Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

excepted who had committed sacrilege, or any other crime deserving death ; and ordered Antipater to employ an armed force against such cities as should refuse to obey. This letter was read in the assembly. But as for the Athenians and Ætolians, they did not think themselves obliged to put orders in execution, which seemed to interfere with their liberty.

Alexander, after having dispatched these affairs, finding himself now at leisure, began to think of Heplæstion's burial. This he solemnised with a magnificence, the like of which had never been seen. As he himself undertook the management of this funeral, he commanded all the neighbouring cities to contribute their utmost in exalting the pomp of it. He likewise ordered all the nations of Asia to extinguish what the Persians call the sacred fire, till the ceremony of the interment should be ended ; which was considered as an ill omen, it being never practised in Persia, except at the death of its monarchs. All the officers and courtiers, to please Alexander, caused images to be carved of that fa: vourite, of gold, ivory, and other precious materials.

At the same time the king, having procured a great numa ber of architects and skilful workmen, first caused near sis furlongs of the wall of Babylon to be beat down ; and having got together a great number of bricks, and levelled the spot designed for the funeral pile, he had a most magnificent monumental structure erected over it.

This edifice was divided into 30 parts, in each whereof was raised an uniform building, the roof of which was cová ered with great planks of palm-tree wood. The whole forma ed a perfect square, the circumference of which was adorme ed with extraordinary magnificence. Each side was a fure long, or 100 fathoms in length. At the foot of it, and in the first row, were set 244 prows of ships gilded, on the buttress ees, * or supprters, whereof the statues of two archers, four cubits high, with one knee on the ground, were fixed; two other statues, in an upright posture, completely armed, bigger than the life, being five cubits in height. The spaces between the prows were spread and adorned with purple cloth. Over these prows was a colonnade of large flambeaux, the shafts of which were 15 cubits high, embellished with crowns of gold at the part

where they are held. The flame of those fambeaux ending at the top, terminated towards eagles, which, with their heads turned downwards, and exi tended wings, served as capitals. Dragons fixed near, of

• la Greek Enopides, or ears. These are two pieces of timber, which project is the right and the left of the prow.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

and

[merged small][ocr errors]

upon the base, turned their heads upwards towards the eagles. Over this colonnade stood a third, in the base of which was represented, in relievo, a party hunting animals of every kind. On the superior order, that is, the fourth, the coinbat of the centaurs was represented in gold. Finally, on the fifth, golden figures, representing lions and bulls, were placed alternately. The whole edifice terminated with military trophies, after the Macedonian and barbarian fashion, as so many cymbals of the victory of the former, and defeat of the latter. On the entablatures and roof were represented syrens, the hollow bodies of which were filled, but in an imperceptible manner, with musicians, who sang mournful airs and dirges in honour of the deceased. This edifice was upwards of 130 cubits high, that is, above 195 feet.

The beauty of the design of this structure, the singularity and magnificence of the decorations, and the several orna. ments of it, surpassed the most wonderful productions of fancy, and were all in an exquisite taste. Alexander had appointed to superintend the building of this edifice, Stasicrates, a great architect, and admirably well skilled in me. chanics, in all whose inventions and designs there appeared, not only prodigious magnificence and surprising boldness, but such a greatness as was scarce conceivable.

* It was this artist, who discoursing some time before with Alexander, had told him, that of all the mountains he knew, none would so well admit of being cut into the shape of a man, as mount Athos in Thrace : that, if he therefore pleased but to give orders, he would make this mountain the inost dura. ble of all statues, and that which would lie most open to the view of the universe. In its left hand it would hold a city, consisting of 10,000 inhabitants ; and from its right should pour a great river, whose waters would discharge themselves in the sea. One would have thought that this project would have pleased Alexander, who sought for the great and marvellous in all things ; nevertheless he rejected it, and wisely answered, that it was enough there was one prince whose folly mount Athos would eternize. This was meant of Xerxes, who having endeavoured to cut through the isth. mus of that mountain, wrotet a letter to it in the most proud and senseless terms. “With regard to myself,” says Alex

* Plut. de fortun, Alex, serm. i. p. 335.

† Proud Athos, who liftest thy head to heaven, be not so bold ad to oppose to my workmen such rocks and stones as they cannot cut ; otherwise, I will cut thec quite to picces, and throw thee into the sea. Plut, de ira cohib. p. 535.

ander, « mount Caucasus, the river Tanais, * the Caspian

sea, all which I passed in triumph, shall be my motu“ ment."

The expence of the splendid monument which this prince erected in honour of Hephæstion, with that of the fureral

, amounted to upwards of 12,000 talents, that is, more than 1,800,0001. But, what man was ever so ridiculously and extravyantly profuse ? All this gold, all this silver, was no other than the blood of nations, and the substance of provin. ces, which were thus sacrificed to a vain ostentation !

