Friday, October 02, 2015

Alexander the Great from the program "In Our Time"

BBC's Radio 4's In Our Time's latest episode is a good overview of Alexander the Great with scholars Paul Cartledge, Clare College, U of Cambridge, Diana Spencer of the U of Birmingham and Rachael Mairs of the U of Reading. 35 minutes in there's a mention of proskynesis (obeisance or worship) which Alexander introduced as a result of his Asian campaign: a practice that alarmed his Macedonian soldiers.

The Magnanimous Alexander

Veronese's painting of 1565–1567 represents the widow and daughters of the conquered Persian emperor Darius (defeated at Issus in 333 BCE), who beg on their knees for mercy from Alexander the Great. From the point of the viewer, we, like they, mistake Alexander’s friend Hephaestion for the Greek conqueror. 

One account is given by Diodorus Siculus, Histories Book 18, 37,5:

So at daybreak, the king took with him the most valued of his Friends, Hephaestion, and came to the women. They both were dressed alike, but Hephaestion was taller and more handsome. Sisyngambris took him for the king and did him obeisance. As the others present made signs to her and pointed to Alexander with their hands she was embarrassed by her mistake, but made a new start and did obeisance to Alexander. 6 He, however, cut in and said, "Never mind, Mother. For actually he too is Alexander."74 By thus addressing the aged woman as "Mother," with this kindliest of terms he gave the promise of coming benefactions to those who had been wretched a moment before. Assuring Sisyngambris that she would be his second mother he immediately ratified in action what he had just promised orally.


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