Page 1 of 1

Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 1:28 am
by adisciplus
The movie "Hyena Road" mentions the legend, also mentioned by Steven Pressfield, that Alexander sent Afghanistan soil to his mother.

“Alexander’s mother Olympias wrote him a letter once,” the officer tells me, “getting on his case for taking so long to knock off these primitive, poverty-stricken Afghans. So Alexander captured three tribal chiefs and sent them back to Macedonia, each one carrying an offering of soil from his own tribal homeland; they were supposed to deliver these tokens to Olympias as a gift from her son. But waiting outside the queen’s palace door, the three chiefs got into a fight and killed one another. Alexander’s Mom wrote back: ‘Now I understand, my son.’”


http://www.stevenpressfield.com/2010/03 ... s-n-mattis

Does anyone have the original source for this anecdote?

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Mon Aug 22, 2016 7:10 pm
by Alexias
I've never heard this story before. It has all the hallmarks of local apocrypha, invented later on. Alexander is known to have sent stuff back from his travels, including plants (and soil if living presumably) to Aristotle for study, and he would also have sent things to his mother, with possibly locals to accompany them. But his purpose wouldn't have been to show off the argumentative temperament of the Afghans. That sounds like local colouring.

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Sun Sep 11, 2016 7:14 pm
by sean_m
I agree, I think it is an example of a modern "Alexander Romance." Every story gets better if you put Alexander in it!

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2016 11:16 pm
by sksvlad
So the soil story was made up, right? In the movie the narrator also said that Alexander's mother was surprised that he was spending so much time in a land of nothing but dirt. I am no Macedonian scholar, but if I remember this correctly, the Greeks have moved through Afghanistan swiftly towards India, partially because they could not cook hot meals (no trees, just dirt). Do I remember this correctly?

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 3:55 pm
by Alexias
I think you might be thinking of the crossing of the Hindu Kush into central Asia. They ran out of grain and had to slaughter the pack animals. In Michael wood's documentary 'In the Footsteps of..' I think he said that they ate the meat raw (because they were above the tree line and so had no wood to burn), and that they flavoured the meat with an aromatic and expensive herb, although Curtius says that they anointed themselves with the herb.

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 1:26 pm
by sean_m
sksvlad wrote:So the soil story was made up, right?
That is hard to prove, but I would not spend much time trying to look for a source earlier than this general! In Alexander's day, Bactria and Areia and Arachosia and Gandara were exotic and remote lands, but I don't think they were especially poor or warlike compared to Macedonia!

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:52 am
by abdur.khattak
"Alexander’s mother Olympias wrote him a letter once,” the officer tells me, “getting on his case for taking so long to knock off these primitive, poverty-stricken Afghans. So Alexander captured three tribal chiefs and sent them back to Macedonia, each one carrying an offering of soil from his own tribal homeland; they were supposed to deliver these tokens to Olympias as a gift from her son. But waiting outside the queen’s palace door, the three chiefs got into a fight and killed one another. Alexander’s Mom wrote back: ‘Now I understand, my son.’”

Its a ancient saint in our pakhtoon history. What it means that every one here wants to be a leader. no one accepts other leadership no doubt what qualities he have.

Alexander’s Mom wrote back: ‘Now I understand, my son. means when Alexander take control of one tribe or killed their leader, the moment a new one appears to be a tribe leader or leading tribe.

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Sat Feb 25, 2017 8:29 pm
by sean_m
Thank you very much Abdur. I am glad to know that this story is a Pakhtoon story as well.

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:56 pm
by Johannsen
sean_m wrote:I agree, I think it is an example of a modern "Alexander Romance." Every story gets better if you put Alexander in it!
You're right lol. A story without Alexander is hardly a story at all.

Re: Alexander sent Afghan soil to his mother?

Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2020 7:12 pm
by sean_m
Also, Roel Konijnedrijk caught Steven Pressfield making up a story about Spartan boys having to drink a mouthful of water, run ten miles and spit it out. As Roel says, anyone can read all the ancient sources on Sparta, and that story is not in them: Pressfield just wanted some tough warrior wisdom, so he took the kind of story that US special forces like to tell about themselves and projected it on the Spartans. So Pressfield invents some stories, and retells other people's stories, and retells ancient stories, and mixes them all together.