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

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Theseus
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Post by Theseus »

I'm definately not naive enough to think these things didn't happen in Alexander's army. After all boys will be boys and these are the spoils of war. I do think it was less brutal than what the Romans did and others as well. It seems courtesies were given to your enemy back then which is very different from the way wars were fought later on. Agree? or No?
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Post by Semiramis »

I know what you mean. To me, sometimes he seems unusually magnanimous for a conquerer. Other times he's just another brutal conquerer. Like his many of the actions in India. Or the killing fest he went on to soothe himself after Hephaistion's death. The important point to make is that all conquest is going to involve bloodshed or at least the threat of violence. Otherwise why would people give in to you? If he hadn't destroyed Thebes, would the other Greek cities have submitted to him? I'm going to go with a strong no...
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Post by Semiramis »

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? Of course you could say that Cyrus was maybe better than Xexes and Darius, but for the Greeks he was just a Persian.
I see where you're coming from but I'm not sure that I agree with this idea about Greek attitudes to Persians/foreigners. Greeks didn't have a problem attributing the founding of Thebes and the Greek alphabet to Cadmus, the son of a Pheonician King. Nor did they bother to hide their admiration for Egyptian religion, including claiming the the Greek gods/goddesses were derived from the Egyptian gods. They spoke highly of Egyptian philosophy, mathematics... Overall there are a lot of instances where Greeks were openly admiring of other Mediterranean cultures, especially ones that were older than theirs.

A lot of the anti-Persian stuff was spoken/written during wars too, let's not forget. Even at the height of hostilities to the Persians, the Athenians didn't have issues with imitating Persian styles - from drinking vessels to architecture. Wasn't the Odeon of Pericles basically a rebuilding a Xerxes' tent, captured as war booty? The story is similar for the the prytaneum at the Athenian agora. What about the similarities between the frieze of the Parthenon in Athens and the relief of the Apadana at Persepolis?

Didn't Alexander himself claim ancestry from Perseus? The Persians were supposed to be descended from him too right? "Sons of Perseus" as Herodotus calls them. If Cyrus was "just another Persian", why bother paying respects to his tomb? Why have a satrap executed for dishonouring his tomb?

My ideas are basically that no culture or empire develops entirely ignorant and uninfluenced by neighbouring cultures and empires. Taking that into account doesn't mean denying their achievement. Iit's just the most likely scenario. :)
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Theseus
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Post by Theseus »

Semiramis wrote:I know what you mean. To me, sometimes he seems unusually magnanimous for a conquerer. Other times he's just another brutal conquerer. Like his many of the actions in India. Or the killing fest he went on to soothe himself after Hephaistion's death. The important point to make is that all conquest is going to involve bloodshed or at least the threat of violence. Otherwise why would people give in to you? If he hadn't destroyed Thebes, would the other Greek cities have submitted to him? I'm going to go with a strong no...
Ahh yes the massacring of the Cossaens...The whole population of males from youth upwards and deemed as a sacrifice to Hephaestion. I doubt he found relief from his grief from this. There had to be fear in order for people to surrender to him without even setting foot on the battle field, so true :wink:
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Post by Semiramis »

I keep telling myself (perhaps naively) that Alexander didn't actually enjoy the killings. That war was only a means to an end. That if he had time, he would've done more constructive things - like building and creating trade ties. That he needed to set examples. That the actions of his army in Babylon or India was something he couldn't really control. They were frustrated, angry men who'd been away from their homes for too long. Out of all his actions, it's the Cosseans and the treatment of Batis, the governor of Gaza, that strike me as gratuitous. Unease about almost everything else I can soothe... :)
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Post by marcus »

Semiramis wrote: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.
I'd need to check what Curtius actually says, but I don't recall that it is even implied that the Babylonian women were raped - more that Babylon was a party town where pretty much anything went ... and that it had been for centuries. Perhaps there is an implication that the women were forced, but I don't remember there being one. Needs further looking into, when I have a moment - maybe later this evening.

