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When Alexander returned to Hyrcania,1 there came to him the queen of the Amazons named Thallestris, who ruled all the country between the rivers Phasis and Thermodon. She was remarkable for beauty and for bodily strength, and was admired by her countrywomen for bravery. She had left the bulk of her army on the frontier of Hyrcania2 and had arrived with an escort of three hundred Amazons in full armour. [2] The king marvelled at the unexpected arrival and the dignity of the women. When he asked Thallestris why she had come, she replied that it was for the purpose of getting a child. [3] He had shown himself the greatest of all men in his achievements, and she was superior to all women in strength and courage, so that presumably the offspring of such outstanding parents would surpass all other mortals in excellence. At this the king was delighted and granted her request and consorted with her for thirteen days, after which he honoured her with fine gifts and sent her home.3 [4]

It seemed to Alexander that he had accomplished his objective and now held his kingdom without contest, and he began to imitate the Persian luxury and the extravagant display of the kings of Asia.4 First he installed ushers of Asiatic race in his court, and then he ordered the most distinguished persons to act as his guards; among these was Dareius's brother Oxathres.5 [5] Then he put on the Persian diadem6 and dressed himself in the white robe and the Persian sash and everything else except the trousers and the long-sleeved upper garment.7 He distributed to his companions cloaks with purple borders and dressed the horses in Persian harness. [6] In addition to all this, he added concubines to his retinue in the manner of Dareius, in number not less than the days of the year and outstanding in beauty as selected from all the women of Asia. [7] Each night these paraded about the couch of the king so that he might select the one with whom he would lie that night.8 Alexander, as a matter of fact, employed these customs rather sparingly and kept for the most part to his accustomed routine, not wishing to offend the Macedonians.

1 Plut. Alexander 46.1, has been generally taken to mean that the queen of the Amazons visited Alexander north of the Jaxartes, in spite of the considerations that this was an odd place for Alexander to linger, and a very long way from the traditional home of the Amazons. This is certainly wrong. In sect. 44, Alexander was in Hyrcania, and lost and recovered his horse. In sect. 45, Alexander advanced into Parthia, and experimented with Median dress. In sect. 46, the Amazons came. Sect. 47 deals again with his Medizing, and sect. 48 with the conspiracy exposed at Prophthasia in Drangiane. That is to say, Plutarch's narrative follows the actual route of Alexander, and the word "here" with which sect. 46 begins must mean Parthia. The reference to Alexander's flying expedition across the Jaxartes at the end of sect. 45, which has misled scholars, is a parenthesis, illustrating Alexander's indifference to physical discomfort.

2 If we are to accept that Thallestris and her Amazons existed and had heard of Alexander, there is no insuperable difficulty in supposing that they proceeded from Thermodon on the Black Sea through the valleys of the Phasis and Cyrus Rivers and along the coast of the Caspian Sea. They would have passed through the recently subdued country of the Mardi and overtaken Alexander in Hyrcania (or Parthia, as Plutarch). Cp. Strabo 11.5.4.

3 This Amazon visit was a part of the Alexander tradition which Diodorus followed; cp. Curtius 6.5.24-32, and Justin 12.3.5-7, both of whom give also the length of the queen's stay as thirteen days. (Justin explains, "ut est visa uterum implesse.") Arrian mentions Amazons only in other contexts (Arrian. 4.15.4; 7.13.2-6) and expresses the doubt that any still existed—especially since they were not mentioned by Aristobulus or Ptolemy. Plut. Alexander 46.1 gives a full list of authorities in favour of or opposed to the visit, but doubts the story (46.2) because it is poorly attested, not because Amazons did not exist. Disbelief in Amazons as such is a modern phenomenon.

4 Curtius 6.6.1-11; Justin 12.3.8-12; Plut. Alexander 45.47.

5 He had distinguished himself at Issus (chap. 34.2) and gone over to Alexander after Dareius's death (Curtius 6.2.11; Berve, Alexanderreich, 2, no. 586).

6 The Great Kings wore an upright tiara with a fillet about it; Alexander and the Hellenistic kings wore typically the fillet alone.

7 Curtius 6.6.4; Justin 12.3.8; Plut. Alexander 45.1-2. Plut. De Fortuna aut Virtute Alexandri, 1.8.329f-330a) praises Alexander for conciliating his subjects in this way.

8 Curtius 3.3.24; 6.6.8; Justin 12.3.10. This retinue of concubines was part of the traditional ceremonial of the Persian court. Solomon had a similar establishment (1 Kings 4), including a harem (1 Kings 11.3). There were three hundred and sixty of them, according to Ctesias (Plut. Artaxerxes 27), but three hundred and sixty-five in the Alexander tradition (Curtius, loc. cit.). Modern scholars are not inclined to accept this statement as true, but Alexander's army notoriously did not travel light, and if he had placed his court under a Persian chamberlain, that official would doubtless have attempted to equip it in the proper fashion. Cp. the many anecdotes of Alexander's luxury in Athenaeus 12.537-540 (and of Dareius, Athenaeus 13.557b).

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hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CANDYS
    • Smith's Bio, Oxathres
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (13):
    • Strabo, Geography, 11.5.4
    • Plutarch, Alexander
    • Plutarch, Artaxerxes, 27
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 45
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 45.1
    • Plutarch, Alexander, 46.1
    • Plutarch, De Alexandri magni fortuna aut virtute, 1
    • Arrian, Anabasis, 4.15.4
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 3.3.24
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 6.2.11
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 6.5.24
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 6.6.1
    • Curtius, Historiarum Alexandri Magni, 6.6.4
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
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