The Great Greek King Alexander of Macedon

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ALEXANDER III, known as The Great[1] (356-323 B.C.), king of Macedon, was the son of Philip II. of Macedon, and Olympias, an Epirote princess. His father was pre-eminent for practical genius, his mother a woman of half-wild blood, weird, visionary and terrible; and Alexander himself is singular among men of action for the imaginative splendours which guided him, and among romantic dreamers for the things he achieved. He was born in 356 B.C., probably about October (Hogarth, pp. 284 ff.).

Youth

The court at which he grew up was the focus of great activities, for Philip, by war and diplomacy, was raising Macedon to the headship of the Greek states, and the air was charged with great ideas. To unite the Greek race in a war against the Persian empire was set up as the ultimate mark for ambition, the theme of idealists. The great literary achievements of the Greeks in the 5th century lay already far enough behind to have become invested with a classical dignity; the meaning of Hellenic civilization had been made concrete in a way which might sustain enthusiasm for a body of ideal values, authoritative by tradition. And upon Alexander in his fourteenth year this sum of tradition was brought to bear through the person of the man who beyond all others had gathered it up into an organic whole: in 343-342 Aristotle (q.v.) came to Pella at Philip’s bidding to direct the education of his son. We do not know what faculty the master-thinker may have had for captivating this ardent spirit; at any rate Alexander carried with him through life a passion for Homer, however he may have been disposed to greyer philosophic theory. But his education was not all from books. The coming and going of envoys from many states, Greek and Oriental, taught him something of the actual conditions of the world. He was early schooled in war. At the age of sixteen he commanded in Macedonia during Philip’s absence and quelled a rising of the hill-tribes on the northern border; in the following year (338) he headed the charge which broke the Sacred Band at Chaeronea. Then came family dissensions such as usually vex the polygamous courts of the East. In 337 Philip repudiated Olympias for another wife, Cleopatra, Alexander went with his mother to her home in Epirus, and, though he soon returned and an outward reconciliation between father and son was contrived, their hearts were estranged. The king’s new wife was with child; her kinsmen were in the ascendant; the succession of Alexander was imperilled. Some negotiations which Pixodarus, the satrap of Caria, opened with the Macedonian court with a view to effecting a marriage alliance between his house and Philip’s, brought Alexander into fresh broils. In 336 Philip was suddenly assassinated whilst celebrating at Aegae the marriage of his daughter to Alexander I. of Epirus in the presence of a great concourse from all the Greek world. It is certain that the hand of the assassin was prompted by some one in the background; suspicion could not fail to fall upon Alexander among others. But guilt of that sort would hardly be consistent with his character as it appears in those early days.

Alexander was not the only claimant to the vacant throne but, recognized by the army, he soon swept all rivals from his path. Accession. The newly born son of Philip by Cleopatra, and Alexander’s cousin Amyntas, were put to death, and Alexander took up the interrupted work of his father. That work was on the point of opening its most brilliant chapter by an invasion of the great king’s dominions; the army was concentrated and certain forces had already been sent on to occupy the opposite shore of the Hellespont. The assassination of Philip delayed the blow, for it immediately made the base, Macedonia, insecure, and in such an enterprise, plunging into the vast territories of the Persian empire, a secure base was everything. Philip’s removal had made all the hill-peoples of the north and west raise their heads and set the Greek states free from their fears. A demonstration in Greece, led by the new king of Macedonia, momentarily checked the agitation, and at the diet at Corinth Alexander was recognized as captain-general (ἡγεμὼν αὐτοκράτωρ) of the Hellenes against the barbarians, Leader of the Hellenes. in the place of his father Philip. In the spring of 335 he went out from Macedonia northwards, struck across the Balkans, probably by the Shipka Pass, frustrating the mountain warfare of its tribes by a precision of discipline which, probably, no other army of the time could have approached, and traversed the land of the Triballians (Rumelia) to the Danube. To gratify his own imagination or strike the imagination of the world he took his army over the Danube and burnt a settlement of the Getae upon the other side. Meanwhile the Illyrians had seized Pelion (Pliassa), which commanded the passes on the west of Macedonia, and from the Danube Alexander marched straight thither over the hills. He had hardly restored Macedonian prestige in this quarter when he heard that Greece was aflame. Thebes had taken up arms. By a forced march he took the Thebans completely by surprise, and in a few days the city, which a generation before had won the headship of Greece, was taken. There were to be no half-measures now; the city was wiped out of existence with the exception of its temples and the house which had been Pindar’s. Greece might now be trusted to lie quiet for some time to come. The Pannhellenic alliance (from which Sparta still stood aloof) against the barbarians was renewed. Athens, although known to be hostile at heart to the cities of Macedonian power, Alexander treated all through with eager courtesy.

In the spring of 334, Alexander crossed with an army of between 30,000 and 40,000 men, Macedonians, Illyrians, Thracians and the contingents of the Greek states, into Asia. The place of concentration was Arisbe on the Hellespont. Alexander himself first visited the site of Troy and there went through those dramatic acts of sacrifice to the Ilian Athena, Invasion of Asia Minor. assumption of the shield believed to be that of Achilles and offerings to the great Homeric dead, which are significant of the poetic glamour shed, in the young king’s mind, over the whole enterprise, and which men will estimate differently according to the part they assign to imagination in human affairs. To meet the invader the great king had in Asia Minor an army slightly larger, it would seem, than Alexander’s, gathered under the satraps of the western provinces at Zeleia. He had also, what was more serious, command of the Aegean. Alexander could communicate with his base only by the narrow line of the Hellespont, and ran the risk, if he went far from it, of being cut off altogether. To draw him after them, while avoiding a conflict, was sound strategy for the Persian generals. It was urged upon them by their colleague the Rhodian Memnon. But strategic considerations were cancelled by the Persian barons’ code of chivalry, and Alexander found them waiting for him on the banks of the Battle of Granicus. Granicus. It was a cavalry mêlée, in which the common code of honour caused Macedonian and Persian chieftains to engage hand to hand, and at the end of the day the relics of the Persian army were in flight, leaving the high-roads of Asia Minor clear for the invader. Alexander could now accomplish the first part of the task belonging to him as captain-general to the Hellenes, that liberation of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, for which Pannhellenic enthusiasts had cried out so long. He first went to take possession of the old Lydian capital Sardis, the headquarters of the Persian government on this side of the Taurus, and the strong city surrendered without a blow. And now in all the Greek cities of Aeolis and Ionia the oligarchies or tyrants friendly to Persia fell, and democracies were established under the eye of Alexander’s officers. Only where the cities were held by garrisons in the Persian service, garrisons composed mainly of Greek mercenaries, was the liberator likely to meet with any resistance. From Ephesus indeed the garrison fled upon the news of Granicus, but Miletus required a siege. The Persian fleet in vain endeavoured to relieve it, and Miletus did not long hold out against Alexander’s attack. It was at Halicarnassus that Alexander first encountered stubborn resistance, at Halicarnassus where Memnon and the satraps of Caria had rallied what land-forces yet belonged to Persia in the west. When winter fell, Alexander had captured indeed the city itself, but the two citadels still held out against his blockade.

