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, July 1, 2015

Alexander the Great: Shah or Satrap or Shah of Shahs? A game of words.

Today we are still familiar with the title “shah” as the rule of the Shah of Persia is not in such a distant past although it has originated in the days of Parthian rulers. The word “satrap” on the other hand has been used since antiquity to designate the governor of a Persian province.

[Picture from http://thegloriousninth.blogspot.be/2010/04/epic-3-king-of-kings-1961.html]

A highly informative article has been published by Monique L. Cardell, “Shah, Satrap and Alexander the Great” on this subject offering a thorough linguistic analysis of the very roots of these titles.

“Shah” is a Persian word for “king”, with tight links to the Sanskrit for “king” and “noble warrior”. The root word in both languages applies to the power itself as well as to the kingdom, but it also contains a reference to the Old Persian word for “satrap”. This word is in turn very closely related to its Ionian translation meaning “to exercise the power of a satrap”, hence the Greek word “satrap”. By extension, the title of satrap means “the one who guards the kingdom”, i.e. a referral to the highest official charged with the administration of the provinces or satrapies. To put himself above the satraps or “small” kings, the rulers of Persia adopted the title of “King of Kings”, which through Greek would translate as “Emperor”.

From the Arabs who also used the word “shah” we got a different heritage that is to be found in our chess-game. A slight deformation in the pronunciation led to “check-mate”, literally meaning “the king is dead”.

The Indians on the other hand considered Alexander and his officers as “noble warriors”. In this country, however, “shah” has become a common name used as a first name as well, which is standing for ‘force” just as “Iskander” (from Alexander) means “invincible”.

Well, this is a linguistic approach, of course, but not unfounded since all these languages, Greek, Persian, Latin, and Arabic, belong to the same Indo-European group.

In short, this means that Alexander had several titles to go by. He was King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Kings in Persia or, putting it in modern words, he was Shah of Iran!

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