Arrian: Alexander the Great (c. 331-327 B.C.)

Alexander now sent for his infantry and cavalry commanders and all officers in charge of allied troops and appealed to them for confidence and courage. in the coming fight. 'Remember', he said, 'that already danger has often threatened you and you have looked it triumphantly in the face; this time the struggle will be between a victorious army and an enemy already once vanquished. God himself, moreover, by suggesting to Darius to leave the open ground and cram his great army into a confined space, has taken charge of operations in our behalf. We ourselves shall have room enough to deploy our infantry, while they, no match for us either in bodily strength or resolution, will find their superiority in numbers of no avail. Our enemies are Medes and Persians, men who for centuries have lived soft and luxurious lives; we of Macedon for generations past have been trained in the hard school of danger and war. Above all, we are free men, and they are slaves. There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service but how different is their cause from ours! They will be fighting for pay and not much of it at that; we, on the contrary, shall fight for Greece, and, our hearts will be in it. As for our foreign troops—Thracians, Paeonians, Illyrians, Agrianes—they are the best and stoutest soldiers in Europe, and they will find, as their opponents the slackest and softest of the tribes of Asia. And what, finally, of the two men in supreme command? You have Alexander, they—Darius!'

Having thus enumerated the advantages with which they would enter the coming struggle, Alexander went on to show that the rewards of victory would also be great. The victory this time would not be over mere underlings of the Persian King, or the Persian cavalry along the banks of Granicus, of the 20,000 foreign mercenaries; it would be over the fine flower of the Medes and Persians and all the Asiatic peoples which they ruled. The Great King was there in person with his army, and once the battle was over, nothing would remain but to crown their many labours with the sovereignty of Asia. He reminded them, further, of what they had already so brilliantly accomplished together, and mentioned any act of conspicuous individual courage, naming the man in each case and specifying what he had done, and alluding also, in such way as to give least offence, to the risks to which he had personally exposed himself on the field. He also, we are told, reminded them of Xenophon and his Ten Thousand, a force which, though not to be compared with their own either in strength or reputation—a force without the support of cavalry such as they had themselves, from Thessaly, Boeotia, the Peloponnese, Macedon, Thrace, and elsewhere, with no archers or slingers except a small contingent from Crete and Rhodes hastily improvised by Xenophon under pressure of immediate need—nevertheless defeated the King of Persia and his army at the gates of Babylon and successfully repelled all the native troops who tried to bar their way as they marched down to the Black Sea. Nor did Alexander omit any other words of encouragement such as brave, men about to risk their lives might expect from a brave commander; and in response to his address his officers pressed forward to clasp his hand and with many expressions of appreciation urged him to lead them to battle without delay.

Alexander's first order was that his men should eat, while at the same time he sent a small party of mounted men and archers to the narrow pass by the shore to reconnoitre the road, by which he would have to return; then, as soon as it was dark, he moved off himself with the whole army to take possession once more of that narrow gateway. About midnight the passage. was secured; for the remainder, of the night he allowed his men to rest where they were, on the rocky ground, with outposts to keep exact and careful watch, and: just before daylight next morning moved forward from the pass along the coast road. The advance was in column so long as lack of space made it necessary, but as soon as the country began to open up he gradually extended his front, bringing up his heavy infantry a battalion at a time, until he was moving in line with his right on the base of the hills and his left on the sea. . . .

After the burial of the dead with all customary ritual, Alexander sent his secretary, Eumenes with 300 mounted men to the two towns which had joined Sangala in refusing submission. His instructions were to report the capture of Sangala and to give the people an assurance that if they stayed where they were, and admitted Alexander as a friend within their gates; they would have nothing to complain of in their treatment—no more, indeed, than any of the other independent tribes which had voluntarily submitted to him. Both towns, however, had already had the news that Sangala had been taken by assault, and such was the consternation it caused that the people had fled. Alexander pursued them hotly as soon as he knew that they were on the move, but, as the report took some time to reach him, most of them had had time to get clear away. A certain number of sick, perhaps 500, had been abandoned by their comrades in their dash for safety and these were caught and killed. Alexander soon broke off the pursuit, returned to Sangala, and razed it to the ground. The land belonging to it he handed over to the Indian tribes who had given up their former independence and voluntarily attached themselves to his cause. Porus was then sent with his troops to the towns which had surrendered, with orders to garrison them, and Alexander himself marched for the river Hyphasis; bent upon still further conquest. So long as a single hostile element remained, there could, he felt, be no end to the war.

