“The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Alexander” by Plutarch (75 AD)

“The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Alexander” by Plutarch

Yo, bros! Let's go conquer half the known world.
Yo, bros! Let’s go conquer half the known world.

“The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Alexander” by Plutarch (Notes)

  1. The book “The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans” is not so much a history book but a series of biographies about great men. Often the character of the man is greater than his actions but not completely independent.
  2. Alexander was a descendant of Heracles on his father’s side and Aeacus on his mother’s side. His father, Philip, was being immersed in the cult of Samothrace at the same time as Olympias (Alexander’s mother) was. She was under the care of her brother, Arymbas, and he allowed them to marry. On the eve of the wedding, Olympias had a dream that lightning struck her womb and a fire broke out. Philip also had a dream, where he put a seal on Olympia’s womb in the form of a lion. Seers thought this meant that Philip needed to keep a close eye on Olympia. Another said that the lion was the child. Philip began to be afraid of Olympias because of visions of snakes and spells on him by her. Many of the women of the area were into the Orphic rites and big booze-ups of Dionysus, so much so that the word “threskeuein” (Thracian woman) mean extravagant and superstitious. Olympias was way more into the life of these women than the average girl and that made her scary to most others.
  3. After Philip’s vision, Philip sent Chaeron of Megalopolis to Delphi to as the Oracle. There Chaeron was asked to make a sacrifice to Ammon, who would become the favorite god of Philip and his son. The Oracle said that Philip would lose an eye if he spied on his wife in the presence of Ammon. Later, Olympia told Alexander the story of his birth and his special place with the gods. Alexander was born in the month of Hecatombaeon (June-July). Apparently, the gods were so busy making sure his birth went well, that the temple of Artemis burned to the ground. Magi went around predicting the fall of Asia on the day his birth. Philip was at war at the time and he received three messages that day: 1 – Parmenio, his general, conquered the Illyrians, 2 – His horse won a race at the Olympic games, 3 – His son, Alexander was born. He began to believe that great things came in threes.
  4. Apparently, Lysippus made the best statues of Alexander. (Was he born without a nose?)).  Apelles did some good paintings. He overheated a lot and had to drink whenever he was out in really hot places – heat also made him cranky (I don’t know why this is in a history book). When he was young he was impetuous and a bit violent but never sought out physical pleasures. Moderation was his main indulgence and it allowed him to be patient, yet not be deprived. Alexander never really was into athletics, although he was a patron of the arts in his reign.
  5. He entertained Persian envoys while his father was away. He was very engaging with them, learning about Persia, the king and Persians. Everyone was extremely impressed with him. Alexander was never into wealth or pleasure but excellence and good reputation. He wanted everything he could get for himself through his own skill and nothing being given to him. He had many carers and teachers throughout his childhood, in particular Leonidas, his mother’s relative. He was seen as his foster-father and teacher, although he had a formal teacher Lysimachus.
  6. A horse trader, Philoneicus, brought Bucephalas (a horse) to Philip to sell him for 13 talents (a good amount of money, but probably not for a king) and have him ride him. The horse was pretty rowdy and indomitable. Nobody could really get a hold of him. Philip was kind of pissed off that the horse was just not able to be ridden. Alexander said he wanted to have a go on him. He turned the horse toward the sun and suddenly the horse became frightened of his own shadow. Alexander took the opportunity to calm the horse down and instantly the horse would obey Alexander’s every command.
  7. Philip began to notice that Alexander wasn’t like most other boys. He wasn’t compulsive or lazy. He could always be reasoned with to do his duty. He thought that perhaps putting his education in the hands of poets wasn’t the best plan. So, he found the best philosopher that money could buy, Aristotle, to teach him all he needed to know about being a wise, just, rational man. He sent him to Aristotle in Stageira, Aristotle’s home town and a town that Philip had destroyed in battle. With Aristotle, Alexander learned politics and ethics, as well as “secret” teachings. Alexander was later happy to know that Aristotle published his “secret” writings so that everyone, not just those rich enough to pay to hear them spoken, could learn. Actually, they weren’t published with the intention to teach unlearned men, but to help those who had heard them orally to remember.
  8. Alexander took to the practice of medicine. He not only liked theory but also actually helping friends when they were sick and prescribing them treatments. He read a lot! He kept a copy of the Iliad around him wherever he went. He even kept a copy under his pillow with a dagger. If he found himself in a place without any books, he’d have his servants go to great lengths to find some for him to read. His affection for Aristotle began to fade later because he became enamored with many other writers. However, his love for philosophy never died.
  9. When Philip was in Byzantium, Alexander was left as regent at the age of 16. He was able to put down rebellions and drive off Barbarian invasions. He was present at the battle of Chaeroneia against the Greeks and proved himself to be a great warrior. His military success made him even greater in his father’s eyes. There were problems in the royal family because of his relations with other wives. This caused a lot of bad vibes in the family. Philip’s other wife’s uncle insinuated that Alexander was a bastard child and this cause a big drunken fight that nearly killed Alexander. After this big fight, he left Philip’s court and put her in Epirus and he went to Illyria. Demaratus, a Corinthian friend, came to visit Philip. Philip how the Greeks were getting on. “Are the fighting as usual?” Demaratus said that that was a bit rich from a guy who can’t even live under the same roof as his wife and son. After this, Philip called for Alexander to come back home.
  10. Pixodarus, ruler of Caria (part of Persia), asked to align himself with Philip by giving his daughter in marriage to Arrhidaeus, Philip’s son. Olympias sent an actor on a mission to make it understood that Arrhidaeus was Philip’s illegitimate son and that it would be a better idea to set up the marriage with Alexander. Pixodarus liked this idea better. But Philip cornered Alexander about this whole plot. He also mentioned that he was destined for something greater than the marriage to the daughter of the ruler of some small obscure province. The actor was sent to the Corinthians in chains. Pausanias, a pretender to the throne, was so incensed by Philip’s other marriage to Attalus’s niece, Cleopatra (not the super duper famous one) that he killed Philip. Alexander made sure that those who plotted against Philip were punished.
