Alexander Romance ( "Pseudo-Callisthenes" )

Book 2 , Chapters 1-10

A combination of the Greek version translated by E.H.Haight (1955); the Armenian version translated by A.M.Wolohojian (1969); and the Syriac version translated by E.A.W.Budge (1889).

Most of the Armenian version is a fairly close translation of the Greek version. Where the Syriac version is missing (chapters 6-13) the Armenian version is shown in the right-hand column; elsewhere, sentences that appear in the Armenian version but not in the Greek version are shown in green.

Alexander drinks the medicine of Philip

  Alexander drinks the medicine prepared by Philip   -   Venice Hellenic Institute Gr. 5 (14th century)

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[1] G   Alexander travelled from Corinth to   Plataea   (?) the ancient city of Athens where the Maid {Korē} is worshipped, and he entered the precinct of the goddess when the hieratic robe of the goddess herself was being woven, and when he saw it, he (?) marvelled. The priestess said: "At a happy hour you have arrived, most great King. You will be pointed out through every city and you will shine afar." Alexander honoured her with gold. After some days, Stasagoras, the general of the Plataeans, came to the precinct of the goddess and the priestess said: "Stasagoras, you are going to be overthrown." He was enraged and said: "O worthless prophetess, I shall grow stronger on Alexander's arrival, and you said I would be overthrown." She replied: "Do not be angry at this, for the gods reveal all matters to men by signs, especially to the famous. For, when Alexander came here, it happened that the chiton of the goddess was being dyed purple, so I prophesied to him as I did. But you entered when the chiton was finished, and the loom taken down, so it was absolutely clear that you would be overthrown." Then he ordered that she should be removed from her sacred office, saying: "It is for yourself that you have interpreted the sign." Alexander, on hearing of this, straightway removed him from his command and restored the priestess to her rightful place.   And the priestess said, "Stasagoras, I related the sign for you, and the prophecy has worked out true."

[1] Again Alexander set out from Corinth and came to Plataeae, a city of the Athenians, where they worship Persephone; and when he entered the temple of the god he found a priestess weaving purple. And as soon as she saw Alexander she said to him, "King Alexander, it is granted to thee to be renowned and chief among all men." When Alexander heard this speech, he commanded gifts to be given to her. A few days after, he who was ruler in the land went into the temple ; and when the priestess saw the ruler, she said to him, "They will now speedily remove thee from this thy rule." The ruler however did not believe her, but he laughed in his anger and said to the priestess, "O woman unworthy of the office of divination, when Alexander entered this place, thou saidst to him, 'Thou wilt be chief and famous among all mankind' ; and now when I come thou sayest to me, 'They will remove thee from thy rule.' Now I will make an interpretation of this augury of thine on thyself." So he gave orders and expelled her from her office of priestess, and set another in her place. Then the priestess said to the ruler, "Be not angry at this, for the gods determine beforehand everything that is to be, and indicate it to men in various countries, especially concerning the affairs of governors and rulers and distinguished men. When Alexander entered this place, it fell out that I had just thrown purple upon the garment which I was weaving and had begun to weave ; now purple is a well-known sign of royalty: but now, when thou didst enter, I was cutting off the garment from the loom, and this is a sign that the end is come to thy work, and that they will remove thee from the rule." When Alexander heard that the ruler had removed that priestess from her office, he commanded that she should bo reinstated therein, and he made another ruler in his place. And it was straightway done as Alexander had commanded.

Now Stasagoras, without the knowledge of Alexander, went back to Athens (for he had been appointed general by the Athenians) and weeping related to them his downfall. They in great anger cursed Alexander. Alexander, when he learned of this, sent to them this letter: "King Alexander speaks to the Athenians. After the death of my father I took the kingdom, and I put down the cities in the west. Other lands, when they were indeed ready for alliance with me, I accepted by letters and advised them to remain under their elected officers. And when they zealously proclaimed me king, because of their manliness, I controlled the districts of Europe. But the Thebans, who acted badly, I destroyed, razing their city from its foundations. Then when I returned to Asia, I bade the Athenians extend the hand of friendship to me. And I myself now first write to you, not many words, or a wealth of language, as you have got out of order, but the essentials. It is not fitting for the conquered to give orders and act, but it is fitting for conquerors, like myself, Alexander. Either prove yourselves greater, or bow to the greater. You are to pay tribute to me of one thousand talents a year."

But the ruler who was dismissed went to the Athenians, and related to them everything which Alexander had done to him. When the Athenians heard this, they considered it, and it displeased them much, and they reproached Alexander. When Alexander heard this, he wrote a letter to the Athenians, and put in it as follows. "From king Alexander to the Athenians. Since my father died, I have by destiny received the kingdom, and I have subdued most of the nations of the regions of the west, and all of them have received me with good will as king. I have also taken from them troops as auxiliaries to my army, and by their strength I have subdued the country of Europe, and have destroyed from its very foundations the city of the Thebans who of their own will did wickedness. And now I am come to this region of Asia, because I desire to know how ye will receive me. Therefore I have not written a letter of many words to you, but I speak briefly. Ye Athenians, either be brave, or surrender to the brave, and give a thousand talents of gold every year (as tribute)."

[2] G   The Athenians in anger replied to him: "The city of the Athenians and we, the ten best orators, say to Alexander: We suffered greatly when your father Philip was alive and, when he died, we rejoiced greatly, remembering his very evil ways. The same course of actions we have perceived also in you, O most daring son of Philip. You demand from the Athenians yearly tribute of a thousand talents, forsooth offering the brave reason that you wish to go to war. If, however, you do reason at all, come. We are ready."