Reports had come in that the country beyond the Hyphasis was rich and productive; the people were good farmers and fine soldiers and lived under an orderly and efficient social system. The governments in that region were mostly aristocratic, but by no means oppressive The elephants there were more numerous than elsewhere in India, and conspicuous both for size and courage. Such stories could not but whet Alexander's appetite for yet another adventure; but his men felt differently. The sight of their King undertaking an endless succession of dangerous and exhausting enterprises was beginning to depress them. Their enthusiasm ebbing; they held meetings in camp, at which even the best of them grumbled at their fate, while others swore that they would go no further not even if Alexander himself led them. This state of affairs was brought to Alexander's notice, and before the alarm and despondency among the men could go still further, he, called a meeting of his officers and addressed them in the following words:

'I observe, gentlemen, that when I would lead you on a new venture you no longer follow me with your old spirit. I have asked you to meet me that we may come to a decision together: are we, upon my advice, to go forward, or, upon yours, to turn back?

'If you have any complaint to make about the results of your efforts hitherto, or about myself as your commander, there is no more to say. But let me remind you: through your courage and endurance you have gained possession of Ionia, the Hellespont, both Phrygias, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phoenicia, and Egypt; the Greek part of Libya is now yours, together with much of Arabia, lowland Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Susia; Persia and Media with all the territories either formerly controlled by them or not are in your hands; you have made yourselves masters of the lands beyond the Caspian Gates, beyond the Caucasus, beyond the Tanais, of Bactria, Hyrcania, and the Hyrcanian sea; we have driven the Scythians back into the desert; and Indus and Hydaspes, Acesines and Hydraotes flow now through country which is ours. With all that accomplished, why do you hesitate to extend the power of Macedon—your power—to the Hyphasis and the tribes on the other side? Are you afraid that a few natives who may still be left will offer opposition? Come, come! These natives either surrender without a blow or are caught on the run—or leave their country undefended for your taking and when we take it, we make a present of it to those who have joined us of their own free will and fight at our side.

'For a man who is a man, work, in my belief, if it is directed to noble ends, has no object beyond itself; nonetheless, if any of you wish to know what limit may be set to this particular campaign, let me tell you that the area of country still ahead of us, from here to the Ganges and the Eastern ocean, is comparatively small. You will undoubtedly find that this ocean is connected with the Hyrcanian Sea, for the great Stream of Ocean encircles the earth. Moreover I shall prove to you, my friends, that the Indian and Persian Gulfs and the Hyrcanian Sea are all three connected and continuous. Our ships will sail round from the Persian Gulf to Libya as far as the Pillars of Hercules, whence all Libya to the eastward will soon be ours, and all Asia too, and to this empire there will be no boundaries but what God Himself has made for the whole world.

'But if you turn back now, there will remain unconquered many warlike peoples between the Hyphasis and the Eastern Ocean and many more to the northward and the Hyrcanian Sea, with the Scythians, too, not far away; so that if we withdraw now there is a danger that the territory which we do not yet securely hold may be stirred to revolt by some nation or other we have not yet forced into submission. Should that happen, all that we have done and suffered will have proved fruitless—or we shall be faced, with the task of doing it over, again from the beginning Gentlemen of Macedon, and you, my friends and allies, this must not be. Stand firm; for well you know that hardship and danger are the price of glory, and that sweet is the savour of a life of courage and of deathless renown beyond the grave.

