BMCR 2001.05.02

Die Weisheit der Hunde. Texte der antiken Kyniker in deutscher Übersetzung mit Erläuterungen

, , , Die Weisheit der Hunde : Texte der antiken Kyniker in deutscher Übersetzung mit Erläuterungen. Kröners Taschenausgabe ; 484. Stuttgart: Alfred Kröner, 1997. xviii, 585 pages ; 18 cm.. ISBN 3520484013

[The reviewer apologizes for the lateness of this review, for which he alone is responsible.]

The last decade has seen some substantial research done on ancient Cynics and cynicism.1 Georg Luck (hereafter L.) now provides us with a handy collection of well-nigh all the ancient texts dealing with the Cynics themselves, their putative predecessors and their spiritual inheritors; all these texts are translated into German and accompanied by notes which make up about a fifth of the book.

The first 34 pages are taken up by an introduction which provides us with a vivid picture of ancient Cynicism—of which especially the Socratic inheritance is put into good relief—and its various tenets. One might, however, ask whether this well-drawn picture is perhaps a trifle too smooth and unified; perhaps this introduction should have made more explicit that there are sometimes wide gaps of time (and space) between the single representatives of Cynic thought and their writings. Other questions arise as well: Can Antisthenes already be considered a full-blown Cynic, as L. suggests (p. 8)? Did, e.g., Menippus2 and Oenomaus of Gadara really harbor the same attitudes to life and other human beings as Diogenes of Sinope? L. is not much concerned with this and similar questions; he rather likes to stress the “longue durée” of Cynicism from the early or mid-fourth century BC well into the early 6th century AD, thus making Cynicism an almost millennium-long—often hilarious, but sometimes also troublesome and quarrelsome—companion of the life of Classical and post-Classical Antiquity itself. Unfortunately the introduction does not even try to establish connections between its statements and the texts that follow,3 a missed opportunity like L.’s failure to point out relations between the texts themselves later on (see below).4

The texts themselves are divided into eight sections: Section 1 (pp. 35-75) collects testimonies about and sayings of Socrates’ disciple Antisthenes (whose “claim” to be the first Cynic is sometimes disputed);5 Section 2 (pp. 76-193, by far the longest part of the book) does the same for the most famous of them all, Diogenes of Sinope. Section 3 is labeled “The spreading of the doctrine” (pp. 194-232, though with regard to Cynicism, “doctrine” may not be the most felicitous rendering of German “Lehre”—but alternatives do not come easily to mind, and “Lehre” itself may be called problematic if applied to Cynicism); this part comprises not only Crates of Thebes (whose role—he was often seen as the third great Cynic—thus appears somewhat diminished), but also a number of his and Diogenes’ “disciples” (Metrocles, Hipparchia, Menedemus, Thrasyllus, Menippus, Philiscus, Monimus, Onesicritus), as well as the poet Phoenix of Colophon (whose connection with Cynicism is more tenuous). Section 4 (pp. 233-255) bears the title “Cynicism as a spiritual force (geistige Macht)” and consists of texts of and about Bion of Borysthenes and Cercidas of Megalopolis; one wonders whether L. might not have included the whole of section 5 (devoted to the preachings of Teles, pp. 256-286) here, too. Section 6 (pp. 287-300) comprises “Cynic propaganda in epistolary form”, presenting pseudepigraphic letters ascribed to Anacharsis (the Scythian “noble savage”), to the Presocratic philosopher Heraclitus (whose uncompromising attitude towards other people might indeed have been felt to exhibit some proto-Cynic leanings), and to various “Socratics” (Socrates himself, Antisthenes, and Heraclides). Section 7 (pp. 301-429, the second longest part of the book) deals with “Cynicism in Imperial times” and presents excerpts from Demetrius, Dio Chrysostom, Epictetus (namely his famous essay “On Cynicism”), Favorinus, Demonax (a number of sayings not transmitted by Lucian), Lucian (only the “Life of Demonax” and “The Cynic”, which is most often regarded as a spurious work), and Oenomaus. Lastly, reflections of Cynicism in Late Antiquity are represented in section 8 (pp. 430-465) by longish extracts from two of the Emperor Julian’s Speeches (or. 7, “Against the Cynic Heraclius”; or. 9 [6], “Against the uneducated Cynics”).

