Alexander Histories and Iranian Reflections: Remnants of Propaganda and Resistance

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Alexander was a Macedonian who conquered the Achaemenid empire and sought legitimacy as its king. Although his campaigns had started under the slogan of punishing Xerxes’ descendants for his invasion of Greece, gradually the focus shifted to displays of sensitivity towards the Iranian cultural norms, even at the expense of alienating his close Greek and Macedonian allies at some point. This expedient policy may be due to the difficulties encountered, especially in facing other more legitimate contenders. Those contenders include not only Darius III himself, whose accounts are recorded in the same Alexander Histories and elsewhere and reveal him to be a worthy opponent, but also other Achaemenids, whom Plutarch refers to as “the constant succession of petty kings and their repeated treachery”. The consequence is the realization of the need for a propaganda endeavour.

Alexander’s recourse to religious ceremonies, motifs and claim of Zoroastrian deities’ support would have required the Magi’s co-operation, albeit neither wholeheartedly nor by all, hence perhaps the resentment seen in the later Zoroastrian literature, although the different political climate of later periods would also have provided other factors for demonizing Alexander as the historical founder of Hellenism in Iran. Perhaps the process of Iranization of Alexander goes back to his own time and is undertaken with a purpose. In support of this assumption, one may cite the possibility of the conflation in a Zoroastrian source of the accounts of Darius and Alexander, as well as Tabari’s mention of a Persian tradition on the length of Alexander’s reign, repeating the Zoroastrian source’s account. Such information would seem to indicate the existence of a Persian source on Alexander, predating the Zoroastrian tradition and moving parallel to the accounts of Darius.

There are a number of its titles: The Plight of the Achaemenid Royal Women, Darius’ Letters to Alexander and the Responses, The campaign for Persia in Iranian and Zoroastrian Lights, Darius’ Last Days and Counter – Propagandas, and…


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Parivash Jamzadeh










Jamzadeh, Parivash; Alexander Histories and Iranian Reflections: Remnants of Propaganda and Resistance, Leiden, Brill, 2012, 204 p.