- Oct 2007
- New York, NY
Indeed. The certain earliest attested literary mention of Alexander as ‘the Great’ occurs in the Roman playwright Titus Plautus’Mostellaria (The Haunted House); set in Athens, the slave Tranio compares himself to Alexander ‘the Great’(magnum) and Agathocles of Syracuse. The play was probably written at the latter part of the 3rd century BCE (Plautus’ lifespan was 254-184 BCE). But judging by the apparent casual, non-explanatory context of the given cognomen (viz. the audience knew that Alexander the Great had already entered historical common dialogue, etc., by their time), it seems that Alexander was thought of as ‘the Great’ for some time already. The Hellenistic-era Heidelberg Epitome also identifies Alexander as ‘the Great’, which may have been compiled before Plautus by perhaps Hieronymius of Cardia also reads ‘the Great’ as if it is common knowledge. But it may have been authored by Byzantine scholars who attached ‘the Great’, as they knew full well of the prevailing cognomen by their time. It could very well have originated during the early reign of Ptolemy I, who did hijack Alexander’s funeral retinue, which proved useful for Ptolemy to promote his rule.AlpineLuke said:...the real point is the cultural context. We love to define this or that leader "great", following a Roman habit: Romans adored to define a leader "magno"...
Regardless, Alexander symbolizes a watershed in the development of the ruler cult; indeed, the bestowing of divine honors to a living ruler became a prevalant phenomena amid the Hellenistic Age.
Ashoka maurya alluded to something important regarding Alexander’s image: to the eastern regions of the world who knew of him fairly well, he is seen in a darker shade - hence the term of an accursed one with two-horns known as “Iskander”.
Great stuff! This could be a loaded thread, BuckBradley.