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In short, if Solon proved so wise a ruler by Fortune, if Miltiades led his armies by Fortune, if Aristides was so renowned for his justice by Fortune, then there is nothing that can be called the work of virtue. Then is virtue only an airy fiction, and a word that passes with some show of glory through the life of man, but feigned and magnified by Sophists and lawgivers. But if every one of these whom we have mentioned was wealthy or poor, weak or strong, deformed or beautiful, long or short lived, by Fortune, but made himself a great captain, a great lawgiver, famous for governing kingdoms and commonwealths, by virtue and reason; then in God's name let us compare Alexander with the best of them. Solon by a law made a [p. 513] great abatement upon the payment of the Athenians' private debts, which he called his burden-easing law; Alexander discharged the debts of his Macedonians at his own expense. Pericles, laying a tax upon the Greeks, expended the money in building temples to beautify the citadel of Athens; Alexander sent home ten thousand talents out of the spoils of the barbarians, for the building of temples to the Gods all over Greece. Brasidas advanced his fame all over Greece, by breaking through the enemy's army lying encamped by the seaside near Methone; but when you read of that daringjump of Alexander's (so astonishing to the hearers, much more to them that beheld it) when he threw himself from the walls of the Oxydracian metropolis among the thickest of the enemy, assailing him on every side with spears, darts, and swords, tell me where you meet with such an example of matchless prowess, or to what you can compare it but to a gleam of lightning violently flashing from a cloud, and impetuously driven by the wind? Such was the appearance of Alexander, as he leaped like an apparition to the earth, glittering in his flaming armor. The enemy, at first amazed and struck with horror, retreated and fell back; till seeing him single they came on again with a redoubled force. Now was not this a great and splendid testimony of Fortune's kindness, to throw him into an inconsiderable and barbarous town, and there to enclose and immure him a prey to worthless enemies? And when his friends made haste to his assistance, to break the scaling-ladders, and to overthrow and cast them down? Of three that got upon the walls and flung themselves down in his defence, endearing Fortune presently despatched one; the other, pierced and struck with a shower of darts, could only be said to live. Without, the Macedonians foamed and filled the air with helpless cries, having no engines at hind. All they could do was to dig down the walls with their swords, [p. 514] tear out the stones with their nails, and almost to rend them out with their teeth. All this while, Alexander, Fortune's favorite, whom she always covered with her protection, like a wild beast entangled in a snare, stood deserted and destitute of all assistance, not laboring for Susa, Babylon, Bactria, or to vanquish the mighty Porus. For to miscarry in great and glorious attempts is no reproach; but so malicious was Fortune, so kind to the barbarians, such a hater of Alexander, that she aimed not only at his life and body, but at bereaving him of his honor and sullying his renown. For Alexander's fall had never been so much lamented had he perished near Euphrates or Hydaspes by the hand of Darius, or by the horses, swords, and axes of the Persians fighting with all their might and main in defence of their king, or had he tumbled from the walls of Babylon, and all his hopes together. Thus Pelopidas and Epaminondas fell; whose death was to be ascribed to their virtue, not to such a poor misfortune as this. But what was the singular act of Fortune's favor which we are now enquiring into? What indeed, but in the farthest nook of a barbarous country, on the farther side of a river, within the walls of a miserable village, to pen up and hide the lord and king of the world, that he might there perish shamefully at the hands of barbarians, who should knock him down and pelt him with whatever came next to hand? There the first blow he received with a battle-axe cleft his helmet and entered his skull; at the same time another shot him with an Indian arrow in the breast near one of his paps, the head being four fingers broad and five in length, which, together with the weight of the shaft which projected from the wound, did not a little torment him. But, what was worst of all, while he was thus defending himself from his enemies before him, when he had laid a bold attempter that approached his person sprawling upon the earth with his sword, a fellow [p. 515] from a mill close by came behind him, and with a great iron pestle gave him such a bang upon the neck as deprived him for the present both of his senses and his sight. However, his virtue did not yet forsake him, but supplied him still with courage, infusing strength withal and speed into those about him. For Ptolemy, Limnaeus, and Leonnatus, and some others who had mounted or broken through the wall, made to his succor, and stood about him like so many bulwarks of his virtue; out of mere affection and kindness to their sovereign exposing their bodies, their faces, and their lives in his defence. For it is not Fortune that overrules men to run the hazard of death for brave princes; but the love of virtue allures them—as natural affection charms and entices bees—to surround and guard their chief commander. What person then, at that time beholding in security this strange adventure, would not have confessed that he had seen a desperate combat of Fortune against virtue, and that the barbarians were undeservedly superior through Fortune's help, but that the Greeks resisted beyond imagination through the force of virtue? So that if the barbarians had vanquished, it had been the act of Fortune or of some evil genius or divine retribution; but as the Greeks became the victors, they owed their conquest to their virtue, their prowess, their friendship and fidelity to each other. For these were all the life-guard Alexander had at that time; Fortune having interposed a wall between him and all his other forces, so that neither fleets nor armies, cavalry nor infantry, could stand him in any stead. Therefore the Macedonians routed the barbarians, and buried those that fell under the ruins of their own town. But this little availed Alexander; for he was carried off with the dart sticking in his breast, having now a war in his own bowels, while the arrow in his bosom was a kind of cord, or rather nail, that was driven through his breastplate [p. 516] and fastened it to his body. When they went about to dress him, the forked shape of the iron head would not permit the surgeons to draw it forth from the root of the wound, being fixed in the solid parts of the breast that fortify the heart. Nor durst they attempt to cut away the shaft that stuck out, fearing they should put him to an excess of torment by the motion of the iron in the cleft of the bone, and cause a new flux of blood not easy to be stopped. Alexander, observing their hesitation and delay, endeavored himself with a little knife to cut off the shaft close to the skin; but his hand failed him, being seized with a heavy numbness by reason of the inflammation of the wound. Thereupon he commanded the surgeons and those that stood about him to try the same thing themselves and not to be afraid, giving them all the encouragement he could. Those that wept he upbraided for their weakness; others he called deserters, that refused him their assistance in such a time of need. At length, calling to his friends, he said: Let no one of you fear for me; for how shall I believe you to be contemners of death, when you betray yourselves to be afraid of mine? 1
1 See foot-note at the end of the First Oration on Alexander.
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