How old was Bagoas when he met Alexander the Great?

How old was Bagoas when he met Alexander the Great?

And what was the ethnicity of Bagoas? As I know, there were many different people's and tribes, that populates Achaemenian Empire. And also there was extended slave trade with foreign nations.

There is no way to know because there are no records of his birthdate.

Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by 110gr010 » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:46 am

First i am not English speaker, so please forgive me for any of my English mistake.

I am very new about Alexander's history and this is the first time i am in this forum. As i said, i do not know a lot about Alexander, so i can not discuss about it, but i very concern about Alexander's relationship with Hephaistion and Bagoas. I search in the internet and i buy some books including "Alexander's lover" of Andrew Chugg. It is seem like that Bagoas is the most controversial figures. There some believe that the eunuch is not important to Alexander, but Andrew Chugg in his book ". Alexander's eunuch lover ranked among the most prominent and influential. ", and he also said that " Arrian have attempted to write him[the eunuch] out of history because his existence poses problem for their versions of Alexander's character. After read the book and Andrew's strong demonstration about Bagoas, even though i do not like the idea that Bagoas is important to Alexander, but i have to admit that Andrew's demonstration is very strong and very near to the fact. But on the other hand, i think that maybe because i dot know much about ancient history, so i am easily to accept whatever the professional told me.
So, i came to this forum, because i want to hear opinion from a lot of people who had read the book. I want to know how many people agree with Andrwe Chugg. Or for the people who did not read the book yet, i want to know how many people think that Bagoas is important to Alexander.

Please spare me some of your time, opinion and wise knowledge.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by Alexias » Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:20 pm

Hi, I think it depends upon how influenced you are by Mary Renault's novel The Persian Boy (1972). If you haven't read it, it is narrated by Bagoas. Mary Renault has been hugely influential in modern opinions on Alexander for, in my opinion, two reasons (or rather, three reasons): firstly, many people have discovered the historial Alexander through reading her novels secondly, she provides a convincing psychological interpretation of Alexander's character (although not entirely accurate in my view) and thirdly her novels are extremely well written and very thoroughly researched.

If you accept Mary Renault's interpretation of Alexander's character, he was 'special' and needed someone to watch over him and, effectively, look after him. Hephaestion does this in Fire From Heaven, her first Alexander novel but as Hephaestion's job takes up more of his time, he cannot manage to do this and delegates the role to Bagoas (he does this at the point where Bagoas is considering poisoning him), who at times almost behaves like a proprietorial nursemaid towards Alexander. This may be her Hephaestion's way of justifying to himself that he can no longer satisfy Alexander's emotional and sexual needs while Bagoas can. It is also her Bagoas's way of justifying his role in Alexander's life by trying to make himself indispensable to him. He does however have a bitter awakening when Hephaestion dies and he is forced to realise that care, both given and received, does not equate to love.

Prior to Mary Renault, I don't believe that Bagoas was considered very important to Alexander. This may partly be due to homophobic prejudices, partly due to the few references to him in the sources. Plutarch tells us that he was Alexander's favourite, and Curtius tells us that Alexander had a sexual relationship with him, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Alexander was in love with him.

You also need to consider how important Bagoas could have been to Alexander when there were large areas of Alexander's life which he could not share due to his status as a eunuch his occupation as a dancer, not a soldier his possible status as a slave being a member of a subjugated nation and the cultural differences between them which would have prevented Bagoas being accepted as an equal by Alexander's peers, and possibly by Alexander himself.

My own opinion is that Bagoas was light entertainment, a friend maybe, but not as important to Alexander as Hephaestion, Craterus, Ptolemy and his other friends.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by chris_taylor » Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:40 pm

As Alexia pointed out, Mary Renault's "Persian Boy" did a lot to raise interest in him as a historical figure, so here is a link to an article that discusses the book.

The article itself is unhelpful: the author doesn't understand enough about story mechanics & dramatic structure to fully grasp why "The Persian Boy" worked as a story where Oliver Stone's script failed.

But the bibliography includes references to authors from the extreme ends of the spectrum of opinions about Bagoas. It will help you make up your own mind.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by Alexias » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:50 pm

An interesting essay, thank you. It is many years since I read the novel, but the overwhelming impression of Bagoas I have from it is of a fussy, middle-aged woman, more Alexander's mother than his lover. Like any writer passionate about her subject, she is half in love with Alexander, and Bagoas, unconcerned with military conquest, the army and being a king, is the perfect romantic medium to allow her to concentrate on the emotional side of Alexander's life. There is therefore no need to state that Mary Renault would have prefered to be a man and thought of herself as a sexually ambivalent eunuch.

The essay also does not consider Renault's interest, and study of, psychology. I am sure she would have been aware of the Oedipal implications of having Bagoas look after Alexander's physical and medical needs with the obsession of a mother looking after a small, helpless child (for example, personally carrying the flask of oil to soften Alexander's wound through Gedrosia in case the slaves drank it). True, this is a way for Bagoas to make himself important in Alexander's life, but what does it say about her Alexander that he accepted such unconditional devotion? Bagoas is appropriating the duties that more properly belong to a wife, who might not be around when Alexander was on campaign, but as a king his household should have been taking care of these things. It would surely have brought him into conflict with Chares and Alexander's medical staff. Renault's Bagoas's preocupation with housewifely duties makes him appear distinctly bourgeois - at least as far as I remember - and not, as I think he probably was, a priviledged and spoilt young man who would have been more interested in having a good time with Alexander.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by amyntoros » Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:52 am

Personally, I don't feel this is off-topic. Renault's novels have caused a great many people to try and find out more about the "real" Alexander.

Pothos Lunch Room Monitor

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by chris_taylor » Sat Mar 03, 2012 4:30 am

Perhaps, but I was predominantly interested in the literary aspects of the book, rather than how she portrayed the personality of Alexander. So I did post my comments in a new thread in the Off-topic forum, rather than here.

But thank you for the encouragement.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by agesilaos » Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:37 pm

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by marcus » Sat Mar 03, 2012 1:43 pm

Look at the threads on Euxenippus, Agesilaos!

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by Taphoi » Sat Mar 03, 2012 8:41 pm

Since Pliny states that Bagoas was the name for a royal eunuch among the Persians, it is not tenable that the Indus River trierarch "Bagoas the son of Pharnuches" is other than Bagoas the Eunuch. It would have been perverse for any Persian nobleman to call himself by the name of a royal eunuch. Therefore the question of Bagoas's "importance" reduces to the question of the "importance" of the Indus River trierarchs. This is obvious from who they are. They are the top thirty-odd courtiers of Alexander the Great in 326BC.

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by Alexias » Sat Mar 03, 2012 9:07 pm

Thanks very much for this link, amyntoros.(Daniel in the lion's den a eunuch!?)

Didn't know this and I don't think Mary Renault did either. More painful I'd guess, but better chances of survival:

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by marcus » Sat Mar 03, 2012 9:57 pm

No, Andrew. Arrian does not say "these were the top thirty-odd courtiers". He gives a list of names, some of which are barely attested elsewhere, if at all. I'm not going to dispute here that the Bagoas of the Indus fleet was "Alexander's" Bagoas, although I don't see that it *has* to be him.* The only thing that we can deduce from the list of trierarchs is that there was a Bagoas son of Pharnuces amongst them, and that therefore he was wealthy enough to enter into Alexander's PPI scheme.

(* Although I will just point out here that if Bagoas was the name for *A* royal eunuch, then it absolutely remains open to question that the trierarch is "Alexander's" Bagoas. He wasn't the only eunuch in the empire.)

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by 110gr010 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:27 am

Thanh you everyone for share me your time and opinion, and wise knowledge.

i never read Marry's "The Persian Boy", but my friend told me that Bagoas in the book is just a character in a novel, so i do not concern about it. For me the problem is Bagoas in Andrew's book. I had read the link Alexias gave me (thank you very much), and i feel that Andrew has very strong points there. But i still have something that made me can not satisfy with Andrew's demonstration that Bagoas did not left behind and he had become one of " the top thirty-odd courtiers of Alexander the Great in 326BC".
1.First, if Bagoas were not only Alexander's lover, but also had become such an important person in Alexander's courtiers, i wonder why the ancient historians did not mentioned him that much, especially for Curius. Andrew told us that Arrian did write Bagoas out of his book because his existence damage his Alexander's character. Maybe this is for one reason, and i think another reason is that because Arrian think that Bagoas were not impotant that much,than just a slave whom Alexander's had an intimate relationship with, so it did not necessity to mention him. I think if Bagoas had been trained to become the Indus River trierarch Curius who is not "write Bagoas out of his book because. " , who love to write about Alexander's lover, would love to write about him more. But as i read on the websites and books, the fact that all the ancient historians never mentioned Bagoas as a solider (or trierarch) except "Bagoas the son of Pharnuches" in Arrian' Book.

2. Second, Bagoas met Alexander the first time when he 15 years old, right? And if he is the trierarch in Arrian's book, at that time he is 18, 19, or 20? I am thinking it is diffcult to believe that Alexander had to use such an young boy for such an important job while he had all the Kingdom's talent for him to use. If Bagoas, who were maybe just a slave sex for Darius and when he 12,13,14,15 years old, and never have experience as a solider, can become such an important trierarch after a sort time about 5 years stay with Alexander, so he is really a brilliant, though i really doubt this.

This is just my opinion and it not focus on any ancient source, so maybe its strange. For the professional, Mary made us believe that Bagoas were an important lover to Alexander, who take care of his daily care and had sex with him. Andrew made us believe that Bagoas not only a lover in bed, but also a brilliant trierarch for Alexander. But if i want to believe, i just can believe in the professional Jeanne, i had read her comment about "The Persian boy" somewhere, that "Alexander's interest in the eunuch had evident enough, but he not the one who enjoy Alexander's devotion as Mary mentioned, the fact that it were Hephaistion who enjoy Alexander's affection, and Alexander's interest in him (Bagoas) is nothing than because the influence of the Persian to Alexander".

Re: Bagoas in "Alexander's Lover" of Andrew Chugg

Post by Taphoi » Sun Mar 04, 2012 11:56 am

No, Andrew. Arrian does not say "these were the top thirty-odd courtiers". He gives a list of names, some of which are barely attested elsewhere, if at all. I'm not going to dispute here that the Bagoas of the Indus fleet was "Alexander's" Bagoas, although I don't see that it *has* to be him.* The only thing that we can deduce from the list of trierarchs is that there was a Bagoas son of Pharnuces amongst them, and that therefore he was wealthy enough to enter into Alexander's PPI scheme.

(* Although I will just point out here that if Bagoas was the name for *A* royal eunuch, then it absolutely remains open to question that the trierarch is "Alexander's" Bagoas. He wasn't the only eunuch in the empire.)

I did not say that Arrian said it. I said that that is who they are. We actually know who 80% of the trierarchs were from references elsewhere, so we know that they are top courtiers (I think an 80% sample is sufficient to characterise a population by any statistical standards). I list them below.

Your assumption that they paid for their trierarchies is a readover from Athenian practice, for which there is no evidence in this instance. Alexander obviously had no need of such financial contributions, so it is more likely that these trierarchies were honorific in nature (as Brunt, the Loeb translator, writes). If they were awarded by Alexander honorifically, then it follows that they are all prominent and important courtiers, because we can see that many of them are the most prominent individuals in the expedition (Hephaistion, Craterus, all eight Bodyguards, the Admiral of the Fleet. ) If Alexander had auctioned the trierarchies to the highest bidders, then indeed we should expect to see a larger proportion of unknown individuals in the list, who merely happened to be wealthy.

