n Acta Classica : Proceedings of the Classical Association of South Africa - Preface

Supplement 5
  • ISSN : 0065-1141
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In the major ancient sources, Alexander's conquest of Egypt seems almost like an interlude between the key conflicts of the Macedonian's Asian campaign. Sandwiched between the pivotal clashes of Issus and Tyre, on the one hand, and Gaugamela, on the other, he encountered virtually no resistance on African soil. On the contrary, Arrian reports that Darius' satrap Mazaces, having heard of the outcome at Issus, 'welcomed Alexander to the cities and the country'. Also, when viewed geographically, Alexander's African safari is an added-on loop to the south and west. The twenty-four-year-old and his mates sailed up and down the Nile, saw some interesting sites, and went on a desert dash or two. The combination of extreme adventure and self-discovery is by no means foreign to some touristic tastes, although one cannot help but feel that the party seriously underestimated their Sahara expedition. Still, they seem to have made the most of their stay, even bringing in celebrities and athletes from Greece for the winter's entertainment. At the first sight of spring, Alexander was off again for more serious business. But, while Alexander's famous pothos probably played a part in his decision to venture into this old and famed part of the world, his ambitions were, on closer scrutiny, not touristic. On the contrary, his brief stay was packed with activities of great political and symbolic significance.

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