“Why Do You Make So Much War?”

Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander Romance 3.6-7 (Go here for collated Greek texts and a translation)

Alexander continues his conversation with the gymnosophists in India and ends it with an epic mic-drop.

“He asked again, “What is greater, land or the sea.?” And one responded, “Land, for the sea rests upon the earth.” Then he asked “Which of all the beasts is the most capable?” And another answered, “man…” Then he said to another, “Whom can we not deceive but must always present with the truth?” And he answered, “God: for we cannot deceive one who knows everything?” And then he said to them, “What do you want to ask of me?” And he said “Immortality.” Alexander said, “I do not have this wealth—for I too am merely mortal.” And they said, “Since you are mortal, why do you make so much war? Is it so that you may seize everything and carry it off somewhere? You will leave them to others in turn.”

And Alexander said to them, “These things depend on the will of those above—and we are but servants of their assignment. The sea will not move unless the wind blows. The trees will not dance unless the air strikes them. Man accomplishes nothing without the will of those above. Even though I wish to stop warring, the tyrant of my mind does not allow it.   If we were all in agreement; the universe would be sluggish, the sea would not fill; the land would not be farmed; marriages would not be completed, and there would be no child-bearing.  How many met misfortune in the wars I waged by losing all their possessions? Well, how many profited from their losses? For all who steal from others eventually leave their possessions to others still. Nothing belongs to anyone.” After he said this, Alexander walked away…”


εἶπε πάλιν· ‘τί πλεῖον, ἡ γῆ ἢ ἡ θάλασσα;’ εἶπεν· ‘ἡ γῆ· καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ ἡ θάλασσα ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἵδρυται.’ ὁ δὲ εἶπε· ‘τί πάντων τῶν θηρίων πανουργότερον;’ καὶ εἶπεν· ‘ὁ ἄνθρωπος.’ . . . ἑτέρῳ ἔφη· ‘τίνα οὐ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἀληθινὸν λόγον αὐτῷ προσφέρομεν;’ — ‘θεόν· οὐ γὰρ δυνάμεθα ψεύσασθαι τὸν πάντα εἰδότα.’ . . . Εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ‘τί θέλετε ἐξαιτήσασθαί με;’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘ἀθανασίαν.’ ὁ δὲ Ἀλέξανδρος εἶπεν· ‘ταύτην ἐγὼ οὐκ ἔχω τὴν ἐξουσίαν· καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ θνητὸς ὑπάρχω.’ οἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘τί τοίνυν θνητὸς ὑπάρχων τοσαῦτα πολεμεῖς; ἵνα πάντα ἄρας που ἀπενέγκῃς; σὺ πάλιν αὐτὰ ἑτέροις καταλείψεις.’ καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος· ‘ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας διοικοῦνται, ἵνα ἡμεῖς [ὑμῖν] διάκονοι γενώμεθα τῆς ἐκείνων ἐπιταγῆς. οὐ γὰρ κινεῖται θάλασσα, εἰ μὴ πνεύσῃ ἄνεμος, οὐδὲ σαλεύεται δένδρα, εἰ μὴ ῥιπίζῃ πνεῦμα, οὐκ ἐνεργεῖται ἄνθρωπος εἰ μὴ ἐκ τῆς ἄνωθεν προνοίας. κἀγὼ δὲ παύσασθαι θέλω τοῦ πολεμεῖν, ἀλλ´ οὐκ ἐᾷ με ὁ τῆς γνώμης μου δεσπότης. εἰ γὰρ πάντες ὁμογνώμονες ἦμεν, ἀργὸς ἐτύγχανεν ὁ κόσμος, θάλασσα οὐκ ἐπλέετο, γῆ οὐκ ἐγεωργεῖτο, γάμοι οὐκ ἐπετελοῦντο, παιδοποιίαι οὐκ ἦσαν. πόσοι γὰρ ἐν τοῖς ὑπ´ ἐμοῦ γενομένοις πολέμοις ἐδυστύχησαν ἀπολέσαντες τὰ ἴδια, ἄλλοι δὲ ηὐτύχησαν ἐκ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων; πάντες γὰρ τὰ πάντων λαμβάνοντες ἑτέροις παραχωροῦμεν καὶ οὐδενὶ οὐδὲν ὑπάρχει.’ Οὕτως εἰπὼν ὁ Ἀλέξανδρος ἀπεχώρει . . .

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