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The embassies to Alexander


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). In the first months of 323, Alexander the Great received embassies from all over the world. Arrian of Nicomedia describes them in his Anabasis, sections 7.15.4-6. 

They are given here in the translation by Aubrey de SÚlincourt.

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On the way back to Babylon he was met by representatives from Libya, who with congratulatory speeches offered him a crown in recognition of his sovereignty over Asia; Bruttian, Lucanian, and Etruscian [1] envoys also arrived on the same mission from Italy. It is said that Carthage [2], too, sent a delegation at that time, and that others came from the Nubians and European Scythians -not to mention Celts and Iberians- all to ask for Alexander's friendship.

It was the first time that Greeks and Macedonians had ever heard the names of these peoples or set eyes upon their unfamiliar dress and equipment. We are told that they even appealed to Alexander to arbitrate in their domestic quarrels, with the result that then, if ever, both he and his friends felt that he was indeed master of the world.

Two of the writers on Alexander's career, Aristus and Asclepiades [3], declare that Rome sent him a delegation and that when he met the delegates and observed the proud freedom of their bearing, their obvious devotion to duty and order, and had learned the nature of their political principles, he prophesied something, at least, of the future greatness of their country.

I record the story, which may or may not be true; but the fact remains that no Roman has ever made any reference to this delegation, any more than the two writers on Alexander who are my principal authorities, Aristobulus and Ptolemy son of Lagus. Moreover, it would have been out of character for the republican Romans who enjoyed at that date entirely free institutions, to send a delegation to a foreign king, especially at such a distance from their own country, when they had nothing either to fear or to gain from him.



 

Note 1:
Bruttians, Leucanians and Etruscans: people from Italy. The first two had fought a war against Alexander's brother in law, Alexander of Epirus, and killed him. They had every reason to be afraid that Alexander was to come to the west.

Note 2:
Again a state that had much to fear from Alexander. Carthaginians had supported Tyre when it was besieged by Alexander (more...).

Note 3:
Not well known. Their story is confirmed by Cleitarchus, who could not know about Rome's future greatness and had no reason to please or belittle the Romans.





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