Alexander's Campaign > Winter of 334 BCE

Winter of 334 BCE

Alexander the Great - Dove Decoration

Background

When the winter came on, Alexander and his army were about three or four hundred miles from home; and, as he did not intend to advance much farther until the spring should open, he announced to the army that all those persons, both officers and soldiers who had been married within the year, might go home if they chose, and spend the winter with their brides, and return to the army in the spring. No doubt this was an admirable stroke of policy; for, as the number could not be large, their absence could not materially weaken his force, and they would, of course, fill all Greece with tales of Alexander's energy and courage, and of the nobleness and generosity of his character. It was the most effectual way possible of disseminating through Europe the most brilliant accounts of what he had already done.

Besides, it must have awakened a new bond of sympathy and fellow-feeling between himself and his soldiers, and greatly increased the attachment to him felt both by those who went and those who remained. And though Alexander must have been aware of all these advantages of the act, still no one could have thought of or adopted such a plan unless he was accustomed to consider and regard, in his dealings with others, the feelings and affections of the heart, and to cherish a warm sympathy for them. The bridegroom soldiers, full of exultation and pleasure, set forth on their return to Greece, in a detachment under the charge of three generals, themselves bridegrooms too.

Alexander, however, had no idea of remaining idle during the winter. He marched on from province to province, and from city to city, meeting with every variety of adventures. He went first along the southern coast, until at length he came to a place where a mountain chain, called Taurus, comes down to the sea-coast, where it terminates abruptly in cliffs and precipices, leaving only a narrow beach between them and the water below. This beach was sometimes covered and sometimes bare. It is true, there is very little tide in the Mediterranean, but the level of the water along the shores is altered considerably by the long-continued pressure exerted in one direction or another by winds and storms. The water was up when Alexander reached this pass; still he determined to march his army through it. There was another way, back among the mountains, but Alexander seemed disposed to gratify the love of adventure which his army felt, by introducing them to a novel scene of danger. They accordingly defiled along under these cliffs, marching, as they say, sometimes up to the waist in water, the swell rolling in upon them all the time from the offing.

Having at length succeeded in passing safely round this frowning buttress of the mountains, Alexander turned northward, and advanced into the very heart of Asia Minor. In doing this he had to pass over the range which he had come round before; and, as it was winter, his army were, for a time, enveloped in snows and storms among the wild and frightful defiles. They had here, in addition to the dangers and hardships of the way and of the season, to encounter the hostility of their foes, as the tribes who inhabited these mountains assembled to dispute the passage. Alexander was victorious, and reached a valley through which there flows a river which has handed down its name to the English language and literature. This river was the Meander. Its beautiful windings through verdant and fertile valleys were so renowned, that every stream which imitates its example is said to meander to the present day.

Alexander's Campaign

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