A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest

Author: William Smith

Chapter XX. Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323.

Alexander, at the time of his father’s death, was in his twentieth year, having been born in B.C. 356. His early education was entrusted to Leonidas, a kinsman of his mother, a man of severe and parsimonious character, who trained him with Spartan simplicity and hardihood; whilst Lysimachus, a sort of under-governor, early inspired the young prince with ambitious notions, by teaching him to love and emulate the heroes of the Iliad. according to the traditions of his family, the blood of Achilles actually ran in the veins of Alexander; [His mother Olympias was the daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus who claimed descent from Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles.] and Lysimachus nourished the feeling which that circumstance was calculated to awaken by giving him the name of that hero, whilst he called Philip Peleus, and himself Phoenix. But the most striking feature in Alexander’s education was, that he had Aristotle for his teacher, and that thus the greatest conqueror of the material world received the instructions of him who has exercised the most extensive empire over the human intellect. It was probably at about the age of thirteen that he first received the lessons of Aristotle, and they can hardly have continued more than three years, for Alexander soon left the schools for the employments of active life. At the age of sixteen we find him regent of Macedonia during Philip’s absence; and at eighteen we have seen him filling a prominent military post at the battle of Chaeronea.

On succeeding to the throne Alexander announced his intention of prosecuting his father’s expedition into Asia; but it was first necessary for him to settle the affairs of Greece, where the news of Philip’s assassination, and the accession of so young a prince, had excited in several states a hope of shaking off the Macedonian yoke. Athens was the centre of these movements. Demosthenes, although in mourning for the recent loss of an only daughter, now came abroad dressed in white, and crowned with a chaplet, in which attire he was seen sacrificing at one of the public altars. He also moved a decree that Philip’s death should be celebrated by a public thanksgiving, and that religious honours should be paid to the memory of Pausanias. At the same time he made vigorous preparations for action. He despatched envoys to the principal Grecian states for the purpose of inciting them against Macedon. Sparta, and the whole Peloponnesus, with the exception of Megalopolis and Messenia, seemed inclined to shake off their compulsory alliance. Even the Thebans rose against the dominant oligarchy, although the Cadmea was in the hands of the Macedonians.

The activity of Alexander disconcerted all these movements. Having marched through Thessaly, he assembled the Amphictyonic council at Thermopylae, who conferred upon him the command with which they had invested his father during the Sacred War. He then advanced rapidly upon Thebes, and thus prevented the meditated revolution, The Athenians sent ambassadors to deprecate his wrath, who were graciously accepted. He then convened a general congress at Corinth, where he was appointed generalissimo for the Persian war in place of his father. Most of the philosophers and persons of note near Corinth came to congratulate him on this occasion; but Diognes of Sinope who was then living in one of the suburbs of Corinth, did not make his appearance. Alexander therefore resolved to pay a visit to the eccentric cynic, whom he found basking in the sun. On the approach of Alexander with a numerous retinue, Diogenes raised himself up a little, and the monarch affably inquired how he could serve him? "By standing out of my sunshine," replied the churlish philosopher. Alexander was stung with surprise at a behaviour to which he was so little accustomed; but whilst his courtiers were ridiculing the manners of the cynic, he turned to them and said, "Were I not Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes."

The result of the Congress might be considered a settlement of the affairs of Greece. Alexander then returned to Macedonia in the hope of being able to begin his Persian expedition in the spring of B.C. 335; but reports of disturbances among the Thracians and Triballians diverted his attention to that quarter. He therefore crossed Mount Haemus (the Balkan) and marched into the territory of the Triballians, defeated their forces, and pursued them to the Danube, which he crossed. After acquiring a large booty he regained the banks of the Danube, and thence marched against the Illyrians and Taulantians, whom he speedily reduced to obedience.

