« PreviousContinue »
A THOUSAND HOURS OF ENTERTAINMENT
WITH THE WORLD'S GREAT WRITERS
BY JOHN L. STODDARD
CHICAGO AND BOSTON
GEO. L. SHUMAN & CO.
JOHN PENTLAND MAHAFFY
JOHN PENTLAND MAHAFFY. An Irish scholar. Born at Chapponnaire, Switzerland, February 26, 1839. Professor of History in the University of Dublin. Author of “Social Life in Greece," "Rambles and Studies in Greece,” “Greek Life and Thought,” “Greece under Roman Sway,” “History of Greek Classical Literature,” “The Empire of the Ptolemies."
No other writer of modern times is so thoroughly conversant with the life, thought, and conditions of Ancient Greece, and none has portrayed them in literature more lucidly and entertainingly.
(From "GREEK LIFE AND THOUGHT")
ALEXANDER THE GREAT
THERE was no king throughout all the Eastern world in the third century B.C. who did not set before him Alexander as the ideal of what a monarch ought to be. His transcendent figure so dominates the imagination of his own and the following age, that from studying his character we can draw all the materials for the present chapter. For this purpose the brilliant sketch of Plutarch, who explicitly professes to write the life and not the history of the king, is on the whole more instructive than the detailed chronicle of Arrian. From both we draw much that is doubtful and even fabulous, but much also which is certain and of unparalleled interest, as giving us a picture of the most extraordinary man that ever lived. The astonishing appearance of this lad of twenty, hurried to the throne by his father's death, in the midst of turmoil within and foes without, surrounded by doubtful friends and timid advisers, without treasury, without allies — and yet at once and without hesitation asserting his military genius, defeating his bravest enemies, cowing his disloyal subjects, crushing sedition, and then starting to conquer Asia, and to weld together two continents by a new policy - this wonder was indeed likely to fascinate the world, and if his successors aped the leftward inclination of his head and the
leonine sit of his hair, they were sure enough to try to imitate what was easier and harder the
of his court and the policy of his kingdom.
Quite apart from his genius, which was unique, his position in Greece was perfectly novel, in that he combined Hellenic training, language, and ideas with a totally un-Hellenic thing royalty. For generations, the Macedonian kings had been trying to assert themselves as real Greeks. They had succeeded in having their splendid genealogy accepted an undeniable gain in those days, – but their other claims were as yet hardly established. It is true they had entertained great poets at their court, and had odes and tragedies composed for the benefit of their subjects, but none of them, not even Philip, who was just dead, had yet been accepted as really a naturalized Greek. Yet Philip had come closer to it than his predecessors; he had spent his youth in the glorious Thebes of Epaminondas; he trained himself carefully in the rhetoric of Athens, and could compose speeches and letters which passed muster even with such fastidious stylists as Demosthenes. But though he could assume Greek manners and speak good Greek in his serious moments, when on his good behavior, it was known that his relaxations were of a very different kind. Then he showed the Thracian - then his Macedonian breeding came out.
Nevertheless he saw so clearly the importance of attaining this higher level that he spared no pains to educate his son, and with him his son's court, in the highest culture. We know not whether it was accident or his clear judgment of human character which made him choose Aristotle as Alexander's tutor — there were many other men employed to instruct him feel how foreign must have been Aristotle's conversation at the palace and among the boon companions of Philip, and hence Mieza, a quiet place away from court, was chosen for the prince's residence. There Aristotle made a Hellene of him in every real sense.
It is certain, if we compare Alexander's manifesto to Darius with what is called Philip's letter, that he did not write so well as his father; but he learned to know and love the great poets, and to associate with men of culture and of sober manners. Every one testifies to the dignity and urbanity of his address, even if at the late carouses with intimates he rather bored the