Thursday, January 23

Chreia or "Khreiai"

On being asked by somebody, "What sort of a man do you consider Diogenes to be?" "A Socrates gone mad," said he. One day he detected a youth blushing. "Courage," quoth he, "that is the hue of virtue." When he was told that many people laughed at him, he made answer, "But I am not laughed down." Noticing a good-looking youth lying in an exposed position, he nudged him and cried, "Up, man, up, lest some foe thrust a dart into thy back!" When some one declared that life is an evil, he corrected him: "Not life itself, but living ill." When he was advised to go in pursuit of his runaway slave, he replied, "It would be absurd, if Manes can live without Diogenes, but Diogenes cannot get on without Manes." He described himself as a hound of the sort which all men praise, but no one, he added, of his admirers dared go out hunting along with him. On being asked by a tyrant what bronze is best for a statue, he replied, "That of which Harmodius and Aristogiton [the Tyrannicides] were moulded." When some one reproached him with his exile, his reply was, "Nay, it was through that, you miserable fellow, that I came to be a philosopher." Again, when some one reminded him that the people of Sinope had sentenced him to exile, "And I them," said he, "to home-staying." He once begged alms of a statue, and, when asked why he did so, replied, "To get practice in being refused." Hegesias having asked him to lend him one of his writings, he said, "You are a simpleton, Hegesias; you do not choose painted figs, but real ones; and yet you pass over the true training and would apply yourself to written rules." When some one was extolling the good fortune of Callisthenes and saying what splendour he shared in the suite of Alexander, "Not so," said Diogenes, "but rather ill fortune; for he breakfasts and dines when Alexander thinks fit." He would often insist loudly that the gods had given to men the means of living easily, but this had been put out of sight, because we require honeyed cakes, unguents and the like. Perdiccas having threatened to put him to death unless he came to him, "That's nothing wonderful," quoth he, "for a beetle or a tarantula would do the same." ...after Chaeronea he was seized and dragged off to Philip, and being asked who he was, replied, "A spy upon your insatiable greed." One day, observing a child drinking out of his hands, he cast away the cup from his wallet with the words, "A child has beaten me in plainness of living." He also threw away his bowl when in like manner he saw a child who had broken his plate taking up his lentils with the hollow part of a morsel of bread. Being reproached one day for having falsified the currency [which resulted in his exile], he said, "That was the time when I was such as you are now; but such as I am now, you will never be." Being reproached for eating in the market-place, "Well, it was in the market-place," he said, "that I felt hungry." The Athenians urged him to become initiated, and told him that in the other world those who have been initiated enjoy a special privilege. "It would be ludicrous," quoth he, "if Agesilaus and Epaminondas are to dwell in the mire, while certain folk of no account will live in the Isles of the Blest because they have been initiated." He lit a lamp in broad daylight and said, as he went about, "I am looking for a man." [Laeritus's life of Diogenes of Sinope.]

Even at that hour when the grey sky of St. Petersburg is shrouded in total darkness and all its race of officials have dined and sated the...