Alexander Romance ( "Pseudo-Callisthenes" )

Book 3 , Chapters 17-18

A combination of the Greek version translated by E.H.Haight (1955); the Armenian version translated by A.M.Wolohojian (1969); and the Syriac version translated by E.A.W.Budge (1889).

Most of the Armenian version is a fairly close translation of the Greek version. Sentences that appear in the Armenian version but not in the Greek version are shown in green.

Alexander and the Romans

  Alexander at the court of the king of China

  Walters MS. W.608 (16th century)

← Previous chapters (1-17)

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[17] G   Then I ordered that the local guides, of whom we had fifty and who had led us to those evil places, be tortured and taken and thrown into the river. And we collected our things, and moved on twelve miles. After we had organized everything, we came to the natural road which leads to the Prasiacan land. And continuing on for a few days, we came to a very small town and I wanted to give my brave men five-days' rest. On the sixth day, when I was prepared to start on, about the sixth hour, there occurred a strange phenomenon in the sky. It was in the third day of the month Dios. First suddenly there was a high wind so that the tents were hurled down and those of us who were standing fell to the ground. And I immediately ordered that the tents be set right and the other things be reinforced. And while we were getting organized, a cloud happened to come over; and it became so dark that that we could not even see one another. And after the cloud disappeared, the sky darkened and thickened without cause; then we saw in the sky a great wind and various things coming. And on the ground before us for ten stades we saw all the clouds heaped together, and then again they quickly turned red. And this happened for three days. And for five days the sun disappeared, and there was much snow. It happened that the soldiers who dared go out were buried upright. As a result of this, more than seventy perished in the snow. And when the sun rose, we had lost many possessions and many of our men. And the fields rose three cubits from the ground on account of the accumulation of the snow. Now after thirty days, as the road was passable, we made our way onward and on the fifth day we took the city of Prasias with Porus and his men. It was full of treasures, which I have described.

Then I gave orders to kill those fifty Indians our guides, who had led us astray in such roads and places, and to throw them into the sea; and we turned to the road towards Prasiakê, and arrived at a region abounding in trees, where I commanded my troops to rest a little. And when I desired to set out from thence, at the sixth hour of the day, a wonderful sign happened to us ; now this sign took place on the third day of the month of Ab. First there came suddenly a mighty wind, which tore up all the tents in our camp from their places, and we all fell upon the ground. Then I commanded my troops to pitch their tents again, and to make firm their tent pegs and to keep carefully on the watch. But before their tents were pitched, a dense and black cloud appeared, and its mist was so dark that no one could see his fellow. And we saw in the midst of that dense cloud in the air a fire burning in the darkness; and we also saw in front of that fire about the distance of two miles a black cloud; and when the fire drew nigh, the fire blazed forth from within that black cloud until the whole was fire. This sign appeared continually in this manner for three days ; and for five days we did not see the light, but snow fell upon us ; and out of the mass of my troops some were caught in the snow outside of the tents and died, and when the sun rose, many of our men perished. We desired to set out from thence but were unable, because the country was a plain, and the snow stood three cubits high from the ground; so because of the difficulty and hardness of the journey we remained where we were thirty days. And after staying thirty days where we were, we set out from thence, and on the fifth day we came to the city of the Prasiakâyê, and took the treasury and the goods which were in it.

When this happened and I was organizing everything properly, the Indians assembled in numbers and addressed me: "King Alexander, you will take cities and kingdoms and mountains and tribes which no king among the living ever approached before. After this absolutely nothing exists worthy of your greatness. Tell us where, and all the men that there are in these little towns will come to you; and nowhere is more gold than there is here." And I praised them and approved saying, "Because I have come upon many wonderful things in my travels, if you know of any fable or wonder worthy of a king's attention, point it out to me." And some learned men came and said: "King, we have a marvel to show you worthy of your attention. For we will show you inanimate objects which talk like men." And I immediately ordered that they be beaten for tricking me; but nevertheless, I thought it important to find out. And going on twelve-days' journey from there, we came to a village which was said to be the end and southern boundary in the East, And beyond this, there is nothing, they said, but beast-infested wilderness, where no one of us may go. And when we reached the place, they took us into a garden. For the village was covered not by stones or by bricks but by trees, because of the sun and the moon. And they led us to a certain park, where in the centre were the Sun and the Moon. . . (?) And there was a guard for the precinct of the Sun and the Moon.

