Posts Tagged With: Ochus

Across the Pasitigris and into the land of the Uxii

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 67 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Leaves Susa
Royal Family Left Behind – Will Learn Greek
Madetes Puts Up Brief Fight in Uxiane

The Story
We are not told when exactly Alexander left Susa (just that it happened ‘after’ the throne incident) but he must have done so in a timely fashion as Diodorus makes no mention of the king having been distracted by Susa’s riches. So much for Darius’ plan.

Something that Diodorus does mention, however, is that when the Macedonians left Susa, the Persian royal family stayed behind. Alexander may have thought that the road ahead would be too difficult and too dangerous for them. At the same time, he certainly had an eye on the family’s political future as he appointed teachers to teach the family Greek.

Upon leaving Susa, the Macedonian army marched towards the Tigris River, reaching it four days later. By crossing it, the army came into the territory of the Uxii. There, Alexander was confronted by ‘passages guarded by Madetes, a cousin of Dareius’.

As the cliffs were sheer, it appeared that Alexander had no choice but to attack Madetes directly. Just then, a ‘Uxian native’ – perhaps a guide who had been hired/forced to take them through Uxiane – stepped forward and said he knew a way up the cliff ‘to a position above the enemy’.

Alexander sent a detachment with the guide while he lead a direct assault on Madetes’ position. The Macedonians attacked in waves and the battle was in full flow when, to the Persians’ surprise, they saw the ‘flying column of Macedonians’ above them. Rather than wait to be attacked on two fronts, the Persians fled. The pass was taken and the cities of Uxiane soon followed.

As the title of this post indicates, for Tigris we should read Pasitigris, which today is the Karun River. That information comes from the Footnotes and Livius. Wikipedia also adds that the Pasitigris – under its older name of Pishon – was also one of the four rivers that flowed through the Biblical paradise of Eden, which, whether one takes the story of Adam and Eve literally or not, is quite a thought.

There seems no question to me that the assault on Madetes’ pass was a battle well won. I have to admit, though, I have little enthusiasm for the episode. I think that is one part the result of Diodorus not spending much time on the incident and one part the fact that Madetes runs away really quickly. At least Darius stood and fought for a while.

Persian Royal Family’s End of Term Report Card

‘Tries hard in her language studies. One day, I hope to persuade her to stop saying ‘Alpha is for Alexandros’ in a wistful fashion and move on to beta…’
Stateira II
‘Spends too much time arguing with her sister as to whether Alexander is better than Hephaestion.’
‘Winds her sister up by saying ‘if Alexander and Hephaestion are one person then so are we and you can’t disagree with yourself’. A one woman logic free zone.’
‘Refuses to leant Lambda until Sparta joins Alexander’s Hellenic League. Like the Spartans, must try harder.’

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“He too is Alexander”

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 37, 38 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Darius Escapes Alexander’s Pursuit
Sisygambis Mistakes Hephaestion for Alexander
Alexander Restores Royal Family’s Dignity

The Story

Chapter 37
Alexander kept up his pursuit of Darius until late into the night. Diodorus says that the Macedonian king and his cavalrymen rode for two hundred furlongs before turning back to his camp.

Unfortunately, the Footnotes do not say how long a Greek furlong is so it is hard to put Alexander’s ride into context. Google tells me that one furlong today is 201 metres. This website gives two hundred furlongs as the equivalent of twenty-five miles. If that is how far Alexander travelled, it is quite a distance given their earlier exertions. I realise, though, that this is a big if.

Alexander arrived back at his tent around midnight. After a bath to wash off the day’s blood and grime, he sat down to dinner.

As he ate, the Persian royal family were informed that Alexander had returned to camp ‘after stripping Dareius of his arms’. The women broke down in tears at this news. They were joined by the other captives, and the noise became so loud that Alexander had to send Leonnatus to the royal family’s tent ‘to quiet the uproar’.

Leonnatus assured the women that their lord was still alive ‘and that Alexander would show them… proper consideration’. The queens were calmed by this news. In their relief, they ‘hailed Alexander as a god’.

By the time he had bathed and finished eating, Alexander could only have had time for a few hours rest for at daybreak he was up again and on his way to see the royal family.

Alexander entered the queens’ tent with several of his Friends, including Hephaestion. Diodorus states that both he and Alexander ‘were dressed alike’ but that ‘Hephaestion was taller and more handsome’.

This lead Sisygambis, Darius’ mother, to assume that Hephaestion was Alexander and so ‘did him obeisance’. Some of Alexander’s Friends ‘made signs to her and pointed to Alexander’. Realising her mistake, and no doubt blushing with embarrassment, Sisygambis turned to the king.

I am quite certain that another king – in fact, many other kings – would have punished Sisygambis for her error but Alexander was cut from a different cloth. “Never mind, Mother,” he said, “For actually he too is Alexander.”

What did Alexander mean by this? The Footnotes say that his response ‘recalls the proverbial Greek definition of a friend as a “Second Self”‘. This makes ‘he too is Alexander’ seem hardly more than a poetic way of saying ‘he is my friend’.

We would not be doing the two men justice, however, if we did not qualify the nature of their friendship. An opportunity to do that will come in Chapter 47. If you have a copy of Diodorus to hand, you might also look at Chapter 114.

I shall leave of discussing either until the appropriate post. For now, I would say that when Alexander called Hephaestion by his own name he was indicating that theirs was a very personal friendship (for the avoidance of doubt, I don’t think he was indicating that they were lovers).

Chapter 38
Diodorus now provides a list of what Alexander did for Sisygambis. He…

  • ‘[D]ecked her with her royal jewelry’
  • ‘Restored her to her previous dignity, with its proper honours’
  • Returned her servants to her, giving her even more
  • Promised to provide (I presume) dowries for Stateira II’s and Drypetis’ marriages
  • Promised to treat her grandson (Ochus) as his own son and ‘show him royal honour’

Alexander called Ochus to him and kissed him. Ochus ‘was fearless in [his] countenance’. Turning to Hephaestion, Alexander ‘remarked… that at the age of six years the boy… was much braver than his father’.

Ochus’ mother, Stateira I was not forgotten about.  Alexander promised her ‘that she would experience nothing inconsistent with her former happiness’.

The royal women cried with joy for Alexander’s kindness towards them. Diodorus says that the king ‘won universal recognition throughout his own army for his exceeding propriety of conduct’. I wonder if this included the men who had dragged the other Persian women by their hair or stripped them naked and hit them with their spear butts.

Diodorus concludes the chapter by applauding Alexander’s actions. ‘Most people are made proud by their successes… and becoming arrogant in their success, are forgetful of the common weakness of mankind’. Alexander, however, had wisdom. ‘[L]et him continue to receive in future ages… the just and proper praise for his good qualities’. Amen to that.

As facetious as it is, I am glad that even Alexander knew what it was like to have a noisy neighbour. If only ours could be as easily dealt with!

I am not sure what ‘stripping Dareius of his arms’ means. It isn’t literally true – Darius escaped Issus with his own weaponry and had access to more. It isn’t true in terms of the Persian army: whether or not Darius escaped by riding over the bodies of his men, as Ptolemy fancifully states, many Persians escaped. Perhaps it is simply a metaphor for the Persian army’s defeat?

I note that when Alexander visits the queens’ tent he speaks first to Sisygambis, and it is she who does obeisance to him. I wonder if this means that in the Persian hierarchy the Queen Mother was more senior to the Queen herself?

Diodorus says that Alexander assured Sisygambis ‘that she would be his second mother’. Surely she is his third after Olympias and Ada!

