If Alexander Lived; His Views On Death And Dying

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rocktupac
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If Alexander Lived; His Views On Death And Dying

Post by rocktupac »

It almost seems too perfect that Alexander, who lived his life infatuated with Achilles and often imitated him, died a young man with everlasting fame. There have been many 'what ifs' made about Alexander and his plans had he not died, but I have seen little about his actual thoughts on his own death (whether true or speculative); although I'm sure he didn't really wish to die at 32.

Nevertheless, Alexander idolized Achilles and probably even the Greek ideal of dying young and leaving a good looking corpse. By dying too early he took part in one of the many myths he followed. What do you suppose Alexander would have thought, had he survived in Babylon in 323, about when an 'appropriate' time to die was?

I know this is a very difficult question, but worth discussing: although he probably would have seen it fit to die young, forever living in glory; on the other hand, Alexander was too in love with glory to have wanted his life cut short, especially when the entire West had not been conquered by him.
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Re: If Alexander Lived; His Views On Death And Dying

Post by marcus »

rocktupac wrote:It almost seems too perfect that Alexander, who lived his life infatuated with Achilles and often imitated him, died a young man with everlasting fame. There have been many 'what ifs' made about Alexander and his plans had he not died, but I have seen little about his actual thoughts on his own death (whether true or speculative); although I'm sure he didn't really wish to die at 32.

Nevertheless, Alexander idolized Achilles and probably even the Greek ideal of dying young and leaving a good looking corpse. By dying too early he took part in one of the many myths he followed. What do you suppose Alexander would have thought, had he survived in Babylon in 323, about when an 'appropriate' time to die was?

I know this is a very difficult question, but worth discussing: although he probably would have seen it fit to die young, forever living in glory; on the other hand, Alexander was too in love with glory to have wanted his life cut short, especially when the entire West had not been conquered by him.
The one theory about his death that I've never heard explored - suicide! :roll:

More seriously, though, that's an interesting question. Of course, as you say, we'll never know what was going through his mind as he was dying - but it does seem, from the sources, that he was fairly lucid during this time, and so I'm sure he did ponder his mortality, the irony (if such it is) of his dying so young. What conclusions he came to ... well, that's anybody's guess.

I suppose there would be two main "camps": "I'm dying at the height of my fame and success, so that's OK"; and "Oh no, I've still got so much to do - Carthage, Arabia, Spain, Italy ..."

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Post by Theseus »

Very interesting topic.
I see the comparison you are talking about regarding Achilles and Alexander both dying so young and how Alexander seemed destined to follow in his footsteps. I think that Alexander would probably have preferred to die in battle rather than poisoning/illness. I myself think it would have been a more fitting way for such a great conqueror to die. I think he may have thought that there was so much left for him to accomplish. He had wanted to continue on where his men did not. What would have happend if they had? Maybe this crossed his mind. Did he really want to live without Hephaestion and was he relieved to know he would soon be reunited with him after he fell ill? You are right, there are so many what ifs. I think from some of what I've read and have seen here at pothos that he knew his kingdom would not stay together after his death. Could he have had regrets over some things he had done as well? He probably pondered a lot of things over those several days before his death.
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Post by Vergina Sun »

Despite Alexander the Great's desire to continue conquering, I believe that he must have known that he wouldn’t have lived very long. Then again, what great conqueror would want to live until they are old and unable to fight. Alexander loved glory, and would despise life if he could no longer achieve it because old age restricted him. I think he would have been satisfied, if not happy, to die at a young age.

A great man deserves a great death, and he certainly had one. Like most of the aspects of Alexander's life, his death is intriguing and still a mystery. It's a fitting death, I think. No one can blame who or what killed Alexander. No single thing can claim the victory of defeating the undefeated. Alexander still has his pride and we are still forced to wonder what could have stopped him?
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Post by Semiramis »

There might be something to this leaving a beautiful corpse business. I wonder why Alexander wanted to look like a youth even in his 30s. I'm sure his shaving resulted in a few eunuch jokes in Persia. :) The romantic side of me likes to think Hephaistion's death was a factor here. What do you guys think about Alexander's orders to put out the Zoroastrian holy fire after Hephaistion died? That was only supposed to happen when the Great King dies...
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Post by Theseus »

