Is this Alexander?

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amyntoros
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Is this Alexander?

Post by amyntoros »

I know we have members on the forum that will recognize the source of the following. But tell me, if you were unaware of who is being described below, don’t you think it could be some ancient, romantic account of Alexander?
... a man the kingliest and most worthy to rule, according to the concurrent testimony of all who are reputed to have known him intimately ... when still a boy, his unrivalled excellence was recognized …he was held to be a paragon of modesty among his fellows … and next he bore away the palm for skill in horsemanship and for love of the animal itself. ... nothing was more noticeable in his conduct than the importance which he attached to the faithful fulfillment of every treaty or compact or undertaking entered into with others. ... He made no secret of his endeavour to outdo his friends and his foes alike in reciprocity of conduct. ... no one, at least in our days, ever drew together so ardent a following of friends, eager to lay at his feet their money, their cities, their own lives and persons; nor is it to be inferred from this that he suffered the malefactor and the wrongdoer to laugh him to scorn; on the contrary, these he punished most unflinchingly ... However, as all allowed, it was for the brave in war that he reserved especial honour … Being himself at the head of an expedition into those territories, he could observe those who voluntarily encountered risks; these he made rulers of the territory which he subjected, and afterwards honoured them with other gifts. ... So again, wherever he might discover any one ready to distinguish himself in the service of uprightness, his delight was to make this man richer than those who seek for gain by unfair means. On the same principle, his own administration was in all respects uprightly conducted, and, in particular, he secured the services of an army worthy of the name. ... if he saw any skilful and just steward who furnished well the country over which he ruled, and created revenues, so far from robbing him at any time, to him who had, he delighted to give more. ... Towards the friends he had made, whose kindliness he knew, or whose fitness as fellow-workers with himself, in aught which he might wish to carry out, he had tested, he showed himself in turn an adept in the arts of courtesy. Just in proportion as he felt the need of this friend or that to help him, so he tried to help each of them in return in whatever seemed to be their heart's desire.
There are historical parallels as well, but I’ll leave them for later. :)

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Post by athenas owl »

*raises hand high in the the air in an excited manner* "I know, I know!!!!" Though when I read this the words parfait knight always come to mind. But that's another discussion.

It does indeed sound like a romantic version of Alexander...
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Post by karen »

I didn't know who it was describing, so I cheated with Google.

But before I did that, yes, I did notice a lot of parallels with Alexander. The big differences being the lack of the usual mentions of vanity, overambition, drink, taking on the ways of the barbarians, etc. that you get with potted descriptions of Alexander. You also usually don't see so much emphasis on honesty and integrity in dealings... of course Alexander tended not to make treaties but just to smash through every disagreement through force, so there were fewer tests of his integrity.

If this gentleman had a bad side, this author didn't notice it.

I won't give it away.

Warmly,
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Post by athenas owl »

karen wrote:I didn't know who it was describing, so I cheated with Google.

But before I did that, yes, I did notice a lot of parallels with Alexander. The big differences being the lack of the usual mentions of vanity, overambition, drink, taking on the ways of the barbarians, etc. that you get with potted descriptions of Alexander. You also usually don't see so much emphasis on honesty and integrity in dealings... of course Alexander tended not to make treaties but just to smash through every disagreement through force, so there were fewer tests of his integrity.

If this gentleman had a bad side, this author didn't notice it.

I won't give it away.

Warmly,
Karen
Though in Alexander's defense....if you didn't go back on your deal, he didn't either. But if you did you were dead meat, you and your little territory...Thebes found that out. As did a number of Indian cities and more than a few Satraps. Live up to your end of a bargain and he was fine.

Though, not in his defense, he was spectacularily punishing when you made him angry...except for Athens. That city was fortunate that the barbarian Macedonians didn't raze it to the ground on more than one occassion.
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Post by amyntoros »

karen wrote:If this gentleman had a bad side, this author didn't notice it.
Well, the author is praising the person after his recent death in battle, so one can understand the appearance of a little bias. :wink:
I won't give it away.
I won't mind when someone does because it then opens up the debate to questions of emulation on the part of Alexander. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to extract the above information and see if others found the resemblance as striking. I already of knew of similarities and parallels between Alexander's story and the biography of this person, but this is a different book from the same author.

