| Our Young Folks' Plutarch|
|by Rosalie Kaufman|
|Fifty retellings from Plutarch's Lives skillfully adapted for children. Includes the conquests of Alexander the Great, how Demosthenes became an orator, the conspiracy against Caesar, the life of Lycurgus the law-giver of Sparta, the exploits of Pyrrhus and others. Ages 10-14 |
ALEXANDER was the son of Philip, King of Macedon, and
at a very early age showed that he had the spirit of a
warrior. His father won many brilliant victories, but,
instead of rejoicing at them, Alexander would say to
his friends, "My father will go on conquering until
nothing extraordinary be left for you and me to do." He
never cared for pleasure or riches, but thirsted for
glory, and therefore hoped to inherit a kingdom that
was plunged in wars, so that he might be able to
exercise his courage.
The care of his education was given to several
instructors, but Leonidas, a kinsman of his mother,
presided over them all. Lysimachus was his chief
preceptor, but he was neither a good nor an able man.
Philip therefore soon secured the services of a great
philosopher, because the following circumstance
convinced him that his son was worthy of every
A horse, Bucephalus by name, was offered to Philip for
the sum of thirteen talents, or about thirteen thousand
dollars of our money, and the king, with the prince and
many others, went to the field to see him tried. He
proved to be so vicious and unmanageable that none of
the grooms dared venture to mount him. Philip was
displeased at any one's having brought him such an
animal, and angrily ordered him to be taken away.
Alexander was, on the contrary, so delighted with the
fine points he observed in the horse that he exclaimed,
"What a horse are they losing for want
 of skill and spirit to manage him!" Philip did not at
first notice the boy, who made several such remarks. At
last he said, "Young man, you find fault with your
elders, as if you knew more than they, or could manage
the horse better." "I certainly could," answered the
prince. "If you should not be able to ride him; what
will you forfeit for your rashness?" "I will pay the
price asked for him." Everybody laughed; but, having
gained his father's permission, Alexander ran to the
animal, and, laying hold of the bridle, turned his head
to the sun. He did this because he had observed that
the continually-moving shadow of himself annoyed
Bucephalus. Then he spoke softly to the animal, and
stroked him gently until he grew calm; after which he
leaped lightly on his back and seated himself. Having
accomplished that much, he jerked the bridle gently,
and Bucephalus started forward without the use of whip
or spur. Philip and his courtiers looked on in anxious
silence; but when the prince turned the horse and rode
straight back to the spot whence he had started, he was
received with loud shouts, while the father, with tears
in his eyes, embraced him and said, "O my son, seek
another kingdom worthy of thy abilities, for Macedonia
is too small for thee."
ALEXANDER TAMING BUCEPHALUS.
It was immediately after this that Aristotle, the most
celebrated and learned of all the philosophers, was
engaged to instruct Alexander. The boy soon learned to
love his master almost as much as he did his own
father, and in after-years he would say, "From my
father I derived the blessing of life, but from
Aristotle the blessing of a good life." Alexander was
born with a love for study, which never left him to the
very end of his life. He was only sixteen years old
when his father went from home on an expedition and
left him regent of Macedonia, and keeper of the royal
seal. He did not remain idle, but reduced a rebellious
tribe, took their chief town by storm, planted a mixed
colony there, and called the place Alexandropolis after
himself. At the battle of Chæronea this young prince
charged and broke the Theban Sacred Band, and
had the glory of being the first who had ever done
King Philip was preparing for a war against Persia,
B.C. 336, when he was assassinated. Alexander, who was
just twenty years of age, succeeded to the throne. The
kingdom he was called upon to rule was in a most
unsettled condition; for, by his numerous
 victories, Philip had subdued Greece, but she had not
become accustomed to the yoke, consequently the whole
country was in a tumultuous state.
Alexander's counsellors advised him to give up Greece
entirely, but he would not listen to them, particularly
as several of the states, thinking they had nothing to
fear from so young a sovereign, showed signs of
rebellion. He marched without delay as far as the
Danube, where he fought a great battle with the
Triballi and defeated them.
Shortly after he was informed that the Thebans and the
Athenians had revolted, so he advanced immediately
through the pass of Thermopylæ, saying, "Demosthenes
called me a boy while I was among the Triballi, a
stripling when in Thessaly; but I will show him before
the walls of Athens that I am a man."
