Humanities › Philosophy Quotes From the Cynics English Translations of Quotes from the Cynic Philosophers Share Flipboard Email Print Philosophy Philosophical Theories & Ideas Major Philosophers By N.S. Gill Ancient History and Latin Expert M.A., Linguistics, University of Minnesota B.A., Latin, University of Minnesota N.S. Gill is a Latinist, writer, and teacher of ancient history and Latin. She has been featured by NPR and National Geographic for her ancient history expertise. our editorial process N.S. Gill Updated March 08, 2017 What is Cynicism? Courtesy of translator Giles Laurén, author of The Stoic's Bible from The Cynics Diogenes Laertius. Loeb Classical Library. 2 vols. From Socrates Antisthenes learned his hardihood, emulating his disregard of feeling, and he thus inaugurated the Cynic way of life.D.L.II. p.5. I'd rather feel anger than feel pleasure.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.5. We ought to make love to such women as will feel a proper gratitude.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.5. What sort of woman should one marry? If she's beautiful, you'll not have her to yourself; if she's ugly, you'll pay for it dearly.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.5. It is a royal privilege to do good and be spoken ill of.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.5. It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead and in the other case while alive.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.7. The height of human bliss? To die happy.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.7. As iron is eaten away by rust, so the envious are consumed by their own passion.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.7. States are domed when they are unable to distinguish good men from bad.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.7. When he was applauded by rascals: I am horribly afraid I have done something wrong.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.7. It is strange that we sort the wheat from the chaff and the unfit from the fit in war, but we do not excuse evil men from the service of the state.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. The advantages of philosophy? That I am able to hold converse with myself.Antisthenes.D.L.II.9. When Diogenes begged a coat from him, he bade him fold his cloak around him double.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. What learning is most necessary? How to get rid of having anything to unlearn.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. When men are slandered, they should endure it more courageously then if they were pelted with stones.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. He recommended the Athenians to vote that asses are horses because they had generals who had no training and were merely elected.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. Many men praise you. Why, what wrong have I done?Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.9. What must one do to become good and noble? You must learn from those who know the faults you have are to be avoided.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.11. May the sons of your enemies live in luxury!Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.11. Virtue can be taught; nobility belongs to the virtuous; virtue alone assures happiness; virtue is an affair of deeds and needs not words or learning.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. The wise man is self-sufficient for all the goods of others are his.Antisthenes. D.L.II. p.13. Ill repute is a good thing and much the same as pain.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. The wise man will be guided in his public acts not by the established laws but by the law of virtue.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. The wise man will marry and have children with the handsomest women and he will not disdain to love since only the wise man knows who is worthy to be loved.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. 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 both brave and just. Virtue is a weapon that cannot be taken away.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. It is better to be with a handful of good men fighting against all the bad than to be with hosts of bad men fighting against a handful of good men.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. Esteem an honest man above a kinsman.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. Virtue is the same for women as for men.Antisthenes.D.L.II.p.13. Wisdom is a most sure stronghold which never crumbles away nor is betrayed. Walls of defence must be constructed by our own impregnable reasoning.Antisthenes.D.L.II. p.13. Strike, for you will find no wood hard enough to keep me away from you so long as I think you have something to teach me.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.25. By watching a mouse running about, not looking for a place to lie down, not afraid of the dark, not seeking any dainty things, Diogenes discovered the means of adapting himself to circumstances.D.L.II. p.25. For the conduct of life we need right reason or a halter.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.27. Antisthenes. PL.Mor.13.2,p.465. Men strive for many things, though few strive to be good.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.29. Diogenes was angry that men should sacrifice to the gods to ensure health and then feast to its detriment.D.L.II. p.31. We ought to stretch out our hands to our friends with the fingers open, not closed.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.31. You must obey me, although I am a slave, if a physician or a helmsman were in slavery, he would be obeyed.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.33. Alexander is reported [by Hecato] to have said: Had I not been Alexander, I should have liked to beDiogenes.D.L.II. p.35. PL.Mor.7,p.557. The word disabled ought to be applied not to the deaf or blind, but to those who have no wallet.Diogenes.D.L.I. p.35. Diogenes described himself as the sort of hound all praise, but none dare hunt with.D.L.II. p.35. You are an old man, take a rest! What? if I were running in the stadium ought I to slacken my pace when approaching the goal? Ought I not rather to put on speed?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.35. Having been invited to dinner, Diogenes declined, saying that the last time he had gone his host had not shown proper gratitude.D.L.II. p.35. Diogenes followed the example of the trainers of choruses in setting the note a little high to ensure the rest would hit the right note.D.L.II. p.37. Some people are so nearly mad that a finger makes all the difference. If you go about with your middle finger stretched out people will think you mad, but if it's the little finger you may be praised.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.37. On observing a child drinking from his hands he threw away his cup and remarked: A child has bested me at plain living.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.39. All things belong to the gods. The wise are friends of the gods and friends hold all things in common. Therefore all things belong to the wise.