Thursday, October 15, 2009

S) Cyrus, Messiah of the Lord, and Alexander the Great

Alexander admired Cyrus greatly, and wanted to emulate, even outdo him. While he may have surpassed him by the sweeping victories his genius led him to achieve, he certainly lacked behind in other deportments. True, his father, King Phillip the Macedonian, prepared him for his task by procuring the best means of education available then, but his way to the top leadership was marked by a number of murders of opponents, even of relatives. He did not succeed in laying a solid foundation for the consolidation of the vast empire he had conquered within a few years. True, in his idealism, he developed the idea to establish settlements in the conquered areas to bring Greek culture there. He hoped to eliminate further wars by suggesting his soldiers to make love with the local girls, and even demanded from his top officers to marry ladies of high ranking local families, mainly so in Persia which he admired. While Greek culture made its impact on the different societies, it was not up to the task envisaged by Alexander. More often than not, it led to demoralization, and his soldiers destroyed profoundly Persian palaces, libraries, and cultural places. These destructions included the Law of the Persians which was written upon the famous "twelve thousand cow hides", and the tomb of King Cyrus. The latter, it is said, got than rebuild in its original shape on Alexander's order. He may have regretted these destructions, but granted that this was so, it shows that he did not succeed to imbue his army with his ideals. His huge empire split up with his untimely death.

While he himself seems to have respected the Temple in Jerusalem, one of his successors, the Diadoch king Antiochus IV, who hoped to make the world more enlightened and happy in the way of the Greek god Dionysos, forbade learning Torah, performing circumcision, keeping Shabbat, etc, clashed with the Jews, and was defeated by the Maccabees, an event which we still celebrate in Hanukkah. May it be mentioned here that the Maccabees' victory over Antiochus and what he stood for, laid the foundation for what became eventually known as "Freedom of Religion" – one of the four principles of the "Atlantic Charter" after Word War II.

Alexander and his idealism was a one-time, comet like event. True, Greek philosophy and sciences made their impact on the Western world, but that was not due to him.


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