The Thebans made a desperate resistance, and the war
began with great fury; but the Macedonians had such a
large army that they surrounded Thebes on all sides and
completely destroyed it. Among the inhabitants, the
priests and the poet Pindar were spared, but thirty
thousand were sold as slaves, and more than six
thousand were killed in the battle.
Some of the scenes enacted are too horrible to recount,
but an anecdote about Timoclea, a woman of rank and
wealth, is worth repeating. A party of Thracians
entered her house and carried off all the valuables it
contained, but, not satisfied with that, the captain
asked whether she had not some gold and silver hidden
away. "Oh, yes," she said, leading him to a well in her
garden; "when the city was taken I threw all my jewels
and money down there." The captain stooped to examine
the well, whereupon Timoclea pushed him in and threw
all the heavy stones she could find on top of him. The
soldiers seized her, bound her hands, and led her
before Alexander, to whom they told what she had done.
"Who are you?" asked the king.
"I am the sister of Theagenes, who, as general of our
army, fought Philip for the liberty of Greece and fell
in the battle of Chæronea," she replied, boldly.
Alexander could not help admiring her bravery, nor
could he blame her action, seeing that she was dealing
with an enemy, therefore he commanded her and her
children to be set at liberty. The
 rest of the Greek nations were so impressed by the fate
of Thebes that they gladly came over to the Macedonian
party, and soon after chose Alexander for their general
when their war with Persia began.
They were assembled at Corinth for this election, and
most of the public officers and philosophers of the
neighborhood went to visit Alexander and offer their
congratulations. But there was one who took no notice
of him whatever, and that was Diogenes of Sinope, then
living at a little place just outside of Corinth called
Cranium. So Alexander went to see the philosopher, whom
he found lying in the sun. At the approach of so many
people he looked up, and the king in a friendly tone
asked, "Is there any way in which I can serve you?"
"Yes; I would have you stand from between me and the
sun," replied the philosopher.
Alexander was struck with surprise, for he did not
suppose there was a man in the world so contented as to
require no service at his hands. His courtiers were
annoyed and called Diogenes a monster, but the king
said, "If I were not Alexander I should wish to be
After consulting the oracle and receiving for answer,
"My son, thou art invincible," Alexander set out with
an army of four thousand five hundred horse and thirty
thousand foot-soldiers. On his arrival at Troy, he
sacrificed to Minerva, anointed the tomb of Achilles
with oil, then put a garland on it, and congratulated
the dead hero on his good fortune in having such a
friend as Patroclus and such a poet as Homer to sing
Alexander moved so rapidly that he took the army of
Darius by surprise, and got as far as the river
Granicus, in Asia, without meeting any opposition. He
advanced under showers of darts thrown from the steep
opposite banks, which were covered with the enemy's
troops, and having climbed the muddy, slippery paths,
engaged in a hand-to-hand fight, and won a decisive
victory. Alexander was attacked several times, and had
a horse killed under him, but, although he was easily
known by his waving white plumes, he escaped without a
The loss on the Persian side was very heavy, while
their conqueror had no more than sixty horse and
thirty foot-soldiers killed.
 Among these were twenty-five of Alexander's personal
friends, and to do honor to their memory he erected a
brass statue to each. The Grecians got a share of the
spoils, particularly the Athenians, to whom he sent
three hundred bucklers. Upon the rest he ordered this
inscription to be placed: "Alexander, the son of
Philip, and the Grecians, except the Lacedæmonians, won
these from the barbarians who inhabit Asia." All the
plate, purple garments, and ornaments that he took from
the Persians, except a small quantity that he kept for
himself, he sent as a present to Olympias, his mother.
Alexander was so elated with this victory that he did
not rest until he had freed all the Greek cities in
Asia Minor from the Persian yoke. Then, on hearing of
the death of Memnon, the principal commander of
Darius, he determined to march to the upper part of
Asia. A serious and dangerous illness, caused by a cold
bath in the river Cydnus, detained him, however.
Possibly he might have been cured in a few days if he
had not been a king, but his physicians were afraid to
try severe remedies, lest they might not have the
desired result and thus subject themselves to suspicion
and probably punishment. Philip, one of the physicians,
who loved Alexander exceedingly, thought it shameful
when his master was in danger not to risk something, so
he took upon himself the cure, and set to work to
prepare the medicine.