All translated texts in this collection have a number assigned to them, running from 1 (the first text concerning Antisthenes) to 784 (Julian, “Against the uneducated Cynics”). This numbering might have provided an excellent tool for internal cross-referencing (and for “external” references to texts dealing with Cynics, too), but the astonishing fact is that L. does not really use this tool. Cross-references between texts of different sections are non-existent, although they might have given every user valuable evidence how often the same anecdotes and quips have been attached to quite a number of different Cynics: E.g. Antisthenes’ gibe “I feel like I have come from men’s to women’s quarters”, after he had travelled from Sparta to Athens (nr. 6), is also attributed to Diogenes (nr. 270). Antisthenes’ advice (nr. 35) to treat politics like a burning fire and keep a middle distance from it, can again be found in the Diogenes section (nr. 182).6 The famous quip about how marrying a beautiful woman and an ugly woman both bring discomfort is given not only to Antisthenes (nr. 52), but also to Bion of Borysthenes (nr. 623) and to Bias of Priene (Nr. 736 ch. 2), one of the Seven Sages; in the last two instances L. provides references to similar sayings attributed to “Old Comedy” (probably Susarion 1 K.-A. is meant by this), Socrates (Diog. Laert. 2.33), and Theophrastus (apud Hier. adv. Iovin. 1.47 ), but does not even hint that his own collection exhibits the quip three times in exactly the same form. Antisthenes’ way of exposing someone who had given him a thrashing to public anger (nr. 62) is also ascribed—in a not totally identical, but recognizably similar form—to Diogenes (nr. 432) and to Favorinus (nr. 545). The comparison of rich or prodigal people with trees and vines which grow in inaccessible places and thus are useless to human beings is found no less than four times: in nr. 322, 337, 446 (as a saying of Diogenes) and in 557 (as a saying of Crates). The aphorism that the good (or the wise) are the real possessors of everything because they are the friends of the gods is attributed to Diogenes (nr. 380), to Socrates (nr. 498 and—in a slightly different from—to Crates (nr. 598); hunger or—in more extreme cases—suicide by hanging as a remedy against love is recommended by Diogenes or Crates (nrs. 384, 575, 784 par. 16).