I am sure that you realise that inventing another eunuch called Bagoas in Alexander's expedition in India and supposing that Alexander gave him a trierarchy in preference to his lover makes no sense.

Indus River Trierarchs:
Hephaistion son of Amyntor, Chiliarch, Commander of the Bodyguards and the Companions
Leonnatus son of Eunous, Bodyguard
Lysimachus son of Agathocles, Bodyguard
Asclepiodorus son of Timander?
Archon son of Clinias, later Satrap of Babylon
Demonicus son of Athenaeus?
Archias son of Anaxidotus, Lieutenant of Nearchus, Head of Alexander’s 1st expedition to Arabia
Ophellas son of Silenus, later Ptolemy’s general and governor of Cyrene
Timanthes son of Pantiades?
Nearchus son of Androtimus, Admiral of the Fleet
Laomedon son of Larichus, exiled by Philip II as supporter of Alexander, later Satrap of Coele-Syria
Androsthenes son of Callistratus, Lieutenant of Nearchus, Head of Alexander’s 2nd Arabian expedition
Craterus son of Alexander, General of the Army, later Viceroy of Macedon (designate)
Perdiccas son of Orontes, Bodyguard and subsequently Commander of the Companions and Chiliarch
Ptolemy son of Lagus, Bodyguard and later Pharaoh of Egypt
Aristonous son of Pisaeus, Bodyguard
Metron son of Epicharmus, Royal Page in Bactria
Nicarchides son of Simus, previously Phrourarchos of Persepolis
Attalus son of Andromenes, Battalion commander in Bactria and India, later a General of Perdiccas
Peucestas son of Alexander, later a Bodyguard
Pithon son of Crateuas, Bodyguard
Leonnatus son of Antipater?
Pantauchus son of Nicolaus, possibly later an officer of Demetrius Poliorcetes
Mylleas son of Zoilus?
Medius son of Oxythemis, “flatterer” and host of Alexander’s last supper, later admiral of Antigonus
Eumenes son of Hieronymus, Secretary and later Hipparch and Satrap
Critobulus son of Plato, Alexander’s doctor
Thoas son of Mandrodorus, officer responsible for servicing the fleet in Gedrosia
Maeander son of Mandrogenes?
Hagnon son of Cabeleus, “flatterer” and Companion of Alexander, Antigonid commander
Nicocles son of Pasicrates, Alexander’s envoy to Abisares
Nithaphon son of King Pnytagoras of Salamis, Brother of Nicocreon, defector to Alexander after Issus
Bagoas the Eunuch, Alexander’s lover, a “flatterer”, escort of the Sacae, executioner of Orxines

People around Alexander the Great

Some of you maybe never heard of Alexander the Great (what a probability!), some of you maybe ever heard of that name, and some of you maybe his fan. Well, that's who I am: a fan of Alexander the Great.
But today, I'm not going to talk about him. Instead, I will only make list of people who lived around Alexander the Great. I hope it'll be useful, for some of you, somehow. So here it is, categorized based on closer relationship and listed based on alphabets.

Alexander Aegus : Alexander first-born son with Roxane, the actual true heir of Macedonia. But was murder along with his mother when he was 13.
Alexander of Epirus (or Alexander Molossus) : Olympias' brother, Alexander's uncle plus brother-in-law as he married Alexander's sister, Cleopatra.
Attalus : Macedonia important courtier.
Cleopatra Eurydice : Philip's fifth wife, niece of Attalus.
Cleopatra of Macedon : Alexander's full-sister (daughter of Philip and Olympias), married to Alexander of Epirus.
Cynane : Alexander half-sister, daughter of Philip and Audata.
Olympias : Real name was Myrtale of Epirote, a Princess of Epirus. Mother of Alexander the Great. She changed her name to Olympias (or Olympia) when she became Philip's fourth wife.
Philip II : King of Macedonia in 382-336 BC, father of Alexander the Great.
Philip III : Alexander half-brother, son of Philip and Philinna of Larissa. Named Arrhidaeus at birth. He was the crown prince of Macedonia Empire before Olympias poisoned him, thus he became retarded.
Roxane (or Roxana) of Sogdia : Alexander's first wife i.e. his queen and the mother of Alexander Argus.
Thessalonike (or Thessalonica of Macedon) : Alexander half-sister, daughter of Philip and Nikasipolis. Wife of Cassander.

Close friends
Bucephalus : means "ox-head" in Latin. It was a horse Alexander tamed when Alexander was only 10 years old. Bucephalus accompanied Alexander for more than two decades, from the time Alexander tamed him until he died in 325 BC. Rumors had it that he let noone ride him except Alexander.
Hephaistion : aka Hephaestion Amyntoros. Held the position of second-in-command of Alexander's forces. No doubt that he was Alexander's life-long best friend, rumored to be "Alexander's lover" (whatever that means!) by certain people. The only person Alexander trusted the most.

Generals (or something, I don't really know what they called)
Antipater : General in Philip's reign, then became regent when Alexander went on his conguest in Asia.
Cassander : Eldest son of Antipater, husband of Thessalonike. King of Macedon in 350-297 BC.
Cleitus : a.k.a Black Cleitus , perhaps because of his black hair (which was uncommon in Greek at that time). Served Philip II before he served Alexander.
Crateros (or Craterus ): Alexander's General of the Phalanx. Crateros was a probable heir chosen by Alexander himself.
Nearchus : One of Alexander's boyhood friends, fellow 'classmate' when Alexander was taught by Aristotle.
Parmenion : Father of Philotas he was also a general in Philip's reign.
Perdiccas : Soon after Alexander's death, he took over the position as guardian and regent of all Alexander's empire. We can say he also became sort of protector to Roxana and Alexander Aegus.
Philotas : Oldest son of Parmenion most experienced and talented general of Alexander's.
Ptolemy ( or Ptolemy I Soter ) : Rumored to be Alexander's half-brother. Took over Alexadria (Egypt) after Alexander's death, he was the founder of Ptolemy Dynasty in Egypt, forefather of Cleopatra VII.

House of Persia
Cyrus the Great : Founder of Persian Empire, great-grandfather of Darius III. It is widely known that Alexander admired him and visited his grave when Alexander invaded Persia.
Darius III : Alexander's enemy, and engaged in three major wars with Alexander.
Sisygambis : Mother of Darisu III, grandmother of Statira and Drypteis. She was the one who famous from mistaking Hephaistion for Alexander.
Statira (or Stateira II): Alexander's second wife.
Drypteis : Sister of Statira, also married to Hephaition.
Vizier Bagoas : He was the one who made Darius III king. Alexander accused him as the one who behind Philip's death.

Aristander : A clairvoyant who predicted Alexander's birth. He was still in duty when Alexander reign and was also Alexander's favorite seer.
Aristotle : Yes, I'm talking about the famous Aristotle. He was the teacher of Alexander when Alexander was 12-16.
Bagoas : A eunuch in Persia, said to be Alexander's lover. Not to be confused with Vizier Bagoas.
Diogenes : A philosopher who lived like a beggar but won Alexander's respect.
Lanice (or Lanike ) : Black Cleitus' older sister, nursed Alexander when he was a toddler.
Leonidas : A relative of Olympias. Also Alexander's military trainer, was not very liked by Alexander, and didn't really like Alexander either.

Historians who wrote about Alexander
Arrian (86-146 AD)
Callisthenes (360-328 BC): It's a long lineage, but to put it simple, he was Aristotle's great nephew. He met Alexander when Alexander was tutored by Aristotle (which make him Alexander's boyhood friend, also). He was later appointed to attend Alexander the Great's Asiatic expedition as a professional historian.
Curtius (41-5 4 AD)
Diodorus (90󈞇 BC)
Justin (uncertain, around year 390 AD)
Onesicritus (360-290 BC) : Accompanied Alexander himself on Alexander's campaigns in Asia, wrote a history of Alexander.
Plutarch 46-120 AD)


According to legend, Alexander the Great came to visit the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Alexander wanted to fulfill a wish for Diogenes and asked him what he desired. [5] According to the version recounted by Diogenes Laërtius, Diogenes replied "Stand out of my light." [6] Plutarch provides a longer version of the story:

Thereupon many statesmen and philosophers came to Alexander with their congratulations, and he expected that Diogenes of Sinope also, who was tarrying in Corinth, would do likewise. But since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him, and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many people coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, "Yes," said Diogenes, "stand a little out of my sun." [7] It is said that Alexander was so struck by this, and admired so much the haughtiness and grandeur of the man who had nothing but scorn for him, that he said to his followers, who were laughing and jesting about the philosopher as they went away, "But truly, if I were not Alexander, I wish I were Diogenes." [8]

There are many minor variants of what Diogenes is supposed to have replied to Alexander. According to Cicero, Diogenes answered Alexander with the words, "Now move at least a little out of the sun". [9] According to Valerius Maximus, Diogenes answered: "To this later, for now I just want you not to stand in the sun." [10] The statement by Alexander, "if I were not Alexander the Great, I would like to be Diogenes," also crops up in some other versions of the anecdote. [5]

Arrian referred to the episode when recording the similar encounters of Indian philosophers with Alexander occurred during Alexander's campaigns in his book The Campaigns of Alexander.

When also in the Isthmus he met Diogenes of Sinope, lying in the sun, standing near him with his shield-bearing guards and foot Companions, he asked if he wanted anything. But Diogenes said that he wanted nothing else, except that he and his attendants would stand out of the sun. Alexander is said to have expressed his admiration of Diogenes’s conduct. Thus it is evident that Alexander was not entirely destitute of better feelings but he was the slave of his insatiable ambition.

In his biography of Alexander, Robin Lane Fox [11] sets the encounter in 336, the only time Alexander was in Corinth. The Alexander of the story is not this great king, ruler of Greece and Asia, but the promising but brash 20-year-old son of Philip of Macedon, first proving his mettle in Greece. One of Diogenes' pupils, Onesicritus, later joined Alexander and will have been the original source of this story, embellished in the retelling, which appears in Ptolemy (14.2), [ clarification needed ] Arrian, (Anabasis Alexandri, 7.2.1) and "Plutarch" Moralia, 331. [12] [13] The other major accounts of the tale are Cicero Tusculanae Disputationes 5.32.92 Valerius Maximus Dictorum factorumque memorabilium 4.3. ext. 4 Plutarch Alexander 14 and Diogenes Laërtius 6.32, 38, 60, and 68. [14]

The historicity of the accounts by Plutarch and others has been questioned, not least by G. E. Lynch in his article on Diogenes in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Lynch points out the problem that Alexander did not have the title given to him until after he had left Greece, and considers this enough of a problem with the anecdote such that it (alongside the notion that Diogenes lived in a barrel) should be "banish[ed . ] from the domain of history". "[C]onsidering what rich materials so peculiar a person as Diogenes must have afforded for amusing stories," he continues, "we need not wonder if a few have come down to us of somewhat doubtful genuineness." [3] [15] A. M. Pizzagalli suggests that the account has its origins in the meeting between Alexander and the Gymnosophists in India, and was handed down in Buddhist circles. [3] [16]

There are significant variations of fact amongst the accounts. Some have Diogenes and Alexander meeting at Corinth, some in Athens, and some at the Metroön. Further, as noted earlier, Diogenes Laërtius' rendition of the account is broken up into two parts. At 6.38 there is Alexander's request and Diogenes's "Stand out of my light!" reply. Alexander's aside to his followers is, however, at 6.32. At 6.68, D.L. has a third version of the anecdote, with Alexander responding that he is "a good thing" to an inquiry by Diogenes. At 6.60, D.L. has yet a fourth version, this time with the two exchanging introductions: "I am Alexander the great king." "I am Diogenes the dog.". [3]

In his Dialogues of the Dead (13), Lucian imagines a meeting between Alexander and Diogenes in the underworld. The philosopher once more punctures Alexander's pretensions and prescribes him a stiff draught from the water of Lethe.

