Thoroughly incensed, then, Alexander said: ‘Base fellow, dost thou think to speak thus of me at all times, and to raise faction among Macedonians, with impunity?’
‘Nay,’ said Cleitus,
‘not even now do we enjoy impunity, since such are the rewards we get for our toils; and we pronounce those happy who are already dead, and did not live to see us Macedonians thrashed with Median rods, or begging Persians in order to get audience with our king.’
So spake Cleitus in all boldness, and those about Alexander sprang up to confront him and reviled him, while the elder men tried to quell the tumult. Then Alexander, turning to Xenodochus of Cardia and Artemius of Colophon, said: ‘Do not the Greeks appear to you to walk about among Macedonians like demi-gods among wild beasts ?’
Cleitus, however, would not yield, but called on Alexander to speak out freely what he wished to say, or else not to invite to supper men who were free and spoke their minds, but to live with Barbarians and slaves, who would do obeisance to his white tunic and Persian girdle. Then Alexander, no longer able to restrain his anger, threw one of the apples that lay on the table at Cleitus and hit him, and began looking about for his sword.
But one of his body-guards, Aristophanes, conveyed it away before he could lay hands on it, and the rest surrounded him and begged him to desist, whereupon he sprang to his feet and called out in Macedonian speech a summons to his corps of guards (and this was a sign of great disturbance), and ordered the trumpeter to sound, and smote him with his fist because he hesitated and was unwilling to do so. This man, then, was afterwards held in high esteem on the ground that it was due to him more than to any one else that the camp was not thrown into commotion. But Cleitus would not give in, and with much ado his friends pushed him out of the banquet-hall.
He tried to come in again, however, by another door, very boldly and contemptuously reciting these iambics from the ‘
’ of Euripides:
‘Alas! in Hellas what an evil government!’
And so, at last, Alexander seized a spear from one of his guards, met Cleitus as he was drawing aside the curtain before the door, and ran him through.
No sooner had Cleitus fallen with a roar and a groan than the king's anger departed from him. And when he was come to himself and beheld his friends standing speechless, he drew the spear from the dead body and would have dashed it into his own throat, had not his body-guards prevented this by seizing his hands and carrying him by force to his chamber.