The Anabasis of Alexander/4a

From Jatland Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wikified by Laxman Burdak

Go to Index of the Book
«« Go to Book-3b
Go to Book-4b»»



The Anabasis of Alexander

Or, The History of Wars and Conquests of Alexander the Great

Literally translated, with a commentary, from the Greek of Arrian the Nicomedian,

by E. J. Chinnock, M.A., LL.B., London, Rector of Dumfries Academy. 1883.


Ch.1: Rebellion of the Sogdianians

A few days after this, envoys reached Alexander from the people called Abian Scythians, whom Homer commended in his poem, calling them the justest of men.[1] This nation dwells in Asia and is independent, chiefly by reason of its poverty and love of justice. Envoys also came from the Scythians of Europe, who are the largest nation dwelling in that coutinent.[2] Alexander sent some of the Companions with them, under the pretext indeed that they were to conclude a friendly alliance by the embassy; but the real object of the mission was rather to spy into the natural features of the Scythian land, the number of the inhabitants and their customs, as well as the armaments which they possessed for making military expeditions.[3] He formed a plan of founding a city near the river Tanais, which was to be named after himself; for the site seemed to him suitable and likely to cause the city to grow to large dimensions. He also thought it would be built in a place which would serve as a favourable basis of operations for an invasion of Scythia, if such an event should ever occur; and not only so, but it would also be a bulwark to secure the land against the incursions of the barbarians dwelling on the further side of the river. Moreover he thought that the city would become great, both by reason of the multitude of those who would join in colonizing it, and on account of the celebrity of the name conferred upon it.[4] Meantime the barbarians dwelling near the river seized upon the Macedonian soldiers who were garrisoning their cities and killed them; after which they began to strengthen the cities for their greater security. Most of the Sogdianians joined them in this revolt, being urged on to it by the men who had arrested, Bessus. These men were so energetic that they even induced some of the Bactrians to join in the rebellion, either because they were afraid of Alexander, or because their seducers assigned as a reason for their revolt, that he had sent instructions to the rulers of that land to assemble for a conference at Zariaspa, the chief city; which conference, they said, would be for no good purpose.[5]


1. See Homer's Iliad, xiii. 6. Cf. Curtius, vii. 26; Ammianus, xxiii. 6.

2. Cf. Thucydides, ii. 97.

3. Curtius (vii 26) says, he sent one of his friends named Berdes on this mission. 205

4. This was called Alexandria Ultima, on the Jaxartes, probably the modern Khojend.

5. Of. Gwrtius (vii. 26). Zariaspa was another name for Bactra. See Pliny (vi. 18) and Straho (xi. 11).

p.205-206

Ch.2: Capture of Five Cities in Two Days

When Alexander was informed of this, he gave instructions to the infantry, company by company, to prepare the ladders which were assigned to each company. He then started from the camp and advanced to the nearest city, the name of which was Gaza; for the barbarians of the land were said to have fled for refuge into seven cities. He sent Craterus to the one called Cyropolis, the largest of them all, into which most of the barbarians had gathered.[1] The orders of Craterus were to encamp, near the city, to dig a trench round it, to surround it with a stockade, and to fix together the military engines which were required for use, so that the men in this city, having had their attention drawn to his forces, might be unable to render aid to the other cities. As soon as Alexander arrived at Gaza, without any delay he gave the signal to his men to place the ladders against the wall all round and to take it by assault at once, as it was made merely of earth and was not at all high. Simultaneously with the assault of the infantry, his slingers, archers, and javelin-throwers assailed the defenders on the wall, and missiles were hurled from the military engines, so that the wall was quickly cleared of its defenders by the multitude of the missiles. Then the fixing of the ladders against the wall and the mounting of the Macedonians were matters soon effected. They killed all the men, according to Alexander's injunctions; but the women, the children, and the rest of the booty they carried off as plunder. Thence he immediately marched to the city situated next to that one; and this he took in the same way and on the same day, treating the captives in the same manner. Then he marched against the third city, and took it on the next day at the first assault. While he was thus occupied by these matters with the infantry, he sent out his cavalry to the two neighbouring cities, with orders to guard the men within them closely, so that when they heard of the capture of the neighbouring cities, and at the same time of his own near approach, they should not betake themselves to flight and render it impossible for him to pursue them. It turned out just as he had conjectured; and his despatch of the cavalry was made just at the nick of time. For when the barbarians who occupied the two cities still uncaptured, saw the smoke rising from the city in front of them which was then on fire, (and some men, escaping even from the midst of the calamity itself, became the reporters of the capture which they had themselves witnessed,) they began to flee in crowds out of the cities as fast as each man could; but falling in with the dense body of cavalry drawn up in array of battle, most of them were cut to pieces.


1. This city was also called Cyreaohata, because it was the furthest city founded by Cyrus, and the extreme city of the Persian empire.

