David Hogarth on Alexander’s Influence

III.

The conventional view is that Alexander’s empire was short-lived.

And, let’s be honest, on this occasion, the conventional view is correct: officially, the Argead empire lasted just over twenty years, from 331 B.C., when Alexander defeated Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela to c.310/09 B.C. when Cassander had Alexander IV assassinated.

If we are being generous we could bring the date down to 306-04 B.C. when Antigonus, Ptolemy, Cassander and Lysimachus finally declared themselves kings of their respective realms; however, the point remains.

But while Alexander’s political world did not long outlive him, his influence endured for many more years. It may even be said to be still alive today; I’ll come to that in a moment.

What has brought Alexander’s legacy to mind is reading Philip and Alexander of Macedon by David Hogarth, which I finished a few days ago. A few pages before the end, Hogarth considers the ways in which Alexander influenced several important empires. Despite, or perhaps because of, their obviousness I had not thought of them before. Here’s what he says.

If we look to the means which Alexander adopted in his last months to advance his great aim, we perceive that in conception he anticipated the cardinal cause of the provincial success of the Roman Empire. For he saw that universal conquests could not be accomplished, still less retained, with the strength of a single mother-people, but that the one half the world must be enlisted to conquer and hold the other half.

Had he lived to subdue North Africa, we may be sure that Moors and Numidians would have been found fighting under his banners in Spain and Gaul, and Spaniards and Gauls in Italy. His mixed army of Europeans and Asiatics, organized in Babylon in the spring of 323, was no more than the predecessor of those Gaulish and German legions which brought Emperors to Rome.

When the historian finds Alexander punishing with drastic severity Viceroys of his own race whom he believed, wrongly or rightly, to have outraged alien faiths and extorted provincial money, his thought will pass on to Tiberius and the quinquennium Neronis. When he sees Persians and Bactrians set high in a Macedonian empire, he thinks of Trajan the Spaniard, Elagabalus the Syrian, Maximin the Goth, and Philip the Arabian. The so-called Epigoni – those Oriental youths trained in the Macedonian manner, who were brought to Susa to be enrolled – recall the heirs of client kings, educated perforce in the Eternal City, and those children of the camps, who were the backbone of the legionary system.

Hogarth adds that it is only in the Susa Weddings that Alexander and Rome part ways, for nothing ‘so artificial ever entered into the policy of the most cosmopolitan of the Italian emperors.’

Susa aside, he notes

… that a “mixed” empire, with an Asiatic centre, successively Seleucid, Parthian, and Persian, survived Alexander’s death by fully a thousand years.

What about today?

Well, just over 2,300 years later, Alexander’s aim of bringing together a diverse range of people under one banner is happening as we speak in Europe.

Of course, the European Union is not an empire and never will be*; as and when its members achieve total political union, one country will not have control over all the others though some may dominate proceedings; however, just as the EU contains many peoples, men and women from all over the union are able to join its key institutions.

I think that Alexander would definitely have appreciated the trans-national army-of-sorts that already exists in NATO, and the requirement for anyone who wanted to climb the ladder in EU politics to follow in the footsteps of the Epigoni and relocate to Brussels and/or Strasbourg.

The children of the camps are no more. For now. If in the future, however, we start sending men and women into space to start colonising new planets the children of their camps will surely grow up to be their guards and successors. In a less bloody fashion, one hopes, than those who succeeded Alexander with so much damage to his legacy in the short term.

* May it never seek to oppress any other nation or people as well

Previous Posts on Philip and Alexander of Macedon

i. A Country Ancient and Modern
ii. General Ronald Storrs and Cardinal Francis Bourne

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Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (29 – 35)

With apologies for its lateness here are my links to Chapter 29 – 35 of my Plutarch read-through, which I am currently doing on this blog’s Tumblr page.

