46 Plutarch.

Plutarch's Lives Volume III online

. (page 34 of 55)
Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 34 of 55)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


spear out of the corpse, and would have thrust it into his own neck,
but was forcibly witheld by his guards, who laid hold of him and
carried him into his bed-chamber.

LII. Alexander spent the whole night in tears, and on the next day was
so exhausted by his agony of grief as to be speechless, and only able
to sigh heavily. At length his friends, alarmed at his silence, broke
into the room. He took no notice of any of their attempts at
consolation, except that he seemed to make signs of assent when
Aristander the soothsayer told him that all this had been preordained
to take place, and reminded him of his dream about Kleitus. His
friends now brought to him Kallisthenes the philosopher, who was a
nephew of Aristotle, and Anaxarchus of Abdera. Kallisthenes
endeavoured to soothe his grief, by kind and gentle consolation, but
Anaxarchus, a man who had always pursued an original method of his own
in philosophical speculations, and who was thought to be overbearing
and harsh-tempered by his friends, as soon as he entered the room
exclaimed, "This is that Great Alexander, upon whom the eyes of the
world are fixed: there he lies like a slave, fearing what men will say
of him, although he ought rather to dictate to them what they should
think right, as becomes the master of the world, and not to be
influenced by their foolish opinions. Know you not," asked he "that
Law and Justice sit beside the throne of Zeus, and make everything
which is done by those in power to be lawful and right?" By such
discourse as this Anaxarchus assuaged Alexander's sorrow, but
encouraged his savage and lawless disposition. He gained great favour
for himself, and was able to influence Alexander against Kallisthenes,
who was already no favourite with him on account of his upright,
uncompromising spirit. It is related that once at table, when the
conversation turned upon the seasons, and upon the climate of Asia,
Kallisthenes argued that it was colder in the country where they were
than in Greece; and when Anaxarchus vehemently contradicted this, he
said, "Why, you must admit that this country is the colder of the two;
for in Greece you used to wear only one cloak all through the winter,
whereas here you sit down to dinner wrapped in three Persian rugs."
This reply made Anaxarchus more his enemy than before.

LIII. Kallisthenes made all the sophists and flatterers of Alexander
jealous of him because he was much sought after by the young men for
his learning, and was liked by the elder men on account of his sober,
dignified, and austere life, which confirmed the common report, that
he had come to the court of Alexander with the intention of prevailing
upon him to refound his native city, and collect together its
scattered citizens. His high moral character gained him many enemies,
but he himself gave some colour to their accusations by his conduct in
constantly refusing all invitations, and by behaving himself with
gravity and silence when in society, as if he were displeased with his
company. His manner had caused Alexander himself to say of him, "I
hate a philosopher who is not wise in his own interest." It is related
that once at a great banquet, when sitting over their wine,
Kallisthenes was asked to speak in praise of the Macedonians, and that
he at once poured forth such a fluent and splendid eulogy that all the
company rose, vehemently applauding, and threw their garlands to him.
At this Alexander remarked that, as Euripides says,

"On noble subjects, all men can speak well."

"Now," said he, "show us your ability by blaming the Macedonians, in
order that they may be made better men by having their shortcomings
pointed out." Kallisthenes hereupon began to speak in a depreciatory
strain, and told many home-truths about the Macedonians, pointing out
that Philip had become strong only because Greece was weakened by
faction, and quoting the line,

"In times of trouble, bad men rise to fame."

This speech caused the Macedonians to hate him most bitterly, and
provoked Alexander to say that Kallisthenes had made a display, not of
his own abilities, but of his dislike to the Macedonians.

LIV. This is the account which Strœbus, Kallisthenes's reader, is said
by Hermippus to have given to Aristotle about the quarrel between
Kallisthenes and Alexander; and he added that Kallisthenes was well
aware that he was out of favour with the king, and twice or thrice
when setting out to wait on him would repeat the line from the Iliad,

"Patroklus, too, hath died, a better man than thou."

