Alexander Romance ( "Pseudo-Callisthenes" )

Book 3 , Chapters 27-35

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. Sentences that appear in the Armenian version but not in the Greek version are shown in green.

Alexander and the Romans

  Alexander is given a poisoned drink

  BL Royal 15.E.VI (15th century)

← Previous chapters (19-26)

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[27] G   When these letters had been dispatched, he wrote privately in his own hand all that had happened to his mother Olympias. This is the letter:

"Concerning the matters accomplished by me in the beginning up to the events in Asia, I am convinced that you have information from my previous letters. So it seems better to recount to you the return journey. I went to Babylon and, taking 72,000 of my forces, I again made another journey and after having gone many parasangs I came in sixty-five days to the Pillars of Heracles. For the story is that Heracles set up boundaries in the land where he travelled, two steles, one of gold, the other of silver, and the height was thirteen cubits, and the width two cubits. And when I distrusted the story that they were beaten out by the hammer, I decided to sacrifice to Heracles and to pierce one of the steles. It seemed to me solid gold. And I planned to fill up the perforation and it was found necessary to use 1500 bars . . . From there I marched through a wild and rocky region. And because of the fog it was not possible to see who the person standing next you was. So much for the country. And we journeyed on some . . . parasangs . . . for five days and came in seven days to the so called hot river which comes forth . . . to a fertile plain. There live women Amazons who without exaggeration surpass in stature and beauty all other women, and they have fine horses. They wear bright-coloured robes. And they use as weapons silver battle-axes. They have no iron or bronze. They are very intelligent and sagacious. And I met the people near the river. For it was impossible to go across to where the Amazons live because the river is mighty and impassable, and contains many wild creatures and great rocks. The Amazons crossed it and met me.

When Alexander had read this letter, he and his host returned to Babylon. And when he had drawn near to Babylon, he wrote a letter to his mother Olympias in which he wrote as follows.

" From Alexander to Olympias my mother, greeting. In a former letter I informed thee accurately concerning the things which I did previously, from the beginning as far as the country of Asia ; and now it appears to me that I ought to inform thee by writing of all that took place afterwards, after I arrived at Babylon. I Alexander took my forces consisting of brave and mighty warriors one hundred thousand, and I made ready to depart from Babylon. In ninety-five days I arrived at the cave of Heracles, and I saw two statues, one of gold and the other of silver ; the length of each was twelve cubits and the breadth two cubits ; and I did not believe them to be solid but thought that they were cast. Then I commanded the troops of my army to halt, and I sacrificed to Heracles, and I ordered the golden statue to be bored with a borer ; and when I perceived that it was all of gold and that it was solid, I commanded that the shavings from the boring should be weighed, and they weighed one thousand three hundred mithkâls of gold. And we set out from thence and marched to a mountainous place, and came to a broken country, and in that place the darkness was so dense that the troops were unable to see one another. We remained in that place seven days, and from thence we came to a warm region. In that place there was a great river in a level plain, and on the banks of that river women dwelt in the guise of Amazons, but they surpassed the Amazons in their bodies and their beauty ; they were clothed in black garments, and they all went armed on horseback ; and all their arms were of silver, for in the place where they dwelt there was neither iron nor brass. They dwelt on the bank of the river on the other side, and when we came to the bank of the river, we found no crossing whereby we might pass over to the other side, for the river was very deep and very wide, and upon its bank on this side there were a number of savage animals. These women crossed over to this side of the river by night and carried off some men of my troops, and we were unable to cross over after them to the other side.

[28] G   We took tribute money from them and went on to the Red Sea to the strait. On the right was a high mountain and on the left the sea in flood. We sacrificed ten horses to Poseidon, then halted and prepared to go away and we came to the river Atlas. There we could not see the earth or the sky. There were many tribes there and many people of various types lived there. For we saw dog-headed men and men without heads who had eyes and mouths in their chests. And there were also those who burrowed holes, wild creatures who lived under the earth.

From this place there was a great stretch of land. . . We took to boats and found the city of Helios, Heliopolis, the circumference of which is one hundred and twenty stades. It had fourteen towers, built of gold and the green stone and the wall was of Indian stone. In the centre, was an altar built of gold and the green stone, which had sixty steps. On top stood a chariot with horses of gold and green. It was not easy to see all this on account of the fog. The priest of Helios was Ethiopian. . . Then darkness came on us. I decided to offer sacrifice to Helios again.

[18] And from thence we departed and began to come to the shore of a great sea ; and we arrived at a place on the right of which was a high mountain, and on the left the sea; and in that place we sacrificed a number of white horses to Poseidon, the divinity of the sea, and we made a hunt there. And from thence we departed to a place, the ground of which was not visible to us by reason of the darkness and blackness ; and thenceforward there was no land. We found five ships, and having embarked in them we put to sea. On the third day we arrived at a city, of which they say that it is the city of the sun, and the circumference of that city is twenty miles. In the middle of it was an altar, and upon it there was a chariot, which was made of fine gold and emeralds, and a priest of the sun stood upon it; and in that place we sacrificed to the sun. From thence we came a journey of one day, and found a great darkness, and there was no road, so I gave orders to light branching lamps of silver, and to carry them before my troops.

And when we found no light, again we went back and came to the river Tanais, which flows between Asia and Europe. We came to the palace of Cyrus and Xerxes and we found many splendid houses, full of gold and silver and many elegant drinking-cups and other treasures. There was a great house, very long, in which the king himself was accustomed to perform his official duties, in which we were told a bird with a human voice gave prophesies (?) . . . And, indeed, in the centre of the ceiling hung a gold birdcage and in it was a large bird, a dove. This we were told gave prophesies to the kings and it was very old. When I wished to carry it off to send it to you, the priest said it was sacred.

