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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber

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BIRTH OF ALEXANDER

WHEN Philip died, he was succeeded by his son Alexander, a young man of twenty, who had already earned a good name by leading part of the army at the battle of Chæronea. His efforts, as you know, had defeated the Sacred Battalion of the Thebans, and helped much to secure the victory.

Through his mother, Olympias, Alexander was a descendant of Achilles, the well-known hero of the Trojan War. He was born at Pella, a city of Macedon, three hundred and fifty-six years before Christ. His father was so pleased to have a son, that he said that all the boys born in his kingdom on the same day should be brought up with Alexander in the palace, and become his bodyguard.

Thus you see the young prince had plenty of playmates; and, as there was nothing he liked better than fighting, he soon began to play soldiers, and to train his little regiment.

From the very first, the Macedonians had declared that Alexander was born to greatness, and several noted events that took place on the day of his birth served to confirm this belief.

In the first place, Parmenio, Philip's general, won a grand victory on that day; then Philip's horses, which had been sent to Olympia, got the prize at the chariot races; and, lastly, the famous temple at Ephesus, dedicated to Diana, was burned to the ground.

The first two events were joyful in the extreme; but [228] the burning of this temple, which was among the wonders of the world, was a great calamity. Every one was anxious to know how it had happened; and all were very angry when they found out that it was not an accident, but had been done on purpose.

The man who had set fire to it was crazy. His name was Erostratus; and when he was asked why he had done such a wicked thing; he said that it was only to make his name immortal. The people were so indignant, that they not only condemned him to die, but forbade all mention of his name, hoping that it would be forgotten.

In spite of this care, Erostratus' name has come down to us. It is immortal indeed, but who except a crazy man would wish to win such fame, and could bear to think that all who ever heard of him would condemn his action, and consider him as wicked as he was insane?

Alexander was first given over to the care of a nurse. He loved her dearly as long as he lived, and her son Clytus was always one of his best friends and most faithful comrades.

As soon as he was old enough, Alexander began to learn the Iliad and Odyssey by heart; and he loved to hear about the principal heroes, and especially about his own ancestor, Achilles.

He admired these poems so much that he carried a copy of them with him wherever he went, and always slept with it under his pillow. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey were kept in a box of the finest gold, because Alexander thought nothing was too good for them.


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