Alexander and his mind

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Paralus
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Post by Paralus »

the_accursed wrote: And the argument that Philip ought to have put the most capable person in every position in his most important battle is hardly "hyperbole".
marcus wrote:I think Paralus is being a bit harsh by accusing you of hyperbole. However, I do agree with him that there really wasn't any other place for the heir presumptive to be. It would have looked very odd, in a warlike culture such as Macedonia, for an 18-year-old heir to be denied a place on the battlefield - irrespective of whether or not it was a command position.
That might be true. The argument, quoted above, was not the hyperbole rererred to as I believe is obvious. The hyperbole is the deliberate use of emotive terms to describe the situation. Alexander is not being advised by “those who lead” or Philip’s “seasoned generals”; in the emotive hyperbole of the case presented he is being “babysat” by Generals who therefore could not focus on the battle.

The point about the presumptive heir is correct – as others have pointed out. This is the warrior king society in action. It is highly improbable the “teenage” Alexander – who at eighteen is old enough to be king – will have been left at Pella.

Diodorus, once again, is interested in the contesting personalities. Polyaenus and Frontinus point up that there were “grand tactics” in play here and that Philip will have been only too pleased to be informed that his left was making inroads into to the Allied phalanx – no matter who commanded it – as that was what he’d planned to accomplish. Diodorus is more interested in the “competition” between father and son.
athenas owl wrote:Alexander, at 16, led a force that defeated the Maedi in the Strymon Valley.

It isn't like Chaeronea was his first rodeo..and sadly his childhood and adolescence is sketchy in the sources. What kind of batle experience did he have in the 2 years between the Strymon valley and Chaeronea? The Triballi, the Scythians of the Ister..and? When ATG supposedly saved his father's life against the mutiny, he used his own shield to protect dad....
No, it was not his first battle. If we may take Justin at his word, Alexander was summoned north in 339 so as “to join him (Philip), and learn the rudiments of war in the camp of his father”.

The Triballi, Scythians and the Ister are all after his accession to the throne. That last – saving his father’s life – seems to have passed me by. Perhaps last night’s shiraz killed the memory engrams?
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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 the_accursed »

Amyntoros:
Although I've had little time to actively participate I've been reading this thread with interest and must ask: How worthy as king would Alexander have been in Macedonian eyes if Philip had died in the battle that day and Alexander had not taken part? It would mean that they had a new king who had been protected from injury and who had had no personal experience of how a major phalanx battle is fought, his experiences as a 16 year old temporary regent notwithstanding. Macedonian kings were expected to lead from the front; to take the same risks (and more) as the rest of the army. And they were admired, loved and appreciated for doing so.
I can accept the argument that Alexander - not had to be, but could be allowed to be - present at the battlefield. Not because of “worthiness” or arguments regarding perception in general - I frankly don't think the soldiers cared one iota about the whereabouts of the king's kid - but because he had already been a part of Philip’s army for approximately a year. And also, because had the battle been lost, then Macedonia would probably not have had much use for a living heir anyway.

And I wasn't suggesting that he should always have been protected from harm, and thus always have been prevented from learning about warfare. And I would guess that he had been in harms way before.

But I disagree with the choices Philip seems to have made before this battle. It seems to me that he made Alexander the commander, however “nominally”, of the left wing. And I don’t really care about what title Alexander may have had or not had – it’s the reality of the situation that I’m objecting to. It also seems to me that he placed his most experienced generals around Alexander to, as Marcus put it, very closely look after Alexander, thus making Alexander a liability for them.

In a battle of this importance, I think Philip should just have let Parmenion, or some other qualified general, command the left wing. And I don’t think any of the generals should have had to waste energy watching over Alexander. Philip could have just surrounded Alexander with the best of the soldiers who weren’t commanders. And if Philip wanted Alexander to learn by observing commanders, rather than by commanding himself, then he could have just kept Alexander in the right wing, and have him observe Philip himself. But he didn’t. He placed him in the left wing, and surrounded him with his most seasoned generals, apparently because he wanted Alexander to gain command experience.
As for whether or not Alexander commanded the left – I think that he probably did in a nominal sense although I'm sure that instructions were given to the experienced generals to intervene if he should fail in his duties in any way. That he didn't fail was to be expected, IMO, as he had been trained his whole life for this. Whether he was literally given the title of second-in-command is an unanswerable question.
While Philip no doubt must have expected that Alexander wouldn’t fail, I can’t agree that this was as "to be expected”. Alexander had one year’s or so worth of real military experience. That this ought to have been enough for him to perform the function of a general in Philip’s most important battle is not something I can agree with. Alexander was, in my opinion, enormously under-qualified for the task. He simply wasn’t experienced enough.