During Alexander’s absence on these expeditions no tidings were heard of him for a considerable time, and a report of his death was industriously spread in Southern Greece. The Thebans rose and besieged the Macedonian garrison in the Cadmea, at the same time inviting other states to declare their independence. Demosthenes was active in aiding the movement. He persuaded the Athenians to furnish the Thebans with subsidies and to assure them of their support and alliance. But the rapidity of Alexander again crushed the insurrection in the bud. Before the Thebans discovered that the report of his death was false he had already arrived at Onchestus in Boeotia. Alexander was willing to afford them an opportunity for repentance, and marched slowly to the foot of the Cadmea. But the leaders of the insurrection, believing themselves irretrievably compromised, replied with taunts to Alexander’s proposals for peace, and excited the people to the most desperate resistance. An engagement was prematurely brought on by one of the generals of Alexander, in which some of the Macedonian troops were put to the rout; but Alexander, coming up with the phalanx, whilst the Thebans were in the disorder of pursuit, drove them back in turn and entered the gates along with them, when a fearful massacre ensued committed principally by the Thracians in Alexander’s service. Six thousand Thebans are said to have been slain, and thirty thousand were made prisoners. The doom of the conquered city was referred to the allies, who decreed her destruction. The grounds of the verdict bear the impress of a tyrannical hypocrisy. They rested on the conduct of the Thebans during the Persian war, on their treatment of Plataea, and on their enmity to Athens. The inhabitants were sold as slaves, and all the houses, except that of Pindar, were levelled with the ground. The Cadmea was preserved to be occupied by a Macedonian garrison. Thebes seems to have been thus harshly treated as an example to the rest of Greece, for towards the other states, which were now eager to make their excuses and submission, Alexander showed much forbearance and lenity. The conduct of the Athenians exhibits them deeply sunk in degradation. When they heard of the chastisement indicted upon Thebes, they immediately voted, on the motion of Demosthenes, that ambassadors should be sent to congratulate Alexander on his safe return from his northern expeditions, and on his recent success. Alexander in reply wrote a letter, demanding that eight or ten of the leading Athenian orators should be delivered up to him. At the head of the list was Demosthenes. In this dilemma, Phocion, who did not wish to speak upon such a question, was loudly called upon by the people for his opinion; when he rose and said that the persons whom Alexander demanded had brought the state into such a miserable plight that they deserved to be surrendered, and that for his own part he should be very happy to die for the commonwealth. At the same time he advised them to try the effect of intercession with Alexander; and it was at last only by his own personal application to that monarch with whom he was a great favourite, that the orators were spared. According to another account, however, the wrath of Alexander was appeased by the orator Demades, who received from the Athenians a reward of five talents for his services. It was at this time that Alexander is said to have sent a present of 100 talents to Phocion. But Phocion asked the persons who brought the money—"Why he should be selected for such a bounty?" "Because," they replied, "Alexander considers you the only just and honest man." "Then," said Phocion, "let him suffer me to be what I seem, and to retain that character." And when the envoys went to his house and beheld the frugality with which he lived, they perceived that the man who refused such a gift was wealthier than he who offered it.

Having thus put the affairs of Greece on a satisfactory footing, Alexander marched for the Hellespont in the spring of B.C. 334, leaving Antipater regent of Macedonia in his absence, with a force of 12,000 foot and 1500 horse. Alexander’s own army consisted of only about 50,000 foot and 5000 horse. Of the infantry about 12,000 were Macedonians, and these composed the pith of the celebrated Macedonian phalanx. Such was the force with which he proposed to attack the immense but ill-cemented empire of Persia, which, like the empires of Turkey or Austria in modern times, consisted of various nations and races with different religions and manners, and speaking different languages; the only bond of union being the dominant military power of the ruling nation, which itself formed only a small numerical portion of the empire. The remote provinces, like those of Asia Minor, were administered by satraps and military governors who enjoyed an almost independent authority. Before Alexander departed he distributed most of the crown property among his friends, and when Perdiccas asked him what he had reserved for himself he replied, "My hopes."

A march of sixteen days brought Alexander to Sestos, where a large fleet and a number of transports had been collected for the embarkation of his army. He steered with his own hand the vessel in which he sailed towards the very spot where the Achaeans were said to have landed when proceeding to the Trojan war. He was, as we have said, a great admirer of Homer, a copy of whose works he always carried with him; and on landing on the Asiatic coast he made it his first business to visit the plain of Troy. He then proceeded to Sigeum, where he crowned with a garland the pillar said to mark the tumulus of his mythical ancestor Achilles, and, according to custom, ran round it naked with his friends.

Alexander then marched northwards along the coast of the Propontis. The satraps of Lydia and Ionia, together with other Persian generals, were encamped on the river Granicus, with a force of 20,000 Greek mercenaries, and about an equal number of native cavalry, with which they prepared to dispute the passage of the river. A Rhodian, named Memnon, had the chief command. The veteran general Parmenio advised Alexander to delay the attack till the following morning; to which he replied, that it would be a bad omen at the beginning of his expedition, if, after passing the Hellespont, he should be stopped by a paltry stream. Thereupon he directed his cavalry to cross the river, and followed himself at the head of the phalanx. The passage, however, was by no means easy. The stream was in many parts so deep as to be hardly fordable, and the opposite bank was steep and rugged. The cavalry had great difficulty in maintaining their ground till Alexander came up to their relief. He immediately charged into the thickest of the fray, and exposed himself so much that his life was often in imminent danger, and on one occasion was saved only by the interposition of his friend Clitus. Having routed the Persians, he next attacked the Greek mercenaries, 2000 of whom were made prisoners, and the rest nearly all cut to pieces, In this engagement he killed two Persian officers with his own hand.

