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


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


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


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.

The Wars With Jugurtha And The Cimbri Asia Minor And Phoenicia facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail