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I - ARISTIPPUS AND THE CYRENAICS 


Aristippus was a native of Cyrene, a Greek colony on the north coast of Africa. He is said to have come to Athens because of his desire to hear Socrates; but from the notices of him which we find in Xenophon’s memoirs he appears to have been from the first a somewhat intractable follower, dissenting especially from the poverty and self-denial of the master’s mode of life. He in course of time founded a school of his own, called the Cyrenaic from his own place of birth, and from the fact that many subsequent leaders of the school also belonged to Cyrene. Among his notable disciples were his daughter Arete, her son named Aristippus after his grandfather, Ptolemaeus the Aethiopian, Antipater of Cyrene, and a long succession of others.

Aristippus was a man of considerable subtlety of mind, a ready speaker, clever in adapting himself to persons and circumstances. On one occasion, being asked what benefit he considered philosophy had conferred upon him, he answered, “The capacity of associating with every one without embarrassment.” Philosophy, in fact, was to Aristippus a method of social culture, a means of making the best of life as he found it. As Horace observes of him (Epp. i. 17. 23)—


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