p.206-208

Ch.3: Storming of Cyropolis.— Revolt of the Scythians

Having thus captured the five cities and reduced them to slavery in two days,[1] he went to Cyropolis, the largest city in the country. It was fortified with a wall higher than those of the others, as it had been founded by Cyrus. The majority of the barbarians of this district, and at the same time the most warlike of them, had fled for refuge thither, and consequently it was not possible for the Macedonians to capture it so easily at the first assault. Wherefore Alexander brought his military engines up to the wall with the determination of battering it down in this way, and of making assaults wherever breaches might be made in it. When he observed that the channel of the river, which flows through the city when it is swollen by the winter rains, was at that time nearly dry and did not reach up to the wall, and would thus afford his soldiers a passage by which to penetrate into the city, he took the body-guards, the shield-bearing guards, the, archers, and Agrianians, and made his way secretly into the city along the channel, at first with a few men, while the barbarians had turned their attention towards the military engines and those who were assailing them in that quarter. Having from within broken open the gates which were opposite this position, he gave an easy admittance to the rest of his soldiers. Then the barbarians, though they perceived that their city was already in the hands of the enemy, nevertheless turned against Alexander and his men and made a desperate assault upon them, in which Alexander himself received a violent blow on the head and neck with a stone, and Craterus was wounded with an arrow, as were also many other officers. Notwithstanding this, however, they drove the barbarians out of the market-place. Meantime, those who had made the assault upon the wall, took it, as it was now void of defenders. In the first capture of the city about 8,000 of the enemy were killed. The rest fled for refuge into the citadel; for 15,000 warriors in all had gathered together in the city. Alexander encamped around these and besieged them for one day,[2] and then they surrendered through lack of water. The seventh city he took at the first assault. Ptolemy says that the men in it surrendered; but Aristobulus asserts that this city was also taken by storm, and that he slew all who were captured therein. Ptolemy also says that he distributed the men among the army and ordered that they should be kept guarded in chains until he should depart from the country, so that none of those who had effected the revolt should be left behind. Meantime an army of the Asiatic Scythians arrived at the bank of the river Tanais, because most of them had heard that some of the barbarians on the opposite side of the river had revolted from Alexander. They intended to attack the Macedonians, if any revolutionary movement worthy of consideration were effected. News was also brought that Spitamenes was besieging the men who had been left in the citadel at Maracanda. Against him Alexander then despatched Andromachus, Menedemus, and Caranus with sixty of the Companion cavalry, 800 of the mercenary cavalry under the command of Caranus, and 1,500 mercenary infantry. Over them he placed Pharnuches the interpreter, who, though by birth a Lycian, was skilled in the language of the barbarians of this country, and in other respects appeared clever in dealing with them.


1. δυσί was not used in Attic Greek, or but seldom. It became common after the time of Alexander.

2.Instead of ἡμέρᾳ μιᾷ, Siutenis reads ἡμέραν μίαν.

p.208-210

Ch.4: Defeat of the Scythians beyond the Tanais

In twenty days he fortified the city which he was projecting, and settled in it some of the Grecian mercenaries and those of the neighbouring barbarians who volunteered to take part in the settlement, as well as the Macedonians from his army who were now unfit for military service.[1] He then offered sacrifice to the gods in his customary manner and celebrated an equestrian and gymnastic contest. When he saw that the Scythians were not retiring from the river's bank, but were seen to be shooting arrows into the river, which was not wide here, and were uttering audacious words in their barbaric tongue to insult Alexander, to the effect that he durst not touch Scythians, or if he did, he would learn what was the difference between them and the Asiatic barbarians, he was irritated by these remarks, and having resolved to cross over against them, he began to prepare the skins for the passage of the river.[2] But. when he offered sacrifice with a view to crossing, the victims proved to be unfavourable; and though he was vexed at this, he nevertheless controlled himself and remained where he was. But as the Scythians did not desist from their insults, he again offered sacrifice with a view to crossing; and Aristander told him that the omens still portended danger to himself. But Alexander said that it was better for him to come into extreme danger than that, after having subdued almost the whole of Asia, he should be a laughing-stock to the Scythians, as Darius, the father of Xerxes, had been in days of yore.[3] Aristander refused to explain the will of the gods contrary to the revelations made by the deity simply because Alexander wished to hear the contrary. When the skins had been prepared for the passage, and the army, fully equipped, had been posted near the river, the military engines, at the signal preconcerted, began to shoot at the Scythians riding along the river's bank. Some of them were wounded by the missiles, and one was struck right through the wicker-shield and breastplate and fell from his horse. The others, being alarmed at the discharge of missiles from so great a distance, and at the death of their champion, retreated a little from the bank. But Alexander, seeing them thrown into confusion by the effect of his missiles, began to cross the river with trumpets sounding, himself leading the way; and the rest of the army followed him. Having first got the archers and slingers across, he ordered them to sling and shoot at the Scythians, to prevent them approaching the phalanx of infantry stepping out of the water, until all his cavalry had passed over. When they were upon the bank in dense mass, he first of all launched against the Scythians one regiment of the Grecian auxiliary cavalry and four squadrons of pike-men. These the Scythians received, and in great numbers riding round them in circles, wounded them, as they were few in number, themselves escaping with ease. But Alexander mixed the archers, the Agrianians, and other light troops under the command of Balacrus, with the cavalry, and then led them against the enemy. As soon as they came to close quarters, he ordered three regiments of the cavalry Companions and all the horse-lancers to charge them. The rest of the cavalry he himself led, and made a rapid attack with his squadrons in column. Accordingly the enemy were no longer able as before to wheel their cavalry force round in circles, for at one and the same time the cavalry and the light-armed infantry mixed with the horsemen pressed upon them, and did not permit them to wheel about in safety. Then the flight of the Scythians was already apparent. 1,000 of them fell, including Satraces, one of their chiefs; and 150 were captured. But as the pursuit was keen and fatiguing on account of the excessive heat, the entire army was seized with thirst; and Alexander himself while riding drank of such water as was procurable in that country. He was seized with an incessant diarrhoea; for the water was bad; and for this reason he could not pursue all the Scythians. Otherwise I think all of them would have perished in the flight, if Alexander had not fallen ill. He was carried back to the camp, having fallen into extreme danger; and thus Aristander's prophecy was fulfilled.


1. This city was called by the Greeks, Alexandria on the Tanais. See Curtius, vii. 28.

2. Cf. Livy, xxi. 27:— Hispani sine ulla mole in utres vestimentis oonjectis ipsi caetris superpositis inoubautes flumen tranavere.

