Posts Tagged With: Sisygambis

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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The Road to Gaugamela

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 53-55 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Darius’ Army Arrives Outside Arbela
Offer and Counter-Offer: Kings Reject Each Other’s Terms
Alexander Crosses the Tigris
Persian and Macedonian Armies Camp at Arbela

The Story

Chapter 53
By the time Alexander arrived in Syria, Darius was ready to fight him. As mentioned in Chapter 39 (here) the Great King’s army was eight hundred thousand strong and he had what Diodorus now calls ‘no less than two hundred thousand cavalry’.

As well as great numbers, the new Persian army could also boast new and improved weaponry –  longer swords, and lances, and scythe bearing chariots.

The chariots were two hundred in number and were designed ‘to astonish and terrify the enemy’. Each chariot had scythes attached to its yoke and axle housing. Diodorus doesn’t say how many scythes there were in total but I assume it was four – two on either side – if only for balance purposes.

The scythes attached to the yoke were ‘three spans long’, which the Footnotes say was twenty-seven inches. These scythes, and those attached to the axle housing were straight. If I read Diodorus correctly, the axle-scythes had separate, curved, blades attached to the scythe.

Darius gave his army ‘shining armour’. The regiments of men were led by ‘brilliant commanders’. So far so grand. The Footnotes query both the size of the army and use of scythes, though. They say that Curtius’ figure of two hundred thousand infantry and forty-five thousand horse is more reasonable, and that Diodorus’ positioning of scythes would only be possible if the chariots were pulled by two horses. Trace horses would make them impossible.

Where was Darius when he heard about Alexander’s arrival in Syria? He was already camped outside the village of Arbela in Mesopotamia.

Diodorus explains that after leaving Babylon, Darius marched north between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, through ‘rich country capable of furnishing ample fodder’ for his animals and food for his men.

His aim, according to Diodorus, was to make for ‘the vicinity of Nineveh, as the large plains there were ideally suited for his army. Hence, his arrival outside the village of Arbela.

Once there, Darius drilled his men every day to make sure they were ‘well disciplined’. Diodorus notes that the Great King’s major concern was what confusion might ‘arise in the battle from the numerous peoples assembled who differed in speech’.

Chapter 54
How big a concern was the language issue? As his men drilled, envoys from Darius rode at speed to Alexander bearing a new letter from the Great King. I suspect their journey was occasioned more by Darius’ concern that no matter how good his army was, it would not be able to defeat the Macedonians.

As for the envoys’ letter, it was Darius’ second to Alexander. We met the first in Chapter 39. Diodorus adds a little to his description of the original letter by stating that not only did Darius offer Alexander a peace deal and all Persian territory west of the Halys River (in Asia Minor) but also a ransom of ‘twenty thousand talents of silver’.

The second letter began with a compliment – Darius praised Alexander for the latter’s ‘generous treatment’ of the Queen Mother (Sisygambis) and the other captives. Diodorus says that Darius invited Alexander ‘to become a friend’.

Darius increased his offer to –

  • All territory west of the Euphrates River
  • Thirty Thousand Talents of Silver
  • The hand of one his daughters in marriage

By offering Alexander the chance to become his son-in-law, Darius was also offering to make him his son with, I presume, all that that meant dynastically.

Whereas before, Alexander – so Diodorus claimed – forged Darius’ letter before taking it to his senior officers, this time he took the real thing to his council of Friends for their consideration.

‘He urged each to speak his own mind freely’. Perhaps knowing that Alexander already had a view and to speak – even accidentally – against it would imperil them, his men held back. Except, that is, Parmenion.

‘”If I were Alexander, [Parmenion said,] I should accept what was offered and make a treaty.” Alexander cut in and said: “So should I, if I were Parmenion.” He continued with proud words and refuted the arguments of the Persians, preferring glory to the gifts which were extended to him.”‘

It seems the other officers were wise to keep their opinions to themselves.

Alexander now turned to the envoys. He told them ‘that the earth could not preserve its plan and order if there were two suns nor could the inhabited would remain calm and free from war so long as two kings shared the rule’.

Alexander’s reply to Darius, therefore, was simple. If Darius wanted to reign supreme he had to fight Alexander for that honour. If he wanted to be king under Alexander, however, the son of Philip would grant him that privilege.

With the council concluded and the envoys dismissed, the Macedonians resumed their march to Arbela. ‘At this juncture the wife of Dareius died and Alexander gave her a sumptuous funeral’. The Footnotes state that  (according to Plutarch) Stateira I died in childbirth carrying, I think it is reasonable to assume, Alexander’s child.

