Alexander the Great: Conquest and Divinity

Open Access
Author:
Wyman, Logan Addison
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History
Degree:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Mark Munn, Thesis Supervisor
  • Mary Lou Z Munn, Honors Advisor
  • Catherine Wanner, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Alexander the Great
  • Gordium
  • Siwah
  • Proskynesis
  • divinity
Abstract:
In only a short nineteen years, Alexander the Great managed to bridge two vastly different worlds under one empire that spanned from Greece to India. By bringing the vast Persian empire with the Greek western one under a single ruler-ship he was forced to reconcile the conflicting ideologies of the areas. The reconciliation of these cultures social and religious norms weighed heavily on Alexander and influenced the manner in which he administered his empire as well as how he came to view himself as a ruler. What stands out is the shift in personality and views of his own divinity and its relation to his place as emperor. From the ancient histories of Arrian, Plutarch and Curtius, writing long after his passing, Alexander’s changing sentiments about himself and how he should be viewed among his subjects becomes clear, but what is significant is the factors that influenced these changes in perception. I will seek to demonstrate that Alexander’s push to confirm his own divinity was at first, a strongly politically motivated move to establish he supremacy over his eastern and western empires, however, as he saw more success and his empire began to stretch further east, his concepts of establishing his divinity turned more ego-driven as he tried to affirm to himself and the empire that he did indeed have divine origins and should occupy a place among the gods for his exploits as a man. The evolution of his views concerning his connections to the divine and how closely they became tied to his position of power in the new empire are demonstrated by four significant events in Alexander’s campaign across Asia: the untying of the Gordian Knot, the revelation of the oracle of Siwah, Alexander’s request of prostration by his troops and Alexander’s speech given at the refusal of his troops to continue the campaign.