A School of Madness and the Cynic’s Life

Empedocles, R88 : (Ps.-?) Hipp. Haer. 7.29.1–3 et 31.2–4

“Markiôn of Pontos was much crazier than these people: after dismissing many of the notions of the majority of people and moving into even more shame, he proposed that there were two principles of everything, claiming there was one good deity and one bad one. Because he thought that he had invented something new, he created his own school filled with madness and a cynic life, since he was something of a bellicose person.

This guy, somehow believing that he would evade most people in failing to be a follower of Christ but really of Empedocles who happened to come from a much earlier period and laid out the belief that there were two causes of the universe, Strife and Attraction…”

[29.1–3] Μαρκίων δὲ ὁ Ποντικὸς πολὺ τούτων μανικώτερος, τὰ πολλὰ τῶν πλειόνων παραπεμψάμενος ἐπὶ τὸ ἀναιδέστερον ὁρμήσας δύο ἀρχὰς τοῦ παντὸς ὑπέθετο, ἀγαθόν <θεόν>1 τινα λέγων καὶ τὸν ἕτερον πονηρόν· καὶ αὐτὸς δὲ νομίζων καινόν τι παρεισαγαγεῖν σχολὴν ἐσκεύασεν ἀπονοίας γέμουσαν καὶ κυνικοῦ βίου, ὤν τις μάχιμος· οὗτος νομίζων λήσεσθαι τοὺς πολλούς ὅτι μὴ Χριστοῦ τυγχάνοι μαθητὴς ἀλλ’ Ἐμπεδοκλέους πολὺ αὐτοῦ προγενεστέρου τυγχάνοντος, ταὐτὰ ὁρίσας ἐδογμάτισε δύο εἶναι τὰ τοῦ παντὸς αἴτια, Νεῖκος καὶ Φιλίαν. [. . .]

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Diogenes the Cynic in his Barrel

Destroying Pentheus Only Once

Lucian, The Ignorant Book Collector 19

“When Demetrius the Cynic observed an uneducated person reading the most beautiful book in Korinth—and I think it was Euripides’ Bacchae near the spot where the messenger is narrating what happened to Pentheus and what Agave did—he grabbed the book and tore it up, saying, “It is better for me to shred Pentheus just once than for you to do it over and over again.”

Δημήτριος δὲ ὁ Κυνικὸς ἰδὼν ἐν Κορίνθῳ ἀπαίδευτόν τινα βιβλίον κάλλιστον ἀναγιγνώσκοντα —τὰς Βάκχας οἶμαι τοῦ Εὐριπίδου, κατὰ τὸν ἄγγελον δὲ ἦν τὸν διηγούμενον τὰ τοῦ Πενθέως πάθη καὶ τὸ τῆς Ἀγαύης ἔργον—ἁρπάσας διέσπασεν αὐτὸ εἰπών, “Ἄμεινόν ἐστι τῷ Πενθεῖ ἅπαξ σπαραχθῆναι ὑπ᾿ ἐμοῦ ἢ ὑπὸ σοῦ πολλάκις.”

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Roman Fresco: Pentheus Dies Each Time You Look At It

Sidelined from Writing by Pain

Fronto to Praecilius Pompeianus [Ad Amicos, i. 15 (Naber, p. 184).]

“In the intervening period, the neuritis overtook me even more powerful than usual, and it has lasted longer and been harder to bear than is typical. I am not able to pay any attention to letters that need to be written and read when my limbs hurt so much. And I have not as yet dared to expect so much from myself.

When those magnificent specimens of philosophers make the claim that the wise man would still be happy even if he were trapped in the Bull of Phalaris, it is easier for me to believe that he could be happy than he would be able to think carefully about some introduction or turn a pithy phrase all while roasting within the brass.”

Interea nervorum dolor solito vehementior me invasit, et diutius ac molestius solito remoratus est. Nec possum ego membris cruciantibus operam ullam litteris scribendis legendisque impendere; nec umquam istuc a me postulare ausus sum. Philosophis etiam mirificis hominibus dicentibus, sapientem virum etiam in Phalaridis tauro inclusum beatum nihilominus fore, facilius crediderim beatum eum fore quam posse tantisper amburenti in aheno prohoemium meditari aut epigrammata scribere.

What’s up with the bull? Check out the story here.

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Being Happy Takes Practice!

Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes 71

“He used to say, however, that there was no success in life at all without practice and that this can conquer everything. For this reason, people must choose the types of practice nature demands to live well instead of useless toils—and to live unhappily is a type of madness.

For even despising pleasure is extremely pleasurable, when it has been practiced; and just as those who are used to pleasure feel discomfort when they try to opposite, so too do those who have practiced the opposite get more pleasure from hating pleasure than from pleasure itself.

These were the things Diogenes talked about and clearly did—for he debased the currency and gave no rule authority unless it was natural. He used to say that he lived the same kind of life Herakles did and valued nothing more than freedom.”