Before it was ready, one of his commanders sent the
king a letter bidding him beware of Philip, who had
been bribed by Darius to poison him. Having read the
letter, Alexander put it under his pillow without
showing it to anybody. He had perfect confidence in
Philip, of which he gave proof when the medicine was
brought; for, placing the cup to his lips, he swallowed
the dose even while the physician read the letter which
he handed him. Philip was indignant at the unjust
charge, and threw himself down by the bedside,
entreating his master to have courage and trust to his
care. In about three days the invalid was so much
better as to be able to show himself to the
Macedonians, whose anxiety had been very great on his
Darius did not know that illness detained Alexander,
and he made up his mind that it was fear; he therefore
marched forward to Cilicia with his army. This was a
mistake, because he had to fight
 in narrow passages, where his immense forces were so
cramped that they could scarcely obey orders, whereas
had he remained in Assyria he would have met Alexander
on wide, open plains; but he paid dearly for his error,
and suffered a signal defeat. He lost over a hundred
thousand men, and came very near being captured
himself. However, he escaped, though his chariot and
bow fell into the hands of the conqueror, who returned
with them in triumph to his soldiers.
The Persian camp was filled with rich armor and
clothing, of which the Macedonian soldiers took
possession; but they did not touch the tent of Darius.
That they reserved for Alexander, who found in it
richly-clothed officers of the royal household,
magnificent furniture, and great quantities of gold
Having laid off his armor, the conqueror said to those
about him, "Let us go and refresh ourselves after the
fatigue of the battle in the baths of Darius." "Nay,
rather in the baths of Alexander," said one of his
friends, "for the goods of the conquered are and should
be called the conqueror's."
When Alexander looked about and beheld the basins,
boxes, vials, vases curiously wrought in gold, the
splendid and luxurious lounges and cushions, and
smelled the fragrant essences, he turned to his friends
and asked, "Can it be possible that a king finds
happiness in such enjoyments as these?"
At that period Alexander had not been spoiled by
Persian luxury, and his tastes were extremely simple.
His table was always splendidly and plentifully
supplied, but he did not care for delicacies, and
frequently left them untouched, though he was careful
to see that his guests were treated to the very best
the market afforded. Some historians have accused him
of drinking to excess, but this is a mistake arising
from his habit of sitting a long time at table. This
arose from his fondness for conversation, for with
every cup of wine he would discourse at length on some
subject or other, and never indulged in this pleasure
unless he had ample leisure. When he was busy he would
neither eat, sleep, nor drink; otherwise he could not
in his short life have performed so many great actions.
Much of his leisure was spent in hunting, throwing the
javelin, and otherwise exercising, or reading and
writing. As his fortune increased his feasts became
more magnificent, until each
 cost no less than ten thousand drachmas. These feasts
always lasted many hours, because they were lengthened
out by conversation, in which art Alexander surpassed
most other princes.
He showed great kindness of heart in his treatment of
Darius's family after the defeat of that monarch in
Cilicia. As he was sitting down to dine, when the
battle was over, he was told that among the prisoners
were the mother, wife, and two daughters of Darius, all
of whom were bowed down with grief because, as they saw
the royal chariot among the spoils, they concluded that
the king was dead. Alexander felt very sorry for the
poor captives, and after a few moments' thought sent
Leonatus to them with this message: "Assure them that
Darius is not dead; that they have nothing to fear from
Alexander, for his dispute with Darius was only for
empire, and that they shall find themselves provided
for in the same manner as when Darius was in his
He kept his promise in every particular, and not only
were the captives allowed to do funeral honors to what
Persians they pleased, but they were furnished for that
purpose with all the necessary robes and other
decorations out of the spoils. Besides, they were
provided with as many domestics as they needed, and
all the comforts and luxuries they had ever enjoyed; no
soldier dared to obtrude upon their privacy, and they
soon lost sight of the disagreeable fact that they were
in an enemy's camp.
Alexander did not follow the Persian monarch, but took
possession of Damascus, which contained a large
portion of the royal treasure, and conquered all the
towns along the Mediterranean Sea. Tyre refused to
submit, and was therefore besieged. While the siege
lasted, Alexander dreamed that Hercules offered him his
hand from the wall and invited him to enter, which was
considered a favorable sign. Some of the Tyrians
dreamed that Apollo told them he was displeased with
their behavior, and was about to leave them and go over
to Alexander. So they seized the statue of the god,
loaded it with chains, and fastened the feet to the
pedestal, to prevent his becoming a deserter. At the
end of seven months the siege was suddenly brought to a
close in this way: One of Alexander's soothsayers,
after offering sacrifices, examined the entrails of the
victim, and proclaimed, "The city shall be taken this
month." "How can that be," asked the soldiers,
 "this being the very last day of the month?" Thereupon
Alexander answered by ordering that it should be called
the twenty eighth, not the thirtieth, and so sounded
the trumpets for an onslaught. It proved the most
violent attack that had been made, and the soothsayer's
prophecy came true, for the city of Tyre fell that day.
