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her friends again exasperated Alexander against his father by pointing
out to him that Philip, by arranging this splendid marriage for
Arrhidæus, and treating him as a person of such great importance, was
endeavouring to accustom the Macedonians to regard him as the heir to
the throne. Alexander yielded to these representations so far as to
send Thessalus, the tragic actor, on a special mission to Pixodarus in
Karia, to assure him that he ought to disregard Arrhidæus, who was
illegitimate, and foolish to boot, and that it was to Alexander that
he ought to offer the hand of his daughter.

Pixodarus was much more eager to accept this proposal than the former,
but Philip one day hearing that Alexander was alone in his chamber,
went thither with Philotas, the son of Parmenio, an intimate friend,
and bitterly reproached him, pointing out how unworthy it was of his
high birth and glorious position to stoop to marry the daughter of a
mere Karian,[405] and of a barbarian who was a subject of the King of

Upon this he wrote to the Corinthians to send him Thessalus in chains,
and also banished out of his kingdom Harpalus, Nearchus, Erigyius, and
Ptolemæus, all of whom Alexander afterwards brought back and promoted
to great honours.

Shortly after this, Pausanias was grossly insulted by the contrivance
of Attalus and Kleopatra, and, as he could not obtain amends for what
he suffered, assassinated Philip. We are told that most men laid the
blame of this murder upon Queen Olympias, who found the young man
smarting from the outrage which had been committed upon him, and urged
him to avenge himself, while some accused Alexander himself. It is
said that when Pausanias came to him and complained of his treatment,
Alexander answered him by quoting the line from the Medea of
Euripides, in which she declares that she will be revenged upon

"The guardian, and the bridegroom, and the bride,"

alluding to Attalus, Philip, and Kleopatra.

However this may be, it is certain that he sought out and punished all
who were concerned in the plot, and he expressed his sorrow on
discovering that during his own absence from the kingdom, Kleopatra
had been cruelly tortured and put to death by his mother Olympias.

XI. At the age of twenty he succeeded to the throne of Macedonia, a
perilous and unenviable inheritance: for the neighbouring barbarian
tribes chafed at being held in bondage, and longed for the rule of
their own native kings; while Philip, although he had conquered Greece
by force of arms, yet had not had time to settle its government and
accustom it to its new position. He had overthrown all constituted
authority in that country, and had left men's minds in an excited
condition, eager for fresh changes and revolutions. The Macedonians
were very sensible of the dangerous crisis through which they were
passing, and hoped that Alexander would refrain as far as possible
from interfering in the affairs of Greece, deal gently with the
insurgent chiefs of his barbarian subjects, and carefully guard
against revolutionary outbreaks. He, however, took quite a different
view of the situation, conceiving it to be best to win safety by
audacity, and carrying things with a high hand, thinking that if he
showed the least sign of weakness, his enemies would all set upon him
at once. He crushed the risings of the barbarians by promptly marching
through their country as far as the river Danube, and by winning a
signal victory over Syrmus, the King of the Triballi. After this, as
he heard that the Thebans had revolted, and that the Athenians
sympathised with them, he marched his army straight through
Thermopylæ, with the remark that Demosthenes, who had called him a boy
while he was fighting the Illyrians and Triballi, and a youth while he
was marching through Thessaly, should find him a man when he saw him
before the gates of Athens. When he reached Thebes, he gave the
citizens an opportunity to repent of their conduct, only demanding
Phœnix and Prothytes to be given up to him, and offering the rest a
free pardon if they would join him. When, however, the Thebans in
answer to this, demanded that he should give up Philotas and Antipater
to them, and called upon all who were willing to assist in the
liberation of Greece to come and join them, he bade his Macedonians
prepare for battle.

The Thebans, although greatly outnumbered, fought with superhuman
valour; but they were taken in the rear by the Macedonian garrison,
who suddenly made a sally from the Kadmeia, and the greater part of
them were surrounded and fell fighting. The city was captured,
plundered and destroyed. Alexander hoped by this terrible example to
strike terror into the other Grecian states, although he put forward
the specious pretext that he was avenging the wrongs of his allies;
for the Platæans and Phokians had made some complaints of the conduct
of the Thebans towards them. With the exception of the priests, the
personal friends and guests of the Macedonians, the descendants of the
poet Pindar, and those who had opposed the revolt, he sold for slaves
all the rest of the inhabitants, thirty thousand in number. More than
six thousand men perished in the battle.

