Cosmos of the Ancients
The Greek Philosophers on Myth and Cosmology
ntisthenes (circa 446-366 BC), called the Cynic, student of Gorgias and then Socrates, is often in the literature mentioned as one to interpret the gods as personifications of natural forces. In the remainder of his works, though, there is little to support it. He wrote about myths, and judging from the long list of his books in Diogenes Laertius, he did so repeatedly - but a majority of the titles obviously deal with the ethics of living, of personal ideals for man.
This includes the legendary figure he seems to have pondered the most, Heracles, whose nobility, virtue and heroic qualities were like honey to the mind of Antisthenes. Personal virtue and stamina is also the subject in practically all of the quotes from him, which Diogenes Laertius includes in his text, spanning several pages.
Concerning the gods, ancient sources claim that he made a distinction between the god of nature and the multitude of gods worshiped by men. Cicero complains:
Antisthenes also, in his book entitled The Natural Philosopher, says that while there are many gods of popular belief, there is one god in nature, so depriving divinity of all meaning or substance.
This view would, of course, give Antisthenes ambiguous feelings about the myths of Homer and Hesiod, but contains no indication of any particularly allegorical interpretation of them. The passage in Xenophon's Symposium (3.5), regarding 'underlying meanings' (hyponoiai) in Homer's texts, usually referred to, actually shows Socrates holding such views, whereas Antisthenes hardly seems to be familiar with the term. His interest in the myths remains ethical.
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
, translated by R. D. Hicks, volume II, Loeb, London 1950.
Cicero, De natura deorum, 1.13.32, translated by H. Rackham, Loeb, London 1979.
Rankin, H.D., Antisthenes Sokratikos, Amsterdam 1986.
© Stefan Stenudd 2000
The Greek Philosophers
Cosmos of the Ancients - the Book
The material on this website about the Greek philosophers and what they thought about cosmology, myth, and the gods, is now a book. It can be ordered at the Internet bookstores - printed or as a Kindle ebook. Both contain the footnotes with additional explanations as well as literary sources. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
All about the peaceful Japanese martial art.
A system of jo (staff) and ken (sword) exercises for aikido students.
My paintings, drawings, photos and video art.
My writing - fiction as well as non-fiction.
What the Greek philosophers thought about the cosmos, the gods and the myths.
Myth, its psychology and archetypes.
Essays on various intriguing topics.
My reviews of film, TV, and music.
My Other Websites
Myths in general and myths of creation in particular.
Qi (also spelled chi or ki) explained, with exercises to increase it.
An encyclopedia of life energy concepts around the world.
The wisdom of Taoism and the Tao Te Ching, its primary source.
The ancient Chinese system of divination and free online reading.
Tarot card meanings in divination and a free online spread.
The complete horoscope and how to read it.
Zodiac sign astrology, explaining each sign and its meaning.
My Facebook page.
My Twitter account.
My Amazon Author page.
My YouTube account with aikido videos.
My YouTube account Aravadia, with art videos and poetry.
My Swedish website.
Click the header to get to the webpage where I present all my books in English. Click an image below to go to that book's page on Amazon.
I'm a Swedish writer
of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist
, an historian of ideas
and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor
. Click the header to read my full bio.