Is Alexander the Great actually as bad as some people say he is?

May 2015
304
villa of Lucullus
First of all the response to atrocities in Vietnam was so feeble that I would characterize them as basically...nothing. To my knowledge no American served even a single day in jail for atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians...not one. Calley was given house arrest but that was commuted by Richard Nixon so Calley is the only one who appeared to suffer any sort of punishment whatsoever. Given the sheer scale of atrocities that seems ridiculous unless of course people were operating by a different moral standard back then. As for the public being outraged by Vietnam atrocities, their outrage was not enough to prevent everyone else involved in the My Lai massacre from getting off scot-free and Calley getting kid-glove treatment.

Also if massacring adult males upon capture of the city was the norm why would it even occur to Livy to criticize it? If that behavior was as universally accepted as you think I can't imagine why he would even think to criticize it. It just wouldn't ever cross his mind to begin with. Rather he would be criticizing Hannibal for defying Rome but ignoring his actual atrocities as just normal behavior.

Also, its telling that in wars Romans sought to portray their enemies as the aggressors and themselves as the victims. If they had an anything goes mentality towards conquest then they wouldn't feel the need to justify their conduct. Their simple desire for conquest would be all the justification they needed without having to play the aggrieved victims.
 
May 2015
304
villa of Lucullus
Also at the risk of stating the obvious, the ancient world varied somewhat in what conduct was considered acceptable by time and place.
What was acceptable in Rome in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE is not necessarily indicative of what Romans in earlier periods believed let alone in the Macedonia of Alexander's day.

For example Lucius Sulla the dictator did things that I suspect would have been unacceptable to Romans of earlier generations like Scipio Africanus, Fabius Maximus, etc.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
First of all the response to atrocities in Vietnam was so feeble that I would characterize them as basically...nothing. To my knowledge no American served even a single day in jail for atrocities committed against Vietnamese civilians...not one. Calley was given house arrest but that was commuted by Richard Nixon so Calley is the only one who appeared to suffer any sort of punishment whatsoever. Given the sheer scale of atrocities that seems ridiculous unless of course people were operating by a different moral standard back then. As for the public being outraged by Vietnam atrocities, their outrage was not enough to prevent everyone else involved in the My Lai massacre from getting off scot-free and Calley getting kid-glove treatment.

Also if massacring adult males upon capture of the city was the norm why would it even occur to Livy to criticize it? If that behavior was as universally accepted as you think I can't imagine why he would even think to criticize it. It just wouldn't ever cross his mind to begin with. Rather he would be criticizing Hannibal for defying Rome but ignoring his actual atrocities as just normal behavior.

Also, its telling that in wars Romans sought to portray their enemies as the aggressors and themselves as the victims. If they had an anything goes mentality towards conquest then they wouldn't feel the need to justify their conduct. Their simple desire for conquest would be all the justification they needed without having to play the aggrieved victims.
You're focusing on the least important aspect; the consequences. The issue is not how many Americans served jail time. That's about meeting a legal standard of proof in the fog of war. The important observations are:
1) The perpetrators tried to keep atrocities secret (because they knew what the reaction would be)
2) When the atrocities were exposed there was public outrage, and in some cases court martials
3) When there was enough evidence to put people before a court martial, the people accused of crimes all denied them

The difference in Ancient Rome is pretty obvious, because there:
1) The atrocities, far from being kept secret, were openly boasted of
2) The public response was not outrage, but rather jubilation and celebration at triumphs, so they could venerate the heroes who boasted of said atrocities, and
3) There was not even a suggestion of a court martial for anyone for brutality against Rome's enemies.

It's obvious to anyone the stark difference, which demonstrates the different moral climate; but you are blind to this, because you're trying to have a geopolitical discussion about Vietnam. I'm sorry if you're from South East Asia and people you knew died or something, but the idea the moral climate was similar is clearly laughable. You just keep repeating yourself, without engaging with our arguments.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
Also at the risk of stating the obvious, the ancient world varied somewhat in what conduct was considered acceptable by time and place.
What was acceptable in Rome in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE is not necessarily indicative of what Romans in earlier periods believed let alone in the Macedonia of Alexander's day.

For example Lucius Sulla the dictator did things that I suspect would have been unacceptable to Romans of earlier generations like Scipio Africanus, Fabius Maximus, etc.
And here you are apparently abandoning your argument that morality is objective yet again. Make your mind up.
 

mariusj

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,019
Los Angeles
Also at the risk of stating the obvious, the ancient world varied somewhat in what conduct was considered acceptable by time and place.
What was acceptable in Rome in the 2nd and 1st centuries BCE is not necessarily indicative of what Romans in earlier periods believed let alone in the Macedonia of Alexander's day.

