National Geographic : 1968 Jan
Following his route through southwest Af ghanistan, we drove for a while over a newly built road, then along a track twisting be tween jagged, reddish mountains. Near Qala-i -Kang, Alexander halted to quell an uprising of a different sort, the first of many within his own ranks. For some time he had been drifting away from his Mace donians. To them the conquered Persians were no better than slaves. But Alexander, continuing his efforts to win their friendship, appointed Persians to high office and himself wore Persian dress. At the same time he grew distrustful of his old friends. Hearing rumors of a plot against his life, he ordered that Philotas, one of his ablest generals, be tried by the army. On the flimsiest of evidence, unpopular Philotas was convicted and executed. Macedonian custom decreed that all kinsmen of a convicted trai tor be killed also. Though Alexander spared other kinsmen of Philotas, he ordered the murder of his father, loyal old Parmenion. Most of the summer and fall of 330 Alex ander campaigned in southern Afghanistan, in the area now called Dasht-i-Margo-the Desert of Death (map, page 12). To follow Alexander, we would have to cross that desert, but no trail broke the blank white space on our map. At Qala-i -Kang, we called on Rsul EKTACHROMES © N.G.S . Like fire-doomed temple columns, Iranian oil-field towers reflect flaming natural gas, separated here from crude oil before it enters pipelines. For the authors, the eerie scene at Gach Saran evoked images of the Mace donian holocaust that consumed nearby Persepolis (pages 34-5). During his conquest, Alexander saw black fluid bubbling from the ground, and thus became one of the first known Westerners to lay eyes on petroleum. Mist-veiled heartland of Iran: Such unchanging fast nesses of bleak mountains and mud-hut villages lay between Alexander and treasure-rich Persepolis. Sweep ing across the Middle East, the Macedonians dealt the Persians a crushing defeat at Gaugamela and marched into opulent Babylon. From there they sped east, to be stopped abruptly here in the Zagros Mountains, where the enemy held a narrow pass called the Persian Gates. After bold flanking maneuvers, Alexander routed Da rius's men with such ferocity, the historian Arrian relates, that terrified Persians "threw themselves over the cliffs." 32 Ahead, almost undefended, lay Persepolis.