National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Alexander Calls on Diogenes the Cynic To THE cultured Athenian, the Macedonians of the north were barbarians. They produced no writ ers, artists, or philosophers of note. From Macedonia, however, came one of the most successful military leaders of all time. The conquests of Alexander changed the cultural history of the world. Alexander's father was Philip, king of Macedon. After passing a part of his youth as a hostage at Thebes, where he learned much of Greece and its people, Philip returned to his kingdom with the ambition of weld ing all the Greek states into a united nation. After reorganizing his army and training it in the Theban phalanx formation, he set out to make con quests. The people of Chalcidice, east of modern Salonika, had been in alli ance with Philip, but they realized that his interests were diametrically opposed to those of Athens, the city with which they had closer cultural relationships. They broke with their dangerous ally, and paid the penalty for their de fection. Several of their cities, among them Olynthus, were mercilessly de stroyed, and it was not long before Philip appeared in Greece ostensibly as the arbiter of a dispute regarding the trusteeship of the Delphic oracle and its very considerable treasury. The orator Demosthenes finally aroused the Athenians to form a Hellenic League against the rising power of the Macedonian; but the forces of the League, which Thebes had joined, were defeated at the Bat tle of Chaeronea, 338 B.C. Although the Greek cities, with the exception of pillaged Thebes, were allowed to re tain their own constitutions, the power passed to the conqueror. Philip then prepared to move over to Asia and destroy the only remain ing great power which could oppose him-Persia. Before he could do so, however, he was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son, Alexander, at that time only 20 years old. Contemporary with Alexander, but much older, was the philosopher Di ogenes, known as the Cynic. The school of which he was the principal exponent took its name from the gymnasium called Cynosarges where its members were accustomed to meet. The essence of their philosophy was to reduce the things of the flesh to the barest necessities so as to leave the mind as free as possible. Diogenes is reported to have lived for a time in a tub, outside the city walls. There is a Neo-Attic marble relief which depicts the famous meeting be tween him and Alexander as de scribed by Plutarch. The Cynic sits in the mouth of a huge clay jar, or pithos-many of these jars were large enough to accommodate a man -and on the top of it, as an allusion to the occupant, is carved a dog. The genitive form kynos of the word for dog suggests cynic; and probably the marble dog set over the philoso pher's tomb at Corinth was a punning reference to his sect. The famous conversation between the soldier and the philosopher prob ably took place at Corinth at a time when we have no evidence to show that a tub was still a part of Diogenes domestic arrangements; but our pic ture is an attempt to bring the ele ments of the story together. When Alexander rather patronizingly of fered to grant the philosopher any favor he might choose, Diogenes an swered, "Yes, you can stand a little to one side and not keep the sun off me."