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May 21, 2014

Hero-rhetoric & god-king protocol

Randall Collins: So, what made Alexander great?

Alexander did not die of disappointment, or for want of places yet to conquer. His fatal drinking binge took place days before another expedition was to be launched, the conquest of Arabia, preliminary to Carthage and the western Mediterranean. But the atmosphere was different. The court was swarming with priests and soothsayers, making all manner of sacrifices and oracles for the upcoming expedition. Alexander was conventionally religious for his time-- i.e. giving ample display of rituals before and after battle, no doubt enjoying the Durkheimian center of attention. But there is no indication he ever let the oracles tell him what to do. Flashback one last time, to Alexander in Greece, 21 years old, getting ready for his Persian expedition. Following good form, he visits the oracle of Delphi. But the oracle is closed; it is not a propitious day. Alexander forcefully drags the priestess to her shrine. “My son, you are invincible,” she protests. It is all he wants to hear.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 21, 2014 07:28 AM