I’ve made it back!
Well, I spent all of last week wondering what to write in this post. The first thing that occurred to me was to publish a breakdown of Alexander’s life as maybe it would be helpful to people wanting to learn about him. I actually first jotted down just such a breakdown a while ago but I did it again last week. Here is the result:
Alexander’s Early Years (356-336)
Conception – Accession to the Macedonian Throne
– Alexander’s Character and Appearance
– Family Life
The Greek Campaign (336-334)
Alexander’s Accession – Beginning of the War of Revenge
– Alexander Becomes King
– First Greek Campaign
— Thebes and Athens Submit
– Campaign against Thrace and Illyria
– Second Greek Campaign
— Destruction of Thebes
The Asia Minor Campaign (334-333)
Troy – The Battle of Issus
– The Battle of the Granicus River
— Aftermath of the Battle
– Siege of Halicarnassus
– The Subservient Sea
– The Gordian Knot
– Alexander’s Illness in Cilicia / A plot against his life?
– The Battle of Issus
— Aftermath of the Battle
Through the Levant (333-331)
Issus – The Siege of Gaza
– Alexander in Sidon
– The Siege of Tyre
– The Siege of Gaza
Liberating Egypt (331)
Pelusium – Thebes – Founding Alexandria – Siwah
– Arrival in Pelusium
– Founding Alexandria
– Journey to Siwah
— Ammon’s Answer
The March to Gaugamela (331)
Egypt – The Battle of Gaugamela
– March through the Middle-East
– The Battle of Gaugamela
— Aftermath of the Battle
The City Sweep (331-330)
Babylon – Susa – Persepolis
– March to Babylon
– One month in Babylon
– March to Susa
— Alexander Opposed at the Persian Gates
– March on Persepolis
— Rape of Persepolis
— Destruction of Xerxes’ Palace
– Visiting Pasargadae and Cyrus the Great’s Tomb
In Pursuit of Darius (330)
Persepolis – Hyrcania
– March on Ecbatana
– In Pursuit of Darius
– Finding Darius
– The March East
– Philotas’ Downfall
The Bactria-Sogdia Campaigns (330-327)
Pursuing Bessus – Marriage to Roxane
– In Pursuit of Bessus
– Fighting the Scythians
– Hit and Run: Spitamenes’ Opposition
– Death of Cleitus the Black
– The Pages’ Plot
– Marriage to Roxane
The Indian Campaign (327-325)
Indus River – The Battle of Hydaspes – Mutiny at the Hyphasis River – Return West
– March to the Indus River with Split Forces
– Taking the Aornos Rock
– Crossing the Indus River
– Drunk in Nysa
– The Battle of the Hydaspes River: Lead Up – Battle – Aftermath
– The Macedonian Army’s Mutiny at the Hyphasis River
– March Down the Indus River: Alexander’s Impatience – Near Death – Genocide (?) – Open Sea
Return to Babylon (325-323)
Gedrosia – Babylon
– The Fish Eaters
– Death in the Desert
– Carmanian Celebrations
– Return to Pasargadae and Cyrus’ Tomb
– Orxines and Bagoas
– Purge of Corrupt Officials
– The Opis Mutiny
– The Susa Weddings
— Hephaestion’s Death
– Alexander’s Last Campaign
– March to Babylon
– Alexander’s Last Days and Death
Please forgive any omissions and errors as I wrote the breakdown off the top of my head and haven’t yet made a substantial effort to make sure all the events mentioned are in the correct order. I would like to do this in the near future, as well as add any events that ought to be there but aren’t.
What inspired me to think about the breakdown again was the Camino de Santiago. Anyone reading this who also reads my personal blog or Twitter page will know that I think about the Camino often! I walked it in 2019 and although I returned home have barely left it since. In case you don’t know, the Camino de Santiago is a collection of pilgrimage routes through Europe that all enter northern Spain and end at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the north-west of the country.
