“The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions have been tested before and discovered to be completely false not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.”
Pârsa, Capital City of Persia called by the Greeks Persepolis, 334 B.C. — Newly released documents confirm persistent rumors of a coming war between the powerful Persian Empire and the Macedonians.
Bearing the seal of approval from the Persian King, Darius III, high Persian officials released documents stating that late last year the King had sent a secret envoy to the Macedonian capital of Pella with a personal message for the young Macedonian king, Alexander.
Every since Alexander, who at the juvenile age of 20 years, assumed the Macedonian throne (vacated by the murder of his father Phillip II), rumors have abounded concerning a coming war between Persian Empire and the upstart Macedonians.
These rumors of war have their root in the 336 B.C. Macedonian official’s statement that at the time Alexander assumed the throne, delegates who assembled in Corinth from throughout Greece and Macedonia also bestowed on the young king the title of supreme general along with the authorization for an expedition of war against the Persian Empire. Their justification for this war is the retaliation for Persia’s invasions of Greece and Macedonia from about 500 B.C. and ending in 448 B.C.
The Ionians declare that there should be retribution for the 513 B.C. invasion and conquering of Thrace and Macedonia by Darius the Great. It was Darius the Great, who the Ionians say, then made the Macedonian king Alexander I his vassal and who allowed Persian governors of Asia Minor to install tyrants in many Ionian cities thereby forcing both Greeks and Macedonians to pay heavy taxes to the “King of Kings."
Furthermore, the Ionians claim their intense hatred for the Persians and their empire stems from Xerxes I massive invasion, which consisted of perhaps 100,000 soldiers and 1,000 ships or more, in 480 B.C. This act by the Persian monarch started a 32-year-long war that lasted until around 448 B.C., when the Peace of Callias was negotiated and signed by all warring parties.
However, both the Greeks and Macedonians further assert that the peace treaty has not caused the Persians to renounce their ambitions and even now, in 334 B.C., they have continued to meddle in the states affairs of both the Greeks and Macedonians. This has lead to a prolonged "cold war” with the Persians trying to seduce Greek city states with diplomacy and/or gold, and the constant employing of Greek mercenaries, by the Persians, to harass peaceful signatories.
Contemptuous Macedonian officials claim that Darius III is a wicked and evil fool who has already declared war by his pernicious use of gold, which has been used to support the Greek rebellions against the Macedonians.
Until just recently, repeated efforts to verify these allegations through Persian officials have been met with statements of: "No comment," brushed aside with an official declaration of: "nonsense" or tersely ignored.
Reoccurring reports out of the Macedonian capital of Pella, that they had received a Persian envoy, have finally broken down the wall of silence erected by the Persian officials. This has lead to the recent disclosure that, in fact, Darius III, king of Persia, had sent a trusted diplomat to see the young Macedonian king.
When reporters asked to interview the king’s servant involved, Persian officials quickly set up a press conference with a two-hour question-and-answer period. The only stipulation given to all present was that the name of the emissary was to be omitted from all news reports.
When questioned, the emissary stated that he had indeed traveled to the Macedonian capital of Pella, which lays about 24 miles northwest of the Greek city of Thessalonica.
As a means to verify that he indeed had made the trip at the behest of the Persian king he went on to describe the city of Pella and how the Macedonian Palace stands on a commanding hill at the northern edge of the capital city. Covering an area of almost 15 acres he related how the palace is a beautiful edifice which comprises four independent complexes organized around a large, open, central courtyard with the entrance to the palace located on the southern side of the complex.
The Persian diplomat went on to confirm reports describing Alexander as a handsome 22-year-old standing either 5 foot 4 inches or 5 foot 5 inches in height.
When asked about Alexander’s demeanor and his presence as a king, the diplomat would only say: "Alexander is too young to purport the presence of an older and wiser king. He seems to have a restless spirit, probably will never be satisfied with what he has and always be yearning for more. He projects a thirst for knowledge and is astonished at the world. Without a doubt Alexander is a person of great passion and energy. However, it was clear, that even at his youthful age he was in charge and none present would challenge him on that point."
Once the press corps was satisfied that the ambassador had made the trip and had truly been in the presence of the young Macedonian king the questioning turned to the reason for the diplomatic mission.
Following is the account of the ambassador’s reasons for and what occurred on his secret and sensitive mission.
"I was chosen by, my Lord, King Darius III to undertake a mission to deliver a personal message to the king of Macedonia, Alexander."
"Upon arriving at the Macedonian capital I was escorted into the royal courtyard of the king. As I entered the presence of the young king I was struck by his lack of size, but I was also aware that if he was displeased with my lord’s message I could very well be the object of his wrath. So I showed King Alexander the greatest respect by bowing to him and staying bowed, while I handed him the single vase which contained the message I carried with me."
"As I handed the vase to King Alexander I was conscience of a slight murmur, which undoubtedly was due to curiosity, in the courtyard. Being well aware of my situation I remained still with my head bowed, showing all due respect to the king and his court as he took the gift and lifted the lid to the vase. I heard the rustling of youthful king’s hand among the contents, and I am sure that the tense hush which fell upon all those present was due to King Alexander showing what was contained in the vase to his commanders and advisors."
