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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

William Smith, A Smaller History of Ancient Greece




Alexander the Great, B.C. 336-323













Page 3

The result of the Congress might be considered a settlement of the affairs of Greece. Alexander then returned to Macedonia in the hope of being able to begin his Persian expedition in the spring of B.C. 335; but reports of disturbances among the Thracians and Triballians diverted his attention to that quarter. He therefore crossed Mount Haemus (the Balkan) and marched into the territory of the Triballians, defeated their forces, and pursued them to the Danube, which he crossed. After acquiring a large booty he regained the banks of the Danube, and thence marched against the Illyrians and Taulantians, whom he speedily reduced to obedience.

During Alexander's absence on these expeditions no tidings were heard of him for a considerable time, and a report of his death was industriously spread in Southern Greece. The Thebans rose and besieged the Macedonian garrison in the Cadmea, at the same time inviting other states to declare their independence. Demosthenes was active in aiding the movement. He persuaded the Athenians to furnish the Thebans with subsidies and to assure them of their support and alliance. But the rapidity of Alexander again crushed the insurrection in the bud. Before the Thebans discovered that the report of his death was false he had already arrived at Onchestus in Boeotia. Alexander was willing to afford them an opportunity for repentance, and marched slowly to the foot of the Cadmea. But the leaders of the insurrection, believing themselves irretrievably compromised, replied with taunts to Alexander's proposals for peace, and excited the people to the most desperate resistance. An engagement was prematurely brought on by one of the generals of Alexander, in which some of the Macedonian troops were put to the rout; but Alexander, coming up with the phalanx, whilst the Thebans were in the disorder of pursuit, drove them back in turn and entered the gates along with them, when a fearful massacre ensued committed principally by the Thracians in Alexander's service. Six thousand Thebans are said to have been slain, and thirty thousand were made prisoners. The doom of the conquered city was referred to the allies, who decreed her destruction. The grounds of the verdict bear the impress of a tyrannical hypocrisy. They rested on the conduct of the Thebans during the Persian war, on their treatment of Plataea, and on their enmity to Athens. The inhabitants were sold as slaves, and all the houses, except that of Pindar, were levelled with the ground. The Cadmea was preserved to be occupied by a Macedonian garrison. Thebes seems to have been thus harshly treated as an example to the rest of Greece, for towards the other states, which were now eager to make their excuses and submission, Alexander showed much forbearance and lenity. The conduct of the Athenians exhibits them deeply sunk in degradation. When they heard of the chastisement indicted upon Thebes, they immediately voted, on the motion of Demosthenes, that ambassadors should be sent to congratulate Alexander on his safe return from his northern expeditions, and on his recent success. Alexander in reply wrote a letter, demanding that eight or ten of the leading Athenian orators should be delivered up to him. At the head of the list was Demosthenes. In this dilemma, Phocion, who did not wish to speak upon such a question, was loudly called upon by the people for his opinion; when he rose and said that the persons whom Alexander demanded had brought the state into such a miserable plight that they deserved to be surrendered, and that for his own part he should be very happy to die for the commonwealth. At the same time he advised them to try the effect of intercession with Alexander; and it was at last only by his own personal application to that monarch with whom he was a great favourite, that the orators were spared. According to another account, however, the wrath of Alexander was appeased by the orator Demades, who received from the Athenians a reward of five talents for his services. It was at this time that Alexander is said to have sent a present of 100 talents to Phocion. But Phocion asked the persons who brought the money--"Why he should be selected for such a bounty?" "Because," they replied, "Alexander considers you the only just and honest man." "Then," said Phocion, "let him suffer me to be what I seem, and to retain that character." And when the envoys went to his house and beheld the frugality with which he lived, they perceived that the man who refused such a gift was wealthier than he who offered it.

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To Chapter XXI : From the Death of Alexander the Great to the Conquest of Greece by the Romans, B.C. 323-146

Cf. Plutarch's Alexander

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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