Montesquieu

Alexander made a great conquest. Let us exa­mine how he beha­ved. Enough has been said of his valor ; let us talk about his pru­dence.

The mea­su­res he took were just. He did not leave until he had utterly cru­shed the Greeks ; he used that cru­shing only for the exe­cu­tion of his enter­prise ; he left nothing behind against him. He atta­cked the mari­time pro­vin­ces, had his land army fol­low the coast­line to avoid being sepa­ra­ted from his fleet ; he made admi­ra­ble use of dis­ci­pline against num­bers ; he had no shor­ta­ges of sup­plies ; and if it is true that vic­tory gave him eve­ry­thing, he also did eve­ry­thing to obtain the vic­tory.

1 That is how he made his conquests ; let us see how he pre­ser­ved them.

He resis­ted those who wan­ted him to treat the Greeks as mas­ters2 and the Persians as sla­ves. His only thought was to unite the two nations, and make them for­get dis­tinc­tions of conque­ring and conque­red peo­ples. After the conquest he aban­do­ned all the pre­ju­di­ces that had hel­ped to achieve it. He adop­ted the ways of the Persians so as not to dis­tress the Persians by making them adopt the ways of the Greeks. That is why he sho­wed such res­pect for the wife and mother of Darius, and sho­wed such res­traint, which is what made the Persians miss him so. Who is this conque­ror who is mour­ned by all the peo­ples he sub­ju­ga­ted ? Who is this usur­per upon whose death the family he had dethro­ned sheds tears ? That is a fea­ture of his life of which the his­to­rians do not tell us that any other conque­ror can boast.

Nothing bet­ter conso­li­da­tes a conquest than the union made by the two peo­ples through mar­ria­ges. Alexander took wives from the nation he had defea­ted ; he wan­ted mem­bers of his court to do the same ; the rest of the Macedonians fol­lo­wed this exam­ple. The Franks and Burgundians allo­wed such mar­ria­ges3 ; the Visigoths for­bade them in Spain, and later allo­wed them.4 The Lombards not only allo­wed but even favo­red them.5 When the Romans wan­ted to wea­ken Macedonia, they decreed that there could be no mar­riage unions bet­ween the peo­ples of the pro­vin­ces.

Alexander, who was see­king to unite the two peo­ples, thought of crea­ting a large num­ber of Greek colo­nies in Persia. He built count­less cities, and cemen­ted all the parts of this new Europe so well that after his death, in the unrest and com­mo­tion of the most ter­ri­ble civil wars, after the Greeks had, in a man­ner of spea­king, des­troyed them­sel­ves, not a sin­gle pro­vince in Persia revol­ted.

To avoid utterly exhaus­ting Greece and Macedonia, he sent a colony of Jews to Alexandria ; he was indif­fe­rent to these peo­ples’ ways, pro­vi­ded they were loyal to him.6

The kings of Syria, aban­do­ning the plan of the empire’s foun­der, tried to oblige the Jews to adopt the ways of the Greeks, which cau­sed ter­ri­ble cla­shes in their state.

[The edition of 1758 here inserts the text of Annex 2.]

That was Aristotle’s advice (Plutarch, Moralia, “On the fortune or the virtue of Alexander the Great”).

See Leges Burgundionum, tit. XII, art. V.

See Lex Visigothorum (book III, tit. I, § i.), which abrogates the former law, which paid more attention to the difference of nations than of station.

See Leges Langobardoroum, book II, tit. 7, § 1-2.

[The 1758 edition here adds the text of Annex 3.]