Alexander the Great - Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

Alexander was born on the sixth day of the month Hecatombaeon,1 which the Macedonians call Lous, the same day on which the temple of Artemis at Ephesus was burned down. It was this coincidence which inspired Hegesias of Magnesia to utter a joke which was flat enough to have put the fire out: he said it was no wonder the temple of Artemis was destroyed, since the goddess was busy attending to the birth of Alexander. But those of the Magi who were then at Ephesus interpreted the destruction of the temple as the portent of a far greater disaster, and they ran through the city beating their faces and crying out that day had brought forth a great scourge and calamity for Asia.

At that moment Philip had just captured the city of Poridaea, and he received three messages on the same day The first, that his general Parmenio had overcome the Illyrians in a great battle, the second that his race-horse had won a victory in the Olympic games, and the third that Alexander had been born. Naturally he was overjoyed at the news, and the soothsayers raised "is spirits still higher by assuring him that the son whose birth coincided with three victories would himself prove invincible.

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1 In 356 B.C.

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Alexander the Great

The best likeness of Alexander which has been preserved for us is to be found in the statues sculpted by Lysippus, the only artist whom Alexander considered worthy to represent him. Alexander possessed a number of individual features which many of Lysippus's followers later tried to reproduce, for example the poise of the neck which was tilted slightly to the left, or a certain melting look in his eyes.... We are told that he was fair skinned, with a ruddy tinge that showed itself especially upon his face and chest. Aristoxenus also tells us in his memoirs that Alexander's skin was fresh and sweet-smelling, and that his breath and the whole of his body gave off a peculiar fragrance which permeated the clothes he wore.1 (...)

Even while he was still a boy, he gave plenty of evidence of his power of self-control. In spite of his vehement and impulsive nature, he showed little interest in the pleasures of the senses and indulged in them only with great moderation, but his passionate desire for fame implanted in him a pride and a grandeur of vision which went far beyond his years. And yet it was by no means every kind of glory that he sought, and, unlike his father, he did not seek it in every form of action. 'philip, for example, was as proud of his power of eloquence as any sophist,2 and took care to have the victories won by his harlots at Olympia stamped upon his coins. But Alexander's attitude is made clear by his reply to some of his friends, when' they asked him whether he would be willing to compete at olympia, since he was a fine runner. "Yes," he answered, "if I have kings to run against me." He seems in fact to have disapproved of the whole race of trained athletes. At any rate aIthough he founded a great many contests of other kinds, including not only the tragic drama and performances on the lute and the lyre, but also the reciting of poetry, fighting with he quarter-staff and various forms of hunting, yet he never

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1. This fragrance was also regarded as a sign of his superhuman nature.

2. Sophist: one of the pre-Socratic philosophers who were itinerant professional teachers of oratory and argument and who were prepared to enter into debate on any matter however specious.

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Alexander the Great

Offered prizes either for boxing or for the pancratioa.1

On one occasion some ambassadors from the king of Persia arrived in Macedon2 and since Philip was absent, Alexander received them in his place. He talked freely with them and quite won them over, not only by the friendliness of his manner, but also because he did not trouble them with any childish or trivial enquiries, but questioned them about the distances they had travelled by road, the nature of the journey into the interior of Persia, the character of the king, his experience in war, and the military strength and prowess of the Persians. The ambassadors were filled with admiration. They came away convinced that Philip's celebrated astuteness was as nothing compared to the adventurous spirit and lofty ambitions of his son. At any rate, whenever he heard that Philip had captured some famous city or won an overwhelming victory, Alexander would show no pleasure at the news, but would declare to his friends, "Boys, my father will forestall me in everything. There will be nothing great or spectacular for you and me to show the world." He cared nothing for pleasure or wealth but only for deeds of valour and glory, and this was why he believed that the more he received from his father, the less would be left for him to conquer. And so every success that was gained by Macedonia inspired in Alexander the dread that another opportunity for action had been squandered on his father. He had no desire to inherit a kingdom which offered him riches, luxuries and the pleasures of the senses; his choice was a life of struggle, of wars, and of unrelenting ambition.

It was natural, of course, that a great number of nurses, pedagogues3 and teachers were appointed to take part in his upbringing, but the man who supervised them all was Leonidas, a severe disciplinarian, who was also a relative of Olympias4....

There came a day when Piloneicus the Thessalian brought

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1 A contest which combines wrestling and boxing.

2 In 340 BC. Alexander was only 16 years old.

3 Pedagogue: a teacher or educator.

4 Olympias was the mother of Alexander.

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Alexander the Great

Philip a horse named Bucephalus,1 which he offered to sell for thirteen talents2. The king and his friends went down to the plain to watch the horse's trials, and came to the conclusion that he was wild and quite unmanageable, for he would allow no one to mount him, nor would he endure the shouts of Philip's grooms, but reared up against anyone who approached him. The king became                                       

  

King Philip

 

angry at being offered such a vicious animal unbroken, and ordered it to be led away. But Alexander, who was standing close by, remarked, "What a horse they are losing, and all because they don't know how to handle him, or dare not try!" Philip kept quiet at first, but when he heard Alexander repeat these words several times and saw that he was upset, he asked him, "Are you finding fault with your elders because you think you know more than they do, or can manage ahorse better?" "At least I could manage this one better," retorted Alexander. "And if you cannot," said his father, "what penalty will you pay for being so impertinent?""I will pay the price of the horse," answered the boy. At this the whole company burst out laughing, and then as soon as the father and son had settled the terms of the bet, Alexander went quickly up to Bucephalus, took hold of his bridle, and turned him towards :he sun, for he had noticed that the horse was shying at the sight of his own shadow, as it fell in front of him and constantly moved whenever he did. He ran alongside the animal for a little

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I The name of a famous breed of Thesalian horses which were branded on the shoulder with the sign of an ox's head.

 Talent: sum of money, from Greek talanton, unit of money or weight.

3  Impertinent: rude; insolent; impudent.

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Alexander the Great

Way, calming him down by stroking him, and then, when h saw he was full of spirit and courage, he quietly threw aside hi cloak and with a light spring vaulted safely on to his back. For little while he kept feeling the bit with the reins, without jarring or tearing his mouth, and got him collected. Finally, when he saw that the horse was free of his fears and impatient to show his speed, he gave him his head and urged him forward, using commanding voice and a touch of the foot.

At first Philip and his friends held their breath and looked on in an agony of suspense, until they saw Alexander reach the end of his gallop, turn in full control, and ride back triumphant and exulting1 in his success. Thereupon the rest of the company broke into loud applause, while his father, we are told, actually wept for joy, and when Alexander had dismounted h kissed him and said, "My boy, you must find a kingdom bi enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you."

Philip had noticed that his son was self-willed, and that while it was very difficult to influence him by force, he could easily be guided towards his duty by an appeal to reason, an he therefore made a point of trying to persuade the boy rather than giving him orders. Besides this he considered that the task of training and educating his son was too important to be entrusted to the ordinary run of teachers of poetry, music and general education: it required, as Sophocles2 puts it: The rudder's3 guidance and the curb's4 restraint. And so he sent for Aristotle,5 the most famous and learned of the philosophers of

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1 To exult: to be joyful or jubilant, esp. because of triumph or success; rejoice.

2 Sophocles was born in Athens in 496 B.C. He was one of the most farnous writers of dramatic tragedy. Until his death, at the age of ninety, he was one of the authors most loved, respected and awarded. He wrote more than 2oo  plays.

3 Rudder: anything that guides or directs.

4 Curb: something that restrains or holds back.

5 Aristotle was a famous philosopher who spent 20 years in Plato's academy in Athens. His works had a tremendous influence on Western thought.

 
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his time, and rewarded him with the generosity that his reputation deserved. . Aristotle was a native of the city of Stageira, which Philip had himself destroyed. He now repopulated it and brought back all the citizens who had been enslaved or driven into exile.