[2] And when the Athenians had read this letter, they returned answer: "We the ten orators that are in Athens write thus to Alexander. During the time that thy father was alive, we were much afflicted by his living; and when he died, we were very glad at the death of Philip thy father (whose bones ought to be dug up), whom all the Greeks too hated. And now in the same manner we are incensed against thee, that a foolish boy and impudent, wicked and audacious, should demand a thousand talents every year, and under such a pretext should stir up war with us. Now however, if it be that thou really seekest war, come against us thus in battle array, and we shall be ready."

And King Alexander wrote back to the Athenians: "I sent formerly our Leon in command that having cut out your tongue he might see to dismissing the senseless orators among you (?)   so that they will be powerless to trick and deceive.   And I shall try to make a conflagration of you and your ally Athene because you do not obey orders. So surrender your leading ten orators that deliberating over our differences I may spare your country."

When Alexander had read this letter, he wrote another letter to them. "From Alexander to the Athenians. I have sent Prôdis thither to cut out your tongues and to seize those ten orators who are in your city, and to bring them to me as they deserve; and ye who have not known how to be persuaded by words will then be persuaded by the blaze of fire and the conflagration, at the time when ye see the demolition and destruction of your city. Now therefore send to us those ten orators, that perchance our thought may be for good and our pity be upon the land."

They replied: "We will not do it." And after some days, they held an assembly for deliberation about what they must do. In the midst of the session, the orator Aeschines arose and said: "Men of Athens, why this slowness in the assembly? If you decide to send us, we go with courage. For Alexander is the son of Philip, and Philip was brought up on bold deeds in war, and Alexander, receiving his education from Aristotle, has stretched out his hands to us. So, on seeing his teachers, he will be influenced and will blush on seeing those who prepared him for royal power, and will change his present attitude towards us to friendship."

Again they wrote in reply to him : "We will not send them to thee, neither will we do that thing on account of which thou desirest to make war, namely to give tribute." Now when they were gathered together, Aeschines the orator stood upon his feet, and said to the people of the land : "Men of Athens, what is this delay that ye meditate so upon a thing like this ? If ye desire to send us to Alexander, send us ; and if not, we ourselves will go to Alexander trustfully. Now Philip was a lover of wars, and his star was given to battles and contests ; but Alexander was trained by the hands of Aristotle, and he was at school with us. And we are confident that when we go to Alexander, he will be ashamed before us who are his teachers and fellow-learners, and his furious disposition will turn to love."

When Aeschines finished, Demades, a distinguished orator, arose and made this rebuttal: "How long, Aeschines, will you present to us these weak and cowardly arguments against our drawing ourselves up for war against the fellow? What devil has entered into you so that you utter such words? Are you who made such eloquent speeches, you who persuaded the Athenians to fight against the king of the Persians, are you now turning the Athenians into cowards and making them tremble before a bold tyrant who is a mere lad, who has assumed the audacity of his father? Are we who pursued the Persians, defeated the Lacedaemonians, conquered the Corinthians, nay more, who routed the Megarians, made war on the Phocians, sacked the Zacynthians, are we, I say, afraid to fight against Alexander? But Aeschines is talking. He says: 'He will remember us, his teachers, and at the sight of us will do us reverence.' Ridiculous! He has insulted us all, and he has removed Stasagoras, whom we appointed, from his command. And he has set up (?) Cithoōn my enemy as commander-in-chief, when the city is ours. Already he has adjudged the Plataeans his. And you say that on seeing us he will do us reverence? Rather he will strip us and flog us. So let us make war on crazy Alexander and not trust him because his youth speaks for him. Youth is untrustworthy. For it can make war bravely, not reason justly. 'He sacked Tyre,' said Aeschines. Yes, for they were feeble. 'He destroyed the Thebans.' But they were weary from many wars. 'He overthrew the Peloponnesians.' He himself did not, but hunger and famine destroyed them. Then Xerxes filled the sea with ships and covered the whole earth with armies and hid the sky with weapons and filled Persia with captives. Yet we drove him out and burned his ships when Cynaegeirus and Antiphon and Mnesochares and the other nobles fought. But now are we afraid to go to war with Alexander, a bold boy, and the satraps with him and his comrades in arms, who are even more senseless than himself? Then do you wish to send the ten orators whom he demanded? If it is profitable, argue for it. But I proclaim to you, men of Athens, that often ten dogs barking bravely have saved whole flocks of sheep that were yielding like cowards to the wolves."