Then Alexander proceeded on his victorious march
through Palestine until he reached Gaza, one of the
largest cities of Syria which, after a siege, shared
the fate of Tyre. From there he sent presents to his
mother and all his friends. To Leonidas, his early
tutor, he forwarded a great load of frankincense and
myrrh, because once when offering sacrifices he had
been so extravagant with those spices that Leonidas had
said, "Alexander, when you have conquered the country
where spices grow you may be thus liberal of your
incense; but, in the mean time, use what you have more
sparingly." So, when he sent the present from Gaza,
Alexander wrote, "I have sent you frankincense and
myrrh in abundance, that you need no longer be stingy
with the gods."
One day a magnificent casket that had belonged to
Darius was brought to him, and he asked his friends
what they thought the most worthy thing to place in it.
One suggested one article, another something else; but
he said, "No, Homer's Iliad most deserves such a case,"
and from that time his copy of that work was kept in
the costly box.
In Egypt, Alexander was received as a deliverer,
because the inhabitants were tired of the Persian yoke
and glad of a chance to throw it off. Alexander
restored their former customs and religious rites, and
founded Alexandria, which became one of the most
important cities of ancient times.
Thence he made a journey through the desert of Libya to
consult the oracle, Jupiter Ammon. Few men would have
started upon so long and dangerous a journey without
misgivings, for there was likely to be scarcity of
water, and violent winds that would blow about the
poisonous sand of the desert and cause the death of
those who inhaled it. But Alexander was not to be
turned from anything he was bent upon; besides, he had
known nothing but good fortune all his life; he was
therefore bold. The gods seemed to favor him as usual,
for plentiful rains fell, which not only
re-  lieved the soldiers from fear of drought, but made
the sand moist and firm and purified the air. Besides,
some ravens kept up with the Macedonians in their
march, flying before them and waiting for them if they
fell behind; but the strangest part of all was, that if
any of the company went astray in the night, the ravens
never ceased croaking until they were guided to the
right path again.
When Alexander had passed through the wilderness and
arrived at the place, the high-priest of Ammon bade him
welcome in the name of the god, and called him son of
Jupiter. "Have any of the assassins of my father
escaped me?" asked Alexander. "Do not express yourself
in that manner," said the priest, "for your father was
not a mortal."
"Well, then, are all the murderers of Philip punished?
and am I to be the conqueror of the world?" asked
Alexander. "That high distinction you shall have, and
the death of Philip is fully revenged," was the answer.
Alexander was so pleased at what he had heard that he
made splendid offerings to Jupiter, and gave the
priests presents of great value. But he put on a lofty
bearing after being addressed as the son of Jupiter.
Some people think that he did this among the Persians
only to make them honor and respect him, for once, when
he was wounded with an arrow, he said to those about
him, "This, my friends, is real, flowing blood, not
such as the immortal gods shed."
In course of time Darius wrote to Alexander proposing
terms of peace, and offering ten thousand talents as a
ransom for his captives, all the countries on this side
the river Euphrates, and one of his daughters in
marriage. Parmenio, a friend of the Macedonian king,
said, "If I were Alexander I would accept those terms."
"So would I if I were Parmenio," replied the king. At
the same time he sent this message to Darius: "If you
will come to me, you shall find the best of treatment;
if not, I must go and seek you." And so he began his
march. But he had gone only a little way when news was
brought to him of the death of Darius's wife. He felt
very much grieved at this sad event, and returned to
bury the dead queen in a style befitting her rank.
Tireus, one of the slaves of the bed-chamber, was at
once sent to carry the news to Darius, who, in the
midst of his lamentations,
 was somewhat comforted at the assurances Tireus gave
him of the care, respect, and attention that had been
shown his family. After hearing all that the Macedonian
king had done for them, he raised his hands towards
heaven and said, "Ye gods, grant that I may reestablish
the fortunes of Persia and leave them as glorious as I
found them; grant that victory may put it in my power
to return to Alexander the favors which my dearest ones
have received from him. But if the time determined by
fate and the divine wrath is now come for the glory of
the Persians to fall, may none but Alexander sit on the
throne of Cyrus!"
