Gateway to the Classics: Famous Men of Greece by John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland
Famous Men of Greece by  John H. Haaren and A. B. Poland

Aristotle, Zeno, Diogenes and Apelles


W HILE Alexander was conquering the world, there lived in Athens a man whose work survived hundreds of years after the conqueror's empire fell to pieces. Indeed, it exists to-day. This man was Aristotle, the great philosopher, at one time Alexander's tutor.

After Alexander became king Aristotle went to Athens and established a school of philosophy. His fame grew and he was called "the man of wisdom." He spent much of his time in writing, and wrote about almost everything that men thought of in his time. Some of his works are studied in our colleges to-day.


Aristotle Teaching Alexander

Like all other great men of Greece, Aristotle had enemies. Some of them accused him of not having respect for the gods. He, therefore, fled from Athens in order, as he said, to keep the Athenians from sinning against philosophy by banishing him. He died in exile.

It is said that for about two hundred years after his death people did not know what had become of his writings. The men to whom they were left had buried them in an underground chamber for fear the king of Pergamos, who was very proud of his library, would get hold of them. When the manuscripts were at last found they could still be read.


Aristotle Lecturing

For hundreds of years after that Aristotle's writings were more widely studied in Europe than almost any other books.


A NOTHER great philosopher who lived during the time of Alexander was Zeno. He was born in Cyprus, but came to Athens in his youth.

He gave his lectures in a porch, called in Greek a Stoa, from which he and his followers are called Stoics. He taught that men should live simply, and learn to be neither fond of pleasure nor cast down by sorrow. To-day we call people stoics  who endure pain and misfortune without complaining.


Philosophers of Athens

One of Zeno's rivals was a philosopher named Epicurus. He founded a school in Athens and taught there for thirty-six years. His enemies accused him of teaching that pleasure was the only thing to live for, and many people still have this idea. We call a man an "epicure" who is very fond of high living. Epicurus, however, really used the word pleasure  to mean peace of mind, not the mere satisfaction of eating and drinking. Both he and his pupils lived in a very simple way.

One of the oddest of the Greek philosophers was Diogenes. He used to stand in the public places of the city and ridicule the follies of his fellow-citizens. Because of this habit he and his disciples were called cynics, or growlers, from a Greek word which means dog. It is said that he lived in a tub.


Diogenes in His Tub

Many stories are told of the curious doings and sayings of Diogenes. Once in broad daylight he walked through the streets of Athens carrying a lighted lantern.

"What are you about now, Diogenes?" asked one who met him.

"I am looking for a man," sneered Diogenes.


Diogenes Looking for a Man

Once, when he was on a voyage, the ship in which he was sailing was captured by pirates. The passengers and crew were taken to Crete and sold as slaves. The auctioneer who was selling them asked Diogenes what he could do. "I can rule men," was the answer. "Sell me to some one who wishes a master."

When the great Council of the States of Greece honored Alexander by asking him to lead their forces against Persia, the young conqueror visited Diogenes. The philosopher was then living at Corinth, in the house of the man who had bought him as a slave. He was in the garden basking in the sun when Alexander visited him.

"Can I do anything to help you, Diogenes?" asked Alexander.

"Nothing, but get out of my sunshine," replied Diogenes.

As Alexander was leaving this man of few wants, he said, "If I were not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes." It was as though he had said, "If I were not going to conquer the world, I should like to have the power which Diogenes has to conquer self."


A NUMBER of celebrated painters lived during the reign of Alexander. The most famous was Apelles. Alexander would allow no one else to paint his portrait. Apelles had talent, but he became a great artist as much by his patient industry as by his talent. His motto was "Never a day without a line."

Once he painted a horse and exhibited it in a contest with some of his rivals who also had painted pictures of horses. He saw that the judges were not going to give the prize to his picture, so he requested that all the pictures should be shown to some horses. This was done, and the animals paid no more attention to the pictures of Apelles' rivals than they would have paid to blank boards, but when Apelles' horse was shown to them they neighed as though they had seen a friend.

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