Alexander now marched southwards towards Sardis, which surrendered before he came within sight of its walls. Having left a garrison in that city, he arrived after a four days’ march before Ephesus, which likewise capitulated on his approach. Magnesia, Tralles, and Miletus next fell into his hands, the last after a short siege. Halicarnassus made more resistance. It was obliged to be regularly approached; but at length Memnon, finding it no longer tenable, set fire to it in the night, and crossed over to Cos. Alexander caused it to be razed to the ground, and pursued his march along the southern coast of Asia Minor, with the view of seizing those towns which might afford shelter to a Persian fleet. The winter was now approaching, and Alexander sent a considerable part of his army under Parmenio into winterquarters at Sardis. He also sent back to Macedonia such officers and soldiers as had been recently married, on condition that they should return in the spring with what reinforcements they could raise; and with the same view he despatched an officer to recruit in the Peloponnesus. Meanwhile he himself with a chosen body proceeded along the coasts of Lycia and Pamphylia, having instructed Parmenio to rejoin him in Phrygia in the spring, with the main body. After he had crossed the Xanthus most of the Lycian towns tendered their submission. On the borders of Lycia and Pamphylia, Mount Climax, a branch of the Taurus range, runs abruptly into the sea, leaving only a narrow passage at its foot, which is frequently overflowed. This was the case at the time of Alexander’s approach. He therefore sent his main body by a long and difficult road across the mountains to Perge; but he himself who loved danger for its own sake, proceeded with a chosen band along the shore, wading through water that was breast-high for nearly a whole day. Then forcing his way northwards through the barbarous tribes which inhabited the mountains of Pisidia, he encamped in the neighbourhood of Gordium in Phrygia. Here he was rejoined by Parmenio and by the new levies from Greece. Gordium had been the capital of the early Phrygian kings, and in it was preserved with superstitious veneration the chariot or waggon in which the celebrated Midas, the son of Gordius, together with his parents, had entered the town, and in conformity with an oracle had been elevated to the monarchy. An ancient prophecy promised the sovereignty of Asia to him who should untie the knot of bark which fastened the yoke of the waggon to the pole. Alexander repaired to the Acropolis, where the waggon was preserved, to attempt this adventure. Whether he undid the knot by drawing out a peg, or cut it through with his sword, is a matter of doubt; but that he had fulfilled the prediction was placed beyond dispute that very night by a great storm of thunder and lightning.

In the spring of 333 Alexander pursued his march eastwards, and on arriving at Ancyra received the submission of the Paphlagonians. He then advanced through Cappadocia without resistance; and forcing his way through the passes of Mount Taurus (the PYLAE CILICIAE), he descended into the plains of Cilicia. Hence he pushed on rapidly to Tarsus, which he found abandoned by the enemy. Whilst still heated with the march Alexander plunged into the clear but cold stream of the Cydnus, which runs by the town. The result was a fever, which soon became so violent as to threaten his life. An Acarnanian physician, named Philip, who accompanied him, prescribed a remedy; but at the same time Alexander received a letter informing him that Philip had been bribed by Darius, the Persian king, to poison him. He had however, too much confidence in the trusty Philip to believe the accusation and handed him the letter whilst he drank the draught. Either the medicine, or Alexander’s youthful constitution, at length triumphed over the disorder. After remaining some time at Tarsus, he continued his march along the coast to Mallus, where he first received certain tidings of the great Persian army, commanded by Darius in person. It is said to have consisted of 600,000 fighting men, besides all that train of attendants which usually accompanied the march of a Persian monarch. Alexander found Darius encamped near Issus on the right bank of the little river Pinarus. The Persian king could hardly have been caught in a more unfavourable position, since the narrow and rugged plain between Mount Amanus and the sea afforded no scope for the evolutions of large bodies, and thus entirely deprived him of the advantage of his numerical superiority. Alexander occupied the pass between Syria and Cilicia at midnight, and at daybreak began to descend into the plain of the Pinarus, ordering his troops to deploy into line as the ground expanded and thus to arrive in battle-array before the Persians. Darius had thrown 30,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry across the river, to check the advance of the Macedonians; whilst on the right bank were drawn up his choicest Persian troops to the number of 60,000, together with 30,000 Greek mercenaries, who formed the centre, and on whom he chiefly relied. These, it appears, were all that the breadth of the plain allowed to be drawn up in line. The remainder of the vast host were posted in separate bodies in the farther parts of the plain, and were unable to take any share in the combat. Darius placed himself in the centre of the line in a magnificent state chariot. The banks of the Pinarus were in many parts steep, and where they were level Darius had caused them to be intrenched. As Alexander advanced, the Persian cavalry which had been thrown across the river were recalled; but the 20,000 infantry had been driven into the mountains, where Alexander held them in check with a small body of horse. The left wing of the Macedonians, under the command of Parmenio, was ordered to keep near the sea, to prevent being outflanked. The right wing was led by Alexander in person, who rushed impetuously into the water, and was soon engaged in close combat with the Persians. The latter were immediately routed; but what chiefly decided the fortune of the day was the timidity of Darius himself, who, on beholding the defeat of his left wing, immediately took to flight. His example was followed by his whole army. One hundred thousand Persians are said to have been left upon the field. On reaching the hills Darius threw aside his royal robes his bow and shield, and, mounting a fleet courser, was soon out of reach of pursuit. The Persian camp became the spoil of the Macedonians; but the tent of Darius, together with his chariot, robes, and arms, was reserved for Alexander himself. It was now that the Macedonian king first had ocular proof of the nature of Eastern royalty. One compartment of the tent of Darius had been fitted up as a bath, which steamed with the richest odours; whilst another presented a magnificent pavilion, containing a table richly spread for the banquet of Darius. But from an adjoining tent issued the wail of female voices, where Sisygambis the mother, and Statira the wife of Darius, were lamenting the supposed death of the Persian monarch. Alexander sent to assure them of his safety, and ordered them to be treated with the most delicate and respectful attention.

Such was the memorable battle of Issus, fought in November, B.C. 333. A large treasure which Parmenio was sent forward with a detachment to seize, fell into the hands of the Macedonians at Damascus. Another favourable result of the victory was that it suppressed some attempts at revolt from the Macedonian power, which with the support of Persia, had been manifested in Greece. But, in order to put a complete stop to all such intrigues, which chiefly depended on the assistance of a Persian fleet, Alexander resolved to seize Phoenicia and Egypt, and thus to strike at the root of the Persian maritime power.

