2. A Macedonian, surnamed Μέλας
, son of Dropides, and brother to Lanice or Hellanice, nurse of Alexander the Great.
He saved Alexander's
life at the battle of Granicus, B. C. 334, cutting off with a blow of his sword the arm of Spithridates which was raised to slay the king.
At the battle of Arbela, B. C. 331, he commanded, in the right wing, the body of cavalry called Ἄγημα
(see Plb. 5.65
); and when, in B. C. 330, the guards (ἑταῖροι
) were separated into two divisions, it being considered expedient not to entrust the sole command to any one man, Hephaestion and Cleitus were appointed to lead respectively the two bodies. In B. C. 328, Artabazus resigned his satrapy of Bactria, and the king gave it to Cleitus. On the eve of the day on which he was to set out to take possession of his government, Alexander
, then at Maracanda in Sogdiana, celebrated a festival in honour of the Dioscuri, though the day was in fact sacred to Dionysus--a circumstance which afterwards supplied his friends with a topic of consolation to him in his remorse for the murder of Cleitus, the soothsayers declaring, that his frenzy had been caused by the god's wrath at the neglect of his festival.
At the banquet an angry dispute arose, the particulars of which are variously reported by different authors. They agree, however, in stating, that Cleitus became exasperated at a comparison which was instituted between Alexander
and Philip, much to the disparagement of the latter, and also at supposing that his own services and those of his contemporaries were depreciated as compared with the exploits of younger men. Being heated with wine, he launched forth into language highly insolent to the king, quoting a passage from Euripides (Eur. Andr. 683
, &c.) to the effect, that the soldiers win by their toil the victories of which the general reaps the glory. Alexander
at length, stung to a frenzy of rage, rushed towards him, but was held back by his friends, while Cleitus also was forced from the room. Alexander
, being then released, seized a spear, and sprung to the door; and Cleitus, who was returning in equal fury to brave his anger, met him, and fell dead beneath his weapon. (Diod. 17.21
; Wess. ad loc.; Plut. Alex. 16
; Arr. Anab. 1.15
; Curt. 4.13.26
; Just. 12.6