Alexander’s Last Days – Plutarch

1st June 323 BC
Daesius – 18th

  • Alexander feverish. Sleeps in bathroom

2nd June 323 BC
Daesius – 19th

  • Alexander bathes; is moved back to his bedchamber
  • Spends day playing dice with Medius
  • Late Evening Alexander bathes again, sacrifices to gods and dines
  • Night Alexander remains feverish

3rd June 323 BC
Daesius – 20th

  • Alexander bathes; sacrifices as normal
  • He rests in bathroom; listens to to Nearchus’ account of voyage

4th June 323 BC
Daesius – 21st

  • Alexander bathes, sacrifices and spends time with friends; his fever grows ‘more intense’
  • Night Alexander doesn’t sleep well

5th June 323 BC
Daesius – 22nd

  • Alexander’s fever is ‘very high’
  • He has his bed moved to beside ‘great plunge bath’
  • Discusses vacant army posts with senior officers

6th June 323 BC
Daesius – 23rd

  • [No account given]

7th June 323 BC
Daesius – 24th

  • Alexander’s fever grows ‘still worse’; he is now bedridden
  • He is carried outside so he can sacrifice
  • Alexander orders senior officers ‘to remain on call’ in palace courtyard; also orders company and regimental commanders ‘to spend the night outside’

8th June 323 BC
Daesius – 25th

  • Alexander moved to palace ‘on the other side of the river’ to help the fever. He is able to sleep ‘a little’ but fever remains
  • When Alexander’s senior officers visit him, they find him unable to speak

9th June 323 BC
Daesius – 26th

  • Alexander remains feverous and unable to speak

9th and / or 10th June 323 BC
Daesius – 26th
and/or 27th

  • Macedonians believe Alexander has died. They demand access to him
  • Macedonians file past Alexander ‘one by one, wearing neither cloak nor armour’
  • Python (aka Python) and Seleucus ‘sent to the temple of Serapis’ to ask the god ‘whether Alexander should be moved there’
  • Serapis tells them Alexander should be left where he is

11th June 323 BC
Daesius – 28th

  • ‘Towards evening’ Alexander dies

Note
You’ll notice that I have written this post in a slightly more concise manner than its Arrian equivalent. That’s because I first wrote it for my Second Achilles Tumblr page. You can find the relevant post here. In case it is important, I have not changed any part of the timeline.
The edition of Plutarch that I used for this timeline was the Penguin Classics Age of Alexander (2011)
As can be seen, Plutarch (just about) agrees with Arrian that Alexander was ill for eleven days.
I mentioned in my Arrian post that Robin Lane Fox dates Alexander’s death to 10th June. The notes to my copy of Plutarch are equally certain that he died on 11th June, and they cite the authority of a Babylonian astronomical text; I suspect that those scholars who date his death to the 10th also cite the astronomical text, just in a different way.
I could choose a side in this dispute but I would have no rational reason for doing so. Instead, just as I respected Lane Fox in my Arrian post, I respect the writer of the notes here and so date Alexander’s death to the 11th.

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Alexander’s Last Days – Arrian

29th May 323 BC

  • This evening, Alexander attends dinner with friends
  • Late into the night, Alexander retires to his quarters, but meets Medius on the way. Medius invites the king to a party that he is holding.
  • Alexander joins Medius; later on, he returns to his quarters where he bathes and goes to bed.
  • At some point during the night, Alexander wakes and decides to rejoin Medius. The two dine together and continue drinking.
  • In the early hours of the morning, Alexander returns to his quarters again where he bathes, sups and retires. He is feeling feverous.

30th May 323 BC

  • Alexander is too ill to leave his bed. He is carried in it to wherever he carries out his religious duties.
  • Afterwards, Alexander is taken to the men’s quarters of the palace where he remains the rest of the day.
  • During the day, Alexander continues making preparations for the projected expedition to Arabia.
  • In the evening, Alexander is carried in his bed to the Euphrates river and taken to a park on its far side where he is bathed. He presumably stays overnight in quarters by the river.

31st May 323 BC

  • The next day, Alexander is able to leave his bed. He bathes and offers sacrifice.
  • Afterwards, he returns to his quarters where he meets Medius. The two chat, and Alexander gives Medius orders to bring the latter’s officers to him on the morrow.
  • After his meeting with Medius has finished, Alexander eats and retires to his quarters. The fever remains on him.

1st June 323 BC

  • This morning, Alexander carries out his usual routine of bathing and offering sacrifice. He then meets Nearchus and gives him orders for the sailing of the fleet.

2nd June 323 BC

  • As per normal, Alexander bathes and carries out his religious duties.
  • Despite the fever still being with him, Alexander continues his preparations for the Arabian expedition.
  • That evening, Alexander bathes again. That evening, the fever grows worse; in the space of a few hours, Alexander becomes gravely ill.

3rd June 323 BC

  • This morning, Alexander returns to the park on the far side of the Euphrates.
  • Despite the fact that his fever is getting worse, he sacrifices – a true sign of his religious devotion if ever there was one – and continues making preparations for the Arabian expedition.

4th June 323 BC

  • A week after falling ill, Alexander is once more too ill to leave his bed.
  • He is nearly too ill to perform his religious duties and continue preparations for the expedition to Arabia but manages both.

5th June 323 BC

  • Alexander is now desperately ill. Despite this, he continues to perform his religious duties. He gives orders for his senior officers to wait near his quarters for him to call them.
  • Perhaps recognising for the first time that the king may die, his doctor (or most senior officers?) move him back to the royal palace from the park.
  • There, Alexander recognises his men when they come to see him but is unable to speak to them. He will not do so until his death. Alexander’s fever is now at its worst.

6th June 323 BC

  • Alexander remains bedridden in a state of high fever.

7th June 323 BC

  • For the second day in a row, Alexander remains bedridden in a state of high fever.

8th June 323 BC

  • For the third day in a row, Alexander remains bedridden in a state of high fever. How long can he hold out for? Or will the fever finally break?

9th June 323 BC

  • The fever does not break. Alexander remains bedridden in a state of high fever, and rumours are swirling around Babylon regarding the king’s condition. The Macedonian soldiers demand to see him. The senior officers acquiesce and, either today or yesterday, or both, Alexander’s men file past him to take sight of the king.
  • Alexander is barely able to raise his head but acknowledges the men with his eyes.
  • Tonight, Attalus, Cleomenes, Demophon, Peithon, Peucestas and Seleucus go to the temple of Serapis (or another, similarly named god) to ask the god if it would be better for Alexander(‘s recovery) if he was brought to him.
  • They stay the night so as to receive the god’s answer in a dream. He replies: no, it would not be better; Alexander should remain where he is.

10th June 323 BC

  • Late afternoon on a cloudy day in Babylon, Alexander dies.

Note
I used my Penguin Classics (1971) of Arrian to work out the number of days between the onset of Alexander’s fatal illness and his death. And if I have read Arrian correctly, he suggests that eleven days elapsed during this time. However, in his biography Alexander the Great (Penguin Books, 2004), Robin Lane Fox states that Medius’ party, the night of which Alexander fell ill, took place on 29th May, and that Alexander died on 10th June, thirteen days later.

Out of respect for Lane Fox’s dating, therefore, I added two days to Alexander’s illness. This was not an easy matter as in the Penguin translation Arrian is very clear about the passage of time, the text is full of ‘next day…the following morning… the day after’ etc. As can be seen above, Alexander was bedridden from 5th June onwards. His fever was such that he could do nothing. As Arrian does not describe any actions on Alexander’s part, therefore, I have inserted the two extra days here.

Of course, if you know of any dating that shows how Medius’ party actually took place on 31st May, or 1st June, as scholars debate whether Alexander died on 10th or 11th of the month, then feel free to leave a link in the comments below.

One last point – I first presented this account of the last days of Alexander on my Alexander Facebook page between 29th May and 10th June 2017.

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Alexander: June / Summer Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

336
Summer Philip II is assassinated; Alexander III succeeds him (Michael Wood*)
Summer Artaxerxes IV murdered; Darius III becomes Great King (Livius, Peter Green**)
Summer (Late) Alexander holds a meeting of the League of Corinth and is confirmed as Captain-General of the war against Persia (Peter Green)

335
Summer Alexander’s Thracian Campaign (Livius)
Summer Memnon pushes the Macedonian advance guard back in Asia Minor (Livius)

334
June (Early) Battle of the Granicus River (Livius)
Summer Alexander takes Sardis and Ephesus (Landmark Arrian***)
Summer Alexander takes Miletus; he disbands his navy (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Macedonians take Halicarnassus except for its citadel (Landmark Arrian)

333
March – June Memnon’s naval offensive ends (Livius)
April – July Alexander in Gordium (Livius)
Summer Alexander crosses Asia Minor (Michaal Wood)
Summer Alexander undoes the Gordian Knot (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander falls gravely ill after swimming in the Cydnus River (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander takes Cilicia; the citadel of Halicarnassus falls to the Macedonians (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander brings factional strife to an end in Mallus (Landmark Arrian)

332
January – July The Siege of Tyre continues (Livius, Michael Wood)
?June Alexander rejects Darius’ second written peace offer (Peter Green)
Winter – Summer The Siege of Tyre (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Darius writes to Alexander offering him a large amount of territory (to end the war); Alexander rejects the offer (Landmark Arrian)

331
June Alexander marches through Phoenicia and Syria (Livius)
Summer Alexander crosses Syria and enters northern Iraq (Michael Wood)

