In the scene painted above, Nicolas-André Monsiau (1754–1837) displays an encounter between two famous figures from ancient Greece. On the left is Alexander the Great, the famous king of Macedonia (r. 336 to 323 BCE), depicted at a time before he set out on his renowned campaign to conquer the Persian Achaemenid Empire and parts of India. On the right, the annoyed-looking man with his arm outstretched, is Diogenes “the Cynic” of Sinope, one of the most peculiar philosophers to have graced this earth. Alexander and Diogenes were said to have met each other in Athens or Corinth, where an odd encounter allegedly ensued. According to legend, Alexander—an admirer of Diogenes and his philosophy—tried to strike up a conversation with the man and offered him anything the philosopher might desire. Diogenes’ dismissive response to the king’s offer became legendary. The scene was recorded by Arrian (c. 90-173+), a Roman general and scholar who wrote a biography of Alexander’s life:
“[Alexander] was marching somewhere in the Isthmus with a contingent of Guards and infantry Companions, and chancing to see Diogenes lying in the sun, he stopped and asked him if there was anything he wanted. ‘Nothing,’ replied the philosopher; ‘though I should be grateful if you and your friends would move to one side, and not keep the sun off me’ (Anabasis, 7.2).
For more about Diogenes the Cynic, read our article HERE.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
- The Campaigns of Alexander by Arrian, translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt. New York: Penguin Classics, 1971.
- Alexander the Great by Philip Freeman. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2011.
- Alexander the Great: The Story of an Ancient Life by Thomas R. Martin and Christopher W. Blackwell. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.