Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, The Life of Alexander

John Allen /
  • Created on 2019-09-09 18:23:00
  • Modified on 2019-09-16 18:03:57
  • Translated by Bernadotte Perrin, John Dryden
  • Aligned by John Allen
English
Ἑλληνική
English
As for the lineage of Alexander , on his father ' s side he was a descendant of Heracles through Caranus , and on his mother ' s side a descendant of Aeacus through Neoptolemus ; this is accepted without any question . And we are told that Philip , after being initiated into the mysteries of Samothrace at the same time with Olympias , he himself being still a youth and she an orphan child , fell in love with her and betrothed himself to her at once with the consent of her brother , Arymbas . Well , then , the night before that on which the marriage was consummated , the bride dreamed that there was a peal of thunder and that a thunder-bolt fell upon her womb , and that thereby much fire was kindled , which broke into flames that travelled all about , and then was extinguished . At a later time , too , after the marriage , Philip dreamed that he was putting a seal upon his wife ' s womb ; and the device of the seal , as he thought , was the figure of a lion . The other seers , now , were led by the vision to suspect that Philip needed to put a closer watch upon his marriage relations ; but Aristander of Telmessus said that the woman was pregnant , since no seal was put upon what was empty , and pregnant of a son whose nature would be bold and lion-like . Moreover , a serpent was once seen lying stretched out by the side of Olympias as she slept , and we are told that this , more than anything else , dulled the ardour of Philip ' s attentions to his wife , so that he no longer came often to sleep by her side , either because he feared that some spells and enchantments might be practised upon him by her , or because he shrank from her embraces in the conviction that she was the partner of a superior being . But concerning these matters there is another story to this effect : all the women of these parts were addicted to the Orphic rites and the orgies of Dionysus from very ancient times ( being called Klodones and Mimallones ) 1 and imitated in many ways the practices of the Edonian women and the Thracian women about Mount Haemus , from whom , as it would seem , the word " threskeuein " 2 came to be applied to the celebration of extravagant and superstitious ceremonies . Now Olympias , who affected these divine possessions more zealously than other women , and carried out these divine inspirations in wilder fashion , used to provide the revelling companies with great tame serpents , which would often lift their heads from out the ivy and the mystic winnowing-baskets , 3 or coil themselves about the wands and garlands of the women , thus terrifying the men .
However , after his vision , as we are told , Philip sent Chaeron of Megalopolis to Delphi , by whom an oracle was brought to him from Apollo , who bade him sacrifice to Ammon and hold that god in greatest reverence , but told him he was to lose that one of his eyes which he had applied to the chink in the door when he espied the god , in the form of a serpent , sharing the couch of his wife . Moreover , Olympias , as Eratosthenes says , when she sent Alexander forth upon his great expedition , told him , and him alone , the secret of his begetting , and bade him have purposes worthy of his birth .