I think that those of you who argue against me and do believe that Alexander was in command of the left wing, take too much for granted.

You know that the battle was won. And you know that the Macedonian king was Philip, and that the son was Alexander – “the great”.

But what if the battle had been lost? Then the story would have been that the great king Philip, who had created a regional super power, was defeated and killed at Chaeronea, together with (among many others) his son. This defeat meant the end of the Macedonian empire.

And in this battle, for some reason, Philip apparently allowed his teenage son, who had only one year’s worth of real military experience, to command the left wing, while he himself commanded the right.

If Philip indeed allowed Alexander to command the left wing - and that's how it seems to me - then I think he took a great and unnecessary risk by doing so.
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Post by amyntoros »

the_accursed wrote:
But I disagree with the choices Philip seems to have made before this battle. It seems to me that he made Alexander the commander, however "nominally", of the left wing. And I don't really care about what title Alexander may have had or not had – it's the reality of the situation that I'm objecting to. It also seems to me that he placed his most experienced generals around Alexander to, as Marcus put it, very closely look after Alexander, thus making Alexander a liability for them.

In a battle of this importance, I think Philip should just have let Parmenion, or some other qualified general, command the left wing. And I don't think any of the generals should have had to waste energy watching over Alexander. Philip could have just surrounded Alexander with the best of the soldiers who weren't commanders. And if Philip wanted Alexander to learn by observing commanders, rather than by commanding himself, then he could have just kept Alexander in the right wing, and have him observe Philip himself. But he didn’t. He placed him in the left wing, and surrounded him with his most seasoned generals, apparently because he wanted Alexander to gain command experience.
Well . . . I think it's an interesting argument but I know I'm not qualified to respond with what I would have done "if I were Philip" (if you'll forgive the paraphrasing). The fact remains that Philip had considerable experience in ancient warfare, and the huge victory at Chaeronea is ample proof, IMO, that he made all the right decisions, Alexander's participation being only one factor amongst many. I've no objection to playing "what if?" as in . . . .
But what if the battle had been lost? Then the story would have been that the great king Philip, who had created a regional super power, was defeated and killed at Chaeronea, together with (among many others) his son. This defeat meant the end of the Macedonian empire.
. . . but I think sometimes history just has to be allowed to speak for itself. All else I can add is that it was a good thing for Alexander that Philip did allow his active participation in the battle. Philip was murdered just two years later and Alexander's experience at Chaeronea must have added to the army's confidence in him, if not also to his own. Which brings me in a roundabout manner to this :-
Paralus wrote:
athenas owl wrote:Alexander, at 16, led a force that defeated the Maedi in the Strymon Valley.

It isn't like Chaeronea was his first rodeo..and sadly his childhood and adolescence is sketchy in the sources. What kind of batle experience did he have in the 2 years between the Strymon valley and Chaeronea? The Triballi, the Scythians of the Ister..and? When ATG supposedly saved his father's life against the mutiny, he used his own shield to protect dad....
No, it was not his first battle. If we may take Justin at his word, Alexander was summoned north in 339 so as “to join him (Philip), and learn the rudiments of war in the camp of his father”.

