Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Privacy
 
Home - Ancient States



Most Viewed

Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David


Least Viewed

Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





Alexander The Great








We come now to consider briefly the career of Alexander, the son of
Philip--the most successful, fortunate, and brilliant hero of antiquity. I
do not admire either his character or his work. He does not compare the
with Caesar or Napoleon in comprehensiveness of genius, or magnanimity, or
variety of attainments, or posthumous influences. He was a meteor--a star
of surprising magnitude, which blazed over the whole Oriental world with
unprecedented brilliancy. His military genius was doubtless great--even
transcendent, and his fame is greater than his genius. His prestige is
wonderful. He conquered the world more by his name than by his power. Only
two men, among military heroes, dispute his pre-eminence in the history of
nations. After more than two thousand years, his glory shines with
undiminished brightness. His conquests extended over a period of only
twelve years, yet they were greater and more dazzling than any man ever
made before in a long reign. Had he lived to be fifty, he might have
subdued the whole world, and created a universal empire equal to that of
the Caesars--which was the result of five hundred years' uninterrupted
conquests by the greatest generals of a military nation. Though we neither
love nor reverence Alexander, we can not withhold our admiration, for his
almost superhuman energy, courage, and force of will. He looms up as one
of the prodigies of earth--yet sent by Providence as an avenger--an
instrument of punishment on those effeminated nations, or rather
dynasties, which had triumphed over human misery. I look upon his career,
as the Christians of the fifth century looked upon that of Alaric or
Attila, whom they called the scourge of God.

His conquests and dominions were, however, prepared by one perhaps
greater than himself in creative genius, and as unscrupulous and cruel as
he. Philip found his kingdom a little brook; he left it a river--broad,
deep, and grand. Under Alexander, this river became an irresistible
torrent, sweeping every thing away which impeded its course. Philip
created an army, and a military system, and generals, all so striking,
that Greece succumbed before him, and yielded up her liberties. Alexander
had only to follow out his policy, which was to subdue the Persians. The
Persian empire extended over all the East--Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt,
Parthia, Babylonia, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Bactria, and other countries--the
one hundred and twenty provinces of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, from the
Mediterranean to India, from the Euxine and Caspian Seas to Arabia and the
Persian Gulf--a monstrous empire, whose possession was calculated to
inflame the monarchs who reigned at Susa and Babylon with more than mortal
pride and self-sufficiency. It had been gradually won by successive
conquerors, from Nimrod to Darius. It was the gradual absorption of all
the kingdoms of the East in the successive Assyrian, Babylonian, and
Persian empires--for these three empires were really one under different
dynasties, and were ruled by the same precedents and principles. The
various kingdoms which composed this empire, once independent, yielded to
the conquerors who reigned at Babylon, or Nineveh, or Persepolis, and
formed satrapies paying tribute to the great king. The satraps of Cyrus
were like the satraps of Nebuchadnezzar, members or friends of the
imperial house, who ruled the various provinces in the name of the king of
Babylon, or Persia, without much interference with the manners, or
language, or customs, or laws, or religion of the conquered, contented to
receive tribute merely, and troops in case of war. And so great was the
accumulation of treasure in the various royal cities where the king
resided part of the year, that Darius left behind him on his flight, in
Ecbatana alone, one hundred and eighty thousand talents, or two hundred
million dollars. It was by this treasure that the kings of Persia lived in
such royal magnificence, and with it they were able to subsidize armies to
maintain their power throughout their vast dominions, and even gain allies
like the Greeks, when they had need of their services. Their treasures
were inexhaustible--and were accumulated with the purpose of maintaining
empire, and hence were not spent, but remained as a sacred deposit.

It was to overthrow this empire that Philip aspired, after he had
conquered Greece, in part to revenge the injuries inflicted by the Persian
invasions, but more from personal ambition. And had he lived, he would
have succeeded, and his name would have been handed down as the great
conqueror, rather than that of his more fortunate son. Philip knew what a
rope of sand the Persian military power was. Xenophon had enlightened the
Greeks as to the inefficiency of the Persian armies, if they needed any
additional instruction after the defeat of Xerxes and his generals. The
vast armies of the Persians made a grand show, and looked formidable when
reviewed by the king in his gilded chariot, surrounded by his nobles, the
princes of his family, and the women of his harem. And these armies were
sufficient to keep the empire together. The mighty prestige attending
victories for one thousand years, and all the pomp of millions in battle
array, was adequate to keep the province together, for the system of
warfare and the character of the forces were similar in all the provinces.
It was external enemies, with a different system of warfare, that the
Persian kings had to dread--not the revolt of enervated States, and
unwarlike cities. The Orientals were never warlike in the sense that
Greece and Rome were. The armies of Greece and Rome were small, but
efficient. It was seldom that any Grecian or Roman army exceeded fifty
thousand men, but they were veterans, and they had military science and
skill and discipline. The hosts of Xerxes or Darius were undisciplined,
and they were mercenaries, unlike the original troops of Cyrus.

