polytheist extractions

Tag Archives: alexander

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2.5-6

“All the women of Makedonia were addicted to the Orphic rites and the orgies of Dionysos from very ancient times (being called Klodones and Mimallones), and imitated in many ways the practices of the Edonian women and the Thracian women about Mount Haemus, from whom, as it would seem, the word ‘threskeuein‘ came to be applied to the celebration of extravagant and superstitious ceremonies. Now Olympias, who affected these divine possessions more zealously than other women, and carried out these divine inspirations in wilder fashion, used to provide the revelling companies with great tame serpents, which would often lift their heads from out the ivy and the mystic winnowing baskets, or coil themselves about the wands and garlands of the women, thus terrifying the men.” – Plutarch, Life of Alexander 2.5-6


Plutarch, Life of Alexander 67.1-3

“Accordingly, after refreshing his forces here, he set out and marched for seven days through Carmania in a revelling rout. He himself was conveyed slowly along by eight horses, while he feasted day and night continuously with his companions on a dais built upon a lofty and conspicuous scaffolding of oblong shape; and wagons without number followed, some with purple and embroidered canopies, others protected from the sun by boughs of trees which were kept fresh and green, conveying the rest of his friends and commanders, who were all garlanded and drinking. Not a shield was to be seen, not a helmet, not a spear, but along the whole march with cups and drinking-horns and flagons the soldiers kept dipping wine from huge casks and mixing-bowls and pledging one another, some as they marched along, others lying down; while pipes and flutes, stringed instruments and song, and revelling cries of women, filled every place with abundant music. Then, upon this disordered and straggling procession there followed also the sports of bacchanalian license, as though Bacchus himself were present and conducting the revel.” – Plutarch, Life of Alexander 67.1-3

Diodoros Sikeliotis, Library of History 17.72.1-6

“Alexander held games in honour of his victories. He performed costly sacrifices to the gods and entertained his friends bountifully. While they were feasting and the drinking was far advanced, as they began to be drunken a madness took possession of the minds of the intoxicated guests. At this point one of the women present, Thais by name and Attic by origin, said that for Alexander it would be the finest of all his feats in Asia if he joined them in a triumphal procession, set fire to the palaces, and permitted women’s hands in a minute to extinguish the famed accomplishments of the Persians. This was said to men who were still young and giddy with wine, and so, as would be expected, someone shouted out to form the comus and to light torches, and urged all to take vengeance for the destruction of the Greek temples. Others took up the cry and said that this was a deed worthy of Alexander alone. When the king had caught fire at their words, all leaped up from their couches and passed the word along to form a victory procession in honour of Dionysos. Promptly many torches were gathered. Female musicians were present at the banquet, so the king led them all out for the comus to the sound of voices and flutes and pipes, Thais the courtesan leading the whole performance. She was the first, after the king, to hurl her blazing torch into the palace. As the others all did the same, immediately the entire palace area was consumed, so great was the conflagration. It was most remarkable that the impious act of Xerxes, king of the Persians, against the acropolis at Athens should have been repaid in kind after many years by one woman, a citizen of the land which had suffered it, and in sport.” – Diodoros Sikeliotis, Library of History 17.72.1-6

Suidas s.v. Serapis

“Archbishop Theophilus destroyed his statue in Alexandria at the time of emperor Theodosius the Great. Some said this depicted Zeus, some said it was the Nile because it had on its head the bushel and the cubit, that is to say the measure of water; others said that it was Joseph, others said that it was Apis, a rich man and king in the Egyptian city Memphis. When a famine had occurred he provided food for the Alexandrians out of his own stores, and after his death they built in honour of him a temple, in which a bull was bred, bearing a sign distinctive of the farmer and having some marks on the skin; the bull was also named after him and called Apis. The coffin of this Apis, in which his body lay, was transferred to Alexandria and they created a composite name out of the coffin (soros) and Apis and they called him Sorapis, but those afterwards called him Sarapis. An immense and brilliant temple for him was built by Alexander.” – Suidas s.v. Serapis

Ps.-Nicolaus, Ecphrasis of the Tychaion 8.2-9

“A sacred precinct is established in the middle of Alexandria, composed of many more gods, but the whole precinct is named after Tyche. And those who gave the area its name seem to me to do so out of necessity. For as to those from whom everything is hidden by Tyche, for them the name of the gods had been hidden because of Tyche. The area is decorated somewhat as follows. It is completely adorned from floor to ceiling. The decoration is divided into semicircles, and varied columns are placed in front of each. The semicircles, in turn, are made to serve as receptacles for statues, and it is possible to measure the semicircles in terms of their statues; columns are set up alongside the statues. Gods are placed standing— not all but only twelve in number. And a column capital holds the Founder out apart from the two end ones and middle ones, and he stands, himself bearing a token of the Soter, but being borne up by the things by which the city is customarily nourished. And the nature of the earth is represented by Charis; half the stated number of gods surround her in their middle. And in the very middle stands a statue of Tyche, making clear by a crown the victories of Alexander; and Earth is being crowned by Tyche, and Earth herself is crowning the victor. Victories stand on either side of Tyche, with the craftsman admirably showing the power of Tyche, that Tyche knows how to be victorious over all. The decoration of the area is completed with a crown of laurel made from a statue. And one man philosophizes on a chair at one end, while another stands naked at the other end, holding an image of heaven in his left hand, while holding his right hand ready for everything, and he stands bare of covering. And bronze stelae stand in the middle of the floor, engraved with the laws of the city. And in the middle are the doors leading to the precinct of the Muses. Bronze kings stand in the middle, not all that time has brought, but those it has brought who were most revered. These things were a wonder to see, a benefit to learn of, and a crime to hide away in silence.” – Ps.-Nicolaus, Ecphrasis of the Tychaion 8.2-9