  11. After Philip’s death, Alexander became king at the age of 20. Barbarians were upset at their servitude to the Macedonians. The Greeks had been conquered but not yet subdued. His advisers suggested that he give up the Greek states to avoid overextending himself, but Alexander was convinced that boldness and strength were the ways to win out. He went as far as the Danube river to put an end to the Barbarian troubles. He then went down to Thermopylae, Thebes and Athens to put down other Greek revolts. He got to Thebes and demanded that Phoenix and Prothytes be surrendered to them and all would be forgiven. The Thebans got ballsy with him and demanded prisoners among his troops, later calling for all Greeks to rise up against Macedonia. That was enough negotiation for Alexander. He expected the Thebans to be cowards but as they didn’t end up crumbling in front of him, he made deals with Phocians and Plataeans, who sided with him instead of Thebes. The fighting was short. He was kind to those in the region who didn’t want to fight him and punished the rest.
  12. During his campaign in Thebes, Thracians broke into a woman’s, Timocleia, house and raped her. They also demanded her gold. She took the leader of the group into the garden where she said her gold was. As his back was turned, she pushed him into the well and threw rocks on him, killing him. The Thracians bound her and took her to Alexander. He questioned her on who she was, she answered was the sister of Theagenes who had fought Philip at Chaeroneia. He was so impressed with her that he let her go.
  13. After the Athenians had heard what Alexander had done to Thebes, they reconciled with him. However, they did harbor many Theban refugees. Alexander, once the conquest was finished, he held no grudges against the city and tried to bring them back into the fold.
  14. A Greek general assembly met at the Greek Isthmus which elected Alexander as their leader and agreed to make war with the Persians. Many philosophers came to offer their congratulations to him. The one he was most interested in meeting was Diogenes of Sinope. He was hanging around in Craneion and Alexander went to see him, lying in the sun. Diogenes watched someone approach him. Alexander, the newly appointed king, asked him if he wanted anything. Diogenes replied – Yes. Get out of my sun. Alexander was really charmed by this that he was heard saying that if he weren’t Alexander, he’d like to be Diogenes. He then went to Delphi to get some advice from the Oracle there about his up-coming trip to Asia to conquer it. He showed up on one of the days that the Oracle was not allowed to give any proclamations. The Oracle refused. Alexander dragged her in front of the temple to for her to receive something from the god and she managed to get out something before they got there: There is nothing to say to you because you are invincible. Alexander was happy with this and left. Many people have said that Alexander received many visions from heaven, including an image of Orpheus (famous singer/songwriter long dead at that time) at Leibethra. It was seen as bad sign by some and a good sign by others.
  15. The estimates ranged from 30000 on foot and 4000 on horse to 43000 on foot and 5000 on horse. They were said to have no more than 70 talents of provisions (1 talent = 26 kg, 57 lbs… x 70 = 1820 kg, 3990 lbs) – not a lot for an army that size. Some say that was only enough to last for 30 days. He really stretched his finances out in his expeditions. He denied a lot of material possessions to avoid a lot of his soldiers going without. He went to Ilium to sacrifice to Athena and pay tribute to the heroes (from the Iliad). He put oil on Achilles’s grave and ran a naked race by it (as you do) and put garlands on it. He was asked if he wanted to see the Paris’s lyre. He did not really, but only to play a tribute song to Achilles.
  16. Meanwhile, Darius (big cheese of Persia) was preparing a large force to cross the Granicus river (Western Turkey today). The Macedonian officers were a bit afraid of the depth and roughness of the banks that they’d probably end up fighting on. Some were worried about the time of year they were doing it (it was a month that Macedonians never were at war) so Alexander just renamed the month to get around that. Some said the time of year wasn’t right, that the Hellespont would blush with shame. Alexander said “balls to that” and went across it with 13 troops of horsemen. It seemed like a crazy idea seeing as the other side was covered in footmen and horsemen. They got across with little trouble and began to fight. His troops began to follow. A lot of the enemy soldiers went after him in particular because he was so conspicuous in his armor. The armor was solid. Some good javelin throws got at him but did him no harm. He fought well with his spear and sword. He took a battle axe to head but the helmet took care of him. His buddy, Cleitus took care of his assailants.The Phalanx troops crossed the river and had at it with Persian troops. It didn’t take too long before the Persian troops ran off. He found some Greek mercenaries among the Persian troops. They asked for mercy. But Alexander ran at them in a rage and attacked them. He lost of his horse (not Bucephalus). All told, Persian losses were 20000 foot soldiers and 2500 horsemen. Apparently (meaning: bullshit), Alexander only lost 34 men – only 9 foot soldiers. He had had the inscriptions on 300 Athenian shield of “Alexander the son of Philip and all the Greeks except the Lacedaemonians from the Barbarians who dwell in Asia.” He left almost all of the Persians’ things alone, except some that he sent to his mommy.
  17. The result of this battle caused Sardis to surrender to him. Only some smaller cities put up a fight but it didn’t take too long to take care of them. It was at this point where he hesitated in his plan. He wanted to take on Darius as soon as possible but wondered if he should drum up some resources to take with him on his campaign. In the city of Xanthia, a spring swelled up over its banks and washed up a copper plate that predicted the downfall of Persia at the hand of the Greeks. He spread his army out over the the southern coast of Lydia (now Turkey), doing a good job of reducing Persia’s maritime presence in the Mediterranean. In Phaselis, he noticed a statue of the famous (at least back then) Theodectas and adorned it with garlands – a nod to his philosophical bent.