"The silence seemed to last forever and I vowed to remain respectful regardless of what was about to overtake me, otherwise I would dishonor my king, Darius III."
"Suddenly my feet were covered with the sesame seeds which I had carried in the vase. Then I heard the voice of the young king excitedly proclaiming: u2018So your king Darius intends to invade Macedonia and he is so confident of his success that he sends a message that his armies are so much greater in strength and numbers that they will defeat us!’"
"What occurred next is puzzling. Suddenly the whole courtyard was filled with waves and waves of laughter. Not the polite laughter one hears at court or even the laughter one produces from hearing the punch line of a funny joke. This was the laughter one produces from deep within the soul, which comes from the belly and peels on and on until one has tears in their eyes and his strength has been stripped from him."
"As the laughter continued I dared to look around, hoping not to be discovered. What I saw were men of great strength and conditioning who are capable of fighting for hours in a pitched battle with sword or lance standing with their heads on each others shoulders holding their stomachs which were about to cramp from laughter. Other men of valor, generals who would lead armies, had collapsed to a sitting position and were wiping the tears from their eyes, while still others were eagerly searching for a stool to sit upon before they buckled over into a heap, like a drunk who is about to fall, from their weakened state."
"As I turned to look at King Alexander I saw he also had become seated and was weak from laughter, but he saw me and said, u2018King Darius has greatly amused me with his taunting symbol of arrogance.’ Then he turned to an aid and whispered in his ear and the servant hurried away."
"As the laughter finally began to subside, the servant returned and handing a bag to King Alexander, the king once again turned his attention to me. As the king handed me the bag he looked me full in the face and said: u2018When you give King Darius my gift you are to repeat to him these words; I send you a bag of mustard seed, that you may taste and acknowledge the bitterness of my victory.’ Then turning to his court and once again laughing said: u2018Now, let’s see how the Persian king handles that which is biting, irritating, and pungent.’ This statement once again brought peels of laughter however, not as great as previously occurred."
"I bowed once again showing proper respect to the king, albeit young in age, and assured him I would deliver both the gift and the message exactly as he commanded. This is exactly what I have done."
At the close of the king’s servant’s statements there was an immediate chorus from all the reporters present, all asking one question at the same time: "What was King Darius’ response when you give him the gift of mustard seed and King Alexander’s message?"
The diplomat looked scared as he looked to King Darius’ chief advisor for instructions as to whether he should answer the question or not. However, with a brief nod of the head permission was given and the answer sent a buzz of approval around the room.
"King Darius graciously received the gift and the message. Then with an air of astonishment, pride, and confidence announced: u2018This from a young boy who has a small army, no navy and no money. He is beaten before he ever takes the field of battle and is too young to know it.’"
King Darius’ advisor added: "The Great King wishes all to know that war is never pleasant, nor is it the desired means to attain peace. However, in this case it is necessary to stop the Macedonian threat before it gets any greater. We must fight them over there or we will surely fight them in the streets of our cities."
So it will be war! The question is: What sort of war is going to take place? Certainly this war will not be another prolonged struggle lasting 32 years. The Persian forces are far superior to those of the Ionian and so all military analysts are predicting a short campaign.
It is the duty of great empires to free the oppressed and punish the oppressor. This war will be a campaign for good which will finally free the Greeks from the Macedonian tyrants and once again restore peace and order to the people of the world.
End of Report
I will agree that the fictitious article above has taken a great deal of literary license. I will also stipulate that historical records do not confirm the exchange of the sesame and the mustard seeds between the two opponents and that this information comes to us by way of oral tradition.
We are engaged in a war, in Iraq, in which we are not only the aggressors but are sowing the seeds of hatred for generations to come. History will record our fate just as history records that it was the hatred for the Persians which stood as the single greatest force enabling Alexander and his armies to destroy that great empire.
From the time in 334 B.C. when Alexander and his army defeated the Persian’s at the Granicus River until he marched south into Babylon then to Susa and Persepolis, where he burned the Persian palaces while looting the cities, was only 4 short years.
Four years from the time he was a boy with a small army, no navy and no money until he was the only visible ruler of the Persian Empire. It is an amazing feat driven by a burning hatred.
What will be the fate of the American experiment in world affairs? Will the lust for power and control of the earth’s resources drive a mad president to bring human history to edge of the abyss? Will a mad general seize power only to plunge the world into a nuclear holocaust?
Sure these are all possibilities. However, if history is our guide then we are facing a long, protracted night of nasty little wars, until there ascend to power those whose hatred drives them to risk everything to purge and destroy the blight that walks their homeland.
America’s domination may end with a whimper, but one thing is certain; the destruction of the American empire, as with all empires, will see no one coming to its aid.
Iraq and the Middle East could very well be our Macedonian foe. Alexander understood well that empires are fleeting when he said: "A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient." How is the empire destroyed? Alexander knew that also: "I would not fear a pack of lions led by a sheep, but I would always fear a flock of sheep led by a lion."
It is that burning hatred which will be America’s final legacy.
Tim Case [send him mail] is a 30-year student of the ancient histories who agrees with the first-century stoic Epictetus on this one point: u201COnly the educated are free.u201D