ALEXANDER THE GREAT RETURNS TO PERSIA AND BABYLON

ALEXANDER THE GREAT RETURNS TO PERSIA AND BABYLON


Alexander enthroned in Persepolis

In Kirman, Persia Alexander made relations with his men worse when had six of the 20 provincial governors he appointed executed and two more deposed, and then executed 600 men from his own garrisons for raping and pillaging in his absence.

Alexander it seemed had become so endeared with Persian culture he had no plans of returning home and instead planned to set up his base of operations in Persia. Some 30,000 noble Persian youths had been taught Greek and methods of Macedonian warfare. As a sort of take off on the Companions they were named the Successors.

Plutarch wrote: “When he came into Persia, he distributed money among the women, as their own kings had been wont to do, who as often as they came thither, gave every one of them a piece of gold; on account of which custom, some of them, it is said, had come but seldom, and Ochus was so sordidly covetous, that to avoid this expense, he never visited his native country once in all his reign. Then finding Cyrus’s sepulchre opened* and rifled, he put Polymachus, who did it, to death, though he was a man of some distinction, a born Macedonian of Pella. And after he had read the inscription, he caused it to be cut again below the old one in Greek characters; the words being these: “O man, whosoever thou art, and from whencesoever thou comest (for I know thou wilt come), I am Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire; do not grudge me this little earth which covers my body.” [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]

“The reading of this sensibly touched Alexander, filling him with the thought of the uncertainty and mutability of human affairs. At the same time, Calanus having been a little while troubled with a disease in the bowels, requested that he might have a funeral pile erected, to which he came on horseback, and after he had said some prayers and sprinkled himself and cut off some of his hair to throw into the fire, before he ascended it, he embraced and took leave of the Macedonians who stood by, desiring them to pass that day in mirth and good-fellowship with their king, whom in a little time, he said, he doubted not but to see again at Babylon. Having thus said, he lay down, and covering up his face, he stirred not when the fire came near him, but continued still in the same posture as at first, [247]Page 247 and so sacrificed himself, as it was the ancient custom of the philosophers in those countries to do. The same thing was done long after by another Indian, who came with Cæsar to Athens, where they still show you “the Indian’s monument.” At his return from the funeral pile, Alexander invited a great many of his friends and principal officers to supper, and proposed a drinking match, in which the victor should receive a crown. Promachus drank twelve quarts of wine, and won the prize, which was a talent, from them all; but he survived his victory but three days, and was followed, as Chares says, by forty-one more, who died of the same debauch, some extremely cold weather having set in shortly after.”

Alexander Repairs the Tomb of Cyrus

Arrian wrote: “He himself then marched to Pasargadae in Persis, with the lightest of his infantry, the Companion cavalry and a part of the archers; but he sent Stasanor down to his own land. When he arrived at the confines of Persis, he found that Phrasaortes was no longer viceroy, for he happened to have died of disease while Alexander was still in India. Orxines was managing the affairs of the country, not because he had been appointed ruler by Alexander, but because he thought it his duty to keep Persia in order for him, as there was no other ruler. Atropates, the viceroy of Media, also came to Pasargadae, bringing Baryaxes, a Mede, under arrest, because he had assumed the upright head-dress and called himself king of the Persians and Medes. With Baryaxes he also brought those who had taken part with him in the attempted revolution and revolt. Alexander put these men to death. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]


Alexander at the Tomb of Cyrus the Great

“He was grieved by the outrage committed upon the tomb of Cyrus, son of Cambyses; for according to Aristobulus, he found it dug through and pillaged. The tomb of the famous Cyrus was in the royal park at Pasargadae, and around it a grove of all kinds of trees had been planted. It was also watered by a stream, and high grass grew in the meadow. The base of the tomb itself had been made of squared stone in the form of a rectangle. Above there was a stone building surmounted by a roof, with a door leading within, so narrow that even a small man could with difficulty enter, after suffering much discomfort. In the building lay a golden coffin, in which the body of Cyrus had been buried, and by the side of the coffin was a couch, the feet of which were of gold wrought with the hammer. A carpet of Babylonian tapestry with purple rugs formed the bedding; upon it were also a Median coat with sleeves and other tunics of Babylonian manufacture. Aristobulus adds that Median trousers and robes dyed the colour of hyacinth were also lying upon it, as well as others of purple and various other colours; moreover there were collars, sabres, and earrings of gold and precious stones soldered together, and near them stood a table. On the middle of the couch lay the coffin which contained the body of Cyrus. Within the enclosure, near the ascent leading to the tomb, there was a small house built for the Magians who guarded the tomb; a duty which they had discharged ever since the time of Cambyses, son of Cyrus, son succeeding father as guard. To these men a sheep and specified quantities of wheaten flour and wine were given daily by the king; and a horse once a month as a sacrifice to Cyrus. Upon the tomb an inscription in Persian letters had been placed, which bore the following meaning in the Persian language: “O man, I am Cyrus, son of Cambyses, who founded the empire of the Persians, and was king of Asia. Do not therefore grudge me this monument.”

‘As soon as Alexander had conquered Persia, he was very desirous of entering the tomb of Cyrus; but he found that everything else had been carried off except the coffin and couch. They had even maltreated the king’s body; for they had torn off the lid of the coffin and cast out the corpse. They had tried to make the coffin itself of smaller bulk and thus more portable, by cutting part of it off and crushing part of it up; but as their efforts did not succeed, they departed, leaving the coffin in that state. Aristobulus says that he was himself commissioned by Alexander to restore the tomb for Cyrus, to put in the coffin the parts of the body still preserved, to put the lid on, and to restore the parts of the coffin which had been defaced. Moreover he was instructed to stretch the couch tight with bands, and to deposit all the other things which used to lie there for ornament, both resembling the former ones and of the same number. He was ordered also to do away with the door, building part of it up with stone and plastering part of it over with cement; and finally to put the royal seal upon the cement. Alexander arrested the Magians who were the guards of the tomb, and put them to the torture to make them confess who had done the deed; but in spite of the torture they confessed nothing either about themselves or any other person. In no other way were they proved to have been privy to the deed; they were therefore released by Alexander.”

