The Anabasis of Alexander/Book I/Chapter XII

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CHAPTER XII.

Alexander at the Tomb of Achilles.—Memnon's

Advice Rejected by the Persian Generals.

When he went up to Ilium, Menoetius the pilot crowned him with a golden crown; after him Chares the Athenian,[1] coming from Sigeum, as well as certain others, both Greeks and natives, did the same. Alexander then encircled the tomb of Achilles with a garland; and it is said that Hephaestion[2] decorated that of Patroclus in the same way. There is indeed a report that Alexander pronounced Achilles fortunate in getting Homer as the herald of his fame to posterity.[3] And in truth it was meet that Alexander should deem Achilles fortunate for this reason especially; for to Alexander himself this privilege was wanting, a thing which was not in accordance with the rest of his good fortune. His achievements have, therefore, not been related to mankind in a manner worthy of the hero. Neither in prose nor in verse has any one suitably honoured him; nor has he ever been sung of in a lyric poem, in which style of poetry Hiero, Gelo, Thero, and many others not at all comparable with Alexander, have been praised.[4] Consequently Alexander's deeds are far less known than the meanest achievements of antiquity. For instance, the march of the ten thousand with Cyrus up to Persia against King Artaxerxes, the tragic fate of Clearchus and those who were captured along with him,[5] and the march of the same men down to the sea, in which they were led by Xenophon, are events much better known to men through Xenophon's narrative than are Alexander and his achievements. And yet Alexander neither accompanied another man's expedition, nor did he in flight from the Great King overcome those who obstructed his march down to the sea. And, indeed, there is no other single individual among Greeks or barbarians who achieved exploits so great or important either in regard to number or magnitude as he did. This was the reason

which induced me to undertake this history, not thinking myself incompetent to make Alexander's deeds known to men. For whoever I may be, this I know about myself, that there is no need for me to assert my name, for it is not unknown to men; nor is it needful for me to say what my native land and family are, or if I have held any public office in my own country. But this I do assert, that this historical work is and has been from my youth up, in place of native land, family, and public offices to me; and for this reason I do not deem myself unworthy to rank among the first authors in the Greek language, if Alexander indeed is among the first in arms.

From Ilium Alexander came to Arisbe, where his entire force had encamped after crossing the Hellespont; and on the following day he came to Percote. On the next, passing by Lampsacus, he encamped near the river Practius, which flows from the Idaean mountains and discharges itself into the sea between the Hellespont and the Euxine Sea. Thence passing by the city of Colonae, he arrived at Hermotus. He now sent scouts before the army under the command of Arayntas, son of Arrhabaeus, who had the squadron of the Companion cavalry which came from Apollonia,[6] under the captain Socrates, son of Sathon, and four squadrons of what were called Prodromi (runners forward). In the march he despatched Panegorus, son of Lycagoras, one of the Companions, to take possession of the city of Priapus, which was surrendered by the inhabitants.

The Persian generals were Arsames, Rheomithres, Petines, Niphates, and with them Spithridates, viceroy of Lydia and Ionia, and Arsites, governor of the Phrygia near the Hellespont. These had encamped near the city of Zeleia with the Persian cavalry and the Grecian mercenaries. When they were holding a council about the state of affairs, it was reported to them that Alexander had crossed (the Hellespont). Memnon, the Rhodian,[7] advised them not to risk a conflict with the Macedonians, since they were far superior to them in infantry, and Alexander was there in person; whereas Darius was not with them. He advised them to advance and destroy the fodder, by trampling it down under their horses' hoofs, to burn the crops of the country, and not even to spare the very cities. "For then Alexander," said he, "will not be able to stay in the land from lack of provisions."[8] It is said that in the Persian conference Arsites asserted that he would not allow a single house belonging to the people placed under his rule to be burned, and that the other Persians agreed with Arsites, because they had a suspicion that Memnon was deliberately contriving to protract the war for the purpose of obtaining honour from the king.

  1. The celebrated general, mentioned already in chap. 10.
  2. Son of Amyntas, a Macedonian of Pella. He was the most intimate friend of Alexander, with whom he had been brought up. Cf. Aelian (Varia Historia, xii. 7).
  3. Plutarch (Life of Alex., 15), says that Alexander also went through the ceremony, still customary in his own day, of anointing himself with oil and running up to the tomb naked. Cf. Aelian (Varia Historia, x. 4) Cicero (Pro Archia, oh. 10).
  4. By Pindar and Bacchylides.
  5. See Xenophon's Anabasis, Book ii.
  6. A town in the Macedonia district of Mygdonia, south of Lake Bolbe. It is now called Polina.
  7. We find from Diodorus (xvii. 7), that the Persian king had subsidized this great general and 5,000 Greek mercenaries to protect his seaboard from the Macedonians. Before the arrival of Alexander, he had succeeded in checking the advance of Parmenio and Callas. If Memnon had lived and his advice been adopted by Darius, the fate of Persia might have been very different. Cf. Plutarch (Life of Alex., 18).
  8. Diodorus (xvii. 18) says that Memnon, while advising the Persian generals to lay waste the country, and to prevent the Macedonians from advancing through scarcity of provisions, also urged them to carry a large force into Greece and Macedonia, and thus transfer the war into Europe.