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Alexander's tent


Detail of the Alexander mosaic, found in Pompeii. National Archaeological Museum, Naples (Italy). The Greek-Roman author Polyaenus was a younger contemporary of Arrian of Nicomedia, and published a book on the Stratagems of war that was to be used by the Roman emperor Lucius Verus. In this book, he also dealt with the military tricks used by Alexander the Great. One of the chapters, however, does not deal with a real stratagem, but illustrates the main problem of Alexander's reign - how to be at the same time a ruler of Europeans, who wanted a simple style of royal representation, and a great king of Asia.

The translation of Stratagems 4.3.24 was made by Peter Krentz and Everett Wheeler.

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Pharnaces paying honor ('proskynesis') to king Darius the Great. Relief from Persepolis. Archaeological museum of Tehran (Iran). Photo Marco Prins.
Proskynesis; original relief of the northern stairs of the Apadana at Persepolis (National Archaeological Museum, Tehran)
When deciding legal cases among the Macedonians or the Greeks, Alexander preferred to have a modest and common courtroom. but among the barbarians he preferred a brilliant courtroom suitable for a general, astonishing the barbarians even by the courtroom's appearance. When deciding cases among the Bactrians, Hyrcanians, and Indians, he had a tent made as follows: the tent was large enough for 100 couches [1]; fifty gold pillars supported it; embroidered gold canopies, stretched out above, covered the place. Inside the tent 500 Persian Apple Bearers [2] stood first, dressed in purple and yellow clothing. After the Apple Bearers stood an equal number of archers in different clothing, for some wore flame-colored, some dark blue, and some scarlet. In front of these stood Macedonian Silver Shields, 500 of the tallest men. In the middle of the room stood the gold throne, on which Alexander sat to give audiences. Bodyguards stood on each side when the king heard cases.

In a circle around the tent stood the corps of elephants Alexander had equipped, and 1,000 Macedonians wearing Macedonian apparel. Next to these were 500 Elamites dressed in purple, and after them, in a circle around them, 10,000 Persians, the handsomest and tallest of them, adorned with Persian decorations, and all carrying short swords. Such was Alexander's courtroom among the barbarians.





Reconstruction of the Hall of Hundred Columns.
Reconstruction of the Hall of Hundred Columns in Persepolis.
[1]
In fact, we are dealing with some sort of pavilion, not unlike the enormous tents that the Persians built, and that inspired the architecture of their "apadanas", audience halls.

[2]
Elite soldiers. Their spears had a small metal counterweight to balance the heavy point. Because this counterweight resembled an apple, they received their remarkable surname. Several scholars believe they are identical to the Immortals.





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