Posts Tagged With: Athena

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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Shields and Public Shaming

The Global Times frames an article on Europe’s future within the context of Macedon’s and Greece’s past. It writes,

In the 4th century BC Macedonia, a Greek-speaking kingdom of Northern Greece, under the leadership of Phillip II, set out to unify the Mediterranean world. Macedonia’s quest for hegemonic stability brought it into a direct conflict with old established Hellenic powers like Thebes, Sparta and most of all Athens.

The ancient Macedonians did not speak Greek. As I understand it, their tongue was a Greek dialect (which could not be understood by the Greeks).

During Philotas’ trial, Alexander asks Parmenion’s son if he will give his defence using his ‘native language’. When Philotas replies that he will speak Greek, Alexander uses this to score a nationalist point against him (see Curtius VI.9.34-36). Ironically, the reason why Philotas decides to use Greek is because he wants more people to understand him.

Rather than use the word ‘unify’, which for me suggests that Philip wanted to make all peoples equal under his rule, I would say simply that he wanted to conquer them. I have to admit here I am no expert on Philip’s foreign policy so what I say could be wide of the mark; however, I don’t get the impression that Philip was an idealist. He was in the business of winning power. Had he lived longer, maybe that would have changed – we’ll never know.

Macedon never came ‘into direct conflict’ with Sparta. In fact, both Philip II and Alexander left the Spartans alone. Not because they were afraid of the Lacedaemonians but because the latter were militarily and politically irrelevent. There was simply no need to waste time subduing them.

The article concludes

Germany must lead Europe without being hubristic toward other EU states. When Alexander the Great, Phillips’s heir, won his first battle against Persia, he dedicated his triumph to Athens and adorned the Parthenon with the shields of the Persian generals.

The exact truth of this statement depends upon which of the sources you read and trust.

Plutarch (Life of Alexander 16) states that the Macedonian king sent 300 shields (‘captured from the enemy’) to Athens. He writes

… over the rest of the spoils he had this proud inscription engraved: Alexander, the son of Philip, and the Greeks except the Spartans won these spoils of war from the barbarians who dwell in Asia’.

Arrian says that Alexander sent 300 panoplies to Athens as

… an offering to the goddess Athena… with the following inscription: Alexander, son of Philip, and the Greeks (except the Lacedaemonians) dedicate these spoils, taken from the Persians who dwell in Asia

If we follow Plutarch, the article is right to say that shields were sent, though not necessarily from ‘Persian generals’.

Was this a humble gesture on Alexander’s part? It is hard to say as Plutarch doesn’t give the king’s motive for sending them.

The article says that Alexander dedicated his victory at the Granicus to Athens. Plutarch doesn’t say this, and Arrian disagrees. He states that the panoplies were sent as ‘an offering to… Athena’. That makes sense; they were going to the Parthenon, after all.

Sending the panoplies as ‘an offering to… Athena’ sounds like a very humble gesture. However, as the notes to my Penguin Classics edition of Arrian point out, Greeks only played a small part in the Macedonian victory. And note what Alexander says about the Spartans. This inscription – and therefore the spoils – have less to do with humility, therefore, and much to do with propaganda (as my notes suggest) and public shaming. These two things are not evidence of hubris but neither are they good examples of behaviour for Germany or anyone else to follow.

Categories: Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Artemis in the Air

The Nature of Curtius
Book Three Chapters 11 – 13
For other posts in the series click here

Chapter Eleven
A Ridge with a View
The Battle of Issus got underway. Upon seeing that Darius was trying to surround his army, Alexander ‘ordered two cavalry squadrons to maintain a position on [a] ridge’ overlooking the battlefield. It appears from Curtius’ text that they remained there for the rest of the battle.

The battle effectively ended when, fearing that he was about to be captured by Alexander, Darius fled. Before doing so, he threw ‘off his royal insignia so they could not betray his flight’. The consecrated eagle on his chariot had already been left behind, now he divested himself of the hawks attacking one another.