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.39 & D.L.II. p.73. To a woman ungracefully kneeling before a god: Are you not afraid good woman that the god may be standing behind you, for all things are full of his presence and you may be put to shame?Diogenes.D.L.,II. p.39. To fortune oppose courage, to convention nature, to passion reason.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.41. When Alexander told him to ask any boon he liked: Stand out of my light.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.41. PL.Mor.7,p.557. It would be ludicrous if good men were to dwell in the mire while folk of no account were to live in the Isles of the Blest because they had been initiated.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.41. When mice crept on to his table: See how even Diogenes keeps parasites.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.41. When Plato called him a dog: Quite true, I return again and again to those who have sold me.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.41. Upon leaving the baths he was asked if many men were bathing and replied, no; asked if there was a great crowd of bathers he replied yes.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.43. Plato had defined man as a featherless, biped animal. Diogenes brought a plucked chicken to the lecture hall and said: Here is Plato's man.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.43. The proper time for lunch? If a rich man, when you will; if a poor man when you can.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.43. It's better to be a Megarian's ram than his son.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.43. He lit a lamp in daylight and went about the streets saying: I am looking for a man.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.43. On seeing a religious purification: Unhappy man, don't you know that you can no more get rid of errors of conduct by sprinklings than you can mistakes of grammar?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. Men pray for things which seem to them good and not for good things.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. There are those who are more alive to their dreams than to their real lives.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. When the herald proclaimed Dioxippus to be victor: over men, Diogenes protested: Nay, over slaves, I over men.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. On being dragged before Philip and accused of spying: Yes, a spy upon your insatiable greed.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. PL.Mor.7,p.561. Alexander having sent a letter to Antipater by Athlios: Graceless son of graceless sire to graceless wight by graceless squire.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. Perdiccas having threatened him with death if he did not come to him: That's nothing wonderful, for a beetle or a tarantula would do the same. I would have been properly threatened if Peridiccas had suggested he would be happy at my absence.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.45. The gods have given us the means of living easily, but that this had been put out of sight by our need for luxuries.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. To a man having his shoes put on by a slave: You will not attain full felicity until he wipes your nose as well and that will come when you have lost the use of your hands.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. When the officials of the temple led away a man who stolen a bowl: The great thieves are leading away the little thief.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. To a boy throwing stones at the gallows: Good work, one day you'll find your mark.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.34. To a man wearing a lion's skin: Leave-off dishonouring the habiliments of courage.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. To one commenting on Callisthenes good fortune: Not so, but ill fortune, for he must breakfast and dine when Alexander thinks fit.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. Being short of money, he told his friends that he asked not for alms, but for his salary.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47. When masturbating in the market place, he wished it were as easy to relieve hunger by rubbing an empty stomach.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.47 & D.L.II. p.71. PL.Mor.13.2,p.501. To a youth playing cottabos: The better you play the worse it is for you.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. An ignorant rich man he called the sheep with the golden fleece.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. Seeing a for sale sign on the house of a profligate: I knew that after his excesses you would expel your owner.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. To a man who complained of being importuned: Cease to hang out a sign of invitation.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. Of a dirty bath: When people have bathed here, where are they to go to get clean?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. Diogenes alone praised a stout musician saying he was worthy for being so big and continuing to sing to his lute instead of turning brigand.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. To a musician who was always deserted by his audience: Hail chanticleer! Your song makes everyone rise.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.49. Hegesias asked him for one of his works: You don't choose painted figs over real ones and yet you pass over true training and apply yourself to written rules.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. When reproached for his exile: Nay, it was through you, you miserable fellow, that I became a philosopher.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. The people of Sinope exiled him; he condemned them to staying home.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. Why are athletes so stupid? Because they are built up of pork and beef.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. Why are you begging from a statue? To get practice in being refused.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. PL.Mor.7,p.65. If you have already given to anyone else, give to me also, if not, begin with me.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. What bronze is best for a statue? That of which Harmodius and Aristogiton were moulded.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. How does Dionysius treat his friends? Like purses; so long as they are full he hangs them up and when they are empty he throws them away.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.51. The love of money is the mother of all evils.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Seeing a spendthrift eating olives in a tavern: If you had breakfasted in this fashion, you would not be so dining.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Good men are the images of gods and love the business of the idle.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. What is wretched? An old man destitute.