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Ideological Aspects Of Alexander's Conquests Notes

Classics Notes > Alexander the Great and his early Successors (336 BC – 302 BC) Notes

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Assess the ideological aspect of Alexander's conquests. It was once proposed that Alexander had a grand ideological purpose behind his campaigns to bring about the 'Unity of Mankind' through the integraton of Persian and Macedonian cultures, peoples and politcal structures. The basis for this theory was his adopton of Persian customs and atre, the inclusion of barbarians into the Macedonian army, his marriage to natves of his empire and an apparent wish to create a jointly ruled empire expressed in a prayer at the banquet of Opis. However this theory has been discredited for several reasons; frstly the ancient sources give no consistent picture of Alexander's desire for unity between the two peoples and furthermore the dominance of Macedonians over barbarians remains constant throughout his campaigns. It seems then that issues of politcal and military necessity were more likely causes for his adopton of Persian customs and soldiers. The ancient sources, when discussing Alexander's adopton of Persian customs, for the most part do not give an impression that he was aiming at any sort of unity; Plutarch and Arrian, for example, give military and politcal explanatons for his actons. Curtus is diferent, however, because he gives very personal reasons for the king adoptng such foreign customs and says that he fell victm to Persian vice and fatery. In the sixth book of his history he says that he was not overcome by Persian arms but rather by the atractons of their luxuries such as banquets, heavy bouts of drinking and huge numbers of courtesans. He goes on to say that he lost all his traditonal Macedonian self control and began to emulate the haughtness and lofiness of Persian court by demanding that his courters prostrate themselves in front of him and by treatng them like his captves. The impression here is of a man who has won great luxuries and powers and has been corrupted by them, not of a man with any noble sentments about the unifcaton of the brotherhood of man under one united system of government. Even if this were his intenton Curtus makes it very clear that the adopton of these new customs made Alexander despised by his Macedonians; he says that they now viewed him as an enemy and more frequent plots against his life, discussions of mutny and complaints occurred in light of his new practces. They are even reported to have said that they lost more than they gained by the conquest of Persian and that Alexander had gone from being a ruler of Macedonia to a satrap of Darius. Curtus certainly goes too far in describing the Macedonians' apparent hatred of Alexander in this mater but the point surely stll stands that if he were trying to achieve some sort of unity this was certainly the wrong way to go about it since his fellow countrymen were strongly opposed to it (the other ancient sources say they were opposed to it but never that they hated Alexander for it). Two points emerge from the work of Curtus; Alexander appears to have succumbed to Persian customs for personal, not ideological, reasons and his Macedonians were so opposed to it he could never have hoped to achieve unity through these means in any case, even if he were so inclined.

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