On the Road with Alexander

Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander VI.25.3.

“While some were left behind on the roads because of illness, others were because of  exhaustion, or because of the heat, or because they could no longer withstand thirst. And when they fell behind there was no one to guide them on, nor did anyone stop to help them. 

That is because the march was made at great speed, and he [Alexander], concerned for the army as a whole, necessarily did not care about individual men. 

Some were left behind on the roads because sleep overcame them (the marches were made mostly at night). When these men got up again, even when they were still able to follow the tracks of the army, only a few out of many were saved. The majority of them, like men tumbling into the sea, died in the sand.” 

. . . οἱ μὲν νόσῳ κατὰ τὰς ὁδοὺς ὑπελείποντο, οἱ δὲ ὑπὸ καμάτου καύματος τῷ δίψει οὐκ ἀντέχοντες, καὶ οὔτε οἱ ἄξοντες ἦσαν οὔτε οἱ μένοντες θεραπεύσοντες: σπουδῇ γὰρ πολλῇ ἐγίγνετο στόλος, καὶ ἐν τῷ ὑπὲρ τοῦ παντὸς προθύμῳ τὸ καθ᾽ ἑκάστους ξὺν ἀνάγκῃ ἠμελεῖτο: οἱ δὲ καὶ ὕπνῳ κάτοχοι κατὰ τὰς ὁδοὺς γενόμενοι οἷα δὴ νυκτὸς τὸ πολὺ τὰς πορείας ποιούμενοι, ἔπειτα ἐξαναστάντες, οἷς μὲν δύναμις ἔτι ἦν κατὰ τὰ ἴχνη τῆς στρατιᾶς ἐφομαρτήσαντες ὀλίγοι ἀπὸ πολλῶν ἐσώθησαν, οἱ πολλοὶ δὲ ὥσπερ ἐν πελάγει ἐκπεσόντες ἐν τῇ ψάμμῳ ἀπώλλυντο.

Color photograph of dozens of pairs of boots discarded in a desert
Paul Vinten. Old army boots abandoned
in the desert.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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