Meanwhile, Darius, attended by a body of only 4000 fugitives, had crossed the Euphrates at Thapsacus. Before he had set out from Babylon the whole forces of the empire had been summoned; but he had not thought it worth while to wait for what he deemed a merely useless encumbrance; and the more distant levies, which comprised some of the best troops of the empire, were still hastening towards Babylon. In a short time, therefore, he would be at the head of a still more numerous host than that which had fought at Issus; yet he thought it safer to open negotiations with Alexander than to trust to the chance of arms. With this view he sent a letter to Alexander, who was now at Marathus in Phoenicia, proposing to become his friend and ally; but Alexander rejected all his overtures, and told him that he must in future be addressed not in the language of an equal, but of a subject.

As Alexander advanced southwards, all the towns of Phoenicia hastened to open their gates; the inhabitants of Sidon even hailed him as their deliverer. Tyre, also, sent to tender her submission; but coupled with reservations by no means acceptable to a youthful conqueror in the full tide of success. Alexander affected to receive their offer as an unconditional surrender, and told them that he would visit their city and offer sacrifices to Melcart, a Tyrian deity, who was considered as identical with the Grecian Hercules. This brought the matter to an issue. The Tyrians now informed him that they could not admit any foreigners within their walls, and that, if he wished to sacrifice to Melcart, he would find another and more ancient shrine in Old Tyre, on the mainland. Alexander indignantly dismissed the Tyrian ambassadors, and announced his intention of laying siege to their city. The Tyrians probably deemed it impregnable. It was by nature a place of great strength, and had been rendered still stronger by art. The island on which it stood was half a mile distant from the mainland; and though the channel was shallow near the coast, it deepened to three fathoms near the island. The shores of the island were rocky and precipitous, and the walls rose from the cliffs to the height of 150 feet in solid masonry. As Alexander possessed no ships, the only method by which he could approach the town was by constructing a causeway, the materials for which were collected from the forests of Libanus and the ruins of Old Tyre. After overcoming many difficulties the mole was at length pushed to the foot of the walls; and as soon as Alexander had effected a practicable breach, he ordered a general assault both by land and sea. The breach was stormed under the immediate inspection of Alexander himself; and though the Tyrians made a desperate resistance, they were at length overpowered, when the city became one wide scene of indiscriminate carnage and plunder. The siege had lasted seven months, and the Macedonians were so exasperated by the difficulties and dangers they had undergone that they granted no quarter. Eight thousand of the citizens are said to have been massacred; and the remainder, with the exception of the king and some of the principal men, who had taken refuge in the temple of Melcart, were sold into slavery to the number of 30,000. Tyre was taken in the month of July in 332.

Whilst Alexander was engaged in the siege of Tyre, Darius made him further and more advantageous proposals. He now offered 10,000 talents as the ransom of his family, together with all the Provinces west of the Euphrates, and his daughter Barsine in marriage, as the conditions of a peace. When these offers were submitted to the council Parmenio was not unnaturally struck with their magnificence, and observed, that were he Alexander he would accept them. "and so would I," replied the king, "were I Parmenio." Darius, therefore, prepared himself for a desperate resistance.

After the fall of Tyre, Alexander marched with his army towards Egypt, whilst his fleet proceeded along the coast. Gaza, a strong fortress on the sea-shore, obstinately held out, and delayed his progress three or four months. After the capture of this city Alexander met his fleet at Pelusium, and ordered it to sail up the Nile as far as Memphis, whither he himself marched with his army across the desert. He conciliated the affection of the Egyptians by the respect with which he treated their national superstitions, whilst the Persians by an opposite line of conduct had incurred their deadliest hatred. He then sailed down the western branch of the Nile, and at its mouth traced the plan of the new city of Alexandria, which for many centuries continued to be not only the grand emporium of Europe, Africa, and India, but also the principal centre of intellectual life. Being now on the confines of Libya, Alexander resolved to visit the celebrated oracle of Zeus (Jupiter) Ammon, which lay in the bosom of the Libyan wilderness. The conqueror was received by the priests with all the honours of sacred pomp. He consulted the oracle in secret, and is said never to have disclosed the answer which he received; though that it was an answer that contented him appeared from the magnificence of the offerings which he made to the god. Some say that Ammon saluted him as the son of Zeus.

