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Most of the great changes in the world's history come about gradually and wise men can see them coming, for it is very hard to run counter to the nature of average men, and all great advances and degradations of society are the result of persistent causes; but a few times, since our records have been kept, there has arisen a single genius, who has done what no number of lesser men could accomplish, who has upset theories as well as dominions, preached a new faith, discovered some new application of Force which has given a fresh start to the world in its weary and perplexed struggle for a higher life. These few great men have so changed the current of affairs that we may safely say they have modified the future of the whole human race. At any rate they have taught us what might and dignity is attainable by man and has so given us ideals by which the commonest of us can estimate his worth and exalt his aspirations. So, too, there have been gigantic criminals and imperial fools who have wrecked the peace of the world and caused the "ape and tiger" elements, which were repressed by long and anxious struggles, to break out afresh in their savagery.
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Copyright © 2016 by John Mahaffy
Published by Ozymandias Press
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ALEXANDER’S PLACE IN HISTORY
YOUTH AND ACCESSION OF ALEXANDER
THE STRUGGLE FOR THE SUPREMACY OF THE WORLD (B.C. 334-330)
THE MACEDONIAN EMPIRE AND ITS LIMITS UP TO ALEXANDER’S DEATH (B.C. 323)
THE PROBLEM OF THE SUCCESSION
THE LATER WARS OF THE DIADOCHI DOWN TO THE BATTLE OF IPSUS (B.C. 313-301)
FROM THE BATTLE OF IPSUS TO THE INVASION OF THE CELTS (B.C. 301-278)
THE INVASION OF THE CELTS (GALATIONS) AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
KING PYRRHUS OF EPIRUS
THE GOLDEN AGE OF HELLENISM
THE NEW LINES ADOPTED BY PHILOSOPHY UNDER DIADOCHI
THE STAGES OF HELLENISM IN THE THIRD CENTURY B.C.
THE THREE YOUNG KINGS A SKETCH OF ANTIGONUS GONATAS, HIS ACTS AND CHARACTER
SCIENCE AND LETTERS AT ALEXANDRIA IN THE DAYS OF PHILADELPHUS
THE THIRD GENERATION OF HELLENISM - THE THREE GREAT KINGDOMS
THE RISE OF THE ACAEAN LEAGUE UNDER ARATUS; HIS POLICY
KING AGIS OF SPARTA - THE POLITICAL THEORISTS OF THE DAY
THE RISE AND SPREAD OF FEDERATIONS IN THE HELLENISTIC WORLD - THE ACHAEAN AND OTHER LEAGUES UNION BECOMES POPULAR
THE EVENTS OF KING DEMETRIUS II’S REIGN - THE FIRST INTERFERENCE OF THE ROMANS IN THE EMPIRE OF ALEXANDER
COMMERCE AND CULTURE AT PERGAMUM AND RHODES
THE RISE OF ANTIGONUS DOSON AND CLEOMENES (B.C. 229-223)
THE CLEOMENIC WAR (B.C. 224-221) TO THE BATTLE OF SELLASIA - THE POLICY OF ARATUS
THE CONDITION OF THE HELLENISTIC WORLD IN 221 B.C.
THE LAST INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGNS OF THE EMPIRE - THE FATE OF ANTIOCHUS III AND PTOLEMY IV (PHILOPATOR)
THE CONDITION OF PERGAMUM AND RHODES
THE REIGN OF PHILIP V OF MACEDON, UP TO HIS INTERFERENCE IN EASTERN AFFAIRS - HIS WARS IN GREECE
STATE OF THE HELLENISTIC WORLD FROM 204 TO 197 B.C. - THE FIRST ASSERTION OF ROME’S SUPREMACY
THE HELLENISTIC WORLD FROM B.C. 197-190 - THE SECOND ASSERTION OF ROME’S SUPREMACY - MAGNESIA
THE HELLENISTIC WORLD FROM THE BATTLE OF MAGNESIA TO THE ACCESSION OF PERSEUS (B.C. 190-179)
THE STRUGGLE OF PERSEUS WITH THE ROMANS - THE THIRD ASSERTION OF ROME’S SUPREMACY - PYDNA (B.C. 168)
THE LAST SYRIAN WAR AND FOURTH ASSERTION OF ROMAN SUPREMACY - THE CIRCLE OF POPILIUS LENAS (168 B.C.)
