ANCIENT WORLD HISTORY (continued)
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THEBES ATTEMPTS TO GAIN THE SUPREMACY 371-362 B.C.
The Unfailing Courage of Sparta
When news of the misfortune reached Sparta, the ephors delivered “the names of the slain to their friends and families, with a word of warning to the women not to make any loud lamentation, but to bear their sorrow in silence; and the next day it was a striking spectacle to see those who had relations among the slain moving to and fro in public with bright and radiant looks, whilst of those whose friends were reported to be living, barely a man was to be seen, and these flitted by with lowered heads and scowling brows, as if in humiliation.”
Spartan laws degraded runaways, and deprived them of citizenship and of all other honors; they had to go unwashed and meanly clad, with beards half shaven. Anyone who met them in the street was at liberty to beat them, and they dared not resist. On the present occasion Sparta had sent out seven hundred citizens, of whom three hundred had disgraced themselves by surviving defeat. What should be done with them?
As Sparta had only about fifteen hundred citizens remaining, to disenfranchise three hundred would be ruinous. Agesilaus, who was requested by the government to settle this serious question, decided to let the law sleep in the present case, to be revived, however, for the future. In this way he piloted his country safely through the crisis.
Effects of the Battle on Peloponnese
In Peloponnese the wildest confusion and anarchy arose. To the friends of Sparta it seemed that the world was falling into chaos, now that she had lost control, while her enemies rejoiced in the freedom assured them by her downfall. The first to profit by the revolution were the Arcadians, most of whom were still shepherds and peasants, living in villages and following the Lacedaemonians in war. They now resolved to unite in a permanent league for the defense of their liberties. They then founded a new city, Megalopolis, to be the seat of government and a stronghold against Sparta. When the Arcadians were attacked by the Lacedaemonians, Epaminondas came to their aid at the head of an army of Thebans and their allies – in all, seventy thousand men. With this great host he invaded Laconia and ravaged it from end to end and for the first time in history Spartan women saw the smoke from the campfires of an enemy.
Unable to capture Sparta, Epaminondas went to Messina to aid the revolt of that country. With his help the Messenians built and fortified a new city, Messene, near the citadel of Mount Ithome, on a spot made sacred by many a heroic struggle for liberty. Messenia became an independent state. The result was that Lacedaemon, deprived of a third of her territory, sank to the condition of a second-rate power. Thereafter she would consent to no compact with other Greek states which did not include the recovery of her lost territory. As the Greeks would not grant this condition, they were deprived of Sparta’s invaluable aid in future wars for the preservation of their liberty.
Theban Relations with Northern Greece, Persia, and with Athens
Within the next few years the Thebans extended their influence over Thessaly and Macedon. This was the work of Pelopidas. As the majority of the continental states were allies of the Thebans, they were now the leading power through the entire length of the peninsula.
This interference everywhere disturbed existing arrangements but failed to bring peace; their military strength fell short of their ambition. When it became apparent to the Thebans themselves that they were too weak to maintain order in Hellas, they sent Pelopidas as ambassador to Susa to bring the influence and money of the king to bear once more in favor of peace. Artaxerxes was ready to dictate another treaty; but the Greeks had learned to despise him, and would no longer endure his interference. As this disgraceful business failed, Epaminondas turned resolutely to the almost hopeless task of reducing Greece to order by force of iron. The chief resistance to his plan came now from Athens. The maritime city he had to meet on her own element, as she refused to dismantle her fleet at the command of Persia. Though as well supplied as Attica with coasts, Boeotia had little commerce and no fleet worthy of mention before the time of Epaminondas. But suddenly his state became a naval power, the great tactician stepped into the pace of admiral, and an armament went forth to sweep Athens from the sea.
The Battle of Mantinea 362 B.C.
But Epaminondas had no time to complete this task. He had already made three invasions of Peloponnese, and again he found it necessary to march across the Isthmus to restore order. Many allies joined him; Athens and Sparta were his chief enemies. The Theban commander attempted by forced marches to capture Sparta, then Mantinea, in the hope that he might thus establish peace without a battle; but in both attempts he failed.
