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Sect. 1. Alexander’s First Descent on Greece

On his accession to the throne of Macedon, Alexander found himself menaced by enemies on all sides. The members of the Confederacy of Corinth, the tributary peoples of the province of Thrace, the inveterately hostile Illyrians, all saw in the death of Philip an opportunity, not to be missed, for undoing his work; and in Asia, Attalus, the father of Cleopatra, espoused the claim of Cleopatra’s infant son. Thus Alexander stood within a belt of dangers like that by which his father, at the same crisis in his life, had been encompassed; and the difference of the means which sire and son adopted to deal with the jeopardy showed the difference in temperament between the two men.  If Alexander had followed the slow and sure methods of his father, he would have bought off the barbarians of the north, effected a reconciliation with Attalus, and deferred the Greek question till he had thoroughly established his power in Macedoni ; then, by degrees, he could have recovered in a few years the dominion which Philip had won, and undertaken the expedition against Persia which Philip had planned. But such cautious calculation did not suit the bolder genius of Philip’s son. He refused to yield to any of his foes;  he encountered the perils one after another, and overcame them all.

First of all, he turned to Greece, where the situation looked serious enough. Athens had hailed the news of Philip’s death with undisguised joy, and at the instance of Demosthenes had passed a decree in honour of his murderer’s memory. Trumpets were sounding for war; messengers were flying to Attalus and to Persia; and Greece was incited to throw off the Macedonian yoke. Ambracia expelled her garrison, and Thebes attempted to expel hers.

But the insurrection of Thessaly was of far greater importance than the hostile agitations in the southern states. The Thessalian cavalry was an invaluable adjunct to the Macedonian army, and it was of more material consequence to a Macedonian king to be the archon of the Thessalian Federation than to be acknowledged as general of the Confederacy of Corinth. Yet it was hardly altogether the need of quickly securing Thessaly that urged Alexander to deal with Greece before he dealt with any other portion of his empire. He wished above all things to save Greece from herself. His timely appearance, before the agitation could develop into a fully declared rebellion, might prevent the cities from committing any irreparable action, which would necessitate a condign punishment, or even harsh measures. He would march south, not to chastise or judge the Greeks, but to conciliate them and obtain recognition as successor to his father’s place in the amphictiony of Delphi and in the league of Corinth.

He advanced to the defile of Tempe, but found it strongly held by the Thessalians. Instead of attempting to carry a position which was perhaps impregnable, he led his army farther south along the coast, and cutting steps up the steep side of Ossa he made a new path for himself over the mountain and descended into the plain of the Peneus behind his enemy. Not a drop of blood was shed. A Thessalian assembly elected Alexander to the archonship, and he guaranteed to the communities of the land the same rights and privileges which they had enjoyed under his father. The conciliation of Thessaly led, without a blow, to the adhesion of its southern neighbours, Malis and Dolopia. At Thermopylae the young king was recognised by the amphictiony, and as he marched southward not a hand was raised against him; he had swooped down so quickly that nothing was ready to resist. The Athenians sent a repentant embassy, which the king received kindly without any reference to the public jubilations over his father’s murder; and the Congress of the Confederacy met at Corinth to elect Alexander general in his father’s place.

Alexander was chosen supreme general of the Greeks for the invasion of Asia; and it was as head of Hellas, descendant and successor of Achilles, rather than as Macedonian king, that he desired to go forth against Persia. But his election by the Greek Confederacy at Corinth had more of historical fitness than political significance. The contingents which the Greek states furnished as members of the league were small, and the idea of the expedition failed to arouse any national feeling. Yet the welcome, though half-hearted and hypocritical, which was given to Alexander at Corinth, and the vote, however perfunctory, which elected him leader of the Greeks, were the fitting prelude to the expansion of Hellas and the diffusion of Hellenic civilisation, which destiny had chosen him to accomplish. He was thus formally recognised as what he in fullest verity was, the representative of Greece. Of all those who thronged at Corinth round the royal youth, to observe him with curious gaze or flatter him with pleasant words, some may have foreseen that he would be a conqueror of many lands, but none can have suspected how his conquests would transform the world; for few realised that the world was waiting to be transformed. Outside the gates of Corinth, according to a famous story, the king found the eccentric philosopher Diogenes, sitting in the barrel, which served him as a home, and asked him to name a boon. “Stand out of the sun,” was the brief reply of the philosopher. “Were not Alexander,” said the king to his retinue, “I should like to be Diogenes.” The incident may never have happened, but the anecdote happily brings face to face the enthusiast who carried individual liberty to the utmost verge of independence and the enthusiast who dreamed of making his empire conterminous with the globe. For the individualism which Diogenes caricatured was sister to the spirit of cosmopolitanism which Alexander’s empire was to promote.

Meanwhile some domestic dangers had been cleared violently out of his path. His stepmother, her father, and her child had all been done away with. Attalus had been murdered in Asia, in accordance with the king’s commands. But Alexander was not responsible for the death of Cleopatra and her infant. This was the work of Olympias, who, thirsty for revenge, caused the child to be slaughtered in its mother’s lap, and forced Cleopatra to hang herself by her own belt.


Sect. 2. Alexander’s Campaigns in Thrace and Illyria

There were symptoms of disquietude in Thrace; there were signs of a storm brewing in the Illyrian quarter; and it would have been impossible for the young king to invade Asia, with Thrace ready to revolt in his rear, and Macedonia exposed to attack from the west. It was indispensable to teach the Thracians a lesson, and especially the Triballi, who had never been chastised for the check which they had inflicted on Philip. The Triballi lived beyond the Haemus, and when Alexander, having crossed Mount Rhodope, reached the foot of one defile defended by mountaineers. They had hauled up a multitude of their war-chariots to the top of the pass, in order to roll them upon the Macedonians and then, rushing down themselves, to fall upon the disordered array. There was no other way of crossing the here again the same temper and the same resource which he had shown at Tempe; when he had made up his mind that an object must be attained, he never hesitated to employ the boldest or most novel means. He ordered the infantry to advance up the path, opening the ranks when possible to let the chariots roll through, but when that was impossible, he directed them to fall on their knees and, holding their shields locked together, to form a roof on which the chariots could fall and roll harmlessly away. The device was successful. The volleys of the cars rattled over the locked shields, and notwithstanding the shock not a man was killed. When the barbarians had exhausted these ponderous missiles, the pass was easily taken, and the Macedonians descended into the country of the Triballi. At the news of Alexander’s approach the Triballi had sent their wives and children to an island named Peuce, in the Danube; and then, waiting until he advanced into their land, stole behind him to seize the mountain passes in his rear. Learning of this movement, Alexander marched rapidly back, forced the enemy to fight and dispersed them with great loss. He then proceeded on his way to the bank of the Danube. He had foreseen that it might be necessary to operate on that river, perhaps to make a demonstration in the country of the Getae on the northern bank; and he had prepared for this emergency by adopting the same plan as Darius in his famous Thracian expedition. He instructed his ally Byzantium to dispatch ships to sail up the river. The garrison in the island  of Peuce were supported by a host of Scythian friends on the left bank of the stream, and Alexander saw that with his few Byzantine galleys it would be hopeless to attack the island until he had secured the Scythian shore. The problem was to throw his troops across the river without the enemy’s knowledge, and this must be done in the darkness of one night. The ships were too few in number; but all the fishing-boats in the neighbourhood were collected, and tent-skins filled with hay were tied firmly together and strung across the stream. Landing on the other bank, led by the king himself, a large band of horse and foot advanced under the cover of the long corn at dawn of day, and the barbarian host arose to see the Macedonian phalanx unfolded before them. Startled as much by the terrible promptitude of their foe as by the formidable array which faced them, they withdrew into their poorly fortified town, and when Alexander followed them at the head of his cavalry, they fled with all their horses could carry into the wilds of the north. Empire beyond the Danube was not sought by Alexander, and he did not pursue. He marked the term of his northern conquest by sacrificing solemnly on the banks to Zeus Soter, Heracles, and the river-god himself.

This exploit led to the surrender of the Triballi in the island, and all the neighbouring tribes south of the river hastened to assure the king of their submission. There came also from unknown homes far up the river, or perhaps in the Dalmatian mountains, an embassy of Celts, huge-limbed, self-confident men, who had heard of Alexander’s deeds and were fain to be his friends. Curious to know what impression the Macedonian name had made upon that distant folk, Alexander asked them what they feared most. “We fear nothing, they said, “if it be not lest the sky fall”. “Braggarts!” said Alexander afterwards. But before two generations had passed away these men of mighty limbs and mighty words were destined to roll down in a torrent upon Greece and Asia, and to wrest for their own habitation a part of Alexander’s conquests.

Alexander’s work was done in Thrace, but as he marched homewards he learned that the Illyrians were already in the gate of Macedonia, and that not a moment must be lost if the country was to be saved from an invasion. Philip had secured the Macedonian frontier on the Illyrian side by a number of fortresses, near the sources of the Haliacmon and Apsus; and Pelion, which was the strongest of these strongholds, the key-fortress of the mountain gate, had now fallen into the hands of Clitus, the Illyrian chief. To reach Pelion as quickly as possible, before the arrival of the Taulantines, a folk in alliance with Clitus, was the object of Alexander. His march was threatened by the Autariats, another hostile folk, whom Clitus: had engaged to waylay him; but this danger was prevented by the friendly king of the Agrianes, who invaded the Autariat territory and fully occupied the fighting-men. Marching rapidly up the valley of the Erigonus, Alexander encamped near Pelion. The heights around were covered with Illyrians, and Clitus, as was the custom of his people before a battle, sacrificed three boys, three maidens, and three black rams. But before they came to the actual attack, the hearts of the Illyrians failed them, and deserting all their points of vantage and leaving their sacrifice incomplete, they retired into the fastness. Alexander intended to blockade the place next day by a circumvallation, but the Taulantines arrived in a large force, and he saw that his men were too few to deal at once with the foes within and the foes without the walls, nor were his provisions sufficient for a protracted siege. It was absolutely necessary to withdraw from his present position; but it was a task of extreme peril to retreat in these defiles, with hostile Pelion in the rear and Taulantine troops occupying the slopes and heights. This task, however, was carried out successfully, through the amazingly swift and skilful manoeuvring of the highly drilled Macedonian soldiers; the enemy were driven from their dangerous positions, and the river was crossed with much trouble yet without the loss of a man. At the other side of the river, Alexander’s communications were safe; he could obtain provisions and reinforcements as he chose, and might wait, at his ease, for an opportunity to strike. The moment soon came. The enemy, seeing in Alexander’s retreat a confession of fear, neglected all precautions and formed a camp without rampart or outpost before the gates of the fortress. Taking a portion of his army and bidding the rest follow, Alexander set out at night and surprised the slumbering camp of the barbarians. A carnage followed and a wild flight, and the Macedonians pursued to the Taulantine mountains. At the first alarm, Clitus rushed into the gates of Pelion and set the town on fire, before he joined the flight.

This discomfit of the Illyrians was a no less striking proof of Alexander’s capacity than his exploits in Thrace. These months of incessant toil had earned him a rest, but there was to be no rest yet for the young monarch. Even as the tidings of the Illyrian danger had reached him before he left Thrace, so now, while he was still at Pelion, the news came that Thebes had rebelled. He must now speed to Greece as swiftly as seven days agone he had sped to the Illyrian hills. No need was more pressing than to crush this revolt before it spread.


