Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Alexander's Clothes

The sources mention that one of the things that made some of Alexander's men, especially the old guard, begin to doubt his very Macedonian-ness was his clothing.  After gaining the Persian throne, they mention that Alexander adopted an outfit that was a mix of Macedonian and Persian clothing.  He adopted the Median tunic and the peaked cap of the Persians but kept the sandals of the Macedonian as well as the diadem.  They also specify that he never adopted the pants of the Persians.
Why would what someone wears matter so much, especially to a hard bitten Macedonian soldier?  Clothing is one of the most fundamental ways of communicating.  What a person chooses to wear is a reflection of things such as their personality, their status, the group to which they belong.  It is also a means of non-verbal communication meaning that the literacy level of the people encountered or the language they speak does not matter.  It does not matter if they can read your business card.  It does not matter that they do not speak the same language as you.  Regardless of their native language, most women know that a red sole on a heel means that is a Christian Louboutin.  If a man approaches wearing all black with a solid closed white collar, most people know that man is a Catholic priest.  A person in jeans with a black tshirt that features a large triangle with a crossbar is undoubtedly Echelon!  
Lewis V. Cummings explains in his book Alexander the Great that clothing was very important to the Macedonian aristocracy for one particular reason.  He states that the Macedonian king (Philip in this case) wore no emblem to mark his rank.  Both the king and his Companion (Hetairoi) wore a purple chlamys (cloak), a tunic, and the wide-brimmed causia (hat).  There was little to no distinction between the king and his aristocracy who also enjoyed such rights as freedom of speech before the king.  For these veterans especially, suddenly their king, Alexander, set himself apart from them by changing his clothing.  
Alexander had a reason for this change which further emphasizes this idea of clothing as non-verbal communication.  He chose an outfit that combined the "uniforms" of all the groups within his newly established empire.  This was just a part of his overall plan of joining this disparate groups into peaceful new society.  No longer would it be "Greek" ruling the "Barbarians" that Aristotle had spoken of so long ago at Mieza, but a new mixed society that would spread across the world.  In his men's eyes, Alexander was no longer Macedonian--his new clothes shouted that loudly!  Not only did Alexander's clothing change, but those who favored his pro-mixed policies like Hephaestion also adopted changes.  Suddenly, these veterans found their was a new distance between their king and his inner circle and themselves.  Their very status, their very identity, was being threatened by this new look.  Their king, to their eyes, was no longer Macedonian.

Friday, September 18, 2015

My second published article

This is my second published article.  It dealt with the adaptive reuse of a historic building in the town I was living in at the time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hephaestion’s Duties

IMG_0114 IMG_0115

This is a table from Jeanne Reame’s PhD Thesis “Hephaestion Amyntoros: eminence grise at the court of Alexander.  It lists all of Hephaestion’s mentions in the sources and catagorizes what that job is.  As you can see, Hephaestion was continually trusted with important assignments and excelled at logistics and diplomacy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hephaestion website, yes or no?

Ok, first a poll.  I am thinking of starting a website for Hephaestion similar to my friend Malcolm’s www.secondachilles.com which focuses on Alexander.  My question is would anyone be interested in such a site?  It would feature info on Hephaestion, pictures of artifacts connected with him, links to sources, and such.  Please comment on this below and tell me yes or no.
As far as the Hephaestion book project goes, it is coming along slowly.  Some health problems have unfortunately kept me from working as quickly as I would like, but hopefully, those are reaching a point where they will no longer cause delays.  I am currently working on Mary Renault’s The Nature of Alexander to see how she presents Hephaestion.  I have read this before and remember that her version is sympathetic with mine, but I wanted to read again in a more conscious and critical manner.

My other main research interest is how clothing is used as non-verbal communication and to establish identity.  After a Skype conversation with a fellow Alexander scholar this weekend, I have a renewed interest in exploring how Alexander’s change in wardrobe so drastically changed his men’s opinion of him and his “Greekness”.  Look for that in the future, and if you have any ideas, by all means, leave those in the comments too.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review of 'Hephaestion's Journal' by Hannah Saiz

So I know that it has taken far too long to get this review over a 137 page book, but health problems have reared their head.  For that I heartily apologize.  I will, from this point on, once again, try to get these blog posts coming at a much regular rate.

We finally come to our topic, a review of Hephaestion’s Journal.  When I saw this on Amazon, I couldn’t resist even though I suspected it would be horrible as it was only about $8.  It turned out to be exactly what I expected, absolutely horrible! 

My first problem is that this is completely a work of fiction written by a Hannah Saiz, yet everything on the cover, the title page, and book leads one to believe this is an actual historic work translated by a Valintin Numbers.  There is even a story invented on where and how these journals were found.  To the uninitiated researcher, this could create confusion and lead to the belief that this is in fact a true historic document.  I would suggest that the fictional nature be better explained in a much more visible way.

