46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 33 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 33 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


exposed himself to greater fatigues and hardships than ever in his
campaigns and hunting expeditions, so that old Lakon, who was with him
when he slew a great lion, said, "Alexander, you fought well with the
lion for his kingdom." This hunting scene was afterwards represented
by Kraterus at Delphi. He had figures made in bronze of Alexander and
the hounds fighting with the lion, and of himself running to help him.
Some of the figures were executed by the sculptor Lysippus, and some
by Leochares.

XLI. Thus did Alexander risk his life in the vain endeavour to teach
his friends to live with simplicity and hardihood; but they, now that
they had become rich and important personages, desired to enjoy
themselves, and no longer cared for long marches and hard campaigns,
so that at last they began to murmur against him, and speak ill of
him. He bore this with great gentleness at first, saying that it was
the part of a king to do his subjects good and to be ill-spoken of by
them in return. Indeed, he used to take advantage of the most trifling
incidents to show the esteem he had for his intimate friends, of which
I will now give a few examples.

Peukestas once was bitten by a bear, while hunting. He wrote and told
his friends of his mishap, but kept it secret from Alexander. He, when
he heard of it, wrote to Peukestas, blaming him for having concealed
his hurt. "But now," he writes, "let me know how you are, and tell me
if those who were hunting the bear with you deserted you, that I may
punish them." When Hephæstion was absent on some business, he wrote to
him to say that Kraterus had been struck in the thighs with
Perdikkas's spear, while they were amusing themselves by baiting an
ichneumon.

When Peukestas recovered from some illness, he wrote to the physician
Alexippus, congratulating him on the cure which he had effected. When
Kraterus was ill, Alexander had a dream about him, in consequence of
which he offered sacrifice to certain gods, and bade him also
sacrifice to them: and when Pausanias the physician wished to give
Kraterus a draught of hellebore, Alexander wrote to him, advising him
to take the drug, but expressing the greatest anxiety about the
result.

He imprisoned Ephialtes and Kissus, who were the first to bring him
the news that Harpalus had absconded, because he thought that they
wrongfully accused him.

When he was on the point of sending home all his invalided and
superannuated soldiers, Eurylochus of Ægæ was found to have placed his
name upon the list, although he was in perfect health. When
questioned, he confessed that he was in love with a lady named
Telesippa, who was returning to the sea-coast, and that he had acted
thus in order to be able to follow her. Alexander on hearing this,
enquired who this lady was. Being told that she was a free-born Greek
courtezan, he answered, "I sympathise with your affection, Eurylochus;
but since Telesippa is a free-born woman, let us try if we cannot,
either by presents or arguments, persuade her to remain with us."

XLII. It is wonderful how many letters and about what trifling matters
he found time to write to his friends. For instance, he sent a letter
to Kilikia ordering search to be made for a slave boy belonging to
Seleukus, who had run away, and praising Peukestas because he had
captured Nikon, the runaway slave of Kraterus. He wrote also to
Megabazus about a slave who had taken sanctuary in a temple, ordering
him to catch him when outside of the temple, if possible, but not to
lay hands on him within its precincts.

We are told that when he was sitting as judge to hear men tried for
their lives, he was wont to close one ear with his hand, while the
prosecutor was speaking, in order that he might keep it unbiassed and
impartial to listen to what the accused had to say in his defence. But
later in his life, so many persons were accused before him, and so
many of them truly, that his temper became soured and he inclined to
believe them to be all alike guilty. And he was especially
transported with rage, and made completely pitiless if any one spoke
ill of him, for he valued his reputation more than his life or his
crown.

