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 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)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Philotas Affair – Part II – His judgment and execution


The following morning, all soldiers are called to assemble under arms. The corpse of Dymnus is brought in although out of sight of the army and finally, Alexander appears with a grave and sad look on his face. This is no small matter. He has to conduct the investigation and present the case before his Macedonians in accordance with the prevailing laws. Alexander’s speech is worthy any plea held by the most accomplished lawyer – a masterpiece in the art of rhetoric (see: Alexander’s eloquence).

He starts by telling his soldiers how closely he escaped death. He shares his deep sorrow to have fallen victim to a conspiracy led by Parmenion, the eldest of his friends who enjoyed so many favors and so much prestige. His tool was his own son, Philotas, together with Peucolaüs and Demetrius, and Dymnus whose body is then made visible to the crowd. Laments and sounds of indignation arise.

At this point, the informants Nicomachus and Cebalinus together with Metron are brought forward and Alexander praises them for their courage as they went straight to his tent to warn him of the conspiracy. Philotas in an effort to keep the matter quiet must have had good reasons to do so, Alexander says. He then reads aloud a letter Parmenion had sent to his sons, Nicanor and Philotas, and which Alexander had intercepted. In this letter, Parmenion advised them to look out for themselves “for thus we shall accomplish what we have planned”. A sentence that had no meaning had the conspiracy not been disclosed. Alexander takes his plea a step further by confiding his hitherto personal skepticism about Philotas who had joined Amyntas (Alexander’s uncle who was under age when his father was killed on the battlefield, upon which Philip was chosen as Macedonia’s new king; with Philip’s death he could have claimed the throne) to make an impious plot against his life. He tells his soldiers how these acts have torn him apart – working on their sentiments.

Alexander proceeds by reminding his troops that he had put Philotas in command of his elite cavalry, entrusting his life, his hopes and victories to him. He had elected his father, Parmenion, to rule over Media with all its richness, a position that demanded integrity and respect for his king. Now his trust had been broken as he had fallen victim to such a shameful scheme!

We should remember that at this time Parmenion is in Ecbatana, holding the army’s supply line and guarding the huge treasury reaped from the Persian cities of Susa, Persepolis and Pasargadae with a number of troops that equaled Alexander’s own manpower. Parmenion enjoyed great prestige while he served under Philip’s and leading Alexander’s left wing in many decisive battles at the head of the foreign cavalry and mercenaries. It is obvious that an uprise or a coup led by Parmenion would have colossal consequences for Alexander!

Philotas is then brought forward with his hands tied behind his back to stand trial before the army. One can imagine the reaction of the Macedonians who had seen this great general having dinner with the king only the night before standing there as a wretched prisoner. Sensing that the army started to feel sorry for Philotas, general Amyntas held a harsh speech against the culprit, followed by Coenus who spoke even more vehemently accusing him of being a traitor to the king, his country and the army.

The last person to speak was Philotas. Maybe he was dazed by the seriousness of the accusations, maybe he was truly weak after being questioned and/or tortured, and in any case, he burst into tears and fainted. When he was back on his feet, Alexander looked intently at him and reminded him that the Macedonians were about to pass judgment on him upon which he leaves the assembly. Philotas is on his own now.

It is clear that Philotas also reaped the fruits from Aristotle’s teaching at Mieza as his plea is as well constructed as Alexander’s. He starts working on the soldiers’ emotion right away by saying that it is easy to find words when innocent but difficult for a wretched man as he stands before them in fetters. He cleverly highlights the fact that none of the conspirators has named him, neither Nicomachus, nor Cebalinus, but in spite of that the king believes him guilty and the leader of the conspiracy. Dymnus, when he confided in Nicomachus named several men of great importance but left him out – how could that put him in charge?

In the depth of his own despair, Philotas presents his own defense by saying that he can only be found guilty for keeping silent about the matter when it was reported to him. Besides, Alexander pardoned him and gave him his right hand to restore their friendship. What made the king change his mind overnight? He, Philotas went to bed and was awoken by his arrestors from a sound sleep – not the sleep of someone whose conscience is tormented. After all, the report about the plot was revealed by a young boy who could present no proof or witness of his information, hence he believed that it was a lovers’ quarrel. And, supposing that he was really guilty of conspiracy, why would he have concealed the information for two days when he could easily have killed Cebalinus right away. After speaking with him, he nevertheless had entered the royal tent alone wearing his sword and yet he put off the deed?

His tone turns when he admits that he does not have the power of divination and pities those who have to live under a man who believes to be the son of Zeus – a serious hint towards Alexander’s latest godly descent which he obviously resents. He recalls the letter which Parmenion had sent to Alexander in Tarsus warning him that his doctor was ready to poison him with the potion to cure his illness – a warning that was not believed by Alexander. So why would Alexander believe him when he announces the plot reported by Cebalinus? What should I have done, he asks the assembly, when the king both dismisses a warning and accuses me of not warning him?

But the assembled soldiers give vent to their frustration about Philotas haughty conduct towards them and even accuse him of pretending not to speak or understand their very own Macedonian language. Tempers flare up high at this stage and they shout that the traitor deserves to be torn to pieces. At this crucial moment, Alexander reappears and adjourns the council to the next day.

Again, he meets with his friends who recommend that Philotas should be stoned to death in compliance with Macedonian law. Maybe that would be too simple, who knows, for Hephaistion, Craterus and Coenus want to get to the bottom of this affair and wish a confession by torture. After they set out to execute the torture, Alexander awaits the outcome in his tent till late that night.

As the appropriate instruments are laid out, Philotas admits immediately that he planned the murder – too afraid probably to undergo the torture, but Craterus is not impressed. They use fire and whiplashes till Philotas can no longer endure the suffering and concedes to tell everything he knows.

Meanwhile, unrest arose among those Macedonians more or less closely related to Philotas who fear for their lives as well. The commotion reaches the royal tent and Alexander makes a proclamation by which he remits the law providing the punishment of those related to the guilty party.

After yet another plea and to cut a long story short, Philotas confesses to the conspiracy. He even includes his father in the plan. Parmenion, being seventy years old, could not wait too long to take charge and that is why they decided to promptly carry out the design. By now, the torturers agree that all their questions have been answered and they return to Alexander who issues the order for Philotas’ words to be made public the next day in his very presence.

Philotas is put to death, either stoned or speared together with all those who had been named by Nicomachus. Parmenion had to be eliminated as well and Alexander writes a letter to three generals in Parmenion’s entourage (Cleander, Sitalces and Menides) with orders to put him to death.

Well, this is basically Curtius (probably dramatized) version of the facts although it is not entirely shared by Arrian, Diodorus and Plutarch. Their rendering of the conspiracy and the torture vary and it is unclear whether Philotas was only guilty of negligence or merely ignored Cebalinus’ information in the hope that the plot would succeed, which would work in his favor. In any case, Curtius gives an excellent assessment of the general mood in the Macedonian camp that remained seriously divided after this.

To remember that this treachery was brought to a good end – at least for AlexanderAlexandria in Drangiana is renamed Alexandria Prophtasia, appropriately meaning “Anticipation” since Alexander anticipated the widespread consequences of the plot and acted before others could attack him.

[Pictures from Oliver Stone's movie Alexander are from Movie Screen Shots and The World of Alexander the Great]

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