Mylasa under Siege
Messengers. We arrange ourselves for considerable siege, and I send Parmenion's son Philip forthwith to resupply, for our count of foodstuffs shows us shy of grain for Halicarnassos, and there is no hope of gleaning further from the countryside. First a messenger from Memnon; the therapeutus has arrived and he is under care for torn tissue of his lung, and taking large quantitites of purging herbs for his breathing. He will not join us soon, though there is some hope of his catching us during our wait for resupply, perhaps even sailing back to me so that I could see his dear face and pound the solidity of his massive arms in embrace again, reclaimed from the anxious fingers of death. Next a rider from Sardis, that Seleuccus has taken at Gamelia a wife of the nobles there - this too a good sign. Philotas and Callisthenes too take new wives at Gamelia Mylasion, and they are suddenly not as much in evidence darkening my door. But I find I have not even written of my reply to Antipater, which rankled in me until I could stand no more.
For this is what Antipater writes of Olympias; that she in my absence had taken half the palace to herself, despite my appointment of the regent, and that in every smallest thing, she opposes him, daring even to enter his audiences and interrogate his chiefs. Out of fear of offense to me, he endured her, thinking in his ignorance that I would permit such thing as she would believe herself to be a sort of co-regent. This, Philip had never tolerated; why would she assume Antipater would? He is in many ways a weak man, but not in putting wives or queens into their places; he had six of his own wives and many more of concubines; his experience of women had made me wonder at his dexterity. However, Olympias was not mere 'woman' but a politician of the order of Aristotle himself, though with bent aims and personal revenges to fuel her. None could tell on any day which plot she pursued in private, or whether her words to one were the same or opposite to those she spoke to another.
I gnashed my teeth as I read his account: I was sure, knowing him, and his sons, that he was not easy to anger, nor would he exaggerate the problem in very fact, knowing that he sent ill news, would most likely have pored over each sentence to remove any sense of impropriety, and thus he states, with some great caution:
"I would not presume to interrupt such a speech as the Queen would give, or deny her question to my governors, or to the Thebans who come to petition for a rebuilding of their city; however, in this instance, she has made it impossible through her words and deeds, for me to make decision with them as to how to proceed, and I must appeal to you to intervene. I do this with great regret, knowing how pressed you are in your campaign, but beg for your greater power over her actions, that you counsel her in what orders you left with me to rule in Makedon. I would not, if it were my choice, proceed as she wishes me to do, but do not have it in my power to expel her from the council meetings, or to deny her entrance when she wishes to enter. It has been suggested that I offer her a match with one of my sons, but such as are marriageable and free are on campaign with you, Basileus, and could not call them back for denying you their arm of strength."
I spat in disgust at reading his coward's words: had he no will to oppose her? Had she convinced him so utterly that she ruled in my stead? And for that hour, while my commanders were summoned by my word, I closeted myself and gnashed my teeth. Sorely tempted by desire to crush something for the sheer pent up frustration of it. Antipater! How could he, mature in my father's counsel, who always showed such poise, assent to her intrusions?
He went on to write of her petition to send emissaries of Dionysion to her home in Epirus and to appoint two of her cousins, Antiphon and Callistarchos, to places in the governance there, as though our realms were one. Three months away - and here is what comes?
The haunting words of Apollion returned to me, the imprecations Memnon spake against her, and now the meek report that spelled certain domestic disorder I know why she does these things to force my return!
But Zeus would not let that happen. I resolved to expel her from Pella entire into Epirus in exile, if they would have their princess back among them. But I must needs turn to counsel before this act is performed. And if exiled, could she raise a force? What power had she through Hephaestion, and he no longer under my eye!
Somewhat must change, I knew. I must choose, and in my military mind, I must take the more compliant foe by bribery, to defeat the more deadly. We met over wine again, a grim bout of drunkenness was what my mood required -- there being no sign of resistance from Mylasa as yet to demand more cogent attention.