On hearing this Aristotle acutely remarked, that Kallisthenes had
great ability and power of speech, but no common sense. He, like a
true philosopher, refused to kneel and do homage to Alexander, and
alone had the spirit to express in public what all the oldest and best
Macedonians privately felt. By his refusal he relieved the Greeks and
Alexander from a great disgrace, but ruined himself, because he seemed
to use force rather than persuasion to attain his object. We are told
by Charon of Mitylene that once when at table, Alexander, after
drinking, passed the cup to one of his friends; and that he after
receiving it, rose, stood by the hearth, and after drinking knelt
before Alexander: after which he kissed him and resumed his seat. All
the guests did this in turn until the cup came to Kallisthenes. The
king, who was conversing to Hephæstion, did not take any notice of
what he did, and after drinking he also came forward to kiss him, when
Demetrius, who was surnamed Pheidon, said, "My king, do not kiss him,
for he alone has not done homage to you." Upon this Alexander avoided
kissing Kallisthenes, who said in a loud voice, "Then I will go away
with the loss of a kiss."

LV. The breach thus formed was widened by Hephæstion, who declared
that Kallisthenes had agreed with him to kneel before Alexander, and
then had broken his compact; and this story was believed by Alexander.
After this came Lysimachus and Hagnon, and many others, who accused
Kallisthenes of giving himself great airs, as though he were a queller
of despots, and said that he had a large following among the younger
men, who looked up to him as being the only free man among so many
myriads of people. These accusations were more easily believed to be
true because at this time the plot of Hermolaus was discovered; and it
was said that when Hermolaus enquired of Kallisthenes how one might
become the most famous man in the world, he answered, "By killing the
most famous man in the world." He was even said to have encouraged
Hermolaus to make the attempt, bidding him have no fear of Alexander's
golden throne, and reminding him that he would have to deal with a man
who was both wounded and in ill-health. Yet none of those concerned in
Hermolaus's conspiracy mentioned the name of Kallisthenes, even under
the most exquisite tortures. Alexander himself, in the letters which
he wrote to Kraterus, Attalus, and Alketas immediately after the
discovery of the plot, states that the royal pages, when put to the
torture, declared that they alone had conspired, and that they had no
accomplices. "The pages," Alexander goes on to say, "were stoned to
death by the Macedonians, but I will myself punish the sophist, and
those who sent him hither, and those who receive into their cities men
that plot against me." In these words he evidently alludes to
Aristotle: for Kallisthenes was brought up in his house, being the son
of Hero, Aristotle's first cousin. Some writers tell us that
Kallisthenes was hanged by the orders of Alexander; others that he was
thrown into chains and died of sickness. Chares informs us that he was
kept in confinement for seven months, in order that he might be tried
in the presence of Aristotle himself, but that during the time when
Alexander was wounded in India, he died of excessive corpulence,
covered with vermin.

LVI. This, however, took place after the period of which we write. At
this time Demaratus of Corinth, although an elderly man, was induced
to travel as far as the court of Alexander: and when he beheld him,
said that the Greeks who had died before they saw Alexander sitting
upon the throne of Darius, had lost one of the greatest pleasures in
the world.

Demaratus by this speech gained great favour with the king, but lived
but a short time to enjoy it, as he was soon carried off by sickness.
His funeral was conducted with the greatest magnificence, for the
whole army was employed to raise a mound of great extent, and eighty
cubits high, as a memorial of him; while his remains were placed in a
splendidly equipped four-horse chariot and sent back to the sea-coast.

LVII. As Alexander was now about to invade India, and observed that
his army had become unwieldy and difficult to move in consequence of
the mass of plunder with which the soldiers were encumbered, he
collected all the baggage-waggons together one morning at daybreak,
and first burned his own and those of his companions, after which he
ordered those of the Macedonians to be set on fire. This measure
appears to have been more energetic than the occasion really required;
and yet it proved more ruinous in the design than in the execution:
for although some of the soldiers were vexed at the order, most of
them with enthusiastic shouts distributed their most useful property
among those who were in want, burning and destroying all the rest with
a cheerful alacrity which raised Alexander's spirits to the highest
pitch. Yet Alexander was terrible and pitiless in all cases of
dereliction of duty. He put to death Menander, one of his personal
friends, because he did not remain in a fort, where he had been
appointed to command the garrison; and he shot dead with his own hand
Orsodates, a native chief who had revolted from him. At this time it
happened that a ewe brought forth a lamb, upon whose head was a tiara
in shape and colour like that of the King of Persia, with stones
hanging on each side of it.

