As soon as the Greek states had all been brought to a proper state of obedience, Alexander prepared to conquer Persia, although he had a force of only 34,500 men. These men were very well trained, however, and promised to be more powerful on the battlefield than the million warriors of Xerxes.
In his joy at departing, Alexander made rich presents to everybody, until one of his advisers modestly reminded him that his treasure was not boundless, and asked him what he would have left when he had given away all he owned. “My hopes!” answered Alexander proudly, for he expected to conquer not only Persia and Asia Minor, but all the known world.
While his army slowly made its way along the coast and across the Hellespont, Alexander, attended by only a few followers, sailed straight for Troy, the ancient Asiatic city. He landed on the desert plain where the proud city had once stood, visited all the scenes of the mighty conflict, and offered sacrifices on the tomb of Achilles, while his friend Hephaestion did the same on that of Patroclus.
When this pious pilgrimage to the tomb of his ancestor was over, Alexander hastened to join the army, for he longed to do like the ancient Greeks, and win a glorious victory. His wishes were soon granted, for before long he met the Persian army near the Granicus River, where a terrible battle was fought. Alexander himself joined in the fighting, and would certainly have been killed had not his friend Clytus, the son of his old nurse, rushed to his rescue and saved his life.
In spite of the size of the Persian army, which was much larger than his own, Alexander won a complete victory at the Granicus. Then, marching southward, he took the cities of Sardis and Ephesus without striking another blow. These towns were very rich, and offered of their own free will to pay him the same tribute that they had given to the Persians.
Alexander, however, would not take it, but bade them use the money to rebuild the Temple of Diana, which had been burned to the ground on the night he was born. As the sacred image of the goddess had been saved, the Ephesians gladly built a second magnificent shrine, which was visited many years later by Paul, the disciple of Christ.
From Sardis and Ephesus, Alexander marched on into the province of Caria. Here the queen of the country warmly welcomed him, adopted him as her son, and even proposed to give him her best cooks, so that they might prepare his food for him on the march. Alexander thanked her heartily for this kind offer, but declined it, saying that his tutor Aristotle had given him the very best recipe for making him relish his meals.
The queen, whose appetite was fanciful, eagerly asked what it was; and Alexander smilingly answered, “A march before daybreak as the sauce for my dinner, and a light dinner as the sauce for my supper.” This was, as you may see, a very good recipe; and if Alexander had always remembered to be temperate, as Aristotle had advised, he would not have died of over eating and drinking at the age of thirty-three.