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Post by Semiramis »

marcus wrote: I'd need to check what Curtius actually says, but I don't recall that it is even implied that the Babylonian women were raped - more that Babylon was a party town where pretty much anything went ... and that it had been for centuries. Perhaps there is an implication that the women were forced, but I don't remember there being one. Needs further looking into, when I have a moment - maybe later this evening.

ATB
You've summed Curtius up on Babylonian women perfectly. There's no implication in Curtius that the women of Babylon were forced. That was just my reading between the lines. I am not alone in this view! There's an article on livius.org that agrees. :)
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Post by Efstathios »

Semiramis, where should i start with your post?

Ok, surely the Greeks had influences from neighboring civilizations. But all the things that you mentioned, from the Greek alphabet coming from the Phoenician one, to the Greek gods being borrowed by the Egyptians, are specculations or have been proved wrong. For example there are lots of findings,books and essays proving that the Greek alphabet existed long before nthe Phoenician, and that they dont have so many things in common afterall.

http://originofphoenicianalphabet.pbwiki.com/

Also, the olkdest ancient scripture with Greek letters was found at Gioura near Alonisos island, dating to 6.000 b.c.

http://www.e-grammes.gr/article.php?id=4

As for the gods, it is not clear who took from who. The Egyptian civilization was more ancient than the Greek one in the extent that we know. But scriptures like that of Gioura may suggest otherwise.

And the Egyptians did not have philosophy.

But as you said, there was an admiration for some things of foreign neighboring civilizations. But remember what Pausanias the Spartan general did when they entered the royal tent after the battle of Platea. They saw the luxury and the delicious foods, admired them for a while and then brought their own Spartan food consisting of a little bread, some olives e.t.c, and started eating at the tent. :)
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Post by Semiramis »

Efstathios wrote:Semiramis, where should i start with your post?

Ok, surely the Greeks had influences from neighboring civilizations. But all the things that you mentioned, from the Greek alphabet coming from the Phoenician one, to the Greek gods being borrowed by the Egyptians, are specculations or have been proved wrong.
Sorry Efstathios, I'm terrible at making myself clear on forums (newbie alert!). My post wasn't about the origins of the Greek alphabet or religion at all. It was about the fact that the Greeks themselves believed these all had foreign origins. And how one could use that to argue that Alexander wanting to emulate a Persian conqueror and king is a plausible scenario. Basically, just because he was Macedonian, doesn't mean he would dismiss Cyrus out of hand because he's "just another Persian", as you put it.

Now the Greeks may have been completely wrong about their own origins (or very near the truth). But that's immaterial to the debate at hand. :)
Efstathios wrote:And the Egyptians did not have philosophy.


Eck! That's another big call! :) Why were Plato or Pythagoras advised to go to Egypt to learn? Egypt being a highly respected center of learning by the Greeks. Now the Greeks may have been wrong about this one too, but you won't convince me of that. :)
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Post by Paralus »

Stathi, your recent history of website linking, I'd have to say, inspires little confidence. From that which you claim proves the Greeks were writing 6,000 years BC:
This find proves that the classic Greek alphabet is older than the Greek linear alphabets. It also demolishes crushingly and definitely the false theory that Greeks took the alphabet from the Phoenicians, who emerged in history around 1150 BC, i.e. 4500-5000 years after the creation of the Yura written potsherd.
"Demolishes crushingly"; "the false theory"; "Greeks took".

All very calm and controlled scientific language? I think not. More like a person/publication with a point to push and an axe to grind. The again, it does mention the archaeolgist (in bold) in question:
A.Sampson makes no other menthion of the tremendously imprortant discovered Yura potsherds, but confines himself to the description of the fishing activities at the Sporades area during the Neolithic era. The reference material, which he mentions, includes photographs of other finds (fish-hooks, statuettes, decorated pots) from the excavation in question, but not one of the written potsherds.
That might be because, unlike the website and those pointing to it, he is just that little bit more reserved? Never mind the site goes on:
These tremendously important finds justify the historic and linguistic view of the simultaneous creation and evolution of the Greek language and Greek alphabet and render beneath significance and importance .
These finds being the potsherds still to be found. And "the Phoenician theory for the History of Civilization". Wow! I wasn't aware the Phoenicians were responsible for civilisation as we know it. That's a big axe and and even bigger grinder!

