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Conquerors - COLLECTORS EDITION U 3 News 1...

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Unformatted text preview: COLLECTORS EDITION U. 3. News 1 UNTflLflTfllESITHEGREM I“ WNlllIERDRS 55-9 3/353 IIIIIIIIII III # l III BY BETSY CARPENTER Young, beautiful, brave, brilliant, charismatic, chival- rous. What’s not to like about Alexander the Great? In just 13 years in the fourth century B.C., he built a vast empire that stretched from the Balkans to the Indus River, encompassing, among other lands, what is now Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and parts of India. And if that feat weren’t enough, history also has credited him with bringing Greek learning to the “barbar- ians” in the East—thus trans- forming the world’s cultural and intellectual landscape. But historians and archae— Empire of Alexander the Great: 323 B. C. ‘ “TURKEY King of Macedonia at age 20. Alexander was considered a military genius. But some now say the charismatic leader may have been given more credit than is his due. IRi‘-\' lEIT RfUMON ’JE5 MUSEFS NATCONAUX ARI RESOURCE MM" FV DANNY DOUGNERW USMWR Ls , a _ THE GREAT CONQUERORS ologists are re-examining Alexander, and, unlike the film director Oliver Stone, whose recentAlewander epic hails the legendary conqueror, many argue that Alexander may not have been quite so great after all. Prompted in part by fresh archaeological finds, the reappraisal reveals a man both self- indulgent and cruel. Yes, he was a charismatic commander, but he inherited a virtually invincible army from his father, Philip II of Macedonia. And although he has long been cel— ebrated for spreading Greek ideas throughout Asia, new scholarship shows that cultural exchange between East and West had started long before Alexander’s reign. Born in 356 B.C. in Pella, Macedonia, Alexander was only 18 when he distinguished himself as a commander at the bloody Battle of Chaeronea, in which Philip defeated the Greek city-states to the south, bringing them under Macedonian rule. When he became king of Macedo— nia at age 20 after his father’s as— sassination, he moved swiftly to quell rumors that he and his moth- er had plotted to kill Philip, exe— whom were potential rivals—as co— conspirators. Soon after, the Greek city—state Thebes revolted, and he razed it, killing or enslaving 36,000 citizens. Other rebellious city-states came quickly to heel. After consolidating his position at home, the fresh—faced monarch turned his attention to the wealthy Persian Empire. His avowed rea- son for a campaign was “freeing the Greeks” in Asia, notes Oxford Uni- versity historian Robin Lane Fox, who was a consultant on the Oliv- er Stone film. He said he wanted to divine conception. ALEXANDER THE GREAT Born. July 356 B.C., in Macedonia Died. June 10, 323 B.C. cuting several nobles—some of chlm to fatne- Conquered the PerSl‘an‘ Empire, including Anatolia, Syria. Mesopotamia, and Egypt, and expands ed Greek miean the my to India. Demigod. Rumored to be the son of Zeus. The historian Plutarch wrotezthait Alexander's mother, Olympias, another husband, King Philip, both dreamed of their son’s Mentor. The philosopher Aristotle introduced. Alexander to the di5ciplines of rhetoric, literature, science, mesh cine, and philosophy. years later when she heard of the Macedonian’s death. But this gentlemanly behavior is better seen as a claim to the throne than as an act of chivalry, argues J ona Lendering, au- thor of the new bookAlexander de Grate. “In the ancient Near East,” he writes, “a new king took care of the harem and family of his predecessor.” Other women in Alexander‘s path were not so lucky. After Issus, he turned over the wives and children of the Persian soldiers to the Thessalian horsemen as a reward for their gallantry. Now 23, the triumphant Alexander began referring to himself as ruler of Persia, although he must have known he still had a lot of ground to cover before he could right- fully claim the title. In 322 B.C., the city of Tyre, in what is now Lebanon, fell to his forces after a seven-month siege. The next year, Egypt, happy to be free of Darius’s yoke, gave Alexander a hero’s welcome. In what is now Iraq, his forces again crushed Dar— ius’s. Again Darius slipped from his grasp, however. Alexander then occupied Babylon and Persepolis, the capital of the Persian Empire, where he made off with an esti- mated 3,000 tons of silver and gold. Even after Darius was killed by one of his own generals, Alexander kept pressing east—into Bactria (Afghanistan), Sogdiana (Uzbeki— stan and Tajikistan), and finally India, where after weeks of slog- ging through tropical rains the con- queror’s bone-weary soldiers dug their heels into the muck and re- fused to go farther. Upon his return to Babylon, he fell ill, and 10 days later he died, just six weeks short of his 33rd birthday. punish the Persians for past of- fenses during their invasion of Greece a century and a half earlier. But Alexander, in fact, meant to conquer all lands out