The purpose of writing this letter has been described as below:
If I ask you now as my wise friend and guide to prepare the way by philosophy and to justify my proclamation as god in such a way as to be acceptable to my Greeks and Macedonians, I do so as a responsible politician and statesman..
To Aristotle of Stagirus,
director of the school at Athens
My great and beloved teacher, dear Aristotle!
It is a very, very long time since I wrote to you; but as you know I have been over-occupied with military matters, and while we were marching through Hyrcania, Drangiana, and Gedrosia, conquering Bactria, and advancing beyond the Indus, I had neither the time nor the inclination to take up my pen. I have now been back in Susa for some months; but I have been so overwhelmed with administrative business, appointing officials, and mopping up all kinds of intrigues and revolts, that I have not had a moment till today to write to you about myself. Of course, you know roughly from the official reports what I have been doing; but both my devotion to you and my confidence in your influence on cultivated Hellenic circles urge me once more to open my heart to you as my revered teacher and spiritual guide.
I remember that years ago (how far away it seems to me now!) I wrote you an absurd and enthusiastic letter on the tomb of Achilles; I was on the threshold of my Persian expedition, and I vowed then that my model for life should be the valiant son of Peleus. I dreamed only of heroism and greatness; I had already won my victory over Thrace, and I thought that I was advancing against Darius at the head of my Macedonians and Hellenes simply to cover myself with laurels worthy of my ancestors. I can say that I did not fall short of my ideal either at Chaeronea or at Granicus; but today I hold a very different view of the political significance of my actions at that time. The sober truth is that our Macedonia was constantly threatened from the north by the Thracian barbarians; they could have attacked us at an unfavorable moment which the Greeks would have used to violate their treaty and break away from Macedonia. It was absolutely necessary to subdue Thrace so that Macedonia should have her flank covered in the event of Greek treachery. It was sheer political necessity, my dear Aristotle; but your pupil did not understand this thoroughly then and gave himself up to dreams of exploits like those of Achilles.
With the conquest of Thrace, our situation changed: we controlled the whole of the western coast of the Aegean; but our mastery of the Aegean was threatened by the maritime power of Persia. Fortunately, I struck before Darius was ready. I thought I was following in the footsteps of Achilles and should have the glory of conquering a new Ilium for Greece; actually, as I see today, it was absolutely necessary to drive the Persians back from the Aegean Sea; and I drove them back, my dear master, so thoroughly that I occupied the whole of Bithynia, Phrygia, and Cappadocia, laid waste Cilicia, and only stopped at Tarsus. Asia Minor was ours. Not only the old Aegean basin but the whole northern coast of the Mediterranean was in our hands.
You would have said, my dear Aristotle, that my principal political and strategic aim – namely, the final expulsion of Persia from Hellenic waters – was now completely achieved. But with the conquest of Asia Minor a new situation arose: our new shores might be threatened from the south – that is, from Phoenicia or Egypt; Persia might receive reinforcements or material from there for further wars against us. It was thus essential to occupy the Tyrian coasts and control Egypt; in this way we became masters of the entire littoral. But simultaneously a new danger arose: that Darius, relying on his rich Mesopotamia, might fling himself upon Syria and tear our Egyptian dominions from our base in Asia Minor. I therefore had to crush Darius at any cost; I succeeded in doing this at Gaugamela; as you know, Babylon and Susa, Persepolis and Pasargadae, dropped into our lap. This gave us control of the Persian Gulf; but so as to protect these new dominions against possible invasions from the north we had to set out northward against the Medes and Hyrcanians. Now our dominions stretched from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf but lay open to the east; I advanced with my Macedonians to the borders of Area and Drangiana, I laid waste Gedrosia, and gave Arachosia a thrashing, after which I occupied Bactria as a conqueror; and to safeguard these military victories by a lasting union, I took the Bactrian Princess Roxana to wife. It was a simple political necessity; I had conquered so many Eastern lands for my Macedonians and Greeks that willy-nilly I had to win over my barbarous Eastern subjects by my appearance and splendor, without which these poor shepherds cannot imagine a powerful ruler. The truth is that my old Macedonian Guard took it badly; perhaps they thought that their old commander was becoming estranged from his war comrades. Unfortunately I had to have my old friends Philotas and Calisthenes executed; my dear Parmenion lost his life, too. I was very sorry about this; but it was unavoidable if the rebellion of my Macedonians was not to endanger my next step. I was, in fact, just preparing for my expedition to India. I must tell you that Gedrosia and Arachosia are enclosed within high mountains like fortifications; but for these fortifications to be impregnable they need a foreground from which to undertake a sally or a withdrawal behind the ramparts. This strategic foreground is India as far as the Indus. It was a military necessity to occupy this territory and with it the bridgehead on the farther bank of the Indus; no responsible soldier or statesman would have acted otherwise; but when we reached the river Hyphasis my Macedonians began to make a fuss and say they were too tired, ill, or homesick to go any farther. I had to come back; it was a terrible journey for my veterans, but still worse for me; I had intended to reach the Bay of Bengal to secure a natural frontier in the east for my Macedonia and now I was forced to abandon this task for a time.
