Read CHAPTER  XXVIII - THE EXPEDITION TO PERSIA.  B.C. 334 of Aunt Charlotte's Stories of Greek History, free online book, by Charlotte M. Yonge, on

Alexander passed the Hellespont in the April of 334, steering his own vessel, and was the first to leap on shore.  The first thing he did was to go over the plain of Troy and all the scenes described in the Iliad, and then to offer sacrifices at the mound said to be the tomb of Achilles, while his chief friend Hephaestion paid the same honours to Patroclus.

The best general in the Persian army was a Rhodian named Memnon, who wanted to starve out Alexander by burning and destroying all before him; but the satrap Arsaces would not consent to this, and chose to collect his forces, and give battle to the Greeks on the banks of the river Granicus, a stream rising in Mount Ida and falling into the Euxine.  Alexander led the right wing, with a white plume in his helmet, so that all might know him; Parmenio led the left; and it was a grand victory, though not without much hard fighting, hand to hand.  Alexander was once in great danger, but was saved by Clitus, the son of his nurse Lanika.  The Persians broke and dispersed so entirely that no army was left in Asia Minor, and the satrap Arsaces killed himself in despair.

Alexander forbade his troops to plunder the country, telling them that it was his own, and that the people were as much his subjects as they were; and all the difference he made was changing the Persian governors for Greek ones.  Sardis and Ephesus fell into his hands without a blow; and to assist in rebuilding the great temple of Diana, he granted all the tribute hitherto paid to the Great King.  When he came to Caria, Ada, who was reigning there as queen, adopted him as her son, and wanted him to take all her best cooks with him to provide his meals for the future.  He thanked her, but said his tutor had given him some far better relishers ­namely, a march before daybreak as sauce for his dinner, and a light dinner as sauce for his supper.

When he came to Gordium, in Phrygia, where one version of the story of Midas had placed that king, he was shown a waggon to which the yoke was fastened by a knotted with of cornel bough, and told that in this waggon Midas had come to Gordium, and that whoever could undo it should be the lord of Asia.  Alexander dextrously drew out the pin, and unwound the knot, to the delight of his followers.

In the spring he dashed down through the Taurus mountains, to take possession of the city of Tarsus, in Cilicia, before Memnon could collect the scattered Persian forces to enter it and cut him off from Syria.  He rode in heated and wearied, and at once threw himself from his horse to bathe in the waters of the river Cydnus; but they came from the melting snows of the mountains, and were so exceedingly cold that the shock of the chill brought on a most dangerous fever.  One physician, named Philip, offered to give him a draught that might relieve him, but at the same time a warning was sent from Parmenio that the man had been bribed to poison him.  Alexander took the cup, and, while he drank it off, he held out the letter to Philip with the other hand; but happily there was no treason, and he slowly recovered, while Parmenio was sent on to secure the mountain passes.  Darius, however, was advancing with a huge army, in which was a band of Spartans, who hated the Persians less than they did the Macedonians.  The Persian march was a splendid sight.  There was a crystal disk to represent the sun over the king’s tent, and the army never moved till sunrise, when first were carried silver altars bearing the sacred fire, and followed by a band of youths, one for each day in the year, in front of the chariot of the sun, drawn by white horses; after which came a horse consecrated to the sun, and led by white-robed attendants.  The king himself sat in a high, richly-adorned chariot, wearing a purple mantle, encrusted with precious stones, and encompassed with his Immortal band, in robes adorned with gold, and carrying silver-handled lances.  In covered chariots were his mother Sisygambis, his chief wife and her children, and 360 inferior wives, their baggage occupying 600 mules and 300 camels, all protected by so enormous an army that everyone thought the Macedonians must be crushed.

With some skill, Darius’ army passed from the East into Cilicia, and thus got behind Alexander, who had gone two days’ march into Syria; but on the tidings he turned back at once, and found that they had not guarded the passes between him and them.  So he attacked them close to Issus, and there again gained a great victory.  When Darius saw his Immortals giving way, he was seized with terror, sprang out of his royal chariot, mounted on horseback, and never rested till he was on the other side of the Euphrates.

Still there was a sharp fight, and Alexander was slightly wounded in the thigh; but when all the battle was over he came to the tents of Darius, and said he would try a Persian bath.  He was amused to find it a spacious curtained hall, full of vessels of gold and silver, perfumes and ointments, of which the simpler Greeks did not even know the use, and with a profusion of slaves to administer them.  A Persian feast was ready also; but just as he was going to sit down to it he heard the voice of weeping and wailing in the next tent, and learned that it came from Darius’ family.  He rose at once to go and comfort the old mother, Sisygambis, and went into her tent with Hephaestion.  Both were plainly dressed, and Hephaestion was the taller, so that the old queen took him for the king, and threw herself at his feet.  When she saw her mistake she was alarmed, but Alexander consoled her gently by saying, “Be not dismayed, mother; this is Alexander’s other self.”  And he continued to treat her with more kindness and respect than she had ever met with before, even from her own kindred; nor did he ever grieve her but once, when he showed her a robe, spun, woven, and worked by his mother and sisters for him, and offered to have her grand-children taught to make the like.  Persian princesses thought it was dignified to have nothing to do, and Sisygambis fancied he meant to make slaves of them; so that he had to reassure her, and tell her that the distaff, loom, and needle were held to give honour to Greek ladies.  Darius had fled beyond the rivers, and Alexander waited to follow till he should have reduced the western part of the empire.  He turned into Syria and Phoenicia, and laid siege to Tyre, which was built on an island a little way from the sea-shore.  He had no ships, but he began building a causeway across the water.  However, the Tyrians sallied out and destroyed it; and he had to go to Sidon, which he took much more easily, and thence obtained ships, with which he beat the Tyrian fleet, and, after great toil and danger, at last entered Tyre, after a siege of five months.

Then he marched along the shore to the Philistine city of Gaza, which was likewise most bravely defended by a black slave named Boetis.  Alexander was much hurt by a stone launched from the walls, which struck him between the breast and shoulder, and when at the end of four months’ siege the city was stormed, the attack was led by one of his cousins.  A cruel slaughter was made of the citizens; and then Alexander marched up the steep road to Jerusalem, expecting another tedious siege.  Instead of this, he beheld a long procession in white bordered with blue, coming out at the gates to meet him.  All the Priests and Levites, in their robes, came forth, headed by Jaddua, the High Priest, in his beautiful raiment, and the golden mitre on his head inscribed with the words, “Holiness unto the Lord.”  So he had been commanded by God in a vision; and when Alexander beheld the sight, he threw himself from his horse, and adored the Name on the mitre.  He told his officers that before he set out from home, when he was considering of his journey, just such a form as he now beheld had come and bidden him fear not, for he should be led into the East, and all Persia should be delivered to him.  Then the High Priest took him to the outer court of the temple, and showed him the very prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah where his own conquests were foretold.