1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Antisthenes

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ANTISTHENES (c. 444–365 B.C.), the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy, was born at Athens of a Thracian mother, a fact which may account for the extreme boldness of his attack on conventional thought. In his youth he studied rhetoric under Gorgias, perhaps also under Hippias and Prodicus. Gomperz suggests that he was originally in good circumstances, but was reduced to poverty. However this may be, he came under the influence of Socrates, and became a devoted pupil. So eager was he to hear the words of Socrates that he used to walk daily from Peiraeus to Athens, and persuaded his friends to accompany him. Filled with enthusiasm for the Socratic idea of virtue, he founded a school of his own in the Cynosarges, the hall of the bastards (νόθοι). Thither he attracted the poorer classes by the simplicity of his life and teaching. He wore a cloak and carried a staff and a wallet, and this costume became the uniform of his followers. Diogenes Laertius says that his works filled ten volumes, but of these fragments only remain. His favourite style seems to have been the dialogue, wherein we see the effect of his early rhetorical training. Aristotle speaks of him as uneducated and simple-minded, and Plato describes him as struggling in vain with the difficulties of dialectic. His work represents one great aspect of Socratic philosophy, and should be compared with the Cyrenaic and Megarian doctrines.

Bibliography.—Charles Chappuis, Antisthène (Paris, 1854); A. Müller, De Antisthenis cynici vita et scriptis (Dresden, 1860); T. Gomperz, Greek Thinkers (Eng. trans., 1905), vol. ii. pp. 142 ff., 150 ff. For his philosophy see Cynics, and for his pupils, Diogenes and Crates, see articles under these headings.