of Alexander the Great
(died 323 BCE)
Birth of Alexander
Writings agree that, on the father's side, Alexander descended from Heracles by Caranus, and from Aeacus by Neoptolemus on the mother's side. His father Philip, being in Samothrace, when he was quite young, fell in love there with Olympias, in company with whom he was initiated in the religious ceremonies of the country, and her father and mother being both dead, soon after, with the consent of her brother, Arymbas, he married her.
The night before the consummation of their marriage, she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body, which kindled a great fire, whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about, and then were extinguished. And Philip, some time after he was married, dreamt that he sealed up his wife's body with a seal, whose impression, as be fancied, was the figure of a lion. Some of the diviners interpreted this as a warning to Philip to watch his wife, but Aristander of Telmessus, considering how unusual it was to seal up anything that was empty, assured him the meaning of his dream was that the queen was with child of a boy, who would one day prove as strong and courageous as a lion.
Once, moreover, a serpent was found
lying by Olympias as she slept, which more than anything else, it is said,
abated Philip's passion for her; and whether he feared her as an enchantress,
or thought she had commerce with some god, and so looked on himself as
excluded, he was afterward less fond of her presence. Others say, that
the women of this country having always been extremely addicted to the
enthusiastic Orphic rites, and the wild worship of Bacchus (upon which
account they were called Clodones, and Mimallones), imitated in many things
the practices of the Edonian and Thracian women about Mount Haemus . . . and that Olympias, zealously,
affecting these fanatical and enthusiastic inspirations, to perform them with
more barbaric dread, used to have
great tame serpents about her when she danced in these ceremonies, and the
serpents which sometimes creeping out
of the ivy in the mystic fans, sometimes winding themselves about the sacred
spears, and the women's chaplets, made a spectacle which men could not look
upon without terror.
Alexander's Appearance and Character
The statues that gave the best representation of Alexander's person were those of Lysippus (by whom alone he would suffer his image to be made), those peculiarities which many of his successors afterwards and his friends used to affect to imitate, the inclination of his head a little on one side towards his left shoulder, and his melting eye, having been expressed by this artist with great exactness. But Apelles, who drew him with thunderbolts in his hand, made his complexion browner and darker than it was naturally; for he was fair and of a light color, passing into ruddiness in his face and upon his breast.
Aristoxenus in his Memoirs tells us that a most agreeable odor exhaled from his skin, and that his breath and body all over was so fragrant as to perfume the clothes which he wore next him, the cause of which might probably be the hot and dark tanned nature of his skin. For sweet smells, Theophrastus conceives, are produced by the concoction of moist humors by heat, which is the reason that those parts of the world which are driest and most burnt up afford spices of the hottest kind and in the greatest quantity; for the heat of the sun exhausts all the extra moisture which lies in the surface of bodies, ready to cool them. And this hot constitution, it may be, rendered Alexander so addicted to drinking, and so choleric.
His temperance, as to the
pleasures of the body, was apparent in him in his very childhood, as he was
with much difficulty incited to them, and always used them with great
moderation; though in other things be was extremely eager and vehement, and in
his love of glory, and the pursuit of it, he showed a solidity of high spirit
and magnanimity far above his age. For he neither sought nor valued it upon
every occasion, as his father Philip did (who affected eloquence
almost to a degree of pedantry, and took care to have the victories of his
racing chariots at the Olympic games engraved on his coin), but when he was
asked by some about him, whether he would run a race in the Olympic games, as
he was very swift-footed, he answered, he would, if he might have kings to run
with him. Indeed, he seems in general to have looked with indifference, if not
with dislike, upon the professed athletes. He often appointed prizes, for
which not only tragedians and musicians, pipers and harpers, but
also, strove to outperform one another; and delighted in all manner of hunting and
cudgel-playing, but never gave any encouragement to contests either of boxing
or of the pancratium.
Whenever he heard Philip had taken any town of importance, or won any
signal victory, instead of rejoicing at it altogether, he would tell his
companions that his father would anticipate everything, and leave him and them
no opportunities of performing great and illustrious actions. For being more
bent upon action and glory than either upon pleasure or riches, he esteemed
all that he should receive from his father as a diminution and prevention of
his own future achievements. He would have chosen rather to succeed to a
kingdom involved in troubles and wars, which would have afforded him frequent
exercise of his courage, and a large field of honor, than to one already
flourishing and settled, where his inheritance would be an inactive life, and
the mere enjoyment of wealth and luxury.
Philip at first took no notice of what he said, but when he heard him repeat the same thing several times, and saw he was upset to see the horse sent away, he said to him: "Do you blame your elders, as if you were smarter and better able to manage him than they do?"
"I will manage this horse better than others do," he replied.
"And if you do not," said Philip, "what will you pay?"
"I will pay the whole price of the horse," Alexander answered. At this the whole company fell a-laughing.
As soon as the wager was settled amongst them, he immediately ran to the horse, and taking hold of the bridle, turned him directly towards the sun, having, it seems, observed that he was disturbed by and afraid of his own shadow. Then letting him go forward a little, still keeping the reins in his hands, and stroking him gently when he found him begin to grow eager and fiery, he nimbly leaped and securely mounted him. When he was seated, little by little he pulled in the bridle, and curbed him without either striking or spurring him. Soon he found him free from all rebelliousness, and only impatient for the course, so he let him go at full speed, inciting him now with a commanding voice, and urging him also with his heel.
Philip and his friends looked on at first in silence and anxiety for the
result, till seeing him turn at the end of his career, and come back rejoicing
and triumphing for what he had performed, they all burst out into acclamations
of applause; and his father shedding tears, it is said, for joy, kissed him as
he came down from his horse, and in his transport said, "My son, find out a kingdom equal to and worthy of yourself, for Macedonia is too little
seems that Alexander learned from Aristotle not only his doctrines of morals and of
politics, but also something of those more complex and profound
theories which these philosophers, by the very names they gave them, professed
to reserve for oral communication to the initiated, and did not allow many to
become acquainted with. For when Alexander was in Asia, and he heard that Aristotle had
published some treatises of that sort, he wrote to him, using very plain
language to him in behalf of philosophy, the following letter. "Alexander
sends greetings to Aristotle. You have not done well to publish your books of oral
teachings. For what is there now that we excel others in, if those things which
we have been particularly instructed in are published for all? For my part, I
assure you, I had rather excel others in the knowledge of what is excellent,
than in the extent of my power and dominion. Farewell." And Aristotle,
soothing this passion for pre-eminence, speaks, in his excuse for himself, of
these doctrines as in fact both published and not published. Indeed, to say
the truth, his books on metaphysics are written in a style which makes them
useless for ordinary teaching, and instructive only
for those who have been already conversant in that sort of learning.
Alexander was naturally a great lover of all kinds of learning and reading. As Onesicritus informs us, Homer's Iliads, according to the copy corrected by Aristotle, called the casket copy, always lay with his dagger under his pillow, for he believed it to be a perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge. When he was in the upper Asia, being destitute of other books, he ordered Harpalus to send him some; who furnished him with Philistus's History, a great many of the plays of Euripides, Sophocles, and Aeschylus, and some dithyrambic odes, composed by Telestes and Philoxenus.
He loved and cherished
Aristotle no less, as he used to say himself, than if he had been his
father, for he had received life from the one,
but the other had taught him to live well. However, afterwards, upon some mistrust
of Aristotle, yet not so great as to make him do him any hurt, his familiarity and
friendly kindness to him abated so much of its former force and
affectionateness, as to make it evident he was alienated from him. However,
his violent thirst after and passion for learning, which were once implanted,
still grew up with him, and never decayed; as appears by his veneration of Anaxarchus, by the present of fifty talents which he sent to Xenocrates, and
his particular care and esteem of Dandamis and Calanus.
But the disorders of his family, chiefly caused by his new marriages and attachments (the troubles that began in the women's chambers spreading, so to say, to the whole kingdom), raised various complaints and differences between them, which the violence of Olympias, a woman of a jealous and implacable temper, made wider, by exasperating Alexander against his father. Among the rest, this accident contributed most to their falling out. At the wedding of Cleopatra, whom Philip fell in love with and married, she being much too young for him, her uncle Attalus in his drink asked the Macedonians to pray to the gods to give them a lawful successor to the kingdom by his niece. This so irritated Alexander, that throwing one of the cups at his head, "You villain," said he, "what, am I then a bastard?"
Then Philip, taking Attalus's part, rose up and would have run
his son through, but by good luck for them both, either his over-hasty
rage, or the wine he had drunk, made his foot slip, so that he fell down on
the floor. At which Alexander reproachfully insulted over him: "See
there," said he, "the man who makes preparations to pass out of
Europe into Asia, overturned in passing from one seat to another." After
this debauch, he and his mother Olympias withdrew from Philip's company, and
when he had placed her in Epirus, he himself retired into Illyria.
But this reconciliation lasted not long, for when Pixodorus, viceroy of Caria, sent Aristocritus to treat for a match between his eldest daughter and Philip's son, Arrhidaeus, hoping by this alliance to secure his assistance upon occasion, Alexander's mother, and some who pretended to be his friends, presently filled his head with tales and calumnies, as if Philip, by a splendid marriage and important alliance, were preparing the way for settling the kingdom upon Arrhidaeus. In alarm at this, he despatched Thessalus, the tragic actor, into Caria, to dispose Pixodorus to slight Arrhidaeus, both illegitimate and a fool, and rather to accept of himself for his son-in-law. This proposition was much more agreeable to Pixodorus than the former. But Philip, as soon as he was made acquainted with this transaction, went to his son's apartment, taking with him Philotas, the son of Parmenio, one of Alexander's intimate friends and companions, and there reproved him severely, and reproached him bitterly, that he should be so degenerate, and unworthy of the power he was to leave him, as to desire the alliance of a mean Carian, who was at best but the slave of a barbarous prince.
Nor did this satisfy Philip's
resentment, for he wrote to the Corinthians to send Thessalus to him in
chains, and banished Harpalus, Nearchus, Erigyius, and
Ptolemy, his son's
friends and favorites, whom Alexander afterwards recalled and raised to great
honor and preferment.
Alexander the King, Conquest of the Greeks
Alexander was but twenty years old when his father was murdered, and succeeded to a kingdom, beset on all sides with great dangers and rancorous enemies. For not only the barbarous nations that bordered on Macedonia were impatient of being governed by any but their own native princes, but Philip likewise, though he had been victorious over the Greeks, yet, as the time had not been sufficient for him to complete his conquest and accustom them to his sway, had simply left all things in a general disorder and confusion.
It seemed to the Macedonians a very critical time; and some would have persuaded Alexander to give up all thought of retaining the Hellenes in subjection by force of arms, and rather to apply himself to win back by gentle means the allegiance of the tribes who were plotting revolt, and try the effect of indulgence in arresting the revolution. But he rejected this counsel as weak and timorous, and looked upon it to be more prudence to secure himself by resolution and magnanimity, than, by seeming to truckle to any, to encourage all to trample on him.
In pursuit of this opinion, he reduced the
barbarians to tranquility, and put an end to all fear of war from them, he
gave rapid expedition into their country as far as the river
Danube, where he
gave Syrmus, King of the Triballians, an entire overthrow. And hearing the
Thebans were in revolt, and the Athenians in correspondence with them, he
immediately marched through the pass of Thermopylae, saying that to
Demosthenes, who had called him a child while he was in Illyria and in the
country of the Triballians, and a youth when he was in Thessaly, he would
appear a man before the walls of Athens.
Alexander was so surprised, both at what she had done and
what she said, that he could not choose but give her and her children their
freedom to go whither they pleased.
