Montesquieu

To van­qui­shed peo­ples he did not leave only their ethos ; he also left them their civil laws, and often even the kings and gover­nors he had found. He would put the Macedonians at the head of his troops, and native men at the head of the govern­ment, pre­fer­ring to run the risk of some indi­vi­dual betrayal (which did some­ti­mes hap­pen) than of a gene­ral revolt. He res­pec­ted the old tra­di­tions, and all the monu­ments of the glory or vanity of the peo­ples. The kings of Persia had des­troyed the tem­ples of the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians : he res­to­red them ; few nations sub­mit­ted to him on whose altars he did not make sacri­fi­ces. It see­med he had conque­red only in order to be the indi­vi­dual monarch of each nation, and the first citi­zen of each city. The Romans conque­red eve­ry­thing in order to des­troy eve­ry­thing ; he wan­ted to conquer eve­ry­thing in order to pre­serve eve­ry­thing ; and wha­te­ver coun­tries he visi­ted, his first thoughts, his first desi­gns were always to do some­thing that could increase their pros­pe­rity and might. He found the first ways of doing so in the great­ness of his genius, the second ways in his fru­ga­lity and per­so­nal eco­nomy ; the third ways in his immense pro­di­ga­lity for grand things. His hand would close for pri­vate spen­ding ; it would open for public spen­ding. When it came to mana­ging his hou­se­hold, he was a Macedonian ; when it came to paying the sol­diers’ debts, infor­ming the Greeks of his conquest, making the for­tune of every man in his army, he was Alexander.

He com­mit­ted two evil acts : he bur­ned Persepolis, and killed Clitus. He made them famous by his repen­tance ; so his cri­mi­nal acts were for­got­ten and his res­pect for vir­tue remem­be­red ; so they were consi­de­red more as mis­for­tu­nes than as his own doings ; so pos­te­rity finds the beauty of his soul almost next to his extra­va­gan­ces and weak­nes­ses ; so he had to be pitied, and it was no lon­ger pos­si­ble to hate him.

I am going to com­pare him to Cæsar. When Cæsar tried to imi­tate the kings of Asia, he drove the Romans to des­pair for a mat­ter of pure osten­ta­tion ; when Alexander tried to imi­tate the kings of Asia, he did some­thing that ente­red into the plan of his conquest.