Posts Tagged With: Stateira I

Decay Sets In

Justin’s Alexander
Book XI Chapters 10-15
Part Three
Other posts in this series

For this post I am using this translation of Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus

Chapter Ten
We ended the last post on a high, with Alexander showing his respect for the Persian royal women.

Unfortunately, we begin this post on a low as Justin pinpoints the aftermath of the Battle of Issus as the moment when Alexander first allowed himself to be seduced by Eastern riches and beauty. The Macedonian king was ‘seized with admiration’ of Darius’ ‘wealth and display’. As a result ‘… he… began to indulge in luxurious and splendid banquets’.

Justin also says that it was at this time that Alexander ‘fell in love with his captive Barsine* for her beauty’. In 327/6 she would give him a son, Hercules. If this sounds very romantic, Justin’s reference to Barsine indicates that he considered Alexander’s love for her to be part of his degeneration.

Justin gives a more positive view of Alexander when he describes how the latter appointed Abdolonymus as king of Sidon. He says that Alexander put Abdolonymus, rather than a Sidonian nobleman, on the throne ‘lest they should regard his favour as shown to their birth, and not as proceeding from the kindness of the giver’.

* Daughter of Artabazus

Chapter Eleven
We can’t have too much of a good thing, though, and it is Alexander the manipulator who now returns. In some style, too. Justin relates how his mother, Olympias, ‘confessed to her husband Philip, that “she had conceived Alexander, not by him, but by a serpent of extraordinary size” and that, in consequence of this, Philip had disowned Alexander and divorced her. Alexander visited Siwah, therefore, ‘anxious to obtain the honour of divine paternity, and to clear his mother from infamy’.

To make sure both his wishes were satisfied, the king sent messengers ahead of him to tell the priests ‘what answers he wished to receive’. Upon his arrival, they duly hailed Alexander as the son of Ammon and, for good measure, told his friends ‘that “they should reverence [him] as a god, and not as a king.”‘

Justin says that the announcement of his divinity increased Alexander’s ‘haughtiness’ and brought about ‘a strange arrogance… in his mind, the agreeableness of demeanour, which he had contracted from the philosophy of the Greeks and the habits of the Macedonians, being entirely laid aside.’

Chapter Twelve
In the period that followed, Darius tried to buy Alexander off by offering him money, territory and ‘one of his daughters” (perhaps Stateira II as she was the oldest of the two) hand in marriage. Alexander rejected these overtures. He didn’t want money, he wanted the whole Persian empire. And it was no use offering part of the empire and Stateira II to him as he already possessed both. Alexander told Darius ‘”to come to him as a suppliant, and to leave the disposal of his kingdom to his conqueror.”’

Clearly, Alexander had no time for Darius. I would hesitate to say that this was due to his post-Siwah haughtiness, however; he would certainly have given the same reply at any other point of his life – but this did not influence his treatment of Darius’ family. Thus, when the Great King was informed (by an escaped eunuch) that ‘“his wife [Stateira I] had died of a miscarriage’ he was also told ‘that Alexander had mourned for her death, and attended her funeral’. Importantly, given who Stateira I was, the eunuch gave Alexander’s motive for his behaviour as ‘kindness of feeling’ rather than love, for ‘Darius’s wife had been visited by him but once, though he had often gone to console his mother and her little daughters’.

Following the events of Siwah, this is a very welcome return to nobility for Alexander. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. When Darius thanked him for his kindness towards Stateira I, and made an offer of more money, land and a daughter’s hand in marriage in order to end hostilities between them, Alexander rather proudly – as it seems to me – replied that he had no need of the Great King’s thanks. Nothing,

“had been done by him to flatter Darius, or to gain the means of mollifying him, with a view either to the doubtful results of war, or to conditions of peace; but that he had acted from a certain greatness of mind, by which he had learned to fight against the forces of his enemies, not to take advantage of their misfortunes…”

I find it impossible to read ‘from a certain greatness of mind’ without imagining Alexander looking down his nose at Darius.