Alexander returned to Phoenicia in the spring of 331. He then directed his march through Samaria, and arrived at Thapsacus on the Euphrates about the end of August. after crossing the river he struck to the north-east through a fertile and well-supplied country. On his march he was told that Darius was posted with an immense force on the left bank of the Tigris; but on arriving at that river he found nobody to dispute his passage. He then proceeded southwards along its banks, and after four days’ march fell in with a few squadrons of the enemy’s cavalry. From some of these who were made prisoners Alexander learned that Darius was encamped with his host on one of the extensive plains between the Tigris and the mountains of Kurdistan, near a village called Gaugamela (the Camel’s House). The town of Arbela, after which the battle that ensued is commonly named, lay at about twenty miles distance, and there Darius had deposited his baggage and treasure. That monarch had been easily persuaded that his former defeat was owing solely to the nature of the ground; and, therefore, he now selected a wide plain for an engagement, where there was abundant room for his multitudinous infantry, and for the evolutions of his horsemen and charioteers. Alexander, after giving his army a few days’ rest, set out to meet the enemy soon after midnight, in order that he might come up with them about daybreak. On ascending some sand-hills the whole array of the Persians suddenly burst upon the view of the Macedonians, at the distance of three or four miles. Darius, as usual, occupied the centre, surrounded by his body-guard and chosen troops. In front of the royal position were ranged the war-chariots and elephants, and on either side the Greek mercenaries, to the number, it is said, of 50,000. Alexander spent the first day in surveying the ground and preparing for the attack; he also addressed his troops, pointing out to them that the prize of victory would not be a mere province, but the dominion of all Asia. Yet so great was the tranquillity with which he contemplated the result, that at daybreak on the following morning, when the officers came to receive his final instructions, they found him in a deep slumber. His army, which consisted only of 40,000 foot and 7000 horse, was drawn up in the order which he usually observed, namely, with the phalanx in the centre in six divisions, and the Macedonian cavalry on the right, where Alexander himself took his station. The Persians, fearful of being surprised, had stood under arms the whole night, so that the morning found them exhausted and dispirited. Some of them, however, fought with considerable bravery; but when Alexander had succeeded in breaking their line by an impetuous charge, Darius mounted a fleet horse and took to flight, as at Issus, though the fortune of the day was yet far from having been decided. At length, however, the rout became general. Whilst daylight lasted Alexander pursued the flying enemy as far as the banks of the Lycus, or Greater Zab, where thousands of the Persians perished in the attempt to pass the river. After resting his men a few hours Alexander continued the pursuit at midnight in the hope of overtaking Darius at Arbela. The Persian monarch, however, had continued his flight without stopping; but the whole of the royal baggage and treasure was captured.

Finding any further pursuit of Darius hopeless, Alexander now directed his march towards Babylon. At a little distance from the city the greater part of the population came out to meet him, headed by their priests and magistrates, tendering their submission and bearing with them magnificent presents. Alexander then made his triumphant entry into Babylon, riding in a chariot at the head of his army. The streets were strewed with flowers, incense smoked on either hand on silver altars, and the priests celebrated his entry with hymns. Nor was this a mere display of a compulsory obedience. Under the Persian sway the Chaldaean religion had been oppressed and persecuted; the temple of Belus had been destroyed and still lay in ruins; and both priests and people consequently rejoiced at the downfall of a dynasty from which they had suffered so much wrong. Alexander observed here the same politic conduct which he had adopted in Egypt. He caused the ruined temples to be restored, and proposed to offer personally, but under the direction of the priests, a sacrifice to Belus. Alexander contemplated making Babylon the capital of his future empire. His army was rewarded with a large donative from the Persian treasury; and after being allowed to indulge for some time in the luxury of Babylon, was again put in motion, towards the middle of November, for Susa. It was there that the Persian treasures were chiefly accumulated, and Alexander had despatched one of his generals to take possession of the city immediately after the battle of Arbela. It was surrendered without a blow by the satrap Abulites. The treasure found there amounted to 40,000 talents in gold and silver bullion, and 9000 in gold Darics. But among all these riches the interest of the Greeks must have been excited in a lively manner by the discovery of the spoils carried off from Greece by Xerxes. Among them were the bronze statues of Harmodius and Aristogiton, which Alexander now sent back to Athens, and which were long afterwards preserved in the Ceramicus.

At Susa Alexander received reinforcements of about 15,000 men from Greece. He then directed his march south-eastwards towards Persepolis. His road lay through the mountainous territory of the Uxians, who refused him a passage unless he paid the usual tribute which they were in the habit of extorting even from the Persian kings. But Alexander routed them with great slaughter. He then advanced rapidly to Persepolis, whose magnificent ruins still attest its ancient splendour. It was the real capital of the Persian kings, though they generally resided at Susa during the winter, and at Ecbatana in summer. The treasure found there exceeded that both of Babylon and Susa, and is said to have amounted to 120,000 talents or nearly 30,000,000l. sterling. It was here that Alexander is related to have committed an act of senseless folly, by firing with his own hand the ancient and magnificent palace of the Persian kings; of which the most charitable version is that he committed the act when heated with wine at the instigation of Thais, an Athenian courtezan. By some writers, however, the story is altogether disbelieved, and the real destruction of Persepolis referred to the Mahommedan epoch. Whilst at Persepolis, Alexander visited the tomb of Cyrus, the founder of the Persian monarchy, which was situated at a little distance, at a city called Pasargadae.

