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ON THE FORTUNE OR THE VIRTUE OF ALEXANDER (DE ALEXANDRI MAGNI FORTUNA AUT VIRTUTE) I AND II
‘Well done. Fortune ! You exalt Alexander and make him great by running him through from every side, by making him lose his footing, by laying open every portion of his body. Not like Athena before Menelaüs1 did you guide the missile to the stoutest parts of his armour, and by breastplate, belt, and kilt take away the intensity of the blow, which only grazed his body with force enough to cause blood to flow ; but you exposed to the missiles the vital portions of Alexander's body unprotected, you drove home the blows through his very bones, you circled about his body, you laid siege to his eyes and his feet, you hindered him in pursuing his foes, you endeavoured to strip him of his victories, you upset his expectations.’ No other king seems to me to have felt the hand of Fortune more heavily upon him, even though on many it has fallen harshly and malignantly. But like a thunderbolt it cut down the other rulers, and destroyed them ; toward Alexander, however, Fortune's ill-will became but contentious and quarrelsome and hard to overpower, even as it was toward Heracles. For what manner of Typhons or monstrous [p. 469] giants did she not raise up to oppose him? Whom of his foes did she not fortify with a vast supply of weapons or deep rivers or jagged cliffs or the might of beasts from foreign lands2? But if Alexander's thought had not been set on high emprise, if it had not derived its impelling force from great Virtue, and had not refused to submit to defeat in its wrestling with Fortune, would he not have grown tired and weary of marshalling and arming his forces, weary of his sieges and pursuits amid unnumbered revolts, desertions, and riots of subject peoples, defections of kings, against Bactria, Maracanda, Sogdiana, as if he were cutting off the heads of a hydra which ever grew again in renewed wars among these faithless and conspiring peoples?