Alexander the Great Influences

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Alexander III of Macedon, more famously known as Alexander the Great, is one of the most famous figures in antiquity and his heroics are still well known to this day. His influence on the world lasted far beyond his death in 323 BC at the age of 32, and to this day he is still considered one of the greatest generals to ever live. Alexander’s achievements stretched far beyond that thought capable of a mortal man; he was a source of inspiration to many, including other successful generals such as Hannibal,[1]and even Julius Caesar.

This essay shall prove that like Hannibal and Caesar, Alexander also had idols to which he compared himself to, and it is extremely useful to look at these idols when explaining Alexander’s irrational behaviours. Figures such as Achilles and Heracles set paradigms, in this case meaning a pattern or example, and Alexander attempted to emulate these paradigms to achieve glory. For the purpose of this thesis, Alexander’s emulation shall be categorised in two ways. Firstly, his emulation can involve him making a conscious decision to replicate behaviour (whether rational or irrational), the most prominent of this would be his emulation of the Homeric hero Achilles. Whereas secondly, it can involve him continuing an existing theme, therefore not making the decision to replicate behaviour himself but instead because it was the way things operated and Alexander would have been foolish to change the norm, as is the case with Philip II; Alexanders father.

“There is no definitive history of Alexander”.[2] While this may seem a surprising suggestion, Hamilton is correct, and an understanding of this is imperative when investigating the life of Alexander. The contemporary sources of Alexander’s life are fragmentary at best, with most of them lost forever. The works of Clietarchus, Callisthenes, Ptolemy, Onesicrtius, Nearchus and Aristobulus, of which all bar Clietarchus, were present on Alexander’s expedition, are lost. What remains are five narratives constructed from these works. However, they were all written centuries after the death of Alexander. The histories based on these primary sources include the works of Quintus Curtius Rufus, Arrian, and Plutarch, who all wrote with different aims and perceptions of Alexander. It is a combination of these three sources that I shall predominately be using in my thesis.

Arrian is often considered our best source on Alexander, [3]  despite him writing at least five centuries after his death. In his Anabasis, he draws on two core sources; Ptolemy and Aristobulus. Although his reasoning for these choices is, in my opinion, not enough to justify them, it does seem to have been the correct decision in hindsight. Although Arrian states that he uses these two sources together, we can see that he clearly favoured Ptolemy from some passages in his work.[4] However, there are some significant gaps in Arrian that feature in other sources such as; the description of the mutilated soldiers,[5] the vengeance on the Brachidae,[6]and the wounding and cure of Ptolemy.[7] These gaps may at first glance seem like an immediate problem presenting a huge flaw in the work of Arrian. However, McInerney argues that the fact Arrian didn’t include some information such as the descent to the bottom of the sea illustrates that he wasn’t interested in simply rehashing the vulgate tradition, and it is this that made Arrian’s work a much more reliable source.[8] To deny the flaws in Arrian would be naïve, but one would be even more foolish to deny the wealth of information that he provides for the modern scholar, hence why I shall be using Arrian as my primary source.

Plutarch’s work (Life of Alexander) is one in a series of bibliographies comparing the lives of great men, in this case; Alexander and Julius Caesar.  Similar to Arrian, he uses the work of Aristobulus, along with Callisthenes and Clietarchus.[9] Plutarch’s work focuses more on the character of Alexander himself rather than his campaign; this leaves something to be desired as there is no real emphasis on military tactics or the administration of his empire. However, it is a biography so criticism based around this can only hold so much weight. There is no question that Plutarch admired Alexander, and while this may cause alarm bells, his depiction of Alexander is still highly useful. Plutarch is our only source on the childhood of Alexander; however, a lot of the information is found nowhere else and is problematic to verify. The value of Plutarch’s work is, however, marginally diminished when we consider the epic projection that he cast onto the character of Alexander. Plutarch uses this “epic colouring”[10]  to contrast against the tragic elements in his work to illustrate the central theme of his story; the tension between Alexander’s rash temper and his composed self-control.[11] Despite this, Plutarch is useful for many aspects of his life, not just the abovementioned childhood, his account of the murder of Cleitus and the proskynesis affair are widely accepted, and from him, we gain an informed understanding of the characters of Cleitus and Callisthenes.[12] Hamilton best sums up how to approach Plutarch, in that if we are critical of the work we can construct a portrait of Alexander’s character.[13]  It is this contribution to the understanding of Alexander’s character that justifies his selection as a source for my thesis.

The last of my primary sources is Quintus Curtius, viewed by some as the ‘anti-Arrian’, due to their differing approaches to history, such as Baynham,[14]due to our lack of knowledge about him, and his vivid account of the life of Alexander.  His work Historiae Alexandri Magni certainly has its difficulties; the first two books are missing which we can be safe in assuming contained information concerning his sources and his aim in constructing the history.[15] One line of argument suggests that Curtius used Cleitarchus, as his narrative closely corresponds with that of Diodorus, often including the same errors such as the location of Alexanders ‘battle with the river’. [16]However, Steele would argue that it was not a similar source that caused the similarities but rather the fact that Curtius made use of Diodorus, Arrian and Plutarch in his work.[17] Although we know little about Curtius, we do know he was a Roman writing at some point during the Principate, his work portrays Alexander through a Roman filter to reflect Roman society,[18] Steele agrees that the characters in Curtius’ work are Romanised. [19] The use of Livy in the construction of his text could be held accountable for the distinctly Roman impression we get from the text, as we can see that in describing chariots in Curtius uses Livy’s description as a basis.[20] Leading to Steele’s (in my opinion) premature conclusion, that Curtius’ account of some events is Romanised to such an extent, that it cannot be compared accurately to any other history of Alexander.[21] While this may seem a highly critical analysis of Curtius, he does remain highly useful, on several occasions he fills in the gaps which Arrian had omitted, such as explaining the mutiny at Opis.[22] All of our sources have their faults, but by using them together and being analytical about the information selected we can piece together the life of Alexander.

Alexander is portrayed differently across the ancient sources, Plutarch’s Alexander is one driven by Homeric deeds, Curtius displays Alex’s descent to a cruel tyrant after the death of Darius. Modern scholars are no different, as Welles points out they also present Alexander in different ways, based on their interpretation of the sources leading to many a differing Alexander over the years.[23] It is not the purpose of this thesis to discredit any of the modern scholars’ interpretations, but instead to present an insight into the mind of Alexander the Great, and perhaps why he made some of the decisions he did. It is the aim of this thesis to prove that Alexander emulated certain paradigms formulated by men, both mythical and mortal, who preceded him, to gain the prize he converted the most; Kleos.  To do this, I shall investigate three categories of influence on Alexander, firstly, the Homeric ideals characterised by Achilles and if Alexander emulated his actions or whether it was merely an exaggeration of sources. Secondly, I shall investigate whether it was always emulation, or if in some cases Alexander used the achievements of these men as a target to surpass, Heracles being the prime example. Finally, I shall investigate the activities of mortal men such as Xenophon and if Alexander learned from them, but primarily investigating whether it was the same type of emulation between Achilles and Alexander, and Alexander and his father.