And when Aeschines had spoken thus, Dêmâtheos {Demades}, a young orator stood upon his feet and said: "How long, O Aeschines, wilt thou send forth from thy mouth such timid and alarming words, saying, 'Let us not fight with Alexander.' What is this demon of timidity that has power over thee, that thou speakest such words to the people of Athens, and givest them such counsel ? Dost thou desire by such counsel as this to make enmity between us and the king of the Persians on account of this silly and proud boy, who has adopted the impudence and insolence of his father, and now wishes to intimidate the Athenians? and even thou wishest to cast terror upon them now. Why pray should we fear to fight with Alexander ? We who have chased away the Persians, we who have conquered the Lacedaemonians and the Corinthians, we who in battle have put to flight the Phocians, we who have routed the Zacynthians, shall we be concerned because of this boy Alexander ? As to what Aeschines has said, that when Alexander sees his teachers, he will be ashamed before them, and will turn away his wrath, and his disposition will become loving towards us as towards his friends, - he has disgraced us all ; he has turned out and removed one who was a ruler in our land and has put in his place another who is our enemy." And the youthful orator went on: "Aeschines has said, 'When he sees us, he will be ashamed before us,' but he wishes in this way to deliver us naked into his hands. Let us fight," said he to them, "with that headstrong Alexander, for the disposition of the young is ever set upon pride, and their strength loves battle. Some will say, 'Alexander destroyed the Tyrians' ; but they do not know that the Tyrians were fit for naught. Others will say, 'Alexander razed the city of the Thebans'; but they do not know that the Thebans were worn out and exhausted by continual battles and wars, wherefore Alexander prevailed over them. Others again will say, ' He led captive the Peloponnesians'; but this was not because of bravery, but owing to a scarcity of food and a famine in their land. Now I remember the mighty Xerxes who essayed the sea with boats and ships and galleys, and covered the dry land with his horsemen, and darkened the brightness of the atmosphere with the sheen of his weapons, and filled the land of the Persians with Greek slaves. If then we turned back from here so great a prince and warrior as Xerxes, and broke his boats and ships on the sea, and drove away his horsemen from the land, - I do not mean wo who are here present, but Kûdkânôr and Antiphon and Mîsîchîs and Keryâdklîs and the rest of the mighty Athenian warriors who were among us at that time, - shall we now be afraid to make war with this impudent boy Alexander ? If however ye wish to send us to Alexander, we are willing to go and die. But we tell you that words are our weapons, and that we are not different from dogs which have merely voice ; and ye know that very often the sound of the barking of ten dogs is sufficient to deliver a flock of timid sheep from the claws of the wolves."

[3] G   When Demades had finished addressing the assembly, the Athenians called on Demosthenes to arise and advise them about the common security. He arose   and by a sign of his hand stilled the great crowd of the assembly   and said: "Fellow citizens - for I will not say 'Athenians,' for if I were a stranger among you, I would be addressing you as Athenians -, now our common security is the concern of us all: to make war, or to yield to Alexander. Aeschines has made an hysterical speech urging you not to fight, or defend your cause. He is an old man and has harangued many meetings. And Demades, who is young, said, in accordance with the dictates of his youth: 'We resisted Xerxes when Cynaegeirus and the others nobly led us,   and Antiphon was fighting and Cleocharos was making war, and Boyidrimos was battling from ships, and again, too, Erechtheus was defending us, and Andimachos took heart and conquered.'   But, O Demades, give those men to us now also, and we will make war again. Let us entrust ourselves to the strength of those mentioned. But if we do have them back, we will not make war. For each crisis has its peculiar force and strategy. We the orators have power in argument, but we are unable to take up arms. Now Xerxes had a huge army, but he was a barbarian and he was defeated by the wisdom of the Greeks. But Alexander is a Hellene and he has engaged in thirteen wars without ever being defeated. Indeed, most cities have welcomed him without fighting. He says that the Tyrians were weak. Yet the Tyrians fought a naval battle against Xerxes and conquered his ships and burned them. And how were the Thebans powerless? They made wars from the time when they founded their city and were never defeated, but now they were enslaved by Alexander. The Peloponnesians (he says) were not defeated by him, but by hunger. Yet then Alexander sent them food from Macedonia. And when Antigonus, the satrap, said: 'Are you sending food to those whom you ought to fight ?' the Macedonian said: 'Yes, indeed, that I may conquer them in battle and not destroy them by famine.' Now you are enraged because Stasagoras was deposed by him. But Stasagoras himself first caused the strife for he said to the priestess: 'Look! On account of the sign, I will remove you from the priesthood.' And he, knowing that Stasagoras was unreasonable, removed him from his command. For was it not right that the king should be angry? But (he says) Stasagoras was opposed to the king; for a king and general are on equal footing. Why then do you blame Alexander because he overthrew Stasagoras? But (he says) he was an Athenian. But was not the prophetess who was turned out by Stasagoras also an Athenian? So Alexander, avenging us, did this. For to our prophetess he restored the right to prophesy."