We should not be surprised by Darius’ actions. When he cited tradition as his reason for refusing to split his army up, Codomannus proved himself to be a man living in the shadow of past Persian Great Kings rather than their worthy successor. His willingness to shed the marks of his kingship simply takes his unworthiness to sit upon the Persian throne one step further; it proves that he was their shadow.

Once Darius fled, the Persian army quickly followed. Some of the men returned to their camp through the pass, while others began the journey back to Persia. These latter took different routes with some crossing the plains and others travelling across the ‘sequestered mountain passes’. Alexander was also on the move – doing his best to chase the Great King down.

Chapter Twelve
Altars by the Shore
Thanks to horse relays, Darius escaped. Thwarted, Alexander made his way to the Persian camp. That night, as he banqueted with his ‘most intimate friends’ a loud cry issued from the Persian royal family’s tent. The women were lamenting what they believed to be the death of their king.

When Alexander visited them the next day, Sisygambis –  the Queen Mother – made her famous mistake when she paid homage to Hephaestion thinking him to be the king instead of Alexander who was standing next to him.

Later, Alexander ‘consecrated three altars on the banks of the river Pinarus to Jupiter, Hercules and Minerva’. I can only wonder why he chose to carry out the sacrifice next to the river.

Chapter Thirteen
Snow Outside Damascus
Alexander’s journey now takes a back seat as Curtius follows Parmenion to Damascus. He had been sent there to retrieve the Persian royal treasury.

While Parmenion was still on the road, the governor of Damascus decided to surrender. He sent a message to Alexander to that effect.

Parmenion intercepted this message. After reading it, he ordered the messenger to return to Damascus – presumably to inform the governor that his surrender had been accepted.

On the way back, though, the messenger escaped from his Macedonian escort, and it seems he did not return to his master, for on seeing Parmenion approach, the governor thought his offer to surrender had been turned down.

Anxious to avoid a fight, he ordered his porters to march out of the city before sunrise carrying the royal treasury. It was a cold and windy morning. Upon a moment, the weather turned; it began to snow.

To protect themselves against the porters put on ‘the gold-and-purple-embroidered clothing’ that they had been carrying along with the money and other valuables.

In Chapter Ten we saw how Alexander pointed out those in the ‘enemy line’ who were wearing gold and purple. Curtius says that these clothes belonged to ‘high-ranking men and… distinguished women’. Perhaps the men’s clothes belonged to the same men that Alexander had pointed out to the Illyrians and Thracians.

The porters’ actions were in absolute contravention of Persian protocol, but ‘the king’s misfortunes meant that even the dregs could flout his authority’.

Upon seeing the richly clad men approach him, Parmenion mistook them for soldiers and prepared for a fight.

Fortunately for all concerned, however, the porters had good eyes. Despite the snow, they saw the Macedonian force in front of them; and as soon as they did, they dropped their loads and took to their heels.

Rather than pursue them, the Macedonians set about recovering the treasures – reaching into bramble-bushes and sinking their hands into mud in order to reach it.

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Alexander Crosses The Hellespont

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 17, 18 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Alexander Crosses The Hellespont: War Inevitable
Macedonian Army: Is It Strong Enough?
Alexander Pays Homage to Achilles
Satrapal Commanders Debate Tactics
Scorched Earth Policy and Invasion of Greece Rejected

The Story
With Chapter 17, Alexander’s war of revenge begins. As Philip II had intended to do, he crossed the Hellespont at the head of a fleet of ‘sixty fighting ships’. Upon reaching the Troad, the Macedonian king threw his spear into the beach and leapt into the surf – the first of the invaders to do so. The spear throw was a ritualistic gesture which signified that Alexander ‘received Asia from the gods as a spear-won prize’.

After wading ashore, Alexander and his army marched to ‘the tombs of the heroes Achilles, Ajax, and the rest’ making offerings ‘and other appropriate marks of respect’ to the Achaians.

