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[Translated by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb edition of Plutarch's Lives, Vol. VII, 1928.]


But while he was still a boy his self-restraint showed itself in the fact that, although he was impetuous and violent in other matters, the pleasures of. the body had little hold upon him, and he indulged in them with great moderation, while his ambition kept his spirit serious and lofty in advance of his years. For it was neither every kind of fame nor fame from every source that he courted, as Philip did, who plumed himself like a sophist on the power of his oratory, and took care to have the victories of his chariots at Olympia engraved upon his coins; nay, when those about him inquired whether he would be willing to contend in the foot-race at the Olympic games, since he was swift of foot, "Yes," said he, "if I could have kings as my contestants." And in general, too, Alexander appears to have been averse to the whole race of athletes; at any rate, though he instituted very many contests, not only for tragic poets and players on the flute and players on the lyre, but also for rhapsodists, as well as for hunting of every sort and for fighting with staves, he took no interest in offering prizes either for boxing or for the pancratium.


The most open quarrel was brought on by Attalus at the marriage of Cleopatra, a maiden whom Philip was taking to wife, having fallen in love with the girl when he was past the age for it. Attalus, now, was the girl's uncle, and being in his cups, he called upon the Macedonians to ask of the gods that from Philip and Cleopatra there might be born a legitimate successor to the kingdom. At this Alexander was exasperated, and with the words, "But what of me, base wretch? Dost thou take me for a bastard?" threw a cup at him. Then Philip rose up against him with drawn sword, but, fortunately for both, his anger and his wine made him trip and fall. Then Alexander, mocking over him, said: "Look now, men! here is one who was preparing to cross from Europe into Asia; and he is upset in trying to cross from couch to couch."


... and on learning that the Thebans had revolted and that the Athenians were in sympathy with them, he immediately led his forces through the pass of Thermopylae, declaring that since Demosthenes had called him a boy while he was among the Illyrians and Triballians, and a stripling when he had reached Thessaly, he wished to show him that before the walls of Athens he was a man.


But Alexander, as it would seem, considering the mastery of himself a more kingly thing than the conquest of his enemies, neither laid hands upon these women, nor did he know any other before marriage. except Barsin*. This woman, Memnon's widow, was taken prisoner at Damascus. And since she had received a Greek education, and was of an agreeable disposition, and since her father, Artabanus, was son of a king's daughter, Alexander determined (at Parmenio's instigation, as Aristobulus says) to attach himself to a woman of such high birth and beauty. But as for the other captive women, seeing that they were surpassingly stately and beautiful, he merely said jestingly that Persian women were torments to the eyes. And displaying in rivalry with their fair looks the beauty of his own sobriety and self-control, he passed them by as though they were lifeless images for display.


Moreover, when Philoxenus, the commander of his forces on the sea-board, wrote that there was with him a certain Theodorus, of Tarentum, who had two boys of surpassing beauty to sell, and enquired whether Alexander would buy them, Alexander was incensed, and cried out many times to his friends, asking them what shameful thing Philoxenus had ever seen in him that he should spend his time in making such disgraceful proposals. And on Philoxenus himself he heaped much reproach in a letter, bidding him send Theodorus to perdition, merchandize and all. He severely rebuked Hagnon also for writing to him that he wanted to buy Crobylus, whose beauty was famous in Corinth, as a present for him. Furthermore, on learning that Damon and Timotheus, two Macedonian soldiers under Parmenio's command, had ruined the wives of certain mercenaries, he wrote to Parmenio ordering him, in case the men were convicted, to punish them and put them to death as wild beasts born for the destruction of mankind. In this letter he also wrote expressly concerning himself, "As for me, indeed, it will be found not only that I have not seen the wife of Dareius or desired to see her, but that I have not even allowed people to speak to me of her beauty." And he used to say that sleep and sexual intercourse, more than any thing else, made him conscious that he was mortal, implying that both weariness and pleasure arise from one and the same natural weakness.