When spring returned, Alexander, having subdued all the
country on this side the Euphrates, began his march
against Darius, who had collected an army of a million
of men. The Macedonians did not number half so many;
nevertheless, Alexander felt no doubt of his success.
But when some of his chief officers beheld the Persian
troops covering a vast field, they felt so anxious that
they begged their monarch to attack Darius by night.
"Oh, no," he replied; "I will not steal a victory."
This answer did not imply any trifling with danger, for
Alexander knew there was much to fear; but he foresaw
that in case Darius was overcome in the darkness of
night it would afford him an excuse for trying his
After giving this answer, Alexander went to bed in his
tent, and slept so soundly that Parmenio was obliged to
give the soldiers orders to take their breakfast and
then to arouse Alexander, for there was not much time
to lose. "How is it possible for you to sleep so
soundly when you are on the point of fighting the most
important of all our battles? One would suppose that we
were already victorious." "And are we not so indeed,"
asked Alexander, "since we are at last relieved from
the trouble of wandering in pursuit of Darius?"
So, with a display of eagerness for the fight, the
great warrior buckled on his armor and left his tent.
This is how he appeared: he wore a short coat of
Sicilian cut that fitted close to his figure, and over
that was a thickly-quilted breastplate of linen, which
had been taken among the spoils of the last battle. His
helmet was of iron, beautifully wrought, and so highly
polished that it shone like silver; to this was fitted
a piece of armor called a gorget, that
pro-  tected the neck and throat, set with precious
stones. His sword was of the best tempered steel and
very light, and his belt of the most superb
workmanship. When drawing up his army and giving orders
before a battle, Alexander never rode Bucephalus,
because he was getting old and had to be saved for
battles; but he always charged upon that fiery steed,
and gave the signal as soon as he was mounted.
Alexander made a long speech to the Greeks, who
answered with loud shouts and begged him to lead them
on. Then, raising his right hand towards heaven, he
exclaimed, "If I be really the son of Jupiter, defend
and strengthen the Greeks, ye gods!" Just then his
chief soothsayer, who rode by his side in a white robe
with a crown of gold upon his head, pointed to an eagle
that soared above and directed his course towards the
enemy. This was a favorable omen: the cavalry charged
at full speed, and the phalanx rushed on like a
That day witnessed one of the most furious battles that
ever was fought in the world, and in the very face of
danger Alexander showed the same coolness, courage, and
good judgment throughout. The Persians fought bravely
too, and fortune favored them at times; but it so
happened that Alexander threw a dart at Darius, who,
being the tallest and handsomest man in his army, could
easily be distinguished. The dart missed him, but
killed his charioteer on the spot, whereupon some of
the guards raised a loud cry, and those behind,
thinking the king had been killed, fled. The troops in
front were driven back, and the wheels of the royal
chariot became so entangled among the dead bodies that
the horses plunged and darted without being able to
move forward or back. Throwing down his arms, Darius
jumped from the chariot, mounted the nearest horse, and
fled for his life. But he would not have escaped, for
Alexander was anxious to capture him, and might have
done so had it not been for Parmenio, who at that
moment sent for his assistance.
Alexander was vexed at being stopped, but when he was
riding to the part of the army that had called for him,
he was informed that the enemy were totally defeated
and put to flight. So the Persian army, baggage, tents,
and immense treasures, fell into the hands of the
victor. Alexander was now proclaimed king of Asia,
 and the first thing he did was to make magnificent
sacrifices to the gods and presents of large sums of
money and offices to his friends.
Indeed, Alexander was always noted for his generosity
to his friends, and he carried this trait so far that
his mother wrote him, "You make your friends equal to
kings by giving them the power of getting any number of
friends of their own, while you leave yourself
destitute." He took no notice of this remonstrance, for
he never allowed his mother to meddle in matters of
state or war, although he always showed her great
respect, and treated her with even more generosity than
he showed to others.
Alexander seated on the throne of Darius was a
gratifying spectacle to the Greeks, but from that time
the warrior's glory grew dim, for no sooner was he
master of the greatest empire in the world than he
began to indulge his passions, and gave himself up to
all sorts of dissipation. It was in a fit of
intoxication that he set fire to the magnificent palace
of the Persian kings, which was filled with valuable
treasures, and burned it to the ground. But when he
became sober, he was so ashamed of this act that he set
out at once with his cavalry in pursuit of Darius.
