The climax was reached in about seventy years more. When these had passed into history, so had also the Persian Empire, and the East, as the Greeks had conceived it thus far and we have understood it, was subject to the European race which a century and a half before it had tried to subdue in Europe itself. To this race (and to the historian also) "the East," as a geographical term, standing equally for a spatial area and for a social idea, has ceased to mean what it once meant: and the change would be lasting. It is true that the East did not cease to be distinguished as such; for it would gradually shake itself free again, not only from control by the West, but from the influence of the latter's social ideas. Nevertheless, since the Western men, when they went back to their own land, had brought the East into the world known to them--into a circle of lands accepted as the dwelling of civilized man--the date of Alexander's overthrow of the Persian Empire makes an epoch which divides universal history as hardly any other divides it. Dramatic as the final catastrophe would be, it will not surprise us when it comes, nor did it, as a matter of fact, surprise the generation which witnessed it. The romantic conception of Alexander, as a little David who dared a huge Goliath, ignores the facts of previous history, and would have occurred to no contemporary who had read the signs of the times. The Eastern colossus had been dwindling so fast for nearly a century that a Macedonian king, who had already subdued the Balkan peninsula, loomed at least as large in the world's eye, when he crossed the Hellespont, as the titular Emperor of contumacious satraps and ever-rebelling provinces of western Asia. To accept this view we have only to look back over seventy years since that march of Ten Thousand Greeks, with which our last survey closed.
SECTION 1. PERSIA AND ITS PROVINCES Before the expedition of Cyrus there may have been, and evidently were, enough seeds of corruption in the state of Persia; but they had not become known by their fruits. No satrap for a century past had tried to detach himself and his province from the Empire; hardly a subject people had attempted to re-assert its independence. There were, indeed, two exceptions, both of them peoples which had never identified themselves at any time with the fortunes of their alien masters. One of these was, of course, the Asiatic Greek, the other was the Egyptian people; but the contumacy of the first threatened a danger not yet realized by Asia; the rebellious spirit of the last concerned, as yet, itself alone. It was Egypt, however, which really gave the first warning of Persian dissolution. The weakest spot in the Assyrian Empire proved weakest in the Persian. The natural barriers of desert, swamp and sea, set between Egypt and the neighbouring continent, are so strong that no Asiatic Power, which has been tempted to conquer the rich Nile valley, has ever been able to keep it long. Under its own leaders or some rebellious officer of its new masters it has reasserted independence sooner or later, and all history is witness that no one, whether in Asia or in Europe, holds Egypt as a foreign province unless he holds also the sea. During the century which had elapsed since Cambyses' conquest the Egyptians had rebelled more than once (most persistently about 460), calling in the sea-lords to their help on each occasion. Finally, just before the death of Darius Nothus, and some five years before Cyrus left Sardes, they rose again under an Egyptian, and thereafter, for about sixty years, not the kings of Susa, but three native dynasties in succession, were to rule Egypt. The harm done to the Persian Empire by this defection was not measured by the mere loss of the revenues of a province. The new kings of Egypt, who owed much to Greek support, repaid this by helping every enemy of the Great King and every rebel against his authority. It was they who gave asylum to the admiral and fleet of Cyrus after Cunaxa, and sent corn to Agesilaus when he invaded Asia Minor; they supplied money and ships to the Spartan fleet in 394, and helped Evagoras of Cyprus in a long resistance to his suzerain. When Tyre and the cities of the Cilician coast revolted in 380, Egypt was privy to their designs, and she made common cause with the satraps and governors of Western Asia, Syria and Phoenicia when, in combination, they planned rebellion in 373 to the grave peril of the Empire. Twelve years later we find an Egyptian king marching in person to raise Phoenicia. The Persian made more than one effort to recover his province. After conspicuous failure with his own generals Artaxerxes adopted tardily the course which Clearchus, captain of the Ten Thousand, is said to have advised after the battle of Cunaxa, and tried his fortune once more with Greek _condottieri_, only to find Greek generals and Greek mercenaries arrayed against them. It had come to this, that the Persian king and his revolted province equally depended on mercenary swords, neither daring to meet Greek except with Greek. Well had the lesson of the march of the Ten Thousand been read, marked and digested in the East!