Then came the conflict at Mantinea. Notwithstanding their tedious journeys, the condition of his troops was excellent; they were full of enthusiasm and had absolute confidence in their commander. “There was no labor which they would shrink from, either by night or by day; there was no danger they would flinch from; and with the scantiest provisions, their discipline never failed them. And so, when he gave them his last orders to prepare for impending battle, they obeyed with alacrity. He spoke the word; the cavalry fell to whitening their helmets, the heavy infantry of the Arcadians began inscribing the club (of Heracles) as a crest on their shields, in imitation of the Thebans, and all were engaged in sharpening their lances and swords and in polishing their heavy shields.”
Taking the enemy by surprise, Epaminondas repeated the tactics of Leuctra with perfect success. His charging column, now in the form of a wedge, cut through the opposing ranks and shattered the enemy’s host. The great commander fell mortally wounded with a javelin. Carried to the rear, he heard the victorious shouts of the Thebans, but when told that his fellow generals were both dead, he advised his countrymen to make peace. The surgeon then drew out the javelin point and Epaminondas died. Pelopidas had recently been slain in battle in Thessaly. The heroes were buried where they fell; and their gravestones in northern and southern Greece stood as monuments of Theban leadership, which ended with their lives.
Pelopidas was bold and chivalrous, a zealous patriot and an able commander. Epaminondas was a great military genius. Personally he was without ambition, content to live as a private citizen, or to serve his state in the lowest offices. Absolutely pure in character, he aimed only to promote the welfare of his city and of Hellas. Though in statesmanship he was as able as any of his time, though his ideals were high and his methods honorable, he failed to discover the evils of the Hellenic state system, much more to remedy them. Fortune was kind to him and to his worthy helper in cutting them off at the height of their renown – before they could see the failure of their policy and be made responsible for it.
Summary of the Attempted Supremacy of Thebes; Estimate of Her Policy
(1) The battle of Leuctra destroyed the Spartan supremacy and made Thebes the foremost military power in Greece. (2) With Theban help Arcadia and Messenia revolted against Sparta and became independent states. (3) Thebes extended her influence not only over Peloponnese and central Greece, but also over Thessaly and Macedon. (4) Though attempting to take the place of Sparta as the head of Greece, she merely disturbed existing arrangements, and failed altogether to establish peace. (5) Thereupon she called upon the Persian king for aid, but the Greeks now despised his power. (6) In making a new effort to win control of Peloponnese, Thebes fought the battle of Mantinea. (7) The death of Epaminondas in this battle destroyed her last chance of supremacy.
Had Epaminondas lived and succeeded in his plans, there is no reason for believing that he could have benefited Hellas. The Thebans were no better qualified for ruling than the Spartans had been. Their chief fault was their narrowness. Instead of making all Boeotians Thebans, with full privileges in the leading city, they attempted to subject them to the condition of perioeci; and they even destroyed some towns. Their more remote allies they had no thought of binding to themselves by institutions such as hold the states of our nation together. Peloponnese, united under Lacedaemon, had been the citadel of Hellas, the center of resistance to foreign aggression; and though Sparta was despotic, the Greek states had been learning of late to guard their liberties against her, while they still looked to her for protection and guidance in time of danger. All this was now changed. When Sparta had fallen, Thebes, taking her place, broke up Peloponnese into warring camps, weakened the only power which was able of defending Hellas, and spread confusion everywhere. As a result, Greece was in Chaos at the time she most needed unity and leadership in order to defend herself against the rising power of Macedon.
THE RISE OF MACEDON – TO 338 B.C.
Country and People
Macedon is the basin of a single river system. Its waters in their upper course run through plains separated by high mountains, and then flow together in three parallel streams to the sea. It is somewhat like a hand with radiating fingers reaching from the coast into the continent. The country is made up accordingly of two distinct regions; the Highland, including the mountains and plains of the interior; and the Lowland, nearer the sea.
Dense forests nearly covered the Highland, even as late as the 4th century B.C. The sparse population lived in hovels, dressed in skins, and fed their few sheep on the mountain sides. Their habits were warlike; a youth could not sit at table with the men until he had killed a wild boar, and he who had slain no foe had to wear a rope about his body as a sign that he was not yet free. They ate from wooden dishes; they fought with the rudest weapons; poverty and exposure were toughening them into excellent material for soldiers.
In each separate valley dwelt a tribe under the rule of a king and nobles, as it had been in the Greece of Homer’s day. The Macedonians were indeed Greeks who had not yet emerged from barbarism. The Lowlanders, however, were rapidly learning the ideas and the useful arts of the Hellenic colonies along their coasts. By hard fighting, the king of the Lowlands finally united all the tribes of Macedon under his sway.
