Difference between revisions of "How Historically Accurate is Alexander?"

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==Key Characters==
 
==Key Characters==
  
<u>Alexander</u>: Alexander (Figure 1) is shown as a complex character who was driven by vision of a different future than what his followers saw. While the Greeks and Macedonians focused on revenge and plunder, he wanted a world under one great king. His relationship with his father and mother shaped him but also distanced him from them, where he took solace in wrestling and later his war campaigns.  
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<u>Alexander</u>: Alexander (Figure 1) is shown as a complex character who was driven by vision of a different future than what his followers saw. While the Greeks and Macedonians focused on revenge and plunder, he wanted a world under one great king. His relationship with his father and mother shaped him but also distanced him from them, where he took solace in wrestling and later his war campaigns. Historically, Alexander's great vision of uniting the Greek and Persian worlds was likely true, although the concept of a great, unifying king had already existed in Persian beliefs in governing.  
  
<u>Hephaistion</u>: Was one of Alexander's generals who grew up with him and became his closest companion and lover. Historically, he was known as a distinct general with great skills. He was considered as Alexander's alter ego and Alexander did consider him as a reflection of himself. When he died, Alexander did go into a rage and showed great morning for his dead friend.
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<u>Hephaistion</u>: Was one of Alexander's generals who grew up with him and became his closest companion. Historically, he was known as a distinct general with great skills. Although ALexander and Hephaistion were close, no clear evidence indicates they were lovers. He was, however, considered as Alexander's alter ego and Alexander portrayed him as a reflection of himself. When he died, Alexander did go into a rage and showed great sadness for his dead friend.
  
<u>Olympias</u>: The mother of Alexander was shown as a controlling personality who had a very difficult relationship with her husband. She was a worshiper of Dionysus and was rumored to have slept with snakes as part of that cult. Her infatuation with snakes was displayed in the movie. She did conspire to kill Eurydice, the seventh wife of Phillip II, and her son so that her son Alexander would rule. She did regularly correspond with Alexander, as depicted in the film. After Alexander's death, she tried to establish Alexander's son on the throne but eventually was killed in 317 BCE.  
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<u>Olympias</u>: The mother of Alexander was shown as a controlling personality who had a very difficult relationship with her husband. She was a worshiper of Dionysus and was rumored to have slept with snakes as part of that cult. Her infatuation with snakes was displayed in the movie. She did conspire to kill Eurydice, the seventh wife of Phillip II, and her son so that her son Alexander would rule. She did regularly correspond with Alexander, as depicted in the film. After Alexander's death, she tried to establish Alexander's son on the throne but eventually was killed in 317 BCE, along with Alexander's son, during the struggles for Alexander's kingdom after his death.  
  
<u>Ptolemy I Soter</u>: Ptolemy was a noted general in Alexander's army and played important roles in the campaigns in Central Asia and India. He later founded the Ptolemaic dynasty and was one of the generals that divided Alexander's empire after his death. The film displays Ptolemy recounting the life of Alexander, where this account was ultimately lost in the fire that destroyed Alexandria's library centuries later.
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<u>Ptolemy I Soter</u>: Ptolemy was a noted general in Alexander's army and played important roles in the campaigns in Central Asia and India. He later founded the Ptolemaic dynasty and was one of the generals that divided Alexander's empire after his death. The film displays Ptolemy recounting the life of Alexander, where this account was ultimately lost in the fire that destroyed Alexandria's Great Library centuries later.
  
 
[[File:AlexanderTheGreat.jpeg|thumbnail|Figure 1. Portrait of Alexander likely from Alexandria, where the bust was depicted in the film as Ptolemy gazed at it while recounting the story of Alexander.]]
 
[[File:AlexanderTheGreat.jpeg|thumbnail|Figure 1. Portrait of Alexander likely from Alexandria, where the bust was depicted in the film as Ptolemy gazed at it while recounting the story of Alexander.]]

Revision as of 15:48, 3 January 2017

This article contains spoilers

Alexander is a 2004 historical drama about Alexander the Great, from his early childhood to his death at Babylon in 323 BCE. The film is narrated by Ptolemy I Soter, who was one of Alexander's generals and became the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled in Egypt until the Roman conquest. The story depicts Alexander's complex personality, his ideals of uniting the eastern and western worlds, his unprecedented in succes in conquering not only the largest empire at the time, the Achaemenid Persians, but also his expansion into India and Central Asia.

Basic Plot

Alexander movie poster.

The movie begins with Ptolemy I Soter narrating the key events of Alexander's life and events revolving around his invasion of the Achaemenid Empire (Persian Empire). Alexander was declared a god in Egypt and then fought the pivotal Battle of Gaugamela, where the Persian army was defeated and later fell, although Alexander failed to kill or capture the Persian king, forcing him to march further east. The story then goes back in time to show the strained relationship between Alexander's mother (Olympias)and Philip II. Alexander takes solace in wrestling, horse riding, and becomes tutored by Aristotle.

After Alexander is declared king and unites the Greeks after his father's death, his campaign against the Persians commences. After his victory in Gaugamela, one key focus was on Alexander entering Babylon, one of the great cities of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire. Alexander is depicted as being in awe of the great city and showed more interest in uniting the Persian world with the Greek world, where he is the great king of this new united world. While his soldiers delight in his great victory, Alexander is shown as thinking more about the future and freeing those who were enslaved at the Persian court. He gives permission for royal individuals, including Darius' daughter, to remain and be treated with respect. Meanwhile, while Alexander is staying in Babylon, his mother makes him aware of conspiracies against him but berates him for being too generous with his enemies. Alexander is shown as conflicted about his destiny. Hephaistion, one of Alexander's generals, is shown as his close companion, confidant, and lover.

Alexander then pushed on into Central Asia and India, where Alexander finally marries, choosing Roxana, a Persian-Bactrian princess that was also intended to help unify the worlds that Alexander wanted to conquer. The Greek generals and soldiers are not completely convinced in this marriage, as the Greeks saw the newly conquered as barbarians. Alexander, though, seems to be happy with her, despite Hephaistion's possible jealousy. Later, one of Alexander's close strategists, Parmenion, is assassinated as he was accused of treason against Alexander. Then, Cleitus, an officer serving Alexander, who was to be governor of Bactria, got involved in a drunken dispute with Alexander, where Cleitus insulted Alexander, leading to Alexander killing Cleitus. This event and assassination of Parmenion showed the increased strain Alexander and his men were coming under as they had campaigned for so long away from Macedonia. Alexander offers generous rewards and pensions to his soldiers to keep their loyalty as he continues east.

Alexander then pushes his men where they fight the Battle of Hydaspes in Punjab, India. Alexander is shown as being gravely injured and the battle being particularly bloody, although the battle was won by Alexander and his troops. His army was, at this point, exhausted and many men perished as they marched back to Babylon. Back in Babylon, Alexander was shown as trying to forge a united Greek and eastern state that combined Persian and other eastern populations. His lover Hephaistion dies from Typhus and a few months later Alexander joins him in death. With Alexander's death, his generals divide his kingdom. Ptolemy is shown as creating a biography about Alexander, where the movie suggests the generals poisoned Alexander and sickness did not kill him, as the generals feared Alexander may have wanted to launch new campaigns to the dismay of his soldiers.

Key Characters

Alexander: Alexander (Figure 1) is shown as a complex character who was driven by vision of a different future than what his followers saw. While the Greeks and Macedonians focused on revenge and plunder, he wanted a world under one great king. His relationship with his father and mother shaped him but also distanced him from them, where he took solace in wrestling and later his war campaigns. Historically, Alexander's great vision of uniting the Greek and Persian worlds was likely true, although the concept of a great, unifying king had already existed in Persian beliefs in governing.

Hephaistion: Was one of Alexander's generals who grew up with him and became his closest companion. Historically, he was known as a distinct general with great skills. Although ALexander and Hephaistion were close, no clear evidence indicates they were lovers. He was, however, considered as Alexander's alter ego and Alexander portrayed him as a reflection of himself. When he died, Alexander did go into a rage and showed great sadness for his dead friend.

Olympias: The mother of Alexander was shown as a controlling personality who had a very difficult relationship with her husband. She was a worshiper of Dionysus and was rumored to have slept with snakes as part of that cult. Her infatuation with snakes was displayed in the movie. She did conspire to kill Eurydice, the seventh wife of Phillip II, and her son so that her son Alexander would rule. She did regularly correspond with Alexander, as depicted in the film. After Alexander's death, she tried to establish Alexander's son on the throne but eventually was killed in 317 BCE, along with Alexander's son, during the struggles for Alexander's kingdom after his death.

Ptolemy I Soter: Ptolemy was a noted general in Alexander's army and played important roles in the campaigns in Central Asia and India. He later founded the Ptolemaic dynasty and was one of the generals that divided Alexander's empire after his death. The film displays Ptolemy recounting the life of Alexander, where this account was ultimately lost in the fire that destroyed Alexandria's Great Library centuries later.

Figure 1. Portrait of Alexander likely from Alexandria, where the bust was depicted in the film as Ptolemy gazed at it while recounting the story of Alexander.

Historical Accuracy

The film has been criticized by many historians for a lack clarity on many key issues in Alexander's life. For instance, key battles and sieges were ignored and too much focus was given on Gaugamela. The Persians were depicted as mostly disorganized, but in reality were a formidable, organized that required Alexander's great skill to defeat them. Many of the characters, including Philotas and Darius III, the Persian king, were shown as young, but in reality were older men in their 40s and 50s. Alexander is shown as wounded in the battle at Hydaspes, but in reality he was wounded in another engagement in India. Many generalities are also given regarding Babylon, where imagery showed a combination of Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian themes in the mostly Babylonian city that was one of the capitals of the Achaemenid Empire. In fact, imagery of Babylon remind one of the film Intolerance by D.W.Griffith, which was full of a variety of mixed legends. The Indian ruler Porus historically earned the respect of Alexander and was given status as a king even after his defeat to Alexander. This is mostly ignored in the film. At the time of the film's release, much was made about Alexander's homosexual behavior. Although Alexander was rumored and may have had male lovers, with his companion Hephaestion as one possibility, he possibly did have relations with Bagoas, a Persian eunuch in Darius' court who may have also been Darius' lover. In fact, this was shown in the film, although definitive proof is missing. Bagoas was described as having exceptional beauty from known accounts. Nevertheless, some often less known facts do come through, including the diary that Ptolemy wrote did likely exist and probably did burn in Alexandria centuries later when the famous Great Library burned. This, in fact, probably gave the film some historical leeway.

Summary

The film Alexander never gained great popularity in the United States at the time of its release, relative to the major cast of well known actors, but since has gained greater popularity. The film focuses on what it considers key events in the time of Alexander, but also contributes many 20th and 21st centuries themes of individual freedom in depicting Alexander's ventures into Asia. Although to historians the film has a lot of key inaccuracies, the film does inform as well as entertain and many key events, such as Alexander's attempt unify the Greek and Persian worlds, did happen. This was borne by the wives he marries as well his actions.

References

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