Οὐδέν γε μὴν ἔλεγε τὸ παράπαν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χωρὶς ἀσκήσεως κατορθοῦσθαι, δυνατὴν δὲ ταύτην πᾶν ἐκνικῆσαι. δέον οὖν ἀντὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων πόνων τοὺς κατὰ φύσιν ἑλομένους ζῆν εὐδαιμόνως, παρὰ τὴν ἄνοιαν κακοδαιμονοῦσι. καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ καταφρόνησις ἡδυτάτη προμελετηθεῖσα, καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ συνεθισθέντες ἡδέως ζῆν, ἀηδῶς ἐπὶ τοὐναντίον μετίασιν, οὕτως οἱ τοὐναντίον ἀσκηθέντες ἥδιον αὐτῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν καταφρονοῦσι. τοιαῦτα διελέγετο καὶ ποιῶν ἐφαίνετο, ὄντως νόμισμα παραχαράττων, μηδὲν οὕτω τοῖς κατὰ νόμον ὡς τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν διδούς· τὸν αὐτὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου λέγων διεξάγειν ὅνπερ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς, μηδὲν ἐλευθερίας προκρίνων.

This reminded me of the saying attributed to Democritus:

Democritus, fr. 200

‘Those who live without enjoying life are fools.’

ἀνοήμονες βιοῦσιν οὐ τερπόμενοι βιοτῆι. #Democritus

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Happiness and Fortune

As Prolific as Chrysippus?

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.7 180 Chrysippus

“He was so famous for his dialectic that the majority of people supposed that if the gods had dialectic if would be no different from Chrysippus’. While he had plenty of material, he was not much mistaken in his phrasing too.

He was the hardest working philosopher of them all, as is clear from the mere list of his publications: for their count is beyond 705. But he did advance their number by writing often on the same matter and writing down everything he thought of and correcting it often while also using and abundance of citations. This was so severe that in one of his publications he set out nearly every part of Euripides’ Medea. When someone picked up the book and asked him what he was reading, he said “Chrysippus’ Medea.”

Οὕτω δ᾿ ἐπίδοξος ἐν τοῖς διαλεκτικοῖς ἐγένετο, ὥστε δοκεῖν τοὺς πλείους ὅτι εἰ παρὰ θεοῖς ἦν [ἡ] διαλεκτική, οὐκ ἂν ἄλλη ἦν ἢ ἡ Χρυσίππειος. πλεονάσας δὲ τοῖς πράγμασι τὴν λέξιν οὐ κατώρθωσε. πονικώτατός τε παρ᾿ ὁντινοῦν γέγονεν, ὡς δῆλον ἐκ τῶν συγγραμμάτων αὐτοῦ· τὸν ἀριθμὸν γὰρ ὑπὲρ πέντε καὶ ἑπτακόσιά ἐστιν. ἐπλήθυνε δ᾿ αὐτὰ πολλάκις ὑπὲρ τοῦ αὐτοῦ δόγματος ἐπιχειρῶν καὶ πᾶν τὸ ὑποπεσὸν γράφων καὶ διορθούμενος πλεονάκις πλείστῃ τε τῶν μαρτυριῶν παραθέσει χρώμενος· ὥστε καὶ ἐπειδή ποτ᾿ ἔν τινι τῶν συγγραμμάτων παρ᾿ ὀλίγον τὴν Εὐριπίδου Μήδειαν ὅλην παρετίθετο καί τις μετὰ χεῖρας εἶχε τὸ βιβλίον, πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον τί ἄρα ἔχοι, ἔφη, “Χρυσίππου Μήδειαν.”

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Souls of (in)Equal Worth?

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 2.8 Aristippos 71

“Once, when [Aristippos] was sailing to Corinth and there was a storm, he got pretty upset. When someone said to him, “We simple people are not afraid, but you philosophers are cowards now?”, he responded, “We are not each worrying about souls of equal worth.”

When someone else thought highly of himself for his great learning, Aristippos said, “Just as those who eat the most and exercise the most are not healthier than those who take what they need, so too the serious people are not those who read many books but useful ones.”

Εἰς Κόρινθον αὐτῷ πλέοντί ποτε καὶ χειμαζομένῳ συνέβη ταραχθῆναι. πρὸς οὖν τὸν εἰπόντα, “ἡμεῖς μὲν οἱ ἰδιῶται οὐ δεδοίκαμεν, ὑμεῖς δ᾿ οἱ φιλόσοφοι δειλιᾶτε,” “οὐ γὰρ περὶ ὁμοίας,” ἔφη, “ψυχῆς ἀγωνιῶμεν ἑκάτεροι.” σεμνυνομένου τινὸς ἐπὶ πολυμαθείᾳ ἔφη, “ὥσπερ οὐχ οἱ τὰ πλεῖστα ἐσθίοντες [καὶ γυμναζόμενοι] ὑγιαίνουσι μᾶλλον τῶν τὰ δέοντα προσφερομένων, οὕτως οὐδὲ οἱ πολλὰ ἀλλ᾿ οἱ χρήσιμα ἀναγινώσκοντές εἰσι σπουδαῖοι.”