Philip: Accession and Early Conquests
In the time of Epaminondas the Thebans interfered in the affairs of Macedon, and carried away as hostage a young prince named Philip. Thebes was then at the height of her glory’ her generals and her army were the best in the world; her schools, streets, market place, and assembly thronged with busy life; her arsenals sounded continually with preparations for war. The royal youth became a half-barbarian, with a voracious appetite for learning everything which would be useful to his country; he returned a civilized Greek with an ambition to be the maker of a nation.
Soon afterward the king, an elder brother, fell while fighting against the rebellious Highlanders; and Philip mounted the throne, beset on all sides with difficulties and dangers (359 B.C.). Within the next two years he had proved his right to rule by overcoming his domestic woes, defeating his hostile neighbors, and seating himself firmly in power. It became evident at once that he intended to enlarge his kingdom by subduing the surrounding states. First he wished to annex the coast cities, that he might have free access to the sea. Some of these cities were allies of Athens, and others belonged to the Chalcidic League, restored after its overthrow by Lacedaemon. Grossly deceiving both Athenians and Chalcidians as to his purpose, he robbed Athens of her allies on the coast and seized Amphipolis, the greatest commercial city in the neighborhood. In his favor, he treated his new subjects with the utmost fairness, granting their cities more rights than the native Macedonians enjoyed.
War Between Philip and Athens 357-346 B.C.
In anger, Athens broke the peace with him, but could no nothing more because she was engaged at the same time in a social war – that is, a war with some of her allies who had revolted. She showed great weakness through this period in all her dealings with other states, as many of her citizens were opposed to an active foreign policy. She failed in the social war, and ended it by granting independence to the seceding states, Chios, Cos, Rhodes, and Byzantium. Other allies deserted, until only Euboea and a few small islands were left, whose war contributions amounted to no more than forty-five talents a year. Philip, on the other hand, acquired enormous revenues by seizing Mount Pangaeus and working its gold mines. This source yielded him a thousand talents a year. With this money he was enabled to keep up a standing army, build a fleet from the timber of the forests around Pangaeus, and bribe supporters in nearly every city of Greece. His immediate aim, however, was to make himself master of Thessaly; and the opportunity soon offered itself.
The Sacred War 356-346 B.C.
About the time when Athens broke peace with him, trouble arose between Phocis and Thebes. The Phocians, like the Macedonians, were a fresh, vigorous race, whose martial strength and ardor had not yet been softened by commerce and city life. As they refused to submit to Thebes, this city persuaded the Amphictyonic Council to declare a Sacred War upon them on a false charge of having wronged Apollo. To pay the expenses of the war, the Phocian commanders borrowed large sums of money from the Delphic treasury – a perfectly honorable transaction, since Delphi was a Phocian city and the war was in self-defense. Yet the enemies of the little state cried out hypocritically against this still more impious crime against the god. By means of this money, the Phocian general brought together a great army of mercenaries, with which he overran Locris, Doris, and Boeotia, seized the pass of Thermopylae, defeated Philip twice in Thessaly, and drive him back to Macedon. This conflict between Phocis and Macedon was for the control of Thessaly. The unfortunate campaign of Philip merely spurred him to greater exertions. In the following year he reappeared with an army in Thessaly, defeated the Phocians, and drove them behind Thermopylae. Only the timely arrival of an Athenian force prevented the victorious king from passing through Thermopylae into central Greece. However, all Thessaly was now his, and immediately afterward he conquered Thrace nearly to Hellespont.
Philip Threatens Olynthus 352-349 B.C.
Up to this time the Chalcidians had been in alliance with Philip, whom they looked upon as a petty tribal chief. But alarmed at the wonderful growth of his power, they made peace with Athens in violation of their agreement with him. The crafty king let three years slip quietly by, during which he won over to himself by threats and bribes a considerable party in every Chalcidic town. Then, when fully prepared for war, he ordered Olynthus to give up his step-brother, who had taken refuge from him in that city. As Greeks considered it a religious duty to harbor exiles, Olynthus refused, and sent at the same time an appeal to Athens for help.
Among the speakers in the Athenian assembly, when the request from Olynthus came up for consideration, was the man who was to be known through future ages as the antagonist of Philip – Demosthenes , the most eminent orator the world has ever known.