I think the best way to review this will just be to go through the notes that I made.  This work, as mentioned before, pretends to be Hephaestion’s personal journal with notes sometimes appearing in the margin in Alexander’s own hand.  It begins with the childhood under Aristotle’s tutelage and tells the story of Alexander’s taming of Bucephalus, who Hephaestion refers to repeatedly as bad-tempered and almost downright evil to anyone but Alexander and occasionally Hephaestion himself.

Page 28-29 “Bravery does not lie in being fearless; it is trekking over the bodies of your friends, your countrymen, even while terrified you will share their fate. [Doing anything] to succeed.” This quote is attributed to Alexander as he is recounting his adventures in the Battle of Chaeronea to Hephaestion upon his return to Macedon.  This refusal to bow to fear will characterize his Alexander for the first half of the work.

Page 33 Hephaestion implies that at some point Alexander slept at least once with Perdiccas who he refers to as a “pretty boy licentious bastard”.  The accompanying footnote says Hephaestion presents Perdiccas as sadistic but effete.

Footnote on page 43 questions whether Alexander’s temper is due to bipolar disorder or multiple personality disorder.  It goes on to call Alexander vicious, even to the point of killing his own men in a frenzy as evidence.

Footnote on page 44 says “Alexander’s violent tendencies manifested early” and that Hephaestion’s non-violent tendencies are a strange foil to Alexander’s temperament and the vast majority of his close companions.

Page 45 calls Ptolemy as “hedonistic fop”
Hephaestion refers to the rape of some women to show Perdiccas’ sadism

Page 50 calls Alexander and Hephaestion’s comparision to Achilles and Patroclus  as indicating a roman of dubious interpretation.  It also refers to Alexander’s consistent sacrificing to gods and heroes as evidence of his superstitious nature.

Page 53 Footnote claims this section comes after Granicus.  Hephaestion tells of Alexander being tortures by the voices of the dead he claims will not let him be.

Page 55 Alexander questions why Hephaestion is on the expedition telling him that he is not a warrior in spirit.

Page 95 Hephaestion tells of Alexander intercepting letters from Darius to his troops promising untold wealth for Alexander’s death.  Hephaestion sides with Parmenion in saying the men should not be told saying “I would not have you die for some fool to gain a fortune.”  This, the author claims, is supposed to hint at the closeness of their relationship.

Page 97  It hints at an argument between Hephaestion and Alexander where Hephaestion tells him he can no longer proceed as a liberator as he now heads for Persia as you can not liberate a people from themselves.

Page 100  This is where the story of the Sibyl of Apollo is dealt with.  “To Asia’s bountiful eath will come an unbeliever who wears the purple cloak;  a man who is wild, despotic, fiery.  As a storm he shall flash and all Asia will sink under the evil yoke as the earth herself drowns, glutted in blood.”  Hephaestion says the burning of Persepolis proves Alexander has become her prediction.  He says Alexander told he he became a tyrant because the Persians would not believe him to be anything else.  “Since I could not convince them otherwise, I will give them a tyrant they may know how to fear.”

Footnotes 146 & 147  speak of Hephaestion becoming the standard representative for all barbarian people’s interests. 

Footnote 149  says he sees bits of Philip in Alexander and wonders is Alexander does too and and that is what drives him in his eastward quest.

Page 108  Hephaestion says Philotas said he knew Hephaestion would not allow Craterus and Perdiccas to simply invent his confession.  Hephaestion says he is very uncomfortable with the whole affair and even doubts Philotas’ guilt.

Page 110  “Had I tears left in me, I would weep to mourn the passing of freedom, the passing of the man I knew when I was a boy, and the love I yet bear for a memory that has been lost to me.”  Here Hephaestion refers to the growing changes he sees in Alexander, changes he does not feel are for the better.

Page 112  Hephaestion wonders if the damage the death of Philotas does to Alexander will ever be undone or even lessened.

Page 114  Alexander meets Roxane.  The author says Hephaestion’s relationship to Alexander from this point is difficult to determine.

Page 118  Hephaestion tells Alexander he is not a god.  Alexander asks, “Aren’t I?  Aren’t I your god, Hephaestion?”  The author wonders if Alexander means he is Hephaestion’s personal god as in a relationship.

Hephaestion says doubts in the Somatophylakes wounds Alexander more than any enemy weapon he ever encounters.

Page 119-120  This comes after the trail of Callisthenes.  Hephaestion says Alexander is now lost in his own world and will not return to his.