Then all the Indians who lived in that city came to me of their own free will and spoke to me thus: 'O great king, no living man has ever walked in the cities of the kings, and the mountains of the nations, and the temples of the gods, which thou hast seen and in which thou hast walked; and henceforth there is no king in the world who may be compared with thee. Command us now to do whatever seems right to thee, for we too will be obedient to thee, and will lay all the gold and silver that is in our country before thee.' Then said I to them, 'If there be anything renowned, or any marvel in your country, which a king ought to see, show it to me, and I will not ask any other thing of you.' Then a certain Indian said to me, 'King Alexander, we have something famous, which it is right that thou shouldst see. We will show thee therefore two talking trees, which talk like human beings.' And as soon as he had said this speech, I commanded them to beat him, as one who had said something which he was not able to show. Then he said to me, 'O king, doer of good things, I have not lied in what I have said to thee.' Then I rose up from there and went a journey of fifteen days with the Indian, and we arrived at a certain place, and he spoke thus : 'This is the end of the south quarter of the world, and from here onwards there is nothing at all except a wilderness, and ravening beasts and evil reptiles, and none of us is able to advance beyond this place.' When he had said this to me, he brought me into a beautiful garden, the wall of which was not of stones nor of clay, but trees were planted round it and were so dense that not even the light of the sun or the moon was seen through them ; and in the midst of the garden there was another enclosure which was hedged round, and they called it the temple of the sun and of the moon.

Here stood two trees which I have already mentioned. They were about the size of cypresses . . . And in a circle were the trees mentioned, very like the fragrant chestnut trees in Egypt and their fruit was similar. They said that one was male and produced males ; the other female and produced females ; and one was called the Sun, the other the Moon. So the natives told the story in their peculiar language. The trees had been hung with various hides of wild beasts, the male with hides of males, the female with females. And there was no iron near, nor bronze, nor tin, nor clay for the potter's art. And when I asked what the hides seemed to be, they said hides of lions and leopards ; and it was not possible to have a burial unless the priest of the Sun and the Moon presided. And the hides of the wild beasts were used for the cerements. Now I sought to learn the significance of the trees. They said: "When it is early and the sun rises, the speech of the tree is heard ; also when the sun is in mid heaven, and when it is near setting, - the third time. And the same is true of the moon." And they also said that as long as the sun moves and shines, the trees give oracles; and when the moon appears, the same was true for it. And men who appeared to be priests came and said: "Enter with a pure heart and prostrate yourself." I took in my friends Parmenion, Craterus, Philip, Iollas, Machetes, Thrasyleon, Machaon, Theodectes, Diiphilus, Neocles, ten in all. The priest said: "King, it is not fitting that metal should enter the precinct." So I ordered my friends to leave their swords outside. From my forces, three hundred men came without weapons. And I ordered all my army to stand guard in a circle about the spot. And I selected from the Indians with me some to act as interpreters. I invoked Olympian Ammon, Athena, giver of victory, all the gods.

And two trees were there, the like of which for length and breadth I had never seen. Their length was immeasurable, and so I thought that their tops were near unto heaven. Their appearance was like unto the cypresses which are in our country, and they grew up within the enclosure ; and they said that one of them is male and the other female. They said of the male that he is the sun, and that the female is the moon, and in their language they call the one mîtôrâ, and the other mâyôsâ. Skins of all kinds of animals were lying there, before the male skins of males, and before the female skins of females; but no vessels of iron or brass or tin or clay were found there at all. And when I asked them, 'Of what are these the skins?' they said to me, 'Of lions and leopards, because those who worship the sun and moon are not allowed to wear any other clothing but skins.' Then I asked them about these trees, ' When do they speak?' And they said to me, 'That of the son in the morning and at midday and towards evening, at these three times it speaks ; and that of the moon in the evening and at midnight and towards the dawn.' Then the priests that were in the garden came to me and said to me, ' Enter, O king; purely, and do reverence.' Then I called my friends Phormiôn {Parmenion}, Artarôn {Craterus}, Gôrôn {?}, Philip, Miktôn {Machetes}, Tarnsargôthâ, {Thrasyleon}, Thirtakîth {Theodektes}, Phîlêa {Diiphilus}, and Khadkliôn {Neokles}; twelve men I took, and we began to enter the temple. The chief priest said unto me, 'O king, it is not meet to bring into the temple tools of iron.' Then I bade my friends take their swords and put them outside the enclosure, and I ordered these twelve alone of all my troops to go in with me without their swords, but I gave orders that they should first go round about the trees, because I thought that they might have brought me there treacherously; but after they had come in and had gone round about, they said to me, 'There is nothing at all here.' Then I took hold of the hand of one of the Indians and went in there, that when the tree spoke, the Indian might interpret for me ; and I swore to him by Olympias my mother, and by Ammon, and by the victory of all the gods of the Macedonians, ' If I do not hear a voice from this tree as soon as the sun sets, I will slay you all with the sword.'

At the rising of the sun, an Indian voice issued from the tree, which was interpreted by the Indians with me. And from fear they did not wish to share with me their interpretation. I became anxious and upbraided them, and the Indians then said: "Soon you must die by the hands of your friends." Now I and those standing by me were stricken by the revelation, and I wished again to secure an oracle from the Moon at its rising in the evening. So, having foreseen the future, I entered and asked if I should again embrace my mother Olympias and the friends dear to me. And again, while my friends stood near me, at the rising of the Moon the tree gave the same oracle in the Greek language: "King Alexander, you must die in Babylon. By your own people will you be killed and you will not be able to return to your mother Olympias."

