The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome



Alexander’s Court and Carousals—Grand Entry into Babylon—Alexander’s Wide Dominion—Alexander’s Swiftness of Conquest—A Man of Providence

WHEN Alexander himself marched to Babylon, he sent a detachment to take possession of Susa. Though the treasure acquired at Babylon was great, that at Susa was greater, amounting to about fifty-six million dollars. Alexander rested his troops thirty-four days “amidst the luxurious indulgences of Babylon,” when he too set out for Susa, where he arrived in twenty days of easy marching. From Susa he made his way with but little resistance into Persia proper, and took possession of the two capitals—Persepolis and Pasargadae. At Persepolis he found treasure amounting to about one hundred and thirty-five million dollars, at Pasargadae about seven million dollars. Persepolis he gave up to plunder, massacre, and fire, in revenge for the sacking and burning of Athens by the Persians under Xerxes. From Persepolis he went to Ecbatana, the capital of Media, to capture Darius if possible. When he arrived there, he found that Darius had been gone only five days. Alexander deposited all his treasure in Ecbatana under a strong guard, and followed Darius for eleven days to the city of Rhages, a short distance south of the Caspian Sea, yet without overtaking him. GEP 177.1

2. Not long after this, Darius was made a prisoner by Bessus, his chief commander, which when Alexander learned, he again hastened forward in the hope of rescuing him from his betrayers. As Alexander was about to overtake them, the traitors tried to persuade Darius to mount a horse and flee with them. He refused, and they struck him with a shower of darts, and left him to die while they made good their escape. Some of Alexander’s troops found Darius a few minutes before he died; but Alexander himself did not arrive till a few minutes after his death. Alexander wept over his corpse, spread his military cloak over it, had it embalmed and sent to the mother of Darius, and had it buried with all the honors usually paid to Persian monarchs in their burial. GEP 177.2

3. Alexander next assembled all his forces at Hecatompylos in Parthia, where he gave them a large donative from the booty taken in the camp of Darius, and a period of fifteen days for rest and recreation from the long period of forced marches through which they had just passed. At the end of this time he led his forces northward into Hyrcania, which formed the southeastern coast of the Caspian Sea. Here he first made an expedition to the eastward between the mountains and the sea, against the tribes of the Mardi. He then conducted his army to the northeastward through the eastern portion of Hyrcania, then to the southeastward through Parthia and a short distance over the border of Bactria, then turned to the southward and marched out of Bactria into and through Aria, southward and eastward through Drangiana, eastward and northeastward through Arachosia and Paropamisadae, northward through Bactria and Sogdiana to the river Jaxartes, which he crossed, and conquered and dispersed all the Scythians whom he could find. GEP 178.1

4. From the river Jaxartes the army marched back through Sogdiana and Bactria to the main stream of the Cabul River; then eastward and southeastward through India as far’ as to the river Hyphasis. Alexander desired to go farther; but his army refused with such persistence and determination that he was obliged to desist. He then returned about half the distance between the Hyphasis and the Indus to the river Hydaspes, where he constructed and collected a fleet of two thousand boats, and, with both fleet and army, followed down that stream to its confluence with the Indus, then down the Indus to its mouth. From the mouth of the Indus he sent Nearchus with the fleet to make his way along the coast, through the straits of Bab-el-mandeb, and up the Persian Gulf to the mouth of the Euphrates, while he himself led the army through Gedrosia and Carmania to Persepolis in Persia, from which place they had all started six years before. GEP 178.2

5. In those six years that devoted little army had followed that indomitable leader over mountains and through deserts, through freezing snows and scorching sands, across mighty rivers and drought-stricken deserts; they had fought every sort of people, from the Scythians to the Indians, and had never suffered defeat. During all this time and throughout that whole region, whether in camp or on the march, they had carried rapine and slaughter, carousal and outrage everywhere. GEP 178.3

