Ryan Stitt is the host of The History of Ancient Greece Podcast, and he joins us today to separate fact from the fiction in the 2004 movie Alexander.
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Dan LeFebvre: [00:01:46] The movie starts with Alexander’s death. Now we’ll get to that little bit later, but after that, the movie sets up some context around Alexander’s life. So I thought that would be a great place to start our discussion. According to movie, in the year two 85 BC or 40 years after Alexander’s death, Anthony Hopkins character Ptolemy is dictating about Alexander’s life.
He says that Persia ruled almost all the known world in the East and the West. The once great city States had fallen from pride over a hundred years or for a hundred years. The Persian Kings bribed the Greeks with goal to have them fight as mercenaries. And then it was Philip the one eyed has what they call him.
He changed all that. He built a professional army that brought the. Devious Greeks to their knees. This is all the way Tommy narrates it. And then he turned to Persia. Phillip turned to Persia. That is, Phillip was murdered, but something that Persia paid for his death. So at age 20, Alexander was made King of Macedonia and vowed revenge for his father’s death.
He began by liberating all the cities in Western Asia, all the way down to Egypt, where Alexander was declared Pharaoh of Egypt and worship as a God. Finally, King Derrius was provoked to face Alexander at Gaga Mela. So that’s kind of how the movie sets everything up.
How accurate is that description of the events that led up to the battle of Gaga Mela between Alexander and Derrius?
Ryan Stitt: [00:03:19] Relatively accurate, but missing quite a bit of detail. So, let’s start from the beginning with Ptolemy. Well, he’s not really at the beginning, but where he talked out, so Ptolemy, he was an Alexandria. We have Ptolemaic. Egypt as a kingdom, and we’ll talk about that later. He was one of his generals.
He also wrote a loss history of Alexander, so I liked how they set that up. gave like bad aspect to it and it’s kind of like. His history, he’s talking about it. He’s given back to it, or he’s going into it, that kind of like inception type of thing. So he says that Persia ruled almost all the known world in the East, which.
known roll to the Greeks. Yeah. When Alexander gets to India, that’s like parts of the, the Hindu Kush. That’s basically where Hurghada and a lot of the geographers were kinda, that’s kind of as far as they knew, that that’s like the edge of the Eastern world. Obviously purge didn’t go. Didn’t have control of all of the East.
There was Indian Indian territories out there, and Alexandra would have to fight some of them like porous and tech Sillis and all that. And obviously there were Chinese empires further East, but their contact with those people aren’t as well, tested that early, if much at all. We get a lot of that information when you get Explorer later in the Hellenistic period.
But that’s a digression. so yeah, in the West, he says the once great city States had fallen from pride. yeah. I mean, that’s how I Mastodon kind of, it was able to. They benefited greatly from it. So you had the massive purge after the Persian Wars between, you know, some of the Greeks and the Persian empire, they came into Persian empire.
Then you have the, the Greeks immediately starting fighting with themselves, led by the two dominant factions at the time, Sparta and Athens. And then you have for the next, I don’t know, like a hundred years or so, not even a hundred years. Next 80 years or so. You get a lot of internet scene warfare between them and they basically weaken themselves down.
And then, you know, Mastodon comes down for the first time, really in their history. I mean, they’ve had some influence, but not quite as much. Philip make some changes in the army and he expands Mastodon into this power that it was never quite before. It used to just be a buffer on the periphery. It was never the power that it would become an under Philip.
And then under Alexander. In its first several centuries of existence. You mentioned that the Persian Kings bribed the Greeks with gold to have them fight as mercenaries. I wouldn’t quite say it was bribing them. It was, you know, gold having fight as mercenaries. I mean, it’s a historical fact in a way that like Sparta would not have beaten the Athenians if it wasn’t for the fact that they got Persian money.
To build a fleet to, to fight the Athenians. So the Persians were always in, or not always, but the Persians were heavily embedded in the Greek foreign policy. Persia was always someone at an Eastern empire, an East that was rich, and it was Athens and Sparta. Athens, so much, kind of where we’re always looking to them during the war.
Just. So the Spartans didn’t get them, and it was always kind of like this, who’s going to get them on their side first, but neither side was willing to give up what was necessary for it, which would have been the autonomy of the Greeks because Persia coveted those, those, the West Western modern Turkey or Asia minor, whatever you want to call it.
Anatolia, many names for it. They all those Greeks out there, they, they, the city States, they coveted that land back, which is, you know, part of the reason that the Athenians had their empire to protect them. So you have any deal that was going to get Persia on your side, was going to be giving away the freedom of those Greeks.
And they weren’t quite ready to make that the sacrifice yet until later. The Spartans were. Again, we’re not going to digress that far.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:07:05] It’s a different movie.
Ryan Stitt: [00:07:07] Yeah. You can listen to my podcasts. yeah, they’re, they’re gold is definitely, they had a lot, I mean, Xenophon wrote a famous at 10,000 Greek mercenary soldiers who fought with Cyrus to take over the throne.
A Persia. The two brothers are fighting for the throne. After the war. They fought in the mercenaries ever since. You know, like Nebuchadnezzar and like 300 years earlier, there really wasn’t, I can’t think of a single major battle in the near East that didn’t have Greek mercenary soldiers. Their hoplites were, were, were paid to be mercenaries.
They were some of the best warriors. And. Kings and pharaohs and you know, different types of Kingswood after them, especially Egyptian fairs with the Macias and later on like that. But like they were mercenaries in most, if not all armies in the, in the time. So.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:07:53] Philip
Ryan Stitt: [00:07:54] after he turns South towards the Greeks, the battle of Karen IA and three 38 BC.
He defeats the Greek coalition and then BA basically takes over dominion over Greece. He has control over Mastodon, Greece, that whole peninsula all the way down to basically, he doesn’t get Sparta, but basically pushes down into there. They establish the league of Corinth. And it’s at Corinth where he becomes like, he establishes himself as the hedge of Mon.
It’s a Greek word for leader, hegemonic hedge. Moni is where we get those words and as its leader, the, he begins to prepare for this massive invasion of Persia in three. Three 38 three 37 somewhere around there. But in revenge, he’s using it as like a sacred explanation or reasoning for their hundred years beforehand, or 150 years almost desecrated and burning of Athenian temples during the Persian Wars.
So they’re still trying to get revenge for that. So they want to sack Persia, defeat Perjeta in revenge for sacking their temples. And that, that’s the stated reason at least. And they also want to liberate, some other Greek cities that now are controlled by the Persians again. So he sent an advanced force into Asia minor underpart many on an Atlas, which are two of the generals, and they’ll also be in Alexander’s army later.
And they started liberating some of the Greek cities and the TRO ads. So near Troy is so Northwest modern Turkey, but
Dan LeFebvre: [00:09:16] before Phillip
Ryan Stitt: [00:09:17] could like follow through with a full army to come back with them as he was making plans, he was assassinated. Three 36 BC in the campaign then was suspended for the next two years while Alexander had to consolidate his control, not only over the Macedonian throne, but there was some uprisings in Greece after his Phillip’s death, and he had to put those down to quite viciously.
Actually. And then we get to the battle Gaga. Mela is
Dan LeFebvre: [00:09:42] actually the third of
Ryan Stitt: [00:09:44] the three major battles. I mean, I get it. You can’t really have a movie if you’re going to do a movie on all of Alexander’s campaigns. It’s, it’s more like a TD mini mini series. You’re going to have to cut some things out. Oh, there’s just so much going on.
So he, I, so it’s, it’s, the director’s decision to start with a Gaga mallet, but like, Granicus was the first major one, which was in the TRO ad. That was in may of three 34. He defeated, the forces of Persian say traps. So these were like the governors of Darius. the third. It’s not him. Exactly. So he defeats those.
He spends like the next year, a year and a half or so, consolidating Asian minor, gaining control of Asia minor and building up his forces. So Turkey area. And then so you finally get to the battle of ISIS, in November of three 33 BC. So that’s like Southeast Turkey right before you’re going into Syria.
And that’s actually against Darius. So he’s leading this army. It’s a victory for Alexander. And it’s, it’s, it’s important because it’s the first defeat that the Persians ever had in their history when the King was present at the battle of ISIS. And if you, if you see that famous mosaic that’s at Pompei, it’s in the Naples museum, without, you always see it with an image of Alexander staring at Darius and the horse that’s from the battle of ISIS.
And then it’s after this battle. That he captures Darius, his wife, his two daughters and his mother. So we’ll get into that later. But he doesn’t actually like walk into them and Babylon. It’s app after this battle because they were in his baggage train and Darius fled and left behind his family in a slightly cowardly fashion.
And then he would spend the next year or so writing letters, trying to get Alexander to give him back. And he’s just like, you can come and get your family back and then give me the thrown in in like. So after that battle, then Alexander turns South. He goes through the Lavant through Syria, Lebanon, or modern day, Lebanon area.