  18. He went on a tour of Lydia conquering Pisidia, Phrygia and Gordium. There was the home of old Midas. There he saw the wagon of Gordias tied to a tree. He was told a story by the Barbarians that the man who could loosen the knot of the rope tying the wagon to the tree would become king of the whole world. So many people had tried and failed. Alexander stopped to think about it. Instead of untying the knot, he took his sword and cut the rope. Another fellow says that he just untied it by removing a part of the wagon. From there he knocked off Paphlagonia and Cappadocia. Then he heard of Darius’s formidable Greek mercenary commanders, Memnon, he became much more at ease about his further trek into the interior of Asia Minor. Darius was coming down from Susa with a large number of troops (600000 men) and the memory of a dream he had of a Macedonian phalanx on fire and Alexander waiting for him wearing what he wore when he was a courier to them, entering into the Temple of Belus and disappearing. Darius saw that vision as a sign that he would tame Alexander to make him his servant.
  19. Darius was also high on Alexander’s absence which he attributed to cowardice. Alexander was delayed due to illness from all the running around in Cilicia. The only one willing to give him any sort of care was Philip the Acarnanian who prepared him a special drink to help. Alexander received a letter to beware of Philip because he had been given gifts by Darius to kill him. He confronted Philip about this by showing him the letter as he took a swig of the drink. Alexander showed his faith in Philip and Philip was really upset at the accusation against him. The medicine worked and Alexander was in good health quickly.
  20. One of Darius’s army was a Greek, Amyntas, who knew Alexander fairly well. Darius was eager to attack Alexander through mountain passes and Amyntas begged him not to. It would be better to attack him on the plains were the superior Persian numbers could be the most effective. Darius was afraid that the enemy would run away before he could get to them. Amyntas assured him that Alexander is not only not running away but marching straight for him. Darius wouldn’t wait and they ran into each other in the mountain passes in Syria. The mountain passes were ideal for Alexanders inferior numbers and he was able to defeat them. Alexander was wounded in the thigh. Some said that it was Darius himself he gave him that would. Nothing came from it anyway. Alexander’s army was about to kill 110,000+ Persians but Darius got away. The Macedonians ran riot in the Persian camps running off with all sorts of goodies. The troops left Darius’s tent for Alexander. It was full of every luxury and adornment one could possibly imagine.
  21. He became aware that Darius’s mother, wife and two unmarried daughters were among the prisoners. They were mourning because they believed that he was dead. Alexander assured them that he was not dead and they had nothing to fear. It wasn’t anything personal, just a war of supremacy. He was not going to treat them as anything other than what their positions were under Darius’s rule. In fact, he probably treated them better than Darius did. They kept away from any desirous men in the camps. The only woman Alexander had eyes for was Barsiné, Memnon’s widow.
  22. One of his commanders, Philoxenus asked him if he was interested in buying two good looking boys. This really pissed off Alexander. He also gave it to Hagnon for trying to buy him Crobylus as a present. He heard that two soldiers under the command of Parmenio had raped mercenaries’ wives and ordered that they should be tried and, if convicted, put to death. He once said that sleep and sex made him the most conscious that he was a mortal that pleasure and weariness were natural weaknesses. He had good control over his appetites. Ada of Caria would make him cakes and meats and various goodies and he would have none of them. Apparently he had better cooks and would only eat specially prepared meals, usually lighter meals.
  23. He wasn’t that much of a drinker either. He would nurse his cup of wine and talk a lot more than he drank. He stressed that he wasn’t going to be heavily into drink, sleep, sport, love or spectacles. In the morning, he made sacrifices to the gods and had a bit of breakfast. Then he’d either go hunting, administer justice, deal with his military affairs or read. If they were on the march, he’d practice archery or try to mount and dismount a moving chariot. His hunt was either foxes or birds. At night, he’d take a bath and ask for a dinner to be made for him. He’d eat after dark, reclining on a couch and pick at his food. Every now and then, he’d start boasting – like soldiers do – which put a lot of friends at ease. They were both afraid to flatter him and afraid not to. If any special meals were prepared, he would share with friends and not keep anything for himself.
  24. After the battle of Issus, he sent soldiers down to Damascus to get all the money and goodies of the Persians, along with their wives and children. The Thessalian horsemen were known to be very good in battle and Alexandria allowed them spoils of war. The Macedonians got a taste for gold, silver and women. Part of their desire to pursue the Persians was all the valuables to come. Alexander was intent on taking all of the seacoasts. The kings of Cyprus willing gave him the title of king, as did Phoenicia. But he had to lay siege to Tyre for 7 months. During the siege he had another one of his dreams. He saw Heracles stretching his hand out toward him through a wall, calling him. The Tyrians believed that Apollo was favoring Alexander and that he was displeased with them. Many became pissed off that Apollo abandoned them in favor of Alexander. He had another dream where he saw a satyr mocking him from afar. He tried to capture him but wasn’t able. He tried and tried and tried until he was finally able to get him. Many Tyrians took this as a sign that he was going to conquer them because “satyros” meant Tyre will be yours. During the siege, he went down to Mount Antilibanus on a campaign against some Arabians. During this trip, he saved the life of his tutor, Lysimachus. As they approached the mountains, they got off their horses and went on foot. They were making good progress but Lysimachus, an old man, was straggling behind. He refused to abandon him, even carried him part of the way. They got separated from their group and had to spend the night in a dark, cold place without much to eat. He saw scattered fires in the distance burning with the enemy nearby. He ran over to the nearest camp and killed two of them, grabbed a fire-brand and went over to his own camp to light a fire.
  25. Alexander sent a small amount of troops to attack the walls on a regular basis so that the enemy would have no chance to rest. Aristander, Alexander’s seer, gave a prophesy that the city would be taken by the end of the month. The enemy laughed because it was the last day of the month. Alexander didn’t want it to be untrue, so he changed the date from the 30th to the 28th and then stormed the city harder than ever before. The city fell later that day. He then laid siege to Gaza. A bird dropped a large piece of earth (I read this as strategic shit bombing, but who am I to contradict Plutarch?) on Alexander’s shoulder. The bird then landed on one of their battering ram engines in its sinews and was caught. This was part of Aristander’s predictions that while Alexander would get hurt, they would take the city. He sent a lot of goodies back home to his mother and Philip’s other wives. He sent Leonidas 500 talents (13000 kg / 28500 lbs) of frankincense and 100 (2600 kg / 5700 lbs) of myrrh (better than Jesus ever got) because Leonidas had always warned not to use some much incense in his sacrifices unless he conquered all the lands of spices and incenses.
