Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A statue of Alexander the Great found in Alexandria?

This is the latest news from The Egypt State Information Service, published on Oct 7, 2009. Spicy headlines announce the very encouraging news about a statue of Alexander the Great being unearthed in the center of Alexandria, Egypt. But then there are still archeologists who doubt the statue is indeed Alexander, although it is being dated to the 2nd century BC and would fit the period in which Alexander’s body was transferred from Memphis to Alexandria.

The Greek delegation concludes head over heels that this discovery will lead to the Tomb of Alexander the Great, a rather daring statement, I would say, especially if other archeologists doubt this even being Alexander. I find these statements rather vague. A picture would have been helpful.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Campaigns of Alexander the Great by Arrian

The Campaigns of Alexander the Great by Arrian (ISBN-10: 0140442537). Simply the best! A must for every fan, admirer and fanatic of Alexander the Great.

Like it or not, this is the Bible for whoever wants to read first hand about Alexander the Great. Accounts from contemporary historians like Callisthenes, Onesicritus, Nearchus and Aristobulus did exist but came to us only in bits and pieces. Arrian was lucky enough to have access to the biography of Alexander written by Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals and maybe his half-brother, who later became Pharaoh of Egypt. What we know today has been recorded by a handful of ancient writers (Diodorus, Curtius Rufus and Plutarch mainly) who still had access to those old records, and Arrian is one of those writers.
Lucius Flavius Arrianus, better known as Arrian, was a Greek historian from the 2nd century AD, who served as a military commander in the Roman Empire. He had widespread interests in philosophy, topographic-ethnography, history, and military matters, which culminated in his books on Alexander. He writes in a matter-of-fact-tone without being dull or dry.

Personally, I possess the pocket version of The Campaigns of Alexander which I always carry with me when travelling. Arrian knows how to keep his reader’s mind alive, which may or may not have been influenced by the translator, Aubrey de Sélincourt. In any case, it turns out to be very pleasant and fascinating reading material. 

Over the years since antiquity up till today, whoever wants to write about Alexander the Great will always refer to Arrian in the first place. All what the history or science fiction authors tell us is based on Arrian’s accounts. He clearly states the dates and the events, describes the battlefields and positions of the armies involved with nearly analytical precision, and he puts the cities and landscapes in true perspective. Whatever information you need, you can always rely on Arrian to find it, without fringes or inessential details.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Heracles, the forgotten son of Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great still makes the headlines! After the recent speculations around the Tomb of King Philip of Macedonia in Vergina, wondering if this is indeed the tomb of Alexander’s father, there have been other new findings of two tombs in that vicinity, one of which might be that of Heracles, the illicit son of Alexander and Barsine. Barsine had been married to Memnon, the Greek mercenary and commander in chief of the Persian army who lost the battle against Alexander at the Granicus in 334 BC. He survived the battlefield and fought back fiercely later on in defending Halicarnassus, the city which Alexander besieged, to die of some illness – not a very glamorous end for a military. Barsine, his widow, was war booty although she was a Persian royal princess and must have been a rare beauty. Alexander never included her in any wedding plans but apparently, she did fit his political ambitions, for a relation with her, could be seen as a friendly gesture towards Persia. In any case, she gave him a son and he was called Heracles.

Recent excavations in Aegae have revealed the remains of a youngster who, according to one expert, could be those of Alexander’s murdered son. It is very strange however that these remains that were unearthed next to those uncovered last year were buried under unusual circumstances. Everything seems to indicate that initially they were laid to rest at another location before being reburied here, in the heart of the city. Oddly enough, these two large silver vessels were found under the Agora, close to the theatre where King Philip was murdered in 336 BC while it was common practice to entomb the dead outside the city walls.

[photo AP]

According to the article published by Associated Press, Chrysoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli states that the silver urn looks very, very much like the one discovered several years ago in the nearby royal tumulus, close to the Tomb of Philip II. There also, archeologists couldn’t confirm who occupied the tomb, although many fingers point towards Alexander IV. Chrysoula Saatsoglou-Paliadeli believes that this newly found grave dates from the 4th century BC and is clearly of Royal Macedonian origin because of the golden crown that was found on top.

Very little is known about young Heracles. When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, there was officially no heir to his throne. He had married Roxane a few years earlier while he was in Bactria, but their son, the later Alexander IV was not yet born when Alexander expired.

Nobody had expected Alexander to die so young, he the least of all. His generals now faced the task to appoint a successor. A series of lengthy, bloody and fanatic quarrels followed in which they fought each other, jealous and envious of whatever share of the empire the other parties could acquire. This fight for power went into history as the Wars of the Diadochi and lasted for about forty years! To give some shape and stature to the royal house of Macedon, they finally decided to crown Arrhidaeus, the simple-minded brother of Alexander the Great, as king pending the coming of age of Roxane’s son, Alexander IV.