330
June Darius leaves Ecbatana for Bactria (Livius)
June (Early) Alexander departs from Persepolis for Ecbatana; Darius heads towards Bactria; at Ecbatana, Alexander dismisses his Greek allies; Alexander leaves Parmenion in Ecbatana with Harpalus as treasurer; pursuit of Darius continues (Peter Green)
Summer Alexander orders the burning of the Persian palace complex at Persepolis (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Pursuit of Darius and his assassination in Media; after finding his body, Alexander orders Darius to be given a royal burial (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Darius is assassinated; Alexander marches to the Caspian Sea (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander defeats Tapourians; more Persians surrender; Mardians defeated; in Hyrcania, Greek mercenaries surrender; Zadracarta: Alexander learns that Bessus has declared himself Great King (Landmark Arrian)

329
1st June Around this time Alexander makes his way to the Oxus River (Livius)
June Alexander captures Bessus (Livius)
June Alexander proceeds to the Jaxartes (Tanais) River (Livius)
June Alexander crosses the Oxus; Macedonian veterans and Thessalian volunteers are dismissed; Bessus surrenders; Alexander marches to Maracanda; Spitamenes revolts; Spitamenes wipes out Macedonian detachment (Peter Green)
Summer (Early) After crossing the Hindu Kush, Alexander proceeds to Balkh (i.e. Bactra/Zariaspa) (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander crosses the Oxus River (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander captures Bessus (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander arrives at Samarkand (i.e. Maracanda) (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander reaches the Jaxartes (Tanais) River (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander founds Alexandria-the-Furthest (i.e. Eschate) (Michael Wood, Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander quells an uprising (along the Jaxartes River) (Landmark Arrian)

328
Summer Macedonian campaign in Bactria and Sogdia (Livius, Landmark Arrian)
Summer Spitamenes continues his guerrilla campaign (Landmark Arrian)
Summer (Late) Alexander murders Black Cleitus in a drunken row (Michael Wood)

327
Summer (Early) Alexander crosses Hindu Kush via the Kushan Pass; Indian invasion begins (Peter Green)
Summer
The Macedonian army reunites in Bactra (Livius)
Summer The failed introduction of the practice of proskynesis (Livius)
Summer Alexander marries Roxane (Livius)
Summer Alexander crosses the Hindu Kush again and meets Taxiles (Landmark Arrian)
Summer A division of the army under Hephaestion’s and Perdiccas’ joint-command march to Peucalaotis
Summer (Late) The Pages Plot; Callisthenes’ execution (Livius)
Summer – Early Autumn Alexander spends six months in the Kabul Valley at Begram (Michael Wood)

326
June (Late) Campaigning in the Punjab (Michael Wood)
June (Late) Alexander advances to the Hyphasis (modern day Beas) River (Michael Wood)
26th June Around this time Alexander crosses the Acesines River (Livius)
Summer Many of the Macedonian fleet damaged by strong currents on the Acesines river (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander pursues the rebel Poros (not the king of the Hydaspes battle); Alexander razes Sangala (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander reaches the Hyphasis river where his army refuses to go any further (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Appointment of Abisares as satrap (Landmark Arrian)

325
June Craterus departs from the main army and takes his men by an inland route to Carmania (Livius, Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander reaches the Indus delta (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander explores the Indus delta and coastline (Landmark Arrian)

324
Summer Susa: Purge of corrupt satraps; Susa weddings; Alexander remits his soldiers debts; tension within Macedonian army about Alexander’s orientalism grows (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander issues the Exiles’ Decree (Livius)
Summer Mass weddings at Susa (Michael Wood)
Summer Alexander himself marries a daughter of Darius (i.e. Stateira II) (Michael Wood)
Summer Opis: Macedonian army rebels; Alexander reconciles with army and holds a special banquet to celebrate; Craterus given orders to take 10,000 veterans home – he departs (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander visits the famous horses of Nysia (Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander explores the mouths of the Tigris and Euphrates (Landmark Arrian)

323
10th June Alexander dies in Babylon (Michael Wood, Landmark Arrian)
11th June Alexander dies in Babylon (Livius, Landmark Arrian)
Summer Alexander dies in Babylon following an 11 day illness (fever) (Landmark Arrian)

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

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Watch Alexander’s War Unfold

I love my Alexander books but it is always good to see what happened as well. Recently, therefore, I was delighted to discover BazBattles, a You Tube channel dedicated to showing how famous battles unfolded.

Amongst those featured are Alexander’s three battles against the Persian Empire.

The Battle of the Granicus River

The narrator’s strong (Spanish?) accent can make this video a little hard going but stick with it as his voice is actually rather charming in its way. The video is livened up by speech bubbles representing the voices of the Persian satraps. You’ll have to excuse the rather sweary one. The word used is nothing particularly bad but doesn’t really belong in this narrative.

