After the conclusion of his war with the Cossaeans, Alexander set his army in motion
and marched towards Babylon in easy stages, interrupting the march frequently and resting the
While he was still three hundred furlongs from the city, the
scholars called Chaldaeans, who have gained a great reputation in astrology and are accustomed
to predict future events by a method based on age-long observations, chose from their number
the eldest and most experienced. By the configuration of the stars they had learned of the
coming death of the king in Babylon, and they instructed their representatives to report to the
king the danger which threatened. They told their envoys also to urge upon the king that he
must under no circumstances make his entry into the city;
he could escape the danger if he re-erected the tomb of Belus which had been demolished by the
but he must abandon his intended route and pass the city by.
The leader of the Chaldaean envoys, whose name was Belephantes,3
was not bold enough to
address the king directly but secured a private audience with Nearchus, one of Alexander's
Friends, and told him everything in detail, requesting him to make it known to the king.
When Alexander, accordingly, learned from Nearchus4
the Chaldaeans' prophecy, he was alarmed and more and more disturbed, the more he reflected
upon the ability and high reputation of these people. After some hesitation, he sent most of
his Friends into Babylon, but altered his own route so as to avoid the city and set up his
headquarters in a camp at a distance of two hundred furlongs.5
This act caused general astonishment and many of the Greeks came to see
him, notably among the philosophers Anaxarchus.6
When they discovered the reason for his action, they plied him
with arguments drawn from philosophy and changed him to the degree that he came to despise all
prophetic arts, and especially that which was held in high regard by the Chaldaeans.7
It was as if the
king had been wounded in his soul and then healed by the words of the philosophers, so that he
now entered Babylon with his army.
As on the previous
the population received the
troops hospitably, and all turned their attention to relaxation and pleasure, since everything
necessary was available in profusion.
These were the events of