Crates of Thebes

Crates of Thebes

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Crates of Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

, was a Cynic philosopher. Crates gave away his money to live a life of poverty on the streets of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. He married Hipparchia of Maroneia who lived in the same manner that he did. Respected by the people of Athens, he is remembered for being the teacher of Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium was a Greek philosopher from Citium . Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of virtue in...

, the founder of Stoicism
Stoicism
Stoicism is a school of Hellenistic philosophy founded in Athens by Zeno of Citium in the early . The Stoics taught that destructive emotions resulted from errors in judgment, and that a sage, or person of "moral and intellectual perfection," would not suffer such emotions.Stoics were concerned...

. Various fragments of Crates' teachings survive, including his description of the ideal Cynic state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

.

Life


Crates was born c. 365 BC in Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

. He was the son of Ascondus, and was the heir to a large fortune, which he is said to have renounced to live a life of Cynic poverty in Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

. Diogenes Laërtius
Diogenes Laertius
Diogenes Laertius was a biographer of the Greek philosophers. Nothing is known about his life, but his surviving Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers is one of the principal surviving sources for the history of Greek philosophy.-Life:Nothing is definitively known about his life...

 preserves several different accounts of this story; one of them has Crates giving his money away to the citizens of Thebes, apparently after seeing the beggar king Telephus
Telephus
A Greek mythological figure, Telephus or Telephos Telephus was one of the Heraclidae, the sons of Heracles, who were venerated as founders of cities...

 in a tragedy; whereas another account has him placing his money in the hands of a banker, with the agreement that he should deliver it to his sons, unless they too became philosophers, in which case he should distribute it among the poor.

He moved to Athens where tradition says he became a pupil of Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

; the precise relationship between Crates and Diogenes is uncertain, but there is one apparent reference to Crates referring to himself as "a fellow-citizen of Diogenes, who defied all the plots of envy." Crates is also described as being the student of Bryson the Achaean
Bryson of Achaea
Bryson of Achaea was an ancient Greek philosopher.Very little information is known about him. He was said to have been a pupil of Stilpo and Clinomachus, which would mean that he was a philosopher of the Megarian school. He was said to have taught Crates the Cynic, Pyrrho the Skeptic, and...

, and of Stilpo
Stilpo
Stilpo was a Greek philosopher of the Megarian school. He was a contemporary of Theophrastus, Diodorus Cronus, and Crates of Thebes. None of his writings survive, he was interested in logic and dialectic, and he argued that the universal is fundamentally separated from the individual and concrete...

. He lived a life of cheerful simplicity, and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, who wrote a detailed biography of Crates which unfortunately does not survive, records what sort of man Crates was:
But Crates with only his wallet and tattered cloak laughed out his life jocosely, as if he had been always at a festival.

He is said to have been deformed with a lame leg and hunched shoulders. He was nicknamed the Door-Opener because he would enter any house and people would receive him gladly and with honour:
He used to enter the houses of his friends, without being invited or otherwise called, in order to reconcile members of a family, even if it was apparent that they were deeply at odds. He would not reprove them harshly, but in a soothing way, in a manner which was non-accusatory towards those whom he was correcting, because he wished to be of service to them as well as to those who were just listening.



He attracted the attentions of Hipparchia of Maroneia, the sister of one of Crates' students - Metrocles
Metrocles
Metrocles was a Cynic philosopher from Maroneia. He studied in Aristotle’s Lyceum under Theophrastus, and eventually became a follower of Crates of Thebes who married Metrocles’ sister Hipparchia...

. Hipparchia is said to have fallen in love with Crates and with his life and teachings, and thus rejecting her wealthy upbringing in a manner similar to Crates, she married him. The marriage was remarkable (for ancient Athens) for being based on mutual respect and equality between the couple. Stories about Hipparchia appearing in public everywhere with Crates are mentioned precisely because respectable women did not behave in that way. They had at least two children, a girl, and a boy named Pasicles. We learn that Crates is supposed to have initiated his son into sex by taking him to a brothel, and he allowed his daughter a month's trial marriage to potential suitors.

He was the teacher of Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium
Zeno of Citium was a Greek philosopher from Citium . Zeno was the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, which he taught in Athens from about 300 BC. Based on the moral ideas of the Cynics, Stoicism laid great emphasis on goodness and peace of mind gained from living a life of virtue in...

 in the last years of the century, and was undoubtably the biggest influence on Zeno in his development of Stoic
STOIC
STOIC was a variant of Forth.It started out at the MIT and Harvard Biomedical Engineering Centre in Boston, and was written in the mid 1970s by Jonathan Sachs...

 philosophy. Zeno always regarded Crates with the greatest respect, and some of the accounts we have of Crates have probably come down to us via Zeno's writings. His other pupils included Metrocles
Metrocles
Metrocles was a Cynic philosopher from Maroneia. He studied in Aristotle’s Lyceum under Theophrastus, and eventually became a follower of Crates of Thebes who married Metrocles’ sister Hipparchia...

, Monimus
Monimus
Monimus of Syracuse, was a Cynic philosopher.According to Diogenes Laërtius, Monimus was the slave of a Corinthian money-changer who heard tales about Diogenes of Sinope from Xeniades, Diogenes' master. In order that he might become the pupil of Diogenes, Monimus feigned madness by throwing money...

, Menippus
Menippus
Menippus of Gadara, was a Cynic and satirist. His works, which are all lost, were an important influence on Varro and Lucian. The Menippean satire genre is named after him.-Life:...

