4. Arisbe

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘From Troy Alexander came to Arisbe, where his entire force had encamped after crossing the Hellespont.’
(Arrian I.12.6)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 translated by Martin Hammond

Alexander marched from Troy – Abydos – Arisbe. Parmenion crossed the Hellespont from Sestos – Abydos

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of eastern Asia Minor: Pinterest

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3. Troy

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

‘[Alexander] then went up to Troy, sacrificed to the Trojan Athena, and dedicated his full set of armour in her temple, taking in its place some of the consecrated arms still preserved there from the Trojan War… the prevailing account also has him sacrificing to Priam at the altar of Zeus of the Forecourt, to avert Priam’s anger at the race of Neoptolemus, of which he himself was a descendent.’
(Arrian I.11.7-8)

Arrian also records that according to ‘some historians’, Alexander paid his respects to Achilles at the latter’s tomb while Hephaestion did the same at Patroclus’. 

Arrian notes that Alexander did not have a Homer to record all of his achievements and that this is why he is writing his history. Do you think it does Alexander justice?

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 translated by Martin Hammond

Alexander pays homage to Achilles

Credit Where It’s Due
Alexander at the statue of Achilles: Wikimedia Commons

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2. The Archaean Harbour and Abydos

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Alexander: Elaeus to ‘the Achaean Harbour’
  • Parmenion: Sestos to Abydos

‘Parmenion was charged with ferrying across the cavalry and most of the infantry… they made the crossing in a hundred and sixty triremes and a good number of freighters… [Alexander] took the helm of his flagship… and… at the mid-point of the Hellespont strait he sacrificed a bull to Poseidon and the Nereids and poured a drink offering into the sea from a golden bowl. They also say that he was the first to disembark on the continent of Asia, and did so in full armour.’
(Arrian I.11.6)

When Arrian says that Alexander sacrificed in the middle of the Hellespont I presume he means that Alexander stopped halfway across the channel between Elaeus and Troas rather than sailed halfway back to Macedon and Greece.

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 translated by Martin Hammond

Alexander sent Parmenion from Sestos to Abydos

Credit Where It’s Due
Antique Print of Abydos: Amazon

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1. Elaeus

Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

  • Elaeus

‘Coming then to Elaeus he sacrificed to Protesilaus at his tomb, as Protesilaus was thought to have been the first to set foot on Asia of the Greeks who went with Agamemnon on the expedition to Troy. The intention of this sacrifice was that his own landing in Asia should meet with better fortune than that of Protesilaus.’
(Arrian I.11.5)

Text used: Arrian ‘Alexander the Great‘ OUP 2013 (translated by Martin Hammond)

Alexander marched from Pella, the capital of Macedon, to Elaeus

Credit Where It’s Due
Map of the Thracian Chersonese: Wikipedia

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Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander

From the middle of February to the middle of March this year, I ran a short series of posts on my Alexander Facebook page titled Crossing Asia Minor with Alexander. They featured a quotation based on each place that Alexander visited in Asia Minor and one or more images.

Today, I leave the U.K. to begin a month long pilgrimage from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela. To keep the blog active while I am away (which may be up to five weeks), I thought I would repeat the Asia Minor posts here.

If you are interested in a place-by-place series of posts, I have also written a series of posts that cover Alexander in India. The first one appears on the Facebook page today. I will repeat them on this blog this summer.

If you are interested in my pilgrimage to Santiago, I will be doing my best to update my Instagram page Sehnsucht and Wine, and my blog of the same name, which you can find here.

Alexander in Asia Minor

  1. Elaeus
  2. Alexander: Elaeus to ‘the Achaean Harbour’
    Parmenion: Sestos to Abydos
  3. Troy
  4. Arisbe
  5. Percote
  6. Lampsacus & the Prosactius river
  7. Hermotus via Colonae
  8. Priapus
  9. The Granicus River
  10. Dascylium (Parmenion)
    Sardis (Alexander)
  11. Ephesus
  12. Miletus
  13. Mycale (Philotas)
    Miletus-Halicarnassus (Alexander)
  14. Halicarnassus – Myndus
  15. Sardis (Parmenion)
    Phaselis (Alexander)
  16. Perge
  17. Side
  18. Syllium
  19. Aspendus
  20. Sagalassus
  21. Calaenae
  22. Gordium
  23. The Cilician Gates
  24. The Cydnus River – Tarsus
  25. Anchialus
  26. Soli
  27. Magarsus
  28. Mallus
  29. The Assyrian Gates
  30. Myriandrus
  31. The Syrian Gates
  32. The Battle of Issus
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Shipping Cyrus (Amongst Others)

I visited my sister yesterday; she homeschools her children and is currently studying ancient Greek history with her eldest. More than that, they are currently studying Alexander the Great!

We had a good chat about who might have killed Philip II and why, what happened to Alexander’s empire after the wars of the successors and how Alexander himself might have fared in battle against other great generals, including Cyrus the Great.

Speaking of whom, he is the subject of an interesting new book from the Harvard University Press.

As soon as time and money allow, I will definitely be checking out this volume. Cyrus, of course, was one of Alexander’s heroes. Their lives intersected, in a manner of speaking, at several points during Alexander’s life.

For example, Alexander favoured the Ariaspians (aka Euergetae) for the help they gave Cyrus during his campaign against the Scythian people (Arrian III.27.4-5), and may have had Cyrus in mind when he tried to introduce proskynesis in Bactria (see Arr. IV.11.9); in addition, one of the reasons Alexander chose to cross the Gedrosian desert was to emulate and better Cyrus (and Semiramis) who had done so at the cost of their armies (Arr. VI.24.2-3). Finally, he made a point of visiting Cyrus’ tomb in Pasargadae, and was very distressed to find that it had been desecrated (Arr.VI.29.4-11).

When you consider that Alexander also looked up to Herakles and Achilles, he really was a one-man multiple fandom.

Back at my sister’s house, I was happy to see that her study book asks the student to consider why the sources give us certain information and what it might mean. I have to confess that when I first started reading the Alexander historians, I trusted them from start to finish, and it took me several years before I finally said to myself, ‘hold on, I can’t do that’.

This was a product, no doubt, of my own laziness of thought and the casual way I read the books back then. Never mind – what’s done is done; coming back to the present, you’ll notice that all the citations above are from Arrian. Very likely, then, he is referencing Ptolemy and/or Aristobulos. A good question to take away from this post, therefore, is why they – or Arrian’s sources in general – might have decided to highlight Alexander’s connection to Cyrus the Great.

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‘Having settled the affairs of Egypt…

… Alexander went off to the Temple of Ammon, where he wished to consult the oracle of the god… At one point, when their road could not be traced because of the sand dunes, the guide pointed out to the king that crows cawing on their right were calling their attention to the route which led to the temple. Alexander took this for an omen, and thinking that the god was pleased by his visit pushed on with speed.’
(Diodorus XVII.49)

I found this image on Pinterest this week and it immediately reminded me of the above passage from Diodorus. I initially thought the passage came from Arrian but he refers to Alexander being led by snakes (III.3.5).

Arrian specifically identifies Ptolemy as his source for this. If any animals ‘helped’ Alexander to find Siwah, it would be easy to understand why Ptolemy made them snakes. Creatures of evil in the Judeao-Christian tradition, they were symbols of royal authority in pharaonic Egypt.

Looking at the picture, I’m not at all sure that the photographer isn’t looking at a snowy landscape but if so, the snow is so smooth as to look – with a little imagination – like sand, especially with that yellow filter.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a credit for the photograph. It came, though, from a Tumblr blog called 7 Crows a Journey, which gives the source as a Tumblr blog called La Sombra.

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Some Weekend Reads

An article on the Ekathimerini website looks to the past in order to make sense of the present. If you would like to know about Alexander, fake news, and the end of ancient Athenian democracy then click here.

I have no comment to make about the current situation vis-a-vis North Macedonia, Greece, Russia et al but I will say that I did not like the description of Philip II as a ‘a Trump-level warlord’. Donald Trump is not a warlord, and you can be sure that if he was, he would not be one of the same level as Philip.

Philip II was as skilled a diplomat as he was a general. He deserves better than to be compared to Trump.

Also, I am still trying to work out how the writer can blame Alexander for an example of fake news that happened after he died and as a result of the actions of another person. Stratocles used Alexander to achieve his aim.

So Alexander is an eerie symbol in the name conflict. Hopefully, the Macedonian kings’ disdain for democracy will not prevail in the region.

As above, it’s Stratocles’ name that should appear here but it has to be said, Alexander did engage in fakery when it suited his interests – think of how he forged one of Darius’ letters to him.

***

Alexander and Hephaestion make a list of National Geographic‘s Top 10, Red-Hot (no less), Power Couples here. Our lack of knowledge regarding what we know of their relationship means that you can take Alexander’s and Hephaestion’s inclusion in this list as seriously or not according to your preference. That aside, the caption provided with the image of the two contains a couple of interesting statements:

  1. ‘Many historians believe the two were lovers but ended the amorous side of their relationship when it was time to marry and start a family.’ I have never read a historian who believed that this was the case. If it is true, though, why did no one tell Bagoas?
  2. Hephaestion and Alexander ‘were said to look so much alike, that some couldn’t tell them apart.’ Some needed to open their eyes – just like Sisygambis did when she mistook Hephaestion for Alexander because he was the taller of the two and better looking.

***

Read a very short history of the Vergina Star at Neos Kosmos here.

***

Who is to blame for the conflict between North Macedonia (formerly the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and Greece? Philip II and Alexander III, apparently:

The ultimate source of the problem – or at least the justification for the problem from the Greek perspective – has to be laid at the feet of Philip II of Macedon and, even more squarely, at those of his son Alexander the Great. If father and son hadn’t literally put Macedon on the map, modern day Greeks wouldn’t have been able to claim copyright over the place name. (my emphasis)

If I read this correctly, the writer is saying that Macedon did not exist before Philip and Alexander’s time, that they created it. Well, he said with a sigh, it’s an argument. At first glance, it also looks like a lunatic assertion but let’s not assume that the writer has lost his senses. What is he really saying? For me, the rest of the article does not shed any further light on the matter so it’ll have to remain an open question for now. If you would like to read the full article (at the History News Network website) you can do so here.