  26. Some of his men found an expensive looking coffer of Darius. He asked his men what the best thing he could put in it was. Opinions went around and around but in the end, Alexander put the Iliad in it for safe keeping. His victories around the region made him very popular – so much so that a colony in Egypt was founded in his honor, Alexandria. He then had a dream of a man with grey locks recite him a poem of an island of Pharos. Then he went off to the island of Pharos and along with him he brought an architect to make a plan of a city there. They designed it in barley on a surface. Then birds came down and ate the barley and Alexander saw this as a bad sign. He got over that and ordered the city’s construction to be continued while he went off to the temple of Ammon (his buddy god). The trip down wasn’t easy. There was no water along the way. There was also many sand storms that some say swallowed a whole army of 50000 men along time before. Anyway, he cracked on, always confident that he would succeed in anything that he did, in front of enemies or nature.
  27. A lot of what was said about him in prophecies ended up happening, so it was easy to see that the gods were on his side and to fight him would be dangerous. It rained when he wanted to slow his enemies or buy time.When he visited the Oracle at the temple of Ammon to put in a good word for his dead father, he asked if any of Philip’s murders had gotten away and if it would come to pass that he would become king of all mankind. The god said that Philip had been fully avenged but said nothing about being king of all. But some others say that Alexander wrote to his mother that he would tell her in person what the oracle said once he returned. It’s also said that while the oracle did not give a clear answer, it replied in a positive, informal kind of address.
  28. He behaved towards the Barbarians as if he were a god. Also, he voiced regret that his father had bestowed gifts upon his vanquished enemies. But toward those around him, he tried to maintain a more humble status. Anaxarchus asked Alexander if he himself had summoned the thunder during a storm. He replied that he had no need to be imposing among friends.
  29. He went back to Phoenicia from Egypt and gave more sacrifices to the gods. There processions and poetry readings and plays. There were  theatrical competitions between the kings of Salamis and Soli. But Alexander was more interested in the actors that who put on the productions and rewarded their performances instead of the kings. Darius offered to pay 10,000 talents for ransom for captives, everything west of the Euphrates and one of his daughters in marriage, as well as an alliance. Alexander asked his advisers what they thought. They all liked the idea. Alexander did too, but only if Darius came to him and submitted.
  30. Darius’s wife died in childbirth while still held captive by Alexander. Alexander soon regretted not accepting his offer because of the flippancy of his response to a genuine offer for peace. About the death: one of the eunuchs attending to the wife, ran off from Alexander’s camp on horseback to Darius and told him of the death. Darius wondered if the death was due to her being a prisoner. The eunuch told him that they were being treated very well by Alexander. He wept for his wife’s misfortune and doubted heavily the eunuch’s account of what happened in Alexander’s camp. The eunuch asked him not to curse Alexander’s name because while he was horrible to fight against in battle, he was very good to the captured Persian women and was an honorable man. Darius began to pray to the gods that he could be able to leave Persia in at least as good of shape as he got it – but if it has to be someone to take the throne, let it be Alexander.
  31. Alexander was  on a course to meet Darius, Darius with 1000000 men. The men divided themselves up into two parts and began to throw lumps of earth at each other – one man at the head of each part – one named “Alexander” and one named “Darius”. Eventually, the playful fight got serious and Alexander stopped it and ordered the two fight each other in single combat. “Alexander” won. The great battle against Darius was in Gaugamela (not Arbelus). It happened between August and September, 11 days after there was a lunar eclipse. The armies were very close to one another. Darius reviewed his troops by torchlight. Alexander let his troops sleep while he talked to his seer. He made sacrifices to help his chances. His advisers saw the mountains lit up by firelight and began to fear the size of an army that would cause such a light. They tried to convince Alexander to attack at night and he replied “I will not steal my victory”.
  32. He then went to sleep – the deepest he had ever had. His officers had a hard time waking him up in the morning and asked how he could sleep so deeply on the morning of his biggest battle. He answered “Don’t you think we’ve already been victorious chasing Darius around while he does he best to avoid a fight?” During the fight, Parmenio alerted Alexander in a panic that Darius’s cavalry was attacking their supply camp and he responded “Why should that matter? When we win, we will add their supplies to ours.” He threw on his armor, got out his best weapons and mounted his horse (Bucephalus had been decommissioned at this point) and went on the attack.
  33. He gave a long speech to his troops and when he saw that this roused them, he prayed to the gods and took his lance and went forward. Aristander, the seer, was floating around wherever he went. His army was extremely successful, so much so, that Alexander could take himself out of the battle to pursue Darius. Darius was in a chariot, surrounded by many horsemen. Once they saw Alexander headed their way, most of them fucked off, leaving Darius mostly alone. Those who remained fought Alexander and died. Darius had a hard time running away because the piles of bodies blocked his retreat. He found another horse and made off. Parmenio called Alexander because he needed help in one part of the battle. Alexander was really annoyed by that but he bit his tongue.
  34. After the battle, it was believed that Persia was finished. He was named King of Asia. He gave a lot of spoils of war to the cities that had been loyal to him throughout all the fighting.
  35. He went all over Babylon and nobody really gave him any resistance. One thing he saw in Ecbatana was a continuous flowing stream of fire coming out of the ground that formed a lake. He was informed of its power and nature and that it burned seemingly forever and he thought that all was really snazzy. One of his servants tried the liquid on himself and was burned all over. Apparently the fires didn’t light on their own but had to be lit and then they would burn and burn.
  36. He got to Susa and made himself its master and got 40000 talents of coins in the palace, along with other riches. They stored purple dye in there which required the use of honey and white oil. The old Persian rulers had water from the Nile and Danube delivered there to be stored just to show how powerful they were.
