A Cynic’s take on the games

by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse


Diogenes met Kikermos, the Olympic pankration champion, on the road. Kikermos was followed by a cheering crowd.  Diogenes asked Kikermos why these people were so enamored with him.

“I beat everyone at the pankration,” Kikermos replied.

“Oh! So you beat everyone at the pankration, even Zeus?” Diogenes asked.

“No! I beat all those who entered the pankration”

“Hm.  So you beat the little boys who entered the junior division?”

“No!  I bet all the men who entered the pankration, in the men’s division.”

“Oh, so you beat them all in one giant brawl?

“No! I beat all the men in one-on-one contests.”

“Oh, so since you beat all the men, that’s how you beat yourself?”

“No! I only beat all the others.”

“Oh, so were they stronger than you?”

“No! I was stronger than them!”

“Hm. So why is it such a great feat for you to defeat all these others that are weaker than you?”


Diogenes watched the Olympic races, hoping to see examples of excellence.  Upon seeing a heat of runners finish, he crept up to the winner’s stand and stole all the prizes for first place. He hustled to the woods nearby and deposited them there.

He returned and announced what he had done, because he had determined that though there are runners at the games that are faster than others, none are faster than the deer that live in the wilds.  So none here should be allowed to claim the prize for ‘the fastest.’ Read more »