Did Alexander give too much?

This moderated forum is for discussion of Alexander the Great. Inappropriate posts will be deleted without warning. Examples of inappropriate posts are:
* The Greek/Macedonian debate
* Blatant requests for pre-written assignments by lazy students - we don't mind the subtle ones ;-)
* Foul or inappropriate language

Moderator: pothos moderators

User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Did Alexander give too much?

Post by Theseus »

I wanted to see if we could discuss something that sticks in my mind about Alexander.

His Mother had told him that he gives too much to his men and that there wouldn't be anything left for himself. Do you think by giving so much to his men that this may have been part of why his men refused to continue following him? Yes I know they were tired of fighting after all those years but they had a lot of material things to lose if they died in battle. They wouldn't have been able to enjoy those things. Alexander seemed to be very gracious/generous to his men and others as well.
I also find it so amazing that when his men did without in the desert so did he. This to me says so much about his character.
Alita
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 62
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2007 2:15 pm

Post by Alita »

Alexander was generous and kind. He always preferred to give too much, rather than too little. His men loved him for this reason and that's why they were willing to do almost anything for him. In fact, the only thing the Macedonians loved more than Alexander was their country. This quality persists to this day.
First, be human.
User avatar
Vergina Sun
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 131
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 2:24 pm
Location: USA

Post by Vergina Sun »

Giving was in Alexander's nature. He had no need for luxaries and pleasures. I don't think he gave away too much. Instead, this giving away might have caused the army to love him more. I enjoy your theory about the men refusing to go on because of such riches. I can certainly see some of the men wish to go back to their riches. Then again, if I were in Alexander's army, I suppose I would care less about my gold and more about my home and family. There are many who would want the money above all though. All in all however, I don't think it was Alexander's downfall to give away.
User avatar
Paralus
Strategos (general)
Posts: 2846
Joined: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:13 am
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Did Alexander give too much?

Post by Paralus »

Theseus wrote: Do you think by giving so much to his men that this may have been part of why his men refused to continue following him?
Let me think.

No.

To give you must first take. Alexander took much. His army took much. Whatever Alexander "gave" his men was the merest pittance compared to the the riches piled in the treasuries of empire: Cynida and Susa prime among them. Cyinda supplied Monophthalmos with some 10,000 talents in 315. This after the area had seen six years of war and its funding.

However generous Alexander may have been to his men, he was far more generous to the future funding of his army and his empire.
Last edited by Paralus on Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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.

Academia.edu
Semiramis
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:24 am

Post by Semiramis »

I guess the term generous implies that he was the rightful owner of the wealth he gave to others. I'm not 100% on this part. Macedonia was most likely bankrupt when Alexander left for Persia. But as we all know, he did a good job of getting hold of the Achaemenid treasury.

Going further back, where did the wealth in that treasury come from? We can guess the Achaemenid taxing/tribute practices were unpopular in the richest regions - such as Egypt and Babylon - from the periodic revolts. Xerxes' invasion plans for the Peloponnese were delayed when Egypt revolted against having to pay for it. So, it seems there was a system of taxing the sons of the soil to fill up the treasury and feed an army that conquers more land to gather the wealth from those places. I'm not sure Alexander changed this part of the system in any significant way.

Well... at least we've left those days behind. :roll:
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Vergina Sun wrote:Giving was in Alexander's nature. He had no need for luxaries and pleasures. I don't think he gave away too much. Instead, this giving away might have caused the army to love him more. I enjoy your theory about the men refusing to go on because of such riches. I can certainly see some of the men wish to go back to their riches. Then again, if I were in Alexander's army, I suppose I would care less about my gold and more about my home and family. There are many who would want the money above all though. All in all however, I don't think it was Alexander's downfall to give away.
I am sure it was different for every man. Some were tired of fighting and wanted to just be home with their families and others wanted to enjoy the riches. He was very giving. I remember when I read about how he was offered food and drink when they were in the dessert(there was very little left near the end) but since his men had to do without he would as well. Some may say this was propaganda written about Alexander but there are other instances of this part of his nature as well. He sent food to his companions such as fruit and fish, but didn't taste it himself.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Re: Did Alexander give too much?