THE INFLUENCE OF HELLENISM ON ROME
MOST OF THE GREAT CHANGES in the world’s history come about gradually and wise men can see them coming, for it is very hard to run counter to the nature of average men, and all great advances and degradations of society are the result of persistent causes; but a few times, since our records have been kept, there has arisen a single genius, who has done what no number of lesser men could accomplish, who has upset theories as well as dominions, preached a new faith, discovered some new application of Force which has given a fresh start to the world in its weary and perplexed struggle for a higher life. These few great men have so changed the current of affairs that we may safely say they have modified the future of the whole human race. At any rate they have taught us what might and dignity is attainable by man and has so given us ideals by which the commonest of us can estimate his worth and exalt his aspirations. So, too, there have been gigantic criminals and imperial fools who have wrecked the peace of the world and caused the “ape and tiger” elements, which were repressed by long and anxious struggles, to break out afresh in their savagery.
We desire in this book to tell the story of one of the greatest men that ever lived to tell very briefly of his personal achievements, and to show how long his work, and how far his influence, extended. Most Greek histories stop with the fall of republican liberty under the conquests of Philip of Macedon, the father of our hero; nor is this a bad place to stop in the history of Greece, for with Alexander the stage of Greek influence spreads across the world, and Greece is only a small item in the heritage of the Greeks. All the world, too, made up their minds that the rise of Alexander was a great turning point, when an older volume of history was finished, and a new one begun. Nobody ever thought of going back beyond Alexander and his conquests to make a historic claim, or to demand the restoration of ancient sovranties. His conquests were regarded as perfectly lawful, the world as his natural heritage, his will as a lawful testament. So, then, we may begin with him without much retrospect, and see what he founded and what he did for the advance of the world.
The fragments of his Empire were great Empires in themselves and were the main channels of culture and civilization until the Roman Empire swallowed them up; and so far we will follow them, though even after their absorption they did not cease to affect history, and the capitals of the Alexandrian Empire were long the foremost cities in the Roman world. But this would take a far longer book, and more knowledge than any one man possesses, and must be set down in other books by other men. Even within the limits which are here laid down, thousands of details must be omitted, for the history of Eastern Europe and its wars in the century after Alexander is more complicated than can well be imagined and described. We must try to sever the wheat of important events from the chaff of raids and campaigns, and leave some distinct memories in the reader’s mind.
NOTHING IS OBSCURE AS THE law if there be a law by which genius is produced. Most of the men who have moved the world in science and letters have sprung from obscure parents, have had obscure brothers and sisters, and have produced obscure children. It was not so with Alexander. His children were not indeed allowed to come to maturity but we have no evidence to show that they resembled or approached him in genius. His parents, on the other hand, were people of great mark.
His father, Philip of Macedon, was the ablest monarch of his day and had by war and policy raised a small and distracted kingdom into the leading power in Eastern Europe, in fact, into the imperial chiefdom of the Greeks, though his people were only on the boundaries of Hellenedom. His long diplomatic and military struggles against the Greeks are fully recounted in all the histories of the life and time of Demosthenes, and we need not repeat them here. His successful efforts to educate his nobility have been compared to those of Peter the Great to civilize the Russian grandees of his day. There is no man in our, century to compare with him but Victor Emanuel, who started as King of Sardinia, and ended as King of United Italy, utilizing politicians like Cavour, incendiaries like Mazzini, and enthusiasts like Garibaldi, for his steady and long-determined policy. In his private life, too, Philip was not unlike the gallant and gallant king.
