Research Paper by Simon Euteneier #997011987
Alexander of Macedon is unquestionably one of histories most important figures. His conquest and unification of Greece and the Persian Empire led to an unprecedented blending of cultures and peoples. It also resulted in a much-needed period of peace within the ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern worlds. Although the outcome of Alexander’s conquest was generally good, what was Alexander’s true character and what were his true intentions? Modern scholars have interpreted the primary sources in different ways. Some cast Alexander in a positive light, claiming that he was a brilliant strategist, and righteous man. Other scholars claim that Alexander’s motivations were darker in nature. In this paper, I will examine the works of two predominant scholars on Alexander. The first, W. W. Tarn, gives an overly positive portrayal of Alexander, while the second, Peter Green, presents a more critical and overly negative account of Alexander. In this paper, I will also examine what environmental or personal factors may have shaped their divergent interpretations of this historical figure. William Woodthrope Tarn (1869-1957) was raised in Dingwall, Scottland. He was educated in England at the university of Cambridge. He was not enlisted into either of the wars that he lived through, although he did do some intelligence work in London. Due to disability, Tarn was unable to travel during his lifetime. He lived a quiet country life in Scottland and it is within this environment that he wrote the book that we will be discussing, titled “Alexander the Great”. He was an eminent scholar in spite of never having held an academic position and he was knighted in 1952. Many have acclaimed Tarn to be the world’s leading authority on Alexander the Great and this book is the culmination of his life’s research and work. His research and publications are mainly concentrated in the areas of Alexander’s life, conquest and the subsequent Hellenistic world.
Peter Morris Green was a British man born in 1924. He was educated at the University of Cambridge in England, and he briefly lived on the island of Lesbos in Greece where he conducted research. He also served briefly with the British Air Force in Burma at the end of World War II. Has a background in, and has written extensively on the ancient Hellenistic world. He has also written extensively on ancient Greek and Homeric mythology, as well as Greek and Roman poetry and literature. The book we will be examining, “Alexander of Macedon” was written while Dr. Green was holding the Mellon Chair in Humanities at the University of Tulane, New Orleans. Tarn starts his book by introducing Alexander. He states that Alexander inherited his father’s military talent and practicality and his mother’s passionate spirit. Tarn also states that Alexander carried a strong love for mythology with him into adulthood, even sleeping with a copy of the Iliad under his pillow. He also describes Alexander as possessing the following traits: masterful, generous, loyal to friends, and interested in science. He goes on to say that these traits bore fruit for Alexander’s later care for his army in Asia. Here we already see that Tarn is presenting Alexander in an overly positive light by using colourful and highly subjective language (which Tarn does not support with examples or evidence) to describe Alexander (Pg. 1-2). It is as if he is unaware Alexander executed some of his friends (such as Parmenio) on suspicions substantiated by little evidence, and attempted to make an exhausted and weak army which was on the verge of mutiny march 12 days across an Indian desert to the river Ganges. Later in the book he does little to justify his initial portrait of Alexander. When talking about the murder of Parmenio Tarn merely brushes over the episode and states “there were of course terrible crimes…the murder of...