Speech of Alexander the Great

Speaker: Alexander The Great | Date: 326 B.C.

A little context

Alexander the Great was the King of the Seleucid Empire (one of the many names of the Persian Empire). They had been conquering the city-states/civilizations that are mentioned in the speech for years and years when suddenly, The citizens lost their drive to fight and conquer, which this speech addresses. So that's basically what this speech is, a kind of "ancient pep talk" in a way.

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The conquered places during the Seleucid Empire's conquest

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"I observe, gentlemen, that when I would lead you on a new venture you no longer follow me with your old spirit. I have asked you to meet me that we may come to a decision together: are we, upon my advice, to go forward, or, upon yours, to turn back?"


Comments:

This is Alexanders formal way of saying, guys... whats going on? Why have you stopped fighting?

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"If you have any complaint to make about the results of your efforts hitherto, or about myself as your commander, there is no more to say. But let me remind you: through your courage and endurance you have gained possession of Ionia, the Hellespont, both Phrygias, Cappadocia, Paphlagonia, Lydia, Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phoenicia, and Egypt; the Greek part of Libya is now yours, together with much of Arabia, lowland Syria, Mesopotamia, Babylon, and Susia; Persia and Media with all the territories either formerly controlled by them or not are in your hands; you have made yourselves masters of the lands beyond the Caspian Gates, beyond the Caucasus, beyond the Tanais, of Bactria, Hyrcania, and the Hyrcanian sea; we have driven the Scythians back into the desert; and Indus and Hydaspes, Acesines and Hydraotes flow now through country which is ours. With all that accomplished, why do you hesitate to extend the power of Macedon--your power--to the Hyphasis and the tribes on the other side ? Are you afraid that a few natives who may still be left will offer opposition? Come, come! These natives either surrender without a blow or are caught on the run--or leave their country undefended for your taking; and when we take it, we make a present of it to those who have joined us of their own free will and fight on our side."


Comments:

This part of the speech says basically after all we've accomplished what's making you back down to Macedon now? These people either surrender without resistance, are caught fleeing, or leave the country undefended for [our] taking.

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"For a man who is a man, work, in my belief, if it is directed to noble ends, has no object beyond itself; none the less, if any of you wish to know what limit may be set to this particular camapaign, let me tell you that the area of country still ahead of us, from here to the Ganges and the Eastern ocean, is comparatively small. You will undoubtedly find that this ocean is connected with the Hyrcanian Sea, for the great Stream of Ocean encircles the earth. Moreover I shall prove to you, my friends, that the Indian and Persian Gulfs and the Hyrcanian Sea are all three connected and continuous. Our ships will sail round from the Persian Gulf to Libya as far as the Pillars of Hercules, whence all Libya to the eastward will soon be ours, and all Asia too, and to this empire there will be no boundaries but what God Himself has made for the whole world."


Comments:

According to the speech, Alexander answers a question the people presumably asked which is, how much farther are we going to go? When will we stop fighting?

In which he answers they will continue to the Hyrcanian Sea which is not much further and it will guide us to the ocean.

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But if you turn back now, there will remain unconquered many warlike peoples between the Hyphasis and the Eastern Ocean, and many more to the northward and the Hyrcanian Sea, with the Scythians, too, not far away; so that if we withdraw now there is a danger that the territory which we do not yet securely hold may be stirred to revolt by some nation or other we have not yet forced into submission. Should that happen, all that we have done and suffered will have proved fruitless--or we shall be faced with the task of doing it over again from the beginning. Gentlemen of Macedon, and you, my friends and allies, this must not be. Stand firm; for well you know that hardship and danger are the price of glory, and that sweet is the savour of a life of courage and of deathless renown beyond the grave.


Comments:

If we do not continue, warlike people, whom we have not forced unto our side, who do not particularly like us, will remain. If those people form a rebellious nation, all that we have done will prove pointless. We will just have to enter into another war. Therefore, we must stand our ground and destroy the ground of the others.

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"Are you not aware that if Heracles, my ancestor, had gone no further than Tiryns or Argos--or even than the Peloponnese or Thebes--he could never have won the glory which changed him from a man into a god, actual or apparent? Even Dionysus, who is a god indeed, in a sense beyond what is applicable to Heracles, faced not a few laborious tasks; yet we have done more: we have passed beyond Nysa and we have taken the rock of Aornos which Heracles himself could not take. Come, then; add the rest of Asia to what you already possess--a small addition to the great sum of your conquests. What great or noble work could we ourselves have achieved had we thought it enough, living at ease in Macedon, merely to guard our homes, accepting no burden beyond checking the encroachment of the Thracians on our borders, or the Illyrians and Triballians, or perhaps such Greeks as might prove a menace to our comfort?"


Comments:

If we do not continue, our work will be unfinished, why leave it unfinished? What great or noble work would it be if all we did was just live next to them, we must conquer them so they do not rebel against us, and so we can make them one of us.

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"I could not have blamed you for being the first to lose heart if I, your commander, had not shared in your exhausting marches and your perilous campaigns; it would have been natural enough if you had done all the work merely for others to reap the reward. But it is not so. You and I, gentlemen, have shared the labour and shared the danger, and the rewards are for us all. The conquered territory belongs to you; from your ranks the governors of it are chosen; already the greater part of its treasure passes into your hands, and when all Asia is overrun, then indeed I will go further than the mere satisfaction of our ambitions: the utmost hopes of riches or power which each one of you cherishes will be far surpassed, and whoever wishes to return home will be allowed to go, either with me or without me. I will make those who stay the envy of those who return."


Comments:

I wouldn't be able to blame you if I, Alexander the Great, had not fought tirelessly with you as well. I could've just sat and let you fight it but I joined in instead of reaping the rewards from you. You and I, shared the labor, danger and the rewards for us all. This territory is yours, already with leaders; the greater rewards going to you, the people. So now, I will make those who stay envy those who don't.

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Source:

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg may have modernized the text.

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