[3] And when Demades had spoken all these words in the assembly, the Athenians rose and begged of Demosthenes that he would stand up and give counsel beneficial to the commonwealth. Then Demosthenes stood upon his feet and made a sign with his hand to the assembly to be silent. And when they were silent, he said to them: "Fellow citizens, - I do not call you Athenians, because I myself am an Athenian and not a stranger, - ye know that our lives are the life of the commonwealth and that our death in the same way is its death. Therefore it becomes us with great deliberation to give the advice which will give life to the commonwealth. For this reason too it is necessary for us to conquer. If we are able to fight with Alexander, let us fight ; but if we are not able, let us submit to him. Now Aeschines, who has made a speech, has spoken to you craftily; he did not say to the people to fight with Alexander, neither did he say not to fight. He is a very aged man, and has given many good and fitting counsels in many assemblies. On the other hand, Demades is a young and inexperienced man, and therefore he has said, ' O Athenians, we - to wit Antiphon, and Krintmâkhos, and Kandnâkîr, and Amnismâkhos, and Kardânâkêlos, - turned back Xerxes the mighty king and the rest of those vast crowds and many kings.' But the people of the Athenians of whom thou hast made mention, who were famed of old for their prowess, O Demades, we have not with us now; those mighty warriors whose names thou hast called to mind as having been of old with us in Athens, that we might fight against Alexander trusting in their strength. But as they are long dead, and we have no other warriors in Athens like unto them, I do not wish that we should fight with Alexander, for every time has its own strength. We orators then, our strength and our weapons are words, but in power to fight we are weak. O Demades, what thou didst say, thou saidst rightly. During the time that he was king, the mighty Xerxes was defeated in many battles; but Alexander has carried on thirteen wars and has not been defeated in one of them, on the contrary he has seized many countries without any fighting and has captured famous cities. Demades has said, 'The Tyrians are of no use in battle ; and the Thebans, who were never before defeated in battle, were weary and worn out and exhausted, and therefore they were defeated; the Peloponneaans were defeated on account of the scarcity and famine, and not by the hands of Alexander.' He heard that there was a famine in their land, and he, who was ready to go against them in war, sent them clothes and food from Macedonia; and when the general Antigonns saw Alexander doing thus, he said to him, 'Dost thou send clothing and food to people with whom thou wishest to make war ?' Alexander said, 'It is much better that I should fight with them and subdue them than that we should fight with them in a starving condition and utterly destroy them.' Now as regards this ruler in whose stead Alexander commanded another to be put, why are ye angry ? He is a king, and that ruler wished to withstand him. If ye judge the case rightly, ye will all be grateful to Alexander in this matter, and will be angry with the ruler, because he is a mere ruler, and when he removed a priestess and prophetess of the gods, Alexander restored her to her place."

[4] G   When Demosthenes had made this speech, the Athenians praised it highly and there was great applause. Demades kept silent, but Aeschines approved it. Lysias favoured it. Plato agreed, the Amphictyons voted for it and (?) Pericles abstained, but the whole populace approved what Demosthenes had said.

[4] And when Demosthenes had spoken such words as these, and had given the people of the country this advice in this speech, he received much praise from the Amphictyons and was applauded in a variety of ways. Demades stood silent, while Aeschines applauded ; Lysias agreed with Demosthenes, and Plato said, "This is my opinion too." Dadnadkînôs said, "I too am persuaded by this advice; and Herlîtâ said, "Let it not be otherwise"; while to the rest of the people of the country what Demosthenes had said appeared good.

Then Demosthenes spoke: "I will continue my rebuttal. Demades said that Xerxes fortified the sea with his ships, covered the land with his armies, concealed the sky with his weapons, and filled Persia with Greek prisoners. And now justly the barbarian is praised by Athenians because he took captive Greeks, but Alexander, a Greek, and leading Greeks, did not take captive those arrayed against him. He was their general and saw fit to fight his enemies with their aid, addressing the people with these words: 'I shall win every one by benefitting my friends and making my enemies friends.' And now, Athenians, being friends and teachers of Alexander, you cannot be called the enemies of Alexander. For it is shocking that the teachers should appear ignorant and your pupil should appear wiser than his teachers.

And again Demosthenes said: "As Demades said, king Xerxes filled the land of the Persians with Greek captives; and he praised and applauded Xerxes, who turned the Greek captives into slaves for the Persians. And now he wants to make war with Alexander, who is a Greek, and wishes to bring the Persians into subjection to the Greeks. Demades in his speech praised him that is an enemy, and wishes to make an enemy of him that is a friend and fellow countryman.

"No one of the Greek kings went to Egypt except Alexander alone, and he went, not to make war, but to consult an oracle as to where he should found a city which would forever bear his name. He received an oracle and founded a city and collected treasures for it. Now it is clear that when every act begins in haste, the end too will come swiftly. He went to an Egypt ruled by the Persians, and, when the Egyptians wished to make the expedition against the Persians with him, the wise youth answered: 'It is better for you Egyptians to work on the overflow of the Nile and the cultivation of the land than to arm yourselves for the daring deeds of war.' And with reason he gave these orders to Egypt, for a king is nothing if he does not have a productive land. So Alexander was the first of the Greeks to take Egypt, and so became the first both of Greeks and of barbarians. How many forces will that land feed? Not only those residing near, but those fighting in battle. How many empty cities will he fill with men for colonization? For he gives both corn and men. For what the king demands, he also bestows in answer to appeals;   and if he wishes troops, she gives them; if he requests grain, she has enough to give to the point of satiation; and if he wants gold for tribute, he gets it.   Do you, Athenians, wish to make war on Alexander who has such great resources for every need of his army? For even if the policy is pleasing and alluring to you, the times do not demand it."

"Consider this too, ye Athenians : no king has ever carried war into Egypt, except Alexander the son of Philip alone, and even he, when he went, did not go with the object of making war, but to consult the oracle, in what place it was granted to him to build a city after his name, from which his name should never be forgotten. He received the oracle, and built the city, and completely finished it ; and [it is] the [Alexandria] which is in the country of Egypt that was under the Persians. [The Egyptians] entreated him that they might be with his army as auxiliaries against the Persians. Then Alexander, filled with wisdom, made answer to them, saying, "It is far better for you, ye Egyptians, to remain dwelling in your own country by the banks of the Nile, and to till your land by its overflowings, than to put on the weapons of Arês and to march far away to war. So the Egyptians came under Alexander's rule, and he built a city in the land of Egypt and gave it to the Greeks. It is for this reason that, when the army of the Macedonians is under service and engaged in fighting, the Egyptians supply it with clothing and corn. In this manner he made Egypt subject to the Greeks, and brought men of all nations to it and made them dwell therein. Just as that land is abundant in crops and tillage, in the same way that city too is become very populous, and they pay large taxes and tribute to the Greeks. If then the Egyptians, who are loved by the Greeks, have taken upon themselves to give tribute to Alexander the Greek, and have counted him to be their lord, why do ye, who are Greeks, wish to be enemies of Alexander and fight with him ? Go forth then to fight with Alexander; but Fortune is his slave."

