Friday, 24 April 2015

A lecture on Alexander and Hellenism by Dr Robert Harding 

Note: The below lecture was delivered as part of our Alexander the Great activities. The lecture was delivered to participants who stayed overnight at Fitzwilliam College on the second day of the Holiday History Camp. Dr Robert Harding is a Cambridge Affiliated Researcher and member of Civilisations in Contact.

The Greeks were not an island unto themselves. Already before Alexander Greek mythology, food and customs had been influenced by other Mediterranean peoples, including Egyptians and Hittites. But the creation of Alexander's empire created a cultural movement that spread Greek culture across vast regions of the world, from Egypt to Central Asia. This movement, called Hellenism, saw peoples take this culture as their own inheritance and use it in their own individual ways. To this day, people are doing the same thing with the legacy of the classical world.

An example of the multiculturalism of the Mediterranean is Siwa, an isolated oasis in the Egyptian desert. Siwa is still famous for its date palms, but over two thousand years ago the Greeks recognized it as one of the three great oracles of their supreme god Zeus. They identified Zeus with the Egyptian supreme god Ra-Amun; and it was as Zeus Ammon, with ram’s horns curling from his hair, that the Greeks knew him.

The event that gave the temple enduring fame was the visit in 331 B.C. of Alexander.  Having taken Egypt from the Persians and settled its affairs, he marched to the oasis to imitate his heroic predecessors Heracles and Perseus, whom legend asserted had also been there.  After a difficult march across the desert Alexander was immediately hailed as a son of the god upon arrival and allowed a private consultation.  According to the sources, he wanted to know whether he had fully avenged his father Philip (and was told again he was Ammon's son, not Philip's): and whether he would conquer the world (he was told that he would).  Ammon remained one of his favourite deities and depictions of him on Egyptian coinage show him with Ammon's horns.

Alexander would carry the prophecy of the oracle with him into Central Asia and modern Pakistan before his troops finally gave up and forced his return. While on his march eastwards garrison towns were founded; and the settlers would help sow the seeds of Hellenism. One such seed is Ai Khanum, a city on the northern border of Afghanistan. Excavated in the ‘60s and ‘70s it is a multicultural hybrid of local, Persian and Greek features. For instance, the Gymnasium, Theatre and Comedy mask fountain head are all Greek; but the palace, with its treasury and storerooms, is Persian in design. The city was sacked in c. 145 BC but Hellenistic artistic forms remained influential. By the 2nd century A.D., in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a style of art known as Gandharan combined Indian iconography and Buddhist theology with Hellenistic features such as naturalism and attention to the contours of body and clothing.

This process of using the past to create new artistic forms has continued into modern times and still takes place. Cambridge is an example of the way classical architecture was used to represent ideas – of knowledge, wisdom, culture and power. Sometimes classical architecture common to the whole Mediterranean was used – for instance, the types of pillar known as Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. But from the later 18th century and into the first half of the 19th architects became more aware of particularly Greek forms. The Fitzwilliam Museum is an example of what is called the “Greek Revival”; and architects used this style because they associated it with knowledge, purity and the beginnings of European civilization. 
The Revival may have been based on ideas of a “pure” and “original” style. But the history of Greek art and its transmission to the present is also a history of how first the Greeks used other cultures creatively; and then, through Alexander’s conquests, Hellenism was used by other cultures to create their own artistic triumphs.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Take a look at our video about Alexander the Great - made by Olivia and Polly using Book Creator on the iPad :-)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Just a few facts about Alexander the Great by Olivia F.

The First Leg of the Journey - Group 1

This picture shows Alexander's journey during the first passage in the text that we are working from. Group one have worked together to collect data and plot Alexander's journey on the map. We hope that you can see where he went!

The Conquest of Alexander the Great by Hamza

His campaigns were worthy of his name,
Alexander the Great, son of Ammon, the King of Gods.
To the Persian land he laid claim,
And he gained it, defying all odds.

Of these confrontations, the first was at home.
Watched over by Mt. Olympus,
Greece submitted to his dome,
Not allowing anyone to fuss.

With all the good omens, to Asia he trekked,
Defeating all who opposed.
Cities in Egypt he did erect,
Peace was hence forth imposed.

The man who conquered,
The man who will always be honoured,
Respected even after his fate,
Thus his name was Alexander the Great.


A logo about Alexander the Great created by Sarvesh
and Mital 

The border is a Greek temple mosaic.
To the top-left and top-right is a coin of Alexander the Great. He has the horns of Amun.
The shield represents how Alexander defended against rebellions.
In the middle of the shield are the long pikes which gave Alexander and his infantry victory.
To the top of the shield is the land Alexander owned by the end of his life. The empire spanned from Greece to modern day Pakistan.