He has a statement, siege of tire. We won’t get into that. And then he wants, he consolidates that area. He turns into
Dan LeFebvre: [00:11:41] Egypt, gets control, controlled Egypt.
Ryan Stitt: [00:11:44] There’s a revolt back in Greece. He has to go take care of, or he has some people take care of. And then after he basically consolidates his. Control over the Eastern Mediterranean seaboard is then when we get to the, okay, now I feel safe and secure and my supply lines, I have logistics.
I’m prepared. Now I can head East into the Persian Heartland. So there’s quite a bit. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:12:09] Okay. Yeah, I mean that answers my question cause the first one we see in the movie is Gaga Mela and that was going to be one of my followups to that previous question of. That’s the first one that we see. Just kind of like, Oh, this is where his conquest must’ve started.
Which kind of begs the question, why does it start so close to Babylon? Like,
Ryan Stitt: [00:12:28] yeah, Gaga, Mala, it’s actually, it’s near, modern day Erbil. So like Northeastern Iraq, like Iraqi Kurdistan. So as you see, as he gets through, he crosses both the Euphrates and the Tigris until he eventually comes to them. So you have.
And Persia. For your listeners who might not be 100% on their geography, the Heartland of ancient Persia, old Persia, where media is, and their purse purse, the region persists is like modern day Iran, and then they spread out and gain control of their territory. So it’s like he Alexander’s near the East or is on the, is on the coast.
Darius is back in, Susa in Iran and they kind of just come in together. he’s Alexander heads East Darius heads West and they meet in Iraq or North Eastern Iraq.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:13:15] Okay. Talking about that battle. Cause that is the first one that we see in the movie though. But we get a little bit of setup on. The battle itself.
Ptolemy still giving us voiceover says that there were 40,000 Greeks against hundreds of thousands of, he just calls them barbarian races, unknown to us, gathered under Darius, and we get a little bit more information. I’m going to call it a Hollywood style speech because it’s the, the leader of the military.
Riding along in this time. Of course, it’s Colin Farrell’s version of Alexander riding in front of his men before battle, but in this speech he talks about how the Persians don’t fight for their homes. They’re only fighting because Darius says that they must. And then a few moments later, Alexander’s talks about that tells his men that the greatest honor is to die with your country, men in battle for your home.
That struck me like right away. I was like, wait a minute. They just said that this was near Babylon. Why like they’re not fighting for their home. If they’re fighting near Babylon, wouldn’t that be totally inaccurate for him to imply that the Greeks were battling for their homes and say that the Persians are not battling for their homes.
Ryan Stitt: [00:14:23] In a sense, it just depends. It depends on like the motivations that are being told. I ain’t know you can come, you can come up with anything and make it in your head. So, so you’re motivated. Like Alexander could have been telling his men or Macedonians could’ve been telling their men. Oh, okay. it was the Persians who assassinated, Philip
So we’re fighting to revenge him, or we’re fighting to revenge the Athenians, the Greeks. So it is in a sense for the pride of our Homeland, not necessarily they’re invading sort of thing. It’s, it’s all semantics, I guess. these types of speeches are famous in a lot of the history. I don’t know if that specific speeches like.
Bill is taken from the works or not, but I know you have like three cities and they have like these famous speeches that are not an . It’s not quite what was said because there’s just no way to get it for batim, but you’re just trying to put the mood in place of what may have been said or. What sounds fancy.
Full. I guess so. Yeah. It was to rile his men up. Alexander was very charismatic, so it doesn’t shock me if he did give grandiose speeches like that to his men. He was very well liked by his men. They respected them, at least that first. Now they still respected him later, but we’ll get into that too.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:15:38] And we’ll get into that.
Well, how about the battle itself? Cause the movie shows the balance, you know, it’s, it’s bloody, it’s what you would expect for an Epic film like this to depict a battle at that, during that time, and according to the movie again, told him his voiceover is, is explaining this to us. He says that the Persian army was destroyed.
And then at 25 years old, the result of this. Battlement that Alexander was King of all.
Ryan Stitt: [00:16:03] Was that true in a sense? I mean, he, Darius was still wasn’t dead at that point, but, well back, we’ll back up for a minute. So the battle itself, they do a very good job of it, of showing it, showing warfare in general. I particularly like, like the costumes and the props and that sort of stuff.
As we were saying, you had mentioned earlier about the 40,000 Greeks against hundreds of thousands of barbarians. so some sources state that there were over a million strong, just like, you know, a 150 years earlier stated there were over a million as well. Highly unlikely. It was probably around us. I think some of the best estimates I saw were like 50,000 infantry and 40,000 Calvary for the Persians, which is still like almost double what the Greeks had.
Alexander had about 40,000 infantry, 7,000 cavalry. You can squabble over the numbers, depending on what modern historian you’re talking to, what they think their estimate is, what whatever. It doesn’t matter. But still, he was heavily outnumbered. So during the battle, Alexander. Well, the way he lined up his formation, he, he worked his way through the Persians.
And as he crashed through the center of Derrius fled, he began to personally chase after him. But his left had kind of gotten to a diagonal line and they were kind of getting outflanked. And as they were advanced Armenio, who was. Controlling the commanding. The left Alexander was on the right cavalry wings, couldn’t keep up.
So a gap began to appear, and so he had to, he panicked and sent a messenger for Alexander to come back. And Alexander was almost about to catch Darius, but Alexandra obviously didn’t want to just like leave his army get crushed, so he had to turn back around. By the time he got back with his forces, they were able to mop up the rest of the army and they put them all in retreat and began to chase after them.
And once they got to the legacy river, which is to the East of Erbil, I believe, maybe to the Southeast, they arrested and he was able to capture the camp, all of its contents. And. All the treasury basically. Oh. The treasury area, and I believe it was estimates, the Macedonians lost only about a hundred men, and the Persians lost 300,000 Whoa.
Which is definitely an exaggeration.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:18:09] I was going to say, how is that possible?
Ryan Stitt: [00:18:12] But it was a brilliant victory for Alexander. He uses the, the terrain to his advantage, and he was heavily outnumbered. And Plutarch goes on and he baby, he quote, I don’t know the exact quote, but he basically, as you were saying, after the battle ended, he said that the authority of the Persian empire was essentially just transferred to Alexander and, w it became a turning point in the campaign.
Obviously he was still alive and Alexander, he was alive, so he was still a threat. So Alexander would have to pursue after him, but for all intents and purposes, you mean even though I’m, Darius would try and build up another army to. A third army this time to fight him, fought him and ISIS, thought it meant Gaga.
Mella he just, he couldn’t get an army big enough or he just, he, the forces weren’t flocking to his banner as he would’ve expected and he had to retreat further and further East and to the mountain this region and try to use the territory to his advantage. But we’ll get to that, I guess
Dan LeFebvre: [00:19:06] in the movie, one of the one thing I’m curious about, cause they depict.
Pretty different strategy between the leaders. We see Alexander going into battle himself, whereas Darius stays back and commands his men from the back, which in the movie at least is how we end up with Darius able to flee. And then Alexander is on the forefront there chasing after him. Similar to what you were talking about.
We see something similar to that in the movie. Did Alexander actually go into battle. With his men, or was it typical for a leader to stay behind? Like Darius?
Ryan Stitt: [00:19:44] So in Greek warfare, at least the commanders were, we’ll begin before we get to Macedonia, the hoplite warfare. The commanders traditionally fought in the, the front light because the right was the position.
I’m honoring the commanders to a lot of the times fought in front. And I don’t know how much you know about the hoplite warfare, but you know, with the shields, but the infantry men, they were held in the left, because your right was covered by the guy beside you. So since the right wasn’t covered, there’s a high death rate for commanders.
So they fought in the front, right? So at least early on, there is a high death rate. Now, Alexander fought in the announce of Calvary with his companions. He fought in the front with them. Phillip thought too. He’s got injured several times. So did Alexander. He got injured quite a bit throughout the campaigns.
Some serious injuries. Yeah, so he fought with his men. Darius. In both battles, the, at ISIS and Gaga Mela he fought and he wasn’t like, you know, sitting in a tent dictating strategy or whatever. He actually, he fought, I can, I’m not 100% sure if he was on the front line. I know that, he was the center of us formation and he was surrounded by infantry in cowboy re, so he wasn’t like out in the front, but he was, he was surrounded by it.
The immortals and the body, like the body guards. Spartan Kings had that too. They had their, their famous 300 which was the body of the Canton, the hip ACE, the cowboy, the body guards. They would surround the Spartan Kings and battle. So I mean, he wasn’t like front row dead center. He had people surrounding him, but he was in the battle.
He was in the fight. Yeah. He was in the fight. He was able to hit his best men around him.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:21:24] Yeah. Well, I was just curious cause yeah, in the movie I, the implication that I got was Alexander’s in the thick of it, but then Darius, he was in his chariot and I never really saw him actually fighting. I just saw him commanding his men telling them what to do.
And so it just seemed like very different styles of leadership. .