3. See Herodotus, iv. 122-142.

p.210-212

Ch.5: Spitamenes destroys a Macedonian Detachment

Soon after this, arrived envoys from the king of the Scythians, who were sent to apologize for what had been done, and to state that it was not the act of the Scythian State, but of certain men who set out for plunder after the manner of freebooters. They also assured him that their king was willing to obey the commands laid upon him. Alexander sent to him a courteous reply, because it did not seem honourable for him to abstain from marching against him if he distrusted him, and at that time there was not an convenient opportunity to do so. The Macedonians who were garrisoning the citadel at Maracanda, when an assault was made upon it by Spitamenes and his adherents, sallied forth, and killing some of the enemy and repulsing all the rest, retreated into the citadel without any loss. But when Spitamenes was informed that the men despatched by Alexander to Maracanda were now drawing near, he raised the siege of the citadel, and retired to the capital of Sogdiana.[1] Pharnuches and the generals with him, being eager to drive him out altogether, followed him up as he was retreating towards the frontiers of Sogdiana, and without due consideration made a joint attack upon the Nomad Scythians. Then Spitamenes, having received a reinforcement of 600 Scythian horsemen, was further emboldened by the Scythian alliance to wait and receive the Macedonians who were advancing upon him. Posting his men in a level place near the Scythian desert, he was not willing either to wait for the enemy or to attack them himself; but rode round and discharged arrows at- the phalanx of infantry. When the forces of Pharnuches made a charge upon them, they easily escaped, since at that time their horses were swifter and more vigorous, while the horse of Andromachus had been damaged by the incessant marching, as well as by lack of fodder; and the Scythians pressed upon them with all their might whether they halted or retreated. Many of them then were wounded by the arrows, and some were killed. They therefore arranged the soldiers into the form of a square and proceeded to the river Polytimetus,[2] because there was a woody glen near it, and it would consequently no longer be easy for the barbarians to shoot arrows at them, and their infantry would be more useful to them. But Caranus, the commander of the cavalry, without communicating with Andromachus, attempted to cross the river in order to put the cavalry in a place of safety on the other side. The infantry followed him without any word of command; their descent into the river being made in a panic and without any discipline down the precipitous banks. When the barbarians perceived the error of the Macedonians, they sprang into the ford here and there, horses and all. Some of them seized and held tight those who had already crossed and were departing; others being posted right in front of those who were crossing, rolled them over into the river; others shot arrows at them from the flanks; while others pressed upon the men who were just entering the water. The Macedonians being thus encompassed with difficulty on all sides, fled for refuge into one of the small islands in the river, where they were entirely surrounded by the Scythians and the cavalry of Spitamenes, and all killed with arrows, except a few of them, whom they reduced to slavery. All of these were afterwards killed.


1. This was Maracanda, according to iii. 30 supra. There is an error in the text; Abicht proposes to read ἐπὶ τὰ ὅρια, instead of ἐς τὰ βασίλεια.

2. This river is now called Sogd, or Kohik. The Greek name signifies "very precious," a translation of the native name. Cf. Strabo, p. 518.

p.212-214

Ch.6: Spitamenes driven into the Desert

But Aristobulus says the greater part of this army was destroyed by an ambuscade, the Scythians having hidden themselves in a park and fallen upon the Macedonians from their place of concealment, when Pharnuches was in the very act of retiring from the command in favour of the Macedonians who had been sent with him, on the ground of his not being skilled in military affairs, and of his having been sent by Alexander rather to win the favour of the barbarians than to take the supreme command in battles. He also alleged that the Macedonian officers present were the king's Companions. But Andromachus, Menedemus, and Caranus declined to accept the chief command, partly because it did not seem right to make any alteration on their own responsibility contrary to Alexander's instructions to them, and partly because in the very crisis of danger, they were unwilling, if they met with any defeat, not only individually to take a share of the blame, but also collectively to exercise the command unsuccessfully. In this confusion and disorder the barbarians fell upon them, and cut them all off, so that not more than forty horsemen and 300 foot preserved their lives.[1] When the report of this reached Alexander, he was chagrined at the loss of his soldiers, and resolved to march with all speed against Spitamenes and his barbarian adherents. He therefore took half of the Companion cavalry, all the shield-bearing guards, the archers, the Agrianians, and the lightest men of the phalanx, and went towards Maracanda, where he ascertained Spitamenes had returned and was again besieging the men in the citadel. Having travelled 1,500 stades in three days, at the approach of dawn on the fourth day he came near the city;[2] but when Spitamenes was informed of Alexander's approach, he did not remain, but abandoned the city and fled. Alexander pursued him closely; and coming to the place where the battle was fought, he buried his soldiers as well as the circumstances permitted, and then followed the fugitives as far as the desert. Returning thence, he laid the land waste, and slew the barbarians who had fled for refuge into the fortified places, because they were reported to have taken part in the attack upon the Macedonians.[3] He traversed the whole country which the river Polytimetus waters in its course; but the country beyond the place where the water of this river disappears is desert; for though it has abundance of water, it disappears into the sand.[4] Other large and perennial rivers in that region disappear in a similar way:—the Epardus, which flows through the land of the Mardians; the Areius, after which the country of the Areians is named; and the Etymander, which flows through the territory of the Euergetae.[5] All of these are rivers of such a size that none of them is smaller than the Thessalian river Peneius, which flows through Tempē and discharges itself into the sea. The Polytimetus is much too large to be compared with the river Peneius.[6]


1. Curtius (Tii. 32) says that Spitamenes laid an ambush for the Maeedoniana, and slew 300 cavalry and 2,000 infantry.

2. About 170 miles.

3. Curtius (vii. 40) says that Alexander founded six cities in Bactria and Sogdiana. Justin (xii. 5) says there were twelve.