  • For the links to Chapters 1 – 28, click here

Chapter Twenty-Nine – Sacrifices and contests in Phoenicia
Chapter Thirty – Stateira I’s death; Darius III and Tireos
Chapter Thirty-One – Gaugamela: Through Mesopotamia to the Eve of Battle
Chapter Thirty-Two – Gaugamela: The morning of the Battle and some of its actions
Chapter Thirty-Three – The Battle of Gaugamela
Chapter Thirty-Four – From Gaugamela to Babylon
Chapter Thirty-Five – On Naphtha

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Torture in Curtius (1)

Last post here

In this post I continue my look at the number of times and contexts in which torture is referenced by the Alexander historians. Today, it is the turn of Curtius. In contrast to Arrian and Plutarch who barely mention it at all (twice and three times respectively), Curtius does so on thirty-eight occasions.

***

Due to that high volume of usage, and the fact that I will be quoting all the relevant passages, I have decided to split this post into three. The next will look exclusively at torture in the context of the Philotas Affair. The third will look at references to torture made by Curtius in connection with the Pages’ Conspiracy and the rebel Biton.

***

As you may be aware, the first two books of Curtius’ history have not survived. I’ll begin, therefore, in Book III with Alexander settling his affairs in Lycia and Pamphylia before moving on to the city of Calaenae in Phrygia.

Actually, due to the uneven spread of word usage, Book IV will be the start point. From IV.8.10-11, I’ll continue on to VI.8.14, just before the first use of the word in connection with the Philotas Affair.

The Spread:

  • 0 in Book III
  • 4 in Book IV
  • 2 in Book V
  • 2 in Book VI

***

Book IV.8.10-11
contains a reference to a number of criminals being tortured for their crimes

Alexander marched with all possible speed to avenge [Andromachus’] murder [by the Samaritans], and on his arrival the perpetrators of the heinous crime were surrendered to him. He appointed Memnon to replace Andromachus, executed the murderers of the former governor, and handed over to their own subjects a number of local rulers, including Aristonicus and Ersilaus of Methymna, whom they tortured and put to death for their crimes.

Book IV.10.27
Here we see the word ‘torture’ being used in a metaphorical sense by Darius III

[Darius said to Tyriotes,] “… You are not going to tell me, are you, what I most suspect and fear to put into words – that members of my family have been violated, something which would be worse than any kind of torture for me and, I think, for them?”

Book IV.10.30-33
Here we see Darius warning Tyriotes the eunuch that if he lies he will be tortured. Tyriotes, who is telling the truth, stands his ground, effectively saying to the Great King ‘bring it on’.

Tyriotes swore by the gods of his country that no violence had been offered the queen, that Alexander had actually lamented her death and wept as much as Darius was doing then, but these declarations served only to revive an anxious suspicion in the mind of the adoring husband, who inferred that Alexander’s grief for a captive must have derived from his having had sexual relations with her. Accordingly, keeping only Tyriotes back and dismissing everybody else, he said to him (without tears now but with a sigh): ‘Tyriotes, do you see that lies will not do? The instruments of torture will soon be here, but for heaven’s sake don’t wait for them if you have any regard for your king. Surely he did not dare to do… what I want to know yet fear to ask… he being a young man and her master?” Tyriotes offered to undergo torture, calling the gods to witness that the queen had been treated with propriety and respect.

Book V.3.12
Afraid of being tortured, the Uxians break into the Macedonian camp and ask Sisigambis to intercede with Alexander for them

… daunted by the added fear of torture, they sent men to Darius’ mother Sisigambis, by a secret path unknown to their enemy, to ask her to use her influence to mollify the king.

Book V.5.5-6
contains a reference to torture having been inflicted upon the Greek captives

When he was not far from the city, the king was met by a pitiful group of men whose misfortune has few parallels in history. They were Greek captives, some 4,000 in number, whom the Persians had subjected to various kinds of torture. Some had had their feet cut off, some their hands and ears. They had been branded with letters from the Persian alphabet by their captors, who had kept them to amuse themselves over a long period by humiliating them.

Book VI.5.3
As with IV.10.27, we see torture being used as a figure-of-speech here

Given a friendly welcome, Artabazus said: ‘Your majesty, I pray to heaven you may prosper with unending good fortune. Everything here brings me happiness but I am tortured by this one thought, that my declining years make long enjoyment of your kindness impossible for me.’

Book VI.6.31
contains a reference not to torture per se but an experience being as like it

The woods crackled as they burned, and the parts that the soldiers had not fired ignited as well and started to consume everything near them. The barbarians tried to escape their agonizing torture if the flames died down anywhere, but wherever the fire had left a passage stood their enemy.