Alexander, much disturbed at this portent, was purified by the
priests at Babylon, whom he was accustomed to make use of for this
purpose, but told his friends that he was alarmed for their sake, and
not for his own, as he feared that if he fell, heaven might transfer
his crown to some unworthy and feeble successor. However, he was soon
cheered by a better omen. The chief of Alexander's household servants,
a Macedonian named Proxenus, while digging a place to pitch the royal
tent near the river Oxus, discovered a well, full of a smooth, fatty
liquid. When the upper layer was removed, there spouted forth a clear
oil, exactly like olive oil in smell and taste, and incomparably
bright and clear: and that, too, in a country where no olive trees
grew. It is said that the water of the Oxus itself is very soft and
pleasant, and that it causes the skin of those who bathe in it to
become sleek and glossy. Alexander was greatly delighted with this
discovery, as we learn from a letter which he wrote to Antipater, in
which he speaks of this as being one of the most important and
manifest signs of the divine favour which had ever been vouchsafed to
him. The soothsayers held that the omen portended, that the campaign
would be glorious, but laborious and difficult: for oil has been given
by the gods to men to refresh them after labour.

LVIII. Alexander when on this expedition ran terrible risks in battle,
and was several times grievously wounded. His greatest losses were
caused, however, by the want of provisions, and by the severity of the
climate. He himself, striving to overcome fortune by valour, thought
nothing impossible to a brave man, and believed that, while daring
could surmount all obstacles, cowardice could not be safe behind any
defences. We are told that when he was besieging the fortress of
Sisymithres, which was placed upon a steep and inaccessible rock, his
soldiers despaired of being able to take it. He asked Oxyartes what
sort of a man Sisymithres himself was in respect of courage. When
Oxyartes answered that he was the greatest coward in the world,
Alexander said 'You tell me, that the fortress can be taken; for its
spirit is weak." And indeed he did take it, by playing upon the fears
of Sisymithres. Once he was attacking another fortress, also situated
upon the top of a lofty rock. While he was addressing words of
encouragement to the younger Macedonians, finding that one of them was
named Alexander, he said "You must this day prove yourself a brave
man, if but for your name's sake." The youth fought most bravely, but
fell, to the great grief of Alexander. When he reached the city named
Nysa,[419] the Macedonians were unwilling to attack it, because a very
deep river ran past its walls. "Unlucky that I am," exclaimed
Alexander, "why did I never learn to swim?" Saying thus, he prepared
to cross the river just as he was, with his shield upon his left arm.
After an unsuccessful assault, ambassadors were sent by the besieged,
who were surprised to find Alexander dressed in his armour, covered
with dust and blood. A cushion was now brought to him, and he bade the
eldest of the ambassadors seat himself upon it. This man was named
Akouphis: and he was so much struck with the splendid courtesy of
Alexander, that he asked him what his countrymen must do, in order to
make him their friend. Alexander replied that they must make Akouphis
their chief, and send a hundred of their best men to him. Upon this
Akouphis laughed, and answered: "I shall rule them better, O King, if
I send the worst men to you and not the best."

LIX. There was one Taxiles,[420] who was said to be king of a part of
India as large as Egypt, with a rich and fertile soil. He was also a
shrewd man, and came and embraced Alexander, saying, "Why should we
two fight one another, Alexander, since you have not come to take away
from us the water which we drink nor the food which we eat; and these
are the only things about which it is worth while for sensible men to
fight? As for all other kinds of property, if I have more than you, I
am willing to bestow it upon you, or, if you are the richer, I would
willingly be placed in your debt by receiving some from you."
Alexander was delighted with these words, and giving him his right
hand as a pledge of his friendship exclaimed, "Perhaps you suppose
that by this arrangement we shall become friends without a contest;
but you are mistaken, for I will contend with you in good offices, and
will take care that you do not overcome me." Saying thus, they
exchanged presents, amongst which Alexander gave Taxiles a thousand
talents of coined money. This conduct of his greatly vexed his
friends; but caused him to be much more favourably regarded by many of
the natives.

