| Famous Men of Greece|
|by John H. Haaren|
|Attractive biographical sketches of thirty-five of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Greece, from legendary times to its fall in 146 B.C. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination. Ages 9-12 |
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
 ALEXANDER, the son of Philip of Macedonia and Olympias, was born on the
same night that the great temple of Diana at Ephesus, in
Asia Minor, was burned. It is said that while the temple
was burning sooth-sayers ran up and down the streets of
Ephesus, crying out that the night had brought forth sad
disaster to Asia. This was true of the birth of Alexander
as well as of the burning of the temple.
Alexander was educated chiefly by the famous Greek
philosopher, Aristotle. The young prince was an earnest
pupil. It is said that he could recite the Iliad of Homer
from beginning to end.
He excelled also in athletic sports. The horses of
Thessaly, a state of Greece adjoining Macedonia, were famed
for their speed and spirit. While Alexander was still a boy
a fine Thessalian horse was offered to his father at a very
high price. Philip wished to have the animal tried, but the
 horse was so wild that every one was afraid of him. Philip
was about to send him away when Alexander offered to ride
him. The king gave him permission. Alexander had noticed
that the animal was afraid of his own shadow. He therefore
seized the plunging horse and turned his head toward the sun,
so that his shadow fell behind him. Then patting his neck and
speaking gently to him, he leaped upon his back and soon
completely tamed him.
ALEXANDER TAMES BUCEPHALUS
The head of the horse was supposed to have some likeness to
that of an ox, so he was called Bucephalus, or Oxhead.
He became Alexander's favorite horse and carried his master
through many a march and many a battle.
Alexander's ambition was shown at an early age.
 While he was yet a mere boy he made up his mind to conquer
the world, and when he learned from Aristotle that there were
many other worlds in the universe, he was greatly saddened
by the thought that he had not yet conquered one.
As Philip went on making one conquest after another
Alexander became alarmed. "Why," he cried one day, "my
father will leave nothing for me to do!"
However, when he became king, he found enough to do. First
of all there were other claimants to the throne besides
himself. Some of them Alexander put to death. Others fled
the country. He learned that Thebes and other Greek states
were thinking of throwing off the Macedonian yoke. He
therefore gathered a large army and marched to Thebes at the
head of it. The Thebans were over-awed and submitted to him
without resistance. The Athenians, in spite of Demosthenes'
advice, sent a messenger to him while he was at Thebes,
offering their submission. A little later the Greeks met in
general council at Corinth and gave him, as they had given
Philip, the command of the expedition that was to be
undertaken against Persia. Sparta alone refused to agree in
Alexander returned to Macedonia and marched against some
Thracian tribes in the northern part
 of his dominions. While he was subduing them a report of
his death reached Greece, and Thebes again took up arms.
Suddenly Alexander appeared in Greece with his victorious
army. He took Thebes by assault and pulled to the ground
every building in the city except the house once occupied by
the famous poet Pindar. Six thousand of the inhabitants
were put to death; a few escaped by flight and the rest were
sold as slaves.
ALEXANDER now began to prepare for the great expedition against
Persia, which had so long been planned. Soon his army was
ready to march. It consisted of less than 35,000 men, but
with these he boldly crossed the Hellespont.
He landed on the Asiatic coast not far from the site of
ancient Troy. From the plain of Troy he marched to the
Granicus, on the bank of which he fought his first battle
with the Persians.
The Persian army was completely routed, and its commander
killed himself rather than face the disgrace of his defeat.
The great city of Sardis, the stronghold of the Persians in
western Asia Minor, now opened its gates to the conqueror.
The following spring Alexander advanced into
 the province of Phrygia. In a temple in the city of
Gordium was kept the chariot of Gordius, once a famous
Phrygian king. The yoke of the chariot was fastened to the
pole by a knot of tough fibre. The knot was said to have
been tied by Gordius himself. It was very puzzling. An
oracle had declared that whoever should untie it would
become the master of Asia. Instead of trying to untie it
Alexander cut it with one stroke of his sword. The people
of Asia Minor took this as an omen that he was to be their
master and offered him but little resistance.
Beyond the mountains in southeastern Asia Minor, the "Great
King," Darius was waiting for the Greeks with an enormous
army. He became impatient and crossed the mountains into
Cilicia. A battle was fought at Issus, but the
Persians were no match for the Greeks. The battle ended
with overwhelming defeat to the army of Darius and he fled
from the battle-field. He left not only his baggage and
treasure, but his wife and mother and children, all of whom
fell into Alexander's hands. These captives were treated
with much respect and kindness by the conqueror.
THE FAMILY OF DARIUS AT ALEXANDER'S FEET
Soon after the battle at Issus Damascus was captured.