And we retired from thence and arrived at the river Sakhan, which divides Asia and Europe; and thence we made ready and came to the palace of Khusrau and king Pâkôr ; and in that palace we saw a number of ingenious things which are needed for great purposes. And there was a room made within it, and a statue of one of the gods of the Greeks stood there, and they say that at the time that king Xerxes was alive, when any of his enemies were preparing to come to his land with war and battle, a voice issued from this statue. And a cage of gold was suspended from the ceiling of the room, within which cage a golden dove was confined; and they say that when the voice came from the statue in the speech of men, this dove interpreted it When I desired to take this dove from thence and to send it to the country of the Greeks, they said to me, 'Do not take it, because this dove counsels this god.'

Now also in the palace in Susa there was a mixing-bowl of silver holding three hundred and sixty measures, which we ourselves measured at the great dinner when we made the sacrifice to the Saviours. The palace had been built in the Greek style. There the king himself administered his duties. And there was a large house in which was inscribed Xerxes' sea battle with the Athenians. In the middle of it stood a throne of gold. There we were told the king sat when he received the Greek ambassadors. There too we saw the art of Glaucus, a melodic lyre, played automatically. And in a circle about the throne a gold stand for drinking-cups of sixteen cubits, which had twelve steps and another near it of twenty-seven cubits. Above these stood an eagle stretching gold wings over all the stand. There were also a vine of seven branches, all in gold, and a white plane-tree, and a myrtle, all these well wrought. What shall I say to you about the other marvels? For there were so many that from their number I cannot recall them."

And I also saw something worthy of admiration in the palace of Shôshan the fortress; for I saw there large globes of silver, each of which, they say, would hold three hundred and sixty measures of wine, and on the outside round about there were carved horses and their riders fighting, and in the middle the gods sitting in assembly; and they say that they brought these globes from Egypt, the country of Zeus, at the time when the Persians were masters over Egypt. When I desired to know how great were these globes, I offered sacrifices to the gods, and commanded one of the globes to be filled with wine, and I gave orders to my troops to sit down, and at that meal there was not used more than one globe full of wine. Now when they had consumed the wine, it happened according to what I had heard. And I entered a large house, and I found there a very large cup, and upon it was carved a representation of the battle which king Xerxes fought in ships with the Greeks. And in the house a seat of gold was placed, which was set with gems, and there was a sort of canopy over it, and a golden harp with strings was placed upon it ; and they said that this harp used to play of itself, without anyone striking it. Around the throne were thirty cups of gold, and it had eight steps, and over it there stood a golden eagle whose wings spread over the whole of it A root was there like a vine, out of which sprouted seven shoots, and the bunches of grapes were wholly of fine gold set with gems. But why need I write to thee of the abundance of the gold and silver? Gold and silver are so abundant that I am unable to describe the quantity thereof."

[30] G   This letter was sent to his mother Olympias and after a few days in Babylon, the daemonic god sent a certain great phenomenon, for this sign occurred. One of the native women bore a child which had all the upper parts of the body to the navel those of a child, but, below, it was encircled by the busts of wild beasts so that the whole figure was very like the Scylla in art except for the different types of animals and the numbers. For the heads were of lions and leopards and wolves, and their figures moved and were clear to all. And the child was dead and his body blue. Now after the woman give birth to the child I have described, she put it in the front of her robe and, hiding it, came to the hall of Alexander and said: "Lead me to the king. For I have something significant to show him." He by chance was resting in a bedroom during the middle of the day. When he was aroused from sleep and heard about the woman, he gave orders to summon her. On entering, she directed those in the room to retire, and when all went out, she uncovered the monster she had borne and showed it to him, saying it was her child.

[19] When he had sent this letter to Olympias his mother from Babylon, the day of his death was come, and a sign to this effect happened as follows. A certain woman, one of the inhabitants of that country, gave birth to a child, who from his buttocks upwards had the form of a man, and from his buttocks downwards a number of forms of animals, all of them separate, that is to say, a lion, a leopard, a wolf, and a wild dog, all the heads apart and separate; they were so well defined that everyone who saw them knew at once to what beast each head belonged ; and the human body died as soon as it was born. Then the woman, as soon as she had given birth to it, covered it over and carried it to the palace of Alexander; and she said to one of Alexander's servants, "Speak to him about bringing me into his presence, that I may show the king a wonderful sign, the like of which he has never seen." Now Alexander was asleep within, and it was noon; and when he had been roused up from his sleep, and had heard concerning the woman, he commanded that she should be brought in before him. Then the woman said, " Give orders, O king, that everyone go forth from before thee." And when everyone had gone forth from the king's presence, she uncovered it and exhibited it before the king, saying to him, "Look upon this prodigy, O king, to which I have given birth."

On seeing it, Alexander was amazed and, summoning the magicians and the Chaldaeans, he ordered them to interpret the occurrence, threatening them with death, or loss if they did not speak the truth. Now the most famous and intelligent of the Chaldaeans numbered five. And one of them had a great reputation. He was not in the city, being temporarily away. Those present prophesied that Alexander would be very strong and awe-inspiring to his enemies and rule all men ; and no other would be more powerful. After uttering these words, they departed. Then, the other Chaldaean came from his travels to Alexander and, on seeing the character of the omen, he gave a great cry and tore his robe in terror and wept at the reversal of fate which would overtake Alexander, the Great. Alexander, seeing his suffering, was deeply moved and bade him to be brave and tell him the meaning of the omen. Then he spoke these words to him: "King, no longer will you be numbered among the living, but your body has left its mortal guise." Then when Alexander asked him about the future, he answered: "Most powerful of all men, you are the human form, and the figures of wild beasts are those about you. So if the upper part lives and moves, just so too the creatures below live. . . When this departs from life, so you too will go to the dead. And as the wild beasts below are untamed and have a fierce nature against human beings, so those about you are conspiring against you. There will be a great cataclysm throughout the world when you die, for those about you will fight over you and (?) wrangle among themselves."