In 2019, I walked the whole of the Camino Francés route (from Saint Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to Santiago). It took just over a month to do. Taking a month out of from one’s life to walk the Camino is a big, big commitment so many people walk their route in stages, returning every year or whenever they can to walk the next stage until that blessed day when they finally reach the cathedral.
In other words, they break down their Camino route into manageable portions. That’s what put me in mind of my breakdown of Alexander’s life. Maybe there are people who would like to read about him but aren’t sure where to begin, or who are simply overwhelmed by the thought of studying this amazing figure. If so, presenting his life in pint size portions would seem to be a worthwhile idea. As well as correcting errors and omissions, I’d also like to develop the breakdown further. For example, by specifying where in each of the sources you can read about each phase of his life/expedition, explaining why each phase is worth reading about, and so on.
So, the breakdown was the first thing to occur to me. Then, because I had the Camino in mind, I began thinking about the pilgrimages that Alexander undertook during his War of Revenge against Darius III and after. I started with three and ended with five:
Alexander the Pilgrim
– Delphi to see the Oracle
– Troy where he and Hephaestion ran naked
– Siwah to question Ammon-Zeus
– Pasargadae to visit the Tomb of Cyrus the Great and pay his respects
– Nysa to get drunk in the spirit of Bacchus
Can you think of any more pilgrimages that Alexander might have undertaken? I’d be very glad to hear about them if so. I am, of course, not only interested in the idea of Alexander going on pilgrimage because of the Camino. I’m also a practising (albeit badly) Catholic so that makes the idea relevant to me as well. Sadly, I must inform you that I never ran naked anywhere in Spain. I did have at least one beer at the end of every day’s walk. And boy, did I appreciate it! The best thing was, I still managed to lose a stone during the month!
The idea of Alexander on pilgrimage took me to another idea: some posts on Alexander ‘beyond the battlefield’.
What do we know about him off the battlefield? I haven’t yet made any notes about this, but off the top of my head, I could say that he enjoyed literature, the art and practice of medicine, and philosophy. He was exceptionally generous to his friends (much to his mother, Olympias’, annoyance) and even to those enemies who fought bravely against him (e.g. Porus). He did not live for battle alone but was happy to use diplomacy when necessary. He respected women and the customs of his barbarian subjects, even to the point of trying to adopt them. He was politically very pragmatic, tending not to change the political systems of places he conquered but let them retain whatever system they already had in place. He could be utterly ruthless and focused, but was not without occasional self-doubt. He cried, was very religious, and, of course, liked to drink. He hated strongly but loved – both men and women – with equal strength as well. There’s just a few things. I’m sure I could go on. This is the idea that is currently strongest with me. Maybe I could follow my breakdown and make a note of what we learn about Alexander away from all the fighting in each phase.
So, that’s where I am at the moment. This week, I will try and commit to writing about X and get on with it.
In the meantime, let me recommend a programme to you. It’s called The Forum and is a discussion show on the BBC World Service. A few days ago, they had an episode on ‘Alexander the Great or not so great?’. You can find it here. If you are unable to access it on the BBC’s website, drop me a line: I downloaded it, so maybe I could e-mail it to you.
Alexander the Great as seen in the Alexander Mosaic – found on Pinterest but taken from Etsy
Alexander the Great by Yevgeni Kacnelson – found on Pinterest but taken from Fine Art America
I wrote my latest Camino post over on my personal blog just yesterday. You can read it here.
Thank you for the post. I enjoy reading them. Yes, Alexander is fascinating, but also very deep. I’vebeen down his rabbit hole for months and forty books later, getting deeper. But I realize something, it’s not all about Alexander anymore. What happened at his rear? His buddy Harpalus swindled money from his ill-gotten gains (“spear-won”). Sorry. That’s just one incident of many. The entire world was turned on its ear because of Alexander, but it started with his father, Philip. Continue, please.