Demosthenes was only seven years old when his father, a wealthy manufacturer died, whereupon the guardians took most of the estate for themselves. He was a slender, sallow boy, who, instead of joining with comrades in the sports of the gymnasium, stayed home with his mother, nursing his wrath against the unfaithful guardians until it became the ruling passion of his youth. To prepare himself for prosecuting them he studied legal oratory under an experienced master. It is said, too, that even in his youth he resolved to become a statesman; but his voice was defective, his body weak and awkward, his habits unsocial – his whole nature unfitted for such a calling. Strength of soul, however, made up for personal disadvantages. He trained his voice and delivery under a successful actor; he studied the great masterpieces of Attic prose; he steeled his will and so exercised his mental muscles that they became capable of the highest and most prolonged tension. Severe toil, continued through many years, gave him his genius. Success in prosecuting the guardians led to speech-writing as a profession, from which he gradually made his way into public life.
He was the first to foresee the danger to Hellenic freedom from Philip, and lost no time or zeal in warning Athens to meet it while it was yet far off. In 352 B.C. he began his opposition to the king of Macedon in an oration called his First Philippic; and when envoys from Olynthus begged Athens for an alliance, he urged his countrymen to accept the opportunity. “Give prompt and vigorous assistance, use your surplus revenues for war rather than for festivals; be not content with sending mercenaries, but take the field yourselves against Philip, and you will certainly defeat him, for his strength is derived from your weak policy, his power is based on injustice; and all his subjects will revolt, if only you give them a little encouragement and support.” Such were the sentiments of his Olynthiac Orations. He tried to inspire his countrymen with the vigor and ambition of their fathers, who had beaten down Persia and had founded an empire; yet his words had little effect, as he was still a young man and almost unknown.
The Athenians made the alliance, but sent insufficient help; so that before the end of another year Philip had taken Olynthus and the thirty other cities of the League. He destroyed them all, and enslaved the entire population.
The Character of Philip; His Army and State
Hellas was punished for the disunion of her states, but this does not justify Philip. The cruelty and violence of all the Greek Tyrants combined scarcely equaled this one deed of the Macedonian king. There could be no doubt that he was dangerous. He ruled Macedon, Thessaly, Chalcidice, and the greater part of Thrace; he had his hirelings among the leading men of the Hellenic cities. He was a self-made man, an incessant toiler, who spared not his own person, but “in his struggle for power and empire had an eye cut out, his collar-bone fractured, a hand and a leg mutilated, and was willing to sacrifice any part of his body which fortune might choose to take, provided he could live with the remainder in honor and glory.” The body served a masterful intellect; few men have equaled him in quickness of thought and in soundness of judgment.
The greatness of his achievements was the creation of the Macedonian army. The rough Highland huntsmen and the peasants of the Plain, organized in local regiments, composed his phalanx. Learning a lesson from Athens, he lightened their defensive armor and increased the length of their spears. Thus they could move more rapidly than the old-fashioned phalanx, and in conflict with any enemy their lances were the first to draw blood. The nobles served in the cavalry as “companions” of the king; the light troops composed his guard; the sons of nobles were royal pages, associating with the king and protecting his person. Gradually military pride, the glory of success, and most of all the magnetism of a great commander, welded this mass of men into an organic whole. The military organization not only civilized the Macedonians by subjecting them to discipline, but it also destroyed their clannishness, and made of them one nation with common interests, sentiments and hopes. And Philip’s country was not so exclusive as the Hellenic cities had always been; it readily admitted strangers to citizenship, and in this way showed capacity for indefinite growth in population and in area. Macedon was already far larger than any other Greek state; its army was better organized; its troops were superior; and its king possessed a genius for war and for diplomacy.
Peace with Athens and the Overthrow of Phocis 346 B.C.
Three years after the fall of Chalcidice Athens made peace with Philip. The treaty included the allies of both parties, with the exception of the Phocians, whom Philip reserved for destruction. His excuse was that they had seized the treasures of Apollo at Delphi; what he really wished was to gain a foothold in central Greece and at the same time to pose as a champion of the prophet god.
A few days after signing the treaty he passed through Thermopylae, and as agent of the Amphictyonic Council he destroyed the twenty-two cities of Phocis and scattered the inhabitants in villages. The council decreed that the Phocians should repay by annual installments the ten thousand talents they had taken from Apollo’s treasury. Their seat in the council was given to Philip. This position, together with the presidency of the Pythian Games, assured him great honor and influence throughout Hellas. He was now not only a Greek, but the greatest of the Hellenic nation.
