Alexander Romance ( "Pseudo-Callisthenes" )

Book 1 , Chapters 33-41

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.   Click on the G symbols to go the Greek text of each chapter.

Destruction of Tyre

  Alexander's army destroys Tyre   -   BL Royal 20.B.XX (15th century)

← Previous chapters (20-32)

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[33] G   He found (?) five high sites, . . . one of the sun and the pillars of Helion and the Herōon. He sought also the Sarapeium in accordance with the oracle given him by Ammon, most powerful of all gods:
  King, to you I speak. Behold the god of the ram's horns.
  If you wish forever to flourish in youth eternal,
  Build an illustrious city above the island of Proteus,
  Where once Aion Plutonius first took his throne as a ruler,
  Lord of the boundless kingdom, over the five branching waters.

[88] And when he had found atop five prominent peaks the land where the pillars of the sun and of Helion are (located) and also the temple of that god, he looked for the shrine of Sarapis, in compliance with the oracle given him by Ammon; and he sought the one who is the greatest god of all. For the oracle of the gods had spoken thus: "O King, I, Phoegos, the ram, say to you that if you wish to remain forever ageless, build a noteworthy city on the island of Proteus, over which Plutonios presides, encompassing the boundless realm with five crested peaks." And he invoked the god who sees everything.

So he sought out the all-seeing god. Then he constructed a very great altar in front of the Herōon, which is now called the altar of Alexander. Then he made a sumptuous sacrifice, and offered this prayer: "Whatever god thou art who dost protect this land and dost survey the boundless world, accept the sacrifice and be my helper against my foes." With these words, he placed the sacrifice on the altar. Then suddenly a great eagle, swooping down, seized the viscera of the offering and bearing them through the air put them down upon another altar. The watchers reported to King Alexander the spot. He went there in haste and saw the viscera lying on the altar and a temple built in antiquity and a seated wooden image inside, which mortal tongue could not describe. And beside the indescribable statue there stood a huge image of a maiden.

[89] And there, opposite the shrine of the god, he set up a great altar which, from that time on they call the altar of Alexander. He offered elaborate sacrifices upon it and stood at prayer and said, "Whatever god you are, who have the divine responsibility for this land and watch over the endless earth, accept my sacrifices and be my help in war." And having said this, he placed the sacrifice upon the altar. Suddenly a great eagle swooped down, seized the entrails of the sacrifice, and flew off into the air. It circled around and released them upon a different altar. The learned examiners pointed out the place to the king. And when he got there, he immediately saw the entrails on top of the altar. It was an altar which had been built a long time ago, and seated within there was a copper image whose nature mortal man cannot relate. And, there was, with the inviolate image, a large statue of a maiden.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

Now he made inquiries of the natives there as to who the god was. They said that they did not know, but the tradition of their forefathers claimed it was the shrine of Zeus and Hera. There too he saw the obelisks, the ones still lying in the Sarapeion outside the present enclosure, which were carved with hieratic inscriptions. Alexander asked to whom the obelisks belonged. The men said: "To King Sesonchosis, ruler of the world." This inscription in hieratic letters was found: "Sesonchosis, King of Egypt   and conqueror of the world  , set this up to Sarapis, the manifest god of the world."

[32] And he heard that there was a temple of Zeus there, and one of Hêra, whom they call 'the mother of the gods.' And when he had entered the temple, he bowed down there and sacrificed. And while he was examining the temple, he saw there two tablets of red marble, which were very beautiful, fixed under a statue, and upon them was engraved a legend in hieroglyphs, which ran thus: "After that I Sesonchôsis, the ruler of the earth {or world}, was first recognised as lord upon earth, I erected this statue in honour of the great god the Sun, the equal of Serapis, in gratitude for the benefits which I have received from him."

Then, lifting his eyes to the god, Alexander said: "O Sarapis, most great, if thou are indeed the ruler of the world, reveal thyself to me."

And when Alexander had read this legend, he considered Serapis to be the first god. He went also to the spot where he was told that the temple of this god existed, and in the temple he found a golden cup of the gods upon the ground, and on the cup there was written as follows: "I Ahlâ, the son of the mighty Prometheus, made this cup for the great god Serapis before mankind were brought forth." And when Alexander had read this legend he said, "It is evident from this that Serapis is the first god, for this cup was fabricated when as yet Prometheus had not made men ; and thus also did Ammon show me in a dream, saying, 'I will grant thee to build a city where the first god dwells.' And now I will supplicate this [god] and will entreat a favour from him, because Sesonchôsis too has shown me by his inscription that he appeared [as] the first god in this world."

Then in his dreams the mighty god appeared and said: "Alexander, have you forgotten what you said when you sacrificed to me? Did you not say: 'Whatever god thou art who dost protect this land and dost survey the boundless world, accept the sacrifice and be my helper against my foes'? And did not an eagle, suddenly swooping down, seize the viscera and place them on the altar? Was it not possible for you to know that I am the all-seeing god? And in your sleep you invoked the god and said: 'Reveal to me whether this city founded under my name shall remain Alexandria, or whether my name shall be changed to a name in honour of another king?' Then he saw the god taking him by the hand and leading him to a very high mountain and saying: 'Alexander, can you move this mountain to another location?' He seemed to say: 'I cannot, O Lord.' And the god said: 'So your name cannot be replaced by that of another king. But Alexandria will be honoured by the noble and will bestow honour upon the cities which preceded it.' "

