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A Celebration of Sorts

June 11, 2010

Today marks the 2333rd anniversary of Alexander the Great’s death. In the short span of 32 years Alexander took the world by storm by unifying the Greek homeland, amassing a huge empire that span three continents and generally causing the world to go Hellenization in a hand basket.

On the one hand, you have to hand it to Alexander. The world might have been ripe for the sort of conquest he brought about, but it definitely took a special kind of charisma and strategy to make it happen. On the other hand, Alexander’s conquest of Mesopotamia was the final death blow to the older Akkadian culture that I so deeply love. It had been damaged by half a century of Neo-Assyrian aggression and Neo-Babylonian insurrection; it was being sidelined by the Persians; but the invasion of the Greeks and the coming of Hellenic culture is what finally did the old ways in.

Ironically, we know the exact date of death from a cuneiform astronomical text currently in the British Museum. The Greeks wind up nicking most of this Mesopotamian astronomical tradition (including their base sixty system for measuring angles).

A further irony is that Alexander died in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Neo-Babylonian king that lives on in infamy in the book of Daniel from the Hebrew Bible. Alexander gets a cameo in Daniel, appearing as the “great horn” in Daniel 8 (see the horn indicating the divinity of Alexander on the coin above). The two are linked in literature and in death.

(HT to Zack who reminded me of the day)

One Comment
  1. June 13, 2010 10:26 am

    Thanks for the shout-out!

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