Meanwhile Alexander was making it plain that he had come not merely as captain-general for a war of reprisals, but to take the Persian’s place as king of the land. The conquered provinces were organized under Macedonian governors and in Caria a dethroned princess of the native dynasty, Ada, was restored to power. In the winter, whilst Parmenio advanced upon the central plateau to make the occupation of Phrygia effective, Alexander himself passed along the coast to receive the submission of the Lycians and the adherence of the Greek cities of the Pamphylian sea-board. The hills inland were the domain of fighting tribes which the Persian government had never been able to subdue. To conquer them, indeed, Alexander had no time, but he stormed some of their fortresses to hold them in check, and marched through their territory when he turned north from Pamphylia into the interior. The point of concentration for next year’s campaign had been fixed at Gordium, a meeting-place of roads in Northern Phrygia. The story of Alexander’s cutting the fatal «Gordian knot» on the chariot of the ancient Phrygian king Gordius is connected with his stay in this place.

Whilst Alexander had been grounding his power in Asia Minor, he had run a narrow risk of losing his base in Europe. He had Extension of Alexander’s power. after the siege of Miletus disbanded the Graeco-Macedonian fleet, surrendering for the time all attempts to challenge the command of the Aegean. Memnon the Rhodian, now in supreme command of the Persian fleet, saw the European coasts exposed and set out to raise Greece, where discontent always smouldered in Alexander’s rear. But Memnon died at the critical moment whilst laying siege to Mytilene and the great plan collapsed. A Persian fleet still held the sea, but it effected little, and presently fresh Graeco -Macedonian squadrons began to hold it in check. It was, however, the need to ensure command of the sea and free all lines of communication behind him that determined Alexander’s plan for the next campaign. If he mastered the whole coast-line of the Levant, the enemy’s fleet would find itself left in the air. The Syrian coast was accordingly his immediate objective when he broke up from Gordium for the campaign of 333. He was through the Cicilian Gates before the Persian king, Darius III., had sent up a force adequate to hold them. His passage through Cicilia was marked by a violent fever that arrested him for a while in Tarsus, and meantime a great Persian army was waiting for him in northern Syria under the command of Darius himself. In the knot of mountains which close in about the head of the Gulf of Alexandretta, Alexander, following hard by the coast, marched past the Persian army encamped on the plains to the east. To cut Alexander’s communications with the rear, Darius now committed the error of entangling his large force in the mountain Battle of Issus. defiles. Alexander turned, and near the town of Issus fought his second pitched battle, sending Darius and the relic of his army in wild flight back to the east.[2] It was an incident which did not modify Alexander’s plan. He did not press the pursuit far, although the great king’s camp with his harem fell into his hands. The chivalrous courtsey which he showed to the captive princesses was a favourite theme for later rhetoricians. He went on his way to occupy Syria and Phoenicia. It is now that we get definite evidence as to the reach of Alexander’s designs; for Darius opened negotiations in which he ultimately went so far as to offer a partition of the empire, all west of the Euphrates, to be Alexander’s. Alexander refused the bargain and definitely claimed the whole.[3] The conquest of the Phoenician coast was not to be altogether easy, for Tyre shut its gates and for seven months Alexander had to sit before it—one of those obstinate sieges which mark the history of the Semitic races. When it fell, Alexander had the old Tyrian people scattered to the winds, 30,000 sold as slaves. Gaza offered a resistance equally heroic, lasting two months, and here too the old population was dispersed. The occupation of the rest of Syria and Palestine proceeded smoothly, and after the fall of Gaza Alexander’s way lay open into Egypt.[4] Egypt was the last of the Mediterranean provinces to be won, and here no defence was made. To the native Egyptians Alexander appeared as a deliverer from the Persian tyranny, and he sacrificed piously to the gods of Memphis. The winter (332-331) which Alexander spent in Egypt saw two memorable actions on his part. One was the expedition (problematic in its motive and details) to the oracle of Zeus Ammon (Oasis of Siwa), where Alexander was hailed by the priest as son of god, a belief which the circle of Alexander, and perhaps Alexander himself, seem hereafter to have liked to play with in that sort of semi-serious vein which still allowed him in the moments of every-day commonplace to be the son of Philip. The other action was the foundation of Alexandria at the Canopic mouth of the Nile, the place destined to be a new commercial centre for the eastern Mediterranean world which Alexander had now taken in possession, to rise to an importance which the founder, although obviously acting with intention, can hardly have foreseen (E. Keller, Alex d. Grosse nach der Schlacht bei Issus, 1904).

In the spring of 331 Alexander could at last leave the Mediterranean to strike into the heart of the Persian empire, for by Invasion of Persia. his occupation of the coasts the Persian command of the sea had inevitably collapsed. Returning through Syria, and stopping at Tyre to make final arrangements for the conquered provinces, he traversed Mesopotamia and struck the Tigris some four marches above the site of Nineveh. It was Nineveh that Darius was waiting with the immense host which a supreme effort could muster from all parts of the empire. The happy coincidence of a lunar eclipse gives us the 20th of September 331 as the exact day upon which the Macedonian army crossed the Tigris. Alexander came within sight of the Persian host without having met with any opposition since he quitted Tyre. He had now to settle the most serious problem which had yet faced him, for in the plains the Persian army was Battle of Arbela. formidable by sheer bulk. But the day showed the Macedonian army equal to the task. The last army gathered by an Achaemenian king was shattered in the battle called popularly after the city of Arbela some 60 m. distant, or more precisely after the village of Gaugamela hard by. Darius fled eastwards into Media and again Alexander waited till he had secured the provinces to the south. He followed the Tigris into Babylonia, the central seat of the empire and its richest region, and from Babylon went on to seize the fabulous riches which the Persian kings had amassed in their spring residence, Susa. Thence he at last ascended upon the Iranian plateau. The mountain tribes on the road (the Oxii, Pers, Huzha), accustomed to exact blackmail even from the king’s train, learnt by a bitter lesson that a stronger hand had come to wield the empire. Alexander entered Persis, the cradle of the Achaemenian house, and came upon fresh masses of treasure in the royal city, Persepolis. He destroyed the royal palace by fire, an act which has been variously estimated by historians. Ostensibly a solemn revenge for the burning of Greek temples by Xerxes, it has been justified as a symbolical act calculated to impress usefully the imagination of the East, and condemned as a senseless and vainglorious work of destruction.