Thus in between three and four years after crossing the Hellespont Alexander had established himself on the Persian throne. But Darius was not yet in his power. After the battle of Arbela that monarch had fled to Ecbatana. It was not till about four months after the battle of Arbela, and consequently early in 330, that Alexander quitted Persepolis to resume the pursuit of Darius. On approaching Ecbatana he learned that the Persian monarch had already fled with the little army which still adhered to him. Alexander, with his main body, then pursued Darius through Media by forced marches and reached Rhagae, a distance of three hundred miles from Ecbatana, in eleven days. Such was the rapidity of the march that many men and horses died of fatigue. At Rhagae he heard that Darius had already passed the defile called the "Caspian Gates," leading into the Bactrian provinces; and, as that pass was fifty miles distant, urgent pursuit was evidently useless. He therefore allowed his troops five days’ rest, and then resumed his march. Soon after passing the Gates he learned that Darius had been seized and loaded with chains by his own satrap Bessus, who entertained the design of establishing himself in Bactria as an independent sovereign. This intelligence stimulated Alexander to make still further haste with part of his cavalry and a chosen body of foot. On the fourth day he succeeded in overtaking the fugitives with his cavalry, having been obliged to leave the infantry behind, with directions to follow more at leisure. The enemy, who did not know his real strength, were struck with consternation at his appearance, and fled precipitately. Bessus and his adherents now endeavoured to persuade Darius to fly with them, and provided a fleet horse for that purpose. But the Persian monarch, who had already experienced the generosity of Alexander in the treatment of his captive family, preferred to fall into his hands, whereupon the conspirators mortally wounded him in the chariot in which they kept him confined, and then took to flight. Darius expired before Alexander could come up, who threw his own cloak over the body. He then ordered him to be magnificently buried in the tomb of his ancestors, and provided for the fitting education of his children.

The next three years were employed by Alexander in subduing Hyrcania, Drangiana, Bactria, and Sogdiana, and the other northern provinces of the Persian empire. In these distant regions he founded several cities, one of which in Aria, called after him (Alexandria Ariorum), is still, under the name of HERAT, one of the chief cities in central Asia. Alexander’s stay in Prophthasia, the capital of Drangiana, was signalized by a supposed conspiracy against his life, formed by Philotas, the son of Parmenio. Alexander had long entertained suspicions of Philotas. But the immediate subject of accusation against him was that he had not revealed a conspiracy which was reported to be forming against Alexander’s life, and which he had deemed too contemptible to notice. He was consequently suspected of being implicated in it; and on being put to the torture he not only confessed his own guilt in his agonies, but also implicated his father. Philotas was executed, and an order was sent to Ecbatana, where Parmenio then was, directing that veteran general to be put to death. A letter, purporting to be from his son, was handed to him; and whilst the old man was engaged in reading it, Polydamus, his intimate friend, together with some others of Alexander’s principal officers, fell upon and slew him. His head was carried to Alexander.

Meantime Bessus had assumed the royal dignity in Bactria; but upon Alexander’s approach he fled across the Oxus into Sogdiana. Early in the summer of 329 Alexander followed him across the Oxus; and shortly afterwards Bessus was betrayed by two of his own officers into the hands of Alexander. Bessus was carried to Zariaspa, the capital of Bactria, where he was brought before a Persian court, and put to death in a cruel and barbarous manner.

Alexander even crossed the river Jaxartes (SIR), and defeated the Scythians. Sogdiana alone of the northern provinces offered any serious resistance to his arms. Accordingly in 328 he again crossed the Oxus. He divided his army into five bodies, ordering them to scour the country in different directions. With the troops under his own command he marched against the fortress called the Sogdian Rock, seated on an isolated hill, so precipitous as to be deemed inaccessible, and so well supplied with provisions as to defy a blockade. The summons to surrender was treated with derision by the commander, who inquired whether the Macedonians had wings? But a small body of Macedonians having succeeded in scaling some heights which overhung the fortress, the garrison became so alarmed that they immediately surrendered. To this place a Bactrian named Oxyartes, an adherent of Bessus, had sent his daughters for safety. One of them, named Roxana, was of surpassing beauty, and Alexander made her the partner of his throne (B.C. 328).

At Maracanda (now SAMARCAND) he appointed his friend Clitus satrap of Bactria. On the eve of the parting of the two friends Alexander celebrated a festival in honour of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), though the day was sacred to Dionysus (Bacchus). The banquet was attended by several parasites and literary flatterers, who magnified the praises of Alexander with extravagant and nauseous flattery. Clitus, whom wine had released from all prudent reserve, sternly rebuked their fulsome adulation; and, as the conversation turned on the comparative merits of the exploits of Alexander and his father Philip, he did not hesitate to prefer the exploits of the latter. He reminded Alexander of his former services, and, stretching forth his hand, exclaimed, "It was this hand Alexander, which saved your life at the battle of the Granicus!" The king, who was also flushed with wine, was so enraged by these remarks, that he rushed at Clitus with the intention of killing him on the spot, but he was held back by his friends, whilst Clitus was at the same time hurried out of the room. Alexander, however, was no sooner released than, snatching a spear, he sprang to the door, and meeting Clitus, who was returning in equal fury to brave his anger, ran him through the body. But when the deed was done he was seized with repentance and remorse. He flung himself on his couch and remained for three whole days in an agony of grief, refusing all sustenance, and calling on the names of Clitus and of his sister Lanice who had been his nurse. It was not till his bodily strength began to fail through protracted abstinence that he at last became more composed, and consented to listen to the consolations of his friends, and the words of the soothsayers, who ascribed the murder of Clitus to a temporary frenzy with which Dionysus had visited him as a punishment for neglecting the celebration of his festival.

