The Life and Successes of Alexander the Great

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Part 10: Turnabout Home

The great journey back to Persia took three phases. One group of soldiers sailed on ships through the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf to Babylon. One group marched across the region of Hyrcania, south of the Caspian Sea. Alexander led the third group across the rocky Gedrosia Desert and to a predetermined meeting point with the army landbound army. Both armies entered Susa together.

What they found on their return—and this was the same in Babylon, where Alexander made his new home—was disorganization and corruption. Left to their own devices and without a strong hand to keep them in check, the local leaders that Alexander had sworn to loyalty went about their own business and tried to take little pieces of the new empire for themselves.

Alexander returned and reinstituted his iron grip. But he also realized that he still needed to show a good deal of tolerance for the native people and their beliefs. To strengthen his hold on the situation, he got married—again, this time to two women. One was Statira, daughter of Darius; the other was Parysatis, daughter of Artaxerxes III, another Persian ruler. In the same wedding ceremony, 80 Macedonians married 80 Persian women. The union was complete, in Alexander's mind.

But he couldn't keep his mind from the belief that he was above it all. Still undefeated on the battlefield and now back in charge of a huge empire that he had slaved eight years to conquer, he went about making himself the center of attention in all facets of Persian life. He still dressed like a god and demanded that his subjects (even, still, his own troops) refer to him as such. He ordered built temples where the people would worship him. He demanded that the cities in faraway Greece build temples to him. When the men who had followed him to the edge of the earth and back quarreled, he sent them home (again, which is what they probably wanted anyway, and they were undoubtedly glad that he didn't have them killed).

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David White