to the eastern edge of the world, which he mistaken- ly believed ended somewhere before modern—day Burma and China. In the spring of 334 B.C., he crossed the Dar— danelles into Asia with an army of 35,000 men. After the ancient equivalent of a quick photo op in Troy, where the image-savvy king stopped to honor the tomb of his hero Achilles, he swept down the Ionian coast, liberating Greek towns and recruiting additional soldiers. THE lAST GENTLEMAN. He trounced an advance Persian force at the Granicus River in what is now Turkey—a victory that opened up much of western Asia Minor to the Macedonians. The next year, he finally met his archrival Darius III, king of Persia, at Issus, also in present—day Turkey; the battle turned into a rout. Darius fled to fight another day, abandoning his wife, mother, and children. Historians have applauded Alexander for treating his opponent’s family with respect and courtesy—indeed, Darius’s mother was said to have wept IO USN&WR SPECIAL EDITION Given the immensity of the em— pire he built and the sheer number of battles he won, it may seem perverse to argue that Alexander was not the military genius that history has made him out to be. But revisionists contend that most of those battles were his to lose, given the technical superiority of the army he commanded. No one is questioning his personal courage: Whether battling Greek hoplites or Indians mounted on elephants, he always led the cavalry charge, resplendent in a jewel-encrusted hel- met. Still, he would not have amounted to much without his father’s genius, argues military historian Victor Davis Han- son in his 2001 book Carnage and Culture: “King Philip [had] crafted a grand new army. . . and organized it dif- ferently from anything in past Greek practice.” Philip gave the Macedonian phalanx fresh power by lengthening the thrusting spear from 8 to between 16 and 18 feet. He also created a heavily armed cavalry and, for the first time in the history of western warfare, made the coordination of in- fantry and cavalry a centerpiece of military strategy. The son’s contribution? The impulse to annihilate, says THE BRITISH MUSEUM] HERITAGE IMAGES SCAM/r * Hanson. Greek soldiers had long been respected for their skill and willingness to fight to the death—indeed, many ancient rulers employed them as mercenaries. But before Alexander, they mostly met on small battlefields where they thrust and stabbed for an hour or so before one side gave up and the killing stopped. Alexander, however, practiced “total pursuit and destruction of the defeated enemy,” Han— son argues, “ensur[ing] bat- tle casualties unimaginable just a few decades earlier.” Alexander didn’t confine the slaughter to soldiers. De- spite historical accounts of his mercy to those who sub- mitted, he butchered hun- dreds of thousands of civil— ians. After the siege of Gaza, ALEXANDER THE GREAT under fire. After the Battle of Issus, he pursued war booty in Susa and Babylon instead of tracking Darius, giving the king time to rebuild his devastated army, argues Univer- sity of Missouri historian Ian Worthington. Another cost- ly error, in his view, was the siege of Tyre. To be sure, Alexander needed to control the powerful city. But the Tyr- ians had already submitted and balked only at his insis- tence on sacrificing at their “TOTAL PURSUIT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE DEFEATED ENEMY” temple during a religious festival. The smart thing for Alexander to do would have been to sacrifice elsewhere and stroll on into the city, says Worthington, but his pride forced him to mount what he probably knew would be a lengthy siege. for instance, Alexander “the Accursed”—as he was known in the East—allowed his troops to rampage through the city, gutting residents at will. Brian Bosworth, a historian at the University of Western Aus- tralia, points to his near genocidal campaign against the Mallis in India, in which he systematically razed villages, killing civilians as they fled. His reputation as a brilliant tactician has also come Historians who embrace the dreamy—eyed notion that he waged war in order to unify East and West have misinterpreted his efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people he conquered, says David Potter, a professor of classical studies at the University of Michigan. Over the years, he adopted elements of Persian royal dress, including a purple-and—white striped tunic. He took a Persian wife and tried to introduce to his court the SCAM MRT RESOURCE USN&WR SPECIAL EDITION ll ALEXANDER THE GREAT Oriental custom of prostration before the king. He also ap- pointed local officials as provincial governors, a practice that incensed his officers, who felt that the lucrative posts should not have gone to those who fought for the other side. He per- sisted, however, because “he recognized that he couldn’t con- trol his empire without a buy-in from the conquered,” says Potter, not because he envisioned “the pedples of the world singing ‘Kumbaya’ together on the banks of the Euphrates.” Indeed, the