With the spring of 330 Alexander was prepared for further pursuit. Darius fled northwards from Ecbatana upon his approach. At Ecbatana new masses of treasure were seized, but when once the necessary measures which its disposal and the occupation of the Median capital entailed were taken, Alexander continued the pursuit. It was an exciting chase of king by king, in which each covered the ground by incredible exertions, shedding their slower-going followers as they went, past Rhagae (Rai) and the Caspian gates, till early one morning Alexander came in sight of the broken train which still clung to the fallen king. He had become a puppet in the hands of his cousin Bessus and the Persian magnates with him (see Darius III.), and at this extremity they stabbed him and allowed Alexander to become master only of his corpse (summer 330).

The pursuit has brought Alexander into that region of mountains to the south of the Caspian which connects western Iran with the provinces to the east of the great central desert. To conquer this remaining portion of the empire, Alexander now went on through the mountain belt, teaching the power of his arms to the hillsmen, Tapyri and Mardi, till he came, passing through Zadracarta (Asterabad), to Parthia and thence to Arīa. In these further provinces of Iran the Macedonian invader had for the first time to encounter a serious national opposition, for in the west the Iranian rule had been merely for the supremacy of an alien power over native populations indifferent or hostile. Here the ruling race was at home. In Asia Alexander learnt that Bessus had taken the diadem as Darius’ successor in Bactria, but so soon as he marched against him Arīa rose in his rear, and Alexander had to return in all haste to bring the revolt under. Nor did he, when this was accomplished, again strike directly at Bactria, but made a wide turning movement through Seistan over Kandahar into the Kabul valley. It was on the way, in Seistan at Prophthasia (mod. Farrah?), that the alienation between Alexander and his Macedonian followers, which becomes sensible in the latter part of his career, first showed itself in an ugly form. Alexander had come to merge the characters of Macedonian king and Hellenic captain-general, with which he had set out, in that of Oriental despot (Spieker. Hof u. Hofordnung Al. d. Gr., 1904). He wore on occasions of state the Persian dress. (According to pseudo-Plutarch, de fort. Al. i. 8, it was the simpler Persian dress, not the Median.) A discontent began to work among the Macedonians, and at Prophthasia the commander of the Macedonian cavalry Philotas, the son of Parmenio, and certain others were arraigned before the army on the charge of conspiring against the king’s life. They were condemned and put to death. Not satisfied with procuring this, Alexander had Parmenio himself, who had been left in command in Media, put to death by secret orders. It is perhaps the worst crime, because the most cold-blooded and ungenerous, which can be laid to his charge. By the winter of 329-328 Alexander had reached the Kabul valley at the foot of the Paropamisadae (Hindu Kush).

The ordinarily received chronology makes Alexander reach the Kabul valley in the winter of 330-329. That to fit the actions and distances covered by Alexander into such a scheme, assuming that he went by Seistan and Kandahar, would involve physical impossibilities has been pointed out by Count Yorck v. Wartenburg and Mr. D. G. Hogarth. Kaerst and Beloch continue to give the ordinary chronology untroubled.

In the spring of 328 Alexander crossed the Hindu Kush into Bactria and followed the retreat of Bessus across the Oxus and Invasion of Northern India. into Sogdiana (Bokhara). Here Bessus was at last caught and treated with the barbaric cruelty which the rule of the old Persian monarchy prescribed for rebels. Till the spring of 327 Alexander was moving to and fro in Bactria and Sogdiana, beating down the recurrent rebellions and planting Greek cities. Just as in 335 he had crossed the Danube, so he now made one raid across the frontier river, the Jaxartes (Sir Daria), to teach the fear of his name to the outlying peoples of the steppe (summer 328). And meanwhile the rift between Alexander and his European followers continued to show itself in dark incidents—the murder of Clitus at Maracanda (Samarkand), when Alexander struck down an old friend, both being hot with wine; the claim that Alexander should be approached with prostration (proskynesis), urged in the spring of 327, and opposed boldly by the philosopher Callisthenes, Aristotle’s nephew, who had come in the king’s train; the conspiracy of the pages at Bactria, which was made an occasion for putting Callisthenes to death. It was now that Alexander completed the conquest of the provinces north of the Hindu Kush by the reduction of the last mountain strongholds of the native princes. In one of them he captured Roxana, the daughter of Oxyartes, whom he made his wife. Before the summer of 327 he had once more crossed the Hindu Kush on his way to India (for the campaigns in the N.E. see F. von Schwarz, Alex d. Grossen Feldzuge in Turkestan, 1893, v.).

