The year is 334 BC.
Alexander had become King of Macedon just two years previous (so he wasn’t quite ‘The Great’ yet) after his father Philip had been assassinated. He’s 22 years old.
He’s just crossed over into Asia to begin his reign of conquest. It’s the battle of Granicus. Alexander’s Macedonians are facing off against Persians.
Alexander, being 22 and wanting to prove himself, decides to go off immediately into battle. The Macedonians charge. The Persians retreat, seemingly in disorder.
Seeing the battle turn, Alexander impetuously charges into the fray, leaving his guards behind. The Persian retreat was a ruse. They turn, counterattack and have Alexander surrounded.
Alexander is dealt a stunning blow to his head. As he lays on the ground, dazed and helpless, a Persian named Spithridates charges up to him and and raises his battleaxe to deal Alexander the death blow.
At the last moment, one of Alexander’s guards comes out of nowhere and chops off Spithridates arm. Alexander recovers his senses and is led to safety.
The Macedonians end up routing the Persians, leading the way for Alexander’s further conquests.
What if the guard was just a few seconds late? What if Alexander dies at the age of 22?
He doesn’t conquer Egypt. He doesn’t conquer Persia. He doesn’t invade India. The political and philosophical ideas of Greece are not exported. They die a quiet death in Greece. Plato and Socrates remain unknown. The experiment of democracy is never again repeated.
Perhaps Persia and not Rome ultimately ends up being the empire the bestrides the earth. The world could easily have been fundamentally different. Who was this fast acting guardsman? His name was…Cletus (OK, Cleitus, but close enough).
So, next time you see the Simpson’s redneck, Cletus Spuckler, or think of the stereotypical Cletus the slack-jawed yokel, remember that in that name is the distant rumblings of the man that saved civilization.
Oh yeah…How did Cletus get thanked for his service? Years later, in a drunken brawl, Alexander runs him through with a spear and kills him.
Such is the way of the Cletus.