I was, by the way, looking for references to the kopis when I found this piece! :)

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Post by Paralus »

karen wrote:You also usually don't see so much emphasis on honesty and integrity in dealings... of course Alexander tended not to make treaties but just to smash through every disagreement through force, so there were fewer tests of his integrity.
Alexander aside, this fellow had the opportunity for the one "treaty" that we know of and he fulfilled that utterly. The beneficiaries of the largesse that accompanied said agreement (rather against the wishes of his senior) are a particular favourite of the eulogiser.

That this most kingly of fellows arranged this largesse is well attested, as is his quid pro quo which followed not too far after.

For the drinking and vanity aspects well, these people were “well known” for their vanity, near sacrilegious appetites for wine, food and the trappings of luxury, etc.

This bloke (and one or two of his officers) was the, supposed, exception.

It is a saccharine eulogy though isn’t it? I've a better one.....
Our brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw our navy broke and tried to fund it, saw our defeat and tried to reverse it, saw the war and tried to win it.

Those of us who loved him and who take his pay today as we did yesterday, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for our nation will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this empire, to those he supported and who sought to support him:

"Some men see the King enthroned and say why.
I dream a King that never was and say why not."
Paralus
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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dario

Post by dario »

it could be cyrus the great , alexander admired his policies and asked the persians much about his. remember the ambasadors from persia.
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The comparisons

Post by sikander »

Greetings,

If I am guessing correctly, yes, there are parallels, but that would not be surprising. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery; more important, emulation of the best is a time-tested method to reach for something higher and better in oneself...

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Re: The comparisons

Post by amyntoros »

dario wrote:it could be cyrus the great , alexander admired his policies and asked the persians much about his. remember the ambasadors from persia.
Yes, it is Cyrus. :wink:
sikander wrote:If I am guessing correctly, yes, there are parallels, but that would not be surprising. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery; more important, emulation of the best is a time-tested method to reach for something higher and better in oneself...
Absolutely! What strikes me though, even more than the extent of the emulation, is how rarely Cyrus is discussed in relation to Alexander. Most scholars seem not to be particularly interested. However, John Maxwell O’Brien in Alexander the Great: The Invisible Enemy (51-52) treats the subject in some depth:
Alexander knew his Xenophon, and seems to have been particularly influenced by the Cyropaedia, a fictionalized and laudatory account of the life of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire. This work, written by an intelligent and pragmatic Athenian aristocrat catalogues the virtues of an ideal leader, while addressing the questions of authority and imperial governance. Simon Hornblower points out that the theory of kingship found in this work, wherein a ruler earns his right to govern through his own exertions (philoponia, askesis) as a glorious servant of his people, has its model in Heracles.

The Cyropaedia contains an imaginary conversation in which Xenophon has Cyrus tell his father Cambyses, “that the ruler ought to surpass those under his rule not in self-indulgence, but in taking forethought and willingly undergoing toil.” Cambyses advises Cyrus that nothing is more important for a leader than winning the affection of his men, and this can be accomplished by sharing in their happiness, sorrow, pleasure, and pain. In war, Cambyses tells Cyrus, “if they (the campaigns) fall in the summer time, the general must show that he can endure the heat of the sun better than his soldiers can, and that he can endure cold better than they if it be in winter; if the way lead through difficulties, that he can endure hardships better. All this contributes to his being loved by his men.”