After reducing Sogdiana, Alexander returned into Bactria in 327, and began to prepare far his projected expedition into India. While he was thus employed a plot was formed against his life by the royal pages, incited by Hermolaus, one of their number, who had been punished with stripes for anticipating the king during a hunting party in slaying a wild boar. Hermolaus and his associates, among whom was Callisthenes, a pupil of Aristotle, were first tortured, and then put to death. It seems certain that a conspiracy existed; but no less certain that the growing pride and haughtiness of Alexander were gradually alienating from him the hearts of his followers.

Alexander did not leave Bactria till late in the spring. He crossed the Indus by a bridge of boats near Taxila, the present ATTOCK, where the river is about 1000 feet broad, and very deep. He now found himself in the district at present called the PENJ- AB (or the FIVE RIVERS). Taxiles, the sovereign of the district, at once surrendered Taxila, his capital and joined the Macedonian force with 5000 men. Hence Alexander proceeded with little resistance to the river Haydaspes (BEHUT or JELUM). On the opposite bank, Porus, a powerful Indian king, prepared to dispute his progress with a numerous and well-appointed force. Alexander, however, by a skilful stratagem conveyed his army safely across the river. An obstinate battle then ensued. In the army of Porus were many elephants, the sight and smell of which frightened the horses of Alexander’s cavalry. But these unwieldy animals ultimately proved as dangerous to the Indians as to the Greeks; for when driven into a narrow space they became unmanageable, and created great confusion in the ranks of Porus. By a few vigorous charges the Indians were completely routed, with the loss of 12,000 slain and 9000 prisoners. Among the latter was Porus himself, who was conducted into the presence of Alexander. The courage which he had displayed in the battle had excited the admiration of the Macedonian king. Mounted on an enormous elephant, he retreated leisurely when the day was lost, and long rejected every summons to surrender; till at length, overcome by thirst and fatigue, he permitted himself to be taken. Even in this situation Porus still retained his majestic bearing, the effect of which was increased by the extraordinary height of his stature. On Alexander’s inquiring how he wished to be treated, he replied, "Like a king." "And have you no other request?" asked Alexander. "No," answered Porus; "everything is comprehended in the word king." Struck by his magnanimity, Alexander not only restored him to his dominions, but also considerably enlarged them; seeking by these means to retain him as an obedient and faithful vassal.

Alexander rested a month on the banks of the Hydaspes, where he celebrated his victory by games and sacrifices, and founded two towns one of which he named Nicaea, and the other Bucephala, in honour of his gallant charger Bucephalus, which is said to have died there. He then overran the whole of the PENJ-AB, as far as the Hyphasis (GHARRA), its southern boundary. Upon reaching this river, the army, worn out by fatigues and dangers, positively refused to proceed any farther; although Alexander passionately desired to attack a monarch still more powerful than Porus, whose dominions lay beyond the Hyphasis. All his attempts to induce his soldiers to proceed proving ineffectual, he returned to the Hydaspes, when he ordered part of his army to descend the river on its opposite banks; whilst he himself at the head of 8000 men, embarked on board a fleet of about 2000 vessels, which he had ordered to he prepared with the view of sailing down the Indus to its mouth.

The army began to move in November 327. The navigation lasted several months, but was accomplished without any serious opposition, except from the tribe of the Malli, who are conjectured to have occupied the site of the present MOOLTAN. At the storming of their town the life of Alexander was exposed to imminent danger. He was the first to scale the walls of the citadel, and was followed by four officers; but before a fifth man could mount, the ladder broke, and Alexander was left exposed on the wall to the missiles of the enemy. Leaping down into the citadel among the enemy, he placed his back to the wall, where he succeeded in keeping the enemy at bay, and slew two of their chiefs who had ventured within reach of his sword. But an arrow which pierced his corslet brought him to the ground, fainting with loss of blood. Two of his followers, who had jumped down after him, now stood over and defended him; till at length, more soldiers having scaled the walls and opened one of the gates, sufficient numbers poured in not only to rescue their monarch, but to capture the citadel; when every living being within the place was put to the sword. Upon arriving at the mouth of the Indus, Nearchus with the fleet was directed to explore the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates, with the view of establishing a maritime communication between India and Persia. Alexander himself proceeded with his army, in the autumn of 326, through the burning deserts of Gedrosia towards Persepolis; marching himself on foot, and sharing the privations and fatigues of the meanest soldier. In these regions the very atmosphere seems to be composed of a fine dust which, on the slightest wind, penetrates into the mouth and nose, whilst the soil affords no firm footing to the traveller. The march through this inhospitable region lasted 60 days, during which numbers of the soldiers perished from fatigue or disease. At length they emerged into the fertile province of Carmania. Whilst in this country Alexander was rejoined by Nearchus, who had arrived with his fleet at Harmozia (ORMUZ); but who subsequently prosecuted his voyage to the head of the Persian Gulf.