Chapter Thirteen
As the Macedonian and Persian armies lined up to fight the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander gave his men another inspirational speech. Unsurprisingly, and wisely, he met the issue of superior Persian numbers head-on. Don’t be alarmed that the Persian army is greater in size than our own, he told them, Darius is only fighting with more human beings. We are fighting with more men. If nothing else, that is a neat turn of phrase.

Chapter Fourteen
This chapter covers the Battle of Gaugamela, its aftermath and Alexander’s subsequent march to Susa and Persepolis. Justin’s treatment of the new Great King is limited to a comment about how bravely he fought at Gaugamela,

Alexander… made the most hazardous efforts; where he saw the enemy thickest, and fighting most desperately, there he always threw himself, desiring that the peril should be his, and not his soldiers’.

and an acknowledgement of his kindness towards the mutilated Greeks to whom he gave permission to return home from their Persian exile.

Chapter Fifteen
Alexander comes to the fore in an indirect manner here. Justin recounts how Darius was found mortally wounded after being attacked by ‘his relatives*’. Before dying, he commended Alexander once again for his kindness to his ‘mother and children’. He had proved himself ‘a prince, not… a foe’.

Upon reaching Darius’ body, Alexander,

… contemplated with tears a death so unsuitable to his dignity. He also directed his corpse to be buried as that of a king, and his relics to be conveyed to the sepulchres of his ancestors.

So, after the blows done to Alexander’s reputation during the course of these chapters – specifically, the beginning of his medising after Issus and the arrogance that came from being declared son of Ammon – we are able to end on a positive note, one which reminds us of what we have known since the first post in this series – Alexander’s respect for history, and adds something new – his respect for Persian religious practices and fallen enemies.

* i.e. Bessus

Impressions
The clouds are definitely gathering around Justin’s Alexander. If it doesn’t seem like it that is only because Justin prioritises telling Alexander’s story rather than dwelling on the on-going impact of the latter’s decision to adopt a Persian lifestyle. It is interesting, though, that Justin still finds time to give an account of some of Alexander’s more positive actions – it would have been very easy for him to exclude them – think of the way Ptolemy is supposed to have suppressed the role of Thaïs’, his mistress, in the destruction of the royal palace at Persepolis – but no, there they are for us to see and appreciate. Can we say that this is proof that Justin was not wholly antagonistic towards Alexander?

Categories: Justin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Alexander, Slicer of Knots

Justin’s Alexander
Book XI Chapters 6-9
Part Two
Other posts in this series

For this post I am using this translation of Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus

Chapter Six
When deciding upon a title for the first post in this series, I considered ‘Alexander the Pragmatist’ as that seemed to be a key feature of his early kingship. I eventually decided against it as I didn’t think Alexander could be fully described by one word alone.

Nevertheless, his pragmatism was an important element of his rule, and we shall see it more than once today. For example, Justin reports that as the Macedonian army advanced through Asia, Alexander exhorted his men not to destroy the land – as it was their property.

Having mentioned this, Justin allows himself for a brief moment to be in awe of his subject. The Macedonian army was a small force consisting of just 32,000 infantry and 4,500 cavalry. Justin remarks,

Whether, with this small force, it is more wonderful that he conquered the world, or that he dared to attempt its conquest, is difficult to determine.

Another example of Alexander’s pragmatism then follows. He entered Asia not with an army comprised of ‘robust young men, or men in the flower of their age’ but veterans, ‘masters of war’. Further to this, Justin says that none of the officers were under sixty.

He is exaggerating the age of Alexander’s army. But why would he do so? I wonder if it is an attempt to rationalise the magnitude of Alexander’s achievement, one that – in his opinion – was surely beyond the power of young men to attain.

Having said that, it’s true that Alexander began his expedition with much older men riding alongside him – Parmenion, for example, and perhaps Erygius? He knew the value of experience.

In his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it account of the Battle of the Granicus River, Justin notes that Alexander’s ‘conduct’ – his bravery – was as much responsible for the Persian defeat as ‘the valour of the Macedonians’. And again, ‘the terror of his name’ is said to have played as large a part in defeating Darius’ lieutenants as his weapons did.