Now it was the mission of Alexander to overturn the dynasties which
reigned so ingloriously on the banks of the Euphrates--to overrun the
Persian empire from north to south and east to west--to cut it up, and form
new kingdoms of the dismembered provinces, and distribute the hoarded
treasures of Susa, Persepolis, and Ecbatana--to introduce Greek satraps
instead of Persian--to favor the spread of the Greek language and
institutions--to found new cities where Greeks might reign, from which they
might diffuse their spirit and culture. Alexander spent only one year of
his reign in Greece, all the rest of his life was spent in the various
provinces of Persia. He was the conqueror of the Oriental world. He had no
hard battles to fight, like Caesar or Napoleon. All he had to do was to
appear with his troops, and the enemy fled. Cities were surrendered as he
approached. The two great battles which decided the fate of Persia--Issus
and Arbela--were gained at the first shock of his cavalry. Darius fled from
the field, in both instances, at the very beginning of the battle, and
made no real resistance. The greater the number of Persian soldiers, the
more disorderly was the rout. The Macedonian soldiers fought retreating
armies in headlong flight. The slaughter of the Persians was mere
butchery. It was something like collecting a vast number of birds in a
small space, and shooting them when collected in a corner, and dignifying
the slaughter with a grand name--not like chasing the deer over rocks and
hills.

The military genius of Alexander was seen in the siege of the few
towns which did resist, like Tyre and Gaza; in his rapid marches; in the
combination of his forces; in the system, foresight, and sagacity he
displayed, conquering at the light time, marching upon the right place,
husbanding his energies, wasting no time in expeditions which did not bear
on the main issue, and concentrating his men on points which were vital
and important. Philip, if he had lived, might have conquered the Persian
empire; but he would not have conquered so rapidly as Alexander, who knew
no rest, and advanced from conquering to conquer, in some cases without
ulterior objects, as in the Indian campaigns--simply from the love and
excitement of conquest. He only needed time. He met no enemies who could
oppose him--more, I apprehend, from the want of discipline among his
enemies, than from any irresistible strength of his soldiers, for he
embodied the conquered soldiers in his own army, and they fought like his
own troops, when once disciplined. Nor did he dream of reconstruction, or
building up a great central power. He would, if he had lived, have overrun
Arabia, and then Italy, and Gaul. But he did not live to measure his
strength with the Romans. His mission was ended when he had subdued the
Persian world. And he left no successor. His empire was divided among his
generals, and new kingdoms arose on the ruins of the Persian empire.

"Alexander was born B.C. 356, and like his father, Philip, was not
Greek, but a Macedonian and Epirot, only partially imbued with Grecian
sentiment and intelligence." He inherited the ambition of Philip, and the
violent and headstrong temperament of his furious mother, Olympias. His
education was good, and he was instructed by his Greek tutors in the
learning common to Grecian princes. His taste inclined him to poetry and
literature, rather than to science and philosophy. At thirteen he was
intrusted to the care of the great Aristotle, and remained under his
teaching three years. At sixteen he was left regent of the Macedonian
kingdom, whose capital was Pella, while his father was absent in the siege
of Byzantium. At eighteen he commanded one of the wings of the army at the
battle of Chaeronea. His prospects were uncertain up to the very day when
Philip was assassinated, on account of family dissensions, and the wrath
of his father, whom he had displeased. But he was proclaimed king on the
death of Philip, B.C., 336 and celebrated his funeral with great
magnificence, and slew many of his murderers. The death of Philip had
excited aspirations of freedom in the Grecian States, but there was no
combination to throw off the Macedonian yoke. Alexander well understood
the discontent of Greece, and his first object was to bring it to abject
submission. With the army of his father he marched from State to State,
compelling submission, and punishing with unscrupulous cruelty all who
resisted. After displaying his forces in various portions of the
Peloponnesus, he repaired to Corinth and convened the deputies from the
Grecian cities, and was chosen to the headship of Greece, as his father,
Philip, had been. He was appointed the keeper of the peace of Greece. Each
Hellenic city was declared free, and in each the existing institutions
were recognized, but no new despot was to be established, and each city
was forbidden to send armed vessels to the harbor of any other, or build
vessels, or engage seamen there. Such was the melancholy degradation of
the Grecian world. Its freedom was extinguished, and there was no hope of
escaping the despotism of Macedonia, but by invoking aid from the Persian
king. Had he been wise, he would have subsidized the Greeks with a part of
his vast treasures, and raised a force in Greece able to cope with
Alexander. But he was doomed, and the Macedonian king was left free to
complete the conquest of all the States. He first marched across Mount
Haemus, and subdued the Illyrians, Paeonians, and Thracians. He even crossed
the Danube, and defeated the Gaetae.

Just as he had completed the conquest of the barbarians north of
Macedonia, he heard that the Thebans had declared their independence,
being encouraged by his long absence in Thrace, and by reports of his
death. But he suddenly appeared with his victorious army, and as the
Thebans had no generals equal to Pelopidas and Epaminondas, they were
easily subdued. Thebes was taken by assault, and the population was
massacred--even women and children, whether in their houses or in temples.
Thirty thousand captives were reserved for sale. The city was razed to the
ground, and the Cadmea alone was preserved for a Macedonian garrison. The
Theban territory was partitioned among the reconstructed cities of
Orchomenus and Plataea. This severity was unparalleled in the history of
Greece, but the remorseless conqueror wished to strike with terror all
other cities, and prevent rebellion. He produced the effect he desired.
All the cities of Greece hastened to make peace with so terrible an enemy.
He threatened a like doom on Athens because she refused to surrender the
anti-Macedonian leaders, including Demosthenes, but was finally appeased
through the influence of Phocion, since he did not wish to drive Athens to
desperate courses, which might have impeded his contemplated conquest of
Persia, for the city was still strong in naval defenses, and might unite
with the Persian king. So Athens was spared, but the empire of Thebes was
utterly destroyed. He then repaired to Corinth to make arrangements for
his Persian campaign, and while in that city he visited the cynical
philosopher, Diogenes, who lived in a tub. It is said that when the
philosopher was asked by Alexander if he wished any thing, he replied:
"Nothing, except that you would stand a little out of my sunshine"--a reply
which extorted from the conqueror the remark: "If I were not Alexander, I
would be Diogenes."

