The Ancient Library

Scanned text contains errors.


of Tanagra (B.C. 426), when he must have been about twenty years of age. He was at first a hearer of Gorgias, from whom he learned the rhetorical style which he adopted in his dialogues and other writings. He afterward attached himself to Socrates, and recommended his own dis­ciples, for he had already a large number of followers, to do the same. His dwelling was in the Pirseeus, and he used to walk daily the forty stadia (above four miles) to hear his new master, to whom he faithfully adhered to the end of his life. The time of his death is not mentioned ; he is said to have reached his seventieth year. Antisthenes is reckoned among those who preserved at least a portion of their master's doctrines and manner of teaching. He was a man of stubborn character, and he car­ried his opinions to extremes; yet he was an agreeable companion, ac­cording to Xenophon, and distinguished by temperance in all things. He is mentioned, in the Phcedon, as one of those present at the death of Socrates.1 After this event, he established a school in the gymnasium of Cynosarges, adjoining the temple of Hercules, which he selected ap­parently for two reasons : the Cynosarges was the gymnasium for those Athenians who were not of genuine Attic stock, and Hercules was the ideal model of manly excellence to Antisthenes, and formed the subject of at least one of his treatises.

The followers of Antisthenes were first called Antisthenei, and after­ward Cynics (kwlkol), a term that had reference either to the name Cynos­arges, or to the Greek word /czW, "a dog," which may have been given to the disciples of Antisthenes on account of the coarseness of their man­ners, and their dog-like neglect of all forms and usages of society.2 Many sayings of Antisthenes are recorded by Diogenes. They are marked by a sententious brevity, a play upon words, and a caustic humor, which may have contributed to affix on him and his followers the appellation of Cynic or snarling. His doctrines had chiefly a moral and a practical end. It is not possible to state them in any thing like a systematic form from such evidence as we have. He had probably no great originality as a thinker; and the best part of his moral philosophy harmonizes with that of Socrates. But, as in other like cases, many things may have been at­tributed to Antisthenes as the founder of a sect, which belong to the later Cynics.

Antisthenes placed the summum bonum in a life according to virtue— virtue consisting in action, and being such, that when once obtained it is never lost, and exempts the wise man from the chance of error ; that is, it is closely connected with reason, but, to enable it to develop itself in action, and to be sufficient for happiness, it requires the aid of energy (ZwKpariKb iVxus), so that we may represent him as teaching that the summum bonum, aper-fi, is attainable by teaching (StSo/cr^), and made up of $p6vfi<ris and lo"x\)s. But here he becomes involved in a vicious circle, for when asked what <pp6vr}<ris is, he could only call it an insight into good, having before made the good to consist in fyp6vT}<ns* His philosophy was directed to enforce a simple mode of life in opposition to the increasing luxury of the age. He condemned pleasure which was sought purely for

i PhrBd., () 59. 2 schol in Aristot,, p.23, Erandis. 3 Plat., De Repub., vi., p. 505.

About | Preface | Contents | Index



page #  
Search this site
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.