Sect. 3. Alexander’s Second Descent on Greece

The agitation against Macedon had not ceased during the past year in the cities of Greece, and it was now fomented by the gold and the encouragement of Persia. Five years before, at the outbreak of the war, Athens had sent ambassadors to Susa begging for subsidies from Artaxerxes, but the Great King would not break with Philip then, and sent them away with “a very haughty and barbarous letter” of refusal. The Phrygian satrap, however, perhaps on his own responsibility, sent useful help to Perinthus in its peril, and Persia gradually awoke to the fact that Macedonia was a dangerous neighbour. The new king, Darius, saw the necessity of embarrassing Alexander in Europe, so as to keep him as long as possible from crossing into Asia, where the Macedonian forces under Parmenio were holding their own. For this purpose he stirred up thoughts of war in Greece and sent subsidies to the Greek states. To many cities these overtures were welcome, but especially to Thebes, under the shadow of the Macedonian garrison. Three hundred talents were offered to Athens and publicly declined; but Demosthenes privately accepted them, to be expended in the interests of the Great King. It is not probable that any city entered into a formal contract with Persia, but the basis of the negotiations was the King’s Peace, of fifty years ago, the Greeks admitting the rights of the Persian empire over their brethren in Asia, who on their part were awaiting with various feelings the approach of the Macedonian deliverer.

As the patriots had often prayed for the death of Philip, so now they longed for the death of his youthful son, an event which might have hurled back Macedon into nothingness for ever. Rumours soon spread that the wish was fulfilled. Alexander was reported to have been slain in Thrace; Demosthenes produced a man who had seen him fall; and the Theban fugitives in Athens hastened to return to their native city and incite it to shake off the Macedonian yoke. Two captains of the garrison were caught outside the Cadmea and murdered, and the Thebans then proceeded to blockade the citadel by a double rampart on the south side, where there was no city wall outside the wall of the citadel. Greece responded to the Theban leading, which Demosthenes, Lycurgus, and the other Athenian patriots had prompted and encouraged. There were movements against Macedon in Elis and Aetolia; the Arcadians marched forth to the Isthmus; and the Athenians sent arms to Thebes, though they sent no men. The hopes of the patriots ran high; the fall of the Cadmea seemed inevitable.

Suddenly a report was whispered in Thebes that a Macedonian army was encamped a few miles away at Onchestus. As Alexander was dead, it could only be Antipater—so the Theban leaders assured the alarmed people. But messengers soon came, affirming that it was certainly Alexander. Nay, then, said the leaders, since King Alexander is dead, it can only be Alexander of Lyncestis.

But it was indeed the king Alexander. In less than two weeks he had marched from Pelion to Onchestus, and on the next day he stood before the walls of Thebes. He halted first on the north-eastern side of the city, near the sanctuary of the Theban hero, Iolaus; he would give the citizens time to make their submission. But they were in no mind to submit, and some of their light-armed troops, rushing out of the gates, attacked the outskirts of the Macedonian camp. On the morrow Alexander moved his whole army to the south side of the city, and encamped close to the Cadmea, without making any attack on the walls, still hoping that the city would surrender. But the fate of Thebes was precipitated by one of his captains, by name Perdiccas, who was in charge of the troops which guarded the camp on the side of the Cadmea. Stationed within a few yards of the Theban earthworks, Perdiccas, without waiting for orders, dashed through the outer rampart and fell upon the Theban guards. He was supported by a fellow-officer; and Alexander, when he observed what had happened, sent archers and light troops to their aid. The Thebans who manned the rampart were driven along the gully, which, running along the east side of the Cadmea, passes the temple of Heracles outside the walls. When they reached this temple they rallied and turned on their assailants and routed them back along the “hollow road.” But, as they pursued, their own ranks were broken, and Alexander, watching for he moment, brought his phalanx into action and drove them within he Electran gate. They had no time to shut the gate before some Macedonians pushed in along with the fugitives; and there vere no men on the walls to shoot the enemy down, for the men who should have defended the walls had been sent to the blockade of the citadel. Some of the Macedonians, who thus entered, made their way to the Cadmea, and joining with the garrison they sallied but close to the Ampheion, where the main part of the Theban forces was drawn up. Others, having mounted the bastions, helped their friends without to climb the walls, and the troops thus admitted pushed to the market-place. But the gate was now in the possession of the Macedonians; the city was full of them; and the king himself was everywhere. The Theban cavalry was broken up, and fled through the streets and the open gates into the plain; the foot soldiers saved themselves as they could; and then a merciless butchery began. It was not the Macedonians who were zealous in the work of slaughter, but the old enemies of Thebes, the Phocians, the Plataeans and other Boeotian peoples, who now wreaked upon the proud city of the seven gates vengeance for the wrongs and insults of many generations. Six thousand lives were taken before Alexander stayed the slaughter. On the next day he summoned the Confederates of Corinth to decide the fate of the rebellious city. The judges meted out to Thebes the same measure which Thebes would have once meted out to Athens. The sentence was that the city should be levelled with the dust and her land divided among she Confederates; that the remnant of the inhabitants, with the women and children, should be sold into bondage, except the priests and priestesses of the gods, and those burghers who had bonds of guest-right with the Macedonians; and that the Cadmean citadel should be occupied by a garrison. The severe doom, showing how deeply the masterful city was abhorred, was carried out; and among the ruined habitations, on which the Macedonian warders looked down from the fortress walls, only one solitary house stood, making the desolation seem more desolate, the house of Pindar, which Alexander expressly spared.

The Boeotian cities were at length delivered from the yoke of their imperious mistress; Plataea and Orchomenus re-arose from their ruins. The fall of Thebes promptly checked all other movements in Greece; the Arcadian forces withdrew from the Isthmus; Elis and Aetolia hastened to retrieve their hostile attitude. The news reached Athens during the festival of the Mysteries. The solemnity was interrupted, and in a hurried meeting of the Assembly it was resolved, on the proposal of Demades, to send an embassy to welcome Alexander on his safe return from his northern campaign, and to congratulate him on the just chastisement which he had inflicted upon Thebes. The same people passed this decree who, a few days before, on the proposal of Demosthenes, had resolved to send, troops to the aid of that luckless city. Alexander demanded— and it was a fair demand—that Demosthenes and Lycurgus and the other agitators who kept the hostility to Macedonia alive, and were largely responsible for the disaster of Thebes, should be delivered to him; for so long as they were at large there was no security that Athens would not entangle herself in further follies. When the demand was laid before the Assembly, Demosthenes epigrammatically expressed his own view of the situation by advising the people not to hand over their sheep-dogs to the wolf. Phocion said in downright words that Alexander must be conciliated at any cost; let the men whose surrender he demanded show their patriotism by sacrificing themselves. But it was finally decided that Demades, who had ingratiated himself with the Macedonian king, should accompany another embassy and beg that the offenders might be left to the justice of the Athenian people. Alexander, still anxious to show every consideration to Athens, withdrew his demand, insisting only on the banishment of the adventurer Charidemus, of Thracian notoriety.

With the fall of Thebes Alexander’s campaigns in Europe came to an end. The rest of his life was spent in Asia. The European campaigns, though they filled little more than a year, and though they seem of small account by the side of his triumphs in the east, were brilliant and important enough to have won historical fame for any general. In his two descents into Greece, first to conciliate and afterwards to punish, in his expedition to the Danube, and in his Illyrian campaign, he had given tokens of the rare strategic capacity, the originality of conception, the boldness of resolution, the rapidity of action, and those other qualities which served Alexander’s genius and soon found a more spacious sphere for their manifestation when they bore him toward the unknown limits of the eastern world.


Sect. 4. Preparations for Alexander’s Persian Expedition. Condition of Persia.

Having spent the winter in making his military preparations and setting in order the affairs of his kingdom for a long absence, Alexander set forth in spring for the conquest of Asia. Of his plans and arrangements we know almost nothing, but we may say with confidence that his scheme of conquest was well considered, and that he did not go forth as an adventurer to take whatever came in his way. His original scheme of conquest was afterwards merged ina second and larger scheme, of which he had no conception when he  went forth from Macedonia, for he had not the requisite geographical knowledge of central Asia. But in the first instance his purpose was to conquer the Persian kingdom, to dethrone the Great King and take his place, to do unto Persia what Persia under Xerxes had essayed to do unto Macedonia and the rest of Hellas. To carry out this design the first thing needful was to secure Thrace in the rear, and that had been already done. In the conquest itself there were three stages. The first step was the conquest of Asia Minor; the second was the conquest of Syria and Egypt; and these two conquests, preliminary to the advance on Babylon and Susa, would mean not merely acquisitions of territory, but strategic bases for further conquest. The weak point in Alexander’s enterprise was the lack of a fleet capable of coping with the Persian navy, which was 400 strong. Here the Confederacy of Corinth should have come to his help; Athens alone could have furnished over 200 galleys. And Alexander doubtless counted on obtaining the support of Athens and the other Greek cities ultimately. But he desired aid rendered with goodwill, and he made no effort to extort ships or men. The loosely organised league of Corinth had undertaken to supply fixed contingents, but the fulfilment of these promises was not strictly exacted.

To secure Macedonia against her neighbours and subjects during his absence, Alexander was obliged to leave a large portion, perhaps as much as one half, of the national army behind him. The government was entrusted to his father’s minister, Antipater. It is said for the kin g made dispositions before his departure as one who expected never to return. He divided all his royal domains and forests and revenues among his friends; and, when Perdiccas asked what was left for himself, he replied, Hope. Then Perdiccas, rejecting his own portion, exclaimed, “We who go forth to fight with you need share only in your hope.” The anecdote at least illustrates the enthusiasm with which Alexander infected his friends and officers on the threshold of a venture, of which the conception was almost as wonderful as its success.

The Persian empire was weak and loosely knit, and it was governed now by a feeble monarch. Two generations had passed since Greece beheld its weakness memorably demonstrated by the adventures of Xenophon’s Ten Thousand; and since then we have seen it, on the western side, rent and riven by revolts. Artaxerxes Ochus displayed more strength than his predecessors. He re-established his power in Asia Minor, he quelled rebellions in Phoenicia and Cyprus, and even conquered Egypt, which had long set at nought the Persian efforts to regain it. The king, Nektanebos, was driven back from Pelusium to Memphis, and from Memphis he fled to Ethiopia. The Persian king had no thought of holding the land of the Nile by kindness; as soon as he had Memphis in his power he displayed the intolerance of the fire-worshipper. He drowned the holy bull, Apis, and inaugurated the ass as the sacred animal of Egypt. This stupid outrage made the Persian rule more detested than ever. Ochus was assassinated, the victim of a palace conspiracy; and after two or three years of confusion the throne passed to a distant member of the Achaemenid house, Darius Codomannus, destined to be the last successor of his great namesake.

It cannot be gainsaid that, if Darius had been able and experienced in war and capable of leading men, he had some enormous advantages. In the first place, he had the advantage in the sheer weight of human bodies. Had the myriads which he could muster been divided into troops of thirty men, and a soldier of Alexander’s army allotted as a cupbearer to each troop, many a company would have gone unserved. In the second place, while the coffers of Pella are said to have been emptied before Alexander set foot in Asia, the Great King commanded untold wealth. The treasury of Susa was full, and in the palace of Persepolis were hoarded inexhaustible stores of gold. In the third place, he had a navy which controlled the sea-board of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt, and ought, if it had been handled ably, to have placed insuperable obstacles in the way of an invader who had no adequate sea-power. And fourthly, although there was no cohesion in the vast empire or unity of centralisation, here was, for that very reason, little or no national discontent in the provinces. Egypt was an exceptional case. The revolts which occurred from time to time were not national movements, but the disaffections of ambitious satraps. If the Persian monarch was not loved, at least he was not hated; and the warlike barbarians of the east, from far Hyrcania or the banks of the Oxus, were always ready to follow him and glad to fight in his cause. It was quite feasible, so far as the state of feeling in the provinces was concerned, to organise an effective defence of the empire. But all these advantages were as naught, for lack of a master mind and a controlling will. Multitudes were useless without a leader, and money could not create brains. Moreover Persia was behind the age in the art of warfare. She had not kept pace with the military developments in Greece during the last fifty years, and, though she could pay Greek mercenaries, and though these formed in fact a valuable part of her army, they could have no effect on the general character of the tactics of an oriental host. The Persian commanders had no notion of studying the tactics of their enemy and seeking new methods of encountering them. They had no idea of shaping strategic plans of their own  they simply waited on the movements of the enemy. They trusted, they had always trusted, with perfect simplicity, in numbers, individual bravery, and scythe-armed chariots. The only lesson which the day of Cunaxa had taught them was to hire mercenary Greeks.  

