Alexandria's founded by Alexander

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

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Alexander the Great. The Brief Life and Towering Exploits …

Alexander the Great. The Brief Life and Towering Exploits of History’s Greatest Conqueror as told by his Original Biographers. By Brenda Jackson and Ronald L. McDonald. Edited by Tania Gergel. Introduction by Michael Wood. ISBN 0 14 20.0140 6

Just what I wanted, Alexander’s life story “as told by his original biographers” and since it included a foreword by Michael Wood, whom I hold in high esteem, I thought this would be the purchase of my life!

Although it is a noteworthy book where classic authors like Arrian, Plutarch and Curtius Rufus, are skillfully tied together in a pleasant narrative, I ended up feeling that the most interesting section was actually Michael Wood’s introduction. He at least knows how to kindle that sparkle that makes a book interesting and fascinating to read. Brenda Jackson and Ronald L. McDonald's story is more a flat statement of facts and figures from a past that seems even more remote than it already is.

I’ll hang on to Michael Wood’s last introductory sentence where he is quoting Arrian “… It is my belief that … never in the world was there another like him [Alexander]”.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A thought for Roxane, Alexander’s Bactrian wife

At times my mind travels in strange ways or I may simply get carried away by the emotions of the moment as happened recently went I attended a singing performance from Samarkand by a lady called Monajat Yulchieva.

With her velvet voice and natural grace, she was meant to become an opera singer but turned instead to the old tradition of shashmâquam, the typical songs from Uzbekistan. She found inspiration in Sufi texts that matched harmoniously with the string and percussion instruments of her native country. This is how she was announced in the media and somehow I felt I needed to see and hear her on stage (Bozar, Brussels, Sept 2009). This turned out to be quite a revelation, I can assure you! 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a word of what she was singing, so it was all pure emotion that came to me. The first three songs were adaptations from folk songs, but then the sound and expression took an entirely different turn. At times, the tunes reminded me of some Chinese songs; in other parts, the melodies reflected the emptiness of the steppe where the notes were suspended in the thin desert air.

Monajat Yulchieva has a fine appearance, someone you do justice by calling her a lady. Utterly gracious and although no longer in her youngest years, you’ll easily qualify her as very handsome. It was almost evident that my thoughts went to the women Alexander would have met on his journey through that part of Asia, and in particular to Roxane. If she was as beautiful as some ancient writers pretend, she might have looked something like Monajat in her teens. Why not?

Unfortunately, no image of Roxane has come to us and the only way I can visualize her is through Oliver Stone’s movie Alexander but that is as remote as Pietro Antonio Rotari’s painting that was shown recently at the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam (see: Immortal Alexander the Great). So I feel entitled to having my own image of Roxane.

Those who are truly interested in sharing this very special musical experience can watch Monajat Yulchieva on video here. Let me know if I’m right, yes?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All Alexander’s Women: The Facts by Robbert Bosschart

A good book and a good Alexander-book is, in my opinion, a book that brings me new facts or a fresh look at history, and this is exactly what Robbert Bosschart has done in All Alexander’s Women: The Facts (ISBN 1439272018).

He goes straight to the core of the matter in his Foreword already when he states that Alexander the Great would have introduced equal rights for men and women had he lived long enough! To sustain this statement he refers to texts from ancient Persepolis proving that women had an independent place in Persian society from common people up to royalty. In that frame he makes an analysis of the women which surrounded Alexander at home as well as during his extensive campaigns throughout Persia and India. People who are in for a juicy sex story will be disappointed, I’m afraid, for here we are talking not so much about his wives or his affairs, but about women in general - more specifically so about Alexander’s own mother Olympias and his sister Cleopatra, and about Queen Ada of Caria and Queen-Mother Sisygambis of Persia who both had adopted him as their son.

Until last winter when I heard Robbert Bosschart speak for the first time in Amsterdam at an “Alexander-Darius congress” (see my previous comments about his novel) this was all new to me, as it is to most of the Alexander fanatics - I’m certain. It may even make many established historians or archaeologists chuckle at the very idea, but then it seems that if we dig deep enough there is more to Alexander the Great than his conquests, which most authors from antiquity onwards freely emphasize, elaborate and criticize.

To fully appreciate this extensive work and to truly be able to place each woman from callgirl to princess and from spouse to queen in the full context of Alexander, one needs however a serious knowledge of his life otherwise the reader will be lost amidst names and events he cannot connect with. The author luckily offers a couple of time tables, one in the frame of Olympias and Cleopatra and another one with Dates and Facts of Alexander’s Life, which unfortunately are not placed at the beginning of his book where the layman reader would have found helpful points of reference.

Robbert Bosschart treats Alexander’s Women in order of importance (which I find open for discussion) climaxing – obviously - with Queen-Mother Sisygambis. The fully recognized status of woman’s equality seems to go back to the Zoroastrian doctrine backed by Cyrus the Great after conquering the Medes. Bosschart extensively studied the research made by Prof Amélie Kuhrt and Prof. Elizabeth Carney, unveiling and unraveling these aspects which are nearly inexistent in our Western literature.

Since ancient Greeks had no consideration at all for women and treated them as mere trade goods, it is easy to understand why this concept of equality - which must have looked very “Barbarian” in their eyes – was willfully left out of their literature. The macho Roman authors did the same and as a matter of course our Western world was unaware of the customs and habits of the East.

I find this book a highly exciting revelation! Just imagine what our world would have looked like, had Alexander lived long enough to put in place his “merging” of East and West as he undoubtedly planned to when he celebrated the mass wedding in Susa. Not only would our world have known one single ruler, one single currency and one single vehicular language (Greek), but we also would have lived in a society where men and women were each other’s equals. How about that to feed future speculations?

Alexander definitely would have had a hard time to ram this concept through the brains of his Macedonian soldiers as well as through those of the Greeks at the home front, but then Persia would have been so much more powerful that it could have swallowed Greece and our Western culture in its own ancestral pattern of governing and thinking.

Bosschart makes little or no effort to set out on speculations about how these feminine influences could have contributed to the expansion of Alexander’s Empire– but then he would not have been true to his chosen title: The Facts, for that is what this book is about.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m once again amazed by the genius of Alexander the Great. This is so far apart from the great Greek philosophers and writers where even the great Aristotle could not have swallowed the very idea. It is still far beyond our generally accepted (Western) approach of history which the eons have imposed on us. How could one man be so versatile and knowledgeable to not only conquer the lands, build new cities, organize the men in power, promote the arts, stimulate the economy and still conceive such a grand vision as to create one world in which we all would have been brothers and sisters with the same rights? An impossible mission, most of us will say, but then who has ever really given it a try?

This title is also available as an ebook (ISBN: (1439272018)

It will be interesting for the Spanish speaking aficionados to know that this book is also available in their own language as “Todas las Mujeres de Alejandro Magno” (ISBN: 978-84-15160-68-7) and as eBook (ISBN 788415425687)