Interpretation by Dio Chrysostom Edit

Dio Chrysostom, in his fourth oration on kingship, [17] ascribes a simple moral to the anecdote: people who are naturally outspoken and forthright respect others like themselves, whereas cowards regard such people as enemies. A good king will respect and tolerate the candour of a morally sincere critic (albeit that they must take care to determine which critics truly are sincere, and which are simply feigning sincerity), and Diogenes' remark to Alexander is a test of Diogenes. His bravery in risking offending Alexander, without knowing whether he would be tolerant of such behaviour beforehand, marks him as honest. [18]

Interpretation by Peter Sloterdijk Edit

According to Peter Sloterdijk, in his Critique of Cynical Reason, this is "perhaps the most well known anecdote from Greek antiquity, and not without justice". He states that "It demonstrates in one stroke what antiquity understands by philosophical wisdom – not so much a theoretical knowledge but rather an unerring sovereign spirit [. T]he wise man [. ] turns his back on the subjective principle of power, ambition, and the urge to be recognized. He is the first one who is uninhibited enough to say the truth to the prince. Diogenes' answer negates not only the desire for power, but the power of desire as such." [19]

Interpretation by Samuel Johnson Edit

Samuel Johnson wrote about this anecdote. Rather than relating it to Diogenes' cynicism, Johnson relates the story to time, relating the taking away of the sunlight by Alexander to the wasting of people's time by other people. [1] "But if the opportunities of beneficence be denied by fortune," wrote Johnson, "innocence should at least be vigilantly preserved. [. ] Time [. ] ought, above all other kinds of property, to be free from invasion and yet there is no man who does not claim the power of wasting that time which is the right of others." [20]

Modern interpretations Edit

In 2005, Ineke Sluiter analysed the proxemics of the encounter, observing that a common feature of the anecdotes was that Alexander approached Diogenes, reversing the usual stances of royalty and commoner in which the latter would be physically submissive. By such means, Diogenes communicated his cynical indifference to convention and status in a non-verbal way. [21]

The anecdote was popular amongst medieval scholars, because of its mention in the writings of authors who were popular in that period: Cicero, Valerius Maximus, and Seneca. Valerius Maximus comments "Alexander Diogenem gradu suo diuitiis pellere temptat, celerius Darium armis" (4.3. ext. 4). Seneca says "multo potentior, multo locupletior fuit [Diogenes] omnia tunc possidente Alexandro: plus enim erat, quod hic nollet accipere quam quod ille posset dare.", and adds "Alexander Macedonum rex gloriari solebat a nullo se beneficiis uictum." (De beneficiis 5.4.3 5.6.1). [22]

These comments were widely reproduced. Philosophical thought in the Middle Ages agreed with Seneca in particular: Alexander, who boasted that no-one could surpass him when it came to liberality, was surpassed by Diogenes, who proved himself the better man by refusing to accept from Alexander everything except those things that Alexander could not give. Diogenes requests that Alexander return the sunshine to him, it being something that Alexander cannot give to him in the first place. [4] [22]

Diogenes' answer circulated as an aphorism in western Britain in the early Middle Ages, but it does not seem to have been understood or else had become completely divorced from the story. In the 9th-century dialogue De raris fabulis, "don't stand between me and the light" is the response of friend who is refusing a request for help because "other work engages me". In a later dialogue by Ælfric Bata, the aphorism is used to mean "stand a little further off", the advice to a younger monk of an elder using the latrine. [23]

Will is my man and my servant,
And evere hath ben and evere schal.
And thi will is thi principal,
And hath the lordschipe of thi witt,
So that thou cowthest nevere yit
Take o dai rests of thi labour
Bot forto ben a conquerour
Of worldes good, which mai noght laste,
Thou hiest evere aliche faste,
Wher thou no reson hast to winne.

A different version of the anecdote, which included new material, changed the focus of the story. This version reached Europe through the Disciplina Clericalis and is also to be found in the Gesta Romanorum. In it, the incident of the sunlight is pushed into a subordinate position, with the main focus instead being upon Diogenes identifying Alexander as "the servant of his servant". In this modified anecdote, Diogenes states to Alexander that his (Diogenes') own will is subject to his reason, whereas Alexander's reason is subject to his will. Therefore, Alexander is the servant of his servant. The story of blocking the sunlight, in this version, is a brief introductory matter only and, indeed, the tale is not even told as a meeting between Diogenes and Alexander, but as a meeting between Diogenes and Alexander's servants. [4] [22]

It was this latter form of the anecdote that became popular outside of scholarly circles in the Middle Ages. The former form, focused on the sunlight incident, was primarily confined to popularity amongst scholars. [22] John Gower presents this form of the anecdote in his Confessio Amantis. In the Confessio the meeting is a meeting of opposites. Alexander embodies a driven, restless, worldly, conqueror. Whereas Diogenes is the embodiment of philosophical virtue: rational control, patience, and sufficiency. Alexander covets the world and laments the fact that he has no more to conquer ("al the world ne mai suffise To will which is noght reasonable" — Confessio Amantis III 2436–2437) whereas Diogenes is content with no more than the few necessities of nature. [4]

Gower's re-telling of the anecdote names Diogenes and Alexander, and these are the two characters in most medieval versions of the anecdote. However, this is not the case for the Disciplina Clericalis nor for the Gesta Romanorum, this modified anecdote's earliest appearances. In the former, the meeting is between an unnamed king and Socrates in the latter, it is between Socrates and Alexander. According to John David Burnley, this suggests that the anecdote, at least in this form, is meant to be an exemplar, rather than a literal truth. It does not matter precisely which characters are involved, as they are idealised forms rather than literal historical figures. They symbolize the conflict between a philosopher/critic and a king/conqueror, and it is the structure of the anecdote that is important, rather than the specific identities of the participants. Socrates is as good as Diogenes for this purpose although Alexander is favoured as the king simply because by the Middle Ages he had already become the archetypical conqueror, and was considered the most famous one in history. [4]

The encounter appears in numerous Elizabethan works such as John Lyly's play Campaspe. Shakespeare's play King Lear may have been intended to parody this when the King meets Edgar, son of Gloucester, dressed in rags and says "Let me talk with this philosopher". [3] [24]

Henry Fielding retells the anecdote as A Dialogue between Alexander the Great, and Diogenes the Cynic, printed in his Miscellanies in 1743. [25] [26] Fielding's version of the story again uses Alexander as an idealistic representation of power and Diogenes as an idealistic representation of intellectual reflection. However, he portrays both men as fallible. Both are verbally adept, and engage one another, but both are dependent from the support of others for their weight of argument. [25] Fielding likes neither character, and in his version of the anecdote each serves to highlight the cruelty and meanness of the other. [27] The false greatness of the conqueror is shown opposed to the false greatness of the do-nothing philosopher, whose rhetoric is not carried through to action. [28]

In the Chapter XXX of François Rabelais' Pantagruel (c.1532), Pantagruel's tutor Epistemon had his head cut off after a battle. After he had his head reattached and was brought back to life, he recounts his experience of the damned in hell: "Their estate and condition of living is but only changed after a very strange manner for I saw Alexander the Great there amending and patching on clouts upon old breeches and stockings, whereby he got but a very poor living.". "After this manner, those that had been great lords and ladies here, got but a poor scurvy wretched living there below. And, on the contrary, the philosophers and others, who in this world had been altogether indigent and wanting, were great lords there in their turn. I saw Diogenes there strut it out most pompously, and in great magnificence, with a rich purple gown on him, and a golden sceptre in his right hand. And, which is more, he would now and then make Alexander the Great mad, so enormously would he abuse him when he had not well patched his breeches for he used to pay his skin with sound bastinadoes."

16th century Flemish painting Edit

Flemish-German Renaissance painter Marten Van Valckenborg represented the anecdotic allegory from 330BC of Alexander, approaching the celebrated Cynic philosopher Diogenes. Ref Oil painting on wood, Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes, circa 1585, Private collection. Alexander the Great visiting Diogenes by Marten Van Valckenborg, 1585, in [Private collection]

Puget's La rencontre Edit

Puget's bas relief, pictured at right, is widely regarded as a chef d'oeuvre. [29] Étienne Maurice Falconet described it as Puget's "sublime error". [30] Daniel Cady Eaton, art historian and professor of the History and Criticism of Art at Yale University, observed that the work is not in keeping with the anecdote, with Diogenes portrayed as a pitiable old man extending his arms and Alexander portrayed as mounted on a horse with a hand to his breast in mockery. The horses are too small for the riders, and the chain by which the dog is held is "big enough for a ship's anchor". [31] Eugène Delacroix wrote of the work:

If the great Puget had had as much of common sense as he had of the intensity and science which fill this work, he would have perceived before beginning that his subject was the strangest sculpture could choose. He forgot that in the mass of men, weapons, horses, and even edifices, he could not introduce the most essential actor that is the sun's ray intercepted by Alexander without which the composition has no sense. [31]

Victor Duruy made the same point, writing:

Son bas-relief [. ] est malgré la science qu'il y montra, une preuve de l'impuissance de la statuaire à rivaliser avec la peinture. Combien sont lourds ces nuages et ces drapeaux de marbre qui flotteraient si bien dans l'air libre d'un tableau! Et où est le principal acteur de cette scène, le rayon de soleil qu'Alexandre intercepte? [32]

Others, such as Gonse, praised Puget:

I do not hesitate to proclaim the bas-relief of Alexandre de Diogène one of the most striking creations of modern sculpture. Everything that is most rare and most difficult in the art of sculpture are there united as by a miracle: concentrated plastic effect, play of lights and shadows, selections of plans, ease of modelling nervous, fine, lively, and iridescent execution. What more can be said? There is not a secondary detail that is not treated with a marvelous assurance. [31]

Landseer's Alexander and Diogenes Edit

Edwin Landseer's Alexander and Diogenes presents the encounter between the twain as between two dogs. [33] Alexander is a white bulldog with a military collar who looks down haughtily upon Diogenes, represented as a scruffy farrier's dog in a barrel. [34] [35] Landseer was inspired to create the painting when he encountered two dogs in the street, one observing the other from within a barrel, and was reminded of the encounter between Alexander and Diogenes. [36] The painting in turn was to become the inspiration for the anthropomorphic dogs in Disney's Lady and the Tramp. [37] Charles Darwin and Briton Rivière agreed with each other that the hair of the Alexander dog was inaccurately represented. [38]

Alexander the Great: Empire & History

The ancient Kingdom of Macedonia, situated in the north of modern Greece, was established by Perdiccas I about 640 B.C. Perdiccas was a Dorian, although the Macedonian tribes included Thracian and Illyrian elements. Originally a semibarbarous and fragmented power, Macedon became tributary to Persia under the Persian kings Darius I and Xerxes I and thereafter struggled to maintain itself against Thracians and other barbarians and against the Greek cities of the Chalcidice as well as Sparta and Athens.

