Canto the Fifth

Among the eunuchs who waited
In the queen's chamber
And were taken prisoners with the women
There was one Tireus
Who, getting out of the camp
Fled away on horseback to Darius
To inform him of
His wife's death.

When he heard it
Beating his head
And bursting into tears
And lamentations
"Alas! how great is the calamity of the Persians!
Was it not enough that their king's consort
And sister was a prisoner in her lifetime
But she must, now she is dead, also be but meanly
And obscurely buried?"

"O king," replied the eunuch
"As to her funeral rites
Or any respect or honor
That should have been shown in them
You have not the least reason to accuse
The ill fortune of your country
Or to my knowledge neither your queen Statira
When alive
Nor your mother, nor children
Wanted anything of their former happy condition
Unless it were the light of your countenance
Which I doubt not but the lord Oromasdes
Will yet restore
To its former glory."

"And after her decease
I assure you
She had not only all due funeral ornaments
But was honored also with the tears
Of your very enemies
For Alexander is as gentle after victory
As he is terrible
In the field."

At the bearing of these words
Such was the grief and emotion
Of Darius's mind
That they carried him into extravagant suspicions
And taking Tireus aside into a more private part
Of his tent.

"Unless thou likewise" said he to him
"Hast deserted me
Together with the good fortune of Persia
And art become a Macedonian in thy heart
If thou yet ownest me for thy master
Tell me, I charge thee, by the veneration thou payest the light of Mithras
And this right hand of thy king
Do I not lament the least of Statira's misfortunes
In her captivity and death?"

"Have I not suffered
Something more injurious
And deplorable in her lifetime?
And had I not been miserable
With less dishonor
If I had met with a more severe
And inhuman enemy?
For how is it possible a young man
As he is should treat the wife
Of his opponent with so much distinction
Were it not from some motive
That does me disgrace?"

Whilst he was yet speaking
Tireus threw himself at his feet
And besought him neither to wrong Alexander so much
Nor his dead wife and sister
As to give utterance
To any such thoughts
Which deprived him of the greatest consolation
Left him in his adversity:
The belief that he was overcome by a man
Whose virtues raised him above
Human nature.

That he ought to look upon Alexander
With love and admiration
Who had given no less proofs of his continence
Towards the Persian women
Than of his valor among the men.

The eunuch confirmed all he said
With solemn and dreadful oaths
And was further enlarging upon Alexander's moderation and magnanimity
On other occasions
When Darius
Breaking away from him into the other division
Of the tent
Where his friends and courtiers were
Lifted up his hands to heaven and uttered this prayer:
"Ye gods," said he
"Of my family, and of my kingdom, if it be possible
I beseech you to restore the declining affairs of Persia
That I may leave them in as flourishing a condition
As I found them
And have it in my power
To make a grateful return to Alexander
For the kindness which in my adversity
He has shown to those who are dearest
To me."

"But if indeed
The fatal time be come
Which is to give a period to the Persian monarchy
If our ruin be a debt that must be paid to the divine jealousy
And the vicissitude of things
Then I beseech you grant that no other man
But Alexander
May sit upon the throne
Of Cyrus."

© 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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