ALEXANDER IN PERSIA

List of Characters

Alexander, king of Macedoн
Crateru
s, Alexander's general and friend
Perdiccas
, same
Aristander
, a soothsayer and philosopher
Callisthenes
, a philosopher and scholar, Aristoteles' nephew
Philota
s, Alexander's general, son of Parmenio, Alexander's (and before him, Philip's) chief of staff
Cleitus
the Black, Alexander's officer and childhood friend, who once saved his life in battle
A Macedonian page
Ptolemy
, Alexander's general
Other generals, guards, attendants, etc.

 

Prologue

[Inside Alexander's tent. It seems small, as it is mostly taken up by a very large bed, which is itself largely obscured by a crowd of people surrounding Alexander, who is lying on the bed. The light is coming from two large torches, one in each corner; thus, the center of the room, in which the bed is located, is almost dark.]

Craterus: My liege! The time is drawing near
for you to join your holy father on Olympus.
So said your doctor. He will speak no more:
the wretch has failed, and therefore shall carry
the message of your imminent departure
To Hades.

Perdiccas: This is why your faithful servants
have dared to disrupt your rest and gathered here,
like children who're about to be orphaned.

Ptolemy: We all have sworn to honor and obey
your final will, just like we would an order
that you gave us in battle.

Craterus: Therefore,
please tell us: which of us is worthy,
when you are gone, to rule your great empire?
We all have served you well.

Perdiccas: I helped to kill your father.
I mean king Philip.

Ptolemy: And I killed my own
for you, my lord.

Craterus: To whom then do you will
your crown?

Everybody: Yes, to whom?

[A silent pause. Spotlight on the bed. For the first time we can see Alexander's pale, wasted face.]

Alexander: I leave it to the strongest…

[Lights go out. Curtain. Funeral music.]

Act I

Scene 1

[Outside the temple of Ammon in the Siwah Oasis.]

Callisthenes: He's been in there for two hours already.
I do not like this. Why all of a sudden
did he abandon army and the quest--
to risk this journey through all sorts of peril.
The hurricanes, the sandstorms… endless desert…
It was a miracle we found our way here!

Aristander: And that's precisely why we made this journey.
He's looking for a miracle to prove
the soundness of the way he chose.

Callisthenes: And what will happen if he doesn't find such proof?
Will he abandon the crusade and make a treaty
with the Great King?

Aristander: Don't worry, he will not.
I know my esteemed colleagues the priests.
We fortune tellers all earn our living
by giving our clients what they want.
And Alexander is more worthy of good fortune
than any client that I've ever had. He is
determined, talented, beloved by his troops.
Gods favor him, and so do the odds.
In all encounters so far, his phalanx cut
through the untrained barbarian hordes
just like a knife that's cutting through warm butter.

Callisthenes: And yet I feel uneasy. Why, for instance,
seek the advice of Ammon? Don't the Greeks
have gods enough that Alexander could
choose one whose oracle he could give credence?

Aristander: Oh, Ammon, our Zeus, or this Egyptian Ra--
what is the difference? You were the one complaining
of our trip to Siwah. Yet this is
the closest such oracle to Egypt.

Callisthenes: You're right. I should feel grateful that he didn't
abase himself by seeking Ra's advice:
is that the one with wolf's or eagle's head?
And yet those ceremonies he went through in Egypt--
I am afraid that Alexander's taking them seriously.

Aristander: Well, my learned friend, you would too, I'm sure,
be very grateful to be called the son of Zeus,
if you had killed your father…

Callisthenes: Say no more.
I've heard, of course, this rumor. Philip was
a brute, like all his folk, except for Alexander,
who had my Uncle Aristotle for a teacher,
and who with nurse's milk sucked in Greek culture,
which now he is bringing to all nations.
That's why I've given up my quiet studies
and joined his expedition…

Aristander [aside]: Poor fool!
The Macedonians are only seeking loot,
while their king is only seeking glory.
And he who puts an emphasis on culture
may soon become the dinner for a vulture.

Scene 2

[Reception in the throne room in a palace in Memphis.]

Alexander: This will be short, I hope. I am tired.
To plan a city is as daunting as the planning
of a campaign. I know this location
will be a big success. Yet it is funny:
when seagulls ate the grain that I had used
to mark the harbor's outline, I thought
that gods were against it. Aristander
was, luckily, with me, as always ready
to give a good interpretation. This, he said,
was sure sign that when this city's built
it will become the world's greatest supplier
of grain. And so I proceeded
(this time with chalk) to outline the city.
The building's barely begun when it was time
for me to go back.

Perdiccas: This will be short, o sire.
Two embassies, from Athens and Miletus,
arrived to seek an audience with you.

Alexander: The situation is quite serious in Greece.
The king of Sparta is inciting a rebellion.
I almost wish the other Greeks would join in.
Ungrateful dirty rabble! Here I am
as Captain-General of the Hellenic League
crusading half a world away for their freedom,
while they are holding their popular assemblies
and stirring up the mob with words of freedom--
from me, the son of their god! What pleasure,
what deep delight would I experience burning
the ancient citadel of Athens, as of Thebes,
that trouble making city which I razed
to teach a lesson to unruly rabble!
…But Greece is far away, and we have other,
important work to do. You're right, Perdiccas:
let's see these embassies. The Greeks must be indulged.

