From Arrian, The Anabasis of Alexander

Introduction: Arrian was a Roman officer of Greek origin in the 2nd century A.D..  He was governor of Cappadocia (in Asia Minor) under Emperor Hadrian. His chief work is the Anabasis, the prime extant source on Alexander the Great. The Anabasis relies chiefly on the writings of two of Alexander’s generals (Ptolemy I and Aristobulus) for source material.

1. When Alexander arrived at Pasargadae and Persepolis (in Persia), he was seized with an ardent desire to sail down the Euphrates and Tigris to the Persian Sea, and to see the mouths of those rivers as he had already seen those of the Indus as well as the sea into which it flows. Some authors also have stated that he was meditating a voyage round the larger portion of Arabia, the country of the Ethiopians, Libya, and Numidia beyond Mount Atlas to Gadeira, inward into our sea (the Mediterranean); thinking that after he had subdued both Libya and Carchedon, then indeed he might with justice be called king of all Asia. For he said that the kings of the Persians and Medes called themselves Great Kings without any right, since they ruled a comparatively small part of Asia. Some say that he was meditating a voyage thence into the Euxine Sea, to Scythia and the Lake Maeotis; while others assert that he intended to go to Sicily and the Iapygian Cape, for the fame of the Romans spreading far and wide was now exciting his jealousy. For my own part I cannot conjecture with any certainty what were his plans; and I do not care to guess. But this I think I can confidently affirm, that he meditated nothing small or mean; and that he would never have remained satisfied with any of the acquisitions he had made, even if he had added Europe to Asia, or the islands of the Britons to Europe; but would still have gone on seeking for some unknown land beyond those mentioned. I truly believe that if he had found no one else to strive with, he would have striven with himself.....

4. ....In Susa, he celebrated both his own wedding and those of his companions. He himself married Barsine, the eldest daughter of Darius, and according to Aristobulus, besides her another, Parysatis, the youngest daughter of Ochus. He had already married Roxana, daughter of Oxyartes the Bactrian. To Hephaestion he gave Drypetis, another daughter of Darius, and his own wife's sister; for he wished Hephaestion's children to be first cousins to his own. …. Likewise to the rest of his Companions he gave the choicest daughters of the Persians and Medes, to the number of eighty. The weddings were celebrated after the Persian manner, seats being placed in a row for the bridegrooms; and after the banquet the brides came in and seated themselves, each one near her own husband. The bridegrooms took them by the right hand and kissed them; the king being the first to begin, for the weddings of all were conducted in the same way. This appeared the most popular thing which Alexander ever did; and it proved his affection for his Companions. Each man took his own bride and led her away; and on all without exception Alexander bestowed dowries, He also ordered that the names of all the other Macedonians who had married any of the Asiatic women should be registered. They were over 10,000 in number; and to these Alexander made presents on account of their weddings.

6. The viceroys from the newly-built cities and the rest of the territory subdued in war came to him, bringing with them youths just growing into manhood to the number of 30,000, all of the same age, whom Alexander called Epigoni. They had been equiped with Macedonian arms, and exercised in military discipline after the Macedonian system. The arrival of these is said to have vexed the Macedonians, who thought that Alexander was contriving every means in his power to free himself from future need of their services. For the same reason also the sight of his Median dress was no small cause of dissatisfaction to them; and the weddings celebrated in the Persian fashion were displeasing to most of them, even including some of those who married, although they had been greatly honored by their being put on the same level with the king in the marriage ceremony. … They were disgusted that the Bactrian, Sogdianian, Arachotian, Zarangian, Arian, and Parthian horsemen, as well as the Persian horsemen called the Evacae, had been distributed among the squadrons of the Companion cavalry; as many of them at least as were seen to excel in reputation, fineness of stature, or any other good quality; and that a fifth cavalry division was added to these troops, not composed entirely of foreigners; but the whole body of cavalry was increased in number, and men were picked from the foreigners and put into it. …Over these Hystaspes the Bactrian was placed as commander; and Macedonian spears were given to them instead of the barbarian javelins which had thongs attached to them. All this offended the Macedonians, who thought that Alexander was becoming altogether Asiatic in his ideas, and was holding the Macedonians themselves as well as their customs in a position of contempt......

