Gold and Aristotle

In a decision made on April 11, 2001, the Greek Council of the State (Greece's Supreme Court) decided that TVX, a Canadian gold company that aimed to build a large gold-processing plant near the ancient city of Stageira in Chalcidice, northern Greece, could not go ahead with its plans. The Council ruled by a large majority, 20 to 7, that the company's plans would endanger the area's environment and antiquities. It was a huge victory for Greek archaeologists, environmentalists, and the inhabitants of nearby Olympiada village and a sharp rebuke to the Greek government, especially to Deputy Finance Minister Pahtas and Environment Minister Laliotis, and to the Ministry for Culture's Central Archaeological Council, which had accepted TVX's environmental study.

Archaeologists and conservationists had feared that the plant would severely effect the environment, seriously threatening the health and way of life of Olympiada, a village close to the ancient city, and the antiquities. Situated on a promontory on the east coast of the Chalcidice peninsula, Stageira, the birthplace of Aristotle, was destroyed in 349 B.C. by the powerful Macedonian king Philip II.

Despite protracted mass demonstrations during the last decade by the inhabitants of Olympiada and nearby villages, TVX Hellas-Hellenic Gold pushed ahead with its plans. The company secured the full backing of the Greek Government, the Ministry for Culture, the Ministry for Environment, and certain archaeologist and scholars who sit of the Central Archaeological Council (CAC), the advisory body of the Minister for Culture. In May 2000, CAC members voted by 12 to 4 to allow TVX to build their plant literally on top of an archaeological site that includes Early Iron Age (tenth century B.C.) settlements and Hellenistic era antiquities.

When TVX-Hellas's plans were unveiled in 1996, nearly 100 archaeologists and scholars from the United States and Europe signed protest resolutions. The Greek branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites described the proposal to establish a gold-processing plant in the "native city of the great philosopher Aristotle" as "a time bomb."

TVX-Hellas is half owned by Toronto-based TVX Gold, Inc., and half by Normandy Mining, Ltd., of Australia. Its gold-production method consists of using cyan to extract gold from the large quantities of mined arsenic pyrites. The result is colossal amounts of toxic waste dumped into tailing ponds.

During the last few years, the area close to the ancient city of Stageira frequently turned into a battlefield. There were mass demonstrations by local people opposed to the TVX-Hellas plant. Resistance ommittees were formed and an outpost was set up on the road from the village of Olympiada to the mining installations, which operated 24-hours a day throughout the year. Violent clashes with the special riot units of the Greek police, sent in from Athens and Salonica, resulted in hundreds of arrests. Police set up road blocks and stopped locals going about their business. Incidents of police placing their revolvers against people's heads were reported. At mass trials demonstrators--mostly inhabitants of the Olympiada--were accused of "resistance to police" and "destruction of private property" and dozens were convicted and sentenced to jail.

Soultana Athanasiadou, who lives in Olympiada, spoke of the fear and insecurity felt by the villagers. "We fear for our health and for the village. We have a beautiful village surrounded by forests, clean sea, and ancient Stageira. Many tourists come here. All this would be gone if TVX have their way."

Nikos Mitsios, a local Councilor, pointed out that TVX-Hellas was preparing a large-scale installation that would have processed "not just the minerals produced at Chalcidice, but also minerals from all over the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean." It would, he said, have become "an international processing center using cyan and arsenic, deadly toxic materials."

Mitsios was tried seven times and has received a total sentence of 12 years on charges relating to demonstrations. He spoke of the "cynicism and hypocrisy" of the Greek Government and of the ex-Minister for Culture, Elisavet Papazoi, currently Deputy Foreign Minister. A few years ago Papazoi strongly protested against the establishment of a gold-processing plant close to the ancient city of Pergamos on the Aegean shore of Turkey, but signed the decision allowing TVX-Hellas to build a similar plant on top of antiquities in Greece.

A road built in 1960, and now out of use, bisects the archaeological site of Stageira. Road constructors paid no attention then to antiquities, but since 1990, following repeated intensive petitioning by local Olympiada authorities to the Ministry for Culture, the archaeologist of the 16th Ephorate (district) of the Greek Archaeological Service, Kostas Sismanides, is excavating the city of Stageira. His team has unearthed the city walls, the Agora, temples, and other buildings of the sixth-fourth centuries B.C., as well as houses dated to the fourth-third centuries B.C.

Sismanides holds that following its destruction the city became uninhabited, although the third-century B.C. houses his excavations revealed need explaining. In Byzantine times (tenth-eleventh centuries A.D.), defensive walls, a fort, and some related installations were built; these are being excavated by the 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities.

Clearly visible at a distance of just three kilometers from the site of ancient Stageira and two kilometers from the village of Olympiada, are the installations of the gold mine acquired in 1996 by TVX-Hellas. Following a decision by the Ministry for Culture in July 1999, archaeological excavations were carried out in September-November 1999 at the specified area where TVX-Hellas proposed building their gold-processing plant.

The excavations, carried out by Sismanides, revealed remains of Early Iron Age (tenth century B.C.) settlements and buildings of the Hellenistic era (third-first centuries B.C.) including parts of a city wall, standing up to 1.50 meters high and 2.60 meters thick, a sacrificial area, houses with cobbled stone floors, storage spaces, and workshops including two well-preserved pottery furnaces dated to the fourth-third centuries B.C. Some members of the CAC have expressed doubts about what Sismanides describes as "city wall" and "sacrificial area."

Sismanides holds that the whole area upon which TVX-Hellas intended to build the gold-processing plant lies "in the middle of a large ancient city which, according to the archaeological finds, flourished from the middle of the fourth to the first century B.C." According to the ancient Greek historian Plutarch, when Aristotle was tutor to Philip's son the later Alexander the Great, he appealed successfully to the Macedonian king to allow the inhabitants of Stageira to rebuild their city a few years after its destruction.

For Sismanides, the city he claims to have found is the rebuilt Stageira of the Hellenistic times, although he has yet to find any inscriptions confirming this. He states that "I'm able to say this because all excavated finds are dated post the middle of the fourth century B.C." that is after the destruction of the Stageira of the Classical era. But his view is doubted by archaeologist Haido Koukouli, current acting head of the 16th Ephorate, who says that it is not certain that the finds indicate an ancient city.

The problem is that Sismanides was not allowed to complete his excavations at this site. Minister for Culture Papozoi remained convinced that there was no reason why the TVX-Hellas plans should not go ahead. She could only allow Sismanides to carry out limited excavations to be concluded by May 15, 2000, a decision that brought fierce protests from local Olympiada authorities.

Sismanides identified numerous archaeological settlements from prehistoric times to the nineteenth century A.D. near the area he was able to excavate. These uninvestigated sites were seriously threatened by the construction of the proposed gold-processing plant and the toxic waste it would have generated.

TVX-Hellas proposed that the toxic waste should be dumped at a new tailings pond to be created at a ravine three kilometers away. Preliminary excavations in that area, carried out in the second half of 1999 by Yiannis Tavlakis of the 10th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, produced few pottery sherds from the thirteenth century A.D. onward and remains of various mine related buildings from Byzantine to modern times.

The site of the proposed tailings pond was on the boundary of a Natura 2000 protected site that was officially described in 1999 by Kimon Chatzibiros, an associate professor at the National Technical University of Athens, as a "landscape which refers to the image we have about virgin prehistoric nature. Its condition is characterized as natural and perfect," which is "very sensitive to any intervention."

The cyan gold-processing method is practiced in the United States and elsewhere, although it has been heavily criticized. The policy of the European Union is unclear, but cyan is being used widely at a number of gold mines in Eastern Europe. It was at an old processing plant of this type at Baia Mare, Romania, where a tailings pond dam recently failed, causing an unprecedented pollution and ecological catastrophe which effected Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. Drinking water was contaminated and the fish population was exterminated.

The Chairman of the Board and Managing Director of TVX-Hellas Yiannis Drapaniotis claimed that "the Baia Mare case does not apply to TVX." Although he accepted the possibility that "cyan can cause great damage to the ecosystem," he emphasized that TVX-Hellas would take all measures for "destroying cyan" after use and insists that the processing method was "not dangerous."

TVX-Hellas financed the archaeological excavations at the site to the tune of over 200 million drachmas (about $500,000.00). Drapaniotis stated that his company was prepared to "take every measure to protect and preserve the antiquities found and will make them accessible to visiting scholars." TVX-Hellas also contributed substantially to a fund donated by the Greek Head of State Kostas Stefanopoulos to the Royal Ontario Museum as a contribution to a new exhibition hall for Greek antiquities.

But TVX-Hellas has been accused numerous times of ignoring environmental restrictions imposed by the Greek Ministry for the Environment and neglect towards antiquities. In fact, the 16th Ephorate of Antiquities filed a legal suit against the company for the alleged destruction of antiquities at two locations. In the early 1970s, when Greece was ruled by a military junta, the then owner of the gold mines carried out ground leveling activities that obliterated antiquities near Sismanides' excavations.

By the 1980s, METBA, a Greek state-owned company, attempted to revive and extend gold processing at Olympiada. The outcome of this attempt is clearly and revealingly set out in an official parliamentary reply in April 1992 by the Deputy Minister for Industry and Technology to a question asked by Christos Pahtas, a Parliamentary Deputy for Chalcidice: "As regards the investment for gold production from the pyrites of Chalcidice by METBA, we inform you that the investment was definitively canceled because the area's inhabitants, as well as the local authorities, strongly reacted and called upon the Government not to go ahead with the establishment of such a plant in Chalcidice. The same reaction occurred at other areas where an attempt was made to establish the plant."

According to local Olympiada authorities, Pahtas, who with the election of a new Greek Government in the fall of 1993 became the Deputy Minister for Industry and Technology, played a leading role in supporting TVX-Hellas's successful bid to buy up the gold mines at Olympiada and elsewhere in the Chalcidice peninsula.

In January 1994, alarmed by "unconfirmed information" that the Ministry was planning the establishment of a large gold-processing plant at Olympiada, the late Ioulia Vokotopoulou, then head of the 16th Ephorate of Antiquities, sent an "urgent" letter to Pahtas, stating that "the excavation of ancient Stageira is in process with very important finds up to now, which augur for important future discoveries. This fact and the name of Aristotle, the philosopher from Stageira, already make this area one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in Europe."

In 1995, the then Minister for Culture Thanos Mikroutsikos stated in Parliament that it would be "a world's first and shame if a gold metallurgy is constructed near the ancient Stageira." By contrast, in 1998, Pahtas, now a Deputy Finance Minister, declared according to a press report, that "the Government and company will face together whatever reactions." In that year the Government's candidates were heavily defeated at local elections in the wider area of Stageira.

In May 2000, the Central Archaeological Council decided by a 12 to 4 vote to allow TVX-Hellas to build their plant right next to antiquities excavated by Sismanides. Dimitris Konstantios, Director of the Byzantine Museum in Athens, stated in the CAC session that he could not agree with the view that the antiquities excavated at the proposed TVX-Hellas plant be protected, but not the "cultural entity as a whole," that is the totality of the archaeological site. The Chairperson of the CAC Lina Mendoni, the General Secretary of the Ministry for Culture, replied to Kostantios' argument by stating that the "subject of the cultural landscape" could have been discussed if earlier mining and processing operations "had not altered so much" of the landscape.

Ironically this very issue was included in archaeological legislation revealed at the end of the September 2000 by the current Minister for Culture, Theodoros Pangalos, who like his immediate predecessor and like the Greek Ministry for the Environment, has approved the gold plant. The new bill states that "archaeological sites include the necessary surrounding space, which allows monuments to preserve their historical, aesthetic and operational unity." This view has been accepted by the CAC, but when the Council proposed a 300-meter protective zone around the antiquities at the TVX-Hellas premises, the company challenged it.

The study and protection of archaeological sites and monuments in unity with their natural environment, is a cornerstone of modern archaeology and site management. This philosophy has been codified and included at international cultural conventions and in agreements ratified by Greece. Yet it appeared that the Greek Government gave the go-ahead to TVX-Hellas' plans, on the pretext of a financial investment crucial to the Greek economy, while contravening international agreements and simultaneously proposing a new archaeological law of which cases such as TVX-Hellas would have been in violation. It is also contradictory that a few years ago the Greek Government decided to preserve, protect, and make available to the public the remains of the Lykeion, Aristotle's school in Athens, while it would abandon the ruins of the philosopher's native city to a company whose activities, by their very nature, would drastically alter the environment.

Such paradoxes can only be explained by a double standard. The Greek government in theory accepts the principles of archaeology and protection for antiquities, but in practice, such principles can be waived at the behest of powerful companies who have the expressed support of Ministers. This situation is a mockery of science, ethics, and the law.

On both sides of the Aegean, at Stageira and at Pergamos, the drama of gold-processing plants versus peoples' health, the environment, and antiquities has been acted out on epic proportions, in the cases of extreme importance for the future of proper protection of antiquities. It appears that Normandy Mining Ltd., half-owner of TVX-Hellas, also own the gold plant near Pergamos, as well as a company that is trying to establish gold-processing plants in Thrace, northeastern Greece. The locals' wishes and rights are being suppressed by state agencies who, in a truly "big brother" mentality, say they know best. As the Managing Director of TVX-Hellas put it, "the wider society and the Greek state decided in favor of the gold plant for the benefit of local society."

And so, the archaeological area of Stageira and the inhabitants of Olympiada, descendants of refugees from Asia Minor, faced a second destruction. This time by toxic waste and road and port facilities constructions which would transform the present picturesque tourist resort into a heavily polluted environment. It was under these circumstances that the local Olympiada authorities appealed to the Council of the State in a final attempt to reverse the government's decision to allow TVX-Hellas build a gold-processing plant.