According to Diodorus, it was once he had worshipped Achilles et al that Alexander took a count of his armed forces:

      • Macedonian Infantry 12,000
      • Allied Infantry 7,000
      • Mercenaries 5,000 (under Parmenion’s command)
      • Odrysian, Triballian, Illyrian soldiers 7,000
      • Agrianian/other arches 1,000
      • Total 32,000
      • Macedonian cavalry 1,800 (under Philotas’ command)
      • Thessalian cavalry 1,800 (under Calas’ command)
      • Allied Greek cavalry 600 (under Erygius’ command)
      • Thracian/Paeonian Scouts 900 (under Cassander’s command)
      • Total 4,500

Diodorus states that Alexander left 12,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry behind in Macedon.

We are now told that upon leaving the Troad, Alexander marched to Ilium where he stopped at the sanctuary of Athena. A ‘sacrificant’, also named Alexander, noticed a statue of ‘a former satrap of Phrygia’ named Ariobarzanes lying on the ground. There were other ‘favourable omens’ too and so, no doubt with a glad heart, the seer went to his royal namesake and interpreted them thus – Alexander ‘would be victor in a great cavalry battle’ especially if he fought it ‘within the confines of Phrygia’. Alexander the seer added that the king would ‘with his own hands… slay in battle a distinguished general of the enemy’.

By way of clarification, Phrygia was in west-central Asia Minor. Contrary to what Diodorus says, Alexander was still in the Troad when he received the prophecy. Here is a map of Asia Minor on Wikipedia that you may find helpful (Unfortunately, the file type won’t let me save it and post it here).

Alexander the seer gave special credit for the good omens to Athena who, he said, would help Alexander the king achieve his victory. Chapter 18 begins, therefore, with the king making ‘a splendid sacrifice’, and dedicating his armour to, her – taking in return ‘the finest of the panoplies [i.e. a complete suit of armour]’ from her sanctuary.

Diodorus says that Alexander wore this armour ‘in his first battle’ (i.e. at the Granicus River). It would still be with him nine years and many thousands of miles later when Alexander got impatient with his men and stormed the Mallian fortress by himself.

It is at this point that Diodorus takes his leave of Alexander and takes us to the Persian camp. Having failed to stop the Macedonians entering Asia Minor they were discussing how to stop his advance through the Great King’s territory.

Memnon of Rhodes proposed the same scorched earth policy that we saw him put in place after failing in his siege of Cyzicus. As I mentioned in that post, however, the Persian satraps in charge of the effort to stop Alexander refused to countenance destroying their crops.

For his part, Memnon not only proposed laying waste to the land but invading Greece, thus forcing Alexander to return home lest he not only fail in his war of revenge but also be deprived of his throne. This idea was also rejected by the Persians – they regarded Memnon’s twin-pronged approach as being below their dignity, if you please.

The satraps determined ‘to fight it out’ and duly assembled their army. They advanced west, across Hellespontine Phrygia, and pitched camp by the river Granicus, using the bed of the river as a line of defence’.

We’ll see tomorrow how Diodorus covered the first major battle of Alexander’s kingship.

Comments
After throwing his spear into the sand, Alexander’s decision to be the first Macedonian ashore was a tremendous act of faith. He was, after all, following in the footsteps of Protesilaos who was not only the first Archaian to jump ashore after the arrival of the Hellenic force outside Troy but also the first to die. What Diodorus doesn’t tell us is that before leaving Europe, Alexander sacrificed to the gods at Protesilaos’ tomb ‘to ensure’ Arrian says ‘better luck for himself than Protesilaus had’. His prayer was heard and then some.

