Chapter 14

Alexander the Great

September 27, 2015

Alexander started his expedition after he had secured Macedonia against the neighbouring barbarians and completed the reduction of Greece.

He:

  • rendered the jealousy of the Spartans of no effect
  • attacked the maritime provinces
  • caused his land forces to keep close to the sea coast, that they might not be separated from his fleet
  • made an admirable use of discipline against numbers
  • never lacked provisions because victory gave him everything

In the beginning, he trusted very little to chance. But when his reputation was established by a series of prosperous events, he sometimes had recourse to temerity.

Before his departure for Asia, he went to war against the Triballians and Illyrians in the very same way as Caesar did against the Gauls.

When he invested the city, he wanted the inhabitants to come into terms of peace; but they hastened their own ruin. When it was debated whether he should attack the Persian fleet, it is Parmenio that shews his presumption, Alexander his wisdom.

His aim was to draw the Persians from the sea-coast, and to lay them under a necessity of abandoning their marine, in which they had a manifest superiority. Tyre being from principle attached to the Persians, who could not subsist without the commerce and navigation of that city, Alexander destroyed it. He subdued Egypt, which Darius had left bare of troops, while he was assembling immense armies inanother world.

To the passage of the Granicus Alexander owed the conquest of the Greek colonies; to the battle of Issus, the reduction of Tyre and Egypt; to the battle of Arbela, the empire of the world.

After the battle of Issus, he suffered Darius to escape, and employed his time in securing and regulating his conquests= after the battle of Arbela, he pursued him so close as to leave him no place of shelter in his empire. Darius enters his towns, his provinces, to quit themthe next moment; and Alexander marches with such rapidity, that the empireof the world seems to be rather the prize of an Olympian race than the fruit of a great victory.

In this manner he carried on his conquests; let us now see how he preserved them.

He opposed those who would have had him treat the Greeks as masters=C2=A7 and the Persians as slaves. He thought only of uniting the two nations, and of abolishing the distinctions of a conquering and a conqueredpeople.

After he had completed his victories, he relinquished all those prejudices that had helped him to obtain them. He assumed the manners of the Persians, that he might not chagrine them too much by obliging them to conform to those of the Greeks. It was this humanity which made him shew so great a respect for the wife and mother of Darius; and this that made him so continent.

What a conqueror! he is lamented by all the nations he has subdued! What an usurper! at his death, the very family he has cast from the throne is all in tears. These were the most glorious passages in his life, and such as history cannot produce an instance of in any other conqueror.

Nothing consolidates a conquest more than the union formed between the two nations by marriages. Alexander chose his wives from the nation he had subdued; he insisted on his courtiers doing the same; and the rest of the Macedonians followed the example. The Franks and Burgundians permitted those marriages=C2=B6= the Visigoths forbad them in Spain, and afterwards allowed them*.

By the Lombards they were not only allowed but encouraged=E2=80=A0. When the Romans wanted to weaken Macedonia, they ordered that there should be no inter-marriages between thepeople of different provinces.

Alexander’s aim was to unite the two nations. He thought fit to establish in Persia many Greek colonies. He built many towns. These were so strongly part of this new empire that after he died, not a single province of Persia revolted.

To prevent Greece and Macedon from being too exhausted, he sent a colony of Jews to Alexandria. As long as the Jews were loyal to him, then they could keep their culture.

He allowed the conquered nations to retain their own customs, manners, and their civil laws. The Macedonians he placed at the head of the troops, and the natives of the country at the head of the government; rather choosing to run the hazard of a particular disloyalty (which sometimes happened) than of a general revolt.

He paid a great respect to the ancient traditions, and to all the public monuments of the glory or vanity of nations.

The Persian monarchs destroyed the temples of the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians. But Alexander rebuilt them.

Few nations submitted to his yoke to whose religion he did not conform= and his conquests seem to have been intended onlyto make him the particular monarch of each nation, and the first inhabitant of each city.

The aim of the Romans, in conquest, was, to destroy; his,to preserve= and, wherever he directed his victorious arms, his chief viewwas to atchieve something, from whence that country might derive an increase of prosperity and power.

He was helped by:

  • his genius
  • his frugality
  • his profusion in important matters

He was close and reserved in his private expences, but generous to the highest degree in those of a public nature.

In regulating his household, he was the private Macedonian; but, in paying the troops, in sharing his conquests with the Greeks, and inhis largesses to every soldier in his army, he was Alexander.

He committed two very bad actions:

  1. Setting Persepolis on fire
  2. slaying Clitus

He later rendered them famous by his repentance. Hence it is that his crimes are forgot, while his regard for virtue was recorded= they were considered rather as unlucky accidents, than as his own deliberate acts.

Posterity, struck with the beauty of his mind, even in the midst of his irregular passion, can view him only with pity, but never with an eye of hatred.

Caesare tried to imitate Alexander. He flung his fellow Romans into despair for his own ostentation. Alexander’s ostentation, however, was agreeable.

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