Then Alexander offered sacrifices to Serapis, and made supplication to him saying, "If indeed thou art he who has governed the world from olden time until now, and hast revealed thyself at the first as god, instruct me, O Serapis, how to build the city which I have in my mind, and I will give it the name of Alexandria; and inform me also whether they will make my name to pass away from it and will call it by the name of another king." And when he had spoken these words, he slept ; and he saw in his dream that the [god] took him by the hand and brought him up into a high mountain, and said to him, "Alexander, art thou able to lift up this mountain and to remove [it] to another place?" Alexander answered and said, "How can I, my lord ? " Then the god said to him, "Even as thou art not able to remove this mountain, so another king will not be able to remove thy name from this city, nor to set his own name upon it." And again Alexander said, "My lord Serapis, what might and strength shall there be in Alexandria that [men] shall carry its name into the world?" Serapis said, "In the same manner, when the city is built, [people] will call it 'the great city' and the fame of its greatness shall be spoken of in the whole world, and men innumerable shall dwell therein, who shall be famous through thee. Gentle winds too shall minister unto it with the favourable temperature, and the knowledge and craft of its inhabitants shall be renowned throughout the world, for I will build it with cunning, and I will be a helper to it. Storms shall not disturb the sea, neither shall drought nor heat be therein ; winter and cold shall not remain therein, neither shall there be in it the mischief and destruction of demons, and there shall be but few earthquakes in it, and they shall not cause much damage therein, for these are caused by the envy of wicked devils. If the armies of all the kings of the earth were to encamp round about it, they would not be able to injure it in any way. It has been decreed that it shall be renowned in the world, and alive or dead, hither shalt thou come, and in the city which thou hast made to be inhabited, thou shalt have thy grave."

Alexander then said: "Master, reveal to me this also: when and how shall I die?" This was the god's answer:
  Painless it is, yea, honourable and fair
  For one born mortal not to foresee when
  The end of his allotted span shall come.
  For mortal men perceive not in their minds
  That life, with all its sides, immortal is,
  When they no knowledge of disasters have.
  So do you too believe this fate most fair,
  Thinking it good the future not to know.
  But since you passionately long to learn,
  Fated it is. In brief you shall hear this.
  By my authority, you in your youth
  Shall all the tribes barbarian subdue.
  And have a longed-for city, queen of the world.
  And, after many seasons and times pass,
  It shall be famed among the brave, adorned
  By many temples, many varied shrines,
  Famed for its beauty, size, inhabitants.
  And every traveller shall come to stay,
  Forgetful of the land where he was born.
  And of this city I shall be the god,
  (?) Residing there, halting the heaven's turn.
  Sailing the deep, encountering fearful fire,
  Man marvels at not winning safe return
  Until the hard decrees of the hostile gods
  Prove impotent at the end to crush the town.
  The quaking of the earth shall be but slight,
  A little thing famine and pestilence,
  And war shall not take grievous toll of deaths.
  But like a dream shall the foe run through the town.
  And everywhere and always in your life
  Shall mortals reverence you as if a god,
  And dying you shall be a god indeed,
  Receive obeisance and the gifts of kings.
  Here in this city always you shall dwell
  In life and death. The city which you built.
  Shall be your tomb. This I, your sire, swear,
  O Alexander. Who am I? You ask.
  Take now 200 for the letter first.
  Add one, then still 100 and one more,
  Then four times ten and the letter first again
  Thus shall you know the very god I am.

{ The numbers represent the letters of Sarapis' name: 200=S, 1=A, 100=R, and so on. But rather than "four times", the text should says "eighty" (=P). }

Now the god after giving the oracle vanished.

And again Alexander said to him, "My lord Serapis, I desire to know what thy real name is." And again Serapis said to him, "First of all consider in thy mind, for if thou art able to comprehend one of a hundred of the powers of heaven, or to speak twenty of their two hundred names, thou art able to understand my name." And when the god had spoken these words to him, Alexander said to him, "My lord Serapis, tell me this also, where, and when, and by what death I shall die." And the god said to him in a dream, "Man that is born is without anxiety, and honourable, and comely, when the time of his death and the manner thereof arc concealed from him; for mankind, though mortal, are wont to think in their minds that they are immortal, and that this world will not be dissolved. But if thou desirest to know by what death thou shalt die, know that thy death will be fair and peaceful ; thy sickness will be like that of one who drinketh poison ; fear not then, for thy death will not be caused by any bodily sickness, and shouldst thou die in thy youth, thou wilt be innocent of a multitude of evils."

And Alexander, awakening from sleep and pondering on the oracle, recognized the great god of the universe, Sarapis. So he built a great altar and ordered that fitting sacrifices should be prepared and that the animals should be slain and laid upon the altar. Then he placed over them a mass of frankincense and heaps of all kinds of spices, and he commanded that all be entertained at a banquet. Next he bade also Parmenion the architect to prepare a suitable domicile for the wooden image, corresponding to the Homeric verses ; as the famous poet Homer wrote somewhere { Iliad, 1'528 } :
  "Spoken the words, and the son of King Cronus raising his eyebrows.
  Nodded assent and all his ambrosial locks shook in the answer
  Made by the ruler immortal, and e'en great Olympus trembled."

So Parmeniscus prepared the so-called Sarapeion of Parmeniscus. This is the history of the building of the city.

And when Alexander had seen all these oracular responses in his dream, he commanded them to call the architects, - that is the chief carpenters, - three skilful and cunning men; one was Sinkartîn of Arontios, another Aryânâos the Egyptian, and another Krirmâtîn of Kôkellîn. And he set them over the building of the city, Sinkartîs to lay the foundations, and Aryânâos to measure and plan the streets and squares, and Baryâthmîn {sic} to build houses in the city; and Alexander gave them five hundred thousand talents of gold, each talent consisting of four hundred pounds. The length of the city was from the grave of Asîlîs {Osiris} to Bartînâ, and its breadth from Dânôd to Îkarstra which they call 'by Hermopolis'.

[34] G   Then Alexander heading the army proceeded into Egypt after sending the ships to Tripolis to await him. The army grew weary for the journey was hard. Now the prophets, the caretakers of the country's gods, on meeting Alexander in every city, proclaimed him a new Sesonchosis, ruler of the world. And when he came to Memphis, they enthroned him in the holy throne-room of Hephaestus and robed him as an Egyptian king.