4. This is a mistake; for it ends in a lake Dengiz near Karakoul.

5. The Areius is now called Heri-rud. The Etymander is the modern Hilmend. Nothing is known of the Epardus.

6. The Peneius is now called Salambria. It forces its way through the Tale of Tempe, between mounts Olympus and Ossa, into the sea. Cf. Ovid (Met., i. 568-576).

p.214-216

Ch.7: Treatment of Bessus

When he had accomplished this, he came to Zariaspa; where he remained until the depth of winter arrived.[1] At this time came to him Phrataphernes the viceroy of Parthia, and Stasanor, who had been sent into the land of the Areians to arrest Arsames.[2] Him they brought with them in chains, as also Barzanes, whom Bessus had appointed viceroy of the land of the Parthians, and some others of those who at that time had joined Bessus in revolt. At the same time arrived from the sea, Bpocillus,[3] Melamnidas and Ptolemy, the general of the Thracians, who had convoyed down to the sea the Grecian allies and the money sent with Menes.[4] At this time also arrived Asander and Nearchus at the head of an army of Grecian mercenaries.[5] Asclepiodorus, viceroy of Syria, and Menes the deputy also arrived from the sea, at the head of another ariily. Then Alexander gathered a conference of those who were then at hand, and led Bessus in before them. Having accused him of the betrayal of Darius, he ordered his nose and ears to be cut off, and that he should be taken to Ecbatana to be put to death there in the council of the Medes and Persians.[6] I do not commend this excessive punishment; on the contrary, I consider that the mutilation of the prominent features of the body is a barbaric[7] custom, and I agree with those who say that Alexander was induced to indulge his desire of emulating the Median and Persian wealth and to treat his subjects as inferior beings according to the custom of the foreign kings. Nor do I by any means commend him for changing the Macedonian style of dress which his fathers had adopted, for the Median one,[8] being as he was a descendant of Heracles.[9] Besides, he was not ashamed to exchange the head-dress which he the conqueror had so long worn, for that of the conquered Persians. None of these things do I commend; but I consider Alexander's great achievements prove, if anything can, that supposing a man to have a vigorous bodily constitution, to be illustrious in descent, and to be even more successful in war than Alexander himself; even supposing he could sail right round Libya as well as Asia, and hold them both in subjection as Alexander indeed designed; even if he could add the possession of Europe to that of Asia and Libya; all these things would be no furtherance to such a man's happiness, unless at the same time he possess the power of self-control, though he has performed the great deeds which have been supposed.


1. On the analogy of πρὶν the later prose-writers use ἔστε with the infinitive. Cf. Arrian, ii. 1, 3; v. 16, 1.

2. See Bk. iii. ch. 29 supra.

3. See Bk. iii. ch. 19 stpra.

4. See Bk. iii. ch. 16 supra.

5. Curtius (vii. 40) says that the reinforcement was 19,000 men.

6. Cf. Plutarch (Alex., 43); Diodorus (xvii. 83).

7. I.e. non-Hellenic.

8. Cf. Diodorus, xvii. 77; Justin., xii. 3. We learn from Plutarch (Alex., 45), that he did not assume the tiaia of the Persian kings. Cf. Arrian, vii. 9; vii. 29 infra. The Medio robe was a long silken garment reaching to the feet, and falling round the body in many deep folds.

9. Caranus, a descendant of Temenus, king of Argos, is said to have settled in Macedonia, and to have become the founder of the dynasty of Macedonian kings. Temenus was a descendant of Heracles. Cf. ii. 5; iv. 10. One of the chief causes of disgust which the Greeks felt at the conduct of Pausanias, the conqueror at Plataea, was, that he adopted the Persian attire. " This pedigree from Temenus and Hercules may be suspicious; yet it was allowed, after a strict inquiry by the judges of the Olympic games (Herodotus, v. 22), at a time when the Macedonian kings were obscure and unpopular in Greece. When the Achaean league declared against Philip, it was thought decent that the deputies of Argos should retire (T. Liv., xxxii. 22)."—Gibbon. Cf. Herodotus, viii. 137; Thucydides, ii. 99, 100; v. 80.

