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throughout history, Alexander the Great has been seen as a hero, or even more than a hero


as a Platonic philosopher king (Willian Tarn)

or even a Messianic figure like Jesus, sent on a mission to be the reconciler of the world

since the mid 20th century, however, a far less flattering portrait of Alexander has been
drawn

an unstable alcoholic given to wine-fueled rages and violence

some say that he had no lasting effects on the ancient world or that if he had any, they can
be compared to that of Cortes and the Conquistadors had on the Aztecs from 1519 to 1522

while the popular view of Alexander remains a favorable one, a new
scholarly orthodoxy about him has emerged

some think he should be rechristened Alexander the Terrible or Alexander the Insignificant

two reasons for this new orthodoxy

consciously reconstructing a more accurate and less mythological picture of who he was

these scholars are writing in the long, dark shadows cast by ruthless 20th century rulers
such as Hitler and Stalin

why have wars played so much of a role in history?

our evidence of recorded human activity goes back to 3,000 BCE and we find accounts of
warfare in all kinds of different forms through history

you could ignore it but then you really wouldn't be doing your job as an historian

why it's the case could be a philosophical or scientific question

the fact that every single society that we know about since written history has practiced
some form of warfare would suggest that this is more than just a cultural phenomenon, that
it has to do with our species, actually

more study could be devoted to this

Alexander was very good at the practice of war, if also morally condemned

Alexander believed that the gods play favorites

he clearly thought that the gods favored him to win victories

before every battle he would give sacrifices to a group of deities

afterwards he would make sacrifices thanking them for giving him victory

Greeks believed that certain gods were helpful in warfare

Athena

Artemis

Zeus

believed the gods were helpful to some people and not so helpful to others

*** they didn't believe that there was a god or gods that loved and favored us equally, they
strongly believed that individuals were favored by individual gods or groups of them

*** Alexander thought that he had been chosen by specific gods, particularly by Zeus, for
successes that were unprecedented

Hoplite warfare

one of the most striking things about it was its ritualistic element

it usually didn't start out chaotically the way much combat in world history does

a typical Hoplite battle started out with two different sides making sacrifices and then
marching out in order into an open field to the sound of music being played, then stopping,
and then rushing across the field and clashing, someone winning, and someone losing

then after the battle, the winning side going out onto the battlefield and literally setting up
a trophy that said, we won here today

this shows a motivation for a lot of warfare in ancient Greece, which was to take ahold
of landthat was so essential to their economies

Alexander's parents

brought to Pella in Macedon great teachers to educate th 13 year old Alexander, including
Aristotle

politics

eristics

disputation

what does Alexander have to teach us?

he's such a large, complex figure, but one aspect that he can help us understand is that
there aren't easy answers to interpretations of complex characters or complex events

one of the great fascinations of Alexander is that he can't be easily resolved, he can't be
simplified,

he will be on the list of anyone's top two or three warriors in history

as long as human beings are going to be involved in warfare, then they will come back to
Alexander to try to learn about someone who probably was, overall, the most successful
warrior in history

pronunciation

Achaemenid

ah-KEE-mah-nid, empire

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