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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces one of
The Parallel Lives


published in Vol. VII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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(Vol. VII) Plutarch, The Parallel Lives

 p225  The Life of Alexander
(Part 4 of 7)

(690) 44 1 He himself, however, with the flower of his army, marched on into Hyrcania. Here he saw a gulf of the open sea which appeared to be as large as the Euxine, but was sweeter than the Mediterranean. He could get no clear information about it, but conjectured that in all probability it was a stagnant overflow from the Palus Maeotis. 2 And yet naturalists were well aware of the truth, and many years before Alexander's expedition they had set forth that this was the most northerly of four gulfs which stretch inland from the outer sea, and was called indifferently the Hyrcanian or Caspian Sea.

3 Here some Barbarians unexpectedly fell in with those who were leading Alexander's horse, Bucephalas, and captured him. 4 Alexander was angry  p355 beyond measure, and sent a herald threatening to put them all to the sword, together with their wives and children, if they did not send him back his horse. 5 But when they came with the horse and also put their cities into his hands, he treated them all kindly, and gave a ransom for his horse to those who had captured him.

45 1 From thence he marched into Parthia,​77 where, during a respite from fighting, he first put on the barbaric dress, either from a desire to adapt himself to the native customs, believing that community of race and custom goes far towards softening the hearts of men; or else this was an attempt to introduce the obeisance​78 among the Macedonians, by accustoming little by little to put up with changes and alterations in his mode of life. 2 However, he did not adopt the famous Median fashion of dress, which was altogether barbaric and strange, nor did he assume trousers, or sleeved vest, or tiara, but carefully devised a fashion which was midway between the Persian and the Median, more modest than the one and more stately than the other. 3 At first he wore this only in intercourse with the Barbarians and with his companions at home, then people generally saw him riding forth or giving audience in this attire. 4 The sight was offensive to the Macedonians, but they admired his other high qualities and thought they ought to yield to him in some things which made for his pleasure or his fame. 5 For, in addition to all his other hardships, he had recently been shot by an arrow in the leg below the knee, so  p357 that splinters of the larger bone came out; and at another time he was smitten in the neck with a stone 691so severely that his eye-sight was clouded and remained so for some time. 6 Nevertheless, he did not cease exposing himself to dangers without stint, nay, he actually crossed the river Orexartes (which he himself supposed to be the Tanaïs), put the Scythians to rout, and pursued them for a hundred furlongs, although he was suffering all the while from a diarrhoea.

46 1 Here the queen of the Amazons came to see him, as most writers say, among whom are Cleitarchus, Polycleitus, Onesicritus, Antigenes, and Ister; 2 but Aristobulus, Chares the royal usher, Ptolemy, Anticleides, Philo the Theban, and Philip of Theangela, besides Hecataeus of Eretria, Philip the Chalcidian, and Duris of Samos, say that this is a fiction. 3 And it would seem that Alexander's testimony is in favour of their statement. For in a letter to Antipater which gives all the details minutely he says that the Scythian king offered him his daughter in marriage, but he makes no mention of the Amazon. 4 And the story is told that many years afterwards Onesicritus was reading aloud to Lysimachus, who was now king, the fourth book of his history, in which was the tale of the Amazon, at which Lysimachus smiled gently and said: "And where was I at the time?" 5 However, our belief or disbelief of this story will neither increase nor diminish our admiration for Alexander.

47 1 Fearing that his Macedonians might tire of the rest of his expedition, he left the greater part of them in quarters, and while he had the best of  p359 them with him in Hyrcania, twenty thousand foot and three thousand horse, he addressed them, saying that at present they were seen by the Barbarians as in a dream, but that if they should merely throw Asia into confusion and then leave it they would be attacked by them as if they were women. 2 However, he said, he allowed those who wished it to go away, calling them to witness that while he was winning the inhabited world for the Macedonians he had been left behind with his friends and those who were willing to continue the expedition. 3 This is almost word for word what he wrote in his letter to Antipater, and he adds that after he had thus spoken all his hearers cried out to him to lead them to whatever part of the world he wished. 4 After these had met his test of their loyalty, it was no longer a hard matter for the main body to be led along too, nay, they readily followed after.

