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In a short time the Cossees were subdued, and the Macedonian, having for

the moment no other enemies with whom to contend, found time for civil

enterprise more worthy of his genius. This was the exploration of the

Caspian Sea. Until now it had been believed that this great body of

water was but an arm of the Arctic Ocean. Alexander gave instructions

to Heraclides, commander of the shipwrights, to go into the Hyrcanian

forest, prepare a fleet, and determine the geographical limits of the

unknown sea. He himself, when the work was well under way, departed for

Babylon, having determined to make a formal entry into the city, and

from that center direct the affairs of his government.

After the battle of Arbela, Alexander had entrusted the Babylonian

government to the priests of the temple of Belus. These hierarchs had

all the subtlety and double-dealing habits of their race. Knowing the

use to which they had put the king's revenues, and dreading an

examination of their accounts with the royal treasury, they undertook to

prevent Alexander from visiting the city. They sent out a deputation of

soothsayers to warn him that the omens were not favorable for his

present coming, and advising delay. But the king easily penetrated their

hypocritical anxiety, and put them to confusion by quoting a saying of

Euripides that he is the best prophet who makes the best guess!

Having established himself in the palace at Babylon, he immediately

resumed the great works from which he had been distracted by the

campaign into Media. Further improvements of the river were projected,

and he himself spent days together in an open boat, under the burning

sun, directing the work of his engineers. He also planned an elaborate

survey of the coasts of Arabia and Eastern Africa; arid at the same time

his mind was busy with future military operations, which embraced, among

other schemes, the conquest of Western Europe. Nor was such an

enlargement of his empire beyond the possibilities of his all-embracing

genius. His fame as a conqueror had already extended to the remotest

parts of the civilized world; and the dream of universal empire was less

visionary with him than with any other character of history. While

tarrying at Babylon, embassies came from Libya and Carthage, and from

the Italian states of Lucania and Tuscany; and it is alleged that envoys

were received from European Scythia as well as from Gaul and Spain.

His first actual campaign was planned against Africa, but before

entering upon an enterprise so vast and of such uncertain duration, he

ordered a magnificent sacrifice to the gods and a feast to his army. The

day was one of the most famous in the history of the great festivals of

Babylon. The king himself entered most heartily into the ceremonies,

participating with his officers in the banquet with which the pageant

was concluded. Whether the momentous event which followed hard after the

festivities was traceable to the excesses of which the king was guilty,

or whether his exposure in the marshlands about Babylon had poisoned his

system with malaria, or whether his constitution was broken by the

hardships and fatigues of so many campaigns, or whether all of these

circumstances combined at this crisis to bring the great Macedonian to

his bed-is not certainly known. At any rate, on the day after the

festival he was seized with a violent fever. For several days, however,

he continued to attend to his duties, bathing, offering sacrifices, and

receiving embassies; but on the eighth day his condition became serious;

on the ninth, critical; and on the tenth, his life was despaired of.

As soon as the intelligence was carried to the army, the soldiers were

thrown into the greatest agitation. They distrusted the commanders who

were near the person of their king, and broke out with violent threats

unless they should at once be admitted to his presence. Certain of their

number were accordingly brought into the chamber where the son of Philip

was breathing his last. He exchanged a look of sympathy with his

veterans, and held out his hand, but was unable to speak. He lived till

the following morning and expired in the midst of his generals.

Many stories were set afloat to account for