Alexander Appoints New Persian Leaders and Executes Lousy Ones

Arrian wrote: “At this time Alexander sent Atropates away to his own viceroyalty, after advancing to Susa; where he arrested Abulites and his son Oxathres, and put them to death on the ground that they were governing the Susians badly. Many outrages upon temples, tombs, and the subjects themselves had been committed by those who were ruling the countries conquered by Alexander in war; because the king’s expedition into India had taken a long time, and it was not thought credible that he would ever return in safety from so many nations possessing so many elephants, going to his destruction beyond the Indus, Hydaspes, Acesines, and Hyphasis. The calamities that befell him among the Gadrosians were still greater inducements to those acting as viceroys in this region to be free from apprehension of his return to his dominions. Not only so, but Alexander himself is said to have become more inclined at that time to believe accusations which were plausible in every way, as well as to inflict very severe punishment upon those who were convicted even of small offences, because with the same disposition he thought they would be likely to perform great ones. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]


“Thence he proceeded to the royal palace of the Persians, which he had on a former occasion himself burnt down, as I have previously related, expressing my disapprobation of the act; and on his return Alexander himself did not commend it. Many charges were brought by the Persians against Orxines, who ruled them after the death of Phrasaortes. He was convicted of having pillaged temples and royal tombs, and of having unjustly put many of the Persians to death. He was therefore hanged by men acting under Alexander’s orders; and Peucestas the confidential body-guard was appointed viceroy of Persis. The king placed special confidence in him both for other reasons, and especially on account of his exploit among the Mallians, where he braved the greatest dangers and helped to save Alexander’s life.

“Besides this, he did not refuse to accommodate himself to the Asiatic mode of living; and as soon as he was appointed to the position of viceroy of Persis, he openly assumed the native garb, being the only man among the Macedonians who adopted the Median dress in preference to the Grecian. He also learnt to speak the Persian language correctly, and comported himself in all other respects like a Persian. For this conduct he was not only commended by Alexander, but the Persians also were highly delighted with him, for preferring their national customs to those of his own forefathers.”

Macedonians and Greeks Trained in Persia

Plutarch wrote: “The thirty thousand boys whom he left behind him to be taught and disciplined, were so improved at his return, both in strength and beauty, and performed their exercises with such dexterity and wonderful agility, that he was extremely pleased with them, which grieved the Macedonians, and made them fear he would have the less value for them. And when he proceeded to send down the infirm and maimed soldiers to the sea, they said they were unjustly and infamously dealt with, after they were worn out in his service upon all occasions, now to be turned away with disgrace and sent home into their country among their friends and relations, in a worse condition than when they came out; therefore they desired him to dismiss them one and all, and to account his Macedonians useless, now he was so well furnished with a set of dancing boys, with whom, if he pleased, he might go on and conquer the world. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]


“These speeches so incensed Alexander, that after he had given them a great deal of reproachful language in his passion, he drove them away, and committed the watch to Persians, out of whom he chose his guards and attendants. When the Macedonians saw him escorted by these men, and themselves excluded and shamefully disgraced, their high spirits fell, and conferring with one another, they found that jealousy and rage had almost distracted them. But at last coming to themselves again, they went without their arms, with only their under garments on, crying and weeping, to offer themselves at his tent, and desired him to deal with [249] them as their baseness and ingratitude deserved.

“However, this would not prevail; for though his anger was already something mollified, yet he would not admit them into his presence, nor would they stir from thence, but continued two days and nights before his tent, bewailing themselves, and imploring him as their lord to have compassion on them. But the third day he came out to them, and seeing them very humble and penitent, he wept himself a great while, and after a gentle reproof spoke kindly to them, and dismissed those who were unserviceable with magnificent rewards, and with this recommendation to Antipater, that when they came home, at all public shows and in the theatres, they should sit on the best and foremost seats, crowned with chaplets of flowers. He ordered, also, that the children of those who had lost their lives in his service, should have their fathers’ pay continued to them.”

Alexander and 10,000 of His Troops Marry Persians

In 324 B.C. Alexander commanded his officers and 10,000 of his soldiers to marry Iranian women. The mass wedding, held at Susa (Shush, Iran), was a model of Alexander's desire to consummate the union of the Greek and Iranian peoples. At this time Alexander took a second wife, Barsine, a daughter of Darius. Eighty of his officers married daughters of Persian nobles.

Arrian wrote: ““In Susa also he celebrated both his own wedding and those of his companions. He himself married Barsine, the eldest daughter of Darius, and according to Aristobulus, besides her another, Parysatis, the youngest daughter of Ochus. He had already married Roxana, daughter of Oxyartes the Bactrian. To Hephaestion he gave Drypetis, another daughter of Darius, and his own wife’s sister; for he wished Hephaestion’s children to be first cousins to his own. To Craterus he gave Amastrine, daughter of Oxyartes the brother of Darius; to Perdiccas, the daughter of Atropates, viceroy of Media; to Ptolemy the confidential body-guard, and Eumenes the royal secretary, the daughters of Artabazus, to the former Artacama, and to the latter Artonis. To Nearchus he gave the daughter of Barsine and Mentor; to Seleucus the daughter of Spitamenes the Bactrian. Likewise to the rest of his Companions he gave the choicest daughters of the Persians and Medes, to the number of eighty. The weddings were celebrated after the Persian manner, seats being placed in a row for the bridegrooms; and after the banquet the brides came in and seated themselves, each one near her own husband. The bridegrooms took them by the right hand and kissed them; the king being the first to begin, for the weddings of all were conducted in the same way. This appeared the most popular thing which Alexander ever did; and it proved his affection for his Companions. Each man took his own bride and led her away; and on all without exception Alexander bestowed dowries. He also ordered that the names of all the other Macedonians who had married any of the Asiatic women should be registered. They were over , in number; and to these Alexander made presents on account of their weddings.” [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

Plutarch wrote: “At Susa, he married Darius’s daughter Statira, and celebrated also the nuptials of his friends, bestowing the noblest of the Persian ladies upon the worthiest of them, at the same time making it an entertainment in honor of the other Macedonians whose marriages had already taken place. At this magnificent festival, it is reported, there were no less than nine thousand guests, to each of whom he gave a golden cup for the libations. Not to mention other instances of his wonderful magnificence, he paid the debts of his army, which amounted to nine thousand eight hundred and seventy talents. But Antigenes, who had lost one of his eyes, though he owed nothing, got his name set down in the list of those who were in debt, and bringing one who pretended to be his creditor, and to have supplied him from the bank, received the money. But when the cheat was found out, the king was so incensed at it, that he banished him from court, and took away his command, though he was an excellent soldier, and a man of great courage. For when he was but a youth, and served under Philip at the siege of Perinthus, where he was wounded in the eye by an arrow shot out of an engine, he would neither let the arrow be taken out, nor be persuaded to quit the field, till he had bravely repulsed the enemy and forced them to retire into the town. Accordingly he was not able to support such a disgrace with any patience, and it was plain that grief and despair would have made him kill himself, but that the king fearing it, not only pardoned him, but let him also enjoy the benefit of his deceit. [Source: Plutarch (A.D. 45-127), “Life of Alexander”, A.D. 75 translated by John Dryden, 1906, MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ]