Ten Reasons Why Hephaestion Could Not Be Alexander Today

  1. He’d get done for credit card fraud
  2. Hephaestion’s size makes him a natural defender, Alexander’s clearly a striker
  3. Their clothes wouldn’t fit
  4. Their girlfriends wouldn’t understand
  5. One Man One Vote
  6. iTunes doesn’t have joint accounts
  7. Arguments would lead to an existential crisis
  8. Inadvertent minesweeping in the pub
  9. Hephaestion would say tomato
  10. They would have an extra man advantage in tag team wrestling
Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alexander’s first Days as King

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 1, 2, 5 & 6 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

Alexander Secures The Macedonian Throne
Attalus is Assassinated
Darius Becomes Great King

The Story
In Chapter 94 of Book XVI of his Library of History, Diodorus relates how Pausanias assassinated Philip II. The first chapter of Book XVII begins with a brief introduction to Philip’s successor, Alexander III whom we call The Great. It is an introduction that the new king would have found very satisfactory. ‘In twelve years’ Diodorus says, Alexander ‘conquered no small part of Europe and practically all of Asia, and so acquired a fabulous reputation like that of the heroes and demigods of old’.

According to Diodorus, Alexander’s first action as king was to punish Philip’s murderers before overseeing the funeral of his father. Unfortunately, Diodorus does not tell us who those murderers were – in the previous book he implied that Pausanias acted alone. In the Footnotes, however, we learn the ‘known’ victims’ names,

  • Amyntas, son of Perdiccas III (Alexander’s ‘older cousin’)
  • Alexander of Lyncestis’ family (though not Alexander himself)
  • Cleopatra Eurydice (Philip’s seventh and last wife)
  • Europa (Cleopatra Eurydice’s infant daughter)

Cleopatra and Europa were murdered on the orders of Olympias. Alexander was greatly displeased by his mother’s actions. According to Plutarch ‘he showed his anger against’ her for the deaths. What this meant in practice one can only imagine.

When Alexander ascended to the throne of Macedon he was just twenty years old. Unsurprisingly, he was ‘not uniformly respected’ by his people. Despite this, he ‘established his authority far more firmly’ than was thought possible.

At this point, Diodorus makes up for his meagre account of the Battle of Chaeronea and failure to give more information about Philip II’s murderers by explaining what Alexander did to secure the throne. He,

  1. spoke to the Macedonians in a ‘tactful’ manner
  2. assured his people that he would rule the kingdom ‘on principles no less effective’ than those used by Philip II
  3. kept the army occupied with ‘constant training… and tactical exercises’. He also ‘established’ (perhaps this means ‘enforced?) discipline in the ranks as well

At the same time, Alexander sweet talked the various ambassadors who were at that time in Macedon so as to breed good will with the various Greek city-states.

If you know anything about Alexander you will undoubtedly be aware that one name has been conspicuous by its absence in this blog post thus far: Attalus. Diodorus calls him a ‘possible rival for the throne’ although the Footnotes make clear that he had ‘no known claim’. Either way, Diodorus now explains how Alexander sent an agent named Hecataeus to Asia Minor to either bring Attalus home alive or, if that were not possible, to assassinate him.

We have now reached Chapter 3 of Book XVII. It is here that Diodorus digresses to give an account of the Greek response to Philip’s death. To keep the narrative thread alive, we’ll jump forward to Chapter 5 to find out what happened to Attalus. I’ll come back to the Greek response in the next post.

In Chapter 5, therefore, Diodorus effectively accuses Attalus of treason. He says that immediately after Philip II’s death, the general ‘actually… set his hand to revolt and had agreed with the Athenians to undertake joint action against Alexander’. At some point, though, Attalus got cold feet. Instead of revolting, he forwarded to Alexander a letter written by Demosthenes (in which he, presumably, advocated rebellion against the king) along with his own ‘expressions of loyalty to remove from himself any possible suspicion’.

It was too late, though; Hecataeus was lurking in the shadows waiting for his chance to deal with the general once and for all. It soon came and Attalus met his end.

Diodorus now turns to Persia and gives a short account of how Darius came to be Great King. First, there was Ochus who ‘oppressed his subjects cruelly and harshly’. He was done away with by a eunuch named Bagoas (not the same Bagoas who Alexander liked). Bagoas put Ochus’ youngest son, Arses, on the throne.