The Triballi, Scythians and the Ister are all after his accession to the throne. That last – saving his father’s life – seems to have passed me by. Perhaps last night’s shiraz killed the memory engrams?
It's a story that arose from Alexander's boasting before he killed Cleitus – and one not given much credibility by most historians, as far as I know. Actually, it's quite entertaining and relevant because the incident supposedly took place at Chaeronea!
Curtius 8.1.22-25 Clitus was ordered to prepare for a march the following day, and he was then invited to one of the usual early-starting banquets. At this, being tipsy with wine and no impartial judge of his own worth, the king began to eulogize his exploits to the point of annoying even those of his audience who accepted the truth of his statements. (23) However, the elder guests remained silent, until Alexander proceeded to disparage Philip's record and to boast that it was he himself who was responsible for Philip's famous victory at Chaeronea. The credit for that great achievement, he said, had been filched from him by his father's ill-will and jealousy. (24) A quarrel had arisen between the Macedonian forces and the Greek mercenaries, he explained, and Philip had been put out of action by a wound he had received in the melee. He lay on the ground, finding that to play dead was his safest course of action, and Alexander had protected him with his shield and killed with his own hand the men attacking his father. (25) His father, he said, could never bring himself to admit this: he resented the fact that he owed his life to his son.
Hard to imagine when this "lifesaving action" could have happened; i.e., was it before or during the battle? Except how could it have been during the battle? Philip would have been unable to lead his troops while all this was going on. If before the battle then I can't see how it would have made Alexander responsible for Philip's victory. Perhaps Alexander was saying that the battle would have been lost if Philip had been killed beforehand, although wouldn't that also mean he was suggesting that he couldn't have gone on to win it himself? Doesn't sound very much like the Alexander who had since defeated the Persian army, IMO. I think it's more likely an amusing piece of fiction and I'd love to know Curtius' source for this tale. (And there could be other records in the histories which place the event somewhere else, but this is the only one that I recall.) What I find the most entertaining is that there's no record here of Alexander claiming he led a victorious cavalry charge during the battle and that this was the reason why the victory should have been his! :lol:

One more thing – a question for Archange: As is our habit we have segued away from the original topic to a great degree. :wink: Would you like me to split off the posts on Chaeronea into another thread?

Best regards,
Amyntoros

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Post by Phoebus »

Accursed,

I think you make very valid points... given a 21st century perspective. You're trying to apply that perspective in a 4th century BCE militaristic society complete with "heroic lineages" and combat-based cults of personality, though, and the two don't fit.

On a simply cultural level, questioning Alexander's place at Chaeronea and Phillip's decision to put him there is about the same as a 4th century BCE Macedonian questioning why the President of the United States wasn't at least within a few hundred meters of the leading echelon of his fighting forces during the march to Baghdad five years ago.

On a political level, there is more than one instance in Macedonian history that showed how key control of the army was if one were to also control the nation. How likely would Alexander be to retain control of the kingdom if his father died and Parmenion was the man still on the field, in control of 30,000+ Macedonians and mercenaries? Especially if the young heir had never established his own reputation in the field of battle?

Cheers,
P.
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Post by athenas owl »

Paralus said:
No, it was not his first battle. If we may take Justin at his word, Alexander was summoned north in 339 so as “to join him (Philip), and learn the rudiments of war in the camp of his father”.
Yes, and where was "the camp" of his father? Fighting Ateas and his Scythians up on the plains around the border of Bulgaria and Romania, near the Danube estuary..something about a desire to dedicate a statue to Heracles on the Danube (Ister) river. I love that bit, Alexander learned that trick from his father. (note: "love" does not imply approval of imperialistic designs. :wink: )

So when I say experience fighting the Scythians I assume that the young Alexander (and perhaps I'm wrong) did see some kind of action near the Ister. And of course when the Triballi clash with him on the way home with his loot, including..what? some 20,000 scythians captives and Philip is defeated again I assume that Alexander would have been there.

Philip was badly wounded, first in the battle with the Scythians and then the hijack by the Triballi. This is off the top of my head..and I assume (again perhaps wrongly) that Philip didn't go "north" again for quite awhile as he would have been recuperating from his wounds. So when I say that the young Alexander had experience fighting the Scythians and the Triballi this is what I am referring to.
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Post by the_accursed »

Accursed,

I think you make very valid points... given a 21st century perspective. You're trying to apply that perspective in a 4th century BCE militaristic society complete with "heroic lineages" and combat-based cults of personality, though, and the two don't fit.

