Nothing is harder to direct than a man in prosperity; nothing more easily managed than one is adversity. — Plutarch

Story of the Greeks - Helene Guerber

Alexander and Diogenes

Everybody bowed down before Alexander, and all looked at him with awe and respect, as he made his triumphant progress through Greece,—all except the sage Diogenes.

This man belonged to a class of philosophers who were called "cynics," which means "doglike," because, as some say, they did not care for the usual comforts of life.

It is said that Diogenes, the principal philosopher of this kind, chose as his home a great earthenware tub near the Temple of Ceres. He wore a rough woolen cloak, summer and winter, as his only garment, and ate all his food raw. His only utensil was a wooden bowl, out of which he drank.

One day, however, he saw a child drinking out of its hollow palm. Diogenes immediately threw away the bowl, saying he could do without luxury as well as the child; and he drank henceforth from his hand.

As you see, Diogenes was a very strange man. He prided himself upon always telling the truth, and upon treating all men alike. Some of his disciples once met him wandering about the streets with a lantern, anxiously peering into every nook and corner, and staring fixedly at every person he met. When asked what he was looking for so carefully, yet apparently with so little hope, he bluntly answered, "An honest man."

Alexander had heard of this queer philosopher, and was anxious to see him. He therefore went to the Temple of Ceres, escorted by all his courtiers, on purpose to visit him. Diogenes was lying on the ground in front of his tub, warming himself in the rays of the sun.

Alexander, drawing near, stood between the philosopher and the sun, and tried to begin a conversation; but Diogenes gave surly answers, and seemed to pay little heed to his visitor.

At last the young king proudly remarked, "I am Alexander the king!"

"And I," replied the philosopher in exactly the same tone, "am Diogenes the cynic!"

As he could win nothing but short or rude answers, Alexander was about to go away, but he first asked the sage if there was anything he could do for him. "Yes," snapped Diogenes; "stand out of my sunshine!"

The courtiers were shocked at this insolent behavior, and began to talk of the philosopher in a scornful tone as they were moving away. Alexander, overhearing them, soon stopped them by saying, "If I were not Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes."

By this remark he wished them to understand, that, if he could not be master of all earthly things, he would rather despise them.

Strange to relate, Alexander the king, and Diogenes the cynic, died on the same night, and from the same cause. Diogenes died in his tub, after a too plentiful supper from the raw leg of an ox; while Alexander breathed his last in a Babylonian palace, after having eaten and drunk to excess at a rich banquet.


Front Matter

Early Inhabitants of Greece
The Deluge of Ogyges
Founding of Important Cities
Story of Deucalion
Daedalus and Icarus
The Adventures of Jason
Theseus Visits the Labyrinth
The Terrible Prophecy
The Sphinx's Riddle
Death of Oedipus
The Brothers' Quarrel
The Taking of Thebes
The Childhood of Paris
Muster of the Troops
Sacrifice of Iphigenia
The Wrath of Achilles
Death of Hector and Achilles
The Burning of Troy
Heroic Death of Codrus
The Blind Poet
The Rise of Sparta
The Spartan Training
The Brave Spartan Boy
Public Tables in Sparta
Laws of Lycurgus
The Messenian War
The Music of Tyrtaeus
Aristomenes' Escape
The Olympic Games
Milo of Croton
The Jealous Athlete
The Girls' Games
The Bloody Laws of Draco
The Laws of Solon
The First Plays
The Tyrant Pisistratus
The Tyrant's Insult
Death of the Conspirators
Hippias Driven out of Athens
The Great King
Hippias Visits Darius
Destruction of the Persian Host
Advance of the Second Host
The Battle of Marathon
Miltiades' Disgrace
Aristides the Just
Two Noble Spartan Youths
The Great Army
Preparations for Defense
Leonidas at Thermopylae
Death of Leonidas
The Burning of Athens
Battles of Salamis and Plataea
The Rebuilding of Athens
Death of Pausanias
Cimon Improves Athens
The Earthquake
The Age of Pericles
Teachings of Anaxagoras
Peloponnesian War Begins
Death of Pericles
The Philosopher Socrates
Socrates' Favorite Pupil
Youth of Alcibiades
Greek Colonies in Italy
Alcibiades in Disgrace
Death of Alcibiades
Overthrow of Thirty Tyrants
Accusation of Socrates
Death of Socrates
The Defeat of Cyrus
Retreat of the Ten Thousand
Agesilaus in Asia
A Strange Interview
The Peace of Antalcidas
The Theban Friends
Thebes Free Once More
The Battle of Leuctra
Death of Pelopidas
The Battle of Mantinea
The Tyrant of Syracuse
Damon and Pythias
The Sword of Damocles
Dion and Dionysius
Civil War in Syracuse
Death of Dion
Philip of Macedon
Philip Begins His Conquests
The Orator Demosthenes
Philip Masters Greece
Birth of Alexander
The Steed Bucephalus
Alexander as King
Alexander and Diogenes
Alexander's Beginning
The Gordian Knot
Alexander's Royal Captives
Alexander at Jerusalem
The African Desert
Death of Darius
Defeat of Porus
Return to Babylon
Death of Alexander
Division of the Realm
Death of Demosthenes
Last of the Athenians
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Battle of Ipsus
Demetrius and the Athenians
The Achaean League
Division in Sparta
Death of Agis
War of the Two Leagues
The Last of the Greeks
Greece a Roman Province