Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Alexander the Great meets Diogenes the Cynic


Fr. Rutler on EWTN's series, Christ in the City, mentioned this little story in passing, and it's just so good that I couldn't resist posting it, if only so that I can refer back to it later.
Alexander, passing through Corinth, had a curiosity to see Diogenes, who happened to be there at the time: he found him basking in the sun in the grove of Craneum, where he was mending his tub.

"I am," said he to him, "the great king Alexander."

"And I," replied the philosopher, "am the dog Diogenes."

"Are you not afraid of me?" continued Alexander.

"Are you good or bad?" asked Diogenes.

"Good," rejoined Alexander.

"And who need be afraid of one that is good?" answered Diogenes.

Alexander admired the penetration and freedom of Diogenes; and after some conversation, he said to him, "I see, Diogenes, that you are in want of many things, and I shall be happy to serve you; ask of me what you will."

"Retire, then, a little to one side," replied Diogenes, "you are depriving me of the sun."

It is no wonder that Alexander stood astonished at seeing a man so completely above every human concern.

"Which of the two is richest," continued Diogenes: "he who is content with his cloak and his bag, or he for whom a whole kingdom does not suffice, and who is daily exposing himself to a thousand dangers in order to extend it?"

The courtiers of the king were indignant that so great a monarch should thus honor such a dog as Diogenes, who did not even rise from his place. Alexander perceived it, and, turning about to them, said, "Were I not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes."
Taken from:

Lives of the Ancient Philosophers
Translated from the French of Fenelon with notes and a life of the author
by REV. JOHN Cormack, 1842, pg. 227-228

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