6. In all these years Alexander’s camp was his only capital. As he proceeded in his victorious course, his vanity grew and his conviction of his own divinity became more confirmed. The effects of his continual drinking became also more marked. In his camp, “there was always great state—pages, household officers, chamberlains, and all the ceremony of a royal residence. There were secretaries keeping a careful journal of every day’s events; there was a staff office, with its adjutants and orderlies. There was a state dinner, to which the king sat down with fifty or sixty guests; and as in the play, when he pledged the gods in libations and draughts of wine, the bray of trumpets proclaimed to the whole army that the king drank. GEP 179.1

7. “The excesses, too, of their revels were notorious, as they had been even in Philip’s time; the king would tell his adventures and boast of his prowess in the chase and in war; they would spend the night in drinking, according to the Macedonian and Thracian habits, and not as suited the hotter climate of the south. So the toils of the day and excesses of the night were such as must have exhausted many a sound constitution, and made many a young man grow old before his time.”—Mahaffy. 1 In one of these drunken carousals Alexander with his own hand killed Clitus, who with his own hand had saved Alexander’s life in the thickest of the fight at the battle of the Granicus. Thus he had become dangerous to his best friends as well as to his enemies. “His halts were formidable to his friends and companions; his marches, to the unconquered natives whom he chose to treat as enemies.”—Grote. 2 GEP 179.2

8. About the month of February, 324 B. C., Alexander with his army marched out of Persia and came again to Susa in Elam. To him here also came Nearchus with the fleet, having reached the head of the Persian Gulf in safety. Thus at Susa in the spring of 324 B. C., Alexander had all his force about him. He remained at Susa several months. In Bactria, in 327 B. C., Alexander had married Roxana, the daughter of the greatest chief of the country, who had captivated him by her great beauty. But now at Susa he took two more wives—Statira, the daughter of Darius; and Parysatis, the daughter of Ochus, who had reigned over Persia before Darius. At the same time he required eighty of his chief officers and friends to take each a Persian wife from among the noblest families. GEP 179.3

9. As the great heat of midsummer approached, Alexander went with his army to Ecbatana, the capital of Media, “the ordinary summer residence of the Persian kings.” “During his stay at Ecbatana, he celebrated magnificent sacrifices and festivities, with gymnastic and musical exhibitions, which were further enlivened, according to the Macedonian habits, by banquets and excessive wine-drinking.”—Grote. 3 GEP 180.1

10. At Ecbatana at this time, Hephaestion died of a fever. Alexander’s “sorrow for this loss was unbounded, manifesting itself in excesses suitable to the general violence of his impulses, whether of affection or antipathy.... He cast himself on the ground near the dead body, and remained there wailing for several hours; he refused all care, and even food, for two days; he cut his hair close, and commanded that all the horses and mules in the camp should have their manes cut close also; he not only suspended the festivities, but interdicted all music and every sign of joy in the camp; he directed that the battlements of the walls belonging to the neighboring cities should be struck off; he hung or crucified the physician Glaucias, who had prescribed for Hephaestion; he ordered that a vast funeral pile should be erected at Babylon at a cost given to us of ten thousand talents (L 2,300,000—$11,201,000) to celebrate the obsequies; he sent messengers to the oracle of Ammon to inquire whether it was permitted to worship Hephaestion as a god.”—Grote. 4 GEP 180.2

11. “Alexander stayed at Ecbatana until winter was at hand, seeking distraction from his grief in exaggerated splendor of festivals and ostentation of life. His temper became so much more irascible and furious that no one approached him without fear, and he was propitiated by the most extravagant flatteries. At length he roused himself and found his true consolation in gratifying the primary passions of his nature—fighting and man-hunting.”—Grote. “He conquered the Cosseans, and put all that were come to the years of puberty to the sword. This he called a sacrifice to the manes of Hephaestion.”—Plutarch. 5 Forty days were spent in hunting and slaughtering the Cosseans “amidst a region of lofty, trackless, inaccessible mountains.” GEP 181.1

