Posts Tagged With: Justin

2,374 Years Strong

diary – birthday edition

We don’t know which day exactly Alexander was born on but it usually taken to be 20th/21st July (though I have also seen 26th mentioned). With that in mind, I took the day off work yesterday to commemorate it by visiting a Greek restaurant in Primrose Hill called Lemonia. It is a lovely place and well worth a visit if you are in the neighbourhood. I ate zatziki for starters, keftedes for mains and finished off with a Greek coffee. Sadly for my future as a food blogger and instagrammer I didn’t take any photographs of either the food or drink – I washed the food down with half a bottle of Restina Kourtaki. Oh, and I bought a bottle of Greek Macedonian red wine. When I open that I will certainly take a photograph and upload it here.

While I waited for the courses to arrive, I read the opening chapters of Plutarch’s Life of Alexander, our only (substantial) account of Alexander’s birth. The account is infused with legend as well as bald facts; one might also say it is laced with propaganda as well – particularly regarding Alexander’s divinity. Most interestingly, it also contains what is probably the only example of Olympias being humble. Plutarch records two traditions regarding her; in the first, she tells Alexander ‘the secret of his conception’ and urges him ‘to show himself worthy of his divine parentage’. In the other, Plutarch says that ‘that she repudiated this story and used to say, ‘Will Alexander never stop making Hera jealous of me.’

Who were the authors who maintained this latter tradition, and why did they do so? After Olympias died, in 316 BC, there was no motivation for anyone to defend her from whatever charge her erstwhile enemies cared to bring.

***

The mystery of the large, black coffin found in Alexandria has been solved – for now. It was opened and found to contain three skeletons and sewage water. Yuk. Read more here. Of course, we are disappointed that it didn’t contain Alexander’s body. On the other hand, though, isn’t it nice that the mystery over where his final resting place is, still remains?

***

Hornet, the gay news site, has a curate’s egg of an article on Alexander, here.

… letters of the time described Alexander yielding to Hephaestion’s thighs.

Robin Lane Fox mentions this anecdote and states that it comes from ‘the Cynic philosophers… long after [Alexander’s] death’.

“One soul abiding in two bodies” is how their tutor, Aristotle, described the two men.

Aristotle was respond to the question of ‘what is a friend’; he wasn’t referring to Alexander and Hephaestion (Diogenes Laertius Lives of Eminent Philosophers Book V.20 here)

“The friend I valued as my own life,” Alexander wrote of his partner.

I don’t think Alexander did say this – did he?

Scholars have suggested that he became careless with his health after losing his lover.

I think it would be fair to say that Alexander was always careless of his health! In respect of the statement, I don’t think he was. I don’t recall anything in the sources to indicate it.

… eventually [Alexander and Barsine] are said to have had a son named Heracles. Questions linger about the veracity of that particular account — it’s possible that Heracles was procured in an attempt to usurp the throne after Alexander’s death. Though there were some who supported Heracles’ claim to Alexander’s lineage, he vanished not long after his supposed father died.

This is the first time I have heard anyone doubt that Heracles lived. He is well attested in the sources – Curtius, Diodorus and Justin all mention him. Also, Heracles didn’t ‘vanish not long after his supposed father died’ – he lived until 310/09 BC when Polyperchon tried to use him to reclaim Macedon from Cassander only to be executed after Cassander made Polyperchon an offer suitable to his irrelevant status in the Wars of the Successors.

She was carrying a son at the time, whom she named Alexander IV; but doubt was cast over the identity of the father.

Again, this is the first time I have heard anyone doubt Alexander’s paternity of Alexander IV.

In general, Alexander’s focus was on uniting Persian and Greek culture, and so he arranged marriages that spanned the two groups. He went so far as to organize a mass wedding that lasted five days and included 90 couplings, usually tying highly regarded Macedonian women to Greek soldiers whom Alexander trusted.

If Alexander was intent on uniting ‘Persian and Greek culture’ I don’t know why he would hold a mass wedding involving Macedonian women to Greek soldiers. Of course, he didn’t; the reference here is to the mass weddings at Susa in which Macedonians were married to Persians – see Arrian VII.4-8).

So the article is a bit hit and miss. I did like the closing passage, though:

… it is impossible not to wonder what passions existed two and a half millennia ago, and how recognizable those feelings would be to us today.

***

Judging by the way people write about Alexander and Hephaestion today, their feelings are very recognisable today! As it happens, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to consider my own. I was asked who my heroes were. Alexander was suggested but then someone said that perhaps he was someone I was just fascinated by rather than considered heroic.

I wouldn’t consider Alexander heroic in the modern sense – he was no Superman, selflessly acting for the good of others; he was, though, heroic in the ancient Greek manner: devoted to winning glory for himself, proving himself better than anyone else.

Alexander certainly fascinates me but for me it goes much deeper than that, and for that reason, I try to think about him as critically as I can so that I don’t descend into fanboyism – excusing or ignoring the bad things he did and complexities of his life just because he looked good and (probably) slept with Hephaestion. I can’t say how good I am at that, probably not as much as I want to be, but for me it is important to try. It has the added benefit as well of enabling me to learn more about the Alexander who lived rather than the one I hold in my heart.

Categories: Of The Moment, On Alexander | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

King of Macedon

Justin’s Alexander
Book XI Chapters 1-5

Part One
Other posts in this series

According to Charles Russell Stone in From Tyrant to Philosopher-King, Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus ‘defined Alexander for many writers in England’ (p. 8) during the Mediaeval period. 

According to Stone, Justin’s influence was negative as ‘the first Roman histories to reach medieval England emphasized [Alexander’s] worst qualities and most egregious behaviour’. In this short series of posts, therefore, I thought I would look at this translation of the Epitome to see what exactly Justin said.

Chapter 1
Macedon is in turmoil. Philip II has been assassinated and his twenty year old son, Alexander, has been declared king. What hope does he have to keep his country together? The army, which he needs in order to rule, is divided between those who mourn Philip’s death and those who – having been conscripted into it – now hope that they may win their freedom.

Meanwhile, Philip’s friends are looking nervously over their shoulders. They fear a revengeful Persia, and rebellion by Greeks and barbarians in Europe alike. They believe that if all three turn against Macedon at the same time, their attack will be ‘utterly impossible to resist’.

Enter Alexander. He takes his place before a public assembly, starts to speak, and… not only calms his listeners’ nerves, and not only gives them hope for the future, but fills them with ‘favourable expectations’ for what is to come.

Justin does not quote Alexander’s speech, or put words into his mouth, but we can tell what kind of speech it was from his comments. Firstly, it was humble, for Alexander spoke with ‘modesty’. Secondly, it was restrained, for Alexander ‘reserved the further proofs of his ability for the time of action’. Thirdly, it was manipulative, for in granting ‘Macedonians relief from all burdens’ (i.e. tax breaks?), Alexander put them in mind of Philip, the beloved king they had just lost.

Chapter 2
The first hint of Alexander’s ruthlessness comes at the start of this chapter. After Philip II’s cremation, the new king ordered the murder of anyone connected to his father’s assassination. He also made sure to remove anyone who could rival his claim to the throne. Justin cites Caranus*, the son of Philip’s last wife, Cleopatra Eurydice, as being one such victim. Someone who was allowed to live, however, was Alexander Lyncestes, son of Aeropus**. His brothers (Heromenes and Arrhabaeus) were both executed for conspiracy but Alexander Lyncestes was permitted to live as he had been the first person to acclaim Alexander as king.

* Heckel in Who’s Who in the Age of Alexander the Great asserts that Caranus did not exist

** Not Alexander the Great’s brother as Justin says

Chapter 3
Upon hearing of rebellion in Greece, Alexander marched south. He stopped first in Thessaly and,

exhorted the Thessalians to peace, reminding them of the kindnesses if (sic) shown them by his father Philip, and of his mother’s connexion with them by the family of the Aeacidae

We are used to thinking of Alexander the general but less so of Alexander the diplomat. On numerous occasions, however, he used diplomacy to win the support of his enemies. On this occasion, his plan worked to perfection. The Thessalians made him their ‘captain-General’ and gave him ‘their customs and public revenues’.

Accepting these, Alexander marched on to Athens. They had already submitted to him. Nevertheless, upon meeting their ambassadors, the king ‘severely [reproved] them for their conduct’. Most importantly, as far as Athens was concerned, he did not attack them.

Justin reports that Alexander then marched to Thebes ‘intending to show similar indulgence, if he found similar penitence’. But he did not. Once the city had been taken by force, Alexander asked his Greek allies what should be done to it. This sounds very democratic except that Alexander’s allies had all been mistreated by Thebes in the past. They were only ever going to vote for one course of action now. It’s hard not to imagine Alexander knowing this, and simply using the allies as a way of tearing down the city without getting his own hands dirty.

Chapter 4
During the deliberations, Cleadas, a representative of Thebes was permitted to speak for the survivors. He appealed to Alexander’s sense of history by pointing out that his ancestor, Herakles, had been born there and that his father had spent part of his youth in the city. Justin has nothing to say about the use of Philip but regards the mention of Herakles as an attempt to appeal to Alexander’s superstitious nature.

Neither worked and Thebes was razed. Thereafter, the land was divided up and the survivors sold into slavery. Feeling sorry for them, Athens permitted Thebans to enter their city. But Alexander had prohibited this, and he gave the city an ultimatum: War or hand over a number of generals and orators who had been leading rebels. Not only did Athens persuade Alexander not to open hostilities against them, however, but it also managed to persuade him to withdraw his demand for prisoners.

Again, we could view this as Alexander being clement but in reality it is far more likely that he let the matter go because he wanted to get on with his preparations for the war against Persia.

