Sex, power and punishment

Discuss the culture of Alexander's world and his image in art

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Efstathios
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Post by Efstathios »

The Macedonians did reach that power, even if it was for a short period, but did not commit such things. They didnt create a colosseum with elephants rumbling uppon people, e.t.c. They build theaters for the foreigners too, to see plays. Do you see the vast difference between cultures? Of course we cant say what would have happened if the empire lasted hundreds of years, but i dont believe much would change.
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Post by Paralus »

Efstathios wrote: The Greeks generally had higher moral values than other people, such as the Romans, and the Persians. That doesnt mean of course that there werent any attrocities being made in ancient Greek history, but the Greeks were and are just not that bloodthirsty.
Oh dear. Read the historiy of the Diadochoi. Then again, there's always the Spartans executing th "best" of their helots as well as those citizens of Plataea who could not prove that they had aided the Spartans in the war (it will be remembered that prior to this question the Plataeans had stood a two year or more siege by those same Spartans).
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Semiramis
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Post by Semiramis »

Then there's Aristotle's advice on how the Barbarians should be treated. Which Alexander thankfully didn't follow. Not exactly practical advice from the great philosopher. :)

But I truly believe that Alexander had a genuine admiration of the Persian empire and culture. Amyntoros mentioned in another thread about the parallels between Cyrus the Great and Alexander. I too have often found it surprising that Cyrus the great is omitted when discussing Alexander's motivations. Desire to emulate Achilles of course (even Jason is mentioned in the Stone movie) but never the Cyropedia.

I wonder if it has something to do with modern historians' preoccupation with Greek Exceptionalism. This whole idea that the ancient Greeks were "the best", developed in "splendid isolation" and didn't have borrowings from other cultures (which they shouldn't be compared to). That all their achievements were a result of the "Greek Miracle". Mentioning Homer as Alexander's inspiration fits in with this view, but not Cyrus. :)
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Paralus
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Post by Paralus »

Semiramis wrote: Amyntoros mentioned in another thread about the parallels between Cyrus the Great and Alexander. I too have often found it surprising that Cyrus the great is omitted when discussing Alexander's motivations.
I feel that there was indeed "competition" between Alexander and Cyrus the Great in Alexander's mind - as there overtly was with his father.

I think, though, if you re-read the edited cut and paste by Amyntoos on that thread or- better still - read Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.9, you might just find that it is Cyrus the Younger who is being so fancifully eulogised.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by amyntoros »

Paralus wrote:I think, though, if you re-read the edited cut and paste by Amyntoos on that thread or- better still - read Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.9, you might just find that it is Cyrus the Younger who is being so fancifully eulogised.
T'is both, in a sense. Yes, the cut and paste I made was from Xenophon on Cyrus the Younger, but Maxwell O'Brien's comparison piece that I quoted is definitely about Cyrus the Great. Now I'm reminded of the modern writer who at the beginning of his/her book said "Alexander the Great was a Greek who wanted to be a Persian." Who was that?

I'll pick up the other thread again tomorrow. Had been meaning to post more and had, umm, forgotten about it. :oops:

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Post by Theseus »

From what I've read I think the Romans treated people far less fairly than the Greeks did. I know I"ve read where Alexander at times refused to allow raping of the women of the towns he conquered. There is a story where a woman was raped by a soldier and she had tricked him and eventually threw him down a well and threw stones on his head until he died. She was brought before Alexander and he let her and her children go unharmed. He had a very close relationship with his mother which may be why he treated women with such respect. He even treated the men he beat in battle with respect and even left some in charge after they swore their alliance to him. Look how he reacted when Darius was murdered.
Yes in Greece people killed one another to make sure that they were the ones in power, but it was more extreme in Rome in my opinion. I tried researching Roman history and it just was so brutal I lost interest in it. The Greeks were more humane.
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Post by Efstathios »

This whole idea that the ancient Greeks were "the best", developed in "splendid isolation" and didn't have borrowings from other cultures (which they shouldn't be compared to). That all their achievements were a result of the "Greek Miracle". Mentioning Homer as Alexander's inspiration fits in with this view, but not Cyrus. Smile
The Greeks had their own idols, who as far as they were concerned surpassed any other foreign idol. And that is of course natural, but it has a solid explanation too. How could they have a Persian as an idol, since they defeated the Persians and their huge armies numerous times, and drove them back? Of course you could say that Cyrus was maybe better than Xexes and Darius, but for the Greeks he was just a Persian.

Alexander may have admired some aspects of Cyrus, because afterall they were both Kings and conquerors, but he wouldnt put him anywhere near a skillfull warrior as Achillees.
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Post by Paralus »

Efstathios wrote:[ How could they have a Persian as an idol, since they defeated the Persians and their huge armies numerous times, and drove them back?
Ahh, that obdurate, enduring gestalt. A construction the likes of which might just outlast the Pyramids.

