The Reception of Alexander the Great

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

“Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters. The praises of Alexander, transmitted by a succession of poets and historians, had kindled a dangerous emulation in the mind of Trajan. Like him, the Roman emperor undertook an expedition against the nations of the East; but he lamented with a sigh, that his advanced age scarcely left him any hopes of equalling the renown of the son of Philip. Yet the success of Trajan, however transient, was rapid and specious.”

Christopher Marlowe, The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus:

EMPEROR. Then, Doctor Faustus, mark what I shall say.
As I was sometime solitary set
Within my closet, sundry thoughts arose
About the honour of mine ancestors,
How they had won by prowess such exploits,
Got such riches, subdu’d so many kingdoms,
As we that do succeed, or they that shall
Hereafter possess our throne, shall
(I fear me) ne’er attain to that degree
Of high renown and great authority:
Amongst which kings is Alexander the Great,
Chief spectacle of the world’s pre-eminence,
The bright shining of whose glorious acts
Lightens the world with his reflecting beams,
As when I hear but motion made of him,
It grieves my soul I never saw the man:
If, therefore, thou, by cunning of thine art,
Canst raise this man from hollow vaults below,
Where lies entomb’d this famous conqueror,
And bring with him his beauteous paramour,
Both in their right shapes, gesture, and attire
They us’d to wear during their time of life,
Thou shalt both satisfy my just desire,
And give me cause to praise thee whilst I live.

Suetonius, Life of Caesar:

“Further Spain fell to him as quaestor. There he was ordered by the praetor to make the round of tax collections. When he came to Gades, he noticed a statue of Alexander the Great in the Temple of Hercules and groaned in deprecation of his own indolence, because he had done nothing memorable in his life to this point, by which time Alexander had already subjugated the earth. He immediately asked for leave for the purpose of obtaining as many chances at greater affairs in the city.”

Quaestori ulterior Hispania obvenit; ubi cum mandatu praetoris iure dicundo conventus circumiret Gadisque venisset, animadversa apud Herculis templum Magni Alexandri imagine ingemuit et quasi pertaesus ignaviam suam, quod nihil dum a se memorabile actum esset in aetate, qua iam Alexander orbem terrarum subegisset, missionem continuo efflagitavit ad captandas quam primum maiorum rerum occasiones in urbe.

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2 responses

  1. Pingback: The Reception of Alexander the Great | Jennifer Macaire

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