The Latymer School History Magazine - page 32

Aristotle tutoring Alexander,
by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris
implement after being
poisoned. Yet what is it that
separates Alexander the
Great, from the countless
other military generals in
history who have been
remembered for their own
great feats?
For one, Alexander did not
once, across his enormous
Empire, impose his own
culture, but intended to
build on existing cultures
provided they accepted
him as King. However, there
were occasions in which he
punished religious
settlements, such as Tyre,
where he was not
recognised as Ruler. For
every nation, city or satrapy
that he conquered he
absorbed a different aspect
of their culture. He
refrained from forcing his
Hellenic culture onto
conquered lands in Asia
and made no efforts to ban
the practice of indigenous
religions. He particularly
embraced the practicing of
Egyptian Polytheism after
being named the son of the
God Ammon at the Siwah
Oracle in Northern Egypt.
From then on Alexander
claimed himself the son of
Zeus-Ammon, an
amalgamation of the
Egyptian and Greek Gods,
and currency from then on
depicted him with divine
ram’s horns. He permitted no
discrimination between his
own soldiers, and men who
had joined his army
throughout his campaigns,
including Persian chariot
drivers and Indian Elephant
riders, making his army more
and more diverse for every
battle won. Furthermore, his
army began to change in
other ways, which was not
necessarily popular amongst
the men. As he conquered
his way through Asia, part of
his scheme of adopting new
cultures was to integrate
their clothing into the
already rapidly changing
Macedonian culture. After
taking Babylon, where he
died in 323 BC after
choosing it to be his
empirical capital, he and his
Somatophylax, his elite
bodyguards and friends,
began to wear Persian silks
and perfumes, instead of
Macedonian leather
armours. As well as this, he
began to adorn the horses of
his cavalry in silken cloths
instead of saddles and
decorative headdresses
instead of their bridles. It is
thought that his interest and
knowledge of foreign
cultures, as well as his lust for
conquest, was influenced by
his educator, the famous
Aristotle. From the age of 14
to 18, Alexander and his
Somatophylax were
educated in science,
literature, mathematics and
philosophy by one of the
most famous Greek
Philosophers; who
encouraged these young
men to embrace new
discoveries and taught them
of culture and religion
outside of Greece. The
changes and adaptations
made by Alexander were
efforts to unite his Empire,
which is an exceedingly
difficult task considering it
spanned over 5200 km²,
without having to use
violence. This was also a
technique implemented by
the Roman Empire under its
many leaders, and led to
great success. By allowing
native people to continue to
live their lives as they had
done previously, they would
surely not protest or rebel
against their leader, for he
was not seeking to change
the everyday lives of the
people, but to unite all the
different races and tribes of
people in his newly
conquered Empire.
Of course, the importance of
his ability as a General and
military tactician cannot be
omitted when asking what
makes Alexander deserving
of his title ‘the Great’. By the
age of twenty he was already
a seasoned soldier,
28
Did you
know…
Alexander
was made
King of Asia,
after he
solved the
‘unsolvable’
Gordian Knot
– by slicing it
in half.
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