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33116.  Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:35 am Reply with quote

Q. Diogenes the cynic philosopher of Sinope at one point took up residence in a rather unusual place, where was it?

Forfeit: A barrel, bin or tub
A. A large pottery storage jar (pithos) though probably temporarily and as a form of protest that there was no other (public) place for him to sleep.

Although not necessarily attractive, or prepossessing except in size, a large (maximum dimension >60-75 cm) ceramic storage vessel presents a major test of the potter's skill. Ancient adages turn on the difficulty of making such vessels (pithos):
"I learn the potter's craft on the pithos"; a proverb upon those who skip the first lessons and immediately attempt greater things; as if anyone who was learning to be a potter, before learning to mold plates or any other small thing, should undertake a pithos." (J. V. Noble, The Techniques of Painted Attic Pottery [Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1965]).

The pithos was also used for burials.

The other Diogenes story about which there is a possible question is the one about his walking the streets with a lamp, but what was he looking for?

Potentially there may be several wrong answers. Usually the answer is given as “an honest man” but quite often as “an (honest) man”, more rarely as “a man” and in one case that I could find as “a human being”

To Plato's definition of a man as an animal, bipedal and featherless, Diogenes plucked a chicken and declared, "Here is Plato's man."

One day he shouted out for men, and when people collected, hit out at them with his stick, saying, "It was men I called for, not scoundrels."

33251.  Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:59 pm Reply with quote

The pithos was also used for burials.

Now that is something I find interesting. He is supposed to have lived there as a temporary measure, but given his well-known asceticism one wonders if it was the same sort of impulse as led John Donne to have a portrait of himself in his coffin painted.


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