[33] When Aristotle, the teacher of Alexander, heard of the building of the city, he sent to him saying thus, "Nay my lord, do not begin to build so great and mighty a city, nor to make people of various countries and tongues to dwell therein ; peradventure they may rebel against thy service, and take the city from thee; and again, if [the people of] the city should hold a festival and games, the herald would not be able to make the proclamation in many days; and if all the winged fowl in creation were to be gathered together, and if thou didst store up all the barley meal in thy dominions in one spot, it would not suffice for the nourishment of the people that are in it." And after this message had come to Alexander, great grief took hold of him, and he was anxious and perplexed ; and he commanded them to call the Egyptian soothsayers who were skilled in augury, and related to them this message. And when the augurs had heard this message, and had seen that the king was in grief and trouble, they said to him, "O king, begin the building of the city, for it will be great, and renowned, and abounding in revenues, and all the ends of the earth will bring articles of trade to it. Many countries will be fed by it, but it will not be dependent on any country for sustenance ; and everything manufactured in it will be esteemed by the rest of the world, and they will carry it to remote lands." And when Alexander had heard this speech from the soothsayers, he gave orders to build the city from Dedaknâtos as far as Kaiôphâ.

Then Alexander saw a statue of black stone and an inscription on the base: "The king who fled will return to Egypt, not old, but young, and he will subdue for us our enemies the Persians." He asked whose statue it was. The answer was : "This is our last king, Nectanebos, who, when the Persians came to make war on Egypt, by his magic arts saw that the gods of the Egyptians were marshalling the enemy, and, having learned of their betrayal, went into exile. And when we sought him and consulted our own gods, as to where the king had fled, the god in the shrine of the Sinopeion { near Memphis } gave out this oracle: "'The king who fled will return to Egypt, not old, but young, and he will subdue for us our enemies the Persians.'"

[34] From thence he went into the middle of the country of Egypt, and commanded his troops to await him in Eslôna. And when he had come to Egypt, all the Egyptians, with the priests and prophets of their gods came to him, and glorified him with a loud voice, saying, "Welcome, O Sesonchôsis, the youthful god and ruler of the world ;" for he went to the city of Memphis, and they seated him upon the throne of Hephaestus, and clothed him after the manner of the Egyptians. Then he saw there a statue of a king, which was made of black stone, and he read the letters which were engraved beneath its feet, and the legend ran thus : "The king of Egypt who fled, a mighty man and astute and aged, after a time died, [and] there became king a young man and strong, who shall surpass him in bravery, and shall go round the whole world by his might, and shall bring all mankind into subjection to the Egyptians, and shall give you might and power." Then Alexander asked, "Whose statue is this ? " And the prophets said, "Of the last king of Egypt, Nectanebus." Alexander said, "And why are these letters inscribed beneath?" The prophets said, "It is an augury which the great god gave at the time when the Egyptians drew near to seek their king."

On hearing these words, Alexander leaped up on the statue and embraced it, saying: "This is my father, I am his son. The oracle of the god did not deceive you. Yet I marvel that you were completely conquered by the barbarians when you had walls not built by hands, which were impossible for the enemy to storm. For there is a circle of rivers which guard your city and winding roads, hard to travel, so that a great army could not approach. Even I, coming to you with a few men, grew weary on the hard way. But this is the work of the foresight and justice of the gods that you who possess a fertile land and a productive river should be subdued by the power of those not possessing these blessings. For if in the possession of these gifts you also ruled, the barbarians who did not possess them would have perished. So those who do not possess these blessings, have military skill, and those who have the art of cultivating the land, are enslaved by those who have it not; and those not having this art take from those who have."

When he heard this, he went up to the pillar on which the statue stood, and embraced the image with his arms, and kissed it, and answered and said to the Egyptians, "Ye men of Egypt, this is he that begat me, and this is my father. I am the youth whose father is Nectanebus; and he is concealed, but I am revealed to avenge your cause on your enemies. I am however astonished, how ye have remained and stayed in this country and have not utterly perished by the hands of your enemies, since the wall of your city is so weak, and ye have no fortified place for treasure houses ; but I think that your preservation is chiefly due to the many rivers which encompass your territory. Now that tribute which ye were wont to give to Darius, give to me ; not that I may put it in my treasury for my own use, but that I may use it for expenses for my city Alexandria, so that ye [really] give it to your protectors."

After this speech, Alexander demanded the tribute money which they had prepared for Darius, saying: "I ask the money not to bear it away for my personal treasury, but to spend it upon your city Alexandria, which in Egypt is the metropolis of the inhabited world." After he said this, they gladly gave him the money and sent him away through Pelusium with honours.

Then they brought him much gold, and a crown of gold, and [other] presents and large gifts, and they took [them] before Alexander, and they went with him as far as Pelusium.

[35] G   Then he resumed his expedition and after due preparations he made the journey into Syria. He made the nearest cities subjects and from there after enlisting thousands of armed men he arrived at Tyre. The Tyrians were arrayed against him, not permitting him to pass through their city because of an ancient oracle which had been given them to this effect: "If, 'tis said, a king rides through, then will the city be levelled to the ground." Therefore the Tyrians opposed Alexander's entrance and, having fortified the whole city by walls, resisted him. In a mighty battle, the Tyrians killed many of the Macedonians and the army of Alexander was hard-pressed. Alexander turned back and having recovered himself planned to sack Tyre. But in his sleep he saw a person who said to him: "Do not resolve on Tyre's destruction." After this vision, he arose from his sleep and sent an embassy with a letter which read thus:

[35] Then he commanded his troops to get ready, and he took them and they went to the country of Syria. Then all the country of Syria gave the right hand to him, and came under his rule. And they drew near and came to Tyre. Because the Tyrians had heard from Apollo the augur, "When a mighty king shall march through the plain of Tyre, Tyre shall be taken away from its deep place," the Tyrians of their own accord promptly drew up in battle array against Alexander, and fought with him, and slew many men of Alexander's host, and would not allow them to enter the city. And Alexander was fiercely enraged, and his anger rose, and he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, "O my lord Serapis, thou art a god and hast made me a king ; show me now if I shall be able to take Tyre."

