Alexander the Great and Diogenes

Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher who is considered the founder of cynicism. The word “cynic” means “dog-like,” and this word was used to describe him because he behaved like a dog. He lived in a large barrel on the street, ate raw food, and begged passers-by every day. Diogenes urinated and defecated in the streets in full view of everybody.

He may have lived an unconventional life, but Diogenes was a brilliant philosopher. Unlike many philosophers, he used blunt language to express his sharp observations about people and society. Social status did not matter to him, and so he talked to anyone in the same way, whether they were a king or a beggar like him. Diogenes’ bluntness and brilliance became known throughout Greece, and this made people want to see him out of curiosity.

One of these people was Alexander the Great, the great conqueror of many nations. He was tutored by another great philosopher, Aristotle, and his teacher had most likely, developed in him a genuine taste for philosophy and respect for philosophers. And so, Alexander journeyed to Corinth, where Diogenes was living his life in his unconventional way. According to the historian, Plutarch, Diogenes and Alexander talked for a short time only.

Alexander approached Diogenes’ barrel while the grimy philosopher was stretched out and enjoying the morning sunlight. 

Alexander asked him what he could do to help him. Diogenes responded: “Move a little to the right; you are blocking my sun.”

Impressed by the philosopher’s directness, Alexander remarked that if he were not himself, he would have liked to be Diogenes.