According to the Footnotes, Diodorus ‘is our only source for the detailed [Macedonian] troop list’ at the start of the expedition. Here (according to the Footnotes) are the figures given by the other Alexander historians:

  • Justin ‘gives simply’ 32,000 foot and 4,500 horse
  • Plutarch: the Macedonians were 30,000 – 40,000 foot and 4,000 – 5,000 horse
  • Arrian – there were “not much more than” 30,000 foot and 5,000 horse

Quoting Plutarch, the Footnotes give Aristobulos as saying there were 30,000 foot and 4,000 horse; Ptolemy: 30,000 foot and 5,000 horse; Anaximenes 43,000 foot and 5,500 horse

Further to Alexander’s nine day party, which we read about in the last post, the Footnotes (again quoting Plutarch) say that – according to Aristobulos – the king arrived in Asia Minor with just 70 talents and – according to Duris – 30 days’ worth of provisions. On the other hand, Onesicritus claims that he was actually 200 talents in debt.

The Footnotes are also helpful in highlighting Diodorus’ inaccuracies.

  • Erygius did not command the allied cavalry until winter 334/3
  • Cassander (if by Cassander is meant the son of Antipater) ‘is a mistake’ – he did not join Alexander until his return to Babylon in 324. The scouts commander ‘at the Granicus and later’ was a man named Ariston
  • Diodorus says there were 4,500 cavalry but his figures add up to 5,100

My first thought after reading these figures is that why did Alexander wait until he had crossed into Asia Minor before assessing the size of his fighting force? Wouldn’t it be wiser to get something like that done before heading into enemy territory? Perhaps there is a literary reason why Diodorus made the change. I can’t see it, though. Maybe it really did just happen like that.

As for the figures themselves – the historians are in rough agreement regarding how many men crossed the Hellespont. It’s a real shame that the beginning of Curtius’ history has been lost so that we can’t see how many many men his chief source, Cleitarchus, said were in the army at this time.

The numbers are all very impressive but I have to admit I am more taken by a couple of the names attached to them, especially Anaximenes and Duris. They are not familiar to me so I shall be sure to look them up later to see if I can learn more about them.

One final point. Looking back, it is easy to condemn the Persian satraps for not listening to Memnon. At the time, however, given that no one knew how good a general Alexander would be, and how much destroying their crops would cost, deciding to fight him must have seemed the only sensible decision. In a way I feel quite sorry for them.

Noted

  • Diodorus makes no mention of Alexander and Hephaestion running round the tombs of Achilles and Patroclus. Is this due to Roman reservations regarding their relationship? For the matter of that, who was Diodorus’ audience? I better stop before the questions start to flood out!
Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Plutarch’s Women: Athena, the Persian Royal Family, Barsine & Callixeina (Chapts. 15, 19 & 21)

For the other posts in this series click here

We pick up Plutarch’s narrative again in chapter 15 of his Life of Alexander when, upon his arrival at Troy, the Macedonian king ‘sacrificed to Athena’. Unfortunately, that’s all Plutarch has to say about her. Understandably, he is more interested in Alexander’s acts of homage to his great hero, Achilles.
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By-the-bye, I could not help but note Alexander’s remark that ‘Achilles was happy in having found a faithful friend while he lived and a great poet to sing of his deeds after his death.’ This comment appears to suggest that Alexander considered that – in contrast to Achilles – he had neither a faithful friend nor a great poet. The latter is true; Callisthenes was no Homer; but where does that leave Hephaestion?
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Going back to Athena, I wish Plutarch had given a context for Alexander’s act of worship. I suppose he assumed, no doubt rightly, that his audience would be aware of why the sacrifice was carried out. We who come to the text so many years later, however, may need a little help. Theoi reminds me that Athena supported the Greeks during the Trojan War (you can read more about her here) so perhaps that is why Alexander sacrificed to her.
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After Athena, no more women are mentioned until chapter 19 when (in 333 B.C.), as he lay seriously ill in bed, Alexander was given a note from Parmenion warning him that his doctor, Philip, meant to poison him. According to Parmenion Darius had ‘… promised [Philip] large sums of money and even the hand of his daughter if he would kill Alexander’.
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When I wrote about this incident a few weeks ago (here) I mentioned my suspicion that Parmenion was using Alexander’s illness to carry out a coup. If we pretend for a moment, however, that the threat was real, who might Darius have married Philip to in the event that the latter did successfully  assassinate Alexander? Darius married twice and had at least three daughters – an unnamed one from an unnamed wife (who was the daughter of a Persian nobleman named Pharnaces) and two by his sister-wife Stateira, namely, Stateira II and Drypetis.
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We don’t know when Stateira II was born, but because Alexander took her as his wife at the Susa Weddings (in February 324 B.C.) she is believed to be Drypetis’ elder sister. As for the ‘younger’ sister, depending on when she was born, Drypetis could have been as young as 12 when Alexander fell ill, or as old as 16. Either way, she would go on to make a good match at Susa in that she became Hephaestion’s wife.
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Sadly, their marriage only lasted a few months as Hephaestion later the same year. After Alexander died the following June, the sisters’ days were numbered and indeed they were both soon killed by Perdiccas and Roxane as part of the dynastic struggle.
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We move on now to chapter 21 of Plutarch’s Life but stay with Stateira II and Drypetis as Plutarch relates how, following Alexander’s capture of the Persian camp after the Battle of Issus,