Within two or three years, though, Arses developed that very dangerous thing when there is a power behind the throne: an independent mind. He ‘let it be known that he was offended’ at Bagoas’ behaviour in killing Ochus. You’re offended? said Ochus, Try being dead.

Ochus’ assassination brought the direct line of the Persian Royal House to an end. So, Bagoas put the grandson of Ostanes, who was Great King Artaxerxes II’s brother, on the throne instead. His name was Darius, and he was the third of that name. Upon hearing that Bagoas meant to murder him as well, Darius managed to kill the eunuch first.

In Chapter 6, Diodorus prepares us for the great war between Macedonia and Persia, Alexander and Darius, by highlighting the latter’s bravery ‘in which quality’ he says, ‘he far surpassed the other Persians’. In proof of this he tells how Darius once beat a Cadusian warrior who had ‘a wide reputation for strength and courage’ in single combat.

It is hard to fault the means by which Alexander secured the Macedonian throne. They show that he was not only a great general but capable of being a good ruler as well. In light of this, it makes his later failures in this regard more difficult to take. Perhaps he lacked the foresight to make political decisions of lasting rather than momentary value.

I don’t know about you but I am not really convinced that Alexander meant for Hecataeus to bring Attalus back to Macedon. If Attalus was a serious threat it would surely have been counter-productive to bring him back. Mind you, as we saw in the previous post, we are in a world where enemies could become trusted friends at a stroke.

Staying with Attalus – I wonder why he chose not to rebel against Alexander. He had an army to do so and was a popular general. Perhaps he feared Parmenion’s response – although could he not have been murdered? – or simply came to feel that loyalty rather than betrayal would serve him better in the long run.

For Alexander’s part, Diodorus says that he ‘had good reason to fear that [Attalus] might challenge his rule, making common cause with those of the Greeks who opposed him’ but does not really justify this statement. He doesn’t appear to mention the one occasion when Alexander and Attalus came to blows – the wedding party on the occasion of Philip II’s marriage to Cleopatra Eurydice – but perhaps he had that in mind.

We Need To Talk About Bagoas – one previous owner, now dead
War and Peace – don’t worry if your edition comes without the ‘Peace’ section, there was very little of it in those days
The Way of all Flesh – A handy guide to poisons, written by A Eunuch

Attalus’ death brings the first days of Alexander’s rule to an end. Diodorus doesn’t say where he was killed but I should think it was in Asia Minor. This means that he died very close to where, some 55 years later, the Battle of Corupedium would be fought, which brought the awards of the Successors to an end. This seems fitting.

Categories: Diodorus Siculus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ochus’ Unlikely Saviour

  • The index of posts in this series can be read here
  • Read the introduction to this series here

Based on The Spies of Ancient Athens by Reynard and Grün (London, 2004)
“Darius III had three known children by his second wife, Stateira; two daughters, Stateira (also known as Barsine) and Drypetis, and a son, Ochus.
In February 324 B.C. Stateira II and Drypetis married Alexander and Hephaestion respectively as part of the Susa marriage ceremonies. IN October of that year, Hephaestion died. Alexander followed him to the grave the following June. The widows did not long outlive their husbands for both were  murdered at the behest of Roxane and Perdiccas not long later.
What of Ochus? Neither the vulgate or good sources make any reference to him. However, given that Staeira II’s and Drypetis’ murders were politically inspired it has been assumed that Ochus would have been killed for the same reason.
However, the Athenian spies at work in Babylon following Alexander’s story offer a very different and surprising version of events.
Their reports begin familiarly enough. On the day after Alexander’s death, a spy on Roxane’s staff stated that,

… while I busied myself with the cleaning of [Roxane’s] quarters, she spoke but feet away from me to Perdiccas. They were plotting. He wanted power. She wanted life. He offered [Roxane] what she wanted in return for her absolute loyalty.

Three days later, the same spy – presumably while working in Roxane’s quarters – saw the queen write her response to Perdiccas.