[Perdiccas makes a sign. A trumpet sounds. Enter the Greek ambassadors.]

 Alexander: Welcome, ambassadors! What brings you here,
Milesians? I trust your city now is enjoying
its freedom from barbarians.

Milesian Ambassador [prostrating himself]:
O king!
Indeed it is. One reason I am here
is to express our gratitude again
for freeing us from tyranny of Persians
and letting us rejoin our brothers
in happy union. But I also bring
important news. Most happy news, o king!
Apollo's oracle, the one that has been silent
since its destruction during the wars
with the barbarian is functioning again.
The dried up spring that ran by it is also
brought back to life, and filled with clear water.

Alexander: And does Apollo have important news for us?

M.A.: Indeed he has, my king! The oracle confirmed
that you indeed descended are from Zeus.
Apollo is predicting that you soon
will liberate all Greeks and other peoples
from the Great King… The so-called Great King!

Alexander: And does Apollo have anything to say of Greece?

M.A.: Of Greece? Of course! Apollo prophesies
that all rebellious plans will come to nothing.

Alexander: Give him my thanks. I promise I shall see
to it that when we capture Darius's treasure,
the oracle is well provided for. And now,
Ambassador of Athens, Queen of Sea,
it is your turn. I bid you, by the way,
to mind the words of oracle regarding
rebellion.

Athenian Ambassador [taking a bow]:
Rebellion, my lord?
We have before been on occasion foolish,
but that was in the past. We have since learned
that it's more profitable, and more proper,
to live harmoniously with one's loving parent
then to rebel against his tender rule. We, Sire,
are most grateful that in rightful wrath
you did not deal with us as we perhaps deserved…
We have but one request. Your kindness
will probably recall that we have asked
that the Athenians who, hired by the Persians,
against you raised their parricidal weapons,
be most mercifully allowed to return
to Athens. At the time you answered
that time may come when you will change your mind
and set them free. The poor wretches have
suffered enough for their grave transgression.

Alexander: "Enough"? These people fought against
the other Greeks, they sold their weapons
to the barbarian, the enemy of Greece!
As captain of the League, I punished them
just as the League prescribed. But for your city
I've always had a special place within my heart.
I therefore shall grant you your request.

A.A.: O, thank you, son of Zeus!

[The ambassadors depart.]

Alexander: Callisthenes, remember
to note this reception in your annals,
as well, of course, as in your regular dispatch
to the Hellenic League. The lion seeks
to outfight the Persians, outfox the Greeks.

Scene 3

[The throne room in Darius's palace. Alexander, Callisthenes, Craterus, Perdiccas,
and a page]

Alexander: So this is the great hall of the Great King.
I'm somewhat disappointed. I thought
That it would somehow be much better decorated:
Perhaps a floor of oriental pearls,
Arranged, with precious stones, in a mosaic;
Or columns made of solid gold bars…
But then poor Darius had such an appetite,
That all his revenues on food and drink he squandered.

Callisthenes [taking notes]: That's most amusing.

Perdiccas: Yesterday we found
a list of items for the great king's dinner.
It said "two hundred geese, a hundred cows",
And how many amphoras of wine, Craterus?

Craterus [giggling]: More wine than even I could down in a week!

Callisthenes: But surely this must have been the menu
For some sort of a banquet. Do you think
That any man could eat and drink so much?
This food was surely meant for many people!

Alexander: You're such a spoilsport! Here we thought
We had a valid theory of where
The money from the treasury has gone.
A funny theory, at that. And now you tell us
That Darius is not a glutton after all,
That possibly the money has been stolen.

Callisthenes: I did not mean to say that.

Alexander: You implied it.
Perhaps you have another theory to offer…
Craterus, what's the matter? Look at you!
You look a little pale. And you, Perdiccas!
You've never looked so scared during a battle!
One might start thinking that perhaps you know
Where Darius's money disappeared?

Aristander: I beg your pardon. Pardon my intrusion.
I'm sure that we'll find the money with the king.

Alexander: Perhaps we will. That wily old coward
is saving money. He'd be well advised
to spend it on an army.

Aristander: Yes indeed.
Yet he would be hard pressed, after your many
successful victories, to find
a lot of mercenaries willing to fight you
and face a certain death for Persian money.

Craterus: Well said! And yet the Persian fox
Apparently could not run fast enough.
I searched the closets looking for some wine,
But, seems to me, I found something better.

[takes a crown from the page and hands it to Alexander]

Alexander: Why, if this is not Darius's crown!

[looks at the crown carefully]It's pretty strange. I think it has two parts.

Callisthenes: You are correct.

Alexander: You bet I am correct!

Callisthenes: I mean to say, the Persian crown does
contain two parts. The tall one's called tiara.
The circle is a diadem.

Alexander: I've seen
a diadem before. [tries on the crown] What do you think?
A mirror! Let me see… [the page holds a mirror before him]
It is too tall.
It makes me look a little silly, doesn't it? 