A new stage began with Archelaus (d.399 B.C.), who centralized the kingdom with a system of roads and forts he also fostered the Hellenization of his people by inviting famous Greek artists, Euripides among them, to his court.

Few regions gave much thought to Macedonia. The area was so primitive that it seemed to belong to another age- it was a rude, brawling, heavy-drinking country of dour peasants and landowning warriors. The language was Greek, but so tainted by barbarian strains that Athenians could not understand it. Macedonia remained an outland. Growth of trade in the early fourth century promoted the rise of several cities, yet when Perdiccas III, king of Macedonia, fell in 359 B.C. while fighting the Illyrians the seaboard of his state was largely under Athenian control or in the hands of the Chalcidian league, grouped about Olynthus.

Philip (382-36), brother of the dead king, was made regent for the infant heir, soon set aside his nephew, and became outright king.

Once power was his, the young monarch swiftly brought order to his domain by armed force when necessary, by diplomatic guile whenever he could, Philip set out to make Macedon the greatest power in the Greek world. Alexander was born in 356 to the first wife of Philip. As a teenager Alexander was educated by Athenian philosopher

Aristotle. By the year 337 all of the Greek city-states had been conquered or forced into an alliance by Philip. He was planning to lead their joint forces for an invasion of the Persian empire when he was assassinated in 336. Thus at the age of 20, Alexander became king of the Macedonians.

After Philip’s death, some Greek cities under Macedonian rule revolted. In 335 B.C. Alexander’s army stormed the walls of the rebellious city of Thebes and demolished the city. About 30,000 inhabitants were sold in slavery. Alexander’s action against Thebes discouraged, for a time, rebellion by other Greek cities

With Greece under control, Alexander turned to his fathers plan for attacking the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C., he led an army of about 35,000 infantry and cavalry across the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. The Persians sent out troops that met Alexander’s forces at the Granicus River. Alexander and his cavalry charged across the river and won the battle. This victory opened Asia Minor to Alexander. After marching along the southern coast of Asia Minor. Alexander and his army headed north to the city of Gordium.

By 333 B.C., Alexander had reached the coast of Syria. There, in a fierce battle at Issus, he defeated the king of Persia, Darius III, but could not capture him. Alexander’s army them marched south into Phoenicia to capture key naval bases at port cities. Part of one such city, Tyre, stood on an island about 1/2 mile offshore. Unable to capture the island from the sea, Alexander ordered his engineers to build a causeway out to the island, converting it to a peninsula that still remains today. His troops used such weapons as battering rams, catapults, and mobile towers in their attack. The Tyrians on the island surrendered in 332 B.C, after seven months of fighting. Alexander’s use of huge siege machines at Tyre introduced a new age of warfare.

Alexander next entered Egypt. The Egyptians welcomed him as a liberator from Persian rule, and they crowned him pharaoh. On the western edge of the Nile Delta, Alexander founded a city in 331 B.C. and named it Alexandria after himself.

From Alexandria, the Macedonian king made a long difficult trek through the Libyan Desert, a part of the Sahara, to the oasis of Siwah. He consulted the oracle of the god Zeus-Ammon, and, according to legend, the oracle pronounced Alexander the son of god.

Alexander left Egypt with an army of 4000,000 foot soldiers and 7,000 cavalry. He crossed the Euphrates and entered Mesopotamia where in 331 B.C. he met the Persian king once more at Gaugamela, east of the Tigris River. In spite that the fact was that his army was smaller than that of the Persians, Alexanders superior tactics won the field,

and Darus was forced to flee again. By this victory he effectively won the war, although much more fighting was needed before the Persian empire disappeared. It took three years to subdue all of eastern Iran.

After the Battle of Gaugamela, Alexander entered the ancient city of Babylon as a conqueror. From there he moved on to the great cities of the Persian Empire: Susa, Persepolis, and Pasargadae. In 330 B.C. he defeated an army that was guarding a narrow path known as the Persian Gates by finding a track that led around it and attacking from the rear. This gave him entrance to the Persian capital of Persepolis, where he and his men went on an orgy of destruction and burned down the palace of Xerxes.

Having penetrated this far into modern day Iran, Alexander’s army was now in a country unmapped and virtually unknown to the Greeks. Still pursuing Darius, he turned northwest toward Ecabatana (modern Hamadan) then northeast to Rhagae (near Teheran). Darius had been taken hostage by Bessus, the ruler of the province of Bactria. Alexander caught up with him as he was dying. Alexander had his body taken back to Persepolis to be buried in the royal tombs. At the death of the Persian king, Alexander adopted the title of lord of Asia–as the ruler of the Persian Empire was called.

By this time Alexander was becoming more and more despotic. He killed his own foster brother, Clitus, in a drunken brawl after Clitus had insluted him. He antagonized many of his Greek and Macedonian followers by marrying a Persian princess,Roxane. When a plot was discovered to murder him, he had his old teacher and historian Callisthenes put to death. Alexander spent the year 328 B.C. subjugating Bactria and in the early summer 327 B.C. recrossed the Hindu Kush to the south headed for India. Sending half of the army ahead by way of the Khyber Pass with orders to build a boat bridge across the Indus River, Alexander himself fought his way to the river through the hills north of the pass. He spent the winter fighting the local hill tribes.

His greatest accomplishment in this campaign was in scaling and taking Mount Aornos (Pir-Sar), which was supposed to be unconquerable. Following this victory, Alexander led his army to the banks of the Indus where they rested until spring. Then they crossed the river an marched three days to the city of Taxila, where he was greeted by the king and much pomp and ceremony. He then continued on to the Hydaspes (Jhelum) river, where he met and defeated King Porus in what was to be his last great battle. He pushed on to the east, but on the banks of the Hyphasis (Beas) river-his army rebelled. They were tired after long years of war and were anxious to see their families back in Greece. Alexander could not persuade them otherwise and after sulking in his tent for two days agreed to lead them back home.

Alexander shared the classical belief that the Indus and Nile Rivers were the same. He resolved to test this theory and see whether he could return to the Mediterranean that way. On the Hydaspes River, he constructed a large number of boats in which part of his force sailed downstream. The remainder were divided into three groups and made the journey by land. They departed in November 326 B.C Going downstream Alexander engaged in constant warfare. The Indians would not supply his troops without a fight. At a city that is thought to be present day Multan, Alexander climbed a ladder to lead a attack and was badly wounded. For several days it seemed as though he would die, and his men went berserk destroying everything and everyone that got in their way. They reached the mouths of the Indus in the summer of 325 B.C Alexander explored both arms of the river and proved that it was not connected to the Nile.

Before the expedition had reached the Indian ocean, Alexander sent Craterus, one of his senior officers, back to Persia with the largest part of the army. He instructed Nearchus to wait until the monsoon in October and then to sail along the coast to the Persian Gulf to find a sea route back to the mouth of the Euphrates. Alexander and the remainder of the expedition made their way along the unexplored Makran coast which is now Pakistan. He intended to follow the coastline and set up supply depots for the ships along the way, but the Taloi Mountains forced him to turn inland. Nearchus and the fleet were left to find their own supplies along a very desolate shore.

Alexander’s journey through what he called the Gedrosia Desert in the mouths of August, September, and October 325 B.C was among the most difficult he made. The expedition, including many women and children, had to walk over the waterless desert at night to avoid the intense heat by day. They did not have enough food or water, and many of them died before they reached Pura, the capital of the province of Gedrosia. Alexander then went to Kerman where he was met by Craterus and his forces. It was another six months before Alexander and Nearchus met at the Persian port of Ormuz.

Alexander’s army reached the Persian city of Susa in the spring of 324 B.C. Alexander adopted more and more of the customs of the Asian despots, taking a second wife and integrating non-Greeks into his Army. These measures alarmed his Greek and Macedonian veterans, and they voiced their discontent. Alexander discharged them and many headed back to Europe. During this time, however, Alexander laid the basis for future expeditions. He sent Heraclides to explore the Caspian Sea, to find out whether it was joined to the ocean that was supposed to circle the world. He also planned to send a fleet under Nearchus to sail around Arabia, hoping to discover a route between India and the Red Sea. He seems to have had plans to conquer Arabia as well. All of these projects were abandoned, however, when Alexander became ill at a Banquet on June 1, 323 B.C He died on June 13 at the age of 32, possibly as a result of having been poisoned.

Few men changed the world so profoundly as Alexander the Great. In his brief reign he covered 22,000 miles and never lost a battle. Usually he knew more of the terrain than the natives did.

Alexander the Great’s Empire

How did a young king from Macedon inspire his modest army to conquer a domain that spanned the ancient world? Writer Jeremy Pound reveals the secrets behind the man – and his downfall

When, on 1 October 331 BC, Alexander III of Macedon faced the massed Persian forces of Darius III at Gaugamela, the outcome should have been a foregone conclusion. Comprising 34,000 infantry and 7,000 cavalry, Alexander’s Greek army was by no means small – but Darius commanded a mighty cavalry numbering 34,000 and, it is reckoned, more than 200,000 infantry. What’s more, the hot and dusty plain – in what is now northern Iraq – was home turf for the Persians. Alexander’s men, in contrast, had been on the march for over three years and were over a thousand miles from home.

In fact, the battle was indeed a rout – but not in the expected way. It was the Persians who were crushed, not the numerically inferior Greeks. We will never know the exact figures, but it’s believed that around 50,000 Persians were killed in the battle, compared with just 1,000 or so Greeks. With his vast forces in disarray, Darius fled. He survived – for now – but his reign was effectively finished, as was the once-great Persian empire, which had stretched from Libya in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. The way now lay open for Alexander to press on eastwards and establish his own empire. At just 25, he was the most powerful man in the world – the Great, indeed.

Brilliant military tactician, savvy politician, courageous and accomplished fighter – in terms of leadership skills, Alexander had the lot. Nor did it hurt to be the son of a king who had already set in motion the most significant shift in power in Greek history.

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Alexander the Great’s early life and reign

Alexander was born in July 356 BC to King Philip II of Macedon – by all accounts a thoroughly unpleasant man, but also a mightily effective leader. In the space of just a few years, Philip transformed his state from a small, peripheral kingdom in northern Greece into an unstoppable war machine. In 339 BC, he won a crushing victory over Athens and its allies at Chaeronea, ensuring that Macedon effectively ruled all Greece.

Alexander won his spurs fighting alongside his father, earning plaudits for his bravery at Chaeronea, but would himself soon have the opportunity to rule. Suspiciously soon, in fact – it’s been suggested by some historians that Alexander might have been behind the assassination of Philip II in 336 BC, killed by one of his own bodyguards at a family wedding.

By fair means or foul, at the age of 20, Alexander III became ruler of Greece – and the ruthlessness he displayed in cementing that position bore all the hallmarks of his father. He put down unrest in the north of his kingdom with brutal speed and, when Thebes rashly declared independence from Macedonia, his reprisal was savage: the city was burnt to the ground, its people either slaughtered or sold into slavery.