"Alexander, King of the Macedonians, son of Ammon, child of King Philip, himself the greatest king of Europe, Asia and Libya, speaks to the Tyrians, who no longer exist. I wished, having established my rule over the people, to enter the city peacefully and with good will. Now you Tyrians do not happen to be the first in the state, but I am. I say that, if you oppose my passage through your city, others too will learn from you what the strength of the Macedonians is against your folly. The oracle given you shall be fulfilled. For I shall ride through your city and it shall fall. Farewell! Be wise. If you are not, suffer your fate."

The counsellors having read the letter ordered the ambassadors to be lashed saying: "What sort of a man is your Alexander?" And, when they said he was nobody, they crucified them.

On receiving the news, Alexander considered how he should overthrow the Tyrians. For he believed them fanatics. He saw in his dreams a Satyr, one of the servants of Dionysus, who gave him a cheese {tyros"} and he himself took it and stamped on it. On awaking, he consulted a soothsayer. He said: "King Alexander, Tyre is in your power   because of the Satyr; and you shall topple it over,   for you trampled on the cheese {tyros"}." This is the explanation that the soothsayer gave.

And when he fell asleep, he saw in his dream the ranks of the singers (or satyrs), who were standing before Dionysus and singing and dancing, and they had garlands of young vine branches with their clusters on their heads ; and Dionysus was standing and holding a Tyrian daric in his hand, and he gave it to Alexander ; and a cluster of grapes from the garland on the head of Dionysus fell to the ground, and Alexander trod upon it and squeezed out the wine from it. When Alexander awoke, he gave orders to call those skilled in dreams; and when they came and heard the dream from him, they answered and said to him, "O king, it is granted to thee to take the land of Tyre ; for the daric which Dionysus gave thee represents the country which is going to be delivered over to thee ; and those grapes which thou sawest fall from the garland of Dionysus are the people of the city who are to fall and be crushed beneath the feet of thy hosts; and the wine which thou didst see is the blood of the slain which will be shed." Then Alexander commanded to give gifts to those men skilled in dreams, and to assemble the troops, and to fight with the Tyrians.

After some days, Alexander started the war against the Tyrians with the aid of the three nearest villages, who fought valiantly and opened their gates to him. He slaughtered the defenders, sacked Tyre, and levelled it to the ground. Even till today, on account of Alexander, men talk about "the horrors of Tyre." The three villages which had fought gallantly on his side, he enrolled in one town and called it Tripolis.

And the Tyrians were conquered, and surrendered to Alexander; and Alexander made a war in Tyre, the fame of which has gone forth into the whole world. And the city and three noble and famous men from three towns were destroyed by Alexander in this contest. The towns were by the side of the city, and according to the name of the three towns he built a city and called its name Tripolis. And Alexander appointed the satrap of Phoenicia to take charge of and guard the country.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[36] G   He made the satrap of Phoenicia the guardian of Tyre and marched on, travelling through all Syria. Now ambassadors of Darius arrived bearing fetters, a whip, a ball, and a wooden box. Alexander opened and read the letter, which was to this effect:

[36] Now when the ambassadors of Darius, who had been sent by their lord to Alexander, had departed, they spoke of the sagacity and wisdom and astuteness of Alexander. Then Darius asked them, "What manner of person is Alexander?" Then the ambassadors brought forth and showed him the likeness of Alexander the Macedonian which they had had painted, and when Darius saw the likeness, he gave orders to carry it to Roxana his daughter, and he bade them compare her height with that of the picture. And when he had measured the picture, he took it up and cast it with his hands to a distance, and he thrust out his lips in scorn as one mocks at a young child. But Roxana, the daughter of Darius, took the likeness in secret, and carried it to her bed chamber, and kept it there, and honoured it continually with sweet spices and odours, for from the time that Roxana saw it her love went forth to Alexander.

"I, King of kings and kin of gods, who share the throne with the god Mithras and rise with the sun, I, Darius, myself a god, send to my servant Alexander these commands. I order you to return to your parents, who are my slaves, and to cuddle in the arms of your mother, Olympias. For your tender years should be educated and nursed. And for this I have sent a whip and a ball and gold that you may be suitably equipped for whatever you wish: the whip because you should be trained, the ball that you may sport with those of your age, and not haughtily lord it over them like a bandit who has attacked cities. Now know that if the men of all the inhabited world shall assemble in one place, the numbers of the Persians can destroy them. For our armies are so great as the countless grains of sand and our gold and silver are abundant enough to cover all the plains of the world. For this reason I have sent you a chest full of gold that if you do not have the means to reward your collaborators, you may present them with rewards so that each of them may have the funds for return to his own country. If you do not obey my orders, I will send out executioners to seize you. For you will not be so fortunate as to escape capture by my soldiers, and captured you will not be brought up as the son of Philip, but you will be crucified as a rebel and a robber."

