15 Jun Menippus (flourished third century bc) (SIMON CRITCHLEY)
He was a Phoenician and originally a slave who practised usury, apparently with great success, and became a citizen of Thebes, presumably a rich one. So the story goes, he was robbed of all his money and hanged himself in despair. Menippus was a follower of Diogenes and perhaps the most cynical, in the modern sense, of the Cynics. He was certainly the Cynic most prone to laughter, a delightfully cruel ribaldry. Although none of his writings survives, he is known through a literary genre that he inspired: Menippean satire, whose great exponents are Petronius and Lucian. In the latter’s Dialogues of the Dead, Menippus is the consummate anti-hero, summoned down to Hades to laugh at the complaints of the formerly rich and powerful, like Midas and Croesus, and the inanities of the philosophers like Socrates, who is depicted chasing boys in Hades (old habits die hard). Menippus refuses to pay Charon, ferryman to the underworld, and acquires the admiration of Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound. It is a case of one dog admiring another. Cerberus concludes their dialogue by saying,
You alone were a credit to your breed–you and Diogenes before you, because you came in without having to be forced or pushed, but of your own accord, laughing and cursing at everyone.
The Book of Dead Philosophers