Alexander was naturally munificent, and became still more so as his wealth increased. His gifts, too, were accompanied by a kindly spirit, with which alone, to tell the truth, a giver confers a favour. I will mention a few instances. Ariston, the captain of the Paeonians, having slain an enemy, brought his head and showed it to Alexander, saying: ‘In my country, O King, such a gift as this is rewarded with a golden beaker.’
‘Yes,’ said Alexander with a laugh,
‘an empty one; but I will pledge thy health with one which is full of pure wine.’ Again, a common Macedonian was driving a mule laden with some of the royal gold, and when the beast gave out, took the load on his own shoulders and tried to carry it. The king, then, seeing the man in great distress and learning the facts of the case, said, as the man was about to lay his burden down,
‘Don't give out, but finish your journey by taking this load to your own tent.’
Furthermore, he was generally more displeased with those who would not take his gifts than with those who asked for them. And so he wrote to Phocion in a letter that he would not treat him as a friend in future if he rejected his favours. Again, to Serapion, one of the youths who played at ball with him, he used to give nothing because he asked for nothing. Accordingly, whenever Serapion had the ball, he would throw it to others, until the king said: ‘Won't you give it to me?’
‘No,’ said Serapion,
‘because you don't ask for it,’ whereat the king burst out laughing and made him many presents.
With Proteas, however, a clever wag and boon companion, he appeared to be angry; but when the man's friends begged his forgiveness, as did Proteas himself with tears, the king said that he was his friend again, whereat Proteas said: ‘In that case, O King, give me something to prove it first.’ Accordingly, the king ordered that five talents should be given him. What lofty airs his friends and bodyguards were wont to display over the wealth bestowed by him, is plain from a letter which Olympias wrote to him.
She says: ‘I beg thee to find other ways of conferring favours on those thou lovest and holdest in honour; as it is, thou makest them all the equals of kings and providest them with an abundance of friends, whilst thyself thou strippest bare.’ Olympias often wrote him in like vein, but Alexander kept her writings secret, except once when Hephaestion, as was his wont, read with him a letter which had been opened; the king did not prevent him, but took the ring from his own finger and applied its seal to the lips of Hephaestion.
Again, though the son of Mazaeus, the most influential man at the court of Dareius, already had a province, Alexander gave him a second and a larger one. He, however, declined it saying: ‘O King, formerly there was one Dareius, but now thou hast made many Alexanders.’ To Parmenio, moreover, Alexander gave the house of Bagoas at Susa, in which it is said there was found apparel worth a thousand talents. Again, he wrote to Antipater bidding him keep guards about his person, since plots were being laid against him.
To his mother, also, he sent many presents, but would not suffer her to meddle in affairs nor interfere in his campaigns; and when she chided him for this, he bore her harshness patiently. Once, however, after reading a long letter which Antipater had written in denunciation of her, he said Antipater knew not that one tear of a mother effaced ten thousand letters.