12. Not long after this, but late in the winter of 323 B. C., “Alexander commenced his progress to Babylon; but by slow marches, further retarded by various foreign embassies which met him on the road.”—Grote. 6 GEP 181.2

13. “Being arrived within a league and a half [four and a half miles] of Babylon, the Chaldeans, who pretended to know futurity by the stars, deputed to him some of their old men to warn him that he would be in danger of his life in case he entered that city, and were very urgent that he should pass by it.... The Greek philosophers being told the foundation of his fear and scruples, waited upon him, ... and made him have so great a contempt for divination in general, and for that of the Chaldeans in particular, that he immediately marched toward Babylon with his whole army. He knew that there were arrived in that city ambassadors from all parts of the world, who waited for his coming; the whole earth echoing so much with the terror of his name that the several nations came with inexpressible ardor, to pay homage to Alexander, as to him who was to be their sovereign .... So that he set forward with all possible diligence toward that great city, there to hold, as it were, the states-general of the world. After making a most magnificent entry, he gave audience to all the ambassadors, with the grandeur and dignity suitable to a great monarch, and at the same time with the affability and politeness of a prince who is desirous of winning the affections of all.”—Rollin. 7 GEP 181.3

14. “So widely had the terror of his name and achievements been spread, that several of these envoys came from the most distant regions. There were some from the various tribes of Libya [west of Egypt], from Carthage [west of Libya], from Sicily and Sardinia, from the Illyrians and Thracians, from the Lucanians, Bruttians, and Tuscans, in Italy—nay (even some affirmed), from the Romans, as yet a people of moderate power. But there were other names yet more surprising—Ethiopians from the extreme south, beyond Egypt; Scythians from the north, beyond the Danube; Iberians [from Spain] and Gauls from the far west, beyond the Mediterranean Sea. Legates also arrived from various Grecian cities, partly to tender congratulations and compliments upon his matchless successes, partly to remonstrate against his sweeping mandate for the general restoration of the Grecian exiles. It was remarked that these Grecian legates approached him with wreaths on their heads, tendering golden wreaths to him, as if they were coming into the presence of a god. The proofs which Alexander received even from distant tribes, with names and costumes unknown to him, of fear for his enmity and anxiety for his favor, were such as had never been shown to any historical person, and such as entirely to explain his superhuman arrogance.”—Grote. 8 GEP 182.1

15. “His march to Babylon steeped him still more in the intoxication of success. As he advanced on his road, he was met by ambassadors not only from Illyrians and Thracians, from Sicily and Sardinia, from Libya and Carthage, but from the Lucanians and Etruscans, and as some said, from Rome itself. The lord of all the earth could scarcely look for wider acknowledgment or more devout submission.” 9 GEP 182.2

16. “In the tenth year after he had crossed the Hellespont, Alexander, having won his vast dominion, entered Babylon; and resting from his career in that oldest seat of earthly empire, he steadily surveyed the mass of various nations which owned his sovereignty, and revolved in his mind the great work of breathing into this huge but inert body the living spirit of Greek civilization. In the bloom of youthful manhood, at the age of thirty-two, he paused from the fiery speed of his earlier course: and for the first time gave the nations an opportunity of offering their homage before his throne. They came from all the extremities of the earth, to propitiate his anger, to celebrate his greatness, or to solicit his protection. African tribes came to congratulate and bring presents to him as the sovereign of Asia. Not only would the people bordering on Egypt upon the west look with respect on the founder of Alexandria and the son of Jupiter Ammon, but those who dwelt on the east of the Nile, and on the shores of the Arabian Gulf, would hasten to pay court to the great king whose fleets had navigated the Erythrean Sea, and whose power was likely to affect so largely their traffic with India. GEP 182.3

