Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Dragiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Persian Boy by Mary Renault

After Fire from Heaven, one would automatically expect Mary Renault to write a sequel to the years of young Alexander, and she did, yet in a most unexpected way. Instead of picking up the story of Alexander when he leaves for Asia, she skips over right to the heart of Persia from where his conquests are followed from afar by a eunuch called Bagoas, The Persian Boy (ISBN 0394751019). In fact she starts the book telling Bagoas’ life from the very beginning, making it an interesting reading on castration and the general role of eunuchs in that part of the world.

I know many people read this book for that purpose only or for what we call nowadays a homosexual relation. In ancient Greece neither the word nor the concept were known. Sex was simply sex without the fringes and the constraints that Christianity and other religions brought forward. It may be useful to point out here that in antiquity eunuchs were not only slaves serving the pleasure of their master, but that they also could occupy high placed positions often that of a valuable “contact person”. As a simple example, I’m thinking of another eunuch Bagoas (often mentioned more elegantly as Vizier) who assassinated King Artaxerxes III to rule himself through puppet kings – a proof, if needed, of the power some eunuchs could acquire. If we believe Andrew Chugg in his book Alexander’s Lovers (and there is no reason not to believe him) our Persian Boy may well have acted as special envoy or master of ceremony at Alexander’s Persian Court since he was familiar with all the finesses of the Persian protocol.

Whatever the reader’s opinion on this matter, to me Mary Renault’s book is about Alexander the Great. Bagoas is brought to him as a gift by Nabarzanes who in exchange is hoping to be looked upon mildly by this new ruler since he was closely involved in the murder of King Darius in Parthia in the year 330 BC.

I marvel at Mary’s dexterity in comparing and differentiating Persian customs from the Macedonian ones, as Bagoas discovers this new world around him. In his eyes, the Macedonians are perceived as Barbarians with their lack of respect for the person of the king as initial focal point and their overall lack of social graces. For us Westerners, as we have been raised with the concept that our civilization started in Greece, it comes as a surprise to learn that there is an other version to the story – in this case to history, for here we are looking towards the West from the East. It is quite interesting to witness Alexander’s eagerness to learn, which I think is a very honest and true trait of his character, but also the subtle and styled way in which Bagoas is introducing his master to Persia – a land that must have looked to the new conquerors like the New World to our Pilgrim Fathers setting sail for the Americas.

Unlike in Fire from Heaven, this book is no longer focusing exclusively on Alexander’s relationship with Hephaistion, which by the way takes another dimension as both men become more mature, but as can be expected on his relationship with Bagoas. Yet Mary Renault manages to keep up with Alexander’s campaigns as he marches on over the Hindu Kush to Bactria, crossing India’s wide streams and ultimately the death march through the Gedrosian Desert back to Babylon. The daily events become all very personal and make the reader very much part of life in and around the royal tent. It is fascinating to look on to the battles and the internal conflicts from the sideline where Bagoas keeps himself without losing the context of all the historic events as they occur. Their description is so vivid that you can almost taste the dust and feel the cold!

A true masterpiece, worthy of Mary Renault. I would even add worthy of Alexander the Great.

Also available as e-Book

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Alexander's Lovers by Andrew Michael Chugg

Yes, I got all excited reading Alexander's Lovers (ISBN 1411699602), not because of some spicy details about Alexander’s intimate life, but the way Chugg consulted all the available ancient bits and pieces of lost chronicles besides the more complete works of Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus, Curtius, etc, and he also takes the viewpoints and critics of today’s writers in consideration. He is a very analytical writer as I found out reading about his search for The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great and he really can deliver his story.

He starts off with a concise biography of Alexander the Great and concludes with a short epilogue about the fate of his family.

The essence of the book covers all the people Alexander established a personal and private relation with: Hephaistion, Bagoas, Barsine, Roxane, Stateira and Parysatis, even the Queen of Amazons and Massaga. Chugg’s deductions and conclusions are his own, of course, but they shed an entirely new light on the personalities of Hephaistion and Bagoas in particular. We will never know for sure how great a man Alexander’s closest friend and probable lover Hephaistion was, but I am convinced there is more unsaid than told about his personal and professional achievements. As to Bagoas, very little is known about the role eunuchs played in antiquity for the only picture we have is that of harem stories during the Ottoman Empire and even those pictures have been erroneously interpreted.

I read this book from cover to cover, and relished on Chugg’s detailed and thorough research of the available sources. It is absolutely worthwhile and a must for any fan of Alexander the Great!

Also available as an eBook (ASIN: B007OXZU60)

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great by Andrew Chugg

Had "The Lost Tomb of Alexander the Great" (ISBN1-902699-62-9by Andrew Michael Chugg not been on sale, I would not have bought it for I think it is quite absurd to be looking for Alexander’s tomb in the first place. It is a needle in a haystack and your guess is as good as mine. But I as I read on, I became impressed by Chugg’s systematic way of handling this subject and I don’t regret my purchase.

Chugg has done a lot of research, not only among the writers from antiquity but also from the times of Christian and Islamic occupation in Alexandria, and from the days of French and English explorations and digs.

He starts picking up the trail of Alexander’s body to Egypt and his entombment in Memphis, followed by the transfer to Alexandria. Then he tries to figure out the layout of old Alexandria, including the harbor, the Pharos (lighthouse), the Library and evidently the Royal Palace, including the Soma where Alexander's body was deposed. Follows a list of all those who have seen Alexander the Great, including Julius Cesar, of course, or those who have written about these visits. With the rise of Christianity and later of the Islam, facts become vaguer and most recordings are ‘hear-says’. He keeps on looking for the remains of the Royal Palace and the Soma, and those of Alexander’s Tomb and his body throughout the centuries.

The book is stuffed with pictures and drawings and maps, allowing you to follow his explanations and to make up your own mind, which I like. Most interesting is the overlaid map of Mahmoud Bey el-Falaki who thoroughly investigated Alexandria in 1865-66 looking for whatever remains he could find.

The conclusion of Andrew Michael Chugg is that Alexander’s body may very well have survived all the odds and that we should look for it … in Venice, Italy. I’ll tell you no more. Find out for yourself and follow this guy’s argumentation step by step.

It reads like a thriller, no less.