On a simply cultural level, questioning Alexander's place at Chaeronea and Phillip's decision to put him there is about the same as a 4th century BCE Macedonian questioning why the President of the United States wasn't at least within a few hundred meters of the leading echelon of his fighting forces during the march to Baghdad five years ago.


I disagree. I think this decision was and would have been questionable in any time period and any culture. It hasn't been questioned, and isn't being questioned today, not because they were Macedonians, but because the king who made the decision was Philip, and the inexperienced son was Alexander, and the battle was won.

But had the battle been lost, then no one would have argued that this was the right decision because, after all, “consider the Macedonian culture”.

And had Parmenion commanded the left wing, then no one would have said: “How odd that Philip didn’t let Alexander command the left wing instead of Parmenion. He did, after all, have a full year’s worth of military experience.”
On a political level, there is more than one instance in Macedonian history that showed how key control of the army was if one were to also control the nation. How likely would Alexander be to retain control of the kingdom if his father died and Parmenion was the man still on the field, in control of 30,000+ Macedonians and mercenaries? Especially if the young heir had never established his own reputation in the field of battle?

Cheers,
P.
It would have been completely irrational of Philip to consciously weaken his army, and thus reduce his chance of winning, just in case the outcome would be: 1) Macedonian victory 2) Philip dies 3) Alexander survives.

If Philip worried so much about the consequences of this battle on the future prospects of his son, then the best thing he could have done would have been to put the most qualified person in every position, and thereby maximize the chance of a Macedonian victory.
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Post by Phoebus »

the_accursed wrote:I disagree. I think this decision was and would have been questionable in any time period and any culture.
I beg to differ. Times change and cultures/societies differ. I agree that it doesn't make sense to endanger both monarch and heir in the same battle, but I recognize that different societies have different values. To the Macedonians, the posting of father and son at Chaeronea was an acceptable risk--far preferrable to being ruled by a king perceived as emasculated or lacking in martial ability.
But had the battle been lost, then no one would have argued that this was the right decision because, after all, “consider the Macedonian culture”.
The average lay reader would feel that way, true, but any historian worth his or her salt knows better than to make anachronistic value judgements.
It would have been completely irrational of Philip to consciously weaken his army, and thus reduce his chance of winning, just in case the outcome would be: 1) Macedonian victory 2) Philip dies 3) Alexander survives.
I don't understand what you're getting at here by "weakening his army".

I'm specifically referring to the possibility of Phillip being slain and his army being in the hands of a man who immediately becomes a contender to the throne, merely by virtue of having said army.
If Philip worried so much about the consequences of this battle on the future prospects of his son, then the best thing he could have done would have been to put the most qualified person in every position, and thereby maximize the chance of a Macedonian victory.
Your statement above doesn't reconcile with the reality of that battle. He did just that. He himself led his right wing and he loaded his left wing with experienced officers. Your principal issue with this seems to be that his son was there, period, and I assert that this has to do with your reluctance to abandon a POV developed by your society and time. No offense intended, but your arguments thus far have done nothing to dissuade this.

Cheers,
P.
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Post by Paralus »

athenas owl wrote:Yes, and where was "the camp" of his father? Fighting Ateas and his Scythians up on the plains around the border of Bulgaria and Romania, near the Danube estuary..something about a desire to dedicate a statue to Heracles on the Danube (Ister) river. I love that bit, Alexander learned that trick from his father. (note: "love" does not imply approval of imperialistic designs. :wink: )

So when I say experience fighting the Scythians I assume that the young Alexander (and perhaps I'm wrong) did see some kind of action near the Ister.
Indeed: a good question. Justin (9.1.8) is the only source for this mention. He places it after the raising of the siege of Byzantium :
But that so great an army might not be wasted in the siege of a single city, he marched away with his best troops, and stormed some towns of the Chersonese. He also sent for his son Alexander, who was then eighteen years of age, to join him, and learn the rudiments of war in the camp of his father. He made an expedition, too, into Scythia, to get plunder, that, after the practice of traders, he might make up for the expenses of one war by the profits of another.