The translations provided by L. are easily readable by any with a good working knowledge of German; in a number of cases, though, it may be doubted whether the meaning of the original is rendered accurately enough. In nr. 8 L. translates that Antisthenes, having come to the Isthmian games, had the intention, “die Athener blosszustellen, die Thebaner und Spartaner aber zu preisen”; in the original, however, the verbs ψέξαι τε καὶ ἐπαινέσαι are applied to all three states together (Hicks translates “to discourse on the faults and merits of Athenians, Thebans and Lacedaemonians”). In nr. 51 (= Dio or. 13), ch. 27 “lieber, guter Mensch” sounds too domestic and tame for καλὸν καὶ ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα. In nr. 88 ch. 11 (= Diog. Laert. 6,11) “Ruhmlos zu sein, ist gut und gleichwertig” does not take account of the fact that ἴσον does not stand alone, but is qualified by τῷ πόνῳ. In nr. 157 (= Diog. Laert. 6.40) L. changes the supplement to Plato’s definition of man, πλατυώνυμος (“with broad nails”, Hicks) into a rather un-human attribute (“mit breiten Klauen”). A)LL’ … οὐ καταγελῶμαι in nr. 256 (= Diog. Laert. 6.54) is rendered as “Ich bin aber gar nicht lächerlich”, but should rather be understood as “but I do not feel laughed down”. κατὰτὸν Πρωτέα in 485 does not mean “nach Proteus” (in his note to this text L. mistakenly explains: “Peregrinus Proteus … wird zitiert”), but simply “just like Proteus” (i.e. just like this particular Cynic all of them need various craftsmen to supply their needs, so that they are not “bedürfnislos”). In 507 (Diog. Epist. 29) ch. 4 (p. 183) the rendering of ὡς by “Das heisst” does not give satisfactory sense; it rather introduces a causal connection: “For what use could one have from such a man?” In 593 (Crates, Epist. 15) L. makes Crates contradict himself, as he first exhorts his pupils to avoid every ἡδονή, but then continues: “Ihr müsst euch ganz und gar auf sie konzentrieren”; but ἐνατενιεῖτε is future tense, no imperative, and the sense rather is: “(if you do not avoid these ἡδοναί) you will wholly be enthralled by them” (compare Hercher’s Latin translation: “his enim solis … intenti eritis”). In 696 (= Cercidas 4,43) πατρωὸς does not mean “Schwiegervater” (father-in-law), but “stepfather” (as in 696n. L. himself acknowledges, sort of). In 718 (= Socrat. Epist. 6) ch. 7 L. renders τελευτῶντα τροφὰς οἱ ζῶντες αἰτήσετε a bit too innocuously by “Wenn ich tot bin, fordert ihr Lebenden Unterstützung”, while already Hercher translates more pointedly: “alimenta vivi poscetis a defuncto”. At the end of Nr. 751 (= Favorin. fr. 109 Bar.) L. renders ὥσπερ πλέουσαι with “wie segelnde”; but it would have been more intelligible to say “as if they [i.e. the towns Helice and Bura which had been swamped by a tsunami] had been ships on the sea”. Again, at the end of 755 (= Ps.-Dio Chrys. or. 37,27) “um die Kelten zu ermutigen, dass auch für sie griechische Bildung erreichbar ist und dass kein Barbare im Hinblick auf diesen Mann zu verzweifeln braucht” does less than justice to the original: Κελτοῖς δέ, ἵνα μηδὲ τῶν βαρβάρων μηδεὶς ἀπογιγνώσκῃ τῆς ἑλληνικῆς παιδείας, βλέπων εἰς τοῦτον (compare Lamar Crosby’s translation: “for Celts, so that no one even of the barbarians may despair of attaining the culture of Greeks when he looks upon this man”). In nr. 767 (= Luc. Demon.) ch. 6, L. provides his own translation “[man] verliess ihn, ohne sich als Feigling zu verachten” with a question mark, and surely already Harmon rendered ἀπιέναι μήτε καταφρονήσαντας ὡς ἀγεννοῦς more correctly with “his visitors, on going away, did not feel contempt for him because he was ill-bred”.7 In nr.769 (= Oenom. fr. 1 Hammerstaedt), ch. 13 has fallen victim to a couple of mistranslations (L. ignores the double negation at the beginning of the paragraph, and the meaning of ἐνσταίη and φθονήσαιεν have been converted into their opposite; cf. Des Places’s translation in Sources chrétiennes 266, pp. 91/93).

