Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Diogenes vs Theresa May

Magazine article The Spectator

Ancient and Modern: Diogenes vs Theresa May

Article excerpt

'If you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere,' proclaimed Theresa May in a speech to the Conservative party conference. Oh dear! And her a vicar's daughter too!

'Cosmopolitan' derives from the ancient Greek kosmos 'world' plus politês , 'enfranchised member of a polis , citizen'. It was a word used by the 4th century BC philosopher Diogenes to describe himself when he was asked where he came from. Famous for living 'like a dog' (kunikos , whence 'cynic') and rejecting all conventional values, it seems that he was claiming to be an example of a man wholly in tune with nature and existing on a higher plane of virtue that should embrace the whole world.

Diogenes was taking to extremes an idea that Greeks had been debating for some time, that there were values that rose about local concerns and tied all humanity together. It was Roman Stoic thinkers who developed this debate in a world that was becoming increasingly 'cosmopolitan' in itself as the Roman Empire expanded from Britain in the west to Persia in the east and North Africa and Egypt in the south. …

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