A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

(Ἀλέξανδρος), king of MACEDONIA, surnamed the Great, was born at Pella, in the autumn of B. C. 356. He was the son of Philip II. and Olympias, and he inherited much of the natural disposition of both of his parents--the cool forethought and practical wisdom of his father, and the ardent enthusiasm and ungovernable passions of his mother. His mother belonged to the royal house of Epeirus, and through her he traced his descent from the great hero Achilles. His early education was committed to Leonidas and Lysimachus, the former of whom was a relation of his mother's, and the latter an Acarnanian. Leonidas early accustomed him to endure toil and hardship, but Lysimachus recommended himself to his royal pupil by obsequious flattery. But Alexander was also placed under the care of Aristotle, who acquired an influence over his mind and character, which is manifest to the latest period of his life. Aristotle wrote for his use a treatise on the art of government; and the clear and comprehensive views of the political relations of nations and of the nature of government, which Alexander shews in the midst of all his conquests, may fairly be ascribed to the lessons he had received in his youth from the greatest of philosophers. It is not impossible too that his love of discovery, which distinguishes him from the herd of vulgar conquerors, may also have been implanted in him by the researches of Aristotle. Nor was his physical education neglected. He was early trained in all manly and athletic sports; in horsemanship he excelled all of his age; and in the art of war he had the advantage of his father's instruction.

At the early age of sixteen, Alexander was entrusted with the government of Macedonia by his father, while he was obliged to leave his kingdom to march against Byzantium. He first distinguished himself, however, at the battle of Chaeroneia (B. C. 338), where the victory was mainly owing to his impetuosity and courage.

On the murder of Philip (B. C. 336), just after he had made arrangements to march into Asia at the head of the confederate Greeks, Alexander ascended the throne of Macedon, and found himself surrounded by enemies on every side. Attalus, the uncle of Cleopatra, who had been sent into Asia by Parmenion with a considerable force, aspired to the throne; the Greeks, roused by Demosthenes, threw off the Macedonian supremacy ; and the barbarians in the north threatened his dominions. Nothing but the promptest energy could save him; but in this Alexander was never deficient. Attalus was seized and put to death. His rapid march into the south of Greece overawed all opposition; Thebes, which had been most active against him, submitted when he appeered at its gates; and the assembled Greeks at the Isthmus of Corinth, with the sole exception of the Lacedaemonians, elected him to the command against Persia, which had previously been bestowed upon his father. Being now at liberty to reduce the barbarians of the north to obedience, he marched (early in B. C. 335) across mount defeated the Triballi, and advanced as far as the Danube, which he crossed, and received embassies from the Scythians and other nations. On his return, he marched westward, and subdued the Illylrians and Taulantii, who were obliged to submit to the Macedonian supremacy. While engaged in these distant countries, a report of his death reached Greece, and the Thebans once more took up arms. But a terrible punishment awaited them. He advanced into Boeotia by rapid marches, and appeared before the gates of the city almost before the inhabitants had received intelligence of his approach. The city was taken by assault; all the buildings, with the exception of the house of Pindar, were levelled with the ground; most of the inhabitants butchered, and the rest sold as slaves. Athens feared a similar fate, and sent an embassy deprecating his wrath; but Alexander did not advance further; the punishment of Thebes was a sufficient warning to Greece.

Alexander now directed all his energy to prepare for the expedition against Persia. In the spring of B. C. 334, he crossed over the Hellespont into Asia with an army of about 35,000 men. Of these 30,000 were foot and 5000 horse; and of the former only 12,000 were Macedonians. But experience had shewn that this was a force which no Persian king could resist. Darius, the reigning king of Persia, had no military skill, and could only hope to oppose Alexander by engaging the services of mercenary Greeks, of whom he obtained large supplies.

Alexander's first engagement with the Persians was on the banks of the Granicus, where they attempted to prevent his passage over it. Memnon, a Rhodian Greek, was in the army of the Persians, and had recommended them to withdraw as Alexander's army advanced, and lay waste the country ; but this advice was not followed, and the Persians were defeated. Memnon was the ablest general that Darius had, and his death in the following year (B. C. 333) relieved Alexander from a formidable opponent. After the capture of Halicarnassus, Memnon had collected a powerful fleet, in which Alexander was greatly deficient; he had taken many of the islands in the Aegaean, and threatened Macedonia.

Before marching against Darius, Alexander thought it expedient to subdue the chief towns on the western coast of Asia Minor. The last event of importance in the campaign was the capture of Halicarnassus, which was not taken till late in the autumn, after a vigorous defence by Memnon. Alexander marched along the coast of Lycia and Pamphylia, and then northward into Phrygia and to Gordium, where he cut or untied the celebrated Gordian knot, which, it was said, was to be loosened only by the conqueror of Asia.

