'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

03 October 2010

Alexander The Great

The 33 short years from birth to death
'If anyone has the right to be measured by the standards of his own time, it is Alexander.' Hermann Bengston
 Click small Images below to enlarge
'To be sure, it is obvious to anyone who makes a fair assessment of the king that his strengths were attributes to his nature and his weaknesses to fortune or his youth. His natural qualities were as follows: incredible mental energy and an almost excessive tolerance of fatigue; courage exemplary not just in comparison with kings but even with men possessing this virtue and no other; generosity such that he often granted greater gifts than even the gods are asked for; clemency towards the defeated; returning kingdoms to men from whom he had taken them, or giving them as gifts; continuous disregard for death, which frightens others out of their minds; a lust for glory and fame reaching a degree which exceeded due proportion but was yet pardonable in view of his youth and great achievements. Then there was his devotion to his parents (he had taken the decision to deify Olympias and he had avenged Philip); then, too, his kindness towards almost all his friends, goodwill towards the men, powers of discernment equalling his magnanimity and an ingenuity barely possible at his age; control over immoderate urges; a sex-life limited to the fulfilment of natural desire; and indulgence only in pleasures which were socially sanctioned.' Quintus Curtius Rufus
Alexander was born on the 11th of August (20 July) 356 BCE during a parade of planets and a sun eclipse on the same day when the Artemis temple in Ephesus was burned down. There were several legends that he was conceived by a god. The Egyptians  tell a tale of the last pharaoh Nectanebo sleeping with  his mother under the guise of the god Amon. Olympias, his mother, also had a dream  that Zeus, in the form of a snake, entered her womb and conceived Alexander. On the day of his birth an eagle, the bird of Zeus, was sitting on the roof of the building where he was born. Everyone claimed a link to Alexander including the Persians who believed that he was fathered by one of their own. Olympias, herself descended from Achilles,  was indeed a strong woman who reputedly slept with many men or gods. On the other hand, Philip his real father, a descendent of Zeus,  also had many lovers, both men and women

Alexander the Great,  son of Philip II of Macedonia conquered and ruled a large proportion of the world at the age of  21. He lived from 356 to 323 BC. As a youth he was taught by Aristotle whom some tried to implicate in his death many years later. Perhaps if it were not for his ambitious mother, Alexander may not have become the great king. She was queen to, but one of the many wives of, Philip. When his last wife Cleopatra (a name that was later introduced into Egypt by the conquerors) finally bore a son, Olympias and Alexander were in exile.  Philip's daughter was to be married off to her uncle, the brother of Olympias, another Alexander, ( who may have once been  the king's lover ) This would have now put Olympias out of the picture but Philip was murdered by Pausanias who was  possibly another of  his lovers. Philip's new son and heir was  soon murdered. Alexander was thus sole heir and now king. The timing points to the intrigues of Olympias, although some suggested an affronted lover's revenge. A sideline is that Ptolemy who later founded the new dynasty in Egypt and was one of Alexander's generals may have also been his step-brother, being possibly the son of Philip but at least the son of one of Philip's concubines.
 Alexander as Pharaoh - carving at Luxor.
The youths and loves who surrounded Alexander
Apart from his wives, the captured Roxana, and Barsine, the daughter of the defeated Darius, he had one great love, his childhood friend, comrade and general,  Hephaestion. He told the Persian queen who had mistaken the taller of the two for the king: 'This man too is Alexander.' 
His other love the graceful eunuch Bagoas, son of Pharnuches. 'a eunuch of remarkable beauty and in the very flower of boyhood, who had been loved by Darius and was afterward to be loved by Alexander.......who won the regard of Alexander by submitting his body'  ..... 'After Alexander emerged from the Makran desert and his only defeat and the loss of two thirds of his army, he held games in which the young Bagoas won the dancing (and singing competition in the games held to cheer up the troops) and dressed in his garlands of honour , he passed through the theatre and took his seat, as a champion of the dance, by Alexander's side; the Macedonians saw and applauded and shouted to the king to kiss the victor, until at last, he threw his arms around Bagoas and kissed him again and again.' At a later stage having been insulted by the Persian Orsines as Alexander's whore, Bagoas exerted his influence on the king and had him condemned. On his way to his death the innocent and noble Oesines exclaimed 'I had heard that women once were rulers in Asia but this really is something new - a eunuch as king.'  The two remained together for life. 
'Parmenion's son Hector, a young man in the very prime of his youth who was equally dear to Alexander' drowned when his boat capsized. 'Grief at losing him struck Alexander deeply; he recovered the body and buried it with magnificent a funeral.' Alexander also took a liking to a young man Euxenippus, who may also have been a eunuch: 'He was still very young and a favourite of the king because of his blossoming youth, but although he was equal to Hephaiston in the beauty of his body....'. He also took on the harem of Darius  '365 concubines, the same number as Darius had had, filled the palace, attended by herds of eunuchs, also accustomed to being used like women.' 
At the stage when Alexander had adopted Persian dress and was declaring his divinity according to Curtius, Dymnus and others upset by the changes they saw, hatched a plot to kill Alexander. Dymnus had a 'passionate infatuation for a catamite called Nicomachus and was totally devoted to the boy, whose favours he alone enjoyed.' He told of the plot to his beloved and tried to entice him into the assassination, first with entreaties and then with threats until the boy pretended to agree. Nicomachus was horrified and being true to the king he had his brother inform of the plot and thus saved the life of Alexander. 
And yet another described by Curtius 'So he received the Sacae delegation courteously and gave then Euxenippus as their companion for the return journey. Euxenippus was still very young and a favourite of Alexander's because he was in the prime of his youth, but though he rivalled Hephaestion in good looks he could not match him in charm, since he was rather effeminate.'

