Creation, not destruction, is what we do. We worship strength. We build shrines in the forests and temples of our bodies. We write new Myths and live our own Sagas. We defeat the Empire by ignoring it.
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Yet even if it did, what matter? The difference is that in an Honor Culture you take responsibility for your own safety and reputation. In Victim Culture, you trust someone else to do it for you, usually the automatons of Media or Law. Why try to live up to the standards of those without Honor?
Alexander was thought of as a god even while alive. It reveals a lesson we can use today — you can live your own Myth. You become legend by becoming aware that you are already in one. Moreover, as king, it was his job not just to rule, but to offer sacrifice and serve as intermediary between his people and the gods.
Macedonia was a backwater compared to mighty Greek city-states like Athens, Sparta, and Thebes. The Macedonians, to some horrified Greeks, appeared like Homeric characters that the civilized city-states had left behind. But the urbanites submitted all the same. At first, it had just been a kind of status symbol for courtiers, presumably not taken very seriously. Companions that fought and hunted together would battle ferociously to save a wounded fellow member, regarding their own lives as secondary. They would compete in bravery and to prove loyalty. Instead of the king simply giving orders, he would, as one of the Companions, seek consensus with his officers.
He had created a revolutionary new army where commoners and nobles were bound together by sacred commitment. When Philip II was assassinated, Alexander legitimized his claim to the throne by leading the Companions in sacrifice and ritual.
Zeus was thought to rule Asia and Africa. Alexander would win by killing the emperor Darius or forcing him to supplicate, thus making Alexander King of Asia. The first thing Alexander did upon crossing into Asia was thrust his spear into the Earth.
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Other cultures had similar practices. Livy chronicles an elaborate method the ancient Romans used to declare war.
They explained to the gods why their actions were just and then plunged a javelin tipped with steel or blood into enemy soil. This done, the gods presumably justified the war. Instead, he made a pilgrimage to the ruins of Troy and offered sacrifice. He vowed to build a new shrine. Instead of bringing gods along, the way a modern army brings chaplains, the Macedonians appeased the spirits already there. The world was sacred, and each place had its gods.
More importantly, Zeus was still present. In the Battle of the Grancius , Alexander led his Companion cavalry from the front. After the victory, he built statues to the fallen Companions at Troy as well as one of himself. When his army moved through the newly conquered territory, Alexander rebuilt shrines, spoke to priests, and participated in local rituals—occasionally reshaping them to his own ends, like when he cut the famous Gordian Knot. Sometimes, though they recognized the gods, his Macedonians viewed lordship differently than Middle Eastern kings who had ruled before.
Even in far away places, psychologically, their gods were with them. The second great victory of Alexander over the Persians was at Issus.
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After the battle, as was customary, the king presided over cremating the dead. Then, he ordered funeral games held to honor them. Finally, he built altars to Zeus, Athena, and Hercules at the place where he had sacrificed before the battle. They endured for centuries; Cicero visited about years later. Entire military operations centered on what we might think of as religious technicalities.
They knew that if he did that at a certain time, Alexander would become king. Similarly, in Egypt, Alexander became Pharaoh.
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He identified Amon with Zeus. Was this all just cynical nonsense? Alexander and some of his top generals traveled there, almost getting killed in the process. They got lost and almost starved until, according to court historians, snakes or crows intervened and led them to safety. They were counter-productive militarily. Today, they might seem completely insane. But they make sense from the perspective of a man who thought he was on a religious mission.
His officers evidently thought it was important enough for them to join too.
Alexander heard at Siwah what he wanted—he was the son of Zeus. While in Egypt, he also built the great city of Alexandria—and a cult for himself as founder. Before this battle he sacrificed to the god Panic, asking him to visit the enemy. Panic evidently did. After the victory, Alexander moved to Babylon, legitimizing his rule by becoming king and aligning himself with the local priests. Yet the farther away he moved from home, the harder it became for him to reconcile all these idiosyncratic religious traditions. He was paying homage to gods that sometimes warred with each other.
This unrest culminated when a drunken Alexander, enraged by the taunts of one of his closest friends, Clitus, stabbed him to death.
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Ultimately, the only way the army and officers reconciled themselves to going on was by blaming the entire incident on Dionysus. The problems got worse when the army pushed into India, where Alexander desperately tried to relate local gods to ones the Macedonians knew, usually unsuccessfully. He even initiated a defeated Indian king into the Companions.
Like Achilles, Alexander sulked in his tent, to no avail. He took omens three times—the maximum allowed—and every time they were bad. Had they been good, he might well have ordered the army onward. Thinking their king was dead, his men wept and strained to touch him when they learned he was alive. His person had become sacred. After a difficult march back east, Alexander organized a huge sacrifice and himself imitated Dionysus. He later emerged to shame his men, declaring he had shared all their sacrifices and paid their debts.
Mortified, his men begged forgiveness.
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