He made a long and painful march of eleven days, during
which his soldiers suffered so much from want of water
that they were loath to continue. About noon one day a
party of Macedonians came up to Alexander. They were on
mules, and carried vessels filled with water. One of
them, seeing the king almost choking from thirst,
filled a helmet with water and offered it to him. He
took it in his hands, then looked about at the faces of
his suffering soldiers, who wanted refreshment just as
much as he did, and said, "Take it away, for if I alone
should drink, the rest will be out of heart, and you
have not enough for all." So he handed back the water
without having touched a drop of it, while the soldiers
applauded the hero, jumped on their horses, and
demanded to be led forward.
Alexander had heard that Darius was kept a prisoner by
Bessus, and hoped to save him, but when Bessus found
himself in danger from the approaching army, he ordered
the king to be assassinated. Polystratus was the first
officer who beheld the dying monarch, as he lay on a
chariot by the roadside, covered with wounds. He asked
for water, which was handed to him, then he said, "It
 become the last extremity of my ill fortune to receive
benefits and not be able to return them. But Alexander
will recompense thee, and the gods will reward
Alexander for his humanity to my mother, my wife, and
my children. Tell him I give him my hand, for I give it
to thee in his stead." So saying, he took the hand of
Polystratus and expired. When Alexander came up, he
shed tears, and, taking off his own cloak, threw it
over the body, which was afterwards laid in state.
Somewhat later Bessus was captured, and this is how he
was punished: two straight trees were bent, and one
of his legs was made fast to each, then the trees were
allowed to return to their former position, and the
body was torn in two.
Once a party of barbarians fell upon some Macedonians
who had Bucephalus in charge, and captured him.
Alexander was so provoked at this that he sent a
herald to tell them that if they did not immediately
return the horse he would kill every man, woman, and
child in their country. Bucephalus was brought back,
and the barbarians surrendered their cities, but they
were treated with great kindness.
Alexander next marched into Parthia, and in order to
gain the affection of the people he dressed like a
Persian and adopted their manners, though at the same
time he introduced to them some of the Macedonian
customs. Besides, he married Roxana, an Asiatic lady of
great beauty, whom he loved devotedly. This added more
to his popularity in Persia than anything else.
Parmenio, who has been mentioned several times, was
Alexander's principal general and a man of great
ability. He had a son named Philotas, who for valor and
endurance in time of war was next to the monarch
himself. But Philotas had fallen into the habit of
boasting so much of his exploits that his father took
him to task for it several times, and his friends
became envious not only of his deeds, but of the favors
that were constantly shown him at court. So when a plot
was discovered against the life of the Macedonian king,
any trifling word or sign that might tend to cast
suspicion on the favored officer was eagerly repeated
to Alexander. As nothing could be proved, it was
decided to put Philotas to the torture, the monarch
hiding himself behind a tapestry to hear what might be
forced from his lips. The victim lamented so much, and
 begged so hard for his life, that Alexander cried out,
with all this unmanly weakness, how didst
thou dare engage in so great and dangerous an
enterprise?" He was put to death and Parmenio also,
although the latter had been the prime mover in the
expedition into Asia, and had been a loyal, valiant
soldier for many years. This unjust deed made Alexander
terrible to his friends, and the fate of Clitus was not
less shocking to them.
Clitus had been one of Alexander's bravest officers and
most faithful friends, and this is what happened to
him. Some very fine fruit had been brought from Greece
to the king, who was so pleased with it that he invited
Clitus to supper that he might enjoy it also. The
company drank freely, and became quite lively as the
meal proceeded; but towards its close one Pranicus
began to sing a song that had been written in ridicule
of the Macedonian officers, who had recently been
beaten by the barbarians. The older men present felt
offended, and condemned both the poet and the singer;
but Alexander laughed and bade Pranicus repeat the
song. Clitus, who was under the influence of wine,
said, angrily, "It is not well done to make a jest of
Macedonians among their enemies, for, though they have
met with misfortune, they are better men than those who
laugh at them."
"Clitus pleads his own cause when he gives cowardice
the soft name of misfortune," said Alexander.
Clitus started up as if he had been stung, and cried,
"Yes, it was cowardice that saved you, son of Jupiter,
as you call yourself, when you turned your back to the
sword of Spithridates. It is by the blood of the
Macedonians and these wounds that you are growing so
great as to disown Philip for your father and pass
yourself off for the son of Jupiter Ammon."