Pseudo-Kallisthenes, Alexander Romance 31

“And they began to build the city of Alexandria in the middle of the plain. First the place was given a name so as to begin from there the building of the city. And a serpent used to come to those who were busy working, and it frightened the workers and put a stop to the work. Because of the serpent’s raids, Alexander came and said, ‘Let it be captured by the workmen wherever it is found tomorrow.’ And upon receiving the order, they subdued and slew the beast when it came to the place which is now called Yark. [“Place of habitation.”] And Alexander asked that a shrine be built for it there, and they buried the serpent in it. And he declared that the excavation for the foundations be made nowhere else but on that same spot, where to this day the high mountain called the Albiwrk [“mound”] appears. And when he had laid the foundation for most of the city, he wrote upon it the five letters: A, B, C, D, E; A, Alexander; B, the greatest king; C, of the greatest nations; D, in the place of Aramazd; E, descended and built a unique city. And there were donkeys and mules at work there. And when the shrine had been built for this divinity, he set it upon the pillar. And many serpents came out of it and slithered into the houses that were now there. For Alexander was still there on the twenty-fifth of Tybi, building the city and that very shrine for the serpent. Thus, when these snakes came into the houses, the gatekeepers worship them as kindly spirits, for they are not poisonous, like wild animals, but rather, drive out poisonous beasts. And sacrifices are made to him as being of the family of serpents. And they wreathed all the beasts of burden and let them rest on that day; for, by bearing burdens, they had done their share in the building of the splendid city. And the king ordered that grain be given the guards. And when they had ground the grain and made bread, this was given to the inhabitants as in time of great rejoicing. On account of this, to this day these customs are kept among the Alexandrians on the twenty-fifth of Tybi. They garland all beasts of burden, and offer sacrifices to the god, and render homage to the serpents who safeguard the home, and make a distribution of bread.” – Pseudo-Kallisthenes, Alexander Romance 31

Plutarch, Sayings of the Kings and Commanders 179e

“As Alexander was sacrificing to the gods liberally, and often offered frankincense, Leonidas his tutor standing by said, ‘O son, thus generously will you sacrifice, when you have conquered the country that bears frankincense.’ And when he had conquered it, he sent him this letter: ‘I have sent you an hundred talents of frankincense and cassia, that hereafter you may not be niggardly towards the gods, who have rewarded my piety with rulership over the country in which perfumes grow.’” – Plutarch, Sayings of the Kings and Commanders 179e

Arrian, Anabasis 7.25.6

“Even though Alexander was seriously ill he refused to neglect his religious duties and offered up the appointed sacrifices. Afterwards he had to be carried from the garden back into the palace, and could not meet with his generals who had been waiting outside the door for him. He hardly recognized the men and could not speak, his illness being so extreme.” – Arrian, Anabasis 7.25.6

Arrian, Anabasis 4.11.2-9

“Callisthenes broke in and said: ‘Anaxarchus, I declare Alexander unworthy of no honour appropriate for a man; but men have used numerous ways of distinguishing all the honours which are appropriate for men and for gods; thus we build temples and erect images and set aside precincts for the gods, and we offer them sacrifices and libations and compose hymns to them, while eulogies are for men; but the most important distinction concerns the matter of obeisance. At greeting men receive a kiss, but what is divine, I suppose because it is seated above us and we are forbidden even to touch it, is for that very reason honoured by obeisance; dances, too, are held for the gods, and paeans sung in their praise. In this distinction there is nothing surprising, since among the gods themselves all are not honoured in the same way; and what is more, there are different honours for the heroes, distinct again from those paid to gods. It is not, therefore, proper to confuse all this, by raising mortals to extravagant proportions by excesses of honour, while bringing the gods, as far as men can, down to a demeaning and unfitting level by honouring them in the same way as men. So Alexander himself would not endure it for a moment, if some private person were to thrust himself into the royal honours by unjust election or vote, and the gods would have far better cause to be displeased with any men who thrust themselves or permit others to thrust them into divine honours. Alexander both is and is thought to be above all measure the bravest of the brave, most kingly of kings, most worthy to command of all commanders. As for you, Anaxarchus, you above all should have expounded these argument and stopped those on the other side, as you are attending on Alexander as philosopher and instructor. It was improper for you to take the lead in this topic; you should rather have remembered that you are not attending nor advising a Cambyses or Xerxes, but a son of Philip, a descendent of Heracles and of Aeacus, whose forefathers came from Argos to Macedonia, and have continued to rule the Macedonians not by force but in accordance with custom. Even Heracles himself did not receive divine honours from the Greeks in his own lifetime, nor even after his death till the god of Delphi gave his sanction to honouring him as a god. If, however, we must think like barbarians, as we are speaking in their country, even so I appeal personally to you, Alexander, to remember Greece, on whose behalf you made your whole expedition, to annex Asia to Greece. Consider this too; when you return there, will you actually compel the Greeks as well, the freest of mankind, to do you obeisance, or will you keep away from the Greeks, but put this dishonour on the Macedonians, or will you yourself make a distinction once for all in this matter of honours and receive from Greeks and Macedonians honours of a human and Greek style, and barbarian honours only from barbarians? But if it is said of Cyrus son of Cambyses that he was the first of men to receive obeisance and that therefore this humiliation became traditional with Persians and Medes, you must remember that this very Cyrus was brought to his senses by the Scythians, a people poor but free, Darius too by other Scythians, Xerxes by Athenians and Lacedaemonians, and Artaxerxes by Clearchus, Xenophon and their Ten Thousand, and Darius by Alexander here, who does not receive obeisance.’” – Arrian, Anabasis 4.11.2-9