Chapter 2; Alexander and Achilles

The work of Homer was widespread and well-loved in Greece, from the archaic period right down to the classical Greek era; Alexander’s admiration for Homer is well attested, there were few who admired it more than Alexander himself. There is no doubt that Alexander was influenced by Homeric archetypes; his admiration of Achilles, in particular, was a defining feature of how his personality, and in some cases his physical appearance, is portrayed by ancient sources. In this chapter I shall investigate whether these similarities were real and obvious in Alexanders lifetime, or whether the connection was exaggerated and manipulated by the later sources. Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that Achilles is portrayed in very different ways in Homer’s work, the Odyssey and the Iliad. In the Odyssey, his quest for valour and glory is underplayed to reflect the theme of the poem, whereas in the Iliad he represents the archetypal war hero. It is the instantiation of Achilles from the Iliad that will be explored in this chapter, due to Alexander’s apparent love of the book (often sleeping with it under his pillow),[24]  to show that Alexander did attempt to emulate him to achieve glory. For a scholar to truly grasp the degree to which Alexander emulated Achilles it is important to realise that it is different to compare oneself to a model than to be compared to it by others as Cohen emphasises on his work on a similar topic. [25] We must address both of these for us to truly be able to establish whether Alexander knowingly imitated Achilles, or whether it was an exaggeration of the details noticed by the later sources.

As stated in the previous chapter, our principal sources for the life of Alexander are often problematic as they are writing centuries after the events. In the case of Alexander’s Homeric connection, there is debate as to whether the sources exaggerated the extent of it, or if there were genuine parallels that Alexander’s contemporaries also noticed.  All our main sources mention Alexander’s so-called rivalry with Achilles, but they often develop the nature of this connection to suit the purpose of their text.  For example, Arrian mentions a comment made by Alexander that none of the other sources do, stating that Alexander’s envy for Achilles is due to Achilles having Homer to immortalise his deeds, [26]  indicating a strong desire for glory within Alexander from the very beginning of Arrians work. Although this may have been a grievance Alexander felt, there is no way to prove whether he said it or not. Arrian reveals why he mentioned this comment by stating that he uses it as justification for his work, he will play the Homer to Alexander’s Achilles,[27] using Alexander’s known connection to Achilles to compare himself to one of the greatest writers, Homer. Arrian’s manipulation of the comparison between the two, praising himself in the process, illustrates that the authors were willing to use the connections for their own purposes.  Although this is only a small detail, Lane Fox so rightly argues the smallest details are often the most revealing when investigating Alexander. [28] Plutarch and Curtius on the other hand directly use Achilles as a model to compare Alexander to; despite this similar approach they do it in very different lights. Plutarch’s Alexander is Achillean through and through. Stewart illustrates there are many similarities between the Achilles of the Iliad, and the Alexander represented in Plutarch’s Life: [29]  terrible in war, swift and athletic, abstaining from sleep and sex, aiming to be the best, relationship with Hephaistion/ Patroklos.[30] Plutarch explores and develops the similarities between the two, possibly to an extreme, allowing him represent Alexander as the new Achilles and the ideal solider.  Conversely, Curtius uses Achilles and Homeric themes to illustrate the deterioration of Alexander, using Achilles to foreshadow Alexander’s eventual decline.[31] Although this decline may have been an authentic theme in Alexander’s life, it was emphasised by Curtius to suit his Roman audience.[32] These differing approaches again illustrate a willingness to manipulate the image of Homeric archetypes to achieve their hypothesis, and as McInerney rightly argues, are a projection of values and ideas onto the figure of Alexander.[33]

Despite the claim that these connections were later additions to the life of Alexander, there are countless pieces of evidence to suggest that both Alexander and the Mediterranean world were aware of the link. There is no question that the Athenians were well aware of the connection, in a speech condemning Alexander, Demosthenes mockingly calls him a Margites.[34] If Achilles was the archetypal warrior hero, who defined the most celebrated masculine principles, then Margites was the complete opposite: he was the anti-hero to contrast with the heroes of the Iliad, often associated with immaturity and stupidity. Margites features in a poem attributed to Homer by Aristotle,[35] although Lane Fox argues that this attribution is incorrect and the poem was in fact written by someone else.[36] By using ‘Margites’ Demosthenes makes it clear that he believes Alexander is not worthy of being compared to Achilles, and is a “Homeric Buffoon”. [37] This reference to Alexander as Margites, would only have made sense if the fourth-century Athenian audience for whom it was intended were aware of Alexander’s desire to been seen as the new Achilles; Lane Fox agrees with this view, stating that without this prior knowledge the joke would have been pointless.[38] Some modern scholars may argue that this obscure reference is not enough to justify the conclusion that the people of Athens were aware of Alexander’s Homeric pretensions. However, we can see that the link between the two undoubtedly mattered when we see that when the Athenians needed to negotiate with Alexander over the release of Athenian prisoners, they sent the only man in Attica with the name Achilles, who succeeded, where former envoys had failed.[39] Alexander’s notion of comparing himself to the Achillean model was clearly so well known that other poleis were willing to use it to get what they wanted leading me to agree with Mossman’s point; Alexander’s desire to be associated with Achilles was well-known.[40]

As stated in the introduction to this chapter, I would be investigating if Alexander compared himself to this Homeric model, and if others around him did. As demonstrated above, Alexander compared himself to this model to such an extent that it was known at least in Attica, although it would not be surprising if the awareness of this was widespread. It is also clear that others compared Alexander to this model, specifically his court historian, Callisthenes, and sculptor, Lysippus. The sculptures of Lysipuus and writings of Callisthenes contain clear links between Alexander and Achilles. Callisthenes noticed the connection between the two on the trip to Troy and emphasised in it his work, whilst the sculptures of Alexander bear a remarkable resemblance to those of Achilles. Firstly, the sculptor Lysippus attempted to show the leonine connection between Achilles and Alexander in his work. Homer depicted Achilles as the paradigm of the lion man in the Iliad, we can see that the character of Achilles himself unquestionably compared himself to a lion, as demonstrated in his dialogue with Hector, stating that he was a lion and Hector was a man.[41] King argues that the series of lion similes is meant to suggest that Achilles deadly force has a bestial element to it.[42] Stewart would claim that Alexander’s character can also be interpreted as leonine.[43] Alexanders’s features in these statues can be interpreted as lion-like with the help of the Pseudo- Aristotelian, Physiognomonica, a book which teaches about physiognomics; the theory that the features of a man represent the character of a man.[44] In this work Alexander’s famous hairstyle, the aramstole perfectly matches the description of the lion man.[45] Lysippus developed the connection between the two men’s leonine nature, and compared Alexander to Homer’s representation of Achilles, through the use of physiognomics. Although some may dismiss this point as outlandish, the science of physiognomics codified existing beliefs of Greek society,[46] and it is not unlikely that the image of Alexander was influenced by these theories to bring out his features.[47] Callisthenes also noticed the connection between the two started with Alexander’s pilgrimage to Troy where the parallels with Achilles is at its strongest, by focusing upon this pilgrimage Mossman argues that Callisthenes aimed to draw upon the Homeric connections and declare Alexander’s expedition a second Trojan war.[48] After Troy, Callisthenes used the parallels between the two increasingly on their route around Asia Minor; Lane Fox argues that Callisthenes often pointed out towns that Achilles had once sacked to appease Alexander.[49] It is clear to see that those closest to Alexander did compare him to this model, having noticed the parallels and then developed them further. However, we must be cautious when using sources so close to Alexander as an example, as they worked to appease Alexander so much so that Callisthenes work is considered more propaganda that actual history. Although what it does show is that Alexander was willing to be flattered in this way, and that he welcomed the comparison to Achilles, he wanted the connection to be made. We can conclude that although people did compare Alexander to this model, it was more often than not an attempt to appease their king. Nonetheless, it is clear to see from the past two paragraphs that Alexander’s connection with Achilles was noticed around his era, and was not entirely fabricated by the later sources.

