Alexander the Great was more than a manipulator of public relations in History. His influence is being seen by visitors to Izmir, Turkey, Marseilles museum, reference by the Sikhs in the Punjab and their community in New York City and the Asian Museum in Corfu. Ancient Greek and Alexander the Great’s influence with the Celts, the ancestors of the Irish, was explored at the unique “The Europe of Greece: Colonies and Coins from the Alpha Bank collection” at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, during the summer 2015. Greek influence in Ireland continued with the Christian Church. The use of coins constituting the principal medium of transactions is explained. The exhibit was extended until October 2015. How does a person who lived over two thousand years ago grip the imagination of diverse cultures today? Alexander the Great said “There is nothing impossible to him who will try.” That is his appeal through the ages.
The Izmir Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism, has published a booklet that states the first Settlement of Smyrna at Pagos began because of Alexander the Great’s dream. “Alexander the Great arrived in Smyrna. He went hunting in Kadifekale (The Velvet Castle), which was called Mt. Pagos. It was covered with a forest. Being tired, Alexander the Great took a nap under the shadow of a great plane tree in front of the Temple of nemesis. The Goddess in his dream told him to establish a new city there and settle the people of Ancient Smyrna. When Alexander told his dream to the people of Smyrna (who were Ionian Greeks not the present residents), they went to the temple of Apollo in Claros to interpret it. The oracle’s interpretation was in one sentence: ‘Thrice and four times happy will those men be, who are going to inhabit Pagos beyond the sacred Meles.’ …Pausanias, the famous historian in the ancient age, tells this legend….The establishment was launched by General Antigones…completed by General Lysimachus in the 3rd century B.C.”1 Alexander the Great is respected in the internet sites and booklets of Turkey.
Why go to Turkey to see treasures of Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great? Visit exhibits in Greece’s museums, such as Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki and Corfu’s Asian Museum to see Ancient Greek expansion in Western Anatolia, Euxinos Pontos (Black Sea coast), Southern Europe and the Celts. The Greeks of the 8th century viewed the distant West as the end of the Oecumene, as indicated in the “The Europe of Greece: Colonies and Coins from the Alpha Bank collection” at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
“The Marriage of Gyptis and Protis, The Legend of the Founding of Marseille” (ancient Massalia) exhibit at the new Musee d’Histoire de Marseille (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations) quotes the fifth century BC historian Herodotus. “The people of this city (Phocaea) were the first Greeks to make distance sea voyages; they discovered the Adriatic Sea, Tyrrhenia, Iberia and Tartessos; they did not sail in round ships but on pentecontors,” the Histories, Book I,163. Around 00 B.C., Greeks from Asia Minor, Turkey, founded a city on the Lacydon inlet in the present Panier district. Marseille and Provence formed the meeting point of the Celtic World of Northern Europe and the Greek Mediterranean world. Wine from the Mediterranean and then from Marseille vineyards was consumed at Gallic banquets. Gallic and Massalian pottery in the Greek tradition with Celtic shapes, have helped to determine trading activities.2
Massalia enjoyed prosperity in 6th century B.C. They established a temple building called “The Treasury of the Massaliots” at the Oracle of Delphi. The cities offerings or donations were housed there. The treasury was in the Aiolian architecture of their home metropolis of Massalia, Phokaia, on Asia Minor coast.
“The Celts who were known as Gauls were so fearless that their only fear was that the sky would fall down upon their head,” said Alexander the Great. Greek luxury drinking vessels of the 5th century B.C. were placed as grave goods in the tombs of Celtic aristocracy…Indomitable warriors…they were engaged as mercenaries throughout the Mediterranean world.” 3 Linguistically they survive in the modern Celtic speakers of Ireland, Highland Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, and Brittany.4
In “The Europe of Greece: Colonies and Coins from the Alpha Bank collection” at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, the history of the Celts in Southern France, Central Europe, Spain, Britain and Ireland was presented. “Hellenic influences on the Celts…were multiple and fertile. Among the most important was the cultivation of the vine, olive tree, as well as the diffusion of the use of coinage, while one of the two versions of the Iberian language is in characters of the Greek alphabet. They were also known as Gauls or Galatians.
The museum display “Celts the warriors of the North” describes their society as a class of the warrior aristocracy. Their presence became even more dynamic from the 4th BC, when they invaded and destroyed areas of the Mediterranean. Indomitable warriors, the Gauls-Galatians were engaged as mercenaries throughout the Mediterranean. They were part of the army of Philip II and Alexander the Great. They brought back to their home Greek coins that were used as models for the first Celtic coins.
“The book of kells”, created around 800 B.C that is now in the Library of the Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, shows the use of traditional Christian symbols in Greek. It shows Greek was alive in Ireland through the Christian Church. The Chi Rho page illustrates the Greek letters XPI form an abbreviation of Christi.5 The opening pages, known as the Eusebia Canons are set out in the framework of Byzantine architecture with pillars, capitals, bases and tympana finely decorated.5 Greek culture influences continued to thrive in Ireland’s Christianity.
I tutored a Sikh family in South Ozone Park for a New York agency. Mr. Singh, a scholar, told me of the Punjab’s contact with the Greeks and Alexander the Great. “We are great military fighters,” he said. “The Greeks under Alexander the Great were fighters. They beat our King Porus in battle. They are better military fighters than us.”
Mr. Singh was referring to the Battle of the Hydaspes River fought by Alexander the Great in 326 BC against King Porus of the Hindu Paurava kingdom in the Punjab in what is now Pakistan. Alexander’s decision to cross the monsoon swollen river in order to catch Porus’ army in the flank has been referred as one of his masterpieces. It was a costly battle, but victorious. The annexation of the Punjab into Alexander’s empire resulted. King Porus and his men won the respect of Alexander. Porus became a Macedonian strap (ruler). The battle is historically significant for opening up India to Greek political (Seleucid, Greco-bactrian Indo-Greek) and cultural influences (Greco-Buddhist art), which continued to have an impact for many centuries.” 7
The legacy of Alexander in the southern extremity of the Punjab was a city named Alexandria. He established a chain of, military posts along the Indus, for commercial and political purposes… There was a coalition formed by the Brahmins to expel the foreign invaders, but Peithon, appointed by Alexander, crushed the insurgents, and a large number of priests and Brahmins were publicly crucified. Alexander left Punjab in 326 B.C., and took his army to Persia and Susa. He had conquered the whole of the then known world. In every part of the world he visited, he founded magnificent cities, constructed large fleets, and developed commercial places.8
Ancient Greek civilization and Alexander the Great’s achievements are summarized by Susan Buck Suttons’ quote. “A strong sense of a common ethnic identity emerged among Greek speakers of the independent city-states of the Aegean area in the Bronze Age and characterized the city-states of the classical period and their colonies in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. It endured over two millennia as these lands were ruled by the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman empires, and as the area became ethnically heterogeneous.”9
- http://www.izmirturizm.gov.tr/Eklenti/23988,muze-kitap-en.pdf?0 -Izmir Centre Museums and Ruins booklet
- Smyth, Colin and Library of Trinity College, Dublin, “The book of kells” (Raven Print Limited: Great Britain 2008), VI.
- Smyth, Colin, p. XVI.
- Sutton, Susan Buck. Culture of Greece – History and ethnic relations, Urbanism, architecture.
http://www.bible-history.com/maps/romanempire/Smyrna.html – rebuilding Smyrna
http://www.allaboutturkey.com/izm_site.htm – legend of alexander the Great’s Smyrna dream.
http://rambambashi.wordpress.com/2008/05/29/alexander-the-great-in-the-punjab-a-photo-essay/- Alexander in the Punjab
http://www.eupedia.com/europe/celtic_trivia.shtml – interesting facts on Celts
http://old.john844.org/images/alexander-great-meets-celtic-chieftains-4th-century-bc Alexander meets Celtic chiefs
http://www.electrummagazine.com/2012/12/alexander-the-greats-dream-of-the-nemeses-at-smyrna/ Alexander the Great’s Dream of the Nemeses at Smyrna