Chapter 55
Upon receiving Alexander’s counter-offer, Darius once more ‘gave up any hope of a diplomatic settlement’ and continued to drill his soldiers. He ordered a Friend named Mazaeus to guard a ford on the Tigris River. Other troops were ‘sent out to scorch the earth’ on the Macedonians’ route.

When Mazaeus reached the Tigris, however, he decided not to bother guarding it – the river ran fast and seemed to him uncrossable. Instead, he took his men to join those setting fire to the countryside.

Mazaeus had, of course, acted unwisely. Arriving at the Tigris, Alexander didn’t run away from the problem but did his best to overcome it. Which, neither for the first or last time, he did.

It wasn’t easy, though. When Alexander ordered his men to wade across the river, the current swept many away. So, he told his men to lock arms. A bridge was then made ‘out of the compact union of their persons’.

The bridge enabled the Macedonian army to cross the Tigris but it had been a hard won passage. In acknowledgement of this, Alexander gave his men a day’s rest. The next day, they packed their tents and gear and began the journey to Gaugamela where they ‘pitched camp not far from the Persians’.

Why did Alexander show his officers the real letter this time? Did he know that they would all keep quiet? Probably, but I still suspect that Diodorus is just wrong about the forged letter.

By-the-bye, the Footnotes tell me that by offering Alexander all territory west of the Euphrates, Darius was offering him the same amount of land that would one day became part of the eastern Roman empire.

In Oliver Stone’s Alexander the Persian army is shown as a large and rather loose unit (in comparison to the tight-knit phalanx formation of the Macedonians) I think this has sometimes made me regard it being less well trained as well. Diodorus certainly makes it clear that that was not the case. What he says about the Persian army also speaks against the popular idea (among Greeks) that the Persians were effete etc.

I can’t remember which modern historian says this but I do recall reading once that Mazaeus may – may – have been bribed by Alexander. If that was the case, though, would he have joined the Persians putting the countryside to the torch? Perhaps he was permitted to do so as a cover – the Macedonians had food enough for their journey so it didn’t matter.

We all have our heroes. We must also have Men We Are Glad We Were Not. I’m going to nominate the first man to enter the Tigris either alone or with my arm locked to the chap’s behind me. I hope he got a reward to match the forceful current trying to drown him.

When I first read Diodorus’ account of the making of the Tigris bridge, I imagined a platform being placed on top of the poor men underneath it. I assume that this was not what happened! Rather, they kept the platform steady while engineers either drove pillars into the river bed or secured it on both banks.

The Last Thoughts of Perdiccas
Damn.. how did Alexander get away with it?

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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
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Plutarch’s Women: The Persian Royal Family, Barbarian Women, the Amazonian Queen, General Ref. & Roxane (Chapts. 43, 44, 46 & 47)

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The Persian Royal Family
We pick up the story of Plutarch’s women in Chapter 43 of his Life of Alexander. In July 330 BC Alexander finally caught up with Darius III. The Great King had been on the run since losing the Battle of Gaugamela the previous October.
Plutarch tells us that Alexander ‘burst into’ Darius’ camp. He met no opposition there, however, only ‘great heaps of gold and silver vessels’ and ‘wagons full of women and children that were moving aimlessly about’.
How empty these remnants of his riches must have seemed to Darius; how broken his people.
Today, however, the Great King wasn’t in the camp but further up the road. He was found by a Macedonian named Polystratus, lying in a wagon, ‘riddled with javelins’. At Darius’ request, Polystratus gave him some water to drink.
By-the-bye, could we compare this incident to the moment, during his pursuit of the Great King when Alexander refused water because there was not enough for his men? If so, perhaps Darius’ request could be said to demonstrate his weakness in comparison to Alexander.
Sipping the water, Darius regretted that he would not be able to repay Polystratus’ act of kindness. ‘[b]ut,’ he said to the Macedonian, ‘Alexander will reward you… and the gods will repay him for his courtesy towards my mother, and my wife and my children.’ Darius then placed his hand in Polystratus’ and died. Afterwards, Alexander sent his body to Sisygambis, Darius’ mother, ‘to be laid out in royal state’.
It might be stretching things to say that Darius died happy but it does seem to me that we can’t overestimate how important it was to him that his family were treated with ‘courtesy’. As to weather this was because of their political value or because he genuinely loved them, I cannot say. I imagine it was a combination of the two.
Barbarian Women
In Chapter 44, Plutarch tells how Hyrcanian tribesmen kidnapped Bucephalas. Could you imagine a worse thing for anyone to do? No wonder, then, that Alexander warned the tribe that if Bucephalas was not returned, ‘he would exterminate the whole tribe, together with their women and children.’ Naturally, Bucephalas was returned – unharmed.
This episode has an ending that is typical of Alexander. Once Bucephalas had been returned, the king gave a ransom (Plutarch calls it that) to his kidnappers. Perhaps the king was just relieved to have his beloved horse again, but when I think of people like Porus, Oxyartes and Artabazus, to name but three, I feel I could write a book titled