Xenophon certainly idolised and idealised Cyrus the Younger. Then again he lionised and placed on a holy pedestal that defender of Hellenic freedom that Cyrus patronised: Sparta.

What, in the current war, have you done to aid the Lacedaemonians and their allies?

And when the Pataeans, having stood a particularly viscious siege, answered "nothing", they were summarily executed.
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by Callisto »

Efstathios wrote: The Greeks had their own idols, who as far as they were concerned surpassed any other foreign idol. And that is of course natural, but it has a solid explanation too. How could they have a Persian as an idol, since they defeated the Persians and their huge armies numerous times, and drove them back? Of course you could say that Cyrus was maybe better than Xexes and Darius, but for the Greeks he was just a Persian.
This claim is at least naive, especially when we are talking about Cyrus, a ruler having a significant role in ancient Greek historiography. Herodotus started his Persian history from Cyrus' birth while Xenophon goes even further using Cyrus as his 'model ruler' in "Cyropaedia". In reality Xenophon presents through "Cyropaedia" the ideal of statesmanline and virtue personificated in Cyrus.

Cyrus made such a vast impression to Greeks that its not surprising Greeks transcribed his original name Kūruš into 'Kyros', having the meaning of "the almighty, the supreme authority" and is used alike even today.
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Post by marcus »

Theseus wrote:There is a story where a woman was raped by a soldier and she had tricked him and eventually threw him down a well and threw stones on his head until he died. She was brought before Alexander and he let her and her children go unharmed.
While this story was presented as an exemplum of Alexander's treatment of captives, and of his generally 'better' treatement of women, it must also be remembered that this was the sister of Theagenes, who had been one of the anti-Macedonian generals at Chaironea, and therefore deserving of especial respect (as is made pretty clear in Plutarch Alex 12.3).

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Post by Theseus »

I know there are more stories of how Alexander treated women, but that was the first one that popped into my head without rummaging through my books. I was trying to emphasize his compassion, at least in my interpretation of his character.
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Post by marcus »

Theseus wrote:I know there are more stories of how Alexander treated women, but that was the first one that popped into my head without rummaging through my books. I was trying to emphasize his compassion, at least in my interpretation of his character.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I agree with you - after all, we also have the example of the Persian royal women.

On the other hand, all the examples we have are of "exceptional" cases, which was really the point I was making. As far as I recall we have no evidence that Alexander put a blanket ban on rape - although even if he didn't, no doubt the normal rules would have applied, as is clear in his general treatment of cities: if they surrendered without a fight, they were 'untouched'; if they put up a fight, then they took the consequences.

We had a discussion on another thread about "who" the women in the army's train were, which has some correlation to this issue. Can't remember what the thread was now, but Amyntoros might remember it (she and I did, after all, disagree on something in that thread - a momentous occasion :lol: ).

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Post by Theseus »

I agree that what was written about his treatment of women had to do with as you said, exceptional cases. I do recall the other story you are talking about when Alexander had Darius's loved ones. I looked back in a few books to see if I could find any non exceptional cases, but can't find any. :lol:
He did have a lot of self control in this area as many other areas and I wonder if he tried to pass this on to his men.
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Post by Semiramis »

I think in Babylon, Alexander promised the houses will be untouched. But that didn't include the women. Curtius' description blames the women's behaviour for their rape. Kinda implicating that it was "normal" in Babylon. But there was a tendency to blame females for their rape by ancient Greeks and Romans. There doesn't seem to be any Babylonian evidence to back up Greeks' idea about the city being obsessed with sex and it's women particularly "easy". It's not difficult to believe these stories about exotic women in far away lands I guess. :)

But I just want to emphasize that I believe that looting and raping was the expected behaviour for the victorious army. Alexander's army wasn't exceptionally brutal or anything for those times. Achilles is famed as the sacker of cities. Briseas wasn't some romantic lover of his, she was a posession. Her taking away by Agamemnon more about an insult to his honour than hurting his feelings. Even Zeus was running around "ravaging" women. Not apologizing for mass rape, but just try and to put it into context...
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Post by Paralus »

Semiramis wrote:Curtius' description blames the women's behaviour for their rape. Kinda implicating that it was "normal" in Babylon. But there was a tendency to blame females for their rape by ancient Greeks and Romans....
Nothing's changed much in over 2,000 years according to some who sit astride the judicial bench. Not to mention defence lawyers.

As I wrote before, this was a victorious army which had carried all before it. It will have taken that which it wanted.
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Ἐπὶ τοὺς πατέρας, ὦ κακαὶ κεφαλαί, τοὺς μετὰ Φιλίππου καὶ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὰ ὅλα κατειργασμένους;
Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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