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Portrait of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes


Height: 39.250 cm

GR 1873.8-20.724 (Sculpture 1838)

Room 22: Alexander the Great

    Portrait of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes

    Roman, copy of a lost Greek original of around 300 BC
    From Rome, Italy

    Founder of the Cynic school of Greek philosophy.

    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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    On display: Room 22: Alexander the Great

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