Treasons (Alexander's mirror- II)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

I was King Alexander's Mesopotamian interpreter when the expedition departed Amphipolis in April 334 BC. I joined a civilian elite of his campaign, including Aristotle's nephew and the philosopher who called to worship the King.
(Image from https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/2015/11/11/alexander-the-great-in-afghanistan/)

II. Treasons

(Alexander's mirror- II)

 

The Conqueror Alexander did not stay long in Babylon. He moved southeast, away from Mesopotamia, to Susa, another Achaemenid capital. The city peacefully surrendered its treasury.

Alexander sent part of his army to Persepolis, the Achaemenid ceremonial capital via the Persian Royal Road, a pass-through Zagros Mountains but was repelled for a month. He took selected troops and outflanked the city until it surrendered in January 330 BC.

Alexander seized the enormous treasury of Persepolis. A few months later, he allowed the troops to loot the city, kill most of its men, and enslave its women. He burned the town, including its royal palaces. None of us, his elite civilian circle, enjoyed the scene but couldn’t stop or even questioned his decision.

This brutality and destruction of the city could have been out of Alexander's anger over not being recognized as the legitimate successor to Darius III after occupying his capital. Or it could have been a deliberate act of revenge for the burning of the Acropolis of Athens following the Thermopylae land battle and the Artemisium naval battle during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC.

After that Thermopylae battle, the Greek city-states of Euboea, Phocis, Boeotia, and Attica fell to the Persian army, which captured and burnt Athens. However, Greece's first Persian invasion failed in 490 BC at the famous Battle of Marathon, which ended Darius I's attempts to subjugate Greece.

Repetition of events is not unusual throughout history. During that invasion, Greece was betrayed by a local Greek shepherd who showed the Persian forces a secret path around Thermopylae, the narrow coastal hot springs pass.  After 150 years at the Persian Gates battle defending Persepolis, the Persians were betrayed by a local sheepman who led Alexander's forces around the Pass.

In spring 330 BC, Alexander marched north into Media and occupied its capital Ecbatana (Hamadan). He assembled all the city treasure and entrusted it to his friend Harpalus to hold it as a chief treasurer.

 

*****

Bessus, of the royal Achaemenid family and Bactria's satrap, had declared himself the new King after killing his relative Darius III and assembled an army to fight the Macedonians. Bessus military massed at Artacoana near Herat and joined by the revolted Areia satrap troops.

In response, Alexander marched for Bactra, the capital of Bactria. Bessus troops forced Alexander to diversify through Arachosia and Gandara (southern Afghanistan) and crossed the Hindu Kush mountains, which Bessus had left unguarded. Bessus tried to prevent the Macedonian crossing of the Oxus River by burning all boats in the river, but they managed to cross within five days in the Spring of 329 BC.

Seeing that crossing, Bessus' men and courtiers withdrew from him and cut a deal with the Macedonians to hand him over to the Ptolemy, one of Alexander's commanders.

Alexander divided his army into several columns and rooted out the Areian rebels. Artacoana surrendered as the Macedonian siege towers rolled up to its walls. Alexander established a military garrison near the town, called it Alexandria of the Areians, and appointed a Persian governor.

He then moved south to deal with the satrap of Drangiana province, who had to flee to India at the Macedonian army's approach. Alexander's army occupied the capital Phrada in October 330 BC.

*****

In Phrada, a plot to assassinate Alexander was uncovered. Philotas, commander of the Companion cavalry, kept the conspiracy hidden from the King. Philotas was the son of Parmenio, the old General of the Kingdom who was loyal to King Philip and his son Alexender despite disagreements over military tactics.

The plot informer told Alexender that he informed Philotas and insisted that he must tell the King of the scheme details, but the commander didn't report it.

I was there during the questioning. Alexander raised his hands to the heavens and said, "One who had been such a dear friend might repay me so?".

"Bring me Dymnus, the conspirator," he ordered

"Dymnus, what is the crime I have plotted against you to justify your decision that Philotas deserves royal power more than I? Alexander asked him.

