Tomb Near Serres Wife, Son of Alexander?

Αrchaeologists from the 28th Ephorate of Antiquities unearthed a tomb in the city of Amphipolis, near Serres, northern Greece, which they believe could belong to the wife and son of Alexander the Great, Roxane and Alexander IV.
The circular precinct is three meters, or nearly 10 feet high and its perimeter is about 500 metes, or 1,640 feet surrounding the tomb located in an urban area close to the small city of Amphipolis. The head of the team, Katerina Peristeri noted that it is too soon to talk with certainty about the identities of the discovery.
“Of course this precinct is one we have never seen before, neither in Vergina nor anywhere else in Greece. There is no doubt about this. However, any further associations with historic figures or presumptions cannot be yet made because of the severe lack of evidence and finances that will not allow to continue the excavations at least for the time being,” she added.
The area has since 1965 been known as Kasta Tom, but these are the first excavations to take place there. The project began without any secured funds, which resulted in only parts of the impressive site coming to light. Analysts suggested that conclusions about the owners of the tomb cannot be drawn without first unearthing the tombs and discovering evidence about their identities.
Nevertheless, local authorities and media rushed into claiming and believing that the tomb belongs to Alexander’s wife and son, who, according to legend, had been ostracized to Macedonia after Alexander’s death. There the 12-year-old Alexander the IV and his mother Roxane were murdered. Tradition has it that the two victims were buried in Amphipolis but no evidence so far has proved this.

Alexander the not so Great: History through Persian eyes

Alexander the Great is portrayed as a legendary conqueror and military leader in Greek-influenced Western history books but his legacy looks very different from a Persian perspective.

Any visitor of the spectacular ruins of Persepolis - the site of the ceremonial capital of the ancient Persian Achaemenid empire, will be told three facts: it was built by Darius the Great, embellished by his son Xerxes, and destroyed by that man, Alexander.

That man Alexander, would be the Alexander the Great, feted in Western culture as the conqueror of the Persian Empire and one of the great military geniuses of history.

Indeed, reading some Western history books one might be forgiven for thinking that the Persians existed to be conquered by Alexander.

A more inquisitive mind might discover that the Persians had twice before been defeated by the Greeks during two ill-fated invasions, by Darius the Great in 490BC and then his son, Xerxes, in 480BC - for which Alexander's assault was a justified retaliation.

But seen through Persian eyes, Alexander is far from "Great".

He razed Persepolis to the ground following a night of drunken excess at the goading of a Greek courtesan, ostensibly in revenge for the burning of the Acropolis by the Persian ruler Xerxes.

Persians also condemn him for the widespread destruction he is thought to have encouraged to cultural and religious sites throughout the empire.

The emblems of Zoroastrianism - the ancient religion of the Iranians - were attacked and destroyed. For the Zoroastrian priesthood in particular - the Magi - the destruction of their temples was nothing short of a calamity.

The influence of Greek language and culture has helped establish a narrative in the West that Alexander's invasion was the first of many Western crusades to bring civilisation and culture to the barbaric East.

But in fact the Persian Empire was worth conquering not because it was in need of civilising but because it was the greatest empire the world had yet seen, extending from Central Asia to Libya.

Persia was an enormously rich prize.

Look closely and you will find ample evidence that the Greeks admired the Persian Empire and the emperors who ruled it.

Much like the barbarians who conquered Rome, Alexander came to admire what he found, so much so that he was keen to take on the Persian mantle of the King of Kings.

And Greek admiration for the Persians goes back much earlier than this.

Xenophon, the Athenian general and writer, wrote a paean to Cyrus the Great - the Cyropaedia - showering praise on the ruler who showed that the government of men over a vast territory could be achieved by dint of character and force of personality:

"Cyrus was able to penetrate that vast extent of country by the sheer terror of his personality that the inhabitants were prostrate before him…," wrote Xenophon, "and yet he was able at the same time, to inspire them all with so deep a desire to please him and win his favour that all they asked was to be guided by his judgment and his alone.

"Thus he knit to himself a complex of nationalities so vast that it would have taxed a man's endurance merely to traverse his empire in any one direction."

Later Persian emperors Darius and Xerxes both invaded Greece, and were both ultimately defeated. But, remarkably, Greeks flocked to the Persian court.

The most notable was Themistocles, who fought against Darius's invading army at Marathon and masterminded the Athenian victory against Xerxes at Salamis.

Falling foul of Athenian politics, he fled to the Persian Empire and eventually found employment at the Persian Court and was made a provincial governor, where he lived out the rest of his life.

In time, the Persians found that they could achieve their objectives in Greece by playing the Greek city states against each other, and in the Peloponnesian War, Persian money financed the Spartan victory against Athens.

The key figure in this strategy was the Persian prince and governor of Asia Minor, Cyrus the Younger, who over a number of years developed a good relationship with his Greek interlocutors such that when he decided to make his fateful bid for the throne, he was able to easily recruit some 10,000 Greek mercenaries.

Unfortunately for him, he died in the attempt.

Soldier, historian and philosopher Xenophon was among those recruited, and he was full of praise for the prince of whom he said: "Of all the Persians who lived after Cyrus the Great, he was most like a king and the most deserving of an empire."

There is a wonderful account provided by Lysander, a Spartan general, who happened to visit Cyrus the Younger in the provincial capital at Sardis.

Lysander recounts how Cyrus treated him graciously and was particularly keen to show him his walled garden - paradeisos, the origin of our word paradise - where Lysander congratulated the prince on the beautiful design.

When, he added, that he ought to thank the slave who had done the work and laid out the plans, Cyrus smiled and pointed out that he had laid out the design and even planted some of the trees.

On seeing the Spartan's reaction he added: "I swear to you by Mithras that, my health permitting, I never ate without having first worked up a sweat by undertaking some activity relevant either to the art of war or to agriculture, or by stretching myself in some other way."

Astonished, Lysander applauded Cyrus and said: "You deserve your good fortune Cyrus - you have it because you are a good man."

Alexander would have been familiar with stories such as these. The Persian Empire was not something to be conquered as much as an achievement to be acquired.

Although characterised by the Persians as a destroyer, a reckless and somewhat feckless youth, the evidence suggests that Alexander retained a healthy respect for the Persians themselves.

Alexander came to regret the destruction his invasion caused. Coming across the plundered tomb of Cyrus the Great in Pasargad, a little north of Persepolis, he was much distressed by what he found and immediately ordered repairs to be made.

Had he lived beyond his 32 years, he may yet have restored and repaired much more. In time, the Persians were to come to terms with their Macedonian conqueror, absorbing him, as other conquerors after him, into the fabric of national history.

And thus it is that in the great Iranian national epic, the Shahnameh, written in the 10th Century AD, Alexander is no longer a wholly foreign prince but one born of a Persian mother.

It is a myth, but one that perhaps betrays more truth than the appearance of history may like to reveal.

Like other conquerors who followed in his footsteps even the great Alexander came to be seduced and absorbed into the idea of Iran.

Originaly posted @ BBC News by Prof. Ali Ansari

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Who Killed Alexander the Great?

James Romm examines some intriguing new theories about a long-standing historical mystery.

In Babylon on June 11th, 323 bc, at about 5pm, Alexander the Great died aged 32, having conquered an empire stretching from modern Albania to eastern Pakistan. The question of what, or who, killed the Macedonian king has never been answered successfully. Today new theories are heating up one of history’s longest-running cold cases.

Like the death of Stalin, to which it is sometimes compared, the death of Alexander poses a mystery that is perhaps insoluble but nonetheless irresistible. Conspiracy buffs have been speculating about it since before the king’s body was cold, but recently there has been an extraordinary number of new accusers and new suspects. Fuel was added to the fire by Oliver Stone’s Alexander, released in 2004 with new versions in 2006 and 2008: a film that, whatever its artistic flaws, presents a historically informed theory about who killed Alexander and why.

Few events have been as unexpected as the death of Alexander. The king had shown fantastic reserves of strength during his 12-year campaign through Asia, enduring severe hardships and taking on strenuous combat roles. Some had come to think of him as divine, an idea fostered, and perhaps entertained, by Alexander himself. In 325, fighting almost single-handed against South Asian warriors, Alexander had one of his lungs pierced by an arrow, yet soon afterwards he made the most arduous of his military marches, a 60-day trek along the barren coast of southern Iran.