There are some other infelicities and inconsistencies in the sections of the texts and their introductions: In nr. 111 (= Diog. Laert. 6,20), the name of Diogenes’ father is given as Ikesios, while in the note to 146, he is called “Ikesias”.8 In the Crates section one misses Crates’ counterfeiting of Solon’s famous Elegy to the Muses; it is only cited much later in the Julian section (783 ch. 9 and 784 ch. 17). In the introduction to Menippus (p. 222), Lucian’s dialogue “Menippus sive Necyomantia” is wrongly presented as two separate works. Phoenix of Colophon is present with the first (616 = Powell, Collectanea Alex. nr. 1, wrongly labeled as “Quellen”) and the sixth of his Iambi, but the latter (nr. 617) is mistakenly included by L. among the texts of Bion of Borysthenes. Nor does one section of the book always mesh well with another: On p. 309, L. states that Dio Chrysostom may have made the acquaintance of Epictetus in Rome during the years 62-65 AD; on p. 343, however, Epictetus is only born around 55 AD, so that he would have been no more than 7 to 10 years old in those years and probably not yet a suitable person for Dio to know.9 Is Favorinus’ philosophy really to be regarded as “kynisch gefärbt” (p. 362)? See L. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius (London 1988) 78 on this question. Of Lucian, in whose writings Cynics play a quite prominent part,10 L. presents only a translation of the Vita Demonactis and the Cynicus, which is normally not regarded as being Lucianic at all; L., however, thinks—not without reason—that the question of authenticity might need further consideration, and he presents a rather good case that Cynicus—even if it does not go back to Lucian himself—is not such a bad piece of work as has often been thought (pp. 380f.).

As for the notes (pp. 466-562), the same observation applies as in the case of the (missing) cross-referencing within the text: Again, L. does not put his own potentially useful overall numbering of the texts to use in the notes to facilitate referral to comparable passages: In the note to nr. 63 he mentions Dio Chrys. or. 8,33 but does not say that it can be found in this very book under the nr. 733. Explaining nr. 123, L. hints at a “myth” that Pan taught masturbation to shepherds as a sexual relief—why not add that this can be found under nr. 517? At the end of the note to nr. 195, L. refers to “Iul. or. 9 (6), 193d-203”; he might also have said, to his nr. 784 ch. 13-20. References to Teles in the notes to 506 and 507 could have been supplemented by the numbers 706 and 707 in L.’s own collection, and in 533 to the same author by nr. 703. In 623n. L. might have referred to the Antisthenes text in nr. 52; in 649n. he might have cited his nr. 652; in 701n., when referring to Cercidas fr. 16 Powell, he could have added his number, 699; in 711n. and 714n. the references to “Epiktet, Vom Kynismus” would have profited from citing nr. 734. I could add a lot more examples like that; all in all, a consistent use of L.’s own numbers in the notes would have made them much more useful than they are now.

The notes themselves exhibit certain flaws: p. 469 (ad 23): “Caecilius Balbus” is an invented author’s name attached to a collection of sayings created in Late Antiquity (see now. P. L. Schmidt in: Der Neue Pauly 2,1997, 894). p. 476 (ad 93 = Diog. Laert. 6.5): the reference to Diog. Laert. 2.33 is not very much to the point. The note to nr. 160 (p. 485) seems a bit muddled: “Der letztere” with whom it begins must be Diogenes; but to call him “Schüler des Megarikers Stilpon” contradicts Diog. Laert. 6.76, who has it the other way round. Nr. 198 is not, as the note on p. 490 explains, “vielleicht aus einer Komödie”, but a rather often-quoted fragment from Euripides’ Kresphontes (fr. 449 Nauck, 2nd ed.). 330n.: A mina contains not 600 drachmas, but 600 obols (= 100 drachmas). 336n.: fr. adesp. 284 Nauck should now be cited as TrGF 88 [Diogenes] F 4.11 In 608-9n. something has gone awry: L. refers to the continuation of nr. 609 (= Suda s.v. phi 362), which he, however, does not cite in the text. In 648n. (p. 524) the reference to Teles p. 38 is inaccurate (it should rather be pp. 40f., found here under nr. 705). 705.34n.: it is not entirely true that the Homeric formulas cited by Teles here do not at all apply to Priamos; see, e.g. Il. 22.414 and 24.640. 758n.: One of the sources of the version of the Phoenix myth probably goes back to Herodotus 2.73 (where the bird comes to Egypt once every 500 years to bury its father, but does not die there itself). The note to nr. 767 (= Lucian, Vita Demonactis) ch. 34 states that according to Lucian, Alex. 38 the prorrhesis to the Eleusinian mysteries excluded “auch Atheisten, Christen und Epikureer”; Lucian, however, does not say that, but gives the content of the sham prorrhesis invented by the false prophet Alexander, not that of the venerable Eleusinian rites. 770 (= Oenomaus fr. 2 Hammerstaedt) ch. 5 n.: Referring to the chest in which the wrestler Kleomedes vanished, L. states: “Diese Lade soll sich im Parthenon befunden haben”—this is at least misleading, because according to Pausanias 6.9.7 the chest had its place in the temple of Athena at Astypalaia, not at Athens.