The strength of the army which Alexander led forth against Persia is said to have been 30,000 foot and 5000 horse, thus preserving the large proportion of cavalry to infantry, which was one of the chief novelties of Philip’s military establishment. We have seen how Philip organised the national army of Macedonia, in the chief divisions of the phalanx, the light infantry or hypaspists, and the heavy cavalry. Alexander led to Asia six regiments of the phalanx, and in the great engagements which decided the fate of Persia these formed the centre of his array. They were supported by Greek hoplites, both mercenary and confederate; the mercenary were commanded by Menander, the confederate by Antigonus. The hypaspists, did by Nicanor, son of Parmenio, had their station on the right wing, had the first regiment of these was the royal guard, called the agema. Philotas, another son of Parmenio, was commander of the heavy cavalry, in eight squadrons; one of which, the “royal squadron,” under Clitus, corresponded to the agema of the light armed foot. This Macedonian cavalry was always placed on the right, while on the left rode the splendid Thessalian cavalry under Callas, with a corps of other Greek horse attached. Both the right and the left wings wren strengthened by light troops, horse and foot, accoutred according to their national habit, from Thrace, Paeonia, and other countries of the Illyrian peninsula.


Sect. 5. Conquest of Asia Minor

The forces which had been operating in Asia under Parmenio while Alexander was detained in Europe had been endeavouring to establish a footing in Aeolis and Mysia, and secure a base on the Propontis for further advance. The Great King had empowered Memnon of Rhodes, an able mercenary captain, who in recent years had come to the front, to oppose the van of the Macedonian invasion. The most pressing need of the Persians was to recapture Cyzicus, which was in the hands of Parmenio. In this Memnon failed; but he occupied Lampsacus, he forced the Macedonians to raise the siege of Pitane and beat them back to the coast of the Hellespont. But he could not or did not press his advantage, and the shores where Alexander’s host would land were safe in Macedonian possession.

The fleet transported the army from Sestus to Abydus, while Alexander himself proceeded to Elaeus, where he offered a sacrifice on the tomb of Protesilaus, the first of the mythical Greeks who landed on the shore of Asia in the Trojan war, and the first who fell. Praying that he might be luckier than Protesilaus, Alexander sailed across to the “Harbour of the Achaeans,” and in the mid-strait made libations to Poseidon and the Nereids from a golden dish. The first to leap upon the Mysian strand, he crossed the plain of Troy and went up to the hill of Ilion, where he performed a sacrifice in the temple of Athena, in the poor town which stood on the ruins of six prehistoric cities. It is said that he dedicated his own panoply in the shrine, and took down from the wall some ancient armour, preserved there as relics of the war of Priam and Agamemnon. He sacrificed to Priam to avert his anger from one of the race of Neoptolemus; he crowned the tomb of Achilles his ancestor; and his bosom-friend Hephaestion cast a garland upon the grave of Patroclus, the beloved of Achilles. He commanded that Ilion should rise again from its ruins, as a favoured city enjoying the rights of self-government and immunity from taxation. These solemnities on the hill of Troy are significant as revealing the spirit which the young king carried into his enterprise. They show how he was imbued with Greek scriptures and Greek traditions; how his descent from Achilles was part of his life, part of his inspiration; how he regarded himself as chosen t0 be the hero of another episode in the drama, whereof the first act had been illustrated by the deeds of that glorious ancestor.

Meanwhile the satraps of the Great King had formed an army of about 40,000 men to defend Asia Minor. If he had entrusted the command to the Rhodian Memnon, it is possible that some effective defence might have been made; but he committed the characteristic blunder of a Persian monarch, and consigned the army to the joint command of a number of generals, including Memnon and several of the western satraps. The Persian commanders were jealous of the Greek, and against his advice they decided to risk battle at once. Accordingly they advanced from Zelea, where they had mustered, to the plain of Adrastea, through which the river Granicus flows into the Propontis, and posted themselves on the steep left bank of the stream, so as to hinder the enemy from crossing. Alexander and his army advanced eastward from Abydus, and received the submission of Lampsacus, and then of Priapus, a town near the mouth of the Granicus. It was impossible for him to avoid the combat, which the Persians desired; he could not march southward, leaving them in his rear. But he courted the combat even more than they; for the worst thing that could have befallen him (as Memnon knew well) was that the hostile army should persistently retire before him, eating up the provisions of the country as it retreated.

With his heavy infantry in two columns and his horse on the wings, Alexander marched across the Adrastean plain. The Persians had made the curious disposition of placing their cavalry along the river bank and the Greek hoplites on the slopes behind. As cavalry in attack has a great advantage over cavalry in defence, Alexander saw that the victory could best be won by throwing his own squadrons against the hostile line. Parmenio advised him to wait till the following morning and cross the river at daybreak before the foe were drawn up in array. “I should be ashamed,” said the king, “having crossed the Hellespont, to be detained by a miserable stream like the Granicus”; an answer such as Alexander loved to give, veiling under the appearance of negligent daring a self-confidence which was perfectly justified by his strategic insight.

Drawing up his army in the usual way (which has been described above), with the six regiments of the phalanx in the centre, entrusting the left wing to Parmenio and commanding the right himself, Alexander first sent across the river his light cavalry to keep the extreme left of the enemy engaged, and then led his heavy Macedonian cavalry against the Persian centre. Alexander himself was in the thickest of the fight, dealing wounds and receiving blows. After a sharp melée on the steep banks, the Persian cavalry was broken and put to flight. The phalanx then advanced across the river against the Greek hoplites in the background, while the victorious cavalry cut them up on the flanks.

This victory, in winning which Alexander drank to the full the mad excitement of battle, cost few lives to the Macedonians and cleared out of their way the only army which was to oppose their progress in Asia Minor. But it was very far from laying Asia Minor at the conqueror’s feet. There were strong places, which must be taken one by one—strong places on the coast, which could be supported by the powerful Persian fleet. Of all things, the help of the Athenian navy would have best bestead Alexander now, and he did not yet despair. After the skirmish of the Granicus, when he divided the spoil, he sent 300 Persian panoplies to Athens, as an offering to Athena on the Acropolis, with this dedication: “Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks (except the Lacedaemonians), from the barbarians of Asia.” But Athens had no zeal for the cause of the Greeks and Alexander against the barbarians.

The victor entrusted the satrapy of Hellespontine Phrygia to Callas, making no change in the method of the Persian administration; and marched southward to occupy the satrapy of Lydia and the roc of Sardis, girt with its threefold wall. It was a little more than 200 years since Cyrus had overthrown the Lydian kingdom and Sardis had become the chief burg of Persian power in the west. The citadel was strong and capable of a stout defence, but it now passed with its treasures unresistingly into the hands of the Greek conqueror. For this prompt submission the Lydians received their freedom and the ancestral constitution, which had been suspended during the long period of Persian domination. Alexander resolved to build a temple to the Olympian Zeus on the citadel. It was said that a thunder shower falling on the site of the royal palace showed him the fitting place for the sanctuary; the spot where a more famous thunder shower had quenched the pyre of the last Lydian king.

Parmenio’s brother, Asander, was appointed satrap of Lydia, and Alexander turned to deal with the Ionian cities. Here, as was to be expected, everything depended on the strength of the political parties. The democrats welcomed the Greek deliverer; but the oligarchs supported the Persian cause, and wherever they were in power, admitted Persian garrisons. In Ephesus the oligarchy had got the upper hand, but on the approach of Alexander’s army the garrison left the city and the people began to massacre the oligarchs. Alexander pacified these troubles and established a democratic constitution. He abode some time in the city, and during this sojourn the painter Apelles executed a famous picture of the king, wielding lightning in his hand, which was set up in the temple of Artemis.

The next stage in the advance of Alexander was Miletus, and here for the first time he encountered resistance. The Persian garrison was commanded by a Greek, who had at first meditated surrender, but learning that the Persian fleet was at hand in full force, decided to brave a siege. In an earlier episode of the struggle between Europe and Asia, we witnessed memorable operations in the Latmian gulf and the Milesian harbours, which the retreat of the sea has blotted from the map. The isle of Lade, then associated with the triumph of Asia, was now to play a part in the triumph of Europe. The Macedonian fleet, of 160 galleys, sailed into the bay and occupied the harbour of Lade, before the great fleet of the enemy arrived. When the Persian vessels came and saw that they had been forestalled, they anchored off the promontory of Mycale. The city of Miletus consisted of two parts, an outer city which Alexander easily occupied as soon as he came up, and an inner city strongly fortified with wall and fosse. Alexander threw up a rampart round the inner city, and placed troops in the island of Lade. Miletus was easily stormed by the Macedonian siege engines, and the fleet blocking the harbour hindered the Persian squadron from bringing help.

Parmenio had urged the king to risk a battle on the water, though the enemy’s ships were nearly three to one, but Alexander rejected the advice. He had judged the whole situation, and he had made up his mind that the Persian sea-power would have to be conquered on land. If Athens had sent him naval reinforcements it might have been otherwise, but he now despaired of active help from Greece, and he decided that it was an useless drain on his treasury to maintain 160 galleys, too few to cope with the 400 of the enemy. Accordingly Alexander disbanded the fleet, after the fall of Miletus, and proceeded to blockade the sea by seizing all the strong places on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean. The execution of this design occupied him for the next two years, but it brought with it the conquest of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt.

The manifest objection to the dissolution of the naval force was that, in case a decisive defeat at the hands of the Great King should [compel him to retreat, he would have no fleet to transport his army from Asia to Europe, and the fleet of the enemy, by occupying the straits at either end of the Propontis, could entirely cut him off. But Alexander trusted his own strategy; he knew that he would not be compelled to retreat.

As for Asia Minor, the next and the hardest task was the reduction of Caria and the capture of Halicarnassus. The remnant of the host which fled from the Granicus, and the Rhodian Memnon himself, had rallied here and rested their last hopes in the strong city of Mausolus, with its three mighty citadels. The Great King had now entrusted to Memnon the general command of the fleet and the coasts, and Memnon had dug a deep fosse round Halicarnassus, furnished the place with food for a long siege, and placed garrisons in the smaller neighbouring towns. Halicarnassus was to be the centre of a supreme resistance.

There had once been a chance that Alexander himself might have been, by a personal right, lord of Halicarnassus. The prince Pixodarus, one of the brothers of Mausolus, had wished to form an alliance of marriage with the house of Macedon, and Alexander had thought of offering himself as a bridegroom for his daughter. But Philip would not hear of such a match, and Pixodarus had given the maiden to a Persian noble, who had succeeded to the dynasty after his father-in-law’s death. There was indeed another claimant to the dynasty, Ada, wife and sister of Idrieus. She had succeeded her husband as ruler, and had been driven out by her brother Pixodarus. She now sought the protection of Alexander, and when he captured Halicarnassus, he assigned to her the satrapy of Caria. It was destined that women should represent Caria in the two great collisions of Greece with Persia, in the days of Alexander as in the days of Xerxes; the submission of Ada atoned for the bravery of Artemisia.

Having made a futile attack on Myndus, Alexander filled up the moat with which Memnon had encompassed Halicarnassus, and brought his towers and engines against the walls. A breach was made on the north-east side near to the gate of the road to Mylasa, but Alexander, who hoped to induce the town to surrender, forbore to order an attack. His hands were almost forced by two soldiers of the phalanx, who, one day drinking together in their tent and bragging of their prowess, flushed with wine and the zeal of rivalry, put on their armour, and marching up to the wall, challenged the enemy to come out. The men on the wall seeing them alone rushed out in numbers, and the twain were hard pressed till their comrades came to the rescue, and there was a sharp fight under the walls. But even now, Alexander would not order an attack on the breach, and the besieged built a new crescent wall connecting the two points between which the wall had been broken down, and maintained themselves behind it for a time. At length they made a great excursion against the camp of the besiegers at two different places. On both sides they were driven back in confusion, and in their haste to shut the gates they left many of their fellows to perish. At this moment an assault would doubtless have carried the Macedonians within the walls, but Alexander gave the signal to retire, still intent on saving the city. Memnon saw that the prospect of holding out longer was hopeless, and he determined to withdraw the garrison to the citadel of Salmacis and the royal fortress on the island in the harbour. He fired the city at night before he withdrew, and the place was in flames when the Macedonians entered. Alexander destroyed what the fire spared, and left a body of mercenary soldiers under Ptolemy to blockade Salmacis and support the princess of Caria.