 

 

Aristotle

 

He gave Aristotle and his pupil the temple of the Nymphs near Mieza as a place where they could study and converse, and to this day they show you the stone seats and shady walks which Aristotle used. It seems clear too that Alexander was instructed by his teacher not only in the principles of ethics and polices, but also in those secret and more esoteric1 studies which philosophers do not impart to the general students, but only by word of mouth to a select circle of the initiated. Some years later, after Alexander had crossed into Asia, he learned that Aristotle had published some treatises dealing with these esoteric matters, and he wrote to him in blunt language and took him to task for the sake of the prestige of philosophy. This was the text of his letter: "Alexander to Aristotle, greetings. You have not done well to write down and publish those doctrines you taught me by word of mouth. What advantage shall I have over other men if these theories in which I have been trained are to be made common property? I would rather excel the rest of mankind in my knowledge of what is best than in the extent of my power. Farewell."

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1 Esoteric: restricted to or intended for an enlightened or initiated minority, esp. because of abstruseness or obscurity; difficult to understand; abstruse: an esoteric statement.

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Alexander the Great

Aristotle wished to encourage this ambition of his pupil  s and so when he replied to justify his action, he pointed out that these so-called oral doctrines were in a sense both published and not published. For example it is true that his treatise on metaphysics1 is written in a style which makes it useless for those who wish to study or teach the subject from the beginning: the book serves simply as a memorandum for those who have already been taught its general principles.

It was Aristotle, I believe, who did more than anyone to implant in Alexander his interest in the art of healing as well as that of philosophy. He was not merely attracted to the theory of medicine, but was in the habit of tending his friends when they were sick and prescribing for them various courses of treatment or diet, as we learn from his letters. He was also  devoted by nature to all kinds of learning and was a lover of books. He regarded the Iliad2 as a handbook of the art of w and took with him on his campaigns a text annotated3 I Aristotle, which became known as "the casket copy", and which he always kept under his pillow together with his dagger. When his campaigns had taken him far into the interior ' Asia and he could find no other books, he ordered his treasurer Harpalus to send him some....

While Philip was making an expedition against Byzantium Alexander, although he was only sixteen years old, was left behind as regent of Macedonia and keeper of the royal seal

During this period he defeated the maedi who had risen revolt, captured their city, drove out its barbarous inhabitant established a colony of Greeks assembled from various regions

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1 Metaphysics: 1. the branch of philosophy that deals with first principles esp. of being and knowing. 2. the philosophical study of the nature of reality, concerned with such questions as the existence of God, the external world, etc.

2 The Iliad is an epic poem on the Trojan War traditionally attributed the ancient Greek poet Homer.

3 To annotate: to supply (a written work, such as an ancient text) with critical or explanatory notes.

 
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Alexander the Great

and named it Alexandroupolis. He also took part in the battle against the combined armies of Greece at Chaeronea, and is said to have been the first to break the line of the Theban Sacred Band. Because of these achievements Philip, as was natural, became extravagantly fond of his son, so much that he took pleasure in hearing the Macedonians speak of Alexander as their king and Philip as their general.

 

 

But before long the domestic strife that resulted from philip's various marriages and love-affairs caused the quarrels which took place in the women's apartments to infect the whole kingdom, and led to bitter clashes and accusations between father and son. This breach was widened by Olympias, a woman of a jealous and vindictive temper, who incited Alexander to oppose his father. Their quarrel was brought to a head on the occasion of the wedding of Cleopatra, a girl with whom Philip had fallen in love and whom he had decided to marry, although she was far too young for him. Cleopatra's uncle Attalus, "who had drunk too much at the banquet, called upon the Macedonians to pray to the gods that the union of Philip and Cleopatra might bring forth a legitimate heir to the throne. Alexander flew into rage at these words, shouted at him, "Villain, do you take me for a bastard, then?" and hurled a drinking-cup at his head. At this Philip lurched to his feet, and drew his sword against his son, but fortunately for them both he was so overcome with drink and with rage that he tripped and fell headlong. Alexander jeered at him and cried out: "Here is the man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and who

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Alexander the Great

Cannot even cross from one table to another without losing his balance." After this drunken brawl Alexander took Olympias

away and settled her in Epirus, while he himself went to live in Illyria. (...)

Not long afterwards a Macedonian named Pausanias1 assassinated the king.... Alexander was only twenty years old when he inherited his kingdom, which at that moment was beset by formidable jealousies and feuds, and external dangers on ever side. The neighbouring barbarian tribes were eager to throw off the Macedonian yoke and longed for the rule of their native kings; as for the Greek states, although Philip had defeated them in battle, he had not had time to subdue them or accustorn them to his authority. He had swept away the existing governments, and then, having prepared their peoples for drastic changes, had left them in turmoil and confusion because he had created a situation which was completely unfamiliar to them. Alexander's Macedonian advisers feared that a crisis was at hand and urged the young king to leave the Greek states to their own devices and refrain from using any force against them. As for the barbarian tribes, they considered that he should try to win them back to their allegiance2 by using milder methods, and forestall the first signs of revolt by offering them concessions. Alexander, however, chose precisely the opposite course, and decided that the only way to make his kingdom safe was to act with audacity and a lofty spirit, for he was certain that if he were seen to yield even a fraction of his authority, all his enemies would attack him at once. He swiftly crushed the uprising among the barbarians by advancing with

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1 In 346 B.C. Pausanias was a young Macedonian noble. The tragic end of Philip is indirectly connected to his alliance with the niece of Attalus, an alliance which had already brought much misfortune to his house; for Pausanias had previously been insulted by Attalus, and, being unable to get satisfaction from him, had turned his anger against Philip who, in spite of repeated applications, had left the insult unpunished.
2 Allegiance: loyalty, as of a subject to his sovereign or of a citizen to his country.

 
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His army as far as the Danube, where he overcame Syrmus, the king of the Triballi, in a great battle. Then when the news reached him that the Thebans1 had revolted and were being supported by the Athenians,he immediately marched south through the pass of Thermopylae. "Demosthenes", he said called me a boy while I was in Illyria and among the Triballi, and a youth when I was marching through Thessaly; I will show him I am a man by the time I reach the walls of Athens."

When he arrived before thebes, he wished to give the citizens the opportunity to repent of their actions, and so he merely demanded the surrender of their leaders Phoenix and prothytes, and offered an amnestyto all the rest if they would come over to his side. The Thebans countered by demanding the surrender of Philotas and Antipater and appealing to all who wished to liberate Greece to range themselves on their side, and at this Alexander ordered his troops to prepare for battle. The Thebans, although greatly outnumbered, fought with a superhuman courage and spirit, but when the Macedonian garrison which had been posted in the citadelof the Cadmeia made a sortieand fell upon them from the rear, the greater part of their army was encircled, they were slaughtered where they stood, and the city was stormed, plundered and razed to the ground. Alexander's principal object in permitting the sack6 of Thebes was to frighten the rest of the Greeks into submission by making a terrible example. (...)

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1 Thebes was one of the chief cities and powers of ancient Greece.
2 Athens is considered the birthplace of Western civilization to which it bequeaths the foundations of democracy; Athens has exerted a tremendous fascination on the world of antiquity. Many of the intellectual and artistic ideas  of classical civilization originated there.
3  Amnesty: a general pardon, esp. for offences against a government.
4  Citadel: 1. a stronghold within or close to a city. 2. Any strongly fortified building or place of safety; refuge.
5  Sortie: (of troops, etc.) the act of emerging from a contained or besieged position.
6  Sack: the plundering of a place by an army or mob, usually involving destruction, slaughter, etc.

