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Alexander's Life & Death in Short
On the afternoon of June 10, 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon. He was just one month shy of attaining 33 years of age. Various theories have been proposed for the cause of his death which include poisoning by the sons of Antipater or others, sickness that followed a drinking party, or a relapse of the malaria he had contracted in 336 BC .
It is known that on May 29, Alexander participated in a banquet organized by his friend Medius of Larissa. After some heavy drinking, immediately before or after a bath, he was forced into bed due to severe illness. The rumors of his illness circulated with the troops causing them to be more and more anxious. On June 9, the generals decided to let the soldiers see their king alive one last time. They were admitted to his presence one at a time. Because the king was too ill to speak, he confined himself to moving his hand. The day after, Alexander was dead.
The poisoning theory derives from the story held in antiquity by Justin and Curtius. The original story stated that Cassander, son of Antipater, viceroy of Greece, brought the poison to Alexander in Babylon in a mule's hoof, and that Alexander's royal cupbearer, Iollas, brother of Cassander, administered it. Many had powerful motivations for seeing Alexander gone, and were none the worse for it after his death. Deadly agents that could have killed Alexander in one or more doses include hellebore and strychnine. In R. Lane Fox's opinion, the strongest argument against the poison theory is the fact that twelve days had passed between the start of his illness and his death and in the ancient world, such long-acting poisons were probably not available.
The warrior culture of Macedon favoured the sword over strychnine, and many ancient historians, like Plutarch and Arrian, maintained that Alexander was not poisoned, but died of natural causes. Instead, it is likely that Alexander died of malaria or typhoid fever, which were rampant in ancient Babylon. Other illnesses could have also been the culprit, including acute pancreatitis or the West Nile virus. Recently, theories have been advanced stating that Alexander may have died from the treatment not the disease.
Hellebore, believed to have been widely used as a medicine at the time but deadly in large doses, may have been overused by the impatient king to speed his recovery, with deadly results. Disease-related theories often cite the fact that Alexander's health had fallen to dangerously low levels after years of heavy drinking and suffering several appalling wounds (including one in India that nearly claimed his life), and that it was only a matter of time before one sickness or another finally killed him.
No story is conclusive. Alexander's death has been reinterpreted many times over the centuries, and each generation offers a new take on it. What is certain is that Alexander died of a high fever on June 10 of 323 BC.
A diary from the year 323–322 BC that records the death of Alexander. Located at the British Museum, London
On his death bed, his marshals asked him to whom he bequeathed his kingdom. Since Alexander had no obvious and legitimate heir (his son Alexander IV would be born after his death, and his other son was by a concubine, not a wife), it was a question of vital importance. There is some debate to what Alexander replied. Some believe that Alexander said, "Kratisto" (that is, "To the strongest!") or "Krat'eroi" (to the stronger).
Alexander may have said, "Krater'oi" (To Craterus). This is possible because the Greek pronunciation of "the stronger" and "Craterus" differ only by the position of the accented syllable. Most scholars believe that if Alexander did intend to choose one of his generals, his obvious choice would have been Craterus because he was the commander of the largest part of the army (infantry), because he had proven himself to be an excellent strategist, and because he displayed traits of the "ideal" Macedonian. But Craterus was not around, and the others may have chosen to hear "Krat'eroi" — the stronger. Regardless of his reply, Craterus was assassinated before he could take over the empire. The empire then split amongst his successors (the Diadochi).
Alexander's death has been surrounded by as much controversy as many of the events of his life. Before long, accusations of foul play were being thrown about by his generals at one another, making it incredibly hard for a modern historian to sort out the propaganda and the half-truths from the actual events. No contemporary source can be fully trusted because of the incredible level of self-serving recording, and as a result what truly happened to Alexander the Great may never be known. Most theories that he died from syphilis have been more or less discredited.
Alexander's body was placed in a gold anthropid sarcophagus, which was in turn placed in a second gold casket and covered with a purple robe. Alexander's coffin was placed, together with his armour, in a gold carriage that had a vaulted roof supported by an Ionic peristyle. The decoration of the carriage was very lavish and is described in great detail by Diodoros.
A rare coin of Ptolemy I, showing himself on the obverse at the beginning of his reign, and on the reverse Alexander the Great triumphantly riding a chariot drawn by elephants, a reminder of his successful campaigns with Alexander in India.