XII. Amidst the fearful scene of misery and disorder which followed
the capture of the city, certain Thracians broke into the house of one
Timoklea, a lady of noble birth and irreproachable character. Their
leader forcibly violated her, and then demanded whether she had any
gold or silver concealed. She said that she had, led him alone into
the garden, and, pointing to a well, told him that when the city was
taken she threw her most valuable jewels into it. While the Thracian
was stooping over the well trying to see down to the bottom, she came
behind, pushed him in, and threw large stones upon him until he died.
The Thracians seized her, and took her to Alexander, where she proved
herself a woman of courage by her noble and fearless carriage, as she
walked in the midst of her savage captors. The king enquired who she
was, to which she replied she was the sister of Theagenes, who fought
against Philip to protect the liberty of Greece, and who fell leading
on the Thebans at Chæronea. Alexander, struck by her answer, and
admiring her exploit, gave orders that she and her children should be
set at liberty.

XIII. Alexander came to terms with the Athenians, although they had
expressed the warmest sympathy for the Thebans, omitting the
performance of the festival of Demeter, out of respect for their
misfortunes, and giving a kindly welcome to all the fugitives who
reached Athens. Either he had had his fill of anger, like a sated
lion, or possibly he wished to perform some signal act of mercy by way
of contrast to his savage treatment of Thebes. Be this as it may, he
not only informed the Athenians that he had no grounds of quarrel with
them, but even went so far as to advise them to watch the course of
events with care, since, if anything should happen to him, they might
again become the ruling state in Greece. In after times, Alexander
often grieved over his harsh treatment of the Thebans, and the
recollection of what he had done made him much less severe to others.
Indeed, he always referred his unfortunate drunken quarrel with
Kleitus, and the refusal of the Macedonian soldiers to invade India,
by which they rendered the glory of his great expedition incomplete,
to the anger of Dionysius,[406] who desired to avenge the fate of his
favourite city. Moreover, of the Thebans who survived the ruin of
their city, no one ever asked any favour of Alexander without its
being granted. This was the manner in which Alexander dealt with

XIV. The Greeks after this assembled at Corinth and agreed to invade
Persia with Alexander for their leader. Many of their chief statesmen
and philosophers paid him visits of congratulation, and he hoped that
Diogenes of Sinope, who was at that time living at Corinth, would do
so. As he, however, paid no attention whatever to Alexander and
remained quietly in the suburb called Kraneium, Alexander himself went
to visit him. He found him lying at full length, basking in the sun.
At the approach of so many people, he sat up, and looked at Alexander.
Alexander greeted him, and enquired whether he could do anything for
him. "Yes," answered Diogenes, "you can stand a little on one side,
and not keep the sun off me." This answer is said to have so greatly
surprised Alexander, and to have filled him with such a feeling of
admiration for the greatness of mind of a man who could treat him with
such insolent superiority, that when he went away, while all around
were jeering and scoffing he said, "Say what you will; if I were not
Alexander, I would be Diogenes."

Desiring to consult the oracle of Apollo concerning his campaign, he
now proceeded to Delphi. It chanced that he arrived there on one of
the days which are called unfortunate, on which no oracular responses
can be obtained. In spite of this he at once sent for the chief
priestess, and as she refused to officiate and urged that she was
forbidden to do so by the law, he entered the temple by force and
dragged her to the prophetic tripod. She, yielding to his persistence,
said, "You are irresistible, my son." Alexander, at once, on hearing
this, declared that he did not wish for any further prophecy, but that
he had obtained from her the response which he wished for. While he
was preparing for his expedition, among many other portents, the
statue of Orpheus at Loibethra, which is made of cypress-wood, was
observed to be covered with sweat. All were alarmed at this omen, but
Aristander bade them take courage, as it portended that Alexander
should perform many famous acts, which would cause poets much trouble
to record.