When Alexander had seen it, wonder and amazement laid hold on him, and he straightway commanded the Chaldaeans who were skilled in portents to be called. When they came, he said to them, "Tell me exactly what this sign indicates, for if you do not speak the truth, your heads shall be taken off" Then one of those skilled in portents sighed, and having waited a little said to the king, " O king, thou wilt not live any longer, and they do not allow thee to remain among the number of the living, as this sign portends." When Alexander heard this, he praised him and said, "Explain how thou understandest this sign." He said to him, " O ruler of all men, the sign ia thus: this human body and this child are thyself and these bodies of beasts are all the nations. As soon as it was born, this human body died, while those of all the beasts are alive. Now thou, O king; who art lord of all nations, art about to die, whilst they all, being alive, will escape from under thy hands. Therefore, O king; when I saw that this sign referred to thee, I was deeply grieved."

When he had said these words, the Chaldaean went out and ordered that the child be burned to death. Alexander on hearing these things, said: "O Zeus, grant that I may lead my enterprise to the end. And if it be thy will, receive me too in heaven, as the third mortal." He meant by this that Dionysus through his epiphany for his exploits was among the gods and so too was Heracles. And he deemed that he himself also because of his deeds, known throughout all the world, was a third worthy to banquet with the gods.

When he had spoken these words, he went forth from Alexander's presence; and the woman took the child, and carried it out, and burned it with fire. When Alexander had heard all these things, he was in grief land trouble, and sighing, he said, "O Zeus, it would have been right that I should have finished all my plans and then died; but since it has appeared good to thee thus, command that they receive me as the third dead." This speech he said for this reason: Dionysus was a man, and because of the name and fame and power that he made for himself, he was reckoned when dead among the number of the gods ; and in like manner Heracles; therefore Alexander spoke of himself as 'the third dead,' because these had not gained such name and fame and might as Alexander.

[31] G   Now his mother Olympias often wrote about Antipater and her suffering because she, the mother of Alexander was despised and Antipater said what he wished, and she wrote down his strange treatment of her. And on account of all this (?) she kept saying she wished Alexander would return to Epirus. Alexander determined to end the rising hostility of Antipater against his mother and to summon Antipater to himself so he sent Craterus into Macedonia. Then, Antipater, perceiving Alexander's concern about the expenses of the army, plotted for his death, for he was on his guard against ever being disgraced. He heard and believed that Alexander had become very haughty on account of his exploits. So he secured a toxic drug, the strength of which he knew was deadly, and putting it into the hoof of a mule sealed it to preserve its power, for no other container, bronze or clay, had the strength to bear its force, but was quickly shattered. Then putting it in an iron box, he gave it to his son Cassander and ordered him to present it to Alexander as a gift and to tell his brother Iollas confidentially about the gift of poison.

[20] At this time Olympias the mother of Alexander sent him a letter containing an accusation against Antipater, and Alexander was very grieved because of his mother's anger against Antipater. When Antipater knew that Alexander was angry with him, and became aware that he wished to slay him, he sent Alexander a quantity of gold. Alexander commanded that it should be accepted; but although he took the gold, he did not set right his mind with Antipater. When Antipater knew the secret plans that Alexander had formed against him, he dissolved a deadly drug in a vessel, and gave some of it to his son Keshandrôs {Cassander} and furnished him with many offerings and sent him to Alexander, bidding him to seek some means and in one way or other to give the poison to Alexander.

Cassander, on arriving at Babylon, found that Alexander was engaged in offering a sacrifice. He conferred with Iollas, who was the chief cup-bearer of Alexander, about the bestowal of the gift. Now by chance, a few days before, Alexander had hit Iollas on the head with a staff for some breach of discipline, so the young man, who was enraged, gladly listened to the plot. And he associated with himself Medius, a Thessalian, a friend of Alexander and his own lover. He, joining in the plot with Iollas because of their relationship, gave directions to him about giving Alexander the poison to drink. Now Alexander was enjoying himself with his friends and his staff about him at the festival of Dionysus. For many came to Babylon for the celebration, bringing crowns for Alexander and joining gladly in his personal glorification. (?) . . . It was a happy time for him. But when he arose and wished to end the festivities, Medius approached him with the request that he should come to meet his friends, for, he said, the most influential of them had gathered. When he had proposed this, Alexander, yielding to the suggestion of Medius, went to the symposium.

When Cassander arrived at Babylon, he found Alexander offering sacrifices, and a feast was prepared for the generals of the provinces. Then Cassander drew near to Ôliyâs {Iollas}, the chief of the king's cup-bearers, and entered into a secret plot with him. Now this Iollas had been scourged a few days before for some cause by Alexander, so that his mind was excited against him, and therefore Cassander found an opportunity against Alexander. They took Mîtrôn {Medius} with them into the secret - now this Mîtrôn was Alexander's chief friend - , and he took upon himself to administer the poison to him. When Alexander and his friends were sitting at table and were drinking and talking cheerfully - now on that day Alexander was very merry, for many of his friends had come to him from various countries, and had brought him crowns of victory - after they had finished the meal, Mîtrôn drew near to Alexander and said to him, "O king, since to-day thou hast had great joy with the rest (?) of thy friends, bid thy dearest friends, who love thee most, to drink wine with thee in a chamber."

There were twenty present: Perdiccas, Meleager, Python, Leonnatus, Cassander, Peucestes, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, Philip the doctor, Nearchus the Cretan, Stasanor, Heracleides the Thracian . . . from Europus, Ariston the Pharsalian, Philip the inventor, Philotas, Menander . . . Of these, Perdiccas and Ptolemy, Olcias, Lysimachus, Eumenes, Asander did not know what was coming. The others all had a share in the deed and pledged themselves to Iollas and Cassander, swearing good faith. For they longed for power and eyed the possessions of Alexander with envy and were struck by the greatness of his ambition. Then, as Alexander lay stretched on his couch, Iollas brought him the drink. Those present kept talking to create delay until the drink had sufficient time to work. Suddenly Alexander gave a loud cry as if he had been wounded in his abdomen by an arrow. After a little time, controlling the pain, he came to himself and urged his friends to go on drinking.