The Battle of Chaeronea 338 B.C.
In the years of peace which followed, Philip was busily winning friends among the Greeks; it was his aim to bring Hellas under his will by creating in each city a party devoted to himself. In all his movements, however, he was met by the eloquence and the diplomacy of Demosthenes. Gradually the orator brought together a Hellenic League to drive Philip out of Greece. Several states in Peloponnese and in central Greece joined it.
As the time seemed ripe for a final attack upon Greek liberties, Philip caused his agents to kindle another Sacred War in central Greece. He then marched again through Thermopylae, and occupied Elatea, near the Boeotian frontier. As this movement threatened Boeotia, Thebes was induced to enter the Hellenic League. The allied forces met him at Chaeronea in Boeotia. On each side were about thirty thousand men. Philip’s generalship won the day. In this battle a monarch, commanding all the resources of his state, proved superior to a loose alliance of republics. The outcome impressed upon men the idea that monarchy was the strongest and best form of government. Hence it helped to determine that to the present day the civilized should be ruled chiefly by kings and emperors.
The Congress at Corinth
The Hellenic states hastened to submit to the victor, Sparta alone maintaining her independence. Philip drew up a plan for their organization under his leadership. The states were to be free and to govern themselves under their own constitutions. But no more civil strife was to be permitted within the states, or wars between one state and another. All were to send their deputies to a congress at Corinth. The body was to meet whenever called by Philip to deliberate under his presidency on war, peace and all matters of national interest. The first session was held shortly after the battle of Chaeronea. In the second session, 337 B.C., the Greeks elected Philip captain-general and agreed to furnish land and naval forces in proportion to their several means. The object of these preparations was the conquest of Persia.
In a comparison of Philip’s congress with the one which met in the same place in 480 B.C.; the aim of the earlier session was the protection of Hellenic liberty from Persian aggression, while the aim of Philip’s congress was the conquest of the aggressor. Doubtless there was a certain historical justice in the latter object – in the attempt to balance the right and wrong of the world; and it afforded the Greeks an outlook into a new and great future. But on the former occasion the deputies acted voluntarily, on the latter under fear of a master, whose garrisons held their strongholds. Philip wished merely to be the war-captain of a free and united Hellas; his leadership was to be in kind the same as that of Sparta or of Thebes. But the majority of the Greeks could only look upon him as a foreign master, whom they for the present were constrained through fear to obey. For all these reasons we must regard the later congress as distinctly inferior to the earlier in nobility of motive and character.
Significance of the Macedonian Supremacy
At last Hellas was united. The end long dreamed of and struggled for by many patriotic Greeks was reached. The Hellenes were soon to become the leading people in a great empire, and were to offer it the benefit of their superior civilization. In so far as the world accepted the offer, it profited by Philip’s achievement.
Now that the Hellenes were at peace among themselves and still living under free governments, we should expect them to progress more rapidly than before and to bring their civilization to a still greater height of excellence. But if we take this view of the case, we shall be disappointed. Progress was thereafter made along certain narrow lines. In reality the conditions which favored the growth of civilization had passed away from Greece forever. One condition was the fearlessness of absolute freedom, which could not exist under a master, however benevolent he might be. Another was the stimulus of party strife and of interstate warfare, which Philip for a time suppressed. It is true that various other causes were cooperating with these two in bringing about a decline of Greek genius. But the fact here to be emphasized is that the classic age of Greek literature and art came to an end with the lives of the men who saw the battle of Chaeronea.
Growth of the Idea of Conquering Persia; Philip’s Preparations
Before the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.), the Hellenes could think of nothing further than self-protection from Persia. Soon afterward, however, those who organized the Delian Confederacy conceived the idea of a perpetual war of aggression upon the great empire. They had advanced so far in confidence and strength as to believe that such a war would be successful and even profitable. The most famous exponent of this policy was Cimon. For a time Pericles held to it. He believed that he could greatly disable Persia and win an empire for Athens by aiding in the liberation of Egypt and Cyprus. But when these attempts failed, the idea for a time was dropped. Early in the 4th century it was revived by the successful march of the “Ten Thousand,” which proved the weakness of the empire when matched against the Greeks. Resuming the policy of Cimon, Agesilaus hoped at least to conquer Asia Minor for the Greeks, and would doubtless have succeeded, had he not been recalled by war nearer home. Writers and orators then took up the idea, and made the public acquainted with it. When, accordingly, Philip came to the leadership, he found the Hellenic mind prepared for his proposition to conquer the Persian Empire.