But Alexander was not merely ruthless. He was also bright enough to know that brute force alone would not keep the diverse collection of states under his power in check. If his study of history had taught him anything – and, with the philosopher and scientist Aristotle as his teacher, he would certainly have been well schooled – it would have been that nothing unites states and their people more than having a reviled common enemy. In 490 BC and 480 BC, the Greeks, who had been fighting among themselves, had joined forces to repel invasions by the Persians under Darius I and Xerxes I.

Now, a century and a half later, Alexander saw an opportunity to turn the tables, and planned a united Greek invasion of Persia.

The expedition that began in spring 334 BC, when Alexander’s forces set off from the Greek mainland, would change the course of history. It was not just his military victories against the odds that defy belief, but also his achievements in overcoming daunting geographical obstacles – from vast African deserts to the precipitous mountain trails of the Hindu Kush in the western Himalaya – in a journey that would eventually cover about 20,000 miles over the course of 11 years.

The initial impetus and rallying call for the expedition may have been that long-held grudge against the Persians, but Alexander also had an ulterior motive: he was determined to reach the end of the Earth and the great ocean that he believed lay beyond. Certainly, no one could accuse him of a lack of ambition.

Early conquests

Alexander’s all-conquering tour began when he crossed into Asia Minor (Anatolia, today part of Turkey) before heading down the eastern Mediterranean coast through Syria into Egypt, looping back towards the Red Sea then continuing eastward through Assyria – where he triumphed at Gaugamela – Mesopotamia, Persia and Bactria, and through the Hindu Kush to the Indus River. If those ancient names seem unfamiliar, look in a modern atlas and tally the list of countries his army traversed to get an idea of the enormity of the achievement: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, India.

Alexander’s forces triumphed in a succession of major battles, not all of them as quick and decisive as Gaugamela. The crucial Mediterranean port city of Tyre (now in Lebanon) was conquered only after a siege that lasted seven months. Cities galore were founded en route, from Alexandria in Egypt (today, the country’s second biggest city) to Alexandria Eschate (‘Alexandria the Farthest’) in Tajikistan and Alexandria Bucephalus, named for the Macedonian’s beloved horse, in what’s now the Pakistani Punjab.

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Not everyone met Alexander’s army with stern resistance. Many welcomed their conqueror with open arms and, often, lavish gifts. All, however, soon became part of an empire of unprecedented scope – covering over two million square miles, it linked East with West for the first time in history. Enclaves of Greek culture persist in remote areas of the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent even today, legacies of the Macedonian’s exploits over two millennia ago. No figure from ancient history continues to loom so large in the literature and culture of so many different peoples – in many he is deified, in many others he is utterly reviled.

But how did he do it? How did Alexander inspire and maintain allegiance and endurance in his troops as he led them on an expedition that, at times, must have seemed not just ambitious but downright deluded?

Providing the military brains behind unlikely victories such as that at Gaugamela helped – everyone likes to be on the side of a winner, particularly one who is seemingly invincible. Nor was Alexander the sort of general to monitor success from afar. Various sources depict him fighting courageously on the frontline.

Alexander knew all about the effectiveness of what today is dubbed ‘shock and awe’. The shock was simple enough – if you crossed him, he was merciless. Alexander’s path across Asia was a bloody one, strewn with the bodies not just of enemies but also of former friends whom he came to mistrust, and even the likes of doctors and priests whom he believed had let him down. The awe, meanwhile, came from creating an aura of one directed from above, encouraging the belief that his rise towards global domination was preordained. To that end, he employed tactics designed to convince all around him of his credentials.

The Greeks were a suspicious and religious bunch, so Alexander made a point of consulting oracles – which would inevitably confirm that his actions enjoyed divine approval he even undertook a perilous eight-day trek across the desert to the oracle at Siwa in Egypt. And Alexander’s propagandist Callisthenes was invariably there to elaborate, enhance and disseminate the news far and wide. Much of the success of the Alexander ‘myth’ is down to the handiwork of Callisthenes – an exceptional spin doctor – from the famous account of loosening the Gordian Knot to the touching tales of Alexander’s bond with Bucephalus. Many people were led to believe that Alexander was, indeed, a god.

End of the road

Eventually, though, even the most successful conqueror meets his nemesis. Alexander’s came in the form of the River Ganges. By 326 BC, long years on the road and battle losses – not to mention tropical diseases and venomous snakes – had taken their toll on his troops. Faced with the prospect of crossing a threemile- wide torrent, only to face more of the same tribulations on the other side, Alexander’s army refused. The great adventure was over.

The return journey from the subcontinent was not pretty. The weary Greeks saw their numbers depleted first by flash floods and then, cruelly, a horrendous drought. As for their leader, his once razor-sharp mind became increasingly erratic. He drank more: 24-hour binges became a familiar part of his routine – followed, of course, by a couple of days of hangover. Unsurprisingly, plots against him began to simmer.

In autumn 324 BC, Alexander’s closest companion (and, some claim, lover) Hephaestion died – possibly of typhus fever or typhoid exacerbated by heavy alcohol consumption. Devastated, Alexander declined rapidly. He reached Babylon in spring 323 BC, and in June took to his sick bed. His condition worsened and within days he was dead, aged just 32. Was it a fever that killed him, or had his liver simply given up? Perhaps he was poisoned?

He was, after all, not short of enemies. Alexander the Great never made it home to Macedon. But then he never intended to. As the greatest military leader in ancient history, he left a monumental legacy: his vast Asian empire.

Top 10 Facts about Alexander the Great

Alexander was born around July 20, 356 B.C., in Pella it was then the capital of Macedonia, to King Philip II of Macedon and Queen Olympia.

His given name was Alexander III of Macedon. He had one sister, Cleopatra (not to be confused with Cleopatra of Egypt) and a step-sister Thessalonike.

Growing up, he did not see much of his father who was often away on military duties defending his kingdom. Despite the absence, he was one of Alexander’s most influential role models.

1. Alexander the Great was Mama’s Boy

In the absence of his father, Alexander grew up to adore his mother who played an important role in his life.

She was determined to see her son succeed the throne and did everything to protect and advance Alexander’s interests, and would inculcate the notion of greatness in him.

2. Alexanders’ parents greatly contributed to his rise to greatness

Alexanders success in leadership can be attributed to both his parents. They each played a role in honing his skills at a pretty young age.

While he was away, King Philip II trusted Alexander to rule the kingdom in his absence. Alexander took advantage of such opportunities and at one point conquered the Thracian people.

He rewarded himself with “Alexandroupolis” a city named after himself.

3. Alexander was privately tutored by Aristotle

King Philip II wanted the best education for his son. He commissioned Aristotle, the Greek philosopher.

Through his education, Alexander arouse his deep passionate for knowledge, logic, philosophy, music and culture.

Aristotle’s teachings, especially his doctrines on morals and politics, empowered him in winning over the citizens in the kingdoms he invaded and conquered.

This intrigued him because the cultures of the kingdoms were of great contrast, yet he won them over.

4. Alexander the Great was not close to his Father

Alexander and his father had a strained relationship. It is believed that the duo were estranged during his teenage years.

Alexander was not happy with the choice of lifestyle his father chose, he had many wives and children, whom is believed threatened Alexanders’ success to the throne.

He went on exile with his mother after she separated with his father. They later reconciled and were allowed back into the Macedonian kingdom.

5. Alexander the Great cheerleader

Alexander the Great was loved by his followers because he always affirmed them.

He always motivated his army for their exemplary performance in battle, this always brought the best out his team.

He would occasionally name the best warriors and honour them for their bravery, recounting their acts of heroism executed by former and fallen heroes in the battle field.

He personally acknowledged the efforts and contributions made by each team member.

He was considered a confidant by many of his followers because he always displayed empathy.

6. Alexander never lost a battle

Alexander the Great lived to his name. He never lost a single battle during his reign.

He had the best military tactics that have been emulated today by military academies world over.

He won his first battle aged 18 and quickly gained the confidence of his fellow warriors in leading them in the battlefield.

He organized his troops in small sizes and strategically positioned them in battle catching their enemies unaware.

The peak of Alexander’s army force was the 15,000-strong Macedonian troop, that held off the sword-wielding Persians with 20-foot-long pikes called sarissa.

7. For the love of his name, Alexander and cities

By Nikolai Karaneschev-wikimedia

Alexander won many battles and with those came cities.

He named city of Alexandria in Egypt after himself. It is currently the second largest city in Egypt.

Other Alexandria cities can be found in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan.

One of his toughest battles in conquering present day India was the battle of the river Hydaspes.

After he won, he honored his favorite horse by naming it Bucephala. The horse died in the battle.

8. Alexander the Great had an active love life

Alexander had beautiful, intelligent women around him. Like his father that he despised, Alexander is said to have relations with other women outside his marriage.

His first wife, Barsine was a widow when she met Alexander. Alexander fell for her because of her beauty. It is believed that they had a son named Heracles.

His second wife was Stateira, they celebrated their wedding for five days. Its was called the susa weddings. He also married Roxanna, it was love at first sight.

It is also believed that Alexander had an affair with three young men. The first was a Persian dancer, Bagoas, given to him as a gift by one of King Darius’ commander.

The other two Excipinus and Hector were said to be beautiful youth that were favored by Alexander.

9. Roxanna, beauty and brains, was Alexander’s favorite wife

Alexander had a weakness, it was Roxanne. He was so fond of her that he spent most of his time with her. This irked his soldiers.

It is said that after meeting her, he lost interest in other women. They got married in August 327 BC. Their marriage was politically tied to an empire he had conquered.

She bore him a son, Alexander IV who was born six months after the passing of Alexander the Great.

10. The Fall of Alexander the Great Empire

By Unknown author -wikimedia

On June 323 BC in Babylon, Alexander the Great breathed his last. The real cause of his death is not clear, speculations on the cause of his death were typhoid fever, poisoning or malaria.

Following his death, Roxanne heavy with child, plotted to kill her co-wives. She wanted her unborn child to be the heir of throne after his father.

She had Stateira and her sister murdered, their bodies were thrown into a well which they filled with earth.

As fate would have it, 13 years later, Roxanna and Alexander IV were murdered in 310 BC by Cassander who took over the kingdom.

This saw the fall of Alexander the Great’s empire and lineage.

Alexander the Great’s parents were both assassinated albeit at different times. His father King Philip II was killed by Pausania, a Macedonian, while at his daughter Cleopatra’s wedding in 336 B.C. It is believed that Olympia helped plan the assassination.

In 316 B.C his mother Olympia was stoned to death by families of her victims on Cassander’s orders. He refused to give her decent burial.


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The Power of Ideas

500 BCE 200 BCE

Scale: 1 column = 100 years


Derived from the Sanskrit word "jina," meaning "to conquer," Jainism teaches that all life forms have an eternal soul bound by karma in a never-ending cycle of rebirth. Through nonviolence or ahimsa, the soul can break free of this cycle and achieve kaivalya. Traditions and ideas central to Jainism can be traced to the 7th century BCE, but Mahavira, the last of Jainism's 24 great spiritual teachers, formalized them into the Jain religion in the 6th century. Some scholars see the roots of the faith as far back as the Indus civilization in Gujarat.

