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fallen into the hands of a cruel enemy? For what honest communication
can a young conqueror have with the wife of his enemy, and what can be
the meaning of his showing such excessive honour to her after her
death?" While Darius was yet speaking, Teireus threw himself at his
feet, and besought him to be silent, and not to dishonour Alexander
and his dead wife and sister by such suspicions, nor yet to take away
from himself that thought which ought to be his greatest consolation
in his misfortunes, which was that he had been conquered by one who
was more than man. Rather ought he to admire Alexander, whose
honourable treatment of the Persian women proved him to be even
greater than did his bravery in vanquishing their men. Those words the
eunuch assured him, with many protestations and oaths, were perfectly
true. Darius, when he heard this, came out of his tent to his friends,
and, raising his hands to heaven, said, "Ye parent gods, who watch
over the Persian throne, grant that I may again restore the fortune of
Persia to its former state, in order that I may have an opportunity of
repaying Alexander in person the kindness which he has shown to those
whom I hold dearest; but if indeed the fated hour has arrived, and the
Persian empire is doomed to perish, may no other conqueror than
Alexander mount the throne of Cyrus." The above is the account given
by most historians of what took place on this occasion.

XXXI. Alexander, after conquering all the country on the higher bank
of the Euphrates, marched to attack Darius, who was advancing to meet
him with an army of a million fighting men.

During this march, one of Alexander's friends told him as a joke, that
the camp-followers had divided themselves into two bodies in sport,
each of which was led by a general, the one called Alexander, and the
other Darius; and that after beginning to skirmish with one another by
throwing clods of earth, they had come to blows of the fist, and had
at length become so excited that they fought with sticks and stones,
and that it was hard to part them. On hearing this, Alexander ordered
the two leaders to fight in single combat: and he himself armed the
one called Alexander, while Philotas armed the representative of
Darius. The whole army looked on, thinking that the result would be
ominous of their own success or failure. After a severe fight, the one
called Alexander conquered, and was rewarded with twelve villages and
the right of wearing the Persian garb. This we are told by
Eratosthenes the historian.

The decisive battle with Darius was fought at Gaugamela, not at
Arbela, as most writers tell us. It is said that this word signifies
"the house of the camel," and that one of the ancient Kings of Persia,
whose life had been saved by the swiftness with which a camel bore him
away from his enemies, lodged the animal there for the rest of its
life, and assigned to it the revenues of several villages for its

During the month Bœdromion, at the beginning of the celebration of the
Eleusinian mysteries, there was an eclipse, of the moon: and on the
eleventh day after the eclipse the two armies came within sight of one
another. Darius kept his troops under arms, and inspected their ranks
by torch-light, while Alexander allowed the Macedonians to take their
rest, but himself with the soothsayer Aristander performed some
mystical ceremonies in front of his tent, and offered sacrifice to

When Parmenio and the elder officers of Alexander saw the entire plain
between Mount Niphates and the confines of Gordyene covered with the
watch fires of the Persians, and heard the vague, confused murmur of
their army like the distant roar of the sea, they were astonished, and
said to one another that it would indeed be a prodigious effort to
fight such a mass of enemies by daylight in a pitched battle.

As soon as Alexander had finished his sacrifice they went to him, and
tried to persuade him to fall upon the Persians by night, as the
darkness would prevent his troops from seeing the overwhelming numbers
of the enemy. It was then that he made that memorable answer, "I will
not steal a victory," which some thought to show an over-boastful
spirit, which could jest in the presence of such fearful danger; while
others thought that it showed a steady confidence and true knowledge
of what would happen on the morrow, and meant that he did not intend
to give Darius, when vanquished, the consolation of attributing his
defeat to the confusion of a night attack; for Darius had already
explained his defeat at Issus to have been owing to the confined
nature of the ground, and to his forces having been penned up between
the mountains and the sea. It was not any want of men or of arms
which would make Darius yield, when he had so vast a country and such
great resources at his disposal: it was necessary to make pride and
hope alike die within him, by inflicting upon him a crushing defeat in
a fair field and in open daylight.

