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)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Your enemy’s table has become your footstool

The expression can be taken philosophically but in the case of Alexander, it was meant literally. The scene is set in Susa, where he arrived in late 331 BC after having spent four weeks in Babylon. Here he installed Sisygambis, Darius’ mother, as well as her grandchildren, who had traveled with her since the aftermath of the Battle of Issus in 333 BC.

The Treasury of Susa was handed over, intact, meaning a bullion of 40,000 talents of gold and silver and 9,000 talents in gold darics. This was the largest amount Alexander ever collected in one take. Happy with this outcome and the surrender of Susa, Alexander sat down on the royal throne of Xerxes to savor the moment. This throne, however, outsized Alexander’s small stature and his feet did not reach the footstool that belonged to his royal seat. One of his attentive pages noticing this shortcoming pulled up a table that had belonged to Darius and slid it under the king’s feet. Alexander was much pleased with this solution but looking around he noticed that one of Darius’ eunuchs was lamenting and crying. He evidently asked him what was the matter and the eunuch replied that he was grieved so see that the table which Darius used for his meals now to serve in such an insulting way. Alexander realized that in the eyes of the Persians he had committed an act of arrogance and ordered the table to be removed. But then Philotas intervened by saying that this was an omen since the table of his enemy had been turned into the king’s footstool. Alexander apparently took the remark at heart and ordered the table to be left at the foot of his throne.

One can argue that Philotas was right, of course, but on the other hand, this was clearly a lack of respect for centuries’ old Persian royal traditions. This incident may well have been one of the first such confrontations between west and east. In Macedonia, things were done in a rather austere way and the eastern wealth with its protocol and glamor was something entirely new.

Alexander’s first encounter with the Oriental way of life occurred right after the Battle of Issus when Darius’ tent had fallen into Macedonian hands and had been prepared for Alexander as he returned from his unsuccessful pursuit of the fleeing Darius. When he entered his enemy’s tent, he remarked – rightfully so – this is what it means to be a king!

Yet, as impressive as these traveling quarters were, it certainly was only a faint hint of what he found two years later in Babylon. Although the origins of Babylon may go back as far as the 23rd century BC, its first archives date from 2286 BC. After being occupied by the Assyrians (Ashurbanipal) and the Neo-Babylonians (Nebuchadnezzar), the Empire fell to the Persians (Cyrus the Great) before Alexander arrived in October 331 BC. This implies that the Palace of Babylon was built, destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries and in spite of the shiny blue tiles it has a somewhat reserved appearance.

Susa, on the other hand, was founded circa 4,200 BC and has Elamite origins. This is where the famous Code of Hammurabi stood from 1175 BC onwards. The city was also conquered by Cyrus the Great to eventually become part of the Persian Empire. Yet the glazed bricks walls in Susa are friendlier than those at Babylon as many pastel colors were implemented, giving the walls automatically a more pleasant appearance. It is clear that the palace and its decorations must have impressed Alexander and his entourage. After all, they had not seen Persepolis yet!

Certainly, at this stage, Alexander had no idea of the wealth and luxuries that still awaited him making his enemies tables nothing more than his footstools.

Interestingly, the very stone slab on which the king’s throne once stood is still in place among the ruins of Susa and it is hard to realize that this is the very throne on which Alexander once seated himself. 

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