Alexander the cross-dresser?

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marcus
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Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by marcus »

Article by Antony Spawforth, in Histos 6:

http://research.ncl.ac.uk/histos/docume ... hippus.pdf

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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by Xenophon »

A most intersting article....bit wordy and repetitive in places, but the author's interpretation of the Epihippus fragment is quite logical, plausible and convincing.....
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by jan »

I am very impressed with this article that you have produced here. It is very illuminating to me. I have to admit that there is much more to it than simply the issue of why Alexander chose to dress on occasion in a garb which would signify Artemis. I am impressed with the discussion of his learning to use a bow and arrow in the time period. The lion hunts fascinate me since that is an integral part of my novel about his childhood. Much of this supported a lot of my own first draft. For that reason, I deeply appreciate this being presented here so that I could read it. It only proves that I have a lot of work to do yet...but I also enjoyed references to Susa which I find interesting and fascinating. The discussion about the tent intrigues me. Much obliged, Marcus. :D :D :D
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by chris_taylor »

marcus wrote:Article by Antony Spawforth, in Histos 6:

http://research.ncl.ac.uk/histos/docume ... hippus.pdf

ATB
thanks for the link. A salutary lesson in separating facts from meaning.

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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by spitamenes »

Was this in any way a 'common' practice back in the day? Dressing like a God? Anyone know of other instances? And it didn't seem to emphasize that he dressed as a female God, just the fact that he had a habit of dressing up as God's in general. And one that was mentioned happened to be female.
I wonder if back in the day they even had a word for 'cross-dresser'. I have been under the (albiet, all too often ill informed) impression that they didn't even have a word to describe gay people.
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by agesilaos »

'Cross-dressing' was an issue, look at BkI of Justin's Philippica and ther are one of each sex, Semiramis and Sardanapalos! There does not seem tobe a word for it though' there were plenty of words for 'gays' relating both, to being active or passive partners, or more graphic descriptions of their sexual practices.

One of the problems with labelling an ancient a cross-dresser is that most garments were unisex, himations, tunica, chitons, the difference could lie in how they were worn, men usually hitching them up while women wore them long, but both wore himations long; Caesar was considered 'effeminate' for wearing long-sleeves according to Suetonius.
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by Xenophon »

I think some people are rather missing the point of the article, which is that Alexander was NOT "dressing up as Artemis", rather he was appearing as his Persian subjects would expect him to - as the 'Shahshahn', King of Kings; Great King to the Greeks - and doing the things the Great King did - hunting in 'paradises' with the bow, which for Persians generally had a great ritual significance of itself.

It was a hostile Greek writer putting the 'spin' of ridicule on this - Persian dress was regarded as effeminate by Greeks anyway, and in his long robe armed with bow, it was easy to mock Alexander by suggesting he was dressed up as 'Artemis'.

Having said which, Alexander DID dress as a God or hero on occasion - to emphasise his links to that God, and even sought divine honours. In the ancient world generally, it was believed that Great men who accomplished 'godlike' deeds could become Gods themselves, especially Rulers.
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by agesilaos »

I think this Ephippos fragment is the only source for divine masquerade, and thus it is immediately suspect; the reference to Herakles may be no more than an extrapolation from the supposed portraits on the silver coinage, were he dated later the Ammon reference might be associated Lysimachos' tetradrachms but the note on the special shoes might make it more likely a statue would be the source, assuming Ephippos is riffing on actual plastic art.

I have only just started the article so will have to reserve judgement until I have finished it.
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

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spitamenes wrote:Was this in any way a 'common' practice back in the day? Dressing like a God? Anyone know of other instances? And it didn't seem to emphasize that he dressed as a female God, just the fact that he had a habit of dressing up as God's in general. [
either I'm misreading your post, or you misread the article: the point of the article is that Alexander did NOT dress up as a God. He dressed in traditional Persian hunting costume, which to Greek eyes looked like garments of a God. Epipphus wanted to discredit Alexander, so he concealed he knew the significance AND abused the lack of cultural knowledge on part of his audience to mislead them.

It's a variation on the misinterpretation of Alexander's attitude towards proskynesis.

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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by Paralus »

chris_taylor wrote:It's a variation on the misinterpretation of Alexander's attitude towards proskynesis.

Chris.
Which would indicate there is a "correct" interpretation. How do you see it?
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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by chris_taylor »

Paralus wrote:
chris_taylor wrote:It's a variation on the misinterpretation of Alexander's attitude towards proskynesis.

Chris.
Which would indicate there is a "correct" interpretation. How do you see it?
Perhaps I should have used misrepresentation, ie a selective presentation of facts which distorts meaning. No such thing as a "correct interpretation", only possible interpretations of varying probabilities.

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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by amyntoros »

spitamenes wrote:Was this in any way a 'common' practice back in the day? Dressing like a God? Anyone know of other instances? And it didn't seem to emphasize that he dressed as a female God, just the fact that he had a habit of dressing up as God's in general. And one that was mentioned happened to be female.
I wonder if back in the day they even had a word for 'cross-dresser'. I have been under the (albiet, all too often ill informed) impression that they didn't even have a word to describe gay people.
Dressing "like a God" in those days depended mostly on what one wore on the head or carried in one's arms as the gods were thought of as wearing the same clothes as humanity -if they were portrayed as wearing clothes, that is. Hence, we (and they) associate Alexander with Ammon because of the images of him wearing the ram's horns; Herakles because of the lion's head, etc. If there was an image of him carrying an owl or image of same, or a serpent entwined staff then we might presume he was emulating Athena or Asklepios. Not that it's likely he would have associated himself with these gods, but I'm sure you get my point. It's already been well explained in this thread that a bow and arrow were attributes of Artemis and the long "dress" was though of as female clothing, thus explaining the wrongly (I also believe) presumed association with Alexander.