p.216-218

Ch.8: The Murder of Clitus

Here also I shall give an account of the tragic fate of Clitus, son of Dropidas, and of Alexander's mishap in regard to it. Though it occurred a little while after this, it will not be out place here. The Macedonians kept a day sacred to Dionysus, and on that day Alexander used to offer sacrifice to him every year. But they say that on this occasion he was neglectful of Dionysus,[1] and sacrificed to the Dioscūri[2] instead; for he had resolved to offer sacrifice to those deities for some reason or other. When the drinking-party on this occasion had already gone on too long (for Alexander had now made innovations even in regard to drinking, by imitating the custom of foreigners), and in the midst of the carouse a discussion had arisen about the Dioscuri, how their procreation had been taken away from Tyndareus and ascribed to Zeus, some of those present, in order to flatter Alexander, maintained that Polydeaces and Castor were in no way worthy to compare with him who had performed so many exploits. Such men have always corrupted the character of kings and will never cease to ruin the interests of those who happen to be reigning.[3] In their carousal they did not even abstain from (comparing him with) Heracles; saying that envy prevented the living from receiving the honours due to them from their associates. It was well known that Clitus had long been vexed at Alexander for the change in his style of living in imitation of foreign kings, and at those who flattered him with their speech. At that time also, being heated with wine, he would not permit them either to insult the deity or, by depreciating the deeds of the ancient heroes, to confer upon Alexander a gratification which deserved no thanks. He affirmed Alexander's deeds were neither in fact so great or marvellous as they represented in their laudation; nor had he achieved them by himself, but for the most part they were the deeds of the Macedonians. The delivery of this speech annoyed Alexander; and I do not commend it, for I think, in such a drunken bout, it would have been sufficient if, so far as he was personally concerned, he had kept silence, and not committed the error of indulging in the same flattery as the others. But when some even mentioned Philip's actions without exercising a just judgment, declaring that he had performed nothing great or marvellous, they gratified Alexander; but Clitus being then no longer able" to contain himself, began to put Philip's achievements in the first rank, and to depreciate Alexander and his performances.[4] Clitus being now quite intoxicated, made other insolent remarks and even greatly reviled him, because forsooth he had saved his life, when the cavalry battle had been fought with the Persians at the Granicus. Then indeed, arrogantly stretching out his right hand, he said:—" This hand, Alexander, preserved thee on that occasion."Alexander could now no longer endure the drunken insolence of Clitus; but jumped up against him in a great rage. He was however restrained by his boon-companions. As Clitus did not desist from his insulting remarks, Alexander shouted out a summons for his shieldbearing guards to attend him; but when no one obeyed him, he said that he was reduced to the same position as Darius, when he was led about under arrest by Bessus and his adherents, and that he now possessed the mere name of king. Then his companions were no longer able to restrain him; for according to some he leaped up and snatched a javelin from one of his confidential bodyguards; according to others, a long pike from one of his ordinary guards, with which he struck Clitus and killed him.[5] Aristobulas does not say whence the drunken quarrel originated, but asserts that the fault was entirely on the side of Clitus, who, when Alexander bad got so enraged with him as to jump up against him with the intention of making an end of him, was led away by Ptolemy, son of Lagus, the confidential body-guard, through the gateway, beyond the wall and ditch of the citadel where the quarrel occurred. He adds that Clitus could not control himself, but went back again, and falling in with Alexander who was calling out for Clitus, he exclaimed:—"Alexander, here is Clitus!" Thereupon he was struck with a long pike and killed.


1. Cf. Curtius, viii. 6.

2. The sons of Jove, Castor and Pollux. ἐπιφρασθέντα is a word borrowed from Homer and Herodotus.

3. Cf. Curtius, viii. 17: "Non deerat talia concupiscenti perniciosa adulatio perpetuum malum regum, quorum opes saepius assentatio quam hostis evertit."

4. Curtius (viii. 3 and 4) says that it was Alexander himself that spoke depreciatingly of Philip, and that Clitus even dared to defend the murdered Farmenio.

5. Instead of the usual reading from καὶ ταύτῃ to καὶ ταύτην, Sintenis reads οἱ δὲ σάρισαν παρὰ τῶν φυλάκων τινὸς καὶ ταύτῃ παίσαντα τὸν Κλεῖτον ἀποκτεῖναι.

p.218-221

Ch.9 Alexander's grief for Clitus

I think Clitus deserving of severe censure for his insolent behaviour to his king, while at the same time I pity Alexander for his mishap, because on that occasion he showed himself the slave of two vices, anger and drunkenness, by neither of which is it seemly for a prudent man to be enslaved. But then on the other hand I think his subsequent behaviour worthy of praise, because directly after he had done the deed he recognised that it was a horrible one. Some of his biographers even say that he propped the pike against the wall with the intention of falling upon it himself, thinking that it was not proper for him to live who had killed his friend when under the influence of wine. Most historians do not mention this, but say that he went off to bed and lay there lamenting, calling Clitus himself by name, and his sister Lanice, daughter of Dropidas, who had been his nurse. He exclaimed that having reached man's estate he had forsooth bestowed on her a noble reward for her care in rearing him, as she lived to see her own sons die fighting on his behalf, and the king slaying her brother with his own hand.[1] He did not cease calling himself the murderer of his friends; and for three days rigidly abstained from food and drink, and paid no attention whatever to his personal appearance. Some of the soothsayers revealed that, the avenging wrath of Dionysus had been the cause of his conduct, because he had omitted the sacrifice to that deity.[2] At last with great difficulty he was induced by his companions to touch food and to pay proper attention to his person.[3] He then paid to Dionysus the sacrifice due to him, since he was not at all unwilling to attribute the fatality rather to the avenging wrath of the deity than to his own depravity. I think Alexander deserves great praise for this, that he did not obstinately persevere in evil, or still worse become a defender and advocate of the wrong which had been done, but confessed that he had committed a crime, being a man and not a god. There are some who say that Anaxarchus the Sophist[4] was summoned into Alexander's presence to give him consolation. Finding him lying down and groaning, he laughed at him, and said that he did not know that the wise men of old for this reason made Justice an assessor of Zeus, because whatever was done by him was justly done[5]; and therefore also that which was done by the Great King ought to be deemed just, in the first place by the king himself, and then by the rest of men. They say that Alexander was then greatly consoled by these remarks.[6] But I assert that Anaxarchus did Alexander a great injury and one still greater than that by which he was then oppressed, if he really thought this to be the opinion of a wise man, that forsooth it is proper for a king to come to hasty conclusions and act unjustly, and that whatever is done by a king must be deemed just, no matter how it is done. There is also a current report that Alexander wished men to prostrate themselves before him as to a god, entertaining the notion that Ammon was his father, rather than Philip; and that he now showed his admiration of the customs of the Persians and Medea by changing the style of his dress, and by the alteration he made in the general etiquette of his court. There were not wanting those who in regard to these matters gave way to his wishes with the design of flattering him;" among others being Anaxarchus, one of the philosophers attending his court, and Agia, an Argive who was an epic poet.[7]


1. Cf. Curtius (viii. 3 and 6), who calls the sister of Clitus, Hellauioe.

2. From Plutarch (Alex., 13) we learn that Alexander imagined he had incurred the avenging wrath of Bacchus hy destroying Thebes, the birthplace of that deity, on which account it was supposed to be under his tutelary care.

3. Curtius (viii. 6) says, that in order to console the king, the Macedonian army passed a vote that Clitus had been justly slain, and that his corpse should not be buried. But the king ordered its burial.