***

Here are my observations based on the above quotations. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section

  • Curtius uses the word ‘torture’ and its variants in a different way on all but one occasion. Here is my break down
    • 1 reference to torture being carried out (IV.8.10-11)
    • 2 reference to torture used as a metaphor (IV.10.27, VI.5.3)
    • 1 reference to the threat of torture (IV.10.30-33)
    • 1 reference to a willingness to undergo it to prove a cause (IV.10.30-33)
    • 1 reference to the fear of torture (V.3.12)
    • 1 reference to torture having been carried out (V.5.5-6)
    • 1 reference to another experience being like torture (VI.6.31)
  • Perhaps ironically, the reference to torture being carried out (IV.8.10-11) has hardly any impact at all. This is because Curtius makes no mention at all of what was done to Aristonicus and Ersilaus of Methymna et al before they died.
  • IV.10.30-33 and IV.8.10-11 show that torture was regarded as an acceptable part of the interrogation process and punishment for convicted criminals in the Macedon/Near East and Persia respectively
  • V.5.5-6 suggests that in Persia torture was not confined to the legal process but that prisoners-of-war (perhaps anyone under the control of another person?) could be tortured if the master so wished it
  • VI.6.31 is definitely uncomfortable to read but makes too little impact due to the impersonal nature of the passage. It is hard to get emotionally invested in the fate of a people described only as ‘the barbarians’.
  • V.5.5-6 also lacks names but at least we know the nationality of the people concerned. For me, this is the most horrible passage for although Curtius does not describe the actual torture, we see very clearly the result of it.
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Torture in Arrian and Plutarch

Part 2 Torture in Curtius (I)

This week, the American Senate published a report into the use of torture by the CIA following the 11th September attacks in 2001. You can read about it at The Daily Telegraph here.

The report got me thinking about how often torture is mentioned by the Alexander historians and in what context. As I have Arrian’s, Curtius’ and Plutarch’s books in e-book format I typed ‘torture’ in to the search field to see what came back. Here is what I found.

Arrian
Arrian only mentions torture twice, and both times in connection with the same incident (in VI.30). In the winter of 325 B.C., Alexander reached Pasargadae, on his way back to Babylon from the Hyphasis River. There, he stopped to visit the tomb of Cyrus the Great.
CyrustheGreatTombMuch to his distress, Alexander found that the tomb had been ‘broken into and robbed’. Aristobulos was given orders to restore it.

The desecration of the tomb was all the more vexing for Alexander as it was supposed to be under permanent guard by the Magi. Alexander

… had the Magi who guarded the monument arrested and put to the torture, hoping to extort from them the names of the culprits; but even under torture they were silent, neither confessing their own guilt nor accusing anybody else.

In consequence of this, Alexander was obliged to release the prisoner.

What comes out most strongly when reading this passage is the matter-of-factness of it all. Alexander suspected the guard of wrong-doing, had him arrested and tortured, then released him. End of story.

For his part, Arrian makes no judgement regarding whether he thinks the torture justified or not*. Given that he is not afraid to criticise Alexander on other occasions when he thinks him in the wrong I take Arrian’s silence to be acceptance of what happened. It’s possible he doesn’t care to make a comment but would that be his style?

* I note the use of the word ‘extort’ which is a pejorative one but as I don’t know the original Greek word used it is hard to comment on it

Plutarch
The word ‘torture’ appears three times in Plutarch’s Life of Alexander, and in connection with two separate incidents – the Philotas Affair and Pages’ Plot.

Chapter 49

… Philotas’ enemies brought innumerable accusations against him. He was arrested, interrogated and tortured in the presence of the king’s companions, while Alexander himself listened to the examination from behind a curtain.

Plutarch spends hardly any more time on what happened to Philotas than Arrian did on the Magus but does reveal something of Philotas’ suffering and who at least one of the companions mentioned above was. As he hid behind the curtain, Alexander

… heard Philotas uttering broken and pitiful cries and pleas for mercy to Hephaestion…

This is the reality of torture that Arrian omits. For his part, Alexander is unmoved. In fact, Plutarch has him criticise his old friend.

