The Successes of Alexander the Great

by Jared Garcia, Josue Souza, Aminta Gamez, Ryan Lane

http://alexandermosaik.de/en/reconstruction_of_the_mosaic.html

Alexander (far left) in the battle of Issus
Kruck, Werner. Battle of Issus. 1st century BC. Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples. alexandermosaik.de Web. 5 Dec. 2015

What made Alexander “Great”?
The Macedonian King’s ambitions lent extension of Macedonian rule over Greece, Central Asia and land in India. In order to maintain Macedonian rule over a vast empire and unite people, he used several tactics to complete his conquests. Alexander was a brilliant military leader, an amazing tactician and he did so much in the years he ruled that he was named “the Great”.

What were Alexander’s tactics to unite and rule his empire?
First, defeat his enemies. Second, spread Greek ideas and mesh them with Macedonian ideas. Third, take advantage of religion as a steppingstone. Lastly, adopt foreign ways to finalize unification of people and consolidate his ruling.

How did he manage to rule an empire?
At the age of 20 Alexander takes the throne after his father, Philip II, had died. So he connects himself to Heracles, saying that he is descendent of him. Which is very important because Heracles was looked at as “the hero” of mythology. Heracles was the strongest of them all and to connect your self to someone that many people have told stories about and looked up to is very important, it allows justifies why he is the ruler of Greece and why he is allowed to rule, instead of someone else. He also links himself to the great god Zeus. He’s claimed to be Zeus’ son, there for a making himself a demigod, and essentially a hero people look up to. Throughout mythology we see that being a son of a god has its advantages since you are looked up to and are someone who shouldn’t have there authority challenge and is someone who you know has the divine right to rule.

Bust of Alexander the Great
Dunn, Andrew. AlexanderTheGreatBust. 2004. British Museum, London. andrewdunnphoto.com. Web. 5 Dec. 2015

In order to unite so many different people, what was his plan to do this?
Throughout his conquest, Alexander, the brilliant man he is, utilizes the norms and practices of other cultures, and he is able to adapt and even uses some things in other cultures to further his own power. Although he is only half Greek, Alexander understands the importance of mythology to the Greeks, and how if you are connected to a person of myth you can establish legitimacy to ruling the Greeks.
We can see an example of Alexander utilizing other cultures to gain power, when he is in Persia. He connects himself with the royal family. Not only does he connect himself to the royal family but creates a link between Greek/Macedonian and Persian gods. Alexander was trying utilized Persians gods and connects it with Greek gods so that he can have an advantage over the people in Persia to make them believe he was doing what the gods wanted him to do.
The way that Alexander was able to spread the Greek culture and ideas was in the cities he built. Like Greek cities, the cities he built in the places he conquered had marketplaces, temples, and theaters. One of the most famous of the new cities was called Alexandria. It was located in Egypt near the sea. Alexandria was designed with wide major streets crossed by narrower streets. It had many Greek features. It had a marketplace, a university, a gymnasium, and a theater. The city also boasted law courts and a library. There was even a temple dedicated to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea within it. This shows that Alexander was not only able to conquer Egypt, but he was also able to convince them to adopt major parts of the Greek culture within a newly built city.
Alexander’s plan to use the religion of the place he is conquering. When he began to attempt to conquer Egypt and Persia he recognized their gods and treated them as equals to the Greek gods. He would visit oracle sites, make sacrifices, and would have temples built in their honor. On one occasion, he visited the oracle site of the Egyptian god Ammon. When he arrived, a priest welcomed him as “God’s son.” When the priest said this it helped Alexander gain the loyalty of the Egyptians. After being called “Gods son”, Alexander began encouraged the idea that he himself was a god. After his visit to the Egyptian oracle, he began to start wearing a crown of two rams’ horns. This crown was the sacred headdress of the Egyptian god Ammon. Seeing Alexander wearing the crown encouraged the Egyptians to accept him as a god. So by accepting and then becoming part of the Egyptian religion, Alexander was able to be hugely accepted by Egyptians and then was also able to keep peace between Greek and Egyptian culture while he was conquering Egypt.

Were his conquests successful?
An example of Alexander the Great successfully utilizing other cultures to benefit him is when he is invading India. His conquests in India lead him to a battle against 2 kings of Indian tribes. During the battle the Indian army had brought out something that Alexander had never seen in battle before, which were the war elephants. Alexander the Great was not accustomed to fighting war elephants since he never had, so he was brilliantly able to adapt to these new instrument of war and was able to defeat the elephants. It is only because Alexander is so gifted in being able to adapt to different cultures and adapt to the situation at hand that he was able to defeat the Indian army.
Another example is when he goes into Egypt during the campaigns of Persia. Egypt saw him as a liberator and welcomed him with open arms. Alexander the Great sets up the city of Alexandria to link it to Greece. Also wile in Egypt he rebuilds temples for the Greeks, and he openly embraces the Egyptian culture, which can be seen as a political move to try and have them as an ally or even try to rule Egypt himself.
Alexander’s tactic to show respect for the cultures of the people he conquered. For example, in Persia he adopted the Persian system of government. He allowed Persian governors to run the day-to-day business of their lands. Alexander also borrowed Persian customs. He began wearing decorative Persian-style clothes. He received official visitors as a Persian king would, in a luxurious tent. The tent was supported by 30-foot columns. The columns were covered in gold and silver and decorated with precious stones. Alexander even encouraged marriage between Macedonians and Persians. He himself even married the eldest daughter of Darius.