The Battle of Issus

The language is better in this video, and more modern, too; look out for Alexander saying ‘GG’! Also, look out for the extra facts at the end. I don’t think I knew (or had forgotten) that Alexander only started calling himself ‘king’ after Issus. I read, recently, that he referred to himself as King of Asia after this battle so I wonder if the two facts are being conflated? Something to look into, perhaps.

The Battle of Gaugamela

An American narrates The Battle of Issus and I have to say a very caddish sounding Englishman narrates this video. I’d love to know who it is and what other work he has done. The video does not mention how the Persians sacked the Macedonian camp during the battle but does highlight one very salient fact about Alexander – the attention he paid to logistics. One other thing – look out for The Lord of the Rings reference!

All in all I found all three of these videos really useful in helping me to see how the battles turned out so I thoroughly recommend them to you. They aren’t BazBattles‘ only Macedonian videos, either; he – or she – also covers the Battle of the Erigon Valley (one of Philip II’s earliest battles. I have to admit, I don’t recall this one), Chaeronea, the Siege of Tyre and the Battle of the Persian Gates. No sign of Hydaspes yet. I hope it will be included in the future. For a play list of the Macedonian videos, click here.

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Did the Wars of the Successors need to happen?

After Alexander died, the Macedonian phalanx and cavalry divided over who should succeed him. The phalanx wanted Alexander’s half-brother, Arrhidaeos, to do so. The cavalry, however, which included Alexander’s most senior officers, were opposed to this. The two sides nearly came to blows before reaching a compromise: Arrhidaeos would become king and Perdiccas, leader of the cavalry faction, his regent (See Diodorus XVIII.2). A few months later, when Alexander’s son, Alexander IV, was born, he was made co-king (See Justin XIII.4).

The peace that this arrangement brought about held for virtually no time at all. After dividing the satrapies of the empire among Alexander’s senior officers, Perdiccas sent Peithon to quell a revolt of Greek settlers in Bactria and Sogdia (Diodorus XVIII.4; see also Dio. XVII.99). Peithon accepted the commission but he did not intend to fight the rebellious settlers; rather, he intended to win them over to his side and take power in Bactria and Sogdia (Diodorus XVIII.7). As it happens, Peithon was foiled in his plan but his was the first act of rebellion by one of Alexander’s commanders, and it set the stage for the conflict that would continue for forty years.

So, that is what happened. But did it need to?

Well, the cavalry could have sent Roxane home and accepted Arrhidaeos as their king, allowing him to rule under the aegis of a regent. In the summer of 323 this didn’t happen because the cavalry knew that Arrhidaeos was unfit to rule: he had a physical or mental impediment that made it impossible. Of course, they did eventually allow it to happen, but when it did, the Wars of the Successors started.

An alternative would have been for Arrhidaeos to be sent home and Roxane’s child, if a boy, to be elevated to the throne, instead. Of course, he too would have required a regent, but only until he came of age.

Or, Alexander’s illegitimate son Heracles could have been made king, instead (Curtius X.6.10-12).

These were the options. Why did the Successors not take them? Or, when they did, why did they not adhere to them?

A mixture of reasons. Arrhidaeos’ mental/physical impediment denied him the authority that he needed to rule. Moreover, it meant that he could never lead from the front, which is what a Macedonian king had to be able to do.

As for Alexander IV, I believe he was rejected out of fear; the Successors feared that when he came of age, Alexander might strip them of the power they had enjoyed for the previous eighteen years, and have them killed.

Why would Alexander IV do this? After all, he would have known that he owed his empire to the Successors. This is true, but the Macedonian political situation in the late fourth century BC was too unstable to permit Alexander IV to trust anyone. He would know full well that as long as the generals lived they would be rivals to his throne. He would not be safe until men of his generation, and therefore men with less authority than him, were in the key positions of power. This is why Alexander the Great removed Philtoas and Parmenion, and I believe it is why Cassander assassinated Alexander IV, and why none of the other Successors so much as said a word about it let alone protested or made war on him. They might not have liked what Cassander had done but they liked the idea of being killed even less.

Heracles was rejected because of old fashioned Macedonian (and Greek) racism: he was seen as a barbarian (Curt.X.6.13-14). Had Ptolemy Lagides got his way, Alexander IV would have been rejected for the same reason.

So, back to the headline question: did the Wars of the Successors need to happen?

When Ptolemy rejected Alexander IV and Heracles, he suggested that the generals should rule the empire together (Curt. X.6.15). I suppose this is why Ptolemy is regarded as a separatist. His idea, though, made sense. It would have lead to a kind-of government of all the talents, just what the diverse empire needed.