4. A philosopher of Abdera, and pupil of Democritus. After Alexander's death, Anaxarchus was thrown by shipwreck into the hands of Nioocreon, king of Cyprus, to whom he had given offence, and who had him pounded to death in a mortar.

5. Cf. Sophocles (Oedipus Co?., 1382; Antigone, 451);; Hesiod (Opera et Diet, 254-257); Pindar (Olympia, viii. 28); Demosthenes [Advert. Arittogiton, p. 772); Herodotus, iii. 31.

6. Plutarch (Alex., 52) tells us that Callisthenes the philosopher was also summoned with Anaxarchus to administer consolation, but he adopted such a different tone that Alexander was displeased with him.

7. Curtius (viii. 17) says that Agis was the composer of very poor poems.

p.220.223

10. Dispute between Callisthenes and Anaxarchus

But it is said that Callisthenes the Olynthian, who had studied philosophy under Aristotle, and was somewhat brusque in his manner, did not approve of this conduct; and so far as this is concerned I quite agree with him. But the following remark of his, if indeed it has been correctly recorded, I do not think at all proper, when he declared that Alexander and his exploits were dependent upon him and his history, and that he had not come to him to acquire reputation from him, but to make him renowned in the eyes of men;[1] consequently that Alexander's participation in divinity did not depend on the false assertion of Olympias in regard to the author of his birth, but on what he might report to mankind in his history of the king. There are some writers also who have said that on one occasion Philotas forsooth asked him, what man he thought to be held in especial honour by the people of Athens J and that he replied:—"Harmodius and Aristogeiton; because they slew one of the two despots, and put an end to the despotism."[2] Philotas again asked:—"If it happened now that a man should kill a despot, to which of the Grecian States would you wish him to flee for - preservation? " Callisthenes again replied:—" If not among others, at any rate among the Athenians an exile would find preservation; for they waged war on behalf of the sons of Heracles against Burystheus, who at that time was ruling as a despot over Greece."[3] How he resisted Alexander in regard to the ceremony of prostration, the following is the most received account.[4] An arrangement was made between Alexander and the Sophists in conjunction with the most illustrious of the Persians and Medes who were in attendance upon him, that this topic should be mentioned at a wine-party. Anaxarchus commenced the discussion[5] by saying that he considered Alexander much more worthy of being deemed a god than either Dionysus or Heracles, not only on account of the very numerous and mighty exploits which he had performed, but also because Dionysus was only a Theban, in no way related to Macedonians; and Heracles was an Argive, not at all related to them, except that Alexander deduced his descent from him. He added that the Macedonians might with greater justice gratify their king with divine honours, for there was no doubt about this, that when he departed from men they would honour him as a god. How much more just then would it be to worship him while alive, than after his death, when it would be no advantage to him to be honoured.


1. Justin (xii. 6) says that Callisthenes was a fellow-student with Alexander under Aristotle. He composed three historical works: I. Hellenica, from B.C. 387 to 337; II. The History of the Sacred War, from B.C. 357 to 346; III. The History of Alexander. Cf. Diodorus, xiv. 117. According to Polybius (xii. 23), he was accused by Timaeus of having flattered Alexander in his History.

2. Hipparchus was slain B.C. 514, and Hippias was expelled from Athens B.C. 510. See Thucydides, vi. 53-59.

3. Eurystheus was king over Argos and Mycenae alone.

4. When Conon the famous Athenian visited Babylon, he would not see Artaxerxes, from repugnance to the ceremony of prostration, which was required from all who approached the Great King. We are also informed by Plutarch (Artaxerxes, 22), that Pelopidas declined to perform this ceremony, so degrading in the eyes of the Greeks. His colleague, Ismenias, however, dropped his ring in front of the king, and then stooped to pick it up, thus going through the act of prostration. Cf. Aelian (Varia Historia, i. 21). Xenophon said to his soldiers:—οὐδἐνα γὰρ ἄνθρωπον δεσπότην ἀλλὰ τοὺς θεοὺς προσκυνεῖτε γἀρ. (Anab., iii. 13).

