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The Story of the Greeks by  H. A. Guerber

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THE AFRICAN DESERT

AFTER staying a few days in Jerusalem, Alexander continued on his way to Egypt, which he quickly conquered also. Here he founded a new city at the mouth of the Nile, and named it Alexandria, after himself. It was so favorably located, that it soon became [245] an important town, and has continued so even till the present day.

Then, having heard that there was a famous temple in Libya, dedicated to Jupiter, Alexander resolved to go there and visit it. The road lay through an African desert, and the journey was very dangerous indeed.

The soldiers toiled painfully along over the burning sand, in which their feet sank up to the ankles. The blazing African sun fell straight down upon their heads, and made them stagger and grow faint with the heat.

From time to time a hot wind, the simoom, blew over the desert, raising great clouds of dust, and choking men and horses as it rolled over them like a torrent, burying them under its shifting waves.

The horses died from thirst and fatigue, for such animals are not fit for travel in the desert. The only creature which can journey comfortably over the dreary waste of the Sahara is the camel, whose stomach is made in a peculiar way, so that it can drink a large quantity of water at a time, and store it up for future use.

Undaunted by fatigue or danger, Alexander pressed onward. Like his soldiers, he suffered from heat and thirst; and like them, too, he was deceived by the mirage.

This is an optical effect due to a peculiar condition of the desert atmosphere. The traveler suddenly sees trees, grass, and running water, apparently a short distance before him. He hastens eagerly forward to lie in the shade, and to plunge his hot face and hands in the refreshing stream; but when he reaches the spot where he saw water and trees, there is nothing but sand, and he sinks down exhausted and cruelly disappointed.

[246] After enduring all these hardships, Alexander arrived at last at the oasis, or green island in the sandy desert, where the Temple of Jupiter stood. The priests led him into the holy place, and, hoping to flatter him, called him the son of Jupiter.

After resting for some time in this pleasant spot, Alexander and his men again braved the dangers of the desert, went back to Alexandria and Tyre, and from there began the long-delayed pursuit of Darius.

The Greek soldiers had suffered so many hardships since beginning the war, that they were now ready for anything. They crossed the Euphrates over a hastily built bridge; then coming to the Tigris, where neither bridge nor boats could be found, they boldly swam across the river, holding their shields over their heads to protect themselves from the arrows of the Persians who stood on the other bank.

Alexander was always the first to rush forward in battle, and he now led the way across the river. He was longing to meet the Persians again, and was very glad to overtake them on the other side of the Tigris.

Here, on the plains of Arbela, the third great battle was fought, and Alexander won the victory. Darius fled once more before the conqueror, while Alexander marched straight on to Babylon, the most wonderful city in the East.


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