Alexander and his mind

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Archange
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Alexander and his mind

Post by Archange »

Hi guys,


I ask myself sometimes How Alexander could have win many battles in his life.
Perhaps the fact that he win so many battles reside in the quality of his education.
I mean he train hard the disciplines of his education. Yes I mean he could have seen many things in his younger age and perhaps he create a vision in his head.
And this vision he had create, during the battle ground he used it to beat persians, arabs, phenicians. Don"t you think so? The strategy of the war in his mind was the result of the use of the vision of a great greek empire who had the mission to rule the world with greek values.

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jan
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Getting into Alexander's head

Post by jan »

:D What a task! But I am convinced that Alexander is one of those unique persons whose mental capacity was beyond ordinary person's comprehension. He is what is called a natural, a military genius, and while he devotes his life to the cause for which he strives, he still relies upon the gods and goddesses in his devotions and practices.

Whether this is due to education or to native intelligence is a matter of opinion. The end results support the knowledge that Alexander was brilliant, beyond genius, and has either great intuitiveness, or just plain great luck in his decision making.

He ends up winning because he is a controlled, masterful and artful designer. He practices discipline, something he had gained in his youth from his educators, parents, guides, and masters. even old Leonidas, the stern and strict frugal guardian. As a result, Alexander whose native intelligence was so quick that Aristotle was able to teach him many useful bits of knowledge, displays a retentive memory and capacity that insures his success over time.

On a personal note, I will interject that I once upon a time experienced a glimpse into the mind of Alexander. It made me understand better how and why the terms of omnipotence and omniscience came into being. Alexander's mind is greater than ordinary men could comprehend. I am confident that this military man who could design whole cities was simply born to be who he became, probably the most successful man in ancient history.
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Fiona
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Re: Alexander and his mind

Post by Fiona »

Hello, Archange, that's a very interesting question. I am sure that a man who has had the chance of a fine education will be enabled to use his talents more imaginatively than one who has not, but I think that it's the underlying talents that are interesting. As Jan says, he gets called a military genius, but what does that imply, exactly? What makes a military genius?
I think he must have had a very heightened spatial awareness - you know the kind of thing, how some people can reverse park a car easily, because they can visualise what's happening to the wheels, and others really struggle. He could visualise where he could place units, and what would happen when they moved. But lots of good commanders can do that, and I think Alexander could do more.
He had the imagination to guess what other people would do, and then plan around that, too, as well as the imagination to think of the unusual, the unexpected.
These two qualities rarely coincide, I think. They come from opposite sides of the talent spectrum - I've seen it called the 'two cultures' - the art/science divide, if you like.
But when an individual person is blessed with talents from both extremes, you get a great writer, or a brilliant scientist, or a military genius.

Fiona

Archange wrote:Hi guys,


I ask myself sometimes How Alexander could have win many battles in his life.
Perhaps the fact that he win so many battles reside in the quality of his education.
I mean he train hard the disciplines of his education. Yes I mean he could have seen many things in his younger age and perhaps he create a vision in his head.
And this vision he had create, during the battle ground he used it to beat persians, arabs, phenicians. Don"t you think so? The strategy of the war in his mind was the result of the use of the vision of a great greek empire who had the mission to rule the world with greek values.

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Post by Paralus »

Archange wrote: Perhaps the fact that he win so many battles reside in the quality of his education.I mean he train hard the disciplines of his education. Yes I mean he could have seen many things in his younger age and perhaps he create a vision in his head.
And this vision he had create, during the battle ground he used it to beat persians, arabs, phenicians.
I've heard that before:
In reality, Alexander did not become great because of his conquests but for their essence. Behind every victory Alexander could see its essence and this is what transformed the conqueror into a visionary and the defeated into beneficiaries.

Aristotle taught Alexander that his every move in space and time should never be based on chance; since everything has an aim, man must strive to realise that aim. During a battle he who instigates the movement must have defined, from its very outset, the main aim of the attack or resistance and its essence – which constitutes the ‘why’ and the “because” of the battle.

Alexander had to be able to see everything in his life through its esoteric essence.


Perhaps, Archange, you too have seen the Pissanos DVD of Alexander The Great?Note that rather than being in the “history” section alongside the archaeological DVDs it is in the "dramatised” section. It needs that US film caveat: “Based on a true story”. Certainly the American Society for the Prevention of Commutation of History could not give its seal: "no history was commuted in the making of this film".

