Canto the Eighth

In the height of the danger
He showed himself great
And manifested the self-possession
Of a just foresight
And confidence.

For the battle for some time fluctuated
And was dubious
The left wing
Where Parmenio commanded
Was so impetuously charged by the Bactrian horse
That it was disordered and forced to
Give ground
At the same time that Mazaeus
Had sent a detachment round about
To fall upon those who
Guarded the baggage.

Which so disturbed Parmenio
That he sent messengers to acquaint Alexander
That the camp and baggage
Would be all lost unless he immediately
Relieved the rear by
A considerablereinforcement drawn out of
The front.

This message being brought him
Just as he was giving the signal
To those about him for the onset
He bade them tell Parmenio
That he must have surely lost
The use of his reason
And had forgotten
In his alarm
That soldiers
If victorious
Became masters of their enemies' baggage
And if defeated
Instead of taking care of their wealth
Or their slaves
Have nothing more to do
But to fight gallantly
And die with honor.

When he had said this
He put on his helmet
Having the rest of his arms on
Before he came out of his tent
Which were a coat of the Sicilian make
Girt close about him
Over that a breast-piece of thickly quilted linen
Taken among other booty
At the battle of Issus.

The helmet
Which was made by Theophilus
Though of iron
Was so well wrought and polished
That it was as bright
As the most refined
To this was fitted
A gorget of the same metal
Set with precious stones.

His sword
Which was the weapon he most used in fight
Was given him by the King of the Citieans
And was of an admirable temper and lightness
The belt
Which he also wore in all engagements
Was of much
Richer workmanship
Than the rest of his armor
It was a work of the ancient Helicon
And had been presented to him by the Rhodians
As a mark of their respect
To him.

© 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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