From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
In current speech, the word 'cynicism' generally describes the opinions of those who maintain that self-interest is the primary motive of human behavior, and are disinclined to rely upon sincerity, human virtue, or altruism as motivations.
The Cynics were an influential group of philosophers from the ancient school of Cynicism. Their philosophy was that the purpose of life was to live a life of Virtue in agreement with Nature. This meant rejecting all conventional desires for wealth, power, health, and fame, and by living a life free from all possessions. As reasoning creatures, people could gain happiness by rigorous training and by living in a way which was natural for humans. They believed that the world belonged equally to everyone, and that suffering was caused by false judgments of what was valuable and by the worthless customs and conventions which surrounded society. Many of these thoughts were later absorbed into Stoicism.
The first philosopher to outline these themes was Antisthenes, who had been a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BCE. He was followed by Diogenes of Sinope, who lived in a tub on the streets of Athens, took Cynicism to its logical extremes, and came to be seen as the archetypal Cynic philosopher. He was followed by Crates of Thebes who gave away a large fortune so he could live a life of Cynic poverty in Athens. Cynicism spread with the rise of Imperial Rome in the 1st century, and Cynics could be found begging and preaching throughout the cities of the Empire. It finally disappeared in the late 5th century, although many of its ascetic and rhetorical ideas were adopted by early Christians.
- Antisthenes (c. 445-c. 365 BCE), Pupil of Socrates.
- Diogenes (c. 412-323 BCE), The archetypal Cynic.
- Onesicritus (c. 360-c. 290 BCE), Historian of Alexander the Great.
- Crates (c. 365-c. 285 BCE), Cynic teacher of Zeno of Citium.
- Hipparchia (c. 325 BCE), Wife of Crates.
- Metrocles (c. 325 BCE), Brother of Hipparchia.
- Bion of Borysthenes (c. 325-c. 255 BCE), Cynic satirist and diatribist.
- Menippus (c. 275 BCE), Cynic satirist.
- Cercidas (c. 250 BCE), Cynic poet.
- Teles (c. 235 BCE), Cynic teacher and writer.
Roman era Cynics:
- Demetrius (c. 10-c. 80), Cynic friend of Seneca.
- Demonax (c. 70-c. 170), Cynic praised by Lucian.
- Oenomaus (c. 120), Cynic critic of religion.
- Peregrinus Proteus (c. 95-167), Cynic who killed himself at the Olympics.
- Sallustius (c. 430-c. 500), Neoplatonist who became a Cynic.