He now set out again in pursuit of Darius, with the intention of
fighting another battle with him: but on hearing that Darius had been
taken by the satrap Bessus, he dismissed all his Thessalian cavalry
and sent them home, giving them a largess of two thousand talents over
and above the pay which was due to them. He now set out on a long and
toilsome journey in pursuit of Darius, for in eleven days he rode more
than five hundred miles, so that his men were terribly distressed,
especially by want of water. One day he met some Macedonians who were
carrying water from a river in skins on the backs of mules. Seeing
Alexander faint with thirst, as it was the hottest time of the day,
they quickly filled a helmet with water and gave it to him to drink.
He asked them to whom they were carrying the water, to which they
answered, "To our own sons; but provided that you live, even if they
should die, we can beget other children." On hearing this he took the
helmet into his hands; but seeing all the horsemen around him eagerly
watching him and coveting the water, he gave it back without tasting
it. He thanked the men for offering it to him, but said, "If I alone
drink it, all these soldiers will be discontented." The soldiers, when
they saw the noble courage and self-denial of Alexander, bade him lead
them on boldly, and urged forward their horses, saying that they felt
neither hunger nor thirst, and did not think themselves to be mortal
men, so long as they had such a king as Alexander to lead them.

XLIII. The whole of his army was equally enthusiastic; yet the
fatigues of the march were so great, that when Alexander burst into
the enemy's camp, only sixty men are said to have followed him. Here
they passed over great heaps of gold and silver, and pursued a long
line of waggons, full of women and children, which were proceeding
along without any drivers, until they had reached the foremost of
them, because they imagined that Darius might be hidden in them. At
last he was found, lying in his chariot, pierced with innumerable
javelins, and just breathing his last. He was able to ask for drink,
and when given some cold water by Polystratus, he said to him, "My
good sir, this is the worst of all my misfortunes that I am unable to
recompense you for your kindness to me; but Alexander will reward you,
and the gods will reward Alexander for his courteous treatment of my
mother and wife and daughters. Wherefore I pray thee, embrace him, as
I embrace thee." With these words he took Polystratus by the hand and
died. When Alexander came up, he showed great grief at the sight, and
covered the body with his own cloak. He afterwards captured Bessus and
tore him asunder, by bending down the tops of trees and tying
different parts of his body to each, and then letting them spring up
again so that each tore off the limb to which it was attached.
Alexander now had the corpse of Darius adorned as became a prince, and
sent it to his mother, while he received his brother Exathres into the
number of his intimate friends.

XLIV. He himself, with a few picked troops, now invaded Hyrkania,
where he discovered an arm of the sea, which appeared to be as large
as the Euxine, or Black Sea, but not so salt. He was unable to obtain
any certain information about it, but conjectured it to be a branch of
the Mæotic lake.[416] Yet geographers, many years before Alexander,
knew well that this, which is entitled the Hyrkanian or Caspian Sea,
is the northernmost of four gulfs proceeding from the exterior ocean.
Here some of the natives surprised the grooms in charge of his horse
Boukephalus, and captured the animal. Alexander was much distressed at
this, and sent a herald to make proclamation that unless his horse
were restored to him, he would massacre the whole tribe with their
wives and children. When, however, they brought back his horse, and
offered to place their chief cities in his hands as a pledge for their
good behaviour, he treated them all with kindness, and paid a ransom
for the horse to those who had captured it.

XLV. From hence he passed into Parthia, where, being at leisure, he
first began to wear the Persian dress, either because he thought that
he should more easily win the hearts of the natives by conforming to
their fashion, or else in order to try the obedience of his Macedonian
soldiers and see whether they might not, by degrees, be brought to pay
him the same respect and observance which the kings of Persia used to
exact from their subjects. He did not, however, completely adopt the
Persian costume, which would have been utterly repugnant to Grecian
ideas, and wore neither the trousers, the coat with long sleeves, nor
the tiara, but his dress, though less simple than the Macedonian, was
still far from being so magnificent or so effeminate as that of the
Persians. He at first only wore this dress when giving audiences to
the natives of the country, or when alone with his more intimate
friends, but afterwards he frequently both drove out publicly and
transacted business in the Persian dress. The sight greatly offended
the Macedonians, but yet they were so filled with admiration for his
courage, that they felt he must be indulged in his fancies about
dress; for besides all his other honourable wounds, he had only a
short time before this been struck by an arrow in the calf of his leg,
so that splinters of the bone came out, and also received such a blow
upon his neck from a stone, that his eyesight was affected for a
considerable time afterwards. Yet he did not cease to expose himself
to danger, but crossed the river Orexartes, which he himself thought
to be the Tanais or Don, and, although suffering from an attack of
dysentery, defeated the Scythians and chased them for many miles.