Ἀλέξανδρος ὅτι τῷ γένει πρὸς πατρὸς μὲν ἦν Ἡρακλείδης ἀπὸ Καράνου , πρὸς δὲ μητρὸς Αἰακίδης ἀπὸ Νεοπτολέμου , τῶν πάνυ πεπιστευμένων ἐστί . λέγεται δέ Φίλιππος ἐν θρᾴκῃ τῇ Ὀλυμπιάδι συμμυηθείς αὐτός τε μειράκιον ὢν ἔτι κἀκείνης παιδὸς ὀρφανῆς γονέων ἐρασθῆναι καὶ τὸν γάμον οὕτως ἁρμόσαι , πείσας τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτῆς Ἀρύμβαν . μὲν οὖν νύμφη , πρὸ τῆς νυκτός συνείρχθησαν εἰς τὸν θάλαμον , ἔδοξε βροντῆς γενομένης ἐμπεσεῖν αὐτῆς τῇ γαστρὶ κεραυνόν , ἐκ δὲ τῆς πληγῆς πολὺ πῦρ ἀναφθέν , εἶτα ῥηγνύμενον εἰς φλόγας πάντῃ φερομένας διαλυθῆναι . δὲ Φίλιππος ὑστέρῳ χρόνῳ μετὰ τὸν γάμον εἶδεν ὄναρ αὑτὸν ἐπιβάλλοντα σφραγῖδα τῇ γαστρὶ τῆς γυναικός · δὲ γλυφὴ τῆς σφραγῖδος , ὡς ᾤετο , λέοντος εἶχεν εἰκόνα . τῶν δὲ ἄλλων μάντεων ὑφορωμένων τὴν ὄψιν , ὡς ἀκριβεστέρας φυλακῆς δεομένων τῷ Φιλίππῳ τῶν περὶ τὸν γάμον , Ἀρίστανδρος Τελμησσεὺς κύειν ἔφη τὴν ἄνθρωπον , οὐθὲν γὰρ ἀποσφραγίζεσθαι τῶν κενῶν , καὶ κύειν παῖδα θυμοειδῆ καὶ λεοντώδη τὴν φύσιν . ὤφθη δέ ποτε καὶ δράκων κοιμωμένης τῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος παρεκτεταμένος τῷ σώματι · καὶ τοῦτο μάλιστα τοῦ Φιλίππου τὸν ἔρωτα καὶ τὰς φιλοφροσύνας ἀμαυρῶσαι λέγουσιν , ὡς μηδὲ φοιτᾶν ἔτι πολλάκις παρʼ αὐτὴν ἀναπαυσόμενον , εἴτε δείσαντά τινας μαγείας ἐπʼ αὐτῷ καὶ φάρμακα τῆς γυναικός , εἴτε τὴν ὁμιλίαν ὡς κρείττονι συνούσης ἀφοσιούμενον . ἕτερος δὲ περὶ τούτων ἐστὶ λόγος , ὡς πᾶσαι μὲν αἱ τῇδε γυναῖκες ἔνοχοι τοῖς Ὀρφικοῖς οὖσαι καὶ τοῖς περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον ὀργιασμοῖς ἐκ τοῦ πάνυ παλαιοῦ , Κλώδωνές τε καὶ Μιμαλλόνες ἐπωνυμίαν ἔχουσαι , πολλὰ ταῖς Ἠδωνίσι καὶ ταῖς περὶ τὸν Αἷμον Θρῄσσαις ὅμοια δρῶσιν , ἀφʼ ὧν δοκεῖ καὶ τὸ θρησκεύειν ὄνομα ταῖς κατακόροις γενέσθαι καὶ περιέργοις ἱερουργίαις , δὲ Ὀλυμπιὰς μᾶλλον ἑτέρων ζηλώσασα τὰς κατοχάς καὶ τοὺς ἐνθουσιασμοὺς ἐξάγουσα βαρβαρικώτερον ὄφεις μεγάλους χειροήθεις ἐφείλκετο τοῖς θιάσοις , οἳ πολλάκις ἐκ τοῦ κιττοῦ καὶ τῶν μυστικῶν λίκνων παραναδυόμενοι καὶ περιελιττόμενοι τοῖς θύρσοις τῶν γυναικῶν καὶ τοῖς στεφάνοις ἐξέπληττον τοὺς ἄνδρας . οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ Φιλίππῳ μὲν , μετὰ τὸ φάσμα πέμψαντι Χαίρωνα τὸν Μεγαλοπολίτην εἰς Δελφοὺς , χρησμὸν κομισθῆναι λέγουσι παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ κελεύοντος Ἄμμωνι θύειν καὶ σέβεσθαι μάλιστα τοῦτον τὸν θεόν ἀποβαλεῖν δὲ τῶν ὄψεων αὐτὸν τὴν ἑτέραν , ἣν τῷ τῆς θύρας ἁρμῷ προσβαλών κατώπτευσεν ἐν μορφῇ δράκοντος συνευναζόμενον τῇ γυναικὶ τὸν θεόν . δὲ Ὀλυμπιάς , ὡς Ἐρατοσθένης φησί , προπέμπουσα τὸν Ἀλέξανδρον ἐπὶ τὴν στρατείαν , καὶ φράσασα μόνῳ τὸ περὶ τὴν τέκνωσιν ἀπόρρητον , ἐκέλευεν ἄξια φρονεῖν τῆς γενέσεως , ἕτεροι δέ φασιν αὐτὴν ἀφοσιοῦσθαι καὶ λέγειν οὐ παύσεταί με διαβάλλων Ἀλέξανδρος πρὸς τὴν Ἥραν ; ἐγεννήθη δʼ οὖν Ἀλέξανδρος ἱσταμένου μηνὸς Ἑκατομβαιῶνος , ὃν Μακεδόνες Λῷον καλοῦσιν , ἕκτῃ , καθʼ ἣν ἡμέραν τῆς Ἐφεσίας Ἀρτέμιδος ἐνεπρήσθη νεώς γʼ Ἡγησίας Μάγνης ἐπιπεφώνηκεν ἐπιφώνημα κατασβέσαι τὴν πυρκαϊὰν ἐκείνην ὑπὸ ψυχρίας δυνάμενον εἰκότως γὰρ ἔφη καταφλεχθῆναι τὸν νεών τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος ἀσχολουμένης περὶ τὴν Ἀλεξάνδρου μαίωσιν .
