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And first, if you will, consider a matter entirely contrary to the general belief, and compare Alexander's pupils with those of Plato and Socrates. Plato and Socrates taught pupils of splendid natural endowment who spoke the same language ; so that, even if the pupils understood nothing else, at least they understood the Greek tongue. And even so, Plato and Socrates did not win over many. But their pupils, such as Critias and Alcibiades and Cleitophon,1 were prone to spew the good word forth, as a horse the curbing bit, and turned them to other ways. But if you examine the results of Alexander's instruction, you will see that he educated the Hyrcanians2 to respect the marriage bond, and taught the Arachosians to till the soil, and persuaded the Sogdians to support their parents, not to kill them, and the Persians3 to revere their mothers and not to take them in wedlock. O wondrous power of Philosophic Instruction, that brought the Indians to worship Greek gods, and the Scythians to bury their dead, not to devour them ! We admire Carneades' power, which made Cleitomachus,4 formerly called Hasdrubal, and a Carthaginian by birth, adopt Greek ways. We admire the character of Zeno, which [p. 395] persuaded Diogenes5 the Babylonian to be a philosopher. But when Alexander was civilizing Asia, Homer was commonly read, and the children of the Persians, of the Susianians, and of the Gedrosians learned to chant, the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides.6 And although Socrates, when tried on the charge of introducing foreign deities,7 lost his cause to the informers who infested Athens, yet through Alexander Bactria and the Caucasus learned to revere the gods of the Greeks. Plato wrote a book on the One Ideal Constitution, but because of its forbidding character he could not persuade anyone to adopt it; but Alexander established more than seventy cities among savage tribes, and sowed all Asia with Grecian magistracies, and thus overcame its uncivilized and brutish manner of living. Although few of us read Plato's Laws, yet hundreds of thousands have made use of Alexander's laws, and continue to use them. Those who were vanquished by Alexander are happier than those who escaped his hand; for these had no one to put an end to the wretchedness of their existence, while the victor compelled those others to lead a happy life. Therefore it is even more just to apply Themistocles' saying8 to the nations conquered by Alexander. For, when Themistocles in exile had obtained great gifts from Artaxerxes, and had received three cities to pay him tribute, one to supply his bread, another his wine, and a third his meat, he exclaimed, ‘My children, we should be ruined now, had we not been ruined before.’ Thus Alexander's new subjects would not have been civilized, had they not been vanquished; Egypt [p. 397] would not have its Alexandria, nor Mesopotamia its Seleuceia, nor Sogdiana its Prophthasia, nor India its Bucephalia, nor the Caucasus a Greek city9 hard by; for by the founding of cities in these places savagery was extinguished and the worse element, gaining familiarity with the better, changed under its influence. If, then, philosophers take the greatest pride in civilizing and rendering adaptable the intractable and untutored elements in human character, and if Alexander has been shown to have changed the savage natures of countless tribes, it is with good reason that he should be regarded as a very great philosopher.
1 It is interesting to note that dialogues bearing the names of all these pupils have been handed down to us under the name of Plato, although some of them are thought to be spurious.
2 Wyttenbach in sadness doubts whether these ethnological remarks are the fruit of any research on the part of Plutarch. But they probably derive from a hazy recollection of such passages as Herodotus, i. 216 (of the Massagetae). Note, however, that Strabo supports Plutarch on this custom of the Persians (xv. 3. 20), which is easily explained by the fact that the young king inherited his father's harem as well as his father's stable, and that the father's younger wives furnished the beginning of the son's harem. Cf. also Sophocles, Trachiniae, 1221-1251. For other pleasant customs of the Hyrcanians cf. Moralia, 499 d.
3 Wyttenbach in sadness doubts whether these ethnological remarks are the fruit of any research on the part of Plutarch. But they probably derive from a hazy recollection of such passages as Herodotus, i. 216 (of the Massagetae). Note, however, that Strabo supports Plutarch on this custom of the Persians (xv. 3. 20), which is easily explained by the fact that the young king inherited his father's harem as well as his father's stable, and that the father's younger wives furnished the beginning of the son's harem. Cf. also Sophocles, Trachiniae, 1221-1251. For other pleasant customs of the Hyrcanians cf. Moralia, 499 d.
4 Cf. Diogenes Laertius, iv. 67; Athenaeus, 402 c.
5 Diogenes, from Seleucia in Mesopotamia (Strabo, xvi. 1. 16; Diogenes Laertius, vi. 81), was said to have been a pupil of Chrysippus, and thus was converted to the inheritance of Zeno, Stoicism.
6 Cf. Life of Alexander, chap. viii. (p. 668 e).
7 Cf. Plato, Apology, 24 b; Xenophon, Memorabilia, i. 1. 1.
8 Cf. Moralia, 185 f, and the note there.
9 Alexandria-in-the-Caucasus: cf. Arrian, Anabasis, iii. 28. 4; iv. 22. 4; v. 1. 5; Curtius, vii. 3. 23; Diodorus, xvii. 83. 1.