Despite such necessary corrections and modifications, L.’s Cynics collection remains useful for those who can read German. It is, however, very much to be hoped that a second edition will do away with the flaws mentioned: the translations should be checked (especially for their consistency, if the same passage turns up more than once), the references as well (at least in some cases they seem to have simply been taken over from intermediate sources), and, most of all, better internal cross-referencing should be introduced.12


1. Margarethe Billerbeck (ed.), Die Kyniker in der modernen Forschung, Amsterdam 1991; Marie-Odile Goulet-Cazé / R. Goulet (eds.), Le cynisme ancien et ses prolongements, Paris 1993 (Actes du colloque Paris 1991); R. Bracht Branham / Marie-Odile Goulet-Cazé (eds.), The Cynics. The Cynic Movement in Antiquity and its Legacy, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London 1996. Most of the original texts translated in this volume can be found in G. Giannantoni, Socraticorum Reliquiae, Vol. II (Antisthenis, Diogenis, Cratetis et Cynicorum veterum reliquiae), Rome 1983.

2. On p. 29, ” τὸ σπουδογέλοιον” is made to appear as a typical trait of all Cynics; normally, however, this is mainly associated with Menippus, and one may well doubt whether all those “barking” Cynics on the streets of the Roman Empire had much of this σπουδογέλοιον to entice their addressees to listen to them; certainly their enemies did not think so.

3. E.g. on p. 7 L. states that the typically Cynic garment, the tribon, could be seen as a “Reminiszenz an Telephos, den zum Bettler degradierten König, den Euripides…dargestellt hatte”; here a pointer to text nr. 522 (= Diog. Laert. 6.87f.)—according to which Crates felt attracted to Cynicism after he had seen the tragic Telephus on stage—would have been useful. On p. 11 (n. 1) L. cites the emperor Julian, “or. 7,214b-c” —why not add that this text can be found below under nr. 783? Similarly, p. 20 n. 2, “Iul. or. 6, 201d” is to be found in this very book as nr. 784,18 (on p. 463), and p. 20 n. 3, “Iul. or. 6, 192a is nr. 784,12 (on p. 452).

4. One detail in need of being corrected: On p. 33, the date of Peregrinus’ self-immolation should be corrected from 167 to 165; see C. P. Jones, Culture and Society in Lucian, Cambridge/Mass. 1986, 125 n. 34.

5. See now, e.g., Marie Goulet-Cazé, “Kynismus”, Der Neue Pauly Vol. 6 (1999) 970.

6. In similar ways, nr. 72 (Antisthenes) corresponds with 251 (Diogenes), 85 (Antisthenes) with 224 (Diogenes), 171 (Diogenes) with 606 (Thrasyllus), 314 with 446 (both Diogenes), 316 with 498 (both in the Diogenes section, but the saying in 498 is ascribed to Socrates), 324 with 499 (both Diogenes), 351 with 705 par. 41 (both Diogenes), 385 with 516 (both Diogenes), 458 with 513 ch. 1 (both Diogenes), 536 with 604 (both Crates), 570 (Crates, parodying Sardanapallus) with 616 (Phoenix, citing Ninus). Sometimes the same passage is given in more than one section, but seems to have been translated anew (and differently) in the new section: Compare, e.g., nr. 145 with 731 ch. 1-4 (Dio Chrysostom, or. 8 [7]; parts of the second rendering are better than the first); nr. 318 with 522 (second paragraph); 346 with 734 (Epict. diss. 3.22.80 – again the second translation is better than the first); 384 with 784 par. 16; 428 with 784 par. 15 (p 458), where ἀτενῶς is better rendered than in 428. An excerpt from Teles (p. 10,6-11,1 Hense) is presented as Diogenes text nr. 230 and again in the Teles section itself (nr. 703 ch.10f.), but in this case not only the translation is different, but L. even follows a differently constituted text: in 230 he accepts Wilamowitz’ deletion of φορτία βαστάζειν καὶ διατραχηίζεσθαι, in 703 he ignores it.