SECTION 2. PERSIA AND THE WEST It had been marked in the West as well, and its fruits were patent within five years. The dominant Greek state of the hour, avowing an ambition which no Greek had betrayed before, sent its king, Agesilaus, across to Asia Minor to follow up the establishment of Spartan hegemony on the coasts by an invasion of inland Persia. He never penetrated farther than about half-way up the Maeander Valley, and did Persia no harm worth speaking of; for he was not the leader, nor had he the resources in men and in money, to carry through so distant and doubtful an adventure. But Agesilaus' campaigning in Asia Minor between 397 and 394 has this historical significance: it demonstrates that Greeks had come to regard a march on Susa as feasible and desirable. It was not, however, in fact feasible even then. Apart from the lack of a military force in any one state of Greece large enough, sufficiently trained, and led by a leader of the necessary magnetism and genius for organization, to undertake, unaided by allies on the way, a successful march to a point many months distant from its base--apart from this deficiency, the Empire to be conquered had not yet been really shaken. The Ten Thousand Greeks would in all likelihood never have got under Clearchus to Cunaxa or anywhere within hundreds of miles of it, but for the fact that Cyrus was with them and the adherents of his rising star were supplying their wants and had cleared a road for them through Asia Minor and Syria. In their Retreat they were desperate men, of whom the Great King was glad to be quit. The successful accomplishment of that retreat must not blind us to the almost certain failure which would have befallen the advance had it been attempted under like conditions.
SECTION 3. THE SATRAPS What, ultimately, was to reduce the Persian Empire to such weakness that a Western power would be able to strike at its heart with little more than forty thousand men, was the disease of disloyalty which spread among the great officers during the first half of the fourth century. Before Cyrus' expedition we have not heard of either satraps or client provinces raising the standard of revolt (except in Egypt), since the Empire had been well established; and if there was evident collusion with that expedition on the part of provincial officers in Asia Minor and Syria, the fact has little political significance, seeing that Cyrus was a scion of the royal House, and the favourite of the Queen-Mother. But the fourth century is hardly well begun before we find satraps and princes aiding the king's enemies and fighting for their own hand against him or a rival officer. Agesilaus was helped in Asia Minor both by the prince of Paphlagonia and by a Persian noble. Twenty years later Ariobarzanes of Pontus rises in revolt; and hard on his defection follows a great rebellion planned by the satraps of Caria, Ionia, Lydia, Phrygia and Cappadocia--nearly all Asia Minor in fact--in concert with coastal cities of Syria and Phoenicia. Another ten years pass and new governors of Mysia and Lydia rise against their king with the help of the Egyptians and Mausolus, client prince of Halicarnassus. Treachery or lack of resources and stability brought these rebels one after another to disaster; but an Empire whose great officers so often dare such adventures is drawing apace to its catastrophe. The causes of this growing disaffection among the satraps are not far to seek. At the close of the last chapter we remarked the deterioration of the harem-ridden court in the early days of Artaxerxes; and as time passed, the spectacle of a Great King governing by treachery, buying his enemies, and impotent to recover Egypt even with their mercenary help had its effect. Belief gained ground that the ship of Empire was sinking, and even in Susa the fear grew that a wind from the West was to finish her. The Great King's court officers watched Greek politics during the first seventy years of the fourth century with ever closer attention. Not content with enrolling as many Greeks as possible in the royal service, they used the royal gold to such effect to buy or support Greek politicians whose influence could be directed to hindering a union of Greek states and checking the rising power of any unit, that a Greek orator said in a famous passage that the archers stamped on the Great King's coins were already a greater danger to Greece than his real archers had ever been. By such lavish corruption, by buying the soldiers and the politicians of the enemy, a better face was put for a while on the fortunes of the dynasty and the Empire. Before the death of the aged Artaxerxes Mnemon in 358, the revolt of the Western satraps had collapsed. His successor, Ochus, who, to reach the throne, murdered his kin like any eighteenth-century sultan of Stambul, overcame Egyptian obstinacy about 346, after two abortive attempts, by means of hireling Greek troops, and by similar vicarious help he recovered Sidon and the Isle of Cyprus. But it was little more than the dying flicker of a flame fanned for the moment by that same Western wind which was already blowing up to the gale that would extinguish it. The heart of the Empire was not less rotten because its shell was patched, and in the event, when the storm broke a few years later, nothing in West Asia was able to make any stand except two or three maritime cities, which fought, not for Persia, but for their own commercial monopolies.