The only problem was – fear; the same fear that made Cassander kill Alexander IV. Fear is what drove Macedonian politics. It is the reason why, upon his accession in 336 BC, Alexander the Great killed anyone with a rival claim to the throne; it is the reason he had Philotas and Parmenion killed. I think it is one of the reasons why Hephaestion, Craterus and Coenus colluded in the judicial murder of Philotas (Curt. VI.11.10). In the Macedonian royal court, one was either in favour or out, and one had to do what was necessary to stay in. Co-operation happened but one had to be prepared to betray friends and allies as necessary. After all, they might do the same to you – as necessary.

So, no, the Wars of the Successors didn’t need to happen, but I think that the prejudices of the Successors, allied to their legitimate fears, made the conflict inevitable. The only thing that might have stopped it is if Alexander III had died twenty or more years later and if his son had been as strong and determined a person as his father. But even then, all it would have taken is one cup laced with poison…

Categories: Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Justin, On Alexander, Plutarch, Ptolemy I Soter, Quintus Curtius Rufus | Tags: | 2 Comments

A Tigerish Lust

A few days ago I was reading the introduction to The First Poets by Michael Schmidt when I came to the following quotation from Homer’s Contest by Friedrich Nietzsche,

“… the Greeks, the most humane men of ancient times, have a trait of cruelty, a tigerish lust to annihilate – a trait that is also very distinct in that grotesquely enlarged mirror image of the Hellenes, in Alexander the Great, but that really must strike fear into our hearts throughout their whole history and mythology, if we approach them with the flabby concept of modern “humanity”. When Alexander has the feet of Batis, the brave defender of Gaza, pierced, and ties him, alive, to his carriage, to drag him about while his soldiers mock, that is a revolting caricature of Achilles.
(p.xxxviii)

As this is a blog about Alexander the Great I am going to deliberately ignore what Nietzsche has to say about the Greeks in general.

So far as Alexander is concerned, the German philosopher is right in that he had a ‘trait of cruelty’. This should not surprise us as it is a trait nearly all of us share. What is extraordinary is that any of us, when we have the opportunity, do not give way to it.

I disagree with Nietzsche when he claims that Alexander had ‘a tigerish lust to annihilate’. Now, before I continue, I would like add this proviso: I haven’t read Homer’s Contest. It may be that Nietzsche develops his argument later on; I don’t know. This blog post, therefore, is simply an observation based on the above quotation.

So, to continue. Alexander did not have ‘a tigerish lust to annihilate’. His desire was to conquer. If it took fighting to to achieve that aim, then he would fight; if the aim could be achieved through diplomacy, then he would talk. If his enemy surrendered and he was able to accept their surrender, then that is what he would do. Alexander was not a simple destroyer. Yes, he destroyed, but he did not invade Thrace, Greece, the Persian Empire or India with that aim in mind. His purpose was to conquer and create – an empire.

Nietzche’s comment is the nineteenth century version of any made since 1945 that equates Alexander with Hitler. And both depend upon a deliberate suppression of contrary evidence for their validity. Michael Schmidt, in his introduction, joins in the game when he claims that ‘Alexander re-enacted, with deliberation and conceit, what Achilles after ten years’ deprivation and struggle, had done instinctively’ (ibid). This is not the whole truth.

According to Curtius (IV.6.7-29) the Siege of Gaza (which took two months) followed a fairly normal pattern: the Macedonians mined the city but for a time were forced to retreat due to the difficulty of protecting the soldiers engaged in the operation. This gave the Gazans the confidence to launch a sortie. In the end, Alexander won the siege by building a mound to create a path to the top of Gaza’s fortifications. This allowed the Macedonian siege towers to fire at those in the city. Meanwhile, Macedonian sappers succeeded in undermining Gaza’s walls. They fell, and Alexander’s men poured into the city, taking it after a fight.

So far, so ordinary. But two things happened to Alexander during the siege to give a fuller reason for his harsh treatment towards Batis. Firstly, he was injured twice. Once by an arrow to the shoulder. This injury was serious enough to make him faint and make Batis believe that his enemy had died. Then, by a rock to the leg. The injury does not appear to have broken it but it was enough to force Alexander to support himself on his spear during the fighting. Secondly, during a lull in the fighting, Alexander received a deserter who he allowed to join his own army. The deserter, however, was an assassin. Only Alexander’s quick reactions saved his life when the man, having paid homage to him, lunged at the king’s neck with his sword.

If Alexander really did execute Batis by dragging him around Gaza then this was a terribly cruel act. It was not, however, simply ‘a revolting caricature’ of what Achilles did, nor a ‘crude literary gesture’ (The First Poets p.xxxviii). If the event even happened (I believe not all scholars believe that it did?) it was an act informed by  the frustration, pain and betrayal that Alexander had faced during the siege rather than being simply a re-playing of Achilles’ action as recounted in The Iliad. Nietszche’s seeming failure to recognise this (allowing for the proviso mentioned above) devalues his comment.