 
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Alexander the Great

In the previous year a congress of the Greek states had been held at the Isthmus of Corinth: here a vote had been passed that the states should join forces with Alexander in invading Persia and that he should be commander-in-chief of the expedition. Many of the Greek statesmen and philosophers visited him to offer their congratulations, and he hoped that Diogenes of Sinope,1 who was at that time living in Corinth, would do the same. However since he paid no attention whatever to Alexander, but continued to live at leisure in the suburb of Corinth which was known as Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him and found him basking at full length in the sun. When he saw so many people approaching him, Diogenes raised himself a little on his elbow and fixed his gaze upon Alexander. The king greeted him and inquired whether he could do anything for him. "Yes" replied the philosopher, "you can stand a little to one side out of my sun." Alexander is said to have been greatly impressed by this answer and full of admiration for the hauteur and independence of mind of a man who could look down on him with such condescension.2 So much so that he remarked to his followers who were laughing and mocking the philosopher as they went away, "You may say what you like, but if I were not Alexander, I would I Diogenes." (...)

As for the size of his army, the lowest estimate puts its strengh at 30,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry3 and the highest

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1. Diogenes of Synope was a Greek philosopher. He belonged to the Cynic philosophical school that stressed stoic self-sufficiency and the rejection of luxury. It was by personal example rather than any coherent system of thought that Diogenes demonstrated the Cynic philosophy.
2. Condescension: the act or an instance of behaving in a superior manner

3. Modern estimates give totals of about 43,000 infantry and 6,000 cavalry about one quarter of these were the advance guard, which had already crossed to Asia. The cavalry included as many Thessalians as Macedonians while the other Greek city-states contributed about 7,000 infantry and 6 cavalry. Beside the operational troops, the expedition included reconnaissance staff and many other specialists — geographers, historians, astronomers, zoologists, etc.

 
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Alexander the Great

43,000 infantry and 4,000 cavalry. According to Aristobulus the money available for the army's supplies amounted to no more than seventy talents, Douris says that there were supplies for only thirty days, and Onesicritus that Alexander was already two hundred talents in debt. Yet although he set out with such slender resources, he would not go aboard his ship until he had discovered the circumstances of all his compan.ions and had assigned an estate to one, a village to another, or the revenues of some port or community to a third. When he had shared out or signed away almost all the property of the crown, Perdiccas asked him, "But your majesty, what are you leaving for yourself?" "My hopes!" replied Alexander. "Very well, then," answered Perdiccas, "those who serve with you will share those too." With this, he declined to accept the prize which had been allotted to him, and several of Alexander's other friends did the same. However those who accepted or requested rewards were lavishly provided for, so that in the end Alexander distributed among them most of what he possessed in Macedonia. These were his preparations and this was the adventurous spirit in which he crossed the Hellespont.1

Once arrived in Asia, he went up to Troy,2 sacrificed to Athenaand poured libations4 to the heroes of the Greek army.... Meanwhile Darius' generals5 had gathered a large army and posted it at the crossing of the river Granicus, so that Alexander was obliged to fight at the very gates of Asia, if he was to enter and conquer it. Most of the Macedonian officers

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1.  The Dardanelles strait between the Aegean and the Sea of Marmara, separating European from Asian Turkey. Ancient name: Hellespont.
2.  Troy was an ancient city in northwestern Anatolia that holds an enduring place in both literature and archaeology. The legend of the Trojan War is the most notable theme from ancient Greek literature and forms the basis of Homer's Iliad. Ancient Troy commanded a strategic point at the southern entrance to the Dardanelles (Hellespont).
3.  For  the Greeks, Athena is the goddess of war, handicrafts and practical reason. She is also the protector of Athens.
4.  Libation: the pouring out of a wine, etc., in honour of a deity.  
5.  Darius III was the Great King of Persia.

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Were alarmed at the depth of the river and of the rough and uneven slopes of the banks on the opposite side, up which they would have to scramble in the face of the enemy. There were others too who thought that Alexander ought to observe the Macedonian tradition concerning the time of year, according to which the king of Macedonia never made war during the month of Daesius. Alexander swept aside these scruples! by giving orders that the month should be called a second Artemisius And when Parmenio advised him against risking the crossing at such a late hour of the day, Alexander declared that the Hellespont would blush for shame if, once he had crossed it, he should shrink back from the Granicus; then he immediately plunged into the stream with thirteen squadrons of cavalry. It seemed the act of a desperate madman rather than of a prudent commander to charge into a swiftly flowing river, which swept men off their feet and surged about them, and then to advance through a hail of missiles towards a steep bank which was strongly defended by infantry and cavalry. But in spite of this he pressed forward and with a tremendous effort gained the opposite bank, which was a wet treacherous slope covered with mud. There he was immediately forced to engage the enemy in a confused hand-to-hand struggle, before the troops who were crossing behind him could be organised into any formation The moment his men set foot on land, the enemy attacked them with loud shouts, matching horse against horse, thrusting with their lances and fighting with the sword when their lances broke. Many of them charged against Alexander himself, for he was easily recognisable by his shield and by the tall white plumewhich was fixed upon either side of his helmet. The joint of his breastplate was pierced by a javelin, but the blade did not penetrate the flesh. Rhoesaces and Spithridates, two of the Persian commanders, then rode at him; he evaded the charge of the one and struck Rhoesaces, who wore a breastplate, with

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1 Scruple: a doubt or hesitation as to what is morally right in a certain situation.
2 Plume: a feather, esp. one that is large or ornamental.

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Alexander the Great

His spear, but the shaft of the weapon snapped, whereupon he fought with his sword. While he was engaged with Rhoesaces, spithridates rode up on the other side, and rising in his stir- rups1 brought down a barbarian battle-axe with all his strength upon Alexander's head. The stroke split the crest of his helmet, sheared away one of his plumes, and all but cleft the headpiece. In fact the edge of the axe penetrated it and grazed the hair on the top of Alexander's head. But just as Spithridates raised his arm for another blow, "Black" Cleitus as he was called, struck first and ran him through with a spear, and at the same moment Rhoesaces was cut down by Alexander's sword. While Alexander's cavalry was engaged in this furious and dangerous action, the Macedonian phalanx2 crossed the river and the infantry of both sides joined the battle. The Persians :offered little resistance, but quickly broke and fled, and it was only the Greek mercenarieswho held their ground. They rallied together, made a stand on the crest of a hill and sent a message to Alexander asking for quarter.In this instance he allowed himself to be guided by passion rather than by reason, led a charge against them and lost his horse (not Bucephalus on this occasion), which was pierced through the ribs by a sword-thrust. It was in this part of the field that the Macedonians suffered greater losses in killed and wounded than in all the rest of the battle, since they were fighting at close quarterss with men who were expert soldiers and had been rendered desperate. (...)

This battle brought about a great and immediate change in Alexander's situation. Even the city of Sardis, which was the

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1.  stirrup: Also called stirrup iron. Either of two metal loops on a riding saddle, with a flat foot piece through which a rider puts his foot for support. They are attached to the saddle by stirrup leathers.
2.  phalanx: an ancient Greek and Macedonian battle formation of hoplites presenting long spears from behind a wall of overlapping shields.
3.  Mercenary: a man hired to fight for a foreign army.
4.  Quarter: mercy or pity, as shown to a defeated opponent (esp. in the phrases ask for or give quarter).

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Principal seat of Persian power on the Asiatic seaboard, at once surrendered to him and the rest of the region likewise made its submission. Only Halicarnassus and Miletus held out, and these cities were stormed and the surrounding territory subdued. At this point Alexander hesitated as to what his next step should be. Time and again he was impelled to seek out Darius and risk everything upon the issue of a single battle, and then as often he would decide that he must build up his strength by securing the coastal region and its resources and training his army and only then strike inland against the king.

  

 

Darius III the Great

 

Next he marched into Pisidia where he subdued any resistance which he encountered, and then made himself master of Phrigia.... After this Alexander marched northward and won over the people of Capadocia and Paphlagonia. He also learned of the death of Memnon, the general to whom Darius had entrusted the defence of the coast of Asia Minor, and who, if he had lived, was likely to have offered the most stubborn resistance to Alexander's advance and caused him the greatest trouble. (...)

