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Achaemenid Persian Empire and Alexander the Great: sources Krzysztof Nawotka

Achaemenid Persian Empire and Alexander the Great: sources

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Achaemenid Persian Empire and Alexander the Great: sources. Krzysztof Nawotka. Alexander the Great: overview. Born: July 356, son of Philip II of Macedonia and Olympias King: October 336 Conquered the Persian Empire: 334-327 Passage to India: 327-325 Proclaimed god: 324 Died: 11 June 323. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

Text of Achaemenid Persian Empire and Alexander the Great: sources

  • Achaemenid Persian Empire and Alexander the Great: sourcesKrzysztof Nawotka

  • Alexander the Great: overviewBorn: July 356, son of Philip II of Macedonia and OlympiasKing: October 336Conquered the Persian Empire: 334-327Passage to India: 327-325Proclaimed god: 324Died: 11 June 323

  • Empire of Alexander

  • Alexander between different worlds:MacedonianGreekPersianIndianEgyptianBabylonian

  • Alexander: sourcesSources (information from antiquity) and secondary literature (modern interpretation)Various categories:Written vs. Archaeological, iconographic, numismatic, topographicLiterary vs. DocumentaryClassical (Greek and Latin) vs. OrientalContemporary (primary) vs. Later (secondary)

  • Primary classical sources - literaryAlexanders companions:Ptolemy bodyguard and king of EgyptAristobulos army engineerOnesicritus helmsmenNearchus admiralChares chamberlainCallisthenes court historianCleitarchus 4th/3rd c. author


  • Secondary classical sources - literaryMuch later than AlexanderWritten on the basis of primary sourcesFlavius Arrianus (Arrian):Roman consul and historian (c. 86-140 AD)Works:Anabasis of Alexander (Ptolemy, Aristobulos, Cleitarchus),Indica (Nearchus)

  • Secondary classical sources - literaryVulgate authores based mostly on Cleitarchus:Diodorus of Sicily (1st c. BC)Q. Curtius Rufus (1st c. AD)Iunius Iustinus (Justin) (2-4th c. AD?) after Pompeius Trogus (1st c.BC/1st c. AD)

  • Secondary classical sources - literaryPlutarch (c. 50-120 AD) philosopher and eruditeWorks:Life of AlexanderOn fortune or virtue of AlexanderUsed dozens of primary sourcesMilitary authors: FrontinusAnecdotes: Lucian, Aelian

  • Literary sourcesContinuous narrative of eventsInterpretationsNarrative of motives, thoughts, wordsReconstruction of chain of events a.k.a. historical processes

  • Primary classical sources - documentaryGONE:Ephemerides Kings journalBematists army surveyorsAccountsAlexanders letters: to Olympias, to Antipater (viceroy in the Balkans), to Phocion (Athenian general and politician)

  • Primary classical sources - documentaryEXTANT:Aristotles letter to Aristotle (in Arabic translation)Alleged diplomatic letters between Alexander and DariusSpurious last will of Alexander (Liber de morte testamentoque Alexandri Magni LDM)

  • Primary classical sources - documentaryGreek inscriptions:Alexanders letters to Greek states, e.g. to ChiosDecrees of Greeks states bestowing honors on MacedoniansSources to learn constitutional history

  • Primary Persian sources

  • Monumental Achaemenid inscriptions (DB1: Bisitun)\ adam \ Drayavau \ xyathiya \ vazraka \ xyatha \ xyathiy nm \ xyathiya \ Prsaiy \ xyathiya \ dahynm \ Vit spahy \ pua \ Armahy nap \ Haxmaniiya \ thtiy \ Drayavau \ xyathiya \ man \ pit \ Vitspa \ Vitspahy \ pit \ Ar ma \ Armahy \ pit \ Ariyramna \ Ariyramnahy \ pit\ Cipi \ Cip i \ pit \ Haxmani \ thtiy \ Drayavau \ xthiya \ avahyar diy \ vayam \ Haxmaniiy \ thahymahy \ hac \ paruviyata \ mt \ ama hy hac \ paruviyata \hy \amxam \ taum \ xyathiy \ ha \ th 1) I am Darius, the great king, king of kings, the king of Persia, the king of countries, the son of Hystaspes, the grandson of Arsames, the Achaemenid. (2) King Darius says: My father is Hystaspes; the father of Hystaspes was Arsames; the father of Arsames was Ariaramnes; the father of Ariaramnes was Teispes; the father of Teispes was Achaemenes. (3) King Darius says: That is why we are called Achaemenids; from antiquity we have been noble; from antiquity has our dynasty been royal.

  • Primary Persian sourcesPersepolis tablets:PTT: 139 (492-458)PFT: c. 30,000 (6th/5th c.)Clay, mostly Elamaite, also Aramaic and one GreekAccounts from central administration, e.g.:130 liters of barley from the possessions of Amavrta have been received by Bark-'El as his rations. Given in the town of Ithema, in the twenty-first year [of Darius] in the month Shibar [November/December 501]. [PFT 798]

  • Primary Persian sourcesDocuments:on parchemnet, papyrus, leatherfound in Egypt, BactriaAramaicBusiness letters written by officials, private documents (sales, marriage, divorce)

  • Persian archaeological sources: Cyrus tomb Pasargadae

  • Persian archaeological sources: Persepolis

  • Primary Babylonian sourcesOn clay tabletsAkkadian, cuneiformAstronomical diaries: records of observation of sky every night, miscellaneous economic data (prices), religious and political historyBusiness documents, e.g. archive of Murau of NippurRare historical, e.g.: Alexander chronicle, Successors chronicle

  • Gaugamela in astronomical diary

  • Astronomical diariesExtremely precise dates (Babylonian dates can precisely be translated to ours):Battle of Gaugamela: 1 October 331Surrounder of Babylon: 21 October 331Death of Alexander: 28 Daisios (Plutarch) = ?, diary: 29 Aiaru = 11 June 323

  • Alexander chronicle

  • Alexander chronicle[MU ... ITI U? .. .. .. .. .. ina giG]U.ZA- id-de-ku- mbi-/e\-[es?-su?],4' [mAr-tak-at-su (?)] MU- MU-u u m{DI (over erasure)}a-lik-sa u ERN-[ME-]' [.. .. .. .. .. ERN]-ME- i-u-tu TA lERN.ME[ ..]6' [.. .. .. .. x x i]d-duk lERN ha-ni-e lERN.ME- [ .. ..][(...) ...............]7' [.. .. .. ..] AN /RA?\ [..] m/da-ri\-ia-a-mu LUGAL GIN [ME?]Year 330? month IV? from] his [thr]one they removed him. Be[ssos?],[whom Artaxerxes?] as his name they named, ?][and Alexa(nder) and his troops' [.. .. .. .. .. [ ....... with] his few [troop]s from the troops [...... (...)]6' he killed/defeated. The Hanaean troops, his troops wh[ich ......]7' [.. .. .. ..] from] /Babylon?\ [to?] Darius, the king, went.

  • Oriental religious sourcesRepresenting politics and history in religious termsProphecies ex post, e.g. Dynastic Prophecy written after GaugamelaAlexander in Zoroastrian literature: guzastag (like Ahriman), leader of demons from the land of wrath

  • Sources: fundamental problemsNo significant contemporary literary sources hence image of Alexander filtered through preceptions of later generationsLack of significant oriental sources: one-sided view (Greek, western)