He then goes on to note that Philip conducted operations against the somewhat duplicitous Atheas, giving us fulsome descriptions of the diplomatic trickery and the staue of Heracles as well as the Triballian ambush, with the line about Alexander hanging there. One supposes he was there for the entire campaign or at least from the Cherosonnese onwrds possibly. Perhaps just a part: we do not know. You are likey correct though as it is hard to see that - if it ocurred - Alexander would be sent home after the Chersonnese episode.

It is at this stage that Diodorus, his interest seemingly totally absorbed by Timoleon in Syracuse, gives mainland history the flick-pass for a year or so. To judge from his narrative Philip makes peace with the coalition states involved against him because of Byzantium (aside from Athens) and then appears at Elataea prior to Chaeronea. No mention of Atheas, Triballians nor the Athenian naval blockade of Macedonia. For that we need go to Demosthenes (18.140ff) and Aeschines (3.133ff) - an argument between two orators - to find out some of what's going on. In typical Philip fashion he's seen stirring the Amphictyonic pot for his gain.
Amyntoros wrote:It's a story that arose from Alexander's boasting before he killed Cleitus – and one not given much credibility by most historians, as far as I know.
How fascinating.I should have realised. I'd offer that were a fight to have broken out in such fashion that the king will have been well defended by his Macedonians. The way it reads is that it took place prior to the battle which, given Philip is leading the right, is difficult to grant in the extreme. The only way it can work is if Philip did not take the field for the battle but history has claimed he did. I find it hard to see how saving his father's life denied Alexander the credit for the victory. I think Amyntoros has summed it up.

Fascinating...as Spock would say.
the_accursed wrote:If Philip worried so much about the consequences of this battle on the future prospects of his son, then the best thing he could have done would have been to put the most qualified person in every position, and thereby maximize the chance of a Macedonian victory.
Philip was not "concerned over the future prospects" of his son simply in this battle. You reduce the whole to individual incidents. Alexander's entire education was for this type of moment. The whole picture painted earlier of the regency, being summoned to his father's camp and the diplomatic mission to Athens which followed are all part of the heir's Macedonian "high schooling".

A Macedonian king's responsibility was to lead - in war as much as much as anything else - and Alexander will have been trained for war and to lead in war. He was sitting his eighteen year old exams. He was not about to sit them at home in Pella sharpening sarisae (that's an awfully difficult picture to conceive).
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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 »

Phoebus

You and I seem to be talking about two different things.

I'm not talking about Alexander being present on the battlefield. I've acknowledged in my reply to Amyntoros that this could be considered reasonable. I'm talking about the decision, as I perceive it, to allow Alexander to command the left wing, supervised by Philip's most seasoned commanders.

This is the decision I think would have been a poor one in any time period and any culture.

Paralus

I agree that Alexander was being "groomed". This would not have justified making him the commander of the left wing in the battle of Chaeronea. There's a time and place for everything, and Alexander was clearly still very under-qualified.

But then, Paralus, you don't actually believe ( if I've understood you correctly) that Alexander was given this responsibility. So for you, I'd assume there's no problem.
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Post by Paralus »

the_accursed wrote:Paralus

I agree that Alexander was being "groomed". This would not have justified making him the commander of the left wing in the battle of Chaeronea. There's a time and place for everything, and Alexander was clearly still very under-qualified.
Not substantially different to Philip, having spent his formative years as a captive, leading the Macedonian army into battle against the Illyrians in 359. A twenty-three year old who will have had minimal (most likely less than Alexander) actual military experience.
the_accursed wrote: But then, Paralus, you don't actually believe ( if I've understood you correctly) that Alexander was given this responsibility. So for you, I'd assume there's no problem.
I believe, as stated, the "command" - given the coterie of experienced generals - was largely titular. Diodorus seems, to me, clear on this. Equally clear is the fact that the presumtive heir should be seen to be exactly that and to be seen executing those duties his army expected of him.