Darius was encouraged by the many months of apparent inactivity which Alexander had spent in Cilicia, for he imagined

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That this was due to cowardice. In fact the delay had been caused by sickness. At any rate none of his physicians dared to treat him, for they all believed that his condition was so dangerous that medicine was powerless to help him, and dreaded the accusations that would be brought against them by the Macedonians in the event of their failure. The only exception was Philip, an Acanian, who saw that the king was desperately ill, but trusted to their mutual friendship. He thought it  shameful not to share his friend's danger by exhausting all the resources of his art even at the risk of his own life, and so he prepared a medicine and persuaded him to drink it without fear since he was so eager to regain his strength for the campaign. Meanwhile Parmenio had sent Alexander a letter from the camp warning him to beware of Philip, since Darius, he said, had promised him large sums of money and even the hand of his daughter if he would kill Alexander. Alexander read the letter and put it under his pillow without showing it to any of his friends. Then at the appointed hour, when Philip entered the room with the king's companions carrying the medicine in a cup, Alexander handed him the letter and took the draught1 from him cheerfully and without the least sign of misgiving.2 It was an astonishing scene, and one well worthy of the stage — the one man reading the letter and the other drinking the physic,3 and then each gazing into the face of the other, although not with the same expression. The king's serene and open smile clearly displayed his friendly feeling towards Philip and his trust in him, while Philip was filled with surprise and alarm at the accusation, at one moment lifting his hands to heaven and protesting his innocence before the gods, and the next falling upon his knees by the bed and imploring Alexander to take courage and follow his advice. (...)

There was at this time in Darius's army, a man named Amyntas a refugee from Macedonia, who was acquainted with

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1. Draught: a portion of liquid to be drunk, esp. a dose of medicine.
2.  Misgiving: a feeling of uncertainty, apprehension, or doubt.
3.  Physic: medicine, drug.

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Alexander's character. When he learned that Darius was eager to advance and attack Alexander as he marched through the mountain passes, he begged the Persian king to remain where he was in the flat open plains, where his immense numbers would have the advantage in fighting the small Macedonian army. Darius said that he was afraid the enemy might run away before he could come to grips with them, and that Alexander might thus escape him, to which Amyntas retorted: "Your majesty need have no fears on that score. Alexander will march against you, in fact he is probably on his way now." Darius refused to listen to Amyntas's advice, but broke camp and advanced into Cilicia, while at the same time Alexander marched against him into Syria. During the night they missed one another and both turned back. Alexander, delighted at his good fortune, hastened to catch his enemy in the narrow defile1 which leads into Cilicia, while Darius was no less eager to extricate his forces from the mountain passes and regain his former camping ground in the plains. He already saw the mistake he had made by advancing into country which was hemmed in by the sea on

 

  

Battle of Issus: Alexander facing Darius (Mosaic)

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1. Defile: a narrow pass or gorge, esp. one between two mountains.

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Alexander the Great

One side and the mountains on the other, and divided by the river Pinarus which ran between them. Here the ground prevented him from using his cavalry, forced him to split up his army into small groups, and favoured his opponent's inferior numbers. Fortune certainly presented Alexander with the ideal terrain for the battle, but it was his own generalship which did most to win the victory. For although he was so heavily outnumbered, he not only gave the enemy no opportunity to encircle him, but leading his own right wing in person, he managed to extend it round the enemy's left, outflanked it, and fighting in the foremost ranks, put the barbarians to flight. In this action he received a sword wound in the thigh. (...)

The result of this battle1 was a brilliant victory for Alexander. His men killed one hundred and ten thousand of the enemy, but he could not catch Darius, who had got a start of half a mile or more, although he captured the king's chariot and his bow before he returned from the pursuit. He found the Macedonians busy carrying off the spoils from the enemy's camp, for this contained an immense wealth of possessions, despite the fact that the Persians had marched into battle lightly equipped and had left most of their baggage in Damascus. Darius' tent which was full of many treasures, luxurious furniture, and lavishly dressed servants had been set aside for Alexander himself. As soon as he arrived, he unbuckled his armour and went to the bath, saying, "Let us wash off the sweat of battle in Darius' bath." "No, in Alexander's bath, now," remarked one of his companions. "The conqueror takes over the possessions of the conquered and they should be called his." When Alexander entered the bathroom he saw that the basins, the pitchers, the baths themselves and the caskets containing unguentswere all made of gold and elaborately carved, and noticed that the whole room was marvellously fragrant

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1. The battle of Issus in November 333 B.C.
2. Unguent: a less common name for an ointment. A fatty or oily medicated preparation applied to the skin to heal or protect. A similar substance used as a cosmetic.

 
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Alexander the Great

With spices and perfumes, and then passing from this into a spacious and lofty tent, he observed the magnificence of the dining-couches, the tables and the banquet which had beer set out for him. He turned to his companions and remarked. "So this, it seems, is what it is to be a king."!

As he was about to sit down to supper, word was brought to him that the mother, the wife and the two unmarried daughters of Darius were among the prisoners, and that at the sight of the Persian king's bow and chariot they had beaten their breasts and cried out, since they supposed that he must be dead. When he heard this Alexander was silent for some time, for he was evidently more affected by the women's grief than by his own triumph. Then he sent Leonnatus to tell them that Darius was not dead and that they need have no fear of Alexander: he was fighting Darius for the empire of Asia, but they should be provided with everything they had been accustomed to regard as their due when Darius was king. This kindly and reassuring message for Darius' womenfolk was followed by still more generous actions. Alexander gave them leave to bury as many of Persians as they wished, and to take from the plunder any clothes and ornaments they thought fit and use them for this purpose. He also allowed them to keep the same attendants and privilege' that they had previously enjoyed and even increased their revenues. But the most honourable and truly regal service which he rendered to these chaste2 and noble women was to ensure that they should never hear, suspect nor have cause to fear anything which could disgrace them: they lived out of sight and earshot of the soldiers, as though they were guarded in some inviolable3 retreat set aside for virgin priestesses rather than in an enemy's camp. This was the more remarkable because the wife of Darius was said to have been the most beautiful princess of her time

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1 A remark intended to express not admiration but pity for Darius, for thinking that royalty consisted of mere wealth and luxury.

2 Chaste: (of conduct, speech, etc.) pure; decent; modest.

3 Inviolable: that must not or cannot be transgressed, dishonoured, or bro ken; to be kept sacred.

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Alexander the Great

Just as Darius himself was the tallest and handsomest man in Asia, and their daughters resembled their parents.

At any rate Alexander, so it seems, thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own "passions than to conquer his enemies, and so he never came near these women, nor did he associate with any other before his marriage. (...) When he was at leisure, his first act after rising was to sacrifice to the gods, after which he took his breakfast sitting down. The rest of the day would be spent in hunting, administering justice, planning military affairs or reading. If he were on a march which required no great haste, he would practise archery as he rode, or mounting and dismounting from a moving chariot, and he often hunted foxes or birds, as he mentions in his journals. When he had chosen his quarters for the night and while he was being refreshed with a bath or rubbed down, he would ask his cooks and bakers whether the arrangements for supper had been suitably made.

His custom was not to begin supper until late, as it was growing dark. He took it reclining on a couch, and he was wonderfully attentive and observant in ensuring that his table was well provided, his guests equally served, and none of them neglected. He sat long over his wine because of his fondness for conversation. And although at other times his society was delightful and his manner full of charm beyond that of any prince of his age, yet when he was drinking he would sometimes become offensively arrogant and descend to the level of a common soldier, and on these occasions he would allow himself not only to give way to boasting but also to be led on by his flatterers.(...) When the drinking was over it was his custom to take a bath and sleep, often until midday, and sometimes for the whole following day.

As for delicacies, Alexander was so restrained in his appetite that often when the rarest fruits or fish were brought him from the seacoast, he would distribute them so generously among his companions that there would be nothing left for himself.

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1 To flatter: to praise insincerely, esp. in order to win favour or reward.

 
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Alexander the Great

His evening meal, however, was always a magnificent affair, and as his successes multiplied, so did his expenditure on hospitality. (...)