SECTION 4. MACEDONIA The storm had been gathering on the Western horizon for some time past. Twenty years earlier there had come to the throne of Macedonia a man of singular constructive ability and most definite ambition. His heritage--or rather his prize, for he was not next of kin to his predecessor--was the central southern part of the Balkan peninsula, a region of broad fat plains fringed and crossed by rough hills. It was inhabited by sturdy gentry and peasantry and by agile highlanders, all composed of the same racial elements as the Greeks, with perhaps a preponderant infusion of northern blood which had come south long ago with emigrants from the Danubian lands. The social development of the Macedonians--to give various peoples one generic name--had, for certain reasons, not been nearly so rapid as that of their southern cousins. They had never come in contact with the higher Aegean civilization, nor had they mixed their blood with that of cultivated predecessors; their land was continental, poor in harbours, remote from the luxurious centres of life, and of comparatively rigorous climate; its configuration had offered them no inducement to form city-states and enter on intense political life. But, in compensation, they entered the fourth century unexhausted, without tribal or political impediments to unity, and with a broad territory of greater natural resources than any southern Greek state. Macedonia could supply itself with the best cereal foods and to spare, and had unexploited veins of gold ore. But the most important thing to remark is this--that, compared with Greece, Macedonia was a region of Central Europe. In the latter's progress to imperial power we shall watch for the first time in recorded history a continental European folk bearing down peninsular populations of the Mediterranean. Philip of Macedon, who had been trained in the arts of both war and peace in a Greek city, saw the weakness of the divided Hellenes, and the possible strength of his own people, and he set to work from the first with abounding energy, dogged persistence and immense talent for organization to make a single armed nation, which should be more than a match for the many communities of Hellas. How he accomplished his purpose in about twenty years: how he began by opening mines of precious metal on his south-eastern coast, and with the proceeds hired mercenaries: how he had Macedonian peasants drilled to fight in a phalanx formation more mobile than the Theban and with a longer spear, while the gentry were trained as heavy cavalry: how he made experiments with his new soldiers on the inland tribes, and so enlarged his effective dominions that he was able to marshal henceforward far more than his own Emathian clansmen: how for six years he perfected this national army till it was as professional a fighting machine as any condottiere's band of that day, while at the same time larger and of much better temper: how, when it was ready in the spring of the year 353, he began a fifteen years' war of encroachment on the holdings of the Greek states and particularly of Athens, attacking some of her maritime colonies in Macedonia and Thrace: how, after a campaign in inland Thrace and on the Chersonese, he appeared in Greece, where he pushed at last through Thermopylae: how, again, he withdrew for several seasons into the Balkan Peninsula, raided it from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, and ended with an attack on the last and greatest of its free Greek coastal cities, Perinthus and Byzantium: how, finally, in 338, coming south in full force, he crushed in the single battle of Chaeronea the two considerable powers of Greece, Athens and Thebes, and secured at last from every Greek state except Sparta (which he could afford to neglect) recognition of his suzerainty--these stages in Philip's making of a European nation and a European empire must not be described more fully here. What concerns us is the end of it all; for the end was the arraying of that new nation and that new empire for a descent on Asia. A year after Chaeronea Philip was named by the Congress of Corinth Captain-General of all Greeks to wreak the secular vengeance of Hellas on Persia. How long he had consciously destined his fighting machine to an ultimate invasion of Asia we do not know. The Athenians had explicitly stated to the Great King in 341 that such was the Macedonian's ambition, and four years earlier public suggestion of it had been made by the famous orator, Isocrates, in an open letter written to Philip himself. Since the last named was a man of long sight and sustained purpose, it is not impossible that he had conceived such an ambition in youth and had been cherishing it all along. While Philip was in Thebes as a young man, old Agesilaus, who first of Greeks had conceived the idea of invading the inland East, was still seeking a way to realize his oft-frustrated project; and in the end he went off to Egypt to make a last effort after Philip was already on the throne. The idea had certainly been long in the air that any military power which might dominate Hellas would be bound primarily by self-interest and secondarily by racial duty to turn its arms against Asia. The Great King himself knew this as well as any one. After the Athenian warning in 341, his satraps in the north-west of Asia Minor were bidden assist Philip's enemies in every possible way; and it was thanks in no small measure to their help, that the Byzantines repulsed the Macedonians from their walls in 339. Philip had already made friends of the princely house of Caria, and was now at pains to secure a footing in north-west Asia Minor. He threw, therefore, an advance column across the Dardanelles under his chief lieutenant, Parmenio, and proposed to follow it in the autumn of the year 336 with a Grand Army which he had been recruiting, training and equipping for a twelvemonth. The day of festival which should inaugurate his great venture arrived; but the venture was not to be his. As he issued from his tent to attend the games he fell by the hand of a private enemy; and his young son, Alexander, had at first enough to do to re-establish a throne which proved to have more foes than friends.