Callisthenes: It is a little tall.

Alexander: Let's melt it down then.
I have to pay the troops, that armed rabble
that follows me and thinks it is my army,
those peasants, always looking for more loot,
those ignorant barbarians, for whom
my quest for glory has no meaning, who
just long to go back to their wild hills,
all loaded with gold and treasure that they stole!
They do not understand me… Only you,
my trustworthy companions; Callisthenes,
my fellow scholar, understand my dream.
Greeks want revenge, and Macedonians--booty,
but I--I want to build a bridge,
a mighty bridge uniting all of mankind.
To me it doesn't matter if you are
a Greek, a Macedonian, a Persian…
A global, lasting peace, a peace forever--
This is the whole object of this war.
Since Philip broke stubborn Greek resistance
At Chaeronea, not single drop
of blood was spilled in fratricidal struggle!
They whined for their liberty, their freedom,
Like spoiled children who resist their father,
Who think they know what is best for them…
This diadem--I think I'll wear it.
Put the tiara with my baggage train.
And tell the troops that Darius's treasure
awaits them at Percepolis.

Perdiccas: Yes, my king.

Alexander: Please call me Alexander. I insist.
I am your king, but also am your friend.

Aristander: Your majesty, you are too kind to us.
We don't deserve that you should treat us thus.

 

Act II

Scene 1

[Craterus' quarters in Akbatana. Craterus and Perdiccas sit at a table.]

Craterus: You're sure you invited him?

Perdiccas: Of course.
He'll come, you'll see. He's probably completing
another chapter of his chronicle. You know
our friend Callisthenes, the bookworm: he considers
good books more pleasurable than good wine.

Craterus: What fool!

Perdiccas: Perhaps he is a fool, but he could be of use.

Craterus: I've never been too comfortable with
this strange idea of involving him
in our plans. I do not trust him. He is too…

Perdiccas: Idealistic?

Craterus: Yes. His metaphysics
I wouldn't understand, I'm sure, if I cared
to try to understand such nonsense; however,
he wouldn't understand my politics, I'll bet.

Perdiccas: Nor does he have to. Actually, it's better
this way, for if our kind-hearted
philosopher had any inclination
of our goals, he would never
agree to help us.

Craterus: That's precisely why
I was opposed from the start to getting
this nerd involved. What if he does find out?

Perdiccas: Find out what? That general Philotas
has plans to murder Alexander? That
he wants to make a peace with Persians? That we
have found out and decided to take action?

Callisthenes: [knocks on the door and sticks in his head]
May I?

Perdiccas: Come in! Come in! You had us worried.

Callisthenes: I'm sorry I am late. I was completing
the chapter on our victory at Issus.
I'm trying to be thorough, and wanted
to jot down the details while they were fresh.

Perdiccas: We're grateful that you found time for us.

Craterus: This is a very, very urgent matter.
The fate of whole kingdom is at stake.

Perdiccas: The very fate of Greek civilization.

Callisthenes: Why are you telling me, a poor scholar?
You two are generals, and men of action!
I cannot do with words what weapons can achieve.

Perdiccas: But weapons go blunt attacking wall of deafness,
while wise man's words can open a breach.
Lord Craterus and I have learned there is a plot
against the king.

Callisthenes: Against king Alexander?
Would the barbarians in their desperation
stoop so low as to hire an assassin?

Craterus: Had it been Darius behind this heinous plot,
we would not need your help. We would have gone
straight to the king with our accusations,
and drag the villain in, in heavy chains.

Callisthenes: Then who would lift his brazen, cursé d hand
to strike the champion of Hellas, who would dare
to break the barrier that's bravely shielding
civilization from barbaric hordes?
Those Spartan traitors, only Greek in name?

Craterus: Alas, it's one of us. And that's precisely why
We need your help, for Alexander would
think we are moved by envy if we told him
that one of us was plotting against him.

Perdiccas: And you he would believe. You've known Alexander
for many years. Together you were taught,
and he has learned to trust you. He, like us,
believes that you cannot be bought by money,
that you cannot be jealous of a rival,
that with an open, objective mind
you view the world.

Callisthenes: You flatter me, Perdiccas.

Perdiccas: I'm only giving you the due you well deserve.
We, soldiers bred for battle, lack the knowledge,
the understanding of the world philosophers possess.

Craterus: And that's precisely why today we need your help.
The king will not believe us if we told him
that someone whom he trusts is plotting against him.

Callistenes: Why would he not trust you, who long have been his friends?

Perdiccas: Because the proof we have is not sufficient.
We know for a fact Philotas has designs
on Alexander's life as well as on his throne.
But it's too circumstantial to present to Alexander now,
and if we wait too long and diligently try
to gather more, it could well be too late.

Callisthenes: But why are you so sure he is guilty?

Craterus: His mistress is a spy in our employ.
You frown? You may think it isn't noble
to pay a slave to spy upon her master.
Had we been acting nobly, we'd be dead.
We must protect ourselves.

Perdiccas: Protect the king…

Callisthenes: And how can I help you to achieve
this noble goal?