Chapter Seven
A further example of Alexander’s pragmatism begins this chapter. On hearing of Alexander Lyncestes’ alleged treachery, the king doesn’t have him executed but put under arrest. He knows that he is still close to Macedon to avoid trouble from the pro-Lyncestian faction there.

Another feature of Alexander’s character that we saw in the first post was his respect for history, albeit when it suited him. Here, he is not so much selective about what he says but particular in his interpretation.

Justin reports that Alexander took Gordium,

… not so much for the sake of plunder, as because he had heard that in that city, in the temple of Jupiter, was deposited the yoke of Gordius’s car; the knot of which, if anyone should loose, the oracles of old had predicted that he should rule all Asia.

Alexander searched for the ends of the knot but was unable to find them. Unwilling to give up (and risk his army being unsettled by the bad omen), he simply cut the through the knot and announced that he had undone it. He had certainly put, as Justin puts it ‘a forced interpretation on the oracle’. Most importantly, though, it was accepted.

Chapter Eight
Justin says that Alexander ‘crossed Mount Taurus’ (to reach Cilicia) because he feared its defiles. This is certainly not the witness of Curtius.

We move on to the severe illness that afflicted Alexander after he went to bathe in the Cydnus River, and which left him gravely ill.

With a little kindness, we might say that having been warned by Parmenion that Philip of Arcanania meant to poison him, the king was very brave to trust his doctor’s medicine. I suspect Justin is right, though, when he says that ‘Alexander, however, thought it better to trust the doubtful faith of the physician, than to perish of certain disease.’

Chapter Nine
Issus. As the Macedonian and Persian armies approached each other, Justin reports Alexander as being concerned by the small size of his force versus the huge one opposite him. He calmed his nerves by recalling the ‘powerful people he had overthrown’ and marched on.

That was fine for Alexander, but what about his men? Justin notes that to stop them worrying, the king decided a. not to avoid giving battle (so as to not give the men time to panic), and b. to stop and start as they marched towards the Persians to enable his men to get used to what lay before them.

As you might expect, he also encouraged his men with a stirring speech, or rather, several – one tailored for each nationality represented.

He excited the Illyrians and Thracians by describing the enemy’s wealth and treasures, and the Greeks by putting them in mind of their wars of old, and their deadly hatred towards the Persians. He reminded the Macedonians at one time of their conquests in Europe, and at another of their desire to subdue Asia, boasting that no troops in the world had been found a match for them, and assuring them that this battle would put an end to their labours and crown their glory.

Alexander the manipulator at his finest.

One thing that is on my mind though is, did he really intend to stop his eastward expedition after Issus (presuming he thought that there would be no further fighting between it and Babylon?) or was he simply lying?

Following the Battle of Issus, Justin takes us into the Persian royal women’s tent where he describes Alexander as being ‘touched with the respectful concern of the princesses for Darius’. His sympathy for, and the help he subsequently gave to, Sisygambis, Stateira I, Stateira II and Drypetis is undoubtedly a high point in Justin’s treatment of him.

Impressions
Again, I come away from the book with a sense of Justin’s being on the whole positive towards Alexander. He does describe the Macedonian king as doing some negative actions but they are not dwelt upon. I rather feel at the moment that the real story of Justin’s attitude is to be found between the lines rather than it what he says upfront.

Categories: Justin | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Earth and Water

The Nature of Curtius
Book Four Chapters 11-16
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter 11
Tears and Hard Ground
On the eve of the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander received another letter from Darius. In it, the Great King offered further concessions to him in order to end the war between them. These included – once again – Stateira II’s hand in marriage but this time all territory west of the Euphrates River. Alexander was warned that taking the whole empire would be ‘fraught with danger’ and that it would be difficult to control.

Why did Darius think Alexander might respond to this letter any more positively than his last?

A few days earlier*, Stateira I had died. Upon being informed, Alexander wept copious tears for her, and he gave his permission for her funeral to be carried out in the ‘traditional Persian fashion’.

In the confusion following Stateira’s death, a eunuch** belonging to the Persian royal family escaped from the Macedonian camp and made his way to Darius’ tent. There, he told the Great King how Alexander had cried for his late wife, having treated the royal women with the utmost respect since capturing them following the Battle of Issus.

