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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Alexander the Great

  • [Son of Philip of Macedon, born 356 B.C.; ascended the throne, 336; took Thebes by assault, 335; crossed the Hellespont, 334; defeated the Persians at the Granicus, took Halicarnassus, marched through Asia Minor, defeated Darius at Issus, 333; took possession of Phœnicia and Egypt; marching again against Darius, defeated a million Persians at Arbela; conquered Media and the northern and central provinces of Asia; crossed the Indus, 327, and defeated Porus; on his return died of fever at Babylon, 323.]
  • My father will leave me nothing to do.

  • Hearing when a boy of Philip’s military successes.—PLUTARCH: Apothegms.
  • When his father had been run through the thigh, and was troubled by his lameness, Alexander encouraged him by saying, “Be of good cheer, father; and show yourself in public, that you may be reminded of your bravery at every step.”—Fortune of Alexander the Great.
  • His father encouraged him, being nimble and light-footed, to run in the races at the Olympic games: he promised to, “if there are any kings there to run with me; for I can conquer only private men, while they may conquer a king.”—Apothegms.
  • When Philip asked him what forfeit he would pay if he could not ride Bucephalus, he replied, “I will pay the price of the horse.” The price asked by his owner, a Thessalian, was thirteen talents (£2518), or, as Pliny says, sixteen talents. After Alexander had turned the horse to the sun so as to remove the shadow which had frightened him, and, gently stroking him, leaped upon his back, pushed him to a full gallop, and returned safely, Philip cried, “Seek another kingdom, my son, that may be worthy of thy abilities; for Macedonia is too small for thee.”—Life.
  • When Philip stumbled from the effect of passion and wine, at the festival of his second marriage, Alexander exclaimed, “Men of Macedon, what a fine hero the states of Greece have to lead their armies from Europe to Asia! he is not able to pass from one table to another without falling!”—Ibid.
  • Were I not Alexander, I would be Diogenes.

  • Because when he came to converse with the cynic philosopher at Corinth, he was so struck with his life and learning that he said, “Had I not been a philosopher in deeds, I would have devoted myself to the study of words.” PLUTARCH: Fortune of Alexander the Great. It was at this interview that Alexander, asking Diogenes what he could do for him, was told, “Only stand a little out of my sunshine.” Napoleon, speaking in 1814 of the Macedonian’s Russian namesake, said, “If I were not Napoleon, I would be Alexander.”
  • When he divided his revenues among his friends, while preparing his Asian campaign, and Perdiccas asked him what he retained for himself, he answered, “Hope.”—“If hope is sufficient for Alexander,” replied his general, “it is sufficient for Perdiccas.”
  • At the tomb of Achilles, Alexander exclaimed, “O fortunate youth, who found a Homer to proclaim thy valor!” which Cicero quotes in the oration for the poet Archias: “O fortunate adolescens, qui tuæ virtutis Homerum præconem inveneris!” When asked at Ilium if he would like to see the lyre of Paris, he replied, “I would rather see the lyre of Achilles,” preferring that to which the warrior had sung the glorious actions of the brave.—Life.
  • He always travelled with a copy of the Iliad, which he called a portable treasure of military knowledge; and after the defeat of Darius he put it into a rich casket found among the spoil of the Persian camp, saying, “Darius used to keep his ointments in it; but I, who have no time to anoint myself, will convert it to a nobler use.”—Ibid.
  • So would I, if I were Parmenio.

