Before grunge, before punk, before monks renouncing this "evil world" for the purity of the desert, there was Diogenes. If Plato codified and, to some extent, "created" Western philosophy, then Diogenes lit a stink bomb at Plato's Academy and sent all the earnest young students scrambling for fresh air: what they didn't realize was that Diogenes WAS that fresh air. Listen to his dismissal of the great man of the West: "Plato winces when I track dust across his rugs: he knows that I'm walking on his vanity." And how about his summary of the state of Greek culture in the mid-fourth century B.C.E.: "Men nowhere, but real boys at Sparta." Nor did his satiric bite exempt his own condition: "When I die, throw me to the wolves. I'm used to it." How many of Plato's dialogues deliver a message as direct as this one?: "I threw away my cup when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough."
In pithy saying after saying, Diogenes makes it clear that he has "broken through"
to the freedom of being owned neither by his possessions nor
by society's limitations, all of which is in some sly way conveyed
by his opening [in Davenport's translation] salvo: "I have come
to debase the coinage." And, oh yes, this translation includes all
the meaningful fragments of Herakleitos as well. But once you
have read Diogenes, Herakleitos will seem like the stodgiest
old coot you've ever heard of, except maybe for Plato. [Updated versions
of these translations are also available in Davenport's 7 GREEKS, which also includes the "complete" works of Sappho, Archilochos, Alkman, Anakreon and Herondas.]