Now Darius was meditating in what way he could avenge himself on Alexander, first of all, because of his contempt for his ambassadors; and secondly, because, after his father Philip's death, Alexander assumed the royal crown of his own will and became king; [and thirdly, because] Alexander had taken his troops and had come to the country of Darius and seized his lands. Then Darius sent to Alexander a whip and a ball and a box full of gold, and wrote him a letter, and gave it to his ambassadors to deliver to Alexander. And while Alexander was marching through the country [of Syria], the ambassadors of Darius met him, and gave him Darius's letter. Then Alexander ordered the letter to be read, and found that there was written therein as follows: "From the king of kings and the kinsman of the gods, who is enthroned with the god Mithras, the son of the stars, Darius the Persian, to Alexander my servant, greeting. I have heard of thee that thou by thy evil destiny hast set thyself to come from thy land to mine and to do mischief. Now we command thee, withdraw and return, and go to thy mother, and sleep in the bosom of thy mother Olympias, for as yet thou art a child, and art in fact not educated ; therefore I send thee a whip, wherewith thou mayest train thy youth ; and a ball, wherewith thou mayest play with the boys of thine own age, and not meddle with the business of men ; and a box full of gold for thy expenses, that thou mayest be able to retire and go bank to thine own country, for I have heard of thee that thou art poor and mean and feeble; and therefore I have given orders that the tribute of Philip thy father shall be left with thee. Do thou therefore restrain thyself from worry and folly, and [check] this crowd of robbers which thou hast gathered together and brought with thee, for as the chief of a band of robbers dost thou go round about and disturb our cities. Art thou able to comprehend the number of the stars of heaven ? If all the people in the world were to come as allies to thy army, thou wouldst not be able to make an end of and destroy the kingdom of the Persians, for I have tens of thousands of horses and warriors, even as the number of the sand which is upon the shore of the sea. And I have sent thee ten measures of sesame seed, that thou mayest know that I have myriads of troops even as these grains of sesame. I have also gold as [abundant as] the sunlight in the world ; therefore I have sent thee a box [full of it], that if thou hast no money for expenses, thou mayest expend this on thyself, and, together with the robbers thy companions, mayest be able to return to thy country. Now therefore repent of the things thou hast done, and count thyself an offender; for if thou art not persuaded to do what thou art commanded by me, and in thy disobedience still persistest in this thy contention, we will give orders to send the police after thee to take thee and bring thee to us, for thou art not one of those after whom it is fitting to send [armed] men, but we will send the police against thee and they will fetch thee, not as the son of Philip but as a leader of robbers, and we will crucify thee upon a tree."

[37] G   When Alexander read these words, the troops were afraid and Alexander, observing their fear, said: "Men of Macedonia, why do you shudder at the words written as if the letters contained the true force of the man? Darius was boasting when he wrote these words to me, and he is unlike his remarks. So some dogs who have no strength of body for fighting bark loudly as if they could by the barking demonstrate their power. Darius, too, having no power for deeds, in his letters seems to be somebody, just as the dogs do by their barking. Now suppose that his statements are true. Let us be given light that we may learn against whom we can make war successfully and not be taken captive by surprise and vanquished, that, by fighting bravely, we can win our crowns."

[37] And when they had read the letter before Alexander, great terror fell upon all Alexander's troops. And when he saw that the face of his troops was sad because of the words of Darius' letter, he answered and said to his troops, "Ye men of Macedon, ye who are my fellow soldiers, wherefore are your minds troubled by the letter of Darius as if his words were true, or as if he had any power at all ? Now this boasting and arrogance that is written in his letter is a mere pretence, and there is no truth in it; for among dogs there are some which are small and feeble, and yet they bark with a loud voice, thinking they may be able to effect something by their loud barks : and in the same manner does Darius act, for in reality he is unable to do anything ; therefore he has written these words, that we might imagine them to be true. Do ye however prepare yourselves and be ready, and fight with all your strength, that we may be victorious ; and do not do your duty sluggishly and feebly, that we may not be conquered: and now fight bravely, that we may receive the crowns of victory." And when he had spoken these words, Alexander stretched out his hand, and took a handful of the sesame seeds which Darius had sent, and put them into his mouth, and ate some of them, and said, "They are numerous, but they have no taste."

After this speech, Alexander ordered that the letter-carriers be hustled away and crucified. They were terrified and said: "What harm have we done to you, Alexander, that you order us to be brutally crucified?   We are the messengers of Darius; in brutally slaying us, why do you imitate the Tyrians, who crucified your legates? Do not set this example for the whole world."   Alexander replied: "Blame your own king, not me. For Darius sent this letter not as to a king, but as to a bandit. I will kill you on the ground that you came to a cruel man, not to a king." They said: "Darius wrote in ignorance, but we behold a vast army and we recognize a supreme and intelligent king. So, as the son of king Philip, grant us life." And Alexander said: "Not because you dread torture and petition me, do I release you. I am resolved not to torture you, but to show the difference between a Greek king and a barbarian tyrant. So expect no suffering from me. For a king does not kill messengers."

And when he had said this, he gave orders to tie the arms of the ambassadors who had brought Dariuss letter behind their backs and to crucify them. Then those men were afraid, and by reason of their fear they said to Alexander, "My lord, what offence have we committed ? for we whom thou desirest to slay are ambassadors." Alexander said to them, "Blame Darius your master and not me, for he who sent this letter did not send it as to a fellow king, but as to a man who is the chief of [a gang of] robbers. Now therefore I am going to slay you as if ye had really come to a robber chief." They said, "My lord, Darius wrote such a letter as this because he did not know who thou wert; but now we see that thou art a prince and hast a mighty army, and that thou art a warrior and a king, and rich in knowledge, and the son of Philip. Show then this act of grace to us, that thy compassion may appear in our persons, so that when we return to Darius, we may there bear witness as to everything that we have seen here." He said to them, "Do not imagine that I have mercy upon you because of the fear through which ye have made supplication to me, and so set you free from death; for I had not originally intended to slay you, but only to let you know the difference between the knowledge of the Greeks and that of the barbarians, how much that of the former is superior to that of the latter. A king does not kill ambassadors"

After this speech, Alexander ordered his minions to prepare a banquet and he attended it and entertained at it. And when some of the messengers wished to inform him how he might seize Darius by ambush without making war on him, Alexander said: "Tell me nothing. For if you were not returning to Darius, I would learn this. But since you are returning, I do not wish to learn it, lest some one of you report to Darius the conversation and I become the cause of punishment for you though I have promised you that you will receive no punishment from me." At these words, the satraps and the messengers were afraid of Alexander.

