Σάββατο, 9 Ιουνίου 2012

Alexander the great Greek hero

Statue of Alexander the great  (311BC) wearing a lion skin just like his ancestor Hercules. The Macedonians considered themselves as descendants of the Heraclidae kings and the Dorians.



One of Greece's greatest leaders Alexander the great was born in 356BC in the Greek kingdom of Macedon. The kingdom of Macedonia was an ancient Greek kingdom which was founded around the 8th or the 7th century BC and was located in northern Greece and was next to mount Olympus area. The first capital of the Macedonian kings was Aegae, from there the Macedonians expanded their kingdom towards Thrace and Illyria. The Macedonians were Greek speakers, they had Greek names, they worshiped Greek deities and were allowed to participate in the Olympic games and the other Panhellenic festivities including the Amphictionic league etc. Alexander I of Macedon during the Greco-Persian wars according to Herodotus came to the Greek allied camp and declared himself a Hellene and gave important information of the Persian plans and position of their armies. Also according to Herodotus the Macedonians were coming from a Greek Dorian tribe called Makednoi and were descendants of the Temenidae of Argos. Also the ancient historian Thucydides says in his work that the Macedonian kings are coming from the Temenidae of Argos. The Macedonians also took part in the Peloponnesian war which was a Greek civil war. King Brasidas of Sparta and King Perdicas II of Macedon made two common campaigns against their foes the Athenians and against the Illyrians in 424BC. King Archaelaus later around 400BC relocated the Macedonian capital from Aegae to the city of Pella.  King Philip II of Macedon decided to unite the Hellenes and campaign against their common enemies the Persians. King Philip despite, the political accusations of Demosthenes, was a true Hellene and was awarded as an Olympic champion in 356BC the same year when his son Alexander was born. Alexander's mother was Olympias a Molossian Greek princess from Epirus. Philip's ultimate plan was to unite the Hellenes against the Persians for that purpose after his victory at Chaeronea he created the league of Corinth. Unfortunately Philip was assasinated and he never saw his plans coming true. Alexander fulfilled the vision of his father he beat the Persian armes at the river of Granicus and went into troy where he made dedications and offerings to his favorite hero Achilles and continue on his campaigns further into Asia. Finally Alexander after the battles of issus, the siege of Tyrus and the battle of Gaugamela, he conquered the Persian empire and went further into India. After his victory at Hydaspes river and the refuse of his army to continue on he returned back into Babylon. Alexander also founded many cities which were centers of Greek culture and all these cities had the name Alexandria through out his empire. Alexander spread Greek culture from Greece all the way to india and after his premature death the Hellenistic world was created. The Macedonians in the east were called Yonas or Yaunas or Yunan which is another name for the Hellenes. King Seleucus Nicator is being called as a Greek king in the edicts of Ashoka. Clearly Alexander the great had created a Greek empire and he was a true hero of Greece like Hercules and Achilles which he saw as his ancestors. All the inscriptions of the Macedonians were written in the Greek koine and all their coins had Greek gods and heroes. Alexander also in antiquity was depicted wearing often a lion skin just like Hercules the great Greek hero of mythology




Here we see in the left Hercules wearing his lion skin (525-500BC) and from the right we see Alexander the great wearing also a lion skin. This was done in Macedonian art in order to emphasize their Greek Dorian roots.



















Here we see another depiction of Hercules next to Cerberus and wearing the skin of the Nemean lion. From the right we see Alexander the great a proud descendant of the Heraclid Argead dynasty of Macedonia.


Alexander created a Greek world which included three continents all the way to India and was remembered for it as Greece's greatest hero.

Many Roman historians like Flavius Arrianus viewed Alexander as a Greek king and states in his work Alexander's Anabasis that Alexander after his victory at Granicus he sent to Athens trophies from the battle and an inscription "Alexander  son of Philip and the Greeks without the Spartans from the lands of barbarians which they habit Asia" ("Αλέξανδρος Φιλίππου και οι Έλληνες, πλην Λακεδαιμονίων, εκ των βαρβάρων, των την Ασίαν κατοικούντων"). The same inscription according to Arrian made a reference for the Greek mercenaries who fought in the persian army that they were indeed Greeks but they fought against Greece in favor of the barbarians (ότι Έλληνες όντες, εναντία τη Ελλάδι, υπέρ των βαρβάρων εμάχοντο). While Strabo in his work "Geographika" concludes that Macedonia is part of Greece (Εστιν ουν Ελλας και η Μακεδονια). The successors of Alexander fought each other and exhausted themselves until the Romans conquered their lands. King Antiochus III of Seleucia in 192 BC tried to liberate Greece from the Roman oppression he went to Greece with his army and was elected leader of the Aetolian league. Unfortunately the Greek Macedonian king Antiochus was defeated by the Romans at thermopylae in 191BC. The last Hellenistic kingdoms were the ptolemaic egypt which fell in 30BC and the Indo Greek kingdom in around 10BC or 30AD. Finally Plutarch another historian of the Greco-Roman world concludes that Alexander was a Greek king and Pausanias that Macedonia is a Greek land.