Categories: By the Bye | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Alexander: April / Spring Chronology

Alexander’s Chronology

337
Spring Alexander is recalled to Pella (Peter Green)
Spring Hellenic League is convened at Corinth (Peter Green)

336
Spring Parmenion takes the vanguard of the Macedonian army into Asia Minor (Livius)

335
Spring (Early) Alexander begins his Thracian/Illyrian campaign (Peter Green)
Spring Balkan Campaign; Alexander destroys Thebes; Greece [except Sparta] submits (Landmark Arrian)

334
Spring Alexander cross the Hellespont and lands in Asia Minor; he travels to Troy (Landmark Arrian)
(March-) April Alexander crosses the Hellespont and lands in Asia Minor (Peter Green)

333
Spring Alexander arrives in Gordion (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Memnon continues his naval campaign; Memnon dies; Alexander [undoes/] cuts the Gordion Knot; Alexander passes through the Cilician Gates having subdued Pisidia and Cappadocia (all the Landmark Arrian)
March – June Memnon’s naval offensive continues (Livius)
Spring (Early) Memnon dies (Peter Green)
April – July Alexander in Gordium (Livius)

332
January – July The Siege of Tyre continues (Michael Wood)
Spring The Persian fleet collapses (Livius)

331
Spring Alexander’s new administration takes over Egypt; Alexander crosses Assyria in his pursuit of Darius (Landmark Arrian)
Spring (Early) Alexander visits the Oracle of Ammon in Siwah (Peter Green)
7th April Foundation of Alexandria (Livius)
NB Peter Green gives the foundation of Alexandria as taking place on the 7th-8th April

330
Spring Alexander has the palace complex at Persepolis burned; Alexander continues his pursuit of Darius and finds him dead (Landmark Arrian)
Jan – May Alexander at Persepolis (Livius)

329
Spring Alexander pursues Bessus; Bessus is betrayed by his allies and given to Alexander; Alexander quells a native revolt (all Landmark Arrian)
April Alexander marches on Gandara (Livius)
April Alexander crosses the Hindu Kush (via Khawak Pass) for the first time (Michael Wood)
NB Peter Green gives the crossing of the Hindu Kush via ‘Khawak’ as taking place in March-April
April-May Alexander advances into Bactria; Bessus flees across the Oxus river (Peter Green)

328
Spring Alexander campaigns in Bactria and Sogdia; he captures the Sogdian Rock (Michael Wood)
Spring Scythian embassies and King Pharasmanes try to make an alliance with Alexander (Landmark Arrian)

327
Spring The Sogdian Rock is captured (Livius, Peter Green, Landmark Arrian)
Spring Alexander marries Roxane (Peter Green, Landmark Arrian, Michael Wood)
Spring Alexander recruits 30,000 Persian soldiers (Peter Green)
Spring Alexander takes Chorienes’ Rock (Landmark Arrian)
Spring Craterus destroys native resistance (Landmark Arrian)
Spring The Pages’ Conspiracy and Callisthenes’ death (Peter Green, Landmark Arrian)
Spring (Early) Alexander marries Roxane, the Pages’ Conspiracy and Callisthenes’ death (Michael Wood)
Spring (Late) Alexander crosses the Hindu Kush (via Bamian) for the second time (Michael Wood)

326
Spring Alexander takes the Aornos Rock; Macedonians cross the Indus on Hephaestion’s and Perdiccas’ bridge; Alexander in Nysa; Alexander receives Taxiles’ gifts; Alexander crosses the Indus; Alexander meets Taxiles; the Battle of the Hydaspes River; death of Bucephalus; foundation of Nicaea and Bucephala; Alexander campaigns against the Glauganikai (Glausae) (Landmark Arrian)
Spring (Early) Siege of the Aornos Rock, the Macedonian army reunites at the Indus River and crosses it on a pontoon, Alexander arrives in Taxila (Michael Wood)
April The Macedonian army reforms at the Indus River and proceeds to Taxila (Livius)

325
Spring The Brahmans are defeates, as are Musicanus and Sambus (Landmark Arrian)
April The Brahmans rebel (Livius)

324
Spring The 30,000 newly trained Persian soldiers arrive in the Macedonian camp (Peter Green)
Spring Mass Wedding in Susa (Peter Green)
Spring Alexander explores the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; Purge of corrupt Satraps; Susa Weddings; Debt relief for Macedonian soldiers; Tension in Macedonian army over integration with Persians; Alexander explores the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Landmark Arrian)

323
Spring The Cossaean campaign; Alexander returns to Babylon (Peter Green)
Spring Ill omens and portents for Alexander’s future; Spoils of war sent to Grece; Alexander prepares for Arabian expedition; Greek envoys call Alexander a god; Alexander orders great honours for Hephaestion; Alexander is struck down by a fever; Alexander dies (Landmark Arrian)
April Alexander arrives in Babylon (Livius, Michael Wood)

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

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

Four Names, One Love

Yesterday was Mothering Sunday in the UK so let’s remember one of the most important mothers of antiquity. A descendent of Achilles, she was born Polyxena. Circa 357 BC she changed her name to Myrtale and then in 356 BC she took the name by which we know her: Olympias. In the same year, her son Alexander the Great was born. Following his death, she took the name Stratonice.

