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The Story of Greece by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

ALEXANDER SLAYS HIS FOSTER-BROTHER

[334] EARLY in 330 B.C. Alexander left Persepolis to go in search of Darius.

After a long and difficult march of three hundred miles, to which his soldiers took only eleven days, the king heard that Darius had passed the defile called the "Caspian Gates." For five days he allowed his men, who were utterly exhausted, to rest, before he again started in pursuit of the fugitive.

After passing through the Caspian Gates, Alexander heard that Bessus, a kinsman of Darius, who was also his officer or satrap, had made him a prisoner. Loaded with chains, Darius was being carried away to the district over which Bessus ruled.

This made the king the more determined to reach the unfortunate captive. For four days he hurried on until at length he reached a village where Bessus and his men had stayed the evening before. He was told that the satrap was going to make a forced march that night.

The king learned of a shorter road, by which he might overtake the fugitives, but there was no water to be found on the way. Alexander did not hesitate. With only a small company he set out the same evening, and when morning dawned he had ridden forty-five miles. The fugitives were now within sight.

When the barbarians who were with Bessus saw the king in the distance they fled. The satrap quickly took the chains off his captive, bidding him mount a horse and follow them. When Darius refused he stabbed him and [335] rode away, leaving the wretched king to die or to fall into the hands of his enemy.

A few Macedonians who were riding in front of the king reached the wounded man first, and gave him water, for which he begged. Darius then lay back and before Alexander arrived, he had breathed his last.

The king looked at his fallen foe with pity, and then flung over him his own cloak. His body he sent to the queen-mother, that it might be buried beside the other Persian kings at Persepolis.

Bessus was betrayed into the hands of Alexander not long afterwards. Naked and chained he was placed on the road by which Alexander's army must pass.

The king stopped when he reached the satrap, and asked him why he had murdered Darius, who had always treated him well.

Bessus answered that he did it to win Alexander's favour.

His reply won no pity from the king, who ordered him to be scourged and sent to prison. Some time after he was brought to trial and sentenced to a cruel death.

Until now Alexander had lived almost as simply as when he was a lad, and but lately he had reproved his officers for their indolent and luxurious habits. Now he gradually began to adopt the customs of the East. He dressed in purple and surrounded himself with Persian courtiers, and acted as though he was indeed a descendant of the gods. The Macedonians were quick to take offence at the favour their king showed to the Persians.

Philotas, a son of Parmenio, resented the king's deeds, more perhaps than any other of his generals. He was proud and his haughty ways had made his men dislike him.

Parmenio would sometimes say to him, "My son, to be not quite so great would be better." But Philotas would take no notice of the rebuke.

One day he declared that but for him and his father, the king would never have conquered Asia. "Yet it is he, the [336] boy Alexander who enjoys the glory of the victories and the title of king," said the foolish officer.

Alexander was told of the boastful way in which Philotas had spoken, but he neither reproved nor punished him.

A little later a plot was made against his life, and Philotas would not allow those who wished to warn the king to enter his presence. Then Alexander, who knew of this also, ordered Philotas to be seized and imprisoned.

He was tried before an assembly of Macedonians and confessed that he had known of the plot to kill the king, and yet had neither warned him nor allowed others to do so.

The Macedonians condemned him to death, and themselves carried out the sentence, throwing at him their javelins.

Alexander had been patient with Philotas and his punishment was just, but now the king did a cruel deed. For thinking that his old and faithful general Parmenio might have shared in the treachery of his son, he sent a messenger to slay him.

The king's despatch was taken to Parmenio and put into his hand. As he began to read it he was stabbed in the back.

From this time the king's temper grew less and less controlled. At one of the royal feasts he lost it altogether. A guest sang a song which made a jest of some Macedonians who had been beaten by the Persians. The old soldiers were indignant, the more so that Alexander paid no heed to their anger and bade the singer sing on.

Clitus, the king's foster-brother, had a quick temper, and he cried out, "It is not well done to expose the Macedonians before their enemies; since though it was their unhappiness to be overcome, yet are they much better men than those who laugh at them."

"Clitus pleads his own cause," said the king, "when he names cowardice misfortune."

The king spoke half in jest, half in anger, for he knew [337] well that Clitus and all his Macedonians were brave men and no cowards.

But Clitus sprang to his feet at Alexander's words and cried, "Yet, O king, it was my cowardice that once saved your life from the Persians, and it is by the wounds of Macedonians that you are now the great king."

"Speak not so boldly," answered the king, and in his voice there was a threat, "or think not you will long enjoy the power to do so."

Clitus was now too angry to care what he said, and he spoke to the king yet more bitterly, until Alexander could brook no more. He took an apple from the table before him, and flinging it at his foster-brother, felt for his sword. But one of his guards, foreseeing what might happen, had removed it. His guests now gathered around the king, trying to soothe his anger. Alexander pushed them aside, and ordered one of his guard to sound the alarm. This would have assembled the whole army and the man hesitated, whereupon Alexander struck him on the face.

Meanwhile a friend had hurried Clitus out of the room, but he slipped back again by another door, and boldly taunted the king with the way in which he treated his old soldiers.

Then in a passion Alexander snatched a spear from one of his guards, rushed upon Clitus and stabbed him to death.

A moment later the king's anger faded away, and he looked in horror upon the dead body of his foster-brother. He seized the spear again and tried to kill himself, but his guards wrenched it away, and led him to his own room. There he lay all through the long night and all through the following day, weeping for his foster-brother whom he had slain.


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