After the battle of Issus he sent a force to Damascus and there captured the whole of the Persian army's treasure and baggage, together with their wives and children. On this occasion it was the Thessalian cavalry who obtained the richest share of the plunder. They had particularly distinguished themselves at Issus, and Alexander had deliberately sent them on this expedition to reward them for their courage, but the booty! proved so inexhaustible that there was enough to make the whole army rich. It was here that the Macedonians received their first taste of gold and silver and women and of the luxury of the barbarian way of life, and henceforth, like houndswhich have picked up a scent,3 they pressed on to track down the wealth of the Persians.

However this did not divert Alexander from his strategy of securing the whole of the Asiatic seaboard before striking inland. The kings of Cyprus promptly visited him to hand over the island and the whole of Phoenicia surrendered to him except for the city of Tyre. He besieged Tyre for seven months, constructing moles and siege artillery on the landward side, and blockading it with two hundred triremes by sea. (...) In the autumn of the same year he laid siege to Gaza, the most important city in Syria.

After Alexander had conquered Egypt, he was anxious to found a great and populous Greek city there to be called after him. He had chosen a certain site on the advice of his architect.4

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1 Booty: any valuable article or articles, esp. when obtained as plunder.

2 Hound: any of several breeds of dog used for hunting.

3 Scent: a distinctive smell, esp. a pleasant one.

4 The second largest city and the main port of Egypt, Alexandria was built by the Greek architect Dinocrates (332-331 B.C.) on the site of an old village, Rhakotis, at the orders of Alexander the Great. The city, immortalizing Alexander's name, quickly flourished into a prominent cultural, intellectual: political, and economic metropolis, the remains of which are still evident to this day.

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Alexander the Great

Then after subduing the whole region which lay on the line of march between the Tigris and the Euphrates, he resumed us advance against Darius, who was on his way to meet him with a million men. (...)

The great battle that was fought against Darius did not take place at Arbela, as the majority of writers say, but at Gaugamela. The word signifies "the house of the camel". It happened in the month of Boedromion. On the eleventh night after this, by which time the two armies were in sight of one another, Darius kept 'his troops under arms and held a review of them by torchlight. Alexander allowed his Macedonians to sleep, but himself spent the night in front of his tent in the company of his diviner Aristender, with whom he performed certain mysterious and sacred ceremonies and offered sacrifice to the god Fear. Meanwhile some of the older of his companions and Parmenio in particular looked out over the plain between the river Niphates and the Gordyaean Mountains and saw the entire plain agleam1 with the watch-fires of the barbarians, while from their camp there arose the confused and indistinguishable murmur of myriadsof voices, like the distant roar of a vast ocean. They were filled with amazement at the sight and remarked to one another that it would be an overwhelmingly difficult task to defeat an enemy of such strength by engaging him by day. They therefore went to the king as soon as he had performed his sacrifice and tried to persuade him to attack by night, so as to conceal from his men the most terrifying element in the coming struggle, that is the odds against them. It was then that Alexander gave them his celebrated answer: "I will not steal my victory." Some of his companions thought this an immature and empty boast on the part of a young man who was merely joking in the presence of danger. But others interpreted it as meaning that he had confidence in his present situation and that he had correctly judged the future. In other words he was determined

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1 Agleam: glowing, gleaming.

2 Myriad: innumerable.

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Alexander the Great

That if Darius were defeated, he should have no cause to summon up courage for another attempt: he was not to be allowed to blame darkness and night for his failure on this occasion, as at Issus he had blamed the narrow mountain passes and the sea. Certainly Darius would never abandon the war for lack of arms or of troops, when he could draw upon such a vast territory and such immense reserves of manpower. He would only do so when he had lost courage and become convinced of his inferiority in consequence of an unmistakable defeat suffered in broad daylight.

When his friends had gone, Alexander lay down in his tent and is said to have passed the rest of the night in a deeper sleep than usual. At any rate when his officers came to him in the early morning, they were astonished to find him not yet awake, and on their own responsibility gave out orders for the soldiers to take breakfast before anything else was done. Then as time was pressing, Parmenio entered Alexander's tent he stood by his couch and called him two or three times by name: when he had roused him, he asked how he could possibly sleep as if he were already victorious, instead of being about to fight the greatest battle of his life. Alexander smiled and said "Why not? Do you not see that we have already won the battie, now that we are delivered from roving around these endless devastated plains, and chasing Darius, who will never stand and fight?" And indeed not only beforehand, but at the very height of the battle Alexander displayed the supremacy and steadfastness of a man who is confident of the soundness of his judgement. (...)

After the battle the authority of the Persian Empire was regarded as having been completely overthrown. Alexander was proclaimed king of Asia and after offering splendid sacrifices to the gods, he proceeded to reward his friends with riches, estates and governorships. As he wished to increase his prestige in the Greek world, he wrote to the states saying that all tyrannies were now abolished and that henceforth they might live under their own laws. (...)

 
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Alexander the Great

After the battle of Gaugamela Alexander advanced through the province of Babylonia, Susa and Persepolis, conquering one after the other all the most important cities and provinces of the Persian Empire.

Alexander was by nature exceptionally generous and became even more so as his wealth increased. His gifts were always bestowed with grace and courtesy, and it is this alone, to tell the truth, which makes the giver's generosity welcome....

Alexander now noticed that his companions had acquired thoroughly luxurious habits and had become vulgar in their extravagance of their way of living. There was Hagnon of Teos, who wore silver nails in his boots; Leonnatus, who had the dust with which he sprinkled his body for wrestling brought by camel-train from Egypt; and Philotas who hunted with nets that could enclose a space of twelves miles. When his friends bathed, they often anointed1 themselves with myrrh,2 rather than with plain oil, and were attended by masseurs and body- servants. Alexander reasoned with them and gently reproved them for these excesses. He told them he was amazed to see that men who had fought and conquered in such great battles could have forgotten that those who labour sleep more sweetly that those who are laboured for. Could they not understand, when they compared their style of living with that of the Persians, that there is nothing more slavish than the love of pleasure and nothing more princely than the life of toil?3 How can a man attend to his horse, he asked them, or keep his spear and his helmet clean and bright, if he has lost the habit of using his hands to look after his own precious body? Did they not know that the end and perfection of conquest is to

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1 Anoint: to apply oil to as a sign of consecration or sanctification in a sacred rite.

2 Myrrh: any of several burseraceous frees and shrubs of the African and South Asian genus Commiphora, esp. C. myrrha, that exude an aromatic resin; the resin obtained from such a plant, used in perfume, incense, and medicine.

3 Toil: hard or exhausting work.

 
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Alexander the Great

Avoid doing the same things as the conquered have done? And so, to set an example, he exerted himself more strenuously that ever in campaigns and hunting expeditions, exposing himself to hardship and danger, so that an envoy from Sparta,1 who was by his side when he speared a great lion, remarked "Alexander, you fought nobly with this lion to decide which of you should be king!" (...)

Alexander made a point of risking his life in this way both to exercise himself and to inspire others to acts of courage, but his friends, because of the wealth and pomp with which they were surrounded, desired only to lead a life of luxury and idleness. They found his expeditions and campaigns an intolerable burden, and little by little went so far as to abuse and find fault with the king. Alexander bore this treatment with great tolerance at first, and remarked that it is the part of a king to do good to his subjects and be maligned for it. And indeed even in the most trivial services which he rendered to his friends, he revealed the affection and regard which he had for them. (...)