The cold season was approaching and Alexander divided his army into two bodies, one of which he sent under Parmenio to winter in Lydia, while he advanced himself with the other into Lycia. He gave leave to a few young officers who had been recently wedded to return to their Macedonian homes, charging them with the duty of bringing reinforcements to the army in spring, and appointing Gordion in Phrygia as the mustering-place of the whole host.

Alexander met with no resistance from the cities of the Lycian League, and he left the constitution of the confederacy intact. From the rich frontier town of Phaselis he advanced along the coast of Pamphylia, receiving the submission of Perge and Aspendus and other maritime cities; and then he turned inland from Perge, and fought his way through the Pisidian hills, taking with some trouble Sagalassus, the chief fastness of the Pisidian mountaineers. He descended to Celaenae, the strong and lofty citadel of the Phrygian satrapy, and leaving a garrison there, he marched on to Gordion on the Sangarius, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Phrygia.

While he was winning the Lycian and Phrygian satrapies, he lost, for the moment, some points in the Aegean. Memnon, appointed commander of the Persian fleet, had taken Chios, reduced the greater part of Lesbos, and laid siege to Mytilene. He died during the siege, but Mytilene soon surrendered, and then Tenedos was compelled to recognise the “Peace which the king sent down.” The great danger for Alexander was that these successes might encourage the Greeks to revolt, and ten Persian ships sailed as far west as Siphnos for the purpose of exciting a movement in Hellas. But eight of these vessels were captured by some Macedonian triremes which ran over from Chalcis, and the project of a Greek rising was not carried out.

At Gordion, (333 B.C.), the appointed mustering-place, Alexander’s, army reunited, and new troops arrived from Macedonia to replace those who had been left to garrison the subjugated countries and cities. On the citadel of Gordion stood the remains of the royal palaces of Gordius and Midas, and Alexander went up the hill to see the chariot of Gordius and the famous knot which fastened the yoke. Cord of the bark of a cornel-tree was tied in a knot which artfully concealed the ends, and there was an oracle that he who should loose it would rule over Asia. Alexander vainly attempted to untie it, and then drawing his sword cut the knot and so fulfilled the oracle. From Gordion Alexander marched by Ancyra into Cappadocia. Having received the submission of Paphlagonia and asserted rather than confirmed his authority over the Cappadocian satrapy, he marched southward to Tyana and the Cilician gates. It was well that Alexander should show himself for a moment in the centre of Asia Minor, but the reduction of these wild regions and of the southern coast of Pontus was a task which might safely be postponed. The Cilician gates might have easily been defended by the garrison which the satrap Arsames had posted in the pass. Alexander, with the hypaspists and other light troops, leaving the rest of his army in camp, marched up at night to surprise the station. As soon as the guards heard the footfalls of the approachers they fled; and then Alexander at the head of his cavalry moved so rapidly on Tarsus that Arsames, amazed at his sudden appearance, fled without striking a blow.

Here a misadventure happened which well-nigh changed the course of history. After a long ride under a burning sun, the king bathed in the cool waters of the Cydnus, which flows through Tarsus. He caught a chill which resulted in violent fever and sleepless nights, and his physicians despaired of his life. But Philip of Acarnania, who was eminent for his medical skill, recommended a certain purgative. As he was preparing the draught in the king’s tent, a letter was placed in Alexander’s hands. It was from Parmenio, and was a warning against Philip, alleging that Darius had bribed him to poison his master. Alexander taking the cup, gave Philip the letter to read, and, while Philip read, Alexander swallowed the medicine. His generous confidence was justified, and under the care of Philip he soon recovered from his sickness.


Sect. 6. Battle of Issus

The Great King had already crossed the Euphrates at the head of a vast host. He had let the invader subjugate Asia Minor, but he now came in person to bar his further progress. Alexander did not hurry to the encounter, and his delay, as we shall see, turned to his profit in an unexpected manner. Sending forward Parmenio with part of the army to secure the passes from Cilicia into Syria, Alexander himself turned to subdue western Cilicia. He first visited Anchialus, noted for the statue of the Assyrian king Sardanapalus, of and the famous inscription : “Sardanapalus founded Anchialus and Tarsus on the same day. But thou, O stranger, eat, drink, and sport; all else is worthless.” Having seen this comment on his own ambitious dreams, Alexander went on to Soli, the city of “solecisms,” an ultimate Greek outpost, where men had almost forgotten Greek institutions and Greek speech. From here he made an excursion against the Cilician hill-folks, and reduced the whole district in seven days. He then returned eastward, and advanced to Issus under Mount Amanus.

Darius was on the other side of the mountains, in the plain of Sochoi, on ground which was highly favourable for deploying his host. There were two roads from Issus into Syria. One led directly over difficult mountain-passes, while the other wound along the coast to Myriandros and then crossed Mount Amanus. The second road, along which we formerly accompanied Cyrus and Xenophon, was now chosen by Alexander. Leaving his sick at Issus, he marched forward to Myriandros, but was detained there by a violent storm of rain, for it was already the beginning of winter. The Great King, informed by Arsames of the rapid approach of Alexander, expected every day to see him descending from the mountains. And when he came not, owing to the delays in Cilicia, it was thought that he held back through fear, and did not venture to desert the coast. Accordingly Darius and his nobles decided to seek Alexander. The Persian army crossed the northern passes of Amanus and reached Issus, where they tortured and put to death the sick who had been left behind. Alexander cannot be blamed for this disaster, for he could not foresee that his enemies would commit such an incredible military error as to abandon the open position in which their numerical superiority would tell for a confined place where the movements of a multitude would be cramped. To Alexander the tidings that Darius was at Issus was too good to be true, and he sent a boat to reconnoitre. When he was assured that the enemy had thus played into his hands, he marched back from Myriandros through the sea-gates into the little plain of Issus.

The plain of Issus is cut in two by the stream of the Pinarus, which was to play the same part in the coming battle as the Granicus had played in the plain of Adrastea. Here, as in that first skirmish, it fell to Alexander to attack the Persians, who had themselves no plan of attack; and here as there the Persians were defended by the natural entrenchment of a steep-banked river. The Macedonian columns defiled into the plain at dawn, and when Darius learned that they were approaching he threw across the river 50,000 cavalry and light troops to cover the rest of the army while it arrayed itself for battle. As his host was numbered by tens of thousands and the plain was only three miles broad, it is clear that most of his troops were forced to remain behind as reserves. The whole front was composed of hoplites—30,000 Greek mercenaries, and regiments of orientals called Kardakes; the left wing touched the lower slopes of the mountains and curved round, following the line of the hill, so as to face the flank of the enemy’s right wing. When the array was formed, the cavalry was recalled to the north of the river, and posted on the right wing, near the sea, where the ground was best adapted for cavalry movements.

Alexander advanced, his army drawn up on the usual plan, the phalanx in the centre, the hypaspists on the right. At first he placed the Thessalian as well as the Macedonian cavalry on the right wing, in order to strengthen his own cavalry attack, but when he saw that all the Persian cavalry was concentrated on the sea side, he was obliged to transfer the Thessalians to their usual position on his own left. In order to meet the danger which threatened the flank and rear of his right wing from the Persian forces on the slope of the mountain, he placed a column of light troops on the extreme right, to form a second front. As in the engagement on the Granicus, the attack was to be made by the heavy cavalry on the left centre of the enemy’s line. But it was a far more serious and formidable venture. Those who had read the story of the battle of Cunaxa might despise an Asiatic multitude, but Darius had 30,000 Greek mercenaries who knew how to stand and to fight. And if Alexander was defeated, his retreat was cut off.

The Persian left did not sustain Alexander’s onset at the head of his cavalry. The phalanx followed more slowly, and in crossing the stream and climbing the steep bank the line became dislocated, especially at one spot, and the Greek hoplites pressed them hard on the river-brink. If the phalanx had been driven back, Alexander’s victorious right wing would have been exposed on the flank and the battle lost; but the phalangites stood their ground obstinately, until the hypaspists were free to come to their help by taking their adversaries in the flank. Meanwhile Alexander’s attack had been directed upon the spot where the Great King himself stood in his war-chariot, surrounded by a guard of Persian nobles. There was a furious mellay, in which Alexander was wounded in his leg. Then Darius turned his chariot and fled, and this was the signal for an universal flight on the left. On the sea side the Persian cavalry crossed the river and carried all before them; but in the midst of their success the cry that the king was fleeing made them waver, and they were soon riding wildly back, pursued by the Thessalians. The whole Persian host was now rushing northward towards the passes of Amanus, and thousands fell beneath the swords of their pursuers. Darius did not tarry; he forgot even his mother and his wife who were in the camp at Issus; and when he reached the mountain he left his chariot, his shield, and his royal cloak behind him, and mounting a swift mare rode for dear life.

Having pursued the Great King till nightfall and found his relics by the wayside, Alexander returned to the Persian camp. He supped in the tent of Darius, and there fell upon his ears a noise and the wailing of women from a tent hard by. He asked who the women were, and why they were lodged so near, and learned that it was the mother and wife and children of the fugitive king. They had been told that Alexander had returned with the shield and cloak of Darius, and, supposing that their lord was dead, had broken out into lamentation. Alexander sent one of his companions to comfort them with the assurance that Darius lived, and that they would receive, while they were in Alexander’s power, all the respect and consideration due to royal ladies; for Alexander had no personal enmity against Darius. No act of Alexander, perhaps, astonished his contemporaries more than this generous treatment of the family of his royal rival. His ideal hero Achilles would not have resisted the charm of the captive queen Statira, the most beautiful of women. But the charms of love had no temptation for Alexander; and his behaviour to the captives was prompted not only by his natively humane and generous feelings, but by the instinct and policy of a royal invader to display respect for royalty as such.

Thus was the Persian host, which had come to “trample down” Alexander and his little army, annihilated on the plain of Issus. A city, which still retains the name of Alexander, was built in commemoration of the battle, at the northern end of the sea-gates. The road was now open into Syria; this was the immediate military result of the battle of Issus. Just as the small fight on the Granicus had cleared the way for the acquisition of Asia Minor, so the fight on the Pinaros cleared the way for the conquest of Syria and Egypt. The rest of the work would consist in tedious sieges. But the victory of Issus had, beyond its immediate results, immense importance through the prestige which it conferred on the victor. He had defeated an army ten times as great as his own, led by the Great king in person, whom he had driven back over the mountains in ignominious flight; he had captured the mother of the Great King, his wife and his children. Darius himself unbent his haughty Persian pride, when he had reached safety beyond the Euphrates, so far as to make the first overtures to the conqueror. He wrote a letter, in which he complained that Alexander was an unprovoked aggressor, begged that he would send back the royal captives, and professed willingness to conclude a treaty of friendship and alliance. It was much for a Persian king to bring himself to write this, but such a condescending appeal required a stern reply. We are fortunate enough to possess the text of Alexander’s answer, which seems to have been published as a sort of manifesto to Europe as well as Asia. It was to this effect : —

“Your ancestors invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece, and without provocation inflicted Wrongs upon us. I was appointed leader of the Greeks, and crossed over into Asia for the purpose of avenging those wrongs; for ye were the first aggressors. In the next place, ye assisted the people of Perinthus, who were offenders against my father, and Ochus sent a force into Thrace, which was part of our empire. Further, the conspirators who slew my father were suborned by you, as ye yourselves boasted in your letters. Thou with the help of Bagoas did murder Arses [son of Ochus] and seize the throne unjustly and contrary to the law of the Persians, and then thou did write improper letters regarding me to the Greeks, to incite them to war against me, and did send to the Lacedaemonians and others of the Greeks, for the same purpose, sums of money (whereof none of the other cities partook, but only the Lacedaemonians); and thine emissaries corrupted my friends and tried to dissolve the peace which I had brought about in Greece. Wherefore I marched forth against thee, who were thus the aggressor in the quarrel. I have overcome in battle, first thy generals and satraps, and now thyself and thine host, and possess thy land, through the grace of the gods. Those who fought on thy side and were not slain, but took refuge with me, are under my protection, and are glad to be with me, and will fight with me henceforward. I am lord of all Asia, and therefore do thou come to me. If thou art afraid of being evilly entreated, send some of thy friends to receive sufficient guarantees. Thou hast only to come to me to ask and receive thy mother and wife and children, and whatever else thou mayest desire. And for the future, whenever thou sendest, send to me as to the Great King of Asia, and do not write as to an equal, but tell me whatever thy need be, as to one who is lord of all that is thine. Otherwise I will deal with thee as an offender. But if thou disputest the kingdom, then wait and fight for it again, and do no flee; for I will march against thee wherever thou mayest be.”

The treasures which Darius had brought with him into Syria had been sent for safety to Damascus when he crossed the passes of Mount Amanus. Accordingly Alexander sent Parmenio to take possession of them. Parmenio found at Damascus some Greek envoys who had arrived at the camp of Darius a short time before the battle, one Spartan, one Athenian, and two Thebans. Alexander detained the Spartan as a prisoner, kept the Athenian as a friend, and let the Thebans go free. His clemency to the Thebans was due to a certain compunction which he always felt for the hard measure dealt out to their city; while a personal motive dictated his favour to the Athenian, Iphicrates, son of the great general of the same name, whose memory was highly esteemed in Macedonia. The incident showed that Greece, which had openly chosen Alexander for her leader, was secretly intriguing with Persia. When it was known that Darius was crossing the Euphrates, men were hoping and praying at Athens that the Macedonians would be trodden down by the Persian host. A hundred fast-sailing Persian ships appeared at Siphnos, and Agis the Spartan king visited the commanders, asking for money and galleys to carry out a project of rebellion against Macedonia. At Athens, Hypereides agitated for open war, but Demosthenes prudently counselled his fellow-citizens to wait until the expected catastrophe of Alexander had become an accomplished fact. Then the news came that the leader of the Greeks had won a brilliant victory, and Greece had to cloak her disappointment. The Persian squadron hurried back to save what could be saved on the Asiatic coast, and only thirty talents and ten vessels could be spared to Agis, who used them to secure the island of Crete.


Sect. 7. Conquest of Syria

It might seem that the course plainly marked out for the victor of Issus was to pursue and overwhelm Darius before he should have time to collect another army; and this is what Darius himself would have done if he had been Alexander. But it would have been a strategical error to plunge into the heart of the Persian empire, leaving Syria and Egypt unsubdued behind him and a Persian fleet controlling the coast. The victory of Issus did not seduce Alexander into swerving from his inevitable course; the strategic value of that victory was simply that it opened the gates to Syria and Egypt. As the subjugation of Asia Minor was the strategic condition of subjugating Syria and Egypt, so the conquest of Syria and Egypt was the strategic condition of conquering Mesopotamia and Iran. It was the more imperative to follow this logical order of conquest, since Phoenicia supplied the main part of the hostile navy, and nothing but the reduction of the Phoenician towns would effectually break down the sea-power of Persia. No one could swoop more swiftly than Alexander when it was the hour to swoop; but never did he display his superior command of the art of war more signally than when he let the royal prey escape him and quietly carried out the plan of conquest which he had predestined.

The Persian kings had allowed the Phoenician traders to go on their own way, and meddled little with their prosperous cities, so long as the Phoenician navy was at the disposal of Persia. If these strong and wealthy semi-insular cities of the coast, cut off as they were from the inner country by the high range of Lebanon, had formed a solid federal union, they might have easily succeeded in winning complete independence in the days of Persian decadence. But though Tyre, Sidon, and Aradus were bound together by a federal bond, their commercial interests clashed and their jealousies hindered a hearty national effort. This had been illustrated by a recent experience. When Sidon revolted from Persia, in the reign of Artaxerxes Ochus, her two sister cities promised at a federal meeting to stand by her. But both Tyre and Aradus selfishly calculated that if Sidon were crushed and punished, her trade would come to themselves, and they left her to maintain the struggle alone. She succumbed to the power of Ochus, her town was burnt down, and she lost her rights as a city.

The divisions, which prevented the Phoenicians from becoming a nation, were profitable to Alexander. If their united fleet, which was now acting ineffectually in Aegean waters, had acted energetically in defence of their own coast against the Macedonian, their cities would have been impregnable even to Alexander. But those cities could not trust each other. Byblus, which had in some measure taken the place of Sidon, and Aradus sent their submission to the conqueror of Issus; while dismantled Sidon, which still contributed some ships to the fleet, hoped to be reinstated in her old position by the favour of Persia’s foe. Her hope was not disappointed. Alexander restored to Sidon her constitution and her territory.

It cannot have been long after this that a kingling of Sidon was laid in a resting-place worthy of the great conqueror himself. His sculptured sarcophagus, recently dug up in a burying-ground of the Sidonian kings, is one of the most beautiful achievements of Greek art. But we may well associate this monument with Alexander, rather than with the obscure Phoenician for whose ashes it was made. For in two of the .vivid scenes which are represented in coloured relief upon its sides, Alexander appears on horseback. One of these is a passage from the battle of Issus. There is a mellée in the centre; the king charges on this side; a general, perhaps Parmenio, on that. The other scene is a lion-hunt, and here, if Alexander were not marked out by the royal fillet, we might almost recognise him by his eager straining face.

Alexander advanced southward towards Tyre. Ambassadors from this city met him on the road, professing the readiness of the Tyrians to do his will. Alexander expressed his intention of visiting the city, in order to sacrifice in the famous temple of Heracles. But a Macedonian visit was far from the wish of the men of Tyre. Persia was not yet subdued and their policy was to await the event, and avoid  compromising themselves by a premature adhesion to Macedonia. They felt secure on their island rock, which was protected by eighty ships, apart from the squadron which was absent in the Aegean. Accordingly they invited Alexander to sacrifice in Old Tyre on the mainland, but refused to “receive either Persian or Macedonian into the city”.

To subdue Tyre was an absolute necessity, as Alexander explained to a council of his generals and captains which he called together. It was not safe to advance to Egypt, or to pursue Darius, while the Persians were lords of the sea; and the only way of wresting their sea-power from them was to capture Tyre, the most important naval station on the coast; once Tyre fell, the Phoenician fleet, which was the most numerous and strongest part of the Persian navy, would come over to Macedon, for the rowers would not row or the men fight when they had no habitations to row or fight for. The reduction of Cyprus and Egypt would then follow without trouble. Alexander grasped and never let go the fact that Tyre was the key to the whole situation.

It was easy to say that Tyre must be captured; but it was not easy to say how, without a powerful navy, its capture could be achieved. This was perhaps the hardest military task that Alexander’s genius ever encountered. The city, girt by walls of great height and magnificently strong masonry, stood on an island severed from the continent by a sound of more than half a mile in width. On the side which faced the mainland were the two harbours: the northern or Sidonian harbour with a narrow mouth, and the southern or Egyptian. It might seem utterly hopeless for an enemy, vastly inferior at sea, to attempt a siege of the island Rock. And in truth there was only one way for a land-power to set about the task. Those thousand yards of water must be bridged over and the isle annexed to the mainland. Without hesitation Alexander began the building of the causeway. The first part of the work was easy, for the water was shallow; but when the mole approached the island, the strait deepened, the workmen came within range of the walls, and the difficulties of the task began. Triremes issued from the havens on either side to shoot missiles at the men who were at work. To protect them Alexander erected two towers on the causeway, and mounted engines on the towers to reply to the missiles from the galleys. He attached to these wooden towers curtains of leather to screen both towers and workmen from the projectiles which were hurled from the city walls. But the men of Tyre were ingenious. They constructed a fire-ship filled with dry wood and inflammables, and choosing a day on which a favourable wind blew, they towed it close to the dam and set it on fire. The device succeeded; the burning vessel soon wrapt the towers and all the engines in flames, and the triremes which had towed it up discharged showers of darts at the Macedonians who attempted to extinguish the fire. The Syrians too rowed across from their island in boats and tore up the stakes at the unfinished part of the mole.

Undismayed by this disaster, which seemed to show the hopelessness of the enterprise, Alexander only went to work more vigorously, it was necessary to take Tyre, and he was determined that Tyre should be taken. He widened the causeway throughout its whole length, so that it could accommodate more towers and engines, before he attempted to complete it. He saw that it would be needful to support his operations from the causeway by operation from shipboard; and he went to Sidon to bring up a few galleys which were stationed there. But at this moment the aspect of affairs was suddenly changed by the accession to Alexander of naval forces which enabled him to cope with Tyre at an advantage on her own element. The squadrons of Aradus and Byblus which were acting in the Aegean, learning that their cities had submitted to Alexander, left the fleet and sailed to Sidon, which the Macedonians had chosen as their naval station. These Phoenician ships were about eighty; and at the same time there came nine galleys from Rhodes and ten from Lycia and Cilicia. The adhesion of the kings of Cyprus presently followed, and reinforced the fleet at Sidon by 120 ships. With a fleet of about 250 triremes at his command Alexander was now far stronger at sea than the merchants of Tyre, and though the siege of the mighty stronghold was still a formidable task, it was no longer superhuman.

While the fleet was being made ready in the roads of Sidon, and the engineers were fabricating new siege-engines to batter down the walls of Tyre, Alexander made an expedition, at the head of his light troops, to punish the native brigands who infested the hills of Antilibanon, and made the traffic between the coast and the hinterland unsafe. Perhaps it was now that he received an embassy from the Great King, offering an immense ransom for the captives of the royal house, and the surrender of all the lands west of the Euphrates; proposing also that Alexander should marry the daughter of Darius and become his ally. The message was discussed in a council, and Parmenio said that if he were Alexander he would accept the terms. “And I,” said the king, “would accept them if I were Parmenio.” Alexander was resolved to carry out his plan of conquest to the end; he would agree to no compromise. He bade the ambassadors say that he would receive neither money nor provinces in lieu of the whole empire of Darius, for that all the land and possessions of Darius were his; he would marry the daughter of Darius if he chose, whether Darius willed it or not; and if Darius wished for any boon he must come himself and ask it.

From Sidon Alexander bore down upon Tyre with his whole fleet, hoping to entice the Tyrians into an engagement. He commanded the right wing, while the left was committed to the charge of Craterus, and Pythagoras the king of Cypriote Salamis. When the fleet hove in sight, the men of Tyre were astonished and dismayed. Before, they would gladly have given battle, but they saw that they had no chance against so many, and they drew up their triremes in close array to block the mouths of their harbours. Alexander set the Cyprian vessels on the north side of the mole to blockade the Sidonian harbour, and the Phoenician on the south side to blockade the Egyptian harbour. It was opposite this harbour, on the mainland, that his own pavilion was placed.

The mole had now been carried up to the island, and engineers, the best that Phoenicia and Cyprus could furnish, had prepared the engines of war. All was ready for a grand attack on the eastern wall. Some of the engines were placed on the mole, others on transport ships or superannuated galleys. But little impression was made on the wall, which on this side was 150 feet high and enormously thick; and the besieged replied to the attack with volleys of fiery missiles from powerful engines, which were mounted on their lofty battlements. Moreover, the machine-bearing vessels could not come close enough to the walls for effective action; huge stones lying under the water hindered their approach. Alexander decided that these must at all cost be removed; and galleys with windlasses were anchored at the spot in order to drag the boulders away. It was a slow task, and was thwarted by the Tyrians. Covered vessels shot out of the havens and cut the anchor-ropes of the galleys, so that they drifted away. Alexander tried to meet this by placing boats similarly decked close to the anchors ; but even this failed, since Tyrian divers swam under water and cut the cables. The only resource was to attach the anchors with chains instead of ropes, and by this means the stones were hauled away and the ships could approach the wall.