[5] When Demosthenes finished speaking, all harmoniously agreed to send to Alexander a victor's crown weighing fifty pounds with congratulations and other traditional honours. They did not send the orators to him. The ambassadors arrived at Plataea and presented the voted honours to the king. He, after having read and learned of the plea of Aeschines and the harangue of Demosthenes and the counsel of the Amphictyons, wrote them the following letter:

[5] And when Demosthenes had spoken these words, the Athenians were unanimously convinced, and they sent to Alexander a golden crown of victory weighing fifty pounds, together with a letter of thanks and gratitude and praise. They wrote down too therein the speech and opinion of each man upon this matter, and sent them to him. And they chose the oldest and best known men from among the Athenians and sent them on an embassy to him, but the ten orators they did not send to him. Then the ambassadors went to Alexander at Plataeae and laid the crown and the letter before him. When Alexander had read this letter and had heard the counsel of Acschines and the teaching of Demosthenes and the bold words of Demades and the consenting of the people and the praise of the Amphictyons, Alexander composed another letter to them and wrote to them as follows :

"I Alexander, son of Philip and my mother Olympias, - for not yet will I call myself king, not until I have brought all the barbarians under the sway of the Greeks - I sent word to you that the ten orators should be sent to me, not that I might flog them, but that I might welcome them as advisers. For I did not plan to enter with an army that you might suspect me as an enemy, but with the orators instead of the army, that I might free you from all fear, and you might be reconciled to me in other ways, after you had been convicted of your folly in looking for a suitable time to dispose of the Macedonians. For when my father Philip was at war with the Zacynthians, you sided with them, and when you were attacked by the Corinthians, the Macedonians became your allies and drove back the Corinthians. And you took down the statue . . . of my mother in the temple of Athene, and we demanded just recompense from you in return for what you did to us. So because of your sins you do not trust my good faith and you fear that, exalted by my royal power, I may exact punishment from you. And this I would have wished to do if I myself were not an Athenian . . . Now did you once deliberate fairly about the facts to our credit? Eucleides you imprisoned when he gave excellent advice to you. Demosthenes you forced into exile when he urged on you appropriate measures in relation to Cyrus. Alcibiades you treated with insolence though he was a good general. Socrates you put to death, Socrates, the educator of Hellas. To Philip you were ungrateful, Philip who fought with you in three wars. Alexander you blame because general Stasagoras disgraced me and you. For he himself deposed the Athenian priestess of the Goddess, and I gave back to her the priesthood. We are informed of the speeches of the orators against us, how Aeschines gave fitting advice, Demades harangued nobly, and Demosthenes urged what was expedient for you. However, you shall go on being Athenians, and not be afraid of suffering and injury at my hands. For I think it is unsuitable that I, who am fighting against the barbarians in the cause of freedom, should destroy Athens, the show-place of freedom."

"From Alexander the son of Philip and Olympias to the Athenians. I will not write to you as king until I make all cities subject to the Greeks; but I write to you to send me the ten orators ; not that I am going to do them any harm, but that I may salute them as masters and teachers, It is no plan of mine to come against you with weapons and troops, lest ye should count me an enemy; but I think of coming to you with those ten orators, instead of with nobles and princes, and of setting you free from many anxious thoughts and cares. Ye however think otherwise, because ye know your own minds and thoughts, and are aware that ye are guilty in regard to us. At the time when the Scythians fought with the Macedonians, ye were auxiliaries to the Scythians; but when the Corinthians made war with you, the Macedonians assisted you and delivered you from the hands of the Corinthians. We erected a statue of Athene in Macedonia, while ye have swept away from its place the statue of my mother which stood in the temple of Athene in your city. Do ye think that this recompense is just which ye have made unto us? because ye remember all these things, therefore ye are in trouble, saying, ' Alexander will seek revenge upon us.' And because your own minds and thoughts and the deeds which are done by your hands are perverse and crafty continually, therefore ye expect the same behaviour from others. Moreover ye have not left a single man of the glorious and honoured men that are among you whom ye have not despised and ill treated. Ye confined in prison Euclid ; and ye cruelly oppressed Tirmastênîs (?), who was the counsellor of right measures, who went to king Cyrus as an ambassador on your behalf. Did ye not disgrace Alcibiades, who was a good general over you. Did ye not also slay Socrates, who was a herald in Hellas? Philip my father too, who assisted you in three wars, ye treated ungratefully. And now ye blame Alexander, who took vengeance for you upon a ruler who had removed your priestess of the goddess Athene, whereas I reinstated her and dismissed the doer of the deed and set up another in liis stead. I have read the letter which ye sent me, and by the speeches made the counsel given in your assemblies I have learned of your disturbance. Now Aeschines gave you good advice, and Demades courageously and bravely invited you to war, and Demosthenes gave you excellent counsel. Now then let the Athenians be brave, and let them have no fear of me, and let them fight for freedom ; for it would be a disgraceful thing that, while I am fighting for your freedom, ye should not be fighting for yourselves. At present however I require nothing from you, until I conquer Darius."

{ Greek version }


{ Armenian version }

[6] G   When he had dispatched this letter, he assembled his forces and went to Lacedaemon. The Lacedaemonians wishing to demonstrate their courage and shame the Athenians for fearing him, closed their gates and manned their ships. For they were a sea power rather than a nation with a land army. Alexander, on learning their action, first sent them a letter:

{ Chapters 6-13 in the Greek version are missing from the Syriac version. }

[147] And after Alexander had written to the Athenians in this fashion, he immediately took his forces and came to the land of the Lacedaemonians. But they resisted him, wishing to show their courage and to shame the Athenians, who had not resisted him with war. So they shut the gates and set the troopships ablaze; for they were more skilled in naval warfare than in being brave warriors on land.

"Alexander writes to the Lacedaemonians. First, I advise you to guard the reputation received from your forefathers. Be proud of the two points in which you excel . . . that you are warriors and unconquered. Look to it that you are not now overthrown because of your decision and that, when wishing to demonstrate your strength to the Athenians, you do not become a laughingstock to them because you have been conquered by Alexander. So voluntarily unman your ships that you may not be destroyed by fire."

[148] When Alexander heard of their story favouring war, he sent them first a letter which said: "I, Alexander, king of the Macedonians, write to you Lacedemonians advising you to preserve the integrity of whatever ideals you have inherited from your ancestors. But civil greetings will come later only if you are worthy of receiving my polite salutations. Now you who are brave and undefeated warriors, see to it that you are not brought down from your glory. Who knows but that perhaps, while desiring to show off your strength to the Athenians, you may be ridiculed by them by being defeated by Alexander. So come away there from your ships and voluntarily abandon the futile hopes of those plans lest that fire consume you in its flames."

When the letter was perused, they were not won over, but proceeded to battle, with the result that those on the walls fell fighting. The infantry and the men on the ships were attacked with fire. The survivors came as suppliants and begged him not to make them prisoners. He replied: "When I came with persuasive words to you, you were not persuaded by me. But when a ship was burned, then you came in need of me. But I do not blame you. For, remembering that you repelled Xerxes, you expected to do this also to Alexander. But you did not await the arrival of my forces."

[149] The letter was thus read to them. The Lacedemonians did not agree, but instead set out to fight with all their might. But when those who stood armed upon the ramparts had been knocked down, and what was on the ships had been set aflame, and the remaining ships had been consumed by fire, they came in supplication to the king begging they be not enslaved.

When he had said these words and offered sacrifices with the generals, he left to the Lacedaemonians their city without making war on it, or exacting tribute. And from there he set forth to the lands of the barbarians by way of Cilicia.

[7] G   Then Darius assembled his leading men and said: "As I see, from the addition to his forces, Alexander is preparing an armament. I calculated that Alexander was a bandit, but he is undertaking the deeds of a king. However great we Persians seem to be, Alexander appears greater in his daring. I sent him recently a whip and a ball that he might have playthings and be educated but now, his education completed, he is gathering forces against me, his teacher. So do you now, considering the common good, speak on the direction of our policies, not considering Alexander of no account. For I fear that the greater will be found lower than the weaker when (?) fortune on high brings overthrow. It is necessary to withdraw from Greece that we may rule the nations and not, while seeking to exact money from Greece, destroy even Persia."

[150] And heading away from there, Alexander moved on to the lands of the barbarians. And Darius assembled his generals and asked them for advice as to what should be done. And he said: "As I see from his ascent, Alexander is fighting his way forward toward us. I used to think of him in terms of a bandit; but behold, he has undertaken and is doing kingly deeds. And as great as we Persians seem to be, Alexander appears still greater in the daring he has assumed. It seems to me that I sent him a whip and a ball with which to play with those his own age and be educated. But he has completed his education and has overtaken me, his teacher; and he is coming to conquer all. Now come, let us think about the common welfare, and from that point of view find a solution for the conduct of our affairs, lest by dismissing the valiant Macedonian as nothing, and being swollen with pride in this so great Persian kingdom, we be captured along with the whole country. But now, I fear that perhaps at this time the greater be found inferior to the smaller and that Providence above is passing the succession to my crown to him. Now we must retreat and abandon Hellas so that we might rule the great barbarian nations we have captured; and let us not, in attempting to maintain hold on Hellas, destroy the Persians." Thus spoke Darius.

So Darius spoke. Then Oxyathres, the brother of Darius, spoke:

"Already you are making Alexander great and giving him more courage. If you withdraw from Greece, he will invade Persia and so will rule the kingdom. For he has not entrusted the war to generals (as you do not to satraps), but he himself is a general and leader and first of the army. And, while making war, he puts off royal power, but, when he has conquered, he will resume the crown."

[151] And Oxydarkes, the brother of Darius, said to this: "Look, you have already started to aggrandize Alexander, and you are encouraging him all the more to attack the Persians by giving way and abandoning Greece. Be like Alexander yourself, and in that fashion you will keep your kingship strong. For he does not entrust the war to his generals nor his satraps, as you do to your satraps; rather he himself is general, satrap, and king. And not trusting to his soldiers, he himself is the first of all to leap into battle, valiantly putting aside his royal status and protecting his troops. And when he has fought and won the contest, he takes on again his crown." Darius asked, "And how shall I resemble him?"