Preparation for this enterprise went on actively until, in 336 B.C., the army was ready to move into Asia. But Philip was delayed by troubles in his own house. His wife Olympias, the mother of his son Alexander, was an Epeirot princess, a wild, fierce woman. Sent home to her kinsmen and supplanted by a younger wife, she began in a jealous rage to plot against her lord. Between Philip and Alexander an angry fight arose; then came a reconciliation celebrated with splendid feasts and games. In the midst of the rejoicing Philip was assassinated.
Summary of the Rise of Macedon
(1) Gradually the tribes of Macedon adopted the civilization of the other Greeks. (2) In the first half of the 4th century B.C., they united in one state under a king. (3) Philip, ascending the throne in 359 B.C., began to extend his kingdom by annexing Greek colonies on the neighboring coasts. (4) For eleven years (357-346 B.C. he waged a successful war with Athens. (5) Meanwhile he conquered Thessaly, most of Thrace, and Chalcidice. (6) During this time he was creating the best organized and best disciplined army in the world. (7) Invited by the Amphictyonic Council to punish the Phocians for alleged impiety to Apollo, he destroyed all their cities and transferred their votes in the council to himself. He was now the greatest of the Hellenes. (8) When Athens, Thebes, and a few minor states united to resist his aggressions, he defeated their army at Chaeronea. (9) He then organized a Hellenic federation, represented in a congress meeting at Corinth under his presidency. In this way he unified a great part of Hellas. (10) But while preparing to lead the Greeks against Persia, he was assassinated.
THE FOUNDING OF ALEXANDER’S EMPIRE 336-323 B.C.
Alexander’s Early Character and Policy
At the time of his accession in 336 B.C. Alexander was a ruddy-cheeked youth of twenty years with eyes and face full of animation and with the form of an Olympic runner. There was in him the same eagerness for knowledge as for exercise; and among his tutors was Aristotle, the most learned of all the Greeks. Alexander was passionately fond of the Iliad, as he found in the hero Achilles his own ideal and image. The young king was an impetuous yet manly spirit, sincere in an age of deceit, incessantly active in the midst of a generation of drones.
When he came to his inheritance, he found the great work of his father rapidly crumbling – the Macedonians disaffected, barbarous tribes threatening invasion, and Greece rebellious. The wise men of Macedon urged him to proceed cautiously in meeting the difficulties which beset him; but Alexander, with a few masterful strokes reduced his subjects and his troublesome enemies to order.
The Invasion of Asia; Battle on the Granicus 334 B.C.
In the spring of 334 B.C. Alexander crossed the Hellespont with forty thousand troops, and began his invasion of the Persian Empire. He aspired to draw the hearts of his people to himself as the hero who would punish the Persians for desolating his country and burning its temples. The enemy first offered resistance on the Granicus River near Troy; without hesitation Alexander crossed the stream under a storm of darts, and carried the enemy’s position by a bold dash. Half of the force which opposed him there consisted of Greeks who were serving the Asiatic king for pay. Soon afterward he learned, too, that the warships of Hellas would cooperate with the enemy. This fact determined him to follow the coast from Ephesus to the mouths of the Nile and to seize all the harbors on the way so that hostile fleets might find no landing-place to his rear. On the march he had to storm fortresses, garrison towns, and keep open his communications with Macedon. As the Greek cities of Asia Minor fell one by one into his power, he gave them democratic governments, but denied them the privilege of banishing oligarchs. Hellas had never before seen a policy, at once so vigorous and so humane.
The Battle of Issus 333 B.C.; Alexander and the Greeks
At Issus in Cicilia he met Darius in command of a vast host, yet posted in a narrow valley where numbers did not count. By a skillful attack he routed the unwieldy mass and sent the royal coward into headlong flight. Alexander always exposed himself recklessly in battle, and on this occasion was wounded by a sword thrust in the thigh. A great quantity of booty, and even the mother, wife, and children of the king, fell into his hands. These persons he treated kindly, but refused to negotiate with Darius for peace.
