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slaves, and rich furniture of every description, had been left
unplundered, and was reserved for Alexander himself, who as soon as he
had taken off his armour, proceeded to the bath, saying "Let me wash
off the sweat of the battle in the bath of Darius." " Nay," answered
one of his companions, "in that of Alexander; for the goods of the
vanquished become the property of the victor." When he entered the
bath and saw that all the vessels for water, the bath itself, and the
boxes of unguents were of pure gold, and smelt the delicious scent of
the rich perfumes with which the whole pavilion was filled; and when
he passed from the bath into a magnificent and lofty saloon where a
splendid banquet was prepared, he looked at his friends and said
"This, then, it is to be a king indeed."

XXI. While he was dining it was told him that the mother and wife of
Darius, and his two daughters, who were among the captives, had seen
the chariot and bow of Darius, and were mourning for him, imagining
him to be dead. Alexander when he heard this paused for a long time,
being more affected by the grief of these ladies, than by the victory
which he had won. Hie sent Leonnatus to inform them, that they need
neither mourn for Darius, nor fear Alexander; for he was fighting for
the empire of Asia, not as a personal enemy of Darius, and would take
care that they were treated with the same honour and respect as
before. This generous message to the captive princesses was followed
by acts of still greater kindness; for he permitted then to bury
whomsoever of the slain Persians they wished, and to use all their own
apparel and furniture, which had been seized by the soldiers as
plunder. He also allowed them to retain the regal title and state, and
even increased their revenues. But the noblest and most truly royal
part of his treatment of these captive ladies was that he never
permitted them to hear any coarse language, or imagine for a moment
that they were likely to suffer violence or outrage; so that they
lived unseen and unmolested, more as though they were in some sacred
retreat of holy virgins than in a camp. Yet the wife of Darius is said
to have been the most beautiful princess of her age, just as Darius
himself was the tallest and handsomest man in Asia, and their
daughters are said to have resembled their parents in beauty.
Alexander, it seems, thought it more kingly to restrain himself than
to conquer the enemy, and never touched any of them, nor did he know
any other before his marriage, except Barsine. This lady, after the
death of her husband Memnon, remained at Damascus. She had received a
Greek education, was naturally attractive, and was of royal descent,
as her father was Artabazus, who married one of the king's daughters;
which, added to the solicitations of Parmenio, as we are told by
Aristobulus, made Alexander the more willing to attach himself to so
beautiful and well-born a lady. When Alexander saw the beauty of the
other captives, he said in jest, that the Persian ladies make men's
eyes sore to behold them. Yet, in spite of their attractions, he was
determined that his self-restraint should be as much admired as their
beauty, and passed by them as if they had been images cut out of

XXII. Indeed, when Philoxenus, the commander of his fleet, wrote to
inform him that a slave merchant of Tarentum, named Theodorus, had two
beautiful slaves for sale, and desired to know whether he would buy
them, Alexander was greatly incensed, and angrily demanded of his
friends what signs of baseness Philoxenus could have observed in him
that he should venture to make such disgraceful proposals to him. He
sent a severe reprimand to Philoxenus, and ordered him to send
Theodorus and his merchandise to the devil. He also severely rebuked a
young man named Hagnon for a similar offence.

On another occasion, when he heard that two Macedonians of Parmenio's
regiment, named Damon and Timotheus, had violently outraged the wives
of some of the mercenary soldiers, he wrote to Parmenio, ordering him,
if the charge were proved, to put them to death like mere brute beasts
that prey upon mankind. And in that letter he wrote thus of himself.
"I have never seen, or desired to see the wife of Darius, and have not
even allowed her beauty to be spoken of in my presence."