Xenophon’s Cyrus is a prototype of the ideal ruler, and Alexander was, as Strabo says, “a lover of Cyrus” (11.11.4). To Xenophon the Persian monarch is an intrepid conqueror who consistently displays courage and a military inventiveness that confounds the enemy. He keeps his troops on the march as much as possible, and sponsors competitive games when they are stationary. These games encourage an esprit de corps, advocate fitness, and cultivate a benign paternal image for the ruler who doles out rewards for excellence. He constantly monitors their health, morale, and discipline. He must learn “from the gods by the soothsayer’s art,” which will give him a special wisdom that is respected by his subjects.” “For people are only to glad to obey the man who they believe takes wiser thought for their interests than they themselves do.”

Image is of the utmost importance, and appearance is sometimes more important than reality. We seem to learn from Cyrus, Xenophon says, that it is necessary for a successful ruler “to excel his subjects not only in point of being actually better than they, but that he ought also to cast a sort of spell upon them.” Cyrus may have had this in mind, Xenophon infers, when he adopted the Median dress “and persuaded his associates also to adopt it; for he thought that it any one had any personal defect that dress would help to conceal it, and that it made the wearer look very tall and handsome …”
I have doubts that Alexander adopted the Persian royal robe for the above reasons, especially because he did not wear the full Persian dress. I think it more a politic move on his part, albeit one of which his Macedonians did not approve. As for the rest, once again we could be talking about Alexander! :) There are even more similarities which I will take directly from the histories (and I'm curious as to whether members think that Alexander's biographers sought out these events to make the parallels with Cyrus more obvious), but I’ll leave them for a later post so that this one does not become too unwieldy.

Best regards,
Amyntoros

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Re: The comparisons

Post by marcus »

amyntoros wrote:Yes, it is Cyrus. :wink:
Well, I was about to Google it because I couldn't be bothered to try and work it out - but I have to pat myself on the back when I say (truthfully) that I did think it was probably Cyrus.

Hoorah for me! :D

ATB

Marcus

PS: Lovely to be back with good ol' Pothos, after a long, enforced and utterly miserable absence from all things Webby ...
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Lamb's book on Cyrus

Post by jan »

made me like him too, and then I found a statement on the web that said he slapped a friend in the face! Aha! A mean, nasty side of Cyrus! Leave it to the web to burst one's bubble!
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Post by Paralus »

Righto you brave Trivial Pursuiters......Which Cyrus?

I've given mine up with the little gee-up Kennedy eulogy and other remaks.

On the notion of Alexander and Xenophon (Anab. 3.2.39):
Whoever wants to keep alive must aim at victory. It is the winners who do the killing and the losers who get killed. And those who want money must try to win battles.The winners can not only keep what they have themselves, but can take what belongs to the losers.
So sayeth Alexander....or Xenophon. And, for good measure, followed by Eumenes in 316 at Gabiene. Seems there's nothing new under an Iraqi or Iranian sun.
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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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Post by amyntoros »

Well, as I recently said on another thread, the quotes I gave are on Cyrus the Younger, although John Maxwell O'Brien's words (above) are about Cyrus the Great. Here are the parallels I promised between Alexander's histories and Xenophon's Anabasis, Chapter One (on Cyrus the Younger).
Xenophon, Anabasis 1.4 As they forded, never a man was wetted above the chest: nor ever until this moment, said the men of Thapascus, had the river been so crossed on foot, boats had always been required; but these, at the present time, Abrocomas, in his desire to hinder Cyrus from crossing, had been at pains to burn. Thus the passage was looked upon as a thing miraculous; the river had manifestly retired before the face of Cyrus, like a courtier bowing to his future king.

Plutarch, Alexander 17.6 His rapid passage along the coasts of Pamphylia has afforded many historians material for bombastic and terrifying description. They imply that by some great and heaven-sent good fortune the sea retired to make way for Alexander, although at other times it always came rolling in with violence from the main, and scarcely ever revealed to sight the small rocks which lie close up under the precipitous and riven sides of the mountain.

Xenophon, Anabasis 1.5 On the opposite side of the Euphrates to the point reached on one of these desert stages, was a large and flourishing city named Charmande. From this town the soldiers made purchases of provisions, crossing the river on rafts, in the following fashion: They took the skins which they used as tent coverings, and filled them with light grass; they then compressed and stitched them tightly together by the ends, so that the water might not touch the hay.

Arrian, Anabasis 1.3.6 He himself embarked in the fleet; he filled the leather tent covers with hay …

Arrian, Anabasis 5.9.3 His boats sailing in this and that direction, the filling with chaff of the rafts made of skins …
Xenophon, Anabasis 1.8 The enemy's chariots, reft of their charioteers, swept onwards, some through the enemy themselves, others past the Hellenes. They, as they saw them coming, opened a gap and let them pass.

Arrian, Anabasis 3.13.5-6 At this point the Persians launched their scythe-carrying chariots direct against Alexander, to throw his line out of formation; but in this they were significantly disappointed. . . . Some did pass right through the Greek lines, which, as they had been ordered, parted where the chariots attacked; this was the main reason why the chariots passed through unscathed and the troops against them which were launched were unharmed.

Xenophon, Anabasis 1.9 Frequently when he had tasted some specially excellent wine, he would send the half remaining flagon to some friend with a message to say: "Cyrus says, this is the best wine he has tasted for a long time, that is his excuse for sending it to you ..." Or, perhaps, he would send the remainder of a dish of geese, half loaves of bread, and so forth, the bearer being instructed to say: "This is Cyrus's favourite dish, he hopes you will taste it yourself."

Plutarch, Alexander 23.9 In the matter of delicacies, too, he himself, at all events, was master of his appetite, so that often, when the rarest fruits or fish were brought to him from the sea-coast, he would distribute them to each of his companions until he was the only one for whom nothing remained.
Can any conclusions be drawn from the above? Well, the military matters of chaff-filled skins and opening the ranks to allow Persian chariots to pass through are an indication that Alexander certainly knew his Xenophon, methinks. But what of the other apparent "evidence" of emulation? We know that Alexander was an admirer of Cyrus the Great, however, the above excerpts are on Cyrus the Younger. So, is it an admiration of these two Persians, or simply Xenophon's "ideal of statesmanship and virtue personified" which inspired Alexander, as Callisto said in a recent thread? And was it personal emulation on Alexander's part, or was it his intent that it should be noted and recorded by historians? I.e., could there have been collusion between Alexander and his court reporters as to what was recorded? Or could those who wrote the primary sources have been innocently unaware of the parallels? Is that even likely? For instance, Plutarch accuses ancient historians of giving a bombastic and terrifying description when they describe the events at Pamphylia as great and heaven-sent good fortune, yet Xenophon describes a similar event with Cyrus as being looked upon as a thing miraculous. And what about the "sharing" of food with Alexander's friends? I always wondered why this little story was even included in the histories. Yes, it shows generosity, but it isn't as if Alexander would have gone hungry after giving away the delicacies, so why, of all examples of Alexander's generosity, is this little item recorded? Then I see this similar story in Xenophon!

It’s a rather curious situation, especially as the extant sources make comparatively little reference to Alexander's evident admiration of Cyrus the Great (see O'Brien's piece above) and there's even less (that I know of) regarding his knowledge of Xenophon.

Best regards

Amyntoros
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P.S. I didn't include a reference to Cyrus the Younger having had intimate relationships with a visiting queen "if the report speaks truly." Couldn't help thinking of those reports of Alexander and Cleophis, but thought I might be stretching the comparison a bit too much. :wink:
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Post by Semiramis »

I'm just copy pasting this from another thread because it's kind of relevant.

"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 Younger, thanks Paralus ;)]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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Post by Alita »

The Persian culture was way more advanced than the Greek. In fact, cultures deteriorate over time and not vice versa. Just as the British admire the Romans and the Romans admired the Greeks, likewise the Greeks admired the Persians, just as the Persians admired the Babylonians and the Babylonians the Assyrians. There has been way too much said about the Greeks over the years and next to nothing about the Persians. Why?
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