Alexander the Great

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It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.
Hugo Black
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Are you still to learn that the end and perfection of our victories is to avoid the vices and infirmities of those whom we subdue?

Alexander III (late July, 356 BC10 June 323 BC) was the Ruler of Macedon, and creator of an empire that included Greece, Persia, Egypt, and many regions beyond them; commonly known as Alexander the Great (in Greek: Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος : Megas Alexandros).

Sourced

What an excellent horse do they lose, for want of address and boldness to manage him!
  • What an excellent horse do they lose, for want of address and boldness to manage him! ... I could manage this horse better than others do.
  • Holy shadows of the dead, I’m not to blame for your cruel and bitter fate, but the accursed rivalry which brought sister nations and brother people, to fight one another. I do not feel happy for this victory of mine. On the contrary, I would be glad, brothers, if I had all of you standing here next to me, since we are united by the same language, the same blood and the same visions.
If I were not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes.
  • If I were not Alexander, I should wish to be Diogenes.
    • After Diogenes of Sinope who was lying in the sun, responded to a query by Alexander asking if he could do anything for him with a reply requesting that he stop blocking his sunlight. As quoted in "On the Fortune of Alexander" by Plutarch, 332 a-b
  • If it were not my purpose to combine barbarian things with things Hellenic (Greek), to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to disseminate and shower the blessings of the Hellenic justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me Diogenes, that I imitate Herakles, and emulate Perseus, and follow in the footsteps of Dionysos, the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorious Hellenes should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage mountain tribes beyond the Kaukasos…
    • As quoted in "On the Fortune of Alexander" by Plutarch, 332 a-b
We of Macedon for generations past have been trained in the hard school of danger and war...
  • Our enemies are Medes and Persians, men who for centuries have lived soft and luxurious lives; we of Macedon for generations past have been trained in the hard school of danger and war. Above all, we are free men, and they are slaves. There are Greek troops, to be sure, in Persian service — but how different is their cause from ours! They will be fighting for pay — and not much of at that; we, on the contrary, shall fight for Greece, and our hearts will be in it. As for our foreign troops — Thracians, Paeonians, Illyrians, Agrianes — they are the best and stoutest soldiers in Europe, and they will find as their opponents the slackest and softest of the tribes of Asia. And what, finally, of the two men in supreme command? You have Alexander, they — Darius!
    • Addressing his troops prior to the Battle of Issus, as quoted in Anabasis Alexandri by Arrian Book II, 7
  • Your ancestors came to Macedonia and the rest of Hellas (Greece) and did us great harm, though we had done them no prior injury. I have been appointed leader of the Greeks, and wanting to punish the Persians I have come to Asia, which I took from you...
    • Alexander's letter to Persian king Darius in response to a truce plea, as quoted in Anabasis Alexandri by Arrian; translated as Anabasis of Alexander by P. A. Brunt, for the "Loeb Edition" Book II 14, 4
  • So would I, if I were Parmenion.
    • After Parmenion suggested to him after the Battle of Issus that he should accept Darius III of Persia's offer of an alliance, the hand of his daughter in marriage, and all Minor Asia, saying "If I were Alexander, I would accept the terms." (Variant translation: I would accept it if I were Alexander.) As quoted in Lives by Plutarch
    • Variants: I too, if I were Paremenio. But I am Alexander.
      So would I, if I were Parmenion.
      So should I, if I were Parmenion.
      So should I, if I were Parmenion: but as I am Alexander, I cannot.
      I would do it if I was Parmenion, but I am Alexander.
      If I were Parmenion, that is what I would do. But I am Alexander and so will answer in another way.
      So would I, if I were Parmenion, but I am Alexander, so I will send Darius a different answer.
      If I were Perdicas, I shall not fail to tell you, I would have endorsed this arrangement at once, but I am Alexander, and I shall not do it. (as quoted from medieval French romances in The Medieval French Alexander (2002) by Donald Maddox and Sara Sturm-Maddox, p. 81)
  • Youths of the Pellaians and of the Macedonians and of the Hellenic Amphictiony and of the Lakedaimonians and of the Corinthians… and of all the Hellenic peoples, join your fellow-soldiers and entrust yourselves to me, so that we can move against the barbarians and liberate ourselves from the Persian bondage, for as Greeks we should not be slaves to barbarians.
  • Now you fear punishment and beg for your lives, so I will let you free, if not for any other reason so that you can see the difference between a Greek king and a barbarian tyrant, so do not expect to suffer any harm from me. A king does not kill messengers.
  • Are you still to learn that the end and perfection of our victories is to avoid the vices and infirmities of those whom we subdue?
    • As quoted in Lives by Plutarch, as translated by Arthur Hugh Clough
  • To the strongest!
    • After being asked, by his generals on his deathbed, who was to succeed him. It has been speculated that his voice may have been indistinct and that he may have said "Krateros" (the name of one of his generals), but Krateros was not around, and the others may have chosen to hear "Kratistos" — the strongest. As quoted in The Mask of Jove: a history of Graeco-Roman civilization from the death of Alexander to the death of Constantine (1966) by Stringfellow Barr, p. 6

