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 OR 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)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Alexander in Athens

Alexander’s visit to Athens is one of those events that is generally overlooked when reading about his exploits, even by ancient historians.

After the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC where Alexander annihilated the Theban Band at the head of his father’s left wing, the young prince went to Athens together with Alcimachus and Philip’s weathered general and most probably senior diplomat, Antipater. Their goal was to negotiate peace with Athens, a highly sensitive matter that required serious political skills. They took with them the ashes of the cremated Athenians from the battlefield, as well as the two thousand Athenian prisoners made at Chaeronea for which no ransom was demanded. They only requested that an Athenian embassy would go to Philip to discuss a mutual peace.

For Antipater this was not his first mission as envoy of King Philip and not his first mission to Athens either. During earlier negotiations for peace in 346 BC, Athens had sent a heavy embassy of ten men to Pella that was answered by Philip’s usual confusing diplomacy. What Philip really wanted was a treaty of peace and alliance where he and the Athenians were equals, something that probably did not sink in with the Athenians. As soon as the delegation that included Philip’s sworn enemy Demosthenes left, the king set off for Thrace. In order to keep Athens on their toes he sent Antipater, together with Parmenion and Eurylochus to the city. Demosthenes however convinced the Assembly to go for a Common Peace in which every state was free to join. Antipater bluntly refused, because these were not his king’s terms. In the end, the Athenians and their allies had to comply and they swore their oaths to the peace and alliance to Macedonia.

Now, in 338 BC after the Battle of Chaeronea had ended all parties’ uncertainty whether to side up with Philip or with Athens, these two main players finally agreed on a treaty of friendship and alliance. The Athenians went even as far as conferring citizenship to Philip and Alexander, which by itself was not an exceptional gesture but it shows that they set a step forward in order to please the King of Macedonia. They even erected an equestrian statue of Philip on the Agora.

Unfortunately we don’t have any details about Alexander’s visit. Was Alexander, only 18 years old, merely accompanying Antipater? Or was Alexander put in charge, upon instructions of his father and coached by Antipater? Or was Alexander’s presence at the negotiations simply part of his education, or maybe his presence added more weight to Antipater’s argumentation? We can speculated at length about any of these theories, but no answer will be conclusive, I’m afraid.

I also wonder where Alexander, with or without Antipater, met the Athenian delegation. The Pnyx is not a likely location for this is where the Athenian people gathered for their own democratic elections, which have nothing to do with foreign policy. The Theater of Dionysus sounds an appropriate place in my eyes but it may be too large for the assembled company, so the smaller Bouleuterion on the Agora would offer a better alternative. Who knows?

It is pretty safe to assume that while in Athens Alexander walked up the Acropolis. The Parthenon, the Temple of Niké and the Ereichteion would have shone in their freshly painted flamboyant colors. From there the young prince would have looked out over the harbor of Piraeus only 12 km away and beyond that all the way to the island of Salamis, just as we can today. And whether or not the meeting with the Athenian delegation took place at the Theater of Dionysus, I’m sure he will not have missed the opportunity to attend a play by one of the most popular protagonists at that time.

It is very difficult to look at Athens through Alexander’s eyes, simply because we hardly have any fact to go by. So, I just keep on wondering and dreaming …

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