Monday, November 11, 2013

The “Dog-Marriage”

Crates and Hipparchia

In a previous posting I talked about the Greek thinker Diogenes, the founder of Cynicism.1 Here I will discuss an altogether different person or should I say persons. Has mentioned in the previous posting Diogenes was a dour, sullen, misanthropic unpleasant individual, and on top of that he practiced a very difficult, severe and hard way of life. This would of course make it rather difficult to attract followers, but Diogenes did indeed attract followers. This included the remarkable Crates and his wife Hipparchia.

Now Crates was born in Thebes sometime around 360 B.C.E. and died c. 280 B.C.E.2 From what we know it appears that Crates was born to a very wealthy family in Thebes and for reasons which are obscure became very unhappy, dissatisfied with his way of life.

To quote an ancient source:

So he sold all his property – for he came from a prominent family – and collecting together two hundred talents by that means, he distributed the money among his fellow citizens.

Diocles reports that Diogenes persuaded him to abandon his land to sheep pasture and to throw any money he possessed into the Sea.3

Upon becoming a disciple of Diogenes he moved to Athens, where like Diogenes he lived in the streets. Unlike Diogenes, who was a misanthrope, he was an amiable joker fond of having fun. He eventually succeeded to the head of the Cynic movement when Diogenes died.  He would it is said:

visited households in which there was discord, and to have settled quarrels with words of peace.

He was called the Door-Opener because he would fearlessly enter whatever house he wished.4

And finally the following:

Crates, the famous pupil of Diogenes, was honoured by his contemporaries in Athens as though he were a household god. No house was ever closed to him, and no father of a family ever had such a dark secret that Crates was excluded from becoming involved, fittingly and seasonably, in his capacity as arbiter and mediator in all family disputes and quarrels. The poets recount how Heracles of old, through his indomitable courage, vanquished dreadful monsters, human and animal alike, and cleared the whole world of them; and this philosophical Heracles achieved just the same in his combat against anger, envy, greed, and lust, and all other monstrous and shameful urges of the human soul. All those plagues he drove out of people’s minds, purifying households and taming vice,…5

Crates was surprisingly married and his wife Hipparchia was in her own way just as remarkable has Crates and became a philosopher also. Hipparchia was a sister to Metrocles a disciple of Crates and she was smitten with the Cynic way of life and with Crates it seems; for she threatened her parents with suicide if she wasn’t allowed to marry him. Crates tried to talk her out of it:

And he made every effort, [Crates to talk her out of marrying him] until finally, on finding himself unable to persuade her, he stood up, removed all his clothing right in front of her, and said, ‘Here is your bridegroom, here are his possessions, make your choice accordingly; for you will be no fit companion for me if you do not share the same way of life.’6

Well Hipparchia married him and the marriage proved to be a happy one for them both. They had a son named Pasicles. They called their marriage a “Dog-Marriage”. This marriage was happy despite the fact that Crates and Hipparchia had no abode and lived outside. In fact in accordance with Cynic doctrine Crates and Hipparchia even had sex in public!7

It appears that Crates and Hipparchia had what was more or less a marriage of equals and a telling indication of that is that Crates and his Hipparchia would go to banquets together or not at all. In an age in which banquets were basically male only get togethers, except for slaves and prostitutes / entertainers, that was unusual. Further Hipparchia became a noted philosopher in her own right. Sadly like Crates we have no surviving writings from her.8

Later in antiquity letters alleged to have been written by Crates were published. All those letters can be dismissed has later inventions. They are useful only in telling us what later generations thought were the teachings of Crates and the others.9

Basically the only way to get to know Crates and Hipparchia is through stories about their sayings and doings. I have given a few of the stories above here I will give a few more.

When Demetrios of Phaleron sent him [Crates] some bread and wine, he reproached him saying, ‘If only the springs brought forth loaves of bread too!’ So it is plain he drank water alone.10


He [Crates] said that one should not accept gifts from anyone whatever, for it is not right that virtue should call on the support of vice.11


Although he had only a knapsack and a rough cloak, Crates spent his whole life laughing and joking as though he were at a festival.12

Crates also apparently wrote verses some of which survived. Such as this Hymn to Frugality:

Hail, Goddess and Queen, beloved of the wise,
Frugality, worthy offspring of glorious Temperance,
Your virtues are honoured by all who practice righteousness.13

About Hipparchia we have very little in terms of sayings and doings but we do have this story:

And once when she went to sup with Lysimachus, she attacked Theodorus, who was surnamed the Atheist; proposing to him the following sophism; "What Theodorus could not be called wrong for doing, that same thing Hipparchia ought not to be called wrong for doing. But Theodorus does no wrong when he beats himself; therefore Hipparchia does no wrong when she beats Theodorus." He made no reply to what she said, but only pulled her clothes about; but Hipparchia was neither offended nor ashamed, as many a woman would have been; but when he said to her :

"Who is the woman who has left the shuttle So near the warp?"

"I, Theodorus, am that person," she replied; "but do I appear to you to have come to a wrong decision, if I devote that time to philosophy, which I otherwise should have spent at the loom?"14

Such indeed was the marriage of Hipparchia and Crates and if unconventional, to put it mildly, at least it seems to have been happy for them both and by the simple fact of being happy set an example despite it being a Cynical, (Used here in the ancient sense of “doglike” as in the “dog” or Cynic school of philosophy.), marriage, for it appears to have been ann example of marital harmony and concord. It is said that in this world there is always someone for each of us and it appears Crates and Hipparchia were made for each other.

1. See Here.

2. Hand, Robin, Introduction, in Diogenes the Cynic: Saying and Anecdotes with other Popular Moralists, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012, pp. vii-xxviii, at xxvii.

3. IBID, pp. 87-88. Quoting Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Life of Crates, Book 6, s. 85-89, see also Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Life of Crates, Book 6, at Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers  Here

4. IBID, Hand, p. 89, quoting Suda, Crates.

5. IBID Hand, p. 90, quoting Apuleius, Florida, s. 22.

6. IBID, Hand, pp. 99-100, quoting Diogenes Laertius, and Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Life of Hipparchia, Book 6, at Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers  Here.

7. IBID, Hand,  pp. 100-101, quoting Suda, Crates, Musonius, Musonius, Book 15, p. 70, 11-17, Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book 1, s. 4, Book 3, s. 24.

8. Green Peter, Alexander to Actium, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 1990, p. 617, and Hand, p. 100, Diogenes Laertius, Book 6, Life of Hipparchia.

9. Hand, Introduction, p. xxv.

10. Hand, p. 90, quoting Diogenes Laetrius, Book 6, Life of Crates.

11. IBID, quoting Antonius, Melissa, Book 1, s. 29.

12. IBID, p. 91, quoting Plutarch, On Tranquillity of Mind, s. 4, 466e.

13. IBID, p. 95, quoting The Greek Anthology, Book 10, s. 104.

14. Diogenes Laertius, Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Life of Hipparchia, Book 6, at Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers  Here. See also Hand, p. 100.

Pierre Cloutier

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