It was this insight into Alexander’s kindness that gave Darius the confidence to send his letter.

Unfortunately, the seeds did not fall on fertile ground and Alexander dismissed Darius’ offer. “‘He generously gives me the land beyond the Euphrates,'” Alexander said, contemptuously, “‘[but] I am already across the Euphrates and my camp stands beyond the boundary of the land he generously promises me as dowry!'”

The ambassadors were allowed to return to Darius. They did so, and told him that ‘battle was imminent’.

* The following account comes from Chapter 10

** Curtius gives his name as Tyriotes

Chapter 12
Mist and Sun
As the Macedonian army marched towards Gaugamela, a strange event happened. ‘Intermittent flashes in the bright sky, of the type seen on hot summer days [and which] had the appearance of fire’ were seen. The Macedonian soldiers thought ‘that they were flames gleaming in Darius’ camp, and that they had negligently advanced among enemy outposts’. This caused a general panic to occur.

Realising what was happening, Alexander stopped the march and told his men to ‘lay down their arms and rest’. While they did so, he reassured them that the Persians were still a long way off and that they were in no danger.

As it happens, however, they were, for Mazaeus and his cavalry party were on a hilltop overlooking the camp. Curtius says that if he ‘had struck while [the Macedonians] were still panicking a terrible disaster could have been inflicted’ on Alexander’s army. But he didn’t. Although he had 3,000 horse with him Mazaeus would have known he was hopelessly outnumbered. So, he stayed put ‘content not to be under attack’.

To go back to the flashes of light for a moment, I presume from the Macedonian soldiers’ reactions they thought they were seeing the reflection of the sun on the Persians’ armour and weaponry and that this meant they had drawn too close to their enemy. It makes a lot more sense that fiery flashes of light across a blue sky.

Whatever the cause of the flashes, they unnerved the Macedonians enough to make Alexander call a halt to the proceedings for the day and set up a fortified camp.

The next day, Mazaeus withdrew from the hilltop. The Macedonians took his position. From their new vantage point they had a good view of the battlefield. It was a humid day, however, and a mist descended. While it wasn’t heavy enough to obscure the plain before them, ‘it did render it impossible to see how [the Persian] forces were divided and organized.’

Presently, the mist lifted and the two armies were revealed to each other. Both shouted their war-cries ‘and the woods and valleys round about rang with a terrifying noise’.

Chapter Thirteen
Spikes in the Ground
This chapter is concerned mostly with the Persian and Macedonian armies preparation for war, so is of little interest to us. It does conclude, however, with a sole horse rider galloping out of the Persian camp and towards Alexander. His name was Bion and he was a deserter. He warned the Macedonian king that Darius had placed iron spikes in the ground where he thought the Macedonian cavalry intended to ride during the battle. I don’t recall any similar practice at the Granicus River or Issus and if memory serves, Alexander himself never employed such a tactic. Perhaps he thought it would undermine his glory.

Chapter Fourteen
Empire and Prison
Alexander encouraged his men with a bold speech. He spoke, as it were, to two people – the brave and non-brave.

To the brave, he made the land out to be a place of triumph, where they had won great victories (e.g. at the Granicus River and Issus) or had passed through as victors (e.g. the Cilician Mountains, Syria and Egypt).

To the non-brave, however, the land was represented as an enemy. You have come so far, he said, that ‘all those rivers and mountains [are] a barrier’ behind you. If you want to go home, you are going to have to fight.

Darius also spoke of barriers. Not natural ones, though; that would have been difficult having wrought so much destruction upon the land as part of his defensive operations. Instead, the Great King asked his men to be living barriers that would save the lives of their families who waited behind them.

Chapter Fifteen
The Eagle
The Battle of Gaugamela was in full bloody flow when Alexander’s guards caught sight of ‘an eagle gently hovering just above the king’s head, frightened neither by the clash of arms nor the groans of the dying’.

Aristander – dressed as a priest and with a laurel-branch in his hand – pointed the eagle out to the soldiers as it maintained its station saying (or, more likely, shouting, if he really was there) that it was ‘an infallible omen of victory’.