Soon after this battle he took captive some ambassadors who had come up from Greece to form with Darius a common plan of resistance to the Macedonians. Instead of punishing the envoys for what he might have regarded as treason, he found excuses for them and let them go. For a time Alexander tried to win the Greeks by similar acts of kindness; afterward he alienated them by his own unreasonableness.
The Siege of Tyre 332 B.C.; Founding of Alexandria
From Issus Alexander proceeded to Tyre. The capture of this city by siege and storm was the most brilliant of all his military exploits. Tyre stood on an island; and as he had no fleet, he could only reach the city by building a mole to connect it with the mainland. His plan was to lead his army along the mole to an attack on the city. Though harassed by the enemy’s fireships and by sorties from the harbors, he at last succeeded in finishing the work. Meanwhile he had collected a fleet of Greek and Phoenician vessels, so that he was able to make the attack by sea as well as by land. Many thousand Tyrians were slain in the storming of their city and thousands of captives were sold into slavery. The great emporium of the East was left in a heap of ruins.
Darius could no longer look for help from the Phoenician navy, or from the Greeks. He now offered still more favorable terms of peace – Alexander should have all the country west of the Euphrates and should become the son-in-law and ally of the king. Alexander replied that he would not content himself with the half, since the whole was already his, and that if he chose to marry his adversary’s daughter, he would do so without asking the father’s consent. Darius then began fresh preparations for war, and Alexander marched on to Egypt, which yielded without resistance. Near one of the mouths of the Nile he founded Alexandria to take the place of Tyre, and with its trade routes to bind fast his new dominions to the throne of his fathers. It grew to be the greatest commercial city of the eastern Mediterranean.
Before departing from Egypt Alexander paid a visit to the oracle of the god Ammon in an oasis in the Libyan Desert, and received assurance from the deity who sat in this vast solitude that he, the conqueror of nations, was in reality a son of Zeus.
The Battle of Arbela 331 B.C.
From the Nile country Alexander led his army into the heart of the Persian Empire. Some sixty miles from Arbela, north of Babylon, he again met the enemy. On this occasion Darius had chosen a favorable position, a broad plain in which his enormous force found ample room for movement. The two armies halted in view of each other. While Alexander’s troops slept the night through, Darius, keeping his men under arms, reviewed them by torchlight. The Macedonian general Parmenion, beholding all the plain aglow with the lights and fires of the Asiatics, and hearing the uncertain and confused sound of voices from their camp like the distant roar of the vast ocean, was amazed at the multitude of the foe, and hastening to the tent of Alexander, urged him to make a night attack so that darkness might hide them from the enemy. “I will not steal a victory!” the young king replied. He knew Darius would lose all hope of resistance only when conquered by force of arms in a straightforward battle. It was a fierce struggle which took place on the following day; but the steady advance of the phalanx and the furious charge of the Macedonian cavalry under the lead of their king won the day over the unorganized, spiritless mass of Orientals. The long struggle between two continents, which began with the earliest Persian attacks on Greece, was decided in favor of Europe by the intelligent and robust manliness of the Westerners.
Other Conquests 331-323 B.C.
Darius fled northward, and was murdered by an attendant on the way. Alexander, as his successor, was master of the empire. Babylon surrendered without resistance. This city he wished to make the capital of his world empire. From Babylon he pushed on to Susa, the summer residence of the Persian kings. Here an immense treasure of silver and gold – estimated at fifty thousand talents – fell into his hands. Thence he fought his difficult way, against mountaineers and imperial troops, to Persepolis, the capital of Persia proper. In this city he found a much greater treasure of the precious metals – a hundred and twenty thousand talents. For ages the Persian kings had been hoarding this wealth, which the conqueror was now to put into circulation. One night, while he and his friends were carousing there, the idea occurred to them to burn the beautiful palace of the kings in revenge for the destruction of the Athenian temples by Xerxes. The deed was hardly done before Alexander repented his folly.
A few campaigns were still needed to pacify the great country. The victorious marches which he next made into the remote northerly provinces of Bactria and Sogdiana and to distant India are interesting both as brilliant military achievements and as explorations of regions hitherto unknown to the Greeks. His return from India through the Gedrosian Desert was a marvelous feat of endurance. Three-fourths of the army perished on the way; but Alexander was now lord of Asia, and to such a despot human life is cheap. His admiral Nearchus, who at the same time was voyaging from the mouth of the Indus to the Persian Gulf, opened to the Greeks the water route to India. It required five months for him to make the voyage. Though under favorable conditions it could be accomplished in less time, the distance and the hardships of the route were a hindrance to its extensive use throughout ancient times.
Organization of the Empire
Immediately after his return to Babylon, Alexander began to settle the affairs of his empire, which reached from the western limit of Greece to the Hyphasis River in India, and from the Jaxartes River to Nubia – the greatest extent of country yet united under one government. He left the taxes and the satrapies nearly as they were, but brought the officials under better control. The satrap (governor) had been a despot after the pattern of the king whom he served, uniting in himself all military, financial, and judicial authority. But Alexander, in organizing a province, assigned each of these functions to a distinct officer so that the work of government could be done better than before, and there was less opportunity for the abuse of power. He appointed to the offices Persians as well as Macedonians and Greeks. An important element of his organization was the colonies which he planted in all parts of the empire. The nucleus of the colony was Greek and Macedonian – usually his worn-out veterans. With them were associated many natives. They were organized in the Greek form and were self-governing and free from tribute. Their object was (1) to secure the empire by means of garrisons, (2) to promote trade and industry, and (3) to fuse Hellenic with Asiatic civilization. The opportunity for colonization was one which the Greeks had long been wanting, and in which, therefore, they took an eager part.
While engaged in this work, Alexander busied himself with recruiting and improving his army and with building a great fleet; for he was planning the conquest of Arabia, Africa, and Western Europe.
Alexander’s Death 323 B.C.: His Place in History
When ready to set out on his expedition to the West, he suddenly fell sick of a fever, probably caused by excessive drinking. As he grew rapidly worse, the soldiers forced their way in to see their beloved commander once more, and the whole army passed in single file by his bed. He was no longer able to speak, but his eyes and uplifted hand expressed his silent farewell.
His character appears clearly even in the brief narrative given above. His genius and energy in war, in organization, and in planting colonies were marvelous. His mind expanded rapidly with the progress of his conquests. First king of Macedon, next captain-general of Hellas, then emperor of Persia, he aspired finally to be lord of the whole earth. His object was not to Hellenize the world, but to blend the continents in one nation and one civilization. But the dizzy height of power to which he had climbed disturbed his mental poise; in an outburst of passion he murdered his dearest friend; his lust for worship grew upon him until he bade the manly Macedonians grovel before him like servile Asiatics, and sent an order to the Greeks to recognize him as a god. Year by year he grew more egotistical and more despotic and violent.
It would be idle to speculate on what he might have accomplished had he lived to old age. He is to be judged by his actual achievements. His conquests stimulated exploration and discovery, introducing a great age of scientific invention. They tended to break down the barrier between Greek and barbarian, and they gave Hellenic civilization to the world. People of widely separated countries became better acquainted with one another, and thus acquired a more liberal spirit and a broader view of mankind. The building up of an empire far greater than the Persian was itself a state in the growth of the idea that all men are brothers. It is a fact, too, that Alexander’s conquests made easier the growth of the Roman Empire. On the other hand, the conquest conferred no lasting benefit on the masses of the conquered. The Macedonian successors of Alexander were more oppressive plunderers than the native rulers had been; and the civilization of the Greek cities did not extend far beyond their walls. Within a few centuries the more remote cities lost their distinctive Hellenic character. Apart, then, from the country lying immediately round the east Mediterranean, which kept in close touch with Europe, the career of Alexander and the rule of his successors formed but an episode in the history of the Orient.
Summary of Alexander’s Career
(1) On his accession Alexander crushed all opposition to himself in Macedon and Greece. (2) He then invaded the Persian Empire and won the battles of Granicus and Issus. (3) Next he captured Tyre and founded Alexandria. (4) In the critical battle of Arbela he overthrew the vast army of Darius. (5) Afterward he took possession of Babylon and the Persian capitals of Susa and Persepolis. (6) In his last campaigns he subdued the northeastern provinces of the empire and conquered a great part of India. (7) Meanwhile he was reorganizing the empire and planting many colonies. (8) Preparations for further conquests were cut short by his death.
>Excerpts from “A History of the Ancient World” by George Willis Botsford, PhD., copyright 1912, pgs 263-285
Compiled by Marko Marelich, Retired Mechanical Engineer
San Francisco, California USA
June 23, 2008