Chapter 5
Before leaving Macedon, Alexander completed his purge of the royal court to make sure no one rebelled against him while he was gone. Justin says that it was at this point that Attalus (uncle/guardian of Cleopatra Eurydice) was murdered.

Alexander also ‘divided’ all Argead land in Macedon and Greece between his friends, ‘saying, “that for himself Asia was sufficient.”’. On the one hand, this sounds very foolhardy. Or perhaps, brave. Why did he do it? Justin gives no clue but it is possible or likely that Alexander was actually trying to raise much needed money for his expedition.

Having rejected the Cleadas’ appeal to history, Alexander now showed his respect for it. Approaching the shore of Asia Minor, he follow in the footsteps of kings of old by throwing a ‘dart’ (i.e. a javelin) into the sand. In doing so, he symbolically claimed Asia for oneself.

Wading ashore, Alexander then turned to the gods. He sacrificed ‘praying that “those countries might not unwillingly receive him as their king.”’. More sacrifices would be carried out at Troy.

Overall Impression
Positive. It’s true, we’ve seen Alexander act manipulatively and ruthlessly but Justin does not have much to say about these moments. In fact, the first five chapters of his Epitome are largely free of comment by him. If there is a ‘stand-out’ moment it is, for me, in chapter one where he describes the outcome of Alexander’s appearance before the public assembly.

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Darius Prepares for War as Alexander falls Ill

Daily Diodorus
Vol. VIII. Book XVII Ch. 31 (Loeb Classical Library)
Read the other posts in this series here

The Headlines
Darius Musters Army in Babylon
Alexander Falls Ill
Philip of Arcarnania Saves King’s Life

The Story
Chapter 31 begins with Darius ‘summoning his forces from all directions and [ordering] them to muster in Babylon’.

According to Diodorus, the army’s strength would eventually come to ‘over four hundred thousand infantry and not less than one hundred thousand cavalry’.

While the soldiers made their way to Babylon, Darius organised his senior officers giving jobs to his Friends and Relatives according to their ability. Those who were not suited to holding a command joined Darius’ personal staff.

The Persian army heeded Darius’ summons promptly and it left Babylon on schedule. Darius marched for Cilicia in south-eastern Asia Minor. Diodorus reports that as well as his men, Darius also took his family with him: his wife, three children and mother.

Alexander, meanwhile, was very relieved to hear about the death of Memnon. The latter’s success in winning over Chios and the Lesbian cities as well as Mitylene had caused the Macedonian king ‘no little anxiety’. But things were about to take a sharp turn for the worse for him.

‘Shortly after’ hearing of Memnon’s death, Diodorus says that Alexander fell ‘seriously ill’. He does not say why. Alexander ‘sent for his physicians’ but they were hesitant to treat him. Only one dared to try – Philip of Arcarnania.

Philip’s treatment involved a ‘risky but quick-acting’ drug. Having heard that Darius was now on the move, Alexander ‘accepted [the drug] gladly’. It worked. Alexander made a quick recovery. Philip was rewarded with ‘magnificent gifts’ and given a place among Alexander’s Friends.

Comments
Firstly, numbers. The Footnotes say that Justin agrees with Diodorus that Darius’ army was 400,000 in strength. They also state that ‘[t]he unknown writer of the Alexander History P. Oxyrhynchus 1798 (Frag. 44, col. 2.2/3) and Arrian (2.8.8) give the Persian strength as 600,000.’ I had not heard of P. Oxyrhynchus before so that is news to me.

As for Darius, I don’t have much to say except that it is good that he was able to appoint people on the basis of their ability rather than for political reasons.

I referred above to Memnon’s ‘success in winning over Chios and the Lesbian cities’. Diodorus’ exact words were that he ‘won over’ the cities. This gives the impression that Memnon secured their loyalty by peaceful means rather than by force. This might be the case with Chios – in Chapter 29 Diodorus says that Memnon ‘secured’ the city and that word can be interpreted either way – but the Lesbian cities are described (in Ch. 29, again) as being ‘easily mastered’. This sounds to me like Memnon had to fight for them. Maybe the fight was easy but that would be besides the point.

Unlike Arrian, Plutarch and Curtius Diodorus does not mention the strange matter of Parmenion’s letter to Alexander. He wrote to the king warning him that Philip was in the pay of Darius and meant to kill him. Despite this, Alexander took Philip’s medicine, handing the doctor Parmenion’s letter as he did so.

Philip’s reaction depends on who you read. Curtius says that he was outraged by the accusation; Plutarch that Philip was alarmed; Arrian, for his part, says that Philip stayed cool.

I have a suspicion that Parmenion’s letter represents a cack-handed attempt to initiate a coup. I wrote about that, and indeed the whole affair from a slightly different angle here.

Arcarnanian Apocatheries
We’ve got drugs to die for!
* Potions To Floor a king!
* Medicines Cheap of Price (Persia excepted)!
* Fantastic Deals: If You Die, Your Doctor Dies With You!

 

Categories: Diodorus Siculus | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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