Alexanders divinity

3329 Words7 Pages

What evidence is there that Alexander may have believed that he was of divine descent? And how convincing would this evidence have appeared to one of his followers?

From studying the sources of the ancient world that talk about Alexander The Great, it is clear that many of them present Alexander as being some type of heroic figure or Demi-god. However you could question whether Alexander believed this himself. Only by studying his actions and the actions of those around him can we draw any type of conclusion on this matter. This can be done through the use of sources that exist from the time of and around his death. Most of these sources have been lost or are incomplete however, so I feel that it would be best to mainly consult the sources of Arrian and Plutarch Although both of these were written a couple of hundred years after Alexander’s death they are still the most complete. Plus Arrian would seem to have many sources to consult in his writing, all from Alexander’s time. His main two sources were Ptolemy and Aristobulus, both of whom were on Alexander’s campaigns. Plutarch’s account is more a biography than a history since it is full of stories and anecdotes, however it contains some information that Arrian doesn’t so it is still a worthy source to consult.
In this it would first be prudent to study all those events in Alexander’s life, which would seem to suggest that he did have some belief that he was of divine origin. The primary example of this would appear to be his visit to the shrine of Ammon. While in Egypt, Alexander had an urge to visit the temple since he wanted to consult the oracle there, which had a ‘reputation for infallibility’. Arrian also states that both Perseus and Heracles had consulted it at some point. And since it is clear from Arrian’s account that Alexander longed to duplicate, if not surpass, the feats of both Perseus and Heracles, so surely he must consult this oracle too. Arrian (book 3) claims that ‘the blood of both flowed’ within Alexander, which suggests that Arrian was of the opinion that Alexander did have some divine heritage since Heracles was supposedly the son of Zeus. In any case, Arrian also states that Alexander also visited the temple because he himself felt that he might be descended from Ammon in some way. If this is true then it would certainly seem that Alexander did in some way believe that he was of d...

... middle of paper ...

... countries that he defeated. Alexander, being the great tactician that he was must have realised the benefits of people believing that he was more than just a great ruler and actually connected to the gods themselves.
As far as the beliefs of his followers go, I believe that the willingness of the Persians to prostrate themselves in front of him and his Macedonian troops loyalty were important indicators. This is seen when they followed him across the vast desert in which the temple of Ammon was situated, just to answer the question of whether or not he did descend from the Egyptian god; this suggests that they too believed in his claim to being of divine descent. And it can be seen that there are not many men that were as revered and honoured by the people of the time as Alexander was. Leaving no doubt in my mind that both Alexander and his followers were convinced that he was of divine descent and that they felt that he was worthy of all the tribute that was paid to him after he died.

Word count: 3298

Open Document