Philip, King of Macedon, as we have seen, had one great fault. He drank; and often his reason was clouded, and his step unsteady. Now, it is impossible to respect a man who is drunk, and everybody used to make fun of Philip when he was in that state.
Even Alexander, his own son, felt great contempt for him when he thus disgraced himself; and once when he saw his father stagger and fall after one of his orgies, he scornfully exclaimed, “See! here is a man who is getting ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and yet he cannot step safely from one couch to another.”
Alexander, we are told, was greatly displeased by his father’s conquests, and once angrily cried that if Philip really beat the Persians, and took possession of Asia, there would be nothing left for him to do.
You may readily imagine, therefore, that he was not very sorry when his father died before the expedition could be undertaken; for he thus became, at twenty, master of an immense army and of great riches, and head of all the Greek cities, which were the finest in the world.
The news of Philip’s death was received with great joy by the Athenians also, who thought they would now be free. Demosthenes, in particular, was so glad to be rid of his hated foe, that he ran all through the city with a crown of flowers on his head, shaking hands with everybody he met, and shouting his congratulations.
His joy was so great, because he and all his fellow-citizens fancied that a mere boy like Alexander would never be able to hold his own, and because they hoped to become again the leading people of Greece.
The Thracians, who also thought that Alexander would not be able to carry out his father’s plans, now revolted, and the young king was obliged to begin his reign by marching against them.
Three months passed. The Greeks heard no news of Alexander or of his army, and fancied that he had been defeated and killed. The Thebans, thinking the right moment had come, suddenly rose up, and said that they would never again submit to the Macedonian yoke, but would stay free.
They soon had cause to repent of this rash talk. Alexander was not dead, but had conquered the Thracians completely. Without stopping to rest, he now marched straight down into Boeotia, and besieged and took Thebes. All the inhabitants were either slain or sold into slavery, the walls torn down, and not a single building was left standing, except the house of Pindar, a Greek poet, whose songs Alexander had always admired.
The other Greek cities, frightened by the terrible punishment of Thebes, sent messengers to the young king, offering not only to obey him as their chief, but also to supply all the men, money, and stores he wished for the expedition to Asia. Alexander graciously accepted all these proposals, and then marched southward as far as Corinth.