He was wont to say that he was chiefly reminded that he was mortal by
these two weaknesses, sleep and lust; thinking weariness and
sensuality alike to be bodily weaknesses. He was also most temperate
in eating, as was signally proved by his answer to the princess Ada,
whom he adopted as his mother, and made Queen of Karia. She, in order
to show her fondness for him, sent him every day many dainty dishes
and sweetmeats, and at last presented him with her best cooks. He
answered her that he needed them not, since he had been provided with
much better relishes for his food by his tutor Leonidas, who had
taught him to earn his breakfast by a night-march, and to obtain an
appetite for his dinner by eating sparingly at breakfast. "My tutor,"
he said, "would often look into my chests of clothes, and of bedding,
to make sure that my mother had not hidden any delicacies for me in

XXIII. He was less given to wine than he was commonly supposed to be.
He was thought to be a great drinker because of the length of time
which he would pass over each cup, in talking more than in drinking
it, for he always held a long conversation while drinking, provided he
was at leisure to do so. If anything had to be done, no wine, or
desire of rest, no amusement, marriage, or spectacle could restrain
him, as they did other generals. This is clearly shown by the
shortness of his life, and the wonderful number of great deeds which
he performed during the little time that he lived. When he was at
leisure, he used to sacrifice to the gods immediately after rising in
the morning, and then sit down to his breakfast. After breakfast, he
would pass the day in hunting, deciding disputes between his subjects,
devising military manœuvres, or reading. When on a journey, if he was
not in any great hurry, he used, while on the road, to practice
archery, or to dismount from a chariot which was being driven at full
speed, and then again mount it. Frequently also he hunted foxes and
shot birds for amusement, as we learn from his diaries. On arriving at
the place where he intended to pass the night, he always bathed and
anointed himself, and then asked his cooks what was being prepared for
his dinner.

He always dined late, just as it began to grow dark, and was very
careful to have his table well provided, and to give each of his
guests an equal share. He sat long over his wine, as we have said,
because of his love of conversation. And although at all other times
his society was most charming, and his manners gracious and pleasant
beyond any other prince of his age, yet when he was drinking, his talk
ran entirely upon military topics, and became offensively boastful,
partly from his own natural disposition, and partly from the
encouragement which he received from his flatterers. This often
greatly embarrassed honest men, as they neither wished to vie with the
flatterers in praising him to his face, nor yet to appear to grudge
him his due share of admiration. To bestow such excessive praise
seemed shameful, while to withhold it was dangerous. After a drinking
bout, he would take a bath, and often slept until late in the
following day; and sometimes he passed the whole day asleep. He cared
but little for delicate food, and often when the rarest fruits and
fish were sent to him from the sea-coast, he would distribute them so
lavishly amongst his friends as to leave none for himself; yet his
table was always magnificently served, and as his revenues became
increased by his conquests, its expense rose to ten thousand drachmas
a day. To this it was finally limited, and those who entertained
Alexander were told that they must not expend more than that sum.

XXIV. After the battle of Issus, he sent troops to Damascus, and
captured all the treasure, the baggage, and the women and children of
the Persian army. Those who chiefly benefited by this were the
Thessalian cavalry, who had distinguished themselves in the battle,
and had been purposely chosen for this service by Alexander as a
reward for their bravery; yet all the camp was filled with riches, so
great was the mass of plunder. Then did the Macedonians get their
first taste of gold and silver, of Persian luxury and of Persian
women; and after this, like hounds opening upon a scent, they eagerly
pressed forward on the track of the wealthy Persians. Alexander,
however, thought it best, before proceeding further, to complete the
conquest of the sea-coast. Cyprus was at once surrendered to him by
its local kings, as was all Phœnicia, except Tyre. He besieged Tyre
for seven months, with great mounds and siege artillery on the land
side, while a fleet of two hundred triremes watched it by sea. During
the seventh month of the siege he dreamed that Herakles greeted him in
a friendly manner from the walls of Tyre, and called upon him to come
in. Many of the Tyrians also dreamed that Apollo appeared to them, and
said that he was going to Alexander, since what was being done in the
city of Tyre did not please him. The Tyrians, upon this, treated the
god as though he were a man caught in the act of deserting to
Alexander, for they tied cords round his statue, nailed it down to its
base, and called him Alexandristes, or follower of Alexander.
Alexander now dreamed another dream, that a satyr appeared to him at a
distance, and sported with him, but when he endeavoured to catch him,
ran away, and that, at length, after much trouble, he caught him.
This was very plausibly explained by the prophets to mean "Sa
Tyros" - "Tyre shall be thine," dividing the Greek word Satyros into
two parts. A well is shown at the present day near which Alexander saw
the satyr in his dream.