8. Indeed, throughout the whole of this expedition they had been offended at many other things; for his adoption of the Persian dress, thereby exhibiting his contempt for their opinion often caused them grief, as did also his equipping the foreign soldiers called Epigoni in the Macedonian style, and the mixing of the alien horsemen among the ranks of the Companions. Therefore they could not remain silent and control themselves, but urged him to dismiss all of them from his army; and they advised him to prosecute the war in company with his father, deriding Amman (an Egyptian god) by this remark. When Alexander heard this (for at that time he was more hasty in temper than before, and no longer, as of old, indulgent to the Macedonians from having a retinue of foreign attendants), leaping down from the platform with his officers around him, he ordered the most conspicuous of the men who had tried to stir up the multitude to sedition to be arrested. He himself pointed out with his hand to the shield-bearing guards those whom they were to arrest, to the number of thirteen; and he ordered these to be led away to execution. When the rest, stricken with terror, became silent, he mounted the platform again, and spoke as follows :

9. "The speech which I am about to deliver will not be for the purpose of checking your start homeward, for, so far as I am concerned, you may depart wherever you wish; but for the purpose of making you understand when you take yourselves off, what kind of men. you have been to us who have conferred such benefits upon you. In the first place, as is reasonable, I shall begin my speech from my father Philip. For he found you vagabonds and destitute of means, most of you clad in hides, feeding a few sheep up the mountain sides... Instead of the hides he gave you cloaks to wear, and from the mountains he led you down into the plains, and made you capable of fighting the neighbouring barbarians… The Athenians and Thebans, who were always lying in wait to attack Macedonia, he humbled to such a degree, I also then rendering him my personal aid in the campaign, that instead of paying tribute to the former and being vassals to the latter, those States in their turn procure security to themselves by our assistance.

“These were the advantages which accrued to you from my father Philip; great indeed if looked at by themselves, but small if compared with those you have obtained from me. For though I inherited from my father only a few gold and silver goblets, and there were not even sixty talents in the treasury … I started from the country which could not decently support you, and laid open to you the passage of the Hellespont, though at that time the Persians held the sovereignty of the sea. Having overpowered the satraps of Darius with my cavalry, I added to your empire the whole of Ionia, the whole of Aeolis, both Phrygias and Lydia, and I took Miletus by siege. All the other places I gained by voluntary surrender, and I granted you the privilege of appropriating the wealth found in them. The riches of Egypt and Cyrene, which I acquired without fighting a battle, have come to you. Coele-Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia are your property. Babylon, Bactria, and Susa are yours. The wealth of the Lydians, the treasures of the Persians, and the riches of the Indians are yours; and so is the External Sea. You are viceroys, you are generals, you are captains. What then have I reserved to myself after all these labors, except this purple robe and this diadem? I have appropriated nothing myself, nor can any one point out my treasures, except these possessions of yours or the things which I am guarding on your behalf. Individually, however, I have no motive to guard them, since I feed on the same fare as you do, and I take only the same amount of sleep. Nay, I do not think that my fare is as good as that of those among you who live luxuriously; and I know that I often sit up at night to watch for you, that you may be able to sleep.

