Biting Back


A fantasy about the life of Diogenes the Cynic through the eyes of various contemporaries.

There is a good deal of material on the web about Diogenes the Cynic. Most of it is based on Book 6, Chapter 2 of Lives of Eminent Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius (circa 200AD), which can be found in translation in the Loeb Classical Library, ISBN 0674992040.

This short fantasy does not try to recount every anecdote known about its subject, but rather ones that are not known. It is very likely that some of the anecdotes in Diogenes Laertius' work have been confused with ones about other eminent philosophers. This fantasy is intended, rather, to investigate its subject's character and motivation. What drove Diogenes the Cynic to become a disciple of Antisthenes and to believe that self-reliance was his best road to happiness? I believe that the answer lies in his feelings of guilt about his father.

The anecdotes in Diogenes Laertius' work tend to concentrate on the scurrilous. This is natural in what is essentially a tabloid work. However, they do not explain their subject's reputation as a philosopher and as a good man. I feel that there must have been a vulnerable side to him, and that this might have been at the root of the affection in which he came to be held.

I have tried to make the fantasy at least consistent with the data, even in some cases where the data are not self-consistent. I have been deliberately vague about dating the events of Diogenes' life, and it may be that some readers will spot some anachronisms. If they do I hope that they will get in touch.