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Alexander and His ‘So-Called’ Father 1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

J. R. Hamilton
University of Otago, Dunedin, N.Z.


The object of this article is to examine the letter from which Plutarch quotes in the above passage from the twenty-eighth chapter of his life of Alexander; to attempt to prove, particularly by a comparison of the letter with the Sidypafifia sent in 319 B.C. by Polyperchon to the Greek cities, that it is a genuine part of Alexander's correspondence; and further to consider what light the letter, if genuine, throws upon the person of Alexander himself.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1953

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page 151 note 2 This may be translated: ‘Except that in writing to the Athenians concerning Samos he said, “I would not have given you that free and famous city but you have it as a gift from its former master, my ‘so-called’ father, meaning Philip”.’ The editor of the Loeb edition translates: ‘I cannot have given you that free and illustrious city; for ye received it from him who was then your master and was called my father’, meaning Philip. This rendering seems to me to make no sense. It is difficult to decide whether one should translate ‘your former master’ or ‘its former master’ (as Stewart does in the Bohn series); the former would agree with the idea I express below that Alexander is stressing that the island is a gift from Philip to the Athenians, but either rendering makes good sense.

page 151 note 3 See Diodorus 18. 55–56, esp. chap. 56, where the is given in full. It is translated in Ferguson, W. S., Hellenistic Athens, pp. 2930.Google Scholar

page 151 note 4 See Gomme, A. W., A Historical Commentary on Thtuydides, vol. i (1945), pp. 54 ff., for some excellent remarks on Plutarch's aims and methods.Google Scholar

page 151 note 5 Kaerst, J., ‘Die Briefwechsels Alexanders des Grossen’, in Philologus, li (1892), pp. 602–22.Google Scholar See esp. p. 613. So far as I am aware there has been no detailed treatment of this letter since his article, e.g. Tarn, W. W., Alexander the Great, vol. ii (Sources and Studies), 1948, p. 351, n. 3, dismisses it briefly as ‘an obvious forgery on historical grounds’ and refers to Kaerst's article.Google Scholar

page 152 note 1 6.57, p. 251A (Aristoboulos fr. 47 Jacoby).

page 152 note 2 Moralia 341 b (cf. ibid. 180 e).

page 152 note 3 Anabasis 4. 26. 4. For further references to the ‘ichor’ story see Tarn, , op. cit., p. 358.Google Scholar n. 5, or Jacoby, , F.Gr.H. ii. c, p. 519.Google Scholar

page 152 note 4 Diodorus 17. 109. 1 and 18. 8. 2; Q.. Curtius 10. 2. 4.

page 152 note 5 Diodorus 18. 8. 6.

page 152 note 6 See Diodorus 17. 113. 3 The Athenians may well be included in

page 152 note 7 Diodorus 18. 18. 9. This is confirmed by a series of decrees recalling the liberation of the island, e.g. S.E.G. i. 350.

page 153 note 1 The whole chapter should be read for a clear statement of Plutarch's biographical method.

page 153 note 2 For an example of episodes introduced out of chronological order relatively to the main narrative see Tarn, , op. cit. ii. 307Google Scholar: ‘Plutarch puts three deaths out of chronological order … because he is collecting illustrations of character, not writing a history.’ For an example of events out of jrder relatively to each other see Gomme, , op. cit., p. 57.Google Scholar

page 153 note 3 In 322 B.C. the island was restored to the Samians by Perdiccas after they had been in: xile for more than 43 years (Diodorus 18. (8. 9).

page 154 note 1 Op. cit. ii, p. 351, n. 3.Google Scholar

page 154 note 2 Ibid., pp. 208–9.

page 154 note 3 See further C.A.H., vol. vi, pp. 472 ff.Google Scholar (Tarn), or Histoire Générale, iv. i, pp. 290 ff.Google Scholar

page 155 note 1 For the Greek see above, p. 153. I have not thought it necessary to argue that Diodorus preserves the actual wording of the as, so far as I am aware, this is not disputed. The subject of is not Polyperchon but the two kings. Or just conceivably ‘we’ refers to Philip Arrhidaeus alone (since Alexander IV is not yet of an age to write), in which case the plural would be a royal one. Strictly speaking refers only to Philip Arrhidaeus, but it is probably used loosely to refer to both kings.

page 155 note 2 ‘It gave Samos back as a sop to Athens’ (Tarn, , C.A.H. vi. 473)Google Scholar pithily expresses what took place, though the merely speaks of ‘giving’.

page 155 note 3 Diodorus 18. 55.

page 155 note 4 Schroeter, F., De regum hellenisticorum epistulis (Leipzig, 1932)Google Scholar, has analysed the extant correspondence of the Hellenistic kings so far as it is preserved on stone and has come to die conclusion that all but two of the letters are the work of secretaries and not of their royal masters. But Tarn in a review of this book (C.R., 1932) has pointed out the need for an intermediate class in which the main outlines are drafted by the king and the actual composition is carried out by die secretary. It is to this class that the of Polyperchon is probably to be referred.

page 155 note 5 There is nothing surprising in a letter of Alexander being available to Polyperchon or his officials. As Tarn writes (op. cit. ii. 302Google Scholar), ‘When Alexander died, Perdiccas presumably got all his papers, which in turn must have passed to Antipater when he was elected Regent of the Empire after Perdiccas’ death; he would then have taken them back to Pella with him, for there was nothing else he could do with them. Cassander subsequently got everything at Pella.' After Antipater's death the royal correspondence would pass first to Polyperchon as his successor.

page 156 note 1 I have not thought it right to make anything of , although earlier in the we have It is possible to argue that the secretary found the derogatory reference to Philip and substituted the neutral , but I would hesitate to press this point.

page 156 note 2 Op. cit. ii. 351.Google Scholar

page 156 note 3 For Alexander's speech to the mutineers see Arrian 7. 9–10, and for an analysis of the speech Tarn, , op. cit. ii. 290–6.Google Scholar

page 156 note 4 Plutarch, Alex. 72; Diodorus 17. 115 (where the pyre is described in great detail); Arrian, Anabasis 7. 14. 8.

page 157 note 1 Prof. Jones, A. H. M. in a review of Tarn's Alexander in C.R. lxiii (1949), p. 122.Google Scholar

page 157 note 2 See Arrian 7. 23. 6–8, esp. 8.

page 157 note 3 Op. cit. ii. 305.Google Scholar

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