WWAD? (What Would Alexander Do?)

Classicist Philip Freeman weighs in:

Here’s the majority of the piece:

In the winter of 332 BC, Egypt was in chaos. Years of oppressive government seemed at an end as the hated Persian rulers were hiding from angry mobs inside their palaces on the Nile. The Macedonian army of Alexander the Great, only 24 years old, had just entered the land and no one knew what would happen next. For over a century the Persians had treated the people of Egypt with contempt, seeing them only as a source of revenue to support their military machine and lavish lifestyle. The Persian King Cambyses had even killed the sacred Apis bull at Memphis in a fit of rage and earned the undying hatred of the common people. Periodic uprisings had rocked the country ever since, only to be crushed by the police state the Persians had created. As rioters ran through the streets in advance of Alexander’s army, everyone wondered what the future held.

When Alexander arrived with his soldiers at Memphis near the pyramids, the first thing he did was enter the temple of Ptah and pay his respects to the god and the new Apis bull. He ordered the religious sites of the Egyptians that had been destroyed by the Persians repaired at his own expense. The priests and the people were thrilled. He appointed capable Egyptians to important posts in his new government. Finally, he invited everyone, foreigners and natives alike, to a grand outdoor party to celebrate the dawn of a new age.

The last thing Alexander wanted to bring to Egypt was democracy, but he knew that to successfully rule such a land he would have to treat the people with respect. If Alexander were to march into Egypt today, it isn’t hard to imagine what he would do. The leading members of the old regime would be on the next flight to Saudi Arabia and the young king himself would be at the barricades passing out bread, praying at the mosques, and promising change. What form that change would take is hard to say, but at least Alexander knew that ruling Egypt meant listening to the people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s