XLVI. Most historians, amongst whom are Kleitarchus, Polykleitus,
Onesikritus, Antigenes, and Istrus, say that while in this country he
met an Amazon: while Aristobulus, Chares the court-usher, Ptolemy,
Antikleides, Philon of Thebes, and Philippus the herald of festivals,
besides Hekatæus of Eretria, Philip of Chalkis, and Douris of Samos,
say that this is a mere fiction. And this opinion seems to be
corroborated by Alexander himself: for he wrote to Antipater an exact
account of his Scythian campaign, and mentioned that the King of the
Scythians offered him his daughter in marriage, but says nothing about
Amazons. It is said that many years afterwards, when Lysimachus had
made himself king, Onesikritus was reading aloud to him the fourth
book of his History of Alexander, in which mention is made of the
Amazon. Lysimachus asked him with a quiet smile, "And where was I all
the time?" However, Alexander's fame is not impaired if we disbelieve
this story, nor is it increased if we regard it as true.

XLVII. As he feared that the Macedonians would refuse to follow him
any farther, he allowed the great mass of his army to repose itself,
and advanced through Hyrkania with a force of twenty thousand infantry
and three thousand cavalry, all picked men. In a speech addressed to
these select regiments, he declared that the natives of Asia had only
seen them hitherto as if in a dream; and that, if they merely threw
the whole country into disorder and then retired from it, the Asiatics
would attack them as boldly as if they were so many women. Yet he
said, that he permitted those who desired it to leave his service and
return home, merely protesting against being left, with only his
personal friends and a few volunteers, to carry on the noble
enterprise of making Macedonia mistress of the whole world. These are
almost the exact words which he uses in a letter to Antipater, and he
further says that when he had spoken thus, the soldiers burst into a
universal shout, bidding him lead them whithersoever he would. After
this experiment had succeeded with the select troops, it was no
difficult matter to induce the remainder to follow him, but they came
almost of their own accord. He now began to imitate the Asiatic habits
more closely, and endeavoured to assimilate the Macedonian and Asiatic
customs and manners, hoping that by this means his empire, during his
absence, would rest upon a foundation of good will rather than of
force. To further this object he selected thirty thousand native
youths, whom he ordered to be taught to speak the Greek language and
to use the same arms as the Macedonians; and appointed a numerous body
of instructors for them. His marriage with Roxana was due to a genuine
passion, for he was struck by her great beauty when he saw her dance
in a chorus after a feast, but nevertheless the alliance was a very
politic one; for the natives were pleased to see him take a wife from
among themselves, and were charmed with the courteous and honourable
conduct of Alexander, who, although Roxana was the only woman whom he
had ever loved, yet would not approach her until he was lawfully
married to her.

As Alexander perceived that, among his most intimate friends,
Hephæstion encouraged him and furthered his designs, while Kraterus
steadfastly adhered to the Macedonian customs, he made use of the
latter in all transactions with Asiatics, and of the former when
dealing with Greeks and Macedonians. He loved Hephæstion, and
respected Kraterus above all the rest of his friends, and was wont to
say that Hephæstion loved Alexander, but that Kraterus loved the king.
His favour caused constant jealousies between them, so that once in
India they actually drew their swords and fought with one another.
Their friends began to take part in the quarrel on either side, when
Alexander rode up, and bitterly reproached Hephæstion before them all,
saying that he must be a fool and a madman if he did not see, that
without Alexander's favour he would be nobody. Privately also he
sharply rebuked Kraterus; and calling them both before him, made them
be friends again, swearing by Zeus Ammon, and all the gods, that they
were the two men whom he loved best in the world; but that if he heard
of any more quarrelling between them he would put them both to death,
or at least him who began the quarrel. In consequence of this, it is
said that there never again, even in sport, was any dispute between
them.

XLVIII. Philotas, the son of Parmenio, was a man of much importance
among the Macedonians; for he was courageous and hardy, and the most
liberal man, and the most devoted to his friends in all the army
except Alexander himself. We are told of him that once a friend of his
came to him to borrow money, and he at once commanded one of his
servants to let him have it. His purse-bearer answered that he had no
money, upon which Philotas exclaimed, "What! Have I no plate or
furniture upon which you can raise money for my friend?"

