Thursday, March 02, 2006

Naked Philosophers

I just came across the following in a section of Prudentius' Hamartigenia in which he is expounding on the wickedness of fallen man. I'm fairly certain I've never seen the italicized word before or, if I have, I don't recall it.

Inde canina foro latrat facundia toto;
hinc gerit Herculeam vilis sapientia clavam
ostentatque suos vicatim gymnosofistas,
incerat lapides fumosos idololatrix
religio et surdis pallens advolvuitur aris. (401-5)

Guess I may have to go to Pliny 7.2.2 to check it out.


Optimistic Lyricist (wu tang name) said...

Doesn't one of the biographies of Alexander the Great use that word to describe the Indian holy men?

dennis said...

It was used by several times by Philo, once Strabo, twice by Plutarch (in his lives of both Lycurgus and Alexander) and once by Lucian.

Most significantly, perhaps, Diogenes (1.1) ascribes its use to Aristotle:

Τὸ τῆς φιλοσοφίας ἔργον ἔνιοί φασιν ἀπὸ βαρβάρων ἄρξαι. γεγενῆσθαι γὰρ παρὰ μὲν Πέρσαις μάγους, παρὰ δὲ Βαβυλωνίοις ἢ Ἀσσυρίοις Χαλδαίους, καὶ γυμνοσοφιστὰς παρ’ Ἰνδοῖς, παρά τε Κελτοῖς καὶ Γαλάταις τοὺς καλουμένους δρυίδας καὶ σεμνοθέους, καθά φησιν Ἀριστοτέλης ἐν τῷ μαγικῷ καὶ Σωτίων ἐν εἰκοστῷ τρίτῳ τῆς διαδοχῆς. Φοίνικά τε γενέσθαι Ὦχον καὶ Θρᾷκα Ζάμολξιν καὶ Λίβυν Ἄτλαντα.

I sincerely doubt, though, that Aristotle believed philosophy to be a foreign invention.

eric said...

I was thinking mostly of the Latin side, so thanks much for the Greek references, folks!

Lewis and Short also connects its meaning (probably from these sources you both mention in addition to the Latin references it cites) with Indian holy men: "Indian ascetics, gymnosophists, a sect of hermits who disregarded the decencies of life, Plin. 7, 2, 2, § 22; App. Flor. p. 351; Prud. Ham. 404 al.; cf. Cic. Tusc. 5, 27, 77; Val. Max. 3, 3 ext. 6."