A for Alexander, A for Archimedes
Alexander III of Macedon
Territories, invaded by Alexander III of Macedon
Alexander III of Macedon (356 – 323 BC) was called Alexander the Great. The following is an example of his by far prevailing image in history: “Against overwhelming odds, he led his army to victories across the Persian territories of Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt without suffering a single defeat. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Gaugamela, in what is now northern Iraq, in 331 BC. The young king of Macedonia, leader of the Greeks, overlord of Asia Minor and pharaoh of Egypt became ‘great king’ of Persia at the age of 25.
Over the next eight years, in his capacity as king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer, Alexander led his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents and covered around two million square miles. The entire area from Greece in the west, north to the Danube, south into Egypt and as far to the east as the Indian Punjab, was linked together in a vast international network of trade and commerce. This was united by a common Greek language and culture, while the king himself adopted foreign customs in order to rule his millions of ethnically diverse subjects.” (BBC History). Many sources describe the invasion of foreign territories as “unprecedented military campaign”.
After the death of Alexander III of Macedon, due to disagreement among his closest commanders, the funerary cart with his body was hijacked by one of them (Ptolemy I Soter), while other two (Perdiccas and Eumenes) were in possession of Alexander’s armor, diadem and royal scepter. Archeologists may still be discussing the whereabouts of his resting place, but the deaths of hundreds of thousands people: his soldiers, the warriors defending their countries, and numerous deaths of humans and destruction, nowadays categorized as “collateral damage”, is an undeniable fact. And what was called “empire”, soon disintegrated into small territories, headed for some time by his generals, and gradually dissolved and transformed into historically more stable structures.
So, where is the greatness in the whole story of Alexander III of Macedon?
From research point of view, there could be three areas of special interest.
First one is related to the personality of Alexander III of Macedon, and it is relevant to other known large scale invaders, Napoleon and Hitler included: What were they missing in their lives to a degree that motivated them to undertake colossal military campaigns, disregarding the expense of millions of human lives, unimaginable suffering and massive destruction? Was it some form of inferiority complex, disguised as uncontrollable hypertrophied ego to dominate over other countries and nations? Was it some limitless greed to plunder other nations’ wealth and to possess material objects far beyond the extent they could ever consume? Was it some atavistic biological feature “to mark their territory”? Or was it political, religious or ideological obsession reaching the pathological dimension of ignoring eminent catastrophic consequences of self-destruction? And if one particular person indulges in his own individual obsession, why would the rest billions of people would have to refrain from doing the same?
The second set of questions refers to why we would tend to glorify persons like Alexander III of Macedon and even suffix them “the Great”? Is it the psychological adaptation to make more acceptable the reality of primeval biological fear of a force that has the potential to harm and even destroy us? Or is it a well calculated ideological preconstruction intended to apply for justifying our own policies in case we start invading other nations?
But the third aspect of this story is most significant for the Agora project frame of reference: What was the contribution of Alexander III of Macedon to the human civilization? If there would be an index, quantifying individual contribution to the treasury of human civilization, how would we have rated Alexander III of Macedon?
Or to put it into a more general conclusion:
In the global realities of the 21st century and on, no one can dominate or influence the world, unless they are spiritual leaders of the human civilization.
“Noli turbare circulos meos” – “Do not disturb my circles”
The Greek mathematician, philosopher and engineer Archimedes (287 – 212BC) was a leading scientist in classical antiquity. His mathematical conception of infinitesimals evolved into modern calculus and analysis, and his discoveries comprise an outstanding contribution in the fields of astronomy, physics, geometry, arithmetic and mechanics. Many of his inventions are still in use today.
During the siege of his native town Syracuse by the Romans, he also invented many war devices for its defence – the catapult, the “Heat Ray” – a mirror system for focusing the sun’s rays on the invaders’ boats to ignite them, the “Claw of Archimedes”, also known as “the ship shaker”, and others.
When Syracuse was captured, a Roman soldier, similar to any of the soldiers of Alexander III of Macedon, entered Archimedes’s premises. Archimedes, who was involved in drawing some mathematical circles at that moment, told him: “Do not disturb my circles”. The soldier drew his sword and ran him through.
What could be a more impressive illustration of the collision of two worlds so far apart: between scientific thinking as emanation of civilizational values creativity, and the sharp edge of a primitive power of destruction?