9. Our Greek dream

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7 years later

PTOLEMY (v.o):
In the world he grew up, I’ve come to believe it was in friendship that Alexander found his sanity.

You don’t need much to fight. When you’re in the front ranks of a battle, facing some Northern barbarian tribe, courage won’t be in the soles of your feet, Perdicass. Or in the thickness of your tunic, Philotas. Or in the lining of your stomach, Nearchus. It’s in the heart of a man.
You don’t need to eat every day or until you’re full, Ptolemy. You don’t need to lie in bed in a morning when you can have some good bean soup, Cassander, after a forced night march.
Come on, Alexander, where’s your hunger to twist Hephaistion’s head off? Is he stronger than you? Then beat him another way.
Come on. Who will respect you as a king? You think because of your father?
The first rule of war is to do what you ask your men to do. No more, no less.
Good, Hephaistion. That’s it. Well, done. Good wrestling, Hephaistion. That’s what I want. Come, come, come. You did well, but you lost. Now, both of you, congratulate the other. Go on.

Young Hephaistion:
Would you want me to let you win, Alexander?

Young Alexander:
You’re right. But I promise you I will beat you one day, Hephaistion.

PTOLEMY (v.o):
It was said later that Alexander was never defeated, except by Hephaistion’s thighs.

Although an inferior race, the Persians control at least four-fifths of the known world.
From Ethiopia and Egypt in the south to Caucasus and the two inland seas in the north.

PTOLEMY (v.o):
Philip brought such as Aristotle from Athens to educate our rough people.

They rule, and we sit around like frogs.

Young Nearchus:


Nearchus: Master, master?

Out with it. Out with it.

Young Nearchus:
Why are the Persians so cruel?

Oh, come, on, Nearchus. That is not the subject for today, Nearchus. But…
…It is true that the Oriental races are known for their barbarity and their slavish devotion to their senses. Which are so dull, they castrate young boys such as yourselves, for their sexual pleasure. Yes, excess in all things is the undoing of men. That is why we Greeks are superior. We practise control of our senses. Moderation, we hope.

Young Cassander:
Then what of Achilles of Troy, master? Was he not excessive?

Achilles simply lacks restraint. He dominates others so completely that even when he withdraws from battle, crazed with grief over his dead lover, Patroclus, he seriously endangers his own army. He is a deeply selfish man.

Young Cassander:
Then would you say the love between Achilles and Patroclus is a corrupting one?

When men lie together in lust, it is a surrender to the passions and does nothing for the excellence in us. Nor does any other excess, Cassander, jealousy among them. But when men lie together, and knowledge and virtue are passed between them, that is pure and excellent. When they compete to bring out the good, the best in each other, this is the love between men that can build a city-state and lift us from our frog pond.

Young Perdicass:
But can a man love a woman equally, master?

A woman? Of course not. A woman is a slave to her passion, Hephaistion. Oh, naturally there are exceptions, and we must honor them. Such as Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom and war. But never forget, she is sprung not from the loins of Zeus, but from his mind.
Now, you think on all this, my young frogs, for in you resides the future of Greek civilization. To strive for honor is the highest purpose of all. To rule over our baser emotions. To follow reason, the divine part in each of you. Yes …To love excellence, is truly to love the gods.
Now, would you stop distracting me? Back to geography, things that we know. Is it possible that the source of Egypt’s mighty River Nile could rise in these distant mountains of the outer earth?
If so, an experienced navigator could find his way here, by this river east, down into the great plains of India, out into the eastern ocean at the end of the world and by this route up the Nile, back to Egypt, into the Middle Sea and home to Greece.
Now if only these frogs could look outward and act on their favored position at the center, Greece could rule the world.

Young Alexander:
Why is it, master, in myth, these lands you speak of are known?
India, where Herakles and Dionysus travelled. All these men who went east, Thesues, Jason, Achilles, were victorious. From generation to generation, their stories have been passed on.
Why? Unless there was truth to them.

Tales of Amazons? Minotaurs, Gorgons, Icarus flying into the sun? No, Alexander.
Only common people believe these tales, as they believe most anything. We are here precisely to educate ourselves against such foolish passions.

Young Alexander:
But if we are superior to the Persians, as you say, why do we not rule them?
It is –it has always been our Greek’s dream to go east. My father long wants it.

The East has a way of swallowing men and their dreams.

Young Alexander:
But still, to think it’s these myths that lead us forward to the greatest glory. Why is it wrong to act on them?

I can only warn you, not teach you: Beware of what you dream for, the gods have a way of punishing such pride.


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