Podcast on Alexander and fusion

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Hetairos (companion)
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Podcast on Alexander and fusion

Post by Alexias »

BBC Radio 3 - Arts & Ideas, New Generation Thinkers: Alexander and the Persians by Juiia Hartley

This is a slightly silly podcast (the link actually doesn't seem to work, you have to download it to listen to it), that uses fiction to illustrate Alexander's policy of fusion between the Persians and Macedonians. Mary Renault's The Persian Boy demonstrates that '"it is love that best allows us to move beyond our differences and see the world through the eyes of another". Because Alexander cannot have a child with Bagoas, he attributes the Epigoni (the 30,000 successors) to his influence.

The podcast states that these young soldiers were 'the abandoned children of Macedonian men and local women, most the victims of rape'. So, someone was keeping tabs on all the women that the Macedonians raped, and if they had a boy, keeping track of them, and then rounding up 30,000 boys all under the age of 13 and putting them in Alexander's army. She is confusing the Epigoni with the children and wives left behind by the 10,000 veterans returning to Macedonia with Craterus.

These women and children Alexander ordered to be left behind, they weren't abandoned. promising to bring them up in Macedonian fashion, lest their presence back home create divisions in Macedonia (Arrian Ch. 12). This happened at Opis, after the 30,000 Epigoni had joined the army at Susa, and the presence of these new soldiers was said to have vexed the Macedonians, contributing to the mutiny at Opis. The Epigoni were Persians, 'youths just growing to manhood', from the territories conquered by Alexander and the cities founded in those territories by Alexander (Arrian Ch. 7). The point was that they were not half-Macedonian.

The Epigoni are completely separate from the 20,000 Persians, '"as well as many Cossaeans and Tapurians'", brought to Babylon by Peucestas shortly before Alexander's death. There also arrived an army from Caria, one from Lydia, and further cavalry. Ignoring these extra troops, these 50,000 plus Persian troops caused Alexander to initiate a major reorganisation of his army (Arrian Ch. 23). There were to be units of 16 men, 12 Persians and 4 higher-paid Macedonians. If you just count the Persians, and do a bit of rudimentary arithmetic, that would look like Alexander only had about 16,500 Macedonians left. Presumably we are only talking about infantry as Arrian doesn't split out the cavalry.

It is small wonder that the Macedonians must have begun to feel threatened and overwhelmed. Their cohesiveness and identity as a unit was dissipated and there may have been questions about how effective such units would be. The Persians might have felt like they were being treated as cannon fodder, the most expendable part of the army. It would be interesting to know if any of these army reforms were carried out after Alexander's death, or whether they were just quietly discarded.

It does make you wonder if there was a conspiracy of neglect or even a 'malicious acceleration' (Bosworth) of Alexander's final illness. It is convenient to see the Macedonians wanting a full stop at this point before the Arabian campaign began, or is that trying to see a pattern with hindsight where none existed?
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