A further attempt on the kings life was made by Hermolaus and his fellow pages. It was usual for the sons of leading nobles to be assigned to guard the king and carry out other menial tasks. Hermolaus had shot a boar that the king had chosen as his prey and was punished severely.  He complained to the young Sostratus a fellow page who ' was passionately in love with him' . They decided to assassinate Alexander for his treatment of them and his cruel deeds. Their attempt was thwarted by a woman of visions and in the end all were executed.
Alexander often appeared naked in front of his troops 
- not only in statues.
'So he undressed and went down into the river before the eyes of his troops, thinking that it would also add to his prestige if he showed his men that he was satisfied with attention to his person which was plain and unelaborate' Quintus Curtis Rufus
As a youth he was exposed to and memorised many of the great Greek plays and poems and saw in them legends with which to associate himself. Achilles particularly became a model. Such was his intentional identification with Achilles that when he embarked upon his conquest of Persia he first made pilgrimage to the site of Troy where he ran naked around the tomb of Achilles to give homage to his hero. His lover Hephaestion did likewise at the tomb of Achilles' lover Patroclos.

However many legends and stories surround this man, some based in a germ of truth and others pure political fiction. He ruled by the sword and love, he used elephants, drank much, loved men, married  women, paraded naked, flew in the air, travelled under the sea and became a god.  When Alexander and his friends were heading to the Siwa Amon Oracle Temple, they became lost in the Lybian desert until a crow (snake in another version) showed them the way to the oasis. 

Another memorable tale is of the Gordian knot which would, according a legend, give dominion over all Asia to the one who succeeded in untying it 
'Alexander reduced the city (Gordium) and entered the temple of Jupiter. Here he saw the carriage on which they say Midas' father, Gordius, used to ride. In appearance it was little different from quite inexpensive and ordinary carriages, its remarkable feature being the yoke, which was strapped down with several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened' Curtius. Alexander took the course of one who would not let anything stand in his way and cut the Gordian knot with his sword and  then fulfilled the prophesy. 

Yet more power was attributed to Alexander when he marched along the Lycian seashore, the sea  ceded to Alexander, water left and the army was able to quickly pass this difficult route. The Greek Romance tells of stories of strange creatures, gods and adventures, all influenced by the various national and cultural additions and translations dating from just after his death until the Renaissance. This book in turn influenced many of the characters of literature and even the religions of Christianity and Islam that followed.
In 324BC, after the establishment of his state, Alexander gave an oath to the officers and soldiers of his state. The oath was also addressed to all the races that lived in the territories of his empire, it was given near Babylon .

"I wish all of you, now that the wars are coming to an end, to live happily, in peace. All mortals from now on will live like one people, united, and peacefully working towards a common prosperity. You should regard the whole world as your country, a country where the best govern, with common laws, and no racial distinctions. I do not separate people, as many narrow minded others do, into Greeks and barbarians. I am not interested in the origin or race of citizens. I only distinguish them on the basis of their virtue. For me each foreigner is a Greek and each bad Greek is a barbarian. If ever there appear differences among you, then you must not resolve them by taking to arms, you should resolve them in peace. If need be, I will act as your negotiator.