XXXII. After his officers had retired, Alexander retired to his tent
and is said to have slept more soundly than was his wont, which
surprised the generals who came to wait upon him early in the morning.
On their own responsibility they gave orders to the soldiers to
prepare their breakfast; and then, as time pressed, Parmenio entered
his tent, and standing by his bed-side, twice or thrice called him
loudly by name. When he was awake, Parmenio asked him why he slept so
soundly, as if he had already won the victory instead of being just
about to fight the most important of all his battles. Alexander
answered with a smile; "Do you not think we have already won the
victory, now that we are no longer obliged to chase Darius over an
enormous tract of wasted country?"

Alexander both before the battle, and in the most dangerous crisis of
the day proved himself truly great, always taking judicious measures,
with a cheerful confidence of success. His left wing was terribly
shaken by a tumultuous charge of the Bactrian cavalry, who broke into
the ranks of the Macedonians, while Mazæus sent some horsemen
completely round the left wing, who fell upon the troops left to guard
the baggage. Parmenio, finding his men thrown into confusion by these
attacks, sent a message to Alexander, that his fortified camp and
baggage would be lost, if he did not at once despatch a strong
reinforcement to the rear. At the time when Alexander received this
message, he was in the act of giving his own troops orders to attack,
and he answered that Parmenio must, in his confusion, have forgotten
that the victors win all the property of the vanquished, and that men
who are defeated must not think about treasure or prisoners, but how
to fight and die with honour. After sending back this answer to
Parmenio, he put on his helmet; for he had left his tent fully armed
at all other points, wearing a tunic of Sicilian manufacture closely
girt round his waist, and over that a double-woven linen corslet,
which had been among the spoils taken at Issus. His helmet was of
steel, polished as bright as silver, and was wrought by Theophilus,
while round his neck he wore a steel gorget, inlaid with precious
stones. His sword, his favourite weapon, was a miracle of lightness
and tempering, and had been presented to him by the King of Kitium in
Cyprus. The cloak which hung from his shoulders was by far the most
gorgeous of all his garments, and was the work of the ancient artist
Helikon,[410] presented to Alexander by the city of Rhodes, and was
worn by him in all his battles. While he was arraying his troops in
order of battle, and giving final directions to his officers, he rode
another horse to spare Boukephalus, who was now somewhat old. As soon
as he was ready to begin the attack, he mounted Boukephalus and led on
his army.

XXXIII. Upon this occasion, after addressing the Thessalians and other
Greek troops at considerable length, as they confidently shouted to
him to lead them against the barbarians, we are told by Kallisthenes
that he shifted his lance into his left hand, and raising his right
hand to heaven, prayed to the gods that, if he really were the son of
Zeus, they would assist and encourage the Greeks. The prophet
Aristander, who rode by his side, dressed in a white robe, and with a
crown of gold upon his head, now pointed out to him an eagle which
rose over his head and directed its flight straight towards the enemy.
This so greatly encouraged all who beheld it, that all the cavalry of
Alexander's army at once set spurs to their horses and dashed
forwards, followed by the phalanx. Before the first of them came to
actual blows, the Persian line gave way, and terrible confusion took
place, as Alexander drove the beaten troops before him, struggling to
fight his way to the centre, where was Darius himself.

Alexander had already noted the conspicuous figure of this tall,
handsome prince, as he stood in his lofty chariot, surrounded by the
royal body guard, a glittering mass of well-armed horsemen, behind the
deep ranks of the Persian army. The onslaught of Alexander was so
terrific that none could withstand him, and those whom he drove before
him, in headlong flight, disordered the ranks which were yet unbroken,
and caused a general rout. Yet the noblest and bravest of the Persians
fought and died manfully in defence of their king, and, even when
lying on the ground at their last gasp, seized the men and horses by
the legs to prevent their pursuing him. Darius himself, seeing all
these frightful disasters, when his first line was hurled back in
ruin, would fain have turned his chariot and fled, but this was
difficult, for the wheels were encumbered by the heaps of corpses, and
the horses were so excited and restive that the charioteer was unable
to manage them. Darius, we are told, left his chariot and his arms,
mounted a mare which had recently foaled, and rode away. He would not
have escaped even thus, had not mounted messengers just then arrived
from Parmenio, begging Alexander to come to his aid, as he was engaged
with a large body of the enemy upon which he could make no impression.
Indeed, throughout this battle, Parmenio is said to have displayed
great remissness and self-will, either because his courage was damped
by age, or because, as we are told by Kallisthenes, he envied
Alexander's greatness and prosperity. Alexander was much vexed at the
message, but without explaining to the soldiers what his real reasons
were, ordered the trumpets to sound the recall, as though he were
tired of slaughter, or because night was now coming on. He himself at
once rode to the scene of danger, but on his way thither heard that
the enemy had been completely defeated and put to flight.

