Alpha's View: 'He wants to be worshipped'
We meet in a secluded corner of the army camp, far from prying eyes, but still Alpha is nervous. A veteran of some 15 years of continuous military service, and with the scars to prove it, Alpha is not a man who frightens easily, so his evident anxiousness is a striking testament to the severity of the issue. 'Nobody wants to criticise Alexander', he says, 'we're all too scared.' On this, at least, he's absoloutely right - ever since Alexander murdered the general Clitus during a banquet, a climate of fear has ruled the camp.
So why does Alpha speak up now? 'He's gone too far; there's a line you just don't cross and demanding that we worship him is a step too far.' He is referring to the recent banquet where the philosopher Anaxarchus, at Alexander's instigation, suggested that the Macedonians and Greeks adopt the Persian practice of proskynesis. After much debate, the idea was dropped, but resentment still lingers: 'he's totally forgetten his roots and he's forgotten all of the Macedonian blood that won him his victories - he used to be one of us and now he's becoming a tyrant.'
Leaving that aside for a moment, what is it about prosykensis that upsets men like Alpha? 'Proskynesis is a form of worship.' With a little pushing, he elaborates further: 'it's a ritual bow that we sometimes make before the statue of a god in a temple; we only do it in front of representations of a god. By asking us to perform the gesture, Alexander was asking us to recognise him as a god.' Once he has opened up, Alpha is keen to explain in greater detail. 'The fact that he let the Persians do it is bad enough - it shows the arrogance of the man - but we could just about tolerate it then; asking us to do it is too far. There've been rumours that he wanted us to treat him like a god for years, and this was his attmept to force us into it.' The rumours he refers to here date back to Alexander's time in Egypt (332 BC), when he was allegedly greeted as 'son' by the oracle of Ammon, an important Egyptian god equvialent to Zeus. Alexander supposedly began to refer to himself as the 'son of Zeus' and a story soon spread that Zeus, in the guise of a serpent, had bedded his mother Olympias.
The origin of these tales are hard to pinpoint, but, on the issue of proskynesis, Alpha is firm: 'it is, and can only ever be, a gesture designed to recognise the recipient as a god. There is nothing else to it.' He is also swift to reject the idea that Alexander is in any way interested in the intentions of Persians who perform the gesture, arguing vociferously that 'no matter why the Persians do it, no Greek or Macedonian could bow before Alexander without thinking it a religious act. Alexander knows this; he knows what the gesture means to us - he would only ask us to do it, if he wanted to be worshipped.'
The quotations in this article are fictional, but Alpha's argument is based on the works of a number of modern historians. The most important are A.B. Bosworth's 'Conquest and Empire' (1988) and I. Worthington's 'Alexander the Great: Man and God' (2004). Both are available on Amazon and in local bookstores. More information about the sources of our information on Alexander's life will be published soon - follow @olympusnews to be the first to hear of new posts!