THE MAN WHO CONQUERED THE WORLD

Canto the Third

Among the sayings of one Psammon
A philosopher
Whom he heard in Egypt
He most approved of this
That all men are governed by God
Because in everything
That which is chief and commands is
Divine.

What he pronounced himself upon this subject
Was even more like a philosopher
For he said God was the common father of us all
But more particularly of
The best of us.

To the barbarians
He carried himself
Very haughtily
As if he were fully persuaded
Of his divine birth
And parentage.

But to the Grecians more moderately
And with less affectation of divinity
Except it were once in writing
To the Athenians about Samos
When he tells them that he should not himself
Have bestowed upon them
That free and glorious city:
"You received it" he says
"From the bounty
Of him who at that time was called my lord and father"
Meaning Philip.

But being wounded
With an arrow
And feeling much pain
He turned to those about him
And said:
"This
My friends
Is real flowing blood
Not Ichor
Such as immortal gods
Are wont to shed."

When it thundered so much that
Everybody was afraid
And Anaxarchus, the sophist
Asked him if he who was Jupiter's son could do
Anything like this
"Nay," said Alexander, laughing
"I have no desire to be formidable
To my friends
As you would have me
Who despised my table for being furnished with fish
And not with the heads
Of governors of provinces."

It is related as true
That Anaxarchus
Seeing a present of small fishes
Which the king sent to Hephaestion
Had used this expression
In a sort of irony
And disparagement of those
Who undergo vast labors and encounter
Great hazards in pursuit
Of magnificent objects
Which after all bring them little more pleasure
Or enjoyment than what
Others have.

Alexander in himself was
Not foolishly affected
Or had the vanity to think himself
Really a god
But merely used his claims to divinity
As a means of maintaining among other people
The sense of his
Superiority.

© 2004 by Michael J. Farrand


Story taken from the life of Alexander found in Plutarch's Lives, written originally as Parallel Lives) by the Greek historian Plutarch, who lived roughly 50-125 A.D.

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