During the siege, Alexander made an expedition against the
neighbouring Arab tribes, in which he fell into great danger through
his old tutor Lysimachus, who insisted on accompanying him, declaring
that he was no older and no less brave than Phœnix when he followed
Achilles to Troy. When they reached the mountains, they were forced to
leave their horses and march on foot. The rest proceeded on their way,
but Lysimachus could not keep up, although night was coming on and the
enemy were near. Alexander would not leave him, but encouraged him and
helped him along until he became separated from his army, and found
himself almost alone. It was now dark, and bitterly cold. The country
where they were was very rugged and mountainous, and in the distance
appeared many scattered watch-fires of the enemy.

Alexander, accustomed to rouse the disheartened Macedonians by his own
personal exertions, and trusting to his swiftness of foot, ran up to
the nearest fire, struck down with his sword two men who wore watching
beside it, and brought a burning firebrand back to his own party. They
now made up an enormous fire, which terrified some of the enemy so
much that they retreated, while others who had intended to attack
them, halted and forbore to do so, thus enabling them to pass the
night in safety.

XXV. The siege of Tyre came to an end in the following manner. The
greater part of Alexander's troops were resting from their labours,
but in order to occupy the attention of the enemy, he led a few men up
to the city walls, while Aristander, the soothsayer, offered
sacrifice. When he saw the victims, he boldly informed all who were
present that during the current month, Tyre would be taken. All who
heard him laughed him to scorn, as that day was the last of the month,
but Alexander seeing him at his wits' end, being always eager to
support the credit of prophecies, gave orders that that day should
not be reckoned as the thirtieth of the month, but as the
twenty-third. After this he bade the trumpets sound, and assaulted the
walls much more vigorously than he had originally intended. The attack
succeeded, and as the rest of the army would no longer stay behind in
the camp, but rushed to take their share in the assault, the Tyrians
were overpowered, and their city taken on that very day.

Afterwards, while Alexander was besieging Gaza, the largest city in
Syria, a clod of earth was dropped upon his shoulder by a bird, which
afterwards alighted upon one of the military engines, and became
entangled in the network of ropes by which it was worked. This portent
also was truly explained by Aristander; for the place was taken, and
Alexander was wounded in the shoulder.

He sent many of the spoils to Olympias, Kleopatra, and others of his
friends, and sent his tutor Leonidas five hundred talents weight of
frankincense, and a hundred talents of myrrh, to remind him of what he
had said when a child. Leonidas once, when sacrificing, reproved
Alexander for taking incense by handfuls to throw upon the victim when
it was burning on the altar. "When," he said, "you have conquered the
country from which incense comes, Alexander, then you may make such
rich offerings as these; but at present you must use what we have
sparingly." Alexander now wrote to him, "We have sent you abundance of
frankincense and myrrh, that you may no longer treat the gods so

XXVI. When a certain casket was brought to him, which appeared to be
the most valuable of all the treasures taken from Darius, he asked his
friends what they thought he ought to keep in it as his own most
precious possession. After they had suggested various different
things, he said that he intended to keep his copy of the Iliad in it.
This fact is mentioned by many historians; and if the legend which is
current among the people of Alexandria; on the authority of
Herakleides, be true, the poems of Homer were far from idle or useless
companions to him, even when on a campaign. The story goes that after
conquering Egypt, he desired to found a great and populous Grecian
city, to be called after his own name, and that after he had fixed
upon an excellent site, where in the opinion of the best architects, a
city surpassing anything previously existing could be built, he
dreamed that a man with long hair and venerable aspect appeared to
him, and recited the following verses:

"Hard by, an island in the stormy main
Lies close to Egypt, Pharos is its name."

