A Couple of Claims

I’ve seen this first one (from USA Today this time) a couple of times now:

Alexander the Great is also said to have had one blue and one brown eye.

I’ve never managed to find any more details on that one …

This second one — from something called Dream Dogs — strikes me as suspicious:

The Maltese has been depicted on ancient Roman and Greek works of art that dates back to 500 BC. The Roman governor Publius is said to have had a Maltese by the name of Issa and even had a portrait of her painted. Much poetry was written of Publius’ Issa.

Okay … we do know of Issa, of course, from Martial’s epigram (1.109), reproduced here via the Latin Library:

Issa est passere nequior Catulli,
Issa est purior osculo columbae,
Issa est blandior omnibus puellis,
Issa est carior Indicis lapillis,
Issa est deliciae catella Publi. 5
Hanc tu, si queritur, loqui putabis;
sentit tristitiamque gaudiumque.
Collo nixa cubat capitque somnos,
ut suspiria nulla sentiantur;
et desiderio coacta uentris 10
gutta pallia non fefellit ulla,
sed blando pede suscitat toroque
deponi monet et rogat leuari.
Castae tantus inest pudor catellae,
ignorat Venerem; nec inuenimus 15
dignum tam tenera uirum puella.
Hanc ne lux rapiat suprema totam,
picta Publius exprimit tabella,
in qua tam similem uidebis Issam,
ut sit tam similis sibi nec ipsa. 20
Issam denique pone cum tabella:
aut utramque putabis esse ueram,
aut utramque putabis esse pictam.

… but I don’t see any evidence that we’re dealing with something identifiable as a maltese. Can anyone help on the portrait claims? (or the Alexander eye colour claims?)

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3 thoughts on “A Couple of Claims

  1. I once attended an academic talk in which the remains of a small boy and his dog were shown. The scholar, who was an expert in zooarchaeology and osteology, said that the dog could be identified as a ‘lap dog’, something akin to a Maltese. He didn’t say it was a Maltese definitely, but perhaps this is where the confusion starts – someone says “kind of like a Maltese” and eventually it trickles down to popular media as just “a Maltese.” I like the idea of ancient Romans having lap dogs, though. The one from this talk in particular was shown to have been very well taken care of!

  2. The source is Julius Valerius, Res gestae Alexandri Macedonis 1.7 Kubler (fourth century A.D.)

    “In his face and physique he was completely different from Philip, dissimilar even to his mother, and diverse in countenance from his reputed sire (Nectanebo); he was most handsome in his own way and his own style, with hair like a lion’s, slightly curling and tawny; his eyes were extraordinary beautiful, the right with a pupil that was almost black, the left blue-grey like the sky, absolutely filled with life and enrgy, like lions have, so that you should plainly see what nature promised about this boy. As he grew in bodily grace, so did he in knowledge and sagacity too.”

    (Translation from Andrew Stewart’s Faces of Power: Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics.)

    This book is a variation on the Alexander Romance, much of which is pure fiction, so it’s difficult to accept this description of Alexander’s eyes, especially as there’s no similar reference in the traditional historical sources.

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