As for other instances of "dressing like a god" I'm presently not aware of any prior to Alexander although those here with more knowledge of the earlier periods of Greek history may be able to englighten us. After Alexander, well yes, wherever he went others followed, metorphorically speaking, although once again I can't say if they were simply portrayed wearing the attributes of the gods or whether they did so in real life.

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Re: Alexander the cross-dresser?

Post by agesilaos »

Spawforth’s thesis seems persuasive on a cursory reading but it becomes clear, on consideration, that it is really a house of cards, and the foundations are somewhat shaky.

Since I doubt anyone will take the trouble to re-read his forty odd pages I won’t be taking my objections in the order in which they occur in his paper but as they occur in my chaotic mind.

One of his foundation cards is that we can take the passage xxiii 4 ‘If he were making a march which was not very urgent, he would practise, as he went along, either archery or mounting and dismounting from a chariot that was under way. Often, too, for diversion, he would hunt foxes or birds, as may be gathered from his journals.’ As a citation from the ‘journals’. Whereas reading the quote in context it is clear that the material is a confection of many sources and the likelihood is that the chariot and archery exercises ought to be divorced from the hunting, which alone is affirmed by the Ephemerides.
4 If he were making a march which was not very urgent, he would practise, as he went along, either archery or mounting and dismounting from a chariot that was under way. Often, too, for diversion, he would hunt foxes or birds, as may be gathered from his journals. 5 After he had taken quarters for the night, and while he was enjoying bath or anointing, he would enquire of his chief cooks and bakers whether the arrangements for his supper were duly made. 6 When it was late and already dark, he would begin his supper, reclining on a couch, and marvellous was his care and circumspection at table, in order that everything might be served impartially and without stint; but over the wine, as I have said, he would sit long, for conversation's sake. 7 And although in other ways he was of all princes most agreeable in his intercourse, and endowed with every grace, at this time his boastfulness would make him unpleasant and very like a common soldier. Not only was he himself carried away into blustering, but he suffered himself to be ridden by his flatterers. There were a great annoyance to the finer spirits in the company, who desired neither to vie with the flatterers, nor yet to fall behind them in praising Alexander. The one course they thought disgraceful, the other had its perils. 8 After the drinking was over, he would take a bath and sleep, frequently until midday; and sometimes he would actually spend the entire day in sleep.
Nor is it likely that a man recovering from a punctured lung would be jumping on and off a moving chariot, which would place that activity before the events at the Malli town.

Much falls on this realisation.

Nor in his honest list of the reported hunts can Spawforth find one that does not occur in the traditional Macedonian style; he is honest enough not to invent any such evidence. This makes the discussion of the Achaemenid tradition rather otiose not least because the Plutarch passage is clearly not describing practice for chariot-borne bow based lion hunting; the Assyrio-Persian Kings shoot their arrows from the chariot they do not jump off and on again, and, despite Sawforth, Alexander was NOT prejudiced against athletics, as is clear from his repeated sponsorship of such games; it was the pankration and boxing that disgusted him.

The whole basis of his argument is the fragment of Ephippos, or rather his interpretation of one part off it. This need not invalidate the analysis, but it, necessarily, weakens any conclusions from it.

Ephippos’ autopsy of Alexander riding out to these supposed hunts is also important to the structure of his argument. If Ephippos is to identified with the man left in charge of the mercenaries in Egypt then a summons to Court in 324 must surely be connected with the misgovernment of that satrapy by Kleomenes; he allegedly arrived prior to Hephaistion’s death and definitely before the news that the oracle at Siwah had granted him heroic rites. Yet there is no mention of him in the sources for the so-called purge, which do name several minor figures alongside the satraps. It would also be suicidal to respond to such a summons, perhaps, instead, he took a leaf out of Harpalos’ book and fled.

The vivid description of Alexander’s weapons ‘appearing’ from behind his shoulders, could equally well apply to an art work or an imagined scene. There is something odd about the sacred vestments attributed to Alexander too. Perischideis are not an attribute of Ammon, nor is a purple cloak, perischideis are, according to Hesychios, slave’s shoes, maybe there is some joke here along the lines of a ‘feet-of-clay’ revelation. Similarly, the description of his Hermes tallies with the toned down Persian outfit of the sources rather than Hermes’ own garb, is it ironic portraying the man to whom the world sends embassies as a herald? The point of the Artemis jibe is not lost on anyone, oops it’s a she. Herakles was all over the coinage. There is a striking omission in this catalogue of hubris. Where is the accusation of portraying Zeus, something we can confirm from both Plutarch and the ‘Poros’ coinage ?

Also, are we to believe that the Macedonians acquiesced in the perversion of their royal hunting traditions when they objected to barbarians being given xysta for their native paltai. Given the detail of the grievances lodged at Opis this ought to have appeared.

Furthermore, the period in question is fairly fully detailed in the sources and there does not seem too much opportunity for the social-bonding hunt Spawforth imagines. The time after Hephaistion’s death is occupied by the extravagant mourning, which would preclude any pastimes like hunting. The Cossaean campaign is followed by the mass of embassies, the manoeuvring about Babylon, the organisation of the voyages to fulfill Niarchos’ failed commision, the trips down the Euphrates etc. A lion does occur but one so unfit as to be kicked to death by a donkey! The area about Babylon is described as marsh, ground unsuited to chariotry.

For all that these objections are largely argumenta ex silencio, they must carry weight against an argumentum ex suppositio.
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