Saturday, August 4, 2012

Alexander the Great - The Opis Oath

"Now that the wars are coming to an end, I wish you to prosper in peace. May all mortals from now on live like one people in concord and for mutual advancement. Consider the world as your country, with laws common to all and where the best will govern irrespective of tribe. I do not distinguish among men, as the narrow-minded do, both among Greeks and Barbarians. I am not interested in the descendance of the citizens or their racial origins. I classify them using one criterion: their virtue. For me every virtuous foreigner is a Greek and every evil Greek worse than a Barbarian. If differences ever develop between you never have recourse to arms, but solve them peacefully. If necessary, I should be your arbitrator. You must not consider God like an autocratic despot, but as a common Father of all; so your behaviour may resemble the life siblings have in a family. On my part I should consider all equals, white or blacks, and wish you all to be not only subjects of the Commonwealth, but participants and partners. As much as this depends on me, I should try to bring about what I promised. The oath we made over tonight’s libations hold onto as a Contract of Love."

One of the most hotly disputed utterances of Alexander the Great is his reputed Oath at Opis. As Alexander and others poured libations from one giant cup during the reconciliation feast (see post above) Arrian reports that “He prayed for other blessings, and especially that harmony and community of rule might exist between the Macedonians and Persians”.

Pseudo-Callisthenes, the unknown author of The Alexander Romance, collections of legends around the mythical exploits of Alexander, is given by some as the source of the so-called Oath at Opis in which Alexander goes further than praying for harmony within his empire. He purportedly goes on to extol the Brotherhood of Man.

Historians all cast doubt on this claim. Perhaps Pseudo-Kallisthenes was carried away by his vivid imagination, perhaps not. Arrian states only that Alexander expressed a wish that every nation he had conquered would co-exist in peace. Surely that in itself is pretty progressive sentiment for the fourth century BC!

Argument supporting the view that Alexander really did make this speech:


Argument for rejecting the notion:



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