Now I and my friends were greatly amazed and I wished to hang beautiful garlands upon the gods. But the priest said: "It is not permitted to do this. But if force is used, do what you wish. For there is no law recorded for a king."

As soon as the sun had set, a voice came from that tree in a barbarous tongue ; and when I asked the Indian 'What is this voice from this tree ?' he was afraid to explain it to me and wished to hide it. Then I straightway understood, and I took hold of the Indian and led him aside and said to him, ' If thou dost not explain this voice to me, I will kill thee with a hard and bitter death.' And the Indian whispered in my ears, 'The explanation of the voice is this: thou wilt shortly perish by thy troops.' Then I and my friends went again into the temple by night, and when I had drawn near to the tree of the moon, and had done reverence to it, and placed my hand upon it, again at that moment from the tree a voice came in the Greek tongue, ' Thou shalt die at Babylon.' And when I together with my friends were marvelling at this wonder, my mind was troubled and sorrowful, and I desired to put the glorious and beautiful crown which was upon my head in that place ; but the priest said to me, ' Thou canst not do this, unless thou choosest to do it by violence, for laws are not laid down for kings.'

Then, as I lay very sorrowful and depressed, Parmenion and Philip urged me to get some sleep. But I could not. I got up wide awake and at sunrise with my ten friends, the priest, and the Indians I went again to the shrine and, issuing special orders, I entered the precinct with the priest and, stretching out my hand to the tree, I made inquiry in these words: "If the years of my life have been fulfilled, I wish to learn from you this: shall I be carried back to Macedonia and comfort my mother and my wife, and then depart?" Then the sun rose and cast its light on the top of the tree and a voice was heard, saying: "The years of your life have been fulfilled, and you will not be carried back to your mother Olympias, but you will die in Babylon, and are not to enter Macedon. The reason? You deprived many men of the sight of their mothers and cities and countries and friends. And just as one sows, so in fact shall he reap. And after a little time, your mother and your wife will meet a bitter end at the hands of their people and your brothers too at the hands of your companions. Make no more inquiries about these matters, for you will not hear more about what you ask." So I departed from there about the first hour, and when one day had come and gone its way, I summoned all the troops and spoke to them together about their wishes. And traveling fifteen days, I soon reached the city of Prasias; and they sent to the neighbouring cities to find out what strange things were being experienced from the things brought from the South. They brought before me fish skins and those of leopards, and fangs larger than three cubits; 'ouzomoures' six cubits long, weighing a talent and 'ioulidas' weighing two talents, and other fish fangs a cubit long, which they had fashioned into scabbards for swords. They brought forth and offered me shellfish along with all the other things. One was saffron coloured and held six portions, and it was very marvellous to see; and the other held four portions; and there were others, that held a portion apiece. And there were thirty saffron sponges and fifty green ones.

Then, as I was in trouble and sorrow because of these things, my friends Parmâôn {Parmenion} and Philip tried to persuade me to sleep and to rest myself a little. I did not consent however, but remained awake the whole night. When the dawn was near, I and my friends together with the priest and the Indians again entered the temple; and I and the priest went to the tree, and I laid my hands upon it and questioned it, saying, 'Tell me if the days of my life are come to an end; this too I desire to know, if it will be granted me to go to Macedonia, and to see Olympias my mother, and to ask after her welfare, and to return again.' And as soon as the sun had risen and his rays had fallen upon the top of the tree, a loud and harsh voice came from it, which spoke thus, ' The years of thy life are come to an end, and thou wilt not be able to go to Macedonia, but thou wilt perish in Babylon after a short time by the hands of thy kinsfolk, and thy mother too will die a hideous death by the hands of thy kinsfolk, and in the same way thy sister also ; but do not ask further concerning this matter, for thou wilt hear nothing more from us.' Then I took counsel with my troops, and we set out again from thence and marched along the road a journey of fifteen days. And when we had gone straight forward on our march, we arrived at the country of Prasiakê, I Alexander with these Indians and with my troops. The Indians who dwelt in that land brought offerings to us, and they brought offerings to us also from far countries. They brought to us skins of fishes which were like leopard's skins, only they were larger, and there were in them teeth, some of which were one cubit long and some three cubits; the ears {gills} of these fishes were each six cubits long, and the weight of each of them was a hundred pounds; and the teeth of these fishes were some of them two cubits long and others three. [They also brought things] like oyster shells, each of which held fifty cups of water, and which were very beautiful in appearance; and thirty purple sponges, and fifty white ones, and various other things.

From the Prasiacan land I proceeded to Persia, and hastened to the palace of Semiramis. I considered it imperative to write these matters to you. Farewell."

