Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Robin Lane Fox on whether Alexander the Great thought he was a god

Robin Lane Fox gave an interesting talk recently to the Hellenic Society (video above) on the religious cults that developed in Hellenistic times associated with Alexander the Great and argues that these were not advanced by Alexander nor were they a product of Alexander’s pretensions to divinity – there is a widespread assumption that Alexander was driven mad by a belief in his own divinity and that he insisted he should be worshipped as a god. Rather, Lane Fox says, the cults associated with Alexander emerged as ‘tactical’ honours, in specific cities, for specific political and cultural reasons. In other words, Alexander did not think of himself as a god and did nothing to encourage such beliefs.

While watching Lane Fox’s lecture on youtube, I also came across this video clip in which Lane Fox says that the two things that made him want to devote a considerable part of his intellectual life to the career and character of the Macedonian king were: 1. Alexander’s fearlessness; and 2. Alexander’s ‘rivalry’ (as Lane Fox puts it) with Homer and the values of the Homeric world.

I also watched the interview below from Skopjan TV with its former prime minister Ljubco Georgievski, who seems to be inching towards accepting that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks and that the claims being made by the Slav inhabitants of Fyromia are ridiculous. However, Georgievski’s attempt to tell Skopjan viewers a few home truths is met by anger and incredulity from his interviewer, who disputes that the ancient Macedonians were Greeks on the following grounds:

1. If the Macedonians were Greeks, they would not have fought other Greeks.

2. The ancient Macedonians did not speak Greek.

3. Greece only began to take an interest in Alexander the Great and assert the Greekness of Macedonia in the 1990s.

What can one say?

As this piece (in Greek) reporting on a pro-Erdogan demonstration in Tirana indicates, the Skopjans, rather than engaging in embarrassing efforts to understand the ancient world, should be more worried about Albanian nationalism and its idea of incorporating Fyromia into a neo-Ottoman Balkan commonwealth, led by Turkey, and also consisting of Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Or maybe some Skopjans think that if they too align themselves with Turkey, this might be a way to fulfil their nationalist fantasies against Greece.