It took Alexander a year and a few months to crush out what little
remained of Grecian freedom, subdue the Thracians, and collect forces for
his expedition into Persia. In the spring of 334 B.C., his army was
mustered between Pella and Amphipolis, while his fleet was at hand to
render assistance. In April he crossed the strait from Sestos to Abydos,
and never returned to his own capital--Pella--or to Europe. The remainder of
his life, eleven years and two months, was spent in Asia, in continued and
increasing conquests; and these were on such a gigantic scale that Greece
dwindled into insignificance.

When marshalled on the Asiatic shore, the army of Alexander
presented a total of thirty thousand infantry, and four thousand five
hundred cavalry--a small force, apparently, to overthrow the most venerable
and extensive empire in the world. But these troops were veterans, trained
by Philip, and commanded by able generals. Of these troops twelve thousand
were Macedonians, armed with the sarissa, a long pike, which made the
phalanx, sixteen deep, so formidable. The sarissa was twenty-one feet in
length, and so held by both hands as to project fifteen feet before the
body of the pikeman. The soldier of the phalanx was also provided with a
short sword, a circular shield, a breastplate, leggings, and broad-brimmed
hat. But, besides the phalanx of heavy armed men, there were hoplites
lightly armed, hypaspists for the assault of walled places, and troops
with javelins and with bows. The cavalry was admirable, distributed into
squadrons, among whom were the body-guards--all promoted out of royal pages
and the picked men of the army, sons of the chief people in Macedonia, and
these were heavily armed.

The generals who served under Alexander were all Macedonians, and
had been trained by Philip. Among these were Hephaestion, the intimate
personal friend of Alexander, Ptolemy, Perdiccas, Antipater, Clitus,
Parmenio, Philotas, Nicanor, Seleucus, Amyntas, Phillipes, Lysimachus,
Antigonas, most of whom reached great power. Parmenio and Antipater were
the highest in rank, the latter of whom was left as viceroy of Macedonia,
Eumenes was the private secretary of Alexander, the most long-headed man
in his army.

Alexander had landed, unopposed, against the advice of Memnon and
Mentor--two Rhodians, in the service of Darius, the king--descendants of one
of the brothers of Artaxerxes Mnemon--the children of King Ochus, after his
assassination, having all been murdered by the eunuch Bagoas. As the
Persians were superior by sea to the Macedonians, it was an imprudence to
allow Alexander to cross the Hellespont without opposition; but Memnon was
overruled by the Persian satraps, who supposed that they were more than a
match for Alexander on the land, and hoped to defeat him. Arsites, the
Phrygian satrap, commanded the Persian forces, assisted by other satraps,
and Persians of high rank, among whom were Spithridates, satrap of Lydia
and Ionia. The cavalry of the Persians greatly outnumbered that of the
Macedonians, but the infantry was inferior. Memnon advised the satraps to
avoid fighting on the land, and to employ the fleet for aggressive
movements in Macedonia and Greece, but Arsites rejected his advice. The
Persians took post on the river Granicus, near the town of Parium, on one
of the declivities of Mount Ida. Alexander at once resolved to force the
passage of the river, taking the command of the right wing, and giving the
left to Parmenio. The battle was fought by the cavalry, in which Alexander
showed great personal courage. At one time he was in imminent danger of
his life, from the cimeter of Spithridates, but Clitus saved him by
severing the uplifted arm of the satrap from his body with his sword. The
victory was complete, and great numbers of the satraps were slain. There
remained no force in Asia Minor to resist the conqueror, and the Asiatics
submitted in terror and alarm. Alexander then sent Parmenio to subdue
Dascyleum, the stronghold of the satrap of Phrygia, while he advanced to
Sardis, the capital of Lydia, and the main station of the Persians in Asia
Minor. The citadel was considered impregnable, yet such was the terror of
the Persians, that both city and citadel surrendered without a blow.
Phrygia and Lydia then fell into his hands, with immense treasure, of
which he stood in need. He then marched to Ephesus, and entered the city
without resistance, and thus was placed in communication with his fleet,
under the command of Nicanor. He found no opposition until he reached
Miletus, which was encouraged to resist him from the approach of the
Persian fleet, four hundred sail, chiefly of Phoenician and Cyprian ships,
which, a few weeks earlier, might have prevented his crossing into Asia.
But the Persian fleet did not arrive until the city was invested, and the
Macedonian fleet, of one hundred and sixty sail, had occupied the harbor.
Alexander declined to fight on the sea, but pressed the siege on the land,
so that the Persian fleet, unable to render assistance, withdrew to
Halicarnassus. The city fell, and Alexander took the resolution of
disbanding his own fleet altogether, and concentrating all his operations
on the land--doubtless a wise, but desperate measure. He supposed, and
rightly, that after he had taken the cities on the coast, the Persian
fleet would be useless, and the country would be insured to his army.

Alexander found some difficulty at the siege of Halicarnassus, from
the bravery of the garrison, commanded by Memnon, and the strength of the
defenses, aided by the Persian fleet. But his soldiers, "protected from
missiles by movable pent-houses, called tortoises, gradually filled up the
deep and wide ditch round the town, so as to open a level road for his
engines (rolling towers of wood) to come up close to the walls." Then the
battering-rams overthrew the towers of the city wall, and made a breach in
them, so that the city was taken by assault. Memnon, forced to abandon his
defenses, withdrew the garrison by sea, and Alexander entered the city.
The ensuing winter months were employed in the conquest of Lydia,
Pamphylia, and Pisidia, which was effected easily, since the terror of his
arms led to submission wherever he appeared. At Gordium, in Phrygia, he
performed the exploit familiarly known as the cutting of the Gordian knot,
which was a cord so twisted and entangled, that no one could untie it. The
oracle had pronounced that to the person who should untie it, the empire
of Persia was destined. Alexander, after many futile attempts to
disentangle the knot, in a fit of impatience, cut it with his sword, and
this was accepted as the solution of the problem.

Meanwhile Memnon, to whom Darius had intrusted the guardianship of
the whole coast of Asia Minor, with a large Phoenician fleet and a
considerable body of Grecian mercenaries, acquired the important island of
Chios, and a large part of Lesbos. But in the midst of his successes, he
died of sickness, and no one was left able to take his place. Had his
advice been taken, Alexander could not have landed in Asia. His death was
an irreparable loss to Persian cause, and with his death vanished all hope
of employing the Persian force with wisdom and effect. Darius now changed
his policy, and resolved to carry on offensive measures on the land. He
therefore summoned a vast army, from all parts of his empire, of five
hundred thousand infantry, and one hundred thousand cavalry. An eminent
Athenian, Charidemus, advised the Persian king to employ his great
treasure in subsidizing the Greeks, and not to dream, with his
undisciplined Asiatics, to oppose the Macedonians in battle. But the
advice was so unpalatable to the proud and self-reliant king, in the midst
of his vast forces, that he looked upon Charidemus as a traitor, and sent
him to execution.

It would not have been difficult for Darius to defend his kingdom,
had he properly guarded the mountain passes through which Alexander must
needs march to invade Persia. Here again Darius was infatuated, and he, in
his self-confidence, left the passes over Mount Taurus and Mount Amanus
undefended. Alexander, with re-enforcements from Macedonia, now marched
from Gordium through Paphlagonia and Cappadocia, whose inhabitants made
instant submission, and advanced to the Cilician Gates--an impregnable pass
in the Taurus range, which opened the way to Cilicia. It had been
traversed seventy years before by Cyrus the Younger, with the ten thousand
Greeks, and was the main road from Asia Minor into Cilicia and Syria. The
narrowest part of this defile allowed only four soldiers abreast, and here
Darius should have taken his stand, even as the Greeks took possession of
Thermopylae in the invasion of Xerxes. But the pass was utterly undefended,
and Alexander marched through unobstructed without the loss of a man. He
then found himself at Tarsus, where he made a long halt, from a dangerous
illness which he got by bathing in the river Cydnus. When he recovered, he
sent Parmenio to secure the pass over Mount Amanus, six days' march from
Tarsus, called the Cilician Gates. These were defended, but the guard fled
at the approach of the Macedonians, and this important defile was secured.
Alexander then marched through Issus to Myriandrus, to the south of the
Cilician Gates, which he had passed. The Persians now advanced from Sochi
and appeared in his rear at Issus--a vast host, in the midst of which was
Darius with his mother, his wife, his harem, and children, who accompanied
him to witness his anticipated triumph, for it seemed to him an easy
matter to overwhelm and crush the invaders, who numbered only about forty
thousand men. So impatient was Darius to attack Alexander that he
imprudently advanced into Cilicia by the northern pass, now called Beylan,
with all his army, so that in the narrow defiles of that country his
cavalry was nearly useless. He encamped near Issus, on the river Pinarus.
Alexander, learning that Darius was in his rear, retraced his steps,
passed north through the Gates of Cilicia, through which he had marched
two days before, and advanced to the river Pinarus, on the north bank of
which Darius was encamped. And here Darius resolved to fight. He threw
across the river thirty thousand cavalry and twenty thousand infantry, to
insure the undisturbed formation of his main force. His main line was
composed of ninety thousand hoplites, of which thirty thousand were Greek
in the centre. On the mountain to his left, he posted twenty thousand, to
act against the right wing of the Macedonian army. He then recalled the
thirty thousand cavalry and twenty thousand infantry, which he had sent
across the river, and awaited the onset of Alexander, Darius was in his
chariot, in the centre, behind the Grecian hoplites. But the ground was so
uneven, that only a part of his army could fight. A large proportion of it
were mere spectators.