Central to Jainism are five vows: nonviolence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non-stealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacharya), and non-possession or non-attachment (aparigraha). As a manifestation of ahimsa, Jain monks wear nets over their mouths and sweep the street with their clothing so as to avoid harming insects, thereby accruing karma from not injuring even the smallest life forms. Mahavira, whose teachings are recorded in the Agamas texts, taught liberation through the three principles of right faith (samyak darshana), right knowledge (samyak jnana), and right conduct (samyak charitra).

Between the first and second centuries BCE, the Jains divided into an orthodox sect Digambara ("sky&ndashclad") in which followers claimed adherence to Mahavira's philosophy by going without clothes, and the Shvetambara ("white&ndashclad") sect. Approximately four million Jains practice the religion worldwide, and important places of pilgrimage among observers include Mt. Abu in Rajasthan, site of five ornate Jain temples, and Sravanabelagola, site of a 57.5 foot statue of Gomateshvara (Bahubali), Jainism's first spiritual leader or tirthankara. Today Sravanabelagola is the site of the Mahamastak Abhishek, the biggest Jain religious festival which takes place every 12 years, the last one in 2007.


The Mahabharata ("The Great Tale of the Bharatas") is one of two major epics in ancient Indian literature, the other being the Ramayana. The story first began in the oral tradition during the first millennium BCE and was composed in Sanskrit over centuries, beginning perhaps as early as 800 or 900 BCE, and reaching its final written form around the fourth century BCE. Attributed to the poet Vyasa, the epic is composed of nearly 100,000 verses divided into 18 books. The sixth book contains the central text of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Bountiful Lord"), which discusses the four goals of life or purushartas&mdashartha (worldly wealth and success), kama (pleasure and desire), dharma (righteousness), and moksha (knowledge and liberation from the cycle of birth and death). A dialogue between the warrior Arjuna and Krishna, the Bhagavad Gita makes dharma its central lesson: hesitating before the prospect of war, Krishna reminds the hero Arjuna of his selfless duty or dharma.

Set in the kingdom of Kurukshetra on India's northern plains, the epic narrates a succession struggle among members of the Bharata ruling family that results in a ruinous civil war. The Pandava brothers are pitted against their rival cousins, the Kauravas, who divest the eldest Pandava brother of his kingdom and his wife in a fixed gambling match. The brothers are forced into exile for 13 years during which time they prepare for war with their cousins. The Pandavas prevail in an 18-day battle that causes great loss of life on both sides. In contrast with the Vedas, which are considered "sruti" or divine revelation, the epics are considered smrti ("that which is remembered") or of human origin.

Bharata Natyam

Bharata natyam is an Indian classical dance that originated in Hindu temples and is now one of India's most popular dance forms, taught and performed across the country and abroad. It was developed and fostered in Tamil Nadu, especially during the reign of the Chola kings, whose great temples maintained hundreds of devadasis (temple dancers). Development of the dance was continued by the rulers of succeeding dynasties into the 19th century CE. The devadasis were young women who were "married" to a particular deity and performed dances for the gods represented in the temple and for the enjoyment of the Brahmin priests. During the British Raj, the devadasis came into disrepute and their dances viewed as licentious. Temple dancing was legally banned in the state of Madras (now Tamil Nadu), but bharata natyam continues as a theatrical dance form starting in the mid-1930s and is now taught widely across India and the outside world.

A solo dance performed mainly by young women, bharata natyam's choreography features an extensive vocabulary of formalized hand gestures (mudras), which carry distinctive meanings, accompanied by energetic rhythmic footwork, sculptural poses, and animated facial expressions. It incorporates three basic components of Indian dance: nritta (pure, rhythmic dance), nritya (expressive dance that conveys mood through facial expressions and hand gestures), and natya (pure storytelling that combines song and dance). The female dancer performs in bare feet with a large, wide anklet of bells and she wears an elaborate sari draped to form a cascade of pleats in the front, which fan out between the legs with her movements. A typical recital consists of six sections: the alarippu, an invocation to the deity and audience greeting the jatisvaram, a technical piece that uses nritta the sabdam that introduces nritya varnam, the most complex piece that uses both nritta and nritya padam, a piece expressing love and devotion through natya and the final section, the tillana (or thillana), a fast-paced, rhythmic piece that showcases the dancer's mastery of intricate footwork and beautiful poses.

Alexander the Great

After conquering Anatolia (334-3 BCE), Phoenicia, Egypt and Libya (333-2 BCE) and finally Persia (331-330 BCE), Alexander the Great from Macedonia set his sights on the lands in northern India conquered by Darius I of Persia 200 years earlier. Alexander sent his main army through the Khyber Pass, and brought the rest himself on a more northerly route. He met with resistance and battles from some local rulers, while others feared his reputation and met him with gifts and supplies. His expedition reached its most easterly point in September 326 BCE at the Beas river in the Punjab when his army&mdashnow weary of long years spent on the march&mdashcame close to mutiny. Alexander then turned back heading southwards down the Indus to the sea, fighting and besieging Indian cities all the way. There he divided his men again, sending a fleet from the mouth of the Indus back to the Persian Gulf, dispatching one army corps over the Bolan Pass, and taking the rest along the inhospitable Makran coast into Iran and back to Babylon.

Alexander's invasion itself left no long lasting impression on India (though he may have influenced the young Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan Empire), but his campaigns cemented his reputation as one of the great conquerors of the ancient world. Later Greek leaders however conquered much of northwest India the most famous, Menander (ruled c. 155-130 BCE), struck down the Ganges as far as Patna and according to legend later became a Buddhist.

Chandragupta Maurya

In 320 BCE, the Nanda dynasty was overthrown by an officer in its army, Chandragupta Maurya (c. 320-298 BCE), who became the founder of the Mauryan Empire. By the end of the century, Chandragupta's empire ranged from the Himalayas to the Deccan plateau in Southern India and united the Indus and Gangetic valleys under a central administration that would thrive for 140 years. Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to Chandragupta's court, marveled at the wealth and splendor of the Mauryan capital at Pataliputra (Patna), and his portrait of the king reveals a masterful and suspicious ruler who was constantly vigilant, fearing attempts on his life. A manual about statecraft, Arthasastra, written in part by Chandragupta's head minister, Kautilya (other authors made subsequent additions in later centuries), is a revealing study of Mauryan bureaucracy. The book, which is often compared to Machiavelli's The Prince, discusses practical advice for rulers about how to run a kingdom, including ways to cultivate spies and become popular in conquered territories.

Legends of Chandragupta's life abound some claim his family was related to the Buddha while others say that he met Alexander the Great and was imprisoned for offending him. Most versions of his death recount that Chandragupta abdicated his throne to become a Jain monk and fasted until he died. After Chandragupta's death, his son Bindasara and grandson Ashoka the Great increased the empire's power and consolidated its lands.

Mauryan Empire

In 320 BCE, the Nanda dynasty was overthrown by an officer in its army, Chandragupta Maurya (c. 320-298 BCE), and thus began the Mauryan Empire. By around 300 BCE, Chandragupta's empire included India south of the Hindu Kush and most of northern India as far south as the Narmada River. Writings of a Greek ambassador, Megasthenes, provide insights into the wealth and splendor of the Mauryan capital at Pataliputra (Patna), India's caste system, and the king, who Megasthenes wrote was constantly vigilant, fearing attempts on his life. A book about statecraft, Arthasastra, written in part by Chandragupta's head minister (additions were added in later centuries), discusses practical advice for rulers about how to run a kingdom and provides a window into Mauryan bureaucracy. Legends about Chandragupta are many and claim his family was related to the Buddha, that he met Alexander the Great, and that he resigned his kingship to become a Jain monk.

Ashoka the Great (c. 269-233 BCE) is largely considered the greatest Mauryan emperor and ruled over a territory stretching from the northern Himalayas into peninsular India and across the widest part of the subcontinent. Known for his principles of non-violence and religious tolerance, Ashoka modeled himself as a cakravartin, the Buddhist term for a "universal ruler," whose rule was based on the principle of dharma or conquest not by war but righteousness. To advance this principle, Ashoka had edicts based on the dharma carved on rocks, pillars, and caves throughout his kingdom and sent emissaries abroad to disseminate his views.

After Ashoka's death, the empire declined and lost territory under a series of weak rulers about whom little is known. In 185 BCE, Pushyamitra Shunga, a general, assassinated the last king of the Mauryan dynasty, Brihadratha.


Megasthenes was a Greek ambassador sent, in about 300 BCE, to the court of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire. Megasthenes represented Seleucus Nicator (lived 358-281 BCE), ruler of the eastern part of the Hellenistic Greek empire after Alexander the Great's death. Megasthenes' account of his visit (which survives only in fragments) has provided scholars with an understanding of the nature of Mauryan rule under Chandragupta. Megasthenes described the Indian caste system, the absolute rule of the Mauryan king and the sophisticated bureaucracy that had been developed to enforce this rule. He also discussed the standing army that he says comprised 60,000 professional soldiers. Megasthenes' accounts of more mundane Indian produce such as sugarcane and cotton plants drew disbelief among his readers back in Greece who could not believe in plants that produced "sugar syrup" and "wool."


An official language of India belonging to the Dravidian family, Tamil is not related to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. Tamil, spoken by more than 60 million people, is the official language of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and an official language of Sri Lanka. Malaysia, Singapore, and certain African nations that have sizeable Tamil-speaking populations. One of Ashoka the Great's edicts identifies his southern neighbors as the Cholas and Pandyas, both Tamil-speaking peoples.

Tamil literature is over 2,000 years old, and Tamil poetry and grammar reveal much about southern India around the time of Christ. Tamil poetry recited by both men and women at marathon arts festivals, called sangam, describes a caste society and extensive foreign trade with the Roman Empire that extended into southern India from Egypt, which had come under Roman rule in 30 BCE. Dialects within Tamil are numerous, and the language is characterized by a sharp division between a literary or classical style and a colloquial variant.


Ashoka (Asoka), the third emperor of the Mauryan Empire, reigned from c. 269-233 BCE, and his exemplary story remains popular in folk plays and legends across southern Asia. The emperor ruled a vast territory that stretched from the Bay of Bengal to Kandahar and from the North-West Frontier of Pakistan to below the Krishna River in southern India. The year 261 BCE marks a turning point in Ashoka's reign when, in part to increase access to the Ganges River, he conquered the east coast kingdom of Kalinga. By Ashoka's account, more than 250,000 people were killed, made captive or later died of starvation. Feeling remorseful about this massive suffering and loss, the emperor converted to Buddhism and made dharma, or dhamma, the central foundation of his personal and political life.

Throughout his kingdom, the emperor inscribed laws and injunctions inspired by dharma on rocks and pillars, some of them crowned with elaborate sculptures. Many of these edicts begin "Thus speaks Devanampiya Piyadassi [Beloved of the Gods]" and counsel good behavior including decency, piety, honoring parents and teachers and protection of the environment and natural world. Guided by this principle, Ashoka abolished practices that caused unnecessary suffering to men and animals and advanced religious toleration. To further the influence of dharma, he sent his son, a Buddhist monk, to Sri Lanka, and emissaries to countries including Greece and Syria. To some historians, the edicts unified an extended empire, one that was organized into five parts governed by Ashoka and four governors. After his reign, Ashoka has become an enduring symbol of enlightened rule, non-violence, and religious tolerance. In 1950, the Lion Capital of Ashoka, a sandstone sculpture erected in 250 BCE, was adopted as India's official emblem by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Battle of Kalinga

The Battle of Kalinga, an east coast kingdom in modern Orissa, marked a turning point in the rule of the Mauryan emperor, Ashoka the Great (c. 269&ndash233 BCE). In about 261 BCE, Ashoka fought a bloody war for the kingdom, a conquest he records in the thirteenth and most important of his Fourteen Rock Edicts. In the edict, he numbered the conflict's casualties and prisoners at more than 200,000 and expressed remorse for this massive loss of life and freedom. He renounced war for conquest through righteousness, dharma: "They should only consider conquest by dharma to be a true conquest, and delight in dharma should be their whole delight, for this is of value in both this world and the next." Dharma became the organizing principle of Ashoka's personal and public life and shaped his policies of non-violence and religious tolerance.

