Kleitos the Black

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kleitus the Black († 328 BC in Marakanda ) was an officer of King Philip II of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great . During a dispute during a feast, Kleitos was killed in 328 BC Stabbed by Alexander.


Kleitus was a son of Dropidas, who probably belonged to the Macedonian nobility, and a childhood friend of Alexander. His sister Lanike was Alexander's wet nurse . After the assassination of Philip II in 336 BC He accompanied Alexander on his Persia campaign and initially acted as leader of a unit of the royal cavalry. At the Battle of Granikos in May 334 BC BC he saved Alexander's life by repelling at the last moment the sword blow of Spithridates , the Persian satrap of Lydia , who wanted to kill the Macedonian king in close combat. Kleitus severed Spithridates' sword arm. Apelles painted Kleitos demanding a helmet from his squire in order to go into battle on horseback.

Later, the participation of Kleitos in the battle of Gaugamela (October 1st, 331 BC) is mentioned, where he led his unit of the Hetairen Reitererei under the high command of Philotas , posted on the right wing of the Macedonian army , but he did work in all battles. In Susa he stayed ill, followed in 330 BC. After his king after Ekbatana and received instructions from Alexander to proceed with an army detachment against the Parthians . After the execution of Philotas, in order to prevent future danger to his position, Alexander no longer wanted to entrust the command of the Hetairen riding to one of his generals alone, but divided it up between Kleitus and Hephaistion .

328 BC An incident occurred during a drinking bout in the city castle of Marakanda ( Samarkand ) which cost Kleitos his life. He was supposed to take over the satrapy of Bactria as the successor of the resigned Artabazos , possibly because of his age, but could not take part in any further campaigns. Apparently he saw this as a disparagement. That evening he had drunk too much heavy local wine when he began to scold Alexander and praise his father Philip II. In doing so, Kleitus, who was old Macedonian, placed Philip's achievements above those of Alexander. He also accused Alexander of preferring the Persians over the Macedonians, to whom he owed everything. It is also possible that on this occasion he criticized Proskynesis , a Persian court ritual adopted by Alexander. The argument grew fierce. Finally, in a rage, Alexander snatched the spear from a bodyguard and killed the unarmed Kleitos with it. Shortly afterwards, however, he deeply regretted his act and had to be held back from suicide by his companions. He had Kleitos properly buried. Siegfried Lauffer dates the death of Kleitos to the summer of 328 BC. BC, Alexander Demandt, however, to the winter of 328/27 BC. Chr.

The ancient historians of Alexander treated the event in great detail because the king's killing of Clitus seemed very revealing for the character and personality of Alexander, especially when he was portrayed as a tyrant from a political or philosophical perspective . Arrian , Quintus Curtius Rufus, and Iustinus believed that the king was guilty. Aristobulus , on the other hand, was of the opinion that Cleitus was solely responsible; After his argument with Alexander, Kleitos had been led out by Ptolemy , but returned due to a lack of self-control and again got into an argument with the king, whereupon he was stabbed to death. Plutarch also defended Alexander by postulating that the “daimon” of Clitus was to blame.

Literary reception

The story of the death of Clitus inspired Conrad Ferdinand Meyer to write his poem "Der drunkenness God" . In addition to his other criticism of Alexander, Kleitus makes the mistake of addressing him about his physical flaw: Alexander's back was crooked, his left shoulder lower than his right, which Kleitos makes fun of with the words:

"Guest of heaven, why
do your head and shoulders sink to your left?
Are you robbing the earth?
You want to drink with the gods?
I hear your ailments mocking:
Alexander, you are dust!"

Blind with anger, Alexander then stabs Kleitos to death.


Web links


  1. Michael Wood: In the footsteps of Alexander the Great. A journey from Greece to Asia , pp. 214f.
  2. ^ Quintus Curtius Rufus , Historia Alexandri Magni 8, 1, 20.
  3. Jona Lendering: Clitus the Black . In: Livius.org (English)
  4. Arrian , Anabasis 4, 9, 3.
  5. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 11 8 and 3, 19, 8.
  6. Arrian, Anabasis 1, 15, 8.
  7. Pliny the Elder , Naturalis historia 35, 93.
  8. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 11 8; Diodor , Bibliothḗkē historikḗ 17, 57, 1.
  9. ^ Arrian, Anabasis 3, 19 8.
  10. Arrian, Anabasis 3, 27, 4.1
  11. Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 8, 1, 19.
  12. Arrian, Anabasis 4, 8, 1-4, 9, 9; Quintus Curtius Rufus, Historia Alexandri Magni 8, 1, 19-8, 2, 12; Plutarch , Alexander 50, 1-52, 6; Diodor, Bibliothḗkē historikḗ 17, Epitome 27; Iustinus , Epitoma historiarum Philippicarum Pompei Trogi 12, 6, 1-17; on this Siegfried Lauffer: Alexander the Great , p. 130f. and Alexander Demandt: Alexander the Great. Life and legend , p. 228 ff.
  13. ^ Siegfried Lauffer: Alexander the Great , p. 130.
  14. Alexander Demandt: Alexander the Great. Life and Legend , p. 228.
  15. ^ Siegfried Lauffer: Alexander the Great , p. 131.
  16. Aristobulos, FGrH No. 139, F 29 in Arrian, Anabasis 4, 8, 9 f.
  17. Plutarch, Alexander 50, 1 f.
  18. ^ Conrad Ferdinand Meyer: Gedichte - Novellen , Lingen, Cologne, no year, pp. 11-13.