Wikiquote:Transwiki/Anecdotes about Diogenes preserved by Epictetus

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  • "Diogenes, who before you was sent forth as a scout,[n 1] has brought us back a different report. He says, "Death is not an evil, since it is not dishonourable"; he says, "ill repute is a noise made by madmen." And what a report this scout has made us about toil and about pleasure and about poverty! He says, "To be naked is better than any scarlet robe; and to sleep on the bare ground," he says, "is the softest couch." And he offers as a proof of each statement his own courage, his tranquillity, his freedom, and finally his body, radiant with health and hardened. "There is no enemy near," says he; "all is full of peace." How so, Diogenes? "Why, look!" says he, "I have not been struck with any missile, have I, or received any wound?

I have not fled from anyone, have I?" This is what it means to be a proper scout." ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, i. 24. 6-10.[1]]]

  • "That is an excellent answer of Diogenes to the man who asked for a letter of recommendation from him: "That you are a man," he says, "he will know at a glance; but whether you are a good or a bad man he will discover if he has the skill to distinguish between good and bad, and if he is without that skill he will not discover the facts, even though I write him thousands of times."" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, ii. 3. 1.[2]]]

  • "Diogenes had practised speaking — Diogenes, who talked to Alexander as he did, to Philip, to the pirates, to the man who had bought him." ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, ii. 13. 24.[3]]]

  • "Man, what reason have you to complain against your nature? Because it brought you into the world as a man?[n 2]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 1. 30.[4]]]

  • "Do you not know that Diogenes showed one of the sophists thus, pointing out his middle finger at him,[n 3] and then when the man was furious with rage, remarked, "That's So-and-so; I've pointed him out to you."" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 2. 11.[5]]]

  • "In the words of Diogenes, when he was taken off to Philip, after the battle of Chaeroneia, as a scout.[n 4]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 24.[6]]]

  • "Is he a man worthy to carry the staff of Diogenes? Hear his words to the passers-by as he lies ill of a fever: "Vile wretches," he said, "are you not going to stop? Nay, you are going to take that long, long journey to Olympia, to see the struggle of worthless athletes; but do you not care to see a struggle between fever and a man?"[n 5]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 58.[7]]]

  • "Come, what says Diogenes about poverty, death, hardship? How did he habitually compare his happiness with that of the Great King? Or rather, he thought there was no comparison between them." ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 60.[8]]]

  • "Diogenes became the friend of Antisthenes, and Crates of Diogenes." ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 63.[9]]]

  • "That was the way of Diogenes, for he used to go about with a radiant complexion, and would attract the attention of the common people by the very appearance of his body.[n 6]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 88.[10]]]

  • "Diogenes answered the man who said: "Are you the Diogenes who does not believe in the existence of the gods?" by saying, "And how can that be? You I regard as hated by the gods!"[n 7]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 91.[11]]]

  • "When Alexander stood over him as he was sleeping and said,[n 8]

    Sleeping the whole night through beseems not the giver of counsel,

    he replied, still half asleep,

    Who hath charge of the folk, and for many a thing must be watchful.

    " ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 22. 92.[12]]]

  • "Come, was there anybody that Diogenes did not love, a man who was so gentle and kind-hearted that he gladly took upon himself all those troubles and physical hardships for the sake of the common weal? But what was the manner of his loving? As became a servant of Zeus, caring for men indeed, but at the same time subject unto God. That is why for him alone the whole world, and no special place, was his fatherland; and when he had been taken prisoner he did not hanker for Athens nor his acquaintances and friends there, but he got on good terms with the pirates and tried to reform them. And later, when he was sold into slavery at Corinth he kept on living there just as he had formerly lived at Athens; yes, and if he had gone off to the Perrhaebians.[n 9] he would have acted in quite the same way. That is how freedom is achieved. That is why he used to say, "From the time that Antisthenes set me free, I have ceased to be a shive." How did Antisthenes set him free? Listen to what Diogenes says. "He taught me what was mine, and what was not mine. Property is not mine; kinsmen, members of my household, friends, reputation, famihar places, converse with men — all these are not my own." ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iii. 24. 64-8.[13]]]

  • "So also Diogenes says somewhere:[n 10] "The one sure way to secure freedom is to die cheerfully"; and to the Persian king[n 11] he writes: "You cannot enslave the Athenian State any more than you can enslave the fish." "How so. Shall I not lay hold of them?" "If you do," he replies, "they will forthwith leave you and escape, like the fish.[n 12] And that is true, for if you lay hold of one of them, it dies; and if these Athenians die when you lay hold of them, what good will you get from your armament?"" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iv. 1. 30-1.[14]]]

  • "This is the way in which Diogenes was set free by Antisthenes, and afterwards said that he could never be enslaved again by any man. How, in consequence, did he behave when he was captured! How he treated the pirates! He called none of them master, did he? And I am not referring to the name! it is not the word that I fear, but the emotion, which produces the word. How he censures them because they gave bad food to their captives! How he behaved when he was sold! Did he look for a master? No, but for a slave. And liow he behaved toward his master after he had been sold! He began immediately to argue with him, telling him that he ought not to dress that way, or have his hair cut that way, and about his sons, how they ought to live.[n 13]" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iv. 1. 114-6.[15]]]

  • "Therefore, see what he himself says and writes: "For this reason" he says, "you are permitted, O Diogenes, to converse as you please with the king of the Persians and with Archidamus, the king of the Lacedaemonians."" ---[[Epictetus, Discourses, iv. 1. 155-6.[16]]]


  1. Cf. Epictetus, iii. 22. 24
  2. An apparent quotation from Diogenes. Cf. Athenaeus, xiii. 565C.
  3. To point with the middle finger was regarded as an insult. Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 34-5, who states that Demosthenes was the man pointed at.
  4. Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 43; Plutarch, Moralia, 70CD, 606C
  5. Cf. Jerome, Adversus Jovinianum, ii. 14, where the story if told in a different way.
  6. Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 81, who says he anointed his body with oil.
  7. Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 42. The same joke appears already in Aristophanes (Knights 32-4).
  8. Iliad, ii. 24
  9. A people in Thessaly between the river Peneius and Mount Olympus. It is the same as if Epictetus had said to any remote country.
  10. Here, as in ii. 3. 1 and iv. 1. 156, Epictetus seems to have used a larger collection of letters ascribed to Diogenes than that which has survived to our time.
  11. Possibly a reference to Artaxerxes Ochus who seems to have threatened war against Athens in 355.
  12. There is some uncertainty about the extent of the quotation from Diogenes. It may stop here.
  13. Cf. Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 29-31; Aulus Gellius, ii. 18,


  1. Oldfather 1925, p. 153
  2. Oldfather 1925, pp. 231-3
  3. Oldfather 1925, p. 305
  4. Oldfather 1928, p. 15
  5. Oldfather 1928, p. 25
  6. Oldfather 1928, p. 139
  7. Oldfather 1928, p. 151
  8. Oldfather 1928, p. 153
  9. Oldfather 1928, p. 153
  10. Oldfather 1928, p. 161
  11. Oldfather 1928, p. 163
  12. Oldfather 1928, p. 163
  13. Oldfather 1928, pp. 205-7
  14. Oldfather 1928, p. 253
  15. Oldfather 1928, p. 283-5
  16. Oldfather 1928, p. 299


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