Alexander now went back to Babylon, where he married Roxana, a Persian princess, giving her sister’s hand to his intimate friend Hephaestion. This wedding was celebrated with great pomp, for eighty Macedonian officers took Persian wives on the same day.
The feasting for the weddings went on for many days, and the revelry was carried to such a shameful excess, that Hephaestion actually drank himself to death.
In token of sorrow, Alexander built him a fine tomb, had him buried with all the magnificence possible, and even decreed that he should henceforth be worshiped as a god. In this folly he was upheld by the priests, who were now ready to grant his every wish, and were always filling his mind with their senseless flatteries.
Alexander then fell into his old habits more than ever. He had again assumed all the pomp of an Eastern king, and sat on a wonderful golden throne. Over his head was the golden vine that had formerly belonged to the first Darius. Its leaves were of emeralds, while its grapes were clusters of fine carbuncles.
This vine had been given to a Persian king by Croesus, the wealthy ruler of Lydia, and was considered one of the most precious treasures which the young conqueror had won.
But in spite of all Alexander’s successes, he was not nearly so happy as he used to be when only king of Macedon. He no longer enjoyed the fine health which had helped him to bear the greatest hardships, and, weakened by over eating and drinking, he soon fell dangerously ill.
The doctors crowded around his bed, doing their best to save him, but they soon saw that he would die. When the Macedonian soldiers heard this, they were beside themselves with grief, and one and all insisted upon seeing their beloved leader once more.