Crates of Thebes was Diogenes the Cynic’s most famous pupil and the main teacher of Zeno of Citium, the founder of Stoicism.
Glorious children of Mnemosyne and Olympian Zeus,
Pierian Muses, hearken to my prayer!
Grant me food without fail for my belly,
Which has ever made my life simple and unenslaved…
Make me useful rather than sweet to my friends.
Glorious goods I do not wish to gather, as one
Who yearns for the wealth of a beetle or riches of an ant;
No, I wish to possess righteousness and collect riches
Which are easily borne, easily gained, and conducive to virtue.
If these I win, I will propitiate Hermes and the holy Muses
Not with costly offering but with pious virtues.
From the Emperor Julian, the Apostate’s Orations. This is a Cynic appropriation of a famous verse-prayer by Solon, the Athenian sage and statesman. Solon prayed for prosperity and reputation, and to be sweet (pleasing) to his friends. Crates, makes a pointed contrast by praying instead for just enough food as the body naturally requires, enough “riches” to survive and live simply, and he seeks to be useful rather than pleasant to his friends, by helping to make them better (more virtuous) people, even if that sometimes requires harsh words or actions. Virtue replaces wealth, throughout, as the chief good in human life, being likewise what the gods value.
2 replies on “The Cynic Prayer of Crates”
Who was Julian? Does this refer to Julian the Apostate, the emperor? Thanks.