Posts Tagged With: BBC

A Breakdown and Many Pilgrimages

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

Alexander the Great as seen in the Alexander Mosaic

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 by Yevgeni Kacnelson

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.

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

Some Weekend Reads

Happy February! If you would like to read about what Alexander got up to around this time of year, read this blog post.

CoinWeek has started a series based on coins of the Seleucid dynasty (c.305/304-64 BC). It’s well worth a read if you are interested in Hellenistic coinage or would like an overview of the Seleucid kings. The link will take you to part one in the series.

Who can be surprised at this? Inquisitor reports that a Graeco-Roman winery has been discovered on the banks of the Nile. It was probably founded by Ptolemy I for his Macedonian friends as they sailed up and down the river!

If you are looking for a short biography of Alexander, then Greek Reporter has your back. If you are already familiar with Alexander’s life, the article is still worth reading to see if the writer’s understanding of Alexander matches your own. For instance, do you think this statement correct: ‘What are now the modern-day countries of Turkey, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and the entirety of the modern-day Arab world, became Greek in less than ten years’ time.’ (emphasis mine)?

This story has appeared all over the internet over the last few days: ‘Otago academic offers new explanation for Alexander the Great’s death‘. This headline comes from Voxy. It’s a creepy, painful and fascinating story. I’m very grateful to the person on my Alexander Facebook page who said that they had spoken to Dr. Hall who told them that she thought Alexander would have lost his higher functions by the time he was mummified; he wouldn’t have felt anything.

Are you in Liverpool (U.K.) at 6pm on 21st February this year? If you are, you could attend this adventurously titled lecture The Further Adventures of Alexander the Great – Boyfriend, Gay Warrior, Porn King. More details can be found on Liverpool University’s website here.

Your occasional reminder that (a) Afghanistan didn’t exist in Alexander the Great’s day and (b) he defeated its predecessor people – the Bactrians and Sogdians – during the course of his eastward march. His victory was not a lasting one but it was still a victory. Why am I mentioning this? Read this article at We Are The Mighty.

Finally, could the dispute between Greece and the Former Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) regarding the use of the name ‘Macedonia’ by the latter finally be over? The BBC reports here that the Greek Parliament has approved FYROM’s name change to North Macedonia. I have to admit that I don’t understand how ‘North Macedonia’ can be a more satisfactory name than the ‘Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’ so am very glad that this blog is focused on Alexander rather than modern Balkan politics.

BTW If you have come to this post from my Alexander Facebook page and would like to comment on the Greece/FYROM story, please do so on the blog; if you do so on the Fb page I will have to delete it. It’s not that I don’t want to hear from you, but the issue is so controversial that any mention of it will quickly lead to insults and barbs.

Categories: By the Bye, Of The Moment | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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