He had married in early life a handsome Epirot princess, whose family then represented a kingdom not inferior to his own. This princess, Olympias, is not known to us during Philip’s young and happy days, when she was watching the growth of her only child, a boy of splendid beauty and from the first of extraordinary promise. But as he grew up, educated in all that a king should know, not only of sport and pastime, of war, but also of science and letters under no less a teacher than Aristotle, her jealousy for his rights was intensified by jealousy for her own. The king’s advancing years and enlarged responsibilities had not stayed his vagaries; the house of Macedon had always been by custom polygamous; successions to the throne were generally introduced by domestic tragedies, fratricides, exiles; and Philip’s reign, from its beginning to its close, made no exception. Hence, at the birth of a new son, by another princess, and the declared claims of the infant’s relations on the ground of old quarrels and suspicions concerning Olympias, the estrangement between Philip and his eldest son became almost complete; Olympias and Alexander even retired from court to the queen’s ancestral dominions; the young prince had a narrow escape of his life, and so bitter was the feeling that, when Philip was suddenly assassinated (B.C. 336\’7d, owing to a private revenge in some far obscurer affair, Olympias and Alexander were openly charged with having suborned the murderer.
All that we know of Alexander, especially in his youth, belies such a suspicion. His famous utterance when they proposed to him a night attack on Darius at Arbela—I steal no victory — was the motto of his life. Olympias, a woman of furious temper, unbridled ambition, and absolute devotion to her son, is perhaps more justly suspected but as her crime would be far less heinous, so her innocence or guilt is of little moment in history; but that the greatest career in the world should have started with a parricide, would be indeed a horrible fact.
The other claimants however did not stand against him for an instant; he abolished them without ceremony or mercy, and assumed the purple at the age of twenty, to control a kingdom made up of loyal and warlike Macedonians, disloyal and treacherous Greeks, rebellious and turbulent Illyrians and Paeonians—in fact, of nothing but disorder and fermentation, if we except the companions of his youth and the soldiery who knew and loved him. He had, moreover, a very well trained army under experienced generals, three of whom, Antipater, Parmenio, and Antigonus must have been steady and able counselors. It was the old habit of the kings to have the sons of nobles brought up as peers with the royal princes—a habit which Philip had largely extended, and these were first pages at court, then companions of the boy, then household officers about him. At the retired and quiet Mieza (the situation of which cannot now be determined), where the royal prince was trained by Aristotle, he became the intimate of Ptolemy, Seleucus, Lysimachus, and the other famous generals who afterwards formed his brilliant staff. Some of these had even incurred his father’s displeasure in the late quarrel, and had left the court with him in disgrace.
They had not only been the companions of his studies, but of his field sports, for which the glens and forests of Macedon were famous, and never, down to the times of Perseus, who was conquered by the Romans two hundred years later, did the royal house neglect its preserves of game, where the young nobles learned the qualities of war by the hardy sports of old days, when the spear and the knife required far braver men than our modern rifles, to meet the bear and the wolf. So convinced was Alexander of the value of these sports, that he always despised formal athletic training and competitions at public festivals and held that the pursuit of dangerous games by astuteness and endurance produced a quite different race from the practicing of special muscles for a competition in the arena. It is the contrast between the Turnen of the German, and the field sports of the English youth, in its ancient form.
Alexander and his companions had, however, not been without the experience of these things in actual war; in Philip’s campaign of ten months in Boeotia and Phocis, which had been doubtful enough till the final day at Chaeronea, the prince had served in the heavy cavalry, and at that battle he had successfully led the charge which helped to decide the day. There he had learned what his father seems never to have realized that in the heavy cavalry of Macedon they had a military arm which might turn the fortunes of the world. The Greeks had so few horses, and the country was so unfavorable for working them, that in the older Greek battles they were of little importance. If the irregular horse of Thessaly, or the Persian squadrons, occasionally encountered Greek infantry, it could easily avoid them by keeping in rocky or mountainous positions, and in neither case was there hostile infantry which could take advantage of this maneuver. Now in addition to Philip’s phalanx, which could crush any ordinary open array and the field artillery which was Alexander’s first development out of the siege trains of his father, there was a disciplined force well drilled and in hand, with which, as we shall find, he won almost all his battles.