That quote – directly from the film – is the sort of pap that tries to portray the Macedonian conqueror and his ten year arc of subjugation across the east as some sort of philosophical crusade of enlightenment. The Persians (and others) seemed not to understand their beneficiary status. One wonders why?

As for Aristotle, he considered the inhabitants of Asia (Persians and otherwise) as below what he considered human. He was in no way intent upon enlightening and raising them up to “Greek” status. Like Isocrates and his ilk, he wanted firmly put in their place: vassal slaves and lower class creatures that they were.
Archange wrote:The strategy of the war in his mind was the result of the use of the vision of a great greek empire who had the mission to rule the world with greek values.
A great Macedonian empire ruled by values the increasingly autocratic emperor thought pertinent at the time.
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Post by Semiramis »

I'm not sure a Greek education needs to take all the blame (or credit if you prefer) for Alexander's mind. To claim that the prevalent mood in Greek cities was in support of a Hellenic empire is a giant stretch. From my understanding only war declared by a suitably aggrieved party was seen as "just". The Persian monarchic system with its "despot" king and "slave" subjects were abhorred.

Herodotus, for example, is pretty explicit here as he has the Ethiopian King deliver a message for the ambitious Cambyses -

"The king of the Persians sent you not with these gifts because he much desired to become my sworn friend- nor is the account which ye give of yourselves true, for ye are come to search out my kingdom. Also your king is not a just man- for were he so, he had not coveted a land which is not his own, nor brought slavery on a people who never did him any wrong. Bear him this bow, and say- 'The king of the Ethiops thus advises the king of the Persians when the Persians can pull a bow of this strength thus easily, then let him come with an army of superior strength against the long-lived Ethiopians- till then, let him thank the gods that they have not put it into the heart of the sons of the Ethiops to covet countries which do not belong to them."

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Post by agesilaos »

Mmmh, Alexander the military genius; it would be as well to remember that in all of the major battles there was a conference of the commanders and it would seem highly likely that the old heads, such as Parmenion, who as Philip's 'only general' , must have possessed as much savvy as the new kid on the block. The one battle he seems to have planned himself, that at the Hydaspes turned out a costly and muddled affair. The talent he had in greatest abundance was that of making himself loved, that charismatic aura that leaders throughout the ages have possessed and quite a hint of teflon.
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Post by Semiramis »

Erm.. making himself loved... you don't mean by the conquered I hope. ;) Their surrender was a direct result of a calculated campaign of terror that stretched from Thebes to Tyre to Gaza to Central Asia, all the way to the seemingly endlessly chronicled massacres in India. What do you make of the Vulgate tradition that during his last days, Alexander's court feared him more than anything else? The idea seems quite plausible to me given the purges of high-placed officials that followed his return from India. When discussing love for Alexander, there are a couple of troop mutinies to consider here as well.

I agree with the military genius part though. Of course official histories and legends will tend to minimize the contributions of others but Alexander himself must've been very good at this. It wasn't just the battles and guerilla campaigning that allowed him to achieve his goals. Making examples of those who won't yield through mass killings and crucifixions certainly aided him in subjugating the populations as he desired.
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Post by Phoebus »

Agesilaos,

I don't know; I think you're too quick to merely flip Alexander worship over and go with the extreme opposite.
... it would be as well to remember that in all of the major battles there was a conference of the commanders ... The one battle he seems to have planned himself, that at the Hydaspes turned out a costly and muddled affair.
That's a bit unfair, I think; is there a dearth of evidence for a military conference prior to Hydaspes as compared to, say, Granicus or Issus? Granted, my Curtius isn't here with me, but if Arrian has anything to say about it there was far more interaction between commanders prior to Hydaspes than Granicus or Gaugamela.

Furthermore, I have always felt that the reason Hydaspes receives so much negative attention--almost as if it was a failure--is because it was the last battle prior to the return to the west. Had Alexander decided to hapilly settle for "half of Asia" after Issus, I'm positive that people today would paint Issus in much different colors.
... and it would seem highly likely that the old heads, such as Parmenion, who as Philip's 'only general' , must have possessed as much savvy as the new kid on the block.
I don't know; I doubt Parmenion was by any means incompetent, but I also think that it's just as easy to set him up on a pedestal as it is to ignore him.
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Post by agesilaos »

Arrian V 10ff mentions no assembly of the 'companions and commanders' such as preceded Issos and Gaugamela instead Alexander merely issues orders. This may of course be due to the source, Ptolemy, but presumably it was him who recordered the previous conferences. It could be that Alexander has become more megalomaniac or that his commanders are too in awe to have any useful input, even Krateros was quite young I think perhaps they lacked the stature of Parmenion, certainly none seem to have the stranglehold on high office which his family boasted and hence the leverage.