Irritated at these bold words, Alexander replied, "Thou
shameless fellow! dost thou think to say such base
things of me, and stir the Macedonians up to sedition,
and not be punished for it?"
"We are already punished," rejoined Clitus. "What
reward have we for all our toils? Do we not envy those
who do not live to see Macedonians bleed under Median
rods, or sue to Persians for access to their kings?"
Thus one word led to another, until, unable longer to
control his drunken rage, the king picked up an apple
and threw it in the face
 of Clitus, who then looked about for his sword. But one
of his guards had prudently removed it, while the older
men gathered about the irate king and begged him to
Meanwhile, Clitus had been dragged out of the room, but
he returned by another door, singing loudly some
insulting verses. Then it was impossible to restrain
the king any longer; he snatched a spear from one of
his guards, rushed towards Clitus just as he raised the
curtain to enter, and ran him through the body. He fell
to the ground, groaned, and expired.
Then Alexander felt very sorry for what he had done,
for he had loved Clitus, and he became sober as soon as
he beheld him dead at his feet. For a moment he gazed
in silence, then hastily drawing the spear out of the
body was about to run it into his own throat, when the
guards seized it and led him by force to his chamber.
He passed that night and the next day plunged in grief,
uttering now and then a pitiful moan, but speaking to
no one. Several philosophers sought to console him, but
failed. At last Anaxarchus entered, and exclaimed in a
loud tone, "Is this Alexander upon whom all the world
is looking? Can it be he who lies on the ground crying
like a slave, in fear of the law and the tongues of
men? He himself should be the law to decide right and
wrong. What did he conquer for but to rule and command?
Know you not, Alexander, that Jupiter is represented
with justice and law by his side to show that all the
actions of a conqueror are right?"
The king was pacified by these soothing words, and his
conscience ceased to be disturbed, but he became more
unjust and haughty than ever, for he was only too ready
to believe, as the philosopher had said, that whatever
he might choose to do was right. Thus was this great
hero thoroughly spoiled by the flattery of those who
But he was not yet prepared to rest; he had made up his
mind to conquer India, a country little known at that
time. After he had passed the Indus he formed an
alliance with Taxilus, who ruled the region beyond the
river and furnished troops and a hundred and thirty
elephants for the Macedonian king. With this addition
to his army Alexander marched against King Porus, who
defended the river Hydaspes with his troops. A bloody
battle ensued, and Alexander came off victorious.
 While fighting, King Porus rode on one of the largest
of his elephants, but he was such an enormous man that
the proportion was about the same as between a man of
medium height and a horse. The elephant that Porus rode
was an intelligent animal, that took great care of his
master during the battle, several times preventing him
from falling off when he was hit, and at the close
kneeling down slowly and with his trunk pulling out
every dart that stuck in his body.
Porus was taken prisoner and led before Alexander. "How
do you desire to be treated?" asked the latter.
"Like a king," was the reply.
"And have you nothing else to ask?"
"No; everything is included in the word king," said
Porus. Alexander was pleased with his bearing and his
replies, and not only restored to him his kingdom, but
added extensive territories to it besides.
It was in the battle with Porus that Bucephalus
received wounds which caused his death soon after.
Alexander showed much regret at the loss of this
faithful friend, and built a city where he was buried,
which he called Bucephalia.
Seventy Greek towns were founded by Alexander as he
marched along, and he was so elated by success that he
resolved to go as far as the river Ganges; but his army
refused to march farther, and he was forced to return.
He built a fleet on the Hydaspes, and as he travelled
with his troops met several Indian princes in battle.
He laid siege to the town of Malli, where he was the
first to mount the scaling-ladder; but it broke, and he
was left on the wall alone, a target for the darts
which were showered at him from below. He hesitated for
a moment, then jumped down in the midst of the enemy.
Fortunately, he fell on his feet, and the flashing of
his armor so frightened the Mallians, who thought it
was lightning proceeding from his body, that they
turned and fled. That gave time for some of his guard
also to jump down from the walls; but the enemy
recovered from their astonishment and returned. A
hand-to-hand attack ensued, and Alexander was wounded
through his armor, although he fought desperately.