'Are you not aware that if Heracles, my ancestor, had gone no further than Tiryns or Argos—or even than the Peloponnese or Thebes—he could never have won the glory which changed him from a man into a god, actual or apparent? Even Dionysus, who is a god indeed, in a sense beyond what is applicable to Heracles, faced not a few laborious tasks; yet we have done more: we have passed beyond Nysa and we have taken the rock of Aornos which Heracles himself could not take. Come, then; add the rest of Asia to what you already possess—a small addition to the great sum of your conquests. What great or noble work could we ourselves have achieved had we thought it enough, living at ease in Macedon, merely to guard our homes, accepting no burden beyond checking the encroachment of the Thracians on our borders, or the Illyrians and Triballians, or perhaps such Greeks as might prove a menace to our comfort?

'I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward. But it is not so. You and I, gentlemen, have shared the labour and shared the danger, and the rewards are for us all. The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of your ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return.'

When Alexander ended, there was a long silence. The officers present were not willing to accept what he had said, yet no one liked to risk an unprepared reply. Several times Alexander invited comment, should any wish to give it and genuinely hold different views from those he had expressed; but in spite of his invitation nothing was said until at last Coenus, son of Polemocrates, plucked up his courage to speak.

'Sir,' he said, 'we appreciate the fact that you do not demand from us unreasoning obedience. You have made it clear to us that you will lead us on only after winning our consent, and, failing that, that you will not use compulsion. This being so, I do not propose to speak on behalf of the officers here assembled, as we, by virtue of our rank and authority, have already received the rewards of our services and are naturally concerned more than the men are to further your interests. I shall speak, therefore for the common soldiers, not, by any means, with the purpose of echoing their sentiments, but saying, what I believe will tend to your present advantage and our future security. My age, the repute which by your favour, I enjoy among my comrades, and the unhesitating courage have hitherto displayed in all dangers and difficulties give me the right to declare what I believe to be the soundest policy. Very well, then: precisely, in proportion to the number and magnitude of the achievements wrought by you, our leader, and by the men who marched from horn under your command, I judge it best to set some limit to further enterprise. You know the number of Greeks and Macedonians who started upon this campaign, and you can see how many of us are left today: the Thessalians you sent home from Bactra because you knew their hearts were no longer in their work—and it was wisely done; other Greeks have been settled in the new towns you have founded, where they remain not always willingly, others again, together with our own Macedonians, continue, to share with you the dangers and hardships of war, and of these some have been killed, some, disabled by wounds, have been left behind in various parts of Asia, and more still have died of sickness, so that only a few from that great army are left, a small remnant broken in health, their old vigour and determination gone. Every man of them longs to see his parents again, if they yet survive, or his wife, or his children; all are yearning for, the familiar earth of home, hoping, pardonably enough, to live, to revisit it, no longer in poverty and obscurity, but famous and enriched by the treasure you have enabled them to win. Do not try to lead men who are unwilling to follow you;.if their heart is not in it, you will never find the old spirit or the old courage. Consent rather yourself to return to your mother and your home. Once there, you may bring good government to Greece and enter your ancestral: house with all the glory of the many great victories won in this campaign, and then, should you so desire it, you may begin again and undertake a new expedition against these Indians of the East — or, if you prefer, to the Black Sea or to Carthage and the Libyan territories beyond. It is for you to decide. Other troops, Greek and Macedonian, will follow you — young, fresh troops to take the place of your war-weary veterans. Still ignorant of the horrors of war and full of hope for what the future may bring, these men will follow you with all the more eagerness in that they have seen your old campaigners come safely home again no longer poor and nameless but loaded with money and fame. Sir, if there is one thing above all others a successful man should know, it is when to stop. Assuredly for a commander like yourself, with an army like ours, there is nothing to fear from any enemy; but luck, remember, is an unpredictable thing, and against what it may bring no man has any defence.'