As soon as he woke, he proceeded to Pharos, which then was an island
near the Canopic mouth of the Nile, though at the present day so much
earth has been deposited by the river that it is joined to the
mainland. When he saw the great advantages possessed by this place,
which is a long strip of land, stretching between the sea and a large
inland lake, with a large harbour at the end of it, he at once said
that Homer, besides his other admirable qualities, was a splendid
architect, and gave orders to his workmen to mark out a site for a
city suitable to such a situation. There was no chalk or white earth,
with which it is usual to mark the course of the walls, but they took
barley-groats, and marked out a semicircular line with them upon the
black earth, dividing it into equal segments by lines radiating from
the centre, so that it looked like a Macedonian cloak, of which the
walls formed the outer fringe. While the king was looking with
satisfaction at the plan of the new city, suddenly from the lake and
the river, innumerable aquatic birds of every kind flew like great
clouds to the spot, and devoured all the barley. This omen greatly
disturbed Alexander; however, the soothsayers bade him take courage,
and interpreted it to mean that the place would become a very rich and
populous city. Upon this he ordered the workmen at once to begin to
build, while he himself started to visit the shrine and oracle of Zeus
Ammon. This journey is tedious and difficult, and dangerous also,
because the way lies over a waterless desert, where the traveller is
exposed to violent storms of sand whenever the south wind blows. It
was here that fifty thousand men of the army of Cambyses are said to
have been overwhelmed by the sand, which rolled upon them in huge
billows until they were completely ingulfed. All these perils were
present to all men's minds, but it was hard to turn Alexander away
from any project upon which he had once set his heart. The invariable
good fortune which he had enjoyed confirmed his self-will, and his
pride would not allow him to confess himself vanquished either by
human enemies or natural obstacles.

XXVII. During his journey, the signal assistance which he received
from the gods in all his difficulties was more remarkable and more
generally believed than the oracular response which he is said to have
received, although these portents made men more inclined to believe in
the oracle. In the first place, plentiful showers were sent, which
quite dissipated any fears which the expedition had entertained about
suffering from thirst, while the rain cooled the sand and thus
tempered the hot air of the desert to a pleasant warmth. Next, when
the guides lost their way, and all were wandering helplessly, birds
appeared who guided them on the right path, flying before them and
encouraging them to march, and waiting for those of them who fell
behind wearied. "We are even assured by Kallisthones that, at night,
the birds by their cries recalled stragglers, and kept all on the
direct road.

When Alexander had crossed the desert, and arrived at the temple, the
priest of Ammon greeted him as the son of the god. He inquired whether
anyone of his father's murderers had escaped, to which the priest
answered that he must not ask such questions, for his father was more
than man. Alexander now altered the form of his inquiry and asked
whether he had punished all the murderers of Philip: and then he asked
another question, about his empire, whether he was fated to conquer
all mankind. On receiving as an answer that this would be granted to
him and that Philip had been amply avenged, he made splendid presents
to the god, and amply rewarded the priests.

This is the account which most historians give about the response of
the oracle; but in a letter to his mother, Alexander says that he
received certain secret prophecies, which upon his return he would
communicate to her alone. Some narrate that the priest, wishing to
give him a friendly greeting in the Greek language, said "My son,"
but being a foreigner, mispronounced the words so as to say "Son of
Zeus," a mistake which delighted Alexander and caused men to say that
the god himself had addressed him as "Son of Zeus." We are told that
while in Egypt, he attended the lectures of the philosopher Psammon,
and was especially pleased when he pointed out that God is King over
all men, because that which rules and conquers must be king. He
himself thought that he had improved upon this by saying that although
God is the common father of all men, yet that he makes the best men
more peculiarly his own.

XXVIII. In his dealings with Asiatics, he always acted and spoke with
the greatest arrogance, and seemed firmly convinced of his own divine
parentage, but he was careful not to make the same boast when among
Greeks. On one occasion, indeed, he wrote to the Athenians the
following letter about their possession of Samos. "I," he said,
"should not have presented you with that free and glorious city; but
it was presented to you by its former master, my reputed father

Yet afterwards when he was wounded by an arrow and in great pain he
said "This, my friends, is blood that runs from my wound, and not

"Ichor, that courses through the veins of gods."

