Prose life of Alexander
J.S. Westlake

How Anectanabus went up to the Palace to Olympia the Queen.

In the meantime, Philip, king of Macedonia, went out to battle. But Anectanabus went forward to the palace, that he might behold Olympia the queen, and see how fair she was. And when he saw her, his heart was smitten with love of her, and stretching forth his hand, he greeted her, saying, 'Hail, Queen of Macedonia,' disdaining to call her 'lady'. And she, Olympia, answered him, speaking thus: 'Hail, master, come thou and sit near.' And when he sate thus, OlympiaPage  3 asked many things of him. 'Art thou not an Egyptian?' And Anectanabus answered: 'The word thou saidst was kingly, when thou didst name the Egyptians. For the Egyptians are wise, and read dreams, understand the birds of the air in their flight, open up the hidden places, and tell the fate of those newborn, babes. Of all these things, as a seer, I, too, have knowledge.' And Olympia saw how he gazed upon her, and spoke, 'Master, of what dost thou bethink thee, who thus lookest on me?' And Anectanabus answered, 'I call to my mind many answers of the gods. One answer had been that I was to look upon a queen.' And saying this, he drew forth from his breast a cleansing tablet of bronze and ivory, inwrought with gold and silver, and on its face were three whirls. The first contained in itself the Twelve Minds, and in the third, sun and moon were fashioned. Next to them, was seen a chain of ivory, and from it he pulled forth sever wonder-bright stars, that told the hours and birth-dooms of men, and seven carven stones, and two stones for the saving men whole.

And Olympia beheld these things, and said: 'Master, if thou wouldst I should believe thee, tell me the year, the day and hour of the king's birth.' And upon this, he said to the queen, 'Wishest thou to hear nothing else from me?' Quoth the queen, 'Tell me what shall fall out betwixt Philip and me, for men say that, when Philip shall come from the war, he will thrust me forth, and take another mate.' And Anectanabus answered: 'They prate of many things untruly; but ere a long time pass, it shall be as they say.' And the queen answered: 'I beg thee, master, unveil me all the truth.' Thereupon Anectanabus:�'One of the mightiest gods shall share thy bed and uphold thee through all thy thrivings and downfalls, even if they be overstrong.' Olympia replied: 'I beseech thee, say what shape this god shall put on?' Anectanabus replied: 'Neither young, nor old; his beard besprinkled with white hairs. Wherefore, if this please thee, be ready for him, for at night shalt thou see him, and in thy sleep shall he lie by thee.' The queen said: 'If I behold this, neither as a seer, nor as godly, but, as the god himself, will I worship' [thee]. And at once Anectanabus said, 'Fare thee well, O queen.' After this Anectanabus, leaving the palace, and walking straight forthPage  4 to the city's camp in a desert spot, tore up herbs, and ground them, and took their juice, and wrought spells and other like things of the fiend, that in that same night Olympia might behold the god Hamon lying beside her, and saying to her thereafter, 'Woman, thou hast conceived him who shall beshield thee.' And, on the morrow, Olympia awoke from her slumbers, and called Anectanabus to her, and told him of the dream she had beheld. Then Anectanabus said: 'If thou wilt give me room in the palace, thou shalt see the god himself, face to face. For that god shall come to thee in the shape of a great snake, and soon after, taking on a manlike body, he shall seem to be in my likeness.' And to this Olympia said: 'As thou hast spoken, master, do. Take to thyself a bed in the palace, and canst thou make good the truth thereof, I will deem thee to be the father of the boy.' And, about the first watch of the night, Anectanabus took on him, through spells and wizardry to be changed into the shape of a great snake, and whistling on to the bedchamber of Olympia, to fly through. And he entered her room, and rose on to her bed, and with great love began to kiss her, and the kisses betokened to her who he was. And when he rose up from the bed, he smote her on the womb, and spake: 'This begetting be thy avenging, and in no wise may it be upbraided of men.'

On such a fashion was Olympia cheated, who had lain with a man as though he had been a god. And in the morning, Anectanabus went down from the palace, and the queen was with child.

And when she began to be big, she called unto her Anectanabus, saying: 'Master, tell me, what doom will Philip wreak on me, when he shall come back?' And Anectanabus said to her, 'Be not afraid: god Hamon will champion thee.' And with these words he left the palace, and went outside the town, to a barren spot. And, uprooting grasses, rubbed them, and grated them, and took their sap. And he caught a sea-bird, and began to sing over the herbs, and anoint the herbs with the sap. This he did in fellowship with the fiends, that he might betray King Philip through a dream. And this was brought about. That same night the god Hamon appeared to Philip, in a dream, lying with his wife Olympia, and, the night ended, he Page  5saw him touch her womb, and seal it with a golden ring. And on the ring there was a stone, and graven on this a lion's head, and the chariot of the sun, and a very sharp sword. And he said to her: 'Woman, thou hast conceived thy saviour.' And Philip awoke from his sleep, and calling Arideus, made known to him the dream, and what he had seen. And Arideus said: 'Philip, not from man, but from a god, hath thy wife conceived. In truth, the lion's head and the chariot of the sun and the sharp sword, foretoken that he, who shall be born of her, shall journey to the East whence riseth the sun! And with the sharp sword shall he underyoke to himself the nations of the whole world.'