The Life and Successes of Alexander the Great

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Part 8: Of Friends and Enemies

It was in 328 B.C. that Alexander made perhaps his greatest mistake. It wasn't even on the battlefield. He and his men had conquered the large areas of Bactria and Sogdiana, in the north, and Alexander had rewarded his old friend Cleitus by placing him in charge of the entire area. Cleitus it was who had saved Alexander's life many years before, at the Battle of Granicus, leading a fierce charge to relieve the king, who suddenly found himself surrounded by the enemy with no way out. Cleitus it was who had stood by him through all the battles and all the conquests and all the "questionable" behavior. But Cleitus it was one night who not only defended Parmenio, Alexander's trusted friend whom the king now considered a traitor who got what he deserved, but also criticized the king himself for thinking himself a god and adopting the ways of the Persian people. Alexander wouldn't dare to hear this kind of talk, not even from one of his closest and oldest friends, and killed Cleitus himself.

If Alexander were willing to kill his best friends, what would he do to deserters or those who plotted against him? Fear of Alexander's wrath is how historians describe the Macedonians' motivation for continuing to follow Alexander from this point on. No doubt, many believed that he was a god, having seen his almost superhuman ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and to survive battle wounds that would have killed "normal" men. No doubt, many believed him when he said that he was a god, the deliverer of light into the world of darkness. No doubt, they preferred to march with him than struggle against him.

So on they went, ever eastward, in search of the edge of the world. The days and weeks and months passed by. In 327, one year after the death of Cleitus, Alexander and his men claimed the final piece of the Persian puzzle, defeating the Sogdian warlord Oxyartes. At last, all of the Persian Empire was Alexander's, literally.

The spoils of that victory included the warlord's daughter, Roxane. She became Alexander's wife and queen. It was more a political marriage than anything else, but it was a marriage all the same, with all the royal trappings that that entailed.

Still, Alexander looked eastward, toward India, the edge of the known world. Many of his men were tired and homesick and didn't want to follow him any further. They were suspicious of his motives and wanted desperately to return to a life that they knew and understood, that carried less threat of death every day on the field of battle. But march on with him they did, concluding that perhaps they would reach the end of the road soon and head back toward home. The army at this time was also swelled by new recruits, Persian soldiers serving alongside the Macedonians that they had once fought. This was Alexander's vision come true: east and west fighting side by side.

Next page > To the Edge of the World > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

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David White