Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men - S. B. Harding

Alexander the Great



When King Philip had conquered the Greeks, he treated them kindly, but he made them choose him to be their leader. Then he told them that he was planning to go on into Asian and conquer the Persians, and the Greeks willingly agreed to help him. But before Philip could carry out his plans he died, and his son Alexander became king in his place.

Alexander soon showed that he was even a greater man than his father had been. While he was still a boy, a beautiful but wild and high spirited horse had been brought to his father's court. None of the king's men could manage it; and King Philip was about to send it away when Alexander said,—

"I could manage that horse better than those men do."

The king heard what his son said, and gave him permission to try it. Alexander ran forward, and took the horse by the bridle. He had noticed that the horse seemed to be afraid of the motion of its own shadow, so he turned him directly toward the sun Then he stroked him gently with his hand until be became quiet.

When this had happened, Alexander gave one quick leap and was on the horse's back, and in a little while he was riding him quietly about the yard. King Philip was so pleased with what Alexander had done that he gave him the horse for his own, and in later years it carried him safely through many battles. Alexander was so fond of it that, at last, when it died, he built it a splendid monument.

Alexander was only twenty years old when he became king, but he soon showed that he could manage his kingdom as well as he could his horses. Because the king was so young, the people that his father had conquered thought that they could now win back their freedom. But Alexander marched swiftly from one end of the kingdom to the other, and everything was soon quiet again. The young king then made ready to carry out his father's plans, and make war on the Persians. Soon he had an army of Macedonians and Greeks ready, and with this he crossed over into Asia

In one of the cities that he came to there was a famous knot, which fastened the yoke to the pole of a chariot. This was the "Gordian knot," and an oracle had foretold that whoever should unfasten that knot should rule over the whole world. Many persons had tried to this, but all had failed. When Alexander came, he looked at the knot for a moment, and then he drew his sword and cut it apart. So he "cut the Gordian knot;" and whether or not it was because of that, he soon did become the ruler of all the world that was then known

Alexander fought three great battles with the Persians; and although the king of the Persians had twenty times as many men as Alexander had, Alexander won all three of the battles This was partly because the Greeks and the Macedonians were so much better soldiers than the Persians; and also it was because the Persian king was such a poor general and such a coward. Almost before the fight had begun, the Persian king would leave his chariot, mount a horse, and gallop away as fast as he could; and of course his soldiers would not fight after their leader had fled.

After the third battle the Persian king was killed by some of his own men, as he was trying to get farther and farther away from Alexander; and then Alexander himself became king of the mighty empire of the Persians. Besides Persia itself, he got Palestine, where the Jews lived then, and Egypt, which was older and richer than any of the other countries. After he had won these countries, Alexander turned and marched far eastward into Asia, looking for other lands to conquer. On and on he marched for many months, over mountains and burning deserts and fertile plains He found many strange lands, and conquered many strange people. But still he urged his army on and on, till they began to fear that they would never see their homes again.

At last they reached India, which you know Columbus had tried to reach by sailing around the world in the other direction. Here Alexander's army refused to go farther; and he was forced, much against his will, to turn about and return to Persia.

But you must not think of Alexander as only a great conqueror. He was a great explorer as well; and wherever he went he gathered specimens of strange plants and animals, and sent them back to learned men in Greece. And as he also sent back accounts of the lands which he conquered, you will see that he added a great deal to what men knew about the world. He was also a wise ruler, and founded many new cities in Asia and in Egypt. After he had returned from India, his mind was full of plans for making one great empire out of the many countries over which he ruled. The capital of this empire was to be in Persia; and the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Jews, the Egyptians, and the people of India were all to have a part in it.

But while he was full of these plans, he suddenly became ill of a fever, and died. He was only thirty-two years old; yet he had been king for nearly thirteen years, and had done more wonderful things than any other king before or since.

Here we must leave the story of the Greeks. After Alexander died, there was no one to rule over his vast empire, and it soon fell to pieces. The Macedonians continued to rule over the Greeks for more than a hundred years longer; then, when they lost their power, there was another people ready to step in, and take their place as rulers of the Greeks. So the old Greeks never got back their freedom; and as a people who are not free cannot have noble thoughts, or do noble deeds, the Greeks never again became as great as they had been in the days of Aristides and Pericles