Included with the rest was Cothon, who spoke little and only when asked. His unease with me was understandable, his coldness to Apollion could not pass without comment.
Ten of my fourteen sat with me at drink within my tent, guarded without by three dozen hypaspists and the messengers we used to send our orders to the army in their leaders' absence. They assembled before me within two hours.
Naught was said as they beheld the parchment with the royal seal unmistakeable beside my hand. "Much wine may be required," I instructed my young Alexander as he came to my hand. "Continue until I say aught." He ran to obey, and we were at drink.
Parmes was in a mood over the disrepair of carts, and being taken from that task, Callisthenes impatient for the bed of his new wife; Cothon sullen as I said before, Aristarchos only filled with pleasure at the table of his king, Apollion unreadable in counsel as always, grim in his drink, Cleitus arriving late to me, filling the room with his great bulk, huger in stature even than Memnon, Philotas, Attalus the younger, and in the stead of Nearchus, Philander who leads of my veteran phalanges. And Aristobulus, the silent and shy, but quick of pen, more quick than I, rarely seen to drink more than his king requires of him. A serious and scholarly man of slightly younger years than mine. I had always had a great love for Aristobulus, though we never spoke of it, almost as great a love as that I have for my dearest friend Nearchus, whom I always feared for when he was not beside me. But Nearchus in his excellence I must send from me, for I knew he could be counted to return, and in good time, or send the proper message; it was always thus with him.
We drank deep then, in the common silence in which they showed their respect to me -- it was not hour or mood for lyre, and in that brief period came a messenger from Lesbos directly, with his Companion guard, ridden hard. A clatter sounded outside, and clarion, and he was admitted.
"I have a letter sent from Hephaestion to you, Basileus. And others from him meant for Seleuccus and Antipater, intercepted by stealth."
"This is more than timely," I replied, now enthused. "But you have to take your rest. You will have a reward for your service." The youth sank down on both knees, and I placed my hands upon his sweaty head, now freed of helmet. "How long ran you from the ship?" I inquired.
"Four days, Basileus."
"And your horse?"
"Changed once, at Miletus."
"Just so, and Miletus? What of that place?"
"News that they are well settled after siege, and the satrap will write to you of figures on the health and settlement of the garrison when he has drawn them up."
"We shall deal with that in due course," I took the boy myself to my chief of guards and bid him house him for his rest before his return journey, for he would go immediately back to Lesbos. These youth were well-nigh inexhaustible and should not be overlooked for their accomplishment. There are times when the timeliness of spy and messenger can turn the tide of battle.
And to be truthful, my eye did not linger on his form. I felt myself free and cured of wayward or intrusive lusts, and grew dark with the intent of my resolve; the god had seized the hour at some length, and my own small feelings were removed from me utterly, freeing me to take, and give, more productive counsel.
First, Cothon. "Since my chiefs are filled with ire on false account, Cothon, please set aside your cup for a few moments to explain what you truly are to me, as we have discussed." I waited as the eyes of my men turned first to me, and thence to Cothon for explanation.
"I am leader now of the Thessalian cavalry, and of the peltasts of the center column," he answered.
"That explains what you are to the expedition," I spake. "Now please explain what you are to me. Personally."
"What mean you, Basileus?" he cried, querulous.
"Are you my favorite these days, Cothon?"
"Certainly not!" he spake, and once again the color rose fast on his face. But he moved me not: not tonight.
"Perhaps then - disfavored, due to indiscretion or incaution? Lack of attention to the training, slow with resupply, lagging in discipline of your men?" I named several things quickly that all were faults of others, and which faults had never been laid upon Cothon.
"Not that I have been told or heard," he spake.
"In very fact," I stated in rapidly, "you sit among the chiefest of command, now, in place of Xanion who has fallen out of favor due to defiance, and you have been raised to greater power, as I have given you command of three thousand of my archers, have I not?"
