previous next

Thus, in the first place, the very scope and aim of Alexander's expedition speaks him a philosopher, as one that sought not to gain for himself luxurious splendor or riches, but to establish concord, peace, and mutual community among all men.

Next, let us consider his sayings, seeing that the souls of other kings and potentates betray their conditions and inclinations by their expressions. Antigonus the Aged, having heard a certain poet sing before him a short treatise concerning justice, said, Thou art a fool to mention justice to me, when thou seest me thundering down the cities belonging to other people about their ears. Dionysius the Tyrant was wont to say that children were to be cheated with dice, but men with oaths. Upon the monument of Sardanapalus this inscription is to be seen:— [p. 485]

All I did eat and drink, and all that lust
To me vouchsafed, I have; all else is gone.
What now can a man say of these apophthems, but that the first denotes injustice and immoderate desire of sovereignty; the next impiety; and the third sensuality? But as for the sayings of Alexander, set aside his diadem, his claimed descent from Ammon, and the nobility of his Macedonian extraction, and you would believe them to have been the sayings of Socrates, Plato, or Pythagoras. For we omit the swelling hyperboles of flattery which poets have inscribed under his images and statues, studying rather to extol the power of Alexander than his moderation and temperance; as, for example,—
The statue seems to look to Jove and say,
Take thou Olympus; me let Earth obey!
and that other,—
This is Alexander the son of Jove.

But these, as I said, were only the flashes of poetic adulation magnifying his good success. Let us therefore come to such sentences as were really uttered by Alexander himself, beginning first with the early blossoms of his childhood.

It is well known that for swiftness in running he exceeded all that were of his years; for which reason some of his most familiar play-fellows would have persuaded him to show himself at the Olympic games. He asked them whether there were any kings to contend with him. And when they replied that there were none, he said, The contest then is unequal, for I can conquer only private men, while they may conquer a king.

His father, King Philip, being run through the thigh in a battle against the Triballi, and, though he escaped the danger, being not a little troubled at the deformity of his limping; Be of good cheer, father, said he, and show yourself in public, that you may be reminded of your bravery at every step.

[p. 486] Are not these the products of a mind truly philosophical, which by an inspired inclination to what is noble already contemns the disfigurings of the body? Nor can we otherwise believe but that he himself gloried in his own wounds, which every time he beheld then called to his remembrance the conquered nation and the victory, what cities he had taken, what kings had surrendered themselves; never striving to conceal or cover those indelible characters and scars of honor, which he always carried about him as the engraven testimonies of his virtue and fortitude.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1889)
load focus Greek (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936)
load focus English (Frank Cole Babbitt, 1936)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: