Am in agreement with you here, except that I don't believe there’s much in the way of "danger" in making such comparisons – it’s more an issue of "what’s the point?"marcus wrote:All very true; but that wasn't really my point. Although this was not what Kenny was saying (I think), there is a great danger that people will read a comparison with Octavian/Augustus and say "Oh, so Alexander was not as bad as Octavian, because he didn't kill Demosthenes"; when (i) everything was very different, and (ii) Alexander was responsible for the deaths of far many more people than Octavian ever was. That doesn't mean that Alexander was particularly bad, or that he was particularly good - it's just a useless comparison to make.
More to the point was my other example - who was worse, Hitler or Stalin?
I don't think there's any disagreement here; I was merely pointing out the dangers of comparisons, and how they might be perceived.
Now, I can see the logic in making comparisons within Alexander's own time frame – comparisons between Alexander and Philip (which are rarely done); between Alexander and other conquerors of Persia; between Alexander and those Greeks in power on the mainland; even between Alexander and his heroes and gods. Each of these may tell us something about the way Alexander thought and may give us insight into what made him exceptional in his own time. For instance, John Maxwell O'Brien says that Alexander's attitudes towards women and animals was exceptional for the times. However, there would be no point in comparing these attitudes with those of a different period. The same applies to comparing Alexander to various Romans, or Napoleon, or even Hitler, as has unfortunately been done by an academic I shall not name. For a start, two different individuals from two different cultures and time frames cannot be compared in isolation, yet an in-depth analysis of social and cultural influences on each person would tell us as much about the societies as it would about the men. And when one ends up with a better than or worse than conclusion we're still no closer to understanding what made Alexander tick. All that it can really tell us is perhaps why so many people are drawn to Alexander in that in their comparisons they usually fail to come up with a better warrior/conqueror. I don't object to such comparisons, by the way. They simply don’t interest me.
There shouldn't BE any debate as to whether he was short compared to a present day person. What would be the point? The sources are very clear that Alexander was (a) shorter than Hephaistion; (b) shorter than the Persian king; (c) of moderate size. And both the Scythians and the Amazons (!) are recorded as perceiving Alexander's stature as less than expected. I think it's safe to conclude from this that Alexander's height did not excel those around him.alejandro wrote:Consider the "Alexander was short" debate. Was he short compared to a present-day person? One of his own time? If the latter, should we compare him to other Greeks or other Macedonians (assumed to have been taller than the Greeks)? After all, what is behind a concept as “short”? You may say, “he was so-and-so meters high, and that is a fact: numbers don’t lie” (assuming you knew exactly how tall A was). But then, you’re still comparing his height to something else: that iridium-platinum bar kept under special conditions in Paris (or the foot/arm of a living/dead king/queen if using the English system).
What we would need to know is the average height of Greeks/Macedonians before we might come to an understanding as to Alexander's stature. Yes, it's still necessary to use comparisons, but only in considering information given in the sources. If we knew for certain the average height of various peoples within Alexander's own time and culture we might be able to reach a conclusion. It would, however, be impossible and futile to compare Alexander's height with those of people today - or of any other period for that matter.