When Alexander had spoken in this manner, he gave orders to release the ambassadors, and at the time of sitting down to meat he commanded to make them sit down before him. And when they had come in and sat down in his presence, they began to speak before him of the ambushes which he ought to make in his war against Darius, and how it behoved him to make war craftily and to take Darius prisoner. Then Alexander said to them, "Be silent and say nothing to me. Had it not been your purpose to return and go to Darius, I would have listened to your advice ; but since ye are going to return to Darius, I do not wish to listen to you, lest, if any contention should arise between one of you and his fellow, and this matter be carried to Darius, he may take away on my account these lives which ye have obtained to-day from me by grace." Then these ambassadors made obeisance to him and applauded him for this speech.

[38] G   After some days, Alexander wrote a letter to Darius and dispatched it without the knowledge of the messengers to his own satraps. It was to this effect: "King Alexander, son of Philip and Olympias, sends greetings to Darius, great King of the Persians, King of kings, sharing his throne with the sun-god most high, the descendant of gods, the rising sun. It is a disgrace that such a king, Darius, exalted with such power, and sharing this throne even with the gods, should be completely enslaved by a certain mortal, Alexander. For when the names of the gods fall upon human beings, they do not bestow great power or wisdom, but rather troubles because the names of immortals reside in mortal bodies. So now you were convicted by me of having no power, but of glorifying yourself under the titles of the gods and clothing yourself on earth in their heavenly power. For I come to you as to a mortal, a mortal myself. And the stroke of victory comes from the wisdom above. Now why do you write to us that you possess so much gold and silver? That having learned it, we may fight more valiantly against you that your possessions shall be ours? Now if I defeat you, I shall be famous and a great king among the barbarians and Hellenes, because I overthrew such a great king of the Persians, Darius. But if you defeat me, you have done no great deed: you have defeated a bandit as you called me, but I have defeated you, King Darius. Now you sent me a whip and a ball and a chest of gold. You sent them in derision, but I received them as good omens. I took the whip that by my spears and weapons I may flay the barbarians and with my own hands reduce them to slavery. And by the ball, you indicated to me that I shall rule the world. For the world is spherical and arises from the circle. And you sent the chest of gold to me as a great symbol and indicated submission for yourself, for, conquered by me, you will pay tribute to me."

[38] On the following day Alexander sat down and wrote an answer to Darius as follows: "From Alexander, the son of Philip and of his mother Olympias, to the king of kings, who moves the heavenly hosts, and who is enthroned with the god Mithras, the kinsman of the gods, the son of light, Darius the sun, the god of the Persians. It [must appear] disgraceful and bitter to him that hath such greatness and excellence and superiority, who is the counterpart of the gods, and who together with the sun lights and warms the whole world, whose throne is in the firmament with the god Mithras, when he feels that he may be defeated by his servant Alexander, a despicable and contemptible man, and still have to walk in the world beneath the sun and the moon. But do not imagine that any one of the gods is pleased to share his name or his fellowship, or the likeness of his glory, with mortals, or that they will give victory to the mortal man who assumes to himself the name divine but they will be angry and wroth with him who takes the immortal and incorruptible and unchangeable name, and applies it to one who is mortal and corruptible. And now I regard thee thus, since, because thou art not able to perform the deeds of brave men, thou desirest to call thyself by the name of the gods, and to draw down their heavenly power upon earth by words, and to set it upon thyself. But now I am coming against thee and will enter into war with thee; and I come against thee as against a mortal king, even as I myself am mortal. Now fortune and opportunity and victory are given by the power and command of the heavenly One ; I have therefore committed myself to the immortal gods, and entrusted myself to them, and I shall be victorious over thee. Why didst thou then inform us in thy letter of the vast amount of thy gold and silver? For the sake of thy wealth will we fight the more against thee, until all thy possessions become ours. As for thee . . . among all nations and peoples, saying, 'So great a king and warrior as this Darius died by the hands of a little Greek boy;' whereas if thou slayest me, it will not be accounted as bravery and as a great triumph, because thou wilt have slain merely a ' robber chief,' according to what thou didst send in writing to me. Thou hast also sent me a whip and a ball and a box of gold. Now though I know that thou hast sent them to me in mockery, yet I have accepted them as a good omen, an augury of victory, and a prophecy of the gods. I have received the whip, and as a chief and the head of kings I will smite and subdue with my weapons all my enemies. As for the round ball, it is a sign that I shall hold the whole world; for the world is round and resembles a sphere exactly. And the box [of gold] which thou hast sent me is a great portent and signifies my subjugation of thee in war, and makes known that thou wilt pay me tribute. And as for the sesame seeds which thou hast sent me, the signification thereof is that thy troops are numerous, but I have seen and tasted them; they are numerous, but they are tasteless, and good for nothing: therefore I have sent thee a bushel of mustard seed , that thou mayest know how the troops of the Macedonians are in comparison with the Persians."

[39] G   So he reassured his army and, having sealed the letter, he gave it to the letter-carriers and he presented them with the gold which Darius had sent him. They, having witnessed the wisdom and generosity of Alexander, departed. He himself leading his army subdued all Syria and proceeded into Asia. Darius on receiving the letter in indignation wrote a letter to the satraps under him to this effect:

[39] Thus Alexander wrote, and he gave the letter to the ambassadors and sent them away; and likewise the gold which Darius had sent him he gave to the servants of Darius, when they made obeisance before him that they might depart And when these [ambassadors] had seen the learning and knowledge of Alexander, they turned to go to their lord. And when they had come to Darius their lord, and had given him the letter containing Alexander's reply, Darius commanded it to be read, and he heard also that Alexander had put a handful of the sesame seeds into his mouth and had eaten them. At this Darius was exceedingly angry, and wishing to act in the same manner, he straightway stretched out his hand, and took a handful of the mustard seed, and put it into his mouth and ate some thereof, and said, "They are small, but pungent"

"King Darius sends greetings to the satraps beyond the Taurus. They tell me that Alexander, son of Philip, has revolted and in his madness is advancing into Asia and is sacking my land. Do you therefore seize him and send him to me, doing no harm to his person. For I myself will strip him of his purple and will castigate him and send him back to his own country, Macedonia, to his mother Olympias. I will give him a rattle and knuckle bones, with which Macedonian children play, and I will send with him a Persian pedogogue, a teacher of wisdom, with a whip, who will train him to have the wisdom of a man before he becomes a man. Throw the triremes he brought with him and their men into the depth of the sea. The soldiers who followed him in his evil work send back to dwell by the Red Sea. The horses and the beasts of burden keep for yourselves and give to friends."

