On the Fortune of Alexander

say, “If I were not Alexander, I should be Diogenes,” that is to say: “If I did not actively practise philosophy, I should apply myself to its theoretical pursuit.” He did not say, “If I were not a king, I should be Diogenes,” nor “If I were not rich and an Argead”; for he did not rank Fortune above Wisdom, nor a crown and royal purple above the philosopher’s wallet and threadbare gown. But he said,” If I were not Alexander, I should be Diogenes”; that is to say: “If it were not my purpose to combine foreign things with things Greek, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to disseminate and shower the blessings of Greek justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me, Diogenes, that I imitate Heracles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysus,a the divine author and progenitor of my family,b and desire that victorious Greeks should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Caucasus. Even there it is said that there are certain holy men, a law unto themselves, who follow a rigid gymnosophyc and give all their time to God; they are more frugal than Diogenes since they have no need of a wallet. For they do not store up food, since they have it ever fresh and green from the earth; the flowing rivers give them drink and they have fallen leaves and grassy

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_fortune_virute_alexander.1936