After this, Alexander, who had suffered great losses from the Indian
mercenary troops who flocked to defend the cities which he attacked,
made a treaty of alliance with them in a certain town, and afterwards,
as they were going away set upon them while they were on the road and
killed them all. This is the greatest blot upon his fame; for in all
the rest of his wars, he always acted with good faith as became a
king. He was also much troubled by the philosophers who attended him,
because they reproached those native princes who joined him, and
encouraged the free states to revolt and regain their independence.
For this reason, he caused not a few of them to be hanged.

LX. His campaign against king Porus is described at length in his own
letters. He tells us that the river Hydaspes[421] ran between the two
camps, and that Porus with his elephants watched the further bank, and
prevented his crossing. Alexander himself every day caused a great
noise and disturbance to be made in his camp, in order that the enemy
might be led to disregard his movements: and at last upon a dark and
stormy night he took a division of infantry and the best of the
cavalry, marched to a considerable distance from the enemy, and
crossed over into an island of no great extent. Here he was exposed to
a terrible storm of rain, with thunder and lightning; but, although
several of his men were struck dead, he pressed on, crossed the
island, and gained the furthermost bank of the river. The Hydaspes was
flooded by the rain, and the stream ran fiercely down this second
branch, while the Macedonians could with difficulty keep their
footing upon this slippery and uneven bottom Here it was that
Alexander is said to have exclaimed, "O ye Athenians, what toils do I
undergo to obtain your praise."

This, however, rests only on the authority of the historian
Oneskritus, for Alexander himself relates that they abandoned their
rafts, and waded through this second torrent under arms, with the
water up to their breasts. After crossing, he himself rode on some
twenty furlongs in advance of the infantry, thinking that if the enemy
met him with their cavalry alone, he would be able to rout them
easily, and that, if they advanced their entire force, before a battle
could be begun, he would be joined by his own infantry. And indeed he
soon fell in with a thousand horse and sixty war chariots of the
enemy, which he routed, capturing all the chariots, and slaying four
hundred of the horsemen. Porus now perceived that Alexander himself
had crossed the river, and advanced to attack him with all his army,
except only a detachment which he left to prevent the Macedonians from
crossing the river at their camp. Alexander, alarmed at the great
numbers of the enemy, and at their elephants, did not attack their
centre, but charged them on the left wing, ordering Koinus to attack
them on the right. The enemy on each wing were routed, but retired
towards their main body, where the elephants stood. Here an obstinate
and bloody contest took place, insomuch that it was the eighth hour of
the day before the Indians were finally overcome. These particulars we
are told by the chief actor in the battle himself, in his letters.
Most historians are agreed that Porus stood four cubits[422] and a
span high, and was so big a man that when mounted on his elephant,
although it was a very large one, he seemed as well proportioned to
the animal as an ordinary man is to a horse. This elephant showed
wonderful sagacity and care for its king, as while he was still
vigorous it charged the enemy and overthrew them, but when it
perceived that he was fainting from his wounds, fearing that he might
fall, it quietly knelt on the ground, and then gently drew the spears
out of his body with its trunk. When Porus was captured, Alexander
asked him how he wished to be treated. "Like a king," answered Porus.
Alexander then enquired if he had nothing else to ask about his
treatment. "Everything," answered Porus, "is comprised in these words,
like a king." Alexander now replaced Porus in his kingdom, with the
title of satrap, and also added a large province to it, subduing the
independent inhabitants. This country was said to have contained
fifteen separate tribes, five thousand considerable cities and
innumerable villages; besides another district three times as large,
over which he appointed Philippus, one of his personal friends, to be
satrap.

LXI. After this battle with Porus, Alexander's horse Boukephalus died,
not immediately, but some time afterwards. Most historians say that he
died of wounds received in the battle, but Onesikritus tells us that
he died of old age and overwork, for he had reached his thirtieth
year. Alexander was greatly grieved at his loss, and sorrowed for him
as much as if he had lost one of his most intimate friends. He founded
a city as a memorial of him upon the banks of the Hydaspes, which he
named Boukephalia. It is also recorded that when he lost a favourite
dog called Peritas, which he had brought up from a whelp, and of which
he was very fond, he founded a city and called it by the dog's name.
The historian Sotion tells us that he heard this from Potamon of
Lesbos.