Semiramis wrote:There might be something to this leaving a beautiful corpse business. I wonder why Alexander wanted to look like a youth even in his 30s. I'm sure his shaving resulted in a few eunuch jokes in Persia. :) The romantic side of me likes to think Hephaistion's death was a factor here. What do you guys think about Alexander's orders to put out the Zoroastrian holy fire after Hephaistion died? That was only supposed to happen when the Great King dies...
Well I do recall reading that Alexander thought of Hephaestion as his "alter ego" and or "equal". A few things were shown that he felt this way like when Darius' Queen thought Hephaestion was Alexander and he said something to the effect, "he too is Alexander". So when Hephaestion died a part of Alexander(the great king) died and hence the fire was put out as a sign of that.
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Post by Theseus »

I also forgot to add that he was Alexander's Chiliarch and sole commander of the Companion Cavalry. He also expressed that he wanted his and Hephaestion's children to be cousins so Alexander and Hephaestion were married to two of Darius' daughters.
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Post by Vergina Sun »

Theseus wrote:
Semiramis wrote:There might be something to this leaving a beautiful corpse business. I wonder why Alexander wanted to look like a youth even in his 30s. I'm sure his shaving resulted in a few eunuch jokes in Persia. :) The romantic side of me likes to think Hephaistion's death was a factor here. What do you guys think about Alexander's orders to put out the Zoroastrian holy fire after Hephaistion died? That was only supposed to happen when the Great King dies...
Well I do recall reading that Alexander thought of Hephaestion as his "alter ego" and or "equal". A few things were shown that he felt this way like when Darius' Queen thought Hephaestion was Alexander and he said something to the effect, "he too is Alexander". So when Hephaestion died a part of Alexander(the great king) died and hence the fire was put out as a sign of that.
I completely agree with you, Theseus. What was Alexander without Hephaestion? They were like a single soul dwelling in two bodies (I think that's an Aristotle quote about friendship, but I can't find a better explanation :)). When there was no Hephaestion, there was only half of Alexander, and that is a good enough reason for me to put out the holy fire.
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Post by rocktupac »

Vergina Sun: In response to your comment "when there was no Hephaestion, there was only half of Alexander," I have to respectfully disagree. Perhaps purely in terms of emotion Alexander would definitely had felt empty: the intense grieving, his desire to construct an enormous funeral monument, snuffing out the royal flame, etc. But as far as mentally on "half" there, Alexander's actions over the next year after Hephaestion's death proved this to be an inaccurate judgment.

He showed still to be competent and well-respected leader. With the Gedrosian desert episode still in fresh people's minds, most importantly his soldiers', Alexander still had their admiration and no one is known to have spoken out about a planned campaign to Arabia. Also, the year following Hepaestion's death no one close to the king, sympathizer or enemy, is known to have been put to death, dispelling the slander that Alexander had lost his mind in his final months.

Certainly if his men had predicted a meltdown there would have been talks of another assassination attempt or another mutiny; neither of which happened. Instead Alexander did what he did best when not campaigning: he treated his men with respect, threw lavish celebrations (which were much needed, mainly for his troops) that were fit for the richest man on earth, spent on a grand scale, and prepared for another expedition into Arabia and possibly further west.

Again I have to respectfully disagree with your comment; but in your defense, my comments are simply my humble opinion. On a side note, I enjoy reading your posts and look forward to hearing your response. :D
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Post by Theseus »

I know most of you have heard of the argument between Craterus and Hephaestion that made Alexander so furious as to ask Hephaestion what was he without him? I had read an interpetation in a book of that quote that suggests it wasn't so harsh as being mostly mad at Hephaestion for the argument, but Alexander wanted Hephaestion to think - what if something happened to him and he was without him and vice versa? To be so careless and to fight with one of Alexander's closest confidants was foolish I believe in Alexander's eyes as well. According to some Hepahestion and Craterus had their swords drawn and were about to go at one another. :shock:

Rocktupac,I have to say that you disagree so gently. It is true that Alexander did continue on after Hephaestion's death. I think there was a change in him though, but he didn't let it get in the way of his goals.
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Post by Semiramis »

Theseus wrote:To be so careless and to fight with one of Alexander's closest confidants was foolish I believe in Alexander's eyes as well. According to some Hepahestion and Craterus had their swords drawn and were about to go at one another. Shocked
Not only that but their respective men were about to go at it too. Could've been complete mayhem. Factions in the army...
rocktupac wrote:He showed still to be competent and well-respected leader. With the Gedrosian desert episode still in fresh people's minds, most importantly his soldiers', Alexander still had their admiration and no one is known to have spoken out about a planned campaign to Arabia. Also, the year following Hepaestion's death no one close to the king, sympathizer or enemy, is known to have been put to death, dispelling the slander that Alexander had lost his mind in his final months.

Certainly if his men had predicted a meltdown there would have been talks of another assassination attempt or another mutiny; neither of which happened. Instead Alexander did what he did best when not campaigning: he treated his men with respect, threw lavish celebrations (which were much needed, mainly for his troops) that were fit for the richest man on earth, spent on a grand scale, and prepared for another expedition into Arabia and possibly further west.
On a more personal level, there are records of Alexander playing games with his close friends and having drinking sessions. So, your position would be the sensible one rocktupac.

But nah... It's a much better story if we go with the madness theory.:) Getting the doctor hung. The excessive mourning. The killing of the Cosseans The unimaginably expensive funeral. Getting Hephaistion declared a hero (having originally aimed for god). Getting superstitious about his own death till the news comes through from Siwa. Surrounding himself with priests and magi. Promising to forgive the satrap of Egypt his considerable misdeeds if he honours Hephaistion. And dying of heartbreak less than a year later, before his own son is born. Come on! It's a best seller! :D
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Post by Vergina Sun »

rocktupac wrote:Vergina Sun: In response to your comment "when there was no Hephaestion, there was only half of Alexander," I have to respectfully disagree. Perhaps purely in terms of emotion Alexander would definitely had felt empty: the intense grieving, his desire to construct an enormous funeral monument, snuffing out the royal flame, etc. But as far as mentally on "half" there, Alexander's actions over the next year after Hephaestion's death proved this to be an inaccurate judgment.

He showed still to be competent and well-respected leader. With the Gedrosian desert episode still in fresh people's minds, most importantly his soldiers', Alexander still had their admiration and no one is known to have spoken out about a planned campaign to Arabia. Also, the year following Hepaestion's death no one close to the king, sympathizer or enemy, is known to have been put to death, dispelling the slander that Alexander had lost his mind in his final months.

Certainly if his men had predicted a meltdown there would have been talks of another assassination attempt or another mutiny; neither of which happened. Instead Alexander did what he did best when not campaigning: he treated his men with respect, threw lavish celebrations (which were much needed, mainly for his troops) that were fit for the richest man on earth, spent on a grand scale, and prepared for another expedition into Arabia and possibly further west.

Again I have to respectfully disagree with your comment; but in your defense, my comments are simply my humble opinion. On a side note, I enjoy reading your posts and look forward to hearing your response. :D
First, way to go at buttering up the end! It works wonders all the time. :D

Staying on topic now, I respect your disagreement, and do feel that I have exaggerated. Forgive me, my emotions had gotten a hold of me then. I do wish I could have said that in a different way. By all means, Alexander was still an extremely powerful man with a great amount of potential after Hephaeston's death. Though we might never know, he probably would have gone much farther if death had not stopped him. Yet I cannot help but feel that after Hephaestion's death, Alexander lost some of his luster. He, in a way, lost part of himself. Hephaestion had always been there for Alexander, and his death was also the death of a security Alexander felt when he was around Hephaestion. I admit, that Alexander, even when in grief, had greater strength than any ordinary man. I must say, however, that Hephaestion's death left a far more painful and threatening wound in Alexander than any he received on a field of battle.
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Post by alexkhan2000 »

Wondering what might have been is a futile exercise although fun to contemplate. It's like wondering what other great symphonies would Mozart have composed if he didn't die at the age of 35. What other great movies would James Dean have acted in? What would Jimi Hendrix have done had he lived? Bruce Lee? There's a certain kind of fascination about figures who die young and in their prime. Only their youth is preserved and ingrained in our memories. Alexander is certainly the greatest of these figures.

It's one of Alexander's great appeals. He did so much when he was so young - a prodigious burst of talent and wisdom when other men much older could only dream of attaining what he achieved. History has its ironies and the way it guides fate. There is indeed much more that Alexander wanted to achieve and he certainly had the talent and the determination to do it. Perhaps fate decided it would have been too much - a standard that no man could even hope to attain. The likes of Caesar and Napoleon at least gave it a try to equal or attain what Alexander did by the time he died.

Like all brilliant flashes of lightning in history, Alexander was way ahead of his time. Heck, he's even ahead of most modern people's frame of mind. There's a timelessness to him that makes him the fascinating figure that he still is today. Do I think he could have conquered Arabia, Carthage, Italy and Spain? Yeah, I think so, although it could also be said that he could easily have been killed at the very next battle he engaged in. What we have of him is all we have and that's good enough for me. Personally, I don't like to envision an old Alexander. :wink:
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Post by Vergina Sun »

alexkhan2000 wrote:Wondering what might have been is a futile exercise although fun to contemplate. It's like wondering what other great symphonies would Mozart have composed if he didn't die at the age of 35. What other great movies would James Dean have acted in? What would Jimi Hendrix have done had he lived? Bruce Lee? There's a certain kind of fascination about figures who die young and in their prime. Only their youth is preserved and ingrained in our memories. Alexander is certainly the greatest of these figures.

It's one of Alexander's great appeals. He did so much when he was so young - a prodigious burst of talent and wisdom when other men much older could only dream of attaining what he achieved. History has its ironies and the way it guides fate. There is indeed much more that Alexander wanted to achieve and he certainly had the talent and the determination to do it. Perhaps fate decided it would have been too much - a standard that no man could even hope to attain. The likes of Caesar and Napoleon at least gave it a try to equal or attain what Alexander did by the time he died.

Like all brilliant flashes of lightning in history, Alexander was way ahead of his time. Heck, he's even ahead of most modern people's frame of mind. There's a timelessness to him that makes him the fascinating figure that he still is today. Do I think he could have conquered Arabia, Carthage, Italy and Spain? Yeah, I think so, although it could also be said that he could easily have been killed at the very next battle he engaged in. What we have of him is all we have and that's good enough for me. Personally, I don't like to envision an old Alexander. :wink:
Yes, it is no more than guesswork when we think what anyone might have done had they not died. I honestly think it was beneficial that Alexander died when he did. There is only so much one human can do in his lifetime. Maybe Alexander had done too much. Peter Woodward once said that Alexander was walking the fine line "between genius and insanity". When he died, he fell on the side of being a genius. Had he continued, would our perspective of him change? I don't think so, but I'd rather not take my chances. So many brilliant lives can be destroyed quickly by the public.

I hate to think that Alexander might have been killed in his next battle, had he survived the illness. It is most certainly a possibility, though. I also don't like to imagine an old Alexander. I recall in Stone's movie, Alexander told Hephaestion how they would grow old together. No, that's not something I would like to see. For me, he died in his prime, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
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Post by alexkhan2000 »

Vergina Sun wrote:
Yes, it is no more than guesswork when we think what anyone might have done had they not died. I honestly think it was beneficial that Alexander died when he did. There is only so much one human can do in his lifetime. Maybe Alexander had done too much. Peter Woodward once said that Alexander was walking the fine line "between genius and insanity". When he died, he fell on the side of being a genius. Had he continued, would our perspective of him change? I don't think so, but I'd rather not take my chances. So many brilliant lives can be destroyed quickly by the public.

I hate to think that Alexander might have been killed in his next battle, had he survived the illness. It is most certainly a possibility, though. I also don't like to imagine an old Alexander. I recall in Stone's movie, Alexander told Hephaestion how they would grow old together. No, that's not something I would like to see. For me, he died in his prime, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
Judging by the last three years or so of Alexander's life, I think the odds are that he wouldn't have lasted as long or that he wouldn't have been as successful campaigning in the west. But then, Alexander also had a proven history of beating the odds time and time again. This is what we will never know and why it's fun to contemplate what could or might have been had he lived. It really could have gone either way. He was in a state of internal instability at the time of his death although, on the surface, he seemed like he was at the very peak and seeking to further extend the empire.

Overall, I agree that it worked out best for his reputation that he died when he did. I can't help but wish he could have lived at least a little longer to redeem some of his mistakes and misdeeds of his last years and also change the direction of Rome that was slowly gaining power at that time. It's fun to imagine a more mature and sane Alexander ruling the empire with wisdom that comes with experience and age. But we'll never get to know and we're left with the passionate burning youth that is Alexander and will always be. I think we can agree on one thing: even if Alexander had lived and extended his empire towards the west, the same thing would have happened if he had died later - war amongst his generals and off-springs and the splintering of the empire. It wasn't something any one figure could have maintained as Alexander could have.
Last edited by alexkhan2000 on Mon Sep 17, 2007 4:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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