According to one legend, Alexander was preserved in a clay vessel full of honey (which can act as a preservative) and interred in a glass coffin. According to Aelian (Varia Historia 12.64), Ptolemy stole the body and brought it to Alexandria, where it was on display until Late Antiquity . It was here that Ptolemy IX, one of the last successors of Ptolemy I, replaced Alexander's sarcophagus with a glass one, and melted the original down in order to strike emergency gold issues of his coinage. The citizens of Alexandria were outraged at this and soon after Ptolemy IX was killed. Its current whereabouts are unknown.
Roman emperor Caligula was said to have looted the tomb, stealing Alexander's breastplate, and wearing it. In A.D. about 200, Emperor Septimius Severus closed Alexander's tomb to the public. His son and successor, Caracalla, was a great admirer of Alexander, and visited the tomb in his own reign. After this, details on the fate of the tomb are sketchy.
The so-called "Alexander Sarcophagus," discovered near Sidon and now in the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, is now generally thought to be that of Abdylonymus, whom Hephaestion had appointed as the king of Sidon by Alexander's order. The sarcophagus depicts Alexander and his companions hunting and in battle with the Persians.
Some classical authors, such as Diodorus, relate that Alexander had given detailed written instructions to Craterus some time before his death. Although Craterus had already started to implement Alexander's orders, such as the building of a fleet in Cilicia for expedition against Carthage, Alexander's successors chose not to further implement them, on the ground they were impractical and dispendious.
The testament, described in Diodorus XVIII, called for military expansion into the Southern and Western Mediterranean, monumental constructions, and the intermixing of Eastern and Western populations. Its most remarkable items were:
The building of "a thousand warships, larger than triremes, in Phoenicia, Syria, Cilicia, and Cyprus for the campaign against the Carthaginians and the other who live along the coast of Libya and Iberia and the adjoining coastal regions as far as Sicily"
The building of a road in northern Africa as far as the Pillars of Heracles, with ports and shipyards along it.
The erection of great temples in Delos, Delphi, Dodona, Dium , Amphipolis, Cyrnus and Ilium.
The construction of a monumental tomb for his father Philip, "to match the greatest of the pyramids of Egypt"
The establishment of cities and the "transplant of populations from Asia to Europe and in the opposite direction from Europe to Asia, in order to bring the largest continent to common unity and to friendship by means of intermarriage and family ties." (Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca historia, XVIII)
Alexander's lifelong companion was Hephaestion, the son of a Macedonian noble. Hephaestion also held the position of second-in-command of Alexander's forces until his death, which devastated Alexander. Alexander also married two women: Roxana, daughter of a minor noble and Stateira, a Persian princess and the daughter of Darius III of Persia. Another personage from the court of Darius III with whom he was intimate was Bagoas. His son by Roxana , Alexander IV of Macedon, was killed after the death of his father, before he reached adulthood.
Alexander was admired during his lifetime for treating all his lovers humanely. Plutarch has argued that Alexander's love of males took an ethical approach, inspired by the teachings of his mentor, Aristotle.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
24 Mar 2007
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The Legacy and Division of Alexander's Empire
After Alexander's death, in 323 BC, the rule of his Empire was given to Alexander's half-brother Philip Arridaeus and Alexander's son Alexander IV. However, since Philip was mentally ill and the son of Alexander still a baby, two regents were named in Perdiccas (who had received Alexander's ring at this death) and Craterus (who may have been the one mentioned as successor by Alexander), although Perdiccas quickly managed to take sole power.
Perdiccas soon eliminated several of his opponents, killing about 30 (Diodorus Siculus), and at the Partition of Babylon named former generals of Alexander as satraps of the various regions of his Empire. In 321 BC Perdiccas was assassinated by his own troops during his conflict with Ptolemy, leading to the Partition of Triparadisus, in which Antipater was named as the new regent, and the satrapies again shared between the various generals. From that time, Alexander's officers were focused on the explicit formation of rival monarchies and territorial states.
The Hellenistic world view after Alexander: ancient world map of Eratosthenes (276-194 BC), incorporating information from the campaigns of Alexander and his successors.
Ultimately, the conflict was settled after the Battle of Ipsus in Phrygia in 301 BC. Alexander's empire was divided at first into four major portions: Cassander ruled in Macedon , Lysimachus in Thrace, Seleucus in Mesopotamia and Persia, and Ptolemy I Soter in the Levant and Egypt. Antigonus ruled for a while in Anatolia and Syria but was eventually defeated by the other generals at Ipsus (301 BC). Control over Indian territory passed to Chandragupta Maurya, the first Maurya emperor, who further expanded his dominions after a settlement with Seleucus.
By 270 BC, the Hellenistic states were consolidated, with
The Antigonid Empire in Macedonia and Greece;
The Seleucid Empire in Mesopotamia and Persia;
The Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenaica
The Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius (reigned c. 200-180 BCE), wearing an elephant scalp, took over Alexander's legacy in the east by again invading India in 180 BCE, and establishing the Indo-Greek kingdom (180 BC- 10 AD).
By the 1st century BC though, most of the Hellenistic territories in the West had been absorbed by the Roman Republic. In the East, they had been dramatically reduced by the expansion of the Parthian Empire. The territories further east seceded to form the Greco-Bactrian kingdom (250 BC- 140 BC), which further expanded into India to form the Indo-Greek kingdom (180 BC- 10 AD).
The Ptolemy dynasty persisted in Egypt until the time of Cleopatra , best known for her alliances with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony , just before the Roman republic officially became the Roman Empire.
Alexander's conquests also had long term cultural effects, with the flourishing of Hellenistic civilization throughout the Middle East and Central Asia , and the development of Greco-Buddhist art in the Indian subcontinent. Alexander and his successors were tolerant of non-Greek religious practices, and interesting syncretisms developed in the new Greek towns he founded in Central Asia. The first realistic portrayals of the Buddha appeared at this time; they are reminiscent of Greek statues of Apollo. Several Buddhist traditions may have been influenced by the ancient Greek religion; the concept of Boddhisatvas is reminiscent of Greek divine heroes, and some Mahayana ceremonial practices (burning incense, gifts of flowers and food placed on altars) are similar to those practiced by the ancient Greeks. Zen Buddhism draws in part on the ideas of Greek stoics, such as Zeno.
Among other effects, the Hellenistic, or koine dialect of Greek became the lingua franca through the so-called civilized world. For instance the standard version of the Hebrew Scriptures used among the Jews of the diaspora , especially in Egypt, during the life of Jesus was the Greek Septuagint translation, which was compiled ca 200 BC by seventy-odd scholars under the patronage of the Macedonian ruler Ptolemy II Philadelphus . Thus many Jews from Egypt or Rome would have trouble understanding the teachings of the scholars in the Temple in Jerusalem who were using the Hebrew original text and an Aramaic translation, being themselves only acquainted with the Greek version. There has been much speculation on the issue whether Jesus spoke Koine Greek as the Gospel-writers, themselves writing in Greek, don't say anything decisive about the matter.
Influence on Ancient Rome
A mural in Pompeii, depicting the marriage of Alexander to Barsine (Stateira) in 324 BC. The couple are apparently dressed as Ares and Aphrodite.
In the late Republic and early Empire, educated Roman citizens used Latin only for legal, political, and ceremonial purposes, and used Greek to discuss philosophy or any other intellectual topic. No Roman wanted to hear it said that his Greek was weak. Throughout the Roman world, the one language spoken everywhere was Alexander's Greek.
Alexander and his exploits were admired by many Romans who wanted to associate themselves with his achievements, although very little is known about Roman-Macedonian diplomatic relations of that time. Julius Caesar wept in Spain at the mere sight of Alexander's statue and Pompey the Great rummaged through the closets of conquered nations for Alexander's 260-year-old cloak, which the Roman general then wore as the costume of greatness. However, in his zeal to honor Alexander, Augustus accidentally broke the nose off the Macedonian's mummified corpse while laying a wreath at the hero's shrine in Alexandria, Egypt. The unbalanced emperor Caligula later took the dead king's armor from that tomb and donned it for luck. The Macriani, a Roman family that rose to the imperial throne in the 3rd century A.D., always kept images of Alexander on their persons, either stamped into their bracelets and rings or stitched into their garments. Even their dinnerware bore Alexander's face, with the story of the king's life displayed around the rims of special bowls.
In the summer of 1995, during the archaeological work of the season centered on excavating the remains of domestic architecture of early-Roman date, a statue of Alexander was recovered from the structure, which was richly decorated with mosaic and marble pavements and probably was constructed in the 1st century AD and occupied until the 3rd century.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
24 Mar 2007