Marriage of Alexander and his men to Persian princesses and ladies


Alexander’s Soldiers Rewarded in Persia

Arrian wrote: “He now thought it a favourable opportunity to liquidate the debts of all the soldiers who had incurred them; and for this purpose he ordered that a register should be made of how much each man owed, in order that they might receive the money. At first only a few registered their names, fearing that this was being instituted as a test by Alexander, to discover which of the soldiers found their pay insufficient for their expenses, and which of them were extravagant in their mode of living. When he was informed that most of them were not registering their names, but that those who had borrowed money on bonds were concealing the fact, he reproached them for their distrust of him. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“For he said that it was not right either that the king should deal otherwise than sincerely with his subjects, or that any of those ruled by him should think that he would deal otherwise than sincerely with them. Accordingly, he had tables placed in the camp with money upon them; and he appointed men to manage the distribution of it. He ordered the debts of all who showed a money-bond to be liquidated without the debtors’ names being any longer registered. Consequently, the men believed that Alexander was dealing sincerely with them; and the fact that they were not known was a greater pleasure to them than the fact that they ceased to be in debt. This presentation to the army is said to have amounted to , talents. He also gave presents to particular individuals, according as each man was held in honour for his merit or valour, if he had become conspicuous in crises of danger.

“Those who were distinguished for their personal gallantry he crowned with golden chaplets:—first, Peucestas, the man who had held the shield over him; second, Leonnatus, who also had held his shield over him, and moreover had incurred dangers in India and won a victory in Ora. For he had posted himself with the forces left with him against the Oritians and the tribes living near them, who were trying to effect a revolution, and had conquered them in battle. He also seemed to have managed other affairs in Ora with great success. In addition to these, he crowned Nearchus for his successful voyage round the coast from the land of the Indians through the Great Sea; for this officer had now arrived at Susa. Besides these three, he crowned Onesicritus, the pilot of the royal ship; as well as Hephaestion and the rest of the confidential body-guards.”

Army of Asiatics Trained under the Macedonian Discipline


Persian soldiers were turned into

Arrian wrote: “The viceroys from the newly-built cities and the rest of the territory subdued in war came to him, bringing with them youths just growing into manhood to the number of ,, all of the same age, whom Alexander called Epigoni (successors). They were accoutred with Macedonian arms, and exercised in military discipline after the Macedonian system. The arrival of these is said to have vexed the Macedonians, who thought that Alexander was contriving every means in his power to free himself from his previous need of their services. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“For the same reason also the sight of his Median dress was no small cause of dissatisfaction to them; and the weddings celebrated in the Persian fashion were displeasing to most of them, even including some of those who married, although they had been greatly honoured by the king putting himself on the same level with them in the marriage ceremony. They were offended at Peucestas, the viceroy of Persis, on account of his Persianizing both in dress and in speech, because the king was delighted by his adopting the Asiatic customs. They were disgusted that the Bactrian, Sogdianian, Arachotian, Zarangian, Arian, and Parthian horsemen, as well as the Persian horsemen called the Evacae, were distributed among the squadrons of the Companion cavalry; as many of them at least as were seen to excel in reputation, fineness of stature, or any other good quality; and that a fifth cavalry division was added to these troops, not composed entirely of foreigners; but the whole body of cavalry was increased in number, and men were picked from the foreigners and put into it.

“Cophen, son of Artabazus, Hydarnes and Artiboles, sons of Mazaeus, Sisines and Phradasmenes, sons of Phrataphernes, viceroy of Parthia and Hyrcania, Histanes, son of Oxyartes and brother of Alexander’s wife, Roxane, as well as Autobares and his brother Mithrobaeus were picked out and enrolled among the foot-guard in addition to the Macedonian officers. Over these Hystaspes the Bactrian was placed as commander; and Macedonian spears were given to them instead of the barbarian javelins which had thongs attached to them. All this offended the Macedonians, who thought that Alexander was becoming altogether Asiatic in his ideas, and was holding the Macedonians themselves as well as their customs in a position of contempt.”

Navigation of the Tigres


Greek soldiers like this one

Arrian wrote: “Alexander now ordered Hephaestion to lead the main body of the infantry as far as the Persian Sea, while he himself, his fleet having sailed up into the land of Susiana, embarked with the shield-bearing guards and the body-guard of infantry; and having also put on board a few of the cavalry Companions, he sailed down the river Eulaeus to the sea. When he was near the place where the river discharges itself into the deep, he left there most of his ships, including those which were in need of repair, and with those especially adapted for fast sailing he coasted along out of the river Eulaeus through the sea to the mouth of the Tigres. The rest of the ships were conveyed down the Eulaeus as far as the canal which has been cut from the Tigres into the Eulaeus, and by this means they were brought into the Tigres. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Of the rivers Euphrates and Tigres which enclose Syria between them, whence also its name is called by the natives Mesopotamia, the Tigres flows in a much lower channel than the Euphrates, from which it receives many canals; and after taking up many tributaries and its waters being swelled by them, it falls into the Persian Sea. It is a large river and can be crossed on foot nowhere as far as its mouth, inasmuch as none of its water is used up by irrigation of the country. For the land through which it flows is more elevated than its water, and it is not drawn off into canals or into another river, but rather receives them into itself. It is nowhere possible to irrigate the land from it. But the Euphrates flows in an elevated channel, and is everywhere on a level with the land through which it passes.

“Many canals have been made from it, some of which are always kept flowing, and from which the inhabitants on both banks supply themselves with water; others the people make only when requisite to irrigate the land, when they are in need of water from drought. For this country is usually free from rain. The consequence is, that the Euphrates at last has only a small volume of water, which disappears into a marsh. Alexander sailed over the sea round the shore of the Persian Gulf lying between the rivers Eulaeus and Tigres; and thence he sailed up the latter river as far as the camp where Hephaestion had settled with all his forces. Thence he sailed again to Opis, a city situated on that river. In his voyage up he destroyed the weirs which existed in the river, and thus made the stream quite level. These weirs had been constructed by the Persians, to prevent any enemy having a superior naval force from sailing up from the sea into their country. The Persians had had recourse to these contrivances because they were not a nautical people; and thus by making an unbroken succession of weirs they had rendered the voyage up the Tigres a matter of impossibility. But Alexander said that such devices were unbecoming to men who are victorious in battle; and therefore he considered this means of safety unsuitable for him; and by easily demolishing the laborious work of the Persians, he proved in fact that what they thought a protection was unworthy of the name.”

