Alexander and Diogenes

Now when Alexander the Great appeared before the Greek leaders in Corinth, they greeted him warmly and paid him lavish compliments – all of them, that is but one. A funny fellow, a philosopher named Diogenes.

Diogenes had views not unlike those of the Buddha. According to him, possessions and all the things we think we need only serve to distract us and get in the way of our simple enjoyment of life. So he had given away everything he owned and now sat, almost naked, in a barrel in the market square in Corinth where he lived, free and independent like a stray dog.

Curious to meet this strange fellow, Alexander went to call on him. Dressed in shining armour, the plume on his helmet waving in the breeze, he walked up to the barrel and said to Diogenes: “I like you. Let me know your wish and I shall grant it.”

Diogenes, who had until then been comfortably sunning himself, replied: ‘Indeed, Sire, I have a wish.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Your shadow has fallen over me: stand a little less between me and the sun.”

Alexander is said to have been so struck by this that he said: “If I weren’t Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes.”

Source: “A Little History of the World” by E.H. Gombrich


Diogenes, also known as Diogenes the Cynic, was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea, in 412 or 404 BC and died at Corinth in 323 BC.

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