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57. Alexander was now about to cross the mountains into India, 1 and since he saw that his army was by this time cumbered with much booty and hard to move, at break of day, after the baggage-waggons had been loaded, he burned first those which belonged to himself and his companions, and then gave orders to set fire to those of the Macedonians. And the planning of the thing turned out to be a larger and more formidable matter than its execution. [2] For it gave annoyance to a few only of the soldiers, while the most of them, with rapturous shouts and war-cries, shared their necessaries with those who were in need of them, and what was superfluous they burned and destroyed with their own hands, thus filling Alexander with zeal and eagerness. Besides, he was already greatly feared, and inexorable in the chastisement of a transgressor. For instance, when a certain Menander, one of his companions, who had been put in command of a garrison, refused to remain there, he put him to death; and Orsodates, a Barbarian who had revolted from him, he shot down with his own hand.

[3] When a sheep yeaned a lamb which had upon its head what looked like a tiara in form and colour, with testicles on either side of it, Alexander was filled with loathing at the portent, and had himself purified by the Babylonians, whom he was accustomed to take along with him for such purposes; and in conversation with his friends he said that he was not disturbed for his own sake, but for theirs, fearing lest after his death Heaven might devolve his power upon an ignoble and impotent man. However, a better portent occurred and put an end to his dejection. [4] The Macedonian, namely, who was set over those in charge of the royal equipage, Proxenus by name, as he was digging a place for the king's tent along the river Oxus, uncovered a spring of liquid which was oily and fatty; but when the top of it was drawn off, there flowed at once a pure and clear oil, which appeared to differ from olive oil neither in odour nor in flavour, and in smoothness and lustre was altogether the same, and that too though the country produced no olive trees. [5] It is said, indeed, that the Oxus itself also has a very soft water, which gives sleekness to the skin of those who bathe in it. However, that Alexander was marvellously pleased is clear from what he writes to Antipater, where he speaks of this as one of the greatest omens vouchsafed to him from Heaven. The seers, however, held that the omen foreshadowed an expedition which would be glorious, but difficult and toilsome; for oil, they said, was given to men by Heaven as an aid to toil.

1 In the late spring of 327 B.C.

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