25 May 2008

In the footsteps of Alexander the Great

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«Alexander the Great was born here in Macedonia, in northern Greece, in the shadow of mount Olympus, the home of the Gods. And the Gods are as important characters in his story as he is. Zeus, Apollo, Hercules were real to him. He even proclaimed that Zeus, the king of the Gods, was his father. Alexander's tales have been told by the Greek ever since.

The legends were right about one thing in particular, that Alexander had extraordinary parents. His father Philip was a unique character. He created the Macedonian state in a matter of twenty years. He was a small man, and in his later years he had one eye and a gummy leg; he was an inveterate womaniser, had seven wives, he was a habitual drunkard, and yet he was a brilliant organiser and leader in war.

Alexander's mother, Olympias, was only about 12 years old when Philip fell in love with her, she was manipulative, possessive, ruthless, she was addicted to weird religious cults; gave herself with wild abandon to ecstatic dancing. It was even said that she slept with snakes.

It is not surprising then that the young Alrexander grew up with an unshakable sense of destiny. There is a famous story about his childhood.

One day a horse was brought to his father. It was called Bucephalus, “oxhead.” No one could tame it but, the 10-year-old boy bet his father he could, and quietly, calmly he did. His father laughed: “Find yourself another kingdom, my boy. Macedonia is not big enough for you.”

Macedonia was a small place, so what was it that inspired Alexander to take on the might of Persia?

Revenge.

150 years before the Persians had marched across these planes to devastate Greece, Alexander grew up dreaming of a war of revenge.

The scene was a hunting scene… we have a several…

Alexander's image has been identified on the remains of the banqueting couch from his father's tomb.

Here together a father and son.

—This is Alexander as a young man.

—Yes, yes.

—So this is before…

—This is bef… uhh… this is… ehm… Alexander about nighteen or twenty years old. He is the young prince. He is the son of the king, but he is not the world ruler which we know. He is not Alexander the Great. He is still Alexander, the son of Philip the second, here on this portrait.

And Alexander would — Alexander would've seen this?

Yes, yes, because they have this bed on the palace, so he have [sic] seen this… this… err… portrait. And it is the only original portrait of his lifetime; that is the important thing. All the others are copies. So this is… so this is the real Alexander, the real young Alexander.

It's a sensitive face you might think. Now look at this. Here he is aged 30, the world ruler. And he looks to me like a troubled man — disillusioned perhaps. So what happened to him?»

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