Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher. Being the founder of Cynic school of philosophy, he was probably the most outstanding representative of it. He was a rather controversial and notorious personality, although highly esteemed for his teaching and unique sense of humor. None of his writings survived, but his impact on the mankind can be seen throughout the history.
Diogenes was born according to different sources in 412 or 404 B.C. in the city of Sinope (present-day Turkey) in a family of coiner. Nothing is known about his childhood, but it seems that he had been helping his father in the business until he was sent to exile because of a scandal with money debasement that he and his father were accused in. From that time, Diogenes was living a life of a bagger, since he has lost all of the possessions. He then moved to Athens, where he decided to implement his beliefs and deface the established customs of the corrupted society. He became a pupil of Antisthenes, Socrates’s student, despite being received with brutality. Later he developed his teaching and even surpassed teacher’s reputation. Both of them were the founders of Cynicism, the main idea of which was a life with no desires for wealth, fame and power, a life that rejected self-interest.
The most information about Diogenes’s life comes from anecdotes, particularly in Diogenes Laërtius’s work Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers. He is believed to live in a ceramic tub near the Cybele temple, thereby making a virtue of his poverty. He used to wander around the city in the daylight with a lamp, saying that he is looking for an honest man. Diogenes urinated and even masturbated in the public, he ate in the marketplace, even though it was against the customs, and defecated in theatre, thus showing his rejection of ‘proper’ ideas.
There is an unconfirmed story that he once met Alexander the Great, and they even had a small talk, in which Diogenes managed to mock the king. Another story tell that once with the purpose to undermine Plato’s statement that a man is a featherless biped, he brought a chicken and equated it to a human being, so Plato had to add to the definition ‘with broad flat nails.’
Diogenes of Sinope was traveling to Aegina, when the pirates kidnapped him and sold as a slave to a Corinthian man, Xeniades. Philosopher was a tutor for Xeniades’s two sons, and there is no evidence whether he remained there until his death in 323 B.C. or has been freed.
Diogenes was the first man to use the word ‘cosmopolitan’ and define himself as a citizen of the world. His ideas influenced the doctrine of Stoicism that stated that happiness has nothing in common with any material possessions. People called him ‘doggish,’ Plato characterized him ‘A Socrates gone mad,’ an exile after all, but still despite all those designations Diogenes remains one of the most important Greek philosophers, a remarkable example of shamelessness, ascetic and even obscenity.