The Oath of Alexander the Great in 324 B.C.

Posted by admin | March 19, 2008 29

Alexander the Great also known as Alexander III, was an ancient Greek king of Macedon (356–323 B.C.). He was one of the most successful military commanders in history, and was undefeated in battle. By the time of his death, he had conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks. The Greek (or more properly Macedonian) Empire did not survive his death and descended into warfare and jostling for position.

Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon (Alexander the Great,
Alexander III of Macedon) (356-323 B.C.)

By 270 BC, the Hellenistic states were consolidated into;

The Antigonid Empire in Macedonia and Greece;

The Seleucid Empire in Mesopotamia and Persia;

The Ptolemaic Kingdom in Egypt, Palestine and Cyrenaica

Alexandros III Philippou Makedonon (Alexander the Great, Alexander III of Macedon) (356-323 B.C.), King of Macedonia, was born in late July 356 BC in Pella, Macedonia, he was one of the greatest military genius in history. He conquered much of what was then the civilized world, driven by his divine ambition of the world conquest and the creation of a universal world monarchy. Arrian describes Alexander: the strong, handsome commander with one eye dark as the night and one blue as the sky, always leading his army on his faithful Bucephalus. Alexander inherited from his father King Philip the best military formation of the time, the Macedonian Phalanx, armed with sarisses – the fearful five and half meter long lances. He was the first great conqueror who reached Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor, and Asia up to western India. He is famous for having created the ethnic fusion of the Macedonians and the Persians. From victory to victory, from triumph to triumph, Alexander created an empire which brought him eternal glory. He brought Greek ideas, culture and life style to the countries which he conquered, and assured expansion and domination of Hellenistic Culture which, together with Roman Civilization and Christianity, constitutes the foundation of what is now called Western Civilization.

Kingdom of Macedon

There is no doubt that he was a superb military commander but also that his campaigns were blood thirsty and like all wars of conquest involved great loss of life and cruelty to the conquered peoples. However he did create a remarkable empire stretching from Greece to India and ushered in the Hellenistic Age which saw an acceleration of human development and trade and the fusion of cultures in the Mediterranean and Middle East acting as a catalyst to the development of three of the greatest cultures the world has known and three of the world’s main religions. Alexander himself was open to foreign cultures and peoples. He integrated many foreigners into his army, leading some scholars to credit him with a “policy of fusion.”

Alexander as pharaoh on a relief in Luxor
in theTemple of Amenhotep III

He also encouraged marriages between his soldiers and foreigners. He himself went on to marry two foreign princesses; Roxana, daughter of a Bactrian nobleman (from the area of Kandahar in modern Afghanistan) and Stateira, a Persian princess and daughter of Darius III of Persia.

Indeed the captal of Bactria, now modern Kandahar, is one of no less than 14 cities which were named after Alexander in his lifetime of which the best known still extant is Alexandria in Egypt.

Alexandrias founded or renamed by Alexander the Great;

Ἀλεξάνδρεια (Alexándreia), Egypt
Iskandariya, Iraq
Alexandria Asiana, Iran
Alexandria Ariana, Afghanistan
Alexandria Bucephalous, Pakistan, on the Jhelum
Alexandria on the Caucasus, Afghanistan
Alexandria on the Oxus, Afghanistan
Alexandria Arachosia, Afghanistan now called Kandahar (a contraction of Iskandahar)
Alexandria on the Indus, Pakistan
Alexandria Eschate, “the Farthest”, Tajikistan
Alinda, Alexandria on the Latmos, previously and afterward called Alinda in Caria, present-day Turkey
Cebrene, formerly Alexandria
Alexandria Troas, Turkey
Merv, Turkmenistan, sometimes also called Alexandria

It is in this context that his Oath, made at the end of his conquests, appeared to pave the way forward and is often quoted in Greece, the photo attached displays it on a monument in Kos Town. It compares well with the modern fashion for “equality statements” and Kos Town, where it is displayed, is a town with Greek, Roman, Crusader, Ottoman and Italian remains and in recent times (1943) has had a mixed Greek, Turkish, Italian and Jewish population. Whatever Alexander’s good intentions he is mainly remembered for the scale of his blood thirsty conquests as the following year he died in the city which had seduced him, Babylon, at the age of 32, probably of malaria.

The Empire of Alexandra the Great

“Now with the end of the wars I wish you to be happy with peace. All the mortals henceforth to live as a harmonised people for the common prosperity. Consider the world your country with common laws which will govern the best men independently from the race.”

“I make no distinction between Greeks and Barbarians.”

“The origin of citizens, or the race into which they were born, is of no concern to me. I have only one criterion by which to distinguish them – virtue. For me, any good foreigner is a Greek and any bad Greek is worse than a Barbarian. “

“You must not consider GOD as an autocratic Governor, but as a common FATHER of all, in order for your behaviour to look like the life led by a family of brothers.”

“I, on my part, see you all as EQUAL, whether you are white or dark-skinned and I should like you not simply to be subjects of my commonwealth, but members of it, partners of it.”

These are extracts from the Oath of Alexander the Great sworn before tribal leaders in 324 BC at the town of Opis, an ancient Babylonian city, not far from modern Baghdad.

The year after making this oath on the afternoon of June 10–11, 323 BC, Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon. He was just one month short of 33 years of age.

