Alexander used to say that we are most alone when we are with the myths
As I start off with this blog ,I must mention that this blog was created more than year back ,but this is the first post. Thought of writing down quite a few things quite a few times ,but that impulse was not strong enough.But finally my boredom itself has proved to be a strong enough motivation to start off.
So starting off with Alexandros !!!! grand and stupendous would be adjectives too trivial to describe the character. My fascination with this character dates back to childhood days ,the good old days of 'Chanakya' and 'Bharat Ek Khoj' on Doordarshan.I would focus on the three most recent works on Alexander which I have come across.
- The movie Alexander
- The book "Alexander -Virtues of War "by Steven Pressfield.
- and Alexander Trilogy written by Vallerio Massimo Manfredi.
When I watched the movie Alexander for the first time I wasn't particularly impressed by Colin Farrel playing Alexander and Angelina Jolie as his mother(I simply dislike both of them) but a few minutes into the movie the actors subside somewhere in the background and the mystique of the legend called Alexander begins to take over. The grandness of the character could not have been described better when Ptolemy says"His failure towered over other men's successes"."But the glory and the memory of man will always belong to the ones who follow their great visions. And the greatest of these is the one they now... call "Megas Alexandros" - the greatest Alexander of them all."The movie might not be great box office success like "Troy" but I find it successful as a honest portrayal of history, a legend ,a spectacle of grandness.
Virtues of war is a biographical novel which glorifies Alexander and his conquests and portrays him as a hero .To a few people the book might appear a little paranoid, but for me even such a disorder is acceptable when you set out describe "Alexandros Megas". and who doesn't like heroic tales. Virtues of war scores very high when it comes to giving you goose bumps and that adrenaline rush as you move ahead on the conquest of "the known world" at that time with the King of Macedon.Quoted below are a few of my Favourite excerpts from the book:
"I never let the men see me sleep.I rise before they wake and remain at work when they go to their slumber.When they drink I drink with them , when they dance I dance too.If I remain late on wine I rise with steady legs and let my officers see it.When the sun blazes I endure the heat without complaint ;I sleep on the ground in campaign and on a plain cot in camp,and when we move across open country we train as we go,racing on foot and on horse back.Of treasure let my countrymen see I take none for myself,save articles of honour -a horse or a fine piece of armour- but set all at their service and the service of our goal."
" 'It seems to me little old nephew'- he employed the Macedonian phrase of affection -'that you have elevated these Athenians as arbiters of your virtue . When in fact they are arbiters of nothing ; they are just another petty state , consulting its own advantage . In the end Alexander your character and works will be judged not by Athenians,however illustrious there city once might have been , or by any of your contemporaries but by history, which is to say by impartial , objective truth "
"What I abhor the most about such obduracy is that it robs me of the occasion to be magnanimous. Do you understand the enemy will not see chivalry. He obliges me to fight not as a knight but as a butcher- and for this he must pay with his own ruin."
Finally coming to Alexander Trilogy by Manfredi ,I have just finished the First book of the Trilogy i.e. The Child Of A Dream . I absolutely loved this one as it is a scholarly work by the Italian historian a little less infuenced by the grandeur of Alexander and more of a statement of events as they occured ,leaving to the reader the judgement about Alexander being a hero,a ruthless conquerer, a visionary much ahead of his times, just another king or emperor or a megalomaniac .
Well , at least I am no one to pass a judgement on that and would be happy to leave it to "impartial objective truth " as put by Pressfield. But at the same time there is no doubt that the legend of Alexander is amongst the greatest that any human could and will ever imagine. Leave apart the greatness of Alexander the General as a military leader or the Emperor, think of him as a human. The challenge a man throws before himself. What motivates him to not only dream about what no one dreamt of but also live his dream and make his men believe in it, and just when you think that Alexander is all about grandeur one must be reminded about the fact that his child hood wasn't an ideal princely upbringing. The emotional challenges ,the pride and conflicts faced by a child who was a descendant of Achillies and Zeus were of great sigificance in moulding Alexander into whatever became. And yes ,the positive and negative influences of mother Olympias on Alexander's personality just once again ratify the ever so true Napoleonic quote-"Men are what their mothers make them".
His relationships aren't the easiest one to undertstand.A mother who has obsessive love for her child and abhors his father. The father whom young Alexander idolises , the very person who commands his beloved son"My boy, you must find a kingdom big enough for your ambitions. Macedonia is too small for you."Contrasting is the situtaion when the same son proclaims about his father"Here is the man planning on conquering from Greece to Asia, and he cannot even move from one table to another."
What could be said about the way Alexander treated the ladies in his life . It has elments of love, passion yet apathy and at the same time the relationships have a great undercurrent of dignity.
His relationship with Hephaestion , treatment meeted out to Philotas , Parmenion and Cleitus,none of them are easy to comprehend.But isn't that exactly what the legend of Alexander is all about .As Ptolemy puts it in 'Child of a Dream' :
"No one can ever claim to know Alexander.His actions are there for everyone to see, but they are not predictible and neither is it always possible to understand their deeper significance.He believes and he doesn't believe at the same time ,he is capable of great expressions of love and also of uncontrollable rage".
Rather than passing on judgement on Alexander I would love to proceed with "The Sands of Ammon " Part -2 of the Trilogy ,describing his quest to conquer Asia. :)