Diogenes Of Sinope Biography

(Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy)

Born: 412 BC

Born In: Sinop, Turkey

Diogenes, also known as Diogenes the Cynic, was a Greek philosopher. He was one of the philosophers who originated the Cynic philosophy, a way of thinking that advocated the rejection of luxury and promoted “living in virtue”. Diogenes believed that virtue was revealed more in action than in theory. He lived a life of extreme austerity and was known to beg for a living and sleep in the marketplace without any proper bedding. He also disregarded the laws and customs of the land, owing to which he became a controversial figure. He declared himself to be a citizen of the world and refused to claim allegiance to just one place. He carried out several political stunts, the best known of which is the incident when he went around carrying a lamp during the day, claiming to look for an “honest man.” He also gained much notoriety for publicly mocking Alexander the Great. According to some sources, he was likely a student of the philosopher Antisthenes, who himself studied with Socrates. Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. Despite this, he was able to pass on his philosophy of Cynicism to Crates.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Diogenes

Died At Age: 89


father: Hicesias

Born Country: Greece

Philosophers Greek Men

Died on: 323 BC

place of death: Corinth, Greece

Founder/Co-Founder: Cynic philosophy

  • 1

    What is Diogenes of Sinope famous for?

    Diogenes of Sinope was a Greek philosopher known for his unconventional behavior and philosophy.

  • 2

    What is the meaning of the term cynic?

    The term "cynic" comes from the Greek word "kynikos," meaning "dog-like," and refers to the simple and minimalistic lifestyle embraced by Diogenes.

  • 3

    How did Diogenes of Sinope demonstrate his rejection of social conventions?

    Diogenes rejected social norms by living in a large ceramic jar, begging for food, and openly criticizing the customs and values of society.
  • 4

    What is the famous anecdote involving Diogenes and Alexander the Great?

    One famous anecdote involves Alexander the Great asking Diogenes if he could do anything for him, to which Diogenes replied, "Yes, stand out of my sunlight."

  • 5

    How did Diogenes of Sinope promote self-sufficiency and independence in his teachings?

    Diogenes promoted self-sufficiency by living a minimalist lifestyle, rejecting material possessions, and advocating for a life in accordance with nature.

Childhood & Early Life

Diogenes was born in c. 412 BC in Sinope. His father, Hicesias, was a banker and mintmaster. Nothing else is known about his family.

It is believed that he also helped his father in his banking business.

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Currency Debasement Scandal

Diogenes and his father once became involved in a currency debasement scandal. The exact date of this incident is not known, and the details regarding the same are also blurry. Some sources state that it was Diogenes who defaced the currency while others claim that it was Hicesias and not Diogenes who committed the crime.

Following this incident, both Hicesias’ and Diogenes’ citizenships were snatched and the father-son duo was exiled from the city.

One popular story states that Diogenes was told to “deface the currency” when he went to the Oracle at Delphi to seek her advice. He later realized that the oracle meant defacing the “political currency” rather than actual money.

Following this realization, he decided to challenge established customs and rituals of the land.

Life In Athens

Diogenes moved to Athens and took a slave named Manes with him. Manes managed to escape, leaving his former master alone. Diogenes dealt with the situation in his characteristic stoical manner and decided that he was better off alone rather than “depending on someone.”

In Athens, Diogenes first came across Antisthenes, a student of Socrates. He was much impressed by Antisthenes and asked him to be his mentor. Antisthenes, who wasn’t in the habit of taking in students, initially refused. However, Diogenes wouldn’t give up and relentlessly pursued Antisthenes until he accepted him as a student.

In the ensuing decades, Diogenes went on to surpass Antisthenes in popularity. Also, he led a life that was even more austere than that of his master.

Diogenes was committed to leading a life as austere as possible. He was strict in his avoidance of earthly pleasures and owned very few items. He rejected all personal possessions and considered self-control to be a great virtue.

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He lived in the marketplace of Athens and took shelter in either a large wine cask or an abandoned bathtub. He owned nothing. According to a story, he once had a bowl for food and water but threw it away after he saw someone drink water with his cupped hands. 

He also had no regard for the laws and customs of the land. In Athens, it was not acceptable to eat in the marketplace. However, Diogenes disregarded the custom and would eat there even if rebuked. He also defecated in the theater, urinated on those who insulted him, and masturbated in full view of others.

He developed a practice of carrying around a lamp in broad daylight. When asked about this peculiar behavior, he would reply that he was looking for an honest man but could only see rascals and scoundrels.

According to a story that likely originated with Menippus of Gadara, Diogenes was captured by pirates while he was traveling to Aegina and was sold into slavery in Crete. His new master, whose name was Xeniades, hired him to tutor his sons. Different accounts provide varying details of his life henceforth, but it appears that Diogenes spent the rest of his life in Corinth.

In Corinth, a meeting between Alexander the Great and Diogenes supposedly took place. Different sources tell different stories about their conversation, but the allusion is that Diogenes insulted Alexander.


Along with his mentor, Antisthenes, and Crates of Thebes, Diogenes is counted amongst the founders of Cynicism. Diogenes is reported to have written over ten books and seven tragedies even though none of his works survive. 

According to Diogenes, he was a “citizen of the world” (cosmopolites) and has been credited with the first known use of this word. As an exile and outcast, he was indeed a man with no social identity in an era where a person’s identity was deeply tied to his citizenship of a specific city-state.


Diogenes lived a remarkably long life for his era. The details regarding his death are shrouded in obscurity. Some sources claim that he allegedly held his breath until he died while a few others state that he fell ill after eating raw octopus and died. According to yet another story, he was bitten by an infected dog.

He died in 323 BC. He was around 89 years old. Before he died, he left instructions for his body to be thrown outside the city wall. However, there is no record of this happening.

Facts About Diogenes Of Sinope

Diogenes of Sinope was known for his unconventional behavior and disregard for social norms, often wandering the streets with a lantern in broad daylight, claiming to be searching for an honest man.

Despite his reputation for living a simple and minimalist lifestyle, Diogenes was also known for his sharp wit and clever comebacks when engaging in philosophical debates with his contemporaries.

Diogenes used humor and satire to challenge societal conventions and question the values of wealth and power, making him a controversial figure in ancient Greece.

One of his famous acts was reportedly carrying a plucked chicken into a lecture hall, declaring, "Behold! I have brought you a man," to illustrate his belief in the essence of human nature stripped of societal constructs.

Diogenes' philosophical teachings emphasized self-sufficiency, honesty, and living in harmony with nature, inspiring later generations of thinkers to question the status quo and seek a more authentic way of life.

See the events in life of Diogenes Of Sinope in Chronological Order

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