It is agreed on by all hands , that on the father ' s side , Alexander descended from Hercules by Caranus , and from Aeacus by Neoptolemus on the mother ' s side . His father Philip , being in Samothrace , when he was quite young , fell in love there with Olympias , in company with whom he was initiated in the religious ceremonies of the country , and her father and mother being both dead , soon after , with the consent of her brother , Arymbas , he married her . The night before the consummation of their marriage , she dreamed that a thunderbolt fell upon her body , which kindled a great fire , whose divided flames dispersed themselves all about , and then were extinguished . And Philip , some time after he was married , dreamt that he sealed up his wife ' s body with a seal , whose impression , as be fancied , was the figure of a lion . Some of the diviners interpreted this as a warning to Philip to look narrowly to his wife ; but Aristander of Telmessus , considering how unusual it was to seal up anything that was empty , assured him the meaning of his dream was that the queen was with child of a boy , who would one day prove as stout and courageous as a lion . Once , moreover , a serpent was found lying by Olympias as she slept , which more than anything else , it is said , abated Philip ' s passion for her ; and whether he feared her as an enchantress , or thought she had commerce with some god , and so looked on himself as excluded , he was ever after less fond of her conversation . Others say , that the women of this country having always been extremely addicted to the enthusiastic Orphic rites , and the wild worship of Bacchus ( upon which account they were called Clodones , and Mimallones ) , imitated in many things the practices of the Edonian and Thracian women about Mount Haemus , from whom the word threskeuein seems to have been derived , as a special term for superfluous and over-curious forms of adoration ; and that Olympias , zealously , affecting these fanatical and enthusiastic inspirations , to perform them with more barbaric dread , was wont in the dances proper to these ceremonies to have great tame serpents about her , which sometimes creeping out of the ivy in the mystic fans , sometimes winding themselves about the sacred spears , and the women ' s chaplets , made a spectacle which men could not look upon without terror .

Philip , after this vision , sent Chaeron of Megalopolis to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphi , by which he was commanded to perform sacrifice , and henceforth pay particular honour , above all other gods , to Ammon ; and was told he should one day lose that eye with which he presumed to peep through that chink of the door , when he saw the god , under the form of a serpent , in the company of his wife . Eratosthenes says that Olympias , when she attended Alexander on his way to the army in his first expedition , told him the secret of his birth , and bade him behave himself with courage suitable to his divine extraction .

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