Thursday, 6 March 2014

History - Diogenes

Diogenes is certainly an interesting character from ancient history. He was also known as Diogenes the Cynic (you'll learn why later) and was born in either 412 or 404 BC (not sure which) and died in 323 BC.

He was a controversial figure. His father was a banker who minted coins for a living, and for a while Diogenes worked with him. There was a banker's scandal and Diogenes was banished from Sinope, the city where he lived.

He moved to Athens where he proclaimed many of his theories:

He believed that virtue is better shown in action rather than in theory.

He criticised the social values and institutions and the corruption in society.

He believed in living the simple life without too many possessions and clutter. (He did not even have a TV because it was yet to be invented).

Diogenes made a virtue of poverty and begged for a living. He slept in a large ceramic jar (or tub) in the marketplace; and was notorious for his philosophical stunts - like carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man.

When he arrived in Athens Diogenes had a slave called Manes who ran away from him. Diogenes declared: "If Manes can live without Diogenes, why not Diogenes without Manes?" explaining that it was wrong for a master to have a servant doing things for him.

As I mentioned earlier, he lived in poverty in a tub in the market place with no possesions but a small bowl from which he drank. One day he saw a boy drinking from the hollow of his hands; so Diogenes destroyed the bowl and was much grieved that for years he had a useless possession.

In those days it was forbiden to eat in the marketplace. Remember it was the days before fast-food outlets and milkshakes - even chocolate ones, because chocolate too, like TV, had not yet been invented.

Notwithstanding the lack of a good hamburger, Diogenes would still eat in the markeplace. When he was told off he replied: "It's when I'm in the marketplace that I am hungry; not somewhere else!" A logic which today would have earned him a punch on the nose.

In those days in Athens there were other clever men like Plato, (I believe he could spin twenty plates on long sticks which he would shake every now and then to keep them spinning) and Socrates who much enjoyed the show and made 10% from ticket sales.

During one of his performances Plato described man as a "featherless biped" and the audience applauded in delight at this joke. Easily pleased I suppose!

So Diogenes plucked a chicken and declared to Plato "Behold! I've brought you a man." It is not recorded how Plato reacted; but no doubt the distraction made him loose concentration and he smashed many plates spinning on sticks.

8 comments:

  1. Hi Victor! The lives of these people who live in such poverty is at once inspirational and puzzling. I can't imagine being upset at using a bowl. But that's how dedicated this man was to his simplicity.
    Love the chicken story! I think you and Diogenes would have been in on this prank together if you lived back then.

    And this guy had some guts. If I saw Alexander the Great I'd let him stand in my sun, or anything else for that matter!
    Happy Friday :)
    Ceil

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    1. You're right Ceil. He was inspirational in his simplicity yet puzzling at his courage to stand up for what he believed. You know, if I lived then I WOULD have asked Alexander the Great for a TV and a chocolate milkshake!

      God bless. Have a grand weekend.

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  2. You know what's amazing about this story that sounds so illogical? Most of it is true!! What a crazy world we live in :) Of course, I had to use google to separate fact from fiction again...lol.

    Another great "history" lesson, Victor! Thank you! (Really, I think Diogenes irritated a lot of people. He was like a dog constantly nipping at the heels of the powerful men of his day. And he did it on purpose...lol)

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    1. Yes Mary. My History Lessons are all true. Even the bit about Plato and his spinning plates. That's where he got his name from when he worked at the Circus. For an encore he used to make fleas jump into cups of water for a swim.

      God bless.

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  3. Victor, I love these history lessons. Imagine not being allowed to eat in the marketplace? Makes me wonder what they'd think of talking on cell phones while driving.,,,lol Blessings +

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    1. How kind of you to visit me again Caroline. Thanx. I hope you're keeping well.

      My researcher tells me that although they were not allowed to talk or text whilst driving a chariot; it was OK then to use a tablet or laptop in the market place.

      There will be other history lessons published here from time to time. Our aim is to teach and to confuse !!! We look forwards to your early return.

      (Thinks) Is it confuse or amuse?

      God bless you.

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  4. Fun facts and humor all wrapped in one post! Love it!

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    1. Most of the facts are true, Michael. More History Lessons to follow here. Same time, same place. Remember the channel. You read it here first Folks!

      God bless.

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