Alexander then moved against Tyre, a famous port of Syria,
whose trade was with every
 land and whose merchants were princes. So great were the
resources of the city that it withstood a siege of seven
months; but at the end of that time it fell into Alexander's
hand and thirty thousand of its citizens were captured and
From Tyre Alexander marched toward Egypt. On the way he
passed through the Holy Land. When he reached Jerusalem he
was met by a friendly procession of priests and Levites, who
came out from the gates of the city, with the high priest at
their head, to bid the conqueror welcome.
Egypt, like the Holy Land, was won without a battle. The
people were weary of Persian rule.
In Egypt Alexander did one of his wisest acts.
 He founded a
city near the mouth of the Nile to be a great trading port.
It is still called Alexandria after its founder. Another
wise act on Alexander's part was to invite the Jews to
settle in his new city. He saw that they were wonderful
traders; and, as he expected, they made Alexandria a
greater commercial city than Tyre.
In the spring of the year 331 B.C. Alexander again set out
in pursuit of Darius, who had now collected another large
In October, not far from a place called Arbela, in Persia,
the forces of Darius and Alexander met in their last great
battle. Darius had done everything he could to insure the
defeat of the Greeks. His army was said to number a million
men. One division of it had two hundred chariots, to the
wheels of which scythes were attached. The scythes went
round with the wheels and were expected to mow down the
Greeks like grass. In another division of the army were
fifteen trained elephants that were intended to rush wildly
among the Greeks and trample them down.
But the scythe-armed chariots, the elephants, and the
million men were alike unsuccessful. The vast host was
completely routed, and Darius turned his chariot and fled.
 From Arbela Alexander pushed on to Babylon, whose brazen
gates were thrown open to him. Susa, another great city of
the Empire, surrendered without resistance. Then, to make
his conquest complete he marched on to
Persepolis, the magnificent capital of Persia proper. This city, with its
immense treasure of silver and gold, fell into his hands.
Five thousand camels and ten thousand mule-carts carried
away the spoils, the value of which is said to have been
Alexander pursued Darius, but before he overtook him the
Great King was murdered by one of his own satraps.
Alexander had the body buried with royal honors and punished
the satrap with death.
The Empire of Persia now lay at Alexander's feet, and the
work for which the expedition had set out was finished. The
young king, however, had no desire to return to Macedonia.
He had conquered the East, but the East had also conquered
him. He had become a slave to its ways of living. His old
simple Macedonian tastes had been laid aside and his life
was given up to pleasure.
SOON, however, he undertook another conquest and at the head of
his veteran soldiers advanced
 eastward into Bactria and added this province to his
dominions. Among the Bactrian captives was a beautiful
princess named Roxana, who became his bride.
Southeast of Persia lay India, a vast empire rich in gold
and diamonds. Alexander desired to add it to his conquests.
Great mountain ranges enclose India on the north and
northwest. Crossing these are passes, through which
travelers from Central Asia must go to reach India.
Alexander went by the way of Khaiber Pass and marched
steadily onward till he reached the river Hydaspes. Here
an Indian king, named Porus, engaged him in battle. Porus
proved to be the most desperate fighter Alexander had met
with in all Asia. When the Indian was at length overpowered
and captured and brought before the conqueror, Alexander
asked him how he expected to be treated.
PORUS BEFORE ALEXANDER
"Like a king," replied Porus.
"That you certainly shall be," said Alexander. And so he
was, for it was the habit of Alexander to treat honorably
all whom he conquered.
On the bank of the River Hydaspes Alexander had the
misfortune to lose his horse Bucephalus. At the place where
the animal died the conqueror
 founded a city which he named Bucephala in honor of his
The conqueror was not able to go on with his Indian
campaign. His soldiers were worn out with marching and
fighting and insisted that they would go no farther, and so,
much against his will, Alexander was obliged to lead them
back to Persia.
The return march was one of great hardship. At the mouth of
the Indus Alexander sent the fleet to sail along the coast
and up the Persian Gulf, while he led the land forces toward
Susa and Babylon. The army had to march through a country
which was hot, dry and barren. The men suffered dreadfully
and Alexander shared their sufferings.
Shortly after reaching Babylon he was attacked by a fever,
which he had not the strength to resist.
Around his death-bed were gathered his generals. They asked
him whom he wished to succeed him. He drew his signet ring
from his finger and handed it to Perdiccas with the words,
"To the strongest." A little later he had ceased to
THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER
Thus passed away one of the greatest soldiers the world has
ever known. At the time of his death, 323 B.C., he was only
thirty-two years old. His victories had been won and his
conquests had been made in the short space of twelve years.
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