Born in Thebes, Crates (c. 365-285 B.C.) moved to Athens, where he was won over by the example of Diogenes of Sinope (c. 400-325 B.C.) and became famous for the whole-hearted way in which he embraced Cynic doctrine. The main source for his life is Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Philosophers, an edition of which was published in Venice in 1606; Julian (Oratio, 201b) relates the fact that Crates was deformed, and laughed at his game leg and hunched shoulders. The meaning of the inscription is not fully known, but the first four initials are taken as representing either Paupertatis Quaesitor, Philosophus Crates or Paupertatis Quaesitores, Philosophi Cynici.
The Cynics, whose name derives from Diogenes' nickname, kyon [the dog], developed no elaborate philosophical system and were never organized into a school, so in practice they embraced a range of beliefs while maintaining as their central tenet that self-sufficiency could bring contentment in all the vicissitudes of life. Crates originated the type of Cynic philosopher who wandered the Greek world with stick and knapsack, the frequent object of mockery. Having renounced his large fortune, and restricting himself to absolute necessities, he achieved a high-degree of self-sufficiency; in this picture he is represented in rags, pointing to discarded gold coins, a symbol of the wealth he distributed to the poor. His wife, Hipparchia, the daughter of a rich family, threatened suicide in order to persuade her parents to let her share his life.