His lofty carriage, his immense wealth, and the splendour in which he
lived, caused him to appear too great for a private station, while
his pride and vulgar ostentation made him generally disliked. His own
father, Parmenio, once said to him: "My son, I pray you show a little
more humility." He had long been an object of suspicion to Alexander,
who was kept constantly informed about him by the following
means: - After the battle of Issus, when the baggage of Darius was
captured at Damascus, there was taken among the captives a beautiful
Greek girl, named Antigone. She fell to the lot of Philotas, and
became his mistress; and the young man, who was much enamoured of her,
used to boast to her over his wine that all the conquests of the
Macedonians were really due to the prowess of his father and himself,
and that Alexander was merely a foolish boy, who owed his crown and
his empire to their exertions. Antigone repeated these expressions to
one of her friends, who, as was natural, did not keep them secret, so
that at last they reached the ears of Kraterus. Kraterus privately
introduced the woman to Alexander; and he, after he had heard her
repeat what she had been told, ordered her to take secret note of the
confidential expressions of Philotas, and to report them, from time to
time, to himself.

XLIX. Philotas had no idea that he was being spied upon in this
manner, and in his conversation with Antigone frequently spoke
insolently and slightingly of his sovereign. Alexander, although he
had accumulated terrible proofs of treason against Philotas,
nevertheless remained silent, either because he felt assured of the
loyalty of Parmenio, or because he feared to attack a man of such
power and importance. At length, however, a Macedonian of Chalastra,
named Simnus, formed a plot against Alexander's life, and invited a
young man, named Nikomachus, his own intimate friend, to join him.
Nikomachus refused compliance, and told the whole story of the plot to
his brother, Kebalinus, who at once had an interview with Philotas,
and bade him bring them at once to Alexander, as persons who had a
most important communication to make to him. Philotas, however, for
some reason or other, did not bring them before Alexander, but said
that the king was not at leisure to hear them, as he was engaged in
more important business. This he repeated on a second occasion, and
as his behaviour made the two brothers suspect his loyalty, they
communicated with another officer, and by his means obtained an
audience. They now told Alexander about the design of Limnus, and also
said that Philotas had acted very luke-warmly in the matter, as they
had twice told him that there was a plot against Alexander, and yet he
had, on each occasion, disregarded their warning.

This greatly enraged Alexander: and as when Limnus was arrested he
defended himself desperately and was killed in the scuffle, he was yet
more disturbed, as he feared he had now lost all clue to the plot. He
now openly showed his displeasure with Philotas, and encouraged all
his enemies to say boldly that it was folly of the king to imagine
that an obscure man like Limnus would have ventured to form a
conspiracy against his life, but that Limnus was merely a tool in the
hands of some more powerful person; and that if he wished to discover
the real authors of the plot, he must seek for them among those who
would have been most benefited by its success. Finding that the king
lent a ready ear to suggestions of this kind, they soon furnished him
with an overwhelming mass of evidence of the treasonable designs of
Philotas. Philotas was at once arrested, and put to the torture in the
presence of the chief officers of the Macedonian army, while Alexander
himself sat behind a curtain to hear what he would say. It is said
that when Alexander heard Philotas piteously beg Hephæstion for mercy,
he exclaimed aloud, "Are you such a coward as this, Philotas, and yet
contrive such daring plots?" To be brief, Philotas was put to death,
and immediately afterwards Alexander sent to Media and caused Parmenio
to be assassinated, although he was a man who had performed the most
important services for Philip, had, more than any other of the older
Macedonians, encouraged Alexander to invade Asia, and had seen two of
his three sons die in battle before he perished with the third. This
cruelty made many of the friends of Alexander fear him, and especially
Antipater,[417] who now formed a secret league with the Ætolians, who
also feared Alexander because when he heard of the destruction of the
people of Œneadæ, he said that he himself, and not the sons of the
people of Œneadæ, would be revenged upon the Ætolians.