In B. C. 333, he was joined at Gordium by reinforcements from Macedonia, and commenced his second campaign. From Gordium he marched through the centre of Asia Minor into Cilicia to the city of Tarsus, where he nearly lost his life by a fever, brought on by his great exertions, or through throwing himself, when heated, into the

cold waters of the Cydnus. Darius meantime had collected an immense army of 500,000, or 600,000 men, with 30,000 Greek mercenaries; but instead of waiting for Alexander's approach in the wide plain of Sochi, where he had been stationed for some time, and which was favourable to his numbers and the evolution of his cavalry, he advanced into the narrow plain of Issus, where defeat was almost certain. Alexander had passed through this plain into Syria before Darius reached it; but as soon as he received intelligence of the movements of Darius, he retraced his steps, and in the battle which followed the Persian army was defeated with dreadful slaughter. Darius took to flight, as soon as he saw his left wing routed, and escaped across the Euphrates by the ford of Thapsacus ; but his mother, wife, and children fell into the hands of Alexander, who treated them with the utmost delicacy and respect. The battle of Issus, which was fought towards the close of B. C. 333, decided the fate of the Persian empire; but Alexander judged it most prudent not to pursue Darius, but to subdue Phoenicia, which was especially formidable by its navy, and constantly threatened thereby to attack the coasts of Greece and Macedonia. Most of the cities of Phoenicia submitted as he approached; Tyre alone refused to surrender. This city was not taken till the middle of B. C. 332, after an obstinate defence of seven months, and was fearfully punished by the slaughter of 8000 Tyrians and the sale of 30,000 into slavery. Next followed the siege of Gaza, which again delayed Alexander two months, and afterwards, according to Josephus, he marched to Jerusalem, intending to punish the people for refusing to assist him, but he was diverted from his purpose by the appearance of the high priest, and pardoned the people. This story is not mentioned by Arrian, and rests on questionable evidence.

Alexander next marched into Egypt, which gladly submitted to the conqueror, for the Egyptiaus had ever hated the Persians, who insulted their religion and violated their temples. In the beginning of the following year (B. C. 331), Alexander founded at the mouth of the western branch of the Nile, the city of Alexandria, which he intended should form the centre of commerce between the eastern and western worlds, and which soon more than realized the expectations of its founder. He now determined to visit the temple of Jupiter Ammon, and after proceeding from Alexandria along the coast to Paraetonium, he turned southward through the desert and thus reached the temple. He was sahtted by the priests as the son of Jupiter Ammon.

In the spring of the same year (B. C. 331), Alexander set out to meet Darius, who had collected another army. He marched through Phoeniciaand Syria to the Euphrates, which he crossed at the ford of Thapsacus; from thence he proceeded through Mesopotamia, crossed the Tigris, and at length met with the immense hosts of Darius, said to have amounted to more than a million of men, in the plains of Gaugamela. The battle was fought in the month of October, B. C. 331, and ended in the complete defeat of the Persians, who suffered immense slaughter. Alexander pursued the fagitives to Arbela (Erbil), which place has given its name to the battle, and which was distant about fifty miles from the spot where it was fought. Darins, who had left the field of battle early in the day, fled to Ecbatana (Hamadan), in Media. Alexander was now the conqueror of Asia; and he began to assume all the pomp and splendour of an Asiatic despot. His adoption of Persian habits and customs tended doubtless to conciliate the affections of his new subjects; but these outward signs of eastern royalty were also accompanied by many acts worthy only of an eastern tyrant; he exercised no controul over his passions, and frequently gave way to the most violent and ungovernable excesses.

From Arbela, Alexander marched to Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis, which all surrendered without striking a blow. He is said to have set fire to the palace of Persepolis, and, according to some accounts, in the revelry of a banquet, at the instigation of Thais, an Athenian courtezan.

At the beginning of B. C. 330, Alexander marched from Persepolis into Media, where Darius had collected a new force. On his approach, Darius fled through Rhagae and the passes of the Elburz mountains, called by the ancients the Caspian Gates, into the Bactrian provinces. After stopping a short time at Ecbatana, Alexander pursued him through the deserts of Parthia, and had nearly reached him, when the unfortunate king was murdered by Bessus, satrap of Bactria, and his associates. Alexander sent his body to Persepolis, to be buried in the tombs of the Persian kings. Bessus escaped to Bactria, and assumed the title of king of Persia. Alexander advanced into Hyrcania, in order to gain over the remnant of the Greeks of Darius's army, who were assembled there. After some negotiation he succeeded; they were all pardoned, and a great many of them taken into his pay. After spending fifteen days at Zadracarta, the capital of Parthia, he marched to the frontiers of Areia, which he entrusted to Satibarzanes, the former satrap of the country, and set out on his march towards Bactria to attack Bessus, but had not proceeded far, when he was recalled by the revolt of Satibarzanes. By incredible exertions he returned to Artacoana, the capital of the province, in two days' march : the satrap took to flight, and a new governor was appointed. Instead of resuming his march into Bactria, Alexander seems to have thought it more prudent to subdue the south-eastern parts of Areia, and accordingly marched into the country of the Drangae and Sarangae.