SECTION 5. ALEXANDER'S CONQUEST OF THE EAST A year and a half later Alexander's friends and foes knew that a greater soldier and empire-maker than Philip ruled in his stead, and that the father's plan of Asiatic conquest would suffer nothing at the hands of the son. The neighbours of Macedonia as far as the Danube and all the states of the Greek peninsula had been cowed to submission again in one swift and decisive campaign. The States-General of Greece, re-convoked at Corinth, confirmed Philip's son in the Captain-Generalship of Hellas, and Parmenio, once more despatched to Asia, secured the farther shore of the Hellespont. With about forty thousand seasoned horse and foot, and with auxiliary services unusually efficient for the age, Alexander crossed to Persian soil in the spring of 334. There was no other army in Asia Minor to offer him battle in form than a force about equal in numbers to his own, which had been collected locally by the western satraps. Except for its contingent of Greek mercenaries, this was much inferior to the Macedonian force in fighting value. Fended by Parmenio from the Hellespontine shore, it did the best it could by waiting on the farther bank of the Granicus, the nearest considerable stream which enters the Marmora, in order either to draw Alexander's attack, or to cut his communications, should he move on into the continent. It did not wait long. The heavy Macedonian cavalry dashed through the stream late on an afternoon, made short work of the Asiatic constituents, and having cleared a way for the phalanx helped it to cut up the Greek contingent almost to a man before night fell. Alexander was left with nothing but city defences and hill tribes to deal with till a fuller levy could be collected from other provinces of the Persian Empire and brought down to the west, a process which would take many months, and in fact did take a full year. But some of the Western cities offered no small impediment to his progress. If Aeolia, Lydia and Ionia made no resistance worth mentioning, the two chief cities of Caria, Miletus and Halicarnassus, which had been enjoying in virtual freedom a lion's share of Aegean trade for the past century, were not disposed to become appanages of a military empire. The pretension of Alexander to lead a crusade against the ancient oppressor of the Hellenic race weighed neither with them, nor, for that matter, with any of the Greeks in Asia or Europe, except a few enthusiasts. During the past seventy years, ever since celebrations of the deliverance of Hellas from the Persian had been replaced by aspirations towards counter invasion, the desire to wreak holy vengeance had gone for little or nothing, but desire to plunder Persia had gone for a great deal. Therefore, any definite venture into Asia aroused envy, not enthusiasm, among those who would be forestalled by its success. Neither with ships nor men had any leading Greek state come forward to help Alexander, and by the time he had taken Miletus he realized that he must play his game alone, with his own people for his own ends. Thenceforward, neglecting the Greeks, he postponed his march into the heart of the Persian Empire till he had secured every avenue leading thither from the sea, whether through Asia Minor or Syria or Egypt. After reducing Halicarnassus and Caria, Alexander did no more in Asia Minor than parade the western part of it, the better to secure the footing he had gained in the continent. Here and there he had a brush with hill-men, who had long been unused to effective control, while with one or two of their towns he had to make terms; but on the approach of winter, Anatolia was at his feet, and he seated himself at Gordion, in the Sakaria valley, where he could at once guard his communications with the Hellespont and prepare for advance into farther Asia by an easy road. Eastern Asia Minor, that is Cappadocia, Pontus and Armenia, he left alone, and its contingents would still be arrayed on the Persian side in both the great battles to come. Certain northern districts also, which had long been practically independent of Persia, e.g. Bithynia and Paphlagonia, had not been touched yet. It was not worth his while at that moment to spend time in fighting for lands which would fall in any case if the Empire fell, and could easily be held in check from western Asia Minor in the meantime. His goal was far inland, his danger he well knew, on the sea--danger of possible co-operation between Greek fleets and the greater coastal cities of the Aegean and the Levant. Therefore, with the first of the spring he moved down into Cilicia to make the ports of Syria and Egypt his, before striking at the heart of the Empire. The Great King, last and weakest of the Darius name, had realized the greatness of his peril and come down with the levy of all the Empire to try to crush the invader in the gate of the south lands. Letting his foe pass round the angle of the Levant coast, Darius, who had been waiting behind the screen of Amanus, slipped through the hills and cut off the Macedonian's retreat in the defile of Issus between mountain and sea. Against another