Portrait of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes


British Museum

British Museum

Antisthenes (about 450-370 BC) came to be regarded as the founder of the Cynic school of philosophy. Cynic means 'dog-like', and the name refers to the unworldliness of Antisthenes and his followers. Diogenes of Sinope, who made his home in a barrel, was a follower of the Cynic school. Antisthenes was an associate of Socrates and, like him, argued that virtue could be learned, and that it was essential to the attainment of true happiness. However, he took Socratic unworldliness to extremes and deliberately avoided all pleasure. Antisthenes died in 370 BC. This image appears to have been created - perhaps on the basis of an earlier portrait - in Pergamon (Pergamum), a Greek city of Asia Minor, in the late third or early second century BC. The wild hair, ragged beard, arched eyebrows, furrowed brow, prominent nose and hooded deep-set eyes are all features of a generalized philosopher type developed for the library of Pergamon, capital of one of the great Hellenistic dynasties. Features indicative of a specific individual were overlaid on this general type. The Pergamon Library portraits were much copied in the Roman period. This one was found with copies of others near the Via Appia outside Rome.

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  • Title: Portrait of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes
  • Date Created: -250/-100
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 39.37cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: philosopher
  • Registration number: 1873,0820.724
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Rome. Excavated/Findspot Via Appia
  • Period/culture: Roman; Hellenistic
  • Material: marble
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Castellani, Alessandro