He now set out again in pursuit of Darius, fully expecting that he would have to fight another battle. However when he learned that the king had been arrested by Bessus, the satrap2 of Bactria, he sent his Thessalian cavalry back to Greece. The pursuit of Darius turned out to be long and exhausting. Alexander covered more than four hundred miles in eleven days, and b this time most of his horsemen were on the verge of collapse for lack of water. At this point he met some Macedonians, who were carrying water from a river in skins on the back of their

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1 Sparta was founded in 900 BC with a rigid oligarchic constitution (oil garchy means a government by a small group of people). The ruling class of Sparta devoted itself to war and diplomacy, deliberately neglecting the arts, philosophy and literature, and forged the most powerful standing army in Greece. This warrior city devoted itself to austerity, frugality and discipline; it created an ideal of an absolute surrender of the individual to the state. ' ' . ;

2 Satrap: (in ancient Persia) a provincial governor.

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Alexander the Great

Mules, and when they saw Alexander almost fainting with thirst in the midday heat, they quickly filled a helmet and brought it to him. He asked them for whom they were carrying the water. "For our sons," they told him, "but so long as your life is safe, we can have other children, even if we lose them." At this Alexander took the helmet in his hands. But then he looked up and saw the rest of his troop craning1 their heads and casting longing glances at the water, and he handed  it back without drinking a drop. He thanked the men who had brought it, but said to them "If I am the only one to drink, the rest will lose heart." However no sooner had his companions witnessed this act of self-control and magnanimity2 then they cried out and shouted for him to lead them on boldly. They spurredon their horses and declared that they could not feel tired or thirsty or even like mortal men, so long as they had such a king.

 All his horsemen were fired with the same enthusiasm, but only sixty of his men, so the story goes, had kept up with Alexander when he burst into the enemy's camp. They rode over great heaps of gold and silver vessels which had been scattered on the ground, passed wagons full of women and children that were moving aimlessly about without their drivers, and at length caught up with the Persian vanguard4, imagining that Darius must be among them. At last they found him lying in a wagon, riddled with javelins and at his last gasp. He asked for a drink, and when he had swallowed some cold water which a Macedonian brought to him, he said "This is the Final stroke of misfortune, that I should accept a service from you, and not be able to return it, but Alexander will reward you for your kindness, and the gods will repay him for his courtesy towards my mother and my wife and my children. And so through you, I give him my hand." As he said this he

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1 To crane: to stretch out (esp. the neck) as to see over other people's head.

2 Magnanimity: generosity.

3 To spur: to go or ride quickly; to press on.

4 Vanguard: the leading division or units of a military force.

 
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Alexander the Great

Took the Macedonian by the hand, and died. When Alexander came up, he showed his grief and distress at the king's death, and unfastening his own cloak, he threw it over the body and covered it. Later, after he had captured Bessus, who had murdered the king, he had him torn limb from limb. As for Darius' body, he sent it to his mother to be laid out in royal state, and he enrolled his brother Exathres into the number of his companions.

Meanwhile he advanced into Parthia, and it was here during  a pause in the campaign that he first began to wear barbarian dress. He may have done this from a desire to adapt himself to local habits, because he understood that the sharing of race and of customs is a great step towards softening men's hearts.Alternatively, this may have been an experiment which was aimed at introducing the obeisance1 among the Macedonians the first stage being to accustom them to accepting changes in his own dress and way of life. However he did not go so far as to adopt the Median costume, which was altogether barbaric and outlandish2 and he wore neither trousers, nor a sleeved vest, nor a tiara.3 Instead he adopted a style which was a cornpromise between Persian and Median costume, more modest than the first, and more stately than the second. At first he wore this only when he was in the company of the barbarians or with his intimate friends indoors, but later he put it on when he was riding or giving audience in public. The sight greatly displeased the Macedonians, but they admired his other virtues so much that they considered they ought to make concessions to him in some matters which either gave him pleasure or increased his prestige. (...)

Alexander was by now becoming anxious that the Macedonians might refuse to follow him any further in his campaigns. He therefore quartered the main body on the country and allowed them to rest, but pressed on with his best troops,

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1 Obeisance: a gesture expressing obeisance.

2 Outlandish: grotesquely unconventional in appearance, habits, etc.

3 Tiara: a high headdress worn by Persian kings in ancient times.

 
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Alexander the Great

Consisting of twenty thousand infantry and three thousand cavalry, and marched into Hycarnia. He then addressed this picked force and told them that up to now the barbarians had watched them as if they were in a dream, but that if they merely threw the whole country into disorder and then retired, the Persians would fall upon them as if they were so many women. He went on to say that he would allow any of them who desired it to go ack, but he called on them to witness that at the very moment when he was seeking to conquer the whole inhabited world for the Macedonians, he found himself deserted and left only with his friends and those who were willing to continue the expedition. These are almost the exact words which he used in his letter to Antipater, and he says that after he had spoken in this way, the whole of his audience shouted aloud and begged him to lead them to whatever part of the world he chose. Once he had tested the loyalty of these troops, he found no difficulty in winning over the main body, indeed they followed him with  a will.

From this point he begin to adapt his own style of living more closely to. that of the country and tried to reconcile .Asiatic and Macedonian customs: he believed that if the two traditions could be blended and assimilated in this way his authority would be more securely established when he was far a way, since it would rest on goodwill rather than on force. For this reason he selected thirty thousand boys and gave orders that they should be taught to speak the Greek language and to use Macedonians weapons, and he appointed a large number of instructors to train them. His marriage to Roxane1 was a love match, which began when he first saw her at the height of her youthful beauty taking part in a dance at a banquet, but it also played a great part in furthering his policy of reconciliation. The barbarians were encouraged by the feeling of partnership which their alliance created, and they were completely won

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1  Roxane was the daughter of the Bactrian prince Oxyartes, once a companion of Bessus.

 
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Alexander the Great

Over by Alexander's moderation and courtesy and by the fact that without the sanction of marriage he would not approach the only woman who had ever conquered his heart. Alexander noticed that among his closest friends it was Hephaestion who approved of these plans and joined him in changing his habits, while Craterus clung to Macedonian customs, and he therefore made use of the first in his dealingswith the barbarians and of the second with the Greeks and Macedonians. In general he showed most affection for Hephaestion and most respect for Craterus, for he had formed the opinion and often said that Hephaestion was a friend of Alexander's while Craterus was a friend of the king's. For this reason a feeling of hostility grew and festered' between the two and they often came into open conflicts. Once on the expedition to India they actually drew their swords and came to blows, and as their friends appeared and began to join in the quarrel, Alexander rode up and publicly reprimanded Hephaestion: he told him that he must be a fool and a madman if he did not understand that without Alexander's favour he was nothing. Then later in private he sharply rebuked2 Craterus. Finally he called both men together and made them be friend again. He swore by Zeus, Ammon and the rest of the gods that these were the two men he loved best in the world, but that if he ever heard them quarrelling again, he would kill them both, or at least the one who began the quarrel. After this, it is said, neither of them ever did or said anything to offend the other even in jest.3 (...)

Alexander was now about to launch his expedition to India. He had already taken note that his army was overencumbered4 with booty and had lost its mobility, and so early one morning after the baggage wagons had been loaded, he

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1 To fester: become bitter, irritated, over time.

2 To rebuke: to scold.

3 Jest: something done or said for amusement; joke.

4 To encumber: 1. to hinder or impede; make difficult; hamper: (encumbered with parcels). 2. to fill with superfluous or useless matter.

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Alexander the Great

Began by burning those which belonged to himself and the Companions, and then gave orders to set fire to those of the Macedonians. In the event his decision proved to have been more difficult to envisage that it was to execute. Only a few of the soldiers resented it: the great majority cheered with delight and raised their battle cry: they gladly shared out the necessities for the campaign with those who needed them and then they helped to burn and destroy any superfluous possessions with their own hands. (...)

The events of the campaign against Porus1 are described in Alexander's letters. He tells us that the river Hydaspes flowed between the two camps, and that Porus stationed his elephants on the opposite bank and kept the crossing continually watched. Alexander caused a great deal of noise and commotion to be made day after day in his camp and in this way accustomed the barbarians not to be alarmed by his movements. Then at last on a stormy and moonless night he took a part of his infantry and the best of his cavalry, marched some distance along the river past the enemy's position, and then crossed over to a small island. Here he was overtaken by a violent storm of rain accompanied by tremendous bursts of thunder and lightning. Although he saw that a number of his men were struck dead by the lightning, he continued the advance and made for the opposite bank. After the storm the Hydaspes, which was roaring down in high flood, had scooped out a deep channel, so that much of the stream was diverted in this direction and the ground between the two currents had become broken and slippery and made it impossible for his men to gain a firm footing. It was on this occasion that Alexander is said to have exclaimed: "O you Athenians, will you ever believe what risks I am running just to earn your praise?"