The Silver Shields are seen to respond to Eumenes, cradling what appears to be a monstrous hangover, "rising from the dead" before the great battle of Paraetecene in 317 (Eum. 14.4-5):
Accordingly, the foremost Macedonians halted in their march and called with loud cries for Eumenes, declaring that they would not go forward unless he was in command of them; and grounding their arms they passed word to one another to wait, and to their leaders to keep still, and without Eumenes not to give battle or run any hazard even with the enemy. When Eumenes heard of this, he quickened the pace of his bearers to a run and came to them, and lifting the curtains of his litter on either side, stretched forth his hand in delight. And when the soldiers saw him, they hailed him at once in their Macedonian speech, caught up their shields, beat upon them with their spears, and raised their battle-cry, challenging the enemy to fight in the assurance that their leader was at hand.
Eumenes was, of course, the "general" of the Argead House - appointed by the kings - at this time. It will have been all the more important for the king or his heir.
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Post by Phoebus »

the_accursed wrote:You and I seem to be talking about two different things.

I'm not talking about Alexander being present on the battlefield. I've acknowledged in my reply to Amyntoros that this could be considered reasonable. I'm talking about the decision, as I perceive it, to allow Alexander to command the left wing, supervised by Philip's most seasoned commanders.

This is the decision I think would have been a poor one in any time period and any culture.
Nah, we're talking about the same thing. :)

Different times and different societies have different needs, depending on how they develop.
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Post by karen »

Philip put Alexander in the position he did -- titularly commanding or effectively commanding or whatever it was -- because he knew he could do the job. And he was right, because Alexander did do the job. QED.

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Post by the_accursed »

Paralus:

You're comparing apples with oranges. Neither Philip nor Eumenes were being groomed to become kings. They didn’t command because someone else decided they needed the experience, and Eumenes certainly wasn’t inexperienced.

Alexander, on the other hand, did not have to command, however "nominally", at Chaeronea. Had Philip let Parmenion, rather than a supervised Alexander, command the left wing, then I don't believe for one moment that you - or, for that matter, a single soldier in the Macedonian army - would have questioned that decision.

What Philip did weakened the army. And this could have made a difference in this "hotly contested" battle. The generals had to supervise Alexander, rather than command themselves, and Alexander - who was both inexperienced and unpredictable - could have made a mistake that they could not have corrected.

Karen:
Philip put Alexander in the position he did -- titularly commanding or effectively commanding or whatever it was -- because he knew he could do the job. And he was right, because Alexander did do the job. QED
Philip took a great risk and got away with it. This doesn't mean that taking this risk must have been the right thing to do.
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Post by dean »

Hello,
Iam not sure, but I think that Philip, in the end, showed great confidence in Alexander.
I am also sure and of course it is simply a personal belief, that Philip had a "feeling" about Alexander. Something that made him think that there couldn't be any man better for the job and thus gave him full rein. full reign.Something tells me that being in the aura of Alexander must have been sufficient to make you believe that he could.


Alexander must have been quite a personna.

Best regards,
Dean

P.S. the bit about alexander saving philip is early on- and perhaps more Mary Renault's idea than anything else. Philip is facing a major mutiny and subtly chooses to lie down when his horse falls. and Alexander stands up for his father. I think that the sources contest it so- but must check- Renault usually is OK for her research matey.
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Post by athenas owl »

dean wrote:Hello,
Iam not sure, but I think that Philip, in the end, showed great confidence in Alexander.
I am also sure and of course it is simply a personal belief, that Philip had a "feeling" about Alexander. Something that made him think that there couldn't be any man better for the job and thus gave him full rein. full reign.Something tells me that being in the aura of Alexander must have been sufficient to make you believe that he could.


Alexander must have been quite a personna.

Best regards,
Dean

P.S. the bit about alexander saving philip is early on- and perhaps more Mary Renault's idea than anything else. Philip is facing a major mutiny and subtly chooses to lie down when his horse falls. and Alexander stands up for his father. I think that the sources contest it so- but must check- Renault usually is OK for her research matey.
I agree with this post. As for Renault, though, I thought that that was where I had gotten my idea that it had happened somewhere besides Chaeronea. However, doing a Google search, a number of books on Alexander from the 19th century all say it happened up north*** fighting the Triballi. Apparently this view was fairly common, and though I am too lazy to research it, someone must have started it or had a super secret source we don't know about... :lol:

*** I was going to post the books and authors and dates but it would be quicker if you just googled "alexander+ "saved his father's life"+ triballi" in the book part of the search engine. There are probably more but it gives you the idea.
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