Up till now, the Macedonians had been in a state of terror. Upon being alerted to the eagle’s presence, however, they became ‘fired with tremendous enthusiasm and confidence for the fight’. This confidence increased when Darius’ charioteer was killed.

Dominos now started to fall. The charioteer was mistaken for Darius. The Persian Cavalry let out a huge cry. This unsettled the entire Persian army. The left-wing folded and the army started to retreat. The Macedonians gave chase. The battle ended and a massacre began.

Chapter Sixteen
A Bridge Too Far
Darius fled to the Lycus River (the modern day Greater Zab). Crossing it, he contemplated destroying the bridge behind him. But although he knew that would prevent the Macedonians from pursuing him, he decided not to do as it would also condemn many of his men to death.

In the hours that followed, however, the Persian soldiers themselves either caused the bridge to collapse or surely came close to doing so as they ‘overloaded’ it in their haste to flee the battlefield. So desperate were they that not only did men attempt to wade across the Lycus – with some being carried away under the weight of their armour – but they also trampled over each other in order to reach the other side. It was an ignominious end to the battle of empires.

Categories: Quintus Curtius Rufus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Persian Women

I recently discovered the very well presented Mani website. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not dedicated that region of Greece, but the great women of Persia from antiquity to the first millennium A.D.

The site contains some beautiful pictures and there is no doubt that the author loves his country a great deal. It is a shame, therefore, that some of his information is not as accurate as it could be.

For example, in the section on Sisygambis (called here Sissy Cambis), we are told that Darius III’s mother,

was a remarkable Achaemenid woman who fought, resisted and did not surrender to Alexander the Macedonian Tyrant.

The only correct statement in this sentence is Alexander’s name and nationality. Actually, I would accept that Sisygambis was remarkable but only if by that one meant that she was remarkable in her devotion to the king.

That aside, Sisygambis neither fought nor resisted Alexander. Not in war and not when he came into her tent. As for never surrendering to him – what else was her act of obeisance to him?

In my opinion, calling Alexander a tyrant is also debatable. The problem with using that word is that it brings to mind a specific office in antiquity, which Alexander never held. If one wanted to use a pejorative terms, would it not have been more precise and accurate to refer to him as Alexander the Macedonian autocrat?

The article next says that Sisygambis,

… was captured by Alexander after the battle of Issus in 333 B.C.E, along with her beautiful daughter Princess Estatira. Alexander was very much found [sic] of her and had a crush on her according to the Greek Historians!

I’ve quoted this passage in full because I am not sure whether the author is saying that Alexander had a crush on Sisygambis or Stateira II (Estatira). I think it is the latter but am not completely sure. Either way, I am not convinced by the accuracy of the statement.

Assuming the author means Stateira – the Greek historians of whom I am aware do not spend a great deal of time discussing her: Arrian and Diodorus only mention Stateira II in the context of the Susa weddings and Plutarch goes out of his way to describe how Alexander treated the entire Persian royal family with great courtesy. (For the record, Curtius doesn’t mention her at all).

Having said that, we know from Plutarch that Stateira I – Sisygambis’ daughter and Stateira II’s mother – died in childbirth over nine months after being captured by Alexander. If he had a crush on anyone, perhaps it was her. Maybe. We know too little about their relationship to talk about ‘crushes’, if that particular word is even appropriate in the first place.

As well as the above, we are also informed in the articles on Sisygambis, Roxane, and the future of Persia that the Bactrian princess was Darius III’s daughter (in the third article she is simply referred to as being Persian).

This is an unfortunate mistake as in his article on Stateira II, the author acknowledges that Roxane was from ‘from the kingdom of Bactria’, which makes me think he must know that she was not Darius’ daughter.

By-the-bye, the Roxane article also calls Alexander’s son, Alexander IV Aegus, which I’m not sure I’ve seen before. Wikipedia says this is a modern error but I don’t know anything more about it.