During the army's stay at Prophthasia, the capital of the Drangae, an event occurred, which shews the altered character of Alexander, and represents him in the light of a suspicious oriental despot. Philotas, the son of his faithful general, Parmenion, and who had been himself a personal friend of Alexander, was accused of a plot against the king's life. life was accused by Alexander before the army, condemned, and put to death. Parmenion, who was at the head of an army at Ecbatana, was also put to death by command of Alexander, who feared lest he should attempt to revenge his son. Several other trials for treason followed, and many Macedonians were executed.

Alexander now advanced through the country of the Ariaspi to the Arachoti, a people west of the Indus, whom he conquered. Their conquest and the complete subjugation of Areia occupied the winter of this year. (B. C. 330.) In the beginning of the following year (B. C. 329), he crossed the mountains of the Paropamisus (the

Hindoo Coosh), and marched into Bactria against Bessus. On the approach of Alexander, Bessus fled across the Oxus into Sogdiana. Alexander followed him, and transported his army across the river on the skins of the tents stuffed with straw. Shortly after the passage Bessus was betrayed into his hands, and, after being cruelly mutilated by order of Alexander, was put to death. From the Oxus Alexander advanced as far as the Jaxartes (the Sir), which he crossed, and defeated several Scythian tribes north of that river. After founding a city Alexandria on the Jaxartes, he retraced his steps, recrossed the Oxus, and returned to Zariaspa or Bactra, where he spent the winter of 329. It was here that Alexander killed his friend Cleitus in a drunken revel. [Cleitus.]

In the spring of B. C. 328, Alexander again crossed the Oxus to complete the subjugation of Sogdiana, but was not able to effect it in the year, and accordingly went into winter quarters at Nautaca, a place in the middle of the province. At the beginning of the following year, B. C. 327, he took a mountain fortress, in which Oxyartes, a Bactrian prince, had deposited his wife and daughters. The beauty of Roxana, one of the latter, captivated the conqueror, and he accordingly made her his wife. This marriage with one of his eastern subjets was in accordance with the whole of his policy. Having completed the conquest of Sogdiana, Alexander marched southward into Bactria, and made preparations for the invasion of India. While in Bactria, another conspiracy was discovered for the murder of the king. The plot was formed by Hermolaus with a number of the royal pages, and Callisthenes, a pupil of Aristotle, was involved in it. All the conspirators were put to death.

Alexander did not leave Bactria till late in the spring of B. C. 327, and crossed the Indus, probably near the modern Attock. He now entered the country of the Penjab, or the Five Rivers. Taxilas, the king of the people immediately east of the Indus, submitted to him, and thus he met with no resistance till he reached the Hydaspes, upon the opposite bank of which Porus, an Indian king, was posted with a large army and a considerable number of elephants. Alexander managed to cross the river unperceived by the Indian king, and then an obstinate battle followed, in which Porus was defeated after a gallant resistance, and taken prisoner. Alexander restored to him his kingdom, and treated him with distinguished honour.

Alexander remained thirty days on the Hydaspes, during which time he founded two towns, one on each bank of the river: one was called Bucephala, in honour of his horse Bucephalus, who died here, after carrying him through so many victories; and the other Nicaea, to commemorate his victory. From thence he marched to the Acesines (the Chinab), which he crossed, and subsequently to the Hydraotes (the Ravee), which he also crossed, to attack another Porus, who had prepared to resist him. But as he approached nearer, this Porus fled, and his dominions were given to the one whom he had conquered on the Hydaspes. The Cathaei, however, who also dwelt east of the Hydraotes, offered a vigorous resistance, but were defeated. Alexander still pressed forward till he reached the Ilyphasis (Garra), which he was preparing to cross, when the Macedonians, worn out by long service, and tired of the war, refused to proceed; and Alexander, notwithstanding his entreaties and prayers, was obliged to lead them back. He returned to the Hydaspcs, where he had previously given orders for the building of a fleet, and then sailed down the river with about 8000 men, while the remainder marched along the banks in two divisions. This was late in the autumn of 327. The people on each side of the river submitted without resistance, except the Malli, in the conquest of one of whose places Alexander was severely wounded. At the confluence of the Acesines and the Indus, Alexander founded a city, and left Philip as satrap, with a considerable body of Greeks. Here he built some fresh ships, and shortly afterwards sent about a third of the army, under Craterus, through the country of the Arachoti and Drangae into Carmania. He himself continued his voyage down the Indus, founded a city at Pattala, the apex of the delta of the Indus, and sailed into the Indian ocean. He seems to have reached the mouth of the Indus about the middle of 326. Nearchus was sent with the fleet to sail along the coast to the Persian gulf [NEARCHUS], and Alexander set out from Pattala, about September, to return to Persia. In his march through Gedrosia, his army suffered greatly from want of water and provisions, till they arrived at Pura, where they obtained supplies. From Pura he advanced to Carman (Kirman), the capital of Carmania, where he was joined by Craterus, with his detachment of the army, and also by Nearchus, who had accomplished the voyage in safety. Alexander sent the great body of the army, under Hephaetion, along the Persian gulf, while he himself, with a small force, marched to Pasargadae, and from thence to Persepolis, where he appointed Peucestas, a Macedonian, governor, in place of the former one, a Persian, whom he put to death, for oppressing the province.