Post by Theseus »

Paralus wrote:
Theseus wrote: Do you think by giving so much to his men that this may have been part of why his men refused to continue following him?
Let me think.

No.

To give you must first take. Alexander took much. His army took much. Whatever Alexander "gave" his men was the merest pittance compared the the riches piled in the treasuries of empire: Cynida and Susa prime among them. Cyinda supplied Monophthalmos with some 10,000 talents in 315. This after the area had seen six years of war and its funding.

However generous Alexander may have been to his men, he was far more generous to the future funding of his army and his empire.
Very interesting information. The funding that was needed for his "vision"/conquests were very costly indeed.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
derek
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 125
Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2005 3:47 pm
Location: Rhode Island USA

Post by derek »

Can't say I agree with the statement that Alexander was generous. Yes, we know he rewarded his senior officers with material wealth, because Plutarch says he complained they were getting soft from so much fine living. And yes, he continually gave enemy satraps their titles and privileges back, but we can see that as part of a strategy to pacify the vanquished. And yes, demob payments to his troops were quite generous, but then those doubled as lump-sum pension payouts.

The only instance I know of where it states he gave to the serving rank-and-file was at Opis, when he paid off their debts. And then, consider the circumstances. His men had served him for ten years, and they're in debt! So much for Alexander's generosity. They probably got paid regularly once he'd captured the Persian treasury, and they may frequently have been given the go-ahead to loot a city (the admin quarters at Persepolis spring to mind), but that's all. There's nothing I've read that indicates Alexander was overly generous.

Derek
User avatar
Efstathios
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 759
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2005 7:08 pm
Location: Athens,Greece

Post by Efstathios »

When you are feeding a dog lets say, arent you doing it for keeping it happy and not starving, and for the dog to be also happy with you?

Well, that's an action that has 2 objectives, and maybe more, that are connected. When you do something, something else also derrives from it. Same thing goes with Alexander. What he did had some results. Did he give to his men to just keep them happy, or he gave because he was generous, and also keeping them happy? By doing the one, he also got the other. Of course there is the occassion in which he could have only given to keep them happy enough as to follow him. But i think what we get for his character from the sources tells us that he was also generous. So the first condition should apply here. He gave them things because he was generous and in the same time he kept them happy. That doesnt make him just calculative. I think he was calculative enough in order to be a king. And that's that.

His decision of not going any further in India shows us that some things were not done by calculation.
User avatar
marcus
Somatophylax
Posts: 4764
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:27 am
Location: Nottingham, England

Post by marcus »

Semiramis wrote:Going further back, where did the wealth in that treasury come from? We can guess the Achaemenid taxing/tribute practices were unpopular in the richest regions - such as Egypt and Babylon - from the periodic revolts. Xerxes' invasion plans for the Peloponnese were delayed when Egypt revolted against having to pay for it. So, it seems there was a system of taxing the sons of the soil to fill up the treasury and feed an army that conquers more land to gather the wealth from those places. I'm not sure Alexander changed this part of the system in any significant way.

Well... at least we've left those days behind. :roll:
I was about to question your grasp on reality ... until I read your last sentence! :D

Were the revolts in Egypt and Babylon over taxation? (I really don't know, and don't have time to go and check.) Or was it taxation without representation? :wink:

ATB
Marcus
Sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago
At Amazon US
At Amazon UK
Semiramis
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:24 am

Post by Semiramis »

marcus wrote:I was about to question your grasp on reality ... until I read your last sentence! :D
Ouch! :shock: Why? What is it about that paragraph minus the last sentence that is divorced from reality? :)
marcus wrote: Were the revolts in Egypt and Babylon over taxation? (I really don't know, and don't have time to go and check.) Or was it taxation without representation? :wink:
There were at least two Egyptian revolts. The one I was referring to happened just before the Greco-Persian wars. I read somewhere (too long ago) that Xerxes, in order to finance the expedition to Greece, increased the taxation in Egypt, which led to a revolt. This in turn led to Xerxes having to spend a decent amount of time repressing the Egyptian revolt before he could start with the Greeks. Now the problem with finding a good reference for you is that most of the times, when we come across a piece of Persian/Egypian/Babylonian history in our Anglophonic world, it's usually because it's somehow relevant to a story concerning the Greeks. In this case, the revolt was only mentioned in passing because it delayed the Greek expedition.

The Babylonian revolt, I again came across as part of Greek history. More specifically, a saga of how respectful Alexander was to local religion compared to previous rulers. The story mentions that Xerxes melted the gold statue of Bel-Marduk in Babylon as punishment for a revolt while Alexander did no such thing. I don't think the story mentioned Alexander's treatment of Zoroastrians... ;) Again, details regarding the motivation for said revolt were absent. Wikipedia (finally! a reference... questionable as it may be) tells me Babylon declined under over-taxation under Darius III. But the fact still remains, these were (are still) rich, fertile regions with heavy taxation burden to sustain the empire. And they were prone to periodic revolts.

Hope someone else on the forum can illuminate you better on this. :)
User avatar
amyntoros
Somatophylax
Posts: 2188
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 1:51 pm
Location: New York City

Post by amyntoros »

Semiramis wrote:Going further back, where did the wealth in that treasury come from? We can guess the Achaemenid taxing/tribute practices were unpopular in the richest regions - such as Egypt and Babylon - from the periodic revolts. Xerxes' invasion plans for the Peloponnese were delayed when Egypt revolted against having to pay for it. So, it seems there was a system of taxing the sons of the soil to fill up the treasury and feed an army that conquers more land to gather the wealth from those places. I'm not sure Alexander changed this part of the system in any significant way.
’m currently operating on an archaic computer (mine is deceased) so this will be brief and without source references, I’m afraid.

I don't believe that the Persians before Alexander had a standing army the size of Alexander's; i.e, the vast majority of Persian forces were "called up" when needed, although there were, of course, many mercenary forces under Persian pay. Anyway ... my recollection is that it is attested throughout the sources that Alexander changed nothing regarding the system of taxation throughout the Persian empire. Even when Alexander returned "autonomy” to the Greek cities on the east coast they were instructed that the “tribute” formally paid to the Persian king was to be given to Alexander instead. And Macedonians were also left behind when Persians were given positions as Satraps. These Macedonians were appointed in charge of finances to ensure that any tax collected went to its rightful owner, Alexander. He didn’t change the financial order, but simply continued the old Persian tradition and this applied to Egypt also. :)

Best regards,
Amyntoros

Pothos Lunch Room Monitor
User avatar
marcus
Somatophylax
Posts: 4764
Joined: Fri Aug 16, 2002 6:27 am
Location: Nottingham, England

Post by marcus »

Semiramis wrote:
marcus wrote:I was about to question your grasp on reality ... until I read your last sentence! :D
Ouch! :shock: Why? What is it about that paragraph minus the last sentence that is divorced from reality? :)
Hmm, not sure why I wrote that, to be honest. I've just re-read your original post and I don't think I read it properly the first time. Apologies for the slur, which I think was unjustified.
Semiramis wrote: There were at least two Egyptian revolts. The one I was referring to happened just before the Greco-Persian wars. I read somewhere (too long ago) that Xerxes, in order to finance the expedition to Greece, increased the taxation in Egypt, which led to a revolt. This in turn led to Xerxes having to spend a decent amount of time repressing the Egyptian revolt before he could start with the Greeks.
Ah, so the Egyptian revolt was because of a change in the taxation system, rather than a revolt over the normal level.
Semiramis wrote:The Babylonian revolt, I again came across as part of Greek history. More specifically, a saga of how respectful Alexander was to local religion compared to previous rulers. The story mentions that Xerxes melted the gold statue of Bel-Marduk in Babylon as punishment for a revolt while Alexander did no such thing. I don't think the story mentioned Alexander's treatment of Zoroastrians... ;) Again, details regarding the motivation for said revolt were absent. Wikipedia (finally! a reference... questionable as it may be) tells me Babylon declined under over-taxation under Darius III. But the fact still remains, these were (are still) rich, fertile regions with heavy taxation burden to sustain the empire. And they were prone to periodic revolts.
The reasons why I'm doubtful about the Wiki reference is that Darius only came to the throne a short while before Alexander, and therefore hardly had a long time in which to grind down Babylon. The over-taxation was no doubt in order to finance Darius' attempts to defend his empire from the Macedonian incursion - and there was no revolt in Babylon during Darius' reign. I'm not convinced that the earlier revolts were (all) as a result of taxation - I can think of at least one occasion when Babylon revolted because its governor was the eldest son (or brother) of whichever king it was, and it was he who revolted ... Babylon having little option but to follow him. When he was defeated ... into the fire goes Marduk!

All in all, I'm not convinced that the Achaemenid taxation levels were particularly onerous; and when they were it was because the king was responding to a need for money to protect the empire.

ATB
Marcus
Sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago
At Amazon US
At Amazon UK
User avatar
Theseus
Pezhetairos (foot soldier)
Posts: 214
Joined: Sun Jul 15, 2007 8:58 pm
Location: USA

Post by Theseus »

Semiramis, I hope I can help with this as I am reading about Themistocles and it has mention of Xerxes in it and I do recall something about the revolt you are talking about. You will have to bare with me as I am getting used to contacts and everything is blury so please excuse any typos. :lol:
There wasn't enough information in my book so I have done a bit of surfing to find this info and I hope it helps:
In 486 bc and the Darius they mention isn't the same as the one in Alexander's time of course:


The first event that we know about in the life of Xerxes was the outbreak of revolt in Egypt. This happened in June 486 BC, in the reign of Darius, and by October of that year had become a very serious situation. Darius died in that month, and perhaps the people thought that it was the best time for Egypt to break away from the Persian Empire. Although reasons for the revolt are a little unclear there is no doubt that the people also imagined that they could rebel because the king was so far away and Xerxes was a new and untried king.

Other reasons for the revolt were due to the known corruption of the Persian government operating in Egypt—the satrap Aryandes was executed by the Persians themselves for this (Olmstead 1948, 225)—and other causes were certainly due to the taxation that Egyptians had to pay the Persian government. The goods raised by this taxation were not staying in Egypt, as they had done in the past; the gold, precious stones, wheat and other foodstuffs were being sent out of Egypt and into Persia.

Moreover, the most highly skilled workmen, especially the stonemasons and artists, were being sent to Persia to work on the buildings of the king, and their families and friends wanted them to return. Perhaps another reason the revolt happened at this time could have been due to the earlier defeat at Marathon, in 490 B.C. Because the Persian forces lost this battle, the Egyptian rebels could have thought that it might be easy to defeat the Persians at this time.

Xerxes put down the revolt with some severity. The satrap, Pherendates, had died during the revolt (perhaps he was killed by the insurgents), and Xerxes put his own brother, Achaemenes, in his place. Other measures were aimed at the temples. The Satrap Stela of 311 BC, which calls Xerxes that wicked man, states that Xerxes confiscated a large piece of land from the temple at Buto, a pre-eminent Egyptian site, and other temples too, lost some of their possessions.

By 484 BC, however, the Wadi Hamrnamat quarries were being worked again, so the revolt had ended by then. Nevertheless, Xerxes never adopted Egyptian titles as both Cambyses and Darius had done, never gave himself an Egyptian throne name, and does not seem to have built any Egyptian temples. He seems to have taken no other interest in the land at all. For all those reasons he earned himself an unpopular image among the Egyptians.

Babylon revolts:


Just after the revolt in Egypt had been put down, in June-July of 484 BC the Babylonians, led by Bel-Shimanni, revolted against their Persian overlords. They, too, were rebelling against taxation and the deportation of workers for projects at Persepolis and Susa. More specifically, they complained about the huge expenses they had to pay for the upkeep of the Persian satrapal court at Babylon and, in addition, the upkeep of the Persian garrison (Dandamaev 1989, 183).