Another, sitting near him, said to him: "Alexander surpasses all in this way: he neglects nothing, but vigorously (?) carries out his plans in every particular." Darius said: "What is the source of your information?" He answered: "When I was sent by you into Macedonia to his father Philip to demand the tribute-money, I learned his mind and his character. So now summon the satraps of the whole country. For you rule nations of Persians, Parthians, Elymaeans, Babylonians, and those down in Mesopotamia and the Illyrian land, not to mention the countries of Bactrians, and of the Indians, and the palace of Semiramis. For there are one hundred and eighty of these subject nations. Assemble from them (?) even ten nations and invoke the gods. For we are able to make the enemy marvel at the barbarian strength and numbers."

[152] And another general said this very thing: "Alexander has won all things by never procrastinating, by bravely overcoming all problems, and, true to his nature and appearance, by modelling the pattern of his behaviour on the lion." And Darius said, "Do you actually know that for a fact?" And he replied: "When I was sent by you to Philip, his father, to demand tribute from the Macedonians, I discovered and learned of his aggressive character and the strength of his mind and the nature of his genius. Now summon and call the satraps of this vast land; for your nations are many: the Persians, and Parthians, the Ilamians, Babylonians, the Mesopotamians, and the Libyans, as well as the Indians; and I shall also list the home of Samiram. Now your nations number 180; draft soldiers from them, and if you can find a way, their gods, too. For although we barbarians are not able to conquer the Greeks by bodily strength, still we may terrify the enemy by the vastness of our mass."

Darius said: "You have given good advice, but it is worthless. For one piece of strategy of the Greeks knocks down the hordes of the barbarians just as one Laconian dog drives away a whole flock of sheep." After this consultation, Darius mustered his army.

[153] And another in turn said: "You have given your king good counsel. But it is worthless; for a single plan of the Greek mind will overcome and disrupt the great hordes of barbarians, just as a single Laconian dog may harass many flocks." When they had thus taken counsel, Darius assembled the mass of warriors.

[8] G   Now Alexander, as he journeyed through Cilicia, came to a river called Oceanus, the water of which was rapid and clear. Alexander wished to bathe in it so he stripped, leaped into the river, and came out, but the bath did not agree with him. At once he had a violent pain in his head and fell very ill. The Macedonians, as he lay in bed, were greatly troubled, for they feared that Darius, hearing of his illness, might attack their army there. For it was Alexander's spirit that put strength in them all.

[154] And Alexander passed through Cilicia. There was a body of water called Oceanus there. Its water is clean, clear, and crystalline. The king wished to bathe in it; and he stripped and bathed in the water and came out refreshed. But the bath did not turn out to be a factor favourable to his health; for his head ached from catching cold, and he suffered from intestinal pains. When Alexander was stricken by sickness, the Macedonians were terrified in their hearts lest Darius, upon learning of Alexander's sickness, attack with his troops. Thus Alexander's single person was the spur and encouragement of the spirits of so many soldiers.

Now Philip, the favourite physician of Alexander, promised to give him a potion to save him. And he was preparing it. Just then a letter was handed Alexander, sent by Parmenion, the general in charge, to the effect that Philip was employed by Darius who had promised that, if he should seize his opportunity and kill Alexander by poison, he would give him his own sister, Dadipharta, in marriage and share with him his kingdom. "Therefore," he wrote, "be on your guard against Philip." Alexander put the letter under his pillow.

[155] And there was a man there named Philip, who was a beloved friend of the king, and a fine and skilled physician. He promised to give Alexander medicinal potions and to drive away from him the evil of the sickness. And the king agreed to take the medicine Philip prepared. A letter was handed to Alexander, sent by General Parmenion, to the effect that Darius had persuaded Philip, the physician, to slay Alexander by drugging him, if he found a propitious moment, by promising to give him his sister, whose name was Gagipharta, as a wife, and to make him co-ruler of his kingdom. And Philip had promised Darius to do this. And when Alexander read the letter, he was not at all troubled for he knew Philip's character and what tender solicitude he had for him. He put the letter under his headrest.

The physician came in and presented the drink to Alexander. He took the cup and looked at Philip for a long time. Philip said: "My master and king, have no fear. The drug is harmless." Alexander took the cup and drank down the medicine and then after drinking it, he gave Philip the letter. He, aware that it was an attack on himself, said: "You will not find me guilty of these charges."

[156] Then Philip, the physician, came and tendered him the cup of medicine saying, "Drink, my lord and king, and you shall be freed from that sickness." And Alexander took the cup in his hand and staring steadily at Philip's face, he said, "I drink, Philip, trusting myself to you," The doctor said, "Drink, King, and have no fear, for that medicine is blameless." And the king replied, "Look, I am drinking." And then he drank down the medicine. Then after he had drunk it, he put the letter in the other's hands. And when he had read the accusation against him, he said, "My lord, Alexander, you shall not find me such as these words indicate."

Alexander on being restored to health, embraced Philip and said: "You have learned what confidence I have in you. I drank your medicine first, then gave you the letter; entrusted myself to your good name. For I knew that Philip did not wish to harm Alexander." Philip then said: "Alexander, now punish the man who sent you the letter. For he himself urged me to do this and to marry the sister of Darius. When I refused, see how he tried to destroy me." On reviewing the facts and finding cause, Alexander punished Parmenion.

