Playing Alexander the Great

By Adina Riposan
Director, e&m Global Perspective – Editorial, July 2002

Adina “Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the World.”
(George Bernard Shaw)


History and ancient stories seem to be the best tutorials we have at our disposal to “browse” and explore in search of wisdom and universal answers to practical dilemmas we run into during our day-to-day becoming.

However, it is worth noting that people never hesitate in choosing guiding images to lead their lives and destines from the biggest conquerors or historical rulers Humankind have ever seen. When it comes to figures, statistics show that – among the ever-living images – Alexander the Great has secured his particular place in the Top Leading guiders for most requesting high-flyers or most ambitious conquerors of the present-day world.

Still, there is no wonder. We may consider it explainable, as History has told us impressive stories about a young King and warrior that, in just ten years-time, had created an empire that reached from the River Indus to Greece. After his death, his general Ptolemy, son of Lagus, took the young King’s body for burial to Alexandria, where a great tomb was built. A cycle of stories developed and, in time, romantic fables of Alexander (many having their origins in the city of Alexandria in Egypt), became known from northern Europe to China. According to these, no task seemed impossible for the idealized Alexander.

The young Macedonian succeeded his father Philip II of Macedon and continued his Campaign at the age of 20, being already a seasoned soldier and a veteran of Chaeronea. The same young boy who had ridden Bucephalus at 12, the fiery horse which no one else could ride and which further became his favorite until the day he died.

Being Alexander the Great appears to be the expression of greatness, daring goals and endless potential. Still, people who play Alexander usually strive for conquering territories and power, setting unlimited targets to gain authority over the others and secure self-ruled spaces where nobody would ever dare to step in. Unfortunately, what we understand and learn from legends seldom preserve today the values that those legends were actually meant to communicate.

In 334 B.C., the Macedonian crossed the Dardanelles with his army, from Thrace into Asia Minor, aiming to conquer the Persian Empire. The empire was lost to Alexander of Macedon, and for a time became part of the new Hellenistic World.

In 332 B.C., The Persian Satrap of Egypt surrendered to Alexander the Great without a struggle. The conqueror entered Egypt, where he was welcomed. Alexander was accepted as a Pharaoh and, on visiting the Oracle of Amun, at Siwa, was proclaimed as a god, the normal form of address for an Egyptian ruler, yet it seems to have convinced him of his own divinity. Finally, he reached the Indus, and there defeated the Indian king Poros.

Indisputably, there is a lot to learn from the young conqueror from Macedon. But there are also some other things to learn, which people today should take a deeper look into. Determination and will, firmness and resolute attitude upon life. Human dignity and decisive solutions, whenever life places us in the position to choose.

Alexander the Great learnt his lesson and actually taught us how to do the same more than two thousand years ago. We have been proven that there is no “binding” which cannot be unbound, there are always ways to be devised and there is always an option to say “No”. We have the choice of cutting the “Gordian knot”.

Moreover, while fighting for survival and striving for new conquests we should remember how to see the beauty of the World, to watch it through the mirror of its primordial wonder. Irrespective of the fact that only vestiges are left to see today. Going back to legends would be worthwhile, now bringing our story to an end. In 323 B.C., Alexander – the great Macedonian warrior who had survived countless battles – succumbed to illness and died at the city of Babylon. At this point, legends tell us that the great Pharaoh, god-proclaimed and strongly confident about his personal divine nature, while being faced with the imminence of dying he requested to be buried with his arms left outside the coffin, in order to show people that the greatest conqueror in the History ever left the material World without having taken anything with him.

We play Alexander alive and some of us succeed to get to highest peaks and uncountable glory. But the message is clear that, in the end, we are all bound to go out of this empty handed…