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Mary Macgregor

Alexander and Diogenes

When Alexander marched at the head of his army into Thessaly, not a blow was struck. His presence seemed enough to gain the allegiance of the Thessalians.

The king then went to Corinth, where ambassadors from many of the Greek states met him. Young as he was, they chose Alexander to be general over the Greek troops which were to go with the Macedonians to invade Asia.

Every one in Corinth was eager to see the king. From the surrounding towns, too, the people crowded into the city, that they might look at the young monarch who was going to lead their soldiers on so great an expedition.

They did not dream of all that he would do, how he would spread their customs, their language, their culture over Asia first, and then over all the world. But looking at him they knew that he would be a conqueror.

Among those who wished to see Alexander were many philosophers and great men. But one strange philosopher, called Diogenes, showed no interest in the king.

Alexander heard of this man, who was said to sit all day in a tub or barrel. As Diogenes did not come to see him, he resolved to go to see Diogenes. He found the philosopher outside the gates of Corinth, sitting in a tub which was placed so that the rays of the sun fell upon him.

When the philosopher saw the king and the courtiers who accompanied him, he roused himself from his meditations and looked at the young sovereign.

Alexander spoke kindly to him, and asked if there was anything he wished.

"Yes," answered Diogenes, "I would have you not stand between me and the sun."

The couriers were indignant at such an answer, but Alexander laughed, and being pleased with the philosopher's indifference to his rank, he said to them, "If I were not Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes."

Soon after this the king, believing that he had secured the fealty of Greece, went back to Macedon. In the spring of 335 b.c. he hoped to set out to invade Asia.

But the wild tribes on the borders of Macedon began to be restless, and the king was forced to subdue these foes nearer home before he went to Asia. While he was driving them beyond his borders, a rumour that he was dead reached Greece.

If Alexander was dead it was a good chance, thought the Thebans, to drive the Macedonians from their citadel, and without waiting to find out if the rumour was true they revolted. Demosthenes tried to persuade the Athenians to go to the help of the Thebans, but although his eloquence moved them it had not power to make them act.

The Thebans soon found to their cost that Alexander was not dead. He was, indeed, on his way to Greece to punish them for revolting.

Outside the walls of their city he halted, so that the citizens might submit, if so they willed. But they, still dreaming of liberty, refused to surrender.

Then Alexander attacked the city and captured it with little difficulty. He determined to give the other cities in Greece a lesson by punishing the rebels severely. So he pulled down their houses and utterly destroyed their town, leaving untouched only the temples, and a house in which a great poet named Pindar had dwelt.

Demosthenes was bitterly disappointed that the Athenians had not sent to help the Thebans. He feared, too, that Alexander would now march against Athens, and destroy her as he had destroyed Thebes. But the king only sent to demand that eight of the orators who had done their best to incite the people to rebel against him, should be sent to him as hostages.

Demosthenes would have been among the eight, and he urged the Athenians not to "hand over their sheep-dogs to the wolf." But Phocion said that it would be wise to do as Alexander asked.

At length the assembly sent Damocles to the king to plead the cause of his comrades, for he was, after Demosthenes, the greatest orator in Athens.

Alexander listened to Damocles and was persuaded to leave the orators in their own city, for he believed that the fate of Thebes would make Athens afraid to rebel.

Of the loyalty of the Greek troops the king was sure, for were they not going to avenge the invasion of Greece by Xerxes?

The king did not mean to return to Macedon to reign, rather did he dream of a throne in one of the great cities which he was going to conquer. So before he marched away, he divided his royal domain and his wealth among his friends.

Perdiccas, one of his friends, was dismayed at the generosity of the king, and asked him what he was keeping for himself.

"Hope," answered Alexander. Then Perdiccas refused to accept his share of the king's gifts, saying, "We who go forth to fight with you need share only in your hope."

Antipater, one of his father's generals, Alexander left in Macedon to look after his kingdom.

At length in the spring of 334 b.c. , after saying good-bye to his mother, whom he dearly loved, the king marched with an enormous force to the Hellespont and crossed it. The great expedition had really begun.