  37. Persia was difficult to get around in and the language was very strange to the Greeks. Alexander was able to find a guide to get him around and communicate with the people he was now claiming to rule. Another hocus pocus note: there was a prophesy that Alexander would be guided by a wolf. The guide’s mother was Persian but his father was a Greek from Lycia. The Greek word for “wolf” is “lycus”. Alexander had a lot of prisoners slaughtered in order to bring about an element of fear among the locals. On his way into a palace, he stopped to look at a fallen over statue of Xerxes, the Persian ruler from years before. He thought about putting back up but decided against it. They stayed there for four months to refresh themselves. There he finally sat on one of Darius’s thrones.
  38. Right before leaving on Darius’s tail, there was a big booze up with all of Alexander’s big friends and their ladies. Alexander had his eye on Thaïs, Ptolemy’s mistress. She gave a speech that it was worth traipsing over half of Asia just to live in the luxuries of Persian palaces but it would be even greater to torch the place because Xerxes had done that to Athens. This statement got a lot of applause and then they let the muthafucka burn! The pretense was that they weren’t going to live in luxury abroad but at home where they belonged.
  39. Alexander spread the wealth around a bit as king. An enemy’s head pulled one soldier a gold cup. A poor Macedonian man’s mule gave out carrying Alexander’s gold around. Alexander saw this and gave the man a bag of gold in recompense. In fact, he really didn’t like it if you refused his generosity, more than if you begged for it. Olympias was worried that giving all those gifts would raise the status of the recipients while lowering his. He also gave away provinces like it was going out of style, even giving two away to some. He gave a lot of presents to his mother but was careful not to let the presents allow her the ability to interfere in his political affairs. But he also didn’t like to upset her either.
  40. A lot of his favorites let the new wealth go to their heads. Silver nails in boots, imported dust from Egypt, hunting nets miles and miles long, using myrrh to bathe themselves. Alexander teased them regularly about these luxuries. He felt that luxuries would cloud their judgment and get them focused purely on the goodies rather than the victories themselves. He often engaged in risky behavior off the battlefield – wrestling lions – to prepare himself for the battlefield.
  41. He tried to get others to join him in his adventures but the cozy life was much too desirable for them to risk going out wrestling with wild animals. They were often talking about him behind his back. He was often upset when he was left out of the loop. Peucestas didn’t tell him about being by a bear (As if the bear mouth shaped hole in your arm wasn’t a clue). Craterus was stabbed in the leg by a spear while hunting a mongoose. He punished those who falsely accused others of misdeeds.
  42. He always found time to write letters to friends, even giving small orders like trying to capture runaway slaves. He was often fair to those being accused of capital crimes. He couldn’t listen to too many in a row for fear of one cases influencing him in hearing another right afterwards. He began his march again for Darius. However, he heard that he had been taken by Bessus, he sent his many of his troops back. Many of his troops had no water. He refused to drink the small amount of water available to him with his troops around parched.
  43. Finally they were able to burst into the camp where they believed that Darius was being held. They found him in a wagon with javelins stuck in his body, just about dead. Darius asked for a drink and asked Alexander to look after his family in return for his kingdom. That was all for Darius. He was able to find Bessus and have him “rent asunder”. They tied two parts of his body to two trees and stretched him out and snapped him back, over and over. Darius’s body was sent to his mother for a royal burial. His brother, Exathres, was taken in among Alexander’s group.
  44. They marched to the region of Hyrcania. There they saw the Caspian Sea, which had a lot less salt in it than the Mediterranean did. Barbarians infiltrated their ranks and stole his horse, Bucephalus, which really pissed him off. He sent a messenger threatening the thieves’ lives and their families lives if the horse was not returned. Once they brought the horse back, he gave them a small ransom and went on his way.
  45. The went to Parthia from there and dressed up like the locals, either to ingratiate himself to the locals or to disguise himself and his men as locals. He didn’t take on some of the locals’ habits, like trousers (yet to catch on it seems) and had something of a hybrid look between his normal wardrobe and the locals’. He started to enjoy the look and his army thought he was going native and became worried about him. They might have thought this because he had recently been shot in the leg with an arrow and smashed in the neck with a rock. Even that, along with a bout of the shits couldn’t stop him from keeping on.
  46. They might have run into the Queen of the Amazons there. There’s some doubt about this but Alexander’s records back it up. Antipater said the Scythian king offered him his daughter but never mentioned Amazons by name.
  47. He left a large chunk of his troops in Hycania while his elite troops moved on. Every movement they made, they made themselves blend in more with the locals. It could have been a gesture of goodwill and might have been some sort of investment to keep the lands as a part of his empire when he would go home later. He chose 30,000 boys to learn Greek and use Macedonian weapons. The marriage between him and Roxana brought him closer to the Barbarians, although she was not to be approached in any way. Alexander’s best friend Hephaestion followed Alexander in adopting local Persian customs, while Craterus stayed with him old Greek customs. Because of this natural inclination of the two to the two different customs, he assigned Hephaestion to be in charge of affairs in Persia, while Craterus would be in charge in Greece. They didn’t get along very well and nearly came to blows because of it. Alexander had to intervene in a dust up between them.
  48. Philotas, his buddy, was also fairly generous with gifts among his retinue but when he thought that the extravagence went too far, he held that person in contempt. The woman he hooked up was Antigone, a prisoner in the town of Pydna. Often while drinking, he would brag that he and his father, Parmenio, were the real source of power in the Greek/Macedonian empire. She would tell her friends what Philotas said and word spread around pretty quickly.
  49. Philotas had no idea that Antigone was spreading rumors around about his bragging and not-so-kind words about the king. At first, Alexander said nothing, either out of fear of the two or he was just biding his time. But around this time, a few people in his own camp were plotting against him and eventually Alexander caught wind of all of this and put Philotas and his co-conspirators to death. He also sent soldiers to go fetch Parmenio to be brought to him. The soldiers stabbed him to death before being brought to Alexander.
