Antisthenes

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Antisthenes (Greek: Ἀντισθένης; c. 445-c. 365 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and a pupil of Socrates. Antisthenes first learned rhetoric under Gorgias before becoming an ardent disciple of Socrates. He adopted and developed the ethical side of Socrates' teachings, advocating an ascetic life lived in accordance with virtue. Later writers regarded him as the founder of Cynic philosophy.

Contents

Life

Antisthenes was born c. 445 BCE and was the son of Antisthenes, an Athenian. His mother was a Thracian.[1] In his youth he fought at Tanagra (426 BCE), and was a disciple first of Gorgias, and then of Socrates, at whose death he was present.[2] He never forgave his master's persecutors, and is even said to have been instrumental in procuring their punishment.[3] He survived the Battle of Leuctra (371 BCE), as he is reported to have compared the victory of the Thebans to a set of schoolboys beating their master.[4] Although one source tells us that he died at the age of 70,[5] he was apparently still alive in 366 BCE,[6] and he must have been nearer to 80 years old when he died at Athens, c. 365 BCE. He is said to have lectured at the Cynosarges,[7] a gymnasium for the use of Athenians born of foreign mothers, near the temple of Hercules. Diogenes Laërtius says that his works filled ten volumes, but of these, only fragments remain. His favourite style seems to have been dialogues, some of them being vehement attacks on his contemporaries, as on Alcibiades in the second of his two works entitled Cyrus, on Gorgias in his Archelaus and on Plato in his Satho.[8] His style was pure and elegant, and Theopompus even said that Plato stole from him many of his thoughts.[9] However, Cicero, after reading some works by Antisthenes, called him "a man more intelligent than learned" (Latin: homo acutus magis quam eruditus).[10] He possessed considerable powers of wit and sarcasm, and was fond of playing upon words; saying, for instance, that he would rather fall among crows (korakes) than flatterers (kolakes), for the one devour the dead, but the other the living.[11] Two declamations have survived, named Ajax and Odysseus, which are purely rhetorical.

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