whole idea that there was some sort of cul— tural firewall between East and West before Alexander is wrongheaded, argues Walter Burkert in his recent book Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture. The Greeks borrowed heavily from Mesopotamia for their mathematics and astronomy, for instance. (The so-called Pythagorean theorem is found in cuneiform texts about 1,000 years before Pythagoras.) The Greeks learned from eastern craftsmen how to make terra cotta from molds, and facets of their mythology had Oriental roots, including Egyptian funerary lore. SOPHISTICATES. Moreover, Greek culture also had jumped its borders before Alexander’s conquest. Thanks to traders and mercenaries, “it was a very cosmopolitan world,” says the University of California—Berkeley’s Andrew Stewart, who heads up an archaeological dig of a Phoenician city called Dor, where he and volunteers have uncovered myr- iad Greek artifacts. As early as the first part of the fifth cen- tury B.C., the city’s residents were using Greek mixing bowls in their drinking rituals. And by the beginning of the fourth, he says, “anyone with any means at all was eating and drinking off Greek black-glaze tableware.” Still, the Macedonian’s conquests obviously left their mark. After Alexander, “there were Greek soldiers crawl- ing all over the Near East,” says Stewart. He also found- ed a host of Greek cities—among them the glittering Alexandria—where the elites of both East and West, in- cluding artisans and scientists, continued trading ideas and skills. By looting and then spending much of the ac- cumulated wealth of the Persian Empire, he revolution- ized local economies, says Tulane University historian Ken— neth Harl. Before Alexander rolled through, the only coins in use had very high value and so were good only for large transactions like settling debts between governments. After him, however, regular people carried coins of low~enough value to “buy lunch in the marketplace,” he says. But did Anatolian peasants eating lunch in the mar- ketplace suddenly start spouting Greek poetry? Scholars increasingly think not. Most people’s only real contact with Greek culture was “when soldiers came through and grabbed their chickens for food,” says Stewart. Nor, in- creasingly, do scholars think Alexander would have cared. He was, after all, a conqueror and, like others of his ilk, cared passionately about power, not cultural interchange. “We may not like him or approve of him,” says Potter, “but there’s an integrity to him.” 0 As in a modern photo op. the image-conscious Alexander makes a stop in Troy to pay respects at the tomb of his hero Achilles. ERICHLESSINciARTRESOURCE USN&WR SPECIAL EDITION l3 Extent oinméEIXW—r-‘ £19?»me EC. 9 Rubicon would be an illegal act of war—civil war. So he ago- nized and waited. Finally muttering, “The die is cast,” the 50-year—old Cae— sar ordered his Army forward, into the Rubicon’s frigid wa- ters. Thus one of history’s greatest conquerors~he added all of Gaul, Portugal, and parts of Spain to the Roman Em- pire ——took the first step toward his ultimate conquest: the empire that had spawned him. His victory put an end to nearly 500 years of Roman republicanism and set the stage for generations of monarchical rule. When Caesar ford- ed that narrow river, notes Tom Holland in his book Ru- bicon, “the republic imploded.” In the ensuing millenniums, Caesar has been both vilified and glorified. A brilliant general, the charismatic and witty Caesar was also an intellectual with strong oratory and writing talents; his seven—volume Gallic Wars is considered a masterpiece of both war reporting and propaganda. Caesar was a superb political strate— gist and often a wise lawmaker. “All that was great,” wrote historian Jacob Burckhardt, “came together in the wonderful figure of Caesar.” Yet, Caesar’s many achievements must be weighed against his wreck— ing of the republic as well as his brutal tactics on the battlefield. “We have become too humane,” said the favorite. 18th-century philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “not to be re— pelled by Caesar’s triumphs.” CRUMBLING EMPIRE. One hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire was the greatest the world had ever seen. But by the time Caesar came on the scene, it we derive July. JULIUS CAESAR Born. July 13, 100 B.C., in Rome Dled. March 15, 44 B.C. Claim to fame. Conquered all of Gaul, Portugal, and parts of Spain for Rome. Brought an end to the Roman republic and began the era of empire. He's got Gaul. His seven—volume Gallic Wars has tortured generations of Latin students and remains a curriculum Calendar boy. Revised the eutect— sync Roman calendar, creating months of- 30 or 31 days and a leap year every four years. The month of his birth was renamed “Julius," from which tall and athletic man. He was a fine horseman and a keen student of swordplay. At age 16, he made his first politi- cally astute move: He married the daughter of Cinna, head of the populist party and virtual leader of Rome. But