Macedonians Offended at Alexander


Alexander wore Persian clothes like these

Arrian wrote: “When he arrived at Opis, he collected the Macedonians and announced that he intended to discharge from the army those who were useless for military service either from age or from being maimed in the limbs; and he said he would send them back to their own abodes. He also promised to give those who went back as much as would make them special objects of envy to those at home and arouse in the other Macedonians the wish to share similar dangers and labours. Alexander said this, no doubt, for the purpose of pleasing the Macedonians; but on the contrary they were, not without reason, offended by the speech which he delivered, thinking that now they were despised by him and deemed to be quite useless for military service. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Indeed, throughout the whole of this expedition they had been offended at many other things; for his adoption of the Persian dress, thereby exhibiting his contempt for their opinion, caused them grief, as did also his accoutring the foreign soldiers called Epigoni in the Macedonian style, and the mixing of the alien horsemen among the ranks of the Companions. Therefore they could not remain silent and control themselves, but urged him to dismiss all of them from his army; and they advised him to prosecute the war in company with his father, deriding Ammon by this remark. When Alexander heard this (for at that time he was more hasty in temper than heretofore, and no longer, as of old, indulgent to the Macedonians from having a retinue of foreign attendants), leaping down from the platform with his officers around him, he ordered the most conspicuous of the men who had tried to stir up the multitude to sedition to be arrested. He himself pointed out with his hand to the shield-bearing guards those whom they were to arrest, to the number of thirteen; and he ordered these to be led away to execution. When the rest, stricken with terror, became silent, he mounted the platform and spoke as follows:—

Alexander’s Speech

Arrian wrote: ““The speech which I am about to deliver will not be for the purpose of checking your start homeward, for, so far as I am concerned, you may depart wherever you wish; but because I wish you to know what kind of men you were originally and how you have been transformed since you came into our service. In the first place, as is reasonable, I shall begin my speech from my father Philip. For he found you vagabonds and destitute of means, most of you clad in hides, feeding a few sheep up the mountain sides, for the protection of which you had to fight with small success against Illyrians, Triballians, and the border Thracians. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]


“Instead of the hides he gave you cloaks to wear, and from the mountains he led you down into the plains, and made you capable of fighting the neighbouring barbarians, so that you were no longer compelled to preserve yourselves by trusting rather to the inaccessible strongholds than to your own valour. He made you colonists of cities, which he adorned with useful laws and customs; and from being slaves and subjects, he made you rulers over those very barbarians by whom you yourselves, as well as your property, were previously liable to be plundered and ravaged. He also added the greater part of Thrace to Macedonia, and by seizing the most conveniently situated places on the sea-coast, he spread abundance over the land from commerce, and made the working of the mines a secure employment. He made you rulers over the Thessalians, of whom you had formerly been in mortal fear; and by humbling the nation of the Phocians, he rendered the avenue into Greece broad and easy for you, instead of being narrow and difficult. The Athenians and Thebans, who were always lying in wait to attack Macedonia, he humbled to such a degree,—I also then rendering him my personal aid in the campaign,—that instead of paying tribute to the former and being vassals to the latter, those States in their turn procure security to themselves by our assistance. He penetrated into the Peloponnese, and after regulating its affairs, was publicly declared commander-in-chief of all the rest of Greece in the expedition against the Persian, adding this glory not more to himself than to the commonwealth of the Macedonians. These were the advantages which accrued to you from my father Philip; great indeed if looked at by themselves, but small if compared with those you have obtained from me. For though I inherited from my father only a few gold and silver goblets, and there were not even sixty talents in the treasury, and though I found myself charged with a debt of talents owing by Philip, and I was obliged myself to borrow talents in addition to these, I started from the country which could not decently support you, and forthwith laid open to you the passage of the Hellespont, though at that time the Persians held the sovereignty of the sea.

“Having overpowered the viceroys of Darius with my cavalry, I added to your empire the whole of Ionia, the whole of Aeolis, both Phrygias and Lydia, and I took Miletus by siege. All the other places I gained by voluntary surrender, and I granted you the privilege of appropriating the wealth found in them. The riches of Egypt and Cyrene, which I acquired without fighting a battle, have come to you. Coele-Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia are your property. Babylon, Bactra, and Susa are yours. The wealth of the Lydians, the treasures of the Persians, and the riches of the Indians are yours; and so is the External Sea. You are viceroys, you are generals, you are captains. What then have I reserved to myself after all these labours, except this purple robe and this diadem? I have appropriated nothing myself, nor can any one point out my treasures, except these possessions of yours or the things which I am guarding on your behalf. Individually, however, I have no motive to guard them, since I feed on the same fare as you do, and I take only the same amount of sleep. Nay, I do not think that my fare is as good as that of those among you who live luxuriously; and I know that I often sit up at night to watch for you, that you may be able to sleep.”

“But some one may say, that while you endured toil and fatigue, I have acquired these things as your leader without myself sharing the toil and fatigue. But who is there of you who knows that he has endured greater toil for me than I have for him? Come now! whoever of you has wounds, let him strip and show them, and I will show mine in turn; for there is no part of my body, in front at any rate, remaining free from wounds; nor is there any kind of weapon used either for close combat or for hurling at the enemy, the traces of which I do not bear on my person. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“For I have been wounded with the sword in close fight, I have been shot with arrows, and I have been struck with missiles projected from engines of war; and though oftentimes I have been hit with stones and bolts of wood for the sake of your lives, your glory, and your wealth, I am still leading you as conquerors over all the land and sea, all rivers, mountains, and plains. I have celebrated your weddings with my own, and the children of many of you will be akin to my children. Moreover I have liquidated the debts of all those who had incurred them, without inquiring too closely for what purpose they were contracted, though you receive such high pay, and carry off so much booty whenever there is booty to be got after a siege. Most of you have golden crowns, the eternal memorials of your valour and of the honour you receive from me. Whoever has been killed, has met with a glorious end and has been honoured with a splendid burial. Brazen statues of most of the slain have been erected at home, and their parents are held in honour, being released from all public service and from taxation. But no one of you has ever been killed in flight under my leadership.