Once when a great thunderstorm terrified every one, Anaxarchus the
sophist, who was with him, said "Son of Zeus, canst thou do as much?"
To this, Alexander answered with a smile, "Nay, I love not to frighten
my friends, as you would have me do, when you complained of my table,
because fish was served upon it instead of princes' heads." Indeed we
are told that once, when Alexander had sent some small fish to
Hephæstion, Anaxarchus used this expression ironically disparaging
those who undergo great toils and run great risks to obtain
magnificent results which, after all, make them no happier or able to
enjoy themselves than other men. From these anecdotes we see that
Alexander himself did not put any belief in the story of his divine
parentage, but that he used it as a means of imposing upon others.

XXIX. From Egypt he returned to Phœnicia, and there offered
magnificent sacrifices to the gods, with grand processions, cyclic
choruses, and performances of tragic dramas. These last were
especially remarkable, for the local kings of Cyprus acted as choragi,
that is, supplied the chorus and paid all the expenses of putting the
drama upon the stage, just as is done every year at Athens by the
representatives of the tribes, and they exhibited wonderful emulation,
desiring to outdo each other in the splendour of their shows. The
contest between Nikokreon, King of Salamis, and Pasikrates, King of
Soli, is especially memorable. These two had obtained by lot the two
most celebrated actors of the day, who were named Athenodorus and
Thessalus, to act in their plays. Of these, Athenodorus was assigned
to Nikokreon, and Thessalus, in whose success Alexander himself was
personally interested, to Pasikrates. Alexander, however, never
allowed any word to escape him denoting his preference for one over
the other until after the votes had been given, and Athenodorus had
been proclaimed the winner, when, as he was going home, he said that
he would willingly have given up a province of his kingdom to save
Thessalus from being vanquished. As Athenodorus was fined by the
Athenians for being absent from their Dionysian festival, in which he
ought to have taken part, he begged Alexander to write them a letter
to excuse him. Alexander refused to do this, but paid his fine
himself. And when Lykon, of Skarphia, an excellent actor who had
pleased Alexander well, inserted a verse into the comedy which he was
acting, in which he begged to be given ten talents, Alexander laughed
and gave them to him.

Darius now sent an embassy to Alexander, bearing a letter, in which he
offered to pay ten thousand talents as a ransom for his wife and
children, and proposed that Alexander should receive all the territory
west of the Euphrates, and become his ally and son-in-law. Alexander
laid this proposal before his friends, and when Parmenio said, "I
should accept it, if I were Alexander." "So would I," replied
Alexander, "if I were Parmenio." He wrote, however, a letter in answer
to Darius, informing him that if he would come to him, and submit
himself, he should be used with courtesy; but that if not, he should
presently march against him.

XXX. Soon after this the wife of Darius died in child-bed, which
greatly grieved Alexander, as he thereby lost a great opportunity of
displaying his magnanimity: nevertheless he granted her a magnificent
funeral. We are told that one of the eunuchs attached to the royal
harem, named Teireus, who had been captured with the ladies, made his
escape shortly after the queen's death, rode straight to Darius, and
informed him of what had happened. Darius, at this, beat his face and
wept aloud, saying, "Alas for the fortune of Persia! that the wife and
sister of the king should not only have been taken captive while she
lived, but also have been buried unworthily of her rank when she
died." To this the eunuch answered, "You have no cause to lament the
evil fortune of Persia on account of your wife's burial, or of any
want of due respect to her. Our lady Statira, your children, and your
mother, when alive wanted for nothing except the light of your
countenance, which our lord Oromasdes will some day restore to them,
nor was she treated without honour when she died, for her funeral was
even graced by the tears of her enemies. Alexander is as gracious a
conqueror as he is a terrible enemy."

These words roused other suspicions in the mind of Darius: and,
leading the eunuch into an inner chamber in his tent, he said to him,
"If you have not, like the good luck of Persia, gone over to Alexander
and the Macedonians, and if I am still your master Darius, tell me, I
conjure you by the name of great Mithras our lord, and by the right
hand of a king, which I give thee, do I lament over the least of
Statira's misfortunes when I weep for her death, and did she not in
her life make us more miserable by her dishonour, than if she had

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 31 of 55)