To crown the affection which Alexander had for his deceased friend, something was still wanting to the honours he paid him, to raise them above human nature ; and this was what he proposed, and for that purpose had sent to the tema ple of Aimon a trusty person, named Philip, to inquire the will of the god. It doubtless was the echo of that of Alex ander; and the answer was, that sacrifices might be offered to Hephæstion, as a demi-god. These were not spared in any manner; Alexander himself first setting the example

, when he made a great feast, to which upwards of 10,000 persons were invited. At the same time he wrote to Cleomenes, governor of Egypt, commanding him to build a tem. ple to Hephæstion in Alexandria, and another in the isle of Pharos. In this letter, which is still extant, to excite his diligence, and hasten the work, he grants the governor (who was despised universally for his injustice and rapide) a general pardon for all his crimes, past, present, and future; provided that, at his return, the temple and city should be coinpleted. And now nothing was seen but new altars, temples, and festivals ; no oaths were administered but in the name of the new deity: to question his divinity was a capital crime. An old officer, a friend of Hephæstion, having bewailed him as dead, in passing before his tomb, had like to have been put to death for it; nor would he have been pardoned, had not Alexander been assured, that the officer wepi, merely from some remains of tenderness, and not as doubting Hephæstion's divinity. I cannot say whether Alexander prevailed so far as to make

any one give credit to Hephæstion's divinity; but he himself appeared, or at least en deavoured to appear, firmly persuaded of it; and gloried, not only that he had a god for his father, but that he himself could make gods. How ridiculous is all this !

During almost a year which Alexander continued in Babylon, he revolved a great many projects in his mind; such as to go round Africa by sea ; to make a complete discovery of

* The laxarthes is here mcant,

possible.

all the nations lying round the Caspian sea, and inhabiting its coasts; to conquer Arabia, to make war with Carthage, and to subdue the rest of Europe. The very thcughts of sitting still fatigued him, and the great vivacity of his imagination and ambition would never suffer liim to be at rest; nay, could he have conquered the whole world, he would have souglit a new one, to satiate the avidity of his desires.

The embellishing of Babylon also employed his thoughts very much. Finding it surpassed in extent, in conveniency, and in whatever can be wished, either for the necessities or pleasures of life, all the other cities of the east, he resolved to make it the seat of his empire ; and for that purpose, was desirous of adding to it all the conveniencies and ornaments

This city, as well as the country round about it, had suffered prodigiously by the breaking of the bank or dike of the Euphrates, at the head of the canal called Pallacopa. The river running out of its usual channel by this breach, overflowed the whole country ; and forcing its way perpetually, the breach grew at last so wide, that it would have cost al. most as much to repair the bank as the raising of it had done at first. So little water was left in the channel of the Eu. phrates about Babylon, that there was scarce depth enough for small boats, which consequently was of great prejudice to the city.

Alexander undertook to remedy this ; for which purpose he embarked upon the Euphrates, in order to take a view of the place. It was on this occasion that he reproached, in a ludicrous insulting tune of voice, the magi and Chaldeans, who accompanied him, for the vanity of their predictions ; since, notwithstanding the ill omens they had endeavoured to terrify him with, as if he had been a credulous woman, he however had entered Babylon, and was returned from it very safe. Attentive to nothing but the subject of his voyage, he went and reviewd the breach, and gave the proper or. ders for repairing and restoring it to its former condition.

This design of Alexander merited the greatest applause. Such works are truly worthy great princes, and give immortal honour to their name, as pot being the effect of a ridiculous vanity, but entirely calculated for the public good. By the execution of this project, he would have recovered a whole province which lay under water, and have made the river more navigable, and consequently of greater service to the Babylonians, by turning it all again into its channel as before,

This work, after having been carried on the length of 30 furlongs (a league and a half), was stopped by difficulties

owing to the nature of the soil ; and the death of this prince, which happened soon after, put an end to this project, and several others he had formed. A supreme cause, unknown to men, prevented its execution. The real obstacle to the success of it, was the curse which God had pronounced against this city ; an anathema which no human power could divert or retard. *I“ will cut off from Babylon the name and “ remnant,” had the Lord of hosts sworn above 300 years before: “I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and “pools of water : and I will sweep it with the besom of des. a truction-+It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be « dwelt in from generation to generation, neither shall the “ shepherds make their fold there.” Heaven and earth would sooner have passed away, than Alexander's design been put in execution. No river was now to flow by Baby lon ; the places round it were to be overflowed and changed into uninhabitable fens; it was to be rendered inaccessible by the prodigious quantities of mud and dirt; and the city, as well as the country about it, were to be covered with stagnated waters, which would make all access to it impracticable. Thus it now lies; and all things were to conspire to reduce it to this dejected state, in order that the prophecy might be completely fulfilled; "& for the Lord of hosts hath “ purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is “ stretched out, and who shall turn it back ?". Nothing shows more evidently the strength and weight of this invincible curse, than the efforts of the most powerful prince that ever reigned ; a prince the most obstinate that ever was, with regard to the carrying on his projects; a prince, of whose enterprises none had ever miscarried ; and who failed in this only, though it did not seem so difficult as the rest.

Another design which Alexander meditated, and had most at heart, was the repairing the temple of Belus. Xerxes had demolished it in his return from Greece, and it had lain in ruins ever since. Now Alexander was resolved, not only to rebuild it, but even to raise a much more magnificent temple. Accordingly, he had caused all the rubbish to be removed ; and finding that the magi, to whose care he had left this, went on but slowly, he made his soldiers work. Notwithstanding 10,000 of them were daily employed at it, for two months successively, the work was not finished at the death of this prince, so prodigious were its ruins. I|When

Isaiah, c. xiv. 22, 23.

+ Ibid. c. xiii. 20.
See what is said oa chis subject in the hiscery of Cyrus,
Š Isaiah c. xiv. 27.
Jolephus contra Appian. Is i, c, 8.

« PreviousContinue »