29.4 - 30.7

When Dareius sent to him a letter and friends, begging him to accept ten thousand talents as ransom for the captives, to hold all the territory this side of the Euphrates, to take one of his daughters in marriage, and on these terms to be his ally and friend, Alexander imparted the matter to his companions. "If I were Alexander," said Parmenio, "I would accept these terms." "And so indeed would I," said Alexander, "were I Parmenio." But to Dareius he wrote: "Come to me, and thou shalt receive every courtesy; but otherwise I shall march at once against thee."
[30] Soon, however, he repented him of this answer, when the wife of Dareius died in childbirth, and it was evident that he was distressed at this loss of opportunity to show great kindness. Accordingly, he gave the woman a sumptuous burial. One of the eunuchs of the bed-chamber who had been captured with the women, Teireos by name, ran away from the camp, made his way on horseback to Dareius, and told him of the death of his wife. Then the king, beating upon his head and bursting into lamentation, said: "Alas for the evil genius of the Persians, if the sister and wife of their king must not only become a captive in her life, but also in her death be deprived of royal burial." "Nay, O King," answered the chamberlain. "as regards her burial, and her receiving every fitting honour. thou hast no charge to make against the evil genius of the Persians. For neither did my mistress Stateira, while she lived, or thy mother or thy children, lack any of their former great blessings except the light of thy countenance, which Lord Oromazdes will cause to shine again with lustre; nor after her death was she deprived of any funeral adornment, nay, she was honoured with the tears of enemies. For Alexander is as gentle after victory as he is terrible in battle."
When Dareius heard this, his agitation and grief swept him into absurd suspicions, and leading the eunuch away into a more secluded part of his tent, he said: "If thou also, together with the fortune of the Persians, dost not side with the Macedonians, and if I, Dareius, am still thy lord and master, tell me, as thou reverest the great light of Mithras and the right hand of thy king, is it not the least of Stateira's misfortunes that I am now lamenting? While she was alive did I not suffer more pitiful evils? And would not my wretched fortune have been more compatible with my honour if I had met with an angry and savage enemy? For what intercourse that is proper can a young man have with an enemy's wife when it leads to such marks of honour?" While the king was still speaking, Teireos threw himself down at his feet and besought him to hold his peace, and neither to wrong Alexander, nor shame his dead sister and wife, nor rob himself of the greatest consolation for his disasters, namely, the belief that he had been conquered by a man who was superior to human nature; nay, he should even admire Alexander for having shown greater self-restraint in dealing with Persian women than valour against Persian men. Then, while the eunuch was confirming his testimony with the most solemn oaths, and discoursing on the general self-mastery and magnanimity of Alexander, Dareius went out to his companions, and lifting his hands towards heaven, prayed: "O ye gods of my race and kingdom, above all things else grant that I may leave the fortune of Persia reestablished in the prosperity wherein I found it, in order that my victory may enable me to requite Alexander for the favours which I received at his hands when I had lost my dearest possessions; but if, then, a fated time has now come, due to divine jealousy and the vicissitudes of things, and the sway of the Persians must cease, grant that no other man may sit upon the throne of Cyrus but Alexander." That these things were thus done and said is the testimony of most historians.


His marriage to Roxana, whom he saw in her youthful beauty taking part in a dance at a banquet, was a love afflair, and yet it was thought to harmonize well with the matters which he had in hand. For the Barbarians were encouraged by the partnership into which the marriage brought them, and they were beyond measure fond of Alexander, because, most temperate of all men that he was in these matters, he would not consent to approach even the only woman who ever mastered his affections, without the sanction of law.


We are told, too, that he was once viewing some contests in singing and dancing, being well heated with wine, and that his favourite, Bagoas, won the prize for song and dance, and then, all in his festal array, passed through the theatre and took his seat by Alexander's side; at sight of which the Macedonians clapped their hands and loudly bade the king kiss the victor, until at last he threw his arms about him and kissed him tenderly.