Tuesday 5 November 2019

Alexander's Letter to Darius III After the Battle of Issus

Battle of Issus mosaic, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Napoli

After Alexander’s defeat of Darius III at the Battle of Issus which took place on November 5th 333 B.C., Darius wrote a letter to Alexander which offered to surrender half of his empire. Alexander considered this as not enough. The following is likely inauthentic but conveys the general thrust of how Alexander responded.

Your ancestors invaded Macedonia and the rest of Greece and did us harm although we had not done you any previous injury. I have been appointed commander-in-chief of the Greeks and it is with the aim of punishing the Persians that I have crossed into Asia, since you are the aggressors.

You gave support to the people of Perinthus, who had done my father harm, and Ochus sent a force to Thrace, which was done under our rule. My father died at the hands of conspirators instigated by you as you yourself boasted to everyone in your letters, you killed Arses with the help of Bagoas and gained your throne through unjust means, in defiance of Persian custom and doing wrong to the Persians. You sent unfriendly letters to the Greeks about me, to push them to war against me, and sent money to the Spartans and some other Greeks, which none of the other cities would accept apart from the Spartans. Your envoys corrupted my friends and sought to destroy the peace which I established among the Greeks. I therefore led an expedition against you, and you started the quarrel.

But now I have defeated in battle first your generals and satraps, and now you in person and your army, and by the grace of the gods I control the country. All those who fought on your side and did not die in battle but came over to me, I hold myself responsible for them; they are not on my sided under duress but are taking part in the expedition at their own free will.

Approach me therefore as the lord of all Asia. If you are afraid of suffering harm at my hands by coming in person, send some of your friends to receive proper assurances. Come to me to ask and receive your mother, your children and anything else you wish. Whatever you can persuade me to give shall be yours.

In future whenever you communicate with me, send to me as king of Asia; do not write to me as an equal, but state your demands to the master of all your possessions. If not, I shall deal with you as a wrongdoer. If you wish to lay claim to the title of king, then stand your ground and fight for it; you do not take to flight, as I shall pursue you wherever you may be.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

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