The historical record has not been kind to Olympias. Plutarch sums it up in his Life of Alexander (9) where he calls her ‘a woman of a jealous and vindictive temper’.

There is no doubt that Olympias was a tough lady but then, if she wanted to be a serious force in Macedonian politics and not just a pawn to be moved about by others, she needed to be.

On occasion, she may well have gone too far in her actions – we think of the murder of Cleopatra (and possibly her daughter) here (Plutarch 10) – but she lived for her son and must have loved him very, very deeply, indeed.

If we are unconvinced by this, it is only because that love was tainted by an inherently violent political system. In the unstable, Win or Die, world of Fourth Century BC Macedonian politics, however, Olympias had no choice but to fight for Alexander’s right to be king, and defend him once he became king. To step back from that would be to expose herself to attack.

If Olympias is anything, she is a tragic figure rather than an evil one. Most of all, though, she is proof of the intensity of a mother’s love.

  • This is a slightly revised version of a post I wrote for my Alexander Facebook page yesterday
Categories: Of The Moment | Tags: | Leave a comment

A Friend, A Father, and a Queen

Google Alerts was quiet this week so rather than do nothing with my Facebook Alexander page (something I do too often) I decided to post three pictures from Pinterest. They appeared on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and judging by the number of ‘Likes’ that they received, they were all quite popular. Here are the ‘final’ scores (i.e. the scores as of 11:43am today when I am writing these words):

Monday Alexander and Hephaestion by Louis Gauffier – 65 Likes
Wednesday Alexander Threatened by his Father Donato Creti – 99 Likes
Friday Olympias, Queen of the Macedonians (Anon) – 35 Likes

The ‘final’ tally surprises me a little in that Alexander Threatened by his Father proved to be more popular than Alexander and Hephaestion. Hephaestion is a very popular figure with fans of Alexander so to see what is also a very touching scene between him and Alexander outstripped by the rather more violent and disturbing confrontation between Alexander and Philip II is unexpected. If you have a preference between the two why not leave a comment below to say why.

When I posted the pictures on Facebook, I did so without any text to explain them or the scenes that they are depicting. Rather than let them be, I shall do that now.
alexander-and-hephaestion
Alexander and Hephaestion by Louis Gauffier
This painting draws its inspiration from Chapter 39 of Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. In it Plutarch describes how Alexander’s mother, Olympias, often wrote to her son telling him to not reward his ‘friends and bodyguards’ so well as it made them ‘the equals of kings’.

Alexander kept [Olympias’] letters to himself, with one exception, Hephaestion was in the habit of reading the king’s letters with him, and on this occasion his eyes fell on a letter which had been opened. The king did not prevent him from reading it, but took the ring from his own finger and pressed the seal to his lips, so much as to tell him to keep silence.

What we see in Plutarch and Gauffier’s painting is an intensely personal and political moment. It is personal for the obvious reason that Hephaestion is reading a letter written by Alexander’s mother and is political because of Olympias’ role as Queen Mother. It is intense because if Hephaestion had had a mind to he could easily have used the knowledge gained from reading Alexander’s letters against the king. Alexander would have known this. The fact that he still let Hephaestion read the letters, therefore, is indicative of the trust he had in him. Having said that, Alexander still makes Hephaestion kiss his ring. There was no need for him to do this but as close a friend as Hephaestion was, Alexander was still his king as well as friend, and it seems never forgot this.
alexander-threatened-by-his-father
We stay with Plutarch for Alexander Threatened by his Father by Donato Creti. In 337 BC, Philip married his seventh and last wife, Cleopatra. At the post-wedding party…

Cleopatra’s uncle Attalus, who had drunk too much at the banquet, called upon the Macedonians to pray to the gods that the union of Philip and Cleopatra might bring forth a legitimate heir to the throne. Alexander flew into a rage at these words, shouted at him, ‘Villain, do you take me for a bastard, then?’ and hurled a drinking cup at his head. At this Philip lurched to his feet, and drew his sword against his son, but unfortunately for them both he was so overcome with drink and with rage that he tripped and fell headlong. Alexander jeered at him and cried out, ‘Here is the man who was making ready to cross from Europe to Asia, and who cannot even cross from one couch to another without losing his balance.’ 

