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ALEXANDER AND ORIENTALISM: SIGNS; CAUSES; CONTROVERSIES; CONSEQUENCES.

Firstly, mentioned by both Arrian and Plutarch is the obvious one of Alexander wearing elements of Persian dress, including the tiara or head-dress of the Persian king. Neither writer approves at all of this, though Plutarch points out that at least he never stooped so low that he wore trousers. Plutarch also says that Alexander might have done this in order to adapt himself to local habits "he understood that the sharing of race and of customs is a great step towards softening men's hearts". Arrian says that he is sure this was a matter of policy to win over the Persians. Second, they both mention the appointment of 30,000 Persian boys as "Epigoni" (successors), to be taught Greek and the Greek way of fighting. This caused much resentment and nervousness among the Macedonians who felt threatened by this. Thirdly, Alexander tried to introduce the Persian custom of proskynesis (bowing down). This caused the biggest controversy as the Macedonians would have regarded this as completely undignified and humiliating. However, it was the Persian tradition to do this as a mark of respect to their king. The Macedonians laughed at this custom and when Alexander tried as an experiment to get some of his Macedonians to do it, it caused a lot of friction. This centred on Callisthenes, his historian, who was a nephew of Aristotle who described him as an intelligent man who had very little common sense. One story says that Callisthenes had claimed that but for his history Alexander would soon be forgotten. He was very outspoken against Anaxarchus (one of Alexander's flatterers who started the discussion by suggesting that Alexander was as good as Dionysus or Heracles and perhaps should be honoured as a god while he was alive. Some of the Macedonians were tipped off and were ready to bow down but Callisthenes spoke out against the idea. He said that one must always

distinguish between gods and men or the gods might be angry. He praised Alexander highly but reminded the men that he was not a Persian king (ie. A tyrant), but a Greek. He said that not even Heracles was worshipped as a god when he was alive. He said "Remember Greece Alexander" and warned him that making men bow down low to him might bring about his humiliation in the end. This greatly pleased the Macedonians but angered Alexander who, subsequently tied Callisthenes in with the Pages' Plot. Plutarch says that the story went about that Hermolaus had asked how to become famous and that Callisthenes had answered "by killing the most famous of men".Alexander then caused his death (exactly how is disputed ). Another story involving Callisthenes is the one about the kiss (See Arrian p.54.) Arrian disapproves of Callisthenes' outspokenness and conceit. Plutarch mentions that Callisthenes had made himself unpopular by taking two sides of an argument about the Macedonians, first praising them and then criticising them. But his criticisms went too far and he annoyed them. However, Plutarch praises Callisthenes for the stand he took against proskynesis, "in the matterhe behaved like a true philosopherhe delivered the king from a great disgrace and Alexander for an even greater one". Of course, once it was clear that many of the Macedonians hated the idea of bowing down, Alexander had to let it go. It is probable that Alexander felt he had to get rid of Callisthenes soon after this as a subversive influence, especially on the many young men who gathered around to listen to him. On his death see Plutarch (p313). Another feature of "orientalism" which ties in with the Callisthenes story is the idea that taking on Persian ways meant reducing oneself to the status of slavery or humiliating servility. Both Arrian and Plutarch suggest that Alexander was becoming more autocratic as he moved east and treating his people more harshly, refusing to accept any criticism or disagreement. Arrian says "he was led to copy Persian extravagance and the habit of barbaric kings of treating their subjects as inferior beings". He

particularly criticises his treatment of Bessus, the killer of Darius (Arrian says he was mutilated and paraded before his execution, Plutarch says he was killed by being attached to two trees which were sprung apart). The incident with Hermolaus and the Pages' Plot indicates that there was a strong feeling in the camp that Alexander was getting too big for his boots and overly arrogant in his style of leadership. The actual incident that began the plot was a mistake by Hermolaus at a boar-hunt where Alexander humiliated him. What is interesting is what Hermolaus says before his execution: "That it was no longer possible for a free man to tolerate the arrogance of Alexander". It is also interesting that he refers to the executions of Philotas and Parmenio which may have caused a lot of ill feeling amongst the men. The other major incident related to orientalism is the one involving Cleitus's death (see Arrian pp.49-51) where Alexander killed one of his best friends who had saved his life, in a drunken brawl. The flashpoint for the argument though seems to have been a clash between the proPersian Macedonians (led by Anaxarchus, Hephaestion and Aristobulus) and the old-guard (including Cleitus and Craterus). Both Arrian and Plutarch make excuses for Alexander in this incident, but they also make it clear that it was a shameful episode. Both writers blame the supernatural for the event though, Plutarch blames Cleitus's "evil genius" while Arrian says Dionysus was punishing Alexander for failing to sacrifice to him on a particular day. The source of the row seems to have been Cleitus's anger at the Macedonians being insulted in front of barbarians. He reveals the Macedonian resentment at "begging the Persians for an audience with our own king" He sneers at Alexander for preferring the company of servile types who "would prostrate themselves before his white tunic and his Persian girdle". (See Plutarch pp307310). When Alexander is devastated after killing Cleitus, Plutarch says that Callisthenes just did not refer to the episode at all, but Anaxarchus the flatterer says to Alexander that it was his job to govern and command,not

to worry about the opinions of others and to accept that anything he does is justified. Plutarch says that this kind of talk made Alexander even "more proud and autocratic than before". The major incident involving his orientalism in the latter days of the expedition is the second mutiny at Opis, on the way home. Here a simmering discontent among the old guard of Macedonians over Alexanders increasingly oriental style of dress, his appointment of Persian advisers, the Persian style of Hephaestion and Peucestas but N.B. most especially the appointment of 30,000 Persian epigoni or Successors who would be groomed in the Macedonian style of warfare to become Companions. This really angered them. It all came to a head at Opis where Alexander announced that he was sending home many of the Macedonians with rich gifts. He was amazed at their reaction, one man shouted that he could go on with his father (a reference to Zeus Ammon). There was much anger and discontent, and Alexander had 13 leaders of the mutiny taken off for execution, (a very harsh move). He made an angry speech to his men emphasising all that both he and Philip had done for them and stalked off to the palace. They were deeply shocked and went to his door where they stayed pleading for forgiveness. On the third day, he came out and wept when he saw them and heard them complaining that he hugged the Persians, but not them, saying that from now, they would be not just his friends, but his kinsmen, and he kissed them all. He held a huge feast with the Macedonians all next to him. Still, many of them did go home, led by Craterus. Other possible examples of his harshness, excess and lack of judgement in latter years are the slaughter of the Massagetan tribe; the expedition across the Gedrosian Desert; his uncontrollable and excessive grief at the death of Hephaestion; the huge marriage-feast at Susa; increasing readiness to believe those accused of disloyalty, (eg the execution of some satraps including Abulites and Orsines).