All these things would have made no mark in history but for the man that wielded them, and when we read the wonderful accounts in Plutarch, and other late biographers, of his boyish achievements, we should readily accept them, but for the fact that his contemporaries seem to have had no notion of the wonder with which they had to deal. Demosthenes and his friends thought him only an ordinary boy; the Thebans were of the same mind, for after he had received their submission, and gone away to fight the northern barbarians, they revolted; but in a few days’ fighting, in which he first showed his talent for tactics, Alexander penetrated across the Danube, and across the great mountains which separated Macedonia from Illyria ; he forced passes, and crossed rivers; he fought with artillery which threw stones and darts three hundred yards and he suddenly reappeared in Greece, when they thought he was either killed or defeated among the barbarians. With swift and terrible vengeance he fell on Thebes and destroyed it; to Athens and the rest of Greece, now terrified into abject embassies, he granted generous terms; to the Spartans, who stood aloof in sullen refusal, he gave no thought but contempt, for he had no time to subdue them. He was not a year on the throne when he stood forth a greater and more powerful sovereign than his father, with his empire united in the bonds of fear and admiration, and ready to carry out the long premeditated attack of the Greeks on the dominions of the Great king.
NO MODERN GENERAL COULD POSSIBLY have started on a campaign with the means at Alexander’s disposal. He had indeed a splendid army of all branches, heavy infantry, light infantry, slingers and archers, artillery such as the ancients could produce without gunpowder and cavalry, both Thessalian and Macedonian, fit for both skirmishing and the shock of battle. If its numbers were not above 40,000, this moderate force was surely as much as any commander could handle in a rapid campaign with long marches through a hostile country. Ancient authors, who were mostly pedants knowing nothing of war, speak as if two or three hundred thousand men could be marched across a continent without trouble. Xerxes was even supposed to have led some millions into Greece. But all this is absurd, and we know very well that as the commissariat and appointments of more than 40,000 men, marching great distances through strange country, would tax the ablest modern Quartermaster-General, with railroads to help him, so any larger army would have been simply useless to Alexander. He had already secured his passage into Asia by means of the troops which Philip had sent to the Hellespont and the Troad just before his death; but he had no large fleet, and the warships of Phoenicia would have effectually stopped him, had he delayed. This was another reason for collecting no huge army, and it was very well known that a small number of disciplined troops, such as the Greek troops of Xenophon or Agesilaus, were as well able to meet myriads of barbarians, as the victors of Plassy or Assaye to win their victories under very like circumstances.
After a Homeric landing on the coast near Ilium and sacrifices to the Ilian goddess at her ancient shrine, with feasts and games, the king started East to meet the Persian satraps, who had collected their cavalry and Greek mercenary infantry on the plain of Zeleia, behind the river Granicus (B.C. 334). Here he fought his first great battle, and showed the nature of his tactics. He used his heavy infantry, divided into two columns or phalanxes as his left wing, flanked by Thessalian cavalry, to threaten the right of the enemy, and keep him engaged while he delivered his main attack. Developing this movement by a rapid advance in echeloned squadrons thrown forward to the right, threatening to outflank the enemy, he induced them to spread their forces towards their left wing, and so weaken their left centre. No sooner had he succeeded in this than he threw his heavy cavalry on this weak point, and after a very severe struggle in crossing the river, and climbing its rugged banks, he completely broke the enemy’s line. The Persian nobles did all they could to retrieve their mistake; they threw themselves into the gap, and fought heroically with Alexander and his companions; it seemed a mere accident that they did not succeed in killing him, and so altering the world’s history. Here was indeed a distinct fault in his tactics; he constantly and recklessly exposed his own life, and so risked the whole campaign on the chance of his own escape. For though he was an excellent soldier, active, strong, and highly trained, delighting in the excitement of a hand-to-hand struggle, and so affording a fine example to his officers, it is agreed that the guiding spirit should not involve itself more than is necessary in the heat and turmoil, as well as the great risk, of personal combat.
