At the close of Book IX, Alexander has conquered the world, and sets his sites on more distant pastures:
The boundary of the world lies near at hand.Not to provoke the ill will of the gods,the world’s too narrow, and the breadth of the earthis insufficient for its only lord.Bu when I’ve passed beyond this conquered universe,I’ll undertake to open to my followersanother world. The strong man finds no goalinsuperable. I hasten now to penetratethe shores of the Antipodes, and viewthe other Nature. Though you begrudge your arms,I cannot fail in duty to myself.I’ll think the entire world my theater,and move my troops throughout its length, ennoblingignoble lands and peoples by my wars.While I stand as your duke, your feel will tramplelands hidden from all races by great Nature.IX.655-69
This troubles Nature, who decides she must put a stop to the Macedonian before he shatters the rightful order of things even more:
That same while, Nature with a mindful griefrecalled how both the world and she herselfhad suffered insult from the prince, who’d calledthe earth too narrow and prepared armed throngsto lay open her secret parts. Distressed,her noble white hair tangled, she left offher latest works, the figures she’d begunto form of Matter, and in rage she ceasedinstilling souls into diverse limbs. Veiledin cloudy mantle, toward the Styx she turned,and to the hidden kingdoms of the second world.The elements gave quarter where she trodand rose to meet their Shaper. Newly calmed,the air worshiped the advent of the goddess.In vernal pleasure Earth’s flowers burst forth,the sea reined in the waves more than its wont,and now the tumid billows held their silence.All things bestowed on Nature worth honor,praying that what she’d sown she’d multiply,and grant increase unto the seeds of things,infusing warmth and moisture. Paying thanksto her creatures, she bade them keep her lawsand in nothing exceed the bounds she’d set.X.6-28
So, Nature goes to Hell (!) and enlists Leviathan, “the father of all crimes and their avenger”, by threatening him with the possibility of Alexander laying siege to Paradise itself, “What praise is yours, serpent, what glory, that you cast the first man out, if such a garden should yield its honors up to Alexander?” (X.116-8) Can Hell be far behind?
Everything about this is fascinating. The way Nature is portrayed – veiled, shaping matter, all created things growing calm at her advent – especially so (there’s an interesting parallel between creation’s reaction to Nature and the nations of the world’s reactions to Alexander later in the book).
Plus, I love the descriptions of Hell:
Without delay, he roused the shadowy townand called a council, bellowing acrossthe ancient plain of evils, which there layhardened by ice, and ravaged by the snows,unconquered by the sun or gentle breeze.X.123-9
Anyway, as you might expect, the Devil is all about killing Alexander and sets Treachery to the task. Stirred by treachery, Antipater does the actual killing and the rest is, literally, history.
There’s one more passage I found especially poignant. Alexander knows that when he conquers the whole world he will die, yet he refuses to stop, unquenchable is his desire for glory and conquest:
No otherwise, the tiger sees far offa herd of horses, and a bitter thirstburns in he flashing jaws; then is she lashedby hunger’s goad to drink in living blood,and savagely devours the shredded limbs;but if, perchance, upon a hidden paththe tracking hunter’s spear pierces her flank,she wails, he blood poured out, and dies uponthe grass, still thirsting, still unslaked with gore.X.299-307
What better way to describe the end of Alexander?
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