… [Alexander] exclaimed, ‘Ah, Philotas, if you are so weak and unmanly as this, how could you involve yourself in such a dangerous business?’

I suppose from Alexander’s point-of-view it is a fair question. Whether or not Philotas was really guilty, though, is entirely another matter. That, however, is an issue for another post. To go back to Chapter 49, Plutarch notes that Philotas’ execution and his father, Parmenion’s murder, by Alexander caused the king to become ‘dreaded by many of his friends, above all by Antipater’.

The viceroy had particular reason to worry – not so much because of Parmenion’s and Philotas’ death – but because Alexander also took this opportunity to finally execute Alexander Lyncestis, whom he had held under arrest for the last three years on suspicion of treachery.

This Alexander was Antipater’s son-in-law and had been arrested in Asia Minor but I think Alexander did not want to risk executing him there in case doing so caused a confrontation with Antipater. Now, the viceroy approached the city of Aetolia to make an alliance with them.

Chapter 55
Plutarch does not tell the full story of the Pages’ Plot. As Curtius does, and we’ll come to him in the next post, I won’t go into the details here. In Plutarch’s version, it appears that after the Pages’ conspiracy was discovered Alexander’s agents learnt that (its leader) Hermolaus had asked the court historian, Callisthenes, ‘how he might become the most famous of men’ to which Callisthenes had replied ‘By killing the most famous of men’.

Callsithenes spoke most unwisely. He may have been Alexander’s historian but was not liked in the court. He was proud and vain. This had lead him to refuse to do obsequience to the king when he had demanded it*. That in turn gave his enemies the opportunity to slander him.

If Callisthenes had gone no further with Hermolaus perhaps he might have got away with his loose tongue. Instead, Plutarch says that Callisthenes encouraged Hermolaus to assassinate the king. This, too, came to the agents’ attention.

The conspirators were tortured to see if more evidence against Callisthenes could be uncovered. However,

… not one of Hermolaus’ accomplices, even under the stress of torture, denounced Callisthenes. Indeed, Alexander himself, in the letters which he immediately wrote to Craterus, Attalus and Alcetas, says that the youths had confessed under torture that the conspiracy was entirely their own and that nobody else knew of it.

This was not enough to save Callisthenes’ life. The conspirators were executed and Callisthenes arrested. His eventual fate depends on who you read but the different accounts all end one way – with his death. For the record, Plutarch doesn’t say that he was tortured.

As for the Pages, though, Plutarch gives no further details regarding their torture.

* This was especially damaging as he had apparently promised Hephaestion of all people that he would bow to the king. If this is true, he had made Alexander’s best friend look stupid in front of Alexander – an intolerable insult

***

So, there we are, and I have to say that I was quite surprised by the scarcity of references to torture in Arrian and Plutarch.

Luckily for me, although that is probably not the right word to use, I know that the word crops up quite a few times in Curtius. Well, he is supposed to be interested in the lurid side of Alexander’s life.

Another surprise was that Arrian does not mention it with reference to Philotas at all. Philotas’ supposed treachery is mentioned but Ptolemy – Arrian’s named source for the story – says that Parmenion’s son was put on trial, accused with ‘irrefutable proofs’, and then shot. I wonder if he glossed over what happened out of embarrassment over Philotas’ and Parmenion’s treatment.

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Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (22 – 28)

I’m writing this not one week after posting my last weekly up date but about one minute! While writing it I realised that I should have posted the Chapter 15 – 21 list last week and completely forgot so apologies for that.

Here is today’s list. The links will take you to The Second Achilles‘ Tumblr page where I am writing my read through of Plutarch’s Life.

  • For the links to Chapters 1 – 22, click here

Chapter Twenty-Two – More on Alexander’s self-restraint
Chapter Twenty-Three – Alexander’s Routine
Chapter Twenty-Four – Damascus and Tyre
Chapter Twenty-Five – Aristander
Chapter Twenty-Six – Alexandria to Siwah
Chapter Twenty-Seven – The Son of Zeus
Chapter Twenty-Eight – Man and God

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Plutarch’s Life of Alexander (15 – 21)

These links will take you to The Second Achilles‘ Tumblr site where I am reading Plutarch’s Life of Alexander.