Then we set out from the country of Prasiakê, and set our faces straight for the east. And when we had gone a journey of ten days along the road, we came to a high mountain ; and some of the people that lived on the mountain said to us, ' King Alexander, thou art not able to cross over this mountain, for a great god in the form of a dragon lives in it, who protects this country from enemies.' And I said to them, ' In what place is the god ? ' They said to me, ' He is a journey of three days from here by yon river.' And I said to them, ' Does this god change himself into another form?' And they said to me, ' Enemies never dare to come to this country through fear of him.' And I said to them, ' Is he able to keep off enemies from all your coasts ? ' And they said, ' No, only on that side where his dwelling is.' And I said to them, ' Has this god a temple ? and do you go to his presence and know him ? And they said, ' Who can go near unto him that can swallow an elephant by drawing in his breath?' And I said, ' Whence know you this, since you go not near him ? ' And they said, ' We know that a number of people are swallowed up by him every year, besides two oxen which they give to him regularly every day for food from our land, and he also kills men.' And I said, 'How do you give him these two oxen to eat?' They said, ' He that is set apart for the service of the god selects oxen from the land, and takes two of them each day in the morning, when as yet he has not come forth from his temple, and goes down to the bank of the river; and he ties the legs of the oxen, and throws them upon the bank of the river, and he goes up to the top of the mountain ; and when the god comes forth from his temple, he crosses over that horrible river, and swallows up those oxen.' And I said to them, 'Has this god one place for crossing, or does he cross wherever he pleases ? ' And they said, ' He has but one place for crossing.' Then I bethought me that it was not a god but a phantasy of wicked demons.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

{ The following episodes are missing from the Greek version. }

I took some of the people of the land with me, and set out from thence, and came to the bank of that river. And I commanded them to place the oxen as they were accustomed to do, and I and my troops stood upon the top of the mountain. And we saw when the beast came forth from his den and came to the bank of the river. When I saw the beast, I thought that it was a black cloud which was standing upon the bank of the river, and the smoke which went forth from its mouth was like unto the thick darkness which comes in a fog. And we saw it crossing the river, and when as yet it had not reached the oxen, it sucked them into its mouth by the drawing in of its breath, as if cast by a sling, and swallowed them. When I had seen this, I gave orders next day that they should put two very small calves instead of the two big oxen, that the beast might be the more hungry on the following day. After it had found the two calves, it was obliged to cross over again on that day; and when it had crossed over for the second time, by reason of its hunger, it went wandering from this side to that but found nothing. And when the beast desired to come on towards the mountain, all my troops with one voice raised a shout against it; and when it heard the shout, it turned and crossed the river. Then I straightway gave orders to bring two oxen of huge bulk, and to kill them, and to strip off their hides, and to take away their flesh, and to fill their skins with gypsum and pitch and lead and sulphur, and to place them on that spot. When they had done this, the beast according to its wont crossed the river again, and when it came to them, it suddenly drew both of the skins into its mouth by its breath and swallowed them. As soon as the gypsum entered its belly, we saw that its head fell upon the ground, and it opened wide its mouth, and uprooted a number of trees with its tail. And when I saw that it had fallen down, I ordered a smith's bellows to be brought and balls of brass to be heated in the fire and to be thrown into the beast's mouth; and when they had thrown five balls into its mouth, the beast shut its mouth, and died. And we set out from thence and came to a region in which was a high mountain, and a river which they call Barsâtîs (?) went forth from it; and they told us that there was a god in this mountain, and that the whole mountain was of sapphire. Then I and my troops ascended the mountain, and it was full of fountains and springs of water ; and the people of that country said to me, 'Do not march confidently in this mountain, for its gods are mighty.'

Then I ordered sacrifices to be offered to that place, and suddenly from the mountain there came a multitude of kinds and sounds of singing. When I heard this, I again did reverence ; and I heard a voice from the mountain which spoke to me thus in the Greek tongue, ' King Alexander, go back, and advance no farther ; for from here onwards the country belongs to men who by their knowledge and power have conquered and subdued a number of armies.' And I answered and said, ' Since it has pleased you thus to speak, inform me whether, if I go by myself, I shall return alive from thence.' And the gods answered and said to me, ' Go thyself, for it is given to thee to see something beautiful.' I answered again and said, ' What is the beautiful thing which I shall see ? ' And the gods said to me, ' Thou shalt see a king, a son of the gods, from whose country an honoured priest goes to a number of countries, and thou shalt learn how from something small something so noble may arise.' When I had heard this, I commanded a city to be built by that mountain, and a brazen statue to be erected upon it, and I ordered it to be named 'Alexandria, the queen of the mountains.'