XV. The number of his army is variously stated by different
authorities, some saying that it amounted to thirty thousand foot and
four thousand horse, while others put the whole amount so high as
forty-three thousand foot and five thousand horse. To provide for this
multitude, Aristobulus relates that he possessed only seventy talents,
while Douris informs us that he had only provisions for thirty days,
and Onesikritus declares that he was in debt to the amount of two
hundred talents. Yet although he started with such slender resources,
before he embarked he carefully enquired into the affairs of his
friends, and made them all ample presents, assigning to some of them
large tracts of land, and to others villages, the rents of houses, or
the right of levying harbour dues. When he had almost expended the
whole of the revenues of the crown in this fashion, Perdikkas enquired
of him, "My king, what have you reserved for yourself?" "My hopes,"
replied Alexander. "Then," said Perdikkas, "are we who go with you not
to share them?" and he at once refused to accept the present which had
been offered to him, as did several others. Those, however, who would
receive his gifts, or who asked for anything, were rewarded with a
lavish hand, so that he distributed among them nearly all the revenues
of Macedonia; so confident of success was he when he set out. When he
had crossed the Hellespont he proceeded to Troy, offered sacrifice to
Athena, and poured libations to the heroes who fell there. He anointed
the column which marks the tomb of Achilles with fresh oil, and after
running round it naked with his friends, as is customary, placed a
garland upon it, observing that Achilles was fortunate in having a
faithful friend while he lived, and a glorious poet to sing of his
deeds after his death. While he was walking through the city and
looking at all the notable things, he was asked whether he wished to
see the harp which had once belonged to Paris. He answered, that he
cared nothing for it, but that he wished to find that upon which
Achilles used to play when he sang of the deeds of heroes.

XVI. Meanwhile the generals of Darius had collected a large army, and
posted it at the passage of the river Granikus, so that it was
necessary for Alexander to fight a battle in order to effect so much
as an entrance into Asia. Most of the Greek generals were alarmed at
the depth and uneven bed of the river, and at the rugged and broken
ground on the farther bank, which they would have to mount in the face
of the enemy. Some also raised a religious scruple, averring that the
Macedonian kings never made war during the month Daisius. Alexander
said that this could be easily remedied, and ordered that the second
month in the Macedonian calendar should henceforth be called
Artemisium. When Parmenio besought him not to risk a battle, as the
season was far advanced, he said that the Hellespont would blush for
shame if he crossed it, and then feared to cross the Granikus, and at
once plunged into the stream with thirteen squadrons of cavalry. It
seemed the act of a desperate madman rather than of a general to ride
thus through a rapid river, under a storm of missiles, towards a steep
bank where every position of advantage was occupied by armed men. He,
however, gained the farther shore, and made good his footing there,
although with great difficulty on account of the slippery mud. As soon
as he had crossed, and driven away those who had opposed his passage,
he was charged by a mass of the enemy, and forced to fight, pell-mell,
man to man, before he could put those who had followed him over into
battle array. The enemy came on with a shout, and rode straight up to
the horses of the Macedonians, thrusting at them with spears, and
using swords when their spears were broken. Many of them pressed round
Alexander himself, who was made a conspicuous figure by his shield and
the long white plume which hung down on each side of his helmet. He
was struck by a javelin in the joint of his corslet, but received no
hurt. Rhœsakes and Spithridates, two of the Persian generals, now
attacked him at once. He avoided the charge of the latter, but broke
his spear against the breastplate of Rhœsakes, and was forced to
betake him to his sword. No sooner had they closed together than
Spithridates rode up beside him, and, standing up in his stirrups,
dealt him such a blow with a battle-axe, as cut off one side of his
plume, and pierced his helmet just so far as to reach his hair with
the edge of the axe. While Spithridates was preparing for another
blow, he was run through by black Kleitus with a lance, and at the
same moment Alexander with his sword laid Rhœsakes dead at his feet.
During this fierce and perilous cavalry battle, the Macedonian
phalanx[407] crossed the river, and engaged the enemy's infantry
force, none of which offered much resistance except a body of
mercenary Greeks in the pay of Persia. These troops retired to a small
rising ground, and begged for quarter. Alexander, however, furiously
attacked them by riding up to them by himself, in front of his men.

