From the moment that Alexander III of Macedonia was born, he was born into a world that was for his taking. After the death of his father, Philip, Alexander started his rein to take over the world in 336 BCE and would keep going until his death in the summer of 323 BCE. Alexander had to “reaffirm Macedonian power in Greece, Alexander defeated Persian forces in a first battle at the River Grancius in northern Asia minor.” (Brosius, 31)
The problem that Alexander faced, that may have been even more difficult than trying to rule the world, was that Alexander had to win over the countries he had invaded. Alexander took prisoners of war such as noble men and women, and made them a part of his court in order to understand the culture of the Persians. One of whom was Barsine. “Alexander, esteeming it more kingly to govern himself than to conquer his enemies, sought no intimacy with any one of them, nor indeed with any other women before marriage, except Barsine, Memnon’s widow, who was taken prisoner at Damascus.” (Plutarch, Life of Alexander, 21.7-9) Alexander knew that he had to get married in order to win the heart of the Persians and to better communicate with them, but Barsine did not cut it. She was too “Greek” and European, and not Persian enough. Though being a noblewoman, he could not take the risk. The picture below is of what the Persian noblewoman looked like. (Livius)
This had led to Alexander falling in love with Roxane (Roshanak). She was a prisoner of war at the young age of sixteen and Arrian wrote “Alexander fell in love with her at sight; but, captive though she was, he refused, for all his passion, to force her to his will, and condescended to marry her.” Ultimately, Roxane was Alexander’s first official wife even though he had a child with Barsine.
With falling in love with Roxane, Alexander fell in love with Persian culture. The most prestigious interesting thing that the Persians did that the members of Alexander’s court from Macedonia loathed was “Proskynesis.” “When the Persians meet one another in the roads, you can see whether those who meet are of equal rank. For instead of greeting by words, they kiss each other on the mouth; but if one of them is inferior to the other, they kiss one another on the cheeks, and if one is of much less noble rank than the other, he falls down before him and worships him.” [Herodotus, Histories 1.134] Alexander started to use proskynesis and his followers did not believe that he was losing his heritage, as pride was a huge issue for the Macedonians. However, Alexander believed that to rule over the Persians, he had to change himself and his people and have a good medium. He thus forced many of his soliders to marry Persian woman after he had concurred another part of the Persian empire.
Brosius, Maria. The Persians: An introduction. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Primary Source: Herdotus, Arrian, Pulrach
One response to “The Women and Changes of Alexander the Great”
Huh, I had no idea that he forced his men to marry Persian women to fit into the culture! Very interesting. I imagine they were not very happy about having to comply with some of that stuff.