And I commanded my troops to remain in that place, and I with twenty of my friends arose and arrived at a place which they call Kâtôn {? Cathay}; and we stayed where we were three days, and we set out from thence and marched a journey of ten days through mountainous roads and watery lands. And again we marched a journey of fifteen days through a desert and arrived at the confines of Sîn (China). When we arrived in China, I gave myself the name of Pîthâôs, the ambassador of king Alexander. When we approached the gate of the king of China, they went in and informed him of my arrival, and he gave orders to question me outside. Then Gundâphâr {Gondophares}, the chief of his army, questioned me concerning my coming to China, and I said to him, 'I am an ambassador of king Alexander.' And Gundâphâr said to me, ' Why hast thou come hither ?' And I said, ' I have been sent to the king of China ; my message is to him ; and it is not right for me to utter the message which I bring from my master before thee.' Then Gundâphâr went in to the king of China and informed him, and the king ordered the palace to be decorated, and silk curtains to be hung up, and a golden couch to be prepared; and he bade them call me.

When I entered his presence, I did not make obeisance to him, and he questioned me, and said to me, ' Whence comest thou ?' I answered and said, ' I am the ambassador of king Alexander.' And he said to me, ' Who is Alexander ?' I said, ' He is a Macedonian, the lord of the world, and the bearer of the sovereignty of the Persians and Indians.' And he said to me, 'Where is the land of Macedonia?' I said, 'In the western quarter of the world, at the place where the sun sets.' And he said to me, ' Where didst thou leave this Alexander ?' And I said, 'He is near, and not far off ; lo, he is by the river Bîrsâtôs (?). And he said to me, ' Why has he sent thee?' And I said, ' My lord Alexander has been set by the gods as lord over the kings of the world, and I am come to bring thee to him, and my message is this: Thus saith Alexander, I have been established over all the kings of the world by the will and decree of the heavenly gods, and over all rulers will I be chief and commander ; whosoever accepts willingly this my sovereignty, his whole territory shall remain his and he shall continue in his dominion ; but whosoever receives me not, his country and his dominion are no longer his. And if thou dost not believe me that it is so, ask and learn what greatness and renown Darius the king of Asia had in the world, for he was a warrior and a conqueror, and yet afterwards, because of his obstinacy, to what a place was he abased and degraded ! Porus too, the king of the Indians, who was so great and mighty, and fertile in artifices and stratagems, and versatile and rich in every craft, and so thought that he was not only lord of men but also chief and lord of the gods, learn what an end befell him through his obstinacy. Now I have heard concerning thee that thou hast good and great knowledge and understanding, and I thought that I would not come against thee with camps and troops as against an enemy, but I have sent an ambassador to thee as to a friend, that thou mayest come to me of thine own free will, and that I may see and taste of the treasure of thy knowledge by the fruit of thy words from the gates of thy mouth ; and if there is anything worthy of being seen in thy land, bring it with thee that I may see it' Then he questioned me and said to me, ' Is King Alexander mighty in body ? ' And I said to him, 'No; on the contrary, he is very small.' And he said to me, ' To-day thou must make merry with me after the manner of ambassadors, and to-morrow thou shalt receive the answer to thy message.' When the hour of the banquet was come, the king of China commanded, and they made me sit in the banquetting hall among the lower seats.

When the banquet was finished, he ordered them to prepare a sleeping apartment in the royal palace, and bade me sleep there ; and in the morning, while it was yet dark, he ordered me to be brought in before him. When I entered, I did reverence to him. When he saw that I made obeisance to him, he was perplexed concerning me, and ordered me to be questioned again. When I had repeated ray message afresh before him, he said to me, ' Thy message is that of yesterday, but thy deeds are not those of yesterday; yesterday thou wast one thing, and to-day thou art another.' I said to him, 'Thou hast spoken rightly, O king, for yesterday I myself by the words of my message was clothed in the person of Alexander; in me, O king, thou didst see Alexander, and in the speech of my lips thou didst hear that of Alexander; but to-day I am Pîthâôs the ambassador.' Then he commanded and they brought a cloak, and he said to me, 'Shew me how Alexander is formed in stature.' And I said, 'In stature Alexander resembles me.' And he said to me, 'Is not the king taller than thou?' And I said, 'No.' Then he gave orders to measure my height and breadth and to cut the cloak according to my measure. And when they had cut it, he ordered it to be rolled up and sealed, and he said to me, 'Pîthâôs, go and carry this answer from me to king Alexander, and say to him: I have heard thy message which thou hast sent to me, and of thy fortune, thy bravery, and thy exaltation. Thy victory then over Darius, and thy might, and thy victory over Porus, and thy subjection too of a number of nations. I do not think that such exaltation as this is caused by thy good fortune alone, but I imagine that it arises from their bad luck, and particularly because everything that comes to pass is given by fortune. Now to thee fortune and luck have been given by fate, and such elevation as this, which was not granted to Darius and Porus who were before thee. Therefore it is meet for thee to know that thou shouldst have no confidence in fortune, and that thou shouldst not weary thyself more, and that thy hands should not become the executioners of those who have drawn nigh to and reached the end of the days of their life, for the name of executioner is a disgraceful one. And as regards thy message to me concerning my coming to thee, behold, by the words of my mouth I stand before thee, and I speak with thee by the tongue of Pîthâôs. Be not angry then because my body comes not to thee, and do not come to our country with warfare, for we have never at any time surrendered. I do not speak these things for thy sake, as if we were stronger than thou art, but I say this on my own account ; for shouldst thou come against us, and our luck let go its hold of us, as it did of Darius and of king Porus, thou wilt slay us all, and thy hands will be our executioners, for none of us will accept bondage in his lifetime. And let this also be in thy mind, that, if thy luck turn somehow against thee, this great name of thine and might of thine will perish by fate, for this lying fortune does not remain constantly in one place. We men then who thus work and plan, and by a great deal of expense and toil and executioner's work slay a number of men of our kind and race, and seize a number of countries, afterwards, whether we will or no, everything leaves us and departs, and of the number of countries which we seize, and the numerous regions which we subdue, a piece of land the size of this cloak comes to us.'