5. Curtius (viii. 18) says that the speech proposing to honour Alexander as a god was made by Cleon, a Sicilian Greek.

p. 223-225

Ch.11: Callisthenes Opposes the Proposal to honour Alexander by Prostration

When Anaxarchus had uttered these remarks and others of a similar kind, those who were privy to the plan applauded his speech, and wished at once to begin the ceremony of prostration. Most of the Macedonians, however, were vexed[1] at the speech and kept silence. But Callisthenes interposed and said:— "Ο Anaxarchus, I openly declare that there is no honour which Alexander is unworthy to receive, provided that it is consistent with his being human; but men have made distinctions between those honours which are due to men, and those due to gods, in many ifferent ways, as for instance by the building of temples and by the erection of statues. Moreover for the gods sacred enclosures are selected, to them sacrifice is offered, and to them libations are made. Hymns also are composed in honour of the gods, and eulogies for men. But the greatest distinction is made by the custom of prostration. For it is the practice that men should be kissed by those who salute them[2]; but because the deity is located somewhere above, it is not lawful even to touch him, and this is the reason no doubt why he is honoured by prostration. Bands of choral dancers are also appointed for the gods, and paeans are sung in their honour. And this is not at all wonderful, seeing that certain honours are specially assigned to some of the gods and certain others to other gods, and, by Zeus, quite different ones again are assigned to heroes, which are very distinct from those paid to the deities.[3] It is not therefore reasonable to confound all these distinctions without discrimination, exalting men to a rank above their condition by extravagant accumulation of honours, and debasing the gods, as far as lies in human power, to an unseemly level, by paying them honours only equal to those paid to men." He said that Alexander would not endure the affront, if some private individual were to be thrust into his royal honours by an unjust vote, either by show of hand or by ballot. Much more justly then would the gods be indignant at those mortals who usurp divine honours or suffer themselves to be thrust into them by others. "Alexander not only seems to be, but is in reality beyond any competition the bravest of brave men, of kings the most kingly, and of generals the most worthy to command an army. Anaxarchus, it was thy duty, rather than any other man's, to become the special advocate of these arguments now adduced by me, and the opponent of those contrary to them, seeing that thou associatest with him for the purpose of imparting philosophy and instruction. Therefore it was unseemly to begin this discussion, when thou oughtest to have remembered that thou art not associating with and giving advice to Cambyses or Xerxes, but to the son of Philip, who derives his origin from Heracles and Aeacus,[4] whose ancestors came into Macedonia from Argos, and have continued to rule the Macedonians, not by force, but by law. Not even to Heracles himself while still alive were divine honours paid by the Greeks; and even after his death they were withheld until a decree had been published by the oracle of the god at Delphi that men should honour Heracles as a god. But if, because the discussion is held[5] in the land of foreigners, we ought to adopt the sentiments of foreigners, I demand, Alexander, that thou shouldst bethink thyself of Greece, for whose sake the whole of this expedition was undertaken by thee, that thou mightest join Asia to Greece. Therefore make up thy mind whether thou wilt return thither and compel the Greeks, who are men most devoted to freedom, to pay thee the honour of prostration, or whether thou wilt keep aloof from Greece, and inflict this honour on the Macedonians alone, or thirdly whether thou wilt thyself make a difference in every respect as to the honours to be paid thee, so as to be honoured by the Greeks and Macedonians as a human being and after the manner of the Greeks, and by foreigners alone after the foreign fashion of prostration. But if it is said that Cyrus, son of Cambyses, was the first man to whom the honour of prostration was paid, and that afterwards this degrading ceremony continued in vogue among the Persians and Medes, we ought to bear in mind that the Scythians, men poor but independent, chastised that Cyrus;[6] that other Scythians again chastised Darius, as the Athenians and Lacedaemonians did Xerxes, as Clearchus and Xenophon with their 10,000 followers did Artaxerxes; and finally, that Alexander, though not honoured with prostration, has conquered this Darius."


1. ἀχθομένους. The usual reading is μαχομένους

2. Cf. Xenophon (Cyrop., i. 4, 27): λέγεται τοὺς συγγενεῖς φιλοῦντας ἀποπέμπεσθαι αὐτὸν νόμῳ Περσικῷ πρόσκεινται.

3. Cf. Herodutus, i. 118:-τοῖσι θεῶν τιμὴ αὒτη προσκέεται.

4. Alexander's mother Olympias was daughter of Neoptolemus, king of Epirus, who traced his descent from Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, the grandson of Aeacus.

5. οι λόγοι γίγνονται. There is another reading, ολίγοι γίγνωνται.

6. Cf. Herodutus, i. 214, with Dean Blakesley's note.

p.225-228

Ch.12: Callisthenes refuses to Prostrate himself

By making these and other remarks of a similar kind, Callisthenes greatly annoyed Alexander, but spoke the exact sentiments of the Macedonians. When the king perceived this, he sent to prevent the Macedonians from making any farther mention of the ceremony of prostration. But after the discussion silence ensued; and then the most honourable of the Persians arose in due order and prostrated their bodies before him. But when one of the Persians seemed to have performed the ceremony in an awkward way, Leonnatus, one of the Companions, laughed at his posture as mean. Alexander at the time was angry with him for this, but was afterwards reconciled to him.[1] The following account has also been given:— Alexander drank from a golden goblet the health of the circle of guests, and handed it first to those with whom he had concerted the ceremony of prostration. The first who drank from the goblet rose up and perforated the act of prostration, and received a kiss from him. This ceremony proceeded from one to another in due order. But when the pledging of health came to the turn of Callisthenes, he rose up and drank from the goblet, and drew near, wishing to kiss the king without performing the act of prostration. Alexander happened then to be conversing with Hephaestion, and consequently did not observe whether Callisthenes performed the ceremony properly or not. But when Callisthenes was approaching to kiss him, Demetrius, son of Pythouax, one of the Companions, said that he was doing so without having prostrated himself. So the king would not permit him to kiss him; whereupon the philosopher said:–"I am going away only with the loss of a kiss." I by no means approve any of these proceedings, which manifested both the insolence of Alexander on the present occasion and the churlish nature of Callisthenes. But I think that, so far as regards himself, it would have been quite sufficient if he had given his opinion discreetly, magnifying as much as possible the exploits of the king, with whom no one thought it a dishonour to associate. Therefore I consider that not without reason Callisthenes became odious to Alexander on account of the unseasonable freedom of speech in which he indulged,[2] as well as from the egregious fatuity of his conduct. I surmise that this was the reason why such easy credit was given to those who accused him of participating in the conspiracy formed against Alexander by his pages, and to those also who affirmed that they had been incited to engage in the conspiracy by him alone. The facts of this conspiracy were as follows:—


1. Curtius (viii. 20) says, that it was Polysperchon who made sport of the Persian, and incurred the king's wrath.

2. Ammianus (xviii. 3) says: "Ignorans profecto vetus Aristotelis sapiens dictum, qui Callisthenem sectatorem et propinquum suum ad regem Alexandrum mittens, ei saepe mandabat, ut quam rarissime et jucunde apud hominem loqueretur, vitae potestatem et necis in acie linguae portantem."