, Cleomenes
Cleomenes the Cynic
Cleomenes was a Cynic philosopher. He was a pupil of Crates of Thebes, and is said to have taught Timarchus of Alexandria and Echecles of Ephesus, the latter of whom would go on to teach Menedemus....

, Theombrotus, and Crates' brother Pasicles
Pasicles of Thebes
Pasicles of Thebes was a Greek philosopher and brother of the Cynic philosopher Crates of Thebes. He attended the lectures of his brother Crates, but he is otherwise connected with the Megarian school of philosophy, because Diogenes Laërtius calls him a pupil of Euclid of Megara, and the Suda...

. He may also have taught Cleanthes
Cleanthes
Cleanthes , of Assos, was a Greek Stoic philosopher and the successor to Zeno as the second head of the Stoic school in Athens. Originally a boxer, he came to Athens where he took up philosophy, listening to Zeno's lectures. He supported himself by working as water-carrier at night. After the...

, Zeno's successor as head of the Stoic school.

Crates was, apparently, in Thebes in 307 BC, when Demetrius Phalereus
Demetrius Phalereus
Demetrius of Phalerum was an Athenian orator originally from Phalerum, a student of Theophrastus and one of the first Peripatetics...

 was exiled there. He is said to have died at a great age (c. 285 BC), and was buried in Boeotia
Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

.

Philosophy


Crates wrote a book of letters on philosophical subjects, the style of which is compared by Diogenes Laërtius to that of Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

; but these no longer survive. There are 36 surviving Cynic epistles
Cynic epistles
The Cynic epistles are a collection of letters expounding the principles and practices of Cynic philosophy mostly written in the time of the Roman empire but purporting to have been written by much earlier philosophers....

attributed to Crates, but these are later, 1st century, compositions. Crates was also the author of some philosophical tragedies, and some smaller poems apparently called Games .

Several fragments of his thought survive. He taught a simple asceticism, which seems to have been milder than that of his predecessor Diogenes
Diogenes of Sinope
Diogenes the Cynic was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. Also known as Diogenes of Sinope , he was born in Sinope , an Ionian colony on the Black Sea , in 412 or 404 BCE and died at Corinth in 323 BCE.Diogenes of Sinope was a controversial figure...

:
And therefore Crates replied to the man who asked, "What will be in it for me after I become a philosopher?" "You will be able," he said, "to open your wallet easily and with your hand scoop out and dispense lavishly instead of, as you do now, squirming and hesitating and trembling like those with paralyzed hands. Rather, if the wallet is full, that is how you will view it; and if you see that it is empty, you will not be distressed. And once you have elected to use the money, you will easily be able to do so; and if you have none, you will not yearn for it, but you will live satisfied with what you have, not desiring what you do not have nor displeased with whatever comes your way."

His philosophy was infused with a gentle, rich humour. He urged people not to prefer anything but lentils in their meals, because luxury and extravagance were the chief causes of seditions and insurrections in a city. This jest would later be the cause of much satire, as in book 4 of Athenaeus
Athenaeus
Athenaeus , of Naucratis in Egypt, Greek rhetorician and grammarian, flourished about the end of the 2nd and beginning of the 3rd century AD...

' Deipnosophistae
Deipnosophistae
The Deipnosophistae may be translated as The Banquet of the Learned or Philosophers at Dinner or The Gastronomers...

where a group of Cynics sit down for a meal and are served course after course of lentil soup.

One of his poems parodied a famous hymn to the Muses written by Solon
Solon
Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens...

. But whereas Solon wished for prosperity, reputation, and "justly acquired possessions," Crates had typically Cynic desires:
Glorious children of Memory
Mnemosyne
Mnemosyne , source of the word mnemonic, was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. This titaness was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and the mother of the nine Muses by Zeus:* Calliope * Clio * Erato...

 and Olympian Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

,

Muses of Pieria
Pierian Mountains
The Pierian Mountains are a mountain range between Imathia, Pieria and Kozani Prefecture, south of the plain of Kambania in Central Macedonia. The village of Vergina, where the archaeological site of ancient Aigai lies, is built at the foot of these mountains...

, listen to my prayer!

Give me without ceasing food for my belly

Which had always made my life frugal and free from slavery. . . .

Make me useful to my friends, rather than agreeable.

As for money, I do not wish to amass conspicuous wealth,

But only seek the wealth of the beetle or the maintenance of the ant;

Nay, I desire to possess justice and to collect riches

That are easily carried, easily acquired, and are of great avail to virtue.

If I may but win these, I will propitiate Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

 and the holy Muses,

Not with costly dainties, but with pious virtues.


There are also several fragments surviving of a poem Crates wrote describing the ideal Cynic state which begins by parodying Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's description of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

. Crates' city is called Pera, which in Greek refers to the beggar's wallet which every Cynic carried:
There is a city Pera in the midst of wine-dark Tuphos,

Fair and fruitful, filthy all about, possessing nothing,

Into which no foolish parasite ever sails,

Nor any playboy who delights in a whore's ass,

But it produces thyme, garlic, figs, and bread,

For which the citizens do not war with each other,

Nor do they possess arms, to get cash or fame.

The word tuphos in the first line, is one of the first known Cynic uses of a word which literally means mist or smoke. It was used by the Cynics to describe the mental confusion which most people are wrapped-up in. The Cynics sought to clear away this fog and to see the world as it really is.

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