The April 11 decision by the Council of the State may mean the end for TVX-Hellas's plans, but in theory, the company can produce a revised environmental study of the consequences of the gold-processing plant operations. This new study would have to be considered by the Council of the State. In the past, however, the Council of the State has never overturned any of its previous decisions.

Originally posted: Archaeology

Winning at Olympia

You say, "I want to win at Olympia." ...If you do, you will have to obey instructions, eat according to regulations, keep away from desserts, exercise on a fixed schedule at definite hours, in both heat and cold; you must not drink cold water nor can you have a drink of wine whenever you want. You must hand yourself over to your coach exactly as you would to a doctor. Then in the contest itself you must gouge and be gouged, there will be times when you will sprain a wrist, turn your ankle, swallow mouthfuls of sand, and be flogged. And after all that there are times when you lose.

Epictetus, Discourses 15.2-5, trans. W.E. Sweet

This summer in Athens athletes, officials, spectators, promoters, and reporters will once again witness the spectacle of the modern Olympics. Many will assume that the modern games are a true reflection of the ancient ones, that the events and ceremonies and the ideology of universal brotherhood and amateurism recall the Olympics of Greece's golden age. They would be surprised to learn that the ancient contests were quite different from our own, and that Greek athletes were not amateurs.

A generation ago the study of ancient sport focused on antiquarian concerns--how Greeks threw the discus or how far they could jump. Glossing over the violent, erotic, and materialistic aspects of Greek sport, and downplaying abuses and opportunism, scholars simply accepted idealistic notions about who these athletes were and why they competed. Now, using a variety of evidence, we are demythologizing the ancient Olympics. Excavations at Olympia and at the sites of other games have led to a new understanding of athletic participation and the role of spectators in ancient sport. Archaeology and art history, especially epigraphy and the reexamination of vase paintings, have allowed us to test and revise ancient literary accounts of how athletes trained, worshiped, competed, won, and celebrated, and how they were motivated, rewarded, and honored.

Every four years heralds traveled throughout the ancient Greek world proclaiming a sacred truce, affording safe passage through any state for all travelers to and from the games. All Greeks were invited to attend or compete in the great festival and games at the sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia. And come they did, from 776 B.C. (the traditional date of the first Olympiad) to at least the late fourth century A.D., making the games the most enduring of Greek institutions. These panhellenic gatherings were vital to Greek ethnicity. They were multinational, but only free, male Greeks could compete. At Olympia visitors and participants from Greek city-states throughout the Mediterranean shared a common culture in which religious piety and enthusiasm for sport were of pivotal importance. By the mid-sixth century Olympia had emerged as the pinnacle of a circuit of four great panhellenic sacred "crown" games with wreaths awarded to the victors. The others, at the sanctuaries of Delphi, Isthmia, and Nemea, were held sequentially, with at least one festival each year culminating in the finale at Olympia. Named after the winner in the men's sprint race, the Olympiads provided a common chronology at a time when each city-state had its own calendar.

Athletics were only part of a religious festival at Olympia that honored Zeus with processions and sacrifices. One end of the original racecourse may have extended close to the Altar of Zeus, where athletes swore oaths on slices of boar's flesh that they would abide by the rules of the games. Athletes competed for the glory of Zeus, and the ancient Greeks felt that victors were divinely favored. The sole prize was a crown of olive leaves cut from Zeus' sacred grove. Over time the competitions became a larger part of the festival, with more events and expanded facilities, but the games never became fully secular.

Excavations have taken place at Olympia for more than a century, but interpretations of the early history of the site have recently been revised. Archaeologists now suggest that major athletic events were not part of the earliest festivals at Olympia. Scholars have claimed variously that the original contests served as sacred rituals, funeral games, offerings to gods, initiations, or reenactments of myths. The second-century A.D. traveler Pausanias and others recount myths that Herakles founded the games to honor Zeus or that they were established by King Pelops after winning a chariot race against King Oinomaos of Pisa. Traditions also speak of a refounding or reorganization of the games during the Greek Dark Age (ca. the ninth century B.C.). The earliest literary account of athletic competition, Patroklos' funeral games in Homer's Iliad, reflects the athletic world of the eighth century or earlier. Homer mentions valuable prizes (bronze cauldrons and tripods; horses, cattle, and women; armor and iron) and contests (chariot racing, boxing, wrestling, running, armed combat, discus, archery, and javelin), but his poems contain no specific reference to games at Olympia. Although archaeologists have found evidence of funeral games in the Late Bronze Age (thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C.) elsewhere in Greece (a funerary coffer from Boeotia with scenes of mourning and various contests; vases with scenes of boxers and chariot races), there is no evidence for them at Olympia.

German archaeologists Alfred Mallwitz and Klaus Herrmann reject the idea of Mycenaean games associated with Pelops and argue that cult activities preceded athletics at Olympia. They note that there are earlier remains in the area but those suggesting a sanctuary (e.g. votives) are not older than the Geometric period (from about the tenth century to 750 B.C.), and that the Pelopeion, the shrine of Pelops at Olympia, is later than a stratum of black ash, animal bones, and votive figurines dated to about 700. Recent studies by Catherine Morgan, a Cambridge University archaeologist, and others suggest that the numerous metal figurines and tripods found at Olympia are dedications rather than prizes for athletic competitions. Morgan's study characterizes early Olympia (from the late tenth until the eighth century) as a rural shrine for a rustic cult of Zeus. According to Mallwitz, the oldest wells near the stadium date to the early seventh century. It would appear from the archaeological evidence that the first games, traditionally dated from 776, were humble and local, and that major athletic competitions did not emerge until ca. 700 or even 680, when the addition of equestrian contests allowed more conspicuous displays of the status and resources of competitors. Owning horses in poor and rocky Greece was a sign of great wealth, and Isocrates and Aristotle both wrote that "the breeding of racehorses is possible only for the very rich." Rivalries among emerging city-states contributed to increased participation and intensification of competition.

For centuries the events and facilities at Olympia were spartan for both athletes and spectators. Sources such as Epictetus' Discourses mention the heat, the crowds, the makeshift accommodations, and the poor sanitation. In striking contrast to the grandeur of the temples of Zeus and Hera, the classical stadium was a simple running track outside the sacred precinct. Only judges and diplomatic representatives had permanent stone seats in a small area on the southern embankment. Spectators camped out nearby or came early, standing or sitting on the grassy embankments to watch the competitions.

