8 Dystros


We march. On the way, my horse grows violently impatient to gallop, and I give him his head. I ride ahead, reconnoitering the land, and taking space from the army and its dust. As concession to Parmenion,. I now have a dozen guard, young and powerful, made up of the hypaspists, to follow me at all times. I made sure Parmenion was sent a message at the front of his column that I ride guarded each moment now. I gnashed my teeth over this; yet obeyed, and in the obeying, I feel passions of confinement. In the open air, at gallop, on my horse on an open road, the heavy pursuit of my guard in following, and I, longing only to flee this pursuit!

My privacy is now between my eye and pen, and this page, the scrawl of Greek I know these illiterate cannot read. Can they know that Basileus flees them as though from rout? They do not know; I do not tell them.

An anger rises in me that is like the frenzy of battle rage - how many weeks since I have killed in battle? Where lies the corpse of the last man I felled at war? The execution of traitors does not count to slake the rage in me that must find expression. When raising my sword in justice there is no frenzy of battle, but only the grief of sending my former friends to death, they who fell to their own weakness, iniquity, or temptations to power; and who then became enemy to me, and I had to slay them. These, we did not burn but left for the carrion birds to pick; the final insult from Makedon, slain and defiled in a foreign land, and picked over for cheap food by the lowest beasts of the air.

I must kill - the rage is in me.

I lie propped against a rock, outwardly in stillness. My horse is dozing in the small shade of an olive, and I watch through shaded eyes as my guard crouch and take covert looks in my direction; they speak of me, then turn away to play at draughts while they await my pleasure. One at length comes to me and kneels. "Basileus," he stammers, and I reply "what can I do for you?"

"The men are hungry."

"So - they have food do they not? Let them eat."

"They need your permission."

"No they don't. They are hungry, they should eat. Attend to it!"

He bowed his head, face full with confusion. "But we have been told by He - by Hephaestion that the vanguard could not eat until Basileus eats, and until Hephaestion eats."

"That is madness!" I spake. "It is not true, and I never said that. You are waiting all this time to eat, perishing in the sun, because you think you must receive command from me to eat? Does that make any sense to you? How have you done this all this time?"

"Hephaestion would come from your tent and bid us eat."

"He did not!"

"He did." I feel a rush of anger that is like the passion of lust, and it takes me. How could he have done this to my vanguard? To wait upon my every little pleasure as though I am a pampered Caliph and not first of equals? As though their hunger enlarges me in some bizarre way? My sudden rage fought the languor of my limbs to try to rise, I then decided to stay seated, held down by the sun.

"I am not telling you that you lie. I simply find this hard to accept… well let the men eat! And when we make camp, this law is gone. And I want to know all other laws that were made when I was sleeping, so that I can remove them."

My guard raised himself, and unrestrained upon his face was the smile of a man who had won a wager. And when he returned to his men, hands were raised and voices clamored, for the law was lifted.

He came to me next and asked if I desired to have food prepared for me as well, and I waved him away. But food was a good idea, and my horse had my food, so I whistled for him.

And so I reflect on Memnon, and wait word of his death or recovery. How do I live, knowing that these stalwarts all proceed in their inexorable way, to die of wounds or disease, or so infrequently, age? How did you die, Aristes, to leave me here to watch my mentors die?

I feel a great urge upon me to ride to Memnon and leave Ephesos and Miletus to Parmenion. But that too would have a cost: if I waver from my task, can I take another hour of harangue under his unflinching eye? I decide against it. If Memnon dies, then I will personally send him to the flames, but more I cannot do, and the frustration of it brings me near again to weeping.

And so I have prepared a sacrifice of incense for Memnon, because I do not want him to die, and if it is my will I would have Memnon at my table at symposium, and leading my fleet by the time Ephesos is mine, by the beginning of the week of weddings, and before we secure Samos. And thus I add another day of sacrifice of my own lust and pleasure, of my own food (I always leave a sacrifice of my own food for the god of the place I eat), and of my own will, promising the god that I will build up to him a monument that will stand to eternity, for that is what gods love most: eternal worship. I leave half of my loaf on the rock, and half of my fruit. Offerings to the god always leave me empty and unhungry. And I would say that part of my prayer, at least, was that Memnon would live for the sake of Hephaestion, who was his eromenos.