Nothing Colonialist About the Classics….

Plutarch, On the Fortune of Alexander (Moralia 328d-f)

“When Alexander the great was taming Asia, Homer was being read and the children of the Persians, Susianans, and Gedrosians learned to sing the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles. Shoot, even though Socrates, when he was prosecuted for bringing a foreign god to the Athenains, lost his case to those Athenian sycophants, Baktria and the Caucasus learned to kneel before Greek gods.

While Plato wrote a book about a single constitution, he persuaded no one to use it because of its severity; but Alexander created more than seventy cities among barbarian tribes and plated Greek institutions all over Asia and conquered their harsh and uncivilized ways. Few of us have even read Plato’s Laws, but countless thousands have followed Alexander’s and still used them.

Really, those who were conquered by Alexander are luckier than those who resisted him—they had no one who could help them change their pathetic lives; but the champion taught those conquered how to be happy.”

ἀλλ᾿ Ἀλεξάνδρου τὴν Ἀσίαν ἐξημεροῦντος Ὅμηρος ἦν ἀνάγνωσμα, καὶ Περσῶν καὶ Σουσιανῶν καὶ Γεδρωσίων παῖδες τὰς Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέους τραγῳδίας ᾖδον. καὶ Σωκράτης ὡςμὲν ξένα παρεισάγων δαιμόνια δίκην τοῖς Ἀθήνησιν ὠφλίσκανε συκοφάνταις· διὰ δ᾿ Ἀλέξανδρον τοὺς Ἑλλήνων θεοὺς Βάκτρα καὶ Καύκασος προσεκύνησε. Πλάτων μὲν γὰρ μίαν Eγράψας πολιτείαν οὐδένα πέπεικεν αὐτῇ χρῆσθαι διὰ τὸ αὐστηρόν· Ἀλέξανδρος δ᾿ ὑπὲρ ἑβδομήκοντα πόλεις βαρβάροις ἔθνεσιν ἐγκτίσας καὶ κατασπείρας τὴν Ἀσίαν Ἑλληνικοῖς τέλεσι, τῆς ἀνημέρου καὶ θηριώδους ἐκράτησε διαίτης. καὶ τοὺς μὲν Πλάτωνος ὀλίγοι νόμους ἀναγιγνώσκομεν, τοῖς δ᾿ Ἀλεξάνδρου μυριάδες ἀνθρώπων ἐχρήσαντο καὶ χρῶνται· μακαριώτεροι τῶν διαφυγόντων Ἀλέξανδρον οἱ κρατηθέντες γενόμενοι· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ἔπαυσεν ἀθλίως ζῶντας, τοὺς δ᾿ ἠνάγκασεν εὐδαιμονεῖν ὁ νικήσας.

What is amazing about this passage is the quick but clear elision between culture as a marker of value and brute force to impose cultural supremacy. Similar themes are common in European treatises from Plutarch to today.

I mean, if Homer is so great, why does he need Alexander to take him to Asia?

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