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Alexander the Great: the Weddings in Susa


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). In February 324, Alexander forced many Macedonian officers to marry to native women. If it was intended as an attempt to unite the European and Asian elites, it was a sad failure: nearly all marriages ended in divorce. The Greek author Arrian of Nicomedia describes this event in section 7.4.4-5.6 of his Anabasis.

The translation was made by M.M. Austin.

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The Apadana (Throne hall) at Susa. Photo Marco Prins.
The Apadana of Susa
 
Then he also celebrated weddings at Susa, both his own and those of his Companions. He himself married Barsine [1], the eldest of Darius' daughters, and, according to Aristobulus, another girl as well, Parysatis, the youngest of the daughters of Ochus [2]. He had already married previously Roxane, the daughter of Oxyartes of Bactria.


He gave Drypetis to Hephaestion, she too a daughter of Darius and a sister of his own wife; his intention was that the children of Hephaestion should be cousins to his own children. To Craterus he gave Amastris daughter of Oxyathres, brother of Darius, and to Perdiccas the daughter of Atropates, satrap of Media. To Ptolemy the bodyguard and to Eumenes the royal secretary he gave the daughters of Artabazus, Artacama to one and Artonis to the other. To Nearchus he gave the daughter of Barsine and Mentor, and to Seleucus the daughter of Spitamenes of Bactria [3]. Similarly he gave to the other Companions the noblest daughters of the Persians and Medes, some eighty in all.

The marriages were celebrated according to Persian custom. Chairs were placed for the bridegrooms in order, and after the drinks the brides came in and sat down, each by the side of her groom. They took them by the hand and kissed them; the king began the ceremony, for all the weddings took place together. More than any action of Alexander this seemed to show a popular and comradely spirit. The bridegrooms after receiving their brides led them away, each to his own home, and to all Alexander gave a dowry. And as for all the Macedonians who had already married Asian women, Alexander ordered a list of their names to be drawn up; they numbered over 10,000, and Alexander offered them all gifts their wedding. 

He also thought this was a suitable opportunity to settle the debts of the army, and ordered a list of individual debts to be drawn up, with a promise to pay them. At first few put down their names; they feared Alexander was testing them to find out who thought the soldier's pay insufficient and who was living above his means. When it was reported that the majority would not put their names down, but concealed any bonds they had, he condemned the soldiers' lack of trust. A king should not say anything but the truth to his subjects, and they must not imagine their king to be saying anything but the truth to them. 

So he had tables set up in the camp with gold on them, and men charged with the distribution of money to anyone who could show a bond, and he ordered the debts to be settled but without now drawing up a list of names. In this way they were convinced that Alexander was saying the truth, and their pleasure at not being individually identified was even greater than their satisfaction at seeing their debts paid off. It is said that up to 20,000 talents were distributed to the army on that occasion. 

He also made various presents to various men, according to the reputation each enjoyed or the courage which anyone had displayed in dangers. He also crowned with golden wreaths those conspicuous for bravery, first Peucestas who had covered him with his shield [4], then Leonnatus for the same service and for the dangers he faced among the Indians and the victory he won among the Orians. With the forces left to him he opposed the them in battle, and in other respects and Alexander offered them all gifts for rebelling Oreitans and their neighbors and defeated he seemed to have handled affairs well among the Orians. In addition Alexander crowned Nearchus for his navigation from India by the great sea; for he had now arrived at Susa. He also crowned Onesicritus the pilot of the royal ship, and Hephaestion and the other bodyguards.

Note 1:
She is also called Statira.

Note 2:

Surname of the Persian king Artaxerxes III (358-338). 

Note 3:
Her name was Apame (or Apame I, to use a modern expression). This marriage was the only one that did not end in divorce.

Note 4:
This happened during Alexander's attack on the town of the Mallians.

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