alex the great, achilles, the iliad

29 Sep

Alexander’s ambition

Growing up, Alexander was fascinated by Homer’s Iliad. It was the character of Achilles — the hero of the story and the exemplar of all manly virtues — that especially attracted him.

Alexander the Great
Sometime in his early formative years he decided to model himself after Achilles.

Emulating the famous hero was apparently encouraged by his teacher, the great philosopher Aristotle. According to the Roman historian Plutarch, Aristotle personally annotated a copy of the Iliad for Alexander. Alexander kept it with him throughout all his later travels, even sleeping with it under his pillow.

Alexander’s mother, Olympias, clearly encouraged him. This woman couldn’t have been more meddling and ambitious for Alexander if she herself were a scheming goddess on Mount Olympus. In fact, she may have consorted with the gods. Or, at least, that’s the rumor she spread.

Olympias informed her son that he was actually a descendant of Achilles. And probably Hercules, too.

And so, in keeping with his family tradition and the great expectations of his mother, Alexander looked for any opportunity to demonstrate his heroic strength and courage.

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