Held in late summer, the ancient Olympics had no winter events, no water or ball sports, and no oval tracks. There were no women's events, and adult women were barred from attending the games on pain of death. Age classes for men and boys (perhaps from 12 to 17 years old) developed, but there were no team sports and no second prizes. The games included various footraces (of about 200, 400, and at most 4,800 meters) and even a race in armor, but there was no ancient marathon. Olympia also had equestrian events, horse and chariot races for which the owners, not the drivers, were declared the victors. Owners did not even need to be present, and often hired drivers or jockeys, a circumstance allowing monarchs, tyrants, and even women to become Olympic victors. Alcibiades, the Athenian politician and general, entered seven chariots in the games of 416 B.C. We do not know if he personally drove any of them but he "won" first, second, and third or fourth place. Kyniska, daughter of a Spartan king, won the four-horse chariot race in 396 and 392 B.C. According to Suetonius, in A.D. 67 the Roman emperor Nero made a travesty of the games by competing personally in a ten-horse chariot race held for his benefit. Even though he fell from his chariot and did not finish the race, Nero was declared the victor. The Greeks later rejected those games and his victory as unofficial.

There was a pentathlon--discus throw, javelin throw (using a throwing thong), long jump (using hand-held weights), footrace (probably 200 meters), and wrestling--but no decathlon. A debate on the system of choosing the winner in the ancient pentathlon has now gone on longer than the modern Olympics. There are theories about elaborate point systems, lots, byes, rematches, and comparative victories or relative placements, but most scholars favor some system of progressive elimination of competitors down to two opponents who wrestled each other in the final event.

Wrestling, boxing, and the pankration, a combination of the two, were known as "heavy" events because, without weight classes or time limits, bigger athletes dominated. In these events byes were allotted if there was an odd number of entrants, and a competitor might have to face an opponent who had just sat out a round. In the pankration punching, kicking, choking, finger breaking, and blows to the genitals were allowed; only biting and eye gouging were prohibited. A recent study by Michael Poliakoff, a leading authority on ancient combat sports, has shown that pankratiasts could wear light boxing "gloves" made of strips of leather and designed, like all Greek boxing gloves, to protect the hands of the puncher, not the face of the opponent. The bronze boxer at the Terme Museum in Rome and a fragment of a relief on a tombstone at the Kerameikos Museum in Athens show scarred faces, broken noses, and cauliflower ears. Vase paintings of boxing matches show bloody noses. Satirical epigrams claim that boxers became so disfigured their dogs did not recognize them and they could not claim inheritances:

When Odysseus returned safely to his home after 20 years, only his dog Argos recognized him when he saw him. But you, Stratophon, after you have boxed for four hours, neither dogs nor your fellow citizens can recognize. If you will be so kind as to view your face in a mirror, you will affirm with an oath, "I am not Stratophon." (Lucillius, Greek Anthology 11.77, trans. W.E. Sweet)

O Augustus, this man Olympikos, as he now appears, used to have nose, chin, forehead, ears, and eyelids. But then he enrolled in the guild of boxers, with the result that he did not receive his share of his inheritance in a will. For in the lawsuit about the will his brother shows the judge a portrait of Olympikos, who was judged to be an imposter, bearing no resemblance to his own picture. (Lucillius, Greek Anthology 11.75, trans. W.E. Sweet)

Wrestling matches were decided by falls, but boxing and pankration bouts continued until one athlete gave up or was incapacitated. Stories tell of deaths and even a posthumous victory: before he died in a stranglehold, the pankratiast Arrhichion is said to have dislocated his opponent's ankle, forcing him to give up. Athletes had legal immunity in cases of unintentional homicide, but the Olympic judges denied victory to one Kleomedes of Astypalaia, apparently for intentionally killing his opponent in boxing.

Although the number of events at Olympia remained limited, local athletic festivals offered a vast array of competitions in male beauty, dancing in armor, chariot dismounting, torch racing, team events, and more. Epigraphic studies, such as the publication of new victor lists from the Panathenaic Games at Athens and numerous inscriptions recording contests in Hellenistic and Roman times from Alexandria to Aphrodisias, continue to reveal more about games beyond Olympia. The inscriptions reflect the proliferation of prizes, honors, and festivals throughout the Mediterranean. Some new games were modeled on Olympia, but Olympia and the other panhellenic games remained the most revered. Finally historians and inscriptions record gifts of money and buildings and the patronage of Olympia and athletes by such famous figures as Herod, king of Judaea, and Roman emperors including Hadrian.

Historians debate whether "sport" as we know it is a modern phenomenon--the word has no classical equivalent--or a continuation of ancient traditions. Some see modern sport as distinctive in its secularism and its concern with quantification and records, but others see ancient and modern sport as part of a continuum, an enduring heritage. Whether sport is modern or timeless, great athletes have always understood effort and agony. On occasion the media undermine our sense of athletic awe by bringing us too close, showing anorexic beauties and anabolic beasts. Who were the athletes of Greece, and how different were they? How were they prepared and rewarded? What motivated them to risk shame and injury? How did they react to victory and sudden fame? How did they see themselves, and what was their place in society?

Ancient competitors went to Olympia on their own initiative and at their own expense; they were not screened at home by athletic trials or officially supported by local committees. Access to state gymnasiums was usually open and free, but training required time, money, and instruction. Although there were a few state entries in chariot races, for centuries after the games began there is no certain evidence of state subsidies for athletes, so family resources were an important advantage. The first evidence for government subsidies is an inscription from Ephesos, dated to about 300 B.C., that records a trainer's request for funds for an athlete. Other inscriptions show both the continuing involvement of the urban elite, who sometimes referred to themselves as the "gymnasium class" and who received physical training as youths (epheboi) in young men's organizations, as well as the rise, from the first century B.C. on, of guilds of full-time vocational athletes (with membership certificates, officers, and pensions). Olympians had to swear that they had been in training for ten months, and for one month prior to the games they had to train at Elis, the city that hosted the festival and games at nearby Olympia. At Elis they were scrutinized, sometimes punished for fouls or disobedience, and possibly removed from competition if determined to be unworthy athletically by priestly judges equipped with unchallenged authority and whipping sticks.

By roughly the sixth century athletes were specializing in particular events and hiring expert coaches to hone their skills. Training was intensive and there were experiments and fads concerning diet, exercise, and sex. Fads led some athletes to favor cheese, figs, or grain, others to distrust fish or pork. Possibly influenced by the sixth-century philosopher Pythagoras or the medical school at Kroton, athletes from Kroton in southern Italy believed in the value of a meat diet and saw the consumption of beans as taboo. Milo of Kroton, the greatest Olympic wrestler, reputedly ate 40 pounds of meat and bread at one sitting, washing it down with eight quarts of wine. In the Laws Plato notes that Ikkos of Tarentum, a victor in the Olympic pentathlon (perhaps in 444 B.C.), was said never to have touched a woman, or a boy, while in training. Weight lifting was not an event nor was it a major part of training, for which shadow boxing, punching bags, and even dancing were recommended. Flute music often accompanied training, and many festivals included contests for musicians, dancers, and heralds.

The basic equipment of an athlete consisted only of an unguent jar (aryballos) of oil and a scraping instrument (strigil) for anointing and cleaning himself, though for various events a competitor might need other gear: a pick to soften the ground, boxing thongs, jumping weights, discus, or javelin. He had no shoes, no jockstrap, no uniform, and no endorsements. As Plato said in the Republic, classical Greeks, unlike barbarians, were not ashamed to appear in the nude. This custom may have been introduced in the eighth century, and by the sixth it was the norm. Ancient explanations for the nudity of competitors at Olympia (only chariot drivers were clothed) included safety or improved performance: speculative anecdotes recorded by Pausanias and Isidore suggest that one early runner dropped his loincloth intentionally and ran better without it, and that another was killed when his loincloth slipped down and tripped him. In contrast, modern theories of athletic nudity and even of the practice of infibulation (tying up the foreskin) favor cultic explanations: nudity was a costume, a state of ritual purity as in rites of passage; nudity and wreaths were remnants of hunters' rituals; or athletes were proclaiming their sexual abstinence. Only recently have we begun to admit that ancient athletics had an erotic dimension. Kalos inscriptions or love-names appear on many drinking vessels with athletic scenes, and the entrance tunnel to the stadium at Nemea bears a graffito in which one athlete applauds the beauty of Akrotatos, probably the Spartan prince and king from 265 to 252 B.C. Vase paintings show handsome young athletes pursued by mature men with gifts of hares and gaming cocks, and in literature wrestling was a metaphor for sex. Gymnasium hours were regulated and boys were carefully supervised, because, as Mark Golden, a scholar of Greek childhood, puts it, gymnasiums were "prime pick-up points."

The historian Herodotus tells how the Persian king Xerxes, on hearing that Olympia awarded only wreath prizes, marveled that Greeks competed not for material reward but "only for honor." Then as now, however, Olympic victory brought more than its own rewards. Until the 1970s it was said that early Olympic athletes were idealistic, noble amateurs but that over time specialization, material rewards, and lower-class professionals corrupted athletics. Rejecting this scenario, revisionist scholars led by classicist David C. Young have concluded that the notion of amateurism in Greek sport is anachronistic, that the Greeks had neither the concept of nor a word for amateur athletics, and that ancient victors, whatever their background, accepted valuable prizes and benefits eagerly and with impunity. The prize wreath at Olympia was symbolic, but home cities rewarded Olympic victors substantially with cash bonuses, free meals, and more. In the sixth century Solon legislated rewards of 500 drachmas (more than $300,000) for Athenian Olympic victors. Athletes usually represented their native cities, but they could compete for another state. Astylos of Kroton, the first known free agent, won races at Olympia in 488 and 484 for Kroton, but then won races in 480 for Syracuse. States such as Athens, Kos, Macedon, and Syracuse realized that games were good publicity and good business, and they promoted their games and athletes through prizes, coins, and monuments. Beyond the "crown" games, there were many local games offering valuable material prizes and sometimes even appearance money for stars. Victory in the men's sprint at the Panathenaic Games brought a prize of 100 amphoras of olive oil (the equivalent of $67,000).

Debate continues on the class origins and social status and mobility of athletes. Competitors from lower classes were not excluded but, even with the proliferation of material rewards, they were at a disadvantage concerning leisure time and finances for training and travel. Aristocrats certainly did compete, and later tales of rustics becoming early victors may be romantic fabrications. One epigram, attributed to the poet Simonides, speaks of a victor who used to be a fish porter, but Aristotle comments that the man's accomplishment was exceptional. Some famous athletes, such as Milo and the renowned pentathlete Phayllos, went on to be leaders in war and politics. Often, however, it is impossible to tell if an ancient athlete had status and resources before or because of his victory.

We have no autobiographies or diaries that describe what went through the minds of ancient athletes. At best, commissioned victory odes, epigrams, and statues tell us how athletes wanted to be regarded. From whatever class and however mixed their motives, athletes embraced and espoused a traditional, aristocratic athletic value system with themes of piety, endurance (ponos), and humility (aidos). Although they accepted material prizes and rewards, ancient athletes referred to them as gifts (dora) not wages (misthos), matters of glory (kleos) not greedful gain (kerdos). Artistic scenes of victorious athletes being crowned usually depict them with downcast eyes and a modest posture. Ancient athletes, however, cheated earlier and more often than purists would like to believe. Even Homer mentions foul play and the dangers of excessive competitiveness in the games honoring Patroklos: While spectators wagered and bickered at the finish line, Antilochos nearly caused an accident in the chariot race by driving dangerously and refusing to yield; afterward he and Menelaos nearly came to blows in a dispute over placements and prizes.

Although they swore a sacred oath to abide by the rules, ancient Olympians sought unfair advantages. False starting in a race brought whipping, as did infractions in combat sports. Inscriptions show that as early as the sixth century the judges at Olympia had established rules against cheating in wrestling. An inscription of the last quarter of the sixth century from Olympia declares: "The wrestler shall not break any finger...the judge shall punish by striking except on the head..." (trans. J. Ebert).

By the fourth century, bronze statues of Zeus, known as Zanes and paid for from fines for lying, bribery, and cheating, lined the route to the Olympic stadium. Pausanias says the first six statues were established in the 98th Olympiad (388 B.C.) when the boxer Eupolos of Thessaly bribed his opponents. An inscription on the base of one of the first statues declares that "an Olympic victory is to be won not by money but by swiftness of foot or strength of body" (trans. S.G. Miller). Inscriptions on other bases similarly urge piety and warn against violations. In A.D. 93 an Alexandrian athlete who arrived late was expelled and fined for lying. He had claimed being delayed by weather when in fact he had been delayed by competing in prize games in Ionia. A fellow Alexandrian exposed his lie and was declared the victor without a fight. Lead curse tablets show that athletes even tried to hex rivals at Isthmia and elsewhere with pleas to underworld deities such as "let them not prevail in running."

Greek athletes also knew stress and pressure. Competing individually, they nonetheless represented their families, communities, and city-states. Carrying the heavy burden of a great investment of effort and emotion onto the track, Olympians gave their all for god and country. Participation was not enough; winning was the only thing. Pindar (518-438 B.C.), the greatest poet of victory odes, says that athletic victory was the greatest height to which mortals can aspire; he also writes of defeated athletes slinking home by back streets.

Victors were feasted and feted at Olympia by relatives and countrymen. Sometimes things got out of hand: Alcibiades, to his discredit, used sacred vessels for a party celebrating his chariot victory. Most ancient Olympians, however, probably would have said that their feelings could not be expressed in words, that their victories were neither won by themselves alone, nor for themselves alone, and that it was all worth it. As ancient Greeks they would have felt an obligation to thank the gods, and as victors they would have felt the urge to celebrate the moment and commemorate the achievement. Most athletes apparently followed traditional customs: a party followed by a dedication of the wreath or a votive to an appropriate deity. Among the many exciting finds at Nemea was a votive pit containing a pentathlete's equipment--an iron discus and javelin points, a lead jumping weight, and a strigil--and drinking cups from 550-525 B.C.

More celebrations, songs, and commemorations awaited victors returning home. Sometimes a city would put up a statue of a local victor, and local veneration over time could reach the level of a hero cult. Theagenes of Thasos, who won the boxing (480 B.C.) and pankration (476 B.C.) at Olympia, claimed some 1,400 wins in his long career. After his death his city commissioned a statue of him that became the focus of a hero cult. Supposedly an enemy of Theagenes flogged the statue, whereupon it fell on him and killed him. When thrown into the sea, the statue brought famine to Thasos until it was restored. Major victories brought privileges, including free meals and seats of honor at civic gatherings for life. Years later one might still be known as "the athlete" or "the stadion-runner." Athletic fame sometimes even brought wartime clemency. During the Peloponnesian War Athens freed without ransom Doreius of Rhodes, a thrice victorious Olympic pankratiast. Alexander the Great, who supposedly disliked athletics, spared the home of Pindar while destroying Thebes in 335, and later freed the Theban Olympic victor Dionysiodoros captured after the Battle of Issus in 333 B.C.

The Greek athlete's world was not without its critics. Protests against the inappropriateness of honors for athletes rather than intellectuals reverberated, with no effect. Aristophanes' Clouds laments the passage of the "good old days" of proper and proficient gymnastic education, and the writings of Euripides and Plato contain criticisms and caricatures of athletes as unnatural, overdeveloped, socially burdensome, and unsophisticated louts: "the worst of the thousand ills of Greece." However, the archaeological record--stadiums and gymnasiums, dedications, prizes, and artworks--shows that society at large, then as now, heralded games and athletes as cultural treasures. Even Plato admitted that the majority of Greeks deemed the life of Olympic victors "most happy," and, in his Myth of Er, Atalanta chooses the life of an athlete because of its great honors. Ancient Greeks would have agreed with the sentiment expressed in Homer's Odyssey that, "There is no greater fame for a man than that which he wins with his footwork or the skills of his hands" (trans. S.G. Miller).

Originally Posted: Archaeology

Alexander, Piece by Piece

In 2003, a team of artists from the International Center for the Study and Teaching of Mosaic (CISIM) in Ravenna, Italy, made an ambitious proposal to the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii: create an exact copy of the Alexander Mosaic and install it in its original home. More than two years, 16,000 hours of work, and $216,000 later, the most famous mosaic to survive from the ancient Roman world once again adorns Pompeii's House of the Faun.

One of the iconic images of the great Macedonian leader, the mosaic depicts a confrontation between Alexander and the Persian king Darius in the fourth century B.C. Since 1843, the mosaic has hung on the wall of the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, safe from the feet of Pompeii's two million plus yearly visitors, as well as from the rain and sun that have damaged the whole site. So why bring Alexander back to Pompeii? The House of the Faun was once Pompeii's biggest and most impressive urban villa, filled with simple but elegant decorations designed to demonstrate the vast wealth of the house's owners. But today, although the sheer size of the house is still clear, the brightly colored paintings and mosaics, the gleaming marble and bronze statues, the fountains, and the hustle and bustle of a palatial villa are gone. Superintendent Pietro Giovanni Guzzo wants to change that. "I want visitors to have the impression that they are entering the same luxurious house in which the ancient Pompeian owners lived before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79."

Originally posted:

Alexander's Isthmus, Tyre, Lebanon

There is no shortage of stories about Alexander the Great's military accomplishments. One of them, his 332 B.C. conquering of the seemingly impenetrable Phoenician island fortress of Tyre, was revised a bit this year. History tells us that Alexander, after laying siege to the massive fort for seven months, made his final assault by having his engineers build a half-mile causeway connecting the island to the mainland--a stunning feat.

But a study published in May posits that Alexander got assistance from a submerged sandbar, so he crossed water only a yard or two deep. Geoarchaeologist Nick Marriner, of France's National Center of Scientific Research, and his colleagues also theorize that the bridge or causeway that Alexander's army built altered coastal currents and the flow of sand, helping permanently join the island of Tyre with the mainland. It's always fascinating when archaeology and other forms of science can be applied to the historical record. In this case, geoarchaeology explains not only how Alexander made his assault, but also how he actually reshaped Lebanon's coastline.

Arrian: Alexander Seeks Darius

pp.158-159, Book Three

My book opened up to this page, and because I just mentioned Mazaeus
in the Pierre Briant excerpt, I found this interesting paragraph...

Alexander reached Thapsacus in August, during the archonship of
Aristophanes in Athens. Two bridges were already across the river.
For some time previously, Mazaeus, under orders from the Persian
King, had been guarding the approaches to the river with a force of
3,000 mounted troops, two-thirds of them Greek mercenaries; and for
this reason the Macedonians had not carried their bridge to the
further bank, lest the enemy should attack it from their end.
Mazaeus,however, no sooner got wind of Alexander's approach than he
made off at his best speed with all his men, whereupon, the two
bridges were promptly completed and Alexander was able to use them to
get his army across

and this paragraph appears later...

While the troops were resting, there was an almost total eclipse of
the moon, and Alexander offered sacrifice to Moon, Sun, and Earth,
the three deities supposed to be concerned in this phenomenon. The
opinion of Aristander, the seer, was that the moon's failure was
propitious for Alexander and the Macedonians, and that the coming
battle would be fought before the month was out; he concluded,
moreover, that the sacrifices portended victory

I used both paragraphs because one, the reference to Mazaeus
fascinates me since Pierre Brinat has pointed out that he was the
first of the Persians to be appointed a responsible positon, and the
second for the reason that Alexander is so dependent upon the
soothsayer or seers readings of the sacrifices and interpretations of
portents. This latter demonstrating the significance and importance
of the spiritual to Alexander which I maintain must not be discounted
in appreciating Alexander's devotion to his sacrifices and his duty.

Again, I take the responsibility of writing these passages as
my "psychic" pull is what opens the page for me, and I then follow up
with my beliefs.

There is actually more on these two pages about some of Darius's
troops who have been taken and interrogated. Because of seeing the
movie Pride and Glory which I discussed in a separate post, I cannot
help but wonder at interrogation techniques, as to how abusive or
torturous they may have been.

Something else occurred in that film that hit a nerve in me when the
torturous treatment given to a victim in this film reminded me of the
Plutarch article that I had found, as the word "splinters" jumped out
at me.

When I had my teeth pulled, I also found "splinters" from the wisdom
teeth area, and that along with the dialogue in the movie PG made me
think as the autopsy produced teeth and "splinters" in the man's
esophagus proving that he had been tortured.

With Alexander it was the shankbone, with the victim in the movie, it
does not directly state, but in my case I know it is in the wisdom
tooth area...I wondered at when this dialogue for the film was
written...sometimes one has to question so called synchronicities or

Just for the record and still mumbling and thinking to myself all the

The genius of Alexander the Great by J.C. Fuller


1. The Succession and the trial of conspirators.

The sight of his father being killed by a Bodyguard must have haunted
Alexander for the rest of his life. The memory made him aware of the
constant danger of assassination, and of the fact that a King could
not trust even the chosen Bodyguard. At the moment the first
priority was the selection of a successor. As many of the King's men
as could be summoned met as an assembly under arms in the theater,
where the corpse of Philip was laid out to witness proceedings.
Antipater, Philip's senior friend, presided. The election was not a
foregone conclusion, because there was known to be some support for
the claims of Amyntas, who had been king as a minor in 359-357, and
some for the sons of Aeropus, king in 397-394. The Friends generally
gathered around Alexander. One of them, Alexander Lyncestus, son of
Aeropus, was the first to shout, 'Alexander, son of Philip'. and the
assembly elected Alexander with a resounding acclamation. The
Friends put on their cuirasses, the King's men clashed their spears
against their shields, and the new king led a procession to the

That is the firt paragraph in chapter 4 of Fuller's book on
Alexander, which can be found on page 27. paperback edition.

It is interesting to me to consider how much Julius Caesar should
have applied that kind of haunting to his own close associates, as
there is little doubt that William Shakespeare in his play on the
topic of Julius Caesar uses the site of Philippi for Caesar's ghost
to return as a reminder of Philips death also.

One cannot help but wonder at the conflicts that raged within
Alexander at the moment of his father's death...fear of his own title
being stripped from him, grief at the loss of a loved one, wonder at
the possibility of succeeding him...all this happening within minutes
and Alexander probably dazed and confused at apprehending the
assassin, and yet having to confront the awesome task of saving his
father if possible...what a powerful moment for all gathered at that
what was to have been a joyful occasion now turned into a tragedy, a
torturous event..

At that moment, Alexander learned who his true friends are, and as
such, we learn how a man can only become a king because of support
from his closest allies and friends.

Alexander can be compared to the winning coach who is carried from
victory on the backs of his players.

But again, Fuller is very perceptive in his understanding of how the
memory would haunt him, and create in him a knowledge that even he
could fall victim to foul play...who can you trust?

As Caesar said so well, Et tu, Brute?

Plutarch on Alexander the Great

At first he wore this habit when he conversed with the barbarians, or
within indoors, with his intimate friends and companions, but
afterwards he appeared in it abroad, when he rode out, and at public
audiences, a sight which the Macedonians beheld with grief; but they
so respected his other virtues and good qualities that they felt it
reasonable to gratify his fancies and his passion of glory, in
pursuit in which he had hazarded himself so far, that, besides his
other adventures,he had but lately been wounded in the leg by an
arrow, which had so shattered the shank-bone that splinters had been
taken out. And on another occasion he had received a violent blow
with a stone on the nape of his neck, which diminished his sight for
a good while afterwards. And yet all this could not hinder him from
exposing himself freely to any dangers, insomuch that he passed the
river Orexartes, which he took to be the Tanais, and putting the
Scythians to flight, followed them above a hundred furlongs, though
suffering all the time from a diarrhea

Well, this paragraph should be entitled So you think you have

In a previous post, we learned from Laura Foreman about his having
had his leg struck at Gaza, and an arrow wound in the shoulder, and
so here again, we find Alexander suffering an arrow wound that
shattered his shinbone. The previous paragraph was describing his
conversion to new wearing apparel, and the next sentence was simply
continuing the thought before embarking upon the descriptions of his
various wounds which he has suffered

In reading this paragraph one realizes that "lost in translation"
probably occurs a lot here. First of all, the logical thing is to
wonder whether this information is a result of studying the
physician's records or if this a result of listening to storytelling.

There is no doubt that the physicians would have maintained full
records which would have given information important to historians
about each and everyone of Alexander's physical problems. The last
line about diarrhea makes me wonder as to why and how that got there
as anyone knows that diarrhea is one way to cripple a person from
performing tasks which require walking, riding, or anything
ambulatory. Of course, as the Mongolians are said to have done, the
Macedonians likewise could have "pooped" all over their horses as
they drove them senselessly. I actually believe that that is the
conclusion that is to be expected in this pithy statement

I cannot help but wonder at how comfortable that would be ride sans
underwear as many note that the Macedonians had done, with runny,
watery poop running down their legs and the horse's backs

So what does all this say about Alexander? As I recall reading a
long time ago, that he was carried around after the stone hit him on
the nape of the neck and the arrow had shattered his shinbone. He
was on a gurney of some kind, so that he had to wait til his wounds
healed before he could go running off again, but he did mend quickly
enough to continue his efforts. All this appears to be condensed in
this paragraph by Plutarch according to the Great Books edition

So again, the author is probably in all likelihood trying to give
Alexander a character study that shows how impervious he is to his
bad luck at receiving so many serious injuries. When one's sight is
impaired it is even more difficult to lead a group of men, but the
idea is that he is undaunted and fearlessly continues to pursue his
enemies, in this case, the Scythians.

The sad part is that this same author is letting the reader know that
the Macedonians were greatly grieved by Alexander's method of
changing costume styles in his dress, yet we know that he had already
noted how readily the inhabitants accepted the Persians instead of
the Greeks. But grief is a strong word, and a very sensitive
word...again this author is trying to convey a message but lets us
know that they forgive him for his other virtues which he then goes
on to name, sustaining injuries without complaint, and valiantly
leading his army to defeat his adversaries. All under the harshest
of conditions...

It is said that Alexander ate little, that he was very circumspect in
his diet, and so one would wonder how and when and where he acquired
the diarrhea. This shows again difficulty with his intestinal tract
which it would appear he has suffered several times...

It is important to realize that this author is making Alexander
appear as having superhuman strength to do all these feats. And the
end result is his army's admiration and devotion to him as they
continue to recognize and respect his own dutiful nature.

But more importantly, it is worthwhile to consider the pain that
Alexander was suffering, when splinters are taken from a shinwound,
and vision impaired. He did not have painkillers such as we have
today and one must imagine at how he groaned and held his tongue when
the leg was examined, cleansed, and set. He knew enough about
medicine himself, having learned from Aristotle, that he could and
did often tend the wounds of his soldiers, so that when it was his
injuries to be set he would have had an advantage in assisting with
the wound with his own compliance to the attendant physician on hand.

He is a man who likes to set an example for others to follow, so
there is little doubt that he would do everything necessary to heal
as quickly and immediately as he could. Again, being the person he
was, he was certainly under the greatest of care, and no doubt, was
nursed hourly until his wounds healed sufficiently for him to carry

After all, there was no other soldier so necessary to the Macedonians
than their leader

The Epic Story of the Warrior King Alexander by Laura F

Alexander was equally confident, as he marched the army south, having
first sent Hephaestion on with the fleet and the seige equipment: If
Tyre fell, surely no city could withstand him. Nevertheless, Gaza
turned out to be a very tough proposition. The seige towers turned out
to be all but useless, sinking deep into the sand that surrounded the
city. In addition, skirmishes with defending raiders were frequent and
bloody. Alexander himself suffered a serious arrow wound in the
shoulder, but characteristically, impatient with physical limitations,
he ignored the pain but set about to pull off another engineering
miracle. He had his men build a wall of sand completely encircling the
city and as high as the hill on which it stood. His heavy catapaults
were then pulled up ramps to the top, from there to launch a barrage
from all sides.