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. What creature has the worst bite? Of those that are wild, the sycophant's, of those that are tame, the flatterer's.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Ingratiating speech is honey used to choke you.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. The stomach is life's Charybdis.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Why is gold pale? Because it has so many thieves plotting against it.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Seeing some women hanged from an olive tree. Would that every tree bore similar fruit.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.53. Do you have anyone to wait on you? No. Then who will carry you to burial? Whoever wants the house.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. Noticing a youth lying in an exposed position: Up man up lest some foe thrust a dart in your back.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. What sort of man do you consider Diogenes to be? A Socrates gone mad.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. The right time to marry? For a young man, not yet; for an old man, never at all.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. A man dressing with care: If its for men you're a fool; if for women a knave.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. To a blushing youth: Courage, that is the hue of virtue.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.55. After listening to two lawyers disputing and condemned them: one man had no doubt stolen, but the other had lost nothing.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. 118. What wine is pleasant to drink? That for which others pay.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 57. People laugh at you: But I am not laughed down.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. Life is evil: Not life, but living ill.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. When advised to go after his runaway slave: It would be absurd if Manes can live without Diogenes, that Diogenes could not get on without Manes.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. What kind of hound are you? When hungry a Maltese; when full a Molossian - two breeds that most people praise, though for fear of fatigue they do not venture out hunting with them. So neither can you live with me because you are afraid of the discomforts.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. Why do people give to beggars and not to philosophers? Because they think that one day they may be lame or blind, but never expect that they will turn to philosophy.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.57. On begging to a miser who was slow to respond: My friend, its for food that I'm asking, not for funeral expenses.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.59. On being rebuked for falsifying the currency: That was the time when I was such as you are now, but such as I am now you will never be.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 59. To Myndus, a small city with large gates: Men of Myndus, bar your gates lest the city run away!Diogenes.D.L.II. p.59. In response to Craterus' invitation: No, I would rather live on a few grains of salt at Athens than enjoy sumptuous fare at Craterus's table.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 59. To Anaximenes the fat rhetorician: Let us beggars have something of your paunch; it will be a relief to you and we shall get advantage.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 59. Being reproached for eating in the market: Well, it was in the market that I felt hungry.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.59. Plato saw him washing lettuce and said: If you had paid court to Dionysius you wouldn't now be washing lettuce. Diogenes: If you had washed lettuce you wouldn't have paid court to Dionysius.D.L.II. p.59. Most people laugh at you: And asses laugh at them, but as they do not care about asses so do I not care about them.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. Seeing a youth studying philosophy: Well done, Philosophy, that you divert admirers of bodily charms to the beauty of the soul.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. On the votive offerings at Samothrace: There would have been far more if those who were not saved had set up offerings.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. To a young man going out to dinner: You will come back a worse man.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. I will give you alms if you can persuade me: If I could persuade you I would persuade you to hang yourself.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. On his way from Lacedaemon to Athens: From the men's apartments to the women's.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. Libertines he compared to fig trees growing on a cliff whose fruit was eaten by vultures and ravens rather then by men.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.61. When a golden statue of Aphrodite was set up at Delphi: From the licentiousness of Greece.Diogenes.D.L.II. I am Alexander the Great King: and I am Diogenes the Cynic.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. Why are you called a Cynic? I fawn on those who give me anything, I bark at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. Handsome courtesans are like a deadly honeyed poison.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. A crowd gathered round when he ate in the market place calling him dog: It is you who are dogs when you stand around and watch me eat.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 63. When two cowards slunk away from him: Don't be afraid, a Cynic is not fond of beet root.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. On seeing a stupid wrestler practicing medicine: What does this mean? Are you to have your revenge on those who formerly beat you?Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 63. Seeing the child of a courtesan throwing stones at a crowd: Take care you don't hit your father.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. A boy having shown him a dagger he had received from an admirer: A pretty blade with an ugly handle.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. A man was commended for giving him a gratuity: Have you no praise for me who was worthy to receive it?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.63. A man asked if he might have his cloak back: If it was a gift I possess it and if it was a loan I am still using it.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. What have you gained from philosophy? This if nothing else, to be prepared for every fortune.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. Where are you from? I am a citizen of the world.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. To parents sacrificing to the gods in hopes of having a boy: But you do not sacrifice to ensure what manner of man he shall be.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. Being reproached for going in dirty places: The sun visits cesspools without being defiled.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. You don't know anything even though you are a philosopher: Even if I am a pretender to wisdom, that is philosophy.