The Story of India is made possible by contributions from viewers such as yourself and also by Patak's Indian foods.

Story of Alexander the Great and a Brahman

Dandamis was a Brahmin, philosopher, swami and a gymnosophist, whom Alexander encountered in the woods near Taxila, whenhe invaded India in 4th century B.C. Dandamis was the name mentioned by the Greeks but his real name was Dandi or Dandi-Swami. He is also referred to as Mandanes

Alexander met some gymnosophists, who were of trouble to him. He came to know that their leader was Dandamis, who lived in a jungle, lying naked on leaves, near a water spring.

He then sent Onescratus to bring Dandamis to him. When Onescratus encountered Dandamis in forest, he gave him the message, that Alexander, the Great son of Zeus, has ordered him to come to him. He will give you gold and other rewards but if you refuse, he may behead you. When Dandamis heard that, he did not even raise his head and replied lying in his bed of leaves. God the Great King, is not a source of violence but provider of water, food, light and life. Your king cannot be a God, who loves violence and who is mortal. Even if you take away my head, you cannot take away my Soul, which will depart to my God and leave this body like we throw away old garment. We, Brahmins do not love gold nor fear death. So your king has nothing to offer, which I may need. Go and tell you King : Dandamis, therefore, will not come to you. If he needs Dandamis, he must come to me.

When Alexander, came to know what Dandamis' reply, he went to forest to meet Dandamis. Alexander sat before him in forest for more than an hour. When Dandamis asked him, why he has come to him because - I have nothing to offer you. Because we have no thought of pleasure or gold, we love God and despise death, whereas you love pleasure, gold and kill people, you fear death and despise God.Alexander, informed that I heard your name from Calanus and have come to learn wisdom from you The conversation that followed between them is recorded by Greeks as Alexander-Dandamis colloquy.

Chacha Ji

In India, Alexander the Great (or his representative Onesicritus) had an interview with the Brahman sages, who lived near Taxila. One of these people, a man named Calanus (Indian Kalyana), followed the conqueror to the west, where he died. The story of the interview and the story of the death of Calanus are described in several sources, such as the Anabasis by the Greek author Arrian of Nicomedia (book seven, sections 1.5-3.6).

The translation was made by Aubrey de Sélincourt.

Alexander and the Indian sages

[7.1.5] I have always liked the story of the Indian sages, some of whom Alexander chanced to come upon out of doors in a meadow, where they used to meet to discuss philosophy. On the appearance of Alexander and his army, these venerable men stamped with their feet and gave no other sign of interest. Alexander asked them through interpreters what they meant by this odd behavior, and they replied:

[7.1.6] "King Alexander, every man can possess only so much of the earth' surface as this we are standing on. You are but human like the rest of us, save that you are always busy and up to no good, traveling so many miles from your home, a nuisance to yourself and to others. Ah well! You will soon be dead, and then you will own just as much of this earth as will suffice to bury you."

[7.2.1] Alexander expressed his approval of these sage words but in point of fact his conduct was always the exact opposite of what he then professed to admire. [. ]

[7.2.2] One must admit, than, that Alexander was not wholly a stranger to the loftier flights of philosophy but the fact remains that he was, to an extraordinary degree, the slave of ambition.

In Taxila, once, he met some members of the Indian sect of Wise Men whose practice it is to go naked, and he so much admired their powers of endurance that the fancy took him to have one of them in his personal train. The oldest man among them, whose name was Dandamis (the others were his pupils), refused either to join Alexander himself or to permit any of his pupils to do so.

[7.2.3] "If you, my lord," he is said to have replied, "are the son of god, why - so am I. I want nothing from you, for what I have suffices. I perceive, moreover, that the men you lead get no good from their world-wide wandering over land and sea, and that of their many travels there will be no end. I desire nothing that you can give me I fear no exclusion from any blessings which may perhaps be yours.

[7.2.4] India, with the fruits of her soil in due season, is enough for me while I live and when I die, I shall be rid of my poor body - my unseemly housemate."

These words convinced Alexander that Dandamis was, in a true sense, a free man. So he made no attempt to compel him. On the other hand, another of these Indian teachers, a man named Calanus, did yield to Alexander's persuasion this man, according to Megasthenes' account,note was declared by his fellow teachers to be a slave to fleshly lusts, an accusation due, no doubt, to the fact that he chose to renounce the bliss of their own asceticism and to serve another master instead of god.

[7.3.1] I have mentioned this because no history of Alexander would he complete without the story of Calanus. In India Calanus had never been ill, but when he was living in Persia all strength ultimately left his body. In spite of his enfeebled state he refused to submit to an invalid regimen, and told Alexander that he was content to die as he was, which would be preferable to enduring the misery of being forced to alter his way of life.

[7.3.2] Alexander, at some length, tried to talk him out of his obstinacy, but to no purpose. Then, convinced that if he were any further opposed he would find one means or another of making away with himself, he yielded to his request, and gave instructions for the building of a funeral pyre under the supervision of Ptolemy son of Lagus, of the Personal Guard.

Some say Calanus was escorted to the pyre by a solemn procession - horses, men
Some say Calanus was escorted to the pyre by a solemn procession - horses, men, soldiers in armor and people carrying all kinds of precious oils and spices to throw upon the flames other accounts mention drinking-cups of silver and gold and kingly robes.

[7.3.3] He was too ill to walk, and a horse was provided for him but he was incapable of mounting it, and had to be carried an a litter, upon which he lay with his heard wreathed with garlands in the Indian fashion, and singing Indian songs, which his countrymen declare were hymns of praise to their gods.

[7.3.4] The horse he was to have ridden was of the royal breed of Nisaia, and before he mounted the pyre he gave it to Lysimachus, one of his pupils in philosophy, and distributed among other pupils and friends the drinking-cups and draperies which Alexander had ordered to be burnt in his honor upon the pyre

[7.3.5] At last he mounted the pyre and with due ceremony laid himself down. All the troops were watching. Alexander could not but feel that there was a sort of indelicacy in witnessing such a spectacle - the man, after all, had been his friend everyone else, however, felt nothing but astonishment to see Calanus give not the smallest sign of shrinking from the flames.

[7.3.6] We read in Nearchus' account of this incident that at the moment the fire was kindled there was, by Alexander's orders, an impressive salute: the bugles sounded, the troops with one accord roared out their battle-cry, and the elephants joined in with their shrill war-trumpettings.

This story and others to a similar effect have been recorded by good authorities they are not without value to anyone who cares for evidence of the unconquerable resolution of the human spirit in carrying a chosen course of action through to the end.


Elizabeth was born in Albany, New York, the second daughter of Continental Army General Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War general, and Catherine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. The Van Rensselaers of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck were one of the richest and most politically influential families in the state of New York. [4] She had seven siblings who lived to adulthood, including Angelica Schuyler Church and Margarita "Peggy" Schuyler Van Rensselaer, but she had 14 siblings altogether. [5] [6] [7]

Her family was among the wealthy Dutch landowners who had settled around Albany in the mid-1600s, and both her mother and father came from wealthy and well-regarded families. [8] Like many landowners of the time, Philip Schuyler owned slaves, and Eliza would have grown up around slavery. [9] Despite the unrest of the French and Indian War, which her father served in and which was fought in part near her childhood home, Eliza's childhood was spent comfortably, learning to read and sew from her mother. [ citation needed ]

Like most Dutch families of the area, her family belonged to the Reformed Dutch Church of Albany, which still stands however, the original 1715 building, where Elizabeth was baptized and attended services, was demolished in 1806. [10] [11] Her upbringing instilled in her a strong and unwavering faith she would retain throughout her life. [ citation needed ]

When she was a girl, Elizabeth accompanied her father to a meeting of the Six Nations and met Benjamin Franklin when he stayed briefly with the Schuyler family while traveling. [12] She was said to have been something of a tomboy when she was young [13] [ page needed ] throughout her life she retained a strong will and even an impulsiveness that her acquaintances noted. James McHenry, one of Washington's aides alongside her future husband, said, "Hers was a strong character with its depth and warmth, whether of feeling or temper controlled, but glowing underneath, bursting through at times in some emphatic expression." [12] Much later, the son of Joanna Bethune, one of the women she worked alongside to found an orphanage later in her life, [14] remembered that "Both [Elizabeth and Joanna] were of determined disposition . Mrs. Bethune the more cautious, Mrs. Hamilton the more impulsive." [15]

In early 1780, Elizabeth went to stay with her aunt, Gertrude Schuyler Cochran, in Morristown, New Jersey. [ citation needed ] There she met Alexander Hamilton, one of General George Washington's aides-de-camp, [1] who was stationed along with the General and his men in Morristown for the winter. [16] In fact, they had met previously, if briefly, two years before, when Hamilton dined with the Schuylers on his way back from a negotiation on Washington's behalf. [17] Also while in Morristown, Eliza met and became friends with Martha Washington, a friendship they would maintain throughout their husbands' political careers. Eliza later said of Mrs. Washington, "She was always my ideal of a true woman." [12] [18]

It is said that after returning home from meeting her, Hamilton was so excited he forgot the password to enter army headquarters. [8] The relationship between Eliza and Hamilton quickly grew even after he left Morristown for a short mission to negotiate a prisoners exchange, only a month after Eliza had arrived. While gone on the prisoner exchange, Hamilton wrote to Eliza continuing their relationship through letters. He then returned to Morristown where Elizabeth's father had also arrived in his capacity as representative of the Continental Congress. [ citation needed ] Also there had been some talk in at least one letter of a "secret wedding," [1] by early April they were officially engaged with her father's blessing (something of an anomaly for the Schuyler girls—both Angelica and Catherine would end up eloping). Hamilton followed the Army when they decamped in June 1780. In September that year, Eliza learned that Major John André, head of the British Secret Service, had been captured in a foiled plot concocted by General Benedict Arnold to surrender the fort of West Point to the British. André had once been a house guest in the Schuyler Mansion in Albany as a prisoner of war en route to Pennsylvania in 1775 Eliza, then seventeen, might have had a juvenile crush on the young British officer who had once sketched for her. Hamilton, while envious of André for his actions during the war, promised Eliza he would do what he could to treat the British intelligence chief accordingly he even begged Washington to grant André's last wish of execution by firing squad, but to no avail. After two more months of separation punctuated by their correspondence, on December 14, 1780, Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler were married at the Schuyler Mansion.

