When Alexander the Great went to Cor-inth, all the fore-most men in the city came out to see him and to praise him. But Diogenes did not come; and he was the only man for whose o-pin-ions Alexander cared.
[Illustration: Diogenes and Alexander.]
And so, since the wise man would not come to see the king, the king went to see the wise man. He found Diogenes in an out-of-the-way place, lying on the ground by his tub. He was en-joy-ing the heat and the light of the sun.
When he saw the king and a great many people coming, he sat up and looked at Alexander. Alexander greeted him and said,—
“Diogenes, I have heard a great deal about your wisdom. Is there anything that I can do for you?”
“Yes,” said Diogenes. “You can stand a little on one side, so as not to keep the sunshine from me.”
This answer was so dif-fer-ent from what he expected, that the king was much sur-prised. But it did not make him angry; it only made him admire the strange man all the more. When he turned to ride back, he said to his officers,—
“Say what you will; if I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes.”
All Greece was in danger. A mighty army, led by the great King of Persia, had come from the east. It was marching along the seashore, and in a few days would be in Greece. The great king had sent mes-sen-gers into every city and state, bidding them give him water and earth in token that the land and the sea were his. But they said,—
“No: we will be free.”
And so there was a great stir through-out all the land. The men armed themselves, and made haste to go out and drive back their foe; and the women staid at home, weeping and waiting, and trembling with fear.
There was only one way by which the Per-sian army could go into Greece on that side, and that was by a narrow pass between the mountains and the sea. This pass was guarded by Le-on’i-das, the King of the Spartans, with three hundred Spartan soldiers.
Soon the Persian soldiers were seen coming. There were so many of them that no man could count them. How could a handful of men hope to stand against so great a host?
And yet Le-on-i-das and his Spartans held their ground. They had made up their minds to die at their post. Some one brought them word that there were so many Persians that their arrows dark-ened the sun.
“So much the better,” said the Spartans; “we shall fight in the shade.”
Bravely they stood in the narrow pass. Bravely they faced their foes. To Spartans there was no such thing as fear. The Persians came forward, only to meet death at the points of their spears.
But one by one the Spartans fell. At last their spears were broken; yet still they stood side by side, fighting to the last. Some fought with swords, some with daggers, and some with only their fists and teeth.