… word was brought to him that the mother, the wife and the two unmarried daughters of Darius were among the prisoners…

Darius’ mother was named Sisygambis; the wife being referred to here is Stateira I. Upon being taken prisoner by the Macedonians and seeing Darius’ bow and chariot they beat their breasts and cried in the belief that their lord was dead. This is the only insight into their character that Plutarch gives us before detailing Alexander’s most gentlemanly response to the news that his army had captured them. It isn’t much of an insight – perhaps ‘just’ a ritual response? Although even if it is it tells us something about their fidelity to Persian mourning traditions.
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Either way, and in fairness to him, Plutarch does add that the women were ‘chaste and noble’ (Plutarch adds that Stateira I was regarded as being ‘the most beautiful princess of her time’ and that Stateira II and Drypetis ‘resembled their parents’. It’s interesting that propaganda of this nature survived even though the daughters fell victim to more powerful interests after Alexander’s death).
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Chapter 21, and this post, ends with a delineation of Alexander’s moral character, which references a few women. Plutarch tells us that,

… Alexander… thought it more worthy of a king to subdue his own passions than to conquer his enemies…

To this end he avoided meeting the Persian queens and princesses. In fact, Plutarch explains that until his marriage (i.e. to Roxane), he avoided women altogether… almost: Barsine, Memnon’s widow, and daughter of Artabazus ‘who had married one of the Persian king’s daughters’, became his mistress. Citing Aristobulos as his authority, Plutarch adds,

Alexander slept with [Barsine], as… Parmenion had encouraged him to have relations with a woman of beauty and noble lineage.

This reminds me of the story of Callixeina ‘[a]n exceptionally attractive Thessalian heteira‘*. Philip and Olympias were worried that Alexander was showing no interest in women. So, his mother entreated her son to sleep with one. Eventually, Alexander did, with Callixeina being the lucky lady. According to Waldemar Heckel, however, this story is suspect as it comes from a hostile tradition. I’d like to think that Alexander did not sleep with Barsine at Parmenion’s suggestion but why would Aristobulos lie about something like that? Let’s hope his information was just, plain wrong.
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The final reference to women in chapter 21 is an aside that Alexander makes after seeing the other female Persian prisoners. We are told that Alexander,

… took no… notice of them than to say jokingly, ‘These Persian women are a torment for the eyes’ He was determined to make such a show of his chastity and self-control as to eclipse the beauty of their appearance, and so he passed them by as if they had been so many lifeless images cut out of stone.

Timothy E. Duff, in the Notes, compares Alexander’s words to the actions of the Persian ambassadors to Macedonia in Book 5:18 of Herodotus’ Histories. They describe the Macedonian women as a torment to their eyes but, unlike Alexander, are unable to control themselves. We end, then, with women becoming a means by which Alexander may prove his superiority to the Persians. It wasn’t enough to defeat them twice on the battlefield, he had to do it in love as well.
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* Waldemar Heckel Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)

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