10. "But some one may say, that while you endured toil and fatigue, I have acquired these things as your leader without myself sharing the toil and fatigue. But who is there of you who knows that he has endured greater toil for me than I have for him? Come now, whoever of you has wounds, let him strip and show them, and I will show mine in turn; for there is no part of my body, in front at any rate, remaining free from wounds; nor is there any kind of weapon used either for close combat or for hurling at the enemy, the traces of which I do not bear on my person. For I have been wounded with the sword in close fight, I have been shot with arrows, and I have been struck with missiles projected from engines of war; and though oftentimes I have been hit with stones and bolts of wood for the sake of your lives, your glory, and your wealth, I am still leading you as conquerors over all the land and sea, all rivers, mountains, and plains. I have celebrated your weddings with my own, and the children of many of you will be akin to my children. Moreover I have paid the debts of all those who had incurred them, without inquiring too closely for what purpose they were contracted, though you received such high pay, and carry off so much booty whenever there is booty to be got after a siege. ..Whoever has been killed has met with a glorious end and has been honoured with a splendid burial. Brazen statues of most of the slain have been erected at home, and their parents are held in honor) being released from all public service and from taxation. But no one of you has ever been killed in flight under my leadership. And now I was intending to send back those of you who are unfit for service, objects of envy to those at home; but since you all wish to depart, depart all of you! Go back and report at home that your king Alexander, the conqueror of the Persians, Medes, Bactrians, and Sacians; the man who has subjugated the Uxians, Arachotians, and Drangians; who has also acquired the rule of the Parthians, Chorasmians, and Hyrcanians, as far as the Caspian Sea; who has marched over the Caucasus, through the Caspian Gates; who has crossed the rivers Oxus and Tanais, and the Indus besides, which has never been crossed by any one else except Dionysus ; who has also crossed the Hydaspes, Acesines, and Hydraotes, and who would have crossed the Hyphasis, if you had not shrunk back with alarm; who has penetrated into the Great Sea by both the mouths of the Indus; who has marched through the desert of Gadrosia, where no one ever before marched with an army; who on his route acquired possession of Carmania and the land of the Oritians, in addition to his other conquests, his fleet having in the meantime already sailed round the coast of the sea which extends from India to Persia-report that when you returned to Susa you deserted him and went away, handing him over to the protection of conquered foreigners….Depart!"

(After this speech, Alexander’s troops begged him to forgive them.  He did so, and the Macedonians and Persians celebrated a banquet of reconciliation together)

28. Alexander died in the 114th Olympiad, in the archonship of Hegesias at Athens. According to the statement of Aristobulus, he lived thirty-two years, and had reached the eighth month of his thirty-third year. He had reigned twelve years and these eight months. He was very handsome in person, and much devoted to exertion, very active in mind, very heroic in courage, very tenacious of honor, exceedingly fond of incurring danger, and strictly observant of his duty to the deity. In regard to the pleasures of the body, he had perfect self-control; and of those of the mind, praise was the only one of which he was insatiable, He was very clever in recognising what was necessary to be done, when others were still in a state of uncertainty; and very successful in conjecturing from the observation of facts what was likely to occur. In marshalling, arming, and ruling an army, he was exceedingly skillful; and very renowned for rousing the courage of his soldiers, filling them with hopes of success, and dispelling their fear in the midst of danger by his own freedom from fear.

29. That Alexander should have committed errors in conduct from impetuosity or from wrath, and that he should have been induced to comport himself like the Persian monarchs to an immoderate degree, I do not think remarkable if we fairly consider both his youth and his uninterrupted career of good fortune …. I do not think that even his tracing his origin to a god was a great error on Alexander's part, if it was not perhaps merely a device to induce his subjects to show him reverence…. His adoption of the Persian mode of dressing also seems to me to have been a political device in regard to the foreigners, that the king might not appear altogether alien to them; and in regard to the Macedonians, to show them that he had a refuge from their rashness of temper and insolence. For this reason I think, he mixed the Persian royal guards, who carried golden apples at the end of their spears, among the ranks of the Macedonians, and the Persian peers with the Macedonian body-guards. Aristobulus also asserts that Alexander used to have long drinking parties, not for the purpose of enjoying the wine, as he was not a great wine-drinker, but in order to exhibit his sociality and friendly feeling to his Companions.

30. For my own part, I think there was at that time no race of men, no city, nor even a single individual to whom Alexander's name and fame had not penetrated. For this reason it seems to me that a hero totally unlike any other human being could not have been born without the agency of the deity.

In relating the history of Alexander's achievements, there are some things which I have been compelled to censure; but I am not ashamed to admire Alexander himself. Those actions I have labeled as bad, both from a regard to my own truthfulness, and at the same time for the benefit of mankind. For this reason I myself undertook the task of writing this history not without the agency of god.


Adapted from Internet Ancient History Sourcebook, which took it from Arrian, The Anabasis of Alexander, together with the Indica, E. J. Chinnock, tr. (London: George Bell and Sons, 1893),