You must not think of God as an authoritarian ruler, but you should consider him as a common father, so that your conduct resembles the uniform behaviour of brothers who belong to the same family. For my part, I consider all, whether they be white or black, equal. And I would like you to be not only subject of my common-wealth, but also participants and partners. You should regard the Oath we have taken tonight as a Symbol of Love."
                                                                                                    Alexander III (the Great) - Opis (324 BC)
    Alexander was indeed very small; once described as 4 ft. 6 in. which may be exaggerated. (possibly 5 ft. 3 in.)  His hair was possibly fair and long, which was considered effeminate and he used perfume. He was vain and selective in who could reproduce his image which was presumably idealised. In the course of his relatively short life Alexander outshone his father's great achievements and conquered Greece, Persia, India, Egypt and everything in between; some two million square miles which was the greatest empire the world had seen. His army numbered in the tens and hundreds of thousands and many kingdoms accepted his rule without bloodshed, due solely to his invincible reputation. Those who realised this wisdom he treated with grace, but any opposition was crushed mercilessly. He returned rule to many locals and even adopted foreign dress and customs including that of Persia and Egypt, which befitted his grand vision of himself. A youthful, excitable leader who fought from the front and suffered the hardships of his troops, he could drag his army into heroic battles by the force of the love they bore him.
"When Hephaestion died at Ecbatana (in 324) Alexander placed his weapons upon the funeral pyre, with gold and silver for the dead man, and a robe-which last, among the Persians is a symbol of great honour. He shore off his own hair, as in Homeric grief, and behaved like the Achilles of Homer. Indeed he acted more violently and passionately than the latter, for he caused the towers and strongholds of Ecbatana to be demolished all round. As long as he only dedicated his own hair, he was behaving, I think, like a Greek; but when he laid hands on the very walls, Alexander was already showing his grief in foreign fashion. Even in his clothing he departed from ordinary custom, and gave himself up to his mood, his love, and his tears."  
Alexander died, possibly from complications of alcohol and poison, a month before his 33rd birthday between the 10th and the 12th of June 323. Latest theories indicate that his death may just have been accidental as he may have been over treated with a poisonous root as a purgative because of physical exhaustion caused by his hard life, drinking and probably also linked to a deep depression after the death of Hephaestion some eight months before his own death. I have read much including the books listed below and I have been fascinated by this powerful and beautiful phenomenon for most of my life. He was perhaps a  tyrant, perhaps a god, perhaps a short gay man, but it is hard to judge from here and now. 

The  Alexander Timeline
356 B.C. Alexander is born in Pella to King Philip of Macedonia and his Queen Olympias (an Epirote Princess). Probably around the  20th of  July.  
354 B.C. Philip who was regarded as a handsome man loses an eye in  battle.

352 B.C. Philip, emerges as potential leader of a crusade against Persia.
351 B.C. Philip's fleet harasses Athenian ships
348 B.C. Attempt to unite Greek states against Philip fails.

346 B.C. An embassy is sent from Athens and Philip  is admitted to a seat on  the Amphictyonic Council, and presides over Pythian Games.

344 B.C. Alexander tames his horse Bucephalus. Philip appointed Archon of Thessaly for life.
343 B.C. Non- aggression pact between  Philip and Persia.
343 B.C. Aristotle invited to Macedonia to tutor Alexander.
342 B.C. Olympia's brother Alexander (Uncle of Alexander the Great) succeeds to throne of Epirus with the help of Philip. They may have been lovers.

340 B.C. Alexander (yet to become great) at sixteen is left as Regent in Macedonia while Philip is in Babylon: He raids Maedi and the founds Alexandropolis.

339 B.C. Philip occupies Elatea.
338 B.C. Alexander is among  ambassadors to Athens. Philip marries another wife, Cleopatra. Olympias and Alexander in exile.  
337 B.C. Recall of Alexander to Pella. League at Corinth launches crusade  against Persia.

336 B.C. Accession of Darius III in Persia . Two previous kings were poisoned by a eunuch.  Cleopatra bears Philip a son.  Philip is assassinated. Alexander accedes to the throne of Macedonia at age 20 and becomes Captain-General of the anti-Persian crusade.  
335 B.C. Alexander goes north to deal with Thrace and Illyria. Revolt of Thebes.

334 B.C. Alexander crosses into Asia Minor Reorganizes Greek cities in Asia Minor captures Miletus and advances through Lycia and Pamphylia.  
333 B.C. Persian forces unite in Babylon. Alexander cuts the Gordian Knot, marches to Ancyra and then to Cilician Gates. Darius moves westward from Babylon.Alexander reaches Tarsusand becomes ill. Darius crosses the Euphrates. Alexander advances and receives first peace-offer by Darius.  
332 B.C. Submission of Byblos and Sidon. Siege of Tyre begins and gets second peace-offer by Darius. Tyre falls and Gaza is captured.  November 14 Alexander is crowned as Pharaoh at Memphis. 

331 B.C. Visits the Oracle of Amon at Siwah then founds Alexandria. Alexander returns to Tyre reaches the Euphrates and Darius moves his forces from Babylon.  Alexander crosses the Tigris rejects Darius' final peace-offer. Macedonians advance on Babylon, which falls and occupy Susa unopposed.  
330 B.C.  Alexander reaches and sacks Perseplis, then sets out for Ecbatana. Darius retreats toward Bactria and is found murdered near Hecatompylus. Bessus establishes himself as 'Great King' in Bactria.
329 B.C. Alexander crosses Hindu Kush by Khawak Pass  and crosses the Oxus; then takes up winter quarters at Zariaspa. Bessus is executed.

328 B.C. Murder of Cleitus the Black and defeat and death of Spitamenes.

327 B.C. Capture of the Soghdian Rock and Alexander marries Roxane. He recruits 30,000 Persian 'Successors' then recrosses Hindu Kush by Kushan Pass and the invasion of India begins.

326 B.C. Battle against the rajah Porus. His horse Bucephalus dies. He campaigns against Brahmin cities and is seriously wounded.

325 B.C. Revolt in Bactria then Alexander reaches Patala, builds harbour and dockyards.  Alexander's march through Gedrosian Desert. Defection of Harpalus from Asia Minor to Greece.

324 B.C. Fleet sent on to Susa. Alexander returns to Persepolis and then to Susa. 30,000 trained Persian 'Successors' arrive and there is a mass inter-marriage.The Exiles' Decree and the Deification Decree'. Craterus appointed to succeed Antiparter as Regent, and convoy troops home. Alexander moves from Susa to Ecbatana. Hephaestion dies.

323 B.C. Assassination of Harpalus in Crete. Alexander's Campaign against the Cossaeans and return to Babylon. Alexander explores Pallacopas Canal; his boat-trip through the marshes. Arrival of Antipater's son Cassander to negotiate with Alexander.
May 30: Alexander falls ill after a party from either poison or complications from too much alcohol; Alexander allows the troops to file tearfully past his bed and dies around the 11th of June. His body is taken to Alexandria where it is housed in a now lost mausoleum.
316 B.C. Olympias Dies.
An extract from the Qur'an which is said by some to refer to Alexander (Duhl-Qarnain - the two horned one)
They will ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say: 'I will give you an account of him. 'We made him mighty in the land and gave him means to achieve all things. He journeyed on a certain road until he reached the West and saw the sun setting in a pool of black mud. Hard by he found a certain people. "Dhul-Quarnain" We said, "You must either punish them or show them Kindness." He replied: "The wicked we shall surely punish. Then they shall return to their Lord and be sternly punished by Him. As for those that have faith and do good works, we shall bestow on them a rich reward and deal indulgently with them." He then journeyed along another road until he reached the East and saw the sun rising upon a people whom We had utterly exposed to its flaming rays. So he did: and We had full knowledge of all the forces at his command. Then he followed yet another route until he came between the Two Mountains and found a people who could barely understand a word. "Dhul-Qarnain" the said, "Gog and Magog are ravaging this land. Build us a rampart against them and we will pay you tribute." He replied: "The power which my Lord has given me is better than any tribute. Lend me a force of labourers and I will raise a rampart between you and them. Come, bring me blocks of iron." He dammed up the valley between the Two Mountains and said: "Ply your bellows." And when the Iron blocks were red with heat, he said: "Bring me molten brass to pour on them." Gog and Magog could not scale it, nor could they dig their way through it. He said: "This is a blessing from my Lord. But when my Lord's promise has been fulfilled, He will level it to dust. The promise of my Lord is true." On that day We will let them come in tumultuous throngs. The trumpet shall be sounded and We will gather them all together. On that day Hell shall be laid bare before the unbelievers, who have turned a blind eye to My admonition and a deaf ear to My warnings.'
After the defeat and suicide of Cleopatra and Mark Antony, the victorious Octavious' had the sarcophagus containing Alexander the Great's mummy removed from its shrine and after a long look at its features, showed his veneration by crowning the head with a golden diadem and strewing flowers on the trunk. When asked 'would you like now to visit the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies?' he replied 'I came to see a King, not a row of corpses.' Suetonius
 My Alexander Collectibles
 'The Greek Alexander Romance' by various and unknown.
'Alexander The Great' by Robin Lane Fox.
'The History of Alexander'  by Quintus Curtius Rufus
'The Age of Alexander. Nine Greek Lives'  by Plutarchus
'The Campaigns of Alexander'  by Flavius Arrianusl
'Alexander of Macedon 356-323 B. C.: A Historical Biography'  by Peter Green  
The Nature of Alexander, and the trilogy Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games by Mary Renault
'Alexander - Child of a Dream' and 'The Sands of Ammon' by Valerio Massimo Manfredi 
'In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great' Michael Wood
'Alexander the Conqueror' Laura Foreman
'Alexander' 2004 film by Oliver Stone
'Alexander The Great' 1956 with Richard Burton
'Alexander The Great' with William Shatner
Alexander The Great - Footsteps in the Sand' documentary
'In The Footsteps of Alexander' documentary
plus other docos. 

Alessandro by G F Handel with the phenomenal Countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comment here or in side bar or you can email me at pepispictures@gmail.com

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...