Then he straightway gave the cloak into my hands, and a crown of gold studded with pearls and jacinths, and . . . a thousand talents ; ten thousand pieces of undyed silks, and five thousand brocaded silks; two hundred figures of cane, and one hundred painted (?) skins, and one thousand Indian swords ; five wild horses, and one thousand skins of musk, and ten snakes' horns (?) each of which was a cubit long : and he said to me, 'Carry this offering from me to Alexander.' Now I was minded not to accept them, but I thought afterwards, 'If I do not take them, peradventure he may have doubts of me and may find out that I am Alexander.'

So I and my friends returned from thence and came to the body of my troops; and I commanded them to set out from thence, and we came through mountains and a difficult country to a plain and a desert region. And from thence we marched a journey of twelve days through the desert. And in that desert we saw numbers of wild animals which were like our gazelles, but their heads and their teeth were different, and they were like foxes. And we saw the animals from whose navels they take the musk. On the thirteenth day we arrived at a camping place of savage barbarians, who were very well furnished with horses and arms. When those savages saw us, they came against our encampment with arms and war; and when we saw that they had come for war, I commanded my troops to make ready, and when they had come near, my troops shouted and we joined in battle together. Now when we had closed with one another in fight, by good luck it so happened that I slew the chief of those thieves with the sword ; and when they saw that their chief was slain, and that many were killed on both sides, they turned their backs and fled from us. And I commanded my troops that the wives and children of these savages should be slain and their possessions pillaged.

And we set out from thence and came to a country which they call Sebâzâz (?). All the people of that land, together with the priests of their gods, came to us with offerings and spices, and we remained in that country ten days, and I commanded all the priests of that land to offer sacrifices.

And we set out from thence, and came to a country which they call Sôd [Sogd], and the country was very populous. I saw there a large river going forth on the south-west quarter, and that river was difficult to cross ; indeed there was no means of crossing it whatever. I was greatly troubled and supplicated all the gods that are in Macedonia and Ammon the god of Libya, and I vowed that if they would aid me to cross this river with my troops, I would build a city on the other side and set up a temple of the gods in it. When the people that were in that country heard of our coming, they sent to me saying, 'Do not pass over into our territory, for we will not allow thee to come into our territory.' And when I heard this message, I ordered those ambassadors to be bound and guarded ; and I asked them, ' Where is he that is ruler and chief in this land ? and in what town does he dwell ? and how many of the nobles of the land has he with him ?' The ambassadors said, 'Swear to us by the gods that thou wilt do us no harm, and we will carry thee and show thee the spot, for all the nobles of this country are in that place.' Then I swore to them by all the gods, saying, 'If you show me rightly, I will not kill you; but if you say aught otherwise, I will kill you together with the others that are in the towns.' And as the gods willed, I gave orders to take each of those eight ambassadors by himself and to question him, and when we got the statements of all of them, we found that they agreed.

I ordered my troops to get ready and Kôkaros (?), the chief of the host, to question one of the ambassadors who was bound ; and with fifty horsemen I set out early in the night to go and spy out the road and to observe the town, because it was night and we did not know the custom of the country, and owing to this I was afraid. Then a kundâkôr went and explored the way ; he returned and came to me and said to me, 'The road is easy and the town is not large.' Then I and my troops went to the town, and I commanded the horns to be sounded and the troops to encircle the town ; and I ordered much wood to be brought and fire to be kindled around the whole of the town, and the troops to stand outside the fire ; and I commanded them also to kill everyone who should flee from the town. When the people that were in the town heard the sound of the horns, they came forth from the houses and saw the fire round about the town, and some of them wished to flee ; and as they fled from the town, they died by the hands of my troops. Then their chief and the nobles that were in the town came forth from the town and said with a loud voice, 'King Alexander, let thy wrath turn to favour, and do not order thy servants to be slain.' Then I commanded them to come to me ; and when they came, I gave orders to guard them vigilantly.