For more on Alexander and the Macedonians see;

Heracles to Alexander the Great at the Ashmolean

Alexander the Great
Basileus of Macedon, Hegemon of the Hellenic League,
Pharaoh of Egypt, Shahanshah of Persia

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  • W. W. TARN: Alexander the Great and theUnity of Mankind. (From the Proceedingsof the British Academy, vol. XIX.) Pp. 46.London : Milford, 1933. Paper, 2s. 6d. IN this thoughttul and thought-compelling paper Dr. Tarn presents Alexander in a somewhat unfamiliar light as the first propounder of the gospel of universal goodwill among mankind. The main lines of his argument are that ( I ) Alexander visualized nothing less than this ; (2) among earlier Greek thinkers 6p6uoiawas usually meant to begin and end at home ;(3) the Stoic 6p6vora was in the first instance borrowed from Alexander, and then reduced from a vital force to an inert gas by equation with the pre-existent cosmic harmony. The crux of this theory may be sought in Eratosthenes’account of Alexander’s philosophy(quoted by Strabo, 1. 66). Here Alexander’s 6pbvora is confined to the select class of cd85~ipoi&v8per. But the context suggests that (unlikethe Stoics) Alexander reckoned the sheep as far more numerous than the goats. Dr. Tarn admits that the germs of Alexander’s idea might be found in earlier Greek thought. It may be worth recalling that Alcidamas reckoned all men as @v’ucr ihehBrpor, and that Isocrates sold the pass of Greek privilege when he defined Hellenism as a matter of culture,not of race. But, as Dr. Tarn aptly insists, Alex ander’s o,u^ voza connoted more than absence of racial privilege, and the king reckoned it his duty not merely to recognize fraternity which others had brought about, but himself to sow its seeds on every soil (except the stoniest). Dr. Tarn’s paper confirms the view which he has put forth elsewhere-a view also expressed in Wilcken’s great work on Alexander-that the Macedonian king was not only one of theancient world’s great practitioners, but one of its great visionaries. ,V.CARY.C’niversity of London.

  • The Oath of Alexander is possibly the very first written expression of many of the ideals that were to form the core of Christianity and moral ethics. Decency, fairness, justice, equality – all at the true heart of this other great warrior leader.

    Ange T Kenos

  • The Oath has no basis. It is not documented by ancient historians or biographers, and is not consistent with what happened at Opis: a mutiny on the part of Alexander’s Macedonians. Waldemar Heckel and J.C. Yardley in their Alexander the Great provide an excellent summarization of the events at Opis.

    “At Opis, on the Tigris River, Alexander prepared to dismiss a large number of his Macedonian veterans, bringing into the camp at the same time new recruits from the Iranian satrapies known as Epigoni. This, although it was not the only cause of discontent, triggered an angry reaction within the camp, one which Alexander suppressed by arresting and executing the most outspoken of the mutineers, as well as by offering words of conciliation. The appeal for ‘concord’ (homonoia) gave rise to the idea that Alexander was trying to promote a ‘Brotherhood of Mankind’, an idea which has been thoroughly discredited and is discussed today as a mere footnote to Alexander scholarship. Here we are confronted not with dreams of unity but with the reality of opposition within Alexander’s army.”

    W. W. Tarn, one of the most highly regarded Alexander scholars in the early twentieth century portrayed Alexander as a philosopher-warrior-king ennobled by the concept of the “Brotherhood of Man.” In his Alexander the Great, Tarn projected near Judaic-Christian values into Alexander’s motivations. The following, more recent scholarship demolished Tarn’s notions.
    A. B. Bosworth: “Alexander had acts of his own to expiate. He had deliberately played on the deep hostility between Macedonian and Persian and the deliberate promotion of Persians had inflicted a profound shock on the rank and file. To salve the wounds he held an enormous banquet of reconciliation, allegedly attended by more than nine thousand guests. … but on this occasion the preferences shown to the Macedonians was emphatic and significant. … The prayer indicated that both peoples figured in Alexander’s imperial projects and that they should coexist peacefully. There was no deeper hint that he envisaged a hybrid master race fused from both nationalities or that he saw humanity as a brotherhood under his universal rule.”

    Ulrich Wilcken: “The actual prayer makes it most plain that the ideal which was before him was simply the fraternisation [sic] of Macedonians and Persians. There is no trace whatever of Alexander’s treating all mankind as one brotherhood.”

    Peter Green: “There is no hint here of that international love-feast, that celebration of the Brotherhood of Man which at least one scholar has professed to find at the banquet at Opis. Persians were placed firmly below Macedonians in order of precedence, and other races, again, below them. When Alexander made his famous prayer at the feast for ‘harmony [homonoia] and fellowship [koinonia] of rule between Macedonians and Persians’ he meant precisely what he said, and no more — nor is there much doubt which race he meant to be senior partner.”

    In his book, The Shadow of Olympus, Eugene N. Borza, the eminent scholar writes: “The most blatant account [of the feast at Opis] is that of Martis (The Falsification of Macedonian History). This book … is … full of historical errors and distortions …”

    Nicholas Martis advances a romantic mythology of Alexander. The “speech” is a creature of his imagination, a total fabrication. It is not found anywhere in the source documents, but is only what Martis asserts Alexander would have said. Its high minded and noble sentiments make it attractive for publication by Macedonians, Greeks, and their friends, and by those who understandably subscribe to its tenets. But nonetheless, it is a fake. To put it within quotation marks is intellectually dishonest.

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