Friday, August 17, 2007

Plutarch: Alexander's Moralia

Many times we have hear or read the Alexander biography. Double times we have also to same think regarding the Alexander character.

Conqueror, bloodthirsty, clever, fool, liar, gay, bisexual, man e.t.c.

What from the above is right ?

All these modern writers used as main sources the ancient writers.Names like Arrian, Diodoros Siculus, Kallisthenis and Plutarch are very familiar to every body.

But all these modern writers have a common habit.

They forget to quote the most known ancient work regarding the character of the Alexander. On the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander Περί της Αλεξάνδρου Τύχης ή ΑρετήςPeri ths Alexandrou Tixis h AretisThis work is forgotten from all, including and us. This book written from Plutarch and is a part from a general work that name as Moralia. Lets examine together some intresting points of this work.I will start for the known question, a question that born in the middle of 20th century and has circulated all over the world.

Lets see some quotes that show the character of this Greek leader. Plutarch had given to us a unique quote as about Alexander sexuality. He compared him with Socrates.

But let us compare the actions of men who are admitted to be philosophers. Socrates forbore when Alciviades spent the night with him. But when Philoxenus, the governor of the coastlands of Asia Minor, wrote to Alexander that there was in Ionia a youth, the like of whom for bloom and beauty did not exist, and inquired in his letter whether he should send the boy on to him, Alexander wrote bitterly in reply «Vilest of men, what deed of this sort have you ever been privy to in my past that now you would flatter me with the offer of such pleasures?»

[Fortune, 12]

Any question as about the sexuality of Alexander dear modern writers?

The second one is the relationship with the other Greek tribes. We have hear many scholars like Borza-Baddian e.t.c that ancient Macedonians was not Greek and the Macedonians finally Hellenizing by adopted the ancient Greek culture.

Plutarch had given a quote regarding the Thebes destruction from Alexander.

Again, however, Fortune stirred up Thebes against him, and thrust in his pathway a war with Greeks, and the dread necessity of punishing, by means of slaughter and fire and sword, men that were his kith and kin, a necessity which had a most unpleasant ending.

[Virtue, 11]

But he said,

ʺIf I were not Alexander, IΒ should be Diogenesʺ;

that is to say:

ʺIf it were not my purpose to combine foreign things with things Greek, to traverse and civilize every continent, to search out the uttermost parts of land and sea, to push the bounds of Macedonia to the farthest Ocean, and to disseminate and shower the blessings of Greek justice and peace over every nation, I should not be content to sit quietly in the luxury of idle power, but I should emulate the frugality of Diogenes. But as things are, forgive me, Diogenes, that I imitate Heracles, and emulate Perseus, Band follow in the footsteps of Dionysus,the divine author and progenitor of my family, and desire that victorious Greeks should dance again in India and revive the memory of the Bacchic revels among the savage muntain tribes beyond the Caucasus......

[Fortune, 10]

Any question as about the origin of Alexander dear modern writers?

One more critical point as about the Alexander character is what considers as barbarian. Barbarian according Icocrates is the one that has not adopted the Hellenic culture and education (panygirika 50). Plutarch had given to us a unique quote as about Alexander opinion in the barbarian.

For Alexander did not follow Aristotles advice to treat the Greeks as if he were their leader, and other peoples as if he were their master; to have regard for the Greeks as for friends and kindred, but to conduct himself toward other peoples as though they were plants or animals; for to do so would have been to cumber his leadership with numerous battles and banishments and festering seditions. But, as he believed that he came as a heaven sent governor to all, and as a mediator for the whole world, those whom he could not persuade to unite with him, he conquered by force of arms, and he brought together into one body all men everywhere, uniting and mixing in one great loving‐cup, as it were, mens lives, their characters, their marriages, their very habits of life.

He bade them all consider as their fatherland the whole inhabited earth, as their stronghold and protection his camp, as akin to them all good men, and as foreigners only the wicked; they should not distinguish between Grecian and foreigner by Grecian cloak and targe, or scimitar and jacket; but the distinguishing mark of the Grecian should be seen in virtue, and that of the foreigner in iniquity; clothing and food, marriage and manner of life they should regard as common to all, being blended into one by ties of blood and children.

[Fortune, 6]

Many times we have heared or read that the best Great Alexander's statues were that sculpured from Lysippus.

Who told that ?

of course Plutarch in Moralia

And when Lysippus modelled his first statue of Alexander which represented him looking with his face turned towards the heavens (as indeed Alexander often did look, with a slight inclination of his head to one side), someone engraved these verses on the statue, not without some plausibility,

Eager to speak seems the statue of bronze,

up to Zeus as it gazes

Earth I have set under foot: Zeus

keep Olympus yourself

Wherefore Alexander gave orders that Lysippus only should make statues of him. For Lysippus was, it seemed, the only one that revealed in the bronze Alexander's character and in moulding his form portrayed also his virtues. The others wished to imitate the flexing of his neck and liquid softness of his eyes, but were unable to preserve his virile and leonine expression.

[Virtue, 2]

In the same work we have a small summary in when and where battles Alexander The Great woonded.

On the banks of the Granicus his helmet was cleft through to his scalp by a sword;

at Gaza his shoulder was wounded by a missile;

at Maracanda his shin was so torn by an arrow that by the force of the blow the larger bone was broken and extruded.

Somewhere in Hyrcania his sight was dimmed, and for many days he was haunted by the fear of blindness.

Among the Assacenianshis ankle was wounded by an Indian arrow;that was the time when he smilingly said to his flatterers, 'this that you see is blood, not Ichor, that which flows from the wounds of the blessed immortals.

At Issus he was wounded in the thigh with a sword, as Chares states, by Darius the king, who had come into hand-to-hand conflict with him.

Alexander himself wrote of this simply, and with complete truth, in a letter to Antipater: 'I myself happened,' he writes, 'to be wounded in the thigh by a dagger. But nothing untoward resulted from the blow either immediately or later.'

Among the Mallians he was wounded in the breast by an arrow three feet long, which penetrated his breastplate, and someone rode up under him, and struck him in the neck, as Aristobulus relates.

[Virtue, 9]

below two links that you can read Plutarch Moralia , on the Fortune or the Virtue of Alexander

thanks for your time.

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