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GREEK EPATAGE: The Cynical Love between Crates and Hipparchia

GREEK EPATAGE: The Cynical Love between Crates and Hipparchia
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Kylix. About 480–470 B.C. Potter Python, painter Duris. State Antique Collection. Munich /


Mankind knows many fantastic love stories. One of them took place in Athens in the 4th century B.C. Crates and Hipparchia are perhaps the most unusual «philosophical» married couple in the history of the ancient world. We will tell you about the epathetic but happy love of two professional «cynics» — in Latin pronunciation, or «kynikos» — in Greek.




Founded by Antisthenes and praised by Diogenes, the «benchmark» sage of all times and peoples, the Cynic tradition existed for almost a thousand years, right up to the end of antiquity.

The Cynics encouraged a «revaluation of values» in an almost Nietzschean sense. They ridiculed everything that was valuable to a «decent» Athenian: citizen status, gods, science, marriage, social and gender hierarchies. They proposed to live «by nature», that is, like animals, which have no houses, clothes, states, slaves, masters, and so on.

The Cynics did not marry, lived anywhere, did not cut their hair, and went barefoot. Cynic performances made them famous as dirty perverts and bums, and Diogenes was called «insane Socrates».

Who in their right mind would spit in the face of their benefactors? Or would you willingly give up power and wealth? Who would eat from garbage dumps, sleep in public baths, and walk in winter in rags?

Why chew raw meat when you can fry it? And having sex in town squares and public masturbation — is that normal? Cynic seemed to many to be a creature of disgusting inadequacy. How could such a monster love a beautiful and educated girl from a noble and wealthy family?

Nevertheless, Hipparchy fell in love with Crates.




Crates belonged to the second generation of the Cynics. In Athens, he was a metik — a stateless stranger. So were the half-breed Antisthenes, the former slave and counterfeiter Diogenes, and Hipparchy herself. Crates moved here after Alexander the Great destroyed his native Thebes in 335 BC.

In contrast to the first-generation Cynics, he was of noble birth and inherited a considerable fortune, which he voluntarily gave away. After that, he set himself a moral task — the service of virtue, before which all people are equal: metics and citizens, men and women, masters and slaves.

Unlike the unsettled Diogenes, Crates was loved for his gentle disposition and willingness to help, calling him «the opener of all doors». Many Athenians wrote on the doors: «Here is the entrance for the good genius Crates». Crates could visit such homes without an invitation. Another great philosophical school — Stoicism — was hatched from the light version of Cynicism performed by Crates. Its founder, Zeno of Citium, was a student of Crates.

Cynics taught him that if we judge only by the abundance of pleasures, then no life can not be recognized as happy. So, one must seek happiness in something else, abandoning false goals and values.

«I am a citizen of darkness and poverty, and they are impregnable to fate!» — Crates used to say.

What damage can fate do to a person who is insensitive to adversity? What can fate take away from the person of an envious person or a thief if you have nothing? When Alexander the Great offered Crates to rebuild his native Thebes, Crates refused: «Why, in case some new Alexander comes along and takes it and destroys it again?»

Barefoot, in a short cloak worn over his naked body, with a beggar’s purse and a wanderer’s staff, Crates wandered around Athens, sleeping in the streets, baths, and temples, teaching people to be happy with what they had.




Crates considered marriage a tragedy, relationships with hetaeras — comedy, and promiscuity — the road to madness. How, then, did he marry? Well, it could be said that he was taken by force. When clever and beautiful Hipparchia told her parents that she wanted to marry Crates, they were horrified.

On the one hand, Crates is a positive person: he does not drink wine, does not get dragged after skirts, and is engaged in tempering and gymnastics. On the other hand — this is a real antique bum! Moreover, not young and ugly. How could Hipparchy love such a man?

Very simply — the Metrocles advertisement worked, the brother of Hipparchy, an enthusiastic admirer of Crates. Hipparchia was determined to marry him and told her mom and dad that she would kill herself if they prevented her. Her parents grieved and gave up. The only thing left to do was to persuade Crates himself…

No matter how the poor philosopher tried to reason with the young lady in love, nothing helped. As a final argument, Crates threw off his rags and, remaining naked, announced: this is all he can give his future wife. But Hipparchy was not frightened. She got naked in response and stood beside her chosen one.


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Diogenes Laërtius reports that Hipparchia loved everything about Crates — his ugliness, his way of life, his philosophy. She made love to him in front of everyone, showing her disregard for patriarchal prejudices. She dressed like him and never left his side, even when he was begging at other people’s feasts.

In a society that lived according to the rules of the «ancient Greek household», a woman was something like a senior servant. But with Hipparchia, it was different. In marriage, she learned not only to do gymnastics, pour cold water, and be satisfied with little. She became a true philosopher and orator.

An account of her disputation with Theodorus, the Atheist, about the meaning of good and evil has been preserved.

«If there is no evil in what Theodorus does, does it not mean that there is no evil when the same thing is done by Hipparchia?» — she asked. Theodorus agreed. «And if Theodorus hits Theodorus, is there nothing wrong with that?» — she asked next. Theodorus nodded again. After that he received a weighty slap from the woman.

In retaliation, he tore his clothes and stood before Hipparchia naked, hoping that she would be offended and leave the meeting. But Hipparchia acted as if nothing had happened.

This story inspired Diogenes himself to write to her: «I admire, woman, your passion for philosophy and the fact that you have joined our school, the severity of which even many men have been deterred by». Moreover, in a letter to the inhabitants of the Thracian city of Maroneia, where Hipparchia was from, Diogenes praised them for renaming the city Hipparchia.




Paradoxically, the love story of the two Cynics demonstrates the relativity of the Cynic truths themselves. The Cynics did not believe in the creative power of love. Antisthenes considered it a «vice of nature» and even threatened to shoot Aphrodite with a bow.

Having married, Crates not only pleased the goddess but also, apparently, contrary to his beliefs, acquired some household. Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine how the couple brought up three children — a son, Pasicles, and two girls. However, judging by the letters, Crates did not abandon the cynical way of life and left the family to be homeless in Athens.

In the letters, he praises Hipparchia for not giving up athletic exercise during her pregnancy. Encourages her to take care of «our puppy», feeding her well and hardening her in cold water. And when Pasicles was old enough, he asked to send him to his father.

In Athens, Crates is said to have taken his son to a brothel first. And for daughters and their potential suitors, he invented a trial marriage for one month. Perhaps this information is fiction, although it is quite in the Cynic spirit.

However, about the immorality of Crates and Hipparchy, there were many jokes — their marriage was too unusual. But there was always a place of tender care for each other. For example, the philosopher reproaches his wife for the fact that she sends him his own hand-sewn cloak and things for the winter — is not household affairs, not philosophy was the purpose of their marriage? But the exhortations don’t work.

With signature persistence Hipparchy tries to dress up her husband, not paying attention to the fact that breaks Crates image of an ideological bum, on which he has worked for years. But apart from minor disagreements, the couple lived happily ever after.

Crates died at a very advanced age and was buried in his native Boeotia. Hipparchy outlived her famous husband. But unfortunately, we do not know anything about the fate of the woman-cynic and her children.


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