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Alexander The Great: Why Has He Been Forgiven?

February 26, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 102

There have been countless megalomaniac rulers throughout history - Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Napoleon, the list goes on - each set out on their own personal quest for glory, each responsible for atrocities and loss of human life on a terrifying scale. Alexander the Great should join this list; he waged wars in the name of exploration, decimated the male population of his native Macedonia in the process, enslaved foreign people and ordered unspeakable acts of cruelty.

Unlike Stalin and Mao, history remembers Alexander the Great in a more favourable light (the moniker "Great" being the first clue). Perhaps the hero cult, divine myth and general mystique surrounding his 33 years on earth has led to a sort of plausible defence of his tyrannical exploits. Do we forgive Alexander for the violence because he seems to us semi-divine? Are we reluctant to question the actions of someone who has declared themselves more than human?

Alexander led his army from Macedonia all the way through Persia, conquering ancient cities in his path, until he reached India; an impressive feat no doubt. Along the way, Alexander started to show signs of paranoia and megalomania, vocalising his desire to become a god to rival Dionysus, to be treated as the son of Ammon and to be bowed before in the Persian tradition of proskynesis.

At the age of 24, after committing atrocities in the Siege of Tyre, the young general decided to visit Egypt in order to secure the grain supply for his men. During his stay, Alexander founded a city in his own name (Alexandria) and was declared a Pharaoh by the native population. This is where the delusions of divinity are said to have started. Alexander became ruthless in his quest for adoration and respect, even killing his best friend Cleitus the Black after he derided him for claiming to be a god.

So Alexander's story is not simply one of military bravery and glory, there are many moments of madness, alcoholism and sadness. However history seems to blot these out, focusing instead on his conquests and would-be miracle making. Where is the evidence for his divine status?

The story of the Gordion Knot is a great example; it was decreed, supposedly, that whoever was able to untie the impossible knot at Gordion would be the next ruler of Asia. Arrian and Plutarch recall that Alexander was able to do this, either by brute force with a sword or using a cunning method. Much like Moses' water from a stone miracle, the tale of Alexander at Gordion became a widespread myth that increased his status as a semi divine individual.

Whatever happened throughout Alexander's reign, it is certain that the divine status myth has added to the common image of Alexander as a "great" man, able to do things that the ordinary human being cannot. And in the process, the victims of his reign are forgotten.

Source: EzineArticles
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