general and less seasoned troops a compact and disciplined Oriental force would probably have ended the invasion there and then; but that of Darius was neither compact nor disciplined. The narrowness of the field compressed it into a mob; and Alexander and his men, facing about, saw the Persians delivered into their hand. The fight lasted little longer than at Granicus and the result was as decisive a butchery. Camp, baggage-train, the royal harem, letters from Greek states, and the persons of Greek envoys sent to devise the destruction of the Captain-General--all fell to Alexander. Assured against meeting another levy of the Empire for at least a twelvemonth, he moved on into Syria. In this narrow land his chief business, as we have seen, was with the coast towns. He must have all the ports in his hand before going up into Asia. The lesser dared not gainsay the victorious phalanx; but the queen of them all, Tyre, mistress of the eastern trade, shut the gates of her island citadel and set the western intruder the hardest military task of his life. But the capture of the chief base of the hostile fleets which still ranged the Aegean was all essential to Alexander, and he bridged the sea to effect it. One other city, Gaza, commanding the road to Egypt, showed the same spirit with less resources, and the year was far spent before the Macedonians appeared on the Nile to receive the ready submission of a people which had never willingly served the Persian. Here again, Alexander's chief solicitude was for the coasts. Independent Cyrene, lying farthest west, was one remaining danger and the openness of the Nile mouths another. The first danger dissolved with the submission, which Cyrene sent to meet him as he moved into Marmarica to the attack; the second was conjured by the creation of the port of Alexandria, perhaps the most signal act of Alexander's life, seeing to what stature the city would grow, what part play in the development of Greek and Jew, and what vigour retain to this day. For the moment, however, the new foundation served primarily to rivet its founder's hold on the shores of the Greek and Persian waters. Within a few months the hostile fleets disappeared from the Levant and Alexander obtained at last that command of the sea without which invasion of inner Asia would have been more than perilous, and permanent retention of Egypt impossible. Thus secure of his base, he could strike inland. He went up slowly in the early part of 331 by the traditional North Road through Philistia and Palestine and round the head of the Syrian Hamad to Thapsacus on Euphrates, paying, on the way, a visit of precaution to Tyre, which had cost him so much toil and time a year before. None opposed his crossing of the Great River; none stayed him in Mesopotamia; none disputed his passage of the Tigris, though the ferrying of his force took five days. The Great King himself, however, was lying a few marches south of the mounds of Nineveh, in the plain of Gaugamela, to which roads converging from south, east and north had brought the levies of all the empire which remained to him. To hordes drawn from fighting tribes living as far distant as frontiers of India, banks of the Oxus, and foothills of the Caucasus, was added a phalanx of hireling Greeks more than three times as numerous as that which had been cut up on the Granicus. Thus awaited by ten soldiers to each one of his own on open ground chosen by his enemy, Alexander went still more slowly forward and halted four and twenty hours to breathe his army in sight of the Persian out posts. Refusing to risk an attack on that immense host in the dark, he slept soundly within his entrenchments till sunrise of the first day of October, and then in the full light led out his men to decide the fate of Persia. It was decided by sundown, and half a million broken men were flying south and east into the gathering night. But the Battle of Arbela, as it is commonly called--the greatest contest of armies before the rise of Rome--had not been lightly won. The active resistance of the Greek mercenaries, and the passive resistance of the enormous mass of the Asiatic hordes, which stayed attack by mere weight of flesh and closed again behind every penetrating column, made the issue doubtful, till Darius himself, terrified at the oncoming of the heavy Macedonian cavalry, turned his chariot and lost the day. Alexander's men had to thank the steadiness which Philip's system had given them, but also, in the last resort, the cowardice of the opposing chief. The Persian King survived to be hunted a year later, and caught, a dying man, on the road to Central Asia; but long before that and without another pitched battle the Persian throne had passed to Alexander. Within six months he had marched to and entered in turn, without other let or hindrance than resistance of mountain tribesmen in the passes, the capitals of the Empire--Babylon, Susa, Persepolis, Ecbatana; and since these cities all held by him during his subsequent absence of six years in farther Asia, the victory of the West over the Ancient East may be regarded as achieved on the day of Arbela.