Posts Tagged With: Augustus

Arrian I.12.1-10

In This Chapter
From Troy to Priapus

Chapter Twelve can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Alexander at Troy
  2. Arrian’s Second Preface
  3. Alexander on the March

Alexander at Troy
While at Troy, Alexander was ‘crowned with a golden crown’ by Menoetius, the helmsman of his ship; a man named Chares from Athens and a number of other people followed suit.

Arrian reports that ‘[s]ome say… Alexander placed a wreath on the tomb of Achilles, while Hephaestion, it is said, did likewise at the tomb of Patroclus’.

The italics above are mine, to emphasise the fact that for the second chapter in succession we appear to have Arrian using a source or sources who were not Ptolemy and Aristobulos.

Arrian continues in this manner. He says that ‘[t]he story goes that Alexander called Achilles fortunate to have Homer as the herald of his lasting fame’. (my italics again). This much is true; Alexander was not well served either by historians or poets.

Arrian’s Second Preface
Arrian shows this by outlining how other, much less deserving, men have been more celebrated than Alexander. The situation is so bad that Arrian is able to say that ‘Alexander’s achievements are far less well known than even the most trivial of other deeds in the past’.

To demonstrate this, Arrian compares the famous march of the 10,000 to Alexander’s expedition, and shows how the latter is the superior of the two.

… Alexander did not campaign in another man’s army, he did not retreat from the Great King, his victories were not confined to the defeat of those opposing a march back to the sea.

But rather, Arrian tells us, Alexander achieved the most of any Greek or barbarian – and this is why he decided to write his history. With unashamed self-confidence, he adds that ‘I did not think myself unsuited for the task of making Alexander’s achievements clear to the world’. Arrian’s writings define him; he describes them as ‘my country, my family, my public office’.

Alexander on the March
From Troy, Alexander marched north to Arisbe, where he met Parmenion and the rest of the army. From there, he continued along the north-western corner of Asia Minor until he reached Lampsacus when he headed south again though only as far as the Prosactius river. From there, he marched north once more, passing Colonae on his way to Priapus on the north-western coast. This would be his last stop (or, at least, the last to be mentioned by Arrian) before coming to the Granicus river.

While Alexander was marching through north-western Asia Minor, the Persian satraps and commanders were meeting in Zeleia, (twentyish miles) east of the Granicus. When word came of Alexander’s arrival in the province, they discussed what to do. Memnon of Rhodes advocated a scorched earth policy to starve the Macedonians into retreat but was overruled by the Persians. One satrap, Arsites, refused to countenance any damage being done to the property of ‘the people under his charge’. The others suspected that Memnon wanted to avoid a conflict so as to keep his rank in the Great King’s court.

Arrian doesn’t mention the story that, before jumping off his ship, Alexander flung his spear onto the shore to claim Asia (Minor) as his spear won territory (Diodorus XVII.17; Justin 11.5.10). Could it be that by focusing on the crowning of Alexander, he is demonstrating that he is not so much interested in Alexander the warrior as he is in Alexander the king?

What would this mean in practice? As the thought has only just occurred to me, I need to think about that before I can answer it. If it is true, though, I would expect Arrian’s Alexander to show whatever virtues the ancient Romans/Greeks thought a good ruler should have.

It is certainly one of the ironies of history that Alexander should, at any time, have been less well known than other men. Today, of course, he is very well known. For what he achieved he deserves to be the most well known of all the ancients but definitely lags behind the three most famous Romans – Julius Caesar, Augustus and Mark Antony. I would hazard to say that he isn’t even the most famous Greek: that honour probably belongs to Cleopatra VII.

In this post I spoke about Alexander’s impressive intelligence operation. We now get to see why it was so good. Arrian says that Alexander ‘always had scouts sent ahead of the main army’. We find out who Alexander’s ‘M’ was.: Amyntas son of Arrhabeaus. And his secret agents were ‘the squadron of Companions from Apollonia’ as well as ‘four squadrons of the so-called ‘advance guards”.

Okay, Amyntas was not quite M and the Apollonians not quite secret agents but of course they did have a licence to kill!

Finally, when I read this chapter, I was touched that Arsites seemed to be sticking up for his people. Well, maybe he was, but I’m sure the knowledge that no crops meant no taxes would have been in his mind as well.

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23. 4. 14

By-the-bye No. 2

Giles Milton is a writer by trade but also a dab hand at the art of repousse. Readers of this blog will know that his recently published book, Russian Roulette, was the inspiration for my occasional spy stories. Looking at these examples of Milton’s metalwork, however, it is hard not to get inspired about ancient Rome. Here is the great emperor, Trajan.
TrajanAnd below is Caracalla – the last Roman emperor known to have seen the body of Alexander (c. A.D. 215). 
CaracallaBoth works evoke the images of the kings and I have already asked Milton if he will create an image of Alexander. Here’s hoping!
Giles Milton’s web page is here and is well worth a visit. You can also follow him on Twitter @survivehistory.
Further to Friday’s blog post about Bactria, here is one from a Classical Wisdom on Cyrus the Great. He was one of Alexander’s heroes, whom the Macedonian king hoped to outdo in his exploits. If my memory serves he certainly did so in one respect – while Cyrus was killed fighting the Massagetae, Alexander – through Craterus – defeated them during his campaign in Bactria-Sogdia.
Speaking of heroes I could not let this blog post go by without mentioning one of mine: Patrick Leigh Fermor. His fame rests upon two great events in his life – his capture of General Kreipe during the Second World War (which I wrote about here) and his walk across Europe between December 1933 and January 1935. The reason I mention it here is because a writer named Nick Hunt has just published an account of his own walk across Europe in Leigh Fermor’s footsteps. The book is called Walking the Woods and the Water. I have just started and must confess to not being impressed. Not by Hunt’s writing but the drab nature of the part of Holland he has just walked through. Capitalism has given us many good things but we just doesn’t know when to stop and have used it tear the soul out of our cities. Indeed, we continue to do so. I hope very much that, as Hunt continues his journey well see more of what makes Europe beautiful.
2014 marks the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ death. If you have an interest Ancient Rome why not visit Commemorating Augustus? Octavian was to administration what Alexander was to military conquest, and it is such a shame that his autobiography has not survived.
Speaking of Rome, I will never understand why we speak of Pompey the Great. Not in a million years did he deserve that title. Julius Caesar and Augustus did but Pompey? Never.

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