Then like today, it was all a matter of political manipulation and poor Heracles didn’t live a happy life. According to Hieronymus, quoted by Diodorus, the boy was probably born in 328 or 327 BC, about five years after Alexander’s battle at Issus. There is no way to trace back how long Alexander’s relation with Barsine lasted. It is possible that she accompanied him until her father, the old Artabazus resigned as satrap of Bactria and she escorted him to Pergamon. Possibly Alexander’s marriage with Roxane had something to do with her leaving the baggage train. In any case, Barsine and Heracles both were residing in Pergamon when Alexander died and all of the sudden the boy was put in the floodlights.

Of course, Heracles was half Persian but after all, he also was half Macedonian and, what’s more, the son of Alexander. The Diadochi will face the same problem later on when Roxane gives birth to a boy who is only half Macedonian too. The fact that Heracles was an illegitimate son of Alexander’s was however not a problem for the Macedonians. After all Alexander’s very mother was not from Macedonian stock either as she came from Epirus.

After countless fiery discussions, Perdiccas took charge of the Empire as Regent until he clashed with Ptolemy, who appropriated Egypt. If we believe Strabo (and there is no reason not to), Perdiccas had “the children of Alexander” with him during his Egyptian campaign, which must mean that both Heracles and Alexander IV travelled with him - a way to ensure that neither of them would fall in the hands of the enemies. But then Perdiccas was killed by his own men in 320 BC and presumably Heracles returned to Pergamon.


Then it was Antipater’s turn to take over the Regency (a task that was originally entrusted to him by Alexander himself) only to die one year later. New skirmishes exploded, this time between Cassander, Antipater’s son and general of Alexander’s, and Polyperchon, also one of Alexander’s generals. This Second War of the Diadochi ended with a treaty of both men with Antigonus, another general, and the murder of Eumenes, yet another general of Alexander’s and at one time his secretary. Truly, this entire succession of Alexander the Great was a never-ending messy quarrelling filled with countless murders and manslaughter! Meanwhile, we have entered the year 317 BC and all scruples have long been obliterated. It then is the turn of the somewhat retarded Arrhidaeus to be eliminated and a year later even Alexander’s clever and manipulative mother, Olympias can’t escape her fate and is murdered.

Cassander, who once pretended to be Alexander’s faithful friend, by now is entirely intoxicated by wealth, ambition and greed, and in 310 BC he decided to poison the young prince Alexander IV and his mother Roxane! Well, he didn’t have the guts to do it himself, of course, but instructed the prince’s guardian, Glaucias to clear the job. So much for Cassander’s friendship! 

When this news reached the other Diadochi, Cassander’s enemies erupted in new speculations and conspiracies, especially Polyperchon who was master over the Peloponnesus and Antigonus who ruled Anatolia. Remaining as Alexander’s sole heir, it was obvious that all attention now focused once again on Heracles in Pergamon. This city was part of Antigonus’ empire, and Polyperchon who was yearning to steal away Cassander’s power in Macedon conceived all sorts of tricks to achieve his goal. In his report Diodorus mentions that Polyperchon sent letters to all his friends and to Cassander’s enemies, pleading to restore the now almost seventeen years old Heracles on the throne of his forefathers. Everything went according to his plans, but while Heracles settled in Polyperchon’s camp, Cassander had second thoughts and felt uneasily threatened. He instructed a messenger to carry such attractive promises to Polyperchon as to melt their territories together and to rule jointly without having to bow to any king. The proposition sounded very attractive indeed and Polyperchon agreed with Cassander to eliminate Heracles. This happened probably in 309 BC.

[photo from unknown origin]

In his Moralia, Plutarch mentions that Polyperchon was paid one hundred talents by Cassander to kill Heracles. True or not, the story goes that Polyperchon invited Heracles to dinner but the young man asked to be excused as he didn’t trust him or was scared (rightfully so, as he’ll find out afterwards). Unhappy with this response, Polyperchon then visited the young prince in his quarters and told him “the first quality of your father you should imitate is his readiness to oblige and attachment to his friends” (Dixit Plutarch) unless the young prince would accuse him of treason? Heracles was left no choice but to attend the dinner. His meal was served and he was strangled. Justinian pretends that upon Cassander’s instructions, Barsine was murdered at the same time as her son and that their bodies were secretly hidden in the earth to erase all traces of this crime (meaning there would be no pyre as was the custom).

Not the prettiest picture of the Macedonian rulers – enough to make Alexander turn in his grave, no doubt! But these facts leave us with a number of corpses that are not accounted for. We don’t know how, where or when they were disposed of. One known theory is that Alexander IV lies in the tomb next to that of Philip II in Vergina, but even that has not been confirmed. And with this new evidence, we have another theory regarding the remains of Heracles that were found in the same area, although not in a tomb. There is still no trace whatsoever of the resting place of Roxane, Barsine or even Olympias. What a story to investigate further through Unsolved Mysteries!