5 Under these circumstances, too, he adapted his own mode of life still more to the customs of the country, and tried to bring these into closer agreement with Macedonian customs, thinking that by a mixture and community of practice which produced good will, rather than by force, his authority would be kept secure while he was far away. 6 For this reason, too, he chose out thirty thousand boys and gave orders that they should learn the Greek language and be trained to use Macedonian weapons, appointing many instructors for this work. 7 His marriage to Roxana, whom he saw in her youthful beauty taking part in a dance at a banquet, was a love affair, and yet it was thought to harmonize well with the matters which he had in hand. 8 For the Barbarians were encouraged by the partner­ship into which the marriage brought them, and they were beyond  p361 measure fond of Alexander, because, most temperate of all men that he was in these matters, he would not consent to approach even the only woman who ever mastered his affections, without the sanction of law.

9 Moreover, when he saw that among his chiefest friends Hephaestion approved his course and joined him in changing his mode of life, while Craterus clung fast to his native ways, he employed the former in his business with the Barbarians, the latter in that with the Greeks and Macedonians. 10 And in general he showed most affection for Hephaestion, but most esteem for Craterus, thinking, and constantly saying, that Hephaestion was a friend of Alexander, but Craterus a friend of the king. 11 For this reason, too, the men cherished a secret grudge against one another and often came into open collision. And once, on the Indian expedition, they actually drew their swords and closed with one another, and as the friends of each were coming to his aid, Alexander rode up and abused Hephaestion publicly, calling him a fool and a madman 692for not knowing that without Alexander's favour he was nothing; and in private he also sharply reproved Craterus. 12 Then he brought them together and reconciled them, taking an oath by Ammon and the rest of the gods that he loved them most of all men; but that if he heard of their quarreling again, he would kill them both, or at least the one who began the quarrel. Wherefore after this they neither did nor said anything to harm one another, not even in jest.

48 1 Now, Philotas, the son of Parmenio, had a high position among the Macedonians; for he was held to be valiant and able to endure hardship, and,  p363 after Alexander himself, no one was so fond of giving and so fond of his comrades. 2 At any rate, we are told that when one of his intimates asked him for some money, he ordered his steward to give it him, and when the steward said he had none to give, "What meanest thou?" cried Philotas, "hast thou not even plate or clothing?" 3 However, he displayed a pride of spirit, an abundance of wealth, and a care of the person and mode of life which were too offensive for a private man, and at this time particularly his imitation of majesty and loftiness was not success­ful at all, but clumsy, spurious, and devoid of grace, so that he incurred suspicion and envy, and even Parmenio once said to him: 4 "My son, pray be less of a personage." Moreover, for a very long time accusations against himself had been brought to Alexander himself. For when Dareius had been defeated in Cilicia and the wealth of Damascus had been taken, among the many prisoners brought into the camp there was found a young woman, born in Pydna, and comely to look upon; her name was Antigone. 5 This woman Philotas got; and as a young man will often talk freely in vaunting and martial strain to his mistress and in his cups, he used to tell her that the greatest achievements were performed by himself and his father, and would call Alexander a stripling who through their efforts enjoyed the title of ruler. 6 These words the woman would report to one of her acquaintances, and he, as was natural, to somebody else, until the story came round to Craterus, who took the girl and brought her secretly to Alexander. 7 He, on hearing the story, ordered her to continue her meetings with Philotas and to come and report to him whatever she learned from her lover.

The Editor's Notes:

77 In the early autumn of 330 B.C.

78 Prostration on the ground before a great personage, a peculiarly Persian custom.

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Page updated: 26 Apr 07