Greeks writing in an alphabet unchanged from the classical period 6,000 BC and four thousand years before the fertile crescent cultures invented writing? I think I will take some serious convincing. And, more than a chest-thumping, flag-waving Hellenic website methinks!
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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 smittysmitty »

Is there an agenda here Efthasio ?

LoL, only kidding!

cheers! keep up the good work - very entertaining.


Semiramis, welcome to Pothos - I enjoy reading your posts. :) I find myself agreeing with many points you make and I have always believed the Argeads attempted to emulate the Achaemenids.
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Post by Efstathios »

Semiramis:

I just took the advantage of writing a line or two about the things you mentioned, i know your purpose of the post wasnt about the origins of the Greek Alphabet e.t.c.

Also, i said in an earlier post that Alexander didnt have Cyrus at the same level as Achillees. Not that he didnt admire him. And i also said that the Greeks generally, and especially these that lived at the era of the Persian wars, and fought in them, didnt think much of any Persian. And ok, as for not to be absolute, maybe there were people that admired Cyrus even then. But surely the common soldier that fought in Marathon, Thermopyles, Platea, e.t.c. wouldnt say the same thing.

Michael:

One problem with the net, is that you cant find everything that you want to. In the specific matter with a quick search, the only link that i could find was indeed that from a Greek website. And there others too if you google it, and they are even more not so scientific. I first read it on a paper though. And i think it is natural that most of the resources would be included in Greek websites, and many of them wouldnt even have an English translation. Because the excavation there was made by Greek archaiologists. And if someone, the main archaiologist for example, would write a book about it, it would have to be published outside of Greece also, something that doesnt always happen, in order to find information about it on the net, in English websites.

One big source of information are the yearly editions of the Greek archaiological bulletin, a big book, that i have access to due to my work, and it's in English too. But i dont think you could find these books on the net. Some days ago i was searching for information on the net for a very specific matter, about the eleusinean mysteries and ritual, for which i have a book that has a lot of information, but couldnt find anything similar on the net. For some things the resources are yet limited on the internet.

The only solution would be to scan pages from books e.t.c. And those books that are in English too, otherwise you couldnt understand much from a Greek only book.

You see, you are right about doubting the souce of information from websites like this, but it's the only links i could provide right now. I think i'll get myself a scanner, now that they are cheaper.

P.S smitty, i am glad you find it entertaining.
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Theseus
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Post by Theseus »

And the Egyptians did not have philosophy.



The preists were to the Egyptians what the philosophers were to the Greeks. Even Solon went to Egypt to converse with some of their priest.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
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Post by Efstathios »

The priests were to the Egyptians what the philosophers were to the Greeks. Even Solon went to Egypt to converse with some of their priest.
You are making a parallelism. The Egyptian priests were keepers of knowlledge. As some of the Greek priests were also. Philosophy by definition at ancient Greece was the making of questions about life, nature, e.t.c, and in some occassions answering them. It was unconditional, and that is why some philosophers in Greece were hunted by the priests, and the establishment. Alike, priests in ancient Egypt could not practise philosophy in that extent.

But because the ancient Greeks had expanded the term philosophy as to be used ιn other occassions too, like "το λακωνιζειν εστιν φιλοσοφειν"= to live like they do in Laconia (Sparta in general) is like to philosophize, you can say that some things were like philosophy. Plutarch even said that Alexander practised philosophy with the way he had done the campaign. So in that manner, the Egyptian priests could have philosophized, as in their way of life, and researches on the knowledge they had.

Solon though went to Egypt to seek knowledge. The Egyptians had a big amount of written and oral knowledge recorded, which went back thousands of years.
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Post by Paralus »

Efstathios wrote:The Egyptians had a big amount of written and oral knowledge recorded, which went back thousands of years.
No doubt translated from the original Greek?
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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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