Alexander was marching southward, and Darius was hastening northward with a vast army, hoping to meet him and to prevent his advancing any farther. By a singular chance it happened that the two armies missed each other, and passed through separate defiles in the same range of mountains. Alexander became aware of this first, and retraced his steps without delay, for he was anxious to find and defeat the enemy.
The two armies soon met at a place called Issus, where the Persians were routed. Darius was forced to flee, and his mother, wife, and family were made captives. As soon as the battle was over, Alexander went to visit the royal ladies in their tent, to assure them that they would be treated with all respect. He was accompanied by his friend Hephaestion, who was somewhat taller and larger than he.
As they entered the tent, in their plain armor, the queen mother, Sisygambis, mistook Hephaestion for the king, and fell down upon her knees before him, begging his mercy for herself and her children. When she found out her mistake, she was greatly dismayed; but Alexander kindly reassured her by leaning upon his friend’s shoulder, and saying of him, “He is my other self.”
The young conqueror treated the Persian ladies with the utmost kindness, and often visited them in their own tent, to talk for a while with them. As he always found them idle, he fancied that time must hang very heavily upon their hands, and once offered to have them taught to spin and weave, as the Greek ladies were wont to do.
At this proposal, Sisygambis burst into tears, and asked if he wished to make slaves of them, for Persian ladies considered any labor a disgrace. Alexander, seeing her grief, hastened to comfort her, and tried to explain how happy the Greek ladies always seemed over their dainty work. But when he understood that the royal family would rather remain idle, he never again proposed to furnish them with occupation of any kind. On the contrary, he was so gentle and respectful, that Sisygambis soon learned to love him, and used to treat him like her own son.