  50. Alexander had a dream about Cleitus, the man who saved his life earlier, sitting in black with Parmenio and his sons, all dressed in black and all dead. He had heard that Cleitus was making sacrifices to the gods and was told by his sayers that this was a bad omen. Cleitus was summoned to a banquet that Alexander was holding. There was a lot of drinking going on. There were some songs being sung ridiculing the generals of Alexander and Cleitus, pissed out of him mind, took exception to this. Alexander called him a coward. He didn’t like this, and said – this coward saved your life in a battle, you twat.
  51. Alexander didn’t like being called a twat, especially in front of all the big shots in the army. Cleitus said that the newly conquered Persians meant more to him than those who had been fighting along side him during the whole campaign. Cleitus kept egging him on until Alexander threw an apple at his head. Then he grabbed a sword from one of his guards and ordered his troops to go after Cleitus. They pushed him out of the banquet hall and Alexander grabbed a spear and killed Cleitus.
  52. Alexander became immediately depressed. All his friends tried to console but nothing would work. Finally, Aristander, his seer, reminded him that all this had been prophesied and then Alexander seemed to come around a bit. They were trying to find a way to get him out of this funk. Anaxarchus took the tough love route. “Everyone looks to Alexander for guidance and strength and here he is whimpering like a little bitch. Is this the man that is placed side-by-side to Zeus as the true dispenser of justice and law?” This brought him out of it and let the whole king title go to Alexander’s head.
  53. Callisthenes had proposed that Alexander be consoled and brought up on his feet through reason and friendship, rather than deification. This got him a lot of attention to the younger men of the court because they liked his eloquence. His method was not about flattery but about restoring the king to the great ruler he had been up until the death of Cleitus. Alexander started seeing that Callisthenes was right and toasted him at dinner. Macedonians began to hate Callisthenes because he started reminding Alexander that his greatness began when he moved to Greece and that his Macedonian background was more of a burden to him to carry rather than something to embrace.
  54. A slave, Hermippus, said that when Callisthenes was aware of the loneliness of the king, said “Dead also is Patroclus, a man far braver than thou art.” Some said Callisthenes was a great speaker but was a bit empy-headed. He wasn’t one to kowtow towards Alexander and this lead to people also not doing so. Although there was definite respect for the king, overt gestures of such were not necessary. He got lippy when drunk and not showing great deference and a bit of back chat to the king.
  55. It’s unclear whether or not he promised to be reverent toward the king and then not fulfilling his promise, or if it happened some other way. Callisthenes talked often about ridding the world of tyranny by killing the best example of it and many saw this as an attack against Alexander. Many Macedonians were hostile towards him and his teacher, Aristotle (also Alexander’s teacher). They began to dislike the attitudes Alexander was developing insisting that his soldiers prostrate themselves before him. He was eventually arrested for his lack of respect and either ganged or beaten and dying from his torture.
  56. Demaratus was an old man excited to see Alexander taking over Darius’s throne but died. He was given a great funeral and a big parade after his death.
  57. Alexander was now moving towards India. At this point his booty was getting too big to carry. He started to burn the wagons. He burned his own first. Then his companions’. Then the Macedonians’. The men were upset about this but the fear of crossing Alexander was enough to convince them. Often, those who refused his orders were put to death, sometimes even at Alexander’s own hand. Sometimes, when a sheep gave birth to a lamb in an unusual way, he got jumpy, being very superstitious. When a bad omen occurred, he became suspicious of others and behaved strangely. When a royal attendant was pitching the king’s tent struck a spring of oily, fatty water, Alexander became spooked. The oil was like olive oil in color and smell but there were no olive tree around. He took this as a good omen as an aid to the toiling work he had to do.
  58. That ended up being right. There were many battles he fought and quite a few wounds. The army suffered losses due to lack of provisions and bad weather. They were laying siege to the citidel belonging to Sisimithres, Oxyartes, who was from the area, told Alexander that Sisimithres was a coward. This encouraged him to push harder and take the city. Another time, they were sieging another citadel in Nysa. Soldiers hesitated because it was right next to a deep river. Alexander, who couldn’t swim, tried to cross the river in his armor, unattended. The men from the city came down to see this and were amazed. They brought him a cushion to sit on. Alexander offered this cushion for the eldest of the city’s ambassadors to sit on. They agreed to become apart of the empire after this display.
  59. A man named Taxiles had a region in India as large as Egypt. He said to Alexander in a friendly manner, why should we fight if you aren’t going to rob us of the things we need to survive? As far as wealth is concerned, if I have a greater amount of wealth than you, you only need to ask favors from me and I’ll do my best to help you out. After receiving a lot of gifts and luxuries, not to be outdone, Alexander gave him back a thousand talents of money. This pissed off his companions, but the barbarians were quite taken with him. Many of Alexander’s worst enemies in India were mercenaries who would go from city to city getting paid to defend the cities. Once he made a truce with a city, they’d go to the next city to fight him and pick up another paycheck. When he figured this out, he made a truce, the mercenaries slipped away, and he had his troops waiting for them and slaughtered them all. This was one of the more questionable acts of his reign, along with killing “philosophers” rousing people to revolt against him.
  60. He fought against Porus by the river, Hydaspes. Porus had his elephants positioned by the river to watch if anyone crossed. Alexander’s plan was to make continual noise so that the enemy got used to the noise and wouldn’t be suspicious of any movement or noise. During a storm one night, he took his infantry further up the river and crossed over to an island in the river. They crossed the river during the worst of the storm. The river began overflowing and his men could not get a proper footing in the stream. There he is said to have cried out “O Athenians, can ye possibly believe what perils I am undergoing to win glory in your eyes?” Onesicritus said Alexander left the rafts behind and crossed with his men in armor. The cavalry had crossed further up the river to be ready if the enemy’s cavalry attached. They were able to capture all the enemy’s chariots and killed all their horsemen. In fact, Alexander lead his troops upstream in one direction and had an equal amount of troops cross in the other direction and just squeezed the enemy. Porus himself was a beast of a man (6’4″) and rode an elephant. He was a great fighter and was just outnumbered and outclassed by Alexander’s army. Alexander was very gracious in his victory and treated Porus very well. He allowed Porus to rule over his old territory as a part of Alexander’s empire.