It is easy to see why Alexander may have believed himself the new Achilles when we examine his education and childhood. The link between the two initially started within Alexander’s family, as he was descended from Achilles on his mother’s side.[50] Stewart would argue that this, along with Macedon’s Homeric influences provided an adequate foundation from which the emulation to develop.[51] The Macedonian state and its Homeric way of life enabled this parallel to mature, as it is not absurd to suggest that Homeric and Macedonian institutions resembled each other. They both represented the traditional form of Greek kingship, with an emphasis on companionship, which survived in Macedon as opposed to the rest of Greece.[52] Green also sees these resemblances, stating that the Macedonian companions bear a remarkable similarity to the soldiers in the Iliad, specifically naming Achilles and his Myrmidons.[53] Although, it is possible that Green is projecting his knowledge of the Homeric traditions surrounding Macedonia onto his interpretation of the sources, making his assumption lacking in evidence. However, Lane Fox takes a similar view argues that Macedonian culture was closer to Homeric society than it was to the society of Greek city states at the time, as a Macedonian sometimes wouldn’t recline during a feast until he had successfully hunted, and only in Homeric culture, not Classical Greece, did people dine without reclining.[54]  The community that Alexander grew up in allowed him to develop a closer bond to the heroes of the Iliad. The connection between the two heroes was hardly downplayed by his parents; as evident in investigating Lysimachus, a tutor of Alexander who integrated himself into the royal court by calling Alexander ‘Achilles’, Philip ‘Peleus’ and himself ‘Pheonix’.[55] Under Aristotle’s tutoring Alexander studied the Iliad, as Homer was the standard textbook in Greek education. The use of nicknames and an education based on Homeric stories shows that his tutors positively encouraged the connections between Alexander and Achilles, and Arrian argues that this conditioning stuck with Alexander for his whole life.[56] The fact that Alexander grew up in a society very similar to the Homeric heroes, and his parents and tutors reinforced the connection between Alexander and his heroic ancestor make it easy to see why Alexander might have seen parallels between himself and Achilles.

The similarities between Alexander and Achilles presented in the sources are remarkable and diverse, the most significant and one of the main reasons that comparisons are present between the two is their desire to achieve glory and honour (Kleos). What we can see from the Iliad and how Homer portrays the character of Achilles is his longing to be remembered and leave a legacy; this is an aim that Alexander also shares. Although this ambition is by no means unique to Alexander, it is the manner of which Alexander goes about achieving this ambition that makes it so intriguing.   Alexander makes many attempts to replicate the deeds of Achilles: the punishment of Batis is one such attempt. Following the capture of Batis, Curtius writes that Alexander was thrilled at the prospect of torturing his enemy in the same way Achilles had done to Hector, as he dragged his body behind his chariot.[57] There is no reason to doubt that this happened, as Lane Fox points out it was a common punishment in Thessaly, [58] a region which borders Macedon. This penalty was clearly driven by the precedent that Achilles had set, Alexander saw Batis as the Hector to his Achilles and jumped at the opportunity to impersonate his idol. The torture of Batis is not the only time that Alexander treated a Persian enemy in a similar method to Achilles.  Before his confrontation with Darius he sacrificed to the same gods (Thetis, Nereus and the Nereids),[59] as Achilles invoked throughout chapter 18 in the Iliad before his fight with Hector.[60] Lane Fox correctly asserts that we must be cautious that this piece of information cannot be checked,[61] however, it was not uncommon for Greek wars against Persia to be viewed as a new Trojan war, as Herodotus argues the Greeks were to blame for the ongoing feud by invading Asia in the Trojan war.[62] Diodorus states that Alexander publicly exclaimed his similarity to Achilles after he crossed the river Akesines in India,[63] comparing it to Achilles’ fight with the river Scamander in the Iliad.[64] Another key similarity between the two is the relationship between Alexander and Hephaestion, and between Achilles and Patroklos, as Aelian suggests Hephaestion placing a wreath on the tomb of Patroklos as Alexander does the same to that of Achilles indicates that they had a similar relationship.[65] Arrian also notices the love Alexander has for Hephaestion and compares it to Achilles relationship with his closest friend. [66] The similarities in the relationship between the two continue, as when Hephaestion dies Alexander’s reaction seems to follow the Homeric template illustrated in the Iliad, grieving for hours over the body and cutting his hair off,[67] as Achilles did.  Mossman argues that Alexander is never more like Achilles than in battle in Malli when he jumps from the wall,[68] stating that it is meant to be compared to Achilles’ appearance in the last stages of the Iliad;[69] the courage demonstrated after emerging from their tents is a clear comparison between the two.[70] The similarities between the two are far too numerous to be merely coincidence, the irrational treatment of Batis more that any showing a clear desire to emulate Achilles.

The similarities between the two are clear to see, as is the fact that Alexander at times made irrational attempts to copy the actions of Achilles. This leads me on to the question of why Alexander attempted to do so.  One line of thought is that Alexander used the connection with Achilles as propaganda, as to gain further support from the Greek states. Robinson agrees with this, stating that Alexander visited Troy to show the Greeks that there was a new Agamemnon/Achilles leading an invasion into Asia.[71] Lane Fox takes a similar stance, stating that while it did act as propaganda, it also served the role of evoking Achilles.[72] This argument would suggest that Alexander used his connection with Achilles in order to proclaim his invasion a new Trojan war, a war which united the Greek states in an age of isolationism.  By using this as propaganda, he may have wished to gain support from the Greek states. Although this argument does seem reasonable and Alexander may have used his Achillean connection to serve a propagandistic purpose, it is far more likely that Alexander imitated Achilles as he saw it as a way to achieve Kleos. Alexander’s rage at his father’s success from a young age shows that Alexander clearly wanted to attain Kleos himself, not inherit it.[73] Alexander replicated the actions of Achilles where he could because the two men shared similar aims, Achilles represented the struggle for glory.[74] This, combined with the Macedonian similarity to Homeric culture, led Alexander to believe he too could achieve this.

There is no doubt that Alexander wanted to be seen as the new Achilles. We can prove that the Athenians acknowledged this by mocking him and using Alexander’s desire to be seen in this light to their advantage when it came to negotiations. Alexander’s court historian and sculptor also saw Alexander’s desire to emulate him, and expanded on this in their work in order to appease their king. The similarities between the two in the sources, from how Alexander is described in Plutarch, to stories of the joy Alexander got from replicating Achilles actions in Curtius show that Alexander certainly wanted to emulate Achilles. It was through the archetypal war hero Achilles that Alexander saw his best chance of achieving the aim which he shared with Achilles, the attainment of Kleos.

Chapter two; Alexander and Gods

Achilles wasn’t the only hero that Alexander sought inspiration from; he also admired a selection of gods from the Greek Pantheon; most significantly Heracles, but Dionysus was also a source of inspiration. Heracles was a son of Zeus, and Alexander could claim to be his decedent on his father’s side, through the Argead dynasty of Macedon.[75] His completion of the twelve labours saw him transition from a hero with divine parenthood, into a god and a minor deity in the Greek Pantheon, a concept that greatly appealed to Alexander. Dionysus on the other had was born a god, he was the god of wine amongst other things. He established his cult in the east, passing through India, bringing with him conquest and civilisation. [76]  Alexander’s mother; Olympias, was a devoted worshiper (a Bacchant)[77] and was once seen sleeping with a snake,[78] a symbol of Dionysus. In this chapter, I shall be investigating how Alexander used the gods, their image, and achievements as a diplomatic tool as well as a source of motivation for himself and his troops, and crucially how he attempted to surpass the paradigms the gods established to be recognised as a god, or at least god-like. I shall also be primarily using examples concerning Heracles as he is by far the more prominent influence, this is not to say that Dionysus did not have an impact on the life of Alexander, but more that his role in this thesis is better used in a secondary nature to Heracles.

We encounter a similar problem to the Achillean connection when investigating Dionysus, as associations with Dionysus are sometimes seen to be constructs of later sources. He is introduced into the narrative in the darker moments of Alexanders life, as he comes to represent Alexander’s more disastrous traits, such as his excessive drinking and his temper.[79] Dionysus was blamed for the murder of Clietus the Black. Soothsayers claimed that Dionysus was angry that Alexander did not sacrifice to him, Arrian suggests that such a proposal would have pleased Alexander as it absolved him of the blame.[80] This concept of Dionysus involvement in the murder of Clietus is popular with the ancient sources who view Alexander favourably.[81] Plutarch is one such source, recording that Clietus had not sacrificed correctly, and although Alexander had ordered a sacrifice to save Clietus, nothing could be done, and Clietus was destined to die.[82] It is this attempt to absolve Alexander of blame, by using the power of Dionysus that means we must approach associations between Alexander and Dionysus with care, and assess each scenario individually.

On the other hand, we do not encounter this problem when investigating Heracles, which is another reason why he shall be the primary focus of this chapter. There is substantial evidence that Alexander was well aware of the connection, given the frequency of Alexander’s use of the image of Heracles on coins,[83]  a comparison between the two was always inevitable.[84] Although, using the image of Heracles on a coin was not an innovation by Alexander, as we can see his father Phillip II used Heracles on a coin in the 330’s BC,[85] it was how Alexander manipulated the image that makes it interesting. Alexander’s use of the coins displays a connection between the two, sometimes presenting him dressed in Heracles famous lion skin, which Lane Fox argues Alexander could have even worn in everyday life.[86]Alternatively, Lane Fox states that Heracles began to take on some of Alexander’s features.[87] Kiilerich agrees that towards the late 320’s the figure on the coin resembled features of both Heracles and Alexander, and towards the end of Alexander’s life it is increasingly difficult to tell whether it Alexander dressed as Heracles, or Heracles dressed as Alexander.[88] We can see Alexander wearing the headdress of Heracles in some coins,[89] clearly identified by his aramstole, but in some coins identifying if it was Alexander or Heracles portrayed as the other did remain a problem. However, for the purpose of this argument who dressed as who is irrelevant, the point remains the same, the connection between Alexander and Heracles was one that was well known in Classical Greece, partly down to Alexander’s exploitation of the image.  Alexander’s use of the image could be explained as an attempt to unite the restless Greek elements of his empire, under the leadership of a new Heracles, the most famous of Greek heroes. However, we cannot be sure of the reasoning behind this, although we can conclude that the connection between Alexander and Heracles is one that Alexander was keen to exploit.

Heracles image is not the only element of the hero that Alexander wanted to manipulate, his relation to Alexander also proved a useful diplomatic tool. Alexander’s relation to Heracles is significant, as Green argues genealogies were significant within Greek society and not to be underestimated.[90] Alexander was aware of the importance of genealogies, his behaviour in attempting to gain control of Thessaly provides a clear example of this. When Alexander, had been recognised as the ruler of Thessaly, as his father had before him, he reminded the Thessalian’s of their common ancestor Heracles, [91] using Heracles as a diplomatic tool to ensure a smooth transition of power. Green supports this conclusion, arguing that it was through Alexander’s kindly words that he persuaded the Thessalian League to appoint him head of the organisation for life.[92] In this instance, his use of this association worked, but it didn’t always as we can see at the siege of Tyre. Alexander attempted to use his connection with Heracles to enter a festival of Melkart, a Phoenician god and the chief god of Tyre. Melkart is often closely associated with Heracles in Greek culture;[93] however, the mythology of Melkart is fragmentary and relatively unknown, we cannot be sure what similarities he shared with Heracles.[94] Alexander was refused entry to the festival, as allowing Alexander to enter would be the same as recognising him as the rightful king of Tyre.[95] Following a dream in which an oracle foretold to Alexander that the city of Tyre would only be taken after much labour,[96] similar to the labours of Heracles himself. This opportunity to complete a task of Herculean proportions undoubtedly appealed to Alexander, as we will see later in this chapter, a constant theme in Alexanders life was the desire to, at the very least, emulate Heracles.[97]

The labours of Heracles are among the most famous of myths, so much so that they are still well known in the modern world. There is no doubt that Alexander was aware of Heracles exploits, as Lane Fox argues that Alexander could quote Euripides, who wrote two plays on Heracles, by heart, and there is significant evidence to support such a bold claim. Alexander reciting Euripides work is mentioned in Plutarch on two occasions; firstly he quotes the Medea,[98] secondly the Bacchae,[99] Chugg states that this was a habit of Alexander’s, and was well known to his men.[100] Chugg’s assumption is not an unlikely one as there is evidence to suggest that Alexander performed a whole scene by Euripides from memory, before a banquet in Babylon.[101]Alexander used his knowledge of the triumphs of Heracles to motivate his soldiers, as Curtius tells us that he told his troops that they would one day reach the boundary’s set by Heracles and Father Liber (Dionysus’ Roman name).[102] Arrian suggests that Alexander used these connections to motivate as he felt that his Macedonian troops would endure greater hardships if they knew they were in competition with Dionysus.[103] While this may seem a unassuming motivational incentive, it is possible that Alexander was aware that Heracles tasks represented more than a simple inspirational tale.  An ideological investigation into the myth of Heracles conducted by Csapo shows that the labours of Heracles can be seen to represent all forms of labour that different classes must undergo to get different rewards. For example, aristocratic labour is done out of free choice and in return glory is achieved, such as Heracles labours bringing him immortality as the reward,[104]and for the middle class, their tasks are undertaken for payment, which can be seen when Heracles travels to Oechalia to enter an archery tournament for monetary reward.[105]Csapo argues that Heracles labours can be used to represent any form of labour.[106] If we combine this with Loraux’s argument that Heracles could not be attributed to just one polis, and that the myth was open to political interpretation,[107] Heracles makes the perfect motivational figure for Alexander’s army. As with the emulation of Heracles tasks as motivation Alexander could unite all the Greeks and all the classes together to strive towards a common goal, the competition of labour no matter the reward.  However, it is not possible to prove that Alexander was aware of the ideological value the myth of Heracles possessed, as it is more likely a modern interpretation projected onto the character of Alexander. Despite the flaws in this theory, it doesn’t change that fact that Alexander used the prospect of emulating these famous Greek heroes in order to motivate his men. Dionysus and Heracles clearly set a standard of achievement that Alexander wanted to match.

Alexanders relationship with Achilles, as discussed in the previous chapter, revolves around his attempts to replicate his deeds, his relationship with Dionysus and Heracles differs. Anson suggests that later in Alexander’s life he endeavoured to outdo the achievements of heroes and gods,[108] not duplicate them as had been the case with Achilles. This change in attitude towards his heroes coincides with Heracles and Dionysus emerging as more central influences over Alexander, as Achilles became less and less relevant as his campaigns went on, having only ever made it as far as Troy. Heracles’ labours and travels became more influential as Alexander’s campaign travelled east, as initially, Alexander makes no attempts to duplicate the travels of Heracles until Egypt,[109] he could easily have visited Olympia and Pylus prior to Egypt, where Heracles performed other heroics but shows no such desire too.[110] This drive to outdo certain gods can be seen in many of his actions, as Arrian argues that a key motivator in Alexander’s attempts to take the rock of Aornos was Heracles failure to do so.[111] Although the assault on the rock did have military significance, it was a rallying point for tribesmen, and it also flanked his line of communication, making it strategically important if he wished to continue his expedition,[112]however, the opportunity to succeed where Heracles had failed was certainly on Alexanders mind.[113] We can see another example of this when Alexander visited the Siwah Oasis, and the oracle there, It is possible that Alexander travelled for military reasons, Robinson suggests he could have gone to prove that the Libyan desert was a natural boundary for his empire.[114] Although Robinson suggests isn’t absurd, we have no evidence for Alexander establishing boundaries anywhere else in his empire, it seems odd that he should do it here and not on his other frontiers. It is a more accepted theory that he travelled there in competition with Heracles and Perseus, two sons of Zeus who had gone before him, Arrian also believes that it was Heracles and Perseus preceding him that had the greatest influence on this trip.[115] Both modern and ancient authors believe that Alexander wanted to compete with Heracles and other heroes. However, the presence of Heracles cannot be confirmed,[116] Alexander’s desire to see these stories be true demonstrates a clear wish to compete with the gods. Green argues that Dionysus’ presence was confirmed to Alexander’s men when they found ivy growing, Ivy is associated with Dionysus in Euripides Bacchae as well as the Homeric hymns, [117]so it is likely Alexander was aware of the connection. However, presence of Ivy cannot confirm such a tale, but the conclusion that he was following in Dionysus’ footsteps would have appealed to Alexander. Arrian states he found stories of Dionysus’ journey highly agreeable as it gave him the knowledge that he had advanced as far as Dionysus had, and he would progress further still to surpass his achievements.[118] Despite this, it is still remarkably clear that the prospect of outdoing Heracles and Dionysus drove Alexander in his lifetime, going out of his way to prove that he was capable of surpassing the gods.

The suggestion that Alexander would have continued his attempts to surpass the achievements of the gods if he had not died is well founded. Arrian and Curtius both state that Alexander built ships to sail around the Arabian peninsula and to capture the coastland there.[119]  This incentive to travel to Arabia was surely partially motivated by the fact that Alexander had recently learnt that Dionysus was worshipped there.[120]  Curtius also records that Alexander planned a campaign in North Africa against Carthage, then to head towards the Atlantic Ocean, The Metz Eptiome, which is a collection of fragments on the campaigns of Alexander, also suggests that Alex’s ambitions stretched to the Atlantic Ocean. Curtius states that the reason for this ambitious plan was that Alexander wanted to visit the pillars of Heracles, which he had heard were in the west.[121] Toynbee interprets the ancient sources to conclude that Alexander would only have stopped when he reached Gibraltar, although, we can never know just how far he would have gone, we can only estimate. Although some may discredit the extent of Alexander’s ambitions, it may seem absurd that a ruler would plan such ambitious expeditions without first consolidating his empire, but as Brunt argues, Alexander was never one to be governed by rationality.[122] Alexander’s ambition to outdo Heracles and Dionysus had only just begun before his premature death in 323 BC.

The concept of Euhemerism in classical Greece revolved around the theory that mythology has a historical background, and the gods of Olympus were once great kings, who became immortalised by their deeds. Heracles provides a perfect example of this, as the myth of Heracles does more than any other to show that a successful man could gain some element of immortality.[123] It is this concept or at least a variation of it, that drove Alexander, as he believed that if he achieved more than these two gods, he would surely deserve a place in the Greek Parthenon. Before further investigation it is important to point out that it is, as Anson argues, unlikely that Alexander was believed himself to be a god in terms of the sense of immortality or performing miracles. He instead believed that his status was so superior to others that all that was left was for him to become a god.[124] However he clearly considered himself worthy of being divine, making Anson’s argument problematic. Alexander’s desire for a god like status is clearly demonstrated as upon learning that Dionysus was worshipped in Arabia, Arrian records that Alexander thought he was entitled to be added to this Parthenon as he had surpassed the achievements of Dionysus, and deserved to be a god there.[125] However, it is from Heracles that Alexander draws the most inspiration for his dream of gaining everlasting fame. There is significant evidence to suggest Heracles wasn’t born a god and that Alexander was aware of this, firstly, his name means ‘Glory of Hera’ and Greek gods do not form their names from compounds of other Greek gods.[126] Secondly, Euripides also portrays Heracles as mortal in his plays (Alcestis and Heracles), and as mentioned earlier Alexander knew many of Euripides plays by heart, it is not unreasonable to suggest he was aware of Heracles mortal roots. Finally, in the Homeric hymn to Heracles, we can see that he did, become a god, starting as a man and eventually living happily on Olympus.[127] Alexander by surpassing the achievements of the great Heracles clearly thought that it entitled him to gain a similar level of immortality, Anson agrees that Alexander’s continued success led him to believe that he would one day surpass Heracles and become a god.[128] It is not absurd to suggest that Alexander thought this, he had a similar heritage to Heracles, both sons of Zeus and both claimed dual patronage; having a mortal father as well as Zeus, Amphitryon and Phillip. If Heracles had gained this heightened status, and Alexander had surpassed the achievements of Heracles, it is easy to see why Alexander may have felt entitled to such a heightened position.

Alexander’s drive to outdo the two, and Heracles in particular influenced many of his decisions. Alexander is often recorded as using the achievements of the two gods as a motivational tool with his troops, and although an ideological analysis of the myths of Heracles could point to a deeper understanding of the meaning of this motivation, it cannot be proven. Despite this unproven theory, the fact that Alexander used the prospect of traversing the boundaries set by these two gods as motivation remains very much relevant to how they influenced him. More significantly, Alexander was influenced to at least replicate, if not go one step further than the gods, to justify his belief; that he was in some way divine. The actions of both Heracles and Dionysus provided a target for Alexander, and he compared his achievements against theirs to realise his status in society, once he had surpassed them he had no option but to consider himself somewhat divine.
















Chapter 4; Alexander and the Influence of Mortal Men

Alexander was not exclusively motivated by tales of Homeric heroes and myths of his forefathers, the campaigns and achievements of mortal men also proved useful in Alexander’s campaigns, both in sources of motivation and as examples to follow. In this chapter, I shall focus on these historical influences, most significantly   Philip II of Macedon, Alexander’s Father, and the march and histories of Xenophon. Philip’s impact on Alexander’s life is vast, he was the architect of the Asian campaign which Alexander inherited, allowing him to attain his glory. Many of Alexander’s aims, motivations, and military tactics come from Philip. However, this ‘emulation’ of Philip falls into the second category I discussed in my introduction, concerning continuation rather than an active effort to replicate. Xenophon’s march of the 10,000 is an interesting case, and whilst the success of the march influenced Alexander, there is debate amongst scholars if Alexander read the Anabasis, and therefore the extent of Alexander’s emulation of this achievement. This chapter shall focus on Alexander’s emulation or continuation of Philips foreign policy, and his efforts to outdo Philip by attaining divinity, as well as investigating whether Alexander read  Xenophon’s Anabasis or other works by him as inspiration for policies and tactics, or if the connection is far more basic.

When investigating Alexander’s relationship with his father, it is important to clarify that Alexander’s so-called emulation of him differs significantly from that of Achilles. Alexander’s emulation of Philip is more of a continuation of policy, as it would be irrational to change a policy that was working, the most noticeable of which was Philip’s planned invasion of Asia. The theme of vengeance as a motive for invasion was stressed by Isocrates,[129] who wrote to Phillip imploring him to take up a war with Persia. Philip used the motive of vengeance to get the Greek city states on his side, although this wasn’t a primary objective of Philip himself, as he was more focused on the wealth of the Persians,[130] exploiting the revenge theme for his own purposes.[131] There is no clear evidence to suggest that a thirst for vengeance existed with Philip or his Macedonian army. In fact, quite the opposite, as during the invasion of Xerxes in 480 BC an alliance existed between Alexander I and the great king of Persia, he served as an envoy to Xerxes and Herodotus even lists the Macedonians as having sent troops for Xerxes army.[132]The Macedonians themselves had no need for vengeance against Xerxes’ brutality, as they were on his side, leading to the conclusion that Philip used the vengeance theme as propagandistic aim to unite the Greek states under his banner. Alexander continued this theme, stating his reasoning for burning down Persepolis as retaliation for the burning of Athens.[133] Alexander was motivated to keep the illusion of a Hellenistic crusade alive as long as he needed to, as mentioned in chapter 1, Callisthenes work was widely regarded as propaganda, it was document for Greek consumption to consolidate a positive view of the expedition.[134]  Alexander’s illusion of the vengeance motif stopped following the burning of the palace at Persepolis, as Alexander dismissed Greek troops and offered them the chance to enlist in his own army,[135] demonstrating the end of the Hellenistic crusade as Alexander was now constructing an imperial army. Alex’s true intentions at the start of the expedition were now revealed.

Another clear example of this continuation of policy is Alexander’s adoption of Philips policy of naming cities after himself. Cities were traditionally named after gods and heroes, not after mortals, Philip was the first to do this.[136] Philip had named two cities after himself; Philippi in 358/7 BC,[137] and Philippopolis in 342 BC,[138] and it is clear that Alexander followed this precedent from an early age, founding a city called Alexandropolis while he was regent of Macedon at the age of 16.[139] Although it has been suggested that Philip named the city in Alexander’s honour,[140] there is insufficient evidence to warrant this conclusion, suggesting that Alexander did emulate his father. This continuation of Philip’s policy continued long into his campaign, most famously Alexander founded Alexandria (one of many Alexandria’s), in Egypt. It is clear that there are some paradigms set by Philip that Alexander replicated, however, it was not down to Alexander’s desire to do so, it was as Tarn suggests his inheritance, Alexander never thought about not doing them.[141]

Alexander did not actively attempt to emulation of his father, but he did consciously attempt  to surpass the achievements of his father. Alexander never wanted to merely inherit a kingdom,[142]  there was no glory in that for him, and he grew jealous of his father’s achievements from an early age. Plutarch tells us that upon hearing of one of his father’s victories, Alexander became frustrated that Philip would leave nothing for him to conquer.[143]  This desire for glory, is an ever-present theme in the life of Alexander, turned his relationship with his Father into a competition as Alexander became obsessed with being seen as the better of the two.[144] We will never know how far Philip would have gone if he had lived to carry out his invasion, some suppose that Philip would have sided with Parmenio and accepted Darius’ offer in 323 BC, and ceased the expedition there. However, Brunt correctly points out that there is no evidence for such a suggestion, Philip was an ambitious and opportunistic man, and we cannot know how far he would have gone.[145] Perhaps it was this doubt of how far his Father could have gone, combined with Alexanders drive to outdo him that led to Alexander’s desire to expand his empire to the ends of the earth. Alexander’s ambition to be compared favourably with his father is demonstrated at the banquet in Afghanistan in 328 BC, as Alexander drunkenly killed Cleitus the Black for defending Philip’s achievements following Alexander’s degrading comparison of them towards his own.[146] This cold-blooded murder of a lifelong friend, illiterates that Alexander wasn’t content withjust being inferior or equal to Philip, he wanted to be his superior and to do so he had to surpass Philips achievements.

Cleary, Alexander had grown up in the shadow of his father’s military success, however he proved himself his father’s equal on the battlefield rather quickly. [147] However, as demonstrated above, being equal was not good enough. Worthington argues that the only way for Alexander to put his superiority to Philip beyond any doubt, was the attainment of deification whilst alive.[148] Towards the end of his life, Philip was open to the idea of deification, according to Diodorus he brought a statue of himself in the clothes of the gods into the theatre alongside the twelve Olympians on the day of his death.[149] This bold manoeuvre may have been encouraged by a law to worship Philip enacted by the Athenians recorded by Clement.[150] While some scholars discredit this note from Clement, Fredricksmeyer argues that the rest of the information given in the note is accurate so a presumption that this is also true would not go unwarranted.[151] Fredricksmeyer goes on to argue that Philip would have welcomed these divine honours, as he already named cities after himself instead of a god as it usually was,[152] perhaps an indication of how he already viewed himself. However, if such a law had been made in Athens at this time, we would be likely to see a backlash in a speech from Demosthenes, and yet he makes no mention of it. Fredricksmeyer’s assumption that this law is realistic cannot be reinforced with ample evidence so we must approach it with caution. Whereas we cannot be sure if a cult was founded for Philip in Athens, the inclusion of himself in these statues, clearly demonstrates he thought himself worthy of a god.

Alexander took a similar stance to divinity to his father, however, the extent that Alexander pursued the concept of deification demonstrates that Alexander was attempting to develop Philip’s mere flirtation with the idea. We can see Alexander’s attitude was similar to Philip’s, Richards asserts we “must believe”[153] that in the works of Callisthenes Alexander is made out to be the son of Zeus, given his work was predominately meant to be propaganda and served to appease Alexander. Despite the lack of evidence there is no reason to disagree with Richards assumption in this case, as what was written by Callisthenes more often than not either fact or what Alexander wanted to be true.  It wasn’t just in the work of Callisthenes that Alexander was portrayed as a god, Apelle of Cos painted Alexander as holding a lightning bolt to represent Zeus, and Alexander gave a vast reward for this work, [154] encouraging people to see him as divine.  While both Alexander and Philip depicted themselves as gods or godlike; it was Alexander’s introduction of Proskynesis that noticeably demonstrates his desire for deification whilst alive. Proskynesis meant different things to the Persians and the Greeks, for the Persians it was expected of the great Kings subjects, Herodotus records that it was even used as a greeting in Persia when status vastly differs between two individuals.[155] Whereas in the Greek world it was reserved exclusively for honouring the gods, it implied worship.[156] Lane Fox argues that Alexander was well aware of the context of its use in both cultures,[157] which allowed him to introduce it under the false pretence of trying to merge the Persian and Greek courts together. Alexanders introduction of it in a small group firstly shows that he was experimenting to see Greek perception of the act. Whilst Lane Fox argues that the kiss Alexander gave to his followers after Proskynesis was performed indicates that Alexander did not employ Proskynesis to claim divinity,[158] Green disagrees stating that the kiss was meant to compensate the humiliation such an act may imply.[159] Whilst Lanes argument may hold some truth, I disagree that it rules out the concept that Alexander introduced the act to secure his own divinity. We know that Alexander was highly ambitious, and not afraid to act on beliefs of his own divinity; thus, it is not out of his character to use Proskynesis as a method to get people to worship him whilst he was still alive, something his father was never able to do.

Alexander’s campaign into Asia wasn’t the first instance of Greeks fighting in the heart of the Persian empire, Xenophon led a retreat of 10,000 back to Greece defeating the Persians at various battles. Xenophon wrote about this march in his Anabasis and it is common for scholars to assert that Alexander had read and used his work as a military handbook against the Persians on his campaign. Lane Fox is one such advocate, with the theme a constant occurrence in his work.[160] It is not surprising to see such an argument, with Alexander’s established love of reading,[161]and his campaign in Asia upcoming, it is only logical that he would read a book about fighting Persians in Asia. Stark takes a similar stance, arguing that anyone with a military viewpoint would have studied Xenophon before setting out on a Persian adventure,[162] although a reasonable assumption we have no real proof and therefore we cannot say for certain. Our most reliable source for this period, Arrian, was strongly influenced by Xenophon and modelled himself upon his work.[163] Therefore we must be cautious when claiming that Alexander read Xenophon, as it could just as likely be that Arrian went looking for Alexander in Xenophon and found him.[164] It is ,however, clear that Alexander was well aware of the achievements of Xenophon and his march, as he uses their feats to motivate his troops before the battle of issues.[165] Although the accuracy of the speech is probably not highly reliable, I have no doubt that Alexander was at least aware of Xenophon’s march. The assumption that he had read Xenophon and used examples set by him is one is one that requires investigation.[166]

To demonstrate that we cannot prove Alexander studied and replicated Xenophon’s paradigms in fighting the Persians I shall use two military examples. Firstly, it is suggested by Hammond that Alexander was aware of the problems of passing the Cilician gates having read Xenophon.[167] However upon a closer investigation of the two passages, we can clearly see that Cyrus’ and Alexander’s approaches differed, and Alexander seems to have learnt nothing from the strategy of Cyrus. Cyrus attempt at passing the gates involves him sending Menon on a different route, and enabling him to bypass the gates.[168] Alexander did neither of these things;[169] Lane fox believes Alexander thought that because Cyrus had scared the defenders into withdrawal, he could do it too.[170] McGroatry rightly argues that it was good fortune that allowed Alexander to pass, as he arrived at the gate with no plans to circumvent them,[171] Alexander had no alternative plans if this didn’t work.  Secondly, if Alexander had read Xenophon, it is presumed that he would have handled the battle at the Granicus river very differently. Xenophon had argued that it was best to attack the Persians at night, stating that their night camps were disorganised and positioned far from Greek ones providing an opportunity to cross the river unopposed at dawn.[172] However, Arrian records Alexander ignores this advice, which Parmenio echoes, and attacks straight away upon reaching the river. [173] Parmenio’s suggestion of waiting till dawn may indicate that he had read his Xenophon, but that is not relevant to this investigation. Alternatively, Diodorus, a source from the vulgate tradition, records that Alexander did wait until dawn before crossing,[174] The account of Arrian may have been influenced by the anti- Parmenio theme, where on multiple occasions he contrasts Alexander’s courage with his timid suggestions.[175] If there is any truth to the vulgate account, it could be possible to suggest that Alexander read Xenophon, but there is not sufficient evidence to warrant such a conclusion. What we can conclude it that Xenophon’s achievements did influence and motivate Alexander as by defeating the Persians in Asia, the legend of Persian invincibility was gone forever, we cannot prove that Alexander read an imitated Xenophon’s march any further than this.

Although we cannot prove that Alexander was influenced by the actions of Xenophon himself, we can see examples of Alexander taking inspiration from men who featured in other works of Xenophon. However, we again cannot be sure that he read the works, only that he followed paradigms set by these influential figures. Xenophon’s Cyropaedia is a biography of Cyrus the Great. Alexander greatly admired Cyrus as Strabo records Alexander admiration for Cyrus,[176] Alexander repaired the tomb of Cyrus when it was vandalised demonstrating this affection.[177]  Stark argues that the similarities in the behaviour of Alexander presented in Arrian, Plutarch and Cyrus in the Cyropaedia are far too common to be mere coincidence.[178] Alexander follows the example of Cyrus in the adoption of the native dress, Alexander’s adoption of Persian dress is well attested in all of our sources.[179] Cyrus adopted Median dress during his conquest of a similar area,[180] providing a paradigm for Alexander to follow in his conquest of Asia. Although we still cannot be convinced that Alexander learnt this from Xenophon’s writings, it is just as possible that Alexander may have learnt it via oral tradition, for my thesis where Alexander learnt this information is not important, only that he replicated the paradigm set by Cyrus. Another historical figure who Alexander was influenced by was Agesilaus II of Sparta, who Xenophon also wrote about in the Agesilaus. The remarkable similarities between the two concern their foreign policy; they both treated the Persian natives well,[181] McGroarty argues that this was no coincidence and that Alexander learned from Agesilaus’ policy. Alexander clearly used the examples set Cyrus and Agesilaus in Asia to consolidate his power and appease the local communities.

There is no doubt that Alexander emulated historical figures in his invasion of Asia, first and foremost he, in a way emulated his father by inheriting the expedition and continuing with it, continuing using the motive of revenge and naming cities after oneself providing prime examples. While we cannot prove that Alexander emulated specific actions of Xenophon’s on his march, it is clear that Xenophon’s achievement in revealing that the Persians were beatable influenced Philip and Alexander to plan the campaign. The similarities between Alexander’s policy and that of Cyrus and Agesilaus are for some too close to be a coincidence, indicating a clear emulation of them when we investigate the adopting of clothing and the treatment of foreign subjects.


The behaviour of Alexander the great has always generated a degree of curiosity amongst scholars, for such a great and famed general he makes some irrational decisions. In this thesis, I have attempted to demonstrate Alexander’s behaviour becomes easier to understand if we firstly consider it alongside his desire for glory, and the behaviour of other individuals. The first chapter investigated Alexander’s relationship with Achilles, concluding that this connection was well known in Alexander’s life, and not simply an exaggeration of sources. Alexander clearly went out of his way to replicate the deeds of Achilles so that he could be viewed the equal of the Homeric hero. Secondly, we investigated Heracles and Dionysus, demonstrating that Alexander, motivated by his desire to become a god, emulated and even attempted to surpass the achievements of these gods in order to be defied. Alexander’s belief in a concept similar to Euhemerism is clearly evident in his relationship with Heracles and Dionysus. Finally, we found that Alexander almost certainly took inspiration from the feats of Xenophon’s victories in Persia, however we cannot definitively prove that he read his anabasis, meaning the degree of Alexander’s emulation is not as vast as scholars who assert Alexander had read Xenophon would make out. The   final chapter also investigates Philip, concluding that Alexander’s emulation differs to that of Achilles and Heracles as it could be viewed as simply a continuation of policy. Alexander’s desire to outdo his father is also abundantly evident, as he didn’t want to remain in his father’s shadow.

All in all, the behaviour of Alexander the great was driven by his desire to be the greatest, whether that is gaining Kleos like Achilles, a mortal becoming a god such as Heracles, or proving himself more successful that his father. Alexander used his heroes as examples to follow, as they had achieved what he so desperately desired, emulation and the desire to surpass these heroes can be used to explain Alexander’s behaviour.



[1] Plut, Life of Titus Flamininus 21.3-4.

[2] J. Hamilton, 1973, P 22

[3] E. Borza, 1974, P 22, J. McInerney, 2007, P 425, C. A Robinson, 1932, P 353

[4] Arrian, Anabasis, 4.2.4

[5] Qunitus Curtius, , Historiae Alexandri Magni 5.5.5 and Diodorus Bibliotheca historica XVII.69.3 ,

[6] Curtius 7.5.28-35

[7] Curtius 4.8.22 and Diod 17.103.88

[8] J. McInerney, 2007, P 430

[9] For more on sources of Plutarch see J. Hamilton, 1969, P LIII

[10] J. M. Mossman, 1988, P 85

[11] Ibid

[12] .J. Hamilton, 1969, P Lxvi

.[13] Ibid

[14] E. Baynham, 1998, P2

[15] J. Hamilton, 1973, P 18

[16]  Arrian places the event at the juncture of the Acesines and Hydraotes (6.6) whereas Diodorus and Curtius place it where these rivers meet the Indus (Diod – 17.92, Curt – 9.4.8)

[17] See  R. Steele, 1919, P 39 for full argument

[18] E. Baynham, 2009, P 288

[19] R. Steele, 1919, P 39

[20] Curtius 4.9.5 and Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 37.41.7

[21] R. Steele, 1919, P 41

[22] See W.W. Tarn, 1948 PP 108-111 for a full investigation

[23] C. Welles, in E. Borza, 1974, P9

[24] Plut. Alex. 8

[25] A. Cohen, 1995, P 484

[26] Arrian, Anabisis, 1.12 *

[27] Stewart, 1948, P 84

[28] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 61

[29] Stewart, 1948, P 82

[30] Plutarch, Alex, ; Terrible in war; 13.2, 16.4, Swift footed; 4.10, Aims to be the best; 7.7, 4.8, Abstaining from Sex; 22.5-6, Relationship with Hephaistion; 47.9-12