***

Greek Reporter‘s list of the Top 10 archaeological finds in Greece over the last decade puts the Amphipolis tomb at Number One. You can read the complete list here. One quibble: Alexander died in Babylon, not Baghdad; the two are separate places.

***

Hello to anyone visiting this blog from my Alexander Facebook page. If you have any comments regarding the North Macedonia links, please leave them here, not on Fb. Because the Greece-North Macedonia dispute can inflame tempers and lead to unpleasant ‘discussions’, I delete any comments relating to it there.

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Beauty Beyond Expression

Alexander: When will you finish Campaspe?
Apelles: Never finish: for always in absolute beauty there is somewhat above art.
Lyly’s Campaspe

One of the great (no pun intended) things about Alexander is that he is so much part of our cultural memory that one never knows where he might crop up next.

Case in point: I love fairy tales and over the last few weeks have been reading Phantastes by George MacDonald. If you like fantasy novels, especially those of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, MacDonald this book is very well worth checking out. MacDonald was a huge influence on Tolkien and Lewis, and I am sure many others.

A couple of days ago, I came to Chapter 15. Each one begins with a quotation and the one you read above appeared here.

According to the legend – for Campaspe does not appear in any of the five major sources of Alexander’s life – Alexander hired Apelles to paint his mistress Campaspe. He did so, but she was so beautiful, Apelles fell in love with her. Seeing this, and realising that Apelles loved Campaspe more than he did, Alexander gave her to him.

For more information about Campaspe and her story, see Wikipedia here or Pothos here.

Apelles paints Campaspe (Giambattista Battista Tiepolo)

Credit Where It’s Due
Apelles painting Campaspe: J. Paul Getty Museum

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What Happened to Hephaestion’s Remains?

In my last post (here), I cited the fact that F. S. Naiden says that Hephaestion’s funeral took place in Ecbatana as an example of the avoidable errors that he makes. Naiden’s exact words are,

For the funeral, [Alexander] ordered an altar brought up from Babylon at a cost of 10,000 talents.

(F. S. Naiden Soldier, Priest, and God p.235)

To be fair to Naiden, he does give a source for this view. The relevant end note reads ‘The burial of Hephaestion: App. 1a #58’

I assume that he is referring to Appian; unfortunately, I can’t find the latter anywhere in the bibliography so am not completely sure. If you happen to know who ‘App’ is, and which work of theirs is being referred to, I’d love to hear from you – leave a comment below, and I will be grateful.

In terms of the sources, Arrian and Diodorus seem very clear – Hephaestion’s body was taken to Babylon where a funeral pyre was built for him (Arr. VII.14.5; 14.8; Dio. XVII.110; 114). Plutarch is less clear. He states only that Alexander,

… planned to spend thousands upon thousands of talents on [Hephaestion’s] tomb and on an elaborate funeral.

(Plutarch Life of Alexander 72)


He doesn’t say where the funeral and tomb were supposed to be, however. Depending on how you read Justin, he can be taken to imply that Hephaestion was buried in Ecbatana or somewhere else. He writes,

Alexander spent a long time mourning [Hephaestion. He] built him a tomb at a cost of 12,000 talents…

(Justin XII.12.12-13)

without saying where this happened.

Unfortunately, the relevant section of Curtius has been lost so we don’t know what he said about Hephaestion’s death.

When I wrote my last post, I didn’t refer to the sources. I was convinced within myself that they all took Hephaestion’s body back to Babylon and so there was no need to double-check. Well, as you can see, I should have double-checked. If I take nothing else away from my last post, it is that there is always a need to double-check!

One last point. The Wikipedia entry for Hephaestion states that,

Following Hephaestion’s death his body was cremated and the ashes were taken to Babylon.

(Wikipedia)

It cites Worthington in support of its view, quoting him as follows,

Then Hephaestion was cremated and the ashes were taken to Babylon. There, an enormous funerary monument was to be built of brick and decorated with five friezes. It would stand over 200 feet high and cost 10,000 talents. Alexander himself would supervise its building when he got back to Babylon. In the aftermath of the king’s death, it was abandoned.

(Ian Worthington Alexander the Great: Man and God p.255)


A variation on a theme.

To recap: Naiden has an altar being brought from Babylon (and Hephaestion being ’embalmed, not cremated’ (p.235); Justin, that Alexander simply built a tomb for Hephaestion somewhere not recorded; Plutarch, that Alexander planned to spend an awful lot of money on Hephaestion’s funeral and tomb somewhere not recorded; Worthington, that Hephaestion was cremated in Ecbatana and his ashes taken to Babylon for burial.

It’s all a bit here, there, and everywhere! A question: are Naiden and Worthington using two different sources? They disagree on whether Hephaestion was embalmed or cremated but agree that his body was taken to Babylon for burial. I really need to find out who ‘App’ is. Until I can find out more, I think I will lean on Arrian’s and Diodorus’ account of what happened but I won’t say the Naiden made an avoidable error in this regard.

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