XXXIV. The result of this battle was the complete destruction of the
Persian empire. Alexander was at once saluted King of Asia, and after
a splendid sacrifice to the gods, distributed the treasures and
provinces of that country among his friends. In the pride of his heart
he now wrote to Greece, saying that all the despots must be driven
out, and each city left independent with a constitutional government,
and gave orders for the rebuilding of the city of Platæa, because the
ancestors of the citizens of Platæa gave their territory to be
consecrated to the gods on behalf of the liberties of Greece. He also
sent some part of the spoils to the citizens of Kroton, in Italy, to
show his respect for the memory of Phaÿllus the athlete, who, during
the Persian invasion, when all the other Greek cities in Italy
deserted the cause of their countrymen in Greece, fitted out a ship of
war at his own expense, and sailed to Salamis to take part in the
battle there, and share in the dangers of the Greeks. Such honour did
Alexander pay to personal prowess, for he loved to reward and to
commemorate noble deeds.

XXXV. Alexander now marched into the country of Babylonia, which at
once yielded to him. As he drew near to Ekbatana he marvelled much at
an opening in the earth, out of which poured fire, as if from a well.
Close by, the naphtha which was poured out formed a large lake. This
substance is like bitumen, and is so easy to set on fire, that without
touching it with any flame, it will catch light from the rays which
are sent forth from a fire, burning the air which is between both. The
natives, in order to show Alexander the qualities of naphtha, lightly
sprinkled with it the street which led to his quarters, and when it
became dark applied a match to one end of the track which had been
sprinkled with it. As soon as it was alight in one place, the fire ran
all along, and as quick as thought the whole street was in flames. At
this time Alexander was in his bath, and was waited upon by Stephanus,
a hard-favoured page-boy, who had, however, a fine voice.
Athenophanes, an Athenian, who always anointed and bathed King
Alexander, now asked him if he would like to see the power of the
naphtha tried upon Stephanus, saying that if it burned upon his body
and did not go out, the force of it must indeed be marvellous. The boy
himself was eager to make the trial, and was anointed with it and set
on fire. He was at once enveloped in flame, and Alexander was
terrified for him, fearing that he would be burned to death. Indeed,
had it not chanced that several attendants with pitchers of water in
their hands had just arrived, all help would have been too late. They
poured water over the boy and extinguished the flames, but not before
he had been badly burned, so that he was ill for some time after. Some
writers, who are eager to prove the truth of ancient legends, say
that this naphtha was truly the deadly drug used by Medea, with which
she anointed the crown and robe spoken of in the tragedies: for flame
could not be produced by them, nor of its own accord, but if fire were
brought near to clothes steeped in naphtha they would at once burst
into flame. The reason of this is that the rays which fire sends forth
fall harmlessly upon all other bodies, merely imparting to them light
and heat; but when they meet with such as have an oily, dry humour,
and thereby have a sympathy with the nature of fire, they easily cause
them to catch fire. It is a disputed question, however, how the
naphtha is produced, though most writers conceive its combustible
principle to be supplied by the greasy and fiery nature of the soil;
for all the district of Babylonia is fiery hot, so that often barley
is cast up out of the ground in which it is sown, as if the earth
throbbed and vibrated with the heat, and during the hottest part of
summer the inhabitants are wont to sleep upon leathern bags filled
with water for the sake of coolness. Harpalus, who was appointed
governor of the district, took an especial delight in adorning the
palace and the public walks with Greek flowers and shrubs; but
although he found no difficulty with most of them, he was unable to
induce ivy to grow, because ivy loves a cold soil, and the earth there
is too hot for it. These digressions, provided they be not too
lengthy, we hope will not be thought tedious by our readers.

XXXVI. When Alexander made himself master of Susa, he found in the
palace forty thousand talents worth of coined money, besides an
immense mass of other valuable treasure. Here we are told was found
five thousand talents weight of cloth dyed with Hermionic[411] purple
cloth, which had been stored up there for a space of two hundred years
save ten, and which nevertheless still kept its colour as brilliantly
as ever. The reason of this is said to be that honey was originally
used in dyeing the cloth purple, and white olive oil for such of it as
was dyed-white: for cloth of these two colours will preserve its
lustre without fading for an equal period of time. Demon also informs
us that amongst other things the Kings of Persia had water brought
from the Nile and the Danube, and laid up in their treasury, as a
confirmation of the greatness of their empire, and to prove that they
were lords of all the world.

XXXVII. As the district of Persis[412] was very hard to invade, both
because of its being mountainous, and because it was defended by the
noblest of the Persians (for Darius had fled thither for refuge),
Alexander forced his way into it by a circuitous path, which was shown
him by a native of the country, the son of a Lykian captive, by a
Persian mother, who was able to speak both the Greek and the Persian
language. It is said that while Alexander was yet a child, the
prophetess at the temple of Apollo at Delphi foretold that a wolf[413]
should some day serve him for a guide when he went to attack the
Persians. When Persis was taken, a terrible slaughter was made of all
the prisoners. A letter written by Alexander himself is still extant,
in which he orders that they should all be put to the sword, thinking
this to be the safest course. He is said to have found as much coined
money here[414] as in Susa, and so much other treasure that it
required ten thousand carts, each drawn by a pair of mules, and five
thousand camels, to carry it away.

Alexander, observing a large statue of Xerxes which had been thrown
down and was being carelessly trampled upon by the soldiers as they
pressed into the royal palace, stopped, and addressed it as though it
were alive. "Shall we," said he, "leave thee lying there, because of
thy invasion of Greece, or shall we set thee up again because of thy
magnificence and greatness of soul?" He then stood musing for a long
time, till at length he roused himself from his reverie and went his
way. Being desirous of giving his soldiers some rest, as it was now
winter, he remained in that country for four months. It is related
that when he first took his seat upon the royal throne of Persia,
under the golden canopy, Demaratus, an old friend and companion of
Alexander, burst into tears, and exclaimed that the Greeks who had
died before that day had lost the greatest of pleasures, because they
had not seen Alexander seated on the throne of Darius.

XXXVIII. After this, while he was engaged in preparing to march in
pursuit of Darius, he chanced to be present at a banquet where his
friends had brought their mistresses. Of these ladies the chief was
the celebrated Thais, who afterwards became the mistress of King
Ptolemy of Egypt, and who was of Attic parentage.

She at first amused Alexander by her conversation, then adroitly
flattered him, and at last, after he had been drinking for some time,
began to speak in a lofty strain of patriotism which scarcely became
such a person. She declared, that she was fully repaid for all the
hardships which she had undergone while travelling through Asia with
the army, now that she was able to revel in the palace of the haughty
Kings of Persia; but that it would be yet sweeter to her to burn the
house of Xerxes, who burned her native Athens, and to apply the torch
with her own hand in the presence of Alexander, that it might be told
among men that a woman who followed Alexander's camp had taken a more
noble revenge upon the Persians for the wrongs of Greece, than all the
admirals and generals of former times had been able to do. This speech
of hers was enthusiastically applauded, and all Alexander's friends
pressed him to execute the design. Alexander leaped from his seat, and
led the way, with a garland upon his head and a torch in his hand. The
rest of the revellers followed, and surrounded the palace, while the
remainder of the Macedonians, hearing what was going on, brought them
torches. They did so the more readily because they thought that the
destruction of the palace indicated an intention on Alexander's part
to return home, and not to remain in Persia. Some historians say that
this was how he came to burn the palace, while others say that he did
it after mature deliberation: but all agree that he repented of what
he had done, and gave orders to have the fire extinguished.