Certain it is, too, that in aftertime he often repented of his severity to the Thebans, and his remorse had such influence on his temper as to make him ever after less rigorous to all others. He imputed also the murder of Clitus, which he committed in his wine, and the unwillingness of the Macedonians to follow him against the Indians, by which his enterprise and glory was left imperfect, to the wrath and vengeance of Dionysus, the protector of Thebes. And it was observed that whatsoever any Theban, who had the good fortune to survive this victory, asked of him, he was sure to grant without the least difficulty.
The Campaign into Asia
Soon after, the Greeks, being assembled at the Isthmus, declared their resolution of joining with Alexander in the war against the Persians, and proclaimed him their general.
While he stayed here, many public ministers and
philosophers came from all parts to visit him and congratulated him on his
election, but contrary to his expectation,
of Sinope, who then was living at Corinth, thought so little of him, that
instead of coming to compliment him, he never so much as stirred out of the
suburb called the Cranium, where Alexander found him lying alone in the sun.
When he saw so much company near him, he raised himself a little, and
vouchsafed to look upon Alexander, and when he kindly asked him whether he
wanted anything, "Yes," said he, "I would have you stand from
between me and the sun." Alexander was so struck at this answer, and
surprised at the greatness of the man, who had taken so little notice of him,
that as he went away he told his followers, who were laughing at the
moroseness of the philosopher, that if
he were not Alexander, he would choose to be Diogenes.
Among other prodigies that
attended the departure of Alexander's army, the image of Orpheus at Libethra, made of
cypress-wood, was seen to sweat in great abundance, to the discouragement of
many. But Aristander told him that, far from presaging any ill to him, it
signified he should perform acts so important and glorious as would make the
poets and musicians of future ages labor and sweat to describe and celebrate
However narrow and disproportionable the beginnings of so vast an undertaking might seem to be, yet Alexander would not embark his army until he had informed himself particularly what means his friends had to enable them to follow him, and he supplied what they wanted, by giving good farms to some, a village to one, and the revenue of some hamlet or harbor-town to another. So that at last he had portioned out or engaged almost all the royal property. This gave Perdiccas an occasion to ask him what he would leave himself, and he replied, his hopes.
"Your soldiers," replied Perdiccas, "will
be your partners in those," and he refused to accept the estate Alexander had
assigned him. Some other friends did the same, but to those who
willingly received or desired assistance of him, he liberally granted it, as
far as his patrimony in Macedonia would reach, the most part of which was
spent in these donations.
Battle of the Granicus River
In the meantime, Darius's captains collected large forces and were encamped on the further bank of the river Granicus. It would be necessary to fight there in that gate of Asia to enter into it. The depth of the river, with the unevenness and difficult ascent of the opposite bank, which was to be gained by main force, was feared by most, and some pronounced it an improper time to engage, because it was unusual for the kings of Macedonia to march with their forces in the month called Daesius. But Alexander broke these superstitions, telling them they should call it a second Artemisius. And when Parmenio advised him not to attempt anything that day, because it was late, he told him that he should disgrace the Hellespont should he fear the Granicus.
And so, without more talk, he immediately took the river with thirteen troops of horse, and charged against whole showers of darts thrown from the steep opposite bankside, which was covered with armed multitudes of the enemy's horse and foot. The disadvantage of the ground and the swiftness of the stream showed the whole action to have more frenzy and desperation in it, than prudence. However, Alexander persisted obstinately to cross, and at last with great effort made his way up the bank, which was extremely muddy and slippery, where he immediately joined in confused hand-to-hand combat with the enemy, before he could draw up his men in formation, for they were still passing over. The enemy pressed upon him with loud and warlike outcries, charging horse against horse, with their lances, and when the lances were broken they drew their swords.
Alexander, being easily known by his shield, and a large plume of white feathers on each side of his helmet, was attacked on all sides. He escaped uninjured, though his breastplate was pierced by a javelin in one of the joints. Rhoesaces and Spithridates, two Persian commanders, fell upon him at once: he avoided one of them, and hit Rhoesaces in the breastplate with such force that his spear broke in his hand, so he had to draw his dagger. While they were thus engaged, Spithridates came up on one side of him, and raising himself upon his horse, gave him such a blow with his battle-axe on the helmet that he cut off the crest of it, with one of his plumes, and the helmet was only just so far strong enough to save him, that the edge of the weapon touched the hair of his head. But as he was about to repeat his stroke, Black Clitus prevented him, by running him through the body with his spear. At the same time Alexander despatched Rhoesaces with his sword.
While the horsemen were thus dangerously engaged, the Macedonian phalanx crossed the river. As the foot soldiers advanced on both sides, the enemy which had hardly held off the first onset soon gave ground and fled, except for mercenary Greeks, who, made a stand upon a piece of rising ground. Alexander, guided rather by emotion than judgment, cut off their retreat, charged at them himself and had his horse (not Bucephalus, but another) killed under him. And this obstinacy of his to cut off these experienced desperate fighters cost him the lives of more of his own soldiers than all the battle before, besides those who were wounded.
The Persians lost in this battle twenty thousand foot and two thousand five hundred horse. On Alexander's side, Aristobulus says there were not wanting above four-and-thirty, of whom nine were foot-soldiers, and in memory of these heroes he caused so many statues of brass, of Lysippus's making, to be erected.
that the Greeks might participate in the honor of his victory he sent a
portion of the spoils home to them. To the Athenians he sent three hundred
shields, and he ordered this inscription to be set on them:
"Alexander the son of Philip, and the Hellenes, except the Lacedaemonians,
won these from the barbarians of Asia." All the armor and purple
garments, and other things of the same kind that he took from the Persians,
except a very small quantity which he reserved for himself, he sent as a
present to his mother.
Conquest of the Sea Coast
While he was thus deliberating what to do, it happened that a spring of water near the city of Xanthus in Lycia, of its own accord, swelled over its banks, and threw up a copper plate, upon the margin of which was engraved in ancient characters, that the time would come when the Persian empire should be destroyed by the Greeks. Encouraged by this sign, Alexander proceeded to take the maritime parts of Cilicia and Phoenicia, and he moved his army along the sea-coasts of Pamphylia so quickly that many historians have described it with the greatest amazement, as if it were no less than a miracle, and an extraordinary effect of divine favor, that the waves, which usually come rolling in violently from the sea, and hardly ever leave so much as a narrow beach under the steep cliffs at any time uncovered, should suddenly retreat to allow Alexander to pass. Menander, in one of his comedies, alludes to this marvel when he says:
But Alexander himself in his letters mentions nothing unusual in this at all,
but says he went from Phaselis, and passed through what they call the Ladders.
At Phaselis he stayed some time, and finding the statue of Theodectes, who was
a native of this town and was now dead, erected in the market-place, after he
had dined, having drunk pretty plentifully, he went and danced about it, and
crowned it with garlands, honoring not ungracefully, in his sport, the memory
of a philosopher whose conversation he had formerly enjoyed when he was
From there he advanced into Paphlagonia and
Cappadocia, and he soon reduced both to obedience. Hearing of the death of Memnon, the best commander Darius had on the
sea-coasts, who, if he had lived, might, it was supposed, have put many
obstacles and difficulties in the way of Alexander's progress, Alexander was
encouraged to carry the war into the upper provinces of Asia.
Darius was especially confident because Alexander spent so much time in Cilicia, which he imputed to cowardice. But it was sickness that detained Alexander there, which some say he contracted from his fatigues, others from bathing in the river Cydnus, whose waters were exceedingly cold. However it happened, none of his physicians would venture to give him any remedies, they thought his case so desperate, and were so afraid of the suspicions and ill-will of the Macedonians if they should fail in the cure. Then Philip the Acarnanian, seeing how critical his case was, but relying on his own well-known friendship for him, decided to try one last remedy, and risk his own credit and life than suffer Alexander to perish for want of medicine. He confidently administered this to him, encouraging him to take it boldly, if he desired a speedy recovery, in order to prosecute the war. At this very time, Parmenio wrote to Alexander from the camp, bidding him to be careful about Philip, as one who was bribed by Darius to kill him, with great sums of money, and a promise of his daughter in marriage. When Alexander had read the letter, he put it under his pillow, without showing it so much as to any of his most intimate friends, and when Philip came in with the potion, he took it with great cheerfulness and assurance, giving him meantime the letter to read. This was a spectacle well worth being present at, to see Alexander take the draught and Philip read the letter at the same time, and then turn and look upon one another, but with different sentiments; for Alexander's looks were cheerful and open, to show his kindness to and confidence in his physician, while the other was full of surprise and alarm at the accusation, appealing to the gods to witness his innocence, sometimes lifting up his hands to heaven, and then throwing himself down by the bedside, and beseeching Alexander to lay aside all fear, and follow his directions without apprehension.
The medicine at first worked so strongly as to drive his vital forces inward; he lost his speech, and falling into a swoon, had hardly any sense or pulse left. However in no long time, by Philip's means, his health and strength returned, and he showed himself in public to the Macedonians, who were in continual fear and gloom until they saw him restored to himself.
Battle of Issus
There was at this time in Darius's army a Macedonian refugee, named Amyntas, one who was pretty well acquainted with Alexander's character. This man, when he saw Darius intended to fall upon the enemy in the mountain passes, advised him earnestly to keep where he was, in the open and extensive plains, it being the advantage of a numerous army to have field-room enough when it engaged with a lesser force. Darius, instead of taking his counsel, told him he was afraid the enemy would endeavor to run away, and so Alexander would escape out of his hands.
"That fear," replied Amyntas, "is needless, for assure yourself that far from avoiding you, he will make all the speed he can to meet you, and is now most likely on his march toward you." But Amyntas's counsel was to no purpose, for Darius immediately decamping, marched into Cilicia at the same time that Alexander advanced into Syria to meet him. Missing one another in the night, they both turned back again. Alexander, greatly pleased with the event, made all the haste he could to fight in the mountains, and Darius to recover his former ground in the plain, and draw his army out of so disadvantageous a place. For now he began to perceive his error in engaging himself too far in a country in which the sea, the mountains, and the river Pinarus running through the midst of it, would divide his forces, render his horse almost useless, and only cover and support the weakness of the enemy.
Fortune was not kinder to Alexander in the choice of
the ground, than he was careful to improve it to his advantage. For being much
inferior in numbers, so far from allowing himself to be outflanked, he
stretched his right wing much further out than the left wing of his enemies,
and fighting there himself in the very
foremost ranks, put the barbarians to flight. In this battle he was
wounded in the thigh, Chares says, by Darius, with whom he fought
hand-to-hand. But in the account which he gave Antipater of the battle, though
indeed he owns he was wounded in the thigh with a sword, though not
dangerously, yet he takes no notice who it was that wounded him.
"Not so," replied one of his followers,
"but in Alexander's rather; for the property of the conquered
should be called the conqueror's." Here, when he beheld the bathing
vessels, the water-pots, the pans, and the ointment boxes, all of gold
curiously wrought, and smelt the fragrant odors with which the whole place
was exquisitely perfumed, and from thence passed into a pavilion of great size
and height, where the couches and tables and preparations for an entertainment
were perfectly magnificent, he turned to those about him and said, "This,
it seems, is royalty."
He gave them leave to bury whom they pleased of the Persians, and to make use for this purpose of what garments and armor they thought fit out of the booty. He diminished nothing of their equipage, or of the attentions and respect formerly paid them, and allowed larger pensions for their maintenance than they had before. But the noblest and most royal part of their usage was, that he treated these illustrious prisoners according to their virtue and character, not suffering them to hear, or receive, or so much as to apprehend anything that was unbecoming. So that they seemed rather lodged in some temple, or some holy virgin chambers, where they enjoyed their privacy sacred and uninterrupted, than in the camp of an enemy.