Ryan Stitt: [00:21:44] I think that was meant to contrast the two leaders throughout sources and modern scholarship and ancient, ancient historians always look at that. Darius is a coward cause he fled multiple times, left his family behind. He kept fleeing. I’m not going to make any judgment here, but that’s that.
That was the predominant, belief in a lot of scholarships. Can you see that going throughout in the movie as well?
Dan LeFebvre: [00:22:07] Well speaking of the movie, if we go back to that after the battle of Gaga Mela, we see kind of a flashback and it goes back to Alexander’s childhood. And the question I have for you here, the movie seems to imply that Alexander was not Phillip’s son.
There’s a line of voiceover from Ptolemy when we first see him as a child with his mother, Angelina Jolie’s version of Olympia’s, Ptolemy says something to the effect of. How when people saw a young Alexander side by side with Phillip, they wondered, is he actually your son? So what’s the movie? Right. To imply that Alexander might not have actually been Phillip’s son.
Ryan Stitt: [00:22:49] Couple of things that the implication I believe that’s being made in that movie is back to several other legends that surrounded Alexander’s birth and childhood. Not necessarily that he wasn’t Phillip’s son, per se, that he was a son to another mortal, but that he was. The son of a God, and you’ll see Alexander, you’ll see that get played up probably by Olympias later.
No, now by Alexander and his successors. But, according to on one of our sources who wrote, a lot life of Alexander on the Eve of their consummation of their marriage. To fill up a, Olympia. The mother, she had this dream that her wound was struck by a Thunderbolt and caused the flame to spread far and wide, before weathering away and, you know, Thunderbolt as the symbol of Zeus.
And he was believe to be a son of Zeus theory. Apparently that would be later confirmed to him when he goes to Egypt, to the seawall Oasis and visits the Oracle a moon. So then he starts identifying himself as the son of Zeus. A moon. moon is an Egyptian God that’s syncretize does do some moon DDT. but anyway, so sometime after the wedding, Philip is also said to have a dream where his wife’s womb is sealed with the lines in itch.
And plutonic offers a variety of interpretations of these dreams. actually was a priest at Delphi, so he’s big into these Oracles in this type of stuff. S G was information. And so he, one of his interpretations that Olympias was pregnant before her marriage, so that was indicated by the ceiling on her womb.
And then you start seeing these rumors propagated that it was actually someone else who got her impregnate it, or other than other rumors that Alexander’s father was actually, Zeus became a whole, ancient commentators were all divided on whether. this was true. Not, not whether that was true, that was actually his father, but actually whether, like how it came about was it was probably Olympias that started the story and pushed it further after Alexander was off as a child because he was not a legitimate.
Air in a sense. He wasn’t a Olympias, it wasn’t a full blood Macedonian. So Alexander, even though he was Phillip’s son, the Macedonian elite always pushed for Phillips to take another wife and have a full Macedonian child and we’ll get to that. And that happens later. We ended up one of the other flashbacks with Jaretta key.
So Alexander was, you know, half Macedonian, cause his mother was from epidermis, which is kingdom modern day, like Albanian or whatever on them, Western Balkans.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:25:19] That actually leads into my next question cause you did mention and there’s something in there. You also mentioned earlier that Phillip was assassinated and there’s two different storylines that I kind of see in the movie about the surrounding Phillips assassination.
One of them is right away when Tommy mentions it, he talks about how potentially the Persians might be behind it. I think I mentioned that earlier. But then there’s another flashback in the movie where we see Phillip getting married to, you’re at a and she gets pregnant. And so Alexander’s mom starts to worry that perhaps Alexander’s going to be killed on some dangerous mission to clear the way for this other child to take the throne.
And so the movie heavily implies when we actually see Phillip getting killed that. Alexander’s mom, we see, you know, Angela and Julie’s version of his mom looking on, and she is not surprised in the least and doesn’t seem to be upset at all that Philip has been killed. So we kind of get these two different storylines of maybe the Persians were behind it.
Or maybe Alexander’s mom was behind it. Cha tried to secure his place on the throne. Do we know who was behind his death and where these potential implications that the movie has, things that people thought might have actually
Ryan Stitt: [00:26:42] happened? We don’t know. A lot of speculation. There’s like four different scenarios that people like to put forth.
So tobacco a little bit. There was another flashback in the movie where. Alexander and Phillip get into a fight, which actually happens. They get into when Phillip was drunk and he actually like kicked Olympias in Alexander go into exile for a short time. They eventually come back, but during that time, Olympia tries to get her brother the King of piracy.
War with Mastodon and really strains their relationships. So then Alexander the first of in his, her brother then would married one of their daughters and you know, incestuous and recent men at their Alliance. And it was when this wedding took place where the assassination took place. So this was a wedding at , which is the one of their summer palaces or, yeah.
And what’s the word I’m trying to think of. Summer retreat for the Kings or for the Royals. And there was no, from all over mass it on. And Phillip was in the lead in this grand procession at the end of, which was one of his personal bodyguards and AME Paul st Yas. There’s quite a bit of Hossein he asses in Greek history.
So it’s just this one. It was his personal bodyguard, and he stabbed him with a dagger in the chest, which you see in the, in the film. He then tried to jump on one of his horses and he got caught and Alexander’s, they caught him and killed him. There’s quite a few theories, so since posy Aeneas was killed before he’s able to talk, we don’t really know what his motivations were.
A dye door is one of the sources puts forth that did it on his own initiative because he was a lover of Philip, and Philip had gotten rid of him for another lover. The story was common in the ancient world. People talked about this. It was mentioned quite a few times. But the insult supposedly happened like eight years prior.
So it’s weird if he would’ve waited that long to exact his revenge, but you know, could get angry and hold onto it for a while. I don’t know. Secondly, there’s, some believe that Olympia’s persuaded Paul st gastic he’ll fill up, cause she was threatened by his marriage to your and wanted him dead, which, you know, you can figure out why.
But she didn’t want to do, she didn’t want the deed done herself because then her brother would abandon her too. she, she didn’t want it known herself like that. She was behind it, so she hired somebody else. That’s another theory. Some sources later say that she had Urumqi and their son roasted over a pit after Phillip’s death too.
So in the, you know, there’s quite a bit of sources, as you can tell. She’s a woman, she’s a powerful woman. So there’s a lot of what is said about her has to be taken with a huge grain of salt. Like it is an ancient world. Like with Cleopatra, basically, any woman who has power, it gets slandered and like anything she does is not acceptable.
And it’s like devious. And what if Amanda did? It would just be, you know, standard operating procedure. But yeah. Anyway, I digress again. So the third would be that Alexander. Convinced himself to kill Philip because he was annoyed at his father for taking credit for the victories that he had a significant role in and dismissing him.
And, and he was threatened that Phillip would replace him as the air with another person like, but another child. And then finally, as we mentioned earlier, a fourth is that the Persians hired positing gas to kill Philip. So you have, Paul has did it on his own. It was Olympias. It was Alexander, or it was the Persians, because you know, he was a, as we mentioned earlier, he was about to leave for an invasion of Persia that was already underway, and they’d rather face an inexperienced King rather than the experienced one.
I like to think if Philip would have done the same thing, I don’t think they would have went as far. Like, I don’t think they would’ve continued. That was out vendors doing. But if Philip led the invasion, I think they would’ve went sacked a defeated the Persian empire. And you know, went back. But the young whipper snapper went and had to outdo it and continue and further on.
And we can see later he’s, he was very ambitious, very grandiose in his plans.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:30:40] So after Philip was killed in the movie, I believe it’s, well, almost instantly, like right away everybody around is like, you know, long live the King to Alexander now because he’s taken place. Does it happen that quickly? That now all of a sudden Alexander is the King?
Like almost instantly, right after Phillip is killed?
Ryan Stitt: [00:30:58] Yeah. Basically. I mean, he was, the air people knew that the Macedonian elite knew that nobody else really had a claim to the throne that could outshine him. Now, after Phillip was assassinated, now other Greeks decided, okay, so Philip who beat us is no longer alive.
We’re going to revolt. And so, you know, he has to spend a couple of years fighting those cities and getting things under control. I say it’s like almost essential. Like it’s almost like, Oh, they held him as a King, but Alexander, also, him and Olympias according to the sources, also killed anybody who could threaten them too.
Like they had, after he came to power, they had them, you know, as most Kings do at when there’s a di, changed. Anybody that could threaten him was, you know, ended up roasted over a spit or, yeah, they, they, were, you know. Ship the Siberia. Not really in this case, but you know,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:31:51] they just disappear. Yeah, yeah.
Well, if we head back to the movie it after this scene that bounces back to three 31 BC after Alexander’s victory at Gaga Mela. And so this is when we see the Greeks arrive in Babylon. Alexander and his soldiers are marveling at the amazing architecture, and of course, the beautiful men and women in Darius’s harem.
And then once he gets there, Alexander does some things that his soldiers give them an interesting look when he does this, he announces that anyone in the harem who wishes to go home, we’ll be set free, which of course doesn’t make some of those soldiers happy. the Persian princess Satara assumes that Alexander will kill her family and sell her into slavery, something like that.
But then he tells her that her and her family are going to be treated as his family and she’ll live in the palace for as long as she wants. How did the movie do showing this when the Greeks arrived in Babylon was Alexander’s kindness to the nation that he captured.
Ryan Stitt: [00:32:58] A few things on this. So since it started with Gaga, Mela a few things kinda got smushed.
So like I mentioned earlier, it’s the tear and her sisters and her mom were actually captured after ISIS. They weren’t actually in Babylon and Alexander, by the time Gaga Ella up and had already had them. But he did treat them very well. They all kept their social status. And when he got to Susa later on, he actually left them there while he continued East looking for Darius and the rest of them.
And he left instructions with Straterra to be taught Greek. I think the movie makes mention that she doesn’t really know Greek much.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:33:34] Yeah, they had like an interpreter there.
Ryan Stitt: [00:33:36] and so the speculation by historians is that, okay, Alexander already knew that he was going to marry her whenever his campaigns were over and he was preparing her life.
Like, you know, as his wife that he could communicate with. So teaching her Greek, and in fact, she would become Alexander’s second wife. Well, second slash third wife, six years later and three 24 BC. He, he also married her older cousin, Perry satis, which is the daughter of Darius’s predecessor. And this is a year before he dies that this happens, these grand weddings, just kind of what this gets the most into, and then you see like a massive.
I think, I forget where it is, pendulum version, but you see like these massive like wedding feasts with all these Persian noble women being married off to Alexander’s companions and stuff. I’m including the younger sister of stuff. Tara is also married to FST on and we’ll talk about FST on later. I’m sure.
But yeah. so he marries both Perry satis and sta, which, so, and basically he cemented his ties to both open branches of the empire. So like, there couldn’t be someone else who could marry them and then have a, like a claim, you know, later. So he would marry them at what’s called the Susa weddings, and he also would marry.
Roxanna, which would be his first wife, because he married her before he came back and married them. He came across them first, you know, but he basically, he loved Roxanna, so like he fell for her. These two were, he treated them well, but they were bet that they were definitely consolidation. Yeah. They are politically, politically motivated and consolidate marriages, and in fact, he’d only be married to them for a year and both of them would be killed off by Roxanna a year later after he died.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:23] So you mentioned, you mentioned second slash third wife. How was she a second slash third wife?
Ryan Stitt: [00:35:29] Yeah, she was married at the same ceremony as her cousin Perry satis. So I’m not sure if she was the first one or the,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:35] okay. Okay.
Ryan Stitt: [00:35:37] She’s the younger, I wasn’t sure what order she was in. if she technique, cause they got married on the scene at the same ceremony.
So I’m not sure which one was first.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:45] Okay. I thought you, I was like, how does it be like the like second and then divorce and then remarried? Like I was like, okay,
Ryan Stitt: [00:35:50] I’ll just slip up the mind. I can’t remember what it was.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:53] Well, Alexander is in Babylon. He’s getting letters from his mom who is back in Greece, and this is the first time that the movie mentions the term Alexander the great, which of course is something that we’re very familiar with now, and it’s in a letter from his mother to him.
Was she the first one to call him that, or was this kind of where that term started to come about even during his lifetime?
Ryan Stitt: [00:36:20] Yeah. That was an after the fact sort of thing. I think they’re just pushing that in there. Yeah. I’m not 100% sure when that first started. I know that at least by like the Romans, he was known by that because you know Pompey Magnus called himself that and he tried to emulate Alexander.
I mean, Alexander actually, he was like the hero of Roman generals. He was a role model for them. You mean polygamous begins his histories by reminding them, Romans of Alexander’s great achievements and talking about these are the things that you can aspire and aspire towards. He’s a Greek writing for Romans and obviously Greeks cause he wrote in Greek.
But yeah, he was like these, these are the history of Rome, but I’m going to start with Alexander’s achievements because he’s the epitome Roman generals. Afterwards. They just wanted to associate himself with that. So you have Pompey. Like I said, epithet, Magnus even had Alexander’s haircut. I don’t know what it looks like, to be honest.
I just know that he emulated a haircut. It’s weird if you see those like . That fleshed out PO Pompey bust that’s, in some of the museums. anyway, so, and then Caesar, like dedicated and an equestrian like bronze statue of Alexander when he replaced Alexander’s head with his own. So he was like, I am Alexander, that sort of thing.
and then, you know, many Roman emperors later up to the Severn dynasty, which is when we kind of like tail off with it, they would pipe, pay homage to his tomb in Alexandria. Augustus Augustus went there when he went right, or after he defeated Cleopatra and Mark Antony, you know. I believe it was, or Nero.
Yeah. Anyway, you’d have a Trajan went there, Adrian, like they all, they would pay homage to him. You know, the Romans just loved Alexander. We love Alexander too. It’s like one of the, if you talk to a layman about Greek history, it’s Sparta now and Alexandria. And those are the two main topics that you can talk to kids.
They think of Greece or you know, Greek mythology like Percy Jackson. Now,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:38:06] you mentioned this a little bit earlier, and I want to bring this back because this is something that the, the movie talks about next. And this is the way that we see Darius getting killed in the movie. And it happens there. As I mentioned earlier in the battle of at Gaga Mela, even though the Persian army was defeated, Darius himself managed to escape, but we see that Alexander manages to track him down.
By the time he does, Darius has already been killed by somebody else, so we assume it was he was betrayed by one of his own commanders. I think there’s some dialogue in there that that implies that that’s what happened. Even after, after everything that’s happened between Alexander and Darius, he still honors dry ice.
His body as the King that he was so was Alexander really so focused on hunting down Darius the movie makes it seem like that was really one of his key things after he escaped that battle, that that was kind of. Really pushing his army to try to find Darius and try to hunt him down. I think, I think the timeline at the movie shows is like three years of guerrilla warfare in the mountains as they’re trying to find him.
I’m sure there’s other things going on, you know, during that time, but the movie just really seems to imply that he was really focused on getting Darius,
Ryan Stitt: [00:39:29] even though for all intents and purposes, he was the King of Persia. Now the empire was his. As long as Darius was out there, he was still threat. So it, the threat needed to be eliminated.
Just the same reason he married both. Of the women that were available in the Royal household to make sure that there’s no possible threats and, and his mom killed off all the, the rival claimants that had even an inkling of a possibility, even though it was nowhere near as strong as his, maybe it’s just he wanted to hedge his bets, I guess.
So as long as Darius was there, he was Persian. Alexander was a foreigner. He was an outsider. He was Greek. He wasn’t, he was Macedonian Greek. He wasn’t a Persian. So. As long as eight Persian, came in and Persian was still alive, that had possibilities of coming back and taking the throne over. He wanted, he was still a threat to him, so he needed to insure that he was eliminated.
And then even after he died, he was actually. The best. This was one of the say traps, who then became a, a Greek general on the Greek side. Then then became a usurper and he had to, he went after him as well. It was a whole thing. He caught himself Ardagh Xerxes, and he made a claim to the throne, a game of Thrones style.
And also he, Alexander would claim later that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Best this would clean later that Darius had named him as a successor to the throne, or, yeah, while dying and, yeah, and then, I mean, Alexander gave him like a Regal funeral. put his, Renee Maine remains next to the Cayman predecessors.
We’re not going to go into this a whole lot, but like Alexander was very conscious of the people that he conquered or defeat it, especially with our religion. So he would do the things that they needed to do to gain their trust and approval. So yeah, they are big on these religious omens are religious, you know.
Type of activities or whatnot. He, he would do those, he would call himself, he was an Egyptian Pharaoh. We acted like a Pharaoh around the Egyptians. He acted like a Monarch around the Persians, so he made sure to do the necessary things that he needs to do and not come off as a raging lunatic madman conquering, like he tried to set himself as a liberator sort of thing.
Propaganda, but not as a conqueror. He, he wasn’t coming in like a denarius with a dragons blazing and trying to destroy everything.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:00] But that’s just cause he didn’t have dragons for
Ryan Stitt: [00:42:03] those that understand that. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:06] No, that makes sense. I mean, with all the different cultures and all that, the different societies that he would be taking over, they’re all gonna have their own politics.
They’re all going to have their own religions are all going to have their own way of doing things. And so I think it’s a. It’s a, it speaks to. Alexander as a person and just, you know, being a smart leader in that he knows he can’t be the same leader to everybody because everybody, they need different types of leaders.
And so it sounds like he w he almost played the part of an actor of, you know, I’m going to ask. Well, like the leader that you need, I’m going to be the leader that you need in this country and over here I’ll be the leader that you need in this country.
Ryan Stitt: [00:42:46] He was very pragmatic and that sounds some of the things he did though would anger his country men.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:42:53] Yeah. It was something I’m curious about cause this is, this is something that the movie talks about very briefly. We see after Darius is portrayed. Alexander. Then his next thing is to start hunting down the commanders who betrayed him. You already kind of talked about that a little bit, but there’s something, a line of dialogue in there where the movie says that he founded his 10th Alexandria, and it was a city filled with women and veterans who want to brave the frontier life as the movie says.
Now, when I saw that, I knew. I’m sure everybody knows about the Alexandria in Egypt, of course, because of the famous you of the library of Alexandria and all that. But, and I also know that Alexandra liked to name things after himself, but is the movie right in saying there were at least 10 different cities named Alexandria from his campaigns?
Ryan Stitt: [00:43:45] Yeah, there actually were upwards of over 20 most of them didn’t last very long. Most of them are East of the Tigris, so like. Eastern Iraq forward, and a lot of them were locations that reflected trade routes, logistic routes for his army and defensive positions. So he would build these up and then they would become the kind of like these mini, you know.
Camps. Garrisons in a sense, I’m initially pretty inhospitable. Nothing more than defensive garrisons but you know, by the end of the next century, they said the third century with the Hellenization that happens with under his successors, some of them turn into like thriving cities with elaborate public buildings and large populations of both Greek and local.
People’s, which, you know, that helps with the cultural exchange back and forth between Greek and the locals even get, like, when he gets into any of you get like the Indo Greeks, kingdoms, you have things like, like Gondar, Afghanistan. There’s quite a few, in the Eastern regions that actually become these large, major cities later in the Hellenistic period, cultural centers.
but initially they were kind of just more than like defensive garrisons on trade routes for logistics and stuff. So it wasn’t kind of, it was like he was building and he called him after his megalomania to call them after himself, but it’s like an invading army or like, not even an invading army, but someone, someone going West and American history and you know, building these behind them.
They were, they would leave these logistical supply routes so they wouldn’t get like lost in this Noman territory. So like if he gets to India, like, okay, he needs supplies, he needs figure out how to wait to get back. He needs like defensive positions. Like you just don’t want to just. Plow full forward ahead with, well to know a forethought behind
Dan LeFebvre: [00:45:26] almost like a breadcrumb trail.
Ryan Stitt: [00:45:28] Yeah. In a sense. Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:45:29] Going back to the movie, we see a plot against Alexander’s life next, and it turns out that one of the men implicated in the plot was one of Alexander’s boy hood friends followed us. After a trial, he’s found guilty of treason and executed. And that starts to make things a little bit tricky for Alexander because you talk about his supplies there with the cities, and this is starts to come into play in the movie.
He’s far in the East and his supply lines are being guarded by what the movie says are 20,000 men under the command of Phyllis’s father Aminian. And then. Because of the execution. That means that now Permian, the, he’s afraid that Permian is going to turn, and so Alexander sends a couple of soldiers to have him killed, and then there’s another guy that gets run through by a sphere.
I think Alexander actually does it himself when he mows off against them. There’s these different plots that we start to see, and it’s just starting to, I’m assuming what you mentioned earlier, where his, his men started to. Maybe not, not be so happy with these campaigns, but we’re starting to see some of this dissent with is, that these plots in the movie where there are these plots against his life.
And how did he respond to those as they started to pop up?
Ryan Stitt: [00:46:53] So during his final years. And the campaign, and we’ll get to this a little bit later, but especially after the death of FST on towards the very end, he started showing signs of paranoia and you know, like, and like to his, some of his Macedonian chirps, almost like megalomania.
So like, it was something that was building up along the way. You can kind of see it coming, you know, someone so young, extraordinary achievements, you know, son of a God, you have this own and edible sense of your own destiny. Delusions of grandeur concrete and the whole known world, boundless ambition in a sense.
And you know, you’re getting flat, you know, like flattery by all the people you’re the King. May combine to produce this effect. And, and he starts behaving himself like a DD or least sought. We already talked about some of that stuff, and he also sought to mesh Greek and Persian culture and, Oh, modernize the populations as we saw he would, he would, he’d be marrying off Persian, noble women, as we mentioned to some Macedonian elites, his behaviors, he took on very Eastern quote, unquote Oriental behaviors.
He actually, one of the things that really angered his men and he eventually got rid of it because it angered as an end so much was he adopted elements of Persian customs at his court, like dress, but most notably the pro skin Nessus, which is this practice where you have to bow before him. The Macedonians hate it to do that.
It was like embarrassing. Not even, not embarrassing. It was worse than that. It was like emasculating in a sense to them. Yeah, like it was just like they hate it that and they complain and eventually he gets . That was a Persian custom. It was a near Eastern custom bow before the King. You prostrate yourself before them, that sort of thing.
They did not like that like he would do things like that and even taking up Eastern customs, like I said. But a lot of what he was doing, as we’ve already talked about was he was just, he was being pragmatic. I’m trying to, you know, rule culturally disparate people, like many peoples, many of them lived in kingdoms where their King was seen as divine, like the pharaohs and you know, in a, in a sense, so may have just simply been him, like trying to strengthen his role, keep his empire together.
But it doesn’t mean that his Macedonia officers had to like it. There’s, some of them were not a fan. They thought he was trying to deify himself. And Ben actually, like you said, with the Lotus and with colitis, there was some, there were some conspiracies to get rid of him cause they, I guess they couldn’t take it as much.
And, and you know, by this point they’ve been, they’ve been on the warfare for all of the thirties almost even with Philip fighting on Greece. They’ve been fighting for a while. These were veterans, most of them were ready to go home. They didn’t want to be in the East. They didn’t want to be like. In the East with the King who was acting Easter like, you know, like this isn’t about their defending their Homeland anymore.
For some of them, some of them would go with Alexandra to the ends of the earth and still were with him when the rest of his army wants to turn back. And we’ll get into that as well. But yeah. So, you know, he had the, with the and then the colitis, the black, he got very violent drunk in art altercation in, Honda, which is in, I believe in some modern day Uzbekistan as they’re traveling far in the East.
And then cause colitis accused Alexander of making several stupid mistakes and most, especially for getting Macedonian weighs in favor of, I believe he says, corrupt Oriental lifestyle in the sources or something of that effect. I don’t think Oriental lifestyles corrupting, but that was the Greek view of it.
Eastern things, bad Western Greek things. Good. The irony is I don’t think it, now, it doesn’t show it because they don’t show the, the battle of Granicus Cletus actually saved his life and then, you know, Alexander kills him and runs a sword through him and then he like cried hysterically afterwards and like, he immediately regretted it and he had to be taken off.
There’s no repercussions cause you’re the King. So whatever. But like, yeah, he immediately regretted that decision. He like lost his anger. But yeah, he saved his life in the very first battle. Alexander could have been killed before he even got out of the area around Troy if it wasn’t for the guy that he later killed.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:50:57] Wow. Is you’re talking about that. It makes me think of something I had never even thought about this, but as we were talking about earlier too, but having to rule over all these different cultures and all these different people. And having to be a different type of leader for each one. In theory, that’s a good approach to take.
You’re not going to be the same leader for all, and it’s not gonna necessarily work, but it starts to get really, really tricky. Like you mentioned when some of those. Believe their leader, their King, or Pharaoh or whoever it may be, to essentially be a DD and to be very godlike. Well, then you can’t be godlike over here and not godlike over here.
Because if these people start to realize that, Oh, wait a minute, when he’s with the Greeks, he’s just a normal person. And when he’s with us, he’s, he’s a God, right? I mean, that’s. It doesn’t really jive and it doesn’t start to go, and so I could see how he could really, really struggle with that. Especially when like, again, like you said, he’s the King, you can do whatever he wants, so he’s got to figure it out on his own, essentially, of how to deal with that, I would assume.
Ryan Stitt: [00:52:02] Yeah. Yeah, and especially the people he had to like convince the most were the Macedonians who were more traditional in a sense. They were very much against that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:52:11] Well, let’s head back to the movie now because you mentioned him earlier. and he’s played by Jared
Ryan Stitt: [00:52:17] Leto, who wears a lots of makeup,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:52:19] wears lots of makeup.
Yes. We also see Rosario Dawson’s character, Roxanne, and we, you mentioned her earlier. The movie implies that marrying her was rather mysterious decision because she was a barbarian woman, had no political significance. You kind of alluded to that earlier as well. But then the movie very heavily imply, well, I guess it just outright comes and says it.
Then it’s just implying it, but that’s a FST and starts to get very jealous of Roxanne. And since Alexander married her. So we start to get this almost a love triangle, I would say, except maybe not, maybe it’s more like a a love cue because you start to get, then another character, the, Persian that Alexander sleeps with , I believe is his name, and we don’t really see any professions of love between Alexander and bogus, but they obviously sleep together and then it starts to get this jealousy going on and it starts.
To be these other things. You mentioned the other two wives. I think the movie actually mentions them as well. So we start to get this really complex story of all these different things of Alexander’s love life. How well do you think the movie did showing his love life. So
Ryan Stitt: [00:53:35] for a few things, Alexander sexuality is subject of a lot of speculation and controversy.
It wraps up into this, this Greek concept of pederasty where you have older male lover and a younger male, beloved aromatase arrow, Manet, S it’s more of like a tutor itch type, the type of relationship. Sources don’t really talk about it a whole lot, but there’s definitely a lot of places sexual component, but it’s a social custom.
When you reach an adulthood and become a citizen, then you are no longer supposed to have that type of relationship. You eventually take your own. So, and it’s not really, you think about like what we consider heterosexual and homosexual relationships in the modern world. It’s not really how the ancients viewed things.
There was no binary. It was more about like the power of the relationship. So it was more of like, I like to put it as like, who’s the penetrator and who’s being penetrated? So like. If you’re, if you’re an adult citizen, you’re the penetrator, you have the power. if you’re like a young, if you’re younger, you’re not a citizen yet, cause you’re not an adult if you’re a slave, if you’re a woman before the penetrate it, that sort of thing.
So like if you have a younger, you could have a woman slave of male slave relationships. You can have a younger relationship with a male, but like it was very taboo to have that as adults, like to consenting adult males. We don’t have a whole lot of sources on female, female relationships. But talking about pederasty assay from the male perspective, that was when against social norms of most Greek cities, sexual contact was supposed to be discontinued into adulthood in some places like Athens, if you were known to have a sexual relationship as a citizen with another citizen.
As a male, you could lose your citizenship rights. It was kind of that sort of big deal. And there are some theories that the Macedonian court may have been a little bit more tolerant of what we would consider homosexuality between adults and other places. I mean, we don’t really have like great evidence for that.
It’s just a theory. Some modern historians like Robin lane Fox, who was the writer of the, a book on Alexander, he was part of the historical team. He believes almost explicitly the Alexander’s useful, really the fasty on was sexual and continued into adulthood. So we say that this is Greek sexuality, one-on-one, very short crash course.
Do you want to learn more? I have an episode on it, but you know, we have, it’s much speculation as I mentioned, but none of his contemporaries explicitly described their relationship with the FST on a sexual. though the pair off can compare to Achilles and Patrick Lees, who
Dan LeFebvre: [00:56:13] probably had a sexual relationship too.
Ryan Stitt: [00:56:16] So, I mean, that doesn’t actually like they’re just because they don’t mention it doesn’t mean it wasn’t, but it’s just interesting that it was never mentioned like that. They were just mentioned very close. It becomes later when you get to like the Greek writers in the Roman period who paint a very different picture.
Like Plutarch says that he was quite excessively keen on boys and. And Athanase as well. And he sexually embraced his unit, but go S in public, that was the Persian uniq. loved the boys. We don’t really get that in the earlier sources. so it’s just an interesting, I think they were more of than friends, but I don’t know if it’s quite as intense as Robin lane Fox may have.
You believe in the movie. They were definitely more than friends cause you see, he like falls into depression after he dies. And we’ll get into that too. Well, yeah, I mean, Roxanne was Roxanna or Roxanne for short painting where you put the a and the E but yeah, she was a, he married her and I believe it was like three 27 so like three years before he married a sta.
Tara and Perry satis, he married her right after Darius was killed. Burry and all that sort of stuff. And best this was taken care of. She wasn’t like a nobody, she was a daughter of a battery and Oberman she wasn’t like a, nobody, nobody, but she wasn’t like, you know, the Persian princess, like,
Dan LeFebvre: [00:57:32] yeah. Not, not as politically motivated.
Ryan Stitt: [00:57:34] yeah. So, and according to the sources, Alexander fell in love with her own seitan married her despite strong opposition from his Macedonian officers. Cause they were like, why are you marrying her? Like, you need to marry a Macedonian woman. Married her, then sent her back to Susa, and then, then he made his expedition to India, and then he would make her father, the governor of the Hindu Kush Hindu Kish region.
It’s great to be nice to the King or to be related to the King. It’s great to be King.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:58:00] It’s good to be begin. Yeah. Well, it sounds like even though there’s a lot of aspects that we may not know fully, it sounds like they. Did a decent job of at least grasping or, or explaining some of the complexity of it, if nothing else, because I remember there, there was some dialogue with his men asking you, why are you marrying Roxanne?
Like, why are you wearing her? You should marry a ma Macedonian woman. I believe they actually said that exact same thing. So, yeah, it sounds like all in all, I mean, it’s movie, so it’s not going to be, it’s not a documentary. It’s not entirely accurate. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t know.
Ryan Stitt: [00:58:34] And it’s Robin lane Fox was the historical person behind it.
So if you had another Alexander scholar, it might’ve had a different interpretation. You might’ve gotten a different like, do you want his sexuality? Cause it’s just so different between the scholars, like so many different opinions on it. For
Dan LeFebvre: [00:58:52] our purposes though, we’ll head back into the movie because it, while Alexander is in Asia, we talked about this a little bit earlier, but, this is when some of Alexander’s soldiers.
Just they want to go home. And one of the soldiers in particular creditors they mentioned is that they left Greece with over 40,000 men and they’ve fought in over 50 battles during the campaign across Asia. Alexander is pretty stubborn. He says, fine, I’m going to take my Asian soldiers and keep going, and then believe it’s told me his voice over there calls it these uprising and actual mutiny, which I’m not sure if that would be the correct term for it or if I should have looked up, if that’s only something that happens on the ocean or not.
But. The point here is something that you alluded to earlier a little bit in that there was a point during the campaign when Alexander’s men seem to get fed up and want to go home. Did that actually happen? Like we see in the
Ryan Stitt: [00:59:53] movie. Yeah. So East of support, it’s the famous Indian King that we won’t go into that, but near the Ganges river further East of that.
And then you get into Indian subcontinent and then his army was just exhausted and feared prospect of fighting even larger armies. And they’ve been campaigning for, at this point, seven years or whatever. So when they reached the high fastest river, which is, they just refused, March, any further name you need in the sense that they disobeyed a direct order by their commander.
And he had to give in and this river would Mark the Eastern most extent of his conquest. He did not go any further. They turned around and went back.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:00:31] Oh wow. So the mutiny actually worked. They just ended up
Ryan Stitt: [01:00:34] leaving. Well, if you don’t have an army that’s going to fight with you, he’s not going to go fight has himself.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:00:40] Well, that’s true. The movie implies that this, the implication I got was that it was mostly the Greeks who wanted to go home, the Greek soldiers of his, but then that, he had a bunch of other soldiers with him that he had kind of gathered up in his campaign. And. That he was just going to continue on with those soldiers in the Greek soldiers can go home and find, I’m going to continue my campaign with somebody else, essentially was what I gathered from the movie.
But it sounds like that wasn’t necessarily the case.
Ryan Stitt: [01:01:10] That happened at
Dan LeFebvre: [01:01:11] Opus a
Ryan Stitt: [01:01:11] little, little bit later on the way back, there was another problem where he was like, he summoned people together and he was going to discharge all the men who he thought were unfit for service and propose to send them all home with money.
He tried to shame his men because they already felt like their service was undervalued because he kept saying he would dismiss them and use Eastern people, and they presented that, and so he was discharged every one of them. And so he had his guards arrests and the ringleaders in the mutiny. They also did that as well.
Oh, it was another mutiny because they got angry with him and. It became a big hula and eventually things settled down. And Alexander , he ended up sending back to Mastodon with some troops and he was best to come back with fresher troops cause he, I mean, just cause he wasn’t going to go further East into Asia, doesn’t mean that he was done with conquests or what he needed to do.
He would, by the time he would get back to Matt Babylon, he was already making plans for . Other expeditions and to other areas, and we’ll talk about that too. So like, he wanted fresher troops to come back to and meet him in Mesopotamia. So then you’d need, in the sense that there’s another mutiny and OPA, it’s not because they didn’t want to go East because they weren’t going East anymore.
They were on the way back, but just, they were just tired. And it ended up being a big thing. But yeah, he had other conquest in mind. According to the sources. Some is like he mad Carthage on his mind. Some was like he was going to head North some and it’s highly unlikely, said that he heard about this upstart kingdom in row in Italy, central Italy, that he was going to go take on.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:02:45] I guess you can put on any hypothesis that you want. Yeah, well, I’m curious, you mentioned that that was as far East as they went, but then earlier you were talking about how that was essentially the end of the known world, dead gone, you know, way beyond what they knew at that time. And one thing that you mentioned as you were talking about the soldiers and wanting to turn back, I don’t remember how you phrased it, but essentially that they were kind of afraid of coming up against a huge army.
Do you think some of that might’ve had to do with their wanting to turn back? Just they’re going up against the unknown, where when you’re facing Persia and you’re facing, you know, other barbarian hordes or you know, whoever you’re fighting against, you kind of have an idea of what you’re going up against, but that’s the fog of war.
You don’t know what’s what’s there and that can add some
Ryan Stitt: [01:03:34] extra fear to it. Yeah, it definitely, they had no intelligence of their surroundings. They didn’t know where they’re going. They didn’t know buy it ahead. They didn’t know what they fought with. In their minds, they could have been monstrous creatures that lived out there.
It was just let your imagination run when you don’t know what’s like, it’s a dark end of the world type of thing, and they just been fighting. They’ve already accomplished what their mission was set out to. They defeated the Persian empire, and by this point it was just kind of. It was kind of, I’m, I’m no doubt on guess, I’m just speculating, but I, no doubt many of them were, ah, this is just.
Alexander’s ego going now, like, like he’s making stupid decisions and getting people killed sort of thing.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:04:18] Oh. But after so many years, I can understand being exhausted.
Ryan Stitt: [01:04:22] Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’m sure there were some who were still looking for adventure, but for the vast majority, yeah. Especially some of the older generals who have been fighting since Phillip’s time with him.
like Ptolemy and them, they were how Xander’s in his late twenties. He’s a young whippersnapper. some of these older guys, I mean, they’re ready for a break, which, which is funny. Not funny, not funny, but interesting cause like they immediately go back into a warfare after he dies anyway. So it’s not like it was a break of war from wanting to fight, cause that’s what they knew it was.
Wanting to fight familiarity, I suppose, as opposed to the unfamiliarity of the East, because they would fight with each other. So it wasn’t like, Oh, we want peace. Yeah,
Dan LeFebvre: [01:05:08] yeah, yeah. But at least you know who your enemy is when you’re fighting each other as
Ryan Stitt: [01:05:12] opposed to, yeah, exactly. You know, it’s, it was fear of the unknown.
No, you don’t know what you don’t know sort of thing. Yeah,
Dan LeFebvre: [01:05:17] no, that makes perfect sense. And you mentioned the potential of monsters and creatures like that, and that actually leads right into my next question, because in the movie we see Alexander nearly getting killed during an attack in the jungles of Asia.
We movie never really tells us actually where this is, but we see Alexander, his men are charging forward. It’s the first time they’re, they’re in. Jungle environment. Most of the battles we’ve seen in the movie so far been these big open expanses. This time they’re in a jungle and there’s this noise that starts coming in.
The ground starts shaking, and all these elephants start charging the war elephants and just essentially start mowing down the men. I mean, these mass massive creatures. Alexander himself. His horse gets hit with a, an arrow and then Alexander’s thrown and he gets hit with a spear. It’s S, I mean, it’s one of the bloodiest.
I think even some of the voiceover meant implies that it’s one of the. Bloodiest battles that he has. And we also see, I believe, FST on actually gets injured as well. Alexander in the movie, he gets carried off on a shield from the battlefield. He doesn’t die there, but he’s severely injured. And this is actually, when is the final straw in that mutiny that we talked about starts to happen and we reached the end.
The movie kind of implies that we’ve reached the end because we were defeated here and. So we’re not going to go any further. Is that something that actually happened.
Ryan Stitt: [01:06:49] Yes and no. Like that actually happens. His horse dies. I know in the sources he gets hit in the shoulder, but I mean, then there’s also, he has like an ankle injury in another campaign after that.
So like there’s, this isn’t like the grand all be all. He’s had a lot of injuries and it’s just, I think this one, this specific one was kind of played up and I’m not sure if that was meant for a
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:09] specific place
Ryan Stitt: [01:07:11] in India. That he got an injury from, or if it was just kind of meant to be like India in general, like the, the campaigns in India through the jungle were rough because he, I mean, he fought a bunch of different tribes in different valleys.
The gray as Valley and Coonara and SWAT and boon air, different peoples. I can’t remember off the top of my head which one that one was trying to portray. I mean, he saw, he saw elephants Fati it’s porous. So elephants weren’t knew at that point. I think that was just like a collection of like the fears, the hardness, the kind of guerrilla warfare in the jungle, like just built up into one battle scene because that was how it was for like the entire, like winter and just campaigning for a whole year of fighting their way that, that’s part of India.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:07:59] makes perfect sense. And movies do that all the time too, you know, do an amalgamation or you know, some sort of a composite or you take all these different things together and you throw them into, you compress the timeline. Right. I mean, I mean, it’s a long movie, but it’s not years and years long.
Like the actual events.
Ryan Stitt: [01:08:14] Yeah, for sure. So they, as they leave Andea, then they start heading back West and then you have that mutiny and Opez that I mentioned before, the other one. And then they eventually make their way back to Babylon. And that’s where. Things happen unexpectedly.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:08:28] Yeah. Well, speaking of which, that leads right into the next one, because in the movie, once they returned to Babylon, tragedy strikes have STN comes down with typhus of India, is what they call it.
He dies and. Alexander starts to suspect that Roxanne was actually behind his death. She thinks that maybe she poisoned him because of the love between Alexander and Hevesi on that. Roxanne was jealous for how well did the movie do depicting his death Hevesi Ian’s death, as well as the implications that there was some suspicions around him possibly being poisoned by Roxanne.
Ryan Stitt: [01:09:07] One thing they got wrong is he actually didn’t die in Babylon. It was an ex Matana. He died before they got back to Babylon. It was Alexander who had later died in Babylon. Spoiler alert. Oh. But yeah, fasting on di, it was, he fell very ill and died when they were neck. Botana if Alexander wasn’t showing signs of mental instability before that, as some of the sources in the movie likes to kind of show alcoholism, mental instability, definitely.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:09:36] pushed over the edge with this.
Ryan Stitt: [01:09:38] The source Arion, said that he cried over the corpse for like a full day until it was finally dragged away. I don’t know if that’s exaggerated or not. Maybe, if you’ve cried over some of these corporate for a full day though, that definitely heats. You’re more than just a friend.
I would, pink Plutarch’s says then this is where we get like the maybe potential suspicions of poison or whatever he says that. Alexander had FST his doctor who was taking care of his illness, glaucous killed for giving him the wrong medicine or letting him drink too much, and he could have been foul play there, could have not.
None of these sources always agree on anything. So there’s different interpretations. Ancient and modern. So then, and then he was in like, he was in such a deep grief that he sent messengers to the Oracle AMO and back and eat it up. Then he asked. If he could make sacrifices to FST on and deify him as a God too.
And he got the answer no, which really angered him, but, and he treated him as a demigod anyway, even ordered this massive funeral Pyre in order to honor him, which kind of hearkens back not kind of, it actually does harken back to the, the end of the Iliad with Achilles and Patrick, please mourning his death.
Those two relationships are often linked in the minds of many just similar style relationships.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:10:52] You mentioned earlier almost a. Mentorship type relationship, was that how it started or
Ryan Stitt: [01:10:59] that they were the same age? Roughly
Dan LeFebvre: [01:11:01] the same age. Okay.
Ryan Stitt: [01:11:02] One might’ve been slightly older than the other. I think FST on might’ve been slightly older than Alexander, but it wasn’t like a 30 year old man and a 12 year old boy when like they were like, it might’ve been like 16 and 12 or something, but like, yeah, they grew up together.
I think they showed that at the beginning of the film to wrestling together and stuff. They’re in Aristotle’s classes together.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:11:22] Well in the movie after FST on dies, then it goes back to what I talked about the very beginning of the movie and at the very beginning of our discussion, Alexander’s death, and according to the movie, this happens pretty, pretty quickly after her death.
It’s not very far afterwards. I don’t think the movie ever really explains. What caused his death. We see that he’s drinking a bunch of wine. The next thing he doubles over and then he’s on his death bed. And, Tommy’s voiceover says that he died on June 10th, one month short of his 33rd birthday. And then it goes on to talk about how the general start fighting over his body and his empire right away.
Eventually splitting the empire into four parts with Ptolemy himself becoming the Pharaoh of Egypt. So how well did the movie do showing how Alexander the great died and what happened to his empire after his death? Very shortly after he
Ryan Stitt: [01:12:22] left Equitana. He kind of became himself again. Let me slowly became himself again, I should say, and began his March back to battle on when he got back to Babylon.
He kind of kept busy, like I said, with projects and began to think about, well, he’s going to do next. He was working on a fleet to explore the Caspian sea North of Iran, Persia, which was very unfamiliar to the Greek world. It was also wanting to explore South, build some harbors, expanded to Arabia, turn the Persian cough into a region, a prosperous region, that sort of thing.
He was going to fight the Arabs claiming or attack the Arabs and conquer that, that area, just for expansions, for expansion sake sort of thing. So he had these other things going on, canals and improve the lives of the subjects, you know, things conquerors. Do. And then in the sources he had a, there’s a bunch of like historical hindsight probably seeping in like anecdotal things, but a lot of different omens started popping up for telling a bad end.
You can get a ton of them. We won’t go into them, but
Dan LeFebvre: [01:13:23] so the various sources
Ryan Stitt: [01:13:25] can’t really agree on what was the cause of his death. And we, you know, modern historians can’t really agree on that either. If it’s still kind of unknown. Everybody has a different opinion. Some sales, alcoholism. Some say typhus or malaria or poisoned or, and we can just best guess at it.
He’s the same, countless wounds in his campaigns and marched unknown lands diseases for almost a decade. It’s probably a combination of disease, sickness, wounds, not getting treated. Possibly heavy alcoholism. Now, all of the above. I don’t really think anybody poisoned him per se. So yeah, he, he died. there’s various theories.
Like I said, some people look at like, Oh, this is the disease that it was, you know, the black death people try to pin precisely on different things based upon evidenced in the sources. Anyway, we won’t get into that, but he’s dead. But he didn’t have an air, which is the big problem. So he had no legitimate Macedonian air.
his only son, which would be called Alexander the fourth, he was the third. He would only come Alexander the great later. Alexander the fourth was born by Roxanne, but wasn’t born until after he had already died. So, I mean, they. They didn’t even know it was going to be a son. A di Dora says that his companion, and this is where we get to like the famous two, the strongest, his companions asked him as he was laying on his death bed, who he was bequeathing his empire too.
When he said toy costliest toy, which means to the strongest increase, likely apocryphal other theories of this is. By modern scholars. Is that like actually the success they actually either willfully or erroneously misheard toy crosstie Stoy when it was actually toy Katera Roy.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:15:13] Just
Ryan Stitt: [01:15:13] cut to crash Horace, the date of two crackers that the general who led his troops, his veterans back home, and who he became and trusted him with control of Mastodon and his Steed.
One of his veteran generals. I decide other sources, like courteous of Roman author and Justin Byzantine author. Later from a late Roman. Said that he chose predicative by giving him a signet ring and nominate him. But predictiveness didn’t want to claim power, and instead suggested it that Roxanne’s baby would be King if male, and that he would just be come the Regent, with, and then himself and cry terrorists.
And Antipater would be guardians until the baby could take the throne. But, you know, predict this was the. Leader of his companion cavalry, and according to the sources, the infantry was really angry that they didn’t, they were excluded from this discussion, so they supported Alexander’s half-brother, Philip R.
I see. I always butcher this last name. I cannot say this correctly. It’s Philip, are hideous, are hideous, or are hideous every time. I always stumble on that word. Ah, like a decade. Anyway, so it is what it is now. But eventually, like both sides reconcile and you know, they are both appointed as joint King.
So you get Philip a and the young Alexander joint Kings, but in name only because then you have these older generals who are their guardians. And then eventually you get this dissension among the ranks, obviously fighting in fighting, and then rivalry soon just brings it all down within two years. And then you get the say trapeze or handed out at what’s called the partition of Babylon after his death.
So it’s like these generals, this is your area. This is going to be your area. This is going to be your area. And then within two years, they start the general start fighting for power predicts is assassinated. Both Al young Alexander and Philip are murdered. And then it kicks off a 40 years war between, the successors known in Greek.
The Dido coy died ki though that’s what we know for the next 40 years. There’s a war. And then eventually that. The Greek world centers sent settles into four power blocks. You get Ptolemy, Egypt. We’re 40 years later at the beginning of the film, he’s in control of Alexandria. He has a line of successors all the way down to Cleopatra, and then you get the salutes who control Mesopotamia, central Asia for time, they have a little bit further.
They basically lose everything in India almost immediately, and then over time, their empire starts shrinking and shrinking and shrinking as from the East. As you start getting into like resurgent Eastern kingdoms popping up, and then you get Adelaide and an Anatolia, which is modern Turkey area. You get the adolescents, the Atala dynasty, and then you get the anti-gun EDS and Mastodon who control, like the Southern Balkans, Southern peninsulas, ER, Peloponnese, some of the Peloponnese, but you know, central Greece mast on.
So that’s how it gets splintered up. It’s fascinating. And that time period is just. It’s like, it’s very, I know I make this reference a lot, but it’s very game of Thrones S I think it would make a fascinating television show, like mini series, like the Dido Hoy, because it’s very, you know, like people are just killing each other, fighting battles every couple of
Dan LeFebvre: [01:18:30] years.
Ryan Stitt: [01:18:31] you have people at the beginning and you basically have nobody left towards the end. You just get some of their successors, obviously. But, it’s just the constant change of hands. So after Alexander died a little bit after he died, so he was, his body was placed into a gold sarcophagus. And it was escorted back to Massa Don recently.
I forget when, but it was like within the last 10 years, I think there was a discovery of this enormous empty tomb at a fabulous, which is awesome. Archeological site has led some to speculate that this was in its intended burial place. There’s a lot of Royal findings in there. Obviously no body or anything.
Nope. Because we know that according to a Eliana’s, Claudia Roman source, later that, he mentioned that a sear four told that the land where Alexander’s body would be laid to rest would be happy, rich and vanquished double forever. So like they fought. Of course, we want to get the body, we want the body here in our territory.
Perhaps more than likely some of the successors just to had control when the legitimacy that would come from having Alexander’s body buried in your area and you’re your kingdom. So what happens is Ptolemy seizes it and takes it back to Egypt, and then his son, Tommy, the second Philadelphus is the one who actually more recent Alexandria.
And his remains would stay there until, I think it’s the Severin dynasty, like the two hundreds but like it’s like in the Roman empire and then we kind of, we don’t really know what happened. It gets like cloudy. We have mentions of emperor’s going to his tomb and seeing him and then you don’t anymore, so you don’t really know what happened to it.
Yeah, just kind of disappears from like, I think it pops back up later. I’m not really 100% sure on like the later life of that. I just know that he was in Alexandria for some time.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:20:08] How long after Huff STN died did Alexander die? Cause I don’t remember the movie actually showing how much time passed between there, but it seemed to imply it was really quickly afterwards.
Ryan Stitt: [01:20:19] It’s relatively quick. I mean like after he leaves that Baton and then he heads back to Babylon and he’s only in Babylon for a little while. It can’t be any more than like. It’s definitely not over a year. I would say it’s somewhere between six months. A year that much longer.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:20:35] Yeah, it’s pretty quick. Yeah.
That was one of the things that caught my attention. I was watching a movie cause it, you know, they have this huge play on the love between them and then when he passes all of it and then just downhill from there. You know, Alexander has this huge campaign and then within almost no time at all, he’s down.
if there was one thing that you would change in the movie, what would that be?
Ryan Stitt: [01:20:59] I would add more of the build up
Dan LeFebvre: [01:21:01] to actual
Ryan Stitt: [01:21:04] campaigning and Persia.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:21:06] More of the politics instead of the military side.
Ryan Stitt: [01:21:09] Yeah. More of an interpersonal relationships between the different commanders, Alexander and can build up some of them more like, I didn’t really get a whole lot of Ptolemy.
The whole lot of an ass. You didn’t get a whole lot of
Dan LeFebvre: [01:21:22] the successors
Ryan Stitt: [01:21:23] other than like, you know, brief mentioning here there some of the personalities who would play an important role afterwards? I would, I would like to see them built up more. Well, I mean, again, it was already like a three hour movie.
It’d be better as a mini series.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:21:36] Yeah. Hopefully they’ll do something like that in the, in the future. But in the meantime, for somebody who wants to learn more about ancient Greece, can you share a little bit of information about your podcast and where someone listening can find it? Yeah, so it’s
Ryan Stitt: [01:21:52] the history of ancient Greece, obviously can go to the history of ancient Greece in DICOM and directly download them.
I have lots of cool resources there, but I mean, I’m a podcast that’s on every single podcasting platform. If I’m not on the one that you listen to, just shoot me an email and let me know. I’m also on YouTube now. Spotify, you know, Apple. I am currently in the Peloponnesian war, still some about eight years
Dan LeFebvre: [01:22:16] before
Ryan Stitt: [01:22:17] Phillips assassination and Alexander’s Ascension
Dan LeFebvre: [01:22:20] ish, roughly.
Ryan Stitt: [01:22:21] So I saw it a little bit of while to get there. But yeah, so I’m at the history of ancient Greece. I’m currently in the middle of the Peloponnesian war. I have about a hundred and. 15 inch episodes. It’s not just military history and political history. I have a lot of, quite a bit of cultural, so religious episodes.
There’s an episode for every cult for each God. There’s an are myths. There’s also, like I said, sexuality episodes. I do a lot of cultural topics, economic topics, social topics. I’ve been in the fifth century for like two years now. When I got to the end of the Persian Wars, I took a break and just did like this grand cultural tour of the Mediterranean.
Yeah. Yeah. Also, I’ll give a shot. I’ll give a shout out too. There’s a, there’s the Hellenistic age podcast as well that’s covering the Alexandra and the period after. So if you guys are interested in Alexandra and the period after Alexander, check that one out, he does a very good job. Derek does a fantastic job as well.
And then I’m doing this stuff earlier so you can learn about how we get to,
Dan LeFebvre: [01:23:14] how grease gets destroyed
Ryan Stitt: [01:23:16] in Concord by Mastodon, by fighting with each other, and then what happens afterwards because they’re always fighting. The Greeks are always fighting, never United.
Dan LeFebvre: [01:23:26] Well. Thank you so much for coming on to chat about the historical accuracy of Alexander.
Appreciate your time.
Ryan Stitt: [01:23:31] Ah, I loved it. This is fantastic. Thank you.