According to Ktesias (Persika xiii.53), the rebels killed Zopyrus, the colourful satrap whose incredible story appears in Herodotos m.153–160. With Babylon taken, they went on to persuade the cities of Borsippa and Dilbat to join them. Bel-shimanni declared himself an independent ruler and as such he is recorded on some Babylonian documents, but he only reigned for about two weeks.

The revolt was put down by the Persians quickly. After executing the leaders, the forces were withdrawn from the area. In time, they joined the troops on their way to Ionia.

The second revolt was far more serious. It began in autumn 482 BC and was led by Shamas-eriba. He also occupied Babylon, Dilbat and Borsippa, but this time, other cities joined the rebellion. Because the main body of the Persian army had already left for Ionia, with the intent of beginning the third Persian invasion of Greece, the rebels must have thought that they had some chance of success this time, and at first things did look promising: the Persian army that laid siege to Babylon could do nothing.

It was several months before the siege of Babylon was successful, but once Babylon fell, the rest of the revolt was easily put down by Megabyzus, Xerxes' brother-in-law, one of the best generals in the Persian army. By about March 481 BC, the rebellion had ended. This time however, the punishment inflicted was severe. The city walls were demolished to some considerable extent (though Herodotos still saw them as massive walls some 30 years later. The leaders of the rebellion were executed and their land was given to Persian nobles belongoing to the royal family and the nobility. The temple of" Marduk of Egasila was robbed of its minor gold statue" and may have been damaged, and at least one of its priests was killed. The Euphrates River was diverted to flow through the city of Babylon, with the residential area on one side and the temple area on the other, thus weakening its defences. Apparently, the residential region was not destroyed according to the archaeologists who examined the site. The amount of taxation remained high

It mentions the statue you were referring to I believe.
I long for wealth, but to win it by wrongful means I have no desire. Justice, though slow, is sure.
"Solon Fragment 13" poem
Semiramis
Hetairos (companion)
Posts: 403
Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:24 am

Post by Semiramis »

Hi Theseus,

Thank you so much for that excellent post clarifying things up. You do realize that I will just end up asking you loads of questions from now on. :)
amyntoros wrote:I don't believe that the Persians before Alexander had a standing army the size of Alexander's; i.e, the vast majority of Persian forces were "called up" when needed, although there were, of course, many mercenary forces under Persian pay. Anyway ... my recollection is that it is attested throughout the sources that Alexander changed nothing regarding the system of taxation throughout the Persian empire. Even when Alexander returned "autonomy” to the Greek cities on the east coast they were instructed that the “tribute” formally paid to the Persian king was to be given to Alexander instead. And Macedonians were also left behind when Persians were given positions as Satraps. These Macedonians were appointed in charge of finances to ensure that any tax collected went to its rightful owner, Alexander. He didn’t change the financial order, but simply continued the old Persian tradition and this applied to Egypt also. :)
Amyntoros and everyone else,

My computer recently died too. It's so frustrating not having any of my bookmarks, notes etc! So please be patient as I find myself unable to reference most of the stuff I write.

Would you all be able to illuminate me further on the mercenaries (Greek and others) working for the Persian empire? Also, could you tell me a bit about the Immortals etc? Is it true that there were more Greeks fighting on Darius' side (for gold?) than on Alexander's side?

I wonder if the Greeks were actually surprised at the imposition of tribute on the Ionian cities? Some of Alexander's early military decisions in West Asia (eg not using the Athenian navy) seem to suggest that he didn't quite trust the Greek navy out of sight. In the Greek cities of Ionia, I recall that entire garrisons of Macedonians were left behind to ensure... proper behaviour. :) Alexander (or Phillip) never seemed too popular in the Greek cities. The Athenians etc only seemed to only like hegemony if it was their own. :)

However much of Alexander's official propaganda claimed that the Asian expedition was about Greek revenge against Persia and bringing democracy to the Greek cities of Ionia, the Greeks were still mocking Alexander when he declared he should be worshiped as a god. It just sounds like they didn't buy it... What do you all think?
Post Reply