Page 126  This comes after the death of Bucephalus and the army’s refusal to cross the Hyphasis.  Hephaestion describes Alexander as “pale as the linens he wore and far too thin...matted hair, lost eyes…the blue which seemed so bright [had] dulled and the depths of his dark eye [has] lessened.  He looks weary.  Yet this is Alexander, and he would never admit to such weakness.”

As the story goes on, Hephaestion refers to Alexander as mad more and more

Page 129  Following his punctured lung, Alexander rides through his troops.  Hephaestion says, “…Something inside of Alexander has broken, and it is something I am sure I cannot fix.”

These are the notes of things which stuck out to me.  It is a unique version of Alexander with a couple of points that I admit are intriguing to explore but one which overall I don’t think I agree with.  I leave it to you to come to your own conclusions based on what you read.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Alexander and ISIS

Recently, I attended my state’s historic preservation conference as part of my new job.  One of the presentations I attended was given by a man working for UNESCO, the UN’s cultural and educational arm, on ISIS and its current participation in the illegal antiquities trade.  It was simultaneously an extremely interesting and disturbing talk that taught me a lot of things that I was unaware of and that bear sharing here.

You may be asking how ISIS has anything to do with Alexander, or like me originally, you would assume any ISIS having to do with him would be of the Egyptian goddess variety.  However, I am, in this case, referring to the current terrorist organization rampaging throughout the Middle East.  Again you may be asking yourself, “what do Arabs and Islam have to do with Alexander?”  The Middle East (especially Iraq)=Ancient Persian Empire=Empire Alexander conquered=Alex’s stomping grounds.  See the connection now?

Current estimates place the sale of illegal antiquities as the second- or third-highest source of funding for ISIS, and it is not just random looting.  ISIS has created and operates a highly organized system of looting and sale.  Major sites are looted by ISIS troops upon take-over, often before being destroyed to further the group’s public image as cultural cleansers.  ISIS, likewise, encourages the local populations to search for and gather artifacts to use as payment for the hefty taxes ISIS imposes.  

These artifacts are collected in holding camps where auctions are then held on a regular basis.  When a large enough assembly of artifacts are collected, lists of available items are posted on the internet with details for the auctions.  ISIS demands immediate payment for all items then leaves it to the buyer to get them out of the auction locations, usually spot in Syria along the Turkish border.

Current estimates believe that as much as $100 million dollars of antiquities leave Iraq illegally each year since conflict began in that country.  The UN has unanimously passed Resolution 2199 pledging to protect the region’s cultural heritage through coordinated efforts among its signatory bodies.  Text of that document can be found here http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002321/232164e.pdf .  Several countries of the Middle East have made further promises in a recent declaration signed in Cairo the text of which can be found here http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/CairoDeclaration.pdf

Looting and the destruction of cultural artifacts is nothing new when it comes to war.  Some would accuse Alexander’s army of doing much the same as it marched through the Persian Empire.  My love for Alexander in no way makes me condone looting or seizing or however you wish to phrase such actions.  But my love for Alexander makes this an important issue for me.

I have never been a big fan of Islamic art or even Persian, Assyrian, or Babylonian art.  So at first, I was only a little sad as I think the destruction of any historical item or information is a great loss to humanity.  Then it suddenly occurred to me that artifacts and information related to Alexander could be lost, or even more importantly (to me anyway), related to the already elusive Hephaestion could be lost forever.

While UNESCO has made important steps as seen by these documents, problems remain.  As ISIS has proven, money=power.  Due to some past political issues and laws passed to deal with those issues that have remained on the books beyond their need, the United States stopped paying its UNESCO dues in 2011 following the acceptance of Palestine into UNESCO with full membership rights.  This caused an immediately 22% budget cut for UNESCO directly affecting its ability to put boots on the ground to combat the illegal antiquities trade.

I don’t intend to make this blog a political column or an attempt to convert people to a certain world view.  This issue, however, it think will be of importance to those of us who are Alexandrophiles.  What action you choose to take or not take is entirely up to you.  I just offer the information for your consideration and encourage to read for your own on the internet to form your own opinion.

I also apologize for any errors or lack of sense in this hastily written post.  I have been unwell but didn’t want to put this off any longer.

Monday, March 23, 2015

So up to this point, the blog has dealt primarily with Hephaestion & Alexander, but as promised when first set up, it will deal with other research and other literary things as well.  Welcome to the first of those posts (though Hephaestion does manage to sneak in).  This post is partially inspired by some entries on one of my friend Malcolm's stable of blogs https://hailearendel.wordpress.com/ where he in part chronicles some of his reading choices.  It is also in part inspired by a discussion with both him and another Brit friend with a blog, Kerrie, who can be found at https://confessionsofa20somethingliteratureandmusicjunkie.wordpress.com, about looking at pieces of literature from both a Brit and American perspective and comparing the similarities and differences.  Now the below may not inspire any response in either of them, or any other intelligent person for that matter, but it had flow out here or explode out somewhere else.  

