Alexander the Great and the Mystery of the Elephant Medallions
Publication Year: 2003
Solid evidence for the "supernaturalized" Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. Holt's book, the first devoted to the mystery of these ancient medallions, takes us into the history of their discovery and interpretation, into the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, into the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is a valuable analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a spellbinding look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.
Published by: University of California Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Maps and Illustrations
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This book aims to solve a great puzzle from the ancient past, like somemystery unlocked by the relentless logic of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Be-cause it is a real and not imaginary case, all of its strands can never be ti-died up as neatly as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might have done; nonethe-less, the solution offered here does seem to be the only hypothesis that...
1. Man of Mystery
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...1. Alexander was not, as far as we know, called “Alexander the Great” in hislifetime; the sobriquet was conferred upon him by Romans around 200 b.c.e. See2. Recommended biographies include Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon,356–323 b.c. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), and A. B.Bosworth, Conquest and Empire: The Reign of Alexander the Great (Cambridge:...
2. A Treasure
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On August 20, 1877, Charles Darwin attended a local excavation on thelands of his good friend Thomas Henry Farrer of Abinger Hall, Surrey.The famous naturalist wished to test his theory that the castings (ejecta)of earthworms constantly formed a fresh vegetative surface on the earth,a subject to which he devoted his last book, The Formation of Vegetable...
3. Picking a Fight
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...1. Percy Gardner, Autobiographica (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1933), p. 59.Gardner published several obituaries of his friend Schliemann, including one inPercy Gardner, who considered himself “one of the prophets of Schlie-mann,”1 missed the famous meeting of the Society of Antiquaries in 1877in order to travel with Sir Charles Newton to examine Schliemann’s finds...
4. Whose Pachyderm, Whole or Halved?
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...1. D. E. Stauffer, “Die Londoner Dekadrachme von 324 und die Indeen-politik Alexanders,” Jahrbuch für Numismatik und Geldgeschichte 2 (1950–51): 132.2. Ibid.: “Sie ist die erste ‘historische’ Münze der Antike” (p. 132), referringThe mystery of the elephant medallions consumed the energies of moreand more investigations during the tumultuous twentieth century. At...
5. Another Treasure
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...1. Details may be found in Martin Price, “Circulation at Babylon in 323b.c.,” in Mnemata: Papers in Memory of Nancy M. Waggoner, ed. William Metcalf,pp. 63–72 (New York: American Numismatic Society, 1991), esp. p. 63.2. Personal communication from Michel Duerr, the son of Nicholas, to3. Before the appearance of Alexander’s very fine coinage, the dominant...
6. A Closer Look
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The elephant medallions must be more than another Rorschach test inwhich to see, with equal claims of propriety, Alexander the Beatified orAlexander the Beast. How, then, should we handle these mysterious ar-tifacts in order to reach reliable conclusions about Alexander’s reign?The key is to avoid, as far as possible, any forms of special pleading based...
7. A Dark and Stormy Night
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The impressive artwork on the elephant medallions provides us a fine se-ries of images straight from the scrapbook of Alexander’s campaignagainst Porus. No other great victory in his career so strikingly involvedthese elements of Indian archers, chariots, and elephants. Most of the de-tails known from ancient texts and art about the military dress and equip-...
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Plate 1. The Alexander Mosaic from Pompeii, showing Alexander in battle...
Appendix A. The Published Elephant Medallions
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Appendix B. Some Possible Forgeries of the Large Medallion
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Appendix C. The 1973 Iraq Hoard
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I. Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age, byII. Hellenism in the East: The Interaction of Greek and Non-GreekCivilizations from Syria to Central Asia after Alexander, edited byIII. The Question of “Eclecticism”: Studies in Later Greek Philosophy, editedIV. Antigonos the One-Eyed and the Creation of the Hellenistic State, by...
Page Count: 217
Publication Year: 2003
Series Title: Hellenistic Culture and Society