XXXIX. His liberality and love of making presents increased with his
conquests: and his gifts were always bestowed in so gracious a manner
as to double their value. I will now mention a few instances of this.
Ariston, the leader of the Pæonians, having slain an enemy, brought
his head and showed it to Alexander, saying, "O king, in my country
such a present as this is always rewarded with a gold cup." Alexander
smiled, and said, "Yes, with an empty cup: but I pledge you in this
gold cup, full of good wine, and give you the cup besides." One of the
common Macedonian soldiers was driving a mule laden with gold
belonging to Alexander; but as the animal became too weary to carry
it, he unloaded it, and carried the gold himself. When Alexander saw
him toiling under his burden, and learned his story, he said, "Be not
weary yet, but carry it a little way farther, as far as your own tent;
for I give it to you." He seemed to be more vexed with those who did
not ask him for presents than with those who did so. He wrote a letter
to Phokion, in which he declared that he would not any longer remain
his friend, if Phokion refused all his presents. Serapion, a boy who
served the ball to the players at tennis, had been given nothing by
Alexander because he had never asked for anything. One day when
Serapion was throwing the ball to the players as usual, he omitted to
do so to the king, and when Alexander asked why he did not give him
the ball, answered "You do not ask me for it." At this, Alexander
laughed and gave him many presents. Once he appeared to be seriously
angry with one Proteus, a professed jester. The man's friends
interceded for him, and he himself begged for pardon with tears in his
eyes, until Alexander said that he forgave him. "My king," said he
"will you not give me something by way of earnest, to assure me that I
am in your favour." Upon this the king at once ordered him to be given
five talents. The amount of money which he bestowed upon his friends
and his body guard appears from a letter which his mother Olympias
wrote to him, in which she said, "It is right to benefit your friends
and to show your esteem for them; but you are making them all as great
as kings, so that they get many friends, and leave you alone without
any." Olympias often wrote to him to this effect, but he kept all her
letters secret, except one which Hephæstion, who was accustomed to
read Alexander's letters, opened and read. Alexander did not prevent
him, but took his own ring from his finger, and pressed the seal upon
Hephæstion's mouth. The son of Mazæus, who had been the chief man in
the kingdom under Darius, was governor of a province, and Alexander
added another larger one to it. The young nobleman refused to accept
the gift, and said, "My king, formerly there was only one Darius, but
you now have made many Alexanders."

He presented Parmenio with the house of Bagoas, in which it is said
that property worth a thousand talents was found which had belonged to
the people of Susa. He also sent word to Antipater, warning him to
keep a guard always about his person, as a plot had been formed
against his life. He sent many presents to his mother, but forbade her
to interfere with the management of the kingdom. When she stormed at
this decision of his, he patiently endured her anger; and once when
Antipater wrote a long letter to him full of abuse of Olympias, he
observed, after reading it, that Antipater did not know that one tear
of his mother's eye would outweigh ten thousand such letters.

XL. Alexander now observed that his friends were living in great
luxury and extravagance; as for instance, Hagnon of Teos had his shoes
fastened with silver nails; Leonnatus took about with him many camels,
laden with dust,[415] from Egypt, to sprinkle his body with when he
wrestled; Philotas had more than twelve miles of nets for hunting; and
that all of them used richly perfumed unguents to anoint themselves
with instead of plain oil, and were attended by a host of bathmen and
chamberlains. He gently reproved them for this, saying that he was
surprised that men who had fought so often and in such great battles,
did not remember that the victors always sleep more sweetly than the
vanquished, and that they did not perceive, when they imitated the
luxury of the Persians, that indulgence is for slaves, but labour for
princes. "How," he asked, "can a man attend to his horse, or clean
his own lance and helmet, if he disdains to rub his own precious body
with his hands? And do you not know, that our career of conquest will
come to an end on the day when we learn to live like those whom we
have vanquished?" He himself, by way of setting an example, now

Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 32 of 55)