p.228-229

Ch.13: Conspiracy of the Pages

It was a custom introduced by Philip, that the sons of those Macedonians who had enjoyed high office, should, as soon as they reached the age of puberty, be selected to attend the king's court. These youths were entrusted with the general attendance on the king's person and the protection of his body while he was asleep. Whenever the king rode out, some of them received the horses from the grooms, and brought them to him, and others assisted him to mount in the Persian fashion. They were also companions of the king in the emulation of the chase.[1] Among these youths was Hermolaus, son of Sopolis, who seemed to be applying his mind to the study of philosophy, and to be cultivating the society of Callisthenes for this purpose. There is current a tale about this youth to the effect that in the chase, a boar rushed at Alexander, and that Hermolaus anticipated him by casting a javelin at the beast, by which it was smitten and killed. But Alexander, having lost the opportunity of distinguishing himself by being too late in the assault, was indignant with Hermolaus, and in his wrath ordered him to receive a scourging in sight of the other pages; and also deprived him of his horse. This Hermolaus, being chagrined at the disgrace he had incurred, told Sostratus son of Amyntas, who was his equal in age and intimate confidential friend, that life would be insupportable to him unless he could take vengeance upon Alexander for the affront. He easily persuaded Sostratus to join in the enterprise, since he was fondly attached to him. They gained over to their plans Antipater, son of Asclepiodorus, viceroy of Syria, Epimenes son of Arseas, Anticles son of Theocritus, and Philotas son of Carsis the Thracian. They therefore agreed to kill the king by attacking him in his sleep, on the night when the nocturnal watch came round to Antipater's turn. Some say that Alexander accidentally happened to be drinking until day-break; but Aristobulus has given the following account: A Syrian woman, who was under the inspiration of the deity, used to follow Alexander about. At first she was a subject of mirth to Alexander and his courtiers; but when all that she said in her inspiration was seen to be true, he no longer treated her with neglect, but she was allowed to have free access to him both by night and day, and she often took her stand near him even when he was asleep. And indeed on that occasion, when he was withdrawing from the drinking-party she met him, being under the inspiration of the deity at the time, and besought him to return and drink all night. Alexander, thinking that there was something divine in the warning, returned and went on drinking; and thus the enterprise of the pages fell through.[2] The next day, Epimenes son of Arseas, one of those who took part in the conspiracy, spoke of the undertaking to Charicles son of Menander, who had become his confidential friend; and Charicles told it to Eurylochus, brother of Epimenes. Eurylochus went to Alexander's tent and related the whole affair to Ptolemy son of Lagus, one of the confidential body-guards. He told Alexander, who ordered those whose names had been mentioned by Eurylochus to be arrested. These, being put on the rack, confessed their own conspiracy, and mentioned the names of certain others.


1. Cf. Curtius (viii. 21); Aelian (Varia Historia, xiv. 49). After the battle of Pydna, where the Romans conquered the Macedonians, the pueri regii followed the defeated king Perseus to the sanctuary at Samothrace, and never quitted him till he surrendered to the Romans. See Livy, xiv. 6.

2. For this use of διαπίπτειν, cf. Aristophanes (Knights, 695); Polybius (v.26, 16); διαπεσούσης αυτω της επιβουλής.

p.229-231

Ch. 14: Execution of Callisthenes and Hermolaus

Aristobulus says that the youths asserted it was Callisthenes who instigated them to make the daring attempt; and Ptolemy says the same.[1] Most writers, however, do not agree with this, but represent that Alexander readily believed the worst about Callisthenes, from the hatred which he already felt towards him and because Hermolaus was known to be exceedingly intimate with him. Some authors have also recorded the following particulars:— that Hermolaus was brought before the Macedonians, to whom he confessed that he had conspired against the king's life, because it was no longer possible for a free man to bear his insolent tyranny. He then recounted all his acts of despotism, the illegal execution of Philotas, the still more illegal one of his father Parmenio and of the others who were put to death at that time, the murder of Clitus in a fit of drunkenness, his assumption of the Median garb, the introduction of the ceremony of prostration which had been planned and not yet relinquished, and the drinking-bouts and lethargic sleep arising from them, to which he was addicting himself.[2] He said that, being no longer able to bear these things, he wished to free both himself and the other Macedonians. These same authors say that Hermolaus himself and those who had been arrested with him were stoned to death by those who were present. Aristobulus says that Callisthenes was carried about with the army bound with fetters, and afterwards died a natural death; but Ptolemy, son of Lagus, says that he was stretched upon the rack and then hanged.[3] Thus not even did these authors, whose narratives are very trustworthy, and who at the time were in intimate association with Alexander, give accounts consistent with each other of events so well known, and the circumstances of which could not have escaped their notice. Other writers have given many various details of these same proceedings which are inconsistent with each other; but I think I have written quite sufficient on this subject. Though these events took place shortly after the death of Clitus[4] I have described them among those which happened to Alexander in reference to that General, because, for the purposes of narrative, I consider them very intimately connected with each other.


1. Alexander wrote to Craterus, Attalus, and Acletas, that the pages, though put to the torture, asserted that no one but themselves was privy to the conspiracy. In another letter, written to Antipater the regent of Macedonia, he says that the pages had been stoned to death by the Macedonians, but he himself would punish the Sophist, and those who sent him put, and those who harboured in their cities conspirators against him.Aristotle had sent Callisthene out. Alexander refers to him and the Athenians. See Plutarch (Alex., 55).

2. Cf. Arrian (vii. 29).

3. Curtius (viii. 29) says that Alexander afterwards repented of his guilt in murdering the philosopher. His tragical death excited great indignation among the ancient philosophers. See Seneca (Naturales Quaestiones, vi. 23) ; Cicero (Tusc. Disput., iii. 10), speaking of Theophrastus, the friend of Callistheues.

4. We find from chapter xxii. that these events occurred at Bactra.

p.231-233

Go to Index of the Book
«« Go to Book-3b
Go to Book-4b»»