Whilst the heavier troops moved down the Kabul valley to Pencelaotis (Chārsadda) under Perdiccas and Hephaestion, Alexander with a body of lighter-armed troops and cavalry pushed up the valleys which join the Kabul from the north—through the regions now known as Bajour, Swat and Buner, inhabited by Indian hill peoples, as fierce then against the western intruder as their Pathan successors are against the British columns. The books give a number of their «cities» reduced by Alexander—walled mountain villages which can in some cases be identified more or less certainly with places where the clans are established to-day. The crowning exploit was the reduction of Aornus,[5] a stronghold perched on a precipitous summit above the Indus, which it was said that Heracles had failed to take. How much of the story of Alexander’s discovery of the sacred mountain of the Nysa and the traces of Dionysus is due to the invention of Aristobulus and Clitarchus (Arrian did not find it in Ptolemy) we cannot say. Meantime Perdiccas and Hephaetion had built a bridge over the Indus, and by this in the spring of 326 Alexander passed into the Punjab (at Ohind, 16 m. above Attock, according to Foucher, Notes sur la géogr. anc. du Gandhāra, 1902). The country into which he came was dominated by three principalities, that of Ambhi (Gr. Omphis, Curt. viii. 12. 6) between the Indus and the Hydaspes (Jhelum, Jehlam), centred in the great city of Takkasila (Gr. Taxila), that of the Paurara rajah (Gr. Porus) between the Hydaspes and Acesines (Chenab), and that of Abhisara (Gr. Abisares) between the same two rivers higher up, on the confines of Kashmir (Stein, Rajatarangini, transl. bk. i. 180, v. 217). The kings of Taxila and Porus were at enmity, and for this cause the invader could reckon upon Omphis as a firm ally. Porus was prepared to contest the passage of the Hydaspes with all his strength. Abisares preferred to play a double game and wait upon events. Alexander reached the Hydaspes just as the rains broke, when the river was already swollen. Porus held the opposite bank with a powerful army, including 200 elephants. Alexander succeeded in taking a part of his forces across the river higher up during a night of torrential rain, and then he fought the fourth and last of his pitched battles in Asia, the one which put to proof more shrewdly than any of the others the quality of the Macedonian army as an instrument of war, and yet again emerged victorious. Porus fell sorely wounded into his hands.[6] Porus had saved his honour, and now Alexander tried, and not in vain, to gain him as a friend. When he continued his progress eastwards across the Acesines, Porus was an active ally. Alexander moved along close under the hills. After crossing the Hydraōtes (Rāvī) he once more came into contact with hostile tribes, and the work of storming petty towns began again. Then the Hyphasis (Beas) was reached, and here the Macedonian army refused to go any farther. It was a bitter mortification to Alexander, before whose imagination new vistas had just opened out eastwards, where there beckoned the unknown world of the Ganges and its splendid kings. For three days the will of king and people were locked in antagonism; then Alexander gave way; the long eastward movement was ended; the return began.

Alexander left the conquered portion of India east of the Indus to be governed under Porus, Omphis of Taxila, and Abisares, The return. the country west of the Indus under Macedonian governors, and set out to explore the great river to its mouth (for the organization of the Indian provinces, see especially Niese, vol. i. pp. 500 f.). The fleet prepared on the Hydaspes sailed in October, while a land army moved along the bank. The confluence of the Hydaspes and Acesines passed, the Macedonians were once more in a region of hostile tribes with towns to be stormed. It was at one of these, a town of the Malli, that a memorable incident occurred, such as characterized the personality of Alexander for all succeeding time. He leapt from the wall with only three companions into the hostile town, and, before the army behind him could effect an entrance, lay wounded almost to death.[7] He recovered and beat down the resistance of the tribes, leaving them annexed to the Macedonian satrapy west of the Indus. Below the confluence of the Punjab rivers into the single stream of the Indus the territory of loose tribes was succeeded by another group of regular principalities, under the rajahs called by the Greeks Musicanus, Oxycanus and Sambus. These opposed a national resistance to the Macedonians, the fires of which were fanned by the Brahmins, but still the strong arm of the western people prevailed. The rajah of Patala at the apex of the Indus delta abandoned his country and fled. It was the high summer of 325 when Alexander reached Patala. From here he explored both arms of the delta to the ocean, now seen by the Macedonians for the first time. He had determined that the Indus fleet should be used to explore this new world and try to find a waterway between the Indus and the Persian Gulf. A great part of the land-forces had been already sent off under Craterus in the earlier summer to return west by Kandahar and Seistan; the fleet was to sail under the Greek Nearchus from the Indus mouth with the winter monsoon; Alexander himself with the rest of the land-forces set out in October to go by the coast of Baluchistan, through the appalling sand-wastes of the Mekran.[8]

He would seem to have kept down to the coast until the headland of Ras Malan as reached, scattering before him the bands of Arabitae and Oritae who were the inhabitants of this well-provisioned tract. For the 150 miles between Ras Malan and Pasni Alexander was compelled by the natural barriers to march inland, and it was here that his troops sank under the horrors of heat and thirst and sand. The coast once regained, the way was easy; no such desert had to be traversed, when Alexander again struck inland for the chief city of the Gedrosians (Pura), and thence made his way into Carmania. Here the spent troops rested; here the army of Craterus joined them, and Nearchus came to announce his safe arrival at the entrance of the Persian Gulf.[9]

The machine of empire had not functioned altogether smoothly while the king had been absent, and on Alexander’s re-appearance many incapables and rogues in high office had to be replaced by better men. In Carmania, in Persis, complaints from the provinces continued to reach him, as well as the news of disorders in Macedonia and Greece. New orders and appointments served to bring the empire into hand again, and at Susa in the spring of 324 Alexander rested, the task of conquering and compassing the Achaemenian realm achieved. The task of its internal re-organization now began to occupy him—changes, for instance, in the military system which tended to assimilate Macedonians and Orientals. The same policy of fusion was furthered by the great marriage festival at Susa, when Alexander took two more wives from the Persian royal house, married a number of his generals to Oriental princesses, and even induced as many as he could of the rank-and-file to take Asiatic wives. This policy did not allay the discontent of the Macedonian army, and when Alexander in the summer of 324 moved to the cooler region of Media, an actual mutiny of the Macedonians broke out on the way at Opis on the Tigris. It was occasioned by the discharge of the Macedonian veterans, and only the personal magnetism of Alexander and his threat to entrust himself altogether to the Orientals availed to quell it. At Ecbatana the death of Hephaestion for a time plunged Alexander into a passion of mourning. By the winter (324-323) he was again active, bringing the hill-tribes on the S.W. border of Media, the Cossaei, into subjection. In the spring of 323 he moved down to Babylon, receiving on the way embassies from lands as far as the confines of the known world, for the eyes of all nations were now turned with fear or wonder to the figure which had appeared with so superhuman an effect upon the world’s stage. The embassy from Rome, however, is almost certainly a later, and an inevitable, invention. The exploration of the waterways round about the empire was Alexander’s immediate concern, the discovery of the presumed connexion of the Caspian with the Northern Ocean, the opening of a maritime route from Babylon to Egypt round Arabia. The latter enterprise Alexander designed to conduct in person; under his supervision was prepared in Babylon an immense fleet, a great basin dug out to contain 1000 ships, and the water-communications of Babylonia taken in hand. Innovations were carried out in the tactical system of the army which were to modify considerably the methods of future battle-fields. At last all was ready; the 20th of the month Daesius (?June 5) was fixed for the king’s setting forth. On the 15th and 16th Illness and death. Alexander caroused deep into the night at the house of the favourite Medius. On the 17th he developed fever; for a time he treated it as a momentary impediment to the expedition; but on the 27th his speech was gone, and the Macedonian army were suffered to pass man by man through his chamber to bid him farewell. On the 28th (?June 13) Alexander died.[10]