Upon reaching Susa (B.C. 325) Alexander allowed his soldiers to repose from their fatigues, and amused them with a series of brilliant festivities. It was here that he adopted various measures with the view of consolidating his empire. One of the most important was to form the Greeks and Persians into one people by means of intermarriages. He himself celebrated his nuptials with Statira the eldest daughter of Darius, and bestowed the hand of her sister, Drypetis, on Hephaestion. Other marriages were made between Alexander’s officers and Asiatic women, to the number, it is said, of about a hundred; whilst no fewer than 10,000 of the common soldiers followed their example and took native wives. As another means of amalgamating the Europeans and Asiatics, he caused numbers of the latter to be admitted into the army, and to be armed and trained in the Macedonian fashion. But these innovations were regarded with a jealous eye by most of the Macedonian veterans; and this feeling was increased by the conduct of Alexander himself, who assumed every day more and more of the state and manners of an eastern despot. Their long-stifled dissatisfaction broke out into open mutiny and rebellion at a review which took place at Opis on the Tigris. But the mutiny was quelled by the decisive conduct of Alexander. He immediately ordered thirteen of the ringleaders to be seized and executed, and then, addressing the remainder, pointed out to them how, by his own and his father’s exertions, they had been raised from the condition of scattered herdsmen to be the masters of Greece and the lords of Asia; and that, whilst he had abandoned to them the richest and most valuable fruits of his conquest, he had reserved nothing but the diadem for himself, as the mark of his superior labours and more imminent perils. He then secluded himself for two whole days, during which his Macedonian guard was exchanged for a Persian one, whilst nobles of the same nation were appointed to the most confidential posts about his person. Overcome by these marks of alienation on the part of their sovereign, the Macedonians now supplicated with tears to be restored to favour. A solemn reconciliation was effected, and 10,000 veterans were dismissed to their homes under the conduct of Craterus. That general was also appointed to the government of Macedonia in place of Antipater, who was ordered to repair to Asia with fresh reinforcements.

Soon after these occurrences Alexander proceeded to Ecbatana, where during the autumn he solemnised the festival of Dionysus with extraordinary splendour. But his enjoyment was suddenly converted into bitterness by the death of his friend Hephaestion, who was carried off by a fever. This event threw Alexander into a deep melancholy, from which he never entirely recovered. The memory of Hephaestion was honoured by extravagant marks of public mourning, and his body was conveyed to Babylon, to be there interred with the utmost magnificence.

Alexander entered Babylon in the spring of 324, notwithstanding the warnings of the priests of Belus, who predicted some serious evil to him if he entered the city at that time. Babylon was now to witness the consummation of his triumphs and of his life. Ambassadors from all parts of Greece, from Libya, Italy, and probably from still more distant regions, were waiting to salute him, and to do homage to him as the conqueror of Asia; the fleet under Nearchus had arrived after its long and enterprising voyage; whilst for the reception of this navy, which seemed to turn the inland capital of his empire into a port, a magnificent harbour was in process of construction. The mind of Alexander was still occupied with plans of conquest and ambition; his next design was the subjugation of Arabia; which, however, was to be only the stepping-stone to the conquest of the whole known world. He despatched three expeditions to survey the coast of Arabia; ordered a fleet to be built to explore the Caspian sea; and engaged himself in surveying the course of the Euphrates, and in devising improvements of its navigation. The period for commencing the Arabian campaign had already arrived; solemn sacrifices were offered up for its success, and grand banquets were given previous to departure. At these carousals Alexander drank deep; and at the termination of the one given by his favourite, Medius, he was seized with unequivocal symptoms of fever. For some days, however, he neglected the disorder, and continued to occupy himself with the necessary preparations for the march. But in eleven days the malady had gained a fatal strength, and terminated his life on the 28th of June, B.C. 323, at the early age of 32. Whilst he lay speechless on his deathbed his favourite troops were admitted to see him; but he could offer them no other token of recognition than by stretching out his hand.

Few of the great characters of history have been so differently judged as Alexander. Of the magnitude of his exploits, indeed, and of the justice with which, according to the usual sentiments of mankind, they confer upon him the title of "Great," there can be but one opinion. His military renown, however, consists more in the seemingly extravagant boldness of his enterprises than in the real power of the foes whom he overcame. The resistance he met with was not greater than that which a European army experiences in the present day from one composed of Asiatics; and the empire of the East was decided by the two battles of Issus and Arbela. His chief difficulties were the geographical difficulties of distance, climate, and the nature of the ground traversed. But this is no proof that he was incompetent to meet a foe more worthy of his military skill; and his proceedings in Greece before his departure show the reverse. His motive, it must be allowed, seem rather to have sprung from the love of personal glory and the excitement of conquest, than from any wish to benefit his subjects. Yet on the whole his achievements, though they undoubtedly occasioned great partial misery, must be regarded as beneficial to the human race. By his conquests the two continents were put into closer communication with one another; and both, but particularly Asia, were the gainers. The language, the arts, and the literature of Greece were introduced into the East; and after the death of Alexander, Greek kingdoms were formed in the western parts of Asia, which continued to exist for many generations.


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Life of Alexander the Great

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Chicago: William Smith, "Chapter XX. Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323.," A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, ed. Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853 and trans. Ingram, J. H. (James Henry) in A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4VJLHUBH1RBGX3I.

MLA: Smith, William. "Chapter XX. Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323." A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, edited by Braybrooke, Richard Griffin, Baron, 1783-1853, and translated by Ingram, J. H. (James Henry), in A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4VJLHUBH1RBGX3I.

Harvard: Smith, W, 'Chapter XX. Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323.' in A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, A Smaller History of Greece; from the Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4VJLHUBH1RBGX3I.