Coenus' words were greeted with applause. Some even wept, which was proof enough of their reluctance to prolong the campaign and of how happy they would be should the order be given to turn back. Alexander resented the freedom with which Coenus, had spoken and the poor spirit shown by the other officers, and dismissed the conference. . . .

Here in Susa, Alexander received the various officials in charge of affairs in the newly built towns and the governors of the territories he had previously overrun. They brought with them some 30,000 young fellows, all boys of the same age, all wearing the Macedonian battle-dress and trained on Macedonian lines. Alexander called them his Epigoni—'inheritors'—and it is said that their coming caused much bad feeling among the Macedonians, who felt it was an indication of his many efforts to lessen his dependence for the future upon his own countrymen. Already the sight of Alexander in Median clothes had caused them no little distress, and most of them had found the Persian marriage ceremonies by no means to their taste—even some of the actual participants had objected to the foreign form of the ceremony, in spite of the fact that they were highly honoured by being, for the occasion, on a footing of equality with the King. They resented too, the growing orientalism Of Peucestas, Governor of Persia, who, to Alexander's evident satisfaction, had adopted the Persian language and dress just as they resented the inclusion of foreign mounted troops in the regiments of the Companions. Bactrians, Sogdians, Arachotians; Zarangians, Arians, Parthians, and the so-called Euacae from Persia were all introduced into the crack Macedonian cavalry regiments, provided they had some outstanding personal recommendation, such as good looks, or whatever it might be. Besides this, a fifth mounted regiment was formed; it did not consist entirely of oriental troops, but the total cavalry strength was increased and a certain number of foreign troops were posted to it. Foreign officers were also posted to the special squadron—Cophen son of Artabazus, Hydarnes and Artiboles sons of Mazaeus, Sisines and Phradasmenes sons of Phrataphernes, the satrap of Parthia and Hyrcania, Histanes son of Oxyartes and brother of Alexander's wife Roxane, Autobares and his brother Mithrobaeus. The command over them was given to Hystaspes, a Bactrian, and the orientals were all equipped with the Macedonian spear in place of their native javelin. All this was a cause of deep resentment to the Macedonians, who could not but feel that Alexander's whole outlook was becoming tainted with orientalism, and that he no longer cared for his own people or his own native ways. . . .

At Opis he summoned an assembly of his Macedonian troops and announced the discharge from the army of al men unfit through age or disablement for further service; these he proposed to send home, and promised to give them on their departure enough to make their friends and relatives envy them and to fire their countrymen with eagerness to play a part in similar perilous adventures in the future. Doubtless he meant to gratify them by what he said. Unfortunately, however, the men already felt that he had come to undervalue their services and to think them quite useless as a fighting force; so, naturally enough, they resented his remarks as merely another instance of the many things which, throughout the campaign, he had done to hurt their feelings, such as his adoption of Persian dress, the issue of Macedonian equipment to the Oriental 'Epigoni', and the inclusion of foreign troops units of the Companions. The result was that they did not receive the speech in respectful silence, but unable to restrain themselves, called for the discharge of every man in the army, adding, in bitter jest, that on his next campaign he could take his father with him—meaning, presumably, the god Ammon.

Alexander was furious. He had grown by that time quicker to take offence, and the Oriental subservience to which he had become accustomed had greatly changed his old open-hearted manner towards his own countrymen. He leapt from the platform with the officers who attended him, and pointing with his finger to the ringleaders of the mutiny, ordered the guards to arrest them. There were thirteen of them, and they were all marched off to execution. A horrified silence ensued, and Alexander stepped once again on to the rostrum and addressed his troops in these words: 'My countrymen, you are sick for home—so be it! I shall make no attempt to check your longing to return. Go whither you will; I shall not hinder you. But, if go you must, there is one thing I would have you understand—what I have done for you, and in what coin you will have repaid me.

