Thursday, August 16, 2018

New Biography: The Downfall of Callisthenes, The Official Royal Historian Of Alexander The Great

(Alexander the Great Refuses To Take Water, by Giuseppe Cades (1750–1799), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Alexander the Great had such confidence in himself and his army’s ability that he must have believed wondrous deeds would be an inevitable part of his future. So, before invading the Persian Empire in 334 BCE, Alexander the Great hired an official historian to document his military campaigns. The man tasked with this job was Callisthenes of Olynthus. Like Alexander, Callisthenes was a student of Aristotle. In fact, he and Aristotle had co-written a piece on the Pythian Games. Yet, Callisthenes was best known for his ten-volume history of Greece, covering events that occurred around the years 386-355 BCE. As a result, it is not surprising that Callisthenes came highly recommended when Alexander the Great put out a request for a royal historian to attend him on his journeys. The fact that Callisthenes was Aristotle’s nephew also undoubtedly helped in the selection process.

While accompanying the conquering king, Callisthenes was not just any historian—he was also Alexander’s propagandist. His job was not simply to document Alexander’s campaigns, but to write it in the way that best promoted the king’s public image. Callisthenes understood this second role of his and did indeed fill his history of Alexander with propaganda. From fragments of the history that survive, as well as references and critiques aimed at it from other ancient authors, we know that Callisthenes’ account was filled with stories of divine interventions on the Macedonian king’s behalf, and he was also one of the first to write down rumors alleging that Alexander may have been fathered by a god.

Continue reading about the work and demise of Callisthenes, HERE.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

New Article: The Dire Escape From Lyncus Of Brasidas And His Peloponnesian Army


(Battle between Greeks and Persians from a book by John Warner Barber c. 1798-1885, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

In the year 423 BCE, the Athenians and Spartans, who had been in the midst of the Peloponnesian War since 431 BCE, decided to observe an armistice that was planned to last for one year. Athens and Sparta did, indeed, halt the official war, yet smaller states on the periphery of their alliances kept fighting in their own minor feuds. As for the leaders of the war, Athens and Sparta, they also kept up their militancy in ways that would not break the armistice. For Athens, this was a time to crush rebellions and suppress dissidents. On the Peloponnesian side, a general named Brasidas (responsible for many of the aforementioned Athenian rebellions) decided to occupy his time by participating in a joint-invasion alongside his ally, King Perdiccas of Macedonia, against the Kingdom of Lyncus.

Read about how their joint invasion turned to chaos, HERE

Thursday, August 2, 2018

New Biography: Lu Wan—A Childhood Friend Of Emperor Gaozu Who Abandoned The Han Dynasty And Became A Nomadic Ruler


(14th Century painting of Mongol cavalrymen by Sayf al-Vâhidî, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)
 
Lu Wan hailed from the village of Feng, in the region of Peixian (modern Jiangsu province), near the eastern end of central China. Lu Wan’s father was a close friend of the so-called Venerable Sire—the name given to the father of Emperor Gaozu, the founder of the Han Dynasty. The friendship between the two fathers passed on to their sons, with Gaozu and Lu Wan becoming inseparable friends. Legend even claimed that the two boys were born on the same day, something that the villagers thought was significant.
Although Gaozu (known then as Liu Bang) was destined to become an emperor and Lu Wan a nobleman, the two began their lives as peasants. The friends began their upward mobility during the reign of the Qin Dynasty (222-206 BCE). The pair studied together and Gaozu succeeded in qualifying for a position as a village official. Lu Wan presumably did not fair as well as his friend in the examination, for he did not seem to receive a local government post and he instead followed Gaozu wherever the future emperor went. Gaozu eventually moved to Pei, where he married the daughter of Master Lü, a friend of the region’s magistrate. It was there that Gaozu and Lu Wan would begin their great rise to power.
 
 Continue reading about the interesting life of Lu Wan, HERE.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

New Biography: The Other Side Of The Roman Scholar, Suetonius


(Image of Romans from "The International library of famous literature / selections from the world's great writers, ancient, medieval, and modern," page 552, (1898), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, better known simply as Suetonius, was born around the year 70 to a family of the equestrian order—a Roman equivalent of knighthood. The exact location of Suetonius’ birth is uncertain, but many point to the ancient city of Hippo Regius, in Algeria, where a memorial inscription in his honor was excavated in what had been once the city square. Although his family was not among the highest elite of Rome, they still had considerable influence. Suetonius claimed that his grandfather had contacts in the inner circle of Caligula (r. 37-41). His father, too, was a prominent figure, serving as a military tribune during the short reign of Emperor Otho (r. 69). Suetonius’ popularity and fame, however, would rise far higher than that of his forefathers, and he would accomplish that feat not with military victories or political maneuverings, but with education and writing.

Continue reading about Suetonius, HERE

Thursday, July 19, 2018

New Article: The Tyrian Troubles Of Alexander The Great


(Illustration of Alexander besieging Tyre, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

From 336-323 BCE, Alexander the Great undertook a remarkable campaign of warfare and conquest, spanning from the Danube River in Europe, all the way to the Indus River on the edge of India. Interestingly, one of the most trying and frustrating conflicts that Alexander the Great endured during his travels took place relatively early on in his career. By the year 332 BCE, Alexander was advancing deep into Phoenicia, following the coastlines of the lands known now as Syria and Lebanon. Most of the cities in Phoenicia and Cyprus had surrendered to Alexander after news spread of his victories over the Persians at the Granicus River (334 BCE) and Issus (333 BCE). Despite this, the most powerful of the Phoenician cities, the island sea power of Tyre, staunchly kept its relationship with Alexander no warmer than neutral.

Continue reading about the showdown between Alexander and the city of Tyre, HERE