  61. Bucephalus died a little bit after the battle. He was getting quite old and was wearing out anyway. He was 30 years old at his death. Alexander grieved and grieved for Bucephalus. He built a city on the banks of the Hydaspes and called it Bucephalia.
  62. The battle curbed their desire to continue any further into India. There was great resistance to any attempt to take their depleted army across the Ganges. This was a well-protected river with horses, infantry and elephants. Alexander was upset with the fact that it seemed that this is where his expansion would end. He started bigging himself up in other ways – bigger armor, bigger horses, bigger altars to the gods, etc. Little did he know that he really only had to make even just a half-assed effort to attack across the river because the ruler there was hated by the people. They probably would have willingly fought for him.
  63. He wanted to see the open seas, so he had boats built and sailed down the Ganges. He’d stop along the way and conquer whatever city struck his fancy. The Malli people weren’t quite the piece of cake that he sized them up to be. They were able to mount a ladder on the city wall and he climbed up it. The locals were able to cut the ladder and started throwing whatever the could at him. He was lucky that when he fell, he landed quite literally on his feet and not harm done. He showed them his armor and the enemy started running but once they notice that it was just him and two guards, they came back and fought him. An arrow got him through his armor and got him in the ribs. He nearly got his head chopped off but his guards saved him. One guard died and he and his other guard were severely beaten and wounded. He fought until he was unconscious and he was carried back to the Macedonian tent. They all thought he was a goner. They were able to remove his armor were able to remove the head of the arrow from deep in his chest. He was under a long treatment after that. He sacrificed to the gods in thanks and got on the boat to keep on going down the river.
  64. He captured 10 “Gymnosophists” (yogis?) who were the biggest pains in the Greeks’ ass. He asked questions and threatened them with death for the wrong answers. Some of these questions: Q: Which are more numerous: the living or the dead? A: The living since the dead no longer existed. Q: Which produces the larger animals: the land or the sea? A: The earth because the sea is a part of the earth. Q: What’s the smartest animal? A: The animal that man hasn’t discovered yet. Q: Why did you cause Sabbas to revolt? A: Because I wanted him to live or die nobly. Q: What’s older, day or night? A: Day by one night. Q: How could a man be most loved? A: If he’s most powerful but doesn’t instill fear. Q: How could a man become a god? A: By doing what is impossible for a man to do. Q: What is stronger, life or death? A: Life because it endures suffering. Q: How long is honorable for a man to live? A: As long as he thinks it’s better to live than to die… Alexander asked the judge to give an opinion. He said each one answered worse than the other. Alexander said then you’re the one to die. The judge answered – no unless you lied when you said he who answered the worst would die.
  65. The philosophers were no put to death but given gifts instead. He sent Onesicritus to visit them. Onesicritus was a student of Diogenes. He told a story that Calanus ordered him to strip off his tunic and sit in the altogether and listen to what he had to say or else he wouldn’t listen even if Zeus himself did it. Dandamis was nicer but said that after hearing what Socrates, Pythagoras and Diogenes said that they spent way too much time following rules. Dandamis was said to have asked “Why the hell did Alexander make such a trip out here?” Calanus (Sphines) was able to be convinced to see Alexander. Because he said “Cale” (fucking hipster), which is an Indian greeting, they called him Calanus. He gave an explanation of government. He put a dried up hide on the ground and put his foot on the edge of it. It went down under his foot but rose on the other side. He showed that that happened on every edge of the hide. He then stepped in the middle and the whole thing stayed flat. This demonstration was to show Alexander that the power should remain in the middle of the empire and not on the edge of it.
  66. He followed the rivers to the sea for 7 months. When he got to the ocean, he took a ship to the island of Scillustis. He looked around and saw that all of the coast was accessible and split. Nearchus was his admiral and Onesicritus (Onesy…) was the main man at the wheel. Alexander got off the boat and went on land (bad sea legs?) through the land of the Oreites where his men were dying off. The infantry at one point had 100,000 men and the cavalry had 15,000. Disease, fucked up food, heat and famine were all huge problems. Most of the places they had been visiting had very little for themselves, let alone for an army that big. They finally made it to Gedrosia (S. Pakistan) where local lords were able to provide for them.
  67. After filling up his tank, they set off for Carmania (E. Iran). By this time, they had pretty much put their swords and shields away and stuck to what they were happiest at doing: eating and drinking. A lot of music and dancing ladies (do these guys know how to live or what?). Bagoas was the winner of the best song and dance contest.
  68. Nearchus met up with him and said that he wanted his big ass fleet to sail down the Euphrates river, then go around Arabia and Africa to go back to the Mediterranean by way of the pillars of Hercules (Strait of Gibraltar!!). A lot of ships were made for that at Thapsacus and there was a huge recruiting campaign for sailors for such a voyage. But all the shit that the army had been through up till that point really made the men question his ability to do such a trip. This caused factions in the army and regions to sprout: Antipater, Olympias (Epirus), Cleopatra (Macedonia) each had a faction. When Alexander got wind off that he said that his mom was way smarter because Macedonians would not be ruled by a woman. Because of that, he send Nearchus out to sea and went back to all the regions he recently conquered to set them all to right. He went to a son of Abuletes, Oxyartes, and asked for provisions. Oxyartes wouldn’t give him provisions but gave him 3,000 talents in coins. Alexander ordered the coins be given to his horses. When they didn’t eat the coins, he asked “What the fuck am I going to with these coins, eat them?” He ran a spear into Oxyartes and threw Abuletes in jail.
