Alexander of Macedon

Ah yes, Alexander the Great. Perhaps the greatest military strategist that even lived, no? But what did he want? What were his goals? William Woodthorpe Thorn, the great classicist, birthed the Napoleonic notion that Alexander was after nothing more than “the Brotherhood of Man” or uniter of nations. This view was later popularized by Mary Renault in a series of popular novels. I disagree. Alexander wanted merely the same thing that all other conquerors (and all colonists for that matter) want:

  1. Land
  2. Money

In other words, the booty. Let’s not romanticize these militarists too much.

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8 thoughts on “Alexander of Macedon”

  1. IMHO Alexander was the most Alpha dude that ever lived on the planet. Right after Jesus I believe who wasn’t exactly man but God in human flesh. I like this description of Alexander by one of his generals – Ptolemy who became the Pharaoh of Egypt (the ancestor of Cleopatra).
    PTOLEMY: “Now I am the keeper of his body…embalmed here in the Egyptian ways.
    I followed him as Pharaoh, and have now ruled 40 years. I have two sons, each jealous of the other’s power. But they will grow to make fine fathers and husbands. And I trust they’ll be just in their affairs. But they have never seen…the great cavalry charge of Gaugamela…or the mountains of the Hindu Kush… …when we crossed the 100,000 men army into India.
    He was a god, Cadmos…or as close as anything I’ve ever known. “Tyrant!” they yell so easily. I laugh. No tyrant ever gave back so much. What do they know of the world, these schoolboys? It takes strong men to rule.
    Alexander was more, he was a Prometheus, a friend to man. He changed the world. Before him, there were tribes…and after him, all was possible. There was suddenly a sense the world could be ruled by one king…and be better for all. Eighteen great Alexandrias he built across this world. It was an empire, not of land and gold, Cadmos, but of the mind. It was a Hellenic civilization…open to all.
    But the truth is never simple…and yet it is. The truth is, we did kill him. By silence, we consented. Because…Because we couldn’t go on. What, by Ares, did we look forward to but to be discarded in the end, like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races, harmony? Bah!
    Oh, he talked of these things…but wasn’t it really about Alexander and another population ready to obey him? I never believed in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams. Oh, just throw all that away, Cadmos.
    It’s an old fool’s rubbish. You shall write, “He died of fever and a weakened condition.”
    Oh, he could have stayed home in Macedonia, married, raised a family. He’d have died a celebrated man. But this was not Alexander. All his life, he fought to free himself from fear. And by this, and this alone, he was made free. The freest man I’ve ever known.
    His tragedy was one of increasing loneliness…and impatience with those who could not understand. And if his desire…to reconcile Greek and barbarian ended in failure…What failure! His failure towered over other men’s successes. I’ve lived…I’ve lived long life, Cadmos…but the glory and the memory of man…will always belong to the ones who follow their great visions. And the greatest of these is the one they now call…Megas Alexandros. The greatest of them all.”

    1. I have heard there was no word in the Classical world for ‘gay’. Love of men for other men, especially in the army, was not unusual. The Spartans felt if you loved your fellow soldier you would fight twice as hard to save him. Still, they had families and loved women. Alexander too, married and encouraged his men to do the same. Love of your brother in arms was different from love of your wife, and both were considered normal. To write Alexander off simply as gay is to give too much credence to Oliver Stones suspiciously fixated movie, I think. We cant think about the emotional and sexual and moral life of the ancients in exactly the same terms we use. Has about as much validity and weight as saying the Ancient Egyptian were black, period.

  2. There is an anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, of a Dutch tourist in Athens who had the temerity to urinate on the statue of Alexander the Great. When the police asked him why he had done that, he replied: “I couldn’t find a washroom and Alexander was a dirty fascist anyway”. Now, I doubt that Alexander was a fascist, but he certainly was a dirty bastard, as all conquerors are. Conquerors deserve no more sympathy than slaveowners. Maybe conquest was useful at some time in the past when political units were still very small, but in today’s world, conquest is morally on the same level as slavery.
    Regards. James

  3. A certain dark side in human nature loves power. I mean who hasn’t wanted to be a rock star, lottery winner, military conqueror or leader, or porn star? We can talk about egalitarianism all we want, but some people might argue that a society needs massive winners to encourage hope.

  4. Jim Morrison, despite all his association with hippy love, was a fascist. He was obsessed with power and tribalism, and got what he wanted. No wonder he quoted Nietzsche while showing his homemade production at the LA film school (at the start of the movie “The Doors”).

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