'First I will speak of my father Philip, as it is my duty to do. Philip found you a tribe of impoverished vagabonds, most of you dressed in skins, feeding a few sheep on the hills and fighting, feebly enough, to keep them from your neighbours—Thracians and Triballians and Illyrians. He gave you cloaks to wear instead of skins, he brought you down from the hills into the plains; he taught you to fight on equal terms with the enemy on your borders, till you knew that your safety lay not in your mountain strongholds, but in your own valour. He made you city-dwellers; he brought you law; he civilized you. He rescued you from subjection and slavery and made you masters of the wild tribes who harried and plundered you, he annexed the greater part of Thrace, and by seizing the best places on the coast opened your country to trade, and enabled you to work your mines without fear of attack. Thessaly, so long your bugbear and your dread, he subjected to your rule, and by humbling the Phocians he made the narrow and difficult path into Greece a broad and easy road. The men of Athens and Thebes, who for years had kept watching for their moment to strike us down, he brought so low—and by this time I myself was working at my father's side that they who once exacted from us either our money or our obedience, now, in their turn, looked to us as the means of their salvation. Passing into the Peloponnese, he settled everything there to his satisfaction, and when he was made supreme commander of all the rest of Greece for the war against Persia, he claimed the glory of it nor for himself alone, but for the Macedonian people.

These services which my father rendered you are, indeed, intrinsically great; yet they are small compared with my own. I inherited from him a handful of gold and silver cups, coin in the treasury worth less than sixty talents and over eight times that amount of debts incurred by him, yet to add to this burden I borrowed a further sum of eight hundred talents, and, marching out from a country too poor to maintain you decently, laid open for you at a blow, and in spite of Persia's naval supremacy, the gates of the Hellespont. My cavalry crushed the satraps of Darius, and I added all Ionia and Aeolia, the two Phrygias and Lydia to your empire. Miletus I reduced by siege; the other towns all yielded of their own free will—I took them and gave them you for your profit and enjoyment. The wealth of Egypt and Cyrene, which I shed no blood to win, now flows into your hands; Palestine and the plains of Syria and the Land between the Rivers are now your property; Babylon and Bactria and Susa are yours; you are masters of the gold of Lydia, the treasures of Persia, the wealth of India—yes, and of the sea beyond India, too. You are my captains, my generals, my governors of provinces.

'From all this which I have laboured to win for you, what is left for myself except the purple and this crown? I keep nothing for my own; no one can point to treasure of mine apart from all this which you yourselves either possess, or have in safe keeping for your future use. Indeed, what reason have I to keep anything, as I eat the same food and take the same sleep as you do? Ah, but there are epicures among you who, I fancy, eat more luxuriously than I; and this I know, that I wake earlier than you—and watch, that you may sleep.

'Perhaps you will say that, in my position as your commander, I had none of the labours and distress which you had to endure to win for me what I have won. But does any man among you honestly feel that he has suffered more for me than I have suffered for him? Come now, if you are wounded, strip and show your wounds, and I will show mine. There is no part of my body but my back which has not a scar; not a weapon a man may grasp or fling the mark of which I do not carry upon me. I have sword-cuts from close fight; arrows have pierced me, missiles from catapults bruised my flesh; again and again I have been struck by stones or clubs—and all for your sakes: for your glory and your gain. Over every land and sea, across river, mountain, and plain I led you to the world's end, a victorious army. I married as you married, and many of you will have children related by blood to my own. Some of you have owed money—I have paid your debts, never troubling to inquire how they were incurred, and in spite of the fact that you earn good pay and grow rich from the sack of cities. To most of you I have given a circlet of gold as a memorial for ever and ever of your courage and of my regard. And what of those who have died in battle? Their death was noble, their burial illustrious; almost all are commemorated at home by statues of bronze; their parents are held in honour, with all dues of money or services remitted, for under my leadership not a man among you has ever fallen with his back to the enemy.