Darius's wife was said to be the most beautiful princess then living, as her husband the tallest and handsomest man of his time, and the daughters were not unworthy of their parents. But Alexander, esteeming it more kingly to govern himself than to conquer his enemies, sought no intimacy with any one of them, nor indeed with any other women before marriage, except Barsine, Memnon's widow, who was taken prisoner at Damascus. She had been instructed in Greek, was of a gentle temper, and by her father, Artabazus, royally descended, with good qualities, added to the solicitations and encouragement of Parmenio, as Aristobulus tells us, made him the more willing to attach himself to so agreeable and illustrious a woman. Of other female captives, though remarkably beautiful and well proportioned, he took no further notice than to say jokingly that Persian women were terrible eyesores. The beauty of his own temperance and self-control made them no more attractive to him than so many lifeless statues.
When Philoxenus, his lieutenant on the sea-coast, wrote to him to know if
he would buy two young boys of
great beauty, whom one Theodorus, a Tarentine, had to sell, he was so offended
that he often asked his friends what baseness Philoxenus had ever
observed in him that he should make him such a vile offer.
And he immediately wrote him a very sharp letter, telling him Theodorus and
his merchandise might go with his good-will to destruction. Nor was he less
severe to Hagnon, who sent him word he would buy a Corinthian youth named
Crobylus, as a present for him. And hearing that Damon and Timotheus, two of
Parmenio's Macedonian soldiers, had abused the wives of some strangers who
were in his pay, he wrote to Parmenio, charging him strictly, if he found them
guilty, to put them to death, as wild beasts that were only made for the
mischief of mankind. In the same letter he added, that he had not so much as
seen or desired to see the wife of Darius, nor suffered anybody to speak of
her beauty before him. He used to say that sleep and sex
chiefly made him aware that he was mortal; as much as to say, that
weariness and pleasure proceed both from the same weakness and foolishness of
He was much less addicted to wine than was generally believed; that which gave people occasion to think so of him was, that when he had nothing else to do, he loved to sit long and talk, rather than drink, and over every cup hold a long conversation. For when his affairs called upon him, he would not be detained, as other generals often were, either by wine, or sleep, nuptial solemnities, spectacles, or any other diversion whatsoever; a convincing argument of which is, that in the short time he lived, he accomplished so many and so great actions.
When he was free from employment, after he was up, and had sacrificed to the gods he used to sit down to breakfast, and then spend the rest of the day in hunting, or writing memoirs, giving decisions on some military questions, or reading. In marches that required no great haste, he would practice shooting as he went along, or mounting a chariot and alighting from it in full speed. Sometimes, for sport's sake, as his journals tell us, he would hunt foxes and go fowling. When he came in for the evening, after he had bathed and was anointed, he would call for his bakers and chief cooks, to know if they had his dinner ready. He never cared to dine till it was pretty late and beginning to be dark, and was wonderfully circumspect at meals that every one who sat with him should be served alike and with proper attention: and his love of talking, as was said before, made him delight to sit long at his wine.
otherwise no prince's conversation was ever so agreeable, he would often fall into a
temper of ostentation and
boasting, which gave his flatterers a great advantage to ride him, and
made his better friends very uneasy. For though they thought it too base
to strive who should flatter him most, yet they found it hazardous not
to do it; so that between the shame and the danger, they were in a great
strait how to behave themselves. After such an entertainment, he usually bathed, and then
perhaps he would sleep till noon, and sometimes all day long. He was so very
temperate in his eating, that when any rare fish or fruits were sent him, he
would distribute them among his friends, and often reserve nothing for
himself. His table, however, was always magnificent, the expense of it still
increasing with his good fortune, until it amounted to ten thousand drachmas a
day, to which sum he limited it, and beyond this he would suffer none to lay
out in any entertainment where he himself was the guest.
Capture of Tyre
But Alexander, before he proceeded any further, thought it necessary to assure himself of the sea-coast. Those who governed in Cyprus put that island into his possession, and Phoenicia, Tyre only excepted, was surrendered to him. During the siege of this city, which, with mounds of earth cast up, and battering engines, and two hundred galleys by sea, was carried on for seven months together, he dreamt that he saw Hercules upon the walls, reaching out his hands, and calling to him. And many of the Tyrians in their sleep fancied that Apollo told them he was displeased with their actions, and was about to leave them and go over to Alexander. Upon which, as if the god had been a deserting soldier, they seized him, so to say, in the act, tied down the statue with ropes, and nailed it to the pedestal, reproaching him that he was a favorer of Alexander.
Another time Alexander dreamed he
saw a satyr mocking him at a distance, and when he tried to catch him,
he still escaped from him, until at last with much perseverance, and running
about after him, he got him into his power. The soothsayers, making two
words of Satyrus, assured him that Tyre should be his own. The inhabitants at
this time show a spring of water, near which they say Alexander slept when
he believed the satyr appeared to him.
Alexander in Egypt
The next place he
besieged was Gaza, one of the largest cities of Syria, when this incident
happened to him. A large bird flying over him let a clod of earth fall upon
his shoulder, and then settling upon one of the battering engines, was
suddenly entangled and caught in the nets with which the machine was managed. This fell out exactly according
to Aristander's prediction, which was, that Alexander should
wounded and the city snared.
Among the treasures and other booty taken from Darius, there was a very precious casket, which being brought to Alexander for a great rarity, he asked those about him what they thought was best to keep in it, and when thay had expressed their opinions, he told them he would keep Homer's Iliad in it. This is attested by many credible authors, and if what those of Alexandria tell us, relying upon the authority of Heraclides, be true, Homer was neither an idle nor an unprofitable companion to him in his expedition. For when he was master of Egypt, designing to settle a colony of Greeks there, he resolved to build a large and populous city, and give it his own name. In order to which, after he had measured and staked out the ground with the advice of the best architects, he chanced one night in his sleep to see a wonderful vision; a grey-headed old man, of a venerable aspect, appeared to stand by him, and pronounce these verses:
Alexander upon this immediately rose up and went to Pharos, which, at that time, was an island lying a little above the Canobic mouth of the river Nile, though it has now been joined to the mainland by a mole. As soon as he saw the strategic location of this place, it being a long neck of land, stretching like an isthmus between large lagoons and shallow waters on one side and the sea on the other, the latter at the end of it making a spacious harbor, he said, Homer, besides his other excellences, was a very good architect, and ordered the plan of a city to be drawn out answerable to the place. For want of chalk, the soil beingblack, they laid out their building lines with flour, taking in a pretty large compass of ground in a semi-circular figure, and drawing into the inside of the circumference equal straight lines from each end, thus giving it something of the form of a cloak or cape.
While Alexander was pleasing himself with his design, on a sudden an infinite number of great birds of several kinds, rising like a black cloud out of the river and the lake, devoured every morsel of the flour that had been used in setting out the lines; at which omen even Alexander himself was troubled, but the augurs restored his confidence again by telling him it was a sign the city he was about to build would not only abound in all things within itself, but also be the nurse and feeder of many nations.
He commanded the workmen to proceed, while he went to visit the temple of Amun.
This was a long and painful, and, in two respects, a dangerous journey; first, if they should lose their provision of water, as for several days none could be obtained; and, secondly, if a violent south wind should rise upon them, while they were traveling through the wide extent of deep sands, as it is said to have done when Cambyses led his army that way, blowing the sand together in heaps, and raising, as it were, the whole desert like a sea upon them, till fifty thousand were swallowed up and destroyed by it.
All these difficulties were known and weighed to him, but Alexander was not easily to be diverted from anything he was bent upon. Fortune having always seconded his intentions made him resolute and firm in his opinions, and the boldness of his temper raised a sort of passion in him for surmounting difficulties, as if it were not enough to be always victorious in the field, unless places and seasons and nature herself fought and submitted to him.
In this journey, the relief and assistance the gods afforded him in his distresses were more remarkable, and obtained greater belief than the oracles he received afterwards, which, however, were valued and credited the more on account of those occurrences. First, plentiful rains fell and preserved them from any fear of perishing by drought, and allaying the extreme dryness of the sand, which now became moist and firm to travel on, cleared and purified the air. Besides this, when they were lost, and wandering up and down in the desert, because the guideposts were disordered and lost, they were set right again by some ravens, which flew before them on their march, and waited for them when they lingered and fell behind. The greatest miracle, as Callisthenes tells us, was that if any of the company went astray in the night, these birds never ceased croaking and making a noise till by that means they had brought them to the right way again.
Having passed through the wilderness, they came to the place where the high priest, at the first greeting, gave Alexander welcome from his father Amun. And being asked by him whether any of his father's murderers had escaped punishment, he charged him to speak with more respect, since his was not a mortal father. Then Alexander, changing his expression, desired to know of him if any of those who murdered Philip were yet unpunished, and further concerning dominion, whether the empire of the world was reserved for him?
This, the god answered, he should obtain, and that Philip's death was
fully revenged, which gave him so much satisfaction that
he made splendid offerings
to Zeus, and he gave the priests very rich presents. This is what
most authors write concerning the oracles. But Alexander, in a letter to
his mother, tells her there were some secret answers, which at his return he
would communicate to her only. Others say that the priest, desirous as
a piece of courtesy to address him in Greek, "O Paidion" (meaning
"my son") by a slip in
pronunciation ended with the s instead of the n, and said "O Paidios"
(meaning "son of god"). Alexander was well enough pleased with this
mistake, and the story was given out that the oracle had called him so.
Another time, when it thundered so much that everybody was afraid, Anaxarchus, the sophist, asked Alexander if he who was Zeus's son could do anything about the problem. "No," he laughed, "I have no wish to be so threatening to my friends, as you would have me: you despised my table for being furnished with fish, and not with the heads of governors of provinces." For in fact it is related as true, that Anaxarchus, seeing a present of small fishes, which the king sent to Hephaestion, had used this expression, in a sort of irony, and disparagement of those who undergo vast labors and encounter great hazards in pursuit of magnificent objects which after all bring them little more pleasure or enjoyment than what others have.
From what I have said upon this
subject, it is apparent that
Alexander himself was not foolish
or vain to believe himself to be a god, but used these
claims to divinity as a way of maintaining among other people the sense
of his natural fitness to rule.
Thessalus was most favored by Alexander, though it did not appear until Athenodorus was declared victor by the plurality of votes. For then at his going away, he said the judges deserved to be commended for what they had done, but that he would willingly have lost part of his kingdom rather than to have seen Thessalus overcome in the competition. However, when he understood Athenodorus was fined by the Athenians for being absent at the festivals of Bacchus, though he refused his request that he would write a letter in his behalf, he gave him a sufficient sum to satisfy the penalty. Another time, when Lycon of Scarphia happened to act with great applause in the theatre, and in a verse which he introduced into the comic part which he was acting, begged for a present of ten talents, he laughed and gave him the money.
Darius wrote him a letter, and sent friends to intercede with him, requesting him to accept as a ransom of his captives the sum of a thousand talents, and offering him in exchange for his truce and alliance all the countries on his side the river Euphrates, together with one of his daughters in marriage. These propositions he communicated to his friends, and when Parmenio told him that, for his part, if he were Alexander, he should readily embrace them, "So would I," said Alexander, "if I were Parmenio."
