Some talk of Alexander

 

“And the he goat, is the king of the Greeks, and the great horn that was between his eyes, the same is the first king.”

Daniel 8:21

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This is a story of revenge, but also of what Alexander interprets as a divine mission. Translating this into one of the seven basic plots of any story would qualify for this to be read as a Quest, but also as Tragedy. It is a tragedy that he died not quite thirty-three years old knowing that he had killed some of his closest and trusted friends. Alexander’s invasion of Persia and the whole Middle East region began after his father died and the wish to avenge the descendants of ancestors who had once sacked Greece. His supreme confidence was forged through a belief in his divine lineage that features Zeus and Achilles. Tutored in philosophy by Aristotle, Alexander the Great found an additional reason to follow his destiny: dream revelation.

Alexander perceived himself as an agent of God’s wrath upon a Persian Empire that had not only sacked Greece but had continued to subjugate Greeks in Asia minor and Jews in Jerusalem. Alexander would no doubt have delighted in his role in the divine script as a major protagonist in his dream; the details of this are revealed some way through the book when he travels to Jerusalem and meets the High Priest he saw in his dream. In the Temple of Jerusalem, Alexander is shown the Book of Daniel, which foretells the dominion of four great beasts. Alexander identifies his part in this biblical story that further inspires his role in the history of Mankind.

For Alexander these events are divinely ordained: an eagle soaring in the sky before a battle was a sign of success. With this assurance he proceeds to crush all resistance anywhere and everywhere; up hills and down ravines, atop mountains or in the sea, wherever the battle takes him. Not that there was any doubt beforehand. The difference being that Alexander’s mission was shaped by what he perceived as divine imperatives and thereby could never be solely content with victory alone, or even the dubious quality of revenge, for neither could placate him now. What mattered most was the battle itself and bending others to his destiny. Alexander was not only interested in who he was, but in what he was to become. In so doing he lost sight of humility and claimed hubris for himself.

In my reading of Alexander I discovered a man initially sensitive to the plight of others yet these concerns inevitably wane after thousands of miles of death and destruction.  Alexander correctly deciphered omens and signs and this ability enabled him to lead the Macedonians on a secure path even when treachery lurks menacingly in the background. During these formative years the Macedonians and Greeks show Alexander loyalty without reserve. Macedonians were willing to die for a leader who reciprocated his intention by everyday examples on the battlefield. For illustration, a close companion of Alexander is accused of poisoning a drink but is exonerated after Alexander is warned of this but drinks it anyway to demonstrate his trust in his men who no doubt found more reasons to revere Alexander.

There are numerous examples of his courage and quickness of mind in this ancient tale where battles are frequently fought and won against overwhelming and impossible odds. Alexander’s military strategy was always flexible depending on appropriate strategic circumstance and in one instance he spent seven months laying siege to Tyre until it inevitably fell. On other occasions he chose his best soldiers to pursue Darius – and many others – relentlessly until sheer persistence wore down his foe. After the siege of Tyre the Jews decided it was better to befriend Alexander than continue under the yoke of Darius and the Persians. Alexander conquered a vast region of Asia; the coastal city of Alexandria remains a testimony to his time in Egypt. In 323 BC The Empire of Alexander the Great spanned the globe from Greece and Egypt to Persia and into India.

The author, Arrian of Nicomedia, was born into the Greek Roman world some four centuries after Alexander and as an historian writes in the early 2nd century AD providing for posterity an acclaimed biography that draws on several main sources but also his own interpretation of events to convey and write about the campaigns of Alexander.

 

 

 

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