  • For the links to chapters 1 – 14, click here

Chapter Fifteen – Alexander at Troy
Chapter Sixteen – The Battle of the Granicus River
Chapter Seventeen – Alexander’s Indecision
Chapter Eighteen – Prophecies and Dreams
Chapter Nineteen – Parmenion vs Philip of Acarnania
Chapter Twenty – The Battle of Issus
Chapter Twenty-One – Alexander’s Attitude to Women

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Alexander: December and Winter Chronology

Other Months

336
Nov-Dec Alexander wins Greek support for war against Persia (Livius)

335
Nov-Dec
Alexander holds festivals in Dion and Aegae (Livius)

334/333
Winter
Alexander conquers Caria, Lycia, Pamphylia and Phrygia (Landmark Arrian*, Livius)
Alexander son of Aeropos is arrested (Landmark Arrian)
Pisidians harass Macedonian army and are subdued (Landmark Arrian)

333
Dec (?) Darius tries to negotiate with Alexander (Livius)
333/332

Winter
Alexander asks Tyrians if he can enter the city to sacrifice to Herakles; he is denied access (Landmark Arrian)
Siege of Tyre begins (Landmark Arrian)

332/331

Winter
Alexander enters Egypt (Landmark Arrian, Michael Wood**)
Alexander visits Siwah (Landmark Arrian)
Alexander founds Alexandria (Landmark Arrian)
Green suggests that the foundation of Alexandria could have taken place in April
Alexander is informed of the Persian navy’s defeat in the Aegean (Landmark Arrian)
Mid-winter Alexander visits Siwah (Wood)
Green has Alexander’s visit take place in early Spring

331
Early Dec Alexander takes Susa unopposed (Peter Green***)
15th Dec Abulites surrenders Susa to Alexander (Livius)
22nd Dec Alexander leaves Susa (Livius)
331/330
Winter
Alexander reaches Persia (Wood)
Alexander forces the Susian Gates (Green)
Alexander takes Susa (Landmark Arrian)
Alexander subdues the Ouxioi (Landmark Arrian)
Alexander passes the Persian Gates and enters Persepolis (Landmark Arrian)

330/329
Winter Spitamenes’ second revolt is put down (Landmark Arrian)

329/328

Winter
Alexander at Zariaspa (Green, Livius, Wood)
Bessus is mutilated ahead of being executed (Landmark Arrian)
Bessus is executed (Green)

328
Spitamenes is captured (Livius)
328/327
Winter
Alexander in Maracanda (Livius) and Nautaca (Livius, Wood)
Alexander captures the Rock of Sisimithres (Wood)
Alexander returns to Zariaspa (Wood)
Callisthenes objects to Alexander’s proskynesis (Landmark Arrian)
In Nautaca, Alexander appoints new satraps (Landmark Arrian)

327/326

Winter
Hephaestion to the Indus River via the Khyber Pass (Wood)
Alexander enters Swat Valley (Wood)
Alexander at Nysa (Wood)
The Dionysus episode (Green) i.e. Macedonian army gets drunk en masse
Alexander attacks the Massaga (Wood)
Campaign in the Swat Valley (Wood)

326

December
Alexander campaigns against the Mallians (Wood)
Siege of the Mallian city  (Wood)
The Landmark Arrian gives the Mallian campaign as happening during the winter of 326/5

325
December
Satraps punished for wrong-doing (Green, Livius)
Alexander joins up with Craterus in Carmania (Livius)
Macedonian army reaches Hormuz (Wood)
325/324
Winter
Alexander joins up with Craterus and Nearchus (Landmark Arrian)
Alexander orders the restoration of Cyrus the Great’s Tomb (Landmark Arrian)
Orxines is executed (Landmark Arrian)

324/323
Winter
Alexander requests divine honours for Hephaestion (Livius)
Alexander campaigns against Cossaeans (Landmark Arrian, Livius)

***

* The Landmark Arrian Ed. James Romm (Pantheon Books 2010)
** Wood In the Footsteps Of Alexander the Great A Journey from Greece to India (BBC Books 2004)
*** Green Alexander of Macedon 356 – 323 B.C. A Historical Biography (University of California Press 1991)

***

Notes

  • This chronology is part of an on-going work. If you see any mistakes or omissions please feel free to let me know.
  • As can be seen, I have noted where The Landmark Arrian, Livius, Michael Wood and Peter Green have disagreed on the dates; these notes, however, are not comprehensive. My focus has been on recording what each author has said rather than comparing it to the others.