We cannot undertake to give the details of Alexander’s campaigns, which would in themselves fill this volume, and for ordinary readers they are not worth remembering. We shall merely follow out the leading points.
He did not strike straight into Asia, for this would have left it possible for Mentor and Memnon, the able Rhodians who commanded on the coast for Darius, either to have raised all Asia Minor against him, or to have transferred the war back to Macedon. Indeed, this was the policy which they urged on the Persian nobles, but it was put aside as the plan of shabby Greeks, and not of chivalrous Aryan barons; for the Persians were far more like the mediaeval knights and barons than any Greeks, even the noblest, and looked upon them merely as so many useful mercenaries, to fight infantry battles, while the aristocratic service was the cavalry. In this respect the Persians were far nearer the Macedonians in sentiment and we may be sure they so far enlisted Alexander’s sympathy. However the policy of Memnon was cautious and wise and we see that the king knew it, for he left pursuing the beaten force, and turned south to subdue the coasts of the Persian Empire. This would prevent their superior fleet not only from landing on his rear, but from acting on Greece and Macedon, for ancient fleets required not only land supplies, but harbors to stay in; they could not lie out at sea like our men of war and for this purpose even the islands of the Levant were insufficient. So then he seized Sardis, the key of all the highroads eastwards; he laid siege to Halicarnassus which made a very long and stubborn resistance, and did not advance till he had his rear safe from attack.
Even with all these precautions, the Persian fleet, under Memnon, was producing serious difficulties and had not that able general died at the critical moment (B.C. 333), the Spartan revolt, which was put down the following year in Greece, would have assumed serious proportions. Alexander now saw that he could press on, and strike at the headquarters of the enemies’ power—Phoenicia and the Great king himself He crossed the difficult range of the Taurus, the southern bulwark of the Persian Empire and occupied Cilicia. Even the sea was supposed to have retreated to allow his army to pass along a narrow strand under precipitous cliffs. The Great king was awaiting him with a vast army—grossly exaggerated, moreover, in our Greek accounts—in the plain of Syria, near Damascus. Foolish advisers persuaded him, owing to some delay in Alexander’s advance, to leave his favorable position, where the advantage of his hosts of cavalry was clear. He therefore actually crossed Alexander, who had passed on the sea side of Mount Amanus, southward and occupied Issus on his rear. The Macedonian army was thus cut off from home and a victory necessary to its very existence. The great battle of Issus was fought on such narrow ground between the sea and the mountains, that neither side had room for outflanking its opponent, except by occupying the high ground on the inland side of the plain (B.C. 333). This was done by the Persians and the banks of a little river (the Pinarus) crossing their front was fortified as at the Granicus Alexander was obliged to advance with a large reserve to protect his right flank. As usual he attacked with his right centre, and as soon as he had shaken the troops opposed to him, wheeled to the left and made straight for the king himself, who occupied the centre in his chariot. Had Darius withstood him bravely and for some time, the defeat of the Macedonians’ left wing would probably have been complete, for the Persian cavalry on the coast, attacking the Thessalians on Alexander’s left wing, were decidedly superior, and the Greek infantry was at this time a match for the phalanx. But the flight of Darius, and the panic which ensued about him, left Alexander leisure to turn to the assistance of his hard-pressed left wing, and recover the victory.