Perdiccas: In a way that will,
perhaps, to you seem not so noble, but which is
the only way to save the king and Hellas.

Craterus: We need more evidence to make the king believe us.
The evidence that you can help provide.

Callisthenes: But how? I know nothing of this plot!

Perdiccas: We need some letters. Something with allusion
to heroes of mythology, perhaps,
something with veiled suggestions, and with quotes
from old classics--after all, Philotas
is educated,--not like you, of course.

Craterus: He has been corresponding with his father,
that old fox Parmenio, who thinks
he has a better claim to Macedonia's throne.

Callisthenes: So let me get this straight. You want me to forge letters.

Perdiccas: You tell us if there is a better way.
If we come out and accuse Philotas
he will protest his innocence and say
his mistress lied because we paid her to.
And so he will live to see another day,
And Alexander will be killed, just like his father,
And we will lose all that we gained so far.
The Persians will regroup, and soon another host
will come to Greece, and soon a raging fire
shall lick the ruins of Athens in revenge.

Callisthenes: I'll see what I can do. And may my word
shield Alexander from assassin's sword!

 

Scene 2

[Philotas' quarters. Philotas is sitting at a table, deep in thought. A knock on the door is heard.]

Philotas: Come in.

[A middle-aged Soldier wearing an eye-patch enters. He looks a bit unsure of himself.]

Soldier: I'm real sorry to intrude…

Philotas: Since you already did, just tell me what is it you want.

Soldier: You mentioned, when you spoke to us last week,
that we can always come to see you if we have
some problem or concern.

Philotas [with sarcasm]: Well, in that case, sit down,
and share with me this problem you are having.
Or is it a concern?

Soldier [sits down on the edge of a chair]: It is a bit of both.
I am concerned about a problem we are having.

Philotas: Did someone send you, then?

Soldier: O no, not at all.

Philotas: But you said "we". I'm used to having people
complain of their quarters or their food.
We are at war and do the best we can
to adequately feed and shelter our troops.
But, so help me, it's less difficult to kick
the Persians' butt than is to satisfy
our men, who think that they are here
On a sight-seeing pleasure trip or something.

Soldier: That's true. I know this complaining kind,
those rookies who believe they must be pampered.

Philotas: Unlike the seasoned veterans like you.

Soldier: Yes, sir. I am too old to care
about me alone. I came here
because I am concerned for all of us.

Philotas: O, is that so?

Soldier: General, I'm worried.
A nasty rumor has been going around.

Philotas: You look like you are old enough to know better
than trust each rumor that you hear.

Soldier: True,
But I have been around long enough
to feel that this one rumor smells of truth.

Philotas: Well, out with it then, before its smell
stinks up this whole place.

Soldier: Some say the king
decided that it's not enough to conquer Persia,
that there is no end in sight to his campains.
And veterans are thinking: what if we
are going to die of old age, not on the field of battle,
and never see our motherland again.
Death doesn't scare us, when there is an objective
that needs to be achieved, that is worth fighting for.
But then they say the king has lost his marbles,
and won't stop until the whole world is conquered.

Philotas: That's news to me, and so can't be true.
I'm sure that my father and myself
would be consulted.

Soldier: Sure, that makes sense,
unless the king indeed has lost his marbles.
Please, I implore you, try to talk some sense
into the king.

Philotas: I'm not the king's advisor.
And, come to think of it, he won't even listen
to anyone if he's made up his mind.

Soldier: Then may the gods protect King Alexander!
The troops, especially the veterans, are tired.
We'd like to go home. We were farmers
before we learned the art of killing men,
and want to die in peace, surrounded by children,
and buried with our fathers. We have paid
with sweat and blood for honorable rest.

Philotas: I understand and sympathize with you.

Soldier: I knew you would, and this is why I'm here.
We're almost finished here. Just one more defeat,
and Darius will lose all his empire.
I sure hope this empire's big enough
to satisfy King Alexander's appetite,
for this is all he's gonna get from us.

Philotas: And if, let's say, he orders you to go
to India, for instance?

Soldier: Let him go
alone. We can only go home.
If Alexander is a god, he doesn't need our help.
Let him hurl thunderbolts, or summon leopards
to tear all his enemies to pieces--
but we just need someone to lead us home.

Philotas: The king is stubborn, as you must've heard,
but I will talk to him. You are dismissed.

[The Soldier bows and exits.]

The king cannot, would not be dissuaded
from pushing on until the borders of the world.
What good can come to country or to me
If I persist with pestering advice?
He'll laugh it off, or he will send me home,
or will demote me--or worse, denounce me
for cowardice. He'll think I am a coward
for recommending that he come to terms
with Darius. And if I say the troops
demand this? He'll demand to know
who's spreading those rumors, and, of course,
the innocent will suffer with the guilty.
But if this rumor's true… Events will run their course.
This is the only way the king can be convinced:
When mutiny occurs, then he will stop and think.
Yes, stop and think! I must remind myself:
stop fantasizing, think of what can happen
if Alexander dies. Another civil war?
Assassinations, plotting with the Greeks,
covert negotiations with the Persians?
A scramble for the throne? Silly me:
I'm happy doing what I'm doing now.
If fortune chooses me to be the king--
that is, of course, another story…
The troops have had enough of chasing Persians.
They're tired and they want to go home…
Well, if it's for a guide that they ask,
I know someone equal to the task!

