(ALEXANDER the GREAT – continued)

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ALEXANDER the GREAT (5 of 6)

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Conquests to Afghanistan

In early 331, three years after his first battle against Darius, Alexander sailed north with the flow of the Nile, and he found a place he thought perfect for a city. There he founded Alexandria, soon to be Egypt's new capital, a city that would be populated by people from neighboring villages and towns and by retired Macedonian, Greek and Balkan veterans from Alexander's army. Like a Macedonian city, Alexandria's inhabitants were subject to royal edicts, but otherwise they were self-governing, with an assembly and a city council.

Also in early 331 Alexander and his army started to pursue Darius again. He marched with his army toward Babylon, where Darius had been organizing a force for a showdown, a force with chariots and elephants from India.

Along the way, during the early summer, Alexander campaigned against a rebellion in Sumaria. A few followers of Jehovah had captured and burned alive the governor representing the Persian overlord. Samarians surrendered those responsible to Alexander – most likely trying to save themselves – and Alexander had the murderers executed on the spot. As a lesson against such rebellions, Alexander expelled Samaria's inhabitants. And in their place he invited Macedonians to populate the city.


Darius III

Darius the Third, at the center in the top picture, at the Battle of Isis or Gaugamela.

In October, 331, Alexander defeated Darius near a town called Gaugamela. Darius had been slow in correcting his troop positions, and he had failed to delegate enough command to subordinates. When he thought he saw Alexander's army over-powering his army, he fled with his retinue – the second time that he deserted his troops.

Alexander and his men went on to Babylon. The Persian governor of Babylon surrendered the city, and Alexander's army entered the city in triumph. Babylon's local priesthood made a show of welcoming Alexander, who in turn displayed his respects. Alexander consulted the local priesthood on the correct worship of the Babylonian god, Marduk, and he made animal sacrifices to Marduk. He pleased the priesthood by ordering the restoration of Marduk's statue and the temples that the Persians had long before destroyed as punishment for a revolt. Men of wealth in the area, wishing to make peace with Alexander, gave him great sums of money. For Alexander's soldiers it was time for another rest, and they spent their pay on Babylonian women.

In December, with a refreshed army of about 60,000, Alexander fought his way southeastward through mountains. Then he swept through an open plain of woods, canals and estates toward Darius' capital city, Persepolis. There he took control of Darius' palace. Alexander seized a wondrous amount of money from the Persian treasury. Then he stooped to the tradition of vengeance, the same vengeance that his father, Philip, had planned. Those in Persepolis were to pay for the misdeeds he believed the Persians had committed some 150 years before, when Xerxes had invaded Greece. Alexander turned the city over to his troops, who stormed through its streets, slaughtered, plundered, and stripped women of their jewelry.

Alexander and his men then pushed north along a mountainous course toward the Caspian Sea, to Darius' summer palace where, according to reports, Darius and Persian troops were encamped. Darius and his troops became aware of Alexander's approach, and they began a hard ride eastward. Alexander and 500 of his toughest men went ahead of the rest of his army. They rode across forty-four miles of desert, and at dawn, near the town of Damghan, they came upon Darius' force. Alexander had hoped to leave Darius as a subordinate king, subordinate to him. But before Alexander and his men could reach Darius, one of Darius' commanders, Bessus, Darius' cousin, with a group of accomplices, assassinated Darius. Moved by the sight of Darius' corpse, Alexander covered it with his cloak.

Bessus ran with his body of men farther east, and he proclaimed himself Darius' successor. Pursuing them, Alexander pushed into what today is northern Afghanistan: Bactria. With reinforcements that arrived from Greece and Macedonia, Alexander fought local rulers and independent tribes whom the Persians had only barely managed to dominate. Alexander inflicted heavy casualties. Hoping to create peace in the area, he encouraged tribal people to adopt a settled way of life, and he founded new towns.

Alexander marched into the Hindu Kush, from whose summit Aristotle believed one would be able to see the end of the world. And in these mountains local people showed Alexander the rock where the mythical Prometheus was said to have been chained after he gave the gift of fire to humanity.

With help from local rulers, Alexander managed to capture Bessus, who at the town of Bactra (today, Balkh) was placed standing naked in front of Alexander. Alexander asked him why he had killed his king and kinsman. Bessus tried to justify himself. He was flogged – a punishment of Macedonian tradition. And, in keeping with Persian tradition, Bessus' nose and ears were cut off. Then he was sent to be tried by a Persian court, which had him executed.


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