When Alexander heard the speech of Mîtrôn, he ordered Priskôs, Markânos, Lôsios {Lysias}, Prîtôn, Rekîthâros, Ksîdâros {Cassiodorus}, Nicolaus, Krîmîos, Harkîtandîs, Tarkânâ, Philip, and Menîdâros {Menander} to be invited. Now of all these persons only Priskôs, Krîmîos, Harkîtandîs, Cassiodorus, and Lysias, were unacquainted with the secret, bat all the rest were eager participators in it, and were with Iollas the chief of the cup-bearers and Cassander in the matter, and had sworn oaths among themselves. When Alexander had sat down, and they had all taken their seats in his presence, Iollas the chief of the cup-bearers mixed the poison and gave the cup to Alexander. When Alexander had drunk, he straightway felt great pain ; he immediately commanded some of that wine to be brought and to be poured out to all his friends. Although he was grievously tortured by the intensity of the pain, he bore up and was neither excited nor alarmed ; and his friends also continued drinking.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[32] G   They, however, being very anxious, at once broke up the symposium, and, going outside, conjectured what would happen. Alexander, wishing to disgorge most of the wine, called for a feather. For he was wont to use one for an emetic. Then Iollas, smearing one with the poison, gave it to him. So the poison worked rapidly, as it was taken into his body in full strength. Alexander now, vainly convulsed with spasms and cramped with violent pains, spent the night in patient suffering. So on the next day, knowing that he was worse and babbling indistinctly because his tongue was already affected, he summoned all in case he could gain a respite, be himself, and marshal his wishes. Cassander, after conferring with his brother, had gone away in the night, and, on reaching the Cilician Mountains, he awaited the arrival of Iollas. For he had agreed with Iollas, that if Alexander died, he should depart at once. He sent one of his men by sea to Macedonia to his father, with a letter in cipher on the assumption that the affair had ended.

After his friends had gone out from his presence, he thought that perchance he was seized with pain by reason of the quantity that he had drank, and he took birds' feathers and put them into his throat, for so he was accustomed to do from time to time. After he perceived that nothing did him good, for the poison had flown through all his body, he was unable to restrain his groans, for the pain was too strong for his body. On the following day at dawn he desired to take counsel with his friends, but he was unable to make a testament, because his tongue was paralysed. Then Cassander wrote to Macedonia to his father Antipater, "the deed for which I came hither has taken place, and has received a glorious consummation."

Alexander, when night came on, ordered all to leave the house, even the young lads and boys who attended him, and with them he sent out both Cambobaphe and Roxane, his own wife. Now in the house there was a door opening towards the river called Euphrates, which flows through the centre of Babylon. When all had left and midnight came, Alexander arose from his bed, put out the light, went out the door, and began to crawl on all fours towards the river. As he neared it, he looked around and saw his wife Roxane running to him. She had suspected from his dismissing herself and all his attendants that he was planning to do something worthy of his courage. So she followed him on his secret journey guided in the dark by Alexander's groans, for he could hardly speak and muttered in anguish and she heard and followed. And when he stopped to rest, she threw her arms about him and spoke to him, "Are you abandoning and leaving me, Alexander, by committing suicide?" And he said: "O Roxane, I give you scant thanks for taking away my glory. Let no one hear this." So, supported by her, he went back to the house undetected.

When Alexander had been seized at Babylon with a grievous sickness, he commanded at night everyone to go forth from the chamber in which he was lying, and he also commanded Rôshnâk {Roxane} his wife to go to another chamber. Now one of the doors of the house opened on to the river Euphrates, and he ordered that door to be opened, and said, "There is no need for the guards to keep their watch." When everyone had gone forth and it was midnight, he rose up from his bed, and extinguished the lamp which was burning before him and went forth by that door, and crawled on his hands and feet to the bank of the river, and was going to cast himself in. Then his wife Rôshnâk hastened at once and took hold of him, and with weeping and loud and mournful sighs said to him, "Hast thou left me, Alexander, and art thou become thine own executioner? Bitter is the lot which has fallen to my share, and evil and cruel is that which has happened to me by fate. I was left an orphan by my father Darius in my childhood, and now in my youth I shall be left by thee a widow." Then Alexander said, "Be not distressed, O Rôshnâk, for everything happens in its season ; but be silent, and tell this secret to no one." Then Rôshnâk took Alexander by the hand and led him back to his bed.

When morning came, he ordered Perdiccas and Ptolemy and Lysimachus to come in and he told them that no one else should approach him until he settled his affairs. And he began the writing of his will. He had the young lads Combares and Hermogenes seated by himself. And Perdiccas suspected that Alexander had left his power to Ptolemy because he had often spoken to him about the lineage of Ptolemy, and Olympias had made it clear that he was Philip's son. So he got Ptolemy by himself and swore that, if he was the executor of Alexander's affairs, he would pool and divide Alexander's possessions with him. Ptolemy, on hearing the oath and not being aware of Perdiccas' schemes, for he was sure that Perdiccas would be the executor of the affairs, because he was believed in courage and intellect much more like Alexander than all the others, took for himself in turn the same oath. Alexander devoted that day and the following night to writing. Then he summoned Perdiccas, Olcias, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus.

And when it was day, Alexander commanded Krîskôs, and Lysias, and Ptolemy to come into his presence alone, and every one else to be put out. And they came into his presence. Then he ordered a testament to be written. And Krîskôs was doubtful in his mind, for he thought, " Peradventure he will give all his possessions to Ptolemy alone, for he loved him very much during his life, and Olympias his mother loved him." Then Krîskôs swore an oath with Ptolemy, " If Alexander gives all his property to me, thou shalt have one half of it; and if he gives it to thee, do thou give me a half." And having written the document, they were commanded to write the testament.