Alexander advanced to the attack. The left-wing was commanded by
Parmenio, and the right by himself, on which were placed the Macedonian
cavalry. The divisions of the phalanx were in the centre, and the
Peloponnesian cavalry and Thracian light infantry on the left. The whole
front extended only one and a half mile. Crossing the river rapidly,
Alexander, at the head of his cavalry, light infantry, and some divisions
of the phalanx, fell suddenly upon the Asiatic hoplites which were
stationed on the Persian left. So impetuous and unexpected was the charge,
that the troops instantly fled, vigorously pressed by the Macedonian
right. Darius, from his chariot, saw the flight of his left wing, and,
seized with sudden panic, caused his chariot to be turned, and fled also
among the foremost fugitives. In his terror he cast away his bow, shield,
and regal mantle. He did not give a single order, nor did he remain a
moment after the defeat of his left, as he ought, for he was behind thirty
thousand Grecian hoplites, in the centre, but abandoned himself to
inglorious flight, and this was the signal for a general flight also of
all his troops, who turned and trampled each other down in their efforts
to get beyond the reach of the enemy.

Thus the battle was lost by the giving way of the Asiatic hoplites
on the left, and the flight of Darius in a few minutes after. The Persian
right showed some bravery, till Alexander, having completed the rout of
the left, turned to attack the Grecian mercenaries in the flank and rear,
when all fled in terror. The slaughter of the fugitives was prodigious.
The camp of Darius was taken, with his mother, wife, sister, and children.
One hundred thousand Persians were slain, not in fight, but in flight,
and among them were several eminent satraps and grandees. The Persian
hosts were completely dispersed, and Darius did not stop till he had
crossed the Euphrates. The booty acquired was immense, in gold, silver,
and captives.

Such was the decisive battle of Issus, where the cowardice and
incompetency of Darius were more marked than the generalship of Alexander
himself. No victory was ever followed by more important consequences. It
dispersed the Persian hosts, and opened Persia to a victorious enemy, and
gave an irresistible prestige to the conqueror. The fall of the empire was
rendered probable, and insured successive triumphs to Alexander.

But before he proceeded to the complete conquest of the Persian
empire, Alexander, like a prudent and far-reaching general, impetuous as
he was, concluded to subdue first all the provinces which lay on the
coast, and thus make the Persian fleet useless, and ultimately capture it,
and leave his rear without an enemy. Accordingly he sent Parmenio to
capture Damascus, where were collected immense treasures. It was
surrendered without resistance though it was capable of sustaining a
siege. There were captured vast treasures, with prodigious numbers of
Persians of high rank, and many illustrious Greek exiles. Master of
Damascus, Alexander, in the winter of B.C. 331, advanced upon Phoenicia,
the cities of which mostly sent letters of submission. While at Maranthus,
Darius wrote to Alexander, asking for the restitution of his wife, mother,
sister, and daughter, and tendering friendship, to which Alexander replied
in a haughty letter, demanding to be addressed, not as an equal, but as
lord of Asia.

The last hope of Darius was in the Phoenicians, who furnished him
ships; and one city remained firm in its allegiance--Tyre--the strongest and
most important place in Phoenicia. But even this city would have yielded on
fair and honorable conditions. This did not accord with Alexander's views,
who made exorbitant demands, which could not be accepted by the Tyrians
without hazarding their all. Accordingly they prepared for a siege,
trusting to the impregnable defenses of the city. It was situated on an
islet, half a mile from the main land, surrounded by lofty walls and
towers of immense strength and thickness. But nothing discouraged
Alexander, who loved to surmount difficulties. He constructed a mole from
the main land to the islet, two hundred feet wide, of stone and timber,
which was destroyed by a storm and by the efforts of the Tyrians. Nothing
daunted, he built another, still wider and stronger, and repaired to
Sidon, where he collected a great fleet, with which he invested the city
by sea, as well as land. The doom of the city was now sealed, and the
Tyrians could offer no more serious obstructions. The engines were then
rolled along the mole to the walls, and a breach was at last made, and the
city was taken by assault. The citizens then barricaded the streets, and
fought desperately until they were slain. The surviving soldiers were
hanged, and the women and children sold as slaves. Still the city resisted
for seven months, and its capture was really the greatest effort of genius
that Alexander had shown, and furnished an example to Richelieu in the
siege of La Rochelle.

On the fall of this ancient and wealthy capital, whose pride and
wealth are spoken of in the Scriptures, Alexander received a second letter
from Darius, offering ten thousand talents, his daughter in marriage, with
the cession of all the provinces of his empire west of the Euphrates, for
the surrender of his family. To which the haughty and insolent conqueror
replied: "I want neither your money nor your cession. All your money and
territory are mine already, and you are tendering me a part instead of the
whole. If I choose to marry your daughter I shall marry her, whether you
give her to me or not. Come hither to me, if you wish for friendship."

Darius now saw that he must risk another desperate battle, and
summoned all his hosts. Yet Alexander did not immediately march against
him, but undertook first the conquest of Egypt. Syria, Phoenicia, and
Palestine were now his, as well as Asia Minor. He had also defeated the
Persian fleet, and was master of all the islands of the AEgean. He stopped
on his way to Egypt to take Gaza, which held out against him, built on a
lofty artificial mound two hundred and fifty feet high, and encircled with
a lofty wall. The Macedonian engineers pronounced the place impregnable,
but the greater the difficulty the greater the eagerness of Alexander to
surmount it. He accordingly built a mound all around the city, as high as
that on which Gaza was built, and then rolled his engines to the wall,
effected a breach, and stormed the city, slew all the garrison, and sold
all the women and children for slaves. As for Batis, the defender of the
city, he was dragged by a chariot around the town, as Achilles, whom
Alexander imitated, had done to the dead body of Hector. The siege of
these two cities, Tyre and Gaza, occupied nine months, and was the hardest
fighting that Alexander ever encountered.