While the severely tortured conspirator couldn't answer because he died in the King's presence, they brought the accused commander to Alexander's tent.

"Because of our friendship, such suppression of information on your part is inexcusable. Is there any way of clearing yourself of what should not have happened?" Alexander asked Philotas.

"I had indeed been told of the plot, but because the source was a pervert person, I thought it is unreliable and feared that telling you would make you a fool," Philotas answered and begged the King to consider his past service.
Seemed convinced after a long dialogue, Alexander gave Philotas his hand in reconciliation, forgiving his action.

However, when Philotas left, Craterus, who had commanded a battalion of the Army phalanx and disliked Philotas' arrogance, warned Alexander of his continuing threat.

"Philotas will always be able to plot against you, but you will not always be able to pardon him," said Craterus.

"His father Parmenio, with his influence, will not be happy at being indebted to you for his son's life." "Protect yourself against enemies within our ranks," Craterus added.  

The other officers present at the meeting agreed that Philotas was at the very least a collaborator to the plot.

They convinced the King to torture Philotas to extract the other accomplices' names in the plot and brought him again before Alexander.

"My King, the bitter hatred of my enemies, has triumphed over your kindness," Philotas said

In the end, Alexander decided that Philotas should suffer the traditional penalty prescribed by Macedonian law for his treason; death by stoning. He also ordered to kill Philotas' father, General Parmenio, who was stationed in Ecbatana, Media, before knowing about his son's fate.

*****

I was also in Alexander's crown court when the commander Ptolemy brought the fugitive Bessus to Alexander, who interrogated him in rage.

"How could you dare to imprison and then murder Darius, your King who selected you as a ruler?" He asked.

Bessus didn't reply, made no excuse for Darius's murder.

 "How could you reward yourself for this treachery with the title of King which was not yours."? Alexander Further asked

"I did it to pass the Kingdom over to you." That was the disgraced answer of Bessus.

"What about the army you assembled to fight us" Alexander yelled.

Finally, he handed Bessus to Darius' brother to avenge and execute him at the place where he had murdered King Darius III.

*****

Alexander proceeded to subdue other provinces in the region without any resistance. They considered him just another ruler passed by them. He founded Alexandria at the Jaxartes River as part of his trend of founding cities wherever he went.

However, Sogdians and its Scythians (Saka) neighbor satrapies didn't like to be separated by the Macedonian military contingent and the new wall between their cities. Their rise up followed by other towns along the waterway.

Alexander crossed the Jaxartes River to destroy the Scythian tough worriers. Following fierce fighting, the Scythians fled, and many Scythian tribes submitted to him.

Alexander marched through the Caspian (Caucasus) Gates, a narrow region at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea. Upon the request of the submitted Scythians tribes to his rule, he used the Pass to be a barrier against another tribe lived in the "Caspian Mountains along the Sea of Azov, known as the Magogites or Gog and Magog. The tribe's integration with the Tartars and Mogoli is behind their known name.  

Alexander designed an iron wall and blocked them from invading other tribes. Only by chance, the iron wall he erected contained Incidental magnetic pieces, causing all iron weapons to fly off toward it. That was unplanned additional protection.

Nevertheless, Spitamenes, the Sogdian leader based in Maracanda, inflicted heavy casualties on Alexander's troops by his archers. The Macedonians couldn't find him in their retaliation campaign but slaughtered the natives in the area. The Conqueror took the Sogdian Rock, near Samarkand, destroying Cyropolis, the largest of the Sogdianan towns, and killed its inhabitants.

Spitamenes was later killed by his Scythian allied as a peace offering to Alexander, who spent the rest of the winter of 328 BC at Bactra.

The King rested the army at Maracanda. He appointed the commander who saved his life in one of the battles, his close friend Cleitus as satrap of Bactria and Sogdia. However, Alexander killed him because Cleitus insulted him in a drunken rage. The King immediately regrated what he had done.

To be continued

 


Submitted: December 13, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Ali Al-Zaak. All rights reserved.

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