They entered, but suddenly there was a great uproar from all the Macedonians and a crowd gathered before the hall of Alexander, shouting that they would kill the bodyguards if they did not show them the king. And, when Alexander asked the meaning of the tumult, Perdiccas came forward and told him the words of the Macedonians. So he ordered that his bed be moved to a place where the army could see him as it passed by and they should bring in the men (?) and their officers, clad only in their tunics, and have them go out by different doors, that they might not start a revolution. When Perdiccas announced to the Macedonians the orders of the king, the Macedonians marched in and passing by encouraged him. And there was not one who did not weep over the calamity which had befallen the great king. One of them, Peucolaus, a man not prepossessing in appearance, a mere private with no command, standing near Alexander said: "Alexander, Philip of Macedon ruled nobly and so have you." And changing his speech he said in Macedonian, weeping as he spoke: "If you leave us, Macedonia has perished. If you die, it is fitting that the Macedonians die with you, for you made Macedonia worthy of Zeus." Alexander weeping extended his right hand and clasped the hand of the Macedonian as if in recognition of his encouragement.

[21] Then a report of an uproar and tumult among the Macedonian soldiers was heard ; and they all came clothed in armour to the gate of Alexander, for they thought that Alexander had not been seized with sickness, but that the generals of the army had slain him by treachery; and they were going to fall upon them and kill them. When Alexander heard the outcry and uproar, he asked, "What is this disturbance?" Then Krîskôs informed him concerning the uproar and tumult When Alexander heard of the real love and affection of the Macedonian soldiers towards himself, he ordered them to carry him and to convey him to the hippodrome. And he commanded that the troops of the Macedonian camps should be armed, and that they should pass before him in their suits of armour. Then Krîskôs went out from before the king, and told the Macedonians, and convinced them that Alexander was not dead, but had been seized by sickness, "But (said he) put you on your armour, and go to the royal hippodrome, for there you are to pass before him in review." When the Macedonians heard this, they girded on their armour and went to the hippodrome. And they carried Alexander thither on his bed. So the Macedonians passed in their armour before Alexander; and when they lifted up their eyes and saw Alexander, suddenly the colour of their faces was changed, and their hearts were so oppressed by weeping and mourning that, in the face of that sadness and suffering and grief mingled with sighs, even the light of the sun became obscure and dark. Then Pînâklêôs {Phainocles ?} an old Macedonian warrior and hero, wept aloud when he saw Alexander, and said to Alexander in the Greek tongue, "O king, doer of good things, Philip thy father ruled over us kindly and firmly, and thou too, O king, hast been likewise good and merciful and kind to us. But since we love thee, and thy rule is pleasing to us, and we desire and enjoy it, why dost thou wish to forsake us, and to part from us and to leave us ? for through thy departure from us all Macedonia will be destroyed, and by thy death we ourselves will all perish. It is better that we should die with thee, for thou hast made us renowned and famous; through thee we have subdued countries and kingdoms, and through thee we have brought enemies into subjection. Henceforth what is the good to us of weapons of iron and brass, when we have lost thee, O most skilled in weapons ? With thee we have marched through deserts and dark mountains, through rough and difficult and hard and impassable places; and now we will go to the next world with thee." When he had spoken these words, tears streamed down from Alexander's eyes, and each one of the Macedonians drew his sword and was going to slay himself. Then Alexander sprang up from the couch on which he lay, and sat upon the cushions, and said to the Macedonians, "O my servants and friends and fellow-soldiers, why do you add pain to pain so that I should taste death by dying before my own death?" Then he commanded the troops of the Macedonians to go to their camps, and he bade them bear him upon his bed and carry him to his palace.

[33] G   When the Macedonians had filed by, he called back Perdiccas and his men. And holding back Olcias he told him to read the will. There is preserved a copy of the contents of the will which Olcias took from Alexander.

The Will of Alexander.
King Alexander sends greetings to the army and rulers of the Rhodians, the senate, and the people. I went to the Pillars of Heracles, my forefather, and restored them. Now, as I am about to meet the fate assigned to me in the wisdom of the gods, I have judged it well to announce to you my plans. I believe that you especially among the Greeks are suitable guardians of the works achieved by me, for you too cherish our city. So I wrote orders to bring in the guard of the city that, sharing free speech, it may forever guard freedom. Also I wished that my honour should be guarded by you. For I know your city is charming and memorable. So I shall appear to have thought of it no less than of my own country and in a way worthy of myself. I will now make the following division of my possessions, assigning with clarity the land to each, beginning with the land from which I sprang and from which I came to this pinnacle of fame.

[22] Then they bore him and carried him to his palace, and he commanded Prîskôs to bring the testament and to read it before him. Then Archelaus the scribe brought the testament, and in it there was written as follows:

From Alexander to Ammon and to my mother Olympias, greeting. Inasmuch as the gods have willed that I should be taken from the assembly and dwelling of men to the assemblies and dwellings of the gods, I too have thought that it would be expedient and helpful for me, and I have thought that it would be right for me to inform you thereof. Do thou then, my mother, not be grieved nor distressed at my departure, for such is the will of God, but console thyself in thy wisdom and be glad. I have appointed and sent all my generals for thy honour that they may make thee exceedingly glad. I Alexander in this testament command: the Macedonians and the Greeks shall keep themselves in training and guard the country from enemies and be always vigilant; they shall keep the temples of the gods and the royal palace, and preserve them in prosperity and in joy.