***

Modern Names
The Mallian city – Multan
Nysa – Jelalabad
Zariaspa aka Bactra – Balkh

Categories: Chronology of Alexander's Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From the missing century to the shadow of Alexander the Great

Linked to Alexander (5)
More Links here

17th Nov. 2014
The Missing Century
(Patheos | The Anxious Bench | Philip Jenkins)
References Alexander and the Ptolemaic Empire

18th Nov. 2014
11 Leadership Lessons from Alexander the Great
(Knowledge | Manfred Kets de Vries)
Alexander’s leadership, and his failures

18th Nov. 2014
Envy can lead to self-destruction
(Zambia Daily Mail)
References Alexander

18th Nov. 2014
A Country Interrupted: Exploring Afghanistan’s Complicated History
(Minters News | Catherine Shakdam)
References Alexander

21st Nov. 2014
A look at Greece’s Macedonian legacy
(CT Post)
Photos from archaeological sites and museums

21st Nov. 2014
Behind Tomb Connected to Alexander the Great, Intrigue Worthy of “Game of Thrones”
(National Geographic | Heather Pringle)
The bloody life and times of Alexander

21st Nov. 2014
When is War Over?
(The New York Times | Elizabeth D. Samet)
References Alexander in Afghanistan

23rd Nov. 2014
Second Temple Era Military Outpost Discovered, Possibly Destroyed by Alexander the Great
(The Jewish Press | Tzvi Zucker)
Has an archaeological dig uncovered the Macedonian army at work?

24th Nov. 2014
Kavala: still fresh after 2,700 years
(Hellenic News of America | Marc d’Entremont)
Travel report from northern Greece

26th Nov. 2014
US Army Corps of Engineers build Afghan National Army base in the shadow of Alexander the Great
(Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System)
NB This article contains some glaring errors regarding Alexander; I include it here as the mistakes can still be used to increase one’s knowledge about Alexander’s expedition to the east

Last but not least – are you are fan of Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy? Our Facebook Reading Group has just started reading The Persian Boy. All are welcome to join the group and discussion.

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Selected Search Enquiries (2)

Some more interesting search enquiries have led people to this blog. Here are answers to some of the questions.

“where is troy located?”
The ruins of Troy can be found near the Turkish city of Hisarlik (See Google Maps here). Several settlements have been built on the site of Homeric Troy (with the first dating to c. 3000 B.C. According to About, the Tojan War took place

… either at the time of the level known as Troy VI (1800-1275 BC) or Troy VII (1275-1100 BC).

Alexander cannot have been greatly impressed by Troy on the occasion of his visit in 334 B.C. The Landmark Arrian says that by his day it had become ‘a dusty tourist town’.

“what did diodorus say about babylon”
So far as Alexander is concerned, not a lot. The Macedonians’ arrival at Babylon is covered in XVII.64 of the Library of History. Diodorus describes the Babylonians as receiving Alexander ‘gladly’ and providing quarters and plenty of food to the Macedonian army. There was so much food that Alexander stayed in the city for a month before moving on to Susa. And that’s pretty much it.

There are a number of other references to Babylon scattered throughout Book 17:

  • Chapter 31 Darius orders his forces to muster in Babylon before marching towards Issus (see the picture below)
  • Chapter 39 Darius rushes back to Babylon after being defeated at Issus. There, he gathers the survivors of the first royal army together and writes to Alexander offering him part of his territory in return for ‘a treaty of friendship’
  • Chapter 53 Darius leaves Babylon with his second royal army – it will eventually meet Alexander at Gaugamela.
  • Chapter 64 Alexander’s arrival in Babylon, as mentioned above
  • Chapter 65 After leaving Babylon, Alexander is met by reinforcements from Macedon.
  • Chapter 71 Persepolis is so rich that Alexaner is obliged to send ‘for a vast number of mules from Babylon and Mesopotamia, as well as from Susa’ where the treasure was due to be sent to.
  • Chapter 108 Alexander had given his friend Harpalus ‘custody of the treasury in Babylon’. Unfortunately, Harpalus abused that trust. Believing that Alexander would never return from India, he gave himself up to licentious living and ‘squandered much of the treasure under his control on incontinent pleasure’.
  • Chapter 110 After Hephaestion’s death, Alexander ordered Perdiccas to take his body back to Babylon
  • Chapter 112 Alexander did not immediately follow Hephaestion’s body back to Babylon. Instead, he launched a campaign against a mountain dwelling people called the Cossaeans. When he did finally set out for the city, he travelled ‘in easy stages, interrupting the march frequently and resting the army’. As he approached Babylon, some Chaldean priests warned him that the stars were portending his death if he entered the city. For a short while, Alexander heeded their warning and stayed outside. Finally, however, some Greek philosophers led by Anaxarchus, persuaded him to ignore the priests. He entered the city. Once again, he and the army were greeted ‘hospitably’ by the populace. The Macedonian soldiers ‘turned their attention to relaxation and pleasure’.
  • Chapter 116 Alexander receives an omen of his death when a man sits upon the royal throne. Diodorus says that the king was angry with the Greek philosophers who had persuaded him to enter the city.

As you can see, Diodorus’ references to Babylon focus on people and actions rather than the city itself. The only time that he really moves beyond that is when he says – at the end of Chapter 112 – that so far as ‘relaxation and pleasure’ were concerned, ‘everything necessary was available in profusion’ – a sure allusion to Babylon’s reputation for being a licentious city. I wonder if Diodorus talks more about the city in his other books? If you have any references, feel free to let me know in the comments box.

“who are sophites”
Sophites (aka Sopeithes, Sophytes) was an Indian king whose realm

… was situated between the Hydraotes and Hyphasis, and between that of the Adrestae and Cathaeans and of Phegeus’
(Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great).

He is mentioned by Diodorus (XVII.91-92), Curtius (IX.1.24-35) and Arrian (VI.3). Caution needs to be exercised regarding the location of Sophites’ kingdom – the notes to my copy of Arrian say that both Diodorus and Curtius got it wrong and that we do not know where it was located.

“the offspring of incest couples”
Incest does not play an important part in Alexander’s story. It did, however, become common practice in the Ptolemaic dynasty from the time of Ptolemy II Philadelphos onwards. Earlier this year, I wrote this post about who married who in the Ptolmaic dynasty. Allowing for any mistakes that I have made (the Ptolemaic family tree is, as you might imagine, rather complicated), there were a total of eight brother-sister marriages and twelve children born to brother and sister parents.

As I understand it, brother-sister marriages had for a long time been common practice for the Egyptian pharaohs. That it began with Ptolemy II Philadelphos suggests to me that while the Ptolemies did in some respects (perhaps most?) keep themselves apart from the natives – to the point where Cleopatra VII (she of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony fame) was the first Ptolemy in 300 years to speak Egyptian – they were adept at adopting such Egyptian practices as were required for the maintenance of their power. I wonder what Ptolemy I Soter would have made of it all.

“laura gill helens daughter”
The Mieza Book Club read Gill’s novel The Young Lion last year; you can read the transcript of the club’s meeting here. If you would like to read more of her writing, however, you can do so via her blog here.

Het_optrekken_van_Darius_voor_de_Slag_bij_Issus_Rijksmuseum_SK-A-3999(Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Categories: Searching Alexander | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

General Ronald Storrs and Cardinal Francis Bourne

II.

David Hogarth portrays Alexander as having very little respect for his religion.

As a boy, he had treated cavalierly even the Pythia. As a man, he refused to listen when a soothsayer forbade his venture across the Sir Daria; he committed palpable fraud with the auspices to save his dignity at the Sutlej; and replied with scornful sarcasm to the last warnings of the prophets of Bel.
D G Hogarth “Philip and Alexander of Macedon” p. 195)

But he does not tell the whole story.