Naturally, you are right to chastise me for overstating my case, that's rhetoric winning out over history. Alexander still had to choose the good advice after all. But there is a certain caution about the Issos campaign which may belie Parmenion's influence, he would have been in charge during Alexander's illness at least. Waiting for Darius to come to him in the narrows. Ultimately Alexander overrules that plan and goes charging off for Sochoi only to find his communications cut and a desperate battle ahead. the winning tactics must be his as he is seen reacting to events as they unfold, so credit where etc.
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Post by Paralus »

It would not do, I suppose, to "not polish" a legend.

No matter the histories and the hagiographies, Alexander operated with a "high command" of senior officers. To say otherwise is to fly in the face of reality. We see this very early in his carreer when he is advised, essentially, to take his time and "consolidate". Instead, as the sources relate, he attacked.

The ins and outs of that do not matter. What does is the fact that he was being advised.

Anyone who believes that alexander conceived and executed the conquest of the east on his own needs to re-read the source material.

Philip - who reconstructed the Macedonian state - trusted Parmenion with armies and with campaigns of serious importance. If we are to believe the tradition that has survived about this man via the "Alexander" sources he was a gutless dolt.

What then does that make Philip?
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by Alita »

agesilaos wrote:Mmmh, Alexander the military genius; it would be as well to remember that in all of the major battles there was a conference of the commanders and it would seem highly likely that the old heads, such as Parmenion, who as Philip's 'only general' , must have possessed as much savvy as the new kid on the block. The one battle he seems to have planned himself, that at the Hydaspes turned out a costly and muddled affair. The talent he had in greatest abundance was that of making himself loved, that charismatic aura that leaders throughout the ages have possessed and quite a hint of teflon.
*claps* Well put! Truly, why do so many people either forget or remain unaware of this simple fact? Every king has advisers and Alexander was no different.
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Post by marcus »

agesilaos wrote:Arrian V 10ff mentions no assembly of the 'companions and commanders' such as preceded Issos and Gaugamela instead Alexander merely issues orders.
Generally speaking, however, the "assembly of companions and commanders" prior to the other battles are included in order to demonstrate Alexander's qualities - his speech to the troops, justifying the cause they were fighting for, or explaining why they will win; or otherwise in order to knock down Parmenion ("If I were Alexander ..."). With neither a need to knock down Parmenion, who had been dead for nearly 4 years, nor indeed to provide a speech that justified Alexander fighting Porus (because there was no justification beyond imperialistic aggrandisement?), there was no call to record the pre-battle conference ...

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Post by the_accursed »

agesilaos wrote:Mmmh, Alexander the military genius; it would be as well to remember that in all of the major battles there was a conference of the commanders and it would seem highly likely that the old heads, such as Parmenion, who as Philip's 'only general' , must have possessed as much savvy as the new kid on the block. The one battle he seems to have planned himself, that at the Hydaspes turned out a costly and muddled affair. The talent he had in greatest abundance was that of making himself loved, that charismatic aura that leaders throughout the ages have possessed and quite a hint of teflon.
In my opinion, there's nothing that indicates that Alexander was unusually charismatic, however popular that dogma may be. And he certainly wasn't very good at "making himself loved" as he was probably the most disliked king Macedonia ever produced.

Demosthenes, on the other hand, seems to have been quite charismatic, and loved by the Athenian people. Did this, though, automatically make him a great general? Was he, great a speaker as he was, necessarily also a great warrior, and a great military commander?

If there's one thing I think people always fail to mention, in these kinds of discussions, it's that it's always a whole lot easier to make mistakes and lose, than it is to win. Alexander won his first battle when he was 16. He could have lost that battle, but didn't. And before the battle of Chaeronea, Philip made Alexander, then still a teenager, second in command. Why did he make such a remarkable decision? Because he had noticed how "loved" Alexander was by the Macedonian army? And when Philip died, why didn't Alexander fail to keep the Macedonian empire together? Because keeping it together was "easy", and because Alexander was so "loved"?

