The Campaigns of Alexander the Great

The Book of Man

The Campaigns of Alexander the Great – as told by Arrian, the Roman historian.

After a difficult battle, Alexander the Great allowed disabled soldiers to go home, while he and the able-bodied soldiers remained to press on. At their grumbling, he gave a speech meant to shame and encourage them.

He offers them the opportunity to leave, but first they must understand what he has done for them and what they have done for him in return.

Personal suffering. Have they suffered more than he has? “There is no part of my body but my back which has not a scar….” He led them to victory. He married as they did, so that his descendants and theirs are similar in bloodline. Even though they have been able to profit from their wars, it was he and not the individual soldier who paid the soldier’s debts. He has rewarded those who have served well and has honored those who had fallen in battle, even paying monies due to the soldier to his surviving family members.

So what is Alexander saying about how men should behave? I think he is saying a couple of things. First, leaders should be willing to do everything they request of their men. There cannot be an air of superiority among the ranks (although there is quite compelling reasons for hierarchy and differences in authority and role). Second, as regards the soldiers, they should not disgrace themselves to complain about their lot, especially as they have been treated far better than what justice would dictate. Alexander went above and beyond for them, so, to an extent, he expects his men to go above and beyond for him is response.

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