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Old 03-11-2009, 08:28 AM   #1
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Default Alexander the Great: Speeches and Quotes

Below is the speech of Alexander the Great to his troops before the battle of Issus, as explained by 3 different authors between the 1st and 3rd centuries.

Arrian, a Greek writer, goes to great lengths to display a commonality between the Macedonians and Greeks in his rendition of this speech as the quote indicates, but his reference to only Greeks on the one hand and Thracians and co. on the other (this too as foreigners), with the complete absence of Macedonians, exposes a Greco-centric tendency in his writings. However, he cannot escape the truth of several facts and is compelled to make it clear, with regard to the event of the Macedonian slaying of Greeks in the service of Darius, that the fight was further embittered by the old racial rivalry between Greek and Macedonian: http://websfor.org/alexander/arrian/book2a.asp

Quote:
Remember, that already danger has often threatened you and you have looked it triumphantly in the face; this time the struggle will be between a victorious army and an enemy already once vanquished. God himself, moreover, by suggesting to Darius to leave the open ground and cram his great army into a confined space, has taken charge of operations in our behalf. We ourselves shall have room enough to deploy our infantry, while they, no match for us either in bodily strength or resolution, will find their superiority in numbers of no avail. Our enemies are Medes and Persians, men who for centuries have lived soft and luxurious lives; we of Macedon for generations past have been trained in the hard school of danger and war. Above all, we are free men, and they are slaves. There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service - but how different is their cause from ours! They will be fighting for pay - and not much of it at that; we, on the contrary, shall fight for Greece, and our hearts will be in it. As four our foreign troops - Thracians, Paeonians, Illyrians, Agrianes - they are the best and stoutest soldiers in Europe, and they will find as their opponents the slackest and softest of the tribes of Asia. And what, finally, of the two men in supreme command? You have Alexander - they, Darius!
Curtius Rufus is a Latin writer, and his rendition of this speech contrasts that of Arrian in a key area, namely, the clear distinction between the Macedonians and the Greeks, and the difference in motive for the campaign in Asia.
Quote:
Riding up to the line, he would address the soldiers with words that suited their various dispositions. The Macedonians, who had won so many wars in Europe and who had set out to conquer Asia and the furthest lands of the East as much at their own instigation as at his – these he reminded of their long-standing valour. They were the liberators of the world; they would one day traverse the bounds set by Heracles and Father Liber to subdue not only the Persians but all the races of the earth. Bactria and India would be Macedonian provinces. What now lay before their eyes is minial, he said, but victory gave access to everything. It would not be fruitless labour on the sheer rocks and crags of Illyria and Thrace: they were being offered the spoils of the entire East. And they would scarcely need their swords: the whole enemy line, wavering in panic, could be driven back just by their shields. Alexander also referred to his father, Phillip, the conqueror of Athenians, and recalled to their minds the recent conquest Boeotia and the annihilation of its best know city. He reminded them of the river Granicus, of all the cities they had stormed or which had capitulated, of the territory that now lay behind them, all of it subdued and trampled beneath their feet. Approaching the Greeks, he would remind them that these were the peoples who had inflicted wars upon Greece, were occasioned first by Darius and then Xerxes, when they insolently demanded earth and water from them – to deprive them of their drinking fountains and their daily bread when they submitted. He reminded them that these were the men who had demolished and burned their temples, stormed their cities, violated all the laws of gods and men. Since the Illyrians and Thracians usually made their living by looting, Alexander told them to look at the enemy line agleam with gold and purple – equipped with booty not arms! They were men, he said, so they should advance and seize the gold from this cowardly bunch of women. They should exchange their rugged mountain-tops and barren hill-trails permanently stiff with frost for the rich plains and fields of the Persians.
Justinus was another Latin writer, who shares a near identical view to that of Curtius. Latin writers made the distinction between Macedonian and Greek in their writings quite commonly, and this view is consistent in the texts regarding this topic that are produced by the likes of Curtius and Justinus.
Quote:
..............he rode round among his troops, and addressed those of each nation in an appropriate speech. He excited the Illyrians and Thracians by describing the enemy’s wealth and treasures, and the Greeks by putting them in mind of their wars of old, and their deadly hatred towards the Persians. He reminded the Macedonians at one time of their conquests in Europe, and at another of their desire to subdue Asia, boasting that no troops in the world had been found a match for them, and assuring them that this battle would put an end to their labours and crown their glory.
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Old 07-25-2009, 05:58 AM   #2
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At some point during the Macedonian campaign in Asia, Alexander and his men had arrived at Opis. Alexander had informed the Macedonian army that those who were injured or at the age of retirement from battle, were no longer required for service and would be sent home with full honours. They were famed men, and were to be the inspiration for the Macedonians back home who wished to share in their conquering, adventure and glory. The Macedonians, however, took offence to Alexander's gesture, and rejected his offer on the grounds that the Persians were being shown favour over the Macedonians. Furious, Alexander lashed out with the following speech, making reference to the state of the Macedonians before his (real) father, Phillip II, had brought them up as a proud nation, and of the achievements gained under his own leadership.