“And now I was intending to send back those of you who are unfit for service, objects of envy to those at home; but since you all wish to depart, depart all of you! Go back and report at home that your king Alexander, the conqueror of the Persians, Medes, Bactrians, and Sacians; the man who has subjugated the Uxians, Arachotians, and Drangians; who has also acquired the rule of the Parthians, Chorasmians, and Hyrcanians, as far as the Caspian Sea; who has marched over the Caucasus, through the Caspian Gates; who has crossed the rivers Oxus and Tanais, and the Indus besides, which has never been crossed by any one else except Dionysus; who has also crossed the Hydaspes, Acesines, and Hydraotes, and who would have crossed the Hyphasis, if you had not shrunk back with alarm; who has penetrated into the Great Sea by both the mouths of the Indus; who has marched through the desert of Gadrosia, where no one ever before marched with an army; who on his route acquired possession of Carmania and the land of the Oritians, in addition to his other conquests, his fleet having in the meantime already sailed round the coast of the sea which extends from India to Persia—report that when you returned to Susa you deserted him and went away, handing him over to the protection of conquered foreigners. Perhaps this report of yours will be both glorious to you in the eyes of men and devout forsooth in the eyes of the gods. Depart!”

Reconciliation between Alexander and his Army

Arrian wrote: “Having thus spoken, he leaped down quickly from the platform, and entered the palace, where he paid no attention to the decoration of his person, nor was any of his Companions admitted to see him. Not even on the morrow was any one of them admitted to an audience; but on the third day he summoned the select Persians within, and among them he distributed the commands of the brigades, and made the rule that only those whom he had proclaimed his kinsmen, should have the honour of saluting him with a kiss. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“But the Macedonians who heard the speech were thoroughly astonished at the moment, and remained there in silence near the platform; nor when he retired did any of them accompany the king, except his personal Companions and the confidential body-guards. Though they remained, most of them had nothing to do or say; and yet they were unwilling to retire. But when the news was reported to them about the Persians and Medes, that the military commands were being given to Persians, that the foreign soldiers were being selected and divided into companies, that a Persian foot-guard, Persian foot Companions, a Persian regiment of men with silver shields, as well as the cavalry Companions, and another royal regiment of cavalry distinct from these, were being called by Macedonian names, they were no longer able to restrain themselves; but running in a body to the palace, they cast their weapons there in front of the gates as a sign of supplication to the king. Standing in front of the gates, they shouted, beseeching to be allowed to enter, and saying that they were willing to surrender the men who had been the instigators of the disturbance on that occasion, and those who had begun the clamour. They also declared they would not retire from the gates either day or night, unless Alexander would take some pity upon them. When he was informed of this, he came out without delay; and seeing them lying on the ground in humble guise, and hearing most of them lamenting with loud voice, tears began to flow also from his own eyes. He made an effort to say something to them, but they continued their importunate entreaties.



“At length one of them, Callines by name, a man conspicuous both for his age and because he was captain of the Companion cavalry, spoke as follows:—“O king, what grieves the Macedonians is, that thou hast already made some of the Persians kinsmen to thyself, and that Persians are called Alexander’s kinsmen, and have the honour of saluting thee with a kiss; whereas none of the Macedonians have as yet enjoyed this honour.” Then Alexander interrupting him, said:—“But all of you without exception I consider my kinsmen, and so from this time I shall call you.” When he had said this, Callines advanced and saluted him with a kiss, and so did all those who wished to salute him. Then they took up their weapons and returned to the camp, shouting and singing a song of thanksgiving to Apollo. After this Alexander offered sacrifice to the gods to whom it was his custom to sacrifice, and gave a public banquet, over which he himself presided, with the Macedonians sitting around him; and next to them the Persians; after whom came the men of the other nations, honoured for their personal rank or for some meritorious action. The king and his guests drew wine from the same bowl and poured out the same libations, both the Grecian prophets and the Magians commencing the ceremony. He prayed for other blessings, and especially that harmony and community of rule might exist between the Macedonians and Persians. The common account is, that those who took part in this banquet were , in number, that all of them poured out one libation, and after it sang a song of thanksgiving to Apollo.”

Ten Thousand Macedonians Sent Home with Craterus

Arrian wrote: “Then those of the Macedonians who were unfit for service on account of age or any other misfortune, went back of their own accord, to the number of about ,. To these Alexander gave the pay not only for the time which had already elapsed, but also for that which they would spend in returning home. He also gave to each man a talent in addition to his pay. If any of them had children by Asiatic wives, he ordered them to leave them behind with him, lest they should introduce into Macedonia a cause of discord, taking with them children by foreign women who were of a different race from the children whom they had left behind at home born of Macedonian mothers. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He promised to take care that they should be brought up as Macedonians, educating them not only in general matters but also in the art of war. He also undertook to lead them into Macedonia when they arrived at manhood, and hand them over to their fathers. These uncertain and obscure promises were made to them as they were departing; and he thought he was giving a most indubitable proof of the friendship and affection he had for them by sending with them, as their guardian and the leader of the expedition, Craterus, the man most faithful to him, and whom he valued equally with himself. Then, having saluted them all, he with tears dismissed them likewise weeping from his presence. He ordered Craterus to lead these men back, and when he had done so, to take upon himself the government of Macedonia, Thrace, and Thessaly, and to preside over the freedom of the Greeks. He also ordered Antipater to bring to him the Macedonians of manly age as successors to those who were being sent back.

“He despatched Polysperchon also with Craterus, as his second in command, so that if any mishap befell Craterus on the march (for he was sending him back on account of the weakness of his health), those who were going might not be in need of a general. A secret report was also going about that Alexander was now overcome by his mother’s accusations of Antipater, and that he wished to remove him from Macedonia. This report was current among those who thought that royal actions are more worthy of honour in proportion to their secrecy, and who were inclined to impute what is worthy of belief to a bad motive rather than to attribute it to the real one; a course to which they were led by appearances and their own depravity. But probably this sending for Antipater was not designed for his dishonour, but rather to prevent any unpleasant consequences to Antipater and Olympias from their quarrel which he might not himself be able to rectify. For they were incessantly writing to Alexander, the former saying that the arrogance, acerbity, and meddlesomeness of Olympias was exceedingly unbecoming to the king’s mother; insomuch that Alexander was related to have used the following remark in reference to the reports which he received about his mother:—that she was exacting from him a heavy house-rent for the ten months. The queen wrote that Antipater was overweeningly insolent in his pretensions and in the service of his court, no longer remembering the one who had appointed him, but claiming to win and hold the first rank among the Macedonians and Greeks. These slanderous reports about Antipater appeared to have more weight with Alexander, since they were more formidable in regard to the regal dignity. However no overt act or word of the king was reported, from which any one could infer that Antipater was in any way less in favour with him than before.”

