A Letter to Arrian (8) Heracles, Alexander’s Watchfulness, and Darius’ second letter

roman_writerMy dear Arrian,
In the matter of the ancient gods I am used to working out who is who despite their different names. I hope you will not be offended but I regard their Greek names as their principle ones, their Roman as their ‘second’ name, and so on.
I must confess, though, that I found it a little difficult keeping up with all the Heracles that you mention upon Alexander’s arrival at Tyre. I admit, I was listening to music while I was reading but I didn’t realise that there were so many people with that one name!
Thus, we have Argive Heracles, and Tyrian Heracles (AKA Melcarth). Then there is Egyptian Heracles. I’m assuming that Syrian Heracles (mentioned by your translator) who is called Baal is also a different person. Finally, there is the Heracles of the Iberians, but he appears to be the Tyrian one. That’s a relief, but so many Heracles!
The siege of Tyre was a long, drawn out affair and I would not have been surprised if Alexander had let his emotions get the better of him when the Macedonians finally breached the city walls. Despite this, he remained ‘ever on the watch for any act of conspicuous courage in the face of danger among his men’. The presence of mind to be so watchful despite the danger and confusion is truly remarkable.
Alexander defeated Tyre, but nevertheless, his siege did end badly, for such was his anger at the Tyrians’ defiance, as Diodorus relates, he crucified two thousand of them on the beach. I am not surprised that Ptolemy and Aristobulos suppressed this fact; such cruelty brings Alexander no credit.
It seems extraordinary that the Macedonians could hold celebratory sporting events after the siege but I suppose that points to the different ways in which my age and Alexander’s approaches the business of war. Or, maybe I should say, ‘the art’ given how ancient battles were joined by creative endeavours.
Moving on, I smiled to read one of Alexander’s most famous quotes. When Parmenion told him he should accept the terms of Darius’ second letter*, he replied that he would “… were I Parmenio; but since I am Alexander, I shall send Darius a different answer.” Darius definitely got the answer he deserved; I am surprised that Parmenion would have sold his power and achievements so cheaply had he been king; but then, none of Alexander’s officers ever came close to matching the depth of his vision and richness of his spirit, neither in his lifetime or in the diadoch period that followed.
Your friend,

* 10,000 talents for Sisygambis (Darius’ mother), the western half of the Persian empire, and Barsine’s hand in marriage

The above picture comes from Ancient History
An index of all the letters can be found here

Categories: Letters to Arrian | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: