Myth, history, censorship

Worshiped though he was by various nations and peoples as a god or precursor of the Messiah, Alexander was no saint; for no one can achieve saintly status if he exists and acts within the context of history. When we create hagiographies of a man who lived a short but turbulent life full of passion, we do nothing but shun the historical evidence for the sake of an unconvincing national expediency. When we sue a director before we have even had a chance to see his controversial movie, we only demonstrate that we are not interested in free art but rather in propagandistic, conformist and obedient art; that is, non-art. In any case, the attempt to criminalize myth-making around a commander whose life and achievements gave birth to countless myths is ludicrous. Leaving aside the various myths that have been conjured up to immortalize Alexander, we also have history; history which was written by men, that resists criticism from the self-styled, pure-blooded Greeks of today or from the anachronistic builders and guardians of a creation that never was real. Plutarch, of course, was not an enemy of Greece, nor did he wish to deconstruct the myth of Alexander when, in his biography of the commander, he described what followed the death of Hephaestion: «Then seeking to alleviate his grief in war, he set out, as it were, to a hunt and chase of men, for he fell upon the Cossaeans, and put the whole nation to the sword.» In order to overcome his grief, in other words, Alexander went on a killing spree to wipe out an entire nation by exterminating its adult population. It’s hard to see how the hagiography can jar with Alexander’s lethal action. Clearly, Alexander was not just a war machine or a man prey to his passions. But surely, as Plutarch showed, he was a leader who could be cruel as well as merciful.