Sacred Texts  Classics  Lucian  Fowler Index  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 107



Diogenes. Pollux

Diog. Pollux, I have a commission for you; next time you go up--and I think it is your turn for earth to-morrow--if you come across Menippus the Cynic--you will find him about the Craneum at Corinth, or in the Lyceum, laughing at the philosophers' disputes--well, give him this message:--Menippus, Diogenes advises you, if mortal subjects for laughter begin to pall, to come down below, and find much richer material; where you are now, there is always a dash of uncertainty in it; the question will always intrude--who can be quite sure about the hereafter? Here, you can have your laugh out in security, like me; it is the best of sport to see millionaires, governors, despots, now mean and insignificant; you can only tell them by their lamentations, and the spiritless despondency which is the legacy of better days. Tell him this, and mention that he had better stuff his wallet with plenty of lupines, and any un-considered trifles he can snap up in the way of pauper doles 1 or lustral eggs 2.

Pol. I will tell him, Diogenes. But give me some idea of his appearance.

Diog. Old, bald, with a cloak that allows him plenty of light

p. 108

and ventilation, and is patched all colours of the rainbow; always laughing, and usually gibing at pretentious philosophers.

Pol. Ah, I cannot mistake him now.

Diog. May I give you another message to those same philosophers?

Pol. Oh, I don't mind; go on.

Diog. Charge them generally to give up playing the fool, quarrelling over metaphysics, tricking each other with horn and crocodile puzzles 1 and teaching people to waste wit on such absurdities.

Pol. Oh, but if I say anything against their wisdom, they will call me an ignorant blockhead.

Diog. Then tell them from me to go to the devil.

Pol. Very well; rely upon me.

Diog. And then, my most obliging of Polluxes, there is this for the rich:--O vain fools, why hoard gold? why all these pains over interest sums and the adding of hundred to hundred, when you must shortly come to us with nothing beyond the dead-penny?

Pol. They shall have their message too.

Diog. Ah, and a word to the handsome and strong; Megillus of Corinth, and Damoxenus the wrestler will do. Inform them that auburn locks, eyes bright or black, rosy cheeks, are as little in fashion here as tense muscles or mighty shoulders; man and man are as like as two peas, tell them, when it comes to bare skull and no beauty.

Pol. That is to the handsome and strong; yes, I can manage that.

Diog. Yes, my Spartan, and here is for the poor. There are a great many of them, very sorry for themselves and resentful of their helplessness. Tell them to dry their tears and cease their cries; explain to them that here one man is as good as

p. 109

another, and they will find those who were rich on earth no better than themselves. As for your Spartans, you will not mind scolding them, from me, upon their present degeneracy?

Pol. No, no, Diogenes; leave Sparta alone; that is going too far; your other commissions I will execute.

Diog. Oh, well, let them off, if you care about it; but tell all the others what I said.



107:1 In the Greek, 'a Hecate's repast lying at a street corner.' 'Rich men used to make offerings to Hecate on the 30th of every month as Goddess of roads at street corners; and these offerings were at once pounced upon by the poor, or, as here, the Cynics.' Jacobitz.

107:2 'Eggs were often used as purificatory offerings and set out in front of the house purified.' Id.

108:1 See Puzzles in Notes.

Next: II