The Tyrians now resorted to a last device. They spread the sails of all the ships which were riding at the entrance of the northern harbour, and behind this curtain of canvas, which screened them from the observation of the enemy, they manned seven triremes, three five-oared and three four-oared boats, with the coolest and bravest of their seamen, and waiting for the hour of noon, when the sailors of the besieging vessels used generally to disembark and Alexander himself used to retire to his tent, they rowed noiselessly towards the Cyprian squadron, which was taken completely by surprise, sank some of the vessels at once, and drove the rest on the strand. It happened that on this day Alexander remained for a shorter time than usual in his pavilion; and when he returned to his station with the Phoenician ships on the south side of the mole, discovering what had happened, he stationed the main part of these ships close to the Egyptian harbour to prevent the enemy from making any movement on this side, and taking with him some five-oared boats and five swift-sailing galleys he sailed round the island. The men in the city saw Alexander and all that he did, and signalled to their own crews who were engaged in battering the stranded Cyprian vessels; but the signals were not seen or heard until Alexander was close upon them. When they saw him coming, they desisted from their work and made all speed for the haven, but the greater number of their boats were disabled by Alexander’s vessels before they reached the harbour mouth. Henceforward the ships of Tyre lay useless in the harbours, unable to do anything for the defence of the island.

It was now a struggle between the engineers of Tyre and the engineers of Alexander. The wall opposite to the mole defied all machines of battery and methods of assault, and the northern part of the same eastern wall, though the big stones had been cleared away from the water below it, proved equally impracticable. Accordingly the efforts of the besiegers were united upon the south side near the Egyptian harbour. Here at length a bit of the wall was torn down, and there was fighting in the breach, but the Tyrians easily repelled the attack. It was an encouragement for Alexander, it showed him the weak spot, and two days later he prepared a grand and supreme assault.

The vessels with the siege engines were set to work at the southern wall, while two triremes waited hard by, one filled with hypaspists under Admetus, the other with a phalanx regiment, ready as soon as the wall yielded to hurl their crews into the breach. Ships were stationed in front of the two havens, to force their way in at a favourable moment, and the rest of the fleet, manned with light troops and furnished with engines, were disposed at various points round the island, to embarrass and bewilder the besieged and hinder them from concentrating at the main point of attack. A wide breach was made, the two triremes were rowed up to the spot, the bridges were lowered, and the hypaspists, Admetus at their head, first mounted the wall. Admetus was pierced with a lance, but Alexander took his place, and drove back the Tyrians from the breach. Tower after tower was captured; soon all the southern wall was in the hands of the Macedonians, and Alexander was able to make his way along the battlements to the royal palace, which was the best base for attacking the city. But the city had been already entered from other points. The chains of both the Sidonian and the Egyptian harbours had been burst by the Cyprian and Phoenician squadrons; the Tyrian ships had been disabled; and the troops had pressed into the town. The inhabitants made their last stand in a place called the Agenorion. Eight thousand are said to have been slain, and the rest of the people, about 30,000, were sold into slavery, with the exception of the king, Azemilco, and a few men of high position, who were set at liberty.

The siege had been long and wearisome, but the time and the labour were not too dear a price. The fall of Tyre gave Alexander Syria and Egypt, and the naval supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. He performed the sacrifice to Heracles in the temple to which the Tyrians had refused him access, and celebrated the solemnity with a torch procession and games. The communities of Syria and Southward Palestine, that had not submitted, like Damascus, after the victory advance of Issus, submitted now after the capture of Tyre, and he encountered Alexander no resistance in his southern march to Egypt, until he came to the great frontier stronghold, Gaza, the city of the Philistines.

Girt with a stout wall Gaza stood on a high rising-ground, and more than two miles of sand lay between the city and the seashore, so that a fleet was no help to a besieger. The place had been committed by Darius to the care of Batis, a trusty eunuch, and had been well furnished with provisions for a long siege. Batis refused to surrender, trusting in the strength of the fortifications, and at the first sight the engineers of Alexander declared that the wall could never be stormed on account of the height of the hill on which it stood. But Alexander was now accustomed to overcome the insuperable, and the conqueror who sacked Tyre was not ready to turn away from the walls of Gaza. He could not leave such an important post on the line from Damascus to Egypt in the hands of the enemy. He ordered ramparts to be thrown up round the city, in order that the siege engines mounted on this elevation might be on a level with the wall. The best chance seemed to be on the south side, and here the work was pushed on rapidly. When the engines were placed in position, Alexander offered a sacrifice, and a bird of prey flying over the altar dropped a stone on the king’s garlanded head. The soothsayer interpreted the meaning of the sign : “O king, you will take the city, but you must take good heed for your own safety on this day.” Alexander was cautious for a while, but when the besieged sallied forth from the gates and attacked the Macedonians who were working the engines on the rampart, and pressed them hard, he rushed to their aid, and was wounded in the shoulder by a dart from a catapult. Thus part of the sign had come true; the other part was in time fulfilled. The engines which had been used in the siege of Tyre arrived by sea; the rampart was widened and raised to a greater height ; and underground mines were dug beneath the walls. The walls yielded in many places to the mines and the engines, but it was not till the fourth attack that the Macedonians succeeded in scaling the breaches and entering the city. The slaughter was greater than in Tyre; the women and children were sold into bondage; and the place became a Macedonian fortress.


Sect. 8. Conquest of Egypt

Egypt was now absolutely cut off from Persia; the gate to that sequestered land was open, and Alexander had only to march in. The Egyptians had not the vigour to offer any national resistance to the Greek invader; and Mazaces the Persian satrap, seeing Phoenicia and Syria in Alexander’s power, the Macedonian navy in the roadstead of Pelusium, and no help at hand, thought only of making his submission and winning the conqueror’s grace. Sending his fleet up the Pelusiac branch of the Nile to meet him at Memphis, Alexander journeyed thither by way of Heliopolis. In the capital of the Pharaohs, where he was probably proclaimed king, he sacrificed to Apis and the other native gods, and thereby won the goodwill of the people, who contrasted his piety with the bigotry of the Persian monarch Ochus, who had killed the sacred bull. But while the pew king showed that he would treat the native religion and customs with respect, he also made it clear that Greek civilisation was now to pour into the exclusive regions of the Nile. He held athletic games and a poetical contest at Memphis ; and the most famous artists from Greece came to take part in it.

From Memphis he sailed down the river to Canopus, and took a step which, if he had never performed another exploit in his life, would have made his name memorable for ever. He chose the ground, east of Rhacotis, between Lake Mareotis and the sea, as the site of a new city, over against the island of Pharos, famous in Homeric song, and soon to become more famous still as the place of the first light-house, one of the seven wonders of the world. The king is said to have himself traced out the ground plan of Alexandria — the market-place and the circuit of the walls, the sanctuary of Isis and the temples of the Hellenic gods. He joined the mainland with the island by a causeway seven stades (nearly mile) in length, and thus formed two harbours. The subsequent history of Alexandria, which has held its position as a port for more than 2000 years, proves that its founder had a true eye in choosing the site of the most famous of his new cities. The greatness of the place as a mart of the world far surpassed any purposes or hopes that Alexander could have formed; but his object in founding it can hardly be doubted. Alexandria was not intended to supersede Memphis as the capital of Egypt; it was intended to take the place of Tyre as the commercial centre of Western Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean. And there was a good reason for diverting the lines of traffic from the Phoenician to the Egyptian coast. For it was naturally the policy of Alexander to transfer the trade of the world, so far as might be, into the hands of Greeks; but any new emporium rising on the ruins of Tyre or Sidon would have soon become predominantly Phoenician, owing to the Phoenician genius for trade; whereas on the Egyptian coast Greek traders would encounter no such rivalry. It was thus with a view to the commercial interests of his own race that Alexander founded the port of Egypt.

In the official style of the Egyptian monarchy the Pharaohs were sons of Ammon, and as the successor of the Pharaohs Alexander assumed the same title. It was therefore necessary in order to regulate his position that an official assurance should be given by Ammon himself that Alexander was his son. To obtain such a declaration and satisfy fully the formalities required by the priests, Alexander undertook a journey to the oracular sanctuary of Ammon in the oasis of Siwah. And this motive is alone sufficient to explain the expedition. But it may well be that in Alexander’s mind there was a vague notion that there was something divine about his own origin, something mystical in his mother’s conception, and that, like Achilles, he was somewhat more than an ordinary man. Proceeding along the coast to Paraetonion, he was there met by envoys who conveyed the submission of Cyrene. By this acquisition the western frontier of the Macedonian empire extended to the border of the Carthaginian sphere of rule. Alexander then struck across the desert to visit that Egyptian temple which was most famous in the Greek world, the temple as it was called of Zeus Ammon. There were no tracks to guide the travellers, for the south wind had ploughed up the sand and obliterated the road-marks; and stories were told in the camp of miraculous guidance vouchsafed to the favourite of the god. Ptolemy, son of Lagus, who was destined hereafter to rule over Egypt and Libya, recorded in his Memoirs that two snakes moved in front of the troops and showed the way; while Aristobulus, another companion of the king, spoke of the guidance of two crows. A certain mystery enveloped this expedition. It is said that Alexander told no man what he asked the god or what the god replied, save only that the answer pleased him. But it is certain that the priests had made such dispositions that Ammon spoke and recognised him as his son. The very route by which Alexander returned to Memphis is uncertain, for the same two companions differ; Ptolemy stating that he fared direct across the desert, and Aristobulus that he returned by Paraetonion.

At Memphis he organised the government of Egypt, entrusting it to two native nomarchs, and appointing separate Greek governors for the adjoining districts of Arabia and for Libya. But the control of the finances was placed in the hands of a special minister, Cleomenes of Naucratis. Several military commanders were also appointed, and it would seem that Alexander instituted this divided command as a safeguard against the danger of a rebellion. For, geographically situated as Egypt was, an ambitious commander might have a fair prospect of holding the country against his lord; and its recent history as a Persian province had illustrated the difficulty of dealing with it. If this be so, Alexander inaugurated a policy which was followed, in later days and in another form, by his Roman successors.


Sect. 9. Battle of Gaugamela, and Conquest of Babylonia

The new lord of Egypt and Syria returned with the spring to Tyre. The whole coastland was now in his possession, and he controlled the sea; the time had come to f advance into the heart of the Persian empire. Having spent some months in the Phoenician city, busied with various matters of policy and administration, as well as with plans for his next campaign, he set forth at the head of 40,000 infantry and 7000 horse, and reached Thapsacus on Euphrates at the beginning of August. The building of two bridges had been already begun, but the Persian Mazaeus, who was stationed with troops on the further shore, had hindered their completion. When Alexander arrived, he withdrew; the bridges were finished, and the army passed over. The objective of Alexander was Babylon. At that time of year it would have been mad to follow the direct route down the Euphrates which was traversed by Cyrus and the Ten Thousand. Alexander chose the other road, across the north of Mesopotamia and down the Tigris on its eastern bank. Throughout the Asiatic campaigns of Alexander we are struck by the perfect organisation of his transports and supplies; but we are struck even more by the certainty of his movements through strange lands, as if he had a map of the country before him. His intelligence department must have been excellent, and though our records give us no intimations on the subject, it has been supposed with much plausibility that here the invader received help from the Jews, who ever since the Captivity were scattered about Media and Babylonia. It is certain that Alexander had shown special favour to the race of Israel at the foundation of Egyptian Alexandria; he had invited a Jewish colony to settle there, enjoying the rights of citizens, and yet living in a separate quarter and keeping their own national customs.

