“Chares the Mytilenaian claims that when Alexander found the most beautiful apples in the land of Babylon, he had his ships filled with them and put on an “apple war” from the ships that was a great delight to see.”
“Alexander, after he arrived at Troy and looked upon the tomb of Achilles, said as he stood there: “Achilles, you obtained the magnificent herald, Homer, because you were so great.” Anaximenes, who was nearby, responded, “King, I too will make you famous”. And Alexander responded, “By the gods, I would prefer to be Homer’s Thersites instead of an Achilles for you.”
78 “When Alexander arrived in Troy and gazed upon the tomb of Achilles he stopped and said “Achilles, how lucky you were to have Homer as your great herald!” Anaximenes, who was present, said, “but I, lord, will tell your tale.” “By the gods”, Alexander responded, “I’d rather be Homer’s Thersites’ than your Achilles.”
2.3: “When Alexander gazed at a likeness of himself in Ephesus painted by Apelles, he didn’t praise it to the worth of its craftsmanship. After his horse approached and neighed toward the horse in the image as if it were real, Apelles said “King, your horse seems to appreciate art much more than you do.”
4.28: “I am unable to resist laughing at Alexander the son of Philip if, indeed, when he heard what Democritus says in his writings–that there are endless numbers of universes–he was upset that he wasn’t even master of the one we all share. How much would Democritus have laughed at him, do I even need to say, when laughter was his job?”
A transcript of a letter from Alexander to his mother Olympias; and what Olympias wrote back to him.
“In the majority of the records of the deeds of Alexander and rather recently in the book of Marcus Varro, which is called “Orestes” or “On Insanity”, we find that Olympias, the wife of Philipp, most cleverly replied to her son. For, when he wrote to his mother, “King Alexander, the son of Zeus Ammon, sends his greetings to his mother Olympias”, she said “My son, hush! lest you defame me or incriminate me before Juno! She will certainly allot me some great harm once you have confessed in your letters that I am her husband’s adultress.” This courtesy from a wise and prudent woman to a boastful son moderately and elegantly warned him that his puffed-up belief, which he had inflated from great victories, the charms of praise and from successes beyond belief–the idea that he was the offspring of Zeus–ought to be abandoned.”
Descripta Alexandri ad matrem Olympiadem epistula; et quid Olympias festive ei rescripserit.
In plerisque monumentis rerum ab Alexandro gestarum et paulo ante in libro M. Varronis, qui inscriptus est Orestes vel de insania, Olympiadem Philippi uxorem festivissime rescripsisse legimus Alexandro filio. 2 Nam cum is ad matrem ita scripsisset: “Rex Alexander Iovis Hammonis filius Olympiadi matri salutem dicit”, Olympias ei rescripsit ad hanc sententiam: “Amabo”, inquit “mi fili, quiescas neque deferas me neque criminere adversum Iunonem; malum mihi prorsum illa magnum dabit, cum tu me litteris tuis paelicem esse illi confiteris”. 3 Ea mulieris scitae atque prudentis erga ferocem filium comitas sensim et comiter admonuisse eum visa est deponendam esse opinionem vanam, quam ille ingentibus victoriis et adulantium blandimentis et rebus supra fidem prosperis inbiberat, genitum esse sese de Iove.
“The most distant parts of the inhabited world have in some way received the finest things, just as Greece has drawn the lot of the best seasons by far. As I mentioned a bit before, India is at the easternmost part of the inhabited world: in India living creatures, both four-footed and flying, are much greater than in other lands, except for the horses—these are smaller than the Median horses (which are called Nêsaian). In addition, the gold there, both that excavated and that washed up by rivers or acquired as I have described, is abundant. The wild trees there produce as a fruit a beautiful and exceptional wool, better than that of sheep. The Indians use the material from these trees for clothing.”
“For clothing the Indians use a flax, just as Nearchus describes, a flax from trees about which I have already discussed. This linen is either brighter than any other linen or the dark skin that they have makes it appear brighter. They wear a robe of this fabric down to the middle of their shin and the have a garment which is partly thrown around their shoulders and partly furled around their heads.”
“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…”
In the passage below, Alexander meets and interrogates the famous ascetic philosophers of India, the gymnosophists (lit. “naked philosophers”).
“After these events [Alexander] made an expedition to the Oksudrakai, not because they were bellicose, but because they were gymnosophists who inhabited caves and thickets. They wrote a letter to him: We, the Brakhmanes, write to Alexander, the human being. If you come to us in an act of war, you will benefit in no way. For you will be able to carry nothing away from us. But if you want what we have, there is no reason to fit for it. For it is your nature to war, ours to philosophize.”
After he read this, Alexander went to them in peace and saw that all of them were half naked. So he asked: “Don’t you live in tombs? And they responded: “This is the place we inhabit and it is ours….” …And turning to another he asked, “Who are greater in number, the living or the dead?” they answered “The dead are more numerous, but do no measure those who no longer are. For those who are seen outnumber those who no longer appear. “ Then he inquired of another “What is stronger, death or life?” And he answered, “Life, because the rising sun has stronger rays, but as it sets it is much weaker.”
“Aristotle, more than others, seems to me to have fostered in Alexander a love of healing. For he delighted not just in talking about medicine but he even used to help his sick friends and assign to them certain therapies and treatments, as one can see from his letters. He was by nature a lover of language, a lover of learning and a lover of reading. Because he believed and named the Iliad the roadmap of military excellence, he took a copy corrected by Aristotle which they called the “Box-Iliad” and he always had it with his knife lying under his pillow, as Onesikritos recounts. And when he did not have other books deep in Asia, he ordered Harpalos to send him some. Harpalos sent him the books of Philistos, the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus, and the dithyrambs of Telestos and Philoxenos.
In the beginning, Alexander revered Aristotle and said that he loved him no less than his father because he was alive thanks to one and living well thanks to the other. Later, he was rather suspicious of him, not so much that he harmed him at all, but his attachment and attention were not as eager as before—and this was a sign of their alienation.”
“Perhaps it was also a better fate for him to die at the height of his reputation and when he would be missed by men before he could suffer that common human fate, which is the very thing Solon warned Kroisos about: that it is best to look to the end of even a long life and never to say openly that some man is fortunate before he is dead.”
The Emperor Marcus [Aurelius] was excited about the philosopher Sextus from Boeotia, appearing at his lectures and visiting his home. Lucius, who had recently arrived in Rome, asked the emperor as he approached where he was going and why and Marcus responded “Learning is good, even for a man growing old. I am going to learn what I do not yet know from Sextus the Philosopher.” Then Lucius raised his hand to the sky and said “Zeus! The aging Emperor of Rome dons a writing tablet and goes to school, but my king Alexander died at thirty-two!”
These sayings suffice to show the character of the work Lucius performed in his philosophy. Such anecdotes, I suppose, give a sense of the man the way a taste betrays the character of a wine.”