And he forthwith gave orders and wrote letters to the satraps of the land, saying thus: "From Darius the king of kings of the Persians to the satraps who dwell in the Taurus, greeting. We have heard a report that that rebel Alexander the son of Philip, an impudent and shameless boy, in his madness and ignorance has come forth from his own land, and is trying to come to our land of Asia and to do mischief. Do ye therefore seize him and bind him, and bring him bound to our gate, but do him no harm. But I command that they beat him with a whip for children, and dress him in purple vestment, and send Persian slaves with him as guardians to take him and carry him to his mother, that she may keep him in training there; and I will give him castanets and dice, that he may amuse himself with them after the manner of Macedonian children. It is not seemly to make war with him, but it is right to frighten him as a child. Now therefore be ye diligent to seize and bind those robbers that are marching with him, and to throw them into the sea; and take ye their armour and their horses and the possessions which are with them for yourselves, and be ye strong to take [them] and to give to your friends. Farewell."

The satraps from those regions wrote and sent back a reply of which the gist is this:

"Hydaspes and Spinther send greetings to the god Darius. When such people entered the land, we wonder how it escaped you. We have sent you those of the same race whom we found among us, five men, who were roaming about. We chained and tortured them because it was necessary to question them before you did. You will be wise to arrive in battle array with a huge army."

Now when the satraps had received this letter, they made known their answer to him in writing thus : "From the satraps Gushtâzaph and Sâbântâr to Darius, the king of kings and the great god, greeting. Know, O ye gods, that the youth Alexander has come to your country, and is marching through your land exactly like a prince. Now we are making preparations to flee before him, but together with all the other satraps who are in this country we are awaiting your coming. Ye will therefore do well, O ye gods, if ye come hither quickly and take heed unto your country. It is necessary that ye should come with a strong force, and by our joining together, what ye have written to us concerning Alexander will be really accomplished. Know this also, that if ye do not make safe (?) your country, he will take it by force like other countries, and will enslave us."

Darius, on receiving and reading the letter, sent this reply:

"I, Darius, King of kings and great god, send greetings to Hydaspes and Spinther and the satraps under me. Have no hope from me if you move from the land even if the captives are destroyed. Show this sign of your courage. From what land has a wild beast rushed at you and terrified you? When you could quench a thunderbolt, could you not meet the roaring of an ignoble man? What have you to say? That one of you has died in battle, and one has been wounded? But was he taken captive in the encounter? What shall I think of you when you have disgraced my kingdom by giving free play to a bandit?"

When Darius had received this answer, he straightway ordered another letter to be written, saying thus: "From the mighty, the king of kings, Darius the god, to Gushtâtzaph and Seôtnâr, and all the other satraps that are in the Taurus, and in the districts beyond the Taurus, and to those who dwell in its vicinity, greeting. Do not think that any good hope [of escape] exists for you or your wives or your children [in flight] ; for if ye abandon the country and go to [another] place, your enemies will spoil part of the land. But bethink ye that when Tîr {θήρ, "wild beast", in Greek} came to spoil and to take captive, he brought with him mighty men and warriors, who by their power were able to defeat and conquer fearful lightning flashes, which men ye, being skilful and experienced in war, defeated at that time and overcame, and took no disgrace to yourselves. And shall ye now be worsted before a little boy, and disgrace yourselves? And if ye do this, what excuse will ye have to offer to us? since none of you will be wounded in the fight, nor smitten in the war, nor pierced by a spear; and what answer [for your conduct] will ye make to us, having disgraced the rule of the Persians ? or do ye think, pray, that you will be found of any use?"

[40] G   Now, having learned that Alexander was near, he on his part made an expedition to the Pinarus river, and he wrote and sent to Alexander a letter with this content: "Darius, King of kings, great god and lord of one hundred and twenty nations, makes this declaration to Alexander. Only by you of all on earth has the name of Darius been unrecognized, and you have dared to cross the sea and you have believed in your ignorance that it is not blessed enough for you to rule Macedonia outside of my jurisdiction, but, having found a land without a ruler, you have declared yourself king. Then, after collecting other desperadoes like yourself, you made raids on many Greek cities which were inexperienced in war and you watched for a chance to master them, cities which I consider unimportant and superfluous and from which I did not exact tribute. So do you believe that we will be such characters as you suppose? You will not boast of holding places which you have seized. And now, after the worst line of reasoning, you ought to correct your wrongheadedness and to come to me, your lord, as a slave and not to assemble robbers and slayers of mothers. Up to now, indeed, like a god, I have been bound to pardon men. But since you drove me to the state where you demanded a letter from Darius, I sent for you to come and do obeisance to Darius as a god. But if you persist in the other folly, I will punish you with a horrible death, and those with you will suffer a worse fate than yours, for they did not give you wisdom. And I swear to you by Zeus, father most high, not to bear malice for what you have done."

