Hipparchia was a Cynic philosopher from Maroneia in Thrace, who flourished around 300 BCE. She became famous for her marriage to Crates the Cynic, and infamous for supposedly consummating the marriage in public. Here are 5 things you must know about Hipparchia.
- Hipparchia was a coequal to her husband Crates of Thebes. Hipparchia fell in love with Crates and his philosophy of Cynicism. Like Cynics before her, she rejected conventional values, wore the same clothes as her husband, and lived a life that was regarded as unacceptable for respectable women of her time. Hipparchia gave her parents the ultimatum that she marry Crates or she would take her own life.
- It’s commonly stated that Crates of Thebes was the teacher of Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school of Stoic philosophy. But it’s quite likely that Crates and Hipparchia both had a strong influence on Zeno and Hipparchia was also a teacher of Zeno. The coequal marriage of Crates and Hipparchia likely had a strong influence on Zeno’s creation of Stoicism. Zeno imagined a republic of Sages where men and women had equal status and were able to freely choose their own romantic partners.
- When Crates and Hipparchia wed, they consummated their marriage on a public porch and continued to have sex in public even in broad daylight. This was not inconsistent with Cynicism since Cynics were taught to do anything in public they were willing to do in private. Diogenes of Sinope, the most famous Cynic, would masturbate publicly.
- Crates regarded his marriage to Hipparchia as cynogamy or dog-coupling. Cynicism derives from dog and the Cynics likely got their name by being called dogs as an insult for shamelessly rejecting social conventions.
- It’s important to realize how much of a shock it was to Athenian society that a woman from a respectable family decided dress in simple garb like her husband and, not only rejected conventional gender roles, but rejected all conventional roles of that day. Hipparchia deliberately destroyed her previous reputation, gave up all her wealth, and lived homeless with her husband all without any shame. Hipparchia did all of this to live a life of virtue, which meant living simply in agreement with nature.