Diogenes the Dog: Think for Yourself
And Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Time to don your greenest outfit, find a shamrock, and enjoy a singalong.
While we didn’t plan today’s lesson around this popular holiday (in hindsight, we should have), today’s Classical Wisdom’s article does delve into the history of the Saint for which it's named...and it is amazing!
For instance, did you know St. Patrick was a Roman citizen? That he was captured by pirates? And was a bit of a feminist?
You can enjoy the ancient history of the man that revolutionized Ireland here:
As for our Classical Wisdom Kids story, we will actually be discussing an all time favorite philosophical figure. He’s a strange fellow, to be sure, but we can learn a lot of interesting things from his life, his actions, and his words.
I’m talking about none other than Diogenes the Dog!
Of course, there are so many fantastic anecdotes about him that they can’t all be included in one story... but we tried to get in some of the best ones for you today. All I can say from my experience is... once you start to tell Diogenes stories, you can’t stop. (That’s because Dear daughter regularly pleads for more... they are just that good.)
Read on below to learn about the man who loved dogs, hated Plato, stood up to Alexander the Great and threw away... everything.
All the best,
Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids
P.S. FUN FACT: What does St. Patrick and Diogenes have in common? They were BOTH captured by pirates!
Enjoy Activities, worksheets, games and more! Join our Classical Wisdom Kids Club and unlock the wisdom:
Diogenes the Dog
By Anya Leonard
Diogenes the Dog was a very, very interesting man. He was an ancient Greek philosopher who lived a very different life from most... and while we would not want to follow in his exact footsteps, we can still learn a lot from him.
Diogenes lived in Ancient Athens, during a very exciting period of history. It was a time when philosophy, the study of wisdom itself, was flourishing. Men like Socrates and his student Plato were talking about very important topics every day.
They asked questions like: What is True? What makes a Good Life? How should we spend our days? What makes us Happy?
In Athens there were many different ‘schools’ of philosophy, different groups that answered these important questions in a variety of ways. Some followed Socrates or Plato or came up with completely new ideas. Some of these schools were very similar to each other... others not so much.
Among these different schools was one called Cynicism. Today, the word ‘Cynic’ means someone who doesn’t believe something or someone is true, but in ancient times it meant something very different. Cynics believed that the purpose of life was to be virtuous, to be good.
They also believed we should live according to nature, in a way that is natural to us. They thought that we can be happy if we try to have a simple life, without a bunch of things.
Diogenes the Dog was not the founder of Cynicism... but he was certainly the most famous Cynic! And that is probably because of all the bizarre things he did. He took the ideas of Cynicism to their most extreme... mostly to prove a point.
Diogenes lived in a huge ceramic jar in the middle of the city and wanted to live without any things. He only had his cloak to sleep in, his staff to help him stand, and a knapsack to hold his bowl and cup.
One day he saw a child drinking water from his hands and so Diogenes threw away his cup, saying that the young boy was a better Cynic than he! He tossed his bowl as well, when he saw a kid eat from a hollowed piece of bread.
Diogenes loved dogs and thought of himself as the guard dog of society. However, he didn’t always get along with other philosophers. One day, Diogenes heard the famous philosopher Plato try to define a man as, “a featherless biped” (this means something that walks on two legs.. Without feathers!)
The next day Diogenes found a chicken, plucked its feathers and went straight to Plato... and in front of all his friends said, “Behold! Plato’s Man!”
Just because Plato was very clever... didn’t mean he was always right!
The fame of Diogenes spread throughout the ancient world and one day, King Alexander the Great heard about this unconventional philosopher. Alexander had one of the greatest empires of all time (even to this day)... and he was so impressed with Diogenes that when he met him, he offered to give him anything in the world.
To this, Diogenes said, “Move a little to the right. You are blocking my sun.”
To this, Alexander then declared, “If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes.”
One day Diogenes was captured by Pirates. They wanted to sell him as a slave. So Diogenes pointed at a wealthy man and said, "Sell me to this man; he needs a master." The man was so impressed by Diogenes, he bought him right away and had him teach his children as a free man. Diogenes ended up spending the rest of his life quite comfortably with his “master” and his family.
Diogenes taught by example. He tried to show that you should think for yourself and that you don’t need things to be happy.
Classical Wisdom Kids Club Members:
Watch your inbox for the next email, which will include the printables, worksheets, games, and activities for a Classics fun weekend! Also included is the “Go Further” section for adults and older kids.
If you aren’t already a Member, subscribe for only $5 a month and unlock the wisdom: