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Alexander the Great Part 2

Check out what I'm up to this summer and fall and see if you can learn some Greek and Latin with me.

Full Show Notes Available at https://plutarch.life/alexander

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Key Virtues and Vices

Generosity (μεγαλόδωρος) – When his wealth becomes nearly infinite his generosity keeps pace with it. Many examples given of Alexander’s largesse as he builds his empire. 

Justice (δική) – When founding and running a empire this big, justice has to be a key concern. Alexander tries to balance respect for the current Persian customs as he finds them and the Hellenization of the Persian peoples. While he doesn’t walk that line as well as he could have, many of his Macedonians treat the Persians far worse and Alexander is often left picking up the pieces. 

Friendship (φιλία)- Plutarch, like Aristotle, sees philosophy as the foundation of a life of powerful and lasting friendships. Alexander lives this virtue in many ways but, when he falls short, he fails in impressive ways (cf. Clitus the Black). 

Ambition (φιλοτιμία) – This one cuts both ways. Aristotle uses the same word to describe the virtue as he does to describe its excess (what we still today call “overly-ambitious”). Alexander’s ambition means the only things that slow him down or change his course are mutiny or death. 

Important Places 

Thebes – Not just in Plutarch’s backyard, but the city punished for revolting after Philip’s death. It is burned to the ground and 30,000 of its inhabitant are sold into slavery. Plutarch thinks this must anger the god Dionysius, who was born close to Thebes. 

The Battle of Granicus River – Alexander's first battle against the Persian army. Is he reckless or bold? Do we judge him by the consequences?

Battle of Issus – Alexander's second major battle against the Persian host, and the first in which Darius is present. Darius flees and Alexander chose better terrain than he realized. 

The Siege of Tyre – This strategic city gives Alexander an excuse to take care of the Persian Navy so that his supply lines are not disrupted as he traverses into the heart of the Persian Empire. 

Alexandria – Alexander, under the guidance of Homer, founds a city at the mouth of the Nile that will prosper for the next thousand years. Acting as the Greek and Roman capital of Egypt, Alexandria is still the second-most populous city in Egypt after Cairo today. 

The Battle of Gaugamela – The last decisive battle to put Darius on the run. Alexander claims that Greece has been avenged and uses the title King of Persia after this. 

The Battle of Hydapses – Moving beyond the frontiers of the Persian Empire, Alexander crosses the Indus River and defeats King Poros, only to return his kingdom to him because of respect for a worthy enemy. Shortly after this his men mutiny and Alexander must turn back home. 

Babylon – Before he makes it home, the whole army has a prolonged victory feast in Babylon. Perhaps complications from drinking cause Alexander to fall into a fever from which he does not recover and he dies in Babylon at the age of 33, having conquered the Greeks and the Persian Empire. What if he'd managed to conquer himself? How far does Plutarch think he could have gone? 

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