It may be mentioned here, as it brings the facts together for the reader, that the very same thing took place at Arbela, the next and last great battle for the supremacy of the world at that crisis. There, too, while Alexander’s feint at outflanking the enemy’s left, and his furious charge upon the king in the centre, was successful, his left wing was broken, and in danger of complete destruction. It was only his timely charge on the rear of the attacking force which saved Parmenio’s phalanx. So true is it that Alexander has ever won a battle with his phalanx. He saw at once that Persian discipline was not such as could bear the defeat or death of the king. Therefore a charge in close squadrons of heavy cavalry, if brought to bear at the proper moment and after the enemy’s line has been weakened or disturbed by maneuvering, was certain to give him the victory.
At Issus, too, the Persian grandees showed a loyalty equal to any instance in the days of mediaeval chivalry, and sacrificed their lives freely in defense of their pusillanimous king. In this battle, too, Alexander committed the fault of risking his person—he was actually wounded—by way of contrast to his opponent.
The greatness of this victory completely paralyzed all the revolt prepared in his rear by the Persian fleet. Alexander was now strong enough to go on without any base of operation, and he boldly (in the manifesto he addressed to Darius after the battle) proclaimed himself King of Persia by right of conquest, who would brook no equal. Nevertheless, he delayed many months (which the siege of Tyre cost him, B.C. 332) and then, passing through Jerusalem, and showing consideration for the Jews, he again paused at the siege of Gaza, merely, we may suppose, to prove that he was invincible, and to settle once for all the question of the world’s mastery. He delayed again for a short while in Egypt, when he regulated the country as a province under his sway, with kindness towards the inhabitants, and respect for their religion, and founded Alexandria; nay, he even here made his first essay in claiming divinity; and then, at last, set out to conquer the Eastern provinces of Darius’ empire.
The great decisive battle in the plains of Mesopotamia (B.C. 331)—it is called either Arbela or Gaugamela—was spoken of as a trial of strength and the enormous number of the Persian cavalry, acting on open ground, gave timid people room to fear; but Alexander had long since found out, what the British have found in their many Eastern wars, that even a valiant cavalry is helpless, if undisciplined, against an army of regulars under a competent commander. The Persians, moreover, committed the fatal mistake of letting Alexander choose the time and point of his attack, when the effect produced by disciplined troops is almost irresistible. The rapid evolutions of serried columns or squadrons have always had this effect upon irregulars. The Macedonian had again, however, failed to capture his opponent, for whom he blamed Parmenio, whose partial defeat and urgent messages for help had compelled the king to turn at the first moment of pursuit and save his hard-pressed left wing. So then, though the issue of the war was not doubtful, there was still a real and legitimate rival to the throne, commanding the sympathies of most of his subjects.
For the present, however, Alexander turned his attention to occupying the great capitals of the Persian Empire—capitals of older kingdoms, embodied in the empire just as the King of Italy has embodied Florence, Naples, Rome, and Venice in his dominions. These great cities, Babylon in Mesopotamia, Susa (Shushan) in Elam, Persepolis in Persia proper, and Ecbatana in Media, were all full of ancient wealth and splendor, adorned with great palaces, and famed for monstrous treasures. The actual amount of gold and silver seized in these hoards (not less than 30, 000, 000 of English money and perhaps a great deal more), had a far larger effect on the world than the discovery of gold and silver mines in recent times. Every adventurer in the army became suddenly rich; all the means and materials for luxury which the long civilization of the East had discovered and employed were suddenly thrown into the hands of comparatively rude and even barbarous soldiers. It was a prey such as the Spaniards found in Mexico and Peru, but had a far stronger civilization, which must react upon the conquerors. And already Alexander showed clear signs that he regarded himself as no mere Macedonian or Greek king, but as the Emperor of the East, and successor in every sense of the unfortunate Darius.
He made superhuman efforts to overtake Darius in his retreat from Ecbatana through the Parthian passes to the northern provinces—Balkh and Samarcand. The narrative of this famous pursuit is as wonderful as anything in Alexander’s campaign. He only reached the fleeing Persian as he was dying of the wounds dealt him by the traitor Bessus, his satrap in Bactria, who had aspired to the crown (B.C. 330). Alexander signally executed the regicide, and himself married the daughter of Darius—who had no son—thus assuming, as far as possible, the character of Darius’ legitimate successor.
