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Translated by Rev. Canon Roberts
Book VIII Chapter 24: Death of Alexander of Epirus.[327 BC]
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The foundation of Alexandria in Egypt is stated to have taken place this year (327 B.C.) and also the assassination of Alexander of Epirus at the hands of a Lucanian refugee an event which fulfilled the oracular prediction of the Dodonean Jupiter. When he was invited by the Tarentines into Italy, he received a warning to beware of the water of Acheron and the city of Pandosia; for it was there that the limits of his destiny were fixed. This made him cross over into Italy all the sooner, that he might be as far as possible from the city of Pandosia in Epirus and the river Acheron, which flows from Molossis into the Infernal Marshes and finally empties itself into the Thesprotian Gulf. But, as often happens, in trying to avoid his fate he rushed upon it. He won many victories over the nationalities of Southern Italy, inflicting numerous defeats upon the legions of Bruttium and Lucania, capturing the city of Heraclea, a colony of settlers from Tarentum, taking Potentia from the Lucanian, Sipontum from the Apulians, Consentia and Terina from the Bruttii and other cities belonging to the Messapians and Lucanians. He sent three hundred noble families to Epirus to be detained there as hostages. |
The circumstances under which he met his death were these. He had taken up a permanent position on three hills not far from the city of Pandosia which is close to the frontiers of the Lucanians and Bruttii. From this point he made incursions into every part of the enemy's territory, and on these expeditions he had as a body-guard some two hundred Lucanian refugees, in whose fidelity he placed confidence, but who, like most of their countrymen, were given to changing their minds as their fortunes changed. Continuous rains had inundated the whole country and prevented the three divisions of the army from mutually supporting each other, the level ground between the hills being impassable. While they were in this condition two out of the three divisions were suddenly attacked in the king's absence and overwhelmed. After annihilating them the enemy invested the third hill, where the king was present in person. The Lucanian refugees managed to communicate with their countrymen, and promised, if a safe return were guaranteed to them, to place the king in their hands alive or dead. Alexander, with a picked body of troops, cut his way, with splendid courage, through the enemy, and meeting the Lucanian general slew him after a hand to hand fight. Then getting together those of his men who were scattered in flight, he rode towards the ruins of a bridge which had been carried away by the floods and came to a river. Whilst his men were fording it with very uncertain footing, a soldier, almost spent by his exertions and his fears, cursed the river for its unlucky name, and said, "Rightly art thou called Acheros!" When these words fell on his ear the king at once recalled to mind the oracular warning, and stopped, doubtful whether to cross or not. Sotimus, one of his personal attendants, asked him why he hesitated at such a critical moment and drew his attention to the suspicious movements of the Lucanian refugees who were evidently meditating treachery. The king looked back and saw them coming on in a compact body; he at once drew his sword and spurred his horse through the middle of the river. He had already reached the shallow water on the other side when one of the refugees some distance away transfixed him with a javelin. He fell from his horse, and his lifeless body with the weapon sticking in it was carried down by the current to that part of the bank where the enemy were stationed. There it was horribly mutilated. After cutting it through the middle they sent one half to Consentia and kept the other to make sport of . Whilst they were pelting it at a distance with darts and stones a solitary woman ventured among the rabble who were showing such incredible brutality and implored them to desist. She told them amid her tears that her husband and children were held prisoners by the enemy and she hoped to ransom them with the king's body however much it might have been disfigured. This put an end to the outrages. What was left of the limbs was cremated at Consentia by the reverential care of this one woman, and the bones were sent back to Metapontum; from there they were carried to Cleopatra, the king's wife, and Olympias, his sister, the latter of whom was the mother, the former the sister of Alexander the Great
I thought it well to give this brief account of the tragic end of Alexander of Epirus, for although Fortune kept him from hostilities with Rome, the wars he waged in Italy entitle him to a place in this history.
Event: Death of Alexander of Epirus
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