… [it] contained but two words: I accede. She gave it to her favourite servant, and urged him to pass it into Perdiccas’ hands and his alone with all haste.

It is at this point that the story takes its first turn. Two weeks later, the spy in Perdiccas’ office reported how a Macedonian officer named Amyntas had burst into Perdiccas’ study while he was working.

… [Perdiccas was] angered by Amyntas’ sudden coming but the officer begged him to listen to the reason for it before punishing him. Perdiccas ordered him to continue. Amyntas advised Perdiccas with great haste and feeling that he had just come from the royal chambers. Four drunk Macedonian soldiers of the infantry had broken into Ochus, son of Darius’ rooms, assaulted and castrated the boy.

Perdiccas was for a time too shocked by this report to make comment but eventually asked how the soldiers had broken past the prince’s guard. Amyntas said that one guard had been found dead at his post and the other was missing. Perdiccas cursed him for a traitor.

Unfortunately, Perdiccas then ordered the spy – and every other person except Amyntas – out of the room while they carried on talking alone. To find out what happened next, we must return to Roxane’s servant-spy.

… [we receive]ed report of the mutilation of Ochus just before our lady [i.e. Roxane] retired for the night. The staff were much worried about what this might portend for her ladyship but she assured them Ochus was harmed because he was a Persian while she, though also a barbarian, was also Alexander’s wife

This report was written 5 – 7 days (the fragment is not clear) after Ochus was attacked.

… Prince Ochus is near death. No one believes he will survive. Perdiccas has Philip of Arcanania  looking after him…

Unfortunately, we do not know when this following report was written. Given the type of injury that Ochus suffered it was presumably several weeks later.

… [I] saw Prince Ochus from a distance. He limped heavily but could walk with the aid of a stick. He looked grievously ill.

… three months have past since I saw Prince Ochus. None of the servants I have asked know anything of him. I believe he is dead.

But he wasn’t, as the spy was to discover five days after sending the above report.

Ochus lives. I fell asleep while working in her ladyship’s chambers. When I came to I heard her and Perdiccas talking in the room next door. I hid and listened to what they said.
“He is finally at ease and is ready to be moved.”
“Where will Bagoas take him?”
“To his own village where the eunuch’s own people may care for him.”
“Can we really trust that the boy will not act against us in the future?”
“Ochus has no future. No man will follow one who has been unmanned.”
“Yet still I fear that he may be used by our enemies.”
“You need not. As soon as Philip judged him able to be moved I hid him away from the palace for a reason. My deception has worked – all now think he died with his sisters.

Three years later, Perdiccas failed to invade Ptolemy’s Egypt. The same spy who reported on him in Babylon sent this report back to Athens apparently following the failure of the general’s second invasion.

[Perdiccas] knew his officers now hated him and waited for his killers to arrive with a disconsolate heart. I tried to cheer him but until I mentioned Prince Ochus’ name, he would not listen.
“What do you know of that name?” he asked me.
“I know that you did not kill him.” I replied.
“How so?”
“For that you only kill when you must not because you can. I refuse to believe you would hurt a boy already in a sense dead,”
“Aye,” he said, “You are right. Death is a monstrous thing and is to be given only to those who are worthy; he was not. We destroyed his family, his country, and his chance to be remembered by sons and grandsons. Yes, I intended to kill him with his sisters but when I was about to give the order I felt my tongue stopped. By what or whom I do not know but for once in my life mercy overcame power. I do not regret it.” 

There is a certain contradiction in the reports. The servant-spy implies that Perdiccas never intended to kill Ochus along with Stateira II and Dryeptis – presumably because of his castration – while the spy in Perdiccas’ camp suggests that the boy’s fate was in doubt until just before the sisters were murdered.
We have no way of knowing which account is correct. My inclination, however, would be to go with the servant-spy’s, as the Perdiccan spy’s dialogue smacks of romanticism in terms of the way it talks about tongues being stopped by unknown powers. By contrast, the servant-spy’s report is much more organic and rational. However, we will never know for sure.”

Categories: The Spies of Ancient Athens | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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