Other wounds brought him to his knees, and he would
have been despatched had it not been for his two
guards, who placed themselves before him. One of
 them was wounded and the other killed. A tremendous
blow with a bludgeon on the back of the neck struck
Alexander senseless, but the Macedonians, who by that
time had flocked within the walls, gathered about him
and carried him to his tent. It was reported that he
was dead, but in course of time he recovered, and there
was great rejoicing in his army when he again appeared
among them. After offering sacrifices to the gods he
continued down the river, and subdued a vast deal of
country as he coasted along.
Among other prisoners, he took ten philosophers called
Gymnosophists, who had urged a prince named Sabbas to
revolt against the Macedonians. These Gymnosophists
always went naked, differing in this as well as in
other particulars from the ordinary philosophers. One
of their customs was to discuss learned subjects while
they dined, and when they assembled not only they, but
all their pupils, even the youngest, were questioned
as to what good they had done during the day, and those
who had not some kind action or some useful occupation
to tell of, were allowed no dinner.
Well, on hearing that the ten philosophers he had
captured were remarkable for the answers they always
gave, even to the most obscure questions, Alexander
determined to try them, first announcing that he would
put to death the one of them who answered worst, and
after him all the rest. The oldest man among the
Gymnosophists was appointed judge.
"Which are more numerous, the living or the dead?" he
asked of the first. "The living; for the dead no longer
exist," was the answer.
"Does the earth or the sea produce the largest
animals?" the second was asked. He answered, "The
earth; for the sea is part of it."
Alexander's question to the third was, "Which is the
cunningest of beasts?" "That which men have not yet
found out," he said.
He ordered the fourth to tell him what argument he used
to persuade Sabbas to revolt. "No other," he answered,
"but that he should either live or die nobly."
Of the fifth he asked, "Which is the older, night or
The philosopher replied, "Day is older, by one day at
least;" and noticing that Alexander was not satisfied,
he added, "You ought not to wonder if strange questions
draw forth strange answers."
 "What should a man do to be exceedingly beloved?" asked
the king of the sixth. "He must be very powerful,
without making himself too much feared," was the reply.
"How may a man become a god?" was the question to the
seventh philosopher. "By doing that which is impossible
for me to do."
"Which is stronger, life or death?" the eighth was
asked "Life, because it bears so many evils."
"How long is it good for a man to live?" "As long as he
does not prefer death to life," said the ninth
Then turning to the judge, Alexander ordered him to
pass sentence. The old man said, "In my opinion each
has answered worse than the other."
"Then thou shalt die first for giving such a sentence,"
"Not so, O king, unless you said falsely that he should
die first who made the worst answer," returned the
oldest Gymnosophist. The king was so amused that he
gave them a great many presents, and sent them away.
Alexander spent seven months on the rivers, and at the
end of that time war, illness, caused by bad food and
excessive heat, and famine had destroyed three-quarters
of his army, and he was glad to return to Persia. When
passing through that country he had about him
everything that was beautiful and luxurious, and spent
much of his time in feasting. At one of his suppers he
promised that the man who drank most should be crowned
with victory. Promachus won the crown, for he drank
about fourteen quarts of wine, but he lived only three
days afterwards, and forty-one others died from the
quantity they drank on that occasion.
When Alexander reached Susa he married Statira, the
daughter of Darius, and his officers followed his
example, each marrying a Persian lady. Then he gave a
grand entertainment in honor of these events. He had no
less than nine thousand guests, and presented each
with a golden cup, and everything was arranged with
such magnificence as had never been seen at a feast
After that Alexander offered splendid sacrifices, and
gave a number of sumptuous banquets; but there were
repeated bad omens, both in the appearance of the
victims of the sacrifices and
 in other circumstances, all of which made Alexander so
superstitious that he was ready to listen to any
interpretation made by his numerous soothsayers, even
of the most trifling and natural events. He became sad
and dejected, but one day he roused himself and gave
another feast, then took a bath and went to bed. The
next day and night he drank so hard that a fever came
on, and the more he drank the more ill he became, until
delirium ensued, and at the end of thirteen days he
This great conqueror lived only thirty-two years, and
reigned less than thirteen. He left an immense empire,
which became the scene of many bloody wars. He was
buried in the city of Alexandria. A golden coffin
received his remains, and divine honors were paid to
his memory in Egypt, as well as in other countries.
No character in history has offered more matter for
discussion than that of Alexander the Great; but from
the short account given here our young readers may form
their own opinions, and perhaps feel encouraged to
investigate for themselves.
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