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Sunday, June 10, 2007

RIP, Alexander

- Detail of the mosaic of Battle of Issus (333 BC) ... Alexander the Great on his horse Bucephalus, found in Pompeii in the House of the Faun and is now in the National Museum of Naples, dated first century BC. (Wikipedia)

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, if you're in the US, and I read an interesting homily at Creighton University's Daily Reflection page ....

Believe it or not, in the text of the Spiritual Exercises, by St. Ignatius, there is a section of “Rules for Eating”. The main thrust of his thinking is that when we are seated at the table for meals, Jesus is seated with us. This image would increase reverence for the food and others at the table with us. We are preparing to celebrate the wonderful mystery of Jesus’ presence at the Eucharistic Table with us in His Body and Blood ......

That's probably what I should write about, but I saw elsewhere that today is the anniversary of the death of Alexander the Great, and I veered in that direction instead.

If your only exposure to Alexander has been the really bad movie of the same name directed by Oliver Stone and starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, and Val Kilmer, then I won't blame you for moving on to the next blog. But I learned about him bit by bit in other ways ... in philosophy classes, I found out his teacher was Aristotle ... in art history, I saw the great works of art dedicated to him ... in ancient history, I read that he had a favorite and famous horse named Bucephalus :-), that Cleopatra was Greek in culture, a direct descendant of Alexander's general, Ptolemy, and that Julius Caesar said, when he saw a statue of Alexander, Do you think I have not just cause to weep, when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing that is memorable. And then there's Alexander's... ahem ... interesting personal life.

I also learned of him through novels. If I was a history teacher, I'd use fiction - movies and novels - to teach. The fact that they aren't always accurate portrayals of history wouldn't be a problem, but an incentive to dig deeper and learn more ... nothing gets one so emotionally involved as fiction. The novels I remember are by Mary Renault ... Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy and Funeral Games.

Wikipedia has a great page on Alexander. Here are just the basic into paragraphs ...

Alexander the Great (Greek: Μέγας Aλέξανδρος, Megas Alexandros; July 20, 356 BC–June 10, 323 BC), also known as Alexander III, was an Ancient Greek king of Macedon (336–323 BC), and one of the most successful military commanders in history. Before his death, he conquered most of the world known to the ancient Greeks.

Following the unification of the multiple city-states of ancient Greece under the rule of his father, Philip II of Macedon (a labour Alexander had to repeat twice because the southern Greeks rebelled after Philip's death), Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, including Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Bactria and Mesopotamia and extended the boundaries of his own empire as far as the Punjab. Before his death, Alexander had already made plans to also turn west and conquer Europe. He also wanted to continue his march eastwards in order to find the end of the world, since his boyhood tutor Aristotle told him tales about where the land ends and the Great Outer Sea begins. Alexander integrated foreigners into his army, leading some scholars to credit him with a "policy of fusion." He encouraged marriage between his army and foreigners, and practiced it himself. After twelve years of constant military campaigning, Alexander died, possibly of malaria, West Nile virus, typhoid, viral encephalitis or the consequences of heavy drinking.

His conquests ushered in centuries of Greek settlement and cultural influence over distant areas, a period known as the Hellenistic Age, a combination of Greek and Middle Eastern culture. Alexander himself lived on in the history and myth of both Greek and non-Greek cultures. After his death (and even during his life) his exploits inspired a literary tradition in which he appears as a legendary hero in the tradition of Achilles ...

And a couple of works of art ...

- Hermes-type bust (pillar with the top as a sculpted head) of Alexander the Great called Hermes Azara. Bears the inscription: "Alexander [the Great], son of Philip, [king of] Macedonia." Copy of the Imperial Roman Era (1st or 2nd century CE) of a bronze sculpture made by Lysippos. (Wikipedia)

- Entry of Alexander into Babylon by Charles le Brun, commissioned by Louis XIV


- for those interested, check out the poem by John Dryden - Alexander's Feast; or, The Power of Music: An Ode in Honour of St. Cecilia's Day - link


Blogger Cura Animarum said...

Very interesting stuff about Alexander. My wife and I were one of those sad, sorry couples who wound up in a theatre watching that train-wreck of a movie. It never fails, our anniversary falls right in between the end of the Academy Awards and before Summer Blockbuster season.

Forever in my pages as 'Worst Movie Ever!"

glad to see his life wasn't all that badly edited, acted, and directed. ;o)

10:33 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

I didn't see the movie. I wonder how it went so wrong when it had such good actors and director. See, this is one of those times I sidestepped disaster by watching the movie reviews :-)

11:02 AM  

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