[40] After these things Darius heard that Alexander had come to the river which is called Estalraglos, and he wrote a letter to Alexander, in which was thus written : "From the great king Darius to Alexander the great and mighty, whose name God has set upon the earth, . . . And thou hearest that even the gods hold me in honour, and yet thou hast dared to cross over rivers and mountains and the sea and to come to me; and it was not enough for thee to assume the crown of royalty without my permission, and to acquire a kingdom and dominion in Macedonia, but thou hast also taken men inexperienced in war from every country, and with a mob like a swarm of ants hast thou come to our country to do mischief. It would have been but right for thee before doing these things to have informed us that it was planned by thy evil mind to do them, and then thou mightest have done them ; and we, having learnt these things, would have prepared what was requisite for us. Even now however, turn and go, and return to thy country. I have sent thee sesame seeds, that if thou art able to number them, thou mayest know also how many are my troops. Turn back from where thou art and go to thy country, and I will no longer remember against thee this damage which thou hast done."

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[41] G   When Alexander perused this epistle, he was not frightened by the bombastic words, but started out for the war through Arabia. Darius and his men, perceiving that Alexander was leading his army against them, expected to win the victory with their scythe-bearing chariots, and anticipating attacks selected a scene of action. And he arrayed against the enemy the chariots and all the military forces. And he divided the phalanx and did not permit a break in it or a retreat. The majority of the chariots he separated, so they aimed in all directions at the attackers and they were widely scattered. Now Alexander too arrived in turn. He drew up his right wing opposite the left wing of the Persians (for it had been agreed that Alexander should be stationed on the right wing). Then he mounted his horse and ordered the trumpeters to sound the charge. And with the blare of the trumpets, there arose the battle-cry of the armies advancing and a great battle started. Men fought a long time in great agony. They struck on the extremities of the wings and lay on bravely. Some, pricked by each others spears, were routed here and there. And others rejoiced in their victories.

[41] Then the ambassadors of Darius took this letter, together with the sesame seeds, and carried it to Alexander. And as soon as he had read the letter of Darius, he again filled his hand with the sesame seeds and put them into his mouth and said, "They are many but tasteless." At that time a report reached Alexander that Olympias his mother was seized with a great and sore sickness. Then he wrote a letter to Darius as follows: "From Alexander to Darius the king. Thou writest many new and artful words to me, and thinkest in thy pride that thou wilt glorify thyself by words, [which is] more than is right and beyond thy capacity. This is a sign of inferiority, and thy shame and disgrace will increase and become more in the world than that of other kings thy equals. Neither imagine this, that I now return because of the words of the letter which thou hast sent me; but the sickness of my mother Olympias compels me to return and to go to Macedonia. But I will make ready to come again against thee. So I retire from thy country in good order and in strength and might, like the blossoms of a tree glorious in its bloom ; and I will become firm in thy land, like a vine branch which is cut off from the tree and planted in another spot. But as for these sesame seeds, which thou hast sent me to inform me of the number of thy army, I send thee a little mustard seed that thou mayest know that a little mustard is more pungent than a great deal of sesame."

Now the men around Alexander thrust back the body-guard of Darius and shattered them by their force. They were themselves thrown into confusion and fell over each other on account of the melee of the army. They suffered much at the hands of their friends, much from their foes. Everywhere were seen horses lying on the ground, men dying. It was no longer possible to distinguish Persian bowman, or Macedonian soldier, or cavalryman because of the great cloud of dust. For the sky was not visible, nor was the earth seen. And the sun itself, participating in the events, not choosing to view such horrors, was covered with clouds. There was a terrible rout: the Persians took to flight. With them was Amyntas, the son of Antiochus, who had gone over to Darius, though in former times he was a Macedonian. For he was an opportunist. Now evening came on. Darius, fearing his chariot because he was conspicuous at a distance, under cover of night entered a narrow gorge and, leaving his chariot behind, mounted a horse and fled.

Then Alexander wrote this letter and gave it, with the mustard, to the ambassadors, and sent them away; and he himself turned to go to Olympias his mother. While he was on the way, a report reached him, that one of Darius's generals was encamped in Arabia, and forthwith he marched against him, and they engaged in battle one with the other, and many men perished on both sides. So great was the number of slain there that even the sun was saddened by the sight of the multitude of dead and of the blood which was shed on the ground, and he shrouded his light as in a cloud, because he too was ashamed of this sight of pitilessness and want of mercy, and was grieved and desired not to look upon such impurity as this. And when they had fought together thus violently for three days, Darius' general was defeated and gave way before Alexander, and fled with his troops and went back to Persia.

Alexander, coveting the honour of capturing Darius, pursued where someone directed him, and having ridden sixty stades found his chariot, weapons, mother, wife, and children, and seized them. But night saved Darius and also he got a new horse from the reserves and escaped.

Before Darius took in his hand the letter which Alexander had sent, he questioned the ambassadors, saying, "What did Alexander do with the sesame seed which I sent him?" The ambassadors aid to him, "He took a handful of it and pat it into his month; and when he had eaten it, he said, 'They are many but tasteless!' " Then Darius took a handful of the mustard seed and put it into his mouth, and when he had eaten it, he said, "They are small but very pungent." When Eumenes the general heard this speech he said to him, "Thou hast spoken rightly, my lord the king, for although the army of Alexander is small, yet it is fierce and warlike, for of my army they have slain a multitude, both horse and foot"

So the Macedonians routed the army of the Persians. And at midnight they advanced over the corpses. Alexander took the tent of Darius, entered it and encamped there. Now though he had conquered his foes and acquired such treasure, he did nothing arrogant because of his noble wisdom. He ordered the bravest of the Persians and their nobles who had fallen to be buried. The mother, the wife, and the children of Darius he himself escorted with all honour. Likewise too he assembled the rest of the captives and encouraged them. The number of the Macedonians who fell was five hundred and fifty infantry, one hundred and sixty cavalry and (?) many more . . . were wounded. Of the barbarians, 120,000 died. And he took as booty four thousand talents of gold.

Then Alexander gave orders to bury the corpses of the numbers of Macedonians and Persians who had died in this battle, for he did not neglect such a thing as this.

Following chapters (42-47) →

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