He lost his horse, which was killed by a sword-thrust, and it is said
that more of the Macedonians perished in that fight, and that more
wounds were given and received, than in all the rest of the battle, as
they were attacking desperate men accustomed to war.

The Persians are said to have lost twenty thousand infantry, and two
thousand five hundred cavalry. In the army of Alexander, Aristobulus
states the total loss to have been thirty-four men, nine of whom were
foot soldiers. Alexander ordered that each of these men should have
his statue made in bronze by Lysippus; and wishing to make the Greeks
generally partakers of his victory, he sent the Athenians three
hundred captured shields, and on the other spoils placed the following
vainglorious inscription:[408] "Alexander, the son of Philip, and the
Greeks, all but the Lacedæmonians, won these spoils from the
barbarians of Asia." As for the golden drinking-cups, purple hangings,
and other plunder of that sort, he sent it nearly all to his mother,
reserving only a few things for himself.

XVII. This victory wrought a great change in Alexander's position.
Several of the neighbouring states came and made their submission to
him, and even Sardis itself, the chief town in Lydia, and the main
station of the Persians in Asia Minor, submitted without a blow. The
only cities which still resisted him, Halikarnassus and Miletus, he
took by storm, and conquered all the adjacent territory, after which
he remained in doubt as to what to attempt next; whether to attack
Darius at once and risk all that he had won upon the issue of a single
battle, or to consolidate and organise his conquests on the coast of
Asia Minor, and to gather new strength for the final struggle. It is
said that at this time a spring in the country of Lykia, near the city
of Xanthus, overflowed, and threw up from its depths a brazen tablet,
upon which, in ancient characters, was inscribed a prophecy that the
Persian empire should be destroyed by the Greeks. Encouraged by this
portent, he extended his conquests along the sea coast as far as
Phœnicia and Kilikia. Many historians dwelt with admiration on the
good fortune of Alexander, in meeting with such fair weather and such
a smooth sea during his passage along the stormy shore of Pamphylia,
and say that it was a miracle that the furious sea, which usually
dashed against the highest rocks upon the cliffs, fell calm for him.
Menander alludes to this in one of his plays.

"Like Alexander, if I wish to meet
A man, at once I find him in the street;
And, were I forced to journey o'er the sea,
The sea itself would calm its waves for me."

Alexander himself, however, in his letters, speaks of no such miracle,
but merely tells us that he started from Phaselis, and passed along
the difficult road called Klimax, or the Ladder.[409] He spent some
time in Phaselis, and while he was there, observing in the
market-place a statue of Theodektes, a philosopher, who had recently
died, he made a procession to it one day after dinner, and crowned it
with flowers, as a sportive recognition of what he owed to Theodektes,
with whose philosophical writings Aristotle had made him familiar.

XVIII. After this he put down a revolt among the Pisidians, and
conquered the whole of Phrygia. On his arrival at Gordium, which is
said to have been the capital of King Midas of old, he was shown the
celebrated chariot there, tied up with a knot of cornel-tree bark.
Here he was told the legend, which all the natives believed, that
whoever untied that knot was destined to become lord of all the world.
Most historians say that as the knot was tied with a strap whose ends
could not be found, and was very complicated and intricate, Alexander,
despairing of untying it, drew his sword and cut through the knot,
thus making many ends appear. But Aristobulus tells us that he easily
undid it by pulling out of the pole the pin to which the strap was
fastened, and then drawing off the yoke itself from the pole.

He now prevailed upon the people of Paphlagonia and Kappadokia to join
him, and also was encouraged in his design of proceeding farther into
the interior by receiving intelligence of the death of Memnon, the
general to whom Darius had entrusted the defence of the sea coast, who
had already caused him much trouble, and had offered a most stubborn
resistance to him. Darius, too, came from Susa, confident in the
numbers of his army, for he was at the head of six hundred thousand
men, and greatly encouraged by a dream upon which the Magi had put
rather a strained interpretation in order to please him. He dreamed
that he saw the Macedonian phalanx begirt with flame, and that
Alexander, dressed in a courier's cloak like that which he himself had
worn before he became king, was acting as his servant. Afterwards,
Alexander went into the temple of Belus, and disappeared. By this
vision the gods probably meant to foretell that the deeds of the
Macedonians would be brilliant and glorious, and that Alexander after
conquering Asia, just as Darius had conquered it when from a mere
courier he rose to be a king, would die young and famous.

