CHAPTER XX. ALEXANDER THE GREAT, B.C. 336-323.

Alexander even crossed the river Jaxartes (SIR), and defeated the Scythians. Sogdiana alone of the northern provinces offered any serious resistance to his arms. Accordingly in 328 he again crossed the Oxus. He divided his army into five bodies, ordering them to scour the country in different directions. With the troops under his own command he marched against the fortress called the Sogdian Rock, seated on an isolated hill, so precipitous as to be deemed inaccessible, and so well supplied with provisions as to defy a blockade. The summons to surrender was treated with derision by the commander, who inquired whether the Macedonians had wings? But a small body of Macedonians having succeeded in scaling some heights which overhung the fortress, the garrison became so alarmed that they immediately surrendered. To this place a Bactrian named Oxyartes, an adherent of Bessus, had sent his daughters for safety. One of them, named Roxana, was of surpassing beauty, and Alexander made her the partner of his throne (B.C. 328).

At Maracanda (now SAMARCAND) he appointed his friend Clitus satrap of Bactria. On the eve of the parting of the two friends Alexander celebrated a festival in honour of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), though the day was sacred to Dionysus (Bacchus). The banquet was attended by several parasites and literary flatterers, who magnified the praises of Alexander with extravagant and nauseous flattery. Clitus, whom wine had released from all prudent reserve, sternly rebuked their fulsome adulation; and, as the conversation turned on the comparative merits of the exploits of Alexander and his father Philip, he did not hesitate to prefer the exploits of the latter. He reminded Alexander of his former services, and, stretching forth his hand, exclaimed, "It was this hand Alexander, which saved your life at the battle of the Granicus!" The king, who was also flushed with wine, was so enraged by these remarks, that he rushed at Clitus with the intention of killing him on the spot, but he was held back by his friends, whilst Clitus was at the same time hurried out of the room. Alexander, however, was no sooner released than, snatching a spear, he sprang to the door, and meeting Clitus, who was returning in equal fury to brave his anger, ran him through the body. But when the deed was done he was seized with repentance and remorse. He flung himself on his couch and remained for three whole days in an agony of grief, refusing all sustenance, and calling on the names of Clitus and of his sister Lanice who had been his nurse. It was not till his bodily strength began to fail through protracted abstinence that he at last became more composed, and consented to listen to the consolations of his friends, and the words of the soothsayers, who ascribed the murder of Clitus to a temporary frenzy with which Dionysus had visited him as a punishment for neglecting the celebration of his festival.

After reducing Sogdiana, Alexander returned into Bactria in 327, and began to prepare far his projected expedition into India. While he was thus employed a plot was formed against his life by the royal pages, incited by Hermolaus, one of their number, who had been punished with stripes for anticipating the king during a hunting party in slaying a wild boar. Hermolaus and his associates, among whom was Callisthenes, a pupil of Aristotle, were first tortured, and then put to death. It seems certain that a conspiracy existed; but no less certain that the growing pride and haughtiness of Alexander were gradually alienating from him the hearts of his followers.

Alexander did not leave Bactria till late in the spring. He crossed the Indus by a bridge of boats near Taxila, the present ATTOCK, where the river is about 1000 feet broad, and very deep. He now found himself in the district at present called the PENJ- AB (or the FIVE RIVERS). Taxiles, the sovereign of the district, at once surrendered Taxila, his capital and joined the Macedonian force with 5000 men. Hence Alexander proceeded with little resistance to the river Haydaspes (BEHUT or JELUM). On the opposite bank, Porus, a powerful Indian king, prepared to dispute his progress with a numerous and well-appointed force. Alexander, however, by a skilful stratagem conveyed his army safely across the river. An obstinate battle then ensued. In the army of Porus were many elephants, the sight and smell of which frightened the horses of Alexander's cavalry. But these unwieldy animals ultimately proved as dangerous to the Indians as to the Greeks; for when driven into a narrow space they became unmanageable, and created great confusion in the ranks of Porus. By a few vigorous charges the Indians were completely routed, with the loss of 12,000 slain and 9000 prisoners. Among the latter was Porus himself, who was conducted into the presence of Alexander. The courage which he had displayed in the battle had excited the admiration of the Macedonian king. Mounted on an enormous elephant, he retreated leisurely when the day was lost, and long rejected every summons to surrender; till at length, overcome by thirst and fatigue, he permitted himself to be taken. Even in this situation Porus still retained his majestic bearing, the effect of which was increased by the extraordinary height of his stature. On Alexander's inquiring how he wished to be treated, he replied, "Like a king." "And have you no other request?" asked Alexander. "No," answered Porus; "everything is comprehended in the word king." Struck by his magnanimity, Alexander not only restored him to his dominions, but also considerably enlarged them; seeking by these means to retain him as an obedient and faithful vassal.