Accordingly, his answer to Darius was, that if he would come
and yield himself up into his power he would treat him with
all possible kindness; if not, he was resolved immediately
to go himself and seek him. But the death of Darius's
in childbirth made him soon after regret one part of this answer, and
he showed evident marks of grief at thus deprived of a further opportunity of
exercising his clemency and good nature, which he manifested, however, as
far as he could, by giving her a most sumptuous
"O king," replied the eunuch, "as to her funeral rites, or any respect or honor that should have been shown in them, you have not the least reason to regret the fortune of your country, for to my knowledge neither your queen Statira when alive, nor your mother, nor children, wanted anything of their former happy condition, unless it were the light of your countenance, which I doubt not but the lord Oromasdes will yet restore to its former glory. After her death, I assure you, she had not only all due funeral rites, but was honored also with the tears of your very enemies, for Alexander is as gentle after victory as he is terrible in the field."
At the hearing of these words, such was the grief and emotion of Darius's mind, that they led him into deep suspicions. Taking Tireus aside into a more private part of his tent, he said to him: "Unless you also have deserted me, like the good fortune of Persia, unless you have become a Macedonian in your heart, if you yet call me your master Darius, tell me, I charge you, by the veneration you pay the light of Mithras, and this right hand of your king, should I not lament the least of Statira's misfortunes in her captivity and death? Have I ever suffered anything more injurious and deplorable in her lifetime? Would I have been miserable with less dishonor if I had met with a more severe and inhuman enemy? For how is it possible a young man as he is should treat the wife of his opponent with so much distinction, unless he had some motive that does me disgrace?"
While he was still speaking, Tireus threw himself at his feet, and begged him neither to wrong Alexander so much, nor his dead wife and sister, as to give utterance to any such thoughts, which deprived him of the greatest consolation left him in his adversity, the belief that he was overcome by a man whose virtues raised him above human nature; that he ought to look upon Alexander with love and admiration, who had given no less proofs of his continence towards the Persian women, than of his valor among the men.
The eunuch confirmed all he said with solemn and dreadful oaths, and was further enlarging upon Alexander's moderation and magnanimity on other occasions, when Darius, breaking away from him into the other division of the tent, where his friends and courtiers were, lifted up his hands to heaven and uttered this prayer, "You gods," said he, "of my family, and of my kingdom, if it be possible, I beg you to restore the declining affairs of Persia, that I may leave them in as flourishing a condition as I found them, and have it in my power to make a grateful return to Alexander for the kindness which in my adversity he has shown to those who are dearest to me. But if, indeed, the fatal time be come, which is to give a period to the Persian monarchy, if our ruin be a debt that must be paid to the divine jealousy and the vicissitude of things, then I beseech you grant that no other man but Alexander may sit upon the throne of Cyrus." Such is the narrative given by the greater number of the historians.
The Decisive Battle of Gaugemela
But to return to Alexander. After he had reduced all Asia west of the Euphrates, he advanced towards Darius, who was coming down against him with a million men. In his march a very ridiculous passage happened. The servants who followed the camp for sport's sake divided themselves into two parties, and named the commander of one of them Alexander, and the other Darius. At first they only pelted one another with clods of earth, but presently took to their fists, and at last, heated with contention, they fought in good earnest with stones and clubs, so that they had much ado to part them; till Alexander, upon hearing of it, ordered the two captains to decide the quarrel by single combat, and armed him who bore his name himself, while Philotas did the same to him who represented Darius. The whole army were spectators of this encounter, willing from the event of it to derive an omen of their own future success. After they had fought stoutly a pretty long while, at last he who was called Alexander had the better, and for a reward of his prowess had twelve villages given him, with leave to wear the Persian dress. So we are told by Eratosthenes.
But the great battle of all that was fought with Darius was not, as most writers tell us, at Arbela, but at Gaugamela, which, in their language, signifies the camel's house, forasmuch as one of their ancient kings having escaped the pursuit of his enemies on a swift camel, in gratitude to his beast, settled him at this place, with an allowance of certain villages and rents for his maintenance. It came to pass that in the month Boedromion, about the beginning of the feast of Mysteries at Athens, there was an eclipse of the moon, the eleventh night after which, the two armies being now in view of one another, Darius kept his men in arms, and by torchlight took a general review of them. But Alexander, while his soldiers slept, spent the night before his tent with his diviner, Aristander, performing certain mysterious ceremonies, and sacrificing to the god of fear.
In the meanwhile the oldest of his commanders, and chiefly Parmenio, when they beheld all the plain between Niphates and the Gordyaean mountains shining with the lights and fires which were made by the barbarians, and heard the uncertain and confused sounds of voices out of their camp, like the distant roaring of a vast ocean, were so amazed at the thoughts of such a multitude, that after some talk among themselves, they decided it was too difficult and hazardous for them to engage so numerous an enemy in the day. They met the king as he came from sacrificing, and they pleaded with him to attack Darius by night, so that the darkness might conceal the danger of the ensuing battle.
To this he gave them the celebrated answer, "I will
steal a victory," which though some at the time thought a boyish and inconsiderate
speech, as if he played with danger. Others, however, regarded as
an evidence that he confided in his present condition, and acted on a
true judgment of the future, not wishing to leave Darius, in case he were
worsted, the pretext of trying his fortune again, which he might suppose himself
to have, if he could impute his overthrow to the disadvantage of the
night, as he did before to the mountains, the narrow passages, and the
sea. For while he had such numerous forces and large dominions still remaining,
it was not any want of men or arms that could induce him to give
up the war, but only the loss of all courage and hope upon the conviction of
an undeniable and manifest defeat.
For the battle for some time fluctuated and was dubious. The left wing, where Parmenio commanded, was so impetuously charged by the Bactrian horse that it was disordered and forced to give ground, at the same time that Mazaeus had sent a detachment round about to fall upon those who guarded the baggage, which so disturbed Parmenio that he sent messengers to acquaint Alexander that the camp and baggage would be all lost unless he immediately relieved the rear by a considerable reinforcement drawn out of the front. This message being brought him just as he was giving the signal to those about him for the onset, he bade them tell Parmenio that he must have surely lost the use of his reason, and had forgotten, in his alarm, that soldiers, if victorious, became masters of their enemies' baggage; and if defeated, instead of taking care of their wealth or their slaves, have nothing more to do but to fight gallantly and die with honor.
When he had said this, he put on his helmet, having the rest of his arms on before he came out of his tent, which were a coat of the Sicilian make, girt close about him, and over that a breast-piece of thickly quilted linen, which was taken among other booty at the battle of Issus. The helmet, which was made by Theophilus, though of iron, was so well wrought and polished that it was as bright as the most refined silver. To this was fitted a gorget of the same metal, set with precious stones. His sword, which was the weapon he most used in fight, was given him by the King of the Citieans, and was of an admirable temper and lightness. The belt which he also wore in all engagements was of much richer workmanship than the rest of his armor. It was a work of the ancient Helicon, and had been presented to him by the Rhodians, as a mark of their respect to him.
So long as he was engaged in drawing up his men, or riding about to give
orders or directions, or to view them, he spared Bucephalus, who was now
growing old, and made use of another horse; but when he was actually to
fight, he sent for him again, and as soon as he was mounted, commenced the
But before they could well come to blows with the first ranks, the barbarians retreated, and were hotly pursued by Alexander, who drove those that fled before him into the middle of the battle, where Darius himself was in person, whom he saw from a distance over the foremost ranks, conspicuous in the midst of his life-guard, a tall and fine-looking man, drawn in a lofty chariot, defended by an abundance of the best horse, who stood close in order about it ready to receive the enemy. But Alexander's approach was so terrible, forcing those who gave back upon those who yet maintained their ground, that he beat down and dispersed them almost all. Only a few of the bravest and most valiant opposed the pursuit, who were slain in their king's presence, falling in heaps upon one another, and in the very pangs of death striving to catch hold of the horses.
Darius now seeing all was lost, that those who were placed in front to defend him were broken and beat back upon him, that he could not turn or disengage his chariot without great difficulty, the wheels being clogged and entangled among the dead bodies, which lay in such heaps as not only stopped, but almost covered the horses, and made them rear and grow so unruly that the frightened charioteer could govern them no longer, in this extremity was glad to quit his chariot and his arms, and mounting, it is said, upon a mare that had been taken from her foal, betook himself to flight. But he had not escaped so either, if Parmenio had not sent fresh messengers to Alexander, to desire him to return and assist him against a considerable body of the enemy which yet stood together, and would not give ground. For, indeed, Parmenio is on all hands accused of having been sluggish and unserviceable in this battle, whether age had impaired his courage, or that, as Callisthenes says, he secretly disliked and envied Alexander's growing greatness. Alexander, though he was not a little vexed to be so recalled and hindered from pursuing his victory, yet concealed the true reason from his men, and causing a retreat to be sounded, as if it were too late to continue the execution any longer, marched back towards the place of danger, and by the way met the news of the enemy's total overthrow and flight.
Alexander as Emperor
This battle being thus over, seemed to put a period to the Persian empire. Alexander, who was now proclaimed King of
Asia, returned thanks to
the gods in magnificent sacrifices, and he rewarded his friends and followers with
great sums of money, and appointments, and governments of provinces. Eager
gain honor with the Greeks, he wrote to them that he would have all tyrannies
abolished, that they might live free according to their own laws, and
specially to the Plataeans, that their city should be rebuilt, because their
ancestors had permitted their countrymen of old to make their territory the
seat of the war when they fought with the barbarians for their common liberty.
He sent also part of the spoils into Italy, to the people of Croton, to honor the zeal and courage of their citizen Phayllus, the wrestler, who,
in the Median war, when the other Greek colonies in Italy disowned Greece,
that he might have a share in the danger, joined the fleet at Salamis, with
a vessel set forth at his own charge. So affectionate was Alexander to
all kind of virtue, and so desirous to preserve the memory of laudable actions.
Among those who used to wait on the king and find occasion to amuse him when he anointed and washed himself there was one Athenophanes, an Athenian, who desired him to make an experiment of the naphtha upon Stephanus, who stood by in the bathing place, a youth with a ridiculously ugly face, whose talent was singing well, "For," said he, "if it take hold of him and is not put out, it must undeniably be allowed to be of the most invincible strength."
The youth, as it happened, readily consented to undergo the trial, and as soon as he was anointed and rubbed with it, his whole body broke out into such a flame, and was so seized by the fire, that Alexander was in the greatest perplexity and alarm for him, and not without reason; for nothing could have prevented his being consumed by it, if by good chance there had not been people at hand with a great many vessels of water for the service of the bath, with all which they had much ado to extinguish the fire;. His body was so burned all over that he was not cured of it for a good while after. Thus it is not without some plausibility that they endeavor to reconcile the fable to truth, who say this was the drug in the tragedies with which Medea anointed the crown and veil which she gave to Creon's daughter. For neither the things themselves, nor the fire, could kindle of its own accord, but being prepared for it by the naphtha, they imperceptibly attracted and caught a flame which happened to be brought near them. For the rays and emanations of fire at a distance have no other effect upon some bodies than bare light and heat, but in others, where they meet with airy dryness, and also sufficient rich moisture, they collect themselves and soon kindle and create a transformation.
The manner, however, of the production of naphtha admits of
a diversity of opinion... of whether this liquid substance
that feeds the flame does not rather proceed from a soil
that is unctuous and productive of fire, as that of the
province of Babylon is, where the ground is so very hot that
oftentimes the grains of barley leap up and are thrown out, as if the
violent inflammation had made the earth throb; and in the extreme heats the
inhabitants are wont to sleep upon skins filled with water. Harpalus, who
was left governor of this country, and was desirous to adorn the palace gardens
and walks with Greek plants, succeeding in raising all but ivy, which
the earth would not bear, but constantly killed. For being a plant that
loves a cold soil, the temper of this hot and fiery earth was improper for
it. But such digressions as these the impatient reader will be more willing
to pardon if they are kept within a moderate compass.
Greeks in Persia
The entrance into Persia was through a most difficult country, and was guarded by the noblest of the Persians, Darius himself having escaped further. Alexander, however, chanced to find a guide in exact correspondence with what the Pythia had foretold when he was a child, that a lycus should conduct him into Persia. For by such an one, whose father was a Lycian, and his mother a Persian, and who spoke both languages, he was now led into the country, by a way something about, yet without fetching any considerable compass. Here a great many of the prisoners were put to the sword, of which himself gives this account, that he commanded them to be killed in the belief that it would be for his advantage. Nor was the money found here less, he says, than at Susa, besides other movables and treasure, as much as ten thousand pair of mules and five thousand camels could well carry away.
Amongst other things he happened to observe a large statue of Xerxes thrown carelessly down to the ground in the confusion made by the multitude of soldiers pressing into the palace. He stood still, and accosting it as if it had been alive, "Shall we," said he, "neglectfully pass you by, now that you are fallen on the ground because you once invaded Greece, or shall we erect you again because of the greatness of your mind and your other virtues?" But at last, after he had paused some time, and silently considered with himself, he went on without taking any further notice of it. In this place he took up his winter quarters, and stayed four months to refresh his soldiers.
It is related that the first time he
sat on the royal throne of Persia under the canopy of gold, Demaratus the
Corinthian, who was much attached to him and had been one of his father's friends,
wept, in an old man's manner, and deplored the misfortune of those Greeks
whom death had deprived of the satisfaction of seeing Alexander seated
on the throne of Darius.
Ariston, the captain of the Paeonians, having killed an enemy, brought his head to show him, and told him that in his country such a present was recompensed with a cup of gold. "With an empty one," said Alexander, smiling, "but I drink to you in this, which I give you full of wine." Another time, as one of the common soldiers was driving a mule laden with some of the king's treasure, the beast grew tired, and the soldier took it upon his own back, and began to march with it, till Alexander seeing the man so overcharged asked what was the matter; and when he was informed, just as he was ready to lay down his burden for weariness, "Do not faint now," said he to him, "but finish the journey, and carry what you have there to your own tent for yourself." He was always more displeased with those who would not accept of what he gave than with those who begged of him. And therefore he wrote to Phocion, that he would not own him for his friend any longer if he refused his presents. He had never given anything to Serapion, one of the youths that played at ball with him, because he did not ask of him, till one day, it coming to Serapion's turn to play, he still threw the ball to others, and when the king asked him why he did not direct it to him, "Because you do not ask for it," said he; which answer pleased him so that he was very liberal to him afterwards. One Proteas, a pleasant, jesting, drinking fellow, having incurred his displeasure, got his friends to intercede for him, and begged his pardon himself with tears, which at last prevailed, and Alexander declared he was friends with him. "I cannot believe it," said Proteas, "unless you first give me some pledge of it." The king understood his meaning, and presently ordered five talents to be given him.
How magnificent he was in enriching his friends, and those who attended on his person, appears by a letter which Olympias wrote to him, where she tells him he should reward and honor those about him in a more moderate way. "For now," said she, "you make them all equal to kings, you give them power and opportunity of making many friends of their own, and in the meantime you leave yourself destitute." She often wrote to him to this purpose, and he never communicated her letters to anybody, unless it were one which he opened when Hephaestion was by, whom he permitted, as his custom was, to read it along with him; but then as soon as he had done, he took off his ring, and set the seal upon Hephaestion's lips.
Mazaeus, who was the most considerable man in Darius's
court, had a son who was already governor of a province. Alexander bestowed
another upon him that was better; he, however, modestly refused, and
told him, instead of one Darius, he went the way to make many Alexanders. To
Parmenio he gave Bagoas's house, in which he found a wardrobe of apparel worth
more than a thousand talents. He wrote to Antipater, commanding him to
keep a life-guard about him for the security of his person against
conspiracies. To his mother he sent many presents, but
would never suffer her to meddle with matters of state or
war, not indulging her busy temper, and when she fell out
with him on this account, he bore her ill-humor very patiently. Nay
more, when he read a long letter from Antipater full of accusations against
her, "Antipater," he said, "does not know that one tear of a
mother effaces a thousand such letters as these."
For these things, he reproved them in gentle and reasonable terms, telling them he wondered that they who had been engaged in so many single battles did not know by experience, that those who labor sleep more sweetly and soundly than those who are labored for, and could fail to see by comparing the Persians' manner of living with their own that it was the most abject and slavish condition to be voluptuous, but the most noble and royal to undergo pain and labor. He argued with them further, how it was possible for any one who pretended to be a soldier, either to look well after his horse, or to keep his armor bright and in good order, who thought it much to let his hands be serviceable to what was nearest to him, his own body.
still to learn," said he, "that the end and perfection of our
victories is to avoid the vices and infirmities of those
whom we subdue? And to strengthen his precepts by example,
he applied himself now more vigorously than ever to hunting
and warlike expeditions, embracing all opportunities of hardship and
danger, insomuch that a Lacedaemonian, who was there on an embassy to
him and chanced to be by when he encountered with and mastered a huge lion,
told him he had fought gallantly with the beast, which of the two should
be king. Craterus caused a representation to be made of this adventure, consisting
of the lion and the dogs, of the king engaged with the lion, and
himself coming in to his assistance, all expressed in figures of brass, some
of which were by Lysippus, and the rest by Leochares; and had it dedicated in
the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Alexander exposed his person to danger in
this manner, with the object both of inuring himself and inciting others to
the performance of brave and virtuous actions.
He sent Hephaestion, who was absent about some business, word how, while they were fighting for their diversion with an ichneumon, Craterus was by chance run through both thighs with Perdiccas's javelin. And upon Peucestes's recovery from a fit of sickness, he sent a letter of thanks to his physician Alexippus. When Craterus was ill, he saw a vision in his sleep, after which he offered sacrifices for his health, and ordered him to do likewise. He wrote also to Pausanias, the physician, who was about to purge Craterus with hellebore, partly out of an anxious concern for him, and partly to give him a caution how he used that medicine. He was so tender of his friends' reputation that he imprisoned Ephialtes and Cissus, who brought him the first news of Harpalus's flight and withdrawal from his service, as if they had falsely accused him.
When he sent the old and infirm soldiers home, Eurylochus, a citizen of Aegae, got his name enrolled among the sick, though
he ailed nothing, which being discovered, he confessed he was in love
with a young woman named Telesippa, and wanted to go along with her to
the sea-side. Alexander inquired to whom the woman belonged, and being told
she was a free courtesan, "I will assist you," said he to Eurylochus,
"in your amour if your mistress be to be gained either
by presents or persuasions; but we must use no other means,
because she is free-born."
It is reported of him that when he first sat in judgment upon capital causes he would lay his hand upon one of his ears while the accuser spoke, to keep it free and unprejudiced in behalf of the party accused. But afterwards such a multitude of accusations were brought before him, and so many proved true, that he lost his tenderness of heart, and gave credit to those also that were false; and especially when anybody spoke ill of him, he would be transported out of his reason, and show himself cruel and inexorable, valuing his glory and reputation beyond his life or kingdom.
Death of Darius
He now, as we said, set forth to seek Darius, expecting he should be put to the hazard of another battle, but heard he was taken and secured by Bessus, upon which news he sent home the Thessalians, and gave them a largess of two thousand talents over and above the pay that was due to them. This long and painful pursuit of Darius (for in eleven days he marched thirty-three hundred furlongs) exhausted his soldiers so that most of them were ready to give it up, chiefly for want of water. While they were in this distress, it happened that some Macedonians who had fetched water in skins upon their mules from a river they had found out came about noon to the place where Alexander was, and seeing him almost choked with thirst, presently filled an helmet and offered it him. He asked them to whom they were carrying the water, they told him to their children, adding, that if his life were but saved, it was no matter for them, they should be able well enough to repair that loss, though they all perished. Then he took the helmet into his hands, and looking round about, when he saw all those who were near him stretching their heads out and looking earnestly after the drink, he returned it again with thanks without tasting a drop of it. "For," said he, "if I alone drink, the rest will be out of heart."
The soldiers no sooner took notice of his temperance and magnanimity upon this occasion, but they one and all cried out to him to lead them forward boldly, and began whipping on their horses. For whilst they had such a king they said they defied both weariness and thirst, and looked upon themselves to be little less than immortal. But though they were all equally cheerful and willing, yet not above three-score horse were able, it is said, to keep up, and to fall in with Alexander upon the enemy's camp, where they rode over abundance of gold and silver that lay scattered about, and passing by a great many chariots full of women that wandered here and there for want of drivers, they endeavored to overtake the first of those that fled, in hopes to meet with Darius among them.
And at last, after much trouble, they found him lying in a chariot, wounded all over with darts, just at the point of death. However, he desired they would give him some drink, and when he had drunk a little cold water, he told Polystratus, who gave it him, that it had become the last extremity of his ill fortune to receive benefits and not be able to return them. "But Alexander," said he, "whose kindness to my mother, my wife, and my children I hope the gods will recompense, will doubtless thank you for your humanity to me. Tell him, therefore, in token of my acknowledgment, I give him this right hand," with which words he took hold of Polystratus's hand and died. When Alexander came up to them, he showed manifest tokens of sorrow, and taking off his own cloak, threw it upon the body to cover it.
Some time afterwards, when Bessus was taken, he ordered him to be torn in pieces in this manner. They fastened him to a couple of trees which were bound down so as to meet, and then being let loose, with a great force returned to their places, each of them carrying that part of the body along with it that was tied to it.
Darius's body was laid in state, and sent to his mother with pomp suitable to his quality. His brother Exathres, Alexander received into the number of his intimate friends.
Explorations in the East
And now with the flower of his army he marched into Hyrcania, where he
saw a large bay of an open sea, apparently not much less than the Euxine, with
water, however, sweeter than that of other seas, but he could learn nothing of
certainty concerning it, further than that in all probability it seemed to
him to be an arm issuing from the lake of Maeotis. However, the naturalists were
better informed of the truth, and had given an account of it many years
before Alexander's expedition; that of four gulfs which out of the main
sea enter into the continent, this, known indifferently as the Caspian and
as the Hyrcanian Sea, is the most northern. Here the barbarians, unexpectedly meeting
with those who led Bucephalus, took them prisoners, and carried the
horse away with them. at which Alexander was so much vexed that he sent
an herald to let them know he would put them all to the sword, men, women,
and children, without mercy, if they did not restore him. But on their
doing so, and at the same time surrendering their cities into his hands,
he not only treated them kindly, but also paid a ransom for his horse
to those who took him.
At first he wore this habit
when he conversed with the barbarians, or within doors, among his intimate
friends and companions, but afterwards he appeared in it outside, when
he rode, and at public audiences, a sight which the Macedonians beheld
with grief, but they so respected his other virtues and good qualities that
they felt it reasonable in some things to gratify his fancies and his
passion of glory, in pursuit of which he hazarded himself so far, that,
his other adventures, he had but lately been wounded in the leg by
an arrow, which had so shattered the shank-bone that splinters were taken
out. And on another occasion he received a violent blow with a stone upon
the nape of the neck, which dimmed his sight for a good while afterwards. And
yet all this could not hinder him from exposing himself freely to any dangers,
insomuch that he passed the river Orexartes, which he took to be
the Tanais, and putting the Scythians to flight, followed them above a
hundred furlongs, though suffering all the time from a diarrhoea.