Group 3 Drawings

Some of group 3's drawings.

A drawing of the bust of Alexander the Great

A war elephant (called Freddy) who fought against Alexander.

I drew this to show Alexander the Great as a figure who stood in the middle as a fire raged around him because he was the cause of all the carnage and death. As well as that, the Persians burnt down Greek temples and in return Alexander burnt down a Persian temple.

By Eliza Mills

The Battle of Granicus- a creative account from the point of view of a Macedonian soldier

The Battle of Granicus
written by Claire and edited by Kay, group 1

I watched through the sea of infantry in absolute horror as our King, Alexander, dismissed General Parmenion with a confident smile on his lips. My comrade and I exchanged looks. The first battle of our conquest of Persia was soon to begin, a battle where so many of us could die.  I quickly memorized my comrade’s twinkling blue eyes, so full of energy and life, life that could leave him so soon.

Alexander paused, turning towards our army and giving a reassuring smile that didn’t seem to reach his troubled gaze. The beginning of the battle was creeping ever closer. I stepped hesitantly forwards, the River Granicus stretching out in front of me, an obstacle separated us from the enemy army now, but in a few short moments would keep us safe no longer.

Thousands upon thousands of Persians were lined up on the far bank. They were dressed in shining armour, with swords and pikes raised threateningly. Behind them, the archer’s taut bowstrings were quivering with tension, all arrows pointing towards Alexander. I gulped, suddenly afraid, until the rallying battle cry of Alexander struck through the air, bringing me to my senses and sending adrenaline surging through me. My feet hit the ground with determined thumps (although they were nothing compared to the rushing river, whinnying horses and pounding stomps of the rest of the army), as we marched forward.

All at once, the whole army halted. Tension built. I resisted the urge to turn and flee: but I had to stay loyal to my country and bring revenge upon the Persians. I could feel my heart beating: da-dum-da-dum, quicker and quicker and quicker, seconds growing into minutes in a deafening, stifling silence. Nobody dared to utter a single word in fear of breaking the blanket of suffocating silence; start the battle from which both sides would surely suffer heavy losses.

I looked down at the large shield in my hand, checking that it was in place. A few strands of my curly coffee-coloured hair came loose: I promptly ignored them and straightened up. Sweat poured down my body as the sun beat down on me, but it was washed away as I waded into the apathetic river. My armour grew hot and uncomfortable, until it felt nearly as heavy as the insistent current that pushed against me and threatened to sweep me away.

I took a deep breath, sucking yet more dust into my dry lungs. I struggled not to cough, or to bend over to drink some of the cool river water beneath me. Instead, I focused of praying to the Gods about the battle to come.
‘Pallas Athena, guide me with your wisdom. Ares the warrior, give me strength to persevere. Nike, help my country to be victorious against the Persians.
If only my prayer had been answered.

Soon the first to follow Alexander into the river had reached to edge. A steep bank separated them from the Persians, but they were soon scrambling up and over it to begin the conflict. The clang of weapons followed by screaming and the pungent smell of blood filled the air. I was pushed from behind, and stumbled towards the bank, where spears and flying arrows were piercing man after man as they attempted to scale the bank and reach the flat land. Red blood flowed down into the river, staining its clear waters a permanent ruby colour.

All of a sudden, the river ended and it was my turn to scramble up the bank. I managed to reach the top without being injured. With a shout to hide the fear growing up inside me, I thrust my spear forwards. It clanged off a Persians soldiers shield and bounced back, causing me to lost my grip on it. Unarmed and vulnerable, I looked up at the Persian. He stared back at me, a face of indifference. I watched, helpless, as his spear came down on top of me. I was forced to the ground, forgotten and trampled over like a dead insect.

I did not blame the Persian for the searing pain that ensued, nor did I blame Zeus and his fellow Olympians. There was no hatred in my mind as I wavered between the world and unconsciousness, only shock.

The battle continued as my last breath escaped my lips, and I felt my soul detach from my body. My wife, who had taken the hand of Thanantos a year ago, appeared in front of me, beckoning. I drifted up into the clouds. The sounds of the battle faded away as I took her hand gently, plating upon it a small kiss. A tear snaked its way down her cheek as she turned to speak to me.
“My dear Philip, it is time for you to join me”
I glanced at the raging battle below me, and the dark hooded figure of Thanantos before me. Taking his hand also, I floated away.

What was the Legacy of Alexander the Great?  Share your ideas on the Padlet wall below...