stoic School owed its origin to him. Hence Athenaeus the
epigrammatist writes thus of them9
Ye experts in Stoic story, ye who
commit to sacred pages most excellent doctrines--that virtue alone
is the good of the soul: for virtue alone saves man's life and
cities. But that Muse10
that is one of the daughters of Memory approves the
pampering of the flesh, which other men have chosen for their
gave the impulse to the
indifference of Diogenes, the continence of Crates, and the hardihood of Zeno, himself laying the foundations of their state.
Xenophon calls him the most agreeable of men in conversation and the
most temperate in everything else.
His writings are preserved
in ten volumes. The first includes:
on Expression, or Styles of Speaking.
Ajax, or The Speech of
Odysseus, or Concerning Odysseus.
A Defence of
Orestes, or Concerning Forensic Writers.
writing), or Lysias and Isocrates.
A Reply to the Speech of
Isocrates entitled "Without Witnesses."
Vol. 2 includes:
Of the Nature of Animals.
Of Procreation of Children, or
Of Marriage: a discourse on love.
Of the Sophists: a work
On Justice and Courage: a hortative work in
Concerning Theognis, making a fourth and a fifth
In the third volume are treatises:
Of Law, or Of a Commonwealth.
Of Law, or Of Goodness and Justice.
Of Freedom and
Of the Guardian, or On
Of Victory: an economic work.
In the fourth
volume are included:
The Greater Heracles, or
The fifth contains:
Cyrus, or Of
Of Discussion: a handbook of debate.
or Of Contradiction, in three books.
seventh volume contains the following:
On Education, or On
Names, in five books.
On the Use of Names: a controversial
Of Questioning and Answering.
Of Opinion and
Knowledge, in four books.
Of Life and
Of Those in the Underworld.
Of Nature, in two
A Problem concerning Nature, two books.
Opinions, or The Controversialist.
In the eighth volume are:
On Wickedness and
On the Scout.
The ninth volume contains:
Of the Minstrel's Staff.
Athena, or Of
Of Helen and Penelope.
Cyclops, or Of Odysseus.
Of the Use of Wine,
or Of Intoxication, or Of the Cyclops.
Of Odysseus, Penelope and the Dog.
contents of the tenth volume are:
Heracles, or Midas.
Heracles, or Of Wisdom or Strength.
Cyrus, or The
Cyrus, or The Scouts.
Menexenus, or On
Archelaus, or Of Kingship.
This is the list of his writings.
Timon finds fault with
him for writing so much and calls him a prolific trifler. He died of
disease just as Diogenes, who had come in, inquired of him, "Have
you need of a friend?" Once too Diogenes, when he came to him,
brought a dagger. And when Antisthenes cried out, "Who will release
me from these pains?" replied, "This," showing him the dagger. "I
said," quoth the other, "from my pains, not from life."
thought that he showed some weakness in bearing his malady through
love of life. And here are my verses upon him12
Such was your
nature, Antisthenes, that in your lifetime you were a very bulldog
to rend the heart with words, if not with teeth. Yet you died of
consumption. Maybe some one will say, What of that? We must anyhow
have some guide to the world below.
There have been three
other men named Antisthenes: one a follower of Heraclitus, another
native of Ephesus, and the third of Rhodes, a
And whereas we have enumerated the pupils of
Aristippus and of Phaedo, we will now append an account of the
Cynics and Stoics who derive from Antisthenes. And let it be in the