"You have, Basileus," he replied, abashed.
"Then this sullenness is merely some matter of no import to these others, and nothing that should concern any of them, as it could not affect their command, or yours, in any way."
The first blush of wine intoxication was on Parmes by now, and he raised his cup first to salute me, and before Cothon could open mouth to answer and deny, he spake in deep tones. "I, for one, would like to know why we hear so much of your displeasure with Basileus then, Cothon."
My newest leader's face registered then no small shock, and denial died aborning on his lips.
"I believe I can help clear up this mystery," spake the shy Aristobulus.
"He says," he continued, "that he is far more fair than Hephaestion and that he should find favor soon in eros with you in his stead."
"Does he?" I need not break his confidence with my own words now, thanks to the bookish scholar. "Despite my law. Is this what truly rankles in you, Cothon?"
He stood, unable to tolerate the play longer. "You know it is, now all here know!"
"But not by me, but by your own mouth. It does not serve me for you to noise about some lie of being disfavored in command. If you wish to be disfavored, persist. You will soon enough experience disfavor. How many here have heard tale of your mouth that I had used you ill these short weeks since dikhomenia last?"
A chorus of "I" resounded, and I placed my hands, open, in a beseeching gesture, but my voice were firm. "To serve me here, learn openness, Cothon. I wish not have to hunt down and quell the little rebellions provoked by your petty moods and imagined romances. If you cannot stand my law, you may resign your place. And if your beauty needs audience, then find amongst the pages and grooms eromenos of your own. Trouble me not with your lust and ambition to win me. You are fair enough to gain due attention from any other that you crave. Basileus is not among them."
A storm of anger passed across his countenance, and he turned in his stride to leave me and I arrested him with a shout. "You are not dismissed!" You will at length learn to serve me. Have another drink and listen to a true tale of woe, and be the counsel I choose you to be. Let us all drink now to Cothon's unparalleled beauty, his early acquisition of a new lover, and the success of his archers so recently at Samos!"
And he sat, and we drank, and spoke of that dread pair at length -- my mother, and my love, arguing long into the night until no other course lay open to me but this: to send to Mitylene, and recall Hephaestion to me, and reinstate him in some fashion, in replacement of Memnon who will face either death or retirement in due course. If he agrees to the limiting terms of his place in ranks. There would be no other relation between us from here onward, however, and this would be made clear. Any other attitude on his part would be seen as revolt.
This negotiation would be handled by me alone; and if unfavorable, must mean his death. I could not have open revolt, and I could not keep him, with his deep knowledge of me, abroad, no matter how restrained I made him, for in due course he would make cause with my domestic enemy (or enemies) and there would be civil war. At the least, his father Amyntor, still in power at Pella and general of the garrison there, would demand redress for his disfavor.
Either I purge my kingdom and abandon my expedition, or consolidate my kingdom with its limitations. I lack appetite and officers for a purge. I could not slay him; unless by that extreme of defiance that Makedon itself and Zeus, and Phoebus refused to bear.
Phoebus had alighted on me, and gave me this choice, to relent. Two months were exile proper for disobedience, and I had in hand his confession and regret, which I read in private, and shared only with Apollion, later:
Take these words into your heart entire, and know the passion of my regret for all the pains I caused and cause you. My fault was in excessive desire for yourself; my fear, a true one, for myself, for your moods, like mine, grow terrible at times. Do not let this end us, Alexi. I cannot ask again for you to love me as before, or to caress me, but at least, consider mercy to the one you praised so highly at one time, who has been of the least service to you. You have need of me, and if you ask the god for mercy in my case, I will be ready still to serve you.
I have wept, these nights, each night, that my posterity will only know I was disfavored by Divinity, and died, obscure, while he I worshipped went abroad to conquer all without my knowledge or help. This, I cannot bear, and death will claim me shortly if you make this my career.