This is the version which Onesicritus gives of the battle. But according to Alexander's own account, the Macedonians

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1 Porus was the king of the Pauravas. He was a giant of manly beauty, and during the battle of the Hydaspes he fought to the last with the greatest bravery, till wounded and exhausted he had to surrender to the victor.

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Alexander the Great

Left their rafts1 and waded across the breach in full armour, up to their chests in water. After making the crossing, Alexander rode on for more than two miles ahead of the infantry; he calculated that if the enemy attacked with their cavalry he could overcome them easily, and that if they moved their infantry there would still be time for his own to join him. His judgement proved quite correct. He was attacked by a thousand of the enemy's cavalry and sixty of their chariots, and killed four hundred of their horsemen. Then Porus, understanding that Alexander had crossed, advanced against him with his whole army, but left behind a force sufficient to prevent the remainder of the Macedonians from crossing. Alexander, remembering the threat of the enemy's elephants and their superiornumbers, attacked their left wing and ordered Coenus to charge against the right. Both flanks of the Indian army were routed,2 and the defeated troops fell back upon the elephants and crowded into the centre. Here they rallied and a stubborn hand-to-hand struggle ensued, so that it was not until the eighth hour that the enemy was overcome. This is the account we have from the conqueror himself in one of his letters.

Most historians agree that Porus was about six feet three inches tall, and that his size and huge physique made him appear as suitably mounted upon an elephant as an ordinary man looks on a horse. His elephant too was very large and showed an extraordinary intelligence and concern for the king's person. So long as Porus was fighting strongly, it would valiantly defend him and beat off his attackers, but as soon as it recognised that its master was growing weak from the thrust and missiles that had wounded him, it knelt quietly on the ground for fear that he might fall off, and with its trunk took hold of each spear and drew it out of his body. When Porus was taken prisoner, Alexander asked him how he wished to be treated. "As a king," Porus answered, and when Alexander went

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1 Raft: a flat floating platform of logs, planks. ;

2 To rout: to defeat.

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Alexander the Great

On to ask whether he had anything more to say, the reply came, "Those words, 'as a king' include everything." At any rate Alexander not only allowed him to govern his former kingdom, but he also added to it a province, which included the territory of the independent peoples he had subdued. These are said to have numbered fifteen nations, five thousand towns of considerable size, and innumerable villages. His other conquests embraced an area three times the size of this, and he appointed Philip, one of the Companions, to rule it as a satrap.

One of Alexander's coin

After this battle with Porus Bucephalas also died, not immediately, but some while later. (...) Alexander was plunged into grief at his death, and felt that he had lost nothing less than a friend and a comrade. He founded a city in his memory on the banks of the Hydraspe and called it Bucephalia (...)

Another consequence of this battle with Porus was that it blunted the edge of the Macedonian's courage and made them determined not to advance any further into India. It was only with great difficulty that they had defeated an enemy who had put into the field no more than twenty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, and so, when Alexander insisted on crossing the Ganges,1 they opposed him outright. The river, they were told, was four miles across and one hundred fathoms2 deep, and the opposite bank swarmed with a gigantic host of infantry, horsemen and elephants. It was said that the kings of the Gandaridae and the Praesii were waiting for Alexander's

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1 It was not the Ganges but the Hyphasis, the last great river of the Punjab.

2 Fathom: a unit of length equal to six feet used to measure depths of water.

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Alexander the Great

Attack with an army of eighty thousand cavalry, two hundred thousand infantry, eight thousand chariots and six thousand fighting elephants, and this report was no exaggeration, for Sandrocottus,1 the king of this territory who reigned there not long afterwards, presented five hundred elephants to Seleucus, and overran and conquered the whole of India with an army of six hundred thousand men.

At first Alexander was so overcome with disappointment and anger that he shut himself up and lay prostrate2 in his tent. He felt that unless he could cross the Ganges, he owed no thanks to his troops for what they had already achieved;

instead he regarded their having turned back as an admission of defeat. However his friends set themselves to reason with him and console him and the soldiers crowded round the entrance to his tent, and pleaded with him, uttering loud cries and lamentations, until finally he relented and gave orders to break camp.(...)

Alexander was now eager to see the outer Ocean. He had a large number of oar-propelled3 ferries and rafts constructed, and was rowed down the rivers on these at a leisurely speed. But his voyage was by no means a peaceful and certainly not a passive affair. As he travelled downstream he would land, assault the cities near the banks, and subdue them all. However when he attacked the tribe known as the Malli, who are said to be the most warlike of all the Indian people, he nearly lost his life.(...)

Alexander's voyage to the mouth of the Indus occupied seven months. When he reached the open sea with his ships, he sailed out to an island which he himself named Scillustis, while Others called it Psilukis. Here he landed and sacrificed to the gods, and made what observations he could on the nature of the sea and of the coast, as far as it was accessible. Then he

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1 The Hellenized form of Chandragupta, whose accession took place about 326 BC. He later wiped out the Macedonian garrisons in India.

 2 Prostrate: exhausted physically or emotionally

3 Oar: long pole of wood for propelling a boat by rowing.

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Alexander the Great

offered up a prayer that no man after him might ever pass beyond the bounds of his expedition.

He appointed Nearchus to the supreme command of the fleet with Onesicritus as its chief pilot, and ordered them to follow the line of the sea coast, keeping India on their right.1 Meanwhile he set out by land and marched through the territory of the Oreites. Here he endured terrible privations and lost great numbers of men, with the result that he did not bring back from India so much as a quarter of his fighting force. And yet His strength had once amounted to a hundred and twenty thousand infantry and fifteen thousand cavalry.2 Some of his men died from disease, some of the wretched food, some of the scorching heat, but most from sheer hunger, for they had to march through an uncultivated region whose inhabitants only eked out3 a wretched4 existence. It was only with great difficulty that Alexander succeeded in crossing this region in sixty days, but once he reached Gedrosia, he was immediately in a land of plenty, and the satraps and local rulers provided him with all his needs. (...)

But the difficulties he had encountered during the whole eastern campaign, the wound he had received in the battle with the Malli, and the heavy losses which his army was reported to have suffered had raised doubts as to his safe return: this combination of events had encouraged the subject peoples to revolt and his various viceroys and satraps to act in an unjust, rapacious5 and arrogant manner. In short the whole empire was

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1 The plan was that the fleet should sail up the Persian Gulf and rejoin Alexander at the mouth of the Euphrates.

2 Alexander is said to have chosen this desert route both to support the fleet by digging wells and establishing depots and to restore his own reputation for superhuman achievement. The strength of Alexander's operational force was 35,000 fighting men. Plutarch seems to be referring to a total which includes all camp-followers. The non-combatants were the principal sufferers on this march.

3 To eke out: to live from hand to mouth; to struggle along.

4 Wretched: poor; miserable.

5 Rapacious: 1. practising pillage or rapine. 2. greedy or grasping.

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Alexander the Great

Alexander in battle

A detail of the famous mosaic of the battle of Issus. Pompeii

 

in turmoil and an atmosphere of instability prevailed everywhere. Even at home his mother Olympias and his sister Cleopatra had been intriguing against the regent, Antipater and had divided the kingdom between them, Olympias taking

Epirus and Cleopatra Macedonia. When Alexander heard of this, he remarked that his mother had made the wiser choice, since the Macedonians would never tolerate being  governed by a woman. For these reasons he now sent Nearchus back to sea: his plan was to carry the war into the provinces which  bordered the coast, while he himself would march down from Upper Asia and punish those of his officers who had abused their powers. (...)

