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After the funeral, the king turned to amusements and festivals, but just when it seemed that he was at the peak of his power and good fortune, Fate cut off the time allowed him by nature to remain alive. Straightway heaven also began to foretell his death, and many strange portents and signs occurred. [2]

Once when the king was being rubbed with oil and the royal robe and diadem were lying on a chair, one of the natives who was kept in bonds was spontaneously freed from his fetters, escaped his guards' notice, and passed through the doors of the palace with no one hindering.1 [3] He went to the royal chair, put on the royal dress and bound his head with the diadem, them seated himself upon the chair and remained quiet.2 As soon as the king learned of this, he was terrified at the odd event, but walked to the chair and without showing his agitation asked the man quietly who he was and what he meant by doing this. [4] When he made no reply whatsoever,3 Alexander referred the portent to the seers for interpretation and put the man to death in accordance with their judgment, hoping that the trouble which was forecast by his act might light upon the man's own head.4 He picked up the clothing and sacrificed to the gods who avert evil, but continued to be seriously troubled. He recalled the prediction of the Chaldaeans and was angry with the philosophers who had persuaded him to enter Babylon. He was impressed anew with the skill of the Chaldaeans and their insight, and generally railed at those who used specious reasoning to argue away the power of Fate. [5]

A little while later heaven sent him a second portent about his kingship.5 He had conceived the desire to see the great swamp of Babylonia and set sail with his friends in a number of skiffs.6 For some days his boat became separated from the others and he was lost and alone, fearing that he might never get out alive. [6] As his craft was proceeding through a narrow channel where the reeds grew thickly and overhung the water, his diadem was caught and lifted from his head by one of them and then dropped into the swamp. One of the oarsmen swam after it and, wishing to return it safely, placed it on his head and so swam back to the boat. [7] After three days and nights of wandering, Alexander found his way to safety just as he had again put on his diadem when this seemed beyond hope. Again he turned to the soothsayers for the meaning of all this.

1 Plut. Alexander 73.3-4, says that the prisoner had been miraculously freed by Serapis; Arrian. 7.24.1-3, that he had not been held in bonds.

2 The significance of the royal throne in the Orient has appeared in chap. 66.3-7 (66.3, note). If the man was a native, he may have regarded it as a sanctuary, or at least as a place of refuge from the pursuing guards; in Arrian's account, they did not venture to remove him by force "because of some Persian custom." (According to the anecdote traced back to Trogus by O. Seel (Pompeius Trogus, Fragmenta, 1956, 109 f.), it was "capital" for anyone to sit on the throne of the king of Persia.) Plut. Alexander 73.4, states that he was a Greek. It is possible that he did not put on the royal garments, but merely held them. Later references to the significance of the throne are Dio 50.10.2; 56.29.1; Script. Hist. Aug. Septimius Severus 1.9.

3 Either because he was too frightened to speak, or because he did not speak Greek. Plutarch makes him claim to have been inspired by Serapis, but this did not save him from execution.

4 Plut. Alexander 74.1. Arrian. 7.24.3 reports only that he was tortured to make him explain his actions.

5 Or, perhaps, "about his death".

6 Arrian 7.22 tells this story earlier than the one about the throne, and gives various accounts about the incident of the lost diadem and its recovery; it was the other boats which became lost, but Alexander sent a pilot and rescued them.

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