Part 1 (Alexander)

Intro: Plutarch states clearly, that he is not writing history. Rather than showing us major events like historians do, he is showing us events that are significant in understanding Alexander the Great.

Nuclear family: Phillip and Olympias (his mother)
Alexander’s relation to the gods: (On his father’s side) Hercules by
Caranus, (On his mother’s side) Aeacus by Neoptolemus

  • Alexander’s father is actually disputed because of rumors that Olympias slept with gods.

Alexander’s birth (pg 2)

  • The burning of the temple of Artemis on the day that Alexander was born is said to be because Artemis (the goddess) was present at his birth instead of protecting the temple.
  • There were other successes on the day of his birth

Alexander’s physique (pg 3)

  • fair
  • Red face/chest
  • Fragrant breath/body

Description

  • addicted to drinking
  • prone to anger.
  • yet had self-control, as to the pleasures of the body,
  • showed himself to have strong character in his pursuit of glory
  • Impressed people with his maturity
  • wanted his own legacy not the legacy of his father
  • lover of all kinds of learning and reading
  • called the Iliad, a “perfect portable treasure of all military virtue and knowledge”

Then Plutarch gives an account of when Alexander received his horse, Bucephalus. He was surprisingly, able to tame the horse that no one else had been able to subdue. This led Philip to believe that Alexander was a leader in the making.

Pg 4- 6

  • Philip saw that Alexander needed a better teacher than the ordinary masters, and sent for Aristotle.
  • Philip restored Aristotle’s native city of Stagira, which he had himself conquered years before.
  • Alexander’s education took place in a setting removed from the capital city of Pella, in the more isolated village of Mieza
  • Alexander received from Aristotle not only his teaching in ethics and politics, but also the practice of the art of medicine.

Alexander takes command (pg 6-

Plutarch gives examples of when Alexander took charge ( when his father went to war and left him in charge, when he fought)

The household of Philip was divided, chiefly caused by his new marriages and affairs.
Olympias tried to turn Alexander against his father, especially criticizing Philip’s moral shortcomings. There was a dislike that developed between father and son

The murder of Philip
Pausania killed Philip, and suspicion fell on Alexander and his mother, that they arranged the killing. Alexander because he was scared that Philip would leave the throne for another of his sons, Olympia because she was jealous of Philip’s new wife, Cleopatra

Alexander’s vigorous moves to assert his power (8-9)

  • Philip left the kingdom in disorder and confusion, Alexander had to deal with enemies/dangers on all sides of Macedonia
  • Alexander put an end to all revolts among the barbarians, overthrew Syrmus, King of the Triballians
  • Put an end to the Theban revolts, invaded Thebes, and decided to make an example of them by selling up to 30,000 into slavery and killing up to 6,000
  • Showed mercy after this extreme cruelty: “whatever any Theban, who had the
  • good fortune to survive this victory, asked of him, he was sure to grant without the least
  • difficulty”, he gave a woman who fought with his father freedom instead of killing her along with the other Thebans

Alexander with Diogenes, and at Delphi (pg 10- 11)

  • The Greeks, declared their resolution of joining with Alexander in the war against the Persians, and proclaimed him their general.
  • All the public ministers came to congratulate him, except Diogenes of Sinope who thought so little of him
  • Alexander went to Delphi to consult Apollo, the priestess. He went on a day where answers from an oracle were not given. Yet he tried to drag her till she was tired into the temple. Apollo said “”My son, thou art invincible.” and Alexander took that as his answer
  • Alexander had a great army but did not pay them much.  Many of them would also not receive parts of the royal property that he portioned out liberally.

The Battle of the River Granicus (pg 11- 13)

  • The Persians were encamped on the further bank of the river Granicus
  • Alexander, being easily known by his shield, and a large plume of white feathers on each side of his helmet, was attacked on all sides, yet escaped wounding
  • Even though the Persians lost, more of his soldiers died because of Alexander’s stubbornness
  • After this, many nations surrendered to him
  • A sign: a copper plate, engraved in ancient characters, that the time would come when the Persian empire should be destroyed by the Greeks, washed out of the sea near the city Xanthus

The Gordian Knot (13- 14)

  • subdued the Pisidians and conquered the Phrygians, Paphlagonia and Cappadocia
  • In the city Gordium, he saw the famous chariot fastened with cords made of the rind of the cornel-tree and untied it. According to local tradition, whoever untied this chariot would rule the world.
  • Alexander fell sick, Philip, the Acarnanian, took care of him
  • Philip, the Acarnanian was accused of trying to kill Alexander but Alexander trusted him and his health and strength returned

The battle of Issus (14- 15)

  • Darius marched into Cilicia at the same time that Alexander advanced into Syria to meet him
  • Alexander, greatly pleased with the event, made haste to fight in the defiles (narrow pass between mountains or hills)
  • Darius wanted  to recover his former ground, and draw his army out of so disadvantageous a place.
  • Darius saw his error in engaging himself too far in a country in which the sea, the mountains, and the river Pinarus were running through the midst of it. It meant he had to divide his forces, would not be able to use his horses, & would cover and support the weakness of the enemy.
  • Alexander won but could not capture Darius

The march to Egypt (pg 15-

  • Alexander showed mercy to the wife and children of Darius
  • Alexander’s self-control: Alexander did not seek intimacy with any woman before marriage, except Barsine, Memnon’s widow
  • Alexander was offended when people offered him little boys and punished those that abused women.
  • Alexander said that sleep and sex made him especially aware that he was mortal
  • Mild diet
  • Much less addicted to wine than was generally believed; he loved to sit long and talk, rather than drink
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