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 in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, 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)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Alexander the Great or not?

Some time ago, I saw that Christie’s offered a Hellenistic terracotta statue for sale representing Alexander the Great or one of his successors. Unfortunately, the link is no longer available for this story was quite interesting. This approximately 60 cm high statue has been dated to the late 4th-early 3rd century B.C. and might have served as a model for a large-scale bronze.

What I found so special about this statue, is that it was dressed in the short Greek chlamys but also wore a loin cloth or “Persian Girdle” underneath. I have never seen anything like this before, or maybe I never paid attention but … a Persian Girdle? A few days later, as I was watching the movie “Alexander” for the 100th time or so, it stroke me that Alexander and his companions wore a similar girdle when arriving in Babylon and exploring the Royal Palace! Alexander’s girdle was a golden one and the others wore red. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I thought I knew the movie by heart but this detail had eluded me all this time. Where had Oliver Stone found the very reference or idea? I went through “The Making of Alexander” with all the advice given by Robin Lane Fox but couldn’t find any information. Anyone out there with some good idea? Please let me know.

Now coming back to the terracotta statue at Christie’s, some lucky collector bought it for several thousands of dollars. Some people have all the luck, it seems for Christie's doesn't even allow the very picture of this statue to be published. Sorry folks!

It goes without saying that Christie’s did a good job analyzing the statue. Alexander or whoever it may be stands in the classical pose resting on his left leg and with a stretched left arm that might have held a lance. It is rather detailed with the chlamys draped over his shoulders and pinned down on the right shoulder, exposing the right side of his torso and the famous girdle. He wears comfortable short ankle boots. His head is slightly turned to the right, the curly hair with the characteristic anastole held in place with a headband. All in all, a lean and muscular figure that creates enough confusion to debate whether or not this is Alexander the Great.

Personally, I find there is something wrong with the proportions, but it may be that the ultimate statue had to fit in some niche or was meant to be put up high above eye level. Looking him straight in the face I could recognize some features that would fit Alexander, but not when seen in profile. But then I wonder who among his generals would wear a Persian girdle underneath his chlamys. The only one I could think of is Seleucos… who else?

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