Nisaean Plain: The Amazons


Thalestris, Queen of the Amazons visits Alexander


Arrian wrote: “It is said that Hephaestion much against his will yielded to this argument and was reconciled to Eumenes, who on his part wished to settle the dispute. In this journey Alexander is said to have seen the plain which was devoted to the royal mares. Herodotus says that the plain itself was named Nisaean, and that the mares were called Nisaean; adding that in olden times there were , of these horses. But at this time Alexander found not many above ,; for most of them had been carried off by robbers. They say that Atropates, the viceroy of Media, gave him a hundred women, saying that they were of the race of Amazons. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“These had been equipped with the arms of male horsemen, except that they carried axes instead of spears and targets instead of shields. They also say that they had the right breast smaller than the left, and that they exposed it in battle. Alexander dismissed them from the army, that no attempt to violate them might be made by the Macedonians or barbarians; and he ordered them to carry word to their queen that he was coming to her in order to procreate children by her. But this story has been recorded neither by Aristobulus nor Ptolemy, nor any other writer who is a trustworthy authority on such matters. I do not even think that the race of Amazons was surviving at that time; for before Alexander’s time they were not mentioned even by Xenophon, who mentions the Phasians, Colchians, and all the other barbaric races which the Greeks came upon, when they started from Trapezus or before they marched down to Trapezus.

“They would certainly have fallen in with the Amazons if they were still in existence. However it does not seem to me credible that this race of women was altogether fictitious, because it has been celebrated by so many famous poets. For the general account is, that Heracles marched against them and brought the girdle of their queen Hippolyte into Greece. The Athenians also under Theseus were the first to conquer and repulse these women as they were advancing into Europe; and the battle of the Athenians and Amazons has been painted by Micon, no less than that of the Athenians and Persians. Herodotus also has frequently written about these women; and so have the Athenian writers who have honoured the men who perished in war with funeral orations. They have mentioned the exploit of the Athenians against the Amazons as one of their special glories. If therefore Atropates showed any equestrian women to Alexander, I think he must have shown him some other foreign women trained in horsemanship, and equipped with the arms which were said to be those of the Amazons.”

Subjugation of the Cossaeans

“The mourning was prolonged for many days; and as he was now beginning to recall himself from it, under such circumstances his Companions had less difficulty in rousing him to action. Then at length he made an expedition against the Cossaeans, a warlike race bordering on the territory of the Uxians. They are mountaineers, inhabiting strong positions in separate villages. Whenever a force approached them, they were in the habit of retiring to the summits of their mountains, either in a body or separately as each man found it practicable; and thus they escaped, making it difficult for those who attacked them with their forces to come near them. After the enemy’s departure, they used to turn themselves again to marauding, by which occupation they supported themselves. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“But Alexander subdued this race, though he marched against them in the winter; for neither winter nor ruggedness of ground was any impediment either to him or to Ptolemy, son of Lagus, who led a part of the army in the campaign against them. Thus no military enterprise which Alexander undertook was ever unsuccessful. As he was marching back to Babylon, he was met by embassies from the Libyans, who congratulated him and crowned him as conqueror of the kingdom of Asia. From Italy also came Bruttians, Lucanians, and Tyrrhenians as envoys, for the same purpose. The Carthaginians are said to have sent an embassy to him at this time; and it is also asserted that envoys came to request his friendship from the Ethiopians, the Scythians of Europe, the Gauls, and Iberians—nations whose names were heard and their accoutrements seen then for the first time by Greeks and Macedonians. They are also said to have entrusted to Alexander the duty of settling their disputes with each other. Then indeed it was especially evident both to himself and to those about him that he was lord of all the land and sea.

Of the men who have written the history of Alexander, Aristus and Asclepiades alone say that the Romans also sent an embassy to him, and that when he met their embassy, he predicted something of the future power of Rome, observing both the attire of the men, their love of labour, and their devotion to freedom. At the same time he made urgent inquiries about their political constitution. This incident I have recorded neither as certainly authentic nor as altogether incredible; but none of the Roman writers have made any mention of this embassy having been despatched to Alexander; nor of those who have written an account of Alexander’s actions, has either Ptolemy, son of Lagus, or Aristobulus mentioned it. With these authors I am generally inclined to agree. Nor does it seem likely that the Roman republic, which was at that time remarkable for its love of liberty, would send an embassy to a foreign king, especially to a place so far away from their own land, when they were not compelled to do so by fear or any hope of advantage, being possessed as they were beyond any other people by hatred to the very name and race of despots.”

Exploration of the Caspian: Chaldaean Soothsayers

Arrian wrote: “After this, Alexander sent Heraclides, son of Argaeus, into Hyrcania in command of a company of shipwrights, with orders to cut timber from the Hyrcanian mountains and with it to construct a number of ships of war, some without decks and others with decks after the Grecian fashion of ship-building. For he was very desirous of discovering with what sea the one called the Hyrcanian or Caspian unites; whether it communicates with the water of the Euxine Sea, or whether the Great Sea comes right round from the Eastern Sea, which is near India and flows up into the Hyrcanian Gulf; just as he had discovered that the Persian Sea, which was called the Red Sea, is really a gulf of the Great Sea. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“For the sources of the Caspian Sea had not yet been discovered, although many nations dwell around it, and navigable rivers discharge their waters into it. From Bactria, the Oxus, the largest of Asiatic rivers, those of India excepted, discharges itself into this sea; and through Scythia flows the Jaxartes. The general account is, that the Araxes also, which flows from Armenia, falls into the same sea. These are the largest; but many others flow into these, while others again discharge themselves directly into this sea. Some of these were known to those who visited these nations with Alexander; others are situated towards the farther side of the gulf, as it seems, in the country of the Nomadic Scythians, a district which is quite unknown.