He entered and occupied Egypt without resistance, and resolved to
found a new city, near the mouth of the Nile, not as a future capital of
the commercial world, but as a depot for his ships. While he was preparing
for this great work, he visited the temple of Jupiter Ammon in the desert,
and was addressed by the priests as the Son of God, not as a mortal, which
flattery was agreeable to him, so that ever afterward he claimed divinity,
in the arrogance of his character, and the splendor of his successes, and
even slew the man who saved his life at the Granicus, because he denied
his divine claims--the most signal instance of self-exaggeration and pride
recorded in history, transcending both Nebuchadnezzar and Napoleon.

After arranging his affairs in Egypt, and obtaining re-enforcements
of Greeks and Thracians, he set out for the Euphrates, which he crossed at
Thapsacus, unobstructed--another error of the Persians. But Darius was
paralyzed by the greatness of his misfortunes, and by the capture of his
family, and could not act with energy or wisdom. He collected his vast
hosts on a plain near Arbela, east of the Tigris, and waited for the
approach of the enemy. He had one million of infantry, forty thousand
cavalry, and two hundred scythed chariots, besides a number of elephants.
He placed himself in the centre, with his choice troops, including the
horse and foot-guards, and mercenary Greeks. In the rear stood deep masses
of Babylonians, and on the left, and right, Bactrians, Cadusians, Medes,
Albanians, and troops from the remote provinces. In the front of Darius,
were the scythed chariots with advanced bodies of cavalry.

Alexander, as he approached, ranged his forces with great care and
skill, forty thousand foot and seven thousand horse. His main line was
composed, on the right, of choice cavalry; then, toward the left, of
hypaspists; then the phalanx, in six divisions, which formed the centre;
then Greek cavalry on the extreme left. Behind the main line was a body of
reserves, intended to guard against attack on the flanks and rear. In
front of the main line were advanced squadrons of cavalry and light
troops. The Thracian infantry guarded the baggage and camp. He himself
commanded the right, and Parmenio the left.

Darius, at the commencement of the attack, ordered his chariots to
charge, and the main line to follow, calculating on disorder. But the
horses of the chariots were terrified and wounded by the Grecian archers
and darters in front, and most turned round, or were stopped. Those that
pressed on were let through the Macedonian lines without mischief. As at
Issus, Alexander did not attack the centre, where Darius was surrounded
with the choicest troops of the army, but advanced impetuously upon the
left wing, turned it, and advanced by a flank movement toward the centre,
where Darius was posted. The Persian king, seeing the failure of the
chariots, and the advancing troops of Alexander, lost his self-possession,
turned his chariot, and fled, as at Issus. Such folly and cowardice led,
of course, to instant defeat and rout; and nothing was left for the
victor, but to pursue and destroy the disorderly fugitives, so that the
slaughter was immense. But while the left and centre of the Persians were
put to flight, the right fought vigorously, and might have changed the
fortune of the day, had not Alexander seasonably returned from the
pursuit, and attacked the left in the rear and flank. Then all was lost,
and headlong flight marked the Persian hosts. The battle was lost by the
cowardice of Darius, who insisted, with strange presumption, on commanding
in person. Half the troops, under an able general, would have overwhelmed
the Macedonian army, even with Alexander at the head. But the Persians had
no leader of courage and skill, and were a mere rabble. According to some
accounts, three hundred thousand Persians were slain, and not more than
one hundred Macedonians. There was no attempt on the part of Darius to
rally or collect a new army. His cause and throne were irretrievably lost,
and he was obliged to fly to his farthest provinces, pursued by the
conqueror. The battle of Arbela was the death-blow to the Persian empire.
We can not help feeling sentiments of indignation in view of such wretched
management on the part of the Persians, thus throwing away an empire. But,
on the other hand, we are also compelled to admit the extraordinary
generalship of Alexander, who brought into action every part of his army,
while at least three-quarters of the Persians were mere spectators, so
that his available force was really great. His sagacious combinations, his
perception of the weak points of his adversary, and the instant advantage
which he seized--his insight, rapidity of movement, and splendid
organization, made him irresistible against any Persian array of numbers,
without skill. Indeed, the Persian army was too large, since it could not
be commanded by one man with any effect, and all became confusion and ruin
on the first misfortune. The great generals of antiquity, Greek and Roman,
rarely commanded over fifty thousand men on the field of battle; and fifty
thousand, under Alexander's circumstances, were more effective, perhaps,
than two hundred thousand. In modern times, when battles are not decided
by personal bravery, but by the number and disposition of cannon, and the
excellence of firearms, an army of one hundred thousand can generally
overwhelm an army of fifty thousand, with the same destructive weapons.
But in ancient times, the impetuous charge of twenty thousand men on a
single point, followed by success, would produce a panic, and then a rout,
when even flight is obstructed by numbers. Thus Alexander succeeded both
at Issus and Arbela. He concentrated forces upon a weak point, which, when
carried, produced a panic, and especially sent dismay into the mind of
Darius, who had no nerve or self-control. Had he remained firm, and only
fought on the defensive, the Macedonians might not have prevailed. But he
fled; and confusion seized, of course, his hosts.

