nothing can be thought to have been more remote from my intention, since I first set about this task, than to depart unduly from the order of events, and to aim, by the introduction of ornamental digressions, at providing as it were agreeable [p. 227]
bypaths for the reader, and mental relaxation for1
nevertheless the mention of so great a prince and captain evokes certain thoughts which I have often silently pondered in my mind, and disposes me to enquire how the Roman State would have fared in a war with Alexander.2
it appears that in war the factors of chief importance are the numbers and valour of the soldiers, the abilities of the commanders, and Fortune, which, powerful in all the affairs of men, is especially so in war.
These factors, whether viewed separately or conjointly, afford a ready assurance, that, even as against other princes and nations, so also against this one the might of Rome would have proved invincible.
first of all —to begin by comparing commanders —I do not deny that Alexander was a remarkable general; still, his fame was enhanced by the fact that he was a sole commander, and the further fact that he died young, in the flood —tide of success, when as yet he had experienced no other lot.
not to speak of other distinguished kings and generals, illustrious proofs of human vicissitude, what else was it but length of days that exposed Cyrus, whom the Greeks exalt so high in their panegyrics, to the fickleness of Fortune?
and the same thing was lately seen in the case of Pompey the Great. need I repeat the names of the Roman generals, not all nor of every age, but those very ones with whom, as consuls or as dictators, Alexander would have had to fight —Marcus
Valerius Corvus, Gaius Marcius Rutulus, Gaius Sulpicius, Titus Manlius Torquatus, Quintus Publilius Philo, Lucius Papirius Cursor, Quintus Fabius Maximus, [p. 229]
the two Decii, Lucius Volumnius, Manius Curius?3
after these come some extraordinary men, if he had turned his attention to war with Carthage first and later with Rome, and had crossed into Italy when somewhat old.
any one of these was as highly endowed with courage and talents as was Alexander; and military training, handed down from the very beginning of the City, had taken on the character of a profession, built up on comprehensive principles.
so the kings had warred; so after them the expellers of the kings, the Junii and the Valerii, and so in succession the Fabii, Quinctii, Cornelii, and Furius Camillus, whom in his old age those had seen, as youths, who would have had to fight with Alexander.
but in the performance of a soldier's work in battle —for which Alexander was no less distinguished —Manlius Torquatus or Valerius Corvus would, forsooth, have yielded to him, had they met him in a hand —to —hand encounter, famous though they were as soldiers before ever they won renown as captains!
The Decii, of course, would have yielded to him, who hurled their devoted bodies upon the foe! Papirius Cursor would have yielded, with that wondrous strength of body and of spirit!
The counsels of a single youth would no doubt have got the better of that senate —not to speak of individual members —which was called an assembly of kings by him who before all others had a true conception of the Roman Senate!4
and I suppose there was the danger that Alexander would display more skill than any of these whom I have named, in selecting a place for a camp, in organizing his service of supply, in guarding against ambuscades, in choosing a time for battle, in [p. 231]
marshalling his troops, in providing strong reserves!5
he would have said it was no Darius6
whom he had to deal with, trailing women and eunuchs after him, and weighed down with the gold and purple trappings of his station. him he found a booty rather than an enemy, and conquered without bloodshed, merely by daring to despise vain shows.
far different from India, through which he progressed at the head of a rout of drunken revellers, would Italy have appeared to him, as he gazed on the passes of Apulia and the Lucanian mountains, and the still fresh traces of that family disaster wherein his uncle, King Alexander of Epirus, had lost his life.7