7. Ibid., ch. 14, τοῦ … Σιδωνίου … σοφιστοῦ surely does not mean “der Sophist Sidonius” but “the sophist from Sidon”; and Πύθωνοςτινος τῶν ἐν Μακεδονίᾳ εὐπαρύφων (ch. 15) is not “der Sohn Pythons, eines makedonischen Würdenträgers” but “a … fellow named Pytho, who belonged to one of the aristocratic families in Macedonia” (Harmon).

8. Ikesias is the form preferred by Giannantoni, Socraticorum Reliquiae, vol. 3, p. 379; Marie Goulet-Cazé, however, prefers “Hikesias” (in: Der Neue Pauly, Vol. 3, 1997, 598). Marcovich in his recent critical edition of Diogenes Laertius still prefers to read Ἱκεσίου in 6.20, which is rendered with “of Hicesius” by the Loeb translator).

9. L.s introduction of Favorinus on p. 361 runs into some chronological problems as well: If Favorinus lived in Rome after having been pardoned by the Emperor Antoninus Pius, he cannot very easily have consorted with Plutarch there, who died in the first years of Hadrian’s reign.

10. See now H.-G. Nesselrath, Lucien et le Cynisme, in: Antiquité Classique 67, 1998 [published in 1999], 121-135.

11. A number of references are obsolete: The “tragic” fragment ascribed to Diogenes in nr. 276 (= Clem. Al. Strom. 2.119.5f.) is identified as “TGF 808,2”; it should rather be “TrGF 88 F 1h”. The Philemon fragment on p. 275 n. 1 should no longer be cited as “K. 531”, but as fr. 170 K.-A.; likewise “Eupolis, K. 356” (p. 431 n. 1) is now Eup. fr. 396,1 K.-A. The speeches of Dio Chrysostom are somewhat strangely cited as “or. 8,7” (p. 320), “or. 9,8” (p. 328), “or. 10,9” (p. 333); in each case the first number reflects the vulgate counting of Dio’s speeches, the second that of von Arnim.

12. Misprints: Monimus is dealt with in Diog. Laert. 6,82-83, not 7,82-83 (p. 225); on p. 266 (Teles nr. 704 ch. 23) read “Beisitzer” instead of “Besitzer”; on p. 296, end of first paragraph read “vertreiben” instead of “vertreibt”; in the middle of p. 310, supply “für” before “unter seiner Würde hielt”; in the middle of p. 313 read “Olympias” instead of “Olympia” (and put a question mark at the end of this sentence). On p. 332 n. 1 (comment on Dio Chrys. or. 9 [8],17), the reference “Hom. Il. 22,21” is wrong (as already in the Loeb Dio); Dio’s sentence is a kind of summary of Hom. Il. 22.136-208. On p. 360, the Roman name of the sophist Polemon should be Antonius, not Antoninus. In the note to nr. 252 (p. 494) read “Chorikios” instead of “Choir-“; in the note to 379 (p. 501) read “unterschätzen” instead of “überschätzen”, in the note to 604 (p. 517) “Ptolemaios Lagou” instead of “Pt. Lagon”, in the note to 611 (p. 518) “barathron” instead of “-os” (the same mistake in the note to nr. 783 ch. 5). The note to 783 “(17)” more correctly applies to ch. 9, and “(2)” in 784 n. (p. 560) must be moved down two lines before “Kandidaten”.