One of his first acts when he reached Persis was to distribute money to the women: in this he was following  the

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Alexander the Great

Custom of the Persian kings, who, whenever they arrived in this province, presented each matron1 with a gold coin. Not long afterwards Alexander discovered that the tomb of Cyrus2 had been plundered and had the offender put to death, even though he was a prominent Macedonian from Pella. 'When he had read the inscription on the tomb, he ordered it to be repeated below in Greek characters. The text was as follows:

"O man, whoever you are and wherever you come from, for I know you will come, I am Cyrus who won the Persians their

empire. Do not therefore grudge me this little earth that covers my body." These words made a deep impression on Alexander, since they reminded him of the uncertainty and mutability3 of mortal life. (...)

Alexander now celebrated the marriages of a number of companions at Susa. He himself married Stateira, the daughter of Darius, and he matched the noblest of the Persian women with the bravest of his men. On this occasion he gave a banquet to which he invited all the Macedonians who had already married Persian wives. We are told that nine thousand guests attended this feast and each of them was given a golden cup for libations. The whole entertainment was carried out on a grand scale and Alexander went so far as to discharge all the debts owed by any of his guests. (...)

The thirty thousand boys whom he had left behind to be given a Greek education and military training had now grown into active and handsome men and had developed a wonderful skill and agility in their military exercises. Alexander was delighted with their progress, but the Macedonians were disheartened and deeply disturbed for their own future, because 

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1 Matron: a married woman, esp. a middle-aged woman with children.

2 Cyrus the Great was a conqueror who founded the Acheamenian Empire. The figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history more than as a man who founded an empire. He became the embodiment of the great qualities expected for a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring.

3 Mutability: able to or tending to change.

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Alexander the Great

They assumed that the king would henceforth have less regard for them. So when he arranged to send the sick and disabled among them to the sea-coast, they protested that he was not only doing them an injustice but deliberately humiliating them.

In the spring (324) he left Susa for Ecbatana in Media and there, after he had dealt with the most pressing of his concerns, he once more turned his attention to plays and spectacles, since three thousand players had arrived from Greece. At this time it happened that Hephaestion had caught a fever, and being young man who was accustomed to a soldier's life, he could not bear to remain on a strict diet. No sooner had his physician Glaucus gone off to the theatre, than he sat down to breakfast devoured a boiled fowl and washed it down with a great coolerfull of wine. His fever quickly mounted and soon afterwards

he died. Alexander's grief was uncontrollable. As a sign of mourning he gave orders that the manes and tails of all horses

should be shorn, demolished the battlements of all the neighbouring cities, crucified the unlucky physician and forbade the playing of flutes or any other kind of music for a long time until finally an oracle was announced from the temple o Ammon, commanding him to honour Hephaestion and sacrifice to him as a hero. He determined to spend ten thousand talents on the funeral and on the tomb of his friend, and as he wished the ingenuity and originality of the design to surpass the expense he was especially anxious to employ Stasticrates, as this artist was famous for his innovations, which combined an exceptional degree of magnificence, audacity and ostentation.1

Towards the end of the year Alexander travelled to Babylon Before he arrived he was joined by Nearchus, who had sailed through the ocean and up the Euphrates: Nearchus told him that he met some Chaldaens who had advised the king to stay away from Babylon. Alexander paid no attention to this warning and continued his journey, but when he arrived before the walls of the city, he saw a large number of ravens flying about

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1 Ostentation: pretentious, showy, or vulgar display.

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Alexander the Great

And pecking one another, and some of them fell dead in front of him. (...) He began to regret: he had not taken Nearchus' advice, and so he spent most of his time outside the walls of Babylon, either in his tent or in boats on the Euphrates. Many more omens now occurred to trouble him. A tame1 ass attacked the finest lion in his menagerie and kicked it to death. On another occasion Alexander took off his clothes for exercise and played a game of ball. When it was time to dress again, the young men who had joined him in the game suddenly noticed that there was a man sitting silently on the throne and wearing Alexander's diadem and royal robes. When he was questioned, he could say nothing for a long while, but later he came to his senses and explained that he was a citizen of Messenia named Dionysius. He had been accused of some crime, brought to Babylon from the coast, and kept for a long time in chains. Then the god Serapis had appeared to him, cast off his chains and brought him to this place, where he had commanded him to put on the king's robe and diadem, take his seat on the throne and hold his peace.

When he had heard the man's story, Alexander had him put to death, as the diviners recommended. But his confidence now deserted him, he began to believe that he had lost the favour of the gods, and he became increasingly suspicious of his friends. (...) Alexander had become so much obsessed by his fears of the supernatural and so overwrought and apprehensive in his own mind, that he interpreted every strange or unusual occurrence, no matter how trivial, as a prodigy or a portent,with the result that the palace was filled with soothsayers,3 sacrificers, purifiers and prognosticacors.4 Certainly it is dangerous

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1 Tame: changed by man from naturally wild state into a domesticated condition.

2 Portent: a sign or indication of future event, especially a momentous or calamitous one; omen.

3 Soothsayer: a seer or prophet.

4 To prognosticate: to foretell (future events) according to present signs or indications.

 
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Alexander the Great

To disbelieve or show contempt for the power of the gods, but  it is equally dangerous to harbour superstition, and in this case just as water constantly gravitates to a lower level, so unreasoning dread filled Alexander's mind with foolish misgivings once he had become a slave to his fears. However, when the verdict of the oracle concerning Hephaestion was brought to him, he laid aside his grief and allowed himself to indulge in a number of sacrifices and drinking-bouts.1 He gave a splendid banquet in honour of Nearchus, after which he took a bath as his custom was, with the intention of going to bed soon afterwards. But when Medius invited him, he went to his house to join a party, and there after drinking all through the next day, he began to feel feverish.2 Aristobus tells us that he was with a raging fever, that when he became very thirsty he drank  wine which made him delirious,3 and that he died on the thirtieth day of the month Daesius.

According to his journals, the course of his sickness was as follows. On the eighteenth day of the month Daesius he slept in the bathroom because he was feverish. On the next day, after taking a bath, he moved into the bedchamber and spent the day playing dice with Medius. He took a bath late in the evening, offered sacrifice to the gods, dined and remained feverish throughout the night. On the twentieth he again bathed and sacrificed as usual, and while he was lying down in the bathroom he was entertained by listening to Nearchus' account of his voyage, and his exploration of the great sea. On the twenty-first he passed the time in the same way, but the fever grew more intense: he had a bad night and all through the following day his fever was very high. He had his bed moved and lay in it by the side of a great plunge-bath, and there he discussed with his commanders the vacant posts in the army and how to fill them with experienced officers. On the twenty- fourth his fever was still worse and he was carried outside to  offer a

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1 Bout: a period of time spent in doing something, such as drinking

2 Probably malaria.

3 Delirious: affected with delirium.

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Alexander the Great

acrifice. He gave orders to the senior commanders to remain oncall in the courtyard of the palace and to the commanders of companies and regiments to spend the night outside. On the twenty-fifth day he was moved to the palace on the other side of the river, and there he slept a little, but his fever did not abate.1 When his commanders entered the room he was speechless and remained so on the twenty-sixth day. The Macedonians now believed that he was dead: they thronged the doors of the palace and began to shout and threaten the Companions, who were at last obliged to let them in. When the doors had been thrown open they all filed slowly past his bedside one by one, wearing neither cloak nor armour. On the twenty-eighth awards evening he died.2

References

The Age of AlexanderNine Greek Lives by Plutarch Translated and annoted by lan Scott-Kilvert Penguin Books Ltd. Harmondsworth,

Middlesex, England Viking Penguin Inc. 40 West 223rd Street new York, New York 10010, USA

Translation and notes copyright lan Scott-Kilvert, 1973 Published in 1973—Reprinted

1977, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 86

 

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1  Abate: to make or become less in amount or intensity.

2  On the 13 June of 323 BC. He was not yet 33 years.

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