I returned to Susa. I could be satisfied at having conquered such an empire for my Macedonians and Hellenes. But so as not to have to rely entirely on my exhausted people I took thirty thousand Persians into my army; they are good soldiers and I urgently need them for the defense of my Eastern frontiers. And do you know, my old soldiers are extremely annoyed about it. They cannot even understand that in winning for my people Oriental territories a hundred times greater than our own country I have become the great King of the East; that I must choose my officials and counselors from amongst the Orientals and surround myself with an Oriental court; all this is a self-evident political necessity which I am carrying out in the interests of Greater Macedonia. Circumstances demand of me more and more personal sacrifices; I bear them without complaint, for I think of the greatness and strength of my beloved country. I have to endure the barbarous luxury of my power and magnificence; I have taken to wife three princesses of Eastern kingdoms; and now, my dear Aristotle, I have actually become a god.
Yes, my dear master, I have had myself proclaimed god; my good Eastern subjects kneel to me and bring me sacrifices. It is a political necessity if I am to have the requisite authority over these mountain shepherds and these camel drivers. How far away are the days when you taught me to use reason and logic! But reason itself bids me adapt my means to human unreason. At first glance my career must appear fantastic to anyone; but now when I think it over at night in the quiet of my godlike study I see that I have never undertaken anything which was not rendered absolutely necessary by my preceding step.
You see, my dear Aristotle, it would be in the interests of peace and order, and consistent with political interests, if I were recognized as god in my Western territories as well. It would free my hands here in the East if my own Macedonia and Hellas accepted the political principle of my absolute authority; I could set out with a quiet heart to secure for my own land of Greece her natural frontiers on the coast of China. I should thus secure the power and safety of my Macedonia for all eternity. As you see, this is a sober and reasonable plan; I have long ceased to be the visionary who swore an oath on the tomb of Achilles. If I ask you now as my wise friend and guide to prepare the way by philosophy and to justify my proclamation as god in such a way as to be acceptable to my Greeks and Macedonians, I do so as a responsible politician and statesman; I leave it to you to consider whether you wish to undertake this task as a reasonable and patriotic work and one which is politically necessary.
Greetings, my dear Aristotle,
from your Alexander
In September 1998 the Republic of Macedonia website posted the above text on its pages without disclosing the source. Apparently, the text is not bearing any Athenian characters and mostly uses modern vocabulary unknown to the Mecidonians or Athenians
This strategic foreground is India as far as the Indus. It was a military necessity to occupy this territory and with it the bridgehead on the farther bank of the Indus; no responsible soldier or statesman would have acted otherwise; but when we reached the river Hyphasis my Macedonians began to make a fuss and say they were too tired, ill, or homesick to go any farther. I had to come back; it was a terrible journey for my veterans, but still worse for me; I had intended to reach the Bay of Bengal to secure a natural frontier in the east for my Macedonia and now I was forced to abandon this task for a time.
The above portion made it clear that Alexander was never crossed Indus river and what he did was only to marry Bactrian princes Roxana by the way of diplomacy. Possibly the text could have been written not before 1950 CE.