Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is this 'Great'?


“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.” ― Alexander the Great

As a teacher, I should be flattered by quotes like this.

Alexander the Great was speaking of Aristotle, as far as the teacher was concerned, and it is difficult to argue with the credit given.    It is interesting that he didn't consider that his mother contributed to his life.   I have read that he wrote to his mother regularly, almost daily, so she must have been in his thoughts.

But before I start to feel too gratified, I must consider the speaker of the quote.  Alexander the Great, the well known Greek, was actually born in Macedonia.   His father was King of Macedonia and left him with an enormous standing army.   It cannot be denied that Alexander was a great military strategist and never lost a battle even when he went up against armies that were considerably larger.   He was daring, usually in the thick of battle himself, and able to make quick and accurate judgements while the action raged.

He was also ruthless.  Does a man deserve to be called ‘The Great’ who was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of his own men and for the unnecessary wholesale slaughter of the native people of the Persian empire?  Alexander would mostly  loot and plunder those who  immediately surrendered and kill or sell into slavery those who mounted a resistance and forced him into an extensive period of siege.   Once he had conquered an area, he would move on, having no patience with any kind of administration or governance.   He departed Macedonia when he was twenty years old with his army and never returned, leaving appointees in his place to govern.  Historical sources, written centuries after his death by Roman historians who based their reports on primary sources, report of his violent temper and his reckless endangerment of the lives of those under him.

Alexander believed he was divine, the son of Zeus yet  he died at age 33 of what is now believed to have been malaria.  I have to wonder what knowledge and wisdom exactly Aristotle imparted to his protege.

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