'And no, it was in my mind to dismiss any man no longer fit for active service—all such should return home to be envied and admired. But you all wish to leave me. Go then! And when you reach home, tell them that Alexander your King, who vanquished Persians and Medes and Bactrians and Sacae, who crushed the Uxii, the Arachotians, and the Drangae, and added to his empire Pathia, the Chorasmian waste, and Hyrcania to the Caspian Sea; who crossed the Caucasus beyond the Caspian Gates, and Oxus and Tanais and the Indus, which none but Dionysus had crossed before him, and Hydaspes and Acesines and Hydraotes—yes, and Hyphasis too, had you not feared to follow; who by both mouths of the Indus burst into the Great Sea beyond, and traversed the desert of Gedrosia, untrodden before by any army; who made Carmania his own, as his troops swept by, and the country of the Oreitans; who was brought back by you to Susa, when his ships had sailed the ocean from India to Persia—tell them, I say, that you deserted him and left him to the mercy of barbarian men, whom you yourselves had conquered. Such news will indeed assure you praise upon earth and reward in heaven. Out of my sight!'

As he ended, Alexander sprang from the rostrum and hurried into the palace. All that day he neither ate nor washed nor permitted any of his friends to see him. On the following day too he remained closely confined. On the third day he sent for the Persian officers who were in the highest favor and divided them among the command of the various units of the army. Only those whom he designated his kinsmen were now permitted to give him the customary kiss.

On the Macedonians the immediate effect of Alexander's speech was profound. They stood in silence in front of the rostrum. Nobody made a move to follow the King except his closest attendants and the members of his personal guard; the rest, helpless to speak or act, yet unwilling to go away, remained rooted to the spot. But when they were told about the Persians and the Medes—how command was being given to Persian officers, foreign troops drafted into Macedonian units, a Persian Corps of Guards called by a Macedonian name, Persian infantry units given the coveted title of Companions, Persian Silver Shields and Persian mounted Companions, including even a new Royal Squadron, in process of formation—they could contain themselves no longer. Every man of them hurried to the palace; in sign of supplication they flung their arms on the ground before the doors and stood there calling and begging for admission. They offered to give up the ringleaders of the mutiny and those who had led the cry against the King and swore they would not stir from the spot day or night Alexander took pity on them.

Alexander, the moment he heard of this change of heart, hastened out to meet them, and he was so touched by their grovelling [sic] repentance and their bitter lamentations that the tears came into his eyes. While they continued to beg for his pity, he stepped forward as if to speak, but was anticipated by one Callines, an officer of the Companions, distinguished both by age and rank. 'My lord,' he cried, 'what hurts us is that you have made Persians your kinsmen—Persians are called "Alexander's kinsmen"—Persians kiss you. But no Macedonian has yet had a taste of this honour.'

'Every man of you,' Alexander replied, 'I regard as my kinsman, and from now on that is what I shall call you.'

Thereupon, Callines came up to him and kissed him, and all the others who wished to do so kissed him too. Then they picked up their weapons and returned to their quarters singing the song of victory at the top of their voices.

To mark the restoration of harmony, Alexander offered sacrifice to the gods he was accustomed to honour, and gave a public banquet which he himself attended, sitting among the Macedonians, all of whom were present. Next to them the Persians had their places, and next to the Persians distinguished foreigners of other nations; Alexander and his friends dipped their wine from the same bowl and poured the same libations, following the lead of the Greek seers and the Magi. The chief object of his prayers was that Persians and Macedonians might rule together in harmony as an imperial power. It is said that 9,000 people attended the banquet; they unanimously drank the same toast, and followed it by the paean of victory.

After this all Macedonians—about 10,000 all told—who were too old for service or in any way unfit, got their discharge at their own request. They were given their pay not only up to date, but also for the time they would take on the homeward journey. In addition to their pay they each received a gratuity of one talent. Some of the men had children by Asian women, and it was Alexander's orders that these should be left behind to avoid the trouble among their families at home, which might be caused by the introduction of half-caste children; he promised to have them brought up on Macedonian lines, with particular attention to their military training, and added that when they grew up he would himself bring them back to Macedonia and hand them over to their fathers. It was a somewhat vague and unsatisfactory promise; he did, however, give the clearest proof of how warmly he felt for them, and of how much he would miss them when they had gone, by his decision to entrust them on their journey to the leadership and protection of Craterus, the most loyal of his officers and a man he loved as dearly as his own life. . . .