LXII. The battle with King Porus made the Macedonians very unwilling
to advance farther into India. They had overcome Porus with the
greatest difficulty, as he brought against them a force of twenty
thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, and now offered the most
violent opposition to Alexander, who wished to cross the river Ganges.
This river, they heard, was thirty-two furlongs wide and a hundred
cubits deep, while its further banks were completely covered with
armed men, horses and elephants, for it was said that the kings of the
Gandaritæ and Præsiæ were awaiting his attack with an army of eighty
thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand foot soldiers, eight thousand
war chariots, and six thousand elephants; nor was this any
exaggeration, for not long afterwards Androkottus, the king of this
country, presented five hundred elephants to Seleukus, and overran and
subdued the whole of India with an army of six hundred thousand men.

Alexander at first retired to his tent in a rage, and shut himself up
there, not feeling any gratitude to those who had prevented his
crossing the Ganges, but regarding a retreat as an acknowledgment of
defeat. However, after his friends had argued with him, and his
soldiers had come to the door of his tent, begging him with tears in
their eyes to go no farther, he relented, and gave orders for a
retreat. He now contrived many ingenious devices to impress the
natives, as, for instance, he caused arms, and bridles and mangers for
horses to be made of much more than the usual size, and left them
scattered about. He also set up altars, which even to the present day
are reverenced by the kings of the Præsiæ, who cross the river to
them, and offer sacrifice upon them in the Greek fashion. Androkottus
himself, who was then a lad, saw Alexander himself and afterwards used
to declare that Alexander might easily have conquered the whole
country, as the then king was hated by his subjects on account of his
mean and wicked disposition.

LXIII. After this, Alexander wishing to see the outer ocean,[423]
caused many rafts and vessels managed with oars to be built, and
proceeded in a leisurely manner down the Indus. His voyage, however,
was not an idle one, nor was it unaccompanied with danger, for as he
passed down the river, he disembarked, attacked the tribes on the
banks, and subdued them all. When he was among the Malli, who are said
to be the most warlike tribe in India, he very nearly lost his life.
He was besieging their chief city, and after the garrison had been
driven from the walls by volleys of missiles, he was the first man to
ascend a scaling ladder and mount the walls. The ladder now broke, so
that no more could mount, and as the enemy began to assemble inside at
the foot of the wall and shoot up at him from below, Alexander, alone
against a host, leaped down amongst them, and by good luck, alighted
on his feet. His armour rattled loudly as he leaped, and made the
natives think that a bright light was emitted from his body; so that
at first they gave way and fled from him. But when they saw that he
was attended by only two followers, some of them attacked him at close
quarters with swords and spears, while one standing a little way off
shot an arrow at him with such force and with such good aim, that it
passed through his corslet and imbedded itself in the bones of his
breast. As he shrank back when the arrow struck him, the man who had
shot it ran up to him with a drawn sword in his hand. Peukestas and
Limnæus now stood before Alexander to protect him. Both were wounded,
Limnæus mortally; but Peukestas managed to stand firm, while Alexander
despatched the Indian with his own hand. Alexander was wounded in many
places, and at last received a blow on the neck with a club, which
forced him to lean his back against the wall, still facing the enemy.
The Macedonians now swarmed round him, snatched him up just as he
fainted away, and carried him insensible to his tent. A rumour now ran
through the camp that he was dead, and his attendants with great
difficulty sawed through the wooden shaft of the arrow, and so got off
his corslet. They next had to pluck out the barbed head of the arrow,
which was firmly fixed in one of his ribs. This arrow-head is said to
have measured four fingers-breadths[424] in length, and three in
width. When it was pulled out, he swooned away, so that he nearly
died, but at length recovered his strength. When he was out of danger,
though still very weak, as he had to keep himself under careful
treatment for a long time, he heard a disturbance without, and
learning that the Macedonians were anxious to see him, took his cloak
and went out to them. After sacrificing to the gods for the recovery



Online Library46 PlutarchPlutarch's Lives Volume III → online text (page 34 of 55)