From some Persian scouts who were captured it was ascertained that Darius, with a yet larger multitude than that which had succumbed at Issus, was on the other side of the river, determined to contest the passage. Alexander crossed the Tigris, not at Nineveh, the usual place of crossing, higher up at Bezabde. On the same night the moon went into eclipse, and men anxiously sought in the phenomenon a portent of the issue of the coming struggle for the lordship of Asia.

Marching southward for some days, Alexander learned that Darius was encamped in a plain near Gaugamela on the river Bumodus. The numbers of the army were reported at 1,000,000 foot and 40,000 horse. Having given his men four days’ rest, Alexander moved on by night and halted on a hill looking down on the plain where the enemy lay prepared for battle. A council of war was held, and the question was discussed whether the attack should be made immediately; but Parmenio counselled a day’s delay, for the purpose of reconnoitring fully the enemy’s position and discovering whether perchance covered pits had been dug or stakes laid in the ground. Parmenio’s counsel was followed, and the troops pitched their camp in the order in which they were to fight. Alexander rode over the plain and found that the Persians had cleared it of all bushes and obstacles which might impede the movements of their cavalry or  the effect of their scythed chariots.

The following night was spent by the Persians under arms, for their camp was unfortified and they feared a night attack. And a night attack was recommended by Parmenio, but Alexander preferred to trust the issue to his own generalship and the superior discipline of his troops, and not to brave the hazards of a struggle in the  dark. He said to Parmenio, “I do not steal victory,” and under the gallantry of this reply he concealed, in his usual manner, the prudence and policy of his resolve. A victory over the Persian host, won in the open field in the light of day, would have a far greater effect in establishing his prestige in Asia than an advantage stolen by night.

The Great King, according to wont, was in the centre of the Persian array, surrounded by his kinsfolk and his Persian body-guard. On either side of them were Greek mercenaries, Indian auxiliaries with a few elephants, and Carians whose ancestors had been settled in Upper Asia. The centre was strengthened and deepened by a second line, composed of the Babylonian troops, and the men from the shores of the Persian Gulf, and the Uxians who dwelt east of Susa, and the Sitacenes. On the left wing, the Cadusians from the shores of the Caspian and the men of Susa were nearest the centre; next came a mixed host of Persian horse and foot; and at the extreme left were the troops from the far east, from Arachosia and Bactria. This wing was covered by 1000 Bactrian cavalry, 100 scythe -armed chariots, and the Scythian cavalry from the desert districts of Lake Aral. On the right were the contingents of the Caucasian folks; the Hyrcanians and Tapurians from the south-eastern shores of the Caspian; the Parthians, who were destined in the future to found a new oriental monarchy; the Sacae from the slopes of the Hindu-Kush; the Medes, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and northern Syria.

Against this host, of which the cavalry alone is said to have been as numerous as all the infantry of the enemy, Alexander descended the hill in the morning. On his left wing—commanded as usual by Parmenio—were the cavalry of the Thessalian and confederate Greeks; in the centre the six regiments of the phalanx; and on the right , the hypaspists, and the eight squadrons of the Companions, the royal squadron of Clitus being at the extreme right. Covering the right wing were some light troops, spear-throwers and archers. The line was far outflanked on both sides by the enemy, and the danger which Alexander had most to fear, as at the battle of Issus, was that of being attacked in rear or flank; only that, whereas in the plain of Issus his right alone was threatened, here both wings were in peril. He sought to meet these contingencies by forming behind each wing a second line, which by facing round a quarter or half circle could meet an attack on flank or rear. Behind the left wing were placed Thracian foot and horse, some Greek confederate cavalry, and Greek mercenary cavalry; behind the right , the old Greek mercenaries under Cleander, the Macedonian archers, some of the Agrianian spear-throwers, the mounted pikemen, the light Paeonian cavalry; and, at the extreme right, to bear the brunt of a flank assault, the new Greek mercenaries under Menidas.

As he advanced, Alexander and his right wing were opposite to the centre of the enemy’s line, and he was outflanked by the whole length of the enemy’s left. He therefore bore obliquely to the right, and, even when the Scythian horsemen riding forward came into contact with his own light troops, he continued to move his squadrons of heavy cavalry in the same direction. Darius saw with anxiety that this movement would soon bring the Macedonian right outside the ground which he had carefully levelled and prepared for the action of his scythed chariots, and, as he had set no small part of his hopes in he deadly effect of these chariots, he commanded the Scythian and Bactrian cavalry to ride round and deliver a flank-charge, in order to hinder any further advance towards the right. The charge was met by the new mercenaries of Menidas; but they were too few, they were driven back, until the Paeonians and the old mercenaries were bidden to come to their support. Then the barbarians gave way, but in a short while, reinforced by more troops, they returned to the charge. The battle raged, and it was well if the Macedonians, far outnumbered, could hold their ground.

Meanwhile Darius had loosed his scythed cars, to whirl destruction into the ranks of the Companions and the hypaspists. But the archers  and the Agrian spear-throwers received them with showers of spears and arrows; some of these active hillsmen seized the reins of the horses and pulled the drivers from their seats, while the hypaspists, swiftly and undismayed, opened their ranks, and the terrible chariots rattled harmless down the intervals.

The whole Persian line was now advancing to attack, and Alexander was waiting for the moment to deliver his cavalry charge. He had to send his mounted pikemen to the help of the light cavalry, who were being hard pressed on the right by the Scythians and Bactrians; and as a counter-check to this reinforcement, squadrons of Persian cavalry were dispatched to the assistance of their fellows. By the withdrawal of these squadrons a gap was caused in the left wing, and into this Alexander plunged at the head of his cavalry column and split the line in two. Thus the left side of the enemy’s centre was exposed, and turning obliquely Alexander charged into its ranks. Meanwhile the bristling phalanx was moving forward and was soon engaged in close combat with another part of the Persian centre. The storm of battle burst with wildest fury round the spot where the Persian king was trembling, and what befell at Issus befell again at Gaugamela. The Great King turned his chariot and fled. His Persians fled with him, and swept along in their flight the troops who had been posted in the rear.

Thus the Persian centre and the neighbouring part of the left wing were cut down or routed by the phalanx, the hypaspists, and the Companions. And in the meantime, the severe struggle of the light cavalry on the uttermost left had also ended in victory for the Macedonians.

The regiments of the phalanx in their rapid advance had failed to keep abreast, and it would seem that when the regiment of Craterus, on the extreme left, was already far forward in the thick of the fight, the regiment commanded by Simmias, second from the left, was considerably in the rear. From his position Simmias saw that the Thessalian cavalry on the left wing were pressed hard by their adversaries, and he halted his regiment, in order apparently to make a a movement to assist them. But the Indian and Persian cavalry of the hostile centre rushed through the gap in the phalanx and rode straight onward to the Macedonian camp, unhindered by the rear line of the left wing who did not expect an enemy on that side. The captives in the camp burst out and helped their friends to murder the Thracians who had been set to guard it. The Greek mercenaries and Thracians of the rear line soon perceived what had happened; they turned round, attacked the plunderers in the rear, and overcame them.

Meanwhile Parmenio was hard bestead. The Mesopotamians and Syrians of the extreme Persian right had attacked his cavalry in the flank or rear. Parmenio sped a messenger to Alexander entreating aid, and Alexander desisted from the pursuit of his fleeing rival, to restore the battle on his left wing. Riding back with his Companions he encountered a large body of cavalry, Persians, Parthians, and Indians, in full retreat, but in orderly array. A desperate conflict ensued, perhaps the most fearful in the whole battle, the Persians fighting not for victory but for life. Sixty of the Companions fell, but Alexander was again victorious and rode on to the help of Parmenio. But Parmenio no longer needed his help. Not the least achievement of this day of great deeds was the brilliant fighting of the Thessalian cavalry, who not only sustained the battle against the odds which had wrung from Parmenio the cry for aid, but in the end routed their foemen before Alexander could reach the spot. The battle was won, and the fate of the Persian empire was decided.

Alexander did not tarry on the field. He lost not a moment in resuming the chase which he had abandoned, and, riding eastward throughout the night on the tracks of the Persian king, he reached Arbela on the morrow. It befell now as it had befallen after Issus. He did not take the king, but found at Arbela his chariot, his shield, and his bow. Darius fled into the highlands of Media, and Ariobarzanes with a host of the routed army hastened southward to Persia. Alexander did not follow either king or satrap, but pursued his way to Babylon.

It might have been expected, and Alexander seems to have expected, that the men of Babylon, trusting in their mighty walls, would have offered to the victor of Gaugamela the same defiance which the men of Tyre offered to the victor of Issus. He was disappointed. When he approached the city, with his army arrayed for action, the gates opened and the Babylonians streamed out, led by their priests and their chief men. The satrap Mazaeus, who had fought bravely in the recent battle, surrendered the city and citadel. In Babylonia, Alexander followed the same policy which he had already followed in Egypt. He appeared as the protector of the national religions which had been depressed and slighted by the fire-worshippers. He rebuilt the Babylonian temples which had been destroyed, and above all he commanded the restoration of the marvellous temple of Bel, standing on its eight towers, on which the rage of Xerxes had vented itself when he returned from the rout of Salamis. The Persian Mazaeus was retained in his post as satrap of Babylonia.


Sect. 10. Conquest of Susiana and Persis

Having rested his army in the luxurious and wonderful city of the Euphrates, the conqueror advanced south-eastward to Susa, the at summer residence of the Persian court. Susa had been already secured for him by Philoxenus, whom he had dispatched thither from Arbela with some light troops. In the citadel he found enormous treasures of gold and silver and purple. Among other precious things at Susa was the sculptured group of the tyrant-slayers, Harmodius and Aristogiton, which Xerxes had carried off from Athens; and Alexander had the pleasure of sending back to its home this historical monument, now more precious than ever through its own strange history.

Though it was mid-winter, Alexander soon left Susa to accomplish one of the most arduous adventures that he ever undertook. He had won the treasures of Susa, but there were immense treasures still in the palaces of Cyrus and Darius in the heart of the Persian high-lands, and these were guarded not only by the difficulties of the mountainous approaches, but by the army which Ariobarzanes had rescued from the overthrow of Gaugamela. Perhaps the reason for Alexander’s haste in pressing on to Persis was the fear that Darius might descend with a new force from Media, if time were given him before Ariobarzanes was crushed. But whatever were his reasons, it seemed to him of the greatest moment to secure Persis immediately. His road lay south-eastward, and when he had crossed the river Pasitigris, the first obstacle that he encountered was the independent tribe of the Uxian hillsmen, on whom the Persian kings themselves were accustomed to bestow gifts for their goodwill. The barbarians held the passes through which the road lay, but a night march by a difficult mountain path enabled Alexander to surprise them, and the Uxians henceforward were forced to pay yearly gifts to the lord of Asia—a hundred horses, five hundred draught oxen, and thirty thousand sheep.

The Macedonian army was now in the midst of a region which was unknown to Greek charts. Alexander’s advance is a march not only of conquest but of discovery, and opens a new epoch in the history of geographical science by revealing Central Asia to the knowledge of Europe.

Leaving half of his army with Parmenio to proceed more slowly along the main road, Alexander led the other half (including the Macedonians, both horse and foot) by a shorter path through the hills to the narrow defile which formed the entrance to Persis and was called the Persian Gates. Ariobarzanes was posted there with 40,000 foot and 700 horse, guarding the rocky pass which he had fortified by a wall. An attack, easily repelled, showed Alexander that the pass was impregnable  yet it must be carried, for this was the only road to the royal cities of Persia. For a moment Alexander was baffled; never perhaps—not even before Tyre—was he encountered by a problem more desperate to all seeming. But he learned from a prisoner of some extremely perilous paths leading round, through the forests which covered the mountains, to the back of the pass. At this season the snow made these paths more dangerous than ever, and they might well seem hopeless to men weighed down with heavy armour; but they were the only hope and Alexander did not hesitate. He left Craterus with part of the troops in front  of the pass, with orders to attack as soon as he heard the Macedonian trumpets sounding from above on the other side. With the rest of his force, including most of the cavalry, three regiments of the phalanx, the hypaspists, and other light troops, he set forth at night, and marched quickly eleven miles along the precipitous snowy track, intersected frequently by deep gullies. When the point was reached at which he was to turn in order to descend on the Persian camp, he again divided his forces, and sent one division forward to bridge the river Araxes and cut off the Persian retreat. Taking the hypaspists, the royal squadron of the Companions, one regiment of the phalanx, and some light troops, he raced down upon the camp and destroyed or routed three successive sets of outposts before the day dawned. Instead of raising the alarm, the sentinels scattered on the mountain, and when the Macedonian trumpets pealed on the brink of his entrenchments, Ariobarzanes was taken completely by surprise. Attacked on both sides, in front by Craterus who stormed up the wall of rock, and in the rear by Alexander, the Persians were cut to pieces or fell over precipices in their flight. Ariobarzanes with a small band escaped into the mountains.