Certain it is, that apprehending the Macedonians would be weary of pursuing the war, he left the greater part of them in their quarters; and having with him in Hyrcania the choice of his men only, amounting to twenty thousand foot and three thousand horse, he spoke to them to this effect: That hitherto the barbarians had seen them no otherwise than as it were in a dream, and if they should think of returning when they had only alarmed Asia, and not conquered it, their enemies would set upon them as upon so many women. However he told them he would keep none of them with him against their will, they might go if they pleased; he should merely enter his protest, that when on his way to make the Macedonians the masters of the world, he was left alone with a few friends and volunteers. This is almost word for word as he wrote in a letter to Antipater, where he adds, that when he had thus spoken to them, they all cried out, they would go along with him whithersoever it was his pleasure to lead them. After succeeding with these, it was no hard matter for him to bring over the multitude, which easily followed the example of their superiors.
Now, also, he more and more accommodated
himself in his way of living to that of the natives, and tried to
bring them also as near as he could to the Macedonian customs, wisely considering
that whilst he was engaged in an expedition which would carry him
far from thence, it would be wiser to depend upon the good-will which might
arise from intermixture and association as a means of maintaining tranquility,
than upon force and compulsion. In order to this, he chose out
thirty thousand boys, whom he put under masters to teach them the Greek tongue,
and to train them up to arms in the Macedonian discipline. As for his
marriage with Roxana, whose youthfulness and beauty had charmed him at
a drinking entertainment, where he first happened to see her taking part
in a dance, it was, indeed a love affair, yet it seemed at the same time
to be conducive to the object he had in hand. For it gratified the conquered
people to see him choose a wife from among themselves, and it made
them feel the most lively affection for him, to find that in the only passion
which he, the most temperate of men, was overcome by, he yet forbore till
he could obtain her in a lawful and honorable way.
Philotas and Parmenio
There was scarcely any one who had greater repute among the Macedonians than Philotas, the son of Parmenio. For besides that he was valiant and able to endure any fatigue of war, he was also next to Alexander himself the most munificent, and the greatest lover of his friends, one of whom asking him for some money, he commanded his steward to give it him; and when he told him he had not wherewith, "Have you not any plate, then," said he, "or any clothes of mine to sell?" But he carried his arrogance and his pride of wealth and his habits of display and luxury to a degree of assumption unbecoming a private man; and affecting all the loftiness without succeeding in showing any of the grace or gentleness of true greatness, by this mistaken and spurious majesty he gained so much envy and ill-will, that Parmenio would sometimes tell him, "My son, to be not quite so great would be better." For he had long before been complained of, and accused to Alexander. Particularly when Darius was defeated in Cilicia, and an immense booty was taken at Damascus, among the rest of the prisoners who were brought into the camp, there was one Antigone of Pydna, a very handsome woman, who fell to Philotas's share. The young man one day in his cups, in the vaunting, outspoken, soldier's manner, declared to his mistress, that all the great actions were performed by him and his father, the glory and benefit of which, he said, together with the title of king, the boy Alexander reaped and enjoyed by their means. She could not hold, but discovered what he had said to one of her acquaintance, and he, as is usual in such cases, to another, till at last the story came to the ears of Craterus, who brought the woman secretly to the king.
When Alexander had heard what she had to say, he commanded her to continue her intrigue with Philotas, and give him an account from time to time of all that should fall from him to this purpose. He, thus unwittingly caught in a snare, to gratify sometimes a fit of anger, sometimes a love of vainglory, let himself utter numerous foolish, indiscreet speeches against the king in Antigone's hearing, of which, though Alexander was informed and convinced by strong evidence, yet he would take no notice of it at present, whether it was that he confided in Parmenio's affection and loyalty, or that he apprehended their authority and interest in the army.
But about this time, one Limnus, a Macedonian of Chalastra, conspired against Alexander's life, and communicated his design to a youth whom he was fond of, named Nicomachus, inviting him to be of the party. But he not relishing the thing, revealed it to his brother Balinus, who immediately addressed himself to Philotas, requiring him to introduce them both to Alexander, to whom they had something of great moment to impart which very nearly concerned him. But he, for what reason is uncertain, went not with them, professing that the king was engaged with affairs of more importance. And when they had urged him a second time, and were still slighted by him, they applied themselves to another, by whose means being admitted into Alexander's presence, they first told about Limnus' conspiracy, and by the way let Philotas's negligence appear who had twice disregarded their application to him.
Alexander was greatly incensed, and upon finding that Limnus had defended himself, and had been killed by the soldier who was sent to seize him, he was still more discomposed, thinking he had thus lost the means of detecting the plot. As soon as his displeasure against Philotas began to appear, presently all his old enemies showed themselves, and said openly, the king was too easily imposed on, to imagine that one so inconsiderable as Limnus, a Chalastrian, should of his own head undertake such an enterprise; that in all likelihood he was but subservient to the design, an instrument that was moved by some greater spring; that those ought to be more strictly examined about the matter whose interest it was so much to conceal it. When they had once gained the king's ear for insinuations of this sort, they went on to show a thousand grounds of suspicion against Philotas, till at last they prevailed to have him seized and put to the torture, which was done in the presence of the principal officers, Alexander himself being placed behind some tapestry to understand what passed. Where, when he heard in what a miserable tone, and with what abject submissions Philotas applied himself to Hephaestion, he broke out, it is said, in this manner: "Are you so mean-spirited and effeminate, Philotas, and yet can engage in so desperate a design?"
After Philotas' death, Alexander presently sent into Media, and put also Parmenio, his father, to death, who had done brave service under Philip, and was the only man of his older friends and counselors who had encouraged Alexander to invade Asia. Of three sons whom he had had in the army, he had already lost two, and now was himself put to death with the third. These actions rendered Alexander an object of terror to many of his friends, and chiefly to Antipater, who, to strengthen himself, sent messengers privately to treat for an alliance with the Aetolians, who stood in fear of Alexander, because they had destroyed the town of the Oeniadae; on being informed of which, Alexander had said the children of the Oeniadae need not revenge their father's quarrel, for he would himself take care to punish the Aetolians.
Not long after this happened came the deplorable end of Clitus, which, to those who first hear the matter, may seem more inhuman than that of Philotas. If we consider the story with its circumstance of time, and weigh the cause, however, we shall find it to have occurred rather through a sort of accident of the king's, whose anger and over-drinking offered an occasion to the evil genius of Clitus.
The king had a present of Grecian fruit brought him from the sea-coast, which was so fresh and beautiful that he was surprised at it, and called Clitus to him to see it, and to give him a share of it. Clitus was then sacrificing, but he immediately left off and came, followed by three sheep, on whom the drink-offering had been already poured preparatory to sacrificing them. Alexander, being informed of this, told his diviners, Aristander and Cleomantis the Lacedaemonian, and asked them what it meant; on whose assuring him it was an ill omen, he commanded them in all haste to offer sacrifices for Clitus' safety, forasmuch as three days before he himself had seen a strange vision in his sleep, of Clitus all in mourning, sitting by Parmenio's sons who were dead. Clitus, however, did not stay to finish his devotions, but came straight to supper with the king, who had sacrificed to Castor and Pollux.
When they had drunk pretty hard, some of the company began singing the verses of one Pranichus, or as others say of Pierion, which were made upon those captains who had been lately worsted by the barbarians, on purpose to disgrace and turn them to ridicule. This gave offence to the older men who were there, and they upbraided both the author and the singer of the verses, though Alexander and the younger men about him thought they were funny, and encouraged them to go on, till at last Clitus, who had drunk too much, and was besides of a forward and willful temper, was so nettled that he could stay silent no longer. He said it was not well done to expose the Macedonians before the barbarians and their enemies, since though it was their unhappiness to be overcome, yet they were much better men than those who laughed at them. And when Alexander remarked, that Clitus was pleading his own cause, giving cowardice the name of misfortune, Clitus started up: "This cowardice, as you are pleased to term it," said he to him, "saved the life of a son of the gods, when in flight from Spithridates's sword; it is by the expense of Macedonian blood, and by these wounds, that you are now raised to such a height as to be able to disown your father Philip, and call yourself the son of Amun."
"You base fellow," said Alexander, who was now thoroughly exasperated, "do you think you can speak these things everywhere about me, and stir up the Macedonians to rebellion? Do you think you will not be punished for it?"
"We are punished enough already," answered Clitus, "if this is how were are paid for our work! Theirs is a happy lot who have not lived to see their countrymen beaten with Median whips and forced to beg to the Persians to have access to their king."
While he talked thus at random, and those near Alexander got up from their seats and began to revile him in turn, the older men did what they could to compose the disorder. Alexander, in the meantime turning about to Xenodochus, the Pardian, and Artemius, the Colophonian, asked if they were not of opinion that the Greeks, in comparison with the Macedonians, behaved themselves like so many demigods among wild beasts. But Clitus for all this would not stop, desiring Alexander to speak out if he had anything more to say, or else why did he invite men who were freeborn and accustomed to speak their minds openly without restraint to sup with him. He had better live and converse with barbarians and slaves who would not scruple to bow the knee to his Persian girdle and his white tunic.
These words so provoked Alexander that, not able to suppress his anger any longer, he threw one of the apples that lay upon the table at him, and it hit him. He then looked for his sword, but Aristophanes, one of his guards, had hidden it away. Other men came about him and pleaded with him him to stop, but their efforts were in vain. Breaking away from them, he called out aloud to his guards in the Macedonian language, which was a certain sign of some great disturbance in him, and he commanded a trumpeter to sound, giving him a blow with his clenched fist for not instantly obeying him (though afterwards the same man was commended for disobeying an order which would have put the whole army into tumult and confusion).
Clitus still refused to yield, and was pushed with much trouble by his friends out of the room. But he came in again immediately at another door, very irreverently and confidently singing the verses out of Euripides's Andromache, "In Greece, alas! how ill things ordered are."
Upon this, at last, Alexander, snatching a spear from one of the soldiers, met Clitus as he was coming forward by the curtain that hung before the door, and he ran him through the body. Clitus fell at once with a cry and a groan. Upon which the king's anger immediately vanishing, he came perfectly to himself, and when he saw his friends about him all in a profound silence, he pulled the spear out of the dead body, and would have thrust it into his own throat, if the guards had not held his hands and by main force carried him away into his chamber, where all that night and the next day he wept bitterly, till being quite spent with lamenting and exclaiming, he lay as it were speechless, only fetching deep sighs. His friends apprehending some harm from his silence, broke into the room, but he took no notice of what any of them said, till Aristander putting him in mind of the vision he had seen concerning Clitus, and the prodigy that followed, as if all had come to pass by an unavoidable fatality, he then seemed to moderate his grief.
Callisthenes the philosopher
They now brought Callisthenes, the philosopher, who was the near friend of Aristotle, and Anaxarchus of Abdera, to him. Callisthenes used moral language, and gentle and soothing means, hoping to find access for words of reason, and get a hold upon the passion. But Anaxarchus, who had always taken a course of his own in philosophy, and had a name for despising and slighting his contemporaries, as soon as he came in, cried aloud, "Is this the Alexander whom the whole world looks to, lying here weeping like a slave, for fear of the censure and reproach of men, to whom he himself ought to be a law and measure of equity, if he would use the right his conquests have given him as supreme lord and governor of all, and not be the victim of a vain and idle opinion? Do not you know," said he, "that Zeus is represented to have Justice and Law on each hand of him, to signify that all the actions of a conqueror are lawful and just?"
these and similar speeches, Anaxarchus indeed stopped the king's
but at the same time corrupted his character, rendering him more assertive and
lawless than he had been. Nor did Anaxarchus fail to insinuate himself
into Alexander's his favor, and to make Callisthenes's company, which at all times,
because of his austerity, was not very acceptable, more uneasy and disagreeable
Besides the envy which his great reputation raised, Callisthenes also, by his own behavior, gave his ill-wishers opportunity to do him harm. For when he was invited to public entertainments, he would most times refuse to come, or if he were present at any, he put a constraint upon the company by his austerity and silence, which seemed to intimate his disapproval of what he saw. Alexander himself said in application to him, "That vain pretence to wisdom I detest, where a man's blind to his own interest."
