Freya Stark on Alexander's Dream

In the middle of the 4th century B.C. the Selgians changed their barbaric coins for Greek patterns modelled on Aspendus. A hundred years later they claimed a Greek origin. It was the fashion, and even before Alexander the hellenizing process had begun. Greek culture had spread on its own merits, and princes -- such as Mausolus, or Abdastart, ''Slave of Astarte'' at Sidon who called himself Strato -- were anxious to be known by Greek names.

But chiefly Alexander altered the complexion of Asia ''so that Homer was commonly read, and the children of the Persians, of the Susianians and of the Gedrosians learned to chant the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides.'' No empire before or since has been so persuasive, nor hasany conversion except a religious one been so complete and widespread as was his hellenizing of the Asiatic world.

Now that the British peace is over and the world fluid, and refugees pour once again from the east,* it is no waste of time to think of these causes, that made him successful where nearly everyone else has failed. For his was no swift military triumph, that leaves a red scar and is over; nor was he a deliverer, rescuing the oppressed; nor did he come with a great army, for he had not more than about thirty thousand men when he landed, and most of the recruits made were natives of the nations he subdued. But he had, first of all, the excellence of Greek civilization which the Macedonians themselves and all the tribes they conquered believed in; and -- since such superiority often spreads a religion, but rarely a political power -- he had his own individual dream of the general brotherhood of man. It came, apparently, by gradual steps, and there were signs, even in his lifetime, of its failure; and after his death the nobility and the glory departed. The vision was forgotten or merely not understood until our own day, when its future is equally obscure. Yet it let him to say things which, for two thousand years, only Saints and Prophets were aware of; and, alienating him from many of his own people, it bound him strangely to the Asiatic world.

* This was written during the massacre of Hungary.

''I took to wife a daughter of Darius,'' he says to the foreign troops at Opis, ''so that I might abolish all distinction between vanquished and victor . . . Asia and Europe now belong to one and the same kingdom . . . It is neither unbecoming for the Persians to simulate the manners of the Macedonians, nor for the Macedonians to copy those of the Persians. Those ought to have the same rights who are to live underthe same sovereign.''

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