Disputed

  • An army of sheep led by a lion is better than an army of lions led by a sheep.
    • Attributed to Alexander, as quoted in The British Battle Fleet: Its Inception and Growth Throughout the Centuries to the Present Day (1915) by Frederick Thomas Jane, but many variants of this statement exist and have been attributed to others, though in research done for Wikiquote definite citations of original documents have not yet been found for any of them:
    • An army of sheep led by a lion are more to be feared than an army of lions led by a sheep.
      • Attributed to Chabrias, who died around the time Alexander was born.
    • It is better to have sheep led by a lion than lions led by a sheep.
      • Attributed to Polybius in Between Spenser and Swift: English Writing in Seventeenth Century Ireland (2005) by Deana Rankin, p. 124, citing A Contemporary History of Affairs in Ireland, from 1641 to 1652 (1880) by John Thomas Gilbert Vol. I, i, p. 153 - 157; but conceivably this might be reference to Polybius the historian quoting either Alexander or Chabrias.
    • An army composed of sheep but led by a lion is more powerful than an army of lions led by a sheep.
      • "Proverb" quoted by Agostino Nifo in De Regnandi Peritia (1523) as cited in Machiavelli - The First Century: Studies in Enthusiasm, Hostility, and Irrelevance (2005) by Mathew Thomson, p. 55
    • Greater is an army of sheep led by a lion, than an army of lions led by a sheep.
    • I am more afraid of one hundred sheep led by a lion than one hundred lions led by a sheep.
      • Attributed to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754 – 1838) Variants: I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.
        I am not afraid of an army of one hundred lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of army of 100 sheeps led by a lion.
    • Variants quoted as an anonymous proverb: Better a herd of sheep led by a lion than a herd of lions led by a sheep.
      A flock of sheep led by a lion was more powerful than a flock of lions led by a sheep.
      An army of sheep led by a lion would defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
      It were better to have an army of sheep led by a lion than an army of lions led by a sheep.
      An army of sheep led by a lion, will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
      An army of sheep led by a lion would be superior to an army of lions led by a sheep.
      Unsourced attribution to Alexander: I would not fear a pack of lions led by a sheep, but I would always fear a flock of sheep led by a lion.
    • As one lion overcomes many people and as one wolf scatters many sheep, so likewise will I, with one word, destroy the peoples who have come against me.
      • This slightly similar statement is the only quote relating to lions in The History of Alexander the Great, Being the Syriac Version of the Pseudo-Callisthenes (1889) as translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, but it is attributed to Nectanebus (Nectanebo II).
  • There are no more other worlds to conquer!
    • Attributed as his "last words" at a few sites on the internet, but in no published sources.

Unsourced

  • I do not steal victory
  • I consider not what Parmenion should receive, but what Alexander should give.
  • Nothing is impossible, to him who will try.
  • Only sex and sleep make me conscious that I am mortal. - Quoted in Robin Lane Fox's study 'Alexander the Great'.

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