Alexander died in the 114th Olympiad, in the archonship of Hegesias at Athens. He lived, as Aristobulus tells us, thirty-two years and eight months, and reigned twelve years and eight months. He had great personal beauty, invincible power of endurance, and a keen intellect; he was brave and adventurous, strict in the observance of his religious duties, and hungry for fame. Most temperate in the pleasures of the body, his passion was for glory only, and in that he was insatiable. He had an uncanny instinct for the right course in a difficult and complex situation, and was most happy in his deductions from observed facts. In arming and equipping troops and in his military dispositions he was always masterly. Noble indeed was his power of inspiring his men, of filling them with confidence, and, in the moment of danger, of sweeping away their fear by the spectacle of his own fearlessness. When risks had to be taken, he took them with the utmost boldness, and his ability to seize the moment for a swift blow, before his enemy had any suspicion of what was coming, was beyond praise. No cheat or liar ever caught him off his guard, and both his word and his bond were inviolable. Spending but little on his own pleasures, he poured out his money without stint for the benefit of his friends.

Doubtless, in the passion of the moment Alexander sometimes erred; it is true he took some steps towards the pomp and arrogance of the Asiatic kings: but I, at least, cannot feel that such errors were very heinous, if the circumstances are taken fairly into consideration. For, after all, he was young; the chain of his successes was unbroken, and, like all kings, past, present, and to come, he was surrounded by courtiers who spoke to please, regardless of what evil their words might do. On the other hand, I do indeed know that Alexander, of all the monarchs of old, was the only one who had the nobility of heart to be sorry for his mistakes. Most people, if they know they have done wrong, foolishly suppose they can conceal their error by defending it, and finding a justification for it; but in my belief there is only one medicine for an evil deed, and that is for the guilty man to admit his guilt and show that he is sorry for it. Such an admission will make the consequences easier for the victim to bear, and the guilty man himself, by plainly showing his distress at former transgressions, will find good grounds of hope for avoiding similar transgressions in the future.

Nor do I think that Alexander's claim to a divine origin was a very serious fault—in any case, it may well have been a mere device to magnify his consequence in the eyes of his subjects. In point of fact I account him as great a king as Minos or Aeacus or Rhadamanthus, whose claims to be the sons of Zeus were not felt by the men of old to be in any way dangerously arrogant; and the same may be said of Theseus' claim to be the son of Poseidon and Ion's to be son of Apollo. Surely, too, his adoption of Persian dress was, like his claim to divine birth, a matter of policy: by it he hoped to bring the Eastern nations to feel that they had a king who was not wholly a foreigner, and to indicate to his own countrymen his desire to move away from the harsh traditional arrogance of Macedonia. That was also, no doubt, the reason why he included a proportion of Persian troops (the so-called Golden Apples, for instance) in Macedonian units, and made Persian noblemen officers in his crack native regiments. As for his reputed heavy drinking, Aristobulus declares that his drinking bouts were prolonged not for their own sake—for he was never, in fact, a heavy drinker—but simply because he enjoyed the companionship of his friends.

Anyone who belittles Alexander has no right to do so on the evidence only of what merits censure in him; he must base his criticism on a comprehensive view of his whole life and career. But let such a person, if blackguard Alexander he must, first compare himself with the object of his abuse: himself, so mean and obscure, and, confronting him, the great King with his unparalleled worldly success, the undisputed monarch of two continents, who spread the power of his name over all the earth. Will he dare to abuse him then, when he knows his own littleness and the triviality of his own pursuits, which, even so, prove too much for his ability?

(Arrian "The Campaigns of Alexander", translated by Aubrey de Selincourt & revised by J. R. Hamilton; (Hammondsworth, England: Penguin 1981): pp. 112-114; 290-297; 356-357; 359-367; 395-398.)