17. “Already the bravest of the barbarians of Europe were eager to offer him their aid; and the Celts and Iberians, who had become acquainted with Grecian service when they fought under Dionysius and Agesilaus, sent embassies to the great conqueror of Babylon, allured alike by the fame of his boundless treasures and his unrivaled valor. It was no wonder that the Carthaginians, who had dreaded, a century earlier, the far inferior power of the Athenians, and on whose minds Timoleon’s recent victories had left a deep impression of the military genius of Greece, despatched their ambassadors to secure, if possible, the friendship of Alexander....The Lucanians and Bruttians are especially mentioned as having sent embassies to Alexander at Babylon ....‘The Tyrrhenians also,’ said Aristobulus and Ptolemaeus, ‘sent an embassy to the king to congratulate him upon his conquests.’ The ports of the western coasts of Italy swarmed at this time with piratical vessels, which constantly annoyed the Greek traders in those seas. These piracies had been reported to Alexander, and he sent remonstrances to the Romans on the subject.... There is every reason to believe that among the Tyrrhenian ambassadors mentioned by Alexander’s historians there were included ambassadors from Rome. GEP 183.1

18. “History may allow us to think that Alexander and a Roman ambassador did meet at Babylon; that the greatest man of the ancient world saw and spoke with a citizen of that great nation which was destined to succeed him in his appointed work and to found a wider and still more enduring empire. They met, too, in Babylon, almost beneath the shadow of Bel, perhaps the earliest monument ever raised by human pride and power, in a city stricken, as it were, by the word of God’s heaviest judgment, as the symbol of greatness apart from, and opposed to, goodness.... During the period of Alexander’s conquests, no other events of importance happened in any part of the civilized world, as if a career so brilliant had claimed the undivided attention of mankind.”—Arnold. 10 GEP 183.2

19. Here are two scenes:— GEP 184.1

SCENE FIRST: In the year 603 B. C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of the mighty kingdom, and builder of the wonderful city, of Babylon, sits in his pleasant palace. Before him, and speaking earnestly, stands a young Jew. To the intently listening king, the young man is interpreting a remarkable dream that the great king had dreamed: he says that God is thus making known to the king what should come to pass afterward; and that one among these things would be the rise of a “third kingdom.” and that this third kingdom should “bear rule over all the earth.” GEP 184.2

SCENE SECOND: Two hundred and seventy years afterward, in that same great city of Babylon, perhaps in the same palace where Nebuchadnezzar had sat, there sits Alexander the Great, king of the third kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar. As there he sits upon his throne, before him stand ambassadors “from all the extremities of the earth,” who are come “to propitiate his anger, to celebrate his greatness, or to solicit his protection.” GEP 184.3

20. Now look on this picture, then on that; and no man can say that the scene represented in the second is not the perfect consummation of that which was spoken in the first. “I believe that there was in his time no nation of men, no city, nay, no single individual, with whom Alexander’s name had not become a familiar word. I therefore hold that such a man, who was like no ordinary mortal, was not born into the world without some special providence.”— Arrian. 11 The dream was certain, the interpretation was sure, and the fulfilment absolute. GEP 184.4

21. Another symbol of this third, or Grecian, empire, is a leopard having four wings. The symbol of the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar was a lion with eagle’s wings, signifying that in the rapidity of his conquests he would “fly as the eagle that hasteth to eat.” The four wings upon the leopard could signify nothing less. And so it was with Alexander; for “from Macedonia to the Ganges, very near to which Alexander marched, is computed at least eleven hundred leagues. Add to this the various turnings in Alexander’s marches, first from the extremity of Cilicia where the battle of Issus was fought to the temple of Jupiter Ammon in Libya, and his returning from thence to Tyre, a journey of three hundred leagues at least, and as much space at least for the windings of his route in different places, we shall find that Alexander, in less than eight years, marched his army upward of seventeen hundred leagues, without including his return to Babylon.”—Rollin. 12 “In the seventh summer after his passage of the Hellespont, Alexander erected the Macedonian trophies on the banks of the Hyphasis.”—Gibbon. 13 GEP 185.1

