Why Alexander Wept
A LEXANDER with his little army overran all the western part of Asia.
"The world is my kingdom," he said.
He conquered Persia, which was then the greatest and richest country known. He burned the mighty city of Tyre. He made himself the master of Egypt. He built, near the mouth of the Nile River, a splendid new city which he called, after his own name, Alexandria.
"What lies west of Egypt?" he asked.
"Only the great desert," was the answer. "To the farthest bounds of the earth there is nothing but sand, sand, burning sand."
So Alexander led his army back into Asia. He overran the country beyond the great river Euphrates. He crossed the grassy plains that lie along the shores of the Caspian Sea. He climbed the snowy mountains that seem to overlook the world. He gazed northward upon a desolate land.
"What lies beyond?" he asked.
"Only frozen marshes," was the answer. "Mile after mile, mile after mile, to the farthest bounds of the earth there is nothing but fields of snow and seas of ice."
So Alexander led his army back toward the south. He overran a large part of India. He subdued one rich city after another. At last he came to a mighty river called the Ganges. He would have crossed the river, but his soldiers would not follow him.
"We go no farther," they said.
"What lies to the east of this wonderful stream?" asked Alexander.
"Only tangled forests," was the answer. "Mile after mile, mile after mile, to the farthest bounds of the earth there is nothing else."
So Alexander caused ships to be built. He launched them on another river called the Indus, and with his army floated down to the sea.
"What lies farther on?" he asked.
"Only trackless waters," was the answer. "Mile after mile, mile after mile, to the farthest bounds of the earth there is nothing but the deep sea."
"Truly, then," said Alexander, "all the inhabited world is mine. West, north, east, south, there is nothing more for me to conquer. But, after all, how small a kingdom it is!"
Then he sat down and wept because there were not other worlds for him to conquer.