From Persepolis Alexander advanced to Susa, which he reached in the beginning of 325. Here he allowed himself and his troops some rest from their labours; and faithful to his plan of forming his European and Asiatic subjects into one people, he assigned to about eighty of his generals Asiatic wives, and gave with them rich dowries. He himself took a second wife, Barsine, the eldest daughter of Darius, and according to some accounts, a third, Parysatis, the daughter of Ochus. About 10,000 Macedonians also followed the example of their king and generals, and married Asiatic women; all these received presents from the king. Alexander also enrolled large numbers of Asiatics among his troops, and taught them the Macedonian tactics. He moreover directed his attention to the increase of commerce, and for this purpose had the Euphrates and Tigris made navigable, by removing the artificial obstructions which had been made in the river for the purpose of irrigation.

The Macedonians, who were discontented with several of the new arrangements of the king, and especially at his placing the Persians on an equality with themselves in many respects, rose in mutinyagainst him, which he quelled with some little difficulty, and he afterwards dismissed about 10,000 Macedonian veterans, who returned to Europe under the command of Craterus. Towards the close of the same year (B. C. 325) he went to Ecbatana,

where he lost his great favourite Hephaestion; and his grief for his loss knew no bounds. From Ecbatana he marched to Babylon, subduing in his way the Cossaei, a mountain tribe; and before he reached Babylon, he was met by ambassadors from almost every part of the known world, who had come to do homage to the new conqueror of Asia.

Alexander reached Babylon in the spring of B. C. 324, about a year before his death, notwithstanding the warnings of the Chaldeans, who predicted evil to him if he entered the city at that time. He intended to make Babylon the capital of his empire, as the best point of communication between his eastern and western dominions. His schemes were numerous and gigantic. His first object was the conquest of Arabia, which was to be followed, it was said, by the subjugation of Italy, Carthage, and the west. But his views were not confined merely to conquest. He sent Heracleides to build a fleet on the Caspian, and to explore that sea, which was said to be connected with the northern ocean. He also intended to improve the distribution of waters in the Babylonian plain, and for that purpose sailed down the Euphrates to inspect the canal called Pallacopas. On his return to Babylon, he found the preparations for the Arabian expedition nearly complete; but almost immediately afterwards he was attacked by a fever, probably brought on by his recent exertions in the marshy districts around Babylon, and aggravated by the quantity of wine he had drunk at a banquet given to his principal officers. He died after an illness of eleven days, in the month of May or June, B. C. 323. He died at the age of thirty-two, after a reign of twelve years and eight months. He appointed no one as his successor, but just before his death he gave his ring to Perdiccas. Roxana was with child at the time of his death, and afterwards bore a son, who is known by the name of Alexander Aegus.

The history of Alexander forms an important epoch in the history of mankind. Unlike other Asiatic conquerors, his progress was marked by something more than devastation and ruin; at every step of his course the Greek language and civilization took root and flourished; and after his death Greek kingdoms were formed in all parts of Asia, which continued to exist for centuries. By his conquests the knowledge of mankind was increased ; the sciences of geography, natural history and others, received vast additions; and it was through him that a road was opened to India, and that Europeans became acquainted with the products of the remote East.

No contemporary author of the campaigns of Alexander survives. Our best account comes from Arrian, who lived in the second century of the Christian aera, but who drew up his history from the accounts of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, and Aristobulus of Cassandria. The history of Quintus Curtius, Plutarch's life of Alexander, and the epitomes of Justin and Diodorus Siculus, were also compiled from earlier writers. The best modern writers on the subject are : St. Croix, Examcn critique des ancicns Historiens d' Alexandre le Grand, Droysen, Geschichte Alexanders des Grossen ; Williams, Life of Alexander ; Thirlwall, History of Greece, vols. vi. and vii.