22. Another symbol of this same power is a “he goat” which “came from the west on the face of the whole earth.” For the perfect accuracy of this symbol to the fact, recall the career of Alexander as the history has traced it, and look on the accompanying map. GEP 185.2

23. In the month of June, 323 B. C., he celebrated the funeral of Hephaestion at Babylon, at which “victims enough were offered to furnish a feast for the army, who also received ample distributions of wine,” because “to drink to intoxication at a funeral was required as a token of respectful sympathy toward the deceased.” “Alexander presided in person at the feast, and abandoned himself to conviviality like the rest. Already full of wine, he was persuaded by his friend Medius to sup with him, and to pass the whole night in yet further drinking, with the boisterous indulgence called by the Greeks Comus, or Revelry. GEP 185.3

24. “Having slept off his intoxication during the next day, he in the evening again supped with Medius, and spent a second night in the like unmeasured indulgence,” “till at last he found a fever coming upon him. It did not, however, seize him as he was drinking the cup of Hercules, nor did he find a sudden pain in his back as if it had been pierced with a spear. These are circumstances invented by writers who thought the catastrophe of so noble a tragedy should be something affecting and extraordinary. Aristobulus tells us that in the rage of his fever and the violence of his thirst, he took a draught of wine which threw him into a frenzy, and that he died the thirtieth of the month Daesius (June). GEP 186.1

25. “But in his journals the account of his sickness is as follows:— GEP 186.2

“On the eighteenth of the month Daesius, finding the fever upon him, he lay in his bath-room. GEP 186.3

“The next day, after he had bathed, he removed into his own chamber, and played many hours with Medius at dice. In the evening he bathed again, and after having sacrificed to the gods, he ate his supper. In the night the fever returned. GEP 186.4

“The twentieth he also bathed, and after the customary sacrifice, sat in the bath-room, and diverted himself with hearing Nearchus tell the story of his voyage, and all that was most observable with respect to the ocean. GEP 186.5

“The twenty-first was spent in the same manner. The fever increased, and he had a very bad night. GEP 186.6

“The twenty-second, the fever was violent. He ordered his bed to be removed and placed by the great bath. There he talked to his generals about the vacancies in his army, and desired they might be filled up with experienced officers. GEP 186.7

“The twenty-fourth, he was much worse. He chose, however, to be carried to assist at the sacrifice. He likewise gave orders that the principal officers of the army should wait within the court, and the others keep watch all night without. GEP 186.8

“The twenty-fifth, he was removed to his palace, on the other side of the river, where he slept a little; but the fever did not abate, and when his generals entered the room, he was speechless. GEP 186.9

“He continued so the following day. The Macedonians, by this time thinking he was dead, came to the gates with great clamor, and threatened the great officers in such a manner that they were forced to admit them, and suffer them all to pass unarmed by the bedside. GEP 186.10

“The twenty-seventh, Pithon and Seleucus were sent to the temple of Serapis to inquire whether they should carry Alexander thither, and the deity ordered that they should not remove him. GEP 186.11

“The twenty-eighth, in the evening, he died. GEP 186.12

26. “These particulars are taken almost word for word from his diary.”—Plutarch. 14 GEP 187.1

27. “One of his last words spoken is said to have been, on being asked to whom he bequeathed his kingdom, ‘To the strongest;’ one of his last acts was to take the signet-ring from his finger and hand it to Perdiccas.”—Grote. 15 GEP 187.2

28. Thus died Alexander, at the age of thirty-two years and eight months, after a reign of twelve years and eight months. Though so young in years, his swift and constant campaigning, from almost the day of his accession, in all countries between Corinth and the river Hyphasis, and in all climates, from the fierce winters of Cappadocia and the mountains of the Hindu-Kush to the burning sands of Central Asia and the sultry heat of India, with several severe wounds and much hard drinking, had carried him far beyond the freshness of youth that should otherwise have yet attached to his thirty-two years. He was a man of Providence; and what a pity he did not profit by his opportunities as did Nebuchadnezzar! GEP 187.3