Alexander covering the body of Darius with his cape
Steakley, James. Den Leichnam des Darius. 2009. Privately Owned. Wikimedia.com. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

 

In Conclusion
Alexander the Great was a man that conquered many places. The places that are most surprising are Persia and Egypt, he was able to conquer Egypt by mixing into their religion and make him very trustworthy to them. He was able to conquer Persia by embracing their style of clothing and making himself look very much like a Persian. He not only made himself look like a Persian but he demanded that he be greeted like a Persian king when meeting people. By doing these things and fully embracing other cultures and their beliefs, Alexander the Great was well liked everywhere, even while he was conquering their land.

Works Cited

Walbank, Frank W. “Alexander the Great | King of Macedonia.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 07 Apr. 2015. Web. 05 Dec. 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-the-Great&gt;.
Pomeroy, Sarah B. A Brief History of Ancient Greece: Politics, Society, and Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

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The City Dionysia

Artist's Impression of Theater of Dionysus

City Dionysia

Kairete! (Greetings!) Grab your favorite festival food—nuts, dates, figs, grapes… and of course, a glass of wine, and settle in to the City Dionysia, the festival of the god of wine and ecstasy. The festival that produced some of the greatest tragedies of all time and is one of a few festivals honoring the god who is often left out of other ancient epic literature and history. The City Dionysia was a festival that began in the 6th century BCE. It was held in Athens in honor of the god Dionysus Eleuthereus. The festival was a city-wide event, attended by women, men, children, and even slaves. Many people traveled from all over Greece for the festival. (3)Neck Amphora

Who was Dionysus?

Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman mythology) is the god of wine, fertility (particularly agricultural and male), madness/drunkenness, and poetic drama. He was also connected with death and re-birth. His female followers, or cult, were called the maianades in Greek and the bacchants in Latin. (2)

Dionysus is purported to be the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele. When Hera heard that Semele was pregnant by Zeus, she appeared to her as a crone and convinced her to doubt that Zeus was the father.   Semele was killed instantaneously when she demanded to see Zeus in his full form to prove that he was in fact the father of her child. Zeus then removed Dionysus from his mother’s womb and re-made him, and placed him in his thigh, from which he was born. He married Ariadne, daughter of Minos, king of Crete. Ariadne had been previously abandoned on an island by Theseus.  There are other stories conflicting with this one, however Zeus is a constant in the other myths and this is the most well-known story of his origin.

Some images associated with Dionysus are the satyr (man-goat), the wine chalice, the ivy wreath, the thyrsus (a staff with a pine cone at top—a phallic symbol of male virility), grapes and grape vines, and the phallus itself. (2)

What was the City Dionysia?

All other sanctuaries were closed, removing access to other deities. The dead were able to roam around the city during the festival, emphasizing the link between death/re-birth and Dionysus.

At sunset of the first day Pthoigia, the festival begins with the opening of the first wine of the year. The statue of Dionysus was carried from the temple to the Theater of Dionysus at the foot of the Acropolis. During the procession, young girls carried phalloi, or phalluses.The temple was sprinkled with the blood of pigs sacrificed to Dionysus for purification prior to the performances.

The second day, called Choes included drinking contests—participants sat in silence while chugging the wine.

The third day, Chrytoi, begins at sunset of the second day. The wife of the king becomes the wife of Dionysus, copulating with him that night (or a masked person). This was also the day of tragic performance.

The worship of Dionysus was conducted in this way for a number of reasons. Firstly—to celebrate fertility and the flourishing of the vines, the first wine of the year was consumed at the festival. Secondly, the performance of the dramas was a way to encourage crowd participation in the imitations and the madness of suspending disbelief and to take part in cognitive efforts as a community by experiencing thoughtful reflections on their values and society. (1,3)

Who was involved?

Typically a political figure would sponsor the events to bring name recognition and positive rapport to his political ambitions.  The tragedians would also write and direct performances of their plays for the tragedy competitions, using male actors and chorus members. The most famous of the Athenian tragedians were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. (1,3,4)

What is the relevance of the festival?

The City Dionysia as a concept may at first seem an absurd combination of wine, worship, and drama but we continue to participate in community activities like this today. Concerts, movies, sporting events, even political rallies can produce the ecstatic feeling of being outside of oneself and part of the community as a whole. Not only that, but the tragedies performed served as inspiration and foundation for many classics of the Western World—including Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy, among many others.

Sources:

  1. In The Theater of Dionysos, Richard C. Sewell, 2007, McFarland & Company Publishers, North Carolina, USA
  2. Library; Apollodorus; Anthology of Classical Myth; 2004;  Hackett Publishing Company, Indianapolis, IN
  3.  The Dramatic Festivals of Athens Sir Arthur Pickard-Cambridge, 1968, Oxford University Press London, England
  4. Pomeroy, S. B., Burstein, S. M., Donlan, W., & Roberts, J. T.; 2009, Oxford University Press, 198 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, 10016

Image Sources

  1. http://www.mainlesson.com/display.php?author=tappan&book=greek&story=pericles Retrieved 12/6/2013
  2. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neck_amphora_Dionysos_Louvre_F36bis.jpg Retrieved 12/6/2013