Consequently, when the king fell gravely ill and died two years later, the shock felt by his 50,000-strong army was intense. So was the confusion about who would next lead it, for Alexander had made no plans for succession and had as yet produced no legitimate heir (though one would be born shortly after his death). The sudden demise of such a commanding figure would indeed turn out to be a catastrophic turning point, the start of a half-century of instability and strife known today as the Wars of the Successors.

Events of such magnitude inevitably prompt a search for causes. It is disturbing to think that blind chance – a drink from the wrong stream or a bite from the wrong mosquito – put the ancient world on a perilous new course. An explanation that keeps the change in human hands may in some ways be reassuring, even though it involves a darker view of Alexander’s relations with his Companions, the inner circle of friends and high-ranking officers that surrounded him in Babylon.

Ancient historians have reached no consensus on the cause of Alexander’s death, though many attribute it to disease. In 1996 Eugene Borza, a scholar specialising in ancient Macedon, took part in a medical board of inquiry at the University of Maryland, which reached a diagnosis of typhoid fever; Borza has since defended that finding in print. Malaria, smallpox and leukaemia have also been proposed, with alcoholism, infection from the lung wound and grief – Alexander’s close friend Hephaestion had died some months earlier – often seen as complicating factors. But some historians are unwilling to identify a specific illness, or even to choose between illness or murder: two Alexander experts who once made this choice (one on each side) later changed their opinions to undecided.

With historical research at an impasse, Alexander sleuths are reaching out for new ideas and new approaches. Armed with reports from toxicologists and forensic pathologists and delving themselves into criminal psychology, they are re-opening the Alexander file as an ongoing murder investigation.

The idea that Alexander was murdered first gained wider attention in 2004, thanks to the ending of Stone’s film. In its epilogue Alexander’s senior general Ptolemy (played by Anthony Hopkins), looking back over decades at his commander’s death, declares: ‘The truth is, we did kill him. By silence, we consented … Because we couldn’t go on.’ Ptolemy then instructs the alarmed scribe recording his words to destroy what he has just written and start again. ‘You shall write: He died of disease, and in weakened condition.’

The idea that Alexander’s generals felt pushed too far by their master and colluded in his murder in order to stop him did not arise out of Stone’s famously plot-prone imagination. There is some evidence that not even Alexander’s senior commanders were willing to follow him anywhere. In India in 325 bc, at the eastern edge of the Indus river system, Alexander’s army staged a sit-down strike, when ordered to march eastward towards the Ganges. Even the highest ranking officers took part in the mutiny. Stone considered this episode a forerunner of the later murder conspiracy, since Alexander was again planning vast new campaigns at the time of his death. ‘I can’t believe that these men were going on with Alexander’ to Arabia and Carthage, he said in a 2008 interview at the University of California, Berkeley.

Stone likewise drew on historical research for the idea that Ptolemy masterminded a cover-up of Alexander’s murder, but the waters he is wading in here are very murky indeed. The account Ptolemy tells his scribe to compose at the end of Alexander apparently represents a controversial ancient document called the Royal Journals. Though now lost it was summarised (in different versions) by Arrian and Plutarch, two Greek writers of the Roman Empire, who endorsed it as the most reliable record of Alexander’s last days. Some scholars, led by the Australian classicist Brian Bosworth, believe the Royal Journals were falsified to make Alexander’s death appear natural, just as Stone’s film represents (though in Bosworth’s view the culprit was Eumenes, Alexander’s court secretary, rather than Ptolemy). Others disagree, taking the Journals to be just what Arrian and Plutarch thought they were, an undoctored, day-by-day eyewitness account.

The debate over the Royal Journals has huge implications for our understanding of Alexander’s death, because Arrian and Plutarch describe that event very differently to other ancient sources. Both authors say that Alexander became feverish after leaving a drinking party at the home of a friend named Medius. His fever grew worse over the course of 10 or 12 days (the two accounts differ in chronology), leading finally to a paralytic state in which the king could neither move nor speak. As his troops shuffled past his sickbed, Arrian reports, Alexander could only shift his eyes to say farewell to each one. Death followed the next day.

Originaly Posted: History Today