“When Alexander had crossed the river Tigres with his army and was marching to Babylon, he was met by the Chaldaean philosophers; who, having led him away from his Companions, besought him to suspend his march to that city. For they said that an oracular declaration had been made to them by the god Belus, that his entrance into Babylon at that time would not be for his good. But he answered their speech with a line from the poet Euripides to this effect: “He the best prophet is that guesses well.” But said the Chaldaeans:—“O king, do not at any rate enter the city looking towards the west, nor leading the army advancing in that direction; but rather go right round towards the east.” But this did not turn out to be easy for him, on account of the difficulty of the ground; for the deity was leading him to the place where entering he was doomed soon to die. And perhaps it was better for him to be taken off in the very acme of his glory as well as of the affection entertained for him by men, before any of the vicissitudes natural to man befell him. Probably this was the reason Solon advised Croesus to look at the end of a long life, and not before pronounce any man happy. Yea indeed, Hephaestion’s death had been no small misfortune to Alexander; and I think he would rather have departed before it occurred than have been alive to experience it; no less than Achilles, as it seems to me, would rather have died before Patroclus than have been the avenger of his death.”

Advice of the Chaldees Rejected

Arrian wrote: “But he had a suspicion that the Chaldaeans were trying to prevent his entrance into Babylon at that time with reference rather to their own advantage than to the declaration of the oracle. For in the middle of the city of the Babylonians was the temple of Belus, an edifice very great in size, constructed of baked bricks which were cemented together with bitumen. This temple had been razed to the ground by Xerxes, when he returned from Greece; as were also all the other sacred buildings of the Babylonians. Some say that Alexander had formed the resolution to rebuild it upon the former foundations; and for this reason he ordered the Babylonians to carry away the mound. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Others say that he intended to build a still larger one than that which formerly existed. But after his departure, the men who had been entrusted with the work prosecuted it without any vigour, so that he determined to employ the whole of his army in completing it. A great quantity of land as well as gold had been dedicated to the god Belus by the Assyrian kings; and in olden times the temple was kept in repair and sacrifices were offered to the god. But at that time the Chaldaeans were appropriating the property of the god, since nothing existed upon which the revenues could be expended. Alexander suspected that they did not wish him to enter Babylon for this reason, for fear that in a short time the temple would be finished, and they should be deprived of the gains accruing from the money.

“And yet, according to Aristobulus, he was willing to yield to their persuasions so far at least as to change the direction of his entry into the city. For this purpose, on the first day he encamped near the river Euphrates; and on the next day he marched along the bank, keeping the river on his right hand, with the intention of passing beyond the part of the city turned towards the west, and there wheeling round to lead his army towards the east. But on account of the difficulty of the ground he could not march with his army in this direction; because if a man who is entering the city from the west, here changes his direction eastward, he comes upon ground covered with marshes and shoals. Thus, partly by his own will and partly against his will, he disobeyed the god.”

Fleet Prepared for Invading Arabia

By some accounts Alexander's next destination was Arabia, where he hoped to gain control of area that produced valuable spices. At this time he still “hunted, diced, played ball, joked and banqueted” with his men. In the autumn of 324 B.C., Alexander's boyhood friend and possible lover Hephaestion became ill with unknown disease and died. Alexander was devastated and had Hephaestion's doctor crucified.

Arrian wrote: “As he was entering Babylon, he was met by embassies from the Greeks; but for what purpose each embassy was sent has not been recorded. To me indeed it seems probable that most of them came to crown and eulogize him on account of his victories, especially the Indian ones, as well as to say that the Greeks rejoiced at his safe return from India. It is said that he greeted these men with the right hand, and after paying them suitable honour sent them back. He also gave the ambassadors permission to take with them all the statues of men and images of gods and the other votive offerings which Xerxes had carried off from Greece to Babylon, Pasargadae, Susa, or any other place in Asia. In this way it is said that the brazen statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton, as well as the monument of the Celcaean Artemis, were carried back to Athens. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Aristobulus says that he found at Babylon the fleet with Nearchus, which had sailed from the Persian Sea up the river Euphrates; and another which had been conveyed from Phoenicia, consisting of two Phoenician quinqueremes, three quadriremes, twelve triremes, and thirty triacontors. These had been taken to pieces and conveyed to the river Euphrates from Phoenicia to the city of Thapsacus. There they were joined together again and sailed down to Babylon. The same writer says that he cut down the cypresses in Babylonia and with them built another fleet; for in the land of the Assyrians these trees alone are abundant, but of the other things necessary for ship-building this country affords no supply. A multitude of purple-fishers and other sea-faring men came to him from Phoenicia and the rest of the seaboard to serve as crews for the ships and perform the other services on board. Near Babylon he made a harbour by excavation large enough to afford anchorage to , ships of war; and adjoining the harbour he made dockyards. Miccalus the Clazomenian was despatched to Phoenicia and Syria with talents to enlist some men and to purchase others who were experienced in nautical affairs. For Alexander designed to colonize the seaboard near the Persian Gulf, as well as the islands in that sea. For he thought that this land would become no less prosperous than Phoenicia. He made these preparations of the fleet to attack the main body of the Arabs, under the pretext that they were the only barbarians of this region who had not sent an embassy to him or done anything else becoming their position and showing respect to him. But the truth was, as it seems to me, that Alexander was insatiably ambitious of acquiring fresh territory.”