She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byorn

She walks in beauty, like the night
  Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
  Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
  Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
  Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
  Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
  How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
  So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
  But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
  A heart whose love is innocent!

So above is one of my favorite poems of all time and arguably Byron’s  most famous work.  I  first found my way to Byron and the Romantics through Dead Poets’ Society which was a defining movie of my adolescence.  After reading Bryon’s work, I was became a devoted disciple.  Byron saw the Pure Beauty.  Byron was able, perhaps better than almost anyone else, to put a little of it into words.  Here is what I see in what he wrote.

The truest purest form of beauty is a product of night, but not an overcast, deep, or murky night.  It comes from a clear pristine night that features stars, or light, so it combines the best of both the dark and the light into one perfect whole.  It is a tender light that lacks the gaudiness of day or the gaudiness of great surface beauty which entrances but blinds one instantly which one from seeing deeply.  In the dark, things may be hidden from first sight which allows for discoveries to be made if one is willing to walk the path to reach them.  In full light, nothing is hidden; everything is as it seems.  Everything is in sharp relief including blemishes, failings, pain.  It is the perfect balance of dark and light that gives the purest beauty, a little more of either destroys everything.  It diminishes the purity, diminishes the grace, diminishes the beauty, ultimately diminishing its very vessel.  Beauty can draw one in with its surface features, but one must look into the eyes, the smiles, the face to the mind and heart beyond to see the purity of a being which exists in a whole other plane, a place of balance, a place free from  strife, contention, duplicity, and the other ugliness of life.  One sees then a being that is not affected by or even touched by the mire drowning the world around it.  Neither do they look down upon those trapped in its depths.  For part of the Pure Beauty is a need to shares its truths, its precepts, its doctrines with those trapped by the mire.  By sharing, one gives them a chance to extricate themselves, to be free, forever stained, but free.

Byron is a perfect example of this theory of balance.  He lived a life reviled for his lifestyle and personal choices but also lauded for his creation of such beautiful works.  He had some personal habits that could be described as nothing less that dark, but he carried inside him the Pure Beauty, the light of which balanced all that was dark within him.  That light kept him from being one of the masses drowning in the mire, kept him from becoming ugly. 

Sergei Polunin, to me, also seems to be in much the same struggle.  He is a young man beset by demons that seem intent on destroying him through the Death of a Thousand Cuts, yet if one sees him but dance, one sees the Pure Beauty flow through him and out in every move, stretch, bit of choreography.

Jared Leto, Andreja Peijic, Van Gogh, Hephaestion, Thomas Raith.  All beings of great light and great darkness.  All capable of unspeakable horrors but all filled with the Pure Beauty to a state of balance.  All lifted by the balance to a space above the mire.  All who must be protected by those of us trapped in the mire who have sight enough to see and souls enough to realize.  It is a fight against the mire that in the end will take everything we have including life, but that we will fight nevertheless for if we win, if they stay in balance, we may one day be free too—forever stained, for we lack the Pure Beauty to balance us, but free.

Friday, March 13, 2015

First of all, my apologies for the lack of posts.  Fear not.  The Hephaestion book project is by no means dead. It did, however, get shoved to the side the past few months due to life drama.  I hope to get it back on track now.  I have recently gotten a new job, one that is excitingly actually in my career field!  I am afraid that in the past the stress of the hated retail jobs I previously worked often sucked any energy and initiative away.  Happily, this job encourages scholarship.

Likewise, I have been reading a biography of Oscar Wilde.  This is helping to encourage scholarship as well as Wilde was quite the brilliant mind.  He did have a tragic habit of quite callously casting away people when they no longer interested him, but I am endeavoring to not allow that flaw to lessen my esteem.  After all, this is the man who created The Importance of Being Ernest!

I also recently discovered a new wonder of the world, Sergei Polunin, a ballet prodigy from the Ukraine.  If you haven't seen his work, for shame! Immediately open another window and youtube the man!  His connection to the Pure Beauty and its seemingly concerted efforts to drain him of all life have intrigued me greatly.  Expect more to come on him as well.

Last but not least, my dear friend Malcolm, whose Alexander blog can be found at www.thesecondachilles.com, continues to shame me into work with his prodigious, intelligent, and unfailing output.  If I don't catch up soon, I shall be even more shamed when the skype chats resume shortly!

So definitely more to come in the future

PS.  At some point will also be creating a series of posts which will consist of book reviews from both my American perspective and a friend's British perspective.  First, we take on Austen and Charlotte Bronte!