Beware The Street-Corner Cynics!

Dio Chrysostom, Discourse 32: To the People of Alexandria

“There is a great mob of those people called Cynics in this city and like any other thing there’s a seasonal crop of them too—people who believe nothing illegitimate or ignoble but need to earn a living. But these Cynics hang around at street-corners and in alleys and in front of temples performing and deceiving young people and sailors and that kind of crowd, whipping up jokes and rambling stories and all that kind of street-talk.

This is way they don’t do any good at all, but actually accomplish the worst harm: they get foolish people used to mocking philosophers. If someone taught kids to disregard their teachers, it would be right to knock some sense into their audiences, but these people make the problem worse!”

τῶν δὲ Κυνικῶν λεγομένων ἔστι μὲν ἐν τῇ πόλει πλῆθος οὐκ ὀλίγον, καὶ καθάπερ ἄλλου τινὸς πράγματος καὶ τούτου φορὰ γέγονε, νόθον μέντοι γε καὶ ἀγεννὲς ἀνθρώπων οὐθέν, ὡς εἰπεῖν, ἐπισταμένων, ἀλλὰ χρείων τροφῆς· οὗτοι δὲ ἔν τε τριόδοις καὶ στενωποῖς καὶ πυλῶσιν ἱερῶν ἀγείρουσι καὶ ἀπατῶσι παιδάρια καὶ ναύτας καὶ τοιοῦτον ὄχλον, σκώμματα καὶ πολλὴν σπερμολογίαν συνείροντες καὶ τὰς ἀγοραίους ταύτας ἀποκρίσεις. τοιγαροῦν ἀγαθὸν μὲν οὐδὲν ἐργάζονται, κακὸν δ᾿ ὡς οἷόν τε τὸ μέγιστον, καταγελᾶν ἐθίζοντες τοὺς ἀνοήτους τῶν φιλοσόφων, ὥσπερ ἂν εἰ παῖδάς τις ἐθίζοι διδασκάλων καταφρονεῖν, καὶ δέον ἐκκόπτειν τὴν ἀγερωχίαν αὐτῶν οἱ δ᾿ ἔτι αὔξουσιν.

Dog Statues, Stockton High Street.

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