Both Babylon and Susa, the two great capitals of the empire,
immediately surrendered after the decisive battle of Arbela, and Alexander
became the great king and Darius a fugitive. The treasure found at Susa
was even greater than that which Babylon furnished--about fifty thousand
talents, or fifty million dollars, one-fifth of which, three years before,
would have been sufficient to subsidize Greece, and present a barrier to
the conquests of both Philip and Alexander.

The victor spent a month in Babylon, sacrificing to the Babylonian
deities, feasting his troops, and organizing his new empire. He then
marched into Persia proper, subdued the inhabitants, and entered
Persepolis. Though it was the strongest place in the empire, it made no
resistance. Here were hoarded the chief treasures of the Persian kings, no
less than one hundred and twenty thousand talents, or about one hundred
and twenty million dollars of our money--an immense sum in gold and silver
in that age, a tenth of which, judiciously spent, would have secured the
throne to Darius against any exterior enemy. He was now a fugitive in
Media, and thither Alexander went at once in pursuit, giving himself no
rest. He established himself at Ecbatana, the capital, without resistance,
and made preparations for the invasion of the eastern part of the Persian
empire, beyond the Parthian desert, even to the Oxus and the Indus,
inhabited by warlike barbarians, from which were chiefly recruited the
Persian armies.

It would be tedious to describe the successive conquests of
Sogdiana, Margiana, Bactriana, and even some territory beyond the Indus.
Alexander never met from these nations the resistance which Caesar found in
Gaul, nor were his battles in these eastern countries remarkable. He only
had to appear, and he was master. At last his troops were wearied of these
continual marchings and easy victories, when their real enemies were heat,
hunger, thirst, fatigue, and toil. They refused to follow their general
and king any further to the east, and he was obliged to return. Yet some
seven years were consumed in marches and conquests in these remote
countries, for he penetrated to Scythia at the north, and the mouth of the
Indus to the south.

It was in the expeditions among these barbarians that some of the
most disgraceful events of his life took place. He seldom rested, but when
he had leisure he indulged in great excesses at the festive board. His
revelries with his officers were prolonged often during the night, and
when intoxicated, he did things which gave him afterward the deepest
remorse and shame. Thus he killed, with his own hand, Clitus, at a feast,
because Clitus ventured to utter some truths which were in opposition to
his notions of omnipotence. But the agony of remorse was so great, that he
remained in bed three whole days and nights immediately after, refusing
all food and drink. He also killed Philotas, one of his most trusted
generals, and commander of his body-guard, on suspicion of treachery, and
then, without other cause than fear of the anger of his father, Parmenio,
he caused that old general to be assassinated at Ecbatana, in command of
the post--the most important in his dominions--where his treasures were
deposited. He savagely mutilated Bessus, the satrap, who stood out against
him in Bactria. Callisthenes, one of the greatest philosophers of the age,
was tortured and assassinated for alleged complexity in a conspiracy, but
he really incurred the hatred of the monarch for denying his claim to
divinity.

In the spring of B.C. 326, Alexander crossed the Indus, but met
with no resistance until he reached the river Hydaspes (Jhylum) on the
other side of which, Porus, an Indian prince, disputed his passage, with a
formidable force and many trained elephants--animals which the Macedonians
had never before encountered. By a series of masterly combinations
Alexander succeeded in crossing the river, and the combat commenced. But
the Indians could not long withstand the long pikes and close combats of
the Greeks, and were defeated with great loss. Porus himself, a prince of
gigantic stature, mounted on an elephant, was taken, after having fought
with great courage. Carried into the presence of the conqueror, Alexander
asked him what, he wished to be done for him, for his gallantry and
physical strength excited admiration. Porus replied that he wished to be
treated as a king, which answer still more excited the admiration of the
Greeks. He was accordingly treated with the utmost courtesy and
generosity, and retained as an ally. Alexander was capable of great
magnanimity, when he was not opposed. He was kind to the family of Darius,
both before and after his assassination by the satrap Bessus. And his
munificence to his soldiers was great, and he never lost their affections.
But he was cruel and sanguinary in his treatment of captives who had made
him trouble, putting thousands to the sword in cold blood.

As before mentioned, the soldiers were wearied with victories and
hardships, without enjoyments, and longed to return to Europe. Hence
Sangala, in India, was the easternmost point to which he penetrated. On
returning to the river Hydaspes, he constructed a fleet of two thousand
boats, in which a part of his army descended the river with himself, while
another part marched along its banks. He sailed slowly down the river to
its junction with the Indus, and then to the Indian ocean. This voyage
occupied nine months, but most of the time was employed in subduing the
various people who opposed his march. On reaching the ocean, he was
astonished and interested by the ebbing and flowing of the tide--a new
phenomenon to him. The fleet was conducted from the mouth of the Indus,
round by the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Tigris--a great nautical
achievement in those days; but he himself, with the army, marched westward
through deserts, undergoing great fatigues and sufferings, and with a
great loss of men, horses, and baggage. At Carmania he halted, and the
army for seven days was abandoned to drunken festivities.