This incident takes place in Chapter 9. As for the painting, I really like Alexander’s red cloak. No doubt it represents the danger of the moment. But for Philip falling over, it might have represented blood shed as well. Speaking of blood shed, I wonder if that is Attalus lying on the floor in the foreground of the painting. If it is, his red cloak could represent the injury he sustained from Alexander’s cup striking him. In regards the event that the painting portrays, it was probably the most dangerous moment of Alexander’s youth. It tells us a lot about Alexander’s pride and fear and how quickly Macedonian parties could turn nasty.

olympiasOf course, this carved image of Olympias does not depict any scene from her known life. I am do not know much about sculptural conventions so I will quote the following from the Galerie Sismann website from where I took the picture,

This portrait of this woman outstands for its strong graphic character, the sophistication of the tinae and the ribbons in her hair, and the sensuality of the naked breasts.

To read the full text, click here. I have long thought that Olympias is a woman in need of rehabilitation as the image that the sources present of her is of a wholly ruthless, vindictive and wicked person. Well, she was certainly a fighter. In order to survive, she had to be. Evil, though? In his time, Alexander behaved worse than she ever did yet we still hold him in high regard. Why? Why not her? That’s a question for another day; going back to this sculpture, I appreciate it because in the dignity, sensuality and regal bearing that it gives Olympias, it cuts her a break far more than the sources (especially Plutarch who, in Chapter 9 of his Life of Alexander blames her for inciting her son against his father and therefore causing indirectly the near-fatal confrontation at the wedding party) ever do. Going back to the point about sensuality, I do like the way that Olympias’ left breast breaks through the frame barrier. It gives the image an extra dynamism.

Categories: Art | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Will to Create Kingdoms

lost_testamentTwo new books about and relating to Alexander have lately been published.

In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great is written by David Grant. According to The Daily Mail, Grant,

… claims to have unearthed the Macedonian king’s dying wishes in an ancient text that has been ‘hiding in plain sight’ for centuries. The long-dismissed last will divulges Alexander’s plans for the future of the Greek-Persian empire he ruled. It also reveals his burial wishes and discloses the beneficiaries to his vast fortune and power.

You can read the full report here.

The ancient text referred to here is, of all things, the Alexander Romance. At first glance, the Lost Testament sounds like one of these extremely speculative works by by a historian on the fringe of respectability in their field. You know the kind: a big idea extracted from hardly an iota of evidence and then expanded with more creativity than a writer of fiction usually brings to bear on his work. However, it would not do to dismiss Mr. Grant’s work; at least, not without reading it first. Every man deserves a hearing. If we aren’t prepared to give it to them, we are better keeping our mouths shut lest we make fools of ourselves.

Therefore, don’t expect me to mention the book on this blog as I don’t intend to read In Search Of The Lost Testament Of Alexander The Great just yet. Amazon is currently selling the hardback version for £25.97 (rather surprisingly, the paperback version is priced at £29.95). Even the iBook version costs £19.99. I understand that even e-texts take a lot of work to be made ready for sale but such a high price for a book that maybe awful as well as brilliant is for me unrealistic. If the hardback receives excellent reviews from scholars in the field of Alexander studies, I would change my mind; otherwise, I shall wait for the paperback and – depending on reviews – take a punt then.

David Grant’s website: The Lost Testament of Alexander the Great
Lost Testament front cover: Amazon

The second book is From Pyrrhus to Cyprus: Forgotten and Remembered Hellenic Kingdoms, Territories, Entities and a Fiefdom pyrrhus_to_cyprusby Billy Cotsis. According to Neos Kosmos, for which Mr. Cotsis writes,

Billy Cotsis explores 36 Hellenic kingdoms, territories, empires and a fiefdom to demonstrate the extent of the Greek world. From Pyrrhus to Cyprus covers the period following the end of the Alexandrian empire to the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Added to the mix are a number of independent Greek entities which existed during and post Ottoman times. The book has a twist and a connector in that it is told by a fictional Thucydides, who has managed to survive for an eternity thanks to a spell cast by Apollo. This is Cotsis’ tribute to the brilliance of Thucydides as the first-ever historian who truly presented primary facts with minimal bias.

To read the full post, click here.

I like the idea of Thucydides narrating the story. It’s a nice touch. I like even more that in the article from which I have just quoted, Mr. Cotsis places the Ptolemaic dynasty above its Seleukid counterpart in his Top Ten Greek kingdoms and, of course, puts Alexander’s empire first. For this reason, I will not be boorish and remind you that Alexander’s empire was not a Greek empire but a(n ancient) Macedonian one.

Mr. Cotsis’s book is on sale at Amazon for £7.23, which makes taking a punt on it extremely tempting.

Billy Cotsis’s website: Hellenic Travels to the Past
Front Cover of From Pyrrhus to Cyprus: Amazon

Categories: Books | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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