Metz Epitome part I


by Karl Soundy

[1]Alexander the Great king of Macedonia believed that after the rule of the whole of Asia had devolved upon him, that what he had not dared display while Darius yet lived, he afterwards made plain of his own volition.

[2] Then he raised many bodyguards, and at the same time made Oxyathres the brother of Darius {one of them}; he girt himself about with diadem and the tunic with the white stripe down the middle and the Persian scepter and belt and all the other royal insignia which Darius had had; and at the same time he ordered those ‘equites stipatores’ he possessed to adopt Persian horse furniture and manners.

[3]Then Alexander heard that Bessus had assumed the royal vestments. He ordered the Agrianes and the Hypaspists to arm and, proud of the army’s confidence in him, he set out to lead them by the mountain routes he thought the shortest against {Bessus}. He came to Arius, where Ariobarzanes was, who,with bessus, murdered Darius. Alexander’s arrival terrified him and he fled into India.

[4] Then, Alexander led the army to the Euergetae, who used to be known as the Ariamaspi. There he founded a town on the route to India and called it Alexandria. Then he came to the town of the Parapamisdae, which is situated on the river of the Medes.

[5] Spitamenes, who was close to Bessus, after he heard that Alexander had arrived, he summoned Dataphernes, Catanes and other Kinsmen of Darius, demonstrating that the time had come to avenge him and to worm their way into Alexander’s favour, and he urged them to arrest Bessus and hand him over to Alexander at the first opportunity. To which thing they were quickly and easily persuaded, since every day Bessus treated the courtiers of Darius with more iniquity.

[6] And Spitamenes, who was most friendly with Bessus, simply dismissed the guards from his tent. Then admitted all the others and they bound Bessus and seizing the royal insignia sent them to Alexander. And Alexander, when he came to them later and saw Bessos led in chains and the great joy of those who led him, he sent them away with congratulations and gifts.

[7] Then he began his march to the River Tanais and after the fourth day he reached Maracanda, which is […] days from the Tanais. This town is beautiful and well provisioned, because of the many rivers that flow around the town; which is enclosed by a continuous wall 70 stadia long.

[8] On leaving the palace here he came to the Tanais, where he was aiming and he built a second fort on the river. Meanwhile, the Emperor of the Scythians sent his brother, Carthasis, with a large force, to prevent Alexander crossing the river.

[9] Then it was announced to Alexander that Spitamenes and Catanes had cast off their allegiance and the Greek forces, which he had left behind on the royal citadel as palace guards, had routed and many had been slain; the remainder had fled to some fortified place in the prefecture of Bactria and Spitamenes was attacking them. When Alexander heard this he first felt an unseemly alarm and watched all night for attacks.

[10] And what had seemed most expedient before he now decided to persist with and finish what he had undertaken, and the next day he ordered rafts to be prepared on the river. Which the Macedonians, under the watchful eye of their king, made ready in short order; now two thousand rafts were launched for the far bank of the river. Then he ordered the army to board the rafts and, giving the signal, ordered all to cast off.

[11] And they launched the rafts onto the deep in such numbers that it seemed that they were rather crossing a plain in battle-array than crossing a river, but the barbarians set their minds to not suffering them to make a landing and were waiting on the bank armed and eager. Upon reaching the middle of the river the Macedonians, on the signal, raised a great shout; at the same time the clashing of oars and the oarsmens signals promoted a soldierly mind-set.

[12] But the barbarians, while the Macedonians were making this clamour, began to loose arrows and other missiles; many were wounded and no fewer slain since, due to their compact order, they could not avoid the weapons. Then the rafts came to shore at the same time, Alexander broke out with his squadrons and ordered the phalanxes to follow, and, presently, once they had launched this determined attack, the barbarians abandoned themselves to flight. The Macedonians are said to have reached the column of Father Liber pursuing them by night. They then fell back to the Tanais and their camp.

[13] Then, three days later he force marched to Maracanda in order to fall on Spitamenes by surprise. When Spitamenes heard he was on his way back he broke off fighting the Greeks. And Alexander reached Maracanda on the fourth day after setting out. Where the Greeks had sustained great losses he ordered the dead buried and a monument raised for Menedemus.

[14] Then he led the column across Sogdian territory. From there, in turn, he entered Bactria and ordered Bessus’ arrest and he executed him by impalement through the fundament, after the Persian manner. Eleven days later he came to the river Ochus. He crossed it. And then arrived at the Oxus.

[15] A mass of people from these regions, driven by fear, rushed to a certain mountain and fled to its heights, for its altitude was daunting to behold; for it rose no less than twenty stadia from base to summit. This was accessible by one place, a cave where stalactites were falling.