I have pointed out some of the mistakes in the above mentioned website so let me emphasise the quality of its presentation and clear love of its subject. The website is very political and so invariably makes some contentious statements. Those aside, the author’s history might well – but for the mistakes I have mentioned – be very accurate.

Of course, I speak as no more than a student of Alexander rather than expert. I make my own mistakes. If the errors on Mani can be ironed out I’m sure it’ll be a top-notch website.

Categories: Of The Moment | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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’.

Comments
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?

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

“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.

Comments
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

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

For the other posts in this series, click here

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
.

Amazonians
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.
.
Roxane
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.

Categories: Plutarch's Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Plutarch’s Women: Stateira I, her daughters; Persian women and a wolf’s mother; the Pythia (Chapts. 30 and 37)

For previous posts in this series click here

Stateira I
Welcome back Plutarch’s Women. We begin this post at the start of Chapter 30. There, Plutarch records some sad news – the death of Stateira I, Darius III’s wife. Stateira’s death is all the more tragic because she died in child birth (although, see below). What would have become of the child had he or she lived? I suspect the eventual fate of Alexander IV, and indeed the baby’s siblings, answers that question. RIP.
.
Stateira I died in September 331. Alexander’s reaction to her death was to regret writing to Darius telling him to give himself up because it meant that he had lost the opportunity ‘to show… magnanimity’ towards him. What I find difficult about this passage is that Alexander did not think of Stateira herself first. But I have to remind myself that perhaps he did and Plutarch did not record it. He is not so much writing what happened as trying to make sense of it. There is a difference.

According to Plutarch, Alexander made up for this lost opportunity by giving ‘the queen a magnificent funeral’. The queen. Not, the queen and her unborn child. Plutarch does not mention him or her. Why? I am wondering if it is because up until a child was recognised by its father it had no status, but do not know for sure. If you have another idea do leave a comment below.
.
Going back to Stateira’s baby – who was his or her father? Stateira I was taken prisoner after the Battle of Issus, which took place in November 333. She died sometime in 331. The father, then, could not have been Darius. Did Alexander allow her to be taken by one of his officers? I would agree that this is most unlikely given her status. Perhaps Alexander himself slept with her? Plutarch’s protestations that Alexander had nothing to do with women notwithstanding, I suspect this is the case. If so, the child would be the first of Alexander’s children to die young (Roxane miscarried). However, we do not know for sure, either way. There is a great deal of uncertainty about Stateira’s death: the sources even disagree right down to the time and cause of it (See this article on Pothos for more information).
.
While Stateira was being laid to rest, one of her her attendants – a eunuch named Tireos – escaped  from (or could he have been allowed to leave…?) the Macedonian camp and made his way to Darius’ where he told the Great King what had happened. Darius was, unsurprisingly, distraught.
.
Stateira I, Stateira II and Drypetis; also, Persian Women
And yet, Darius did not grieve because his wife was dead but because Alexander, he assumed, had denied her a royal funeral. He also feared that Alexander must have taken advantage of his wife. Tireos allayed all of Darius’ worries and then some. Not only had Stateira been given a royal funeral but, while alive, she – and his mother and children – were treated according to their station. And not only  them but all the Persian women whom Alexander had captured. Upon hearing this, Darius made his great prayer to the gods, that ‘no other man but Alexander… sit upon the throne of Cyrus’.
.
A Wolf with a Persian Mother
We now jump forward, over the Battle of Gaugamela and Alexander’s arrival in Babylon, to Chapter 37 and his advance through Persis. The mountainous territory proved tough going for the Macedonians. Fortunately, a guide was on hand to help them on their way. This man, we are told, had ‘a Lycian father and a Persian mother’ and was the subject of a prophecy by no less than the Delphic oracle.
.
The Pythia’s Prophecy
As Plutarch relates it, when Alexander was a boy, the Pythia prophesied that he would one day be guided by a wolf (lycos – lycian) against the Persians. And so it happened. Plutarch doesn’t mention it but it appears that this wolf showed him the way round the Persian Gates, which Alexander proceeded to attack from behind and gain control of. If nothing else, it is a nice story.

Categories: Plutarch's Women | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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)

Categories: Plutarch's Women, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: