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Alexander kills Batis


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). Alexander captured Gaza in November 332. The Persian garrison had acted bravely: it had taken four Macedonian assaults to take the city. Alexander was furious when the commander of the garrison, a man named Batis, was brought to him, and acted cruelly. The Roman author Quintus Curtius Rufus, who based his account on earlier, Greek sources, describes the death of the brave Persian soldier in section 4.6.26-29 of his History of Alexander the Great of Macedonia. The translation was made by John Yardley.
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Achilles dishonors the corpse of Hector. Sarcophagus in the National Museum, Beirut (Lebanon). Photo Jona Lendering.
Achilles dishonors the corpse of Hector. (Sarcophagus from Tyre, now in the National Museum, Beyrut)

Batis was brought before the young king, who was elated with haughty satisfaction, although he generally admired courage even in an enemy. 'You shall not have the death you wanted,' he said. 'Instead, you can expect to suffer whatever torment can be devised against a prisoner.'

Batis gave Alexander a look that was not just fearless, but downright defiant, and uttered not a word in reply to his threats. 'Do you see his obstinate silence?' said Alexander. 'Has he knelt to me? Has he uttered one word of entreaty? But I shall overcome his silence: at the very least I shall punctuate it with groans.'

Alexander's anger turned to fury, his recent successes already suggesting to his mind foreign modes of behavior. Thongs were passed through Batis' ankles while he still breathed, and he was tied to a chariot. Then Alexander's horses dragged him around the city while the king gloated at having followed the example of his ancestor Achilles in punishing his enemy.[1]

Note 1:
Achilles had dishonored the corpse of the Trojan warrior Hector in this way. Dragging a dead body behind a chariot was not unusual in northern Greece and it may have been customary in Macedonia too.




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