His son by Roxana, the so-called Alexander «Aegus,» was born a few months later. He and his uncle Philip, as joint kings, were placed under the guardianship of Perdiccas, Peithon and Antipater in succession. After the death of Antipater (319) Roxana fled with him to Epirus, and was afterwards taken back to Macedonia, together with Olympias, by Polyperchon. All three fell into the hands of Cassander; Alexander and his mother were in 310-309 put to death by order of Cassander (Justin xiv. 6, xv. 2). The meaningless surname of Aegus, still given in some books to this Alexander, is derived simply from a modern misreading of the text of the Astronomical Canon, ΑΙΓΟΥ for ΑΛΛΟΥ.

Alexander the Great is one of the instances of the vanity of appealing from contemporary disputes to «the verdict of Character and policy. posterity»; his character and his policy are estimated to-day as variously as ever. Certain features—the high physical courage, the impulsive energy, the fervid imagination—stand out clear; beyond that disagreement begins. That he was a great master of war is admitted by most of those who judge his character unfavourably, but even this has been seriously questioned (e.g. by Beloch, Griech. Gesch iii. (i.), p. 66). There is a dispute as to his real designs. That he aimed at conquering the whole world and demanded to be worshipped as a god is the traditional view. Droysen denies the former, and Niese maintains that his ambition was limited by the bounds of the Persian empire and that the claim to divine honours is fabulous (Historische Zeitschr. lxxix., 1897, 1 f.). It is true that our best authority, Arrian, fails to substantiate the traditional view satisfactorily; on the other hand those who maintain it urge that Arrian’s interests were mainly military, and that the other authorities, if inferior in trustworthliness, are completer in range of vision. Of those, again, who maintain the traditional view, some, like Niebuhr and Grote, regard it as convicting Alexander of mad ambition and vainglory, whilst to Kaerst Alexander only incorporates ideas which were the timely fruit of a long historical development. The policy of fusing Greeks and Orientals again is diversely judged. To Droysen and Kaerst it accords with the historical conditions; to Grote and to Beloch it is a betrayal of the prerogative of Hellenism.

Some notion of the personal appearance of Alexander may be got from the literature and the surviving monuments. He is described as of an athletic frame, though not taller than the common, and a white and ruddy complexion. The expression of his eyes had something «liquid and melting» (τῶν ὀμμάτων τὴν διάχυσιν καὶ ὑγρότητα), and the hair which stood up over his forehead gave the suggestion of a lion. He had a way of carrying his head somewhat aslant. (See especially Plut. Alex. 4; de Alex. fort. ii. 2.) The greatest masters of the time executed portraits of him, Lysippus in sculpture, Apelles in painting and Pyrgoteles in graven gems. Among surviving monuments, we have no completely certified portraits except the Tivoli herm (now in the Louvre) and the coins struck by his successors. The herm is a dry work and the head upon the coins shows various degrees of works which can make out a better or worse claim either to be portraits of Alexander or to reproduce his type, and a large field of discussion is therefore open as to their values and classification (F. Kopp, Über das Bildnis Alexanders d. Grossen (1892); K. J. Ujfalvy, Le Type physique d’Alexandre le Grand (1902); T. Schreiber, Studien über das Bildnis Alexanders d. Grossen (1903); J. J. Bernoulli, Die erhaltenen Darstellungen Alexanders d. Grossen (1905). Alexander shaved clean, and set the fashion in this respect for the Graeco-Roman world for the next 500 years.

