In an article on The Myth of the Macho Christ for Patheos (here), Simcha Fisher writes quotes a correspondent who complained about her definition of masculinity. They wrote,
If an affinity for babies and not having sex is manliness or courage or masculinity then some anemic nerd virgin gamer who babysits his cousins on the weekend is literally more manly and masculine than Achilles or Alexander the Great or Gengis Khan, since they fornicated.
To which Fisher replies,
In charity, we’ll overlook the facts that Alexander the Great almost certainly had sex with men, and is best known for sitting down and crying,
Before proceeding to prove her correspondent wrong in his, or her, definition of what masculinity really is.
I agree with Fisher that Alexander ‘almost certainly had sex with men’ although I would limit their number to either one (Bagoas) or two (Bagoas and Hephaestion)*.
She is, however, is quite wrong when she says that Alexander is ‘best known for sitting down and crying’. Not even the village idiot would say such a thing. I suspect she is thinking of Achilles here, although I don’t know The Iliad well known to say how much time he spends sitting and sobbing. Having said that, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say Achilles’ greatest claim to fame is the amount of tears he shed. Fisher has created a parody in order to make a point. In charity let’s say that on this occasion her memory of Alexander and Achilles both fooled her. It’s a great shame as the rest of the article is, in my opinion, a good one.
* On that point, see this comment
Christmas Day is nearly upon us and I was going to take the week off writing for this blog until an idea for one or two posts occurred to me. And as all writers know, when an idea comes, one has to write it down.
Last week, I read Walter M. Ellis’s book Ptolemy of Egypt. In it, he describes how Ptolemy I created a new cult that would bring his Greek and Egyptian subjects together. Enter Sarapis.
Was it a strictly a cynical move to push Egyptian propaganda throughout the Mediterranean, or is it possible that Ptolemy experienced some sort of genuine conversion?
(Ellis Ptolemy of Egypt p 30)
We’ll never know for sure but given how politically savvy Ptolemy was I agree with Ellis that the former reason is more likely to be the true one.
Sarapis did not enter Egyptian life alone. He came with Isis – his sister-wife.
A Ptolemaic era statue of Isis (Wikipedia)
Ellis states that,
[Isis] is all-woman. She is mother, maiden, whore and virgin, wife and mother, all-knowing and all-forgiving. She is Athena, Hera, Artemis, Demeter, Aphrodite, Persephone, and Hecate.
She became all things to all men, and her worship spread all around the Mediterranean. Five centuries later Isis remained the primary competitor to Christianity for the minds and souls of the men and women of the Roman empire.
(Ibid p. 36)
At first sight, I find it hard to imagine what Isis and Christianity have in common but as I think about it a little more, Isis starts to remind me of two people in particular – the two who are at the heart of our celebrations this Wednesday: Mary and Jesus.
Isis is not an exact prototype – no one calls Mary a whore and Jesus is not all-forgiving if by that we mean He automatically forgives everyone who does anything wrong, but there is more than enough of them in her to make me now see why she provided such strong competition for the loyalty of Men’s souls.