Being with many more invited to dine with the king, he was called upon when the cup came to him, to make an oration extempore in praise of the Macedonians, and he did it with such a flow of eloquence, that all who heard it rose from their seats to clap and applaud him, and threw their garland upon him. Only Alexander told him out of Euripides, "I wonder not that you have spoken so well: it's easy on good subjects to excel." "Therefore," said Alexander, "if you will show the force of your eloquence, tell my Macedonians their faults, and dispraise them, that by hearing their errors they may learn to be better for the future."
Callisthenes presently obeyed him, retracting all he had said before, and, inveighing against the Macedonians with great freedom. He added that Philip had thrived and grown powerful, chiefly by the discord of the Greeks. He applied to Philip this verse, "In civil strife even villains rise to fame," which so offended the Macedonians, that Callithenes was odious to them ever after. And Alexander said, that instead of his eloquence, he had only made his ill-will appear in what he had spoken.
Hermippus assures us that one Stroebus, a servant whom Callisthenes kept to read to him, told the whole story afterwards to Aristotle. When Callisthenes saw the king growing more and more hostile to him, two or three times, as he departed, he recited Homer's verses, "Death seized at last on great Patroklos, too, Though in virtue he far exceeded you." Not without reason, therefore, did Aristotle give this character of Callisthenes, that he was, indeed, a powerful speaker, but he had no tact. He acted certainly a true philosopher's part in refusing to pay adoration and in speaking out openly against faults that the most powerful and serious of the Macedonians only discussed in private. He delivered the Greeks and Alexander from disgrace, when he was successful in his criticisms, but he ruined himself by it, because he went too roughly to work, as if he would have forced the king to that which he should done by reason and persuasion.
Chares of Mitylene writes, that at a banquet Alexander, after he had drunk, gave the cup to one of his friends, who, on receiving it, rose up towards the domestic altar, and when he had drunk, first adored and then kissed Alexander, and afterwards laid himself down at the table with the rest. All the rest of the company performed the same ritual, one after another, until it came to Callisthenes's turn, who took the cup and drank, while the king, who was engaged in conversation with Hephaestion, was not observing, and then came and offered to kiss him. But Demetrius Phidon stopped him, warning, "Sir, by no means let him kiss you, for he only of us all has refused to adore you." The king declined the kiss, and the only concern that Callisthenes showed was that he said aloud, "Then I go away with a kiss less than the rest."
The displeasure Callisthenes incurred by this action gave support to Hephaestion's declaration that he had broken his word to the king in not paying the same veneration that others did, as it was his duty to do. And to finish his disgrace, a number of men, such as Lysimachus and Hagnon, now came in with their accusations that the sophist went about everywhere boasting of his resistance to arbitrary power, and that the young men all ran after him, and honored him as the only man among so many thousands who had the courage to preserve his liberty.
Therefore when a conspiracy by Hermolaus came to be discovered, the charges which Callisthenes' enemies brought against him were the more easily believed, particularly the charge that when Hermolaus asked him what he should do to be the most illustrious person on earth, Callisthenes told him the readiest way was to kill the person who was already so, and that to incite him to commit the deed, he told him not be awed by the golden couch, but remember Alexander was a man equally infirm and vulnerable as any other. However, none of Hermolaus's accomplices, in the utmost extremity under torture, made any mention of Callisthenes's being engaged in the conspiracy. Indeed, Alexander himself, in the letters which he wrote soon after to Craterus, Attalus, and Alcetas, tells them that the young men who were put to the torture declared they had entered into the plot of themselves, without any others being privy to or guilty of it. But yet later, in a letter to Antipater, Alexander accuses Callisthenes. "The young men," he says, "were stoned to death by the Macedonians, but for the sophist [meaning Callisthenes] I will take care also to punish the one who sent him to me, and all those who harbor in their cities persons who conspire against my life." This is an unequivocal threat against Aristotle, in whose house Callisthenes, being his niece Hero's son, had been educated.
Callisthenes' death is variously reported.
Some say he was hanged by Alexander's orders. Others say that he died
of sickness in prison. Chares writes he was kept in chains seven months
after he was arrested, so that he might be prosecuted
in full council, when Aristotle would be present, but he contracted a disease of vermin
in prison, he grew swollen and there died, about the time
that Alexander was wounded in India, in the country of the Malli Oxydracae, all
which came to pass afterwards.
Alexander in India
Alexander, now intent upon his expedition into
India, took notice that
his soldiers were so charged with booty that it hindered their marching. Therefore,
at break of day, as soon as the baggage wagons were laden first he
set fire to his own, and to those of his friends, and then commanded those
to be burnt which belonged to the rest of the army. An act which in
the deliberation of it had seemed more dangerous and difficult than it
proved in the execution, with which few were dissatisfied for most of the
soldiers, as if they had been inspired, uttering loud outcries and warlike
shoutings, supplied one another with what was absolutely necessary, and
burnt and destroyed all that was superfluous, the sight of which redoubled Alexander's
zeal and eagerness for his design. And, indeed, he was now
very severe and inexorable in punishing those who committed any fault. For
he put Menander, one of his friends, to death for deserting a fortress where
he had placed him in garrison, and shot Orsodates, one of the barbarians who
revolted from him, with his own hand.
But this fear was soon removed by a wonderful thing
that happened not long after, and was thought to presage better. For
Proxenus, a Macedonian, who was the chief of those who looked to the king's
furniture, as he was breaking up the ground near the river Oxus, to
set up the royal pavilion, discovered a spring of a fat oily liquor, which,
after the top was taken off, ran pure, clear
oil, without any difference either
of taste or smell, having exactly the same smoothness and brightness, and
that, too, in a country where no olives grew. The water, indeed, of the
river Oxus, is said to be the smoothest to the feeling of all waters, and
to leave a gloss on the skins of those who bathe themselves in it. Whatever
might be the cause, certain it is that Alexander was wonderfully pleased
with it, as appears by his letters to Antipater, where he speaks of
it as one of the most remarkable presages that God had ever
favored him with. The diviners told him it signified his expedition would be glorious in
the event, but very painful and attended with many difficulties; for oil,
they said, was bestowed on mankind by God as a refreshment of their labors.
It is told of him that when he besieged Sisimithres, who held an inaccessible, impregnable rock against him, and his soldiers began to despair of taking it, he asked Oxyartes whether Sisimithres was a man of courage, who assuring him he was the greatest coward alive, "Then you tell me," said he, "that the place may easily be taken, since what is in command of it is weak." And in a little time he so terrified Sisimithres that he took it without any difficulty.
At an attack which he made upon
such another precipitous place with some of his Macedonian
soldiers, he called to one whose name was Alexander, and told him
he at any rate must fight bravely if it were but for his name's sake. The
youth fought gallantly and was killed in the action, at which he was sensibly
afflicted. Another time, seeing his men march slowly and unwillingly to
the siege of the place called Nysa, because of a deep river between them
and the town, he advanced before them, and standing upon the bank, "What
a miserable man," said he, "am I, that I have not learned to
swim!" and then was hardly dissuaded from endeavoring
to pass it upon his shield. Here, after the assault was
over, the ambassadors who from several towns which he had
blocked up came to submit to him and make their peace, were surprised
to find him still in his armor, without any one in waiting or attendance
upon him, and when at last some one brought him a cushion, he made
the eldest of them, named Acuphis, take it and sit down upon it. The old
man, marveling at his magnanimity and courtesy, asked him what his countrymen
should do to merit his friendship. "I would have them," said Alexander,
"choose you to govern them, and send one hundred of the most worthy
men among them to remain with me as hostages." Acuphis laughed and answered,
"I shall govern them with more ease, sir, if I send you so many of
the worst, rather than the best of my subjects."
The best soldiers of
the Indians now entered into the pay of several of the cities, to
defend them, and did it so bravely that they put Alexander to a great deal
of trouble, until at last they surrendered, and as they were marching away,
Alexander put them all
to the sword. This breach of his word remains as a blemish upon
achievements in war, which he otherwise had performed throughout with
justice and honor that befits a king. Nor was he less disturbed by
the Indian philosophers, who
criticized those princes who joined his
party, and who solicited the free nations to oppose him. Alexander took several of
these also and caused them to be hanged.
Alexander says, here the men left their boats, and passed the breach in their armor, up to the breast in water, and that then he advanced with his horse about twenty furlongs before his foot, concluding that if the enemy charged him with their cavalry he should be too strong for them; if with their foot, his own would come up time enough to his assistance. Nor did he judge wrongly, for being charged by a thousand horse and sixty armed chariots, which advanced before their main body, he took all the chariots, and killed four hundred of the horse.
Porus, by this time,
guessing that Alexander himself had crossed over, came on with his whole
army, except a party which he left behind, to hold the rest of the Macedonians
in play, if they should attempt to pass the river. But he, apprehending
the multitude of the enemy, and to avoid the shock of their elephants,
dividing his forces, attacked their left wing himself, and commanded Coenus
to fall upon the right, which was performed with good success. For by
this means both wings being broken, the enemies fell back in their retreat upon
the center, and crowded in upon their elephants. There rallying, they fought
a hand-to-hand battle, and it was the eighth hour of the day before they
were entirely defeated. This description the conqueror himself has left
us in his own epistles.
When Porus was
taken prisoner, and Alexander asked him how he expected to be used, he
answered, "As a king." For that expression, he said, when the same
question was put to him a second time, comprehended
everything. And Alexander, accordingly,
not only suffered
him to govern his own kingdom as satrap under himself, but
gave him also the additional territory of various independent tribes whom
he subdued, a district which, it is said, contained fifteen several nations,
and five thousand considerable towns, besides abundance of villages. To
another government, three times as large as this, he appointed Philip, one
of his friends.
Alexander's retreat down the Indus
But this last combat with Porus took off the edge of the Macedonians' courage, and stayed their further progress into India. For having found it hard enough to defeat an enemy who brought but twenty thousand foot and two thousand horse into the field, they thought they had reason to oppose Alexander's design of leading them on to pass the Ganges, too, which they were told was thirty-two furlongs broad and as many fathoms deep, and the banks on the further side covered with multitudes of enemies. For they were told the kings of the Gandaritans and Praesians expected them there with eighty thousand horse, two hundred thousand foot, eight thousand armed chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. Nor was this a mere vain report, spread to discourage them. For Androcottus, who not long after reigned in those parts, made a present of five hundred elephants at once to Seleucus, and with an army of six hundred thousand men subdued all India.
at first was so grieved and enraged at his men's reluctance that he
shut himself up in his tent and threw himself upon the ground, declaring, if
they would not pass the Ganges, he owed them no thanks for anything they
had hitherto done, and that to retreat now was plainly to confess himself
vanquished. But at last the reasonable persuasions of his friends and
the cries and lamentations of his soldiers, who in a suppliant manner crowded
about the entrance of his tent, prevailed with him to think of returning.
Yet he could not refrain from leaving behind him various deceptive
of his expedition, to impose upon aftertimes, and to exaggerate his
glory with posterity, such as arms larger than were really worn, and mangers
for horses, with bits and bridles above the usual size, which he set
up, and distributed in several places. He erected altars, also, to the
gods, which the kings of the Praesians even in our time do honor to when
they pass the river, and offer sacrifice upon them after the Grecian manner.
Androcottus, then a boy, saw Alexander there, and is said often afterwards
to have been heard to say, that he missed but little of making himself
master of those countries; their king, who then reigned, was so hated
and despised for the viciousness of his life and the meanness of his
But when they had with great difficulty and pains sawed off the shaft of
the arrow, which was of wood, and so with much trouble got off his cuirass, they
came to cut the head of it, which was three fingers broad and four long,
and stuck fast in the bone. During the operation he was taken with almost
mortal swooning, but when it was out he came to himself again. Yet
though all danger was past, he continued very weak, and confined himself a
great while to a regular diet and the method of his cure, until one day hearing
the Macedonians clamoring outside in their eagerness to see him, he
took his cloak and went out. And having sacrificed to the gods, without more
delay he went on board again, and as he coasted along subdued a great deal
of the country on both sides of the river, including several considerable cities.
He is said to have shown Alexander
an instructive emblem of government, which was this. He threw a
dry shriveled hide upon the ground, and stepped upon the edges of it. The skin
when it was pressed in one place still rose up in another, wheresoever he
stepped round about its edges, until he set his foot in the middle, which made all
the parts lie even and quiet. The meaning of this show being that
he ought to reside most in the middle of his empire, and not spend too
much time on the borders of it.
As soon as he came to the royal palace of Gedrosia, he
again refreshed and feasted his army; and one day after he had drunk pretty
hard, it is said, he went to see a prize of dancing contended for, in
which his favorite Bagoas, having gained the victory, crossed the theatre in
his dancing habit, and sat down close by him, which so pleased the Macedonians
that they made loud acclamations for him to kiss Bagoas,
and never stopped clapping their hands and shouting till
Alexander put his arms round him and kissed him.
Upon this he despatched Nearchus again to his fleet, to carry the war into the maritime provinces, and as he marched that way himself he punished those commanders who had behaved ill, particularly Oxyartes, one of the sons of Abuletes, whom he killed with his own hand, thrusting him through the body with his spear. And when Abuletes, instead of the necessary provisions which he ought to have furnished, brought him three thousand talents in coined money, he ordered it to be thrown to his horses, and when they would not touch it, "What good," he said, "will this provision do us?" and sent him away to prison.
The Return to Persia
When he came into Persia, he distributed money among the women, as their own kings had been wont to do, who as often as they came thither gave every one of them a piece of gold; on account of which custom, some of them, it is said, had come but seldom, and Ochus was so sordidly covetous that, to avoid this expense, he never visited his native country once in all his reign. Then finding Cyrus's sepulchre opened and rifled, he put Polymachus, who did it, to death, though he was a man of some distinction, a born Macedonian of Pella. And after he had read the inscription, he caused it to be cut again below the old one in Greek characters; the words being these: "O man, whosoever thou art, and from whencesoever thou comest (for I know thou wilt come), I am Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire; do not grudge me this little earth which covers my body." The reading of this sensibly touched Alexander, filling him with the thought of the uncertainty and mutability of human affairs.
At the same time Calanus, having been a little while troubled with a disease in the bowels, requested that he might have a funeral pile erected, to which he came on horseback, and, after he had said some prayers and sprinkled himself and cut off some of his hair to throw into the fire, before he ascended it, he embraced and took leave of the Macedonians who stood by, desiring them to pass that day in mirth and good-fellowship with their king, whom in a little time, he said, he doubted not to see again at Babylon. Having this said, he lay down, and covering up his face, he stirred not when the fire came near him, but continued still in the same posture as at first, and so sacrificed himself, as it was the ancient custom of the philosophers in those countries to do. The same thing was done long after by another Indian who came with Caesar to Athens, where they still show you, "the Indian's monument."
return from the funeral pile, Alexander invited a great many of his friends
and principal officers to supper, and proposed a drinking match, in
which the victor should receive a crown. Promachus drank twelve quarts of
wine, and won the prize, which was a talent from them all; but he survived his
victory but three days, and was followed, as Chares says, by forty-one more,
who died of the same debauch, some extremely cold weather having set
in shortly after.
Antigenes, who had lost one of his eyes, though he owed nothing, got
his name set down in the list of those who were in debt, and bringing one
who pretended to be his creditor, and to have supplied him from the bank,
received the money. But when the cheat was found out, the king was so
incensed at it, that he banished him from court, and took away his command, though
he was an excellent soldier and a man of great courage. For when he
was but a youth, and served under Philip at the siege of Perinthus, where
he was wounded in the eye by an arrow shot out of an engine, he would neither
let the arrow be taken out nor be persuaded to quit the field till he
had bravely repulsed the enemy and forced them to retire into the town. Accordingly
he was not able to support such a disgrace with any patience, and
it was plain that grief and despair would have made him kill himself, but
the king fearing it, not only pardoned him, but let him also enjoy the
benefit of his deceit.
When the Macedonians saw him escorted by these men, and themselves excluded and shamefully disgraced, their high spirits fell, and conferring with one another, they found that jealousy and rage had almost distracted them. But at last coming to themselves again, they went without their arms, with only their under garments on, crying and weeping to offer themselves at his tent, and desired him to deal with them as their baseness and ingratitude deserved. However, this would not prevail; for though his anger was already something mollified, yet he would not admit them into his presence, nor would they stir from thence, but continued two days and nights before his tent, bewailing themselves, and imploring him as their lord to have compassion on them. But the third day he came out to them, and seeing them very humble and penitent, he wept himself a great while, after a gentle reproof spoke kindly to them, and dismissed those who were unserviceable with magnificent rewards, and with his recommendation to Antipater, that when they came home, at all public shows and in the theatres, they should sit on the best and foremost seats, crowned with chaplets of flowers. He ordered, also, that the children of those who had lost their lives in his service should have their father's pay continued to them.
Death of Hephaestion
When he came to Ecbatana in Media, and had dispatched his most urgent affairs, he began to divert himself again with spectacles and public entertainments, to carry on which he had a supply of three thousand actors and artists, newly arrived out of Greece.
They were soon interrupted by Hephaestion's falling sick of a fever, in which, being a young man and a soldier, too, he could not confine himself to so exact a diet as was necessary; for whilst his physician, Glaucus, was gone to the theatre, he ate a fowl for his dinner, and drank a large draught of wine, upon which he became very ill, and shortly after died.
At this misfortune, Alexander was so beyond all reason transported that, to express his sorrow, he immediately ordered the manes and tails of all his horses and mules to be cut, and threw down the battlements of the neighboring cities. The poor physician he crucified, and forbade playing on the flute or any other musical instrument in the camp a great while, until directions came from the oracle of Amun, and enjoined him to honor Hephaestion, and sacrifice to him as a hero. Then seeking to alleviate his grief in war, he set out, as it were, to a hunt and chase of men, for he fell upon the Cossaeans, and put the whole nation to the sword. This was called a sacrifice to Hephaestion's ghost.
In his sepulchre and monument and the adorning of them he intended to bestow ten thousand talents; and designing that the excellence of the workmanship and the singularity of the design might outdo the expense, his wishes turned, above all other artists, to Stasicrates, because he always promised something very bold, unusual, and magnificent in his projects. Once when they had met before, he had told him that, of all the mountains he knew, that of Athos in Thrace was the most capable of being adapted to represent the shape and lineaments of a man; that if he pleased to command him, he would make it the noblest and most durable statue in the world, which in its left hand should hold a city of ten thousand inhabitants, and out of its right should pour a copious river into the sea. Though Alexander declined this proposal, yet now he spent a great deal of time with workmen to invent and contrive others even more extravagant and sumptuous.
Death of Alexander
As he was upon his way to Babylon, Nearchus, who had sailed back out of the ocean up the mouth of the river Euphrates, came to tell Alexander he had met with some Chaldaean diviners, who had warned him against Alexander's going there. Alexander, however, took no thought of it, and went on, and when he came near the walls of the place, he saw a great many crows fighting with one another, some of whom fell down just by him. After this, being privately informed that Apollodorus, the governor of Babylon, had sacrificed, to know what would become of him, he sent for Pythagoras, the soothsayer, and on his admitting the thing, asked him in what condition he found the victim; and when he told him the liver was defective in its lobe, "A great presage indeed!" said Alexander. However, he offered Pythagoras no injury, but was sorry that he had neglected Nearchus's advice, and stayed for the most part outside the town, removing his tent from place to place, and sailing up and down the Euphrates.
Besides this, he was disturbed by many other prodigies. A tame ass fell upon the biggest and handsomest lion that he kept, and killed him by a kick. And one day after he had undressed himself to be anointed, and was playing at ball, just as they were going to bring his clothes again, the young men who played with him perceived a man clad in the king's robes with a diadem upon his head, sitting silently upon his throne. They asked him who he was, to which he gave no answer a good while, till at last, coming to himself, he told them his name was Dionysius that he was of Messenia, that for some crime of which he was accused he was brought thither from the seaside, and had been kept long in prison, that Serapis appeared to him, had freed him from his chains, conducted him to that place, and commanded him to that place, and commanded him to put on the king's robe and diadem, and to sit where they found him, and to say nothing. Alexander, when he heard this, by the direction of his soothsayers, put the fellow to death, but he lost his spirits, and grew diffident of the protection and assistance of the gods, and suspicious of his friends.
His greatest apprehension was of Antipater and his sons, one of whom, Iolaus, was his chief cupbearer; and Cassander, who had lately arrived, and had been bred up in Greek manners, the first time he saw some of the barbarians adore the king could not forbear laughing at it aloud, which so incensed Alexander he took him by the hair with both hands and dashed his head against the wall. Another time, Cassander would have said something in defense of Antipater to those who accused him, but Alexander interrupting him, said, "What is it you say? Do you think people, if they had received no injury, would come such a journey only to calumniate your father?"
To which when Cassander replied, that their coming so far from the
evidence was a great proof of the falseness of their charges, Alexander smiled,
and said those were some of Aristotle's sophisms, which would serve equally
on both sides; and added, that both he and his father should be severely
punished, if they were found guilty of the least injustice towards those
who complained. All of this made such a deep impression of terror in Cassander's
mind that, long after, when he was King of Macedonia and master of
Greece, as he was walking up and down at Delphi, and looking at the statues,
at the sight of that of Alexander he was suddenly struck with alarm,
and shook all over, his eyes rolled, his head grew dizzy, and it was
long before he recovered himself.
But upon some answers which were
brought him from the oracle concerning Hephaestion, he laid aside his
sorrow, and fell again to sacrificing and drinking; and having given Nearchus
a splendid entertainment, after he had bathed, as was his custom, just
as he was going to bed, at Medius's request he went to supper with him.
Here he drank all the next day, and was attacked with a fever, which seized
him, not as some write, after he had drunk of the bowl of Hercules, nor
was he taken with any sudden pain in his back, as if he had been struck with
a lance, for these are the inventions of some authors who thought it
their duty to make the last scene of so great an action as tragic and
moving as they could. Aristobulus tells us, that in the rage of his fever
and a violent thirst, he took a draught of wine, upon which he fell into
delirium, and died on the thirtieth day of the month Daesius.
The Macedonians supposed he was dead, and came with great clamors
to the gates, and menaced his friends so that they were
forced to admit them, and let them all pass through unarmed
by his bedside. The same day Python and Seleucus were dispatched to the temple of Serapis to
ask if they should bring Alexander
thither, and were answered by the god that they should not remove him.
On the twenty-eighth, in the evening, he died. This account is most of
it word for word as it is written in the diary.