Soon the walls began to give way, and after savage fighting, Gaza fell.
After the final action, Alexander was wounded again, this time by an
artillery stone that smashed into his leg and broke it. Still, he
pressed on, for the road lay open to the richest plum of the ancient
world: Egypt.

This is one of the few times that Hephaestion is mentioned in most
texts on the subject of Alexander. It is interesting that Hephaestion
is invested with power while Parmenio is still very much in command, as
it is most unusual for him to be mentioned in most books that I have

It appears to me that Alexander is placing great confidence in his
abiity to be an advance man.

Laura is quite interesting in her decision to emphasize the wounds that
Alexander receives but at the same time dismisses them to some degree,
not that he could do that totally, but he appears to place his emphasis
on his need to accomplish his goal rather than nursing his own wounds.

Her choice of the word characteristically appeals to me as she implies
that Alexander shrugs off his wounds. Later, we realize that he truly
does not since he makes certain that everyone remember that he too has
suffered frequently and seriously in his leadership of this army.

How he managed to carry on with a broken leg is something to consider,
and I notice that she omits the story of his treatment of the leader of
Gaza which I will omit also. I do not believe it either.

A thought occurred to me when reading this paragraph and that is what
Alexander would have done to Sparta, as Gaza makes me think of Sparta
also. Everyone in the region except Gaza gave in to Alexander and his
rulership, but when Gaza did not, Alexander proved Gaza to be in the
wrong by defeating them so decisively.

I will take liberties in my comments occasionally drawing upon the
experiences that I have in my memory sessions, and her mention of his
ingenious method of surrounding the city and then drawing his seige
engines up the ramps made me once again recall Alexander's mental
capacity and his state of genius. This kind of engineering genius is
something that is innate in Alexander's mental capacity, something that
most ordinary people would never understand, and probably only a few
true genius personalities would comprehend even. He has the mental
talents of an omnisicient godlike being whose intellect instantly
fathoms the situation, realizes the problem, and then as quickly
realizes a solution. Very few people have this innate ability, but it
is one which distinguishes Alexander from all other men around him, and
why it is that he is so revered, so acknowledged, and so celebrated.

Perhaps the gurus of India will appreciate the way in which Alexander
semingly shrugs off his wounds. As again, mind over matter is what
mends his wounds as he moves on to achieve his goals. Alexander is a
mentalist whose mental thoughts enable him to heal quickly rather than
spin into a feel for sorry himself mode where he would nurse his wounds
to prolong the agony.

There is a lot in this short paragraph to consider. I frankly am
impressed with the choices that Laura has made to develop her look at

Alexander the Great by Spanoudakis

This is a visual representation of a music piece titled Alexander the Great by one of Greece's most prominent modern composers: Stamatis Spanoudakis

The Genius of Alexander the Great by N.G.L. Hammond

On the far side of the Euphrates, a Persian commander, Mazaeus, with
3,000 calvary, 2,000 Greek mercenaries, and other infantry held a
defensive position. But on the advance of Alexander he withdrew on
the main Persian road down the Euphrates, probably in the hope that
Alexander would pursue and run short of supplies. Alexander
completed his two bridges, brought his troops and supply-train
across, and waited for some days, perhaps misleading Mazaeus about
his intentions. Then he marched northeastward along the Armenian
foothills to obtain pasture for his horses, use local supplies and
avoid the great heat; for he had to feed some 47,000 men and perhaps
some 20,000 horses and mules. The two armies were completely out of
touch with one another for some six weeks during which the
Macedonians made incursions into Armenia. Alexander was the first to
capture some opponents who revealed that Darius's plan was to capture
the Tigris. 'Alexander went in haste towards the Tigris'; he crossed
its fast-flowing waters with difficulty at an undefended point, for
he was higher up river than Darius had expected. While the army
waited for the supply train, the moon was eclipsed on the evening of
September 20, 331. Alexander restored confidence by sacrificing to
the deities who caused the eclipse - Moon, Sun, and Earth - and
Aristander announced that the eclipse portended victory over Persia
in the present month. Moving south through fertile country Alexander
captured some Persian cavalrymen and learned that Darius was in a
prepared position not far off. He halted for four days to 'rest his
men', fortified a base camp with a ditch and a palisade, and placed
in it his sick and a supply train.

Hammond proves to be one of the more meticulously written sources to
read for an understanding of the realities that Alexander faced in
transporting his army across the Asian countryside. With 47,000 men
who many authors claim that Alexander knew by name and could
recognize at once any of them, it is amazing to believe that
Alexander had recruited so many after each and every battle. Who can
believe that all these men at this point were simply from Macedonia?

When one considers the kind of baggage that each mule carried on its
back, the number of horses that had to be kept not only fed, but
freed from lameness and damaged hooves, one cannot help but realize
that Alexander had to recruit more than just soldiers, but also men
who could simply groom and handle the horses and mules. Not everyone
in this camp was a militant, but along with the pack were scientists,
architects, medics, and naturally, the good old cooks to feed this
vast army.

And every soldier had to double as a construction worker when
building bridges, altars, and temples to worship the deities. No
wonder they were so muscular and strong, as they were laborers in
the field when not training for the battles that lay ahead.

The discipline of this army is extraordinary, and the single unifying
force is always the personality and character of the leader,
Alexander. His personal magnetism, his optimism, his deep interest
in his soldiers made him venerable. His constant attention to
serving the gods with his sacrifices proved to be a talisman of good
luck. The gods never deserted him for his devotion to them.

In understanding how the Macedonians trained their horses, it must be
remembered that they pushed them to the limits, so that these horses
had to be treated and handled with great care. Everything depended
upon them for the success of each and every mission, no matter how
great or how small. When one realizes the speed that many times
Alexander and his calvary accomplished, one must know that the horses
were carefully maintained to achieve this. While Bucephalus is
singled out as Alexander's horse, all the others were just as
important and just as well cared and tended.

Alexander's mind is what is interesting to me in Hammond's study. He
had his men rest for four days. Again, the pack mules and the horses
required constant rest as well.

Another point that Hammond does make is that Alexander was successful
twice to capture the enemy and learn of his position. What is most
important is understanding that these captured soldiers gave truthful
answers when questioned. And what became of them? Do they join his
army? Are they held as prisoners of war?

And finally, the emphasis upon Aristander who is taken literally and
positively when he announces that the eclipse is a good omen, and
that it means that the Macedonians will win the battle. Is this
confidence building? Superstition? Was he simply a true seer?

Fortunately, most of his advice and portents are nearly always wonder Alexander became so reliant upon his advice...