And we came to the country of the Sundîkâyê ; and when I saw that the whole country yielded to me, I commanded a city to be built there and to be called Samarkand. I ordered a temple to be built therein to the goddess Rhea, whom they call Nânî , and when they had built it, I ordered it to be painted with gold and with the choicest paints, and a Greek inscription to be written thereon; and I commanded that all the Sundikâyê should come to that place and should make a feast to Rhea and offer sacrifices to her. When the Sundikâyê had done this in their country, they were firmly reconciled to Alexander in friendship and love.

And again we set out from thence and went to the river Bartêsîtôs (?), the interpretation of which is 'crystal.' When the king saw that the river was large and difficult to cross, he ordered all the carpenters and artificers that were in Sôd to be brought, and bade much wood to be given to them; and he commanded Espistâhândos (?) to build a thousand Alexandrian boats. And he ordered the bows of the boats to be very sharp (?), and he bade two cables to be made of the bark of trees, each of them fifty cubits in thickness, and ordered men to cross over to the other side of the river in boats and to construct a kind of tower there. When they had made it, I gave orders to measure the breadth of the river, and to bring all those boats to the bank thereof, and to fasten them all to the one rope, and to one another with planks of wood ; and to the other rope they fastened thousands of bags of ox-hide filled with air ; and I commanded them to take the rope across and to fasten the end of it to the tower. When they had fastened the rope, be ordered a strong rope to be tied to the boats from the one side to the other, and a number of men to pull with ropes from that side. And when the head of the boats reached the middle of the river, the boats went on and were stretched out by the force of the current (?), and the bridge became straight. And he commanded a number of men to pull on this side and on that, and in the middle, with the rope which was fastened on the bank of the river, lest the boats, with the rope by which they were tied, should knock upon the stones and be broken. And when the bridge reached the rope, the ships at first struck the skins with violence, but the shock was broken and lightened by the skins. Thus he constructed the bridge by his skill and craft, and he ordered the troops to pass over.

When we had crossed the river and had gone a journey of two days, I saw a river that was copious and abundant in its flow, and towns with numerous hamlets and country houses were round about it, and the people of that country were simple in mind, and the country was rich in crops, and there was plenty of corn and fruit therein. I commanded the phalanx to halt in that place, and we remained where we were for five months. I ordered a large city to be built there ; and on account of the beauty and desirability of the country, I commanded that it should be named afresh, and to the city I gave the name 'a part of Cush,' which is called in Persian Behli. And I ordered two temples to be built in the city, the one to Zeus, and the other to Rhea ; and I commanded them to be constructed with lime and stone and at much outlay; and I commanded a statue to be made in brass of myself and another of my friend Îdmâlos (?), and to be set up in those temples. And by reason of the fairness and beauty of the country, some of the Greek troops that were with me desired to stay there; and I gave orders that five hundred men should remain and dwell there, more particularly for the honour of those temples; and I commanded sacrifices to be offered and a great feast to be made.

And from thence we set out and came to a river, on the bank of which I commanded the phalanx to encamp, and we rested where we were for five days. And when I gave orders to set out from thence by night, Paryôg the . . . and his band came against us. My soldiers had let loose their horses and cattle to graze quietly along the bank of the river, and Paryôg and his band seized all the horses and cattle, and went into a wood, and led them away from the bank of the river. When I heard these things, I took a band of foot-soldiers and some Macedonian troops, and we pursued after Paryôg that day along the river by means of the prints of the horses' hoofs which had been imprinted on the bank ; and we went after him a journey of one day, but we did not overtake him. Then I made a vow to the god Ammon and made supplication to him, saying, 'If we overtake Paryôg and his band, in the place where I overtake him I will build a city to thy name, O Ammon, and will set up in it a temple to thee.' When I had gone five miles along the road, the earth was covered with water, and the hoof marks of the horses were no longer seen. I ordered the foot-prints of the horses to be sought for around the water and the wood; and when they had looked for the foot-prints but did not find them, I knew that the god Ammon would come to our assistance. And I ordered them to set fire to the skirts of the wood all round, so that Paryôg and his troop were not able to bear the flame of the fire. Then they all came out from the wood, and my conquering troops fought with Paryôg and slew him, and he died. And of Paryôg's band some died by the fire, two hundred and seventy men, and a thousand and three hundred others perished by the hands of my troops; and we got our horses and our cattle. We made the whole camp rest there, and I commanded earth to be brought for all the waters which were detained there, and the place where all the waters were to be filled up, and a city to be built upon it, and a temple to be made therein to the god Ammon. And we were in that spot four months, and when the city and the temple were finished, I commanded men to be brought from various places to dwell therein, and I called its name Margiôs {Margiana}, that is Mârô {Merv}, and I offered sacrifices to the god Ammon there.