[31] Stewart, 1948, P 15

[32] E.Baynham , 2010, P 291

[33] J.McInerney, 2007, P 25

[34] Plut. Dem. 23.2 and Aeschin. 3 160

[35] Aristotle, Poetics, 1448 b. 20

[36] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 61

[37] Ibid

[38] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 61

[39]  Arrian, 3.6.2

[40] J. M. Mossman, 1988, P 84

[41] Homer, Iliad, 22.262

[42] K. C. King, 1987, P 18

[43] A. Stewart, 1948, P 77

[44] B. Kiilerich, 1988,  P 51

[45] A. Stewart, 1948, P77

[46] A. Stewart, 1948, P 77

[47] B. Kiilerich, 1988, P 63

[48] J. M. Mossman, 1988, P 87

[49] R.L. Fox, 1973, P155

[50] Plut. Alex, 2

[51] Stewart, 1948, P 81

[52] P. Carlier, 2002

[53] P. Green, 2013, P 17

[54] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 63

[55] Plut. Alex. 5

[56] Arrian, Anabisis, 7.14

[57] Curtius, History of Alex, 4.6.29

[58] R.L. Fox, 1948, P 193

[59]Pap. Oxyrrh. FGH 148, 44 Col 2.

[60] Homer, Iliad, 18

[61] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 168

[62] Herodotus, Histories, 1.4.1

[63] Diod, 17. 97.3

[64] Homer, Iliad, 21

[65] Aelian, Varia Historia,  12.7

[66] Arrian, 7.13,.17

[67] Aelian, 7.8

[68] Arrian,6.9.5

[69] Homer, Iliad, 19.375

[70] Mossman, 1988, P 90

[71] C.A.Robinson, 1957, P 328

[72] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 114

[73] Plut. Alex. 5.2

[74] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 62

[75] Plut. Alex. 2

[76] P. Green, 2013, P 380

[77] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 44

[78] Plut. Alex. 2.4

[79] J. Mossman, 1988, P 86

[80] Arr. 4.9

[81] R.L. Fox, 1974, P 310

[82] Plut. Alex, 52.1

[83] Alexander III, silver tetradrachm, Amphipolis. 336-323 B.C; Price 1991, no. 83; image from

[84] A. Stewart, 1948, P 78

[85] ‘Philip II of Macedonia, gold half stater. 340-328 BC. Amphipolis mint; Le Rider 1971, no.3; image from ..

[86] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 41

[87] R.L. Fox, . 1973, P443

[88] B. Kiilerich, 1988, P 61

[89] Alexander III AE18 mm. Macedonia Mint Price 1991, no. 0316; image from

[90] P. Green, 2013, P 17

[91] Diodorus, Bibliotheca Historica, 17.4.1

[92] P. Green, 2005, P 117

[93] Herodotus, Histories, 2.44

[94] Morford, 2015, P 578

[95] P. Green, 2005, P 248

[96] Arrian, Anab, 2.18

[97] L.Edmunds, 1971, P 374

[98] Plut. Alex, 10.4 

[99] Plut. Alex, 53.3-4

[100] A. Chugg, 2011, P 25

[101] Nicoboule, FGrH 127 F 2 = Athenaeus, Deipnosophistai, 12.537d, accessed at <14 March 2017>

[102] Curtius, 3.10.5

[103] Arrian, Anab, 5.2.

[104] Morford, 2005, P 566

[105] E. Csapo, 2005, P 310

[106] E. Csapo, 2005, P 313

[107] N. Loraux , 1990, 23

[108] E.M. Anson, 2013, P 100

[109] Ibid

[110] For Olympia; Pausanias, 5.8.4. for Pylus; Apollod. 1.9.9

[111] Arrian, Anab, 4.28

[112] J. Fuler, 1958, P 148

[113] R.L. Fox, 1973, P 344

[114] C.A Robinson, 1952, P 169

[115] Arrian, Anab, 3.3.

[116] G. Woodcock, 1962, P 558

[117] Euripedes, Bacchae, 23-31, Homeric Hymn to Dionysus (26); mentions ‘Ivy Crowned’ Dionysus. In Morford, 2005, Bacchae – P 307. Hymn – P324

[118] Arrian, Anab, 5.2.1

[119] Arrian, 7.19.4 Curtius, 10.1.19

[120] Arrian, 7.20

[121] Curtius, 10.1.17

[122] P. Brunt, 1965, P 208

[123] Csapo, 2005 ,P 397

[124] Anson, 2013, P 84

[125] Arrian, 7.20.1

[126] Morford, 2015, P 578

[127] Homeric Hymn To Heracles the Lionhearted, (15)

[128] Anson, 2013, p 84

[129] Isocrates, Phillipus, 5.125

[130] Polyb, Histories, 3.6.12-13

[131] E. Bloedow, P 264, 2003

[132] Herodotus, The Histories, 8.140 for envoy, 7.185 for troops

[133] Arr, Anab, 3.18.12

[134] J. Hamilton, Liii, 1969

[135] Arr. 3.19

[136]  E. Fredricksmeyer, 1979, P 52

[137] Diod, Bibliotheca historica, 16.3.7

[138] Tacitus, Annals, 3.38

[139] Plut, Alex, 9.1

[140] E. Fredricksmeyer, 1990, P 307

[141] P. A Brunt, 1965 P 205 FIND ACTUAL QU0TE ***

[142] J. O’Brian, 1992, P11

[143] Plut. Alex, 5.5-6

[144] O’Brian, 1992, P11

[145] P. A Brunt, 1965 P 207

[146] Curtius, Historiae Alexandri Magni, 8.1.23-34

[147] E. Anson, 2013, P 96

[148] I. Worthington, 2004, P6

[149] Diod, Bibliotheca historica, 16.92.5

[150] Clement, Protrepticus, 4.54.5

[151] E. Fredricksmeyer, 1979, P 47

[152] E. Fredricksmeyer, 1979, P 52

[153] G. Richards, 1934, P 170

[154] Pliny, Natural Histories, 36.92

[155] Herodotus 1.134

[156] J. O’Brian, P 142

[157] R. L. Fox, 1974 , P 322

[158] R. L. Fox, 1974, P 323

[159] Green, 2013, P 376

[160] R.L. Fox, 1974, p83 – displays a clear mention that Alexander had read, and used Xenophon.

[161] Plut. Alex. 8

[162] F. Stark, 1958, P 203

[163] Bosworth, 1980, P 8

[164] K. McGroarty, 2006, P 122

[165] Arr. Anab,  2.7.8-9

[166] For a more indebt investigation into the parallels between Alexander and Xenophon see McGroatry 2006.

[167] N. Hammond, 1994, P 92

[168] Xenophon, Anabasis, 1.2.21-22

[169] Arr. 2.4.2-3

[170] R.L. Fox, 1974, P 154-155

[171] K. McGroatry, 2006, P 113

[172] Xenophon, Anab, 3.4. 34-35, tr Brunt

[173] Arr. Anab,1.13

[174] Diod, Bibliotheca Historica, 17.19.1

[175] Arr. Anab, 1.18.6-9 and 2.24-25

[176] Strabo, Geography, 11.11.4

[177] Arr, Anab, 6.29

[178] F. Stark, P 203, 1958

[179] Curtius 6. 6. 1-10, Plut., 45. 1-4, Diod, 17. 77. 4-5 , Arr, 4. 7. 4-5.

[180] Xenophon, Cyropaedia, 8.1.40-41,

[181] See Xenophon, Agesilaus 1.20-22 for Agesilaus, and Arrian, Anab,  1.17.1-2 for Alexander

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