Resist Then Submit
A Guide to Surviving being Alexander the Great’s Enemy

The next reference to a woman comes in Chapter 46; and what a reference it is, for it is here that Plutarch tells us that, while in Parthia, Alexander met the queen of the legendary Amazons.
Well, kind of.
Firstly, Plutarch acknowledges that while several historians provide an account of this meeting, others – including Ptolemy – ‘maintain that [it] is a fiction’.
Secondly, he records a letter sent by Alexander to Antipater in which Alexander describes the occasion when he is supposed to have met the Amazonian queen. He does not mention her at all – only that a Scythian king had offered him his daughter in marriage.
Finally, he also relates how, years later, Lysimachus smiled at Onesicritus’ account of the incident and said, ‘I wonder where I was then.’

For Plutarch’s sake, it is probably just as well that Alexander never met the queen of the Amazons. He has already undermined his view that Alexander was chaste once (read here – Who was the father of Stateira’s baby?); goodness knows how he would deal with a woman who is supposed to have kept Alexander in bed for two weeks in order to make her pregnant.
General Reference
To tell another man that he is doing X ‘like a woman’ is an age old insult. In Chapter 47 we see that it goes back to at least 330 BC. In Hyrcania, Alexander became ‘anxious’ – for reasons not precisely explained – that his men would refuse to follow him any further. Standing before the Macedonian army, he explained to them that,

… up to now the barbarians had watched them as if they were in a dream, but that if they merely threw the whole country into disorder, and then retired, the Persians would fall upon them as if they were so many women.

Presumably, the Persians had never fought the Amazonians.
As for the toughness of women – Olympias was already showing that she was no feeble female, Thaïs had shown her credentials in Persepolis, and in a few years time, Adea Euridike would give an equally good account of herself.
To end this post, we stay in a Chapter 47 for a quick reference to Roxane. Plutarch says the Alexander fell in love with her after seeing her dance. He admits, though, that the marriage was politically convenient. Despite Stateira I’s pregnancy, he persists with the idea that Alexander was wholly chaste. He records that,

… the barbarians were encouraged by the feeling of partnership which [the] marriage created, and they were completely won over by Alexander’s moderation and courtesy and by the fact that without the sanction of marriage he would not approach the only woman who had ever conquered him.

It is interesting that Plutarch speaks of the barbarians as seeing the marriage in terms of being a ‘partnership’ whereas for him it was a victory for Roxanne. It seems to suggest that the barbarians were reconciled to Alexander’s kingship. As for Plutarch, I suppose it is in the nature of those who have, or in Plutarch’s case, take the side of those in power, to always fear its loss.

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Plutarch’s Women: Athena, the Persian Royal Family, Barsine & Callixeina (Chapts. 15, 19 & 21)