 

Scene 3

[Callisthenes' quarters. Callisthenes and Aristander are playing chess.]

Aristander: What an amazing game. Especially amazing
is that barbarians invented it, not Greeks.

Callisthenes: I wouldn't call them that. "Barbarians" implies
a lack of culture; Persians are not
uncivilized. My uncle was mistaken.
Flies have six legs, not eight, and Persians possess
civilization that preceded that of Greece.

Aristander: It must be those Persian priests you interviewed.
Did they convert you into their faith?

Callisthenes: A curious religion. Just two gods;
one good, one evil.

Aristander: Sounds very simple.
A primitive, barbarian religion.
Life's not just black and white, or good and evil.
Imagine if we played just with the kings.
We'd play forever! What of other figures?
My bishop's rather obviously plotting
to take my pawn; meanwhile, my knight is trying
to take your poor, isolated queen.

Callisthenes: But there are still two sides, at least in chess.

Aristander: In life, of course, my queen would plot against
my own king, and try to take his spot.
Life is a complicated game, my friend.

Callisthenes: You seriously think there is a plot?

Aristander: I wouldn't be surprised. But not against the king.

Callisthenes: Why not? I mean, how do you know?

Aristander: I've been around, and I pay attention.
My dear scholar, I've been studying humans.
What an amazing species, I must say.
The king is safe as long as there's a threat.
Once Darius is totally defeated--
that would be quite a different story.
To plot against him now, in the middle
of an unconquered Persia--o, please.
That would be simply dumb.

Callisthenes: And plotters can't be dumb?

Aristander: There are exceptions that just prove the rule.
Intelligence, however, seems to me
to be required for successful plotting.
I only know two thus qualified:
Craterus and Perdiccas.

Callisthenes: Not Philotas?

Aristander: My dear friend, please do not make me laugh.
That dashing cavalry commander? He can lead
a frontal charge with ardor and elan,
but surely he couldn't lead a plot.

Callisthenes: An enemy who's an unlikely suspect
is twice as dangerous as one you can suspect.

Aristander: Said like a true philosopher. But still,
he doesn't strike me like a cunning type at all…
Whatever made you think he's capable of cunning?

Callisthenes: I heard…

Aristander: Your sources are reliable, of course?

Callisthenes: I thought they were, but come to think of it…
But no, that cannot be… Or could it? Yes, it could…
I think I made a terrible mistake…
What is that noise? What happened, Aristander?

Aristander [being closer to the door, he opens it, looks out, and closes the door again] Philotas' being led away. I think he's been arrested.

Callisthenes: He must be guilty, then! [Aside] Or was I just a fool
who let myself become a crook's unwitting tool?

 

Act III

Scene 1

[A square near Darius's palace. Alexander is sitting on the throne. Craterus, Perdiccas, Callisthenes, Aristander and a few others are seated on chairs on either side of the throne. They are facing the audience, which becomes a participant of Philotas's trial, which is in progress.]

Alexander: Today I asked you to assemble here
not to receive new marching orders, nor
to give you news regarding this campaign.
Today I need your help against a different foe.
Not wild barbarians, and not rebellious Spartans--
but one of us, who long had been my friend.
I can't, I do not want to be his judge.
Instead, I ask you to return a favor.
I've often sat in judgment, as your king,
and always tried to render just decisions.
I now ask you: do the same for me.
For it is I today who asks for justice!
Today I learned that General Philotas,
who served me well before, and whom I well rewarded,
was plotting to deprive me of my life.

Philotas: This is ridiculous!

Alexander: Your turn to speak will come.
I read the letter that you secretly had sent
to old fox Parmenio, your father,
in which you--oh so subtly--lay your claim to kingship!

Philotas: I never wrote such a letter, sire!

Alexander: I have this letter here, and it's signed by you!

Perdiccas: You heard the charges brought against the traitor.
And now witnesses will back these charges up.
Come closer, young man, and tell us who you are.

Young Soldier:
I'm Jason from the Guard's Battalion, sir!

Perdiccas: Please tell us what you told the king this morning.

Y.S.: I told the king there was a plot to kill him!

Perdiccas: And how do you know of this plot?

Y.S.: My friend, Demetrius, a sergeant of the Guards,
told me he planned to kill King Alexander.

Perdiccas: And you?

Y.S.: I went and told… I went and told Philotas.

Perdiccas: You told Philotas that there was a plot.
And what was his reaction?

Y.S.: Well, he said
he'd tell the king.

Alexander [interrupts]: He obviously lied!

Perdiccas: And then what happened?

Y.S.: I was getting worried,
and went to see Philotas once again.
Again he said he would inform the king.

Perdiccas: Let's ask the king. Your majesty, I call you as a witness.
Did General Philotas ever mention
a plot of any kind?

Alexander: He never did.
I just found out earlier this morning,
when you came in and told me.

Perdiccas: Just as soon
as I myself found out from this soldier!

Y.S.: I'd given up on General Philotas.
I realized he wouldn't keep his promise.

Perdiccas: This morning we attempted to arrest
Demetrius. He proved too fast for us
and killed himself by falling on his sword.

Philotas: He killed himself?

Perdiccas: You'll get your chance to talk.
And so you see that General Philotas
committed treason by his failure to inform
the king of pending danger to his life.
What do you have to say in your defense?

Philotas: This youth did come to see me, but I thought
that "plot" was not for real. After all,
why would his friend decide to kill the king?
Because he was passed over for promotion?
This is ridiculous, I thought, unworthy
of King's attention, and would only rouse
suspicion, fear, paranoia, and mistrust,
would only get the soldier into trouble
over nothing. Something he just said
in jest, or even in a fit of anger--
I didn't think he seriously meant it!

Perdiccas: He was dead serious, that's why he killed himself.

Philotas: I was surprised to hear that he did.
I underestimated the potential threat.
I'm sorry. I'm relieved that nothing happened.

Perdiccas: Not this time. This time the assassin failed,
no thanks to you.

Philotas: Well, I repeat, I'm sorry.

Perdiccas: The arrogant Philotas is apologizing!
Halfhearted it may be, but yet from him,
apology is a collector's item.
Will you accept, Your Majesty?

Alexander: His crime
is not against just me--it is against us all!
I'm not just Alexander, son of Philip,
not just your king--I'm also your commander!
A threat against me is a threat against this army.
The army must decide. It's up to them.

A Soldier: The king is right: he's putting us in danger!
We'll all be dead if Alexander dies!

Another Soldier:
Philotas is a bastard! I collected
some fodder for my horse--
his men just came and took it!

A Soldier: He is a pig! He made me clean his saddle!

A.S.: He threw me out from the quarters I selected!

A Soldier: An arrogant son of a bitch! A traitor!

Soldiers: Death to the traitor! We demand his death!

Perdiccas: Take him away. We'll further question him.

Callisthenes [to Aristander]:
I'm sure they will see he's not a traitor
once they interrogate him privately.

Aristander: Of course!
"You're free to go," they will say, "and we are sorry
for any pain we may have caused you, sir."
And he'll reply, while trying not to swoon:
"I'll sign it all, just end this torture soon!"

 

Scene 2

[A banquet hall. Alexander, Craterus, Perdiccas, Callisthenes, Aristander, Black Cleitus, other courtiers and generals, guards. A banquet is in progress]

[All sing] The shores of Adriatic
And Tigris' reeded banks
Have come to fear the tactics
Of our phalanx!

Of Thebes' mighty bastions
Just ruins now remain,
To teach the world a lesson:
Resistance is in vain!

Ash lies where, multi-templed,
Once Persepolis stood,
The pride of Persia--trampled
Under Macedon's foot!

Alexander: Another toast to courageous Cleitus' health!
Congratulations on his new important post!

Perdiccas: To Cleitus! And to our kind host,
King Alexander, conqueror of Persia!

Cleitus: We haven't conquered yet, though Darius is dead.
That's why I'm off to Bactria tomorrow.

Alexander: Those Bactrian guerrillas are a nuisance,
but I could wipe them out with a company or two!

Craterus: King Alexander could, but few could be like him!
Have any of you heard Callisthenes' new poem?

Callisthenes: I started it a while ago, but it's still unfinished.

Craterus: But what a great beginning, I recall:
"Glorious were the deeds Hercules once had performed.
King Alexander's achievements far outshone his brother's."

Cleitus: That's blasphemy! His father was King Philip!
A general as good as world has ever seen!

Alexander: King Philip was a braggart and a drunk!

Cleitus: Perhaps, but had he lost at Chaeronea,
we wouldn't be in Persia today!

Alexander: I won at Chaeronea, and the credit
Belongs to me! I even saved his life!

Cleitus: And I saved yours at Granicus, so what?
I do not claim the credit for that battle!
For it belongs to all the Macedonians,
who fought against overwhelming odds!
It's shared by Parmenio, Philotas,
and all the other generals you killed!

Alexander: How dare you? I will remember that!

Cleitus: Remember this then also, Alexander
all of your victories are due to us--
our courage, our sweat and blood!

Alexander: Ah! Blood? It's blood you want? Where is my sword?
[Looks for a sword, can't find it. Flings an apple at Cleitus, who dodges.]

Cleitus: The mighty son of Zeus has poor aim!

Alexander [grabs a spear from a guard, runs Cleitus through]:
Die, die, you dog!… [Pause] O gods, what have I done!

[Alexander tries to impale himself on the spear. Craterus, Perdiccas, et al. restrain him and lead him out.]

Aristander: Look, what a bloody mess! The king is getting touchy!

Callisthenes: I think the king is turning fast into a tyrant.

Aristander: That is so harsh, especially from you.

Callisthenes: Because I used to think so highly of the king?
Because to me he symbolized the best,
because I thought that he deserved to rule?

Aristander: Oh, he deserves to rule all right:
He's got the cunning and he's got the might.

 

Scene 3

[Alexander's tent. Alexander is sitting on a mat. Before him lies the corpse of Cleitus. Enter Aristander.]

Alexander [lifts his head]:
It's you? What do you want? I want to be alone!
I've had enough of visitors today!
Your friend Callisthenes stopped by here before.
He knows how to talk--yet all of you were silent
before the deed was done, before I killed my friend!
I drank too much? I know it myself!
My hind vision's just as good as yours!
You're going to say I acted rashly,
remind me I've unlearned to listen to the truth?
O Cleitus, you have taught me a harsh lesson!
What lesson did you come to teach me now?
I've learned enough! The school is now closed!

Aristander: If I may ask, what did you learn, exactly?

Alexander: I've learned that amongst men I don't deserve a place.

Aristander: So this is why you're staying in your tent,
refusing food and drink?

Alexander: I'm mourning over Cleitus.

Aristander: I drew a wrong conclusion from your lesson.
The laws of men do not apply to you.
We mortals cannot judge a god who vents his wrath.
A hundred years from now Cleitus will be known
just as somebody Alexander killed.
You know you are different from the rest,
you've known it for many years. Accept it!
Nobody has a right to tell you what to do.
We pray to gods, yet gods don't always listen!
We cannot judge them, only beg some more.

Alexander: What are you getting at? Of course I'm not a god!

Aristander: You know who your real father was!
You've done far more than many gods have done!
You are a mortal, yes, but you will be a god.
What do you think will happen when you die?
You will be deified,--of that I have no doubt,--
and your sarcophagus will be a giant temple,
to which innumerable pilgrims from all Greece,
from Babylon, Illyria, and Egypt
will come in search of guidance and help.
So out with this garbage, Alexander! [points at Cleitus's body]
Behave as it behooves you, and be strong!

Alexander [referring to Cleitus's body]:
I want him buried with full military honors,
and sacrifice performed to Dionysius.
Perhaps the god of wine got jealous of my fame
and made me drink too much…

Aristander: So you are coming out?

Alexander: Yes. Tell my generals to wait for me outside.
What to do next--this god will then decide.

 

Act IV

Scene 1

[A banquet room. Craterus and Perdiccas.]

Perdiccas: I hope everything is ready.

Craterus: I'm not ready.
I'm having second thoughts about this.

Perdiccas: O, please! If Persian lords can do
obeisance, so can we, and do it better.

Craterus: But I'm a Macedonian!

Perdiccas: So what?
You can't prostrate yourself before your king
to demonstrate your loyalty, respect, and admiration?

Craterus: It's easy for the Persians. They are used
to kneel before their betters. I am not.

Perdiccas: Callisthenes once said (or was it Aristotle?),
"it never is too late to learn", my friend.
Just make believe you are before Apollo.
You'd kneel before Apollo, wouldn't you?

Craterus: But this is Alexander, not Apollo!
I'm not so stupid as to think he is a god!

Perdiccas: If you are smart, you'll do what's good for you.
Remember that you have a better chance
to die from Alexander's wrath than from Apollo's.

[Enter Alexander, Callisthenes, Aristander, others.]

My lord!

[Perdiccas prostrates himself before Alexander. Aristander passes Alexander a wine cup. Alexander leisurely taps Perdiccas on the shoulder.]

Alexander: Arise, my friend! And in return
receive this kiss of friendship, and this wine!

[Kisses Perdiccas and hands him the cup. Perdiccas takes a sip and hands the cup back to Alexander.]

Craterus: My lord, accept my pledge as well!

[Prostrates himself. Alexander taps him on the shoulder and hands him the cup.]

Alexander: Arise, Craterus.

[Kisses him and gives him a sip of wine. The others repeat this ceremony--
all except for Callisthenes.]

Alexander: Well, let us eat, my friends! [Sits down.]

Perdiccas: My king, I think
Callisthenes forgot, or simply missed his chance,
to pay obeisance…

Callisthenes: I did not forget!
I chose not to! I don't think it's right
To kneel--and let alone prostrate oneself--
except before an altar in a temple.

Aristander: When god is in a room, that room becomes a temple.

Callisthenes: To me this is a banquet hall.

Alexander: It's just a Persian custom:
they kneel before superiors, kiss their equals--
and all prostrate themselves before the king.
And we decided to adopt it and combine--
prostrate yourself, and then receive a kiss.

Callisthenes: [Gets up.] Your majesty, I have to be excused.

Alexander: You will not get your kiss if you leave now!

Callisthenes: I will be one kiss poorer, then. Good-bye! [Exits.]

Perdiccas [to Craterus]:
That wasn't smart of him. Such obstinacy! For it
more than a royal kiss Callisthenes will forfeit.

 

Scene 2

[A square near Darius's palace. Alexander is sitting on the throne. Craterus, Perdiccas, Callisthenes, Aristander and a few others are seated on chairs on either side of
the throne. They are facing the audience, which represents the assembled
Macedonian army.]

Alexander: I hope you've enjoyed the dancing girls as much as I.
But now--something for the mind, so to speak.
Our learned friend, Callisthenes, the nephew
of Aristotle, will deliver us a speech
that he prepared to commemorate one year
since our victorious invasion.
Please, join me in some welcoming applause!

Callisthenes: O, thank you, thank you. I'll be brief, I promise.
It is tough to compete with dancing girls.
I want to share my enthusiasm,
my deepest gratitude for what you've done.
You have united Greeks against a common threat.
Athenians, Corinthians, and Spartans
have ceased their fratricidal strife to face the Persians--
the real threat to their institutions,
society, economy, and culture.
You've liberated cities long enslaved,
set up democracies where oligarchs once ruled.
You've conquered half the world--the richest half!
In doing so, you overcame
the biggest armies yet assembled in the field.
The power of Persia you laid low,
and the Barbarian will never rise again
to threaten Greece. Your motherland is safe!
You, Macedonians, the sword and shield of Greece,
have brought about peace by means of war.
For that the scholar and the peasant and the shepherd
to you, the warriors, will be forever grateful.

Alexander: And we are very grateful for your speech!
Although, personally, I expected more:
more play of thought, more intellectual games...
You studied oratory, I did not.
And yet, I think, I could've made this speech.
Come on, you can do better.

Callisthenes: I can try.

Alexander: You chose an easy topic for your speech.

Callisthenes: Suggest a different topic. Go ahead.

Alexander: You've done a pro, but can you do a contra?
It's easy to find words of praise for us,
but can a brilliant rhetorician like yourself
find anything at all to criticize
in this great army of the greatest nation?

Callisthenes: Well, I can try, at least. Judge for yourself.
Just keep in mind: it's but an exercise
in rhetoric.

Alexander: We are all ears. Speak.

Callisthenes: O Macedonians, enslavers of the world!
First, you destroyed the liberty of Greece,
demolished Thebes, emasculated Sparta,
robbed Athens and Corinth of their riches.
And now you have come to prey on Persians,
who've done you nothing wrong, who lived in peace
with you for centuries. You took upon yourself
to "punish" them for what they've done
to Greece long, long ago. You've done more
to Greece than Persians! For you have succeeded
where Xerxes failed; you conquered where he lost.
You have set up your puppets as the rulers.
You confiscated riches from the wealthy
(you called it "taxes"); you took liberty from all.
You have defeated Persians… These are not
the Persians that we fought with at Platea!
They have no will to fight or knowledge of fighting.
What is the glory in defeating them?
If you had tried your luck in Italy, I doubt
You would succeed in getting very far.
But here it is easier to plunder,
so you came here… Thank you for your time.
I'm finished.

Craterus: Right you are!
You're finished, dirty bastard!

Alexander: [restrains him]:
That was a heartfelt speech!

Callisthenes: That was an exercise, as you well know!

Alexander: I thought at was, but I cannot be sure!
And now look at all these people! They are angry!
They feel insulted, and they thirst for blood!
Please, order! You, get back! I said, get back!

Perdiccas: I think we have to place our scholar
in a protective custody for now.

Alexander: Please keep him safe from this blood-thirsty mob.

Perdiccas: Come on, Callisthenes, my friend. We'll guard you well:
I'll put you in a clean and cushy cell.

 

Scene 3

[A prison cell. Aristander stands outside; Callisthenes sits inside.]

Callisthenes: Thank you for coming. It took courage.

Aristander: Not at all.
King Alexander asked me to deliver
a message for you personally. Soon
he's going to India, and so
he asked me that I bid you farewell
on his behalf.

Callisthenes: He couldn't come himself?

Aristander: He is too busy planning this and that.
These gods these kings--they're always busy.
Too busy for us ordinary mortals.
And talking of mortality, he said…

Callisthenes: I will be put to death?

Aristander: Well, not exactly.
He said the army's low on provisions,
and can afford to feed you no longer.
I'm sorry. No, really, I'm sorry.
I never wanted it to come to this, believe me.

Callisthenes: [crushed]
So this is how it all ends for me.
Like Socrates, in prison--
but not surrounded by disciples and friends.

Aristander: I'm not much of a friend…

Callisthenes: And not a disciple at all…

Aristander: But I am sorry.
And so I brought you, secretly, of course,
this poison. It works quickly and is painless.

Callisthenes: Give it to me, my friend.

Aristander: I'm very honored
to be your friend. Are you completely sure?

Callisthenes: Of course I'm sure. [Aristander hands him the poison in a cup].
Thank you, dear friend.

Aristander: Commend me, please, to Socrates and Plato.

Callisthenes: I will. Commend me to my uncle Aristotle!
Good-bye forever! [Drinks the poison, collapses and dies.]

Aristander: Farewell, poor scholar!

[Enter Perdiccas and Craterus.]

Perdiccas: Well, did it work?

Aristander: It took less than a minute
for him to die.

Perdiccas: We should adjust the dosage.
The patient's got to live at least for a few minutes.

Craterus: Well, we have time. We cannot use this medicine
until we're back from India. By then
I hope you will get it to work right.

Perdiccas: The patient has been violent of late,
and is behaving in an errant way.

Aristander: We'll outlive the patient if we're clever,—
although his fame, of course, will live forever.

[Curtain.]