  • To Parmenio, who said that if he were Alexander, he would accept the offer of Darius to pay him ten thousand talents, to cede to him all the countries west of the Euphrates, and to give him his daughter in marriage.—PLUTARCH: Life. Thus when Lysander was offered a bribe of fifty talents, and Cleander said he would take it, were he Lysander; “So would I,” replied the latter, “were I Cleander.”
  • Alexander declined the proposition of Darius, saying, “Heaven cannot support two suns, nor earth two masters;” or, as Plutarch has it in his “Apothegms,” “nor Asia two kings.” Thus it was said by Eteocles, of Lysander, who allowed himself to be influenced by the resentments of his friends, “Greece cannot bear two Lysanders.”—Ibid. When the conduct of Alcibiades was considered an insult to the laws of Athens, Archestratus observed, “Greece cannot bear another Alcibiades.”—Life of Alcibiades. Peter the Great exclaimed after a severe defeat by Charles XII. of Sweden, at Narva, 1700, “My brother Charles affects to play the Alexander, but he shall not find in me a Darius.”
  • Being advised by Parmenio not to cross the Granicus, of the depth of which they were ignorant, so late in the day, Alexander said, “The Hellespont would blush, if, after having passed it, I should be afraid of the Granicus.” He refused to attack Darius at Arbela in the night; saying, “I will not steal a victory.”—Life.
  • A wound which he received in the ankle gave him an opportunity of rebuking those who were wont to call him a god. “That is blood, as you see, and not, as Homer saith,
  • ‘Such humor as distils from blessed gods.’”—Iliad, V. 340.
  • PLUTARCH: Apothegms.
  • When the mother of Darius threw herself at Hephaistion’s feet, thinking him to be Alexander from his superior height and more magnificent dress, the king raised her, saying, “You have not deceived yourself, my mother: he also is Alexander!” Antipater wrote the king a letter full of complaints against the latter’s mother, who was not allowed to interfere as she would have liked in state affairs: his reply was, “Antipater knows not that one tear of a mother can blot out a thousand such complaints.”
  • Craterus is the friend of the king, but Hephaistion is the friend of Alexander.

  • Appearing to respect Craterus, but to love Hephaistion. The former was a distinguished general, who, on the death of Alexander, received the government of Macedonia and Greece in common with Antipater. Hephaistion was brought up with Alexander: he died at Ecbatana, after an illness of seven days, 325 B.C., and was mourned extravagantly by the king.
  • When his friends became so devoted to the luxury of Asia that they considered long marches and campaigns as a burden, and by degrees spoke ill of him, Alexander said to them, “There is something noble in hearing myself ill spoken of, when I am doing well;” or, as it is given in the “Apothegms,” “To do good, and be evil spoken of, is kingly,” which Carlyle saw written in Latin on the town-hall of Zittau, in Saxony,—Bene facere et male audire regium est.—Frederick the Great, XV. 13. Voltaire said, “It is a noble thing to make ingrates.”
  • When Antipater was commended for not degenerating into Persian luxury in the use of purple, Alexander remarked, “Outwardly Antipater wears white clothes, but within he is all purple.”
  • Taxiles, whose dominions in India were said to be as large as Egypt, asked Alexander why there should be any conflict between them. “If,” he said, “I am richer than you, I am willing to oblige you with part: if I am poorer, I have no objection to sharing your bounty.” Charmed with his frankness, Alexander took his hand, saying, “You are much deceived if you expect to escape without a conflict. I will dispute it with you to the last, but it shall be in favors and benefits; for I will not have you exceed me in generosity.” He thereupon gave him a thousand talents.—PLUTARCH: Life.
  • Clitus had saved Alexander’s life at the battle of the Granicus, but provoked the king’s anger by insolent language at a banquet, when both were heated with wine. Striking him down with his javelin, Alexander exclaimed, “Go, then, and join Philip and Parmenio.” He was, however, on coming to himself, inconsolable at his friend’s death. Parmenio had been put to death on a charge, preferred by his own son, of plotting against the king’s life.
  • He refused his assent to a proposal to carve Mount Athos into the figure of a man, in imitation of the attempt of Xerxes to cut a road through it; saying, “Mount Athos is already the monument of one king’s folly: I will not make it that of another.”
  • To his soldiers, disaffected after their long campaigns, he exclaimed, “Go home, and tell them that you left Alexander to conquer the world alone.”
  • He said to a young Macedonian named Alexander, who was about to attack, with others, a fort at the top of a steep height, “You must behave gallantly, my young friend, to do justice to your name.”
  • At the passage of the Indus in face of the army of Porus, having always in mind the praises he envied of Athens, he exclaimed, “O Athenians! how much it costs to be praised by you!”
  • To the most worthy.

  • When asked to whom he left his empire. Thus Thiers, in answer to the question in 1871, to whom supreme power should be given in France, replied, “To the wisest” (Au plus sage).
  • Napoleon said of Alexander, “He commenced his career with the mind of Trajan, but he closed it with the heart of Nero and the morals of Heliogabalus.”