For the other posts in this series click here

We pick up Plutarch’s narrative again in chapter 15 of his Life of Alexander when, upon his arrival at Troy, the Macedonian king ‘sacrificed to Athena’. Unfortunately, that’s all Plutarch has to say about her. Understandably, he is more interested in Alexander’s acts of homage to his great hero, Achilles.
By-the-bye, I could not help but note Alexander’s remark that ‘Achilles was happy in having found a faithful friend while he lived and a great poet to sing of his deeds after his death.’ This comment appears to suggest that Alexander considered that – in contrast to Achilles – he had neither a faithful friend nor a great poet. The latter is true; Callisthenes was no Homer; but where does that leave Hephaestion?
Going back to Athena, I wish Plutarch had given a context for Alexander’s act of worship. I suppose he assumed, no doubt rightly, that his audience would be aware of why the sacrifice was carried out. We who come to the text so many years later, however, may need a little help. Theoi reminds me that Athena supported the Greeks during the Trojan War (you can read more about her here) so perhaps that is why Alexander sacrificed to her.
After Athena, no more women are mentioned until chapter 19 when (in 333 B.C.), as he lay seriously ill in bed, Alexander was given a note from Parmenion warning him that his doctor, Philip, meant to poison him. According to Parmenion Darius had ‘… promised [Philip] large sums of money and even the hand of his daughter if he would kill Alexander’.
When I wrote about this incident a few weeks ago (here) I mentioned my suspicion that Parmenion was using Alexander’s illness to carry out a coup. If we pretend for a moment, however, that the threat was real, who might Darius have married Philip to in the event that the latter did successfully  assassinate Alexander? Darius married twice and had at least three daughters – an unnamed one from an unnamed wife (who was the daughter of a Persian nobleman named Pharnaces) and two by his sister-wife Stateira, namely, Stateira II and Drypetis.
We don’t know when Stateira II was born, but because Alexander took her as his wife at the Susa Weddings (in February 324 B.C.) she is believed to be Drypetis’ elder sister. As for the ‘younger’ sister, depending on when she was born, Drypetis could have been as young as 12 when Alexander fell ill, or as old as 16. Either way, she would go on to make a good match at Susa in that she became Hephaestion’s wife.
Sadly, their marriage only lasted a few months as Hephaestion later the same year. After Alexander died the following June, the sisters’ days were numbered and indeed they were both soon killed by Perdiccas and Roxane as part of the dynastic struggle.
We move on now to chapter 21 of Plutarch’s Life but stay with Stateira II and Drypetis as Plutarch relates how, following Alexander’s capture of the Persian camp after the Battle of Issus,

… word was brought to him that the mother, the wife and the two unmarried daughters of Darius were among the prisoners…

Darius’ mother was named Sisygambis; the wife being referred to here is Stateira I. Upon being taken prisoner by the Macedonians and seeing Darius’ bow and chariot they beat their breasts and cried in the belief that their lord was dead. This is the only insight into their character that Plutarch gives us before detailing Alexander’s most gentlemanly response to the news that his army had captured them. It isn’t much of an insight – perhaps ‘just’ a ritual response? Although even if it is it tells us something about their fidelity to Persian mourning traditions.
Either way, and in fairness to him, Plutarch does add that the women were ‘chaste and noble’ (Plutarch adds that Stateira I was regarded as being ‘the most beautiful princess of her time’ and that Stateira II and Drypetis ‘resembled their parents’. It’s interesting that propaganda of this nature survived even though the daughters fell victim to more powerful interests after Alexander’s death).
Chapter 21, and this post, ends with a delineation of Alexander’s moral character, which references a few women. Plutarch tells us that,

… Alexander… thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own passions than to conquer his enemies…

To this end he avoided meeting the Persian queens and princesses. In fact, Plutarch explains that until his marriage (i.e. to Roxane), he avoided women altogether… almost: Barsine, Memnon’s widow, and daughter of Artabazus ‘who had married one of the Persian king’s daughters’, became his mistress. Citing Aristobulos as his authority, Plutarch adds,

Alexander slept with [Barsine], as… Parmenion had encouraged him to have relations with a woman of beauty and noble lineage.

This reminds me of the story of Callixeina ‘[a]n exceptionally attractive Thessalian heteira‘*. Philip and Olympias were worried that Alexander was showing no interest in women. So, his mother entreated her son to sleep with one. Eventually, Alexander did, with Callixeina being the lucky lady. According to Waldemar Heckel, however, this story is suspect as it comes from a hostile tradition. I’d like to think that Alexander did not sleep with Barsine at Parmenion’s suggestion but why would Aristobulos lie about something like that? Let’s hope his information was just, plain wrong.
The final reference to women in chapter 21 is an aside that Alexander makes after seeing the other female Persian prisoners. We are told that Alexander,

… took no… notice of them than to say jokingly, ‘These Persian women are a torment for the eyes’ He was determined to make such a show of his chastity and self-control as to eclipse the beauty of their appearance, and so he passed them by as if they had been so many lifeless images cut out of stone.

Timothy E. Duff, in the Notes, compares Alexander’s words to the actions of the Persian ambassadors to Macedonia in Book 5:18 of Herodotus’ Histories. They describe the Macedonian women as a torment to their eyes but, unlike Alexander, are unable to control themselves. We end, then, with women becoming a means by which Alexander may prove his superiority to the Persians. It wasn’t enough to defeat them twice on the battlefield, he had to do it in love as well.
* Waldemar Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

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