It is true that Alexander was very unkind to the Pythia, dragging her to the shrine so that she could prophecy for him (Plutarch Life 14) on a day when it was illegal for her to do so. And while he did indeed ignore Aristander who told him that the omens were against him, he only did having respected an earlier injunction against crossing the Sir Daria (i.e. the Tanais/Jaxartes), and, I should add, after being continually provoked by the Asian Scythians on the other side of the river (Arrian IV.4).

As for the events at the Sutlej (Hyphasis) river – Neither Curtius, Diodorus, Justin, nor Plutarch mention Alexander sacrificing there following the Macedonian army’s revolt. Arrian does (V.29) but there is nothing in his words that should make us suspect that Alexander fixed the result in order to save face.

If there was fraud on the banks of the Hyphasis river it was in the gigantic altars that Alexander set up. Curtius (IX.3.19) says that he wanted to create a ‘fraudulent wonder’ while Plutarch (Life 62) refers to them as ‘a number of ruses and deceptions’. Arrian (V.29) describes the altars ‘as a thank-offering to the gods’. Whichever way we look at them, though, is a moot point, as they were not what Hogarth was talking about.

The nature of Alexander’s response to the (Chaldaean) prophets’ warning not to enter Babylon on pain of death depends on who we read.

  • Arrian (VII.16) records Alexander as quoting Euripides to them: ‘Prophets are best who make the truest guess’, which is not what I would call ‘scornful sarcasm’.
  • Diodorus (XVII.112) says that Alexander, at first, paid heed to the prophets before being turned against them by Anaxarchus and the Greek philosophers. When that happened, ‘he came to despise all prophetic arts, and especially that which was held in high regard by the Chaldaeans’. How could Alexander change his stance so quickly? I would suggest he was still emotionally vulnerable after Hephaestion’s death.
  • Plutarch (Life 73) says that Alexander ignored the Chaldaeans’ warning but there is no mention of sarcasm by him.
  • Justin (Epitome XII.13) follows Diodorus in having Alexander listen to the Chaldaeans before – under Anaxarchus’ influence – deciding to ignore them. To be sure, he does say that Anaxarchus persuaded him ‘to slight the predictions of the Magi as fallacious and uncertain’ but would this have happened if Alexander had not been in a vulnerable state?

Contrary to how it may seem I am still enjoying reading David Hogarth’s Philip and Alexander of Macedon. The inspiration for this post, however, was not his book but a copy of the Westminster Cathedral Chronicle from February 1935, which I read yesterday. It contained an obituary of Cardinal Francis Bourne of Westminster diocese who died on 1st January that year. The obituary was supplemented by numerous photographs, of which was this one:

image

As the text says, we see in the photograph Cardinal Bourne speaking to General (Ronald) Storrs. He is of interest to me because of his connection to T E Lawrence. The two men served in the Middle-east, for a while working at the same time out of Cairo during World War One. Like Lawrence, Storrs was a classicist.

In May 1916, Sheriff Hussein decided to begin the Arab revolt agains the Ottoman empire. He asked the British for money to help pay for it*. Storrs, along with David Hogarth* took some (not all – the British wanted to make sure the revolt began before they gave the rest) of the requested funds to Sheriff Hussein.

On 28th December 1917†, Storrs was appointed Military Governor of Jerusalem** – the first, he said, since Pontus Pilate††! This was not the only occasion when the Bible was to be remembered. When General Allenby entered Jerusalem, he did so through the Jaffa Gate and on foot out of respect for the city’s status as a holy city in Christianity, Judaism and Islam†††. In 1936 Storrs acted as one of the pall bearers at T E Lawrence’s funeral.

***

With that all said, you may be wondering how I got from General Storrs and Cardinal Bourne to Alexander the Great in the first place. Well, seeing the General and Cardinal put me in mind of Alexander and Aristander. That’s all I might have written had I not read the passage from Hogarth’s book above earlier today, which led to this rather longer – and I fear, convoluted, post.

* Jeremy Wilson Lawrence of Arabia (Atheneum New York 1990) p.286

** And Kinahan Cornwallis, also a member of the Arab Bureau

*** ibid, p.487

† Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies

†† Wikipedia

†† Wikipedia

See also
i. A Country Ancient and Modern
iii. David Hogarth on Alexander’s Influence

Categories: Books, Of The Moment | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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