Alexander the Great: Tyrant or Philanthropist?
Prior to defining Alexander the Great at either the apex of philanthropy or the nadir of tyranny, it is worthwhile to examine all the definitions this King of Macedonia had to fulfill in between. It is only then that a true appreciation can be formulated of all that Alexander was able to accomplish in the relatively short time of his military career and all that he bestowed on the then known world thereafter.
Political and Military Impositions on Philanthropy
In the Greek mindset it must be remembered that all foreigners were viewed as barbarians. This belief, as Green points out, was impressed on the young Alexander by no other than his formative tutor, Aristotle:
He [Aristotle] believed slavery to be a natural
institution, and equally that all 'barbarians' (i.e.,
non-Greeks) were slaves by nature. It was therefore right and fitting for Greeks to rule over barbarians, but not for barbarians to rule over Greeks . . .In one celebrated fragment he counsels Alexander to be 'a hegemon (leader) to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians, to look after the former as after friends and relatives, and to deal with the latter as with beasts or plants (p58).
Thus, as Alexander advanced deeper into Asia, taking the Achaemenid Empire into his hands, he was continually faced with the tricky problem of how to balance his role as the "Lord of Asia" (for the Persians) and as the conquering general (for his fellow Greeks back home). In all that he attempted, he may have been divided not so much by all that he wanted to be, but by all that others expected him to be. In Macedonia, he was a quasi-constitutional king who was expected to honor the customary rights of other Macedonians; in Greece û under his own pursuit of isotheotes, or equality to godhead û he was considered a god but not an autocrat with unlimited powers; to the Persians, he was a feudal warlord whose powers had n...