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MACEDONIA-ALEXANDER THE GREAT.

his sudden death, one of which was that Aristotle had prepared for

Antipater, the deposed regent of Macedonia, a subtle poison, which the

latter forwarded to Babylon to be used against the person of the king.

But subsequent investigations dispelled such rumors, and left it clear

that Alexander had died from natural causes. The great event which left

the empire of Asia without a master occurred in B. C. 323.

Alexander the Great, whose remarkable career has been summarized in the

preceding pages was at the time of his death but thirty-two years and

eight months of age. In person he was handsome and well-proportioned,

though not sufficiently tall to make his presence especially commanding.

The discipline of his boyhood had been such as to give him symmetry of

body and soundness of constitution. Beginning the military life before

he reached his majority, he became inured to every species of hardship

and exposure. It was, however, in the quality of his mind that he

surpassed all the heroes of his times. His ambition was as great as the

arena, and the arena was the world. His courage was equal to his

ambition, and his genius to his courage. His sagacity in the council was

as great as his abilities in the field; and his skill in discerning the

motives of men, in exposing intrigue, and in outwitting the craft of an

enemy, was preeminent above all his contemporaries. Of his vices the

most conspicuous were the inordinate passion of which he was sometimes

guilty, and the strong appetite which he too frequently indulged. His

chief follies were vanity and superstition-the former manifested in the

pleasure which he evidently took in those who praised him and his deeds,

and the latter in such supreme nonsense as claiming his paternity from

Jupiter. As in the case of other conquerors, it has been the fate of the

Macedonian to have his name used as a synonym for cruelty,

heartlessness, tyranny. The superficial gaze of mankind has been fixed

on the turmoil and destruction of his great battles. The bloody field

strewn with the mangled bodies of thousands has shut from sight the

better qualities of the man. In humanity and magnanimity he was

preeminent above all the great men of his age. It may be said that by

him and his father a new code of war was instituted among the nations-a

code which had a method in its cruelty, and which had an end and aim

beyond the mere fact of spoliation and conquest.

The consequences of Alexander's career and works were in the highest

measure salutary. Before his day Asia was effete. For centuries the

great consolidated despotism of the East- Assyria, Babylonia, Persia-had

hung like a pall on the spirit of man. Alexander dispelled the cloud and

liberated from bondage. He drew across the fertile plains of Asia Minor

and Mesopotamia the tremendous plowshare of reform. He stirred the

nations to their profoundest depths. He broke up and trampled on the

traditions and precedents of the Asiatics. He cleft the high walls which

barbarism, owl-like, had reared between herself and the light; and the

light streamed through. He came as a harbinger out of the young and

resolute West. He and his generals were scholars and statesmen. They

spoke Greek. The beautiful speech of the Hellenes flowed like

quicksilver through the dirt and linguistic debris of the East. It

carried on its liquid tide the most splendid literature of the ancient

world. Art grew like a hyacinth from the mire of his battles. Letters

flourished in his capitals. The barbarians heard the sound thereof and

were glad. The date-palms of the Euphrates quivered with the agitation

of a new life. Commerce put on new robes and walked like a queen over

the long-abandoned quays of Babylon. In the course of his conquests,

civilization gained a victory over darkness, and the sky brightened from

east to west over half the world. Though anarchy came by his death, the

results of his great activities had taken so firm hold on the soil of

Asia as never to be uprooted. For men having once arisen to a better

estate and felt the blessing of the sunlight do not willingly go back to

darkness, or lie again contented in the wallow of barbarism.