by the time Caesar was 19, Cinna was dead and the tyran- nical Sulla took power, killing or exiling all adversaries, real or potential. Sulla agreed to spare young Caesar, but he ordered him to divorce his wife. Caesar refused, and to survive Sulla’s rage, he hid in the mountains and bribed bounty hunters. “The young Julius Caesar emerged from the years of Sulla’s domination hardened before his time,” writes Holland. Though a skilled and ruthless careerist, it's doubt- ful that young Caesar fancied him— self a dictator or monarch in waiting. He wanted authority, yes, but he was surprisingly willing to share it. He possessed a steely determination and took huge risks, but he was like- wise a pragmatist who chose a slow, steady march to power. Encasing that iron interior was an outwardly vain man. As Caesar aged, he fretted about his increas— ingly bald pate and took to combing his remaining hair forward to cover as much of his head as possible. He was a notorious spendthrift, once using borrowed cash to build a mag— nificent villa, then, proclaiming it unsatisfactory, having it torn down. And he was a legendary womanizer, even judged by the decidedly loose standards of the day. Of wives, con— cubines, and mistresses, his great- est love was his longtime mistress Servilia, half sister of his most im- placable foe, Cato, and the mother was a mess. Under a system that rotated leaders every year, the Romans proved incapable of administering an empire with a standing army divid- ed into legions that typicaHy swore fealty not to Rome but to the generals who led them. The city of Rome itself was by the year 49 B.C. a hellhole, riven by gang warfare, job- lessness, inadequate housing, and food shortages. Many scholars agree that the empire’s survival required a monar— chy that commanded the allegiance of a strong army. And Caesar did replace a dysfunctional, anarchic republic with an efficient, peaceful dictatorship. But it’s not clear that preserving the empire is what motivated Caesar. Beyond seizing power, says University of Alberta classicist Christo— pher Mackay, “he had no long-term goals, no guiding prin— ciple for what he did.” Caesar was, however, guided by raw ambition. And his hunger for power displayed itself early on. Gaius Julius Caesar was born on July 13, 100 B.C., to an aristocratic but down—on-its-heels family. Though somewhat frail as a boy and bedeviled by mild epileptic fits, he grew into a l6 USN&WR SPECIAL EDITION of one of his murderers, Brutus. Eventually Sulla pardoned Caesar, and Caesar, already showing promise at age 20, joined the army as an aide to the governor of Asia. He was sent to Bithy'nia (now a part of Turkey) to enlist the help of its king, Nicomedes IV, in the Roman assault against another king, Mithra- dates. Caesar not only succeeded but got along so famously with Nicomedes that for the rest of his life he was dogged by rumors that the two had engaged in a homosexual af— fair. Adrian Goldsworthy, author of the upcoming biog- raphy Caesar: Life of a Colossus, doubts the stories are true. “It’s typical of the vulgar political invective that Ro— mans were always throwing at each other.” For his lead— ership in the battle that followed, Caesar won Rome’s highest honor for bravery. In ancient Rome, all roads to power, glory, and (often) wealth led to the Senate, so by 70 B.C., Caesar was in— creasingly involved in politics. He had aligned himself with the Populares—the party of the people—as opposed to the Optimates, the party of the aristocracy. He also DAGLI URTI / MN VlNCHON NUMlSMATIST, PARlS l ARVARCHWE -d—Aamamm aligned himself with two of Rome’s leading figures, men who were to become central to his life: Pompey the Great and Crassus. Pompey was considered the republic’s top general, Crassus a successful former general and perhaps the richest man in Rome. The pair disliked and mistrusted each other. But Caesar, in a demonstration of his political savvy, convinced the antagonists that their individual needs were best served if they set aside their differences and ran as a team for the two consulships, Rome’s top elected offices. They won handily. Caesar himself took his first major gamble in 63 B.C., when he ran for the office of pontifex maiu'mus, Rome’s chief priest. Typically filled by an esteemed elder statesman, not a hungry young pol, the pontifex maximus wielded great moral authority, much like today’s Supreme Court. If Caesar won, he would vault to the Senate’s front ranks; if he lost, his career would be over and he would be crushed by his debts. Though his candidacy was considered a scandal, he won easily. “The electors were bribed on a monstrous scale,” explains Holland. WINNING WAYS. Most of Rome’s top leaders also earned their stripes as generals, which often meant doing stints as provincial governors. Cae- sar followed the pattern, with a term as gov- ernor of Spain in 61 B.C. He invaded and con- quered Lusitania (essentially modern Portugal and western Spain) and quickl...
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