Darius Codomannus is one of those figures made tragic by great situations, and by their virtues, which are too small for their fortunes. Strange to say, this craven king who would never meet his Macedonian foe with a stout heart to conquer or to die, when an officer under Ochus, the only able and vigorous ruler whom the empire had possessed since Darius Hystaspes, had obtained his earliest reputation by accepting the challenge of a Cadusian Goliath, and slaying him hand to hand. Codomannus was handsome in person and strict in morals, evidently beloved by his people, and likely enough to make a good name in history had he not fallen upon so gigantic a crisis in human affairs. Like Louis XVI of France, his private virtues were of no avail to counteract his public incapacity, nor had his good example or honorable government time to undo the baleful effects of his predecessors’ vices.
THE PERSIAN EMPIRE MAY BE broadly divided into three parts, differing widely in their population, their produce, and their previous history. If we draw a line from the inmost corner of the Mediterranean near Issus to the Black Sea near Trebizond, we shut off all Asia Minor, a vast country which had many nationalities of various character; Greeks and Orientals, traders and pirates on the coast, shepherds and brigands in the mountains, mercenaries all, but in some general, not easily definable, way differing both from the Eastern peninsula of Europe, and from the great valley of Mesopotamia. This latter, the real centre of the Empire, has on one side the sea coast of Syria and Palestine, on the other the Alps of Media and Persia, in its centre the rich alluvial valley of the Euphrates and Tigris—a division endowed with all the requirements for sovranty, but in which, despite the domination of the Aryan mountaineers of Persia, the Semitic element was predominant. Here were the most faithful servants of the Great king, and here were his capitals. From Babylon and Nineveh had issued the commands which swayed Asia for centuries. If you draw a line from the mouth of the Persian Gulf to the foot of the Caspian, you cross a howling wilderness, the bed, perhaps, of a great salt lake like the Caspian, which gradually evaporated and left a salt steppe where no population can maintain itself, which caravans even cross with difficulty. The only highway from the West to the East of this tract is either by the narrow strip of mountain south of the Caspian, known of old as the Caspian passes, or by the sea coast of Gedrosia, a journey which cost Alexander a large part of his army; for he went into the East, in pursuit of Darius, by the former and returned to Babylon by the latter. On the east then of this great Persian desert lay a quite distinct compartment of the empire—the upper provinces, of which the southern, Drangiana, Areia, Arachosia, and Gedrosia, have never taken any leading part in the world’s history, except as the boundary land, which great conquerors have contested. The northern region, on the contrary, Bactria and Sogdiana, reaching to the country of the wild Tartars of the Steppes, have always maintained a warlike population, often recruited by immigrations from the wilder north, and here in Alexander’s time were great independent barons, who served the great king as their suzerain and lived not only in liberty, but in considerable state.
The story of the conquest of these three divisions by Alexander shows clearly their character. Asia Minor, so far as it was Greek, fell away willingly from Darius, if we except some coast cities held by the fleet; but two great battles and a triumphal procession through the country were enough to determine the question of master. When we come to the Semitic centre division, there is a curious contrast between the stubborn resistance of the coast—the sieges of Tyre and of Gaza—and the complete collapse of all further resistance after the battle of Arbela. There was, indeed, a stout attempt made by the generals of Darius to bar the great Persian passes leading from Susa to Ecbatana; but all the nations about Mesopotamia acquiesced at once in his victory. Egypt even hailed him as a deliverer.