Bibliography.—The campaigns and life of Alexander did not lack contemporary historians, some of them eye-witnesses and even associates. They included the philosopher Callisthenes, put to death by Alexander in 327, whose history went up to the death of Darius, Alexander’s general Ptolemy, afterwards king in Egypt, Nearchus who commanded the fleet that sailed from the Indus to the Persian Gulf, Onesicritus who served as pilot in the same fleet, Aristobulus who was with Alexander in India, Clitarchus, a contemporary, if not an eye-witness, important from the fact that his highly coloured version of the life of Alexander became the popular authority for the succeeding centuries. Besides the historical narrative, there were works mainly geographical or topographical left by persons like Baeton and Diognetus, whom Alexander had employed (as βηματισταί) to survey the roads over which he passed. All such original sources have now perished. The fragments are collected in the Didot edition of Arrian by Karl Müller. Not reckoning scattered notices, we depend principally upon five later compositions, Diodorus, book xvii. (c. 20 B.C.), the work of Quintus Curtius (c. A.D. 42), Plutrach’s (c. 45-125 A.D.) Life of Alexander, Arrian’s Anabasis and Indica (c. A.D. 150), and the relevant books of Justin’s abridgment (2nd cent. A.D.) of the history of Trogus (c. 10 B.C.?). To these we may add the Latin Itinerarium Alexandri, a skeleton outline of Alexander’s campaigns dedicated to the emperor Constantinus (A.D. 324-361), printed at the end of the Didot edition of Arrian, and the Epitome Rerum Gestarum Alexandri magni, an abridgment made in the 4th or 5th centuries of a lost Latin work of uncertain date, combining history with elements taken from the Romance (edited by O. Wagner, Leipzig, 1900). The relation of these works to the various original sources constitutes the critical problem before the modern historian in reference to the history of Alexander. See Droysen vol. i. appendix i.; A. Schoene, De rerum Alexandri Magni scriptorum imprimis Arriani & Plutarchi fontibus (1870); Fraenkel, Die Geschichtschreiber Alex. d. Grossen (1883); O. Maas, Kleitrach und Diodor (Petersburg, 1894); Kaerst, Forschungen zur Gesch. Alex. d. Grossen (1887), and Gesch. d. hellenist. Zeitalters (vol. i., 1901), pp. 421 f.; F. L. Schoenle, Diodorstudien (1891); E. Schwartz, articles «Aristobulos (14),» «Arrianus,» «Quintus Curtius,» «Diodorus» in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie.
For modern views of Alexander see Thirlwall, History of Greece; Niebuhr, Lectures on Ancient History (Eng. trans. rev. by author, 1852); Grote, History of Greece; Droysen, Histoire de l’Hellénisme (translation by Bouché-Leclerq); Ad. Hol, History of Greece (Eng. trans., 1898); B. Niese, Gesch. der griech. u. maked. Staaten (vol. i.); Kaerst, Gesch. des hellenist. Zeitalters (1901); J. Beloch, Griechische Gesch. (vol. iii., 1904); J. B. Bury, History of Greece (1902); A. von Gutschmid, Geschichte Irans (1888). Among the mass of monographs and special articles, reference may be made to Freeman, Historical Essays, 2nd series, pp. 182 f.; Dodge, Alexander (in a series called Great Captains) 1890; Mahaffy, Problems in Greek History (1892), ch. viii.; D. G. Hogarth, Philip and Alexander of Macedon (1897), a striking effort of historical imagination to reconstruct Alexander as a man of the real world; Benjamin I. Wheeler, Alexander the Great (1900) in the «Heroes of the Nations Series.» The purely military aspect of Alexander’s campaigns is treated in general histories of warfare (Rustow-Kochly, Bauer, Delbrück, Verdy du Vernois), and in special monographs by Hogarth, Journ. of Philol. vol. xviii., 1888, pp. 1 foll.; H. Droysen, Untersuchungen über A. des Gr. Heerwesen (1885), and Graf Yorck von Wartenburg, Kurze Übersicht der Feldzüge A. de Gr. (1897). For futher references to the literature on Alexander, see Kaerst’s article in Pauly-Wissowa’s Realencyclopädie (1894).
(E. R. B.)
The Romance of Alexander.
The figure of Alexander naturally impressed itself upon the imagination of the world which his career had shaken. Even in India we are told that he was held in honour by the native kings who took his farthest provinces in possession. But Eastern tradition, so tenacious of the old myths of primitive man, has a short memory for actual history, and five centuries later Alexander was only remembered in Irān as the accursed destroyer of the sacred books, whose wisdom he had at the same time pilfered by causing translations to be made into «Roman.» That the East to-day has so much to tell about Alexander is only due to the fact that old mythical stories of gods or heroes who go travelling through lands of monsters and darkness, of magical fountains and unearthly oceans, became attached to his name in the popular literature of the Roman empire, and this mythical Alexander was reintroduced in the 7th century A.D. into the farther East, where the historical Alexander was almost forgotten. The romance of Alexander is found written in the languages of nearly all peoples from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, but all these versions are derived, mediately or immediately, from the Greek original which circulated under the false name of Callisthenes. The Greek pseudo-Callisthenes (otherwise Aisopos we possess in three recensions, based all upon a book produced in Egypt in the 2nd century A.D. But this book itself was a farrago of heterogeneous—pieces of genuine history, ancient histories once told in Babylon of Gilgamesh or Etanna, literary forgeries of the days soon after Alexander, like the oldest part of the «Testament of Alexander,» variations due to Egyptian patriotic sentiment, like that which made Alexander the son of the last Pharaoh, Nectanebus. As the story was reproduced, variations were freely introduced according to the bent of different times and peoples; in the Persian version Alexander (Iskander) became a son of Darius; among the Mahommedans he turned into a prophet, hot against idols; the pen of Christian monks made him an ascetic saint.

The Alexander romance found its way into Europe through the medium of Latin, but originated mainly from the versions of the pseudo-Callisthenes, not from the more sober narrative of Quintus Curtius. The pseudo-Callisthenes, in a recension which has not been preserved, was translated into Latin by Julius Valerius about the end of the 3rd century, and an epitome of this translation, also in Latin, was made some time before the 9th century, and is introduced by Vincent de Beauvais into his Speculum historiale. Much of the legend is a running travesty of the true history of the conqueror. The first book deals with his birth and early exploits. The trace of Alexandrian influence is to be found in the pretence that his actual father was Nectanebus, a fugitive king of Egypt. The latter was a great magician, able, by operating upon waxen figures of the armies and ships of his enemies, to obtain complete power over their real actions. Obliged, however, to flee to Pella in Macedonia, he established himself as an astrologer, and as such was consulted by the childless Olympias. Having promised that Zeus Ammon would visit her in the form of a dragon, he himself assumed the disguise. In due course Alexander was born, and Philip’s suspicions were overcome by a second appearance of the dragon, which was held to prove the divine fatherhood. The child was small and somewhat deformed, but of great courage and intelligence. When he was twelve years old he was instructed in starcraft by Nectanebus, who was killed by a fall into a pit, into which he had been playfully pushed by Alexander. The first book also relates his conquests in Italy, Africa, Syria and Asia Minor; his return to Macedonia and the submission of Greece. The second book continues the history of his conquests, and the third contains the victory over Porus, the relations with the Brahmins, the letter to Aristotle on the wonders of India, the histories of Candace and the Amazons, the letter to Olympias on the marvels of Farther Asia, and lastly the account of Alexander’s death in Babylon.

The most wide-spread Latin version of the story, however, was the Historia de proeliis,[11] printed at Strassburg in 1486, which began to supersede the Epitome of Julius Valerius in general favour about the end of the 13th century. It is said to have been written by the Neapolitan arch-presbyter Leo, who was sent by Johannes and Marinus, dukes of Campania (941-965) to Constantinople, where he found his Greek original. Auxiliary sources for the medieval romance-writers were:—the opuscule (4th century) known as Alexandri magni iter ad Paradisum, a fable of Eastern origin directed against ambition; the Itinerarium Alexandri (340), based partly on Julius Valerius and dedicated to Constans, son of the emperor Constantine; the letter of Alexander to Aristotle (Epist. de situ et mirabilibus Indiae), and the correspondence between Alexander and the king of the Brahmins, Dindimus, both of which are often contained in MSS. of the Epitome; and the treatise (based on a lost history of Alexander by Onesicritus), De gentibus Indiae et Bragmanibus, ascribed without certainty to Palladius (d. c. 430), successively bishop of Helenopolis and Aspona.

