On the Shores of the Great Sea - M. B. Synge

King of Macedonia

"My son, thou art invincible."


When he was but sixteen years old, Alexander had his first experience of public affairs; for in the summer of this year, 340, Philip set out on an expedition, leaving his young son "in charge of affairs and of the seal." Alexander made better use of his time than his father; for where Philip had failed, his son succeeded beyond all expectation in subduing a restless mountain tribe. His influence now grew rapidly, and the Macedonians murmured already, "Alexander is king."

But a family quarrel arose; hot words passed between Alexander and his father. There was a scene, in which the king sprang on his son with drawn sword; but he fell down before he reached him, and Alexander's taunt has passed into history.

"Here is a man," he cried scornfully, "who has been preparing to cross from Europe into Asia, but he has been upset in crossing from one couch to another."

After this, Alexander and his mother left the country. But not for long. Before the year was out Philip was dead—killed by an assassin—and Alexander was king of Macedonia.

He was surrounded by enemies on all sides. Now, since the days of Socrates, when Athens was at the height of her glory, Greece had suffered greatly from her want of unity. She had been torn by her small wars, and even the common danger of Persia had not brought her union. Now there was another common danger, but the Greeks were slow to realise it. There was one Greek citizen, however, who saw more clearly than the rest, how yearningly the eyes of Philip were turned towards Greece.

"Let the Greeks cease their quarrels with one another and unite to preserve the liberty, which is their birthright, against the despot who seeks to enslave them all."

Such was the cry of Demosthenes, this far-seeing man—the most famous orator Greece ever had. But he cried to the people in vain. Philip came down to Greece, and it was not long before her liberties were crushed and she became a province of Macedonia. Now, Philip was dead, and the Grecian states hoped to shake off the yoke of Macedonia. Demosthenes was seen in the streets of Athens, wearing a garland about his head and dressed in white, as for a holiday, for he knew the enemy of Athens was dead, and he did not know, that Alexander would be a greater conqueror, than his father had been.

The new young King of Macedonia, though full of foreign schemes, first turned his attentions to Greece. He marched south to Corinth. City after city in Greece submitted to the new and powerful King of Macedonia, until with the fall of Thebes, the last Grecian town to hold out, Alexander's campaign in Europe was at an end. The rest of his life was spent in Asia.

The world toward which Alexander had set his face, and which he was now preparing to enter, was the great old world of the East—that world which was great long before Greece and Rome—that world which was being left utterly behind, in the great march of mankind forwards.

The boundary between Asia and Europe has always been a rigid one. It was the same in the days of Alexander as it is to-day. The continents are divided by customs, dress, homes, and faith—differences that thousands of years have never succeeded in altering; for the difference of East and West abides in the very heart of things.

To unite the East and West was the dream of Alexander's life—that is to say, he tried to do what has not been done even to-day. He wanted to conquer the great old world, to teach the men of the East about Greece, to tame the old world and bring it into order. He did not succeed in doing this, but he did succeed in a great deal that he set out to do.