After a short honeymoon at the Pastures, Eliza's childhood home, Hamilton returned to military service in early January 1781. Eliza soon joined him at New Windsor, where Washington's army was now stationed, and she rekindled her friendship with Martha Washington as they entertained their husbands' fellow officers. [19] Soon, however, Washington and Hamilton had a falling-out, and the newlywed couple moved, first back to Eliza's father's house in Albany, then to a new home across the river from the New Windsor headquarters. [20] There Eliza busied herself in creating a home for them and in aiding Alexander with his political writings—parts of his 31-page letter to Robert Morris, laying out much of the financial knowledge that was to aid him later in his career, are in her handwriting. [21]

Soon, however, Eliza moved again, this time back to her parents' house in Albany. This may have coincided with the discovery that she was pregnant with her first child, who would be born the next January and named Philip, for her father. While apart, Alexander wrote her numerous letters telling her not to worry for his safety in addition, he wrote her concerning confidential military secrets, including the lead-up to the Battle of Yorktown that autumn. [22] Meanwhile, the war came close to home, when a group of British soldiers stumbled upon the Pastures, looking for supplies. According to some accounts, the family was spared from any losses thanks to her sister Peggy's quick thinking: she told the soldiers that her father had gone to town to get help, causing them to flee from the area. [23]

After Yorktown, Alexander was able to rejoin Eliza in Albany, where they would remain for almost another two years, before moving to New York City in late 1783. [24] Earlier that year, Angelica and her husband John Barker Church, for business reasons, had moved to Europe. Angelica lived abroad for over fourteen years, returning to America for visits in 1785 and 1789. [25] On September 25, 1784, Eliza gave birth to her second child, Angelica, named after Eliza's older sister. [ citation needed ]

In 1787, Eliza sat for a portrait, executed by the painter Ralph Earl while he was being held in debtors' prison. Alexander had heard of Earl's predicament and asked if Eliza might be willing to sit for him, to allow him to make some money and eventually buy his way out of prison, which he subsequently did. [26] At this time, she now had three young children (her third, Alexander, was born in May 1786) and may have been pregnant at the time with her fourth, James Alexander, who would be born the following April. [ citation needed ]

In addition to their own children, in 1787, Eliza and Alexander took into their home Frances (Fanny) Antill, the two-year-old youngest child of Hamilton's friend Colonel Edward Antill, whose wife had recently died. [27] In October that year, Angelica wrote to Alexander, "All the graces you have been pleased to adorn me with fade before the generous and benevolent action of my sister in taking the orphan Antle [sic] under her protection." [28] Two years later, Colonel Antill died in Canada, and Fanny continued to live with the Hamiltons for another eight years, until an older sister was married and able to take Fanny into her own home. [28] Later, James Alexander Hamilton would write that Fanny "was educated and treated in all respects as [the Hamiltons'] own daughter." [28]

The Hamiltons had an active social life, often attending the theater as well as various balls and parties. "I had little of private life in those days," she would remember. [29] At the first Inaugural Ball, Eliza danced with George Washington [30] when Thomas Jefferson returned from Paris in 1790, she and Alexander hosted a dinner for him. [31] After Alexander became Treasury Secretary in 1789, her social duties only increased: "Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. [Sarah] Jay and Mrs. [Lucy] Knox were the leaders of official society," an early historian writes. [32] In addition, she managed their household, [9] and James McHenry once noted to Alexander that Eliza had "as much merit as your treasurer as you have as treasurer of the United States." [33]

Eliza also continued to aid Alexander throughout his political career, serving as an intermediary between him and his publisher when he was writing The Federalist Papers, [34] copying out portions of his defense of the Bank of the United States, [35] and sitting up with him so he could read Washington's Farewell Address out loud to her as he wrote it. [36] Meanwhile, she continued to raise her children (a fifth, John Church Hamilton, had been born in August 1792) and maintain their household throughout multiple moves between New York, Philadelphia, and Albany. While in Philadelphia, around November 24, 1794, Eliza suffered a miscarriage [37] in the wake of her youngest child falling extremely ill as well as of her worries over Hamilton's absence during his armed suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. [38] Hamilton resigned from public office immediately afterwards [39] in order to resume his law practice in New York and remain closer to his family. [40]

In 1797, an affair came to light that had taken place several years earlier between Hamilton and Maria Reynolds, a young woman who had first approached him for monetary aid in the summer of 1791. Eliza evidently did not believe the charges when they were first leveled against her husband: John Church, her brother-in-law, on July 13, 1797, wrote to Hamilton that "it makes not the least Impression on her, only that she considers the whole Knot of those opposed to you to be [Scoundrels]." [41] After returning home to Eliza on July 22 [42] and assembling a first draft dated July 1797, [43] on August 25, 1797, Hamilton published a pamphlet, later known as the Reynolds Pamphlet, admitting to his one-year adulterous affair in order to refute the charges that he had been involved in speculation and public misconduct with Maria's husband James Reynolds. [44]

Eliza was, at the time, pregnant with their sixth child. Despite her advanced pregnancy and her previous miscarriage of November 1794, her initial reaction to her husband's disclosure of his past affair was to leave Hamilton in New York and join her parents in Albany where William Stephen was born on August 4, 1797. She only came back to her marital house in New York in early September 1797 because the local doctor had been unable to cure their eldest son Philip, who had accompanied her to Albany and contracted typhus. Over time Eliza and Alexander reconciled and remained married, and had two more children together. The first, Elizabeth, named for Eliza, was born on November 20, 1799. Before their eighth child was born, however, they lost their oldest son, Philip, who died in a duel on November 24, 1801. After being shot on the dueling field, Philip was brought to Angelica and John Church's house, where he died with both of his parents next to him. Their last child, born the next June in 1802, was named Philip in his honor. [45] During this time, Alexander commissioned John McComb Jr. to construct the Hamilton family home. In 1802, the same year that Philip was born, the house was built and named Hamilton Grange, after Alexander's father's home in Scotland. Eliza and Alexander continued to live together in a caring relationship in their new home that can be seen in letters between the two at the time. When Eliza went away to her mother's funeral in 1803 Hamilton wrote to her from the Grange telling her:

I am anxious to hear of your arrival at Albany and shall be glad to be informed that your father and all of you are composed. I pray you to exert yourself and I repeat my exhortation that you will bear in mind it is your business to comfort and not to distress. [46]

Eliza and her husband would not get to enjoy their newly built home together long, for only two years later, in July 1804, Alexander Hamilton became involved in a similar "affair of honor," which led to his infamous duel with Aaron Burr and untimely death. Before the duel, he wrote Eliza two letters, telling her:

The consolations of Religion, my beloved, can alone support you and these you have a right to enjoy. Fly to the bosom of your God and be comforted. With my last idea I shall cherish the sweet hope of meeting you in a better world. Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me.

Alexander Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, with Eliza and all seven of his surviving children by his side.

In the year before the duel, Eliza's mother Catherine had died suddenly, [47] and only a few months after Hamilton's death Eliza's father died as well. By this time, two of her siblings, Peggy and John, had also died. [48]

After her husband's death in 1804, Eliza was left to pay Hamilton's debts. The Grange, their house on a 35-acre estate in upper Manhattan, was sold at public auction however, she was later able to repurchase it from Hamilton's executors, who had decided that Eliza could not be publicly dispossessed of her home, and purchased it themselves to sell back to her at half the price. In November 1833, at the age of 76, Eliza resold The Grange for $25,000, funding the purchase of a New York townhouse (now called the Hamilton-Holly House) where she lived for nine years with two of her grown children, Alexander Hamilton Jr. and Eliza Hamilton Holly, and their spouses. Eliza was also able to collect Alexander's pension from his service in the army from congress in 1836 for money and land. In 1848, she left New York for Washington, D.C., where she lived with her widowed daughter Eliza until 1854.

In 1798, Eliza had accepted her friend Isabella Graham's invitation to join the descriptively named Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children that had been established the previous year. In 1806, two years after her husband's death, she, along with several other women including Joanna Bethune, founded the Orphan Asylum Society. [49] [50] [51] Eliza was appointed second directress, or vice-president [52] In 1821, she was named first directress, and served for 27 years in this role, until she left New York in 1848. In those roles, she raised funds, collected needed goods, and oversaw the care and education of over 700 children. [52] By the time she left she had been with the organization continuously since its founding, a total of 42 years. [ citation needed ] The New York Orphan Asylum Society continues to exist as a social service agency for children, today called Graham Windham. [52] Eliza's philanthropic work in helping create the Orphan Asylum Society has led to her induction into the philanthropy section of the National Museum of American History, showcasing the early generosity of Americans that reformed the nation. [53]

Eliza defended Alexander against his critics in a variety of ways following his death, including by supporting his claim of authorship of George Washington's Farewell Address and by requesting an apology from James Monroe over his accusations of financial improprieties. Eliza wanted a full official apology from Monroe which he would not give until they met in person to talk about Alexander shortly before his passing. Elizabeth Hamilton petitioned Congress to publish her husband Alexander Hamilton's writings (1846).

Eliza remained dedicated to preserving her husband's legacy. She re-organized all of Alexander's letters, papers, and writings with the help of her son, John Church Hamilton, and persevered through many setbacks in getting his biography published. With Eliza's help John C. Hamilton would go on to publish History of the Republic of the United States America, as Traced in the Writings of Alexander Hamilton and his Contemporaries. History of the Republic would set the bar for future biographies of Alexander Hamilton that would grow as time went on. She was so devoted to Alexander's writings that she wore a small package around her neck containing the pieces of a sonnet that Alexander wrote for her during the early days of their courtship. The writings that historians have today by Alexander Hamilton can be attributed to efforts from Eliza. In June 1848, when Eliza was in her nineties, she made an effort for Congress to buy and publish her late husband's works. In August, her request was granted and Congress bought and published Alexander's works, adding them to the Library of Congress and helping future historians of Hamilton view his works today. Along with getting Alexander's works stored while Eliza was in her 90s, she remained dedicated to charity work. After moving to Washington, D.C., she helped Dolley Madison and Louisa Adams raise money to build the Washington Monument.

By 1846, Eliza was suffering from short-term memory loss but was still vividly recalling her husband. Eliza died in Washington, D.C. on November 9, 1854, at age 97. She had outlived her husband by 50 years, and had outlived all but one of her siblings (her youngest sister, Catherine, 24 years her junior). Eliza was buried near her husband in the graveyard of Trinity Church in New York City. Angelica was also laid to rest at Trinity, in the Livingstons' private vault, while Eliza's eldest son Philip had an unmarked grave near the churchyard.

Elizabeth and Alexander Hamilton had eight children:

    (January 22, 1782 – November 23, 1801), [54] who was killed in a duel three years before his father's fatal duel [3] (September 25, 1784 – February 6, 1857), [54] who suffered a mental breakdown after her older brother's death and lived to the age of 72 in a state described as "eternal childhood," unable to care for herself [55][56] (May 16, 1786 – August 2, 1875) [54] (April 14, 1788 – September 24, 1878), [54] who acted as Secretary of State for 23 days in March 1829 [57] (August 22, 1792 – July 25, 1882) [58] (August 4, 1797 – October 9, 1850) [58] (November 20, 1799 – October 17, 1859), [58] who married Sidney Augustus Holly [citation needed] , also called "Little Phil" (June 1, 1802 – July 9, 1884), [58] named after his older brother that had died one year before his birth [citation needed]

The Hamiltons also raised Frances (Fanny) Antill, an orphan who lived with them for ten years beginning in 1787 when she was 2 years old. [27] [28]

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