A Letter to Arrian (6) Written on a True Summer’s Eve

roman_writerMy dear Arrian,
As I write, it is a very warm evening in my country but here I am, a glass of water in hand, scribbling away, anyway!
Three days ago, I read your book for one hour intending to write two letters to you as I knew I would be too busy to do so the next day. However, I never wrote the second. This morning, I forgot that I hadn’t, so carried on reading and writing from where I had left off. When I realised what I had done, I simply had to write again to cover the gap. Your book deserves no less.
To begin, I was delighted to read about Ada. I suppose her adoption of Alexander was just a political move, but there is something about her gesture that really strikes a chord with me. Perhaps it is the essential motherliness of her action; too often in my time motherhood is done down when, in fact, it is one of the noblest states that a woman can live in.
In my last letter I said that Parmenion’s warning constituted the first allegation of a plot against Alexander. I had forgotten, however, that Alexander, son of Aeropus actually did conspire against Alexander the king. Why, O son of Aeropus, why? He let you live when he could have killed you alongside both your brothers, he gave you a high position in his court, authority, and even command of the renowned Thessalian cavalry. Alexander the traitor, however, wanted the kingship itself. We don’t seem to hear of what happened to him but I think I can guess what did.
I was most interested by the story of the swallow that wouldn’t stop singing. Could this really have happened? I don’t see why not. Did it happen for the reason Aristander says? Well now, that’s a question. As a playwright once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth…  [t]han are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Who knows? Not us. And we never will. Not for a time, anyway.
Before leaving Celaenae, Alexander appointed Antigonus Monophthalmus to the satrapy of Phrygia. We know from the later’s career as one of the diadochi what a great general he was; it says a lot for the strength and depth of military leadership in the Macedonian army in Alexander’s day, therefore, that he was able to leave Antigonus behind without fuss.
The translator of your book describes Hegelochus as a ‘broken reed’ after the decision of Tenedos to defect to the Persian side. I don’t know if this is a literal or free translation of what you wrote, but I mention it here because it is such an evocative expression. Hegelochus must have been profoundly upset, indeed. But I wonder. Was he ‘broken’ because he had failed his beloved king or because he feared what Alexander would now do to him? If only I knew more!
Your friend,

The above picture comes from Ancient History
An index of all the letters can be found here

Categories: Letters to Arrian | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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