Alexander's Execution of His Trusted General Parmenion Term Paper

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Alexander's execution of his trusted general Parmenion and his son Philotas, and how it affected the remainder of Alexander's life, and his reign.


Alexander the Great was born sometime around July 20th, in 356 B.C., the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, in Pella. As a child, the great philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, tutored him. His father was murdered in 336 B.C., and Alexander took the throne at the young age of twenty. He was one of the greatest conquerors in history, taking over Greece, Persia, Egypt, and part of India before he died. "He was not yet twenty-six. In six years he had won greater victories than any hero in Greek history had won in a lifetime, and he had done it, at several turning-points, in the teeth of all advice from his generals and Companions" (Burn 175).

He considered himself a relative of the god Hercules, and insisted that the residents of his vast realm must prostrate themselves before him. His affinity for Hercules was understandable, since "Hercules was, first, the son of Zeus, yet he also was a mortal who became a god. Creating a parallel to the life of Hercules would further strengthen Alexander's claim to be divine" (Untereker, Kossuth, and Kelsey). Alexander died of a fever on June 10, 323 B.C., in Babylon. He was only thirty-three years old when he died, and much speculation has been made that his enemies poisoned him with wine.

Alexander was driven to launch his Asian campaigns by his firm belief that he was invincible and godlike. His family was thought to be descended from Hercules, and Alexander often emulated him as well as his personal hero, Achilles. Throughout his life, Alexander was encouraged by favorable omens and miracles that his diviners interpreted for him" (Untereker, Kossuth, and Kelsey).

First and foremost, Alexander was a soldier. His father had spent considerable time building up the Macedonian army and its defenses, and Alexander used their readiness to begin his campaign to take over the Persian Empire. One of the most important events that happened during Alexander's campaign was the execution of one of his trusted generals, and his son. Parmenion, the general, was not implicated along with his son in a plot against Alexander, but even though he was his greatest general, Alexander also executed him. This callousness created even more dissatisfaction and unrest among his soldiers, and may have eventually led to his premature death.

He was now in the regions beyond the Oxus River (the present-day Amu Darya), and his men were beginning to show dissatisfaction. In 330 a conspiracy against Alexander was said to implicate the son of one of his generals, Parmenion; Alexander not only executed the son but also put the innocent Parmenion to death. This act and other instances of his harshness further alienated the soldiers, who disliked Alexander's assuming Persian dress and the manner of a despot (Editors).

In reality, the son, Philotas, was not involved in a plot against Alexander, but he learned of it, and did not report it to his leader. Alexander tried him and tortured him, then had him put to death. "The damning fact was that Philotas had heard of a plot against the King's life and had said nothing about it for two days, though, as commander of the horseguards, he saw the King regularly, twice a day" (Burn 181). Now, Alexander was afraid of other security leaks, and took a long look at Parmenion, and his involvement in the affair. "There remained Parmenion. In two reigns he had always been the soul of loyalty, and he had already lost two sons in Alexander's war; but Alexander was not the man to let old services weigh against policy. In accordance with the old, savage Macedonian practice of killing the kindred in high-treason cases, he decided at once that Parmenion must die" (Burn 183).

Later the same year, Parmenion was murdered by the messengers who Alexander sent to find him, and his troops revolted. They did not believe their general had been killed for treason, as they were officially told. Alexander recognized their danger, and had them split out into a new battalion, far away from the other troops. They continued to fight for him, "...and such was his hold over his troops that they continued in this unit to serve him faithfully throughout his days. He also divided the horse-guards into two regiments, under H. phaistion and Kleitos. Even his dearest friend should never be trusted in command of the whole of that great cavalry brigade again" (Burn 184).

Alexander continued to fight and conquer empires almost until his death in 323 B.C. As his troops gained plunder and lands for their king, they enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, but began to resent Alexander's distancing himself from his people. He began to wear Persian clothing, which many of his subjects resented. "The Macedonians felt that their King was moving away from them, and resented it" (Burn 176). After this, there always seemed to be tension between the Macedonians and their leader. They did not quite trust him, and he did not quite trust anyone else.

His soldiers were also tired of fighting, and wanted to return home. When he told them they would instead be again be marching toward a new enemy, Bessos in Bactria, they were unhappy and dissatisfied. After Bessos, they began a long march through India, and won several decisive battles. However, they were fed up with fighting, and finally simply refused to go on.

On the banks of the Beas that autumn, the army refused to go farther. The men gathered about the camp in groups talking gloomily, and falling silent if Alexander came near. Alexander called a conference of all officers. He wished, he said, to go on with a willing army, or not at all. He spoke much of glory -- which shows how far out of touch with the inmost feelings of his men he now was. He said there was not much land left to conquer -- "one more river"; the Ganges led to the outer sea -- and argued, as four years before in Iran, that to draw back with the work half done would invite rebellions, supported by the unconquered peoples. "I hold," he said, "that for a brave man there is no end of labour except the labours themselves." Finally he invited observations from any officer present

The officers did not speak at first, and then one rose to speak for the men who had been fighting for eight long years. They wanted to see their families, and enjoy the spoils and riches of their conquests. They were tired, and simply could not go on. The other officers applauded, but Alexander was angry, and dismissed them from his sight. The next day he said he was continuing on, but only with men who wished to join him. He then shut himself in his tent for three days, waiting for a change of heart from the men, but it did not come. "But the camp remained in gloomy silence, the men troubled that Alexander was angry, but showing no intention of changing their minds" (Burn 221).

Alexander decided to begin the long journey home. As they traveled down the Jhelum River, they encountered more resistance, and fought several major battles. It was during one of these battles, at a citadel in Malloi, that Alexander was wounded in the lung, which also may have contributed to his early death. "Then Alexander was struck by a heavy arrow, clean through the breastplate into his lung. He still stood for a while, arterial blood and bubbles oozing round the shaft; then, dizzy and fainting, sank slowly down between his shield and the wall" (Burn 225). For several days, he was on the brink of death, and incredibly, Alexander had never appointed a second in command, so his troops were without a leader.

More soberly, one cannot but reflect that this is the most crushing evidence of Alexander's irresponsibility. His ideals were purely self-centred. It gave him pleasure and served his great purpose--fame -- to be munificent to his friends, attentive to his wounded, generous on occasion to a brave and attractive enemy; but his lifelong lack of interest in the succession, especially in view of his own recklessness, shows an utter carelessness of what happened to Asia, Greece or Macedon once he was gone (Burn 80).

Alexander did recover, and began the rest of the long journey back to Macedonia, which took nearly a year. When he finally arrived home, he found the government he had left in his absence had been corrupt and ruled by extortion. He had two of the top leaders put to death, which seemed to appease the people.

In June 323 B.C., Alexander attended a dinner with a friend, M dios, and the next day complained of a fever. He suffered with this fever for several days, and it…

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