{ Greek & Armenian versions }


{ Syriac version }

[18] G   After writing this letter to Aristotle, Alexander led his forces to the kingdom of Semiramis. For he was exceedingly eager to see it, since it was very famous throughout the whole country and Hellas. For the city was walled around by natural rocks; it was three stades long and wide, and it was enclosed by 120 doors. The outside of these doors was decorated with iron and copper, for there was much iron in their land. And the whole city was made up of stone residences. And a woman ruled the city, a very beautiful woman, who was middle-aged, a widow, mother of three sons. Her name was Candace. She was a descendant of the Queen Semiramis. To her Alexander sent this letter: "King Alexander sends greetings to Queen Candace in Meroë and to the rulers under her. When I was in Egypt, I heard of you from the priests there and saw your graves and dwellings, which showed that you had ruled Egypt. I heard that Ammon made an expedition with you, and after a short time on Ammon's advice you returned to your own city. This is the point of my sending a letter to you. Bring the shrine and statue of Ammon to the frontier that we may make a sacrifice to it. But if you do not wish to come with it, let us meet soon in Meroë and have a conference. Let me know your wish there."

Candace wrote back to him: "Queen Candace of Meroë and the rulers under her send greetings to King Alexander. Of old, Ammon gave an oracle that we should make an expedition into Egypt, and now he has advised that he should not be moved by me and that no one should come to me, and that we should repulse those who come to us and treat them as enemies. Do not make a mistake about our race. We are whiter in skin and more shining in soul than the whitest with you. We possess eighty phalanxes ready to attack those entering our land. You will do well by honouring divine Ammon. My ambassadors carry to you one hundred solid bricks of gold, five hundred young Ethiopians, two hundred parrots, two hundred sphinxes, and for our god Ammon, who presides over the boundaries of Egypt, a crown of emeralds and whole pearls, ten chains with seals attached, . . . eighty ivory caskets. Also our gifts include different kinds of wild beasts: three hundred and fifty elephants, three hundred leopards, eighty rhinoceroses, four thousand panthers, six man-eating dogs in cages, three hundred huge bulls, six elephants' tusks, three hundred hides of leopards, fifteen hundred ebony rods. Send at once those whom you wish to receive these gifts, and write us when you have conquered the whole world."

[8] When then we were ready to go from the country of Margiana to the land of the Persians, I desired also to go quickly and without delay to the country of the Samrâyê and to see their kingdom, for the kingdom of the Samrâyê was renowned among the Athenians and in the land of Hellas, and they were wont to say of it that all the walls of the city were of whole stones, the length of each being three stades, which make a mile. It has one hundred and twenty gates, and the gates are all bound with iron and brass outside, for iron is abundant in their country ; and all the houses that are built in that city are of hewn stone from their foundations to their roofs. Over their country a woman reigned, who in her appearance was very beautiful ; she was of middle age, and was a widow ; and she had three sons, and her name was Kundâkâ {Candace}, the lady of the Samrâyê. To this lady Alexander composed a letter and wrote to her thus: "From king Alexander to queen Candace greeting ; and to the generals of the country of the Samrâyê greeting. When I went to Egypt, I saw there your graves and dwelling-places; and when I asked the priests of that country, they told me that you dwelt in Egypt a long time, and that the god Ammon was with you as a helper. And after some time, by the oracle of Ammon, the god of his own accord sent to our border, saying, that I should go to your border and should sacrifice to him. If it pleases you, do you also come to the border with the images, that we may hold a festival together."

Then Candace, when she had read this letter, made answer to him thus : " From Candace, the queen of the Samrâyê, and from all the generals of the Samrâyê, to king Alexander greeting. When of old we went to the land of Egypt, we went by the command of the oracle of Ammon, and he himself was with our army. Now too he has commanded us, saying, ' Beware lest you move me from my place ; neither shall you go to another spot ; but if any man shall come to your country, fight with him as with an enemy.' Thou wilt not catch us with this impudent speech of thine, for we are inspirited with the same spirit as thyself, even more than the illustrious and renowned who are in thy army. I have troops to the number of eight hundred thousand, who are ready and prepared to fight with the evil one. Thou therefore hast done well, since thou hast proposed this in honour of the god Ammon; but if thou desirest to offer sacrifices to the god Ammon, do thou come by thyself, and let not an army come with thee. Farewell." And my ambassadors brought from her one hundred solid missiles of gold; five hundred ass-goats, which they call in Persian khar-bôz ; of different kinds of the bird which is called pâipâ {parrot} two hundred ; two hundred apes ; a crown of gold set with emeralds and pearls for the god Ammon who is within the border of Egypt; twenty unpierced pearls; thirty unpierced emeralds; and eighty small boxes of ivory. And she sent to us of different kinds of beasts three hundred and fifty elephants; three hundred leopards ; eighty animals which are called rhinoceros, and in Persian markedad or bargedad; four thousand hunting bears and leopards ; three thousand dogs that eat men ; three thousand buffaloes for killing; three hundred leopard-skins and one thousand three hundred teak rods: and she said thus, " Do thou take these things, and inform me in writing if thou art lord over the whole world."

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