Nikas wrote:As I can only think of a couple of cases where a heir-presumptive was personally tutored by a philosopher of Aristotle's calibre, the other being Dionysius II by Plato, then by definition I believe it is exceptional, even if meaning outside of the common standard. But not to split hairs there, I definitely agree with you it reflects very highly on Philip's wisdom and responsibility as king.
Note that my objection to using the word “exceptional” is that I don’t agree that it was necessarily a choice Philip arrived at after painstaking research. I think Philip cared about Alexander’s education and thought Aristotle would be a good teacher. To me, “exceptional care” and “highly educated” are hyperbole of a kind that is too common in discussions about Alexander. Nero was educated by Seneca, one of the greatest Roman philosophers. In his case though people rarely feel the need to point out that someone took “exceptional care” to make sure he’d get the best possible education, or that this education made him a “highly educated” man. And this, in my opinion, is not because Seneca wasn’t a great philosopher, but because Nero never "conquered the world”.
Nikas wrote:As for minimizing Alexander's military accomplishments, well while I may hold Philip the "greater" overall king, I believe to say that Alexander merely showed up and rode his generals coat-tails to victory after victory is untenable. Even if we allow for some bias in the sources for later over-grandisement vis-a-vis Parmenion and the other generals and a post-execution smear campaign, it seems pretty safe that the sources all accredit and acknowledge the overall grand-strategy, strategy, and tactical leadership of Alexander. Even where the opportunity to stretch the self-glorification was most opportune (i.e. Ptolemy's memoirs) I don't believe anyone claimed their success was not due to Alexander himself. Sure, they may have played important roles in individual battles here or there, but to Alexander went the overall credit and glory. This must be the orthodox view in antiquity, it is consistent as to later anecdotes (Alexander being the better general than say Hannibal or Scipio or Pyrrhus), or even when they did try to knock him down a notch or two, it was to say that Fortune (lucky) favoured him, not that he owed it to anyone else. Even in Livy where he takes on the "frivolous Greeks for claiming that the Romans would surely have bowed to the name of Alexander" doesn't go as far to say he was not a great general, just that Rome had it's own fair share. In fact, he makes the point that if Alexander fell, then it was all over as Rome could produce multiple generals while there was only one Alexander.
Alexander got the overall credit and glory simply because (in my opinion) he was king. Had someone else been king of Macedonia at that time, that person would have got the glory. My view is that it’s not a great mystery why the campaign against Persia ended with Macedonian victory. The Macedonians won because their army was better. They won with Alexander, and would also in my opinion have won without him. To think otherwise, one must believe that Philip’s great generals, with their decades of experience, would not have defeated Persia had it not been for the wise leadership and military genius of one of the least experienced participants in the campaign. To me, such a belief is not credible. Rather, In my opinion, Alexander seems a “great general” simply because of the greatness of his army and the relative weakness of his opponents. I agree though that your view both was and is the orthodox one.
Yes, Alexander was a risk taker. But this fact has little to do with my examples. Alexander didn’t try to introduce proskynesis at his court because he was a risk taker. He did it because his judgement told him it would be a good idea. The same was the case for his meddling in the “Pixodarus affair”. He felt threatened by the fact that Philip was about to marry off Arrhidaeus, and so his judgement told him it would be in his best interest to try to take Arrhidaeus’ place, against Philip’s will. His judgement then told him it would be a good idea to reject the advice to get married and father an heir. During the campaign against Persia, he regularly made decisions based on whims. One such whim got thousands of Macedonians killed in a desert. Note: yes, the march through the Gedrosian desert was an example of Alexander being a risk taker. What I consider utterly stupid, is the reason he took such a huge risk. It’s one thing to take a great risk and a have a good reason for it. Another to do it for an entirely nonsensical reason.Nikas wrote:As for the intelligence, well we seem to be straying a bit off of topic, but I would suggest that there is a big difference in those examples you cite of being "unintelligent" as opposed to calculated risk taking by a very intelligent person with very high stakes. Even very intelligent people make what seem very odd decisions (to others) at times based on their own set of criteria, how much more when the stakes are so high? Bill Clinton by all indications is highly intelligent a Rhodes Scholar, wore out secretaries with his command of policy and so on, yet it wasn't the most intelligent decision for his little dalliance with Ms. Monica Lewinsky, but I am betting it was a calculated risk that he wouldn't get caught for a little temporary, ahem, stress relief. Or in Alexander's example, appointing satraps were calculated political risks: the risk of a potential revolt vs say the risk of a sense of continuity for the population and a more seamless integration as the newest Persian king's subjects (Alexander) and less chance of a revolt (therein the calculated risk).
I do agree that simply reading would not be in itself a sign of any special intelligence, but the fact is that Alexander deliberately kept himself abreast of the latest advances in all fields (not just poetry or drama) and this is a sign I believe of continuous self-improvement and intellectual curiosity and growth at the very least.
As for Alexander’s reading habits, in my opinion, the correct way to assess Alexander’s intelligence is not to base the assessment on what he might have read, but on how he actually applied his knowledge. That is: on his decisions and their consequences.