WORLD FUTURE FUND
ALEXANDER THE GREAT IN EGYPT
A POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS REVOLUTION
THE CREATION OF A GOD KING
In this article we are going to talk about a defining person in world history. We are going to talk about Alexander the Great. Now unlike what you may have been taught in History class, ancient Athens and Sparta were not major super powers in the ancient world. They were city states. And the city state of Athens fell apart after the imperialistic blunders of Pericles during the Peloponnesian War. What was a super power in the ancient world was the empire of Persia, which was a geopolitical colossus of the first order, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Himalayan Mountains in what is today India and Pakistan.
Now after the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta had both been severely weakened. So it was actually a state on the periphery of Greek civilization, (a state considered to be "country bumpkins" by many of Athen's elite) that ended up taking over the whole of Greece. We are talking about the state of Macedon.
Now normally it would've just stopped there and you would've had a new set of masters for Greece, except for the arrival on the stage of history one of the most extraordinary as well as one of the most brutal military geniuses in history, Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great decided to take on the Persian empire, which at the time seemed almost improbable considering the size of his military resources vis-à-vis the Persian military. But he did not listen to those who told him he couldn't do it, and he eventually conquered Persia in a series of brilliant military victories.
This article is not going to be an extensive biography of everything that Alexander the Great did in his lifetime. What we would like to focus on is Alexander's time in Egypt. His experience in Egypt led to a series of strange and fascinating events, where he was declared a God-King, and the living son of God by the Oracle at Ammon at the Siwa Oasis.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT ARRIVES IN EGYPT
AND IS MADE PHARAOH
In 332 B.C, Alexander the Great arrived with his armies in Egypt after winning a set of stunning military victories against the Persians. In particular was the Battle of Issus (in what is modern day Turkey), that had resulted in the fleeing of King Darius III from the battlefield. Many historians (such as Arrian) state that this battle marked the beginning of the end for the Persians, and the rise of Hellenic power.
Arrian states the following about Alexander's arrival in Egypt:
When Alexander arrived in Egypt with his armies, Mazaces simply handed over the treasury's 800 talents and all the "royal furniture." In return, Mazaces was kept as part of the new administration.
According to the historian Siculus, Alexander also received a friendly reception by the Egyptian people themselves, because they had not been treated very well by the Persians.
In fact, he was even crowned Pharaoh of Egypt in in Memphis on November 14, 332 B.C. They gave him the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and named in the incarnation of Ra and Osiris.
From what we can tell in historical accounts, Alexander seemed to be very open to Egyptian religion and traditions. Arrian says the following about his stay in Egypt:
While in Egypt, Alexander also attended a lecture by the philosopher Psammon.
ALEXANDER'S FOUNDING OF ALEXANDRIA
After the conquest of Egypt, Alexander had a desire to found a populous Greek city and name it after himself. Plutarch says the following about the founding of Alexandria:
Apparently this omen would come true, because not only would Alexandria become a well-populated city, but its library would become the intellectual center of the ancient world, and the giant lighthouse at Pharos, Alexandria, would become one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Arrian also says that Alexander made sure that there would be places allocated for temples to both Greek and Egyptian gods:
ALEXANDER IS PRONOUNCED THE SON OF GOD
BY THE ORACLE OF AMMON AT THE OASIS OF SIWA
One of the stranger events in Alexander's stay in Egypt was his journey to the temple of Ammon at the Oasis of Siwa. He had a desire to go to this temple because the Oracle of Ammon was said to be exact in its information, and Perseus and Hercules were said to have consulted it (Arrian). In addition to having a desire to emulate Perseus and Hercules, he also was interested in his own pedigree. Just as Perseus and Hercules were the son of Gods, he also believed that this was his situation.
However, if you understand the geography of ancient Egypt, this was a mind-boggling decision. The Oasis of Siwa is very hard and dangerous to get to. You have to travel along the coast. Then you travel across one of the most barren parts of the Sahara desert to this oasis.
Plutarch said the following about why the trip to the oasis of Siwa was dangerous:
When Alexander made this journey, he left most of his army in Egypt, while taking a few friends, companions and guides. Now when Alexander made this journey, his party ran out of water after four days, according to Siculus. But then Siculus says the group was saved by a great storm of rain from the heavens, a rescue that he said seemed to have happened by "divine providence."
On Alexanders troubles in the desert, Plutarch wrote:
Eventually Alexander and his party did make it to the temple, and they were greeted with a very warm reception.
Plutarch says that according to his sources, Alexander was met by the Siwan high priest who greeted him with the words "O, paidion", "Oh, my son", but mispronounced the Greek as "O, pai dios" meaning "Oh, son of god", much to Alexander's delight and amazement. (Plutarch).
Plutarch also said the following about Alexander's visit to the temple:
There were also apparently some prophesies that would remain a secret.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT LEAVES THE HELLENISTIC WORLD AS HIS LEGACY
AND HIS GENERAL PTOLEMY ESTABLISHES A DYNASTY IN EGYPT THAT WOULD LAST UNTIL ROMAN CONQUEST
Alexander the Great was successful in creating an empire that stretched from Ancient Greece to Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, while he was a great conqueror, he was not so good at succession planning. When asked who he would leave this great, sprawling empire to, the story goes that he said, "To the strongest!" As a result, when he died at the young age of 32, his empire quickly split into four different empires under Alexander's generals. And the province of Egypt went to his general Ptolemy, who would found a dynasty that would last all the way until the death of Queen Cleopatra.
While Alexander's physical empire did not remain intact, he had successfully spread the cultural legacy of Greece throughout the ancient world. He had transformed Greece from the polis to the cosmopolis.
ANCIENT HISTORICAL SOURCES ONLINE
OTHER ONLINE SOURCES
Alexander the Great in Egypt (Tour Egypt)
Alexander in the Oasis of Siwa (Greece)
Siwa Oasis (Wikipedia)
Alexander Visits Siwa (Livius)
Temple of Amun, Siwa Oasis, Egypt (Places of Peace and Power)
The Correspondence Between Aristotle and Alexander the Great (Google Books)
Alexander the Great, Son of the Gods (Google Books)