http://websfor.org/alexander/arrian/book7a.asp

Quote:
The speech which I am about to deliver will not be for the purpose of checking your start homeward, for, so far as I am concerned, you may depart wherever you wish; but for the purpose of making you understand when you take yourselves off, what kind of men you have been to us who have conferred such benefits upon you. In the first place, as is reasonable, I shall begin my speech from my father Philip. For he found you vagabonds and destitute of means, most of you clad in hides, feeding a few sheep up the mountain sides, for the protection of which you had to fight with small success against Illyrians, Triballians, and the border Thracians. Instead of the hides he gave you cloaks to wear, and from the mountains he led you down into the plains, and made you capable of fighting the neighbouring barbarians, so that you were no longer compelled to preserve yourselves by trusting rather to the inaccessible strongholds than to your own valour. He made you colonists of cities, which he adorned with useful laws and customs; and from being slaves and subjects, he made you rulers over those very barbarians by whom you yourselves, as well as your property, were previously liable to be carried off or ravaged. He also added the greater part of Thrace to Macedonia, and by seizing the most conveniently situated places on the sea-coast, he spread abundance over the land from commerce, and made the working of the mines a secure employment. He made you rulers over the Thessalians, of whom you had formerly been in mortal fear; and by humbling the nation of the Phocians, he rendered the avenue into Greece broad and easy for you, instead of being narrow and difficult. The Athenians and Thebans, who were always lying in wait to attack Macedonia, he humbled to such a degree, I also then rendering him my personal aid in the campaign, that instead of paying tribute to the former and being vassals to the latter, those states in their turn procure security to themselves by our assistance. He penetrated into the Peloponnese, and after regulating its affairs, was publicly declared commander-in-chief of all the rest of Greece in the expedition against the Persian, adding this glory not more to himself than to the commonwealth of the Macedonians. These were the advantages which accrued to you from my father Philip; great indeed if looked at by themselves, but small if compared with those you have obtained from me. For though I inherited from my father only a few gold and silver goblets, and there were not even sixty talents in the treasury, and though I found myself charged with a debt of 500 talents owing by Philip, and I was obliged myself to borrow 800 talents in addition to these, I started from the country which could not decently support you, and forthwith laid open to you the passage of the Hellespont, though at that time the Persians held the sovereignty of the sea. Having overpowered the satraps of Darius with my cavalry, I added to your empire the whole of Ionia, the whole of Aeolis, both Phrygias and Lydia, and I took Miletus by siege. All the other places I gained by voluntary surrender, and I granted you the privilege of appropriating the wealth found in them. The riches of Egypt and Cyrene, which I acquired without fighting a battle, have come to you. Coele-Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia are your property. Babylon, Bactra, and Susa are yours. The wealth of the Lydians, the treasures of the Persians, and the riches of the Indians are yours; and so is the External Sea. You are viceroys, you are generals, you are captains. What then have I reserved to myself after all these labours, except this purple robe and this diadem? I have appropriated nothing myself, nor can any one point out my treasures, except these possessions of yours or the things which I am guarding on your behalf. Individually, however, I have no motive to guard them, since I feed on the same fare as you do, and I take only the same amount of sleep. Nay, I do not think that my fare is as good as that of those among you who live luxuriously; and I know that I often sit up at night to watch for you, that you may be able to sleep.