L. Not long after this followed the murder of Kleitus, which, if
simply told, seems more cruel than that of Philotas; but if we
consider the circumstances under which it took place, and the
provocation which was given, we shall treat it rather as a misfortune
which befel Alexander during a fit of drunken passion than as a
deliberate act. It happened as follows. Some men came from the
sea-coast, bringing Greek grapes as a present to Alexander. He admired
their bloom and ripeness, and invited Kleitus to see them, meaning to
present him with some of them. Kleitus was engaged in offering
sacrifice, but on receiving this summons left his sacrifice and went
to the king: upon which, three of the sheep which he was about to
offer up as victims, followed him. When Alexander heard of this, he
consulted his soothsayers, Aristander, and Kleomantes the Laconian. As
they reported that this was an evil omen, he bade them at once offer
an expiatory sacrifice on behalf of Kleitus; for he himself, three
days before, had dreamed a strange dream about Kleitus, that he had
seen him sitting dressed in black amongst the sons of Parmenio, who
were all of them dead. Before, however, the sacrifices on behalf of
Kleitus had been performed, he came to the banquet, before which
Alexander himself had offered sacrifice to the Dioskuri.

After all had drunk heavily, a song was sung which had been composed
by one Pranichus, or Pierion according to some writers, in which the
generals who had recently been defeated by the barbarians were held up
to public shame and ridicule. The elder Macedonians were vexed at
this, and blamed both the writer of the song and the man who sung it,
but Alexander and his associates were much pleased with it, and bade
the singer go on. Kleitus, who was now very much excited by drink and
who was naturally of a fierce and independent temper, was especially
annoyed, and said that it was not right for Macedonians to be thus
insulted in the presence of enemies and barbarians, for that, in spite
of their misfortune, they were far braver men than those who ridiculed
them. Alexander answered that Kleitus, when he called cowardice a
misfortune, was no doubt pleading his own cause: at which reproach
Kleitus sprang to his feet, and exclaimed, "my cowardice at any rate
saved the life of the son of the gods, when he turned his back to the
sword of Spithridates; so that now, by the blood and wounds of the
Macedonians, you have become so great a man that you pretend to be the
child of Ammon, and disown your father Philip."

LI. Alexander, stung to the quick by these words, said, "Villain, do
you suppose that you will be allowed to spread these calumnies against
me, rendering the Macedonians disaffected, and yet go unpunished?"
"Too much are we punished," answered Kleitus, "when we see such a
reward as this given us for all our hard service, but we congratulate
those of us who are dead, because they died before they saw
Macedonians beaten with Median rods, and begging Persian attendants to
procure them an audience of their king." When Kleitus spoke his mind
thus boldly, Alexander's intimate friends answered with bitter
reproaches, but the older men endeavoured to pacify them. Alexander
now turning to Xenodochus of Kardia and Astenius of Kolophon, asked,
"Do not the Greeks seem to you to treat the Macedonians as if they
were beasts, and they themselves were more than mortal men? "Kleitus,
however, would not hold his peace, but went on to say that if
Alexander could not bear to hear men speak their mind, he had better
not invite free-born people to his table, and ought to confine himself
to the society of barbarians and slaves who would pay respect to his
Persian girdle and striped[418] tunic. At this speech Alexander could
no longer restrain his passion, but seized an apple from the table,
hurled it at Kleitus, and began to feel for his dagger. Aristophanes,
one of his body-guard, had already secreted it, and the rest now
pressed round him imploring him to be quiet. He however leaped to his
feet, and, as if in a great emergency, ehouted in the Macedonian
tongue to the foot-guards to turn out. He bade the trumpeter sound an
alarm, and as the man hesitated and refused, struck him with his fist.
This man afterwards gained great credit for his conduct, as it was
thought that by it he had saved the whole camp from being thrown into
an uproar. As Kleitus would not retract what he had said, his friends
seized him and forced him out of the room. But he re-entered by
another door, and in an offensive and insolent tone began to recite
the passage from the Andromache of Euripides, which begins,

"Ah me! in Greece an evil custom reigns," &c.

Upon this Alexander snatched a lance from one of his guards, and ran
Kleitus through the body with it, just as he was drawing aside the
curtain and preparing to enter the room. Kleitus fell with a loud
groan, and died on the spot. Alexander, when he came to himself, and
saw his friends all standing round in mute reproach, snatched the



Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 33 of 55)