The Dog


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Diogenes of Sinope lived around 400BC, and became well-known for the extreme poverty he chose to live in, and his rejection of social conventions, including a desire for wealth, fame, and power. He was called "Diogenes the Dog" during his lifetime. It's difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to his life, but the tales involving him are entertaining enough to repeat. My favorite involves his being sold as a slave, and being asked before a crowd of potential buyers what he was skilled with. He responded: "leading men, so any man who needs a master should buy me." As it was, he did end up managing the household of the man who purchased him.

No doubt the most famous tales of Diogenes, though, are those where he supposedly dialogged with Alexander the Great:

"I am Alexander the Great," said the monarch to Diogenes. "And I am Diogenes the Cynic," replied Diogenes

Alexander stood opposite Diogenes and asked, "Are you not afraid of me?" "Why, what are you," said Diogenes, "a good thing or a bad?" Alexander replied, "A good thing" whereupon Diogenes said, "Who, then, is afraid of the good?"

Diogenes asked Alexander what his plans were. Alexander answered that he planned to conquer and subjugate Greece. Then what? Diogenes asked. Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate Asia Minor. And then? Alexander said that he planned to conquer and subjugate the world.

Diogenes, who was not easily dissuaded from a line of inquiry, posed the question again: What next? Alexander the Great told Diogenes that after all that conquering and subjugating, he planned to relax and enjoy himself. Diogenes responded: Why not save yourself a lot of trouble by relaxing and enjoying yourself now?

Once, while Diogenes was sunning himself, Alexander The Great came up to him and offered to grant him any request. Diogenes told him to "Stand less between the sun and me."

Not mentioned is the story where Diogenes is looking through a pile of bones and Alexander asks him what he is doing. Diogenes replies: "looking for your father, but I can't tell his bones from those of any other man."