I have directed the rulers of the countries to allocate from the gold reserve of the satrapy one thousand talents to the Egyptian priests and consign to them my body to be carried away. And I also concur with the arrangements for my burial as the Egyptian priests shall decide. I decree also that Thebes shall be rebuilt from the royal treasure, for I think that the people have suffered and have learned wisdom from their sins against me. And I order too that food from Macedonia be given to the Thebans who have come back to Thebes until the land is cultivated. And I have also ordered a gift to you for the restoral of the city three hundred and five talents of gold and seventy-seven triremes and a gift of food, (?) a free gift from Egypt annually two thousand measures of wheat, and from Asia through the stewards from the districts near you two thousand measures of wheat and your land shall be surveyed that in the future you may have sufficient produce and lack nothing and occupy your city in suitable fashion.

I have entrusted these matters to Craterus, the overseer in Macedonia, and Ptolemy, the satrap of Egypt, and to the rulers in Asia, Perdiccas and Antigonus. I enjoin upon you again that, when you have received the letter from Olcias, who will give it to you, that, while estimating your personal advantage, you will not fail to recognize that it is incumbent upon you to expend the funds for the improvement of your city. I am convinced that you will follow out my directions. Perdiccas, as the guardian of my body, will be your counsellor. I have shown him privately what he will convey to you. Do not suppose that the will has been prepared for you carelessly. Know that the overseers of the kingdom shall act as judges if there is any dissension sown by any one among the judges (?) at a festival.

Let there be given every year to the princes that are in Egypt darics to the amount of one hundred pounds from the crops and taxes of the country, for I have commanded my body to be carried thither; and let the expenses which are requisite and necessary for the grave in which my body is laid be given to the priests according to their desire from the revenues of the kingdom. I also command that the offence wherewith the Thebans offended me be forgiven them, and that three hundred talents of gold be given them for the restoration of their city. I also command that there be given from Egypt every year twenty thousand bushels of wheat, and from Asia twenty thousand bushels. I also command that Krêtênôr {Craterus} shall be ruler and governor of the Macedonians; and over Egypt shall be Ptolemy; and over Asia Krîskôs {Perdiccas}. I also command that seventy talents of gold be given to the army of the Macedonians. I also command that Archelaus take this testament and carry it to the temple of the god Ammon. And let there be in the land of Alexandria food and abundance of corn, and let skilful workmen of all kinds be ready, and when Ptolemy comes thither bringing my body, let them prepare quickly a grave for the burial of my body, and let there be no hindrance nor delay to him.

King Alexander, son of Ammon and Olympias, appoints as king of Macedonia for the present Arrhidaeus, the son of Philip. If Roxane bears a son to Alexander, he is to be king and whatever name the Macedonians wish shall be given to him. But if Roxane's child is female, let the Macedonians choose whom they wish as king in case they do not wish Arrhidaeus, the son of Philip. And let the one chosen preserve the rule of the Greeks and let the Macedonians with the Greeks carry out the decrees with the king.

I also command that if Rôshnâk {Roxana} my wife give birth to a son, he shall be king, and they shall call his name after one of the kings of the Macedonians, according as they please; but if she give birth to a girl, let the Macedonians choose and set up as king whomsoever they please ; and if they find (?) Bêlîrôs the son of Mîlêkôs (?), he shall be lord over them.

Let Olympias, the mother of Alexander, be allowed to live in Rhodes if the Rhodians agree. For there is no authority to do anything without the consent of the Rhodians. And if she does not wish to live in Rhodes, let her reside where she wishes, taking the same journeys which she took also in the time of her son Alexander. Up to the time when the Macedonians decide to appoint a king, King Alexander, son of Ammon and Olympias, appoints as overseers of his kingdom of all Macedonia Craterus and Cynane his wife, the daughter of Philip, who was king of Macedonia, and over Thrace Lysimachus and his wife, Thessalonice, the daughter of Philip, who was the king of the Macedonians. He gives the satrapy on the Hellespont to Leonnatus and gives him as a wife Cleodice the sister of Olcias, and Paphlagonia and Cappadocia to Eumenes, the secretary. The islanders he sets free and makes the Rhodians their guardians. He assigns Pamphylia and Cilicia to Antigonus. . . . Over all these countries up to those on this side of the river Halys (?) let Philotas rule. Over Babylon and the outlying district, I appoint Seleucus, one of my bodyguard. I assign Phoenicia and the part of Syria called the valley to Meleager and Egypt to Perdiccas and Libya to Ptolemy and I give him for wife Cleopatra, the sister of Alexander. Over those above the Babylonian land I set Phanocrates as military commander and overseer and I give him as his wife Roxane, the Bactrian.

Olympias my mother shall dwell in Rhodes, and Lysimachus shall rule over the country of Thrace ; and his wife shall rule over the Thessalonians, because she is my sister, the daughter of Philip the king of the Macedonians. Over Hellas Pîtasdrôn (?) shall rule; and over Pamphylia and Lycia Antigonus shall rule; and over Great Phrygia Andreas shall rule; and over Cilicia Pîôr (?); and over Syria and as far as the Rivers Python shall rule; and Seleucus clothed in armour shall rule over this Babylon, and his wife over Nicaea ; and Âdîmîs {Eumenes} shall rule over Paphlagonia and Cappadocia; and Mempath {Meleager} shall rule over Phoenicia and Coele Syria; and over Egypt Ptolemy, and Cleopatra the sister of Alexander's wife shall be given to him ; and my wife Rôshnâk shall rule from this Babylon of mine to the country of Adôrbaijân and Persia and Media, and I command that she shall be given to Prîskôs {Perdiccas} to wife.