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Genius or Madness? An Epistle on Democritus

Hippocrates, Letter 10

A man of ours takes the greatest risks in the city now, Hippocrates, who both in the present moment and in the future has been a hope for fame for the city. May this, by the all the gods, never be a source of envy! When he has become so sick because of the great wisdom which possesses him that as a result he was afraid he might not obtain it—well, that’s how Democritus himself lost hits mind, and then abandoned our city of Abdera.

When he forgot everything, even himself before, he was awake both night and day and was laughing at everything great and small and believing that he would accomplish nothing at all for his whole life. Someone marries, another goes into business, another is a public speaker, another serves in office, he is old, he votes, he votes against things, he is sick, he is wounded, he dies. He laughs at everything, even when he sees the downcast and angry or even those who are happy.

The man is researching into the matters of Hades and he is writing these things and he says that the air is full of ghosts and he heeds the voices of birds. He often gets up alone at night and seems to be singing songs in the silence. And he claims that he often travels into the boundlessness and says that there are an endless number of Democriteis like himself. He lives with his skin ruined as ruined judgment. We fear these things, Hippocrates, and we are anxious about them: so save us, and come home quickly and help our country, do not put us off.”

     Κινδυνεύεται τὰ μέγιστα τῇ πόλει νῦν, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ἀνὴρ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ὃς καὶ τῷ παρόντι χρόνῳ καὶ τῷ μέλλοντι αἰεὶ κλέος ἠλπίζετο τῇ πόλει· μηδὲ νῦν ὅδε, πάντες θεοὶ, φθονηθείη· οὕτως ὑπὸ πολλῆς τῆς κατεχούσης αὐτὸν σοφίης νενόσηκεν, ὥστε φόβος οὐχ ὁ τυχὼν, ἂν φθαρῇ τὸν λογισμὸν Δημόκριτος, ὄντως δὴ τὴν πόλιν ἡμῶν ᾿Αβδηριτῶν καταλειφθήσεσθαι. ᾿Εκλαθόμενος γὰρ ἁπάντων καὶ ἑωυτοῦ πρότερον, ἐγρηγορὼς καὶ νύκτα καὶ ἡμέρην, γελῶν ἕκαστα μικρὰ καὶ μεγάλα, καὶ μηδὲν οἰόμενος εἶναι τὸν βίον ὅλον διατελεῖ. Γαμεῖ τις, ὁ δὲ ἐμπορεύεται, ὁ δὲ δημηγορεῖ, ἄλλος ἄρχει, πρεσβεύει, χειροτονεῖται, ἀποχειροτονεῖται, νοσεῖ, τιτρώσκεται,  τέθνηκεν, ὁ δὲ γελᾷ πάντα, τοὺς μὲν κατηφεῖς τε καὶ σκυθρωποὺς, τοὺς δὲ χαίροντας ὁρῶν. Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου,

Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου, καὶ γράφει ταῦτα, καὶ εἰδώλων φησὶ πλήρη τὸν ἠέρα εἶναι, καὶ ὀρνέων φωνὰς ὠτακουστεῖ, καὶ πολλάκις νύκτωρ ἐξαναστὰς μοῦνος ἡσυχῇ ᾠδὰς ᾄδοντι ἔοικε, καὶ ἀποδημεῖν ἐνίοτε λέγει ἐς τὴν ἀπειρίην, καὶ Δημοκρίτους εἶναι ὁμοίους ἑωυτῷ ἀναριθμήτους, καὶ συνδιεφθορὼς τῇ γνώμῃ τὸ χρῶμα ζῇ. Ταῦτα φοβούμεθα, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ταῦτα ταραττόμεθα, ἀλλὰ σῶζε, καὶ ταχὺς ἐλθὼν νουθέτησον τὴν ἡμῶν πατρίδα, μηδὲ ἡμᾶς ἀποβάλῃς·

Suda s.v. γλουτῶν

“Democritus of Abdera was called the “Laugher” because he laughed at the useless seriousness of human beings”

ὅτι ὁ Δημόκριτος ὁ ᾿Αβδηρίτης ἐπεκλήθη Γελασῖνος διὰ τὸ γελᾶν πρὸς τὸ κενόσπουδον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

 

More on Democritus:

Robert Burton’s Sketch

Aulus Gellius with Laberius’ Play on Democritus’ Blinding

From ‘The Book of Macharius on the eye’, late 14th-century. BL, Sloane MS 981, f.68.