Home  »  Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men  »  Diogenes

S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.


  • [A Cynic philosopher; born at Sinope, in Asia Minor; lived at Athens, where he affected a contempt for the customs of society; being taken by pirates, was sold as a slave in Crete, but was kindly treated; died at Corinth, 323 B.C., aged about ninety.]
  • Habit is second nature.

  • Cicero gives us the Latin form, “Consuetudo quasi altera natura,” (De Finibus, 5, 25); and, “Great is the power of habit” (Consuetudinis magna vis est) (Tusc. Disp. 2, 17). Ovid says that “nothing is stronger than habit” (nil consuetudine majus); and Quintus Curtius Rufus thinks habit to be not merely a second nature, but stronger than nature (Consuetudo naturâ potentior est).
  • I am seeking a man.

  • When seen groping about with a lighted lantern at midday, and asked what he was seeking. Doubted by Fournier, because Diogenes Laërtius has not mentioned it. Lanterns are mentioned by Æschylus and Aristophanes. When Dionysius asked Plato what business he had in Sicily, the philosopher replied, “I came to seek an honest man.”—PLUTARCH: Life of Dion. Frederick the Great, writing to d’Alembert, after the latter had refused the presidency of the Berlin Academy, said, “I have been more fortunate than Diogenes, for I have found the man for whom he searched so long” (car j’ai trouvé l’homme qu’il a cherché si longtemps.)
  • To show his contempt of Plato’s definition of a man, as “a featherless biped,” Diogenes exhibited a plucked cock, saying, “Here is Plato’s man;” Franklin called man “a tool-making animal;” and Democritus was more comprehensive, “’Tis all that we see and know.”
  • But I am not derided.

  • To some one who said to him, “They deride you.” He accounted those only to be ridiculed, says Plutarch, who feel the ridicule, and are discomposed by it.—Life of Fabius Maximus.
  • When asked how it was that philosophers were the followers of rich men, and not rich men of philosophers, he replied, “But the one sort know what they have need of, and the other do not.”
  • He threw away the only utensil he had,—a shell with which he drank,—after seeing a boy drink from the hollow of his hand. “He teaches me,” said Diogenes, “that I preserve an unnecessary utensil.”—SENECA: Epistles, 21.
  • Seeing a magnificent bridge over a small stream, he remarked, “The people would do well to sell their bridge to buy water.”
  • When asked why he offered his hand to a statue, he replied, “To accustom myself to a refusal.”
  • He replied to the question, what beast’s bite was the most dangerous, “If you mean wild beasts, the slanderer’s; if tame ones, the flatterer’s.”
  • When a man of bad reputation put over his door, “Let nothing bad enter here,” Diogenes asked, “Where does the owner enter?”
  • “I can govern men,” he said, when exposed for sale in Crete: “therefore sell me to some one who needs a master.” He was purchased by Xeniades, a rich citizen of Corinth, by whom he was treated kindly.
  • When asked by his physician, on awaking during his last illness, how he was, Diogenes replied, “Nothing, sir, only one brother anticipates another,—Sleep before Death.”