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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 5

Alexander then marched northwards along the coast of the Propontis. The satraps of Lydia and Ionia, together with other Persian generals, were encamped on the river Granicus, with a force of 20,000 Greek mercenaries, and about an equal number of native cavalry, with which they prepared to dispute the passage of the river. A Rhodian, named Memnon, had the chief command. The veteran general Parmenio advised Alexander to delay the attack till the following morning; to which he replied, that it would be a bad omen at the beginning of his expedition, if, after passing the Hellespont, he should be stopped by a paltry stream. Thereupon he directed his cavalry to cross the river, and followed himself at the head of the phalanx. The passage, however, was by no means easy. The stream was in many parts so deep as to be hardly fordable, and the opposite bank was steep and rugged. The cavalry had great difficulty in maintaining their ground till Alexander came up to their relief. He immediately charged into the thickest of the fray, and exposed himself so much that his life was often in imminent danger, and on one occasion was saved only by the interposition of his friend Clitus. Having routed the Persians, he next attacked the Greek mercenaries, 2000 of whom were made prisoners, and the rest nearly all cut to pieces, In this engagement he killed two Persian officers with his own hand.

Alexander now marched southwards towards Sardis, which surrendered before he came within sight of its walls. Having left a garrison in that city, he arrived after a four days' march before Ephesus, which likewise capitulated on his approach. Magnesia, Tralles, and Miletus next fell into his hands, the last after a short siege. Halicarnassus made more resistance. It was obliged to be regularly approached; but at length Memnon, finding it no longer tenable, set fire to it in the night, and crossed over to Cos. Alexander caused it to be razed to the ground, and pursued his march along the southern coast of Asia Minor, with the view of seizing those towns which might afford shelter to a Persian fleet. The winter was now approaching, and Alexander sent a considerable part of his army under Parmenio into winter- quarters at Sardis. He also sent back to Macedonia such officers and soldiers as had been recently married, on condition that they should return in the spring with what reinforcements they could raise; and with the same view he despatched an officer to recruit in the Peloponnesus. Meanwhile he himself with a chosen body proceeded along the coasts of Lycia and Pamphylia, having instructed Parmenio to rejoin him in Phrygia in the spring, with the main body. After he had crossed the Xanthus most of the Lycian towns tendered their submission. On the borders of Lycia and Pamphylia, Mount Climax, a branch of the Taurus range, runs abruptly into the sea, leaving only a narrow passage at its foot, which is frequently overflowed. This was the case at the time of Alexander's approach. He therefore sent his main body by a long and difficult road across the mountains to Perge; but he himself who loved danger for its own sake, proceeded with a chosen band along the shore, wading through water that was breast-high for nearly a whole day. Then forcing his way northwards through the barbarous tribes which inhabited the mountains of Pisidia, he encamped in the neighbourhood of Gordium in Phrygia. Here he was rejoined by Parmenio and by the new levies from Greece. Gordium had been the capital of the early Phrygian kings, and in it was preserved with superstitious veneration the chariot or waggon in which the celebrated Midas, the son of Gordius, together with his parents, had entered the town, and in conformity with an oracle had been elevated to the monarchy. An ancient prophecy promised the sovereignty of Asia to him who should untie the knot of bark which fastened the yoke of the waggon to the pole. Alexander repaired to the Acropolis, where the waggon was preserved, to attempt this adventure. Whether he undid the knot by drawing out a peg, or cut it through with his sword, is a matter of doubt; but that he had fulfilled the prediction was placed beyond dispute that very night by a great storm of thunder and lightning.

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Cf. Plutarch's Alexander

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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

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