PHILIP, King of Macedon, ambitious to obtain the teacher who would be most capable of imparting the higher branches of learning to his fourteen-year-old son, Alexander, and wishing the prince to have for his mentor the most famous and learned of the great philosophers, decided to communicate with Aristotle. He dispatched the following letter to the Greek sage: “PHILIP TO ARISTOTLE, HEALTH: Know that I have a son. I render the gods many thanks; not so much for his birth, as that he was born in your time, for I hope that being educated and instructed by you, he will become worthy of us both and the kingdom which he shall inherit.” Accepting Philip’s invitation, Aristotle journeyed to Macedon in the fourth year of the 108th Olympiad, and remained for eight years as the tutor of Alexander. The young prince’s affection for his instructor became as great as that which he felt for his father. He said that his father had given him being, but that Aristotle had given him well-being.

The basic principles of the Ancient Wisdom were imparted to Alexander the Great by Aristotle, and at the philosopher’s feet the Macedonian youth came to realize the transcendency of Greek learning as it was personified in Plato’s immortal disciple. Elevated by his illumined teacher to the threshold of the philosophic sphere, he beheld the world of the sages–the world that fate and the limitations of his own soul decreed he should not conquer.

Aristotle in his leisure hours edited and annotated the Iliad of Horner and presented the finished volume to Alexander. This book the young conqueror so highly prized that he carried it with him on all his campaigns. At the time of his triumph over Darius, discovering among the spoils a magnificent, gem-studded casket of unguents, he dumped its contents upon the ground, declaring that at last he had found a case worthy of Aristotle’s edition of the Iliad!

While on his Asiatic campaign, Alexander learned that Aristotle had published one of his most prized discourses, an occurrence which deeply grieved the young king. So to Aristotle, Conqueror of the Unknown, Alexander, Conqueror of the Known, sent this reproachful and pathetic and admission of the insufficiency of worldly pomp and power: “ALEXANDER TO ARISTOTLE, HEALTH: You were wrong in publishing those branches of science hitherto not to be acquired except from oral instruction. In what shall I excel others if the more profound knowledge I gained from you be communicated to all? For my part I had rather surpass the majority of mankind in the sublimer branches of learning, than in extent of power and dominion. Farewell.” The receipt of this amazing letter caused no ripple in the placid life of Aristotle, who replied that although the discourse had been communicated to the multitudes, none who had not heard him deliver the lecture (who lacked spiritual comprehension) could understand its true import.

A few short years and Alexander the Great went the way of all flesh, and with his body crumbled the structure of empire erected upon his personality. One year later Aristotle also passed into that greater world concerning whose mysteries he had so often discoursed with his disciples in the Lyceum. But, as Aristotle excelled Alexander in life, so he excelled him in death; for though his body moldered in an obscure tomb, the great philosopher continued to live in his intellectual achievements. Age after age paid him grateful tribute, generation after generation pondered over his theorems until by the sheer transcendency of his rational faculties Aristotle–“the master of those who know,” as Dante has called him–became the actual conqueror of the very world which Alexander had sought to subdue with the sword.

Thus it is demonstrated that to capture a man it is not sufficient to enslave his body–it is necessary to enlist his reason; that to free a man it is not enough to strike the shackles from his limbs–his mind must be liberated from bondage to his own ignorance. Physical conquest must ever fail, for, generating hatred and dissension, it spurs the mind to the avenging of an outraged body; but all men are bound whether willingly or unwillingly to obey that intellect in which they recognize qualities and virtues superior to their own.

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