Alexander Rules His Empire


After his escape from the Gedrosian (Makran) desert, Alexander and the remnants of his army recovered at Susa (324bc).
The events of the year which followed are important for historians for it was in this time that Alexander stopped being a general (336-324bc) and started being the ruler of an empire (324-323bc).



The following websites will help you understand the events:

This document contains the relevant sections of the set
OCR Textbook.






1.  Purge of the Satraps

As he had conquered each satrapy in the years up to 324bc, Alexander had taken control of the treasury and the army, and often left a Macedonian garrison in place but, generally, he had been prepared to re-appoint Persian rulers who surrendered to him (e.g. Mazaeus, Atropates, Abulites, Tiridates, Oxyarchus, Porus). This may have been to encourage other rulers to come over to his side without fight, but it probably was also connected to the fact that he was continually marching and fighting and did not have time to organise an empire.

Returning to Susa, Alexander found that these arrangements had not worked successfully. Believing that Alexander would not return, Arrian says, they had committed offences relating to ‘temples, graves and the subjects themselves’. The word he uses for ‘offences’ also means ‘playing out of tune’, so how much the satraps had been indulging in criminal activity, and how much it was simply that Alexander now wished to place his own stamp upon the government of the empire, we will never know.
About a dozen men (including Abulites and his son Ozathres) were executed, ‘in order to inspire others who might be left as viceroys, governors, or prefects of provinces with the fear of suffering equal penalties with them if they swerved from the path of duty; this was one of the chief means by which Alexander kept in subordination the nations which he had conquered in war...’ (Arrian 6.27).

This is significant because, in their places – although he did keep some Persian satraps, such as the brilliant Atropates – Alexander generally appointed Macedonians. At the time of Alexander’s death, 15 of the 24 satraps and 21 of the 24 garrison commanders were Macedonian; Alexander’s empire was overwhelmingly a ‘Macedonian Empire’.



2.  Harpalus

Harpalus, the son of a Macedonian nobleman, had been left at Ecbatana in charge of the Macedonian Army Commissariat. According to Diodorus, he moved to Babylon, where he spent the royal treasury on a decadent lifestyle, including two high-class prostitutes from Athens.

When Alexander returned and stared purging his officials, Harpalus fled to Athens with thirty ships, 6,000 mercenaries, and 5,000 talents; and when first Alexander’s ambassador Philoxenus, then Antipater, and then Olympias demanded his extradition, the Athenians refused – what had been corruption seemed rapidly turning into a sizeable rebellion.
(i.e. in early 323bc, Greece seemed to be on the edge of revolt – although, actually, the Athenians refused to rebel, threw Harpalus into prison, and stole his wealth, and when Harpalus escaped to Crete he was murdered, possibly by Philoxenus.)

This is significant because:
1. we see that Alexander was not absolute ruler of the Greek states, which were still quite capable of saying no to him.
2. historians believe that the implication of Greek mercenaries in the affair persuaded Alexander that he had to do something about the Greek mercenaries in Asia, and led to the Exiles Decree.



3.  The Rebellion at Opis

In August 324bc, allegedly to please his aging veterans, Alexander paid off their debts and told them he was sending them back to Greece. They mutinied.

Arrian (Book 7, Chapter V) gives a detailed account.  Alexander immediately executed 13 men he identified as the ringleaders, told them that they could go where they liked, retired to his tent for a two-day sulk … and appointed 10,000 Persians as his guard. Realising that – unlike at the Hyphasis – they were no longer indispensible and could be replaced and end up with nothing, the mutiny collapsed, and Alexander celebrated with a service and ‘prayer of reconciliation’.

This is significant because:
1. we see him ‘playing off’ Greeks against Persians – replacing Greek with Persians – rather than trying to ‘fuse’ them.
2. was the ‘prayer of reconciliation’, therefore, a statement of general policy, or simply a specific statement to close this specific episode?




4.  The Marriages at Susa

Alexander had already (335bc) used a mass wedding to unite ‘highland’ and ‘lowland’ Macedonians; in 324bc Arrian decribes how he used the same strategy, marrying some 92 of his Macedonian high command into Persian royalty and nobility.

This is significant because, it has been interpreted as evidence of Alexander’s ‘fusion’ policy, but:
1. It involved only the ruling elite – not peoples or cultures
2. It looks to me more like a policy to compromise and restrict a clan-oriented elite by imposing blood-obligations upon them towards families which otherwise might have been their enemies




5.  The Exiles’ Decree

At the Olympic Games of July/August 324bc, Alexander’s announced to the Greeks who had been exiled that they were to return home.

This was greeted with joy by the exiles, but outcry in the Greek cities, which would thereby find themselves with the return of men who not only had once done something bad enough to be exiled, but who had spent the years since fighting as mercenaries – the two states who stood to lose most (Aetolia, which had just conducted an ethnic cleansing of Oeniadai; and Athens, which had just annexed Samos) immediately formed an alliance against Macedon.
Such a Decree, moreover, was illegal by the ‘Common Peace’ arranged by the League of Corinth – Alexander had no right to make such a law.
It was not even an order to the Greek cities, but to the Exiles themselves.

This is clearly significant, but how? What was Alexander up to?
1. Some historians have suggested that it an attempt to provoke rebellion so that Alexander could destroy the Greek city-states altogether; others have suggested that Alexander was purposely breaking the League of Corinth's rules in order to demonstrate that he had changed from strategos to ruler of the League.
2. It looks to me much more like a divide-and-rule policy at a time when the leaderships of a number of Greek cities were considering rebellion (esp. Athens, where Harpalus had gone) – large numbers of returning, pro-Alexander exiles would keep them busy with internal matters.




6.  Deification Decree

In early 323bc, the leaders of Athens discussed whether to worship Alexander as a god.
Many historians (including AB Bosworth) have stated they must have been doing so because Alexander had asked this to be considered – that he had issued a ‘deification decree’. ‘Let him be the son of Zeus too if he wishes’, said the Greek leader Demosthenes, who opposed the idea.
William Tarn suggested that this so-called 'Deification Decree' was a legal tactic to give himself, as a god, the authority to issue the Exiles Decree.

Apart from a few muted allusions in later histories, however, there is no hard evidence that Alexander ever passed such a decree. The historian GL Cawkwell doubts the decree ever existed, and suspects the Athenians were debating whether to give honours to Hephaestion, not Alexander.

What do you reckon?
Personally I find it hard to believe that something so huge would not have got a mention in Arrian, Plutarch, Diodorus or Curtius.

However, this is significant if it did happen – Alexander claiming to be a god – but just as significant if it didn’t.




7.  Death of Hephaestion

All the authorities agree that Alexander went into emotional meltdown when Hephaestion died.

Arrian’s and Plutarch's accounts, however, show that Alexander was not so distraught that he did not milk Hephaestion’s death hugely for its propaganda value.

This is significant because some modern commentators (e.g. Oliver Stone’s film Alexander) have suggested that Alexander and Hephaestion had a love which went beyond normal Macedonian male eromenoi-bonding, and was in fact a modern-style emotional homosexual love.




8.   Death of Alexander

Alexander died in 323bc. There were very shortly afterwards rumours that he had been poisoned by Antipater’s family, though all the sources (e.g. Plutarch) save Justin – whilst acknowledging the need to include the alleged details – deny this … and also the idea that he drank himself to death (which they were not prepared to accept in a man whom they claimed was ‘moderate’ in all his desires).

Indeed, the modern medical opinion is that Alexander died of malaria.



This interesting website suggests some people who might have wanted to murder Alexander