« PreviousContinue »
were ever ready to break to pieces. Their great king was nothing but an effeminate despot, whose court was filled with every species of wickedness. Darius Codomanus was deficient both in politics and military skill; instead of waiting for the Greeks, as he was advised, in the great plains of Assyria, where the whole of his troops might have acted, he imprudently advanced to. give battle to Alexander; and entering Cilicia, by the pass of Amanus, entangled himself in a defile, where the greatest part of his army could not be brought into action. His loss is said to have amounted to 110,000 men.
After this defeat, Alexander passed into Syria, and his general Parmenio took possession of Damascus, where Darius kept his treasures, and where a booty was found sufficient to load 7000 beasts of burden.
Alexander afterwards besieged Tyre, which he took by storm; 8000 Tyrians were put to death; and 30,000 prisoners sold. According to Josephus, he then went to Jerusalem, of which we shall have to speak in another part of this work. He took the city of Gaza, and entered Egypt, where he was received with joy, the Persians having made themselves detested for their cruelty he allowed the Eyptians to retain their own laws and customs, as has been' shown
in the prophecies. Darius made large offers to Alexander for peace, but in vain; therefore he assembled 700,000 men to oppose him; but Alexander passed the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, presented himself in the face of his enemy, and obtained a complete victory.
Arrian reckons 300,000 of the Persians were killed in the field.
Babylon, Susa, Persepolis, and Ecbatan, all fell into the hands of the conqueror; but the immense riches which were found in those places, very soon corrupted his army. The burning of the palace of Xerxes at Persepolis, has been looked upon as a prelude to those excesses into which Alexander plunged himself. From this time forward, we can scarcely trace any of those virtuous sentiments of which he had given so many proofs. Debauchery, cruelty, and ingratitude, tarnished all his glory; and he who formerly would have no cooks but sobriety and exercise, now passed days and nights in riot and feasting. He became fond of the luxury and ornament of the Persian kings, which he had formerly despised. He scorned the manners and dress of the Macedonians, who had been the instruments by which he had gained so many ad vantages. He desired the people should adore him, and laid himself open to murmurings and rebellion.
The more successful he was, the more he gave himself to the intoxication of his pride and vanity. The confines of Persia were too limited for his ambition; he undertook to bring India under his dominion'.
Plutarch's account of the address of Taxiles, one of the kings of the country, deserves to be transmitted to posterity in letters of gold: “Oh, Alexander! if you do not intend to deprive us of our food and water, which are the only things for which reasonable people ought to take up arms, wherefore should we fight? As to what the world calls riches, if I have more than you, I am ready to give you a part; if I have less, I am willing to owe you a favour."
This gave Alexander some check; he accepted his gifts, and loaded him with presents; but it did not long stop his career. He engaged another Indian king, notwithstanding his elephants and his courage, whom he defeated.
After undergoing most extreme fatigues, and succeeding in incredible exploits, his army refused to follow him any further in unknown regions, and obliged him to return. On his arrival in Persia, he endeavoured to remedy disorders, and to quell mutinies, with a view to making further conquests; but his end was drawing near. The death of his favourite Hephestion, who fell
a sacrifice to drunkenness, did not make Alexander more sober or more prudent; and at the 、age of thirty-three, he died from the same cause, at Babylon, 323 years before the Christian era.
It is said, that when his officers asked him, near his close, whom he would have to succeed him, he replied, “the most worthy;" adding, that he foresaw his funeral would be stained with blood. In effect, such extensive conquests only terminated in civil wars, and the inevitable destruction of an empire too large to be governed by one man.
The history of Alexander may serve as an im portant lesson to mankind, and especially to kings. They will see there, the sad effects which a great flow of success may have, even upon noble and generous minds. The sudden transition from good to bad, from prudence to folly, from moderation to violence, from dignity to ignominy, must make every rational being tremble upon the brink of an abyss, dug by the passions.
The Macedonian emperor well deserved the answer which was made to him by the pirate, whom he asked, what right he had to infest the seas? "The same which you have to infest the whole world. I am called a robber, because I do it with one ship; while you are called a conqueror, because you employ a great fleet."
Let us value things according to the advan→ tages they procure, continues the Abbé Millot. Let us commend Alexander for his intention of draining the marshes in the country about Babylon, and digging a basin in the neighbourhood of the city, to be a safe harbour for ships. Let us praise him for his schemes to promote commerce and navigation. But at the same time we must acknowledge, that he was the scourge of mankind. He did much more harm than good, not only to the people whom he conquered, but likewise to his own subjects, whom he left to feel all the dismal effects of civil discord.
His empire was very soon divided, his family dispossessed, and totally extinguished; so that he seems to have laboured only to raise fortunes for his officers. The quarrels and wars which were entered into by the successors of Alexander, after a long series of battles, were only terminated by a division of the empire among the conquerors. Egypt, Lybia, Arabia, Palestine, and Cole Syria, fell to Ptolemy; Macedonia and Greece, to Cassander; Thrace, Bythinia, and some other provinces, to Lysimachus. And Seleucus had the rest of Asia as far as Indus. This last kingdom, the most powerful of the four, is called the kingdom of Syria, because the city of Antioch, which was built in Syria by