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ON THE FORTUNE OR THE VIRTUE OF ALEXANDER (DE ALEXANDRI MAGNI FORTUNA AUT VIRTUTE) I AND II
Very well. Do Alexander's actions, then, reveal the caprice of Fortune, the violence of war, the might of conquest, or do they rather reveal the great courage and justice, the great restraint and mildness together with the decorous behaviour and intelligence, of one who did all things with sober and sane judgement? For, by Heaven, it is impossible for me to distinguish his several actions and say that this betokens his courage, this his humanity, this his selfcontrol, but everything he did seems the combined product of all the virtues ; for he confirms the truth of that principle of the Stoics which declares that every act which the wise man performs is an activity in accord with every virtue ; and although, as it appears, one particular virtue performs the chief role in every act, yet it but heartens on the other virtues and directs them toward the goal. Certainly one may observe that in Alexander the warlike is also humane, the mild also manly, the liberal provident, the irascible placable, the amatory temperate, his relaxation not idle, and his labours not without recreation. Who but he combined festivals with wars, campaigns with revels, Bacchic rites and weddings and nuptial songs with sieges and battle-fields? Who was ever more hostile to wrongdoers or kinder to the unfortunate? Who more stern to his opponents or more indulgent to petitioners? [p. 417] It occurs to me to introduce here an incident touching Porus.1 For when Porus was brought as a captive before Alexander, the conqueror asked how he should treat him. ‘Like a king, Alexander,’ said Porus. When Alexander asked again if there were nothing else, ‘No,’ said he, ‘for everything is included in that word.’ And it naturally occurs to me also to exclaim over each of Alexander's deeds, ‘Like a philosopher !’ For in this is included everything. He became enamoured of Roxanê,2 the daughter of Oxyartes, as she danced among the captive maidens ; yet he did not offer any violence to her, but made her his wife. ‘Like a philosopher!’ When he saw Darius3 pierced through by javelins, he did not offer sacrifice nor raise the paean of victory to indicate that the long war had come to an end ; but he took off his own cloak and threw it over the corpse as though to conceal the divine retribution that waits upon the lot of kings. ‘Like a philosopher!’ Once when he was reading a confidential letter from his mother, and Hephaestion,4 who, as it happened, was sitting beside him, was quite openly reading it too, Alexander did not stop him, but merely placed his own signet-ring on Hephaestion's lips, sealing them to silence with a friend's confidence. ‘Like a philosopher !’ For if these actions be not those of a philosopher, what others are?