And I order the overseers of the kingdom to prepare a gold coffin at the cost of two hundred talents in which the body of Alexander, the Macedonian king, shall be laid. I direct that the older and weaker of the Macedonians be sent back to Macedonia and also the Thessalians who are in the same state. Let each be given three talents of gold. And let there be a golden throne in Athens for the goddess Athena, who is the most beautiful of the virgins. Also I order sent to Argos the panoply of King Alexander and as spoils of war for Heracles fifty talents of gold coin, and sent to Delphi the teeth of the elephants and the skins of the serpents and thirteen gold libation bowls as dedications of the army. Let there be given also to the Milesians for the restoration of the city one hundred and fifty talents of gold coinage, and to the Cnidians (?) a gift. I wish too that Perdiccas whom I leave as King of Egypt, with Alexandria which I founded . . . so to use the power entrusted to him that it remain blessed to the great Sarapis, lord of all. And I wish (?) . . . to establish an overseer of the city who shall be called priest of Alexander and shall go forth with the highest honours of the city, wearing a gold crown and a purple robe, and he shall receive a talent annually. He shall be respected, and he shall be freed from all public services. And such a man, one differing in kind from all others, shall receive the office and this gift shall be perpetual to him and his descendants.

And I command that they shall make for the interment of my body a coffin of fine gold, two hundred and fifty talents in weight, and let them lay the body of me Alexander the king of the Macedonians in it ; and let them fill it with white honey which has not been melted, and let them deliver it to the Macedonians. Let them send one suit of my royal apparel and my golden throne to the city of Athens, to the temple of the virgins ; and let them send all my arms to Persia, with one hundred and fifty talents of gold ; and let them send to the temple of the gods which is in Macedonia the dragons' heads of gold weighing one hundred talents, and one hundred signet rings of gold, and a thousand ivory cups. Let them send one hundred and fifty talents of gold to the Philippians {Milesians} for the restoration of their city; and the remainder of the gold and silver, and the whole of the possessions which I have brought from the country of the Indians, let them be given to my mother Olympias. Let them deliver over Sôd - that is to say Samarkand - to Philip; and let them give Abarashahr and Gurgân to Pîtâpôlîs (?), and Garmâniâ {Kermân} to Thlipaitmôs {Tlepolemus} ; and as for Persia let the lords of the various provinces hold them, and let Pîsôn (?) be ruler over them. I also command that they shall bring some of the Dôsîn, who dwell in tents, and call them " sojourners in Alexandria." Now as I have said above, they shall lay my body in a golden coffin, and they shall lift it on to a chariot, and sixteen docile mules shall draw it, and the army of the Macedonians, with Ptolemy and the other generals, shall guard it, and carry it to Egypt ; and they shall give for the expenses of the journey one thousand talents of gold from the revenue of the kingdom, and for the mules which shall draw the chariot one thousand six hundred talents.

King Alexander appoints as king of India, the part lying along the river Hydaspes, Taxiles, and of the part stretching from the Hydaspes river to Indus Porus, and over the Paropantisadae Oxydraces the Bactrian, the father of Roxane, Alexander's wife ; and Arachosia . . . and Drangenes . . . the Bactrian and the Susian lands to Philippus, and the Parthian and the part next to the Hyrcanian to Phrataphernes, and the Carmanian to Tlepolemus, and Persis to Peucestes, (?) and I wish to appoint Oxyntes satrap over Media.

{ The following sections are missing from the Syriac version. }

King Alexander appoints Olcias, king of Illyria. And he gives him five hundred horses to be brought from Asia and three thousand talents. From these let him prepare a shrine and set up statues of Ammon, Heracles, Athena, Olympias, Philip. And let the overseers of the kingdom also erect likenesses (?) of Olcias of silver and statues covered with gold at Delphi. And let Perdiccas also dedicate bronze likenesses of Alexander, Ammon, Heracles, Olympias, Philip. May the gods, the guardian Olympians, and Heracles, the earliest forefather of the king, establish all these proposals"

And when all this had been done, Olcias came in and he gave him the letter to take to the Theban, Asmenus. And Olcias hastened to read what pertained to the region of Thebes. Because he ordered the city of Thebes be rebuilt and did further benefactions, Ismenias, now rejoicing over the city, eagerly started celebrating. And Alexander was anointed with a certain assuaging balm which Roxane put on him, and he was protected from great pain. And a light sleep came. Because of this, the demise was deferred for five days. Alexander asked for water to rinse out his mouth. And once again, Iollas altered the cup with the drug and offered it to him. And he took it and rinsed out his mouth. And then and there, oppressed by his pains, he cried out loudly; and he gave up hope in life and in the vain futility of this world.

He summoned Perdiccas and Ptolemy and Lucias and Lysimachus, the Macedonian princes, and spoke thus to them: "Men, I have given definite instructions about the kingdom. Olcias has been entrusted the Rhodians; let them do as he directs. And now I am taking care of the legacy of Perdiccas and Antipater." And Olcias then touched the hem of his garment and wailing loudly went out. And he called Lysimachus to him and said, "Go to Thrace and grieve not." And he, too, cried out and ran off. And he said to Ptolemy seated near him, "And you, go to Egypt and you shall take care of our body." But he spoke softly to him so that no one might hear, for Ptolemy too was overcome by tears, and he hid his face in his robe and secretly wept. But the illness was strengthening its hold upon the emperor, and he was no longer able thereafter to speak. And he suffered great distress and anguish, and he groaned: "Providence above, I entrust to your care the throne of my kingdom; for you are king of land and sea, ablest and strongest of all the gods and heroes. Hear me now, Heracles and Athena and all you creatures above." And hard pressed by his illness, he gave his ring to Perdiccas. And Roxane cried loudly and rent her clothing and wanted to fall at the feet of her husband, Alexander. And Alexander sobbed and groaned deeply and placed his hand on her head. And he took her by her right hand and handed her to Perdiccas. And by a glance, he made it clear that he was entrusting her to his care. And as he was doing this the malady was pressing hard upon him. At that time, Roxane was standing on his right, and around the three were Perdiccas, Ptolemy, and Lucias. And he gave up the ghost and they laid out his body.