The case was very different when Alexander attempted the conquest of the eastern or upper provinces. The southern, as I have said, were of little account. But Northern Areia, Bactria, and still more Sogdiana, revolted again and again; their chiefs, such as Spitamenes, won some victories over Macedonian detachments; they gave Alexander such trouble, and showed so keen a sense of liberty and of personal dignity, that he was obliged to have resort to the severest measures both of repression and conciliation. He almost exterminated the population in arms (and possibly the history of the world may have been affected by this destruction of the great barrier against Northern Turan), and he married the daughter of one of the proudest of the chiefs of Sogdiana. This queen, Roxane, was celebrated for her beauty, but we can hardly attribute the marriage to this cause. It was rather a political move to make the brave, rebellious province feel that it had succeeded to a large share in the empire. The new queen, of course, drew her personal retinue from her own people, and so it became the interest of these nobles to make the best of the new situation.
It is no part of a general sketch like this, to go into detail about the marches and counter marches, the “alarums and excursions” of these campaigns; we wish here merely to give the reader the kernel of the thing, the real outcome to the history of man. A study of the map of Alexander’s march will show at once what marvelous distances he carried his army, and what wonderful novelties he opened to the astonished Europeans in these before unknown and fabulous regions. If any ordinary person now-a-days knows very little indeed about the Persian desert, about Herat, or Merv, or Candahar and that only on the occasion of some British or Russian expedition, what must have been the absolute ignorance when there were no maps, no books of travel into these regions, no scientific inquiry into the distant parts of the world? Yet these provinces were then far richer and more populous than they now are; possibly the climate was more temperate; at all events, the Macedonians and Greeks found there, at least, a material civilization much superior to their own—that is to say, in gold and silver work, in embroideries, in tempered steel, in rich trees and flowers, in all the splendors which only a sustained and wealthy nobility gather round them. In all these things the Macedonian army began to feel its rudeness and vulgarity along with its superiority in arms; and so we have the first step towards that fusion of the politics and intellect of Hellenedom with the refined manners and graceful luxury of the East.
No sooner had Alexander conquered all the realms ever claimed by the kings of Persia, than he felt that his main occupation was gone, and that he must find more kingdoms to subdue. Wild schemes of mastering, not only the habitable world, but of penetrating beyond the bounds of all that was known, were freely attributed to him in the popular romances still extant. They make him desire to reach the eastern portals of the sun, the fountain of life, and the hiding-place of the night. All these exaggerations are not pure fictions, but mark the general feeling of men that there was a vein of knight-errantry in him, that he courted adventure for its own sake, that he unduly surrendered the duty of organizing his vast dominions to the desire for new and amazing glory, to the longing for such territories as no human being, not even an Alexander, could control. His organization hitherto was merely that of military occupation, with a civil officer to control the taxing. His capital was not at Pella, at Alexandria, at Babylon, but in his camp, where he carried with him all the splendid appointments, all the pompous ceremony, all the complicated etiquette, which he had learned from his foes. We have no reason to think he would ever have ceased, if his troops had followed him, till he passed through India, Burmah and China, to the Yellow Sea; for the itch of conquest was certainly growing upon him, and it became a passion which, after a time, he could not have controlled. But we must not anticipate.
When Alexander had conquered Sogdiana and Bactria, he found himself stopped by the lofty mountain chain of the Hindukush; and, to the south, he heard of the great waters of the Indus and the Deccan. Beyond were great peoples, with elephants and chariots, with a new culture and language, and a religion unknown even to report; but neither mountain nor rivers were able to resist him. He passed over the Hindukush with his whole army—a task that hardly any modern general would attempt; he forced the Koord-Kabul, and Khyber, passes; he crossed the Indus, the Hydaspes, in the face of a great hostile army; he conquered his new enemy and all his elephants with a skill not inferior to any yet shown; the whole Punjaub was in his hands; he was on the point of passing into India, when his troops—his Macedonian troops—refused to go further. They were worn out with battles and hardships; they had suffered terribly from the climate, especially from the heavy summer rains, as well as from the snow of the Asiatic Alps; they had more wealth than they could carry with them and more than enough to fill their remaining years with splendor; above all, they saw that, as they were consumed by the chances of war, they would be replaced by Orientals; so that, when all the veterans were gone, Alexander would return from some land beyond the sun with a strange host to lord it over his old dominions.
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