Page images

whose exercises were relative to those of war, accustomed themselves early to bathing and swimming. It is well known, that, in Rome, the sons of the nobility, after having heated themselves in the Campus Martius, with running, wrestling, and hurling the javelin, used to plunge into the Tiber, which runs by that city. By these exercises they enabled themselves to pass rivers and lakes in an enemy's country ; for those are never crossed, but after painful marches, and after having been long exposed to the sunbeams, which, with the weight of the soldier's arms, must necessarily make them sweat. Hence we may apologise for Alexander's bathing himself in a river, which had like to have been so fatal to him, especially as he might not know that the waters of it were so excessively cold.

The two battles of Issus and Arbela, with the siege of Tyre, one of the most famous of antiquity, entirely proved that Alexander possessed all the qualities which form the great soldier ; as skill in making choice of a field of battle ; such a presence of mind in the heat of action as is necessary for the giving out proper orders ; a courage and bravery, which the most evident dangers only animated ; an impetu. ous activity, temperd and guided by such a prudent reserva edness, as will not suffer the hero to be carried away by an indiscreet ardour ; lastly, such a resolution and constancy, as is neither disconcerted by unforeseen obstacles, nor dis-' couraged by difficulties, though seemingly insurmountable, and which know no other bounds or issue but victory.

Historians have observed a great * difference between Alexander and his father, in their manner of making war. Stratagem, and even knavery, were the prevailing arts of Philip, who always acted secretly, and in the dark; but his son pursued his schemes with more candour, and without disguise. The one endeavoured to deceive his enemies by cunning, the other to subdue them by force of arms. The former discovered more art, the latter had a greater soul. fPhilip did not look upon any methods, which conduce to conquest, as ignominious ; but Alexander could never prevail with himself to employ treachery. He indeed, endeavoured to draw over the ablest of all Darius' generals ; but then he employed honourable means. When he marched near Memnon's lands, he commanded his soldiers, upon the

*Vincendi ratio utrique diversa. Hic aperte, ille artibus bella tractabat. Deceptis ille gaudere hostibus, hic palam susis. Prudentior ille consilio, hic animo magnificentior.--Nulla apud Philippuns turpis ratio vincendi, Justin, I. ix, s. 8.

| Pausan. ), vii, p. 4056

severest penalties not to make the least havoc in them. His design, by this conduct, was either to gain him over to his side, or to make the Persians suspect his fidelity. * Memnon also delighted in behaving with generosity towards Alexander; and hearing a soldier speak ill of that prince, “I did “ not take thee into my pay,” says that general, striking him with his javelin, “ to speak injuriously of that prince, “ but to fight against him.”

The circumstance which raises Alexander above most conquerors, and, as it were, above himself, is the use he made of victory after the battle of Issus. This is the most beautiful incident in his life : is the point of light in which it is his interest to be considered ; and it is impossible for him not to appear truly great in that view. By the vice tory of Issus, he had possessed himself, not only of Dari. us' person, but also of his empire. Not only Sysiganibis

, that king's mother, was his captive, but also his wife and daughters, princesses whose beauty was not to be paral. leled in all Asia. Alexander was in the bloom of his life, a conqueror, free, and not yet engaged in the bands of marriage, as an author observes of the first Scipio Africanus, on a like occasion : nevertheless, his camp was to those princesses a sacred asylum, or rather a temple, in which their chastity was secured, as under the guard of virtue itself, and so highly revered, that Darius, in his expiring moments, hearing the kind treatment they had met with, could not forbear lifting up his dying hands towards heaven, and wishing success to so wise and generous a con. queror, who governed his passions so absolutely,

In the enumeration of Alexander's good qualities, I must not omit ohe rarely found among the great, and which nerertheless does honour to human nature, and makes life hape py: this is, his being formed with a soul capable of a tender friendship; his openness, truth, perseverance, and humility, in so exalted a fortune, which generally considers itself only, makes its grandeur consist in humbling all things around it, and is better pleased with servile wretches, than with free sincere friends.

Alexander endeared himself to his officers and soldiers; treated them with the greatest familiarity ; admitted them to his table, his exercises, and conversations ; was deeply troubled for them when involved in any calamity, grieved for them when sick, rejoiced at their recovery, and shared in whatever befel them. We have examples of this in

• Plus. in Apoph. p. 174.
† Et juvenis, et cælebs, ct victor. Val, Max, 1. iv, c. 3.

Hephæstion, in Ptolemy, in Craterus, and many others. A prince of real merit does no ways debase his dignity, by such a familiarity and condescension ; but, on the contrary, is more beloved and respected upon that very account. Every man of a tall stature does not scruple to put himself upon a level with the rest of mankind, well knowing that he shall overtop them all. It is the interest of truly diminutive persons only, not to vie in stature with the tall, nor to appear in a crowd.

Alexander was dear to others, because they were sensible he was beforehand with them in affection. This circumstance made the soldiers strongly desirous to please him, and fired them with intrepidity; hence they were always ready to execute all his orders, though attended with the greatest difficulties and dangers : this made them submit patiently to the severest hardships, and threw them into the deepest affliction, whenever they happened to give him any room for discontent.