My fault lay in how well I know you; I cannot see my love as divinity -- is this wrong? I cannot speak in private with my king and friend and counsellor and see him also as omnipotent -- greater than all, assuredly! And wise beyond compare, most of all in battle -- but this obeisance was never what I knew of you before. But if this is what the king of Asia demands, I will fulfill.
I write after many nights of weeping, I take no favorite to my bosom to console me, for I have no substitute for thee, Alexi. Relent, I beg, relent."
His letter melted me. He knew it would, and knew that my greatest concern of him, personally, was who may have gained his favor and shared his bed while in exile; some young beauty, fair in face and compliant to his appetite. He could not be faulted for this, and yet my own jealousies were provoked by thoughts that ran afield with imagining his lovers, past and present.
And I read, too, and to all of my commanders, his letters to Seleuccus and to Antipater in Pella, which letter I then resealed and set aside to go to him, with my reply and comment. For in his letter to Seleuccus, he too appeared to repent, but in this wise he cited his reason, and his reason were enough to satisfy Phoebus:
"We should not be surprised, Cousin," he wrote in his arrogant manner, "that Alexandrus aspires to godhead, for he is blessed so many ways by Apollo. I myself, who see him more clearly than anyone, know the undeniable power that is only his to hold and which so terrifies those who oppose him. As my ire against him cools, I see that whether or not he IS Zeus, it is certain Zeus is with him, and this I cannot afford to deny. And whether this fact makes him grow haughty with it, or drunk with power, that is the price to pay to stand alongside one so fated to victory absolute. I must win back for me his favor, of whatever kind, and cannot live like this for even another month: it is intolerable. With the close of this I will repent of all to him.
"I learn that Pausis lost his life directly from the stroke of Zeus, and not of Alexandrus, for presuming to plot against his life, and for the cause of precipitating Antipater's accession. He should have remembered the world of the Oracle: invincible. Were that we could always know which of our leaders are invincible!. Of Alexi we have proof enough for all time; I am not powerful enough to speak or act against Zeus; nor should you.
"When I write you next, I pray it will be openly and in the open hand of the Companions' messengers, rather than by stealth, and I am gone from this place of deathly retirement.
And further, in his letter to Antipater, that he had been permitted to see the Oracle of Apollo at Asklepion on the day of Hecate, and the Oracle gave dire warnings to any who opposed the favorite of Zeus.
The only question that remained in me was my own: how could I ever trust Hestes again, or put him before any large command, after treason and treason? Behind my back, beyond my sight, he threatens me; before my eye, he defies me. And yet, so much of what he writes of me is truth -- perhaps a truth too unsavory for me to taste, aggravated by that weakness of mine that from time to time allowed him to fully conquer me.
It was not Hestes I had to cow and bring to submission, but myself; my own nature. I took counsel with these, my best, and pleased them all but one with my new decision of mercy; that one, Parmenion, and at length, I am sure, he will sway Philotas, who follows his father in most things, who ever shunned the presence of Hephaestion.
I cannot have complete victory in each siege; some concession must be made . And so this night I granted further powers to Philotas, reserving to Hephaestion that command of fleet and supply held now by Memnon, which he would relinquish on my request, and if still whole, retire to serve only as counsel for his remaining convalescence. He and I had discussed it since, in private, and all agreed, though the face of Apollion said to me he disbelieved my intention to abstain from taking Hestes again to my bed.
Too many nights he had seen us drunken in our revel of each other, intoxicated with indulgence of our lust. I could have my love, and its illusions, or I could have the sack of Persia; I must choose. And the choice, now, is made. He is, from the summons of the next messenger, a five days to and five days returned by ship, as we camp at siege of Mylasa. I took him aside in privacy. "What say you so loudly in silence?" I demanded, discomfited by this great confidence of all but he and Parmes. "Do you wish some counsel of me to reconsider?"
