Now Alexander was in Corinth to take command of the League of Greek States which after conquering them, his father Philip had created as a disguise for the New Macedonian Order. He was welcomed and honored and flattered. He was the man of the hour, of the century: he was unanimously appointed commander-in-chief of a new expedition against old, rich, corrupt Asia. Nearly everyone crowded to Corinth in order to congratulate him, to seek employment with him, even simply to see him: soldiers and statesmen, artists and merchants, poets and philosophers.
Alexander received their compliments graciously. Only Diogenes, although he lived in Corinth, did not visit the new monarch. With that generosity which Aristotle had taught him was a quality of the truly magnanimous man, Alexander determined to call upon Diogenes. Surely Dio-genes, the God-born, would acknowledge the conqueror’s power by some gift of hoarded wisdom.
With is handsome face, his fiery glance, his strong supple body, his purple and gold cloak, and his air of destiny, he moved through the parting crowd, toward the Dog’s kennel. When a king approaches, all rise in respect. Diogenes did not rise, he merely sat up on one elbow. When a monarch enters a precinct, all greet him with a bow or an acclamation. Diogenes said nothing.
There was a silence. Some years later Alexander speared his best friend to the wall, for objecting to the exaggerated honors paid to His Majesty; but now he was still young and civil. He spoke first, with a kindly greeting. Looking at the poor broken cask, the single ragged garment, and the rough figure lying on the ground, he said, “Is there anything I can do for you Diogenes?”
“Yes,” said the Dog. “Stand to one side. You’re blocking the sunlight.”
There was silence, not the ominous silence preceding a burst of fury, but a hush of amazement. Of incredulity. Slowly, Alexander turned away. A titter broke out from the elegant Greeks, who were already beginning to make jokes about the Cur that looked at the king. The Macedonian officers, after deciding that Diogenes was not worth the trouble of kicking, were starting to guffaw and nudge one another. Alexander was still silent.
To those nearest him, Alexander said quietly, “If I were not Alexander, I should be Diogenes.” They took it as a paradox, designed to close the awkward little scene with a polite curtain line. But Alexander meant it. He understood Cynicism as the others could not. Later he took one of Diogenes pupils with him to India a
philosophical interpreter. He was what Diogenes called himself, a “cosmopolites,” a citizen of the world. Like Diogenes, he admired the heroic figure of Hercules, the mighty conqueror who labors to help mankind while all others toil and sweat only for themselves. He knew that of all men then alive in the world only Alexander the conqueror and Diogenes the beggar were truly free.
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Diogenes was gathering figs and had just filled his bag when a stranger came along the road. “I wouldn’t touch this fruit! A man hung himself from the tree just the other day,” warned the man, obviously believing the tree to be cursed.
By way of answer, Diogenes sank his teeth into the fig he was holding. Sucking, as one would suck venom from a wound, he proclaimed, “Thus I purify the tree.”
Agog, the man stood there marvelling while Diogenes walked off.
Passing a stream, Diogenes saw a boy drinking out of his hands. “A child has beaten me in simplicity,” he said, throwing away his cup.
A young man contemplating marriage sought advice from Diogenes. “Should I marry?”
“Marriage is too soon for a young man”
“Would you have me wait then until I am old.”
“Oh no, Marriage is far too late for an old man.”
“What am I to do then? I love the girl.”
“Love is a luxury no one can afford. It is for those who have nothing better to do.”
“What should we be doing then?”
“To seek freedom. But it is not possible to be free if you have a wife and children.”
“But having a wife and family is so agreeable.”
“Then you see the problem, young man. Freedom would not be so difficult to attain were prison not so sweet.”
“You mean to be free is to be alone?”
“We come into the world alone and we die alone. Why, in life, should we be any less alone?”
“To live, then, is terrible.”
“No, not to live, but to live in chains.”
Asked about his worst nightmare, Diogenes said, “Waking to find myself living in a palace and everyone else in barrels.”. Read More:http://members.optushome.com.au/davidquinn000/Diogenes%20Folder/Diogenes.html