In this picture which has been given of Alexander, what was wanting to complete his glory? Military virtue has been exhibited in its utmost splendour : goodness, clemency, moderation, and wisdom, have crowned it, and added such a lus- tre, as greatly enhances its value. Let us suppose that Alexander, to secure his glory and his victories, stops short in his career; that he himself checks his ambition, and raises Darius to the throne, with the same hand that had dispossessed him of it ; makes Asia Minor, inhabited chiefly by Greeks, free and independent of Persia ; that he declare's himself protector of all the cities and states of Greece, in no other view than to secure their liberties, and the enjoyment of their respective laws and customs; that he afterwards returns to Macedon, and there, contented with the lawful - bounds of his empire, makes all his glory and delight consist in rendering his people happy, in procuring it abundance of all things, in seeing the laws put in execution, and making justice flourish; in causing virtue to be had in honour, and endearing himself to his subjects : In fine, that now become, by the terror of his arms, and much more so by the fame of his virtues, the admiration of the whole world, he sees himself, in some measure, the arbiter of all nations, and exercise es over the minds of men such an empire as is infinitely more lasting and honourable than that which is founded on fear only : Supposing all this to have happened, Alexander would have been as great, as glorious, as good a prince as ever blessed mankind.

To the forming so great a character, a greatness of soul, and a most refined. taste for true glory, are required, such as


is seldom met with in history. Men generally do not sider, that the glory which attends the most shining conquests, is greatly inferior to the reputation of a prince, who has despised and trampled upon ambition, and known how to give bounds to universal power. But Alexander was far from possessing these happy qualities. His uninterrupted felicity, that never experienced adverse fortune, intoxicated and changed him to such a degree, that he no longer appeared the same man; and I do not remember that ever the poison of prosperity had a more sudden or more forcible effect tham upon him.


From the siege of Tyre, which was soon after the battle of Issus, in which Alexander displayed all the courage and abilities of a great warrior, we see the virtues and noble qualities of this prince degenerate on a sudden, and make way for the greatest vices and most brutal passions. If we sometimes, through the excesses to which he abandons him. self, perceive some bright rays of humanity, gentleness, and moderation, these are the effects of a happy disposition, which, not being quite extinguished by vice, is however governed by it.

Was ever enterprise more wild and extravagant than that of crossing the sandy deserts of Lybia ; of exposing his army to the danger of perishing with thirst and fatigue; of interrupting the course of his victories, and giving his enemy time to raise a new army, merely, for the sake of marching so far, in order to get himself named the son of Jupiter-Ammon; and purchase, at so dear a rate, a title which could only render him contemptible ?

How mean was it in Alexander, to omit always in his letters, after Darius's defeat, the Greek word, which signifies healthf, except in those he wrote to Phocion and Antipater! as if this title, because employed by other men, could have degraded a king, who is obliged by his office to procure, at least to wish all his subjects, the enjoyment of the felicity implied by that word.

Of all vices, none is so grovelling, none so unworthy, not only of a prince, but of a man of honour, as drunkenness; its

*Scis ubi vera principis, ubi sempiterna sit gloria-Arcus, et statuas aras eciam templaque demolitur et obscurat oblivio ; contra, con. temptor ambitionis, et infinitæ potentiæ domitor ac frægator ani. mus ipsa vetustate florescit. Plin. in Fan. Trajan, +Pluc. in Phoc, p. 749.



bare name is intolerable, and strikes us with horror. How infamous a pleasure is it, to spend whole days and nights in carousing, to continue these excesses for weeks together ; to pride one's self in exceeding other men in intemperance, and to endanger one's life in no other view than to gain such a victory ! Not to mention the infamous enormities that at. tend these debauches, how greatly shocking is it to hear the frantic discourses of a son, who, being intoxicated with the fumes of wine, industriously strives to defame his father, to sully his glory, and, lost to all shame, prefer himself to him! Drunkenness is only the occasion, not the cause, of these

It betrays the sentiments of the heart, but does not place them there. Alexander, puffed up by his victo. ries, greedy and insatiable of praise, intoxicated with the mighty idea he entertained of his own merit, jealous of, and despising all mankind, has the power, in his sober moments, to conceal his sentiments-; but no sooner is he intoxicated, than he shows himself to be what he really is.

What shall we say of his barbarously murdering an old friend ; who, though indiscreet and rash, was yet his friend? Of the death of the most honest man in all his court, whose only crime was his refusing to pay him divine homage ? Of the execution of two of his principal officers, who were condemned, though nothing could be proved against them, and on the slightest suspicions ?

I pass over a great many other vices, which Alexander, according to most historians, gave into, and which are not to be justified. To speak of him, therefore, only as a warrior and a conqueror-qualities in which he is generally considered, and which have gained him the esteem of all ages and nations-all we now have to do, is, to examine whether this esteem be so well grounded as is generally supposed.

I have already observed, that, to the battle of Issus and the siege of Tyre inclusively, it cannot be denied but that Alex, ander was a great warrior and an illustrious general. But yet I doubt very much, whether, during these first years of his exploits, he ought to be considered in a more conspicuous: light than his father; whose actions, though not so dazzling, are however as much applauded by good judges, and those of the military profession. Philip, at his accession to the throne, found all things unsettled. He himself was obliged to lay the foundations of his own fortune, and was not supported by the least foreign assistance. He raised himself to the power and grandeur to which he afterwards attained. He was obliged to train up, not only his soldiers, but his of

; to instruct them in all the military exercises; to in. ure them to the fatigues of war ; and to his care and abilis


« PreviousContinue »