  69. In Persia, he distributed money among the women. They got one gold piece each. The old kings of Persia never came back because they knew they could never compete with Alexander. Also, the tomb of Cyrus had been pilfered. When he caught the man who did it, he found out it was a fellow Macedonian, Polymachus, and had him put to death. Then he had on the tomb written in Greek for his people to read, “Whoever you are, this is the tomb of Cyrus. I won Persia for the Persians. Please, spare me this little patch of land and fuck off”. In Persia, Calanus’s belly went bad on him and he asked for a funeral pyre to made for him.  He came to it on horseback (wouldn’t that make his belly worse?), prayed and threw some hair on the fire. Then climbed up on the structure, greeted everyone present, and asked that the king be able to see him soon in Babylon. He laid down, was covered and he went up in flames.
  70. Alexander came back from this in the only way you really should do: Big old drinking contest. Promachus downed four pitchers and won a crown worth a talent. However, he died three days later… 41 others died as a result of this contest. At Susa, Alexander held a series of weddings. He took Darius’s daughter, Stateira, of course there was a massive celebration for the occasion. 9000 guests each with a golden cup to drink from. Alexander paid off all his guests’ debts which amounted to 9870 talents. Antigenes, the man with one eye, somehow got himself fraudulently signed up as a debtor by bringing along someone claiming to be owed money from him. The king kicked him out of the court and relieved him of his command. Under Philip, Antigenes was a good soldier who lost an eye from a catapult in the siege of Perinthus. Antigenes was threatening suicide, but Alexander stopped him and told him to keep the money.
  71. When this whole plan of conquering the world started off, he had left 30,000 boys behind in Greece to train for future campaigns. News of their advancement came to him and he was very pleased to hear it. The Macedonians were a little annoyed because they thought he had forgotten about them. The sick and maimed were sent back to the coast and this pissed them off even more. They felt disgraced that so many of them were being sent back and that were seen as “unserviceable” by the Macedonians themselves. They asked for all of them to be sent home since they didn’t want to be seen as sickly or disgraceful to the rest of the world. He said, “Fine, fuck ’em. If they want to get all snippy with me like that, I’ll just replace them with Persians. That’ll piss them off even more. That cut the Macedonians off of his entourage even more so. The Macedonians cut out of his group moped outside of his tent for two days before he spoke to them. He saw how awful they looked and took blame for their state. The only solution for that was “I’m sorry” presents.
  72. He got to the city of Ekbatana (W. Iran), did a little business there and had a big party set up there that required the help of 3,000 workers. Hephasetion got sick there of a fever and didn’t take very good care of himself. He tried to take part in the festivities and soon croaked. Alexander was stricken by the death. He stopped all of his plans and had the doctor whose advice he didn’t take crucified. Nothing even remotely festive was allowed to happen at the camp afterwards until a response from Ammon’s oracle came back. Still pissed off at things, he went and conquered the Kossaei tribe and killed every male of theirs. He dropped 10,000 talents on Hephaestion’s funeral and the construction of his tomb. Stasikrates was the man in charge of this. Earlier in a conversation, Alexander told him that Mount Athos in Thrace was best for carving the image of a man in it. He suggested that for the memorial but Alexander thought it wasn’t expensive and ornate enough.
  73. When Alexander was heading out for Babylon, Nearchus met him at the mouth of the Euphrates and warned him that some particularly bad shit was waiting for him there. When he got to the walls, he saw crows flying out and then pecking at each other, some cacking out on the ground. Apollodorus, Babylon’s governor prayed to the gods to find out what that meant and even sent for Pythagoras, the soothsayer, to find out. Pythagoras said that the victim’s liver is what was a bad omen (what was being sacrificed isn’t clear). Alexander was a bit worried about ignoring Nearchus’s warning. He saw a bunch of bad omens happening all around him. Someone said that he saw him wearing his crown and robe, sitting on his throne. They found out who is was and he claimed that the god, Serapis told him to do it (that old excuse!).
  74. Alexander had the guy put to death on the advice of his seers, not wanting to tempt fate. He started to get suspicious of all his friends. Antipater and his son, Iolas (chief cup-bearer) were numbers one and two his list. Antipater had to step in when Alexander started threatening and harming those around him. That wasn’t the right thing to do when a guy as powerful as Alexander is extremely paranoid.
  75. At this point, there wasn’t a thing that didn’t make him completely nuts. All at once, he denied the gods, sacrificed to them and followed every omen extremely closely. Anything that seemed to pleasing to him or not pleasing at all was seen as an attempt to kills him. He ate and drink excessively. He drank and drank until he himself started to get a fever and piercing pains all over his body. He died on the 30th day of Daisius (May-ish).
  76. His last journal entries were: Slept in the bathroom on Daisius the 18th because of the fever. The next day, played dice with Medius. Went to bathe later in the evening, sacrificed, ate and suffered with the fever. On the 20th, bathed and sacrificed, hung out in the bathroom with Nearchus and friends, listening to their stories on the ocean. On the 21st, did the same but the fever got worse and couldn’t do much else. Took many baths and talked with friends and generals. On the 25th, he was carried across the river to another palace and slept there. That was pretty much the last of him.
  77. Most of that last entry was copied from his diary. There was no suspicion of poison at the time but six years later evidence of poisoning came up and many people were put to death because of it. Iolas, his cup guy, was suspected of doing the deed. Some say Aristotle suggested to Antipater to poison Alexander. Most writers don’t believe the poisoning story. Many generals began fighting each other over the question. Roxana was pregnant at the time and was given a lot of respect in the whole affair but she had sent a forged letter from Alexander to Statira, as she was very jealous of Statira. When Statira walked in the room, Roxana killed her and her sister and threw their bodies down a well and had it filled up. Perdikkas, her partner in this murder, became a very powerful man.

BONUS: Iron Maiden doing a very accurate, very long and very awesome story of Alexander the Great (from “Somewhere in Time”)

Author: knowit68

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