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. Someone brought him a child, highly gifted and of excellent character: What need then has he of me?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. Those who say excellent things yet fail to perform them are like harps as both have neither hearing nor perception.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. When he was asked why he was entering the theatre, meeting face to face everyone else as they came out: This is what I practice doing all my life.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. To a gay man: Are you not ashamed to make yourself less than nature's intention; for nature made you a man and you play the part of a woman.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. To one who was ill adapted to study philosophy: Why then do you live if you do not care to live well?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.65. To one who despised his father: Are you not ashamed to despise him to whom you owe it that you can pride yourself?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. To a prating, handsome youth: Are you not ashamed to draw a dagger of lead from an ivory scabbard?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.67. 121. Being reproached for drinking in a tavern: Well, I also get my hair cut in a barber's shop.Diogenes.D.L.II. v.2, p.67. Many go to great pains to get what they would be better off without.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. To one with perfumed hair: Beware that the sweet scent on your head cause not an ill odour in your life.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. Bad men obey their lusts as slaves obey their masters.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. On seeing a bad archer he sat down in front of the target: So as to not get hit.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. Lovers derive their pleasures from their misfortunes.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. Is death evil? How can it be since in its presence we are not even aware of it?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. Alexander asked if he were afraid of him: Why? What are you, a good or a bad thing? A good thing. Who then is afraid of the good?Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. Education controls the young, consoles the old and adorns the rich.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.69. The most beautiful thing in the world? Freedom of speech.Diogenes.D.L.II. p. 71. On entering a boys' school he found there many statues of the Muses, but few pupils: By the help of the gods, schoolmaster, you have filled your classroom.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.71. Two kinds of training, mental and bodily, each incomplete without the other.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.71. Nothing in life has any chance of succeeding without strenuous practice and this is capable of overcoming anything.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.73. Even the despising of pleasure is pleasurable once we are habituated to it.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.73. Diogenes lives like Heracles, who preferred liberty to everything.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.73. It is impossible for society to exist without law. Without a city no benefit can be derived from what is called civilization. The city is civilised and there is no advantage in law without a city; therefore law is something civilised.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.75. Good birth and fame are the ornaments of vice.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.75. The only true commonwealth is as wide as the universe.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.75. Open union between a man who persuades and a woman who consents is better than marriage.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.75. Music, geometry, astronomy and the like studies are useless and unnecessary.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.75. What are you good for? Ruling men.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.77. Sell me to this man [Xaniades]; he needs a master!Diogenes.D.L.II. p.77. On slavery: Lions are not the slaves of those who feed them, rather, their 'masters' are slaves to their possessions. Fear is the mark of the slave and lions do not fear men.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.77. Diogenes had a wonderful gift of persuasion and could easily vanquish anyone he liked in argument.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.77. It is the privilege of the gods to need nothing and of godlike men to want but little.Diogenes.D.L.II. p.109. Crates was a Theban; he was known as the "Door-opener" from his habit of entering into houses and admonishing those within.D.L.II. p.89. Set down for the chef ten minas, for the doctor One drachma, for the flatterer talents five, For counsel smoke, for mercenary beauty A talent, for the philosopher three obols.Crates.D.L.II. p.89. That much I have which I have learnt and thought, The noble lessons taught me by the Muses; But wealth amassed is prey to vanity.Crates.D.L.II. p.89. What have you gained from philosophy? A quirt of lupins and to care for no one.Crates.D.L.II. p.91. Hunger stops love, or, if not hunger, Time, Or, failing both of these means of help, a halter.Crates.D.L.II. p.91. In summer-time a thick cloak he would wear To be like Crates, and in winter rags.Philemon.D.L.II. p.91. Diocles relates how Diogenes persuaded Crates to give up his fields to sheep pasture and throw into the sea any money he had. In the home of Crates, Alexander is said to have lodged.D.L.II. p.91. The marriage of intrigue and adultery belongs to tragedy, having exile or assassination for its rewards; those who take up with courtesans are subjects for comedy since drunkenness and extravagance end in madness.Crates.D.L.II. p.93. Crates' brother Pasicles, was a disciple of Euclides.D.L.II. p.93. It is impossible to find a man free from flaws; just as with the pomegranate, one seed is always going bad.Crates.D.L.II. p.93. We should study philosophy to the point of seeing generals as mere monkey drivers.Crates.D.L.II. p.95. Those who live with flatters are no safer than calves in the midst of wolves; neither have any to protect them and only such as plot against them.Crates.D.L.II. p.95. When Alexander asked if he would like his native city rebuilt: Why should it be? Another Alexander will come along and destroy it again.Crates.D.L.II. p. 97. Ignominy and Poverty are my country which Fortune can never take captive. I am a fellow citizen with Diogenes who defied all plots of envy.Crates.D.L.II. p. 97. Wearing a cloak you'll go about with me, As once with Cynic Crates went his wife: His daughter too, as he himself declared, He gave in marriage for a month on trial.Menander. Twin Sisters.D.L.II. p.97. When he burned his own works: Phantoms are these of dreams o' the world below.Metrocles.D.L.II. p.99. Do you suppose that I have been ill-advised, if instead of wasting further time on the loom, I have spent it on education?Hipparchia.D.L.II. p.101.