"You forget," he replied in promptness, "that it was I who begged you reconsider in this very manner so recently."
"Just so," I nodded. "Then why such displeasure now?"
"I had not the full facts then, as you explained at such length at Abydos. I have slept few good nights since that conversation, Basileus, and wish that you had kept your burden, though I don't know how you have borne it all this time. For I feel my own love for Hephaestion is compromised by what I know."
"I see." I could well see! There was this contradiction throughout - how could we love him and have him to our bosoms as colleague and friend -- and more, to me -- and know that within him there lay such malevolence? Was this something of his peculiar nature that we had yet to understand?
"You see the risk at banishing him entire. And you know that without direct assault upon me, I cannot slay him, for he is too dear to me."
"You had direct assault upon you, and you armed with dagger could easily have ended him!" he spake, so harshly that it made me turn and regard him with sudden sobriety.
"Yes, and what of this? Do I have right to stay my hand when I believe his anger is futile?"
He bridled, and did not speak; the old Apollion reasserting its reticence at length. "Come, now," I encouraged him. "Help me with my own dilemma, for it is a thing we share."
"Then tell me," he rushed forth, "what makes it possible to forgive him now "
"I do not forgive. He is not my companion any more from the day he slew the Hittite. That remains as my oath."
"I see. Then what do you do?"
"I simply relent at his banishing. You remain as you were, as my second. He may serve you if you think he will serve."
Apollion laughed aloud now. "Serve me! I think not! He will serve no other but you, and even you, ill. But he is a good soldier, when he wishes to be, and useful. Far too clever in most ways, and certainly too dangerous to be held apart from you, for his mind is always conceiving new things to do; better he do them nearby than far away. But I have welcomed this respite from his presence, I must say."
I considered for some minutes, and at length, spake. "This gives me somewhat of an idea. What if I were to contrive it for him to be at distance from me as much as possible, so as not to create the conditions of rivalry, particularly at the beginning? He had no set duty when he served me previous - except, well to me, personally " I blushed furiously, suddenly ashamed, and took again my seat. "I am upset to see him. And yet, I wish to see him."
"Yes. Myself also, and with less reason."
"You don't believe I can have him nearby to me and hold to my law."
He shook his head. "You have done far harder things .you have -- you have satisfied a woman!"
I smiled slowly. "That, I have. And it would amaze him, would it not? Though I imagine, it would make him none too happy. And were he to find out about Mylasa . He must not come to me while we sit at Mylasa."
"Is your - lover, still in the city, do you think?"
"He is not. This I am certain about."
"Will you seek him after the city is taken?"
I peered at Apollion. "Is this important?"
"Perhaps. If you do, and Hephaestion returns, it may be more than he can stand to learn of it. And then we are in the same position as before, perhaps worse, as I have no doubt that this time you may have taken to bed a more important personage."
"Why say you that?" I stared at him. He stared back, impassive.
"Because the only men to have left Mylasa, fortified as it was, would have been the guards and person of the satrap of Caria."
"How know you this?" I was amazed.
"This is what Parmenion's men said from their return of reconnoitering the town five days hence. None of them saw you, however, of this I am certain. I had them seek for you."
"What!" I cried.
"I told them, to look within the city for one who might be dressed natively, but could pass as a suitable double for Alexandrus, for he would be needed as a deception in an upcoming pitched battle."
"And did they?"
"In fact, they did. And he awaits."
"That is incredible!" I clapped him on the shoulders both. "You have the god in you, Apollion, for this very night I was considering the need for a double; and you contrived it so that you could keep a watch on me without keeping watch on me, to the complete exclusion of all external intelligence!"
He nodded, satisfied. "Yes, it was clever. Almost as clever as the story I bruited about concerning your intercourse with the Queen of Amazons. Though your marathon lovemaking lasted a mere five days and you were known not to be able to satisfy her militant lust."
"Some women demand too much even of Basileus," his eye shined with mischief.