While I agree that Alexander deserves much of the criticism directed towards him today, it is, in my opinion, wrong to always take his victories for granted, as if the campaign against Persia was risk-free and defeat was never a possibility. His opponents had many opportunities to put the little upstart out of business. Yet the outcome was always the opposite. To argue that this was inevitable, and the result of Alexander being so "loved" by his army is, in my opinion, unrealistic. And if the argument is, he had such a great army, and such great generals, that he could not possibly have failed, I'd just like to point out that Philip did too - and still lost a battle. As did Julius Caesar, Hannibal and Napoleon. And today, America have the greatest army on earth (in my opinion), and yet is not doing terribly well in Iraq. Is the problem that Petraeus just isn't "charismatic" enough, and thus isn't the recipient of enough "love" from the army?

Regarding receiving military advice from the generals, it seems likely to me that this would have been the case for Alexander. But then, it also seems likely to me that this must have been the case for every single field commander in history. Does this mean that none of them were ever responsible for their victories? And if so, were they also never responsible for their mistakes?
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Post by Paralus »

marcus wrote:Generally speaking, however, the "assembly of companions and commanders" prior to the other battles are included in order to demonstrate Alexander's qualities - his speech to the troops, justifying the cause they were fighting for, or explaining why they will win; or otherwise in order to knock down Parmenion…
With which I’d agree: a literary device being employed to effect. That in no way denies that such conferences will have happened; even if only for the “genius king” (of that extreme in the argument) to relay his inspired plans. More likely it will have been a more down-to-earth senior officers’ session where the strategies were canvassed and decisions taken.

It does, though, serve as a convenient vehicle for the systematic painting of Parmenion as a doddering old fool. Seriously, one wonders how Philip got anywhere trusting such a stick-in-the-mud, staid and stunted commander!
the_accursed wrote:... it is, in my opinion, wrong to always take his victories for granted, as if the campaign against Persia was risk-free and defeat was never a possibility. His opponents had many opportunities to put the little upstart out of business. Yet the outcome was always the opposite. To argue that this was inevitable, and the result of Alexander being so "loved" by his army is, in my opinion, unrealistic.
I think you’re jumping at shadows. I don’t believe anyone has suggested that Alexander won battles simply because he was loved by the army or was charismatic. Nor has anyone suggested that the campaign was risk-free and defeat never a possibility. What has been stated is that Alexander will have planned and executed these battles with his “high command”. They too will have had some input. In the end it is Alexander’s choice as to what he uses and the plan and the strategy is his.
the_accursed wrote:[ Alexander won his first battle when he was 16. He could have lost that battle, but didn't. And before the battle of Chaeronea, Philip made Alexander, then still a teenager, second in command. Why did he make such a remarkable decision?
It was his father’s battle if it was anyone’s. One can be certain that Philip planned the tactics with his staff (including his son) just as surely as Alexander did in Asia with his.

Philip’s promotion of his son is a clear message that this boy is his anointed Argead successor. That, at least, seems reasonably apparent
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Wicked men, you sin against your fathers, who conquered the whole world under Philip and Alexander.

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Post by the_accursed »

It was his father’s battle if it was anyone’s. One can be certain that Philip planned the tactics with his staff (including his son) just as surely as Alexander did in Asia with his.
I agree.
Philip’s promotion of his son is a clear message that this boy is his anointed Argead successor. That, at least, seems reasonably apparent
That is, in my opinion, a poor explanation. Philip was about to fight the most important battle of his life. Had he lost, then it would probably have been the end of the Macedonian empire. And before this battle, he made a relatively inexperienced 18-year old second in command. I think "why" is a very good question. And "sending a message" is not good enough an answer. If you're about to fight a battle where your entire empire is at stake, "sending messages" about your future plans for your son should not be your top priority. It should be to win the battle. Had Alexander replaced Parmenion with an 18-year old before the battle of Gaugamela, would this also have been a reasonable thing to do, had it only also meant sending some kind of important "message" to the army? And I also think, by the way, that most Macedonians were capable of figuring out on their own, without "messages", that Alexander was (up to that point) the most likely successor.

Regarding jumping at shadows...perhaps you're right. It's just that I've seen such arguments before, and think they're extremely simplistic. If "charisma" is all it takes, then Bush should just replace Petraeus with an actor or a pop star.
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