The royal palaces of Persia, to which Alexander now hurried with the utmost speed, stood in the valley of Mervdasht, fertile then  but desolate at the present day, and close to the city of Istachr, which the Persians deemed the oldest city in the world. In Istachr itself there was a royal house too, but the great palaces stood some miles away, close beneath the mountain, upon a lofty platform against a background of black rock. The platform was mounted by magnificent staircases, and it bore, besides massive propylaea, four chief buildings, the small palace of Darius, the larger palace of Xerxes, and two great pillared halls. The impressive ruins tell a trained eye how to reconstruct the general plan of the royal abode and there can be no question that Achaemenian architecture had wrought here its greatest achievements, greater than the palace of Susa which Alexander had seen, greater than that of Ecbatana which he was soon to see. This cradle of the Persian kingdom to which, city and palace together, the Greeks gave the name of Persepolis , was  the richest of all the cities under the sun.” It is said that 120,000 talents were found in the treasury; an army of mules and camels were required to remove the spoils. This store of gold so long withdrawn from use, was now suddenly to be restored to circulation and perturb the markets of the world.

Not far off, two days’ journey northward up the winding valley of  the Murghab, was Pasargadae, the city of Cyrus. The maker of Persia built it close to the field where he had shattered the host of the Median king; and the place is still marked by his tomb, and the stones of other buildings, on some of which the traveller may  read the words “ I am Cyrus the king, the Achaemenian.” In Pasargadae too Alexander found a store of treasure.

For four months he made the Persian palaces his headquarters; during which time he received the submission of Caramania or Kirman and made some excursions to punish the robbers who infested the neighbouring mountains. But the most famous incident connected with the sojourn at Persepolis is the conflagration of the palace of Xerxes. The story is that one night when Alexander and his companions had drunk deep at a royal festival, Thais, an Attic courtesan, who was of the company, mindful of her country and all the wrongs which Xerxes had wrought, flung out among the tipsy carousers the idea of burning down the house of the malignant foe who had burned the temples of Greece. The mad words of the woman inspired a wild frenzy, and whirled the revellers forth, armed with torches, to accomplish the barbarous deed. Alexander hurled the first brand, and the cedar wood-work of the palace was soon in flames. But before the fire had done its work the king’s head was cool, and he commanded the fire to be quenched. It is folly to attempt to read into this act a deliberate policy; it was the wild freak of a moment, repented the next.


Sect. 11. Death of Darius

In the meantime king Darius remained in Ecbatana, surrounded by the adherents who were faithful to him, chiefly the satraps of those lands which were still unconquered—Media itself and Hyrcania, Areia and Bactria, Arachosia and Drangiana. It is probable that after the Gaugamela battle Alexander hoped to receive some proposal from his defeated foe, more submissive and acceptable than that which had been sent after Issus. He would have been ready perhaps to leave to Darius the eastern part of his dominions, with the royal title, though as a dependent vassal, and to content himself for a while with the empire which he had won, including Susa and Persepolis. It may have been with the hope of receiving overtures that he tarried so long in Persis. But Darius gave no sign. Media was defensible; he had a large army from the northern satrapies; and he had Bactria as a retreat, if retreat he must.

The spring was advanced when Alexander left Persis for Ecbatana. The direct road did not lie by Susa, but much farther east through the land of Paraetacene. He made all speed, when the news reached him by the way, that Darius was at Ecbatana with a large army, prepared to fight. But when after a succession of forced marches he drew nigh to the city, he found that Darius had flown eastward, following the women and heavy baggage which had been sent on to the Caspian Gates, and taking the treasures with him. It is said Alexander that the reason of this retreat was the default of some Cadusian and at Scythian troops which had failed to arrive in time. When he reached Ecbatana, the Median capital, Alexander was detained by the need of arranging certain matters before he pursued his rival into the northern wilds. He paid off the Thessalian troops and the other Greek confederates, giving them a handsome donative and a conduct to the Aegean; but any who chose to enrol themselves anew in his service and share in his further course of conquest might stay, and not a few stayed. Parmenio was entrusted with the care of seeing that the treasures of Persis were transported and safely deposited in the strong keep of Ecbatana, where they were to remain in charge of the treasurer Harpalus and a large body of Macedonian troops. Parmenio was then to proceed northward to Cadusia, and along the shores of the Caspian Sea, where he was to meet the king.

With the main part of the army Alexander hurried on, merciless to men and steeds, bent on the capture of Darius. His way lay by Ragae, and when he reached that place, a little to the south of the modern capital of Persia, he found that the fugitive was already well beyond the Caspian Gates, which lie a long day’s journey to the east. Despairing of overtaking him, Alexander rested some days at Ragae before he advanced towards Parthia through the Caspian pass. But meanwhile doom was stealing upon Darius by another way. His followers were beginning to suspect that ill-luck dogged seized by him, and when he proposed to stay and risk another battle instead of continuing his retreat to Bactria, none were willing except the remnant of Greek mercenaries, who were still faithful to the man who had hired them, and perhaps dreaded punishment as recusants to the Greek cause. Bessus, the satrap of Bactria, was a kinsman of the king, and it was felt by many that he might be able to raise again the Achaemenian house, which Darius had been unable to sustain. A plot was formed; Darius was seized and bound in the middle of the night, set in a litter, and hurried on as a prisoner along the road to Bactria. This event disbanded his army. The Greet mercenaries went off northwards into the Caspian mountains, and many of the Persians turned back to find pardon and grace with Alexander. They found him encamped on the Parthian side of the Caspian Gates, and told him the new turn of events. When he learned that his old rival was a prisoner and that Bessus was now his antagonist, Alexander resolved on a swift and hot pursuit. Leaving the main body of the army to come slowly after, he set forth at once with his cavalry and some light foot, and sped the whole nigh through, not resting till next day at noon, and then another evening and night at the same breathless speed. Sunrise saw him at Thara. It was the place where the Great King had been put in chains, and it was ascertained from his interpreter, who had remained behind that Bessus and his fellows intended to surrender Darius if the pursuit were pressed. There was the greater need for haste. The pursuers rode on throughout another night; men and horses were dropping with fatigue. At noon they came to a village where the pursued had halted the day before, and Alexander learned that they intended to force a march in the night. He asked the people if there was no short way, and was told that there was a short way, but it was waterless. Alexander instantly dismounted five hundred of his horsemen and gave their steeds to the officers and the strongest men of the infantry who were with him. With these he started in the evening, and having ridden about forty-five miles came a up with the enemy at break of day. The barbarians were straggling, many of them unarmed; a few who made a stand were swept away, but most of them fled when they saw that it was Alexander. Bessus and his fellow-conspirators bade their prisoner—no longer, seemingly, in chains—mount a horse; and when Darius refused, they stabbed him and rode their ways, wounding the litter-mules too and killing the drivers. The beasts, sore and thirsty, strayed about half a mile from the road down a side valley, where they were found at a spring by a Macedonian who had come to slake his thirst. The Great King was near his last gasp. If he could have spoken Greek, or if the stranger had understood Persian, he might have found words to send a message of thanks to his conqueror for the generous treatment of his wife and mother who were then assuredly in his thoughts; afterwards men had no scruple in placing appropriate words in the mouth of the dying monarch. It is enough to believe that he had the solace of a cup of water in his supreme moments and thanked the Macedonian soldier by a sign. Alexander viewed the body, and is related to have thrown his own cloak over it in pity. It was part of his fair luck that he found Darius dead; for if he had taken him alive, he would not have put him to death, and such a captive would have been a perpetual embarrassment. He sent the corpse with all honour to the queen-mother, and the last of the Achaemenian kings was buried with his forefathers at Persepolis.


Sect. 12. Spirit of Alexander’s Policy as Lord of Asia

Before we follow Alexander on his marches of conquest and discovery into the regions which were then in European eyes the Far East, we may pause to observe his attitude as ruler and king; for the months which passed between the battle of Gaugamela and the pursuit of Darius were a critical period, which witnessed a remarkable change in his conception of his duty and in his political aims.

From the very beginning he had shown to the conquered provinces a tolerance, which was not only prompted by generosity but based on political wisdom. He had not attempted to apply an artificial scheme to all countries, but had permitted each country to retain its national institutions. One general principle, indeed, he did adopt—the division of power; and this was a notable improvement on the Persian method. Under the Persian kingdom the satrap was usually sole governor, controlling not only the civil administration, but the treasury and the troops. Alexander in most cases committed only the internal administration to the governor, and appointed beside him, and independent of his authority, a financial officer and a military commander. This division of authority was a security against rebellion. We have already seen, in Egypt and Babylonia, how in matters of religion Alexander was, like all the Greeks, broad- minded and tolerant.

But the Macedonian king, the commander-in-chief of the Greek confederates, had set forth as a champion of Greeks against mere barbarians, as a leader of Europeans against effeminate Asiatics, as the representative of a higher folk against beings lower in the human scale. All the Greeks and Macedonians who followed him regarded the east as a world to be plundered and rifled by their higher intelligence and courage, and considered the orientals as inferiors meant by nature to be their own slaves. “Slaves by nature” they seemed to the political wisdom of Aristotle himself, Alexander’s teacher; and the victories of Issus and Gaugamela were calculated to confirm the Europeans in their sense of unmeasured superiority. But, as Alexander advanced, his view expanded, and he rose to a loftier conception of his own position and his relation to Asia. He began to transcend the familiar distinction of Greek and barbarian, and to see that, for all the truth it contained, it was not the last word that could be said. He formed the notion of an empire, both European and Asiatic, in which the Asiatics should not be dominated by the European invaders, but Europeans and Asiatics alike should be ruled on an equality by a monarch, indifferent to the distinction of Greek and barbarian, and looked upon as their own king by Persians as well as by Macedonians. The idea begins to show itself after the battle of Gaugamela. The Persian lords and satraps who submit are received with favour and confidence; Alexander learns to know and appreciate the fine qualities of the Iranian noblemen. Some of the eastern provinces are entrusted to Persian satraps, for example Babylonia to Mazaeus, and the court of Alexander ceases to be purely European. With oriental courtiers, the forms of an oriental court are also gradually introduced; the Asiatics prostrate themselves before the lord of Asia; and presently Alexander adopts the dress of a Persian king at court ceremonies, in order to appear less a foreigner in the eyes of his eastern subjects. The idea which prompted this policy was new and bold, and it harmonised with the great work of Alexander,—the breaking down of the barriers between west and east; but it was accompanied by a certain imperious self-exaltation, which we do not find in the earlier part of Alexander’s career, and it involved him in troubles with his own folk. The Macedonians strongly disapproved of their king’s new paths; they disliked the rival influence of the Asiatic nobles, and their prejudices were shocked at seeing Alexander occasionally assume oriental robes. The Macedonian royalty was indeed inadequate for Alexander’s imperial position; but it is unfortunate that he had no other model than the royalty of Persia, hedged round by forms which were so distasteful to the free spirit of Greece. The life of Alexander was spent in solving difficult problems, political and military; and none was harder than this, to create a kingship which should conciliate the prejudices of the east without offending the prejudices of the west.