[157] And when Alexander was delivered from his ills, he embraced Philip and said: "What great feelings of friendship I have for you! For I had received that letter before the medicine. But only after I had drunk it, did I hand you the letter; for I entrusted myself to your honour, knowing that Philip would not look upon Alexander with malice." The physician replied: "Alexander, now put to death the one who sent you the letter, Parmenion. For it is he who urged me to kill you with drugs so that I might take to wife Darius' sister Gagipharta. And when I, my lord, was unwilling, see with what viciousness he sought to destroy me." Having verified this and found Philip, the physician, guiltless, he put Parmenion to death.

[9] G   From there with his army he hastened on to the land of the Medes and great Armenia and subdued them. Then journeying many days through regions without water and mountain ravines, he came to the Euphrates river. This (?) he bridged by boats and chains and ordered the armed forces to go across. But when he saw that they were afraid, he ordered that the cattle and the animals and the supplies should cross first and then the soldiers. They, on seeing the current of the river, feared that the supports would collapse. So Alexander with his bodyguard was the first to cross.

[158] And taking his troops thence, he came to the land of the Medes and hastened to enter great Armenia. And when he had won them over, he travelled on many days through the waterless lands and snake-infested ravines. And having traversed Ariake, he came to the river Aracani, which flows from the flowery hills of the Angl province to the source of the Euphrates opposite the Ararat mountain. And having bridged it with arches and iron bars, he ordered the troops to cross. When he saw that they were afraid, he ordered the beasts of burden, wagons, and the food for all be crossed over first; and then he ordered the troops to cross. And when they saw the flow of the river's current, they were afraid that the bridges might suddenly come apart and collapse. Since they could not be induced to cross, the king took his aides and he himself crossed first, before all the other soldiers; and then they followed.

In Mesopotamia and Babylon there are two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, which flow into the river Nile. The tradition is that, when Neilos came into Egypt, these rivers dried up, but when he left Egypt, they were full to overflowing.

[159] In Mesopotamia and in Babylon, the great rivers are the Dklat' and the Aracani, which flow to the Nile River. For it is said that when the Nile, in annual periods, overflows and soaks Egypt, who feeds the world, then these rivers, the Dklat' and the Aracani, run dry. But when it recedes and leaves Egypt, they fill to overflowing.

So, when all had crossed, Alexander ordered that all the structures of the bridge should be destroyed. The soldiers were more terrified than ever at this and asked: "If it is necessary to turn back, how can we cross?" On hearing this, Alexander assembled his generals and addressed the whole expedition:

"Fine hopes you offer me with these ideas. I did this that either fighting we may conquer, or being defeated perish. For the war depends not on those who flee, but on those who pursue. For I swear in regard to my return to Macedonia, that we will go back to Hellas after conquering the barbarians. Only be courageous and the clash of war is child's play for us."

[160] Therefore, when Alexander and the whole army had passed, he ordered that the bridge over the Aracani be demolished. And the troops became very disturbed at that and badly frightened. They said, "If, in fighting, we suffer defeat at the hands of the barbarians, what way do we have of passing to safety?" And the king, upon hearing the criticisms of the soldiers, assembled their generals and satraps and all the soldiers and said to them: "You offer me a fine hope for victory, having this (idea) of turning back when you have been defeated! Now this is the reason that I ordered you to demolish the bridges, so that you shall fight and conquer, and not turn to flight if you are by any chance routed. For the battle does not go to those who flee but to those who pursue. So I swear on the fates above, that when, after defeating the barbarians, the time comes for me to return hence to Macedon, I shall return in triumph with you to Hellas. Only now be of good courage, and the clash of battle will seem like a game to you."

When he encouraged them by this speech, they applauded him and made their encampment. And the forces of Darius also were encamped by the Tigris river. There were five satraps in command. They engaged in battle and both sides fought bravely.

[161] When Alexander had given these orders, the soldiers gave him honours and cheers. They stood bravely at their battle positions. He pitched his tent and set his camp there. And Darius' force was on the bank of the Dklat' River, and five satraps composed its rear guard. Both sides engaged in battle with one another; they fought bravely.

Now one of the Persians came up behind Alexander arrayed like a soldier in Macedonian armour. He brought his sword down on the head of Alexander and wounded his cranium. He was seized by the army and brought before Alexander. He said to him: "My good fellow, why did you do this?" He replied:

"Master, do not think I am a Macedonian. I am a Persian and I announced to Darius that I would cut off your head in order that I might receive from him a reward. He promised he would give me royal lands and his daughter."

Alexander, on hearing his words, assembled the whole army and in the sight of all released the Persian, saying: "Macedonians, soldiers must be such men."

[162] Now one of the Persians who had come and taken on Macedonian arms as if he were a Macedonian soldier and auxiliary came up behind Alexander, struck Alexander's crown, and smashed his helmet. And he was seized by the soldiers and they took him and stood him before Alexander, who said to him, "Who are you, brave man? Why did you want to do this?" And he replied: "Alexander, do not let my Macedonian arms deceive you, for I am a Persian, a satrap of Darius. I approached Darius and said, 'If I come back and bring you Alexander's head, what will you give me?' And he promised to give me a royal domain, and his daughter as wife. And I came here on my own and did not carry off the affair." Upon hearing this, Alexander called his generals to him, and while they were looking on, he set him free right in front of them, saying, "Men of Macedon, soldiers should be this single-purposed." And the defeated barbarians, lacking sufficient food, hastened on to enter the land of the Bactrians; but Sk'andar stayed there since he was in control of their lands.

Following chapters (11-20) →

Attalus' home page   |   04.02.16   |   Any comments?