[16] When Alexander saw that it could not be assaulted here, he chose three hundred men from the whole army, who were reckoned the strongest and he led them to the mountain with the promise of a great reward and he pointed out that they should find out if the sheer summit of the mountain might be reached by driving iron nails into the rocks, by use of the hooks they had fashioned and by helping each other up on ropes bit by bit; they set out that night and were to signal, at dawn, with their white linen.

[17] They accomplished this more quickly than Alexander had calculated. Though many fell to their deaths, the remainder completed the task. At first light the next morning Alexander sent one of his men to the enemy leaders, Dares and Ariomazes, to persuade them to surrender to him; if he could not achieve this he was to point out the men on the summit to Dares. [

18] When Ariomazes saw them he was astonished, it was as if Alexander’s army had men with wings. Taking note of this frightening development, the crowd of men there slew Ariomazes. Then they surrendered. And Alexander pardoned them their murder.

[19] Next, a few days later, he sent the army into winter quarters in Bactrian Nautacene: he pardoned Xeniptas his crime. There he made treaty with Sisimithres, who, in accordance with barbarian custom, brought forth his mother, two sons and three daughters.

[20] Then, winter over, he led the army against the Dahae. Whence Spitamenes, for this reason, did not fly, because he had taken to wife a certain Bactrian woman of exceptional good looks, whatever pleased him most, in her he found it. He took her with him on all his travels and she shared his travails. When she heard that Alexander was approaching, she refused to quit the town; then she began to entreat her man, with many a plea to surrender himself to Alexander’s good faith; but he did not want to.

[21] When she could not shake his resolve, she urged him to hold a banquet, in order that he might get drunk, and so he, worn out, surrendered to sleep. But when she perceived all was quiet, she got out of bed and took the sacred cushion from beneath his head. Thus stretching his windpipe she struck the head from his body with a sword and accompanied by one slave-boy she passed trough the gates and came to Alexander’s camp.

[22] The guards led her to the king adorned by her courage and rendered more beautiful by her nobility, despite being stained with blood. And as soon as Alexander saw her he wondered many things, who was she and why had she come, then she held out the man’s head.

[23] Then the king exclaimed: ‘O most criminal Spitamenes, how many are the punishments for your crimes that hang over you!’ Then he took the woman by the hand and thanked her. He held none in such honour as her nor would any inspire more desire in him by reason of their beauty. This having occurred, the Dahae heard of Spitamenes death and the capture of Catanes and Dataphernes so they surrendered to Alexander. That is why he chose not to lead the army against their town.

[24] Next Alexander left this place. Three days into the march there was suddenly a great fall of snow, from the night sky, which blanketed the land; then from all sides a violent whirlwind blew up and the sky was rent with a great crashing and crowds of thunderbolts, such that it seemed everything would be overturned and thrown into confusion.

[25] The very fabric of the earth was matted with cold and turning to ice, such that the tents and their uniforms became hard and stiff, which hardships the Macedonians bore patiently. But when it began to grow colder and the violence of the storm had not abated, until they could not hold onto their weapons and they were bodily scattered by the wind, each sought refuge as he might, in villages or country estates.

[26] Some clung to trees, not a few huddled together under rocks and stony outcrops. Others having made the effort to dismount were rendered helpless by numbness and unable to move to the track. Then again those who lay down found that when they tried to rise their clothes were stuck solid to the ground, nobody was able to help anyone else.

[27] Due to the violence of this storm 30,000 men died miserably and 4,000 pack animals from exposure; afterwards many returned to camp either sick in body or having lost some limb or other.

[28] Next he set off for Gazabes intending to carry on. On this journey he came upon the satrapy of a certain Chorienes. He concluded a treaty with him. And he, when Alexander accepted an invitation to share his hospitality, brought in his virgin daughters to dance with the unmarried children of his other friends.

[29] Amongst these was the daughter of Oxyartes, Rhoxane, the most beautiful of all, whose looks ensnared Alexander with desire. Then he inquired who she was and whose daughter. He was told she was Oxyartes’, who was himself dining there. Then taking his cup and praying to the Gods he began to speak thus: many were used to obtaining things totally unexpectedly; there were many kings who had got sons on captives;

[30] they sent many of their own daughters to marry among foreign peoples and by such congress affirmed their friendship. ‘Why,’ he said ‘are you Macedones not great breeders and surely if you embrace the conquered in friendship, will your rule not last forever? That is what I am going to do and whomsoever of the other Macedonians chooses to do the same I shall take care of.’

[31] His friends applauded these words, and he led them with himself to marry the girls dancing at the party. Which having been done Oxyartes and the other barbarians were overjoyed.

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