For example Lucius Sulla the dictator did things that I suspect would have been unacceptable to Romans of earlier generations like Scipio Africanus, Fabius Maximus, etc.
Fabius did the exact same thing, acted like a dictator, and Romans did not like it one bit. But Fabius was acting like a dictator.
 
May 2015
304
villa of Lucullus
You're focusing on the least important aspect; the consequences. The issue is not how many Americans served jail time. That's about meeting a legal standard of proof in the fog of war. The important observations are:
1) The perpetrators tried to keep atrocities secret (because they knew what the reaction would be)
2) When the atrocities were exposed there was public outrage, and in some cases court martials
3) When there was enough evidence to put people before a court martial, the people accused of crimes all denied them

The difference in Ancient Rome is pretty obvious, because there:
1) The atrocities, far from being kept secret, were openly boasted of
2) The public response was not outrage, but rather jubilation and celebration at triumphs, so they could venerate the heroes who boasted of said atrocities, and
3) There was not even a suggestion of a court martial for anyone for brutality against Rome's enemies.

It's obvious to anyone the stark difference, which demonstrates the different moral climate; but you are blind to this, because you're trying to have a geopolitical discussion about Vietnam. I'm sorry if you're from South East Asia and people you knew died or something, but the idea the moral climate was similar is clearly laughable. You just keep repeating yourself, without engaging with our arguments.
So your suggesting that a single court martial that didn't result in any serious consequences is somehow indicative of a huge difference of morals between eras. So literally if a single Roman soldier had been court martialled for atrocities and then not punished substantially we would have to radically reevaluate the morals of ancient Rome. I think that's ridiculous.

The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were never hidden from the American people. Where's the public outrage there? At the time very few people took an issue with it.

If the public was outraged by the Vietnam atrocities I would have expected some you know actual consequences.
 
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May 2015
304
villa of Lucullus
Also, I'm not sure Roman morals are a good indication of general morals of the age. The Romans seem to have generally been more aggressive and brutal than most contemporary states.

The Romans have nothing to top what Nazi Germany did in the 1940s but I would hardly say Nazi Germany is indicative of the morals of most people at the time.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
Your argument is like saying "we must condone murder, because a murderer was able to produce enough reasonable doubt to get an acquittal". Proving guilt in the fog of war is very difficult; but the fact it's a crime, and they try to prosecute you, does indeed provide good evidence of the moral norms, moral climate, etc.

I'm going to cover the nuking Japan thing in a sec, because the post you made after it is more important. You just said "Rome's morals aren't indicative of the moral climate of the day". The fact you are even saying that disproves the whole point we're arguing, which you have forgotten. This whole argument is about whether morality is objective, not about whether genocide is wrong (of course it is), or whether injustices happen (of course they do). If you think Rome's morals were different to other people's morals, whether in their own time or today, you're conceding the whole argument (which you've done several times now, only to get back up and claim you didn't. Can you just admit morality is objective and move on. Again, I know English isn't your first language, so if you're getting confused just let me know because it seems you are unclear on what "objective" morality means. It means moral values are consistent over time. Your own arguments at various points have conceded they are not.
 
May 2015
304
villa of Lucullus
My argument from the start has been that the morals common to Alexander's day have persisted to far more recent times than you seem willing to admit and that I don't think he should receive more leeway than guys like Eichmann and Stalin in evaluating his actions.

But I think the evidence points to him being rather brutal even by the morals of his day.

The murder of Cleitus for instance seems unusual even by the standards of the time.
 

Caesarmagnus

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,650
Australia
My argument from the start has been that the morals common to Alexander's day have persisted to far more recent times than you seem willing to admit and that I don't think he should receive more leeway than guys like Eichmann and Stalin in evaluating his actions.

But I think the evidence points to him being rather brutal even by the morals of his day.

The murder of Cleitus for instance seems unusual even by the standards of the time.
“Persisted” indicates they didn’t change. Clearly they changed. Some morals were the same or similar in 2300BC compared to 2019AD, others were not. Then in 1000BC the morals in the same place might have been very different to both 2300BC and 2019AD. The whole point is morality is not “objective” as you claimed, it shifts over time (sometimes back and forth from one extreme to another, then back again). You yourself are telling us morality changed by admitting Roman morals were different to many other morals of the time (not that they were that different, but the fact you think they were shows your earlier argument was wrong). The existence of things like slave markets makes that point obvious enough it should be irrefutable. If you want to argue Alexander was more brutal than the morals of the day, you are welcome to do that. I am not an Alexanderphile, I try to avoid getting bogged down in his threads. Just don’t say morality is objective again. You’ve done it in thread after thread for several years now. Let this be the last one, because it’s tiresome correcting you on it. Next time just say “I think Alexander was brutal even by the standards of the day”, and people can focus on debating just that (and not all this crazy moral objectivity nonsense).