On returning to Persepolis, in Persia, he visited and repaired the
tomb of Cyrus, the greatest conqueror the world had seen before himself.
In February, B.C. 324, he marched to Susa, where he spent several months
in festivities and in organizing his great government, since he no longer
had armies to oppose. He now surrounded himself with the pomp of the
Persian kings, wore their dress, and affected their habits, much to the
disgust of his Macedonian generals. He had married a beautiful
captive--Roxana, in Bactria, and he now took two additional wives, Statira,
daughter of Darius, and Parysatis, daughter of King Ochus. He also caused
his principal officers to marry the daughters of the old Persian grandees,
and seemed to forget the country from which he came, and which he was
destined never again to see. Here also he gave a donation to his soldiers
of twenty thousand talents--about five hundred dollars to each man. But
even this did not satisfy them, and when new re-enforcements arrived, the
old soldiers mutinied. He disbanded the whole of them in anger, and gave
them leave to return to their homes, but they were filled with shame and
regret, and a reconciliation took place.

It was while he made a visit to Ecbatana, in the summer of B.C.
324, that his favorite, Hephaestion, died. His sorrow and grief were
unbounded. He cast himself upon the ground, cut his hair close, and
refused food and drink for two days. This was the most violent grief he
ever manifested, and it was sincere. He refused to be comforted, yet
sought for a distraction from his grief in festivals and ostentation of
life.

In the spring of B.C. 323, he marched to Babylon, where were
assembled envoys from all the nations of the known world to congratulate
him for his prodigious and unprecedented successes, and invoke his
friendship, which fact indicates his wide-spread fame. At Babylon he laid
plans and made preparations for the circumnavigation and conquest of
Arabia, and to found a great maritime city in the interior of the Persian
Gulf. But before setting out, he resolved to celebrate the funeral
obsequies of Hephaestion with unprecedented splendor. The funeral pile was
two hundred feet high, loaded with costly decorations, in which all the
invention of artists was exhausted. It cost twelve thousand talents, or
twelve million dollars of our money. The funeral ceremonies were succeeded
by a general banquet, in which he shared, passing a whole night in
drinking with his friend Medius. This last feast was fatal. His heated
blood furnished fuel for the raging fever which seized him, and which
carried him off in a few days, at the age of thirty-two, and after a reign
of twelve years and eight months, June, B.C. 323.

He indicated no successor. Nor could one man have governed so vast
an empire with so little machinery of government. His achievements threw
into the shade those of all previous conquerors, and he was, most
emphatically, the Great King--the type of all worldly power. "He had
mastered, in defiance of fatigue, hardship, and combat, not merely all the
eastern half of the Persian empire, but unknown Indian regions beyond.
Besides Macedon, Greece, and Thrace, he possessed all the treasures and
forces which rendered the Persian king so formidable," and he was exalted
to all this power and grandeur by conquest at an age when a citizen of
Athens was intrusted with important commands, and ten years less than the
age for a Roman consul. But he was unsatisfied, and is said to have wept
that there were no more worlds to conquer. He would, had he lived,
doubtless have encountered the Romans, and all their foes, and added Italy
and Spain and Carthage to his empire. But there is a limit to human
successes, and when his work of chastisement of the nations was done, he
died. But he left a fame never since surpassed, and "he overawes the
imagination more than any personage of antiquity." He had transcendent
merits as a general, but he was much indebted to fortunate circumstances.
He thought of new conquests, rather than of consolidating what he had
made, so that his empire must naturally be divided and subdivided at his
death. Though divided and subdivided, the effect of those conquests
remained to future generations, and had no small effect on civilization,
and yet, instead of Hellenizing Asia, he rather Asiatized Hellas. That
process, so far as it was carried out, is due to his generals--the
Diadochi--Antigonas, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, &c., who divided
between them the empire. But Hellenism in reality never to a great extent
passed into Asia. The old Oriental habits and sentiments and intellectual
qualities remained, and have survived all succeeding conquests. Oriental
habits and opinions rather invaded the western world with the progress of
wealth and luxury. Asia, by the insidious influences of effeminated
habits, undermined Greece, and even Rome, rather than received from Europe
new impulses or sentiments, or institutions. A new and barbarous country
may prevail, by the aid of hardy warriors, adventurous and needy, over the
civilized nations which have been famous for a thousand years, but the
conquered country almost invariably has transmitted its habits and
institutions among the conquerors, so much more majestic are ideas than
any display of victorious brute forces. Dynasties are succeeded by
dynasties, but civilization survives, when any material exists on which it
can work.

Athens was never a greater power in the world than at the time her
political ruin was consummated. Hence the political changes of nations,
which form the bulk of all histories, are insignificant in comparison with
those ideas and institutions which gradually transform the habits and
opinions of ordinary life. Yet it is these silent and gradual changes
which escape the notice of historians, and are the most difficult to be
understood and explained, for lack of sufficient and definite knowledge.
Moreover, it is the feats of extraordinary individuals in stirring
enterprise and heroism which have thus far proved the great attraction of
past ages to ordinary minds. No history, truly philosophical, would be
extensively read by any people, in any age, and least of all by the young,
in the process of education.

The remaining history of Greece has little interest until the Roman
conquests, which will be presented in the next book.





Next: Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

Previous: Philip Of Macedon



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 3301