Description of Arabia: Voyage of Nearchus

Arrian wrote: “The common report is, that he heard that the Arabs venerated only two gods, Uranus and Dionysus; the former because he is visible and contains in himself the heavenly luminaries, especially the sun, from which emanates the greatest and most evident benefit to all things human; and the latter on account of the fame he acquired by his expedition into India. Therefore he thought himself quite worthy to be considered by the Arabs as a third god, since he had performed deeds by no means inferior to those of Dionysus. If then he could conquer the Arabs, he intended to grant them the privilege of conducting their government according to their own customs, as he had already done to the Indians. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“The fertility of the land was a secret inducement to him to invade it; because he heard that the people obtained cassia from the lakes, and myrrh and frankincense from the trees; that cinnamon was cut from the shrubs, and that the meadows produce spikenard without any cultivation. As to the size of the country, he was informed that the seaboard of Arabia was not less in extent than that of India; that near it lie many islands; that in all parts of the country there were harbours sufficiently commodious to provide anchorage for his fleet, and that it supplied sites for founding cities, which would become flourishing. He was also informed that there were two islands in the sea facing the mouth of the Euphrates, the first of which was not far from the place where the waters of that river are discharged into the sea, being about stades distant from the shore and the river’s mouth. This is the smaller of the two, and was densely covered with every kind of timber. In it was also a temple of Artemis, around which the inhabitants themselves spent their lives. The island was devoted to the use of wild goats and stags, which were allowed to range at large as being dedicated to Artemis. It was unlawful to chase them unless any one wished to offer sacrifice to the goddess; and for this purpose alone it was lawful to chase them. Aristobulus says that Alexander ordered this island to be called Icarus, after the island so named in the Aegean Sea, on which, as the report goes, Icarus, son of Daedalus fell, when the wax, by which the wings had been fastened to him, melted. For he did not fly near the earth, according to his father’s injunctions, but senselessly flying far aloft, he allowed the sun to soften and loosen the wax. Icarus left his name to the island and the sea, the former being called Icarus and the latter the Icarian. The other island was said to be distant from the mouth of the Euphrates about a day and night’s voyage for a ship running before the breeze. Its name was Tylus; it was large and most of it neither rugged nor woody, but suitable for producing cultivated fruits and all things in due season. Some of this information was imparted to Alexander by Archias, who was sent with a triacontor to investigate the course of the coasting voyage to Arabia, and who went as far as the island of Tylus, but durst not pass beyond that point. Androsthenes was despatched with another triacontor and sailed to a part of the peninsula of Arabia. Hieron of Soli the pilot also received a triacontor from Alexander and advanced farthest of those whom he despatched to this region; for he had received instructions to sail round the whole Arabian peninsula as far as the Arabian Gulf near Egypt over against Heroöpolis. Although he coasted along the country of the Arabs to a great distance, he durst not go as far as he was ordered; but returning to Alexander he reported that the size of the peninsula was marvellous, being only a little smaller than the country of the Indians, and its extremity projected far into the Great Sea. Nearchus indeed in his voyage from India had seen this stretching out a little, before he turned aside into the Persian Gulf, and he was almost induced to cross over to it. The pilot Onesicritus thought they ought to have gone thither; but Nearchus says that he himself prevented it, so that after sailing right round the Persian Gulf he might be able to give a report to Alexander that he had accomplished the voyage on which he had sent him. For Nearchus said he had not been despatched to navigate the Great Sea, but to explore the land bordering on the sea, to find out what men inhabit it, to discover the harbours and rivers in it, to ascertain the customs of the people, and to see if any of the country was fertile and if any was sterile. This was the reason why Alexander’s naval expedition returned in safety; for if it had sailed beyond the deserts of Arabia, it would not have returned in safety. This is said also to have been the reason why Hieron turned back.”

Description of the Euphrates and the Pallacopas

Arrian wrote: “While the triremes were being built for him, and the harbour near Babylon was being excavated, Alexander sailed from Babylon down the Euphrates to what was called the river Pallacopas, which is distant from Babylon about stades. This Pallacopas is not a river rising from springs, but a canal cut from the Euphrates. For that river flowing from the Armenian mountains, proceeds within its banks in the season of winter, because its water is scanty; but when the spring begins to make its appearance, and especially just before the summer solstice, it pours along with mighty stream and overflows its banks into the Assyrian country. For at that season the snow upon the Armenian mountains melts and swells its water to a great degree; and as its stream flows high above the level of the country, it would flow over the land if some one had not furnished it with an outlet along the Pallacopas and turned it aside into the marshes and pools, which, beginning from this canal, extend as far as the country contiguous to Arabia. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“Thence it spreads out far and wide into a shallow lake, from which it falls into the sea by many invisible mouths. After the snow has melted, about the time of the setting of the Pleiades, the Euphrates flows with a small stream; but none the less the greater part of it discharges itself into the pools along the Pallacopas. Unless, therefore, some one had dammed up the Pallacopas again, so that the water might be turned back within the banks and carried down the channel of the river, it would have drained the Euphrates into itself, and consequently the Assyrian country would not be watered by it. But the outlet of the Euphrates into the Pallacopas was dammed up by the viceroy of Babylonia with great labour (although it was an easy matter to construct the outlet), because the ground in this region is slimy and most of it mud, so that when it has once received the water of the river it is not easy to turn it back. But more than , Assyrians were engaged in this labour even until the third month. When Alexander was informed of this, he was induced to confer a benefit upon the land of Assyria. He determined to shut up the outlet where the stream of the Euphrates was turned into the Pallacopas. When he had advanced about thirty stades, the earth appeared to be somewhat rocky, so that if it were cut through and a junction made with the old canal along the Pallacopas, on account of the hardness of the soil, it would not allow the water to percolate, and there would be no difficulty in turning it back at the appointed season. For this purpose he sailed to the Pallacopas, and then continued his voyage down that canal into the pools towards the country of the Arabs. There seeing a certain admirable site, he founded a city upon it and fortified it. In it he settled as many of the Grecian mercenaries as volunteered to remain, and such as were unfit for military service by reason of age or wounds.”

Army Recruited from the Persians

Arrian wrote: “When he returned to Babylon he found that Peucestas had arrived from Persis, bringing with him , Persians, as well as many Cossaeans and Tapurians, because these races were reported to be the most warlike of those bordering on Persis. Philoxenus also came to him, bringing an army from Caria; Menander, with another from Lydia, and Menidas with the cavalry which had been put under his command. At the same time arrived embassies from Greece, the members of which, with crowns upon their own heads, approached Alexander and crowned him with golden crowns, as if forsooth they came to him as special envoys deputed to pay him divine honours; and his end was not far off. Then he commended the Persians for their great zeal towards him, which was shown by their obedience to Peucestas in all things, and Peucestas himself for the prudence which he had displayed in ruling them. [Source: Arrian the Nicomedian (A.D. 92-175), “Anabasis of Alexander”, translated, by E. J. Chinnock, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1884, gutenberg.org]

“He distributed these foreign soldiers among the Macedonian ranks in the following way. Each company was led by a Macedonian decurion, and next to him was a Macedonian receiving double pay for distinguished valour; and then came one who received ten staters, who was so named from the pay he received, being less than that received by the man with double pay, but more than that of the men who were serving as soldiers without holding a position of honour. Next to these came twelve Persians, and last in the company another Macedonian, who also received the pay of ten staters; so that in each company there were twelve Persians and four Macedonians, three of whom received higher pay, and the fourth was in command of the company. The Macedonians were armed in their hereditary manner; but of the Persians some were archers, while others had javelins furnished with straps, by which they were held. At this time Alexander often reviewed his fleet, had many sham-fights with his triremes and quadriremes in the river, and contests both for rowers and pilots, the winners receiving crowns.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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