The Ethiopic versions are of great interest as a striking example of literary «accomodation.» Not only is the whole atmosphere Christian in colouring, but we actually find the Greek gods in the guise of Enoch, Elijah, &c., while Philip is a Christian martyr, and Alexander himself a great apostle, even a saint; quotations from the Bible are frequent. Persians and Arabs told the deeds of Iskander; and Firdousi made use of the story in the Sháhnáma. Another early Persian poet, Nizami, made the story specially his own. The crusaders brought back fresh developments; Gog and Magog (partly Arab and partly Greek) and some Jewish stories were then added. In the 11th century Simeon Seth, protovestiarius at the Byzantine court, translated the fabulous history from the Persian back into Greek.

The Alexander legend was the theme of poverty in all European languages; six or seven German poets dealt with the subject, and it may be read in French, English, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Flemish and Bohemian.

French.—The earliest known French romance of Alexander, by Alberic of Besançon (or more properly Briançon), was, until the discovery of a fragment of 100 lines at Florence in 1852, known only through the German adaptation by Lamprecht the preacher, who wrote towards the end of the 12th century, and by the version made by a Poitevin poet named Simon in deca-syllabic lines. Alberic followed the epitome of Julius Valerius. He had some knowledge of authentic history, and rejected the more marvellous elements of the story. The French feudal romance, Li Romans d’Alexandre, was written in the 12th century by Lambert li Tors of Chateâudun, Alexandre de Bernai, surnamed de Paris, and others. It contained 20,000 lines, and was written in twelve-syllabled lines, whence the term «alexandrine» verse. The authors endowed Alexander with the fashionable virtues of the chivalric hero, making him especially the type of lavish generosity. They used as their sources Valerius, the letter to Aristotle and the Iter ad Paradisum, adding much of their own. Pierre de Saint Cloud, the writer of the fourth section of the romance, was evidently acquainted with the Historia de proeliis. The incident of the Fuerre de Gadres (Foray of Gaza), interpolated in the second section, is assigned to a certain Eustache. The redaction of the whole work is due to Alexandre de Bernai, who replaced the original assonance by rhyme. According to all the traditions of romance it was necessary to avenge the death of Alexander. At the end of the 12th century Gui de Cambrai and Jean le Nevelon (or Neveleaux of Venelais), each wrote a Vengeance d’Alexandre. Jean le Nevelon relates how Alior, the son of Alexander and Candace, avenged his father’s death on Antipater and others. Between 1310 and 1315 Jacques de Longuyon (or Langhion) introduced into the account of the Indian war Les Vœux du paon, a romanesque and fantastic episode very loosely connected with Alexander. It is interesting for its connexion with the 15th-century romance of Perceforest, since in it Alexander visits Britain, where he bestows Scotland on Gadifer and England on Betis (otherwise Perceforest). Les Vœux du paon enjoyed great popularity, and had two sequels, Le Restor du paon, written before 1338 by Jean Brisebarre de Douai, and Le Parfait du paon, written in 1340 by Jean de la Mote. Florimont, a 12th-century poem by Aimon de Varenne, relates to a fictitious personage said to have been the grandfather of Alexander. This poem gave rise to two prose romances—La Conqueste de Grece faicte par Philippe de Madien, by Perrinet du Pin, first printed in 1527, and Histoire du roi Florimond (1528). Quintus Curtius was largely used for the Alexandreis (c. 1180) of Gaultier de Lille or de Châtillon (Galtherus ab Insulis or de Castellione). It is a Latin poem in ten books of hexameters, and contains a curious admixture of Biblical history. It was translated at the end of the next century into Flemish by J. van Maerlant and into German by Ulrich von Eschenbach.

Of the French prose versions of the Historia de proeliis may be noticed the last romance, L’Histoire du noble et vaillant roy Alixandre le Grant (1506). After an account of the ancient history of Macedonia and of the intrigue of Nectanebus we are told how Philip dies, and how Alexander subdues Rome and receives tribute from all European nations. He then makes his Persian expedition; the Indian campaign gives occasion for descriptions of all kinds of wonders. The conqueror visits a cannibal kingdom and finds many marvels in the palace of Porus, among them a vine with golden branches, emerald leaves and fruit of other precious stones. In one country he meets with women who, after the burial in the winter, become alive again in the spring full of youth and beauty. Having reached the ends of the earth and conquered all nations, he aspires to the dominion of the air. He obtains a magic glass cage, yoked with eight griffins, files through the clouds, and, thanks to enchanters who know the language of the birds, gets information as to their manners and customs, and ultimately receives their submission. The excessive heat of the upper regions compels him to descend, and he next visits the bottom of the sea in a kind of diving-bell. The fish crowd round him and pay homage. Alexander returns to Babylon, is crowned with much pomp and mass is celebrated. He dies by poison soon afterwards.

English Versions.—The Alexander cycle was no less popular in Great Britain. The letter from Alexander to Aristotle and his correspondence with Dindimus are found in Early English versions dating from the 11th century. These are printed by O. Cockayne in his Narratiunculae Anglice conscriptae (1861). The Monk (De Cas. ill. vir.) in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales prefaces his account of Alexander with the statement that his story is so common

That every wight that hath discrecioun
Hath herd somewhat or all of his fortune.
There are two considerable fragments of an English alliterative romance on the subject written in the west midland dialect, and dating from the second half of the 14th century. The first, The Gestes of the Worthy Kings and Emperor Alisaunder of Macedoine (ed. W. W. Skeat, E.E.T.S., 1877, with William of Palerme) contains an account of the wars of Philip, of Nectanebus and of the education of Alexander. A second fragment (ed. Skeat, E.E.T.S., 1878) contains Alexander’s visit to the Gymnosophists and his correspondence with Dindimus. Another alliterative poem in the northern dialect, of 15th-century origin, is based on the Historia de proeliis, and was edited by Skeat for the E.E.T.S. (1886) as The Wars of Alexander. Earlier than any of these is the rhyming Lyfe of Alisaunder (c. 1330) which is printed in H. Weber’s Metrical Romances (vol. i., 1810). It is written in unusually picturesque and vigorous language, and is based on the Roman de toute chevalerie, a French compilation made about 1250 by a certain Eustace or Thomas of Kent. Fragments of another rhyming poem (pr. c. 1550) are preserved in the British Museum. The Scots Buik of the most noble and vailyzeand Conqueror Alexander the Great, printed by Alexander Arbuthnot (d. 1585) about 1580, reprinted in 1831 for the Bannatyne Club, is not really a life. It contains three episodes of the cycle, the «Forray of Gadderis» (not taken from the Fuerre de Gadres but from the Assaut de Tyr in the Romans d’Alixandre), «The Avowes of Alexander,» and «The Great Battel of Effesoun,» taken from the Vœux du paon. Many passages in John Barbour’s Bruce are almost identical with this book, and it is suggested by G. Neilson (John Barbour, Poet and Translator, London, 1900) that Barbour was the author, although the colophon states that it was written in 1438. Bruce at Bannockburn makes the same oration as Alexander at «Effesoun.» A Buke of the Conqueror Alexander the Great by Sir Gilbert Hay (fl. 1456) is in MS. at Taymouth Castle.