XIX. Darius was also much encouraged by the long inaction of Alexander
in Kilikia. This was caused by an illness, which some say arose from
the hardships which he had undergone, and others tell us was the
result of bathing in the icy waters of the Kydnus. No physician dared
to attend him, for they all thought that he was past the reach of
medicine, and dreaded the anger of the Macedonians if they proved
unsuccessful. At last Philip, an Akarnanian, seeing that he was
dangerously ill, determined to run the risk, as he was his true
friend, and thought it his duty to share all his dangers. He
compounded a draught for him, and persuaded him to drink it, by
telling him that it would give him strength and enable him to take the
field. At this time Parmenio sent him a letter from the camp, bidding
him beware of Philip, who had been bribed to poison him by Darius with
rich presents, and the offer of his own daughter in marriage.
Alexander read the letter, and showed it to no one, but placed it
under his pillow. At the appointed hour, Philip and his friends
entered the room, bringing the medicine in a cup. Alexander took the
cup from him, and gave him the letter to read, while he firmly and
cheerfully drank it off. It was a strange and theatrical scene. When
the one had read, and the other had drunk, they stared into each
other's faces, Alexander with a cheerful expression of trust and
kindly feeling towards Philip, while Philip, enraged at the calumny,
first raised his hands to heaven, protesting his innocence, and then,
casting himself upon his knees at the bed-side, besought Alexander to
be of good cheer and follow his advice. The effect of the drug at
first was to produce extreme weakness, for he became speechless and
almost insensible. In a short time, however, by Philip's care, he
recovered his strength, and showed himself publicly to the
Macedonians, who were very anxious about him, and would not believe
that he was better until they saw him.

XX. There was in the camp of Darius a Macedonian refugee, named
Amyntas, who was well acquainted with Alexander's character. This man,
when he found that Darius wished to enter the hilly country to fight
Alexander amongst its narrow valleys, besought him to remain where he
was, upon the flat open plains, where the enormous numbers of his
troops could be advantageously used against the small Macedonian army.
When Darius answered that he feared Alexander and his men would escape
unless he attacked, Amyntas said, "O king, have no fears on that
score; for he will come and fight you, and I warrant he is not far off
now." However, Amyntas made no impression on Darius, who marched
forward into Kilikia, while at the same time Alexander marched into
Syria to meet him. During the night they missed one another, and each
turned back, Alexander rejoicing at this incident, and hurrying to
catch Darius in the narrow defile leading into Kilikia, while Darius
was glad of the opportunity of recovering his former ground, and of
disentangling his army from the narrow passes through the mountains.
He already had perceived the mistake which he had committed in
entering a country where the sea, the mountains, and the river Pyramus
which ran between them, made it impossible for his army to act, while
on the other hand it afforded great advantages to his enemies, who
were mostly foot soldiers, and whose numbers were not so great as to
encumber their movements.

Fortune, no doubt, greatly favoured Alexander, but yet he owed much of
his success to his excellent generalship; for although enormously
outnumbered by the enemy, he not only avoided being surrounded by
them, but was able to outflank their left with his own right wing, and
by this manœuvre completely defeated the Persians. He himself fought
among the foremost, and, according to Chares, was wounded in the thigh
by Darius himself. Alexander in the account of the battle which he
despatched to Antipater, does not mention the name of the man who
wounded him, but states that he received a stab in the thigh with a
dagger, and that the wound was not a dangerous one.

He won a most decisive victory, and slew more than a hundred thousand
of the enemy, but could not come up with Darius himself, as he gained
a start of nearly a mile. He captured his chariot, however, and his
bow and arrows, and on his return found the Macedonians revelling in
the rich plunder which they had won, although the Persians had been in
light marching order, and had left most of their heavy baggage at
Damascus. The royal pavilion of Darius himself, full of beautiful

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 30 of 55)