Tuesday 5 November 2019

The Death of Alexander the Great

Alexander depicted during the Battle of Issus, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Napoli

The enthralling denouement of a six-part BBC Radio Drama series of Alexander the Great, which was produced in 1993.

In Babylon, Alexander is lying in the throes of death at the end of a short but spectacular life-span predicted at the time of his birth by the Morai -alternatively known as the Fates- who are a trio of white-robed female incarnations of destiny.

Half in the physical world and half in the spirit world, he ruminates over his life, his conquests and the succession with the ever guiding spirit of Achilles of Troy, the father of his “yearning soul” in contrast to his earthly father and competitor, King Phillip of Macedon.

In this drama, Alexander is sympathetically portrayed as the quintessential Philosopher-King and his fixation with Achilles is a component of the “mythic consciousness” that has driven him to avenge an earlier defeat of the Greeks by the Persians and to conquer almost all of the known world.

And it is Achilles with whom he has communed since childhood, along with Patroculus who tell the story of what happened after Alexander’s death: an orgy of suicides, revenge murders and in-fighting among his generals.

“Who will rule after you?” asks Achilles.
“The best?” responds Alexander.
“There is none”, the spirits of Achilles and Patroclus reply in unison.

Fittingly, Alexander, the King of the Macedons, Leader of the Greeks, Pharaoh of All Egypt, Lord of Persia, and King of Kings, expires smelling of “thyme and roses” and “his flesh does not corrupt”.

No one was able to rule the empire he had built.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2019)

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