Bibliography

The best sketch of the Alexander romance literature is by Paul Meyer, Alexandre le grand dans la littérature française au moyen âge (2 vols., Paris, 1886). The first volume contains some French texts, and the second a detailed discussion of the various versions from the pseudo-Callisthenes downwards. See also J. Zacher, Pseudo-Callisthenes, Forschungen zur….Alexandersage (Halle, 1867), and for Oriental versions, T. Nöldeke, «Beiträge zur Geschichte des Alexanderromans» (Denkschriften der ksl. Akad. d. Wissenschaften, Phil.-hist. Klasse, vol. 38: Vienna, 1890). For early printed versions see Brunet, Manuel du libraire, s.v. «Alexandre.»

The text of the pseudo-Callisthenes was edited by C. W. Muller from three MSS. in the Bibl. Nat. and printed in the Arrian of the Coll. Didot (Paris, 1846), and by H. Meusel (Leipzig, 1871) from a Leiden MS. A. Mai edited Julius Valerius (Milan, 1817) and the Itinerarium Alexandri (Class. Auct. vol. vii.; Milan, 1835); J. Zacher, the Epitome (Halle, 1867) and Alex. iter ad Paradisum (Regensburg, 1859); the Oxford MS. of the Epitome was edited by G. Cilli (Strassburg, 1905); G. Landgraf, Die «Vita Alexandri»…des Archpresbyter Leo (Historia de proeliis), (Erlangen, 1885); Alexander’s letter to Aristotle and his correspondence with Dindimus are included in the Teubner edition of Julius Valerius (ed. B. Kübler, Leipzig, 1888). A newly discovered anonymous Epitome was edited by O. Wagner (Leipzig, 1900).

The fragment by Alberic was edited by P. Heyse (Berlin, 1856); Lamprecht’s German text by H. Weismann (Frankfort, 1850) and by C. Kinzel (Halle, 1884); the Alexandreis of Gaultier de Lille, by F. A. W. Müldener (Leipzig, 1863); an Icelandic prose version (c. 1250) of the same, Alexanders Saga, by C. R. Unger (Christiania, 1848); Li Romans d’Alixandre, by H. Michelant (Stuttgart, 1846); the Ethiopic version by E. A. T. Wallis Budge (1896, 2 vols., with English translation); the Syriac text of pseudo-Callisthenes by Budge (Cambridge, 1889); cp. K. F. Weymann, Die äthiopische und arabische Übersetzungen des Pseudo-Kallisthenes (Kirchhain, 1901).

Besides the English editions quoted in the text, the alliterative English poems were partially edited by J. Stevenson for the Roxburghe Club (1849). There is a great deal of information on the various texts in H. L. Wood’s Catalogue of Romances in the British Museum (1883, vol. i. pp. 94 et seq.). See also A. Hermann, Untersuchungen über das Scottische Alexanderbuch (1893); and Unters. über das med. Gedicht, The Wars of Alexander (Berlin, 1889). Among other works see E. Rhode, Der griechische Roman (2nd ed. Leipzig, 1900); B. Meissner, Alexander u. Gilgamos (Leipzig, 1894); F. Kampers, «Alex. d. Grosse und die Idee des Weltimperiums in Prophetie und Sage» (in H. Granert’s Studien, &c., Freiburg, 1901); Adolf Ausfeld, Der griechische Alexanderroman (Leipzig, 1907), edited after the author’s death by W. Kroll; Wilhelm Hertz, «Aristoteles in den Alex. Dichtungen d. Mittelalters» (Kgl. Acad. d. Wissenschaften, Munich, 1891); H. Becker, Die Brahmanen in d. Alex. Sage (Königsberg, 1889).
(M. Br.)

  1. The use of the surname is proved as far back as the 1st century B.C. (Nepos, De Reg. 2)
  2. See Bauer, «Die Schlacht bei Issus» in Jahreshefte d. österr. archäol. Instit. ii. pp. 105 f.; A. Janke, Auf Alex. d. grossen Pfaden; Gruhn, Das Schlachtfeld von Issus; Lammert in Berl. Philol. Wochenschr. (1905), col. 1596 f.
  3. Pridik, De Alex. Mag. epist. commercio (Dorpat, 1893); Schwartz, art. «Curtius» in Pauly-Wissowa, col. 1884.
  4. The story of Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem rests on no better authority than a later Jewish romance.
  5. The best opinion now confirms Abbott’s identification of Aornus with Mahāban—Deane, Journ. R. Asiat. Soc. (Oct. 1896), p. 673; Stein, Report of an Archaeological Tour with the Buner Field Force (Lahore, 1898), pp. 45-48.
  6. Beside V. Smith (cited below) see Schubert, «Die Porusschlacht,» in Rhein. Mus. lvi., 1901, p. 543.
  7. There seems nothing to fix the exact spot of this town; the common identification with Multan is, according to Raverty and V. Smith, certainly wrong.
  8. For the Indian campaigns of Alexander see especially McCrindle, Invasion of India by Alexander the Great (1896); Vincent A. Smith, Early History of India (1904), and the references there given to the researches of Sir T. H. Holdich, Raverty and Foucher; A. Anspach, De Alex. Magni exped. ind. (1903).
  9. Tomaschek, «Topographische Erläuterung der Kustenfahrt Nearchs» in the Sitzungsberichte der kaiserl. Akad. d. Wissensch. of Vienna (Philosoph.-histor. Klasse, vol. cxxi.); Major P. M. Skyes, Ten Thousand Miles in Persia (1902), pp. 166 f.
  10. For Alexander’s funeral, see F. Jacoby in Rhein. Mus. (1903), pp. 461 f.
  11. Nativitas et victoriae Alexandri magni regis was the original title.

*1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1.  Alexander III, by Edwyn Robert Bevan and Margaret Bryant

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