n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - From Jerusalem to Timbuktu : the appropriation of Alexander the Great by national narratives

Supplement 5
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In all cultures and ages the heroes of myths, and even outstanding historical figures, are represented as paradigmatic agents of political unification and ethnic or political identity. Some have served political groups or dynasties as models for justifying their dominance, or as objects of emulation for aspiring political and military leaders. Such were Achilles and Heracles for Alexander the Great, and the latter for Pompey, Julius Caesar and many others. In the abstract sense, their image or related narratives function as epistemological paradigms for political ideologies, even for religious or philosophical doctrines. In recent years Alexander's image and reputation continue to be the disputed symbol for legitimising the respective political identities of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia. Alexander the Great has fulfilled this role for millennia, ever since his relics, corpse, possessions, family connexions and image were contested after his death and appropriated for their own advancement by his marshals and their Hellenistic and Roman successors. Even in countries and among populations with whose cultures and institutions he had no proven relationship, had never visited, and of which he had little or no knowledge, the 'Alexander brand' has served a variety of political purposes.

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