And thus did Alexander, the world conqueror and great king, pass on to the gods, after having lived thirty-three years. And I do not think that they speak falsely who say that he is the son of Aramazd, nor do those who say he is Ammon's. For he surpassed by far the mortal measure in his character, sound thinking, righteousness; in restraint, generosity, and virtue. He won many wars, and accomplished everything himself, personally, and the facts themselves testify to this.

Now Ptolemy went to Alexander and said: "Alexander, to whom do you bequeath the kingdom?" He said: "To the one who is strong and willing, the one who conserves and accomplishes." Now when he said this, straightway a mist filled the air and darkness fell. Then appeared a great star falling from heaven into the sea. And with it came a great eagle, and the bronze statue of Zeus in Babylon was shaken. Then the star went back to heaven, and the eagle ascended carrying with it a brilliant star. And when the star was hidden in heaven, at once Alexander closed his eyes.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[34] G   Then the Persians began to put forth claims for they wished to carry the king back to Persis and worship him as the god Mithras. And the Macedonians opposed them, desiring to take him back to Macedonia. Ptolemy said to them: "There is here the seat of an oracle of Babylonian Zeus. From it I will secure an utterance as to where we shall carry the body of Alexander." On being questioned, Zeus gave this oracle: "I myself give an oracle advantageous for you all. There is a city near the Nile on the streams of the ocean, (?) embracing five royal homesteads, very rich, near Amazonis. It is called Memphis. Send word . . . there; there bear him and lay to rest the son of the immortals and honour him as the horned king."

When this oracle had been given, Ptolemy conveyed him to Egypt. He took a leaden coffin and put in it island honey and aloes and Trogodyticene myrrh, and, placing it on a mule-drawn wagon, bore it to Egypt. And when they came to Pelusium, the people of Memphis met them with flute-players and gifts according to their custom and escorted him into Memphis as Sesonchosis, the demigod who ruled the world. Then the archpriest of the Memphis shrine said: "Take him to the city which he himself founded in Rhacotis. For the place where his body lies will never be free from wars and battles." Then Ptolemy made a tomb for him in Alexandria, which is still called the grave of Alexander, and there he buried him with splendour. For the city was called by his name and is destined to rule all others. A priest was appointed in the city for the great gods Sarapis and Apis; when he went out, he was to be adorned very splendidly in purple with a crown of gold and receive an annual sum equal to a talent. And he would be inviolate and free from every obligation. This man would have this kind of honour, for he would exceed all mankind in nobility. And this gift would remain even for his children.

[23] When Alexander had given these commands, he straightway died; and they did even as Alexander had commanded. And when they had taken the body of Alexander and placed it upon a chariot, all the Macedonians in Babylon began to make a mourning and outcry with bitter weeping and sore lamentation. And when he had arrived at Mephyâ {Memphis}, when the people of the land heard it, they came to meet him with all kinds of music, and they praised the body of Alexander with doleful voices, saying, "Thou art welcome, O god Sîsnâkîs (Sesonchosis), ruler of the world." They kept the body of Alexander in that place twelve days, and each day they made elegies and lamentations and weeping over him afresh; and they wished to retain his body there. Then the priests of Serapis said to them, " This body of Alexander must not be laid here, but they must carry it to the city which he built ; for in the place where the body of Alexander is laid, there will be wars and contests continually, for in his lifetime he had continually the desire for war and battle." So Ptolemy made a grave for the body of Alexander in Alexandria, as he had been ordered, and there did he lay the body of Alexander ; and they call that place "The tomb of Alexander" unto this day.

[35] G   Alexander did not conquer as many kings in his wars as he left behind at his death. Alexander lived thirty years. And, beginning warfare at fifteen, he fought seven years, even until he was twenty years old. The other (?) thirty years he lived in peace, in freedom from care, and in happiness. He subdued twenty-two barbarian nations, ten Greek. He founded thirteen cities, which are still inhabited and peaceful: Alexandria over the horse Bucephalus, Alexandria near the Persians, Alexandria for Porus, Alexandria in Scythia, Alexandria near Troy, Alexandria at Susa, Alexandria near Egypt.

He was born in the month Tybi at the rising of the new moon, and he died in Pharmouthi on the fourth day at sunset. And his army called that day sacred because of Alexander who died young. And this is the end of his life span, both of his birth and development, of his victory and his valour, his kingship and his world-wide rule; of his genius and his wisdom, his equity and justice, righteousness and virtue. This life that was directed by Providence above ended in man's common death.

[24] Alexander waged numerous battles and great wars, and he defeated and routed and put to flight mighty and powerful kings. He lived in this world thirty-two years and seven months, and of these he had rest for only eight years in this world. He subdued of the barbarians twenty-two kings; and of the Greeks thirteen. He built thirteen cities, some of which are flourishing to this day, but some are laid waste. The first is Alexandria which was built after the name of the horse called Bucephalus, the interpretation of which is Bull-head ; the second is Alexandria the fortified Rôphôs (?); the third is Alexandria the Great ; the fourth is Alexandria in the dominion of king Porus; the fifth is Alexandria in the land of Gelênîkôs {? Granicus}; the sixth is Alexandria in the country of the Scythians; the seventh is Alexandria on the shore of the sea {or river} ; the eighth is Alexandria which is near Babylon ; the ninth is Alexandria which is in the country of Sôd, that it to say, Samarkand; the tenth is Alexandria which is called Kûsh, that is Balkh ; the eleventh is Alexandria which is called Margenîkôs, that is to say Môrô {Merv} ; the twelfth is Alexandria which is upon the farther bank of the rivers in the country of the Indians; and the thirteenth is Alexandria which is in Egypt. And after Alexander died in Babylon by poison, the name of the day upon which he died was called "The slayer of young men," for Alexander was a young man. Alexander reigned as king twelve years and seven months and there was none among all the kings on earth that fought and made war and conquered like Alexander until the day he died.

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