But some one may say, that while you endured toil and fatigue, I have acquired these things as your leader without myself sharing the toil and fatigue. But who is there of you who knows that he has endured greater toil for me than I have for him? Come now, whoever of you has wounds, let him strip and show them, and I will show mine in turn; for there is no part of my body, in front at any rate, remaining free from wounds; nor is there any kind of weapon used either for close combat or for hurling at the enemy, the traces of which I do not bear on my person. For I have been wounded with the sword in close fight, I have been shot with arrows, and I have been struck with missiles projected from engines of war; and though oftentimes I have been hit with stones and bolts of wood for the sake of your lives, your glory, and your wealth, I am still leading you as conquerors over all the land and sea, all rivers, mountains, and plains. I have celebrated your weddings with my own, and the children of many of you will be akin to my children. Moreover I have liquidated of all those who had incurred them, without inquiring too closely for what purpose they were contracted, though you received such high pay, and carry off so much booty whenever there is booty to be got after a siege. Most of you have golden crowns, the eternal memorials of your valour and of the honour you receive from me. Whoever has been killed has met with a glorious end and has been honoured with a splendid burial. Brazen statues of most of the slain have been erected at home, and their parents are held in honour) being released from all public service and from taxation. But no one of you has ever been killed in flight under my leadership. And now I was intending to send back those of you who are unfit for service, objects of envy to those at home; but since you all wish to depart, depart all of you! Go back and report at home that your king Alexander, the conqueror of the Persians, Medes, Bactrians, and Sacians; the man who has subjugated the Uxi ans, Arachotians, and Drangians; who has also acquired the rule of the Parthians, Chorasmians, and Hyrcanians, as far as the Caspian Sea; who has marched over the Caucasus, through the Caspian Gates; who has crossed the rivers Oxus and Tanais, and the Indus besides, which has never been crossed by any one else except Dionysus; who has also crossed the Hydaspes, Acesines, and Hydraotes, and who would have crossed the Hyphasis, if you had not shrunk back with alarm; who has penetrated into the Great Sea by both the mouths of the Indus; who has marched through the desert of Gadrosia, where no one ever before marched with an army; who on his route acquired possession of Carmania and the land of the Oritians, in addition to his other conquests , his fleet having in the meantime already sailed round the coast of the sea which extends from India to Persia - report that when you returned to Susa you deserted him and went away, handing him over to the protection of conquered foreigners. Perhaps this report of yours will be both glorious to you in the eyes of men and devout I ween in the eyes of the gods. Depart!
This whole speech is specifically addressed to the Macedonian soldiers of his army, it was for their glory, for the glory of Macedon.
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Old 07-25-2009, 06:31 AM   #3
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An impressive speech indeed.
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Old 10-02-2010, 05:30 AM   #4
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During the famous incident with Cleitus, Alexander highlights the former's outspoken behaviour by turning to a few Greeks and stating the following, in the hope of offending Cleitus, a Macedonian, for his rowdy demeanour:
Quote:
When you see the Greeks walking about among the Macedonians, do they not look to you like demi-gods among so many wild beasts?
Plutarch, Alexander, 51.
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Old 10-02-2010, 05:54 AM   #5
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On the occasion of the battle against the mighty Indians under their leader Porus and their terrifying elephants, Alexander says:
Quote:
At last I see a danger that is a match for my courage - I must take on beasts and fine warriors together!
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 8, 14, 14.
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:22 AM   #6
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During the trial of Philotas, Alexander remarks:
Quote:
The Macedonians are going to judge your case. Please state whether you will use your native language before them.
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 6, 9, 34.
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Old 10-02-2010, 06:42 AM   #7
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Long into the campaign, Alexander states the following as he addresses the Persians in his army:
Quote:
Asia and Europe are now one and the same kingdom. I give you Macedonian arms. Foreign newcomers though you are, I have made you established members of my force; you are both my fellow citizens and soldiers. Everything is taking on the same hue; it is no disgrace for the Persians to copy Macedonian customs nor for the Macedonians to imitate the Persians. Those who are to live under the same king should enjoy the same rights........
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 10, 3, 13-14.
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Old 10-03-2010, 04:57 AM   #8
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Quote:
I resorted to our traditional custom, followed by kings of Macedon from the earliest times, and ordered him to be flogged. Such discipline is necessary. Pupils accept it from their teachers, wives from their husbands; we even allow our slaves to beat boys of this age.
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 8, 8, 3.
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Old 10-03-2010, 05:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
But, says Hermolaus, the Persians whom we have defeated are held in high regard by me! Now that is actually the clearest proof of my restraint - my rule is not tyrannical even in the case of conquered peoples. I did not come into Asia to wipe out its races entirely or to transform half of the world into a desert. Rather it was to make the people I conquered in warfare feel no regret at my victory. As a consequence, you have men fighting along with you and shedding blood for your empire who would have rebelled had they been treated disdainfully. Possession achieved by the sword is not of long duration, but gratitude for kindness shown is everlasting. If we wish to hold Asia and not merely pass through it we must impart our clemency to these people - it is their loyalty which will make our empire stable and enduring. And, to tell the truth, we have more possessions than we can use, and it is insatiable greed to keep on filling up something that is already overflowing. But, he claims, I am foisting Persian habits on the Macedonians. True, for I see in many races things we should not blush to imitate, and the only way this great empire can be satisfactorily governed is by our transmitting some things to the natives and learning others from them ourselves. Then there was Hermolaus' insistence that I repudiate Jupiter who recognized me as a son by his oracle - that almost called for laughter. Does he think I have the power over the gods' oracular responses? Jupiter held out to me the title of son; accepting it has not been disadvantageous to the operations in which we are engaged. I only wish the Indians would also believe me a god! For reputation determines military success, and often even a false belief has accomplished as much as the truth. Do you think I emblazoned your arms with gold and silver to indulge an extravagant taste? No! For the Indians nothing is a more common sight than these metals, and I wished to show them that the Macedonians, unsurpassed in all else, cannot be outclassed even in respect to gold. So I shall bedazzle them from the start: they are expecting a completely humble and sordid force, and I shall show them that we come not lustering after gold and silver but to subjugate the whole world. You, traitor, wished to abort this glorious enterprise and to deliver up the Macedonians to the races they had conquered by eliminating their king. You suggest now that I pardon your relatives! Really, you should be kept ignorant of my decision concerning them, so that your death may be the more distressing, that is if you have any thought or concern for your kin. But in fact I long ago suspended that notorious custom of executing innocent kinsmen and relatives along with the guilty, and I publicly declare that they all shall retain their former rank. As for your Callisthenes, the only person to think you a man (because you are an assassin), I know why you want him brought forward. It is so that the insults which you sometimes uttered against me and sometimes heard from him can be repeated by his lips before this gathering. Were he a Macedonian I would have introduced him here along with you - a teacher truly worthy of his pupil. As it is, he is an Olynthian and does not enjoy the same rights.
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 8, 8, 10-19.


Both Hermolaus the Macedonian and Callisthenes, a Greek, were tortured and executed. With respect to the latter, Curtius Rufus states that "no other person's execution engendered greater resentment against Alexander among the Greeks".
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Old 09-24-2011, 08:55 AM   #10
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This statement was not from Alexander himself but was directed to him by the Macedonian General Craterus during the Philotas trial:
Quote:
Protect yourself against the enemies within our ranks. Eliminate those and I fear nothing from the foreigner.
Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, Book 6, 8, 9.
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