Stories of the Ancient Greeks - Charles D. Shaw

The End of Glory

At the battle of the Granicus a man named Clitus had saved Alexander's life. For this he was now to be made governor of a province. The night before he was to start for his new home, the king gave a feast, at which a dispute arose. Clitus said, "Yes; soldiers win the victories, and generals reap the glory." Alexander rushed angrily toward him but Clitus was pushed out of the room. Alexander seized a spear and tried to follow him. Clitus, full of rage, came back and Alexander struck him dead. The once noble young king had become fierce and cruel.

Alexander decided to make his home in the East, and to please the people he married Roxana, a princess of the country.

Babylon and Susa, large, rich and beautiful cities, now belonged to Alexander. But he could not stay long anywhere. He marched to Persepolis, the capital of Persia, and made that his own. There he gave a magnificent feast to his friends and to the nobles of the place. He had brought from Thebes a famous singer named Timotheus, who played on the flute and the lyre and who led a large company of singers. Alexander sat on a splendid throne to show that he was master of the world. Timotheus with his music excited the people so that they called out, "Alexander is more than man! He is a god!" The foolish man pretended to believe them and allowed them to worship him.

Then Timotheus sang about the Greeks who had been killed in battle; and Alexander drunk with wine and rage ordered his men to set fire to the palace in which they were then feasting. He wished to burn the city in revenge for the loss of so many friends who had fallen in the wars.

He stayed four years in Persia conquering every leader who dared oppose him, and giving orders for the government of all the countries of which he was master. He had many faults but some virtues remained with him, and he tried to improve the condition of people. He built cities, one of them named after his horse Bucephalus, which died of wounds received in battle, and for which Alexander sincerely grieved. He established libraries and schools and had the people taught the Greek language. He opened the way into the far East and made it possible for men to travel by land and sea into strange countries.

After the four years he led his army into India to conquer that vast country. There he had a fierce battle with King Porus, who used trained elephants in his army but who was defeated and taken prisoner. Still marching eastward, Alexander reached the river Hyphasis, the most eastern branch of the river Indus. There his soldiers rebelled. They had been many years from home and were always being led farther away from Greece. They said, "Our fathers and mothers, our wives and children and friends, are in that land. Shall we ever see it again? We are here in a strange world and the word is always 'Forward!' We will not go forward; we will not cross this river."

Alexander could not persuade them to change their minds. He built a fleet of vessels and sent them, filled with soldiers, down the river, while with eight thousand men he marched along the banks fighting and conquering all the way. In one of these fights he was wounded and when they again reached Persia he went to Susa to rest.

Here he induced eighty of his officers and ten thousand of his troops to marry Asiatic women. To all such he gave handsome wedding presents. He also took many Asiatic men into his army and taught them how to march and to fight like the Greeks.

In the spring of 324 B.C. he went to Babylon intending to make that the capital city of the world. The magicians, or wise men, had told him that to go to that place would be fatal to him but he paid no attention to their warning.

His thoughts were gloomy and he was in very low spirits. He had caught malarial fever in the marshes of the Tigris and he injured himself by the use of strong drink. After a short illness all could see that he must soon die.

His friends said to him, "O mighty king, who shall take the kingdom after you are gone?"

He answered, "The strongest." His signet ring he gave to Perdiccas, who was afterwards made commander of the army. Alexander was not thirty-three years old when he died and he had reigned less than thirteen years. His life had been full of battle and victory but he could not escape death.

He was buried in Babylon but his body was afterwards removed to Alexandria where it was interred in a coffin of gold.

His Macedonian officers divided his vast empire among them but none of them was great enough to be a true leader, and they quarreled and killed one another. Perdiccas was one of those who were put to death.