Alexander the great in medieval Greek literature


Many Byzantine authors including George Hamartolos wrote the history of Alexander the great. Such works including the Iliad and the Odyssey were popular amongst the Byzantines whose culture and language was Greek and especially after the 7th cent.


Here we see bellow a Byzantine manuscript of the 11th cent written in Greek from the archives of the Marciana library of Venice with the deeds and the life of Alexander the great.
In this icon we see Alexander holding Bucephalus and besides him is his father Philip.

In this picture we see Alexander the great chasing king Darius of the Persian empire probably at his victory in Gaugamela.


In medieval times Alexander's Romance was a popular work and was quite common. The work itself derives from the work of Calisthenes and was first written in Greek by an uknown author of the 3rd century AD. His work is a fusion of history and the deeds of Alexander the great with imaginary elements.

Bellow are two pages from Alexander's Romance written in Greek in the 14th century AD.
In this page we see Alexander the great who according to the description participates in the Olympics.

And here we see Alexander making an offering to god orpheus.

It should also be clarified that during the Byzantine era the term Macedonia referred to the region of Thrace while Macedonia was called Theme of Thessalonica and theme of Strymon. Thessalonica was a Greek city all the way from antiquity and capital of the region. We see that Alexander the great is part of the Greek medieval literature from the very beginning of the medieval times till the end.

Alexander the great after the fall of the Byzantine empire still remains as part of the Greek consciousness. The figure of Alexander the great was still in the memory of the Greek nation.


In this icon of 1566 from Varlaam monastery in Meteora we see saint Sisois who sees Alexander's grave and is devastated by the sight of the dead king.
The inscription says:  "The great ascetic Sisois before the grave of the Hellene king Alexander, who in older times shone with glory, is horrified, and feeling sorrow over the inconsistency of time and the temporary nature of glory, cries: “Seeing thee, O grave, I shed a heartfelt tear. I remember the common debt. How shall I go through such an end? O death who can escape thee?"


And here we see Alexander the great with the inscription "King Alexander of the Hellenes"  in a drawing of Dochiariou monastery in Athos 1568. 


In this document of 1631 written in Greek from prince John Alexander of Vallachia.  The prince writes the history from the beginning of the world until the fall of Constantinople. In his work the prince clearly states Alexander as a Greek king. 



The document in this page says : End of the Persian rule. Beginning of the rule of the Hellenes. And continues on describing who was the first king of Macedon until the era and the deeds of Alexander.



Various testimonies from the 18th century:
In 1701 the Greek bishop of Antioch states that the Greeks praise Alexander for his deeds.
In 1738 a Greek merchant in Holland says "My God rise up a new Alexander"




In this picture in a Greek church of Kozani in 1740 we see Alexander the great from the right along with Darius and Porus.

Rigas Fereos in 1797 published Alexander's portrait his goal was to raise the moral of the Greek people with Greece's greatest hero.



Here is another document from the 1850s, a drawing of Athanasios Iatridis (1798-1866), which depicts Alexander the great as one of the greatest Greek heores. From the left to the right are King Pyrrhus of Epirus, Achilles, Alexander the great, Hommer in a form of a statue and Constantine the great with the phrase en touto nika (in hoc signo vinces). Next to Alexander the artist has written "Hail to the Greek empire". 




The works of Theophilos Kefalas

Alexander the great work of Theophilos in 1900



Alexander the great in India against king Porus





Alexander and the mermaid


A popular folk legend in Greece which existed before the 20th century is about Alexander and his sister the mermaid. After the death of Alexander his sister Thessalonike was transformed into a mermaid and wanders in the seas. When she sees a boat she stops and asks the sailors "Is king Alexander alive?". Those who say no he isnt alive she drawns them into the sea. But those who say "yes King Alexander lives and reigns and the whole world he dominates" are passing through with safety.

According to other folk legends Alexander was a great Greek king who went into Asia and killed the cursed snake. 



 Traditional costume from the Greek Macedonian women of Emathia. 

The women of Alexandreia in Emathia wear Macedonian helmets which according to tradition were allowed  to wear by Alexander the great. After a barbarian raid the women of Emathia fought the enemy and for their bravery they were allowed to wear helmets which they continued to have from antiquity until today.





Conclusion 

Alexander the great was always considered a Greek king from Macedon and his people the Macedonians were considered as Hellenes too. Alexander was always in the Greek consciousness from antiquity till the Byzantine era and during the ottoman era untill the recent times. There was nowhere a separate Macedonian nation neither in antiquity nor in medieval times.  Macedonia means Greece, Alexander the great was Greece's greatest leader, history and truth cannot be distorted.


Sources