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 Ariana (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in the Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene / Alexandria on the Indus (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 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)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Symposium by Plato

The Symposium by Plato (ISBN 0-14-044024-0) is not exactly my kind of reading, but must be for those persons really interested in philosophy. I found the book on a fair for second-hand books and bought it because the subject is quite intriguing and I hoped to find out more about it. Beside that, Plato was the tutor of Aristotle who in turn was called to Macedonia by King Philip to teach young Alexander. Reason enough to have a close look.

The stage is set in Athens of 416 BC where a group of people from the upper-class are coming together to eat, drink and talk at the house of the poet Agathon. The other guests are Phaedrus, an aristocrat; Pausanias, the legal expert; Eryximachus, a physician; Aristophanes, the great comic poet; Socrates, the philosopher and Plato’s teacher; and towards the end of the Symposium enters Alcibiades, a prominent statesman, orator and general – quite a mixed company.  It is being decided that, since they all recently have been drinking heavily, they will amuse themselves with talk in the form of a speech instead of the usual entertainment with flute girls and wine. Each participant will take his turn and the subject that is chosen is Love.

Each character evidently develops his own vision and opinion. Love as expressed during this symposium is mostly homosexual love between men as was current in classical Greece at that time. The one before last speaker is Socrates who asserts that the love of wisdom is the highest level of love, introducing the bases for what is to be known later on as platonic love. At this stage, Alcibiades bursts in with some drunken companions and takes the lead. He sketches the character of Socrates and his own love and admiration for the philosopher. A last drunken party erupts and mingles, and in the end, some of the guests go home while others stay put and fall asleep. In the early morning hours only Agathon, Aristophanes and Socrates are still awake, talking and drinking. The last “survivor” is Socrates who leaves the house as sober as when he arrived.

So much for the story itself, the philosophy has to be taken as it comes by those who want to linger on these deep reflections about the human soul. In Socrates’ speech, the question is clearly asked whether Achilles would have died to avenge Patroclus if he had not believed that his courage would live on in men’s memory. The desire for immortal renown and glory is the incentive to his action; he is in love with immortality. This book definitely leads to some deep reflection on the subject.

What I find interesting is the general concept of what we call today homosexuality and the intensity of the shameless drinking. This is, of course, seen through the eyes of our modern society. True love between men prevailed and was accepted without question, something we should seriously consider when